I have always been very forthcoming about the fact that I was an awful student growing up, barely getting by. My mentor back then was my older cousin, Norman Cahners, an American publisher and philanthropist. My father had died from a heart attack when I was just 16 years old, and Cahners stepped in to do things that my dad would have done had he been alive.
Cahners was an extremely successful business tycoon, and he recognized something in me, something akin to Cahner’s own entrepreneurial spirit. Although I struggled in school, I began launching small businesses at a young age. While studying for my undergraduate degree, I formed a tuxedo business with a couple of fraternity brothers. From there, I launched a photo business. It was Cahners who helped me, as a struggling student, get into Harvard Business School after he insisted that I take a placement test. This test ended up proving that I was much more intelligent than my grades represented. I eventually found my way to Harvard Business School and for the first time learning became interesting to me. The business curriculum was easy to understand because it was logical, as opposed to the confusing stuff like periodic tables and other science and liberal arts teachings I could never quite wrap my head around.
While attending Harvard Business School, I launched even more businesses, including an event management business. When there was an event coming to town, it wasn’t unusual for me to receive a call asking for help booking the main act, whether it be a performer, a live animal act, or a band.
Looking back, it was these early days of entrepreneurship during which I formed a very basic but deep rooted belief about life, business, and making money. I learned that it was absolutely possible to build a solid business by doing good things for people. My entire 40 plus year career is rooted in one solid truth; you can do well personally by doing good for others.
Just as my cousin lifted me up at a time when I needed it most, I try to apply these same principles in life and in business. My success is due to many influential people in my life, including my cousin. By doing good to others, you might just be providing an avenue to success for someone that desperately needs it.
- Arthur Winn