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International Entrepreneur, Sign Flipper Gives Advice to McPherson College Students

posted Nov 14, 2012 in CAMPUS EVENTS

Hold a sign.

In 1999, when Max Durovic got his first high school job in California, being hired to stand on a street corner holding up an advertising placard seemed to hold little promise.

"After a few minutes, this can become the worst job in the world if you have a bad attitude," Durovic said to a group of more than 30 entrepreneurial high school students on the campus of McPherson College. "But with the right mindset it can be a lot of fun."

Max Durovic was the featured speaker at McPherson College for Global Entrepreneurship Week – speaking to high school students in the morning and to about 600 McPherson College students in the afternoon. McPherson College has gained recognition for its entrepreneurship program "Freedom to Jump," which combines traditional liberal arts education with the modern entrepreneurship – artists, scientists, teachers and businesspeople all become entrepreneurs at MC and have the opportunity in the curriculum, through contests, and via grant programs to follow their entrepreneurial ideas.

"Anytime you can infuse entrepreneurship into the different concentrations, it can set your school apart from all the others out there," Durovic said about McPherson College. "Teaching people about entrepreneurship early on is just as important as teaching good match and English skills. You guys are really lucky to be somewhere where the focus is on entrepreneurship."

Back in 1999, Durovic's creative, entrepreneurial idea drove him to do more than just stand with a signboard – he started to flip, toss and spin the long, pointed placards in complicated and skillful tricks. He started to enjoy it so much that he and several friends took an investment of $500 and began to market the unique advertising model as "Aarrow Advertising." With a lot of hard work they accomplished...

Nothing, at least that first summer.

And that was Durovic's first lesson: that failure is a necessary step toward success. He told the students to fail as much as possible, as fast as possible, and get the failures out of the way.

"If you failed at something recently, congratulations," he said. "Because you are that much closer to success.

At the end of that first summer, Durovic got his first contract for a mattress store. It happened to be on a day that the CEO of the company was present, and it was the flashy "guerilla" advertising on the street that drove a customer into the store to make a purchase. That led to a long-term contract, and overnight Aarrow Advertising was a national company.

"That first sale is like a first kiss," Durovic said.

Since then, Durovic's idea has grown into a multi-million dollar company that has been featured in "Inc," "Entrepreneur," and "Businessweek" (which named him one of the "25 Best Entrepreneurs 25 and Under" in 2007). His idea has been parodied or featured in popular shows such as "South Park," "The Simpsons," and "Two and a Half Men." Sign spinners are in 30 cities around the U.S. and across the globe (most recently in Poland) and the company hosts an annual competition for sign spinners to show off their impressive skills in an athletic contest.

Durovic has weathered selling his beloved car to make payroll as he was just starting, hangups from dubious potential clients, and the 2008 U.S. recession. At the McPherson College event, he encouraged high school and college students to "Just Jump" and take a risk when they're young and they have fewer liabilities.

"If you're going to be an entrepreneur, do it now," he said. "No more excuses."
He also said to "Aim High" and make big goals to strive for and to "Never Quit" even when things seem rough. Remembering the lessons after the presentations won't be difficult. All three concepts – Just Jump, Aim High, and Never Quit – were printed on giant signs, which Durovic used to demonstrate some of the Aarrow Advertising stunts.

At the end of the presentation, he encouraged students to be social entrepreneurs – measuring success by how much they benefit society, not just shareholders. Aarrow Advertising employs at-risk youth and recycles old signs and donates time in support of charitable causes in every city they operate.

"Leave a legacy bigger than you," he said. "Don't just think about how much money you can make. Think about how you can help."

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