If there was a Governor’s Cup Hall of Fame, Oklahoma City University alum Timothy Harlin might be one of the first former participants elected.
As an undergraduate accounting major at OCU, Timothy competed in the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup for three consecutive years and walked across the Awards Dinner stage at each event. His OCU teams won third, second and first place honors, and one team also claimed second place in the Tri-State competition in Las Vegas vs. teams from Arkansas and Nevada.
Such was Timothy’s impact on OCU’s Governor’s Cup success that poster-sized photos of two of his teams were posted in the foyer of OCU’s Meinders School of Business.
“He is Mr. Governor’s Cup as far as I’m concerned,” said Dr. Robert Greve, Director of Love’s Entrepreneurship Center and an associate professor of software engineering at OCU who served as faculty advisor to Harlin’s GovCup teams.
After graduating in the Spring of 2010, Timothy worked for a startup company before moving to Oklahoma City-based PaceButler Corp, where he is now the company’s Chief Financial Officer.
Timothy Harlin recently discussed his GovCup experience with me, and excerpts of that conversation follow:
Q: How did you use the Paulsen Award scholarship and GovCup prize money?
A: The prize money and scholarship allowed me to complete my undergraduate degree without any debt. The Governor’s Cup competitions and Business Roundtable interviews were very instrumental in developing many skills that I use on the job today that simply aren’t taught in the classroom. I have decided to postpone graduate school for now and instead have enrolled in Real-Life University. I chose to work for a small, entrepreneurial company in order to learn the hands-on skills and earn the necessary experience to run my own company someday. Life is definitely a classroom for me.
Q: What did you tell the OBR members when you spoke to them?
A: I recall sharing with the OBR members that even though (at the time) I was interested in pursuing some opportunities outside the state of Oklahoma while young and single, I have always viewed Oklahoma as my real home and definitely planned to end up here, investing in the business and service communities right here where my heart is. I also recall sharing in good humor that I was very grateful to have them as kind benefactors, but that I looked forward to the day they become colleagues and that someday I might find myself sitting in one of their seats, a proud contributor to the great state of Oklahoma.
Q: How did the GovCup and Paulsen Award experience impact your career?
A: I still regularly interact with and benefit from network I developed through the OBR and Governor’s Cup competitions. I have always believed that if you build a great network and reputation through hard, honest, quality work, that reputation creates opportunities for you. In fact, I just got a call the other day from someone I met through the Governor’s Cup who tried to recruit me to come work for their company. This particular opportunity turned out to not be a mutual fit right now, but it illustrates the high value of maintaining a great reputation.
Q: You are sort of a serial GovCup participant and winner. What motivated you to compete in three different competitions?
A: Simply put, I love business and I’m very competitive. So naturally, business plan competitions were the perfect venue for me to flourish in. Not a day goes by that I don’t spend time actively thinking about what I need to do in order to successfully run my own business someday. Success breeds success, so it seemed like a no-brainer for me to come back my second and third years to give it another shot. And I’m glad I did. Each year I participated, I learned increasingly more, but what’s more important, is that I grew into a better person each time I stretched myself to compete. I would never take back those experiences I had competing in the Governor’s Cup — the late nights, early mornings, print shop runs, nerve-racking critiquing sessions, practice presentations, high pressure interviews and the simple (yet frustratingly difficult) disciplines that were required to lead a team and meet the deadlines without prematurely graying as a young college kid.
Q: What are your long-term career plans?
A: Everything about my career is directed toward running a business of my own someday. All my professional energy is bent toward learning the people skills, management abilities, and systems development expertise and personal disciplines necessary to successfully run my own enterprise. If that path takes me to an established, larger corporation for a while, I will follow it. But the goal on the horizon is definitely to be an owner and capitalist.