Ryan Davis, co-founder of Reliance Human Capital Management, visited Dr. Aldo McLean’s ETEM 1000 Engineering Management Seminar class on October 7, 2016, to talk about starting and growing his business.

After briefly tracing his story from college to the founding of his company—including a stint working at a coffee shop and the decision to give up a 60K salary to pursue a career more suited to his skill set for half the pay—Davis offered the class “seven swing thoughts.”

  1. No second-guessing. “Learn to cut off a bad thing,” said Davis, “no matter what it is.” Whether a job or a relationship, staying in a bad situation won’t do you any favors, he said.
  1. Have a positive view of yourself and others. Davis doesn’t ask for résumés when interviewing people, he said. “I just want to know if you’re a positive person, because we can do a lot with that.”
  1. Write down your goals. “Don’t leave it to chance, don’t change them constantly, and don’t make them too lofty or vague.”
  1. You are whom you hang out with. “The people you surround yourself with,” said Davis, “are exactly whom you will be like. It’s important to surround yourself with people who build you up, and important to know when someone is pulling you back.”
  1. Get 5–10 centers of influence. A lot of Davis’s success has come from knowing the right people, he said. “Don’t be afraid to get to know somebody just because they’re the right person. That person is going to respect that. If you have a career field that you know you want to be in, go find the top person in that field and say ‘I want to know you.’ I guarantee you that 99% of your competition is not doing that.”
  1. Get disciplined with exercise and diet. “You’ll feel better”—no further explanation needed.
  1. Have 10 seconds of guts. “Sometimes you just need to go for it,” Davis said.

After offering these pointers, Davis opened up the floor for questions and discussion. The conversation focused on details of Davis’s business: How does it work? What’s the hardest part of running the business? How do you attract and choose investors? Are you hiring and what would you look for in new hires? Etc. The class seemed particularly inspired by Davis’s experience, success (and the roundabout path it took to get there), and advice—perhaps because Davis is not much older than many of the students he was speaking to.

Davis credits his success to his life experiences. “Lifetime learning is the best,” he said. Reemphasizing this thought, Dr. McLean concluded the class by saying, “It’s not only coming here, sitting down, getting your exam done. It’s networking, seeing what is out there, trying to be engaged from day one. And then, when you’re done with school, it’s calling people directly rather than sending out résumés.”

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