Author Archives: Athan Sunderland

“EMC”: The Entrepreneur, The Manager and The Capitalist

No endeavor or enterprise can reach its full potential if it does not take advantage of what I call “EMC”: the entrepreneur/manager/capitalist approach to progress. Individuals and organizations can benefit equally – and avoid insurmountable challenges that may come from within or from the outside – by considering the answers to the questions that EMC raises for you:

• the “entrepreneur”: What is it that we do? Why do we do it? Whom does it benefit?
• the “manager”: How do we lead, direct and support the people, systems and resources critical to the mission?
• the “capitalist”: How do we make a profit? How do we maximize our value to stakeholders and investors?

Very rarely does an individual possess the natural ability and intuitiveness to serve in all three of these roles over the course of his or her lifetime. Some extraordinary few, like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or Steve Jobs, manage to do more than one at a time. Accordingly, as we grow and evolve, we can learn who and what we are within the EMC rubric, and act accordingly. We learn what we can and can’t be responsible for, where we need help and collaboration, how we can gain support to achieve our goals. Remember that our individualized EMC is a target, a goal – and it’s often a team effort. No matter what we’re doing, we must learn to trust others – and model behavior that allows others to trust in us as well.

A Personal Example:

When I was in college and studying business, I believed that I could get a job that would pay me to develop an idea and provide me with the tools and resources I needed to complete the task. My perspective was pretty straightforward: “I am a good worker, smart, and certain that whatever you, as my employer, needed me to do, I could deliver. I, along with about 200,000 other students with the same perspective, were trying to live up to that standard. At that point in my life, I was the “E” in the EMC approach: completely entrepreneurial, independent, a self-starter.

I thought I could go it alone—organize my life around school, work and a social life, and achieve my goals, no problem. I was wrong. Instead, over time I recognized that I needed help to stay focused, forge my path, and successfully graduate in order to get the job I wanted. It was a university adviser who supported me so I could develop a better schedule, and strike out on a more efficient and focused path to reach my goal. Furthermore, her suggestions led me to discover study groups and resources previously unknown to me. She was the “M,” the manager, in the EMC approach.

My “M” also helped me overcome other obstacles along the way, such as when she introduced me to a grant program and additional resources that were willing to invest in my education. They were willing to invest in me because they saw that I could be a productive member of the community, and eventually pay back what I had borrowed. They served as the “C,” the all-important capitalists, in my drive to be successful.

The EMC approach to our endeavors in life is universal. Any idea requires conception, management, execution and funding—often more than once. Your education, personal relationships, job, a new business, or a social program: all of these require the same three critical elements, if your greatest potential is to be realized. Furthermore, the most wonderful characteristic of EMC optics is that while the elements are always the same, their application and development are dynamic. The entrepreneur, the manager, and the capitalist all live within each of us, and grows and evolves as we do.

Athan Sunderland is an advisory board member of UB’s Real Estate program and executive vice president for Pinkard Properties. Over the past 15 years, he has represented the investment interests of several asset classes spanning local office buildings to multi-billion dollar REITs. Athan’s commitment to a customer-centric approach has been recognized with both peer- and industry-sponsored awards.