Blessing Lives in the Workplace and the Classroom
PROVO, Utah – Aug 27, 2020 – For those fortunate enough to own their own businesses, some are able to sell their companies and head straight into years of restful retirement. However, when Gary Williams, a teaching professor of entrepreneurship at the BYU Marriott School of Business, sold his company, he chose a different path. He decided to apply the skills he had learned as a businessman to create experiential learning opportunities for BYU Marriott students.
Williams knew at a young age that he wanted to be an entrepreneur. Growing up, he saw several examples of entrepreneurial people in his life, and he wanted to live a similar lifestyle. “I knew many influential people during my teenage years who ran their own businesses,” he says. “They had consistency in their lives; they could create jobs for people and serve in their communities. I liked the energy and flexibility that I saw in an entrepreneurship career.”
As Williams navigated his own entrepreneurial journey of founding and running software companies, his work allowed him to impact the lives of his employees. “One day during a company gathering at a roller rink, I watched our one hundred plus employees and their families from the sidelines. I realized that I was not only directly responsible for the well-being of my employees but also indirectly responsible for the well-being of each person in their families,” he says. “I felt an immense responsibility to bless their lives, as well as a deep gratitude for the opportunity to do so as the leader of my business.”
While Williams enjoyed the opportunities to help bless lives as an entrepreneur, he’d always planned to leave the business world for academia at some point. After he sold one of his companies, he decided to transition to a career in teaching at BYU Marriott.
At BYU Marriott, Williams focused his work on developing experiential learning opportunities. “I wanted to help students learn critical thinking skills,” he says. “For so much of their education, students learn that there’s perfect information and an absolute right answer for every question, but in the real world, people have to learn how to make the best decision possible with the incomplete information available. When I came to BYU Marriott, I focused on creating curriculum that would foster the kind of experiential learning that would teach students those decision-making skills.”
One of Williams’ achievements is the creation of BYU Marriott’s Cougar Capital, a venture capital fund run by second-year MBA students. Williams enjoys helping students develop the skills necessary to make sound investments. “We invest in companies at all different stages of development and in all sorts of different industries,” he says. “You can drive down the freeway in Utah and see the names of many companies that we’ve invested in.”
As part of the Cougar Capital program, Williams builds a strong alumni network by planning Cougar Capital alumni trips and networking opportunities. When students complete the Cougar Capital course, Williams sees many of them team up on business ventures. “I’ve seen MBA students from a variety of graduating classes who were part of Cougar Capital team up to start businesses, provide investment capital for each other, and provide legal services to others from the program. The shared experience of being part of Cougar Capital helps bring people together to accomplish great things.”
As he builds alumni networks and creates opportunities for experiential learning, Williams maintains his focus on how he can bless the lives of BYU Marriott students. “BYU Marriott students are outstanding,” he says. “My colleagues and I bring students into the experiential courses, and within a few months, these students have built the knowledge base necessary to go out and do amazing things. I find so much joy in seeing students blossom and develop talents that they didn’t recognize before.”
Media Contact: Chad Little: (801) 422-1512
Writer: Kenna Pierce