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Mike DuBose was born on a dirt road in Darlington, SC in 1950 and now resides in Irmo, SC with his wife of 40 years, Debra, and his youngest son, Joel. His favorite childhood memories are growing up on his family’s airport and flying every day with his grandfather in a 1939 Piper J-4 Cub plane (whose top speed was 90 MPH). From his humble roots, Mike went on to graduate with degrees in psychology and a Masters of Social Work (MSW) from the University of South Carolina.
Although Mike grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, they never really taught him what it was like to own or manage a business. While some believe that business leaders are born, Mike had to work hard learning about business since he lacked formal business education. He noted with a smile, “I lasted three days in my college accounting class..but for some reason, entrepreneurialism has always been in my blood!”
Mike went on to work as an administrator for seven state agencies, two governors, and a private non-profit. In 1981, he formed several computer retail, training, and wholesale businesses. For two years they were successful, but after his competitors caught on, these businesses eventually failed. This was the darkest period in his life. He struggled to take his companies out of business and pay off over ¼ million dollars in bills – narrowly escaping bankruptcy. Fortunately, someone special was born in 1983 — his oldest son, Blake. Although Mike's business failures were a terrible experience, he later determined that they were gifts from God, teaching him how to run a business by taking several "out of business." He realized what he should have been doing (and should not have been doing) in running his small businesses!
After a lot of hard work to repay his debts, Mike went on to create Research Associates (RA) in 1985, which focused on writing corporate, foundation, and government grants for school districts, government agencies, schools, and non-profits. He expanded the business by training 25,000 professionals on how to locate, write, administer, and evaluate grants. He also formed The Evaluation Group (TEG), which provides high-quality evaluations that help guide customers to achieve their program expectations. Today, RA and TEG work with 60 school districts and more than 200 schools nationwide and are his most prosperous businesses.
Mike also started the SC Law Enforcement Training Center, which focused on training law enforcement officers in a wide range of advanced courses. This business was discontinued when he learned that profit was not to be found in law enforcement! He noted, “Starting and running a business is like one great experiment. If you ask any scientist, most experiments are a series of testing what works and does not work – trial and error. The key is to keep trying until you find a business venture that works! When you fail, analyze what went wrong and right, turn the failure into wisdom, and never look back!”
In 2003, he formed Columbia Conference Center – a 40,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art meeting facility located between St. Andrews and Piney Grove Roads near I-26 and I-20. Several other businesses followed.
In 2007, realizing a personal goal established four years ago (and thanks to the good Lord, some great staff, and a supportive family), Mike paid off all his personal and corporate debt! "This was one of the great highlights of my life!" he said, smiling. Now he plans to give much of the profits of his enterprises to his valued employees and charity.
"In retrospect, like Sam Walton, who built Wal-Mart and was one of the richest men in America,I have made more mistakes and failed more than I have succeeded." Mike said. "But I made a few great decisions on our road to success. It takes a lot of the ‘right stuff’ happening and the right people in the right seats in order to build a great business." When he turned 50, Mike decided that he would throw out everything he knew about leading a business and read 100 business bestsellers. When he combined what the literature says with his past experience, it all came together! However, he stated, "A business leader never knows it all. I would rate myself as an average leader. When you humble yourself, it is amazing what you can learn! Effective leadership is an evolving art that is all about people. I have a long road yet to travel and an exciting, first class ticket with no final destination!"
He is passionate about helping other small business owners succeed; working with his church, St. Andrews Presbyterian in Irmo; and assisting charities and the Irmo-Chapin-St. Andrews communities. His new book, Building a Great Business, was completed in 2011.
If you would like to really know “Who Mike Is,” please click here for a letter he sent to his staff to help them understand him as a person and a professional.