GRAND RAPIDS — A leading business educator has turned author and chronicled how more than two dozen local entrepreneurs became business successes.
Retired Davenport University Chancellor Donald Maine spoke with 27 of the area’s most engaging professionals for his book, which makes its debut on May 17.
Pearson Custom Publishing of Needham, Mass., signed Maine to a publishing deal last week. Pearson Custom is part of Pearson Education, the largest college publisher in the world. Pearson Education is a division of Pearson Publishing, formerly Simon & Schuster.
The yet-to-be-titled book was a two-year project for Maine, who wrote it for Davenport business students despite quite a few serious bouts with heart and kidney ailments.
“It’s been my experience at Davenport that students look at different entrepreneurs and wonder how they did that. In many cases, they make the assumption that these successful folks were simply born rich and got richer. They don’t realize that just about everyone in the book made their own way and own successes,” he said.
“Many of them had other businesses that they started out with that didn’t do very well at first, and got into the business that they’re now in and turned it into a phenomenal success,” added Maine, who directed Davenport for more than two decades.
Stories from John Bissell, Juanita Briggs, John Canepa, Peter Cook, Max DePree, Rich DeVos, Eileen DeVries, Jeanne Englehart, David Frey, Harvey Gainey, Paul Gordon, Erina Hanka, G.W. Haworth, Doyle Hayes, Wilbur Lettinga, Fred Meijer, James Meyer, Jack and Phil Miller, Shelly Padnos, Chris Panopoulos, Robert Pew, Peter Secchia, John Spoelhof, Glenn Steil, David Van Andel and Rita Williams make up the book’s gold-medal lineup.
“I chose people from different types of companies because our students go to work for a whole variety of businesses and industries,” he said. “So everything is in it, from automotive to technology.”
Maine said none of the 27 declined interviews and all told compelling, even unparalleled, stories — such as how Gainey succeeded in the transportation business.
“Harvey Gainey was part of one of West Michigan’s largest corporate bankruptcies in the mid-1980s. He was brought in very late to save the Interstate Trucking Co., which was on its last leg when Harvey came to town. Unfortunately, that company unraveled, so he started over,” said Maine.
“And he started over by just moving merchandise around with a few leased trucks and friends, and worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week for several years. He built that into the tenth-largest trucking company in America today. His story is absolutely phenomenal.”
Another chapter details how Briggs, after being let go from Herman Miller, started Valor Industries. Today, her former employer is one of her biggest clients.
“There are just a number of really outstanding stories that are just terrific.”
The book will be unveiled at Davenport’s annual Excellence In Business Dinner on Friday, May 17. The event’s guest speaker this year is Lou Dobbs, anchor and managing editor of CNN’s Moneyline. The book will be sold at bookstores throughout the Davenport system, and all proceeds will go to the Davenport University Foundation in Grand Rapids.
Maine told the Business Journal that he expects students will learn much from the stories in the book, but that the learning shouldn’t stop with them. He said the storytellers have important things to say to anyone who is considering going out on their own.
“These are people that go into business, have a tremendous work ethic and are not afraid of failure. If things didn’t go right for them at the start, they just picked themselves up and went on. They have a great sense of adventure, and, by-and-large, are calculated risk-takers,” he said. “There are great lessons in here for anybody that wants to go into business.”