Last evening, Alan E. Hall, founder and managing director of Mercato Partners, a growth equity venture capital fund, addressed approximately 50 individuals — a composite group made up mostly of WSU students along with local businessmen and women. WSU’s chapters of Phi Beta Lambda and Distributive Education Clubs of America co-sponsored the event, which was housed in the Hurst Center Dumke Legacy Hall.
Hall’s list of accomplishments is lengthy, to say the least. Among his accolades is a bachelor’s degree from WSU, followed by a graduate degree from Brigham Young University.
Hall is the chairman of the Utah Technology Council, the chairman of WSU’s board of trustees, and a member of the advisory board of Wells Fargo Bank. Hall is also the founder, former CEO and chairman of MarketStar, a global outsourced sales and marketing company that generates billions of dollars for its clients, some of which include Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, Sony, Verizon, and Research in Motion.
Using a PowerPoint to navigate his success story, Hall elaborated through his presentation and emphasized the importance of five “pillars of value,” namely God, self, family, career, and community.
Harrison Spendlove, a WSU junior studying interior design, said he agreed with the importance of having a values-based philosophy in the workplace.
“I really admired Mr. Hall for his integrity and for incorporating such strong values at MarketStar,” Spendlove said. “There seems to be a two-way loyalty between employee and employer with companies like MarketStar.”
While Hall made it very clear that he is in the business of making money, balance is a key player in business and entrepreneurship, as well as giving back the community.
“I have more fun helping others than making money for myself now,” Hall said. “I like to have a balanced life.”
After taking an “incredible risk,” Hall said, by launching a company in his office garage in 1988 — and having to support a wife and six kids — he eventually failed in the tech start-up he was engineering, due to what he explained as “a failure to figure out marketing.”
“Failure is not the end of a venture — it doesn’t mean you’re done with something,” said Tylor Turnblom, a WSU sophomore pursuing a degree in business administration. “You learn from your mistakes and continue and apply what you have learned to the next product or the next service.”
Hall spent a large portion of the one-and-a-half hour speech on the topic of knowing the customer in entrepreneurial endeavors.
“You need to understand your customer well,” Hall said. “That goal for us hasn’t changed over time.”
After the failed entrepreneurial attempt from the business garage, Hall started yet another project. His next venture became MarketStar, and according to Hall, he focused on setting realistic goals that put the customer first. It was “the key to taking (his) company out of the garage and into 100 countries around the globe.
“Obviously, customers are the key to any business,” Turnblom said. “Even if you have a great product or service that people love, if you don’t present yourself and your product in a way that appeals to the customer, they’ll go and find the same product from someone else.”