The Heart of Business is Relationships
An Interview with Zach Ledford by Erin Cyrier
Zach LedfordSomething that MBA candidates hear from day one of the MBA program at Baylor is that every relationship and connection you make has the potential to change your life forever. Within the program itself, community is fostered through smaller cohort size and collaboration in the classroom. Beyond this, each person moves on to an internship or full-time job to build even more relationships. For Baylor MBA grad and Army combat veteran Zach Ledford, it was his experiences with his cohort and his internships that propelled him into a successful career in entrepreneurship.
Ledford is one of three co-founders of Eljun, LLC, a software consulting company that sells cloud software to medium-to-large size companies. The company has been operating for the past three years and is primarily remote. This was Ledford’s original design for the company and lucky for them, the pandemic broke out three months later. Eljun's relationship with its largest client UKG was born out of a connection formed during Ledford’s time in the MBA program.
Before he got his start as an entrepreneur, Ledford worked as an human resources intern at SpaceX's testing facility just outside Waco in McGregor, Texas. While he was at SpaceX, Ledford was connected with a vendor from UKG named Scott Blevins. Through this business interaction, Ledford met one of his biggest supporters. Upon launching his venture, Blevins invited Ledford to meet with his executive team. “Scott was an advocate from the beginning and went to bat for us.” says Ledford. “Without him getting in our corner early on, we would not have been able to achieve all that we have.”
Looking back at his time at Baylor, Ledford discussed what classes he found to be most beneficial for him in his current career. “It’s not a stretch to say all of them,” he said. “As an entrepreneur, you find yourself wearing 50 different hats at once, so it is important to know how to wear all of them.” Within the MBA program at Baylor, you get a little bit of everything. One class that encompassed this idea of “wearing 50 different hats” for Ledford was business strategy. When you are starting up your own company it comes down to two questions: Why does what you are doing matter? And how are you structured? “My business strategy class taught me how to create a value proposition and determine why my customers should care,” he said. He also discussed how finance answers the second question especially when it came to looking for outside investments. “A knowledge of finance helps you see long-term tradeoffs which is crucial when running your own business.”
It is not easy to start your own business, but with the right tools in your tool belt, and the right people in your corner, the impossible feels possible.
One of the greatest resources available to business professionals right now is LinkedIn. According to Ledford, “If you are in business and not using LinkedIn, you are leaving money on the table.” Through the MBA program, each candidate has the opportunity to focus on building their professional skills and establishing their personal brand. “The Career Center was so right about making your profile and establishing your personal brand. You need it,” says Ledford. One of the beauties of LinkedIn is the ability for you to connect with soft and hard connections. Ledford has partnered with individuals through LinkedIn, made sales, developed a client base, and even found hires for his own company. The heart of business is relationships. “It’s okay to be a little audacious, cold calling people to see if they are willing to be a part of what you’re doing,” says Ledford. “But calls turned to meetings and meetings turned into clients.”
Zach’s story is one of many success stories that come out of the Baylor MBA program. When it comes to entrepreneurship, he looks back on his time and the opportunities he had at Baylor and credits those connections and skills to his success. It is not easy to start your own business, but with the right tools in your tool belt, and the right people in your corner, the impossible feels possible.
Regardless of whether your career is in entrepreneurship, finance, marketing, or sales, relationships are the heart of business. For Zach’s story, they are the foundation of his success. If you are considering a path in entrepreneurship, remember Zach’s story. Utilize the skills you have, but more importantly, utilize the connections you have. Every conversation has the potential to change your life forever. You never know the path one interaction can lead.
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