David Nazarian Kicks off Distinguished Speaker Series

  • David Nazarian speaks to graduate students from CSUN’s David Nazarian College of Business and Economics, faculty and CSUN leadership on March 8. Photo by Luis Garcia

There were a few telling signs of just how excited the more than 150 attendees at the inaugural David Nazarian MBA and Graduate Programs Distinguished Speaker Series event at California State University, Northridge were to receive some expertise from the guest speaker — David Nazarian.

Those signs were the number of hands that went up when Nazarian said he had time for one more question and the crowd of people who approached him with more questions after the March 8 event ended.

Nazarian ’82 (Business Administration) spent more than an hour at Kurland Hall at the Valley Performing Arts Center telling a group of graduate students from CSUN’s David Nazarian College of Business and Economics, faculty and CSUN leadership about his successes and failures in business. He also motivated the group with the message of the evening: “There is a startup in all of us.”

Nazarian, the visionary businessman and driver of a $25-million fundraising campaign for CSUN, gave a motivational speech during the first portion of the event. He spoke about the variety of businesses in which he’s been involved and the common denominator that has allowed him to adapt to these different ventures — his entrepreneurial spirit.

“The desire to build and create is in our DNA,” Nazarian said, explaining that everybody has the potential to be an entrepreneur. “Creativity, growth, risk-taking, having confidence in your abilities are the cornerstones of entrepreneurship.”

Nazarian also touched on a point about face-to-face communication that carried over into the Q&A portion of the event. He spoke about how technology has taken the personal connection out of doing business and how speaking to people in person creates more opportunities because it builds relationships.

Here’s a sample of some of the enlightening answers he gave to questions from the audience:

On whether he still receives mentorship:

“One of my biggest successes is I surround myself with people smarter than myself. I am humble enough to know that I don’t know everything.”

On mistakes he learned from:

“When I had a venture fund, one important [thing I should have known] was to decide when to pull the plug. There were times I let my emotions get involved. Any time my ego and emotions got involved, I invested more and I learned the hard way.”

On keys to his success:

“I try to make sure to make the best of people. Everyone has a strength.”

“Vision. I always like to see how things are going to be five to 10 years from now. I could see [that in] CSUN and its demographic. It’s seeing the potential. I can imagine we’re going to have so many facilities for the students.”

On what he has learned from the younger generation:

“The younger generation cares more about the environment, health, what they eat, taking care of the planet, respect for the planet. It’s something we need to learn from them.”

On a defining moment:

“No. [I don’t have one.] It’s all the evolution [of experiences] that has added up. And the biggest have been my failures. It’s where I had my biggest growth.”

Plans are afoot to make the David Nazarian MBA and Graduate Programs Distinguished Speaker Series just that — a series of events. Deborah Heisley, director of Nazarian College graduate programs, said with Nazarian’s contacts, the series will continue to bring in influential and well-known business leaders to speak. As for this event, she said it was quite a start.

“It was really exciting,” Heisley said. “We had [graduate students], faculty, alumni here. It was a really nice mix. That’s the goal — build a network, build a community. We really want to engage our alumni more. This is the way to do it.”

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