Purpose

Mike DuBose: Entrepreneur, Researcher, Author

Mike DuBose: Entrepreneur, Researcher, Author

Mike DuBose was born in Darlington, SC, in 1950. He attended Pembroke University, receiving a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and obtained his Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from the University of South Carolina. Mike worked for several government agencies before striking out as an entrepreneur in 1981. In the ensuing years, he would experience both devastating failure and wild success, learning valuable lessons through both. Mike formed Research Associates, a grant writing and grant training firm, in 1987. The Evaluation Group was born in 1990, and Columbia Conference Center was built in 2002. After successfully running these companies for decades, Mike retired in 2019. He now enjoys working with his two sons, Blake and Joel, on their businesses; spending time with his wife of nearly 50 years, Debra; and applying his knowledge and experience to help others by researching and writing blogs and published articles about travel, personal, and business issues, as well as health articles with the help of Surb Guram, MD.

Below, Mike describes some pivotal moments in his development as a person, leader, and entrepreneur and the impact that those experiences had on his life. Click here to read the extended version of Mike’s timeline.

Mike’s Journey

Life has taught me that failures and mistakes can be powerful teachers, pain and misfortune can yield valuable lessons, and conflicts can turn into precious opportunities. Therefore, I’d like to share my experiences—both good and bad—so that others may learn from them. I hope that my journey will inspire others like my many mentors have inspired me.

My Early Life

I was born in Darlington, South Carolina in 1950. My childhood was happy until age 12, when my parents divorced and we lost everything in a house fire. Thankfully, my grandparents were active in my life, and I cherish my memories with them. Raised with a strong work ethic, I entered the workforce at 13. My jobs, though not prestigious—i.e., meat cutter—were my first lessons on marketing. I had fun in high school (and was voted “Most Wittiest”), but when I said I wanted to go to college, my school counselor told me that I would never amount to anything! I proved her wrong, graduating from Pembroke University in three years, thanks to my wife, Debra, who I met during my freshman year.

Mike’s Journey

Beginning My Career

In 1971, I became the first in my family to graduate from college, and Debra and I were married. I worked with juvenile criminals as a parole officer, social worker, counselor, and administrator, witnessing the tragic cycle of poverty, abuse, lost potential, and crime firsthand. Eventually, I became a grants administrator with the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS), a job that would later inspire me to begin two successful companies. During this time, I obtained my MSW from the University of South Carolina and interned in the child abuse division. Then, working as a community program administrator for the Department of Disabilities and Special needs, I saw the struggles faced by disabled individuals. Finally, in 1981, I resigned to become an entrepreneur.

Mike’s Journey

The Highs and Lows of Entrepreneurism

When Texas Instruments introduced its home computer, a friend and I formed a computer business. That Christmas, people lined up to buy our products, and we opened two retail locations. However, Texas Instruments’ computer division crumbled and our business failed. I contemplated bankruptcy and sank into a pit of depression for two years. Then, the birth of my older son, Blake, pulled me out of despair. I obtained a job as an administrator with the governor’s office and eventually paid off my debts, slowly returning to my old self. During this time, I learned about developing and managing state and federal grants and ran five political campaigns. Debra and I worked hard together to raise Blake and our younger son, Joel, born in 1989.

Mike’s Journey

Getting Into Grants

After working for the governor’s office, I forged an informal partnership with my former supervisor, Ritchie Tidwell, to write grants for the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. We helped secure millions of dollars in grants for the agency. Through our work, I realized that those suffering from mental illness need help and compassion, not scorn and shame. While we were writing and researching grants on homelessness, I was shocked to recognize one of my former colleagues. Seeing him on the streets made me realize that anyone can become homeless, and we all deserve kindness and a second chance. These experiences solidified my desire to start a business in the grants field, as well as defining its future purpose—improving the lives of others.

Mike’s Journey

Building Successful Businesses

I founded Research Associates in 1987 and The Evaluation Group in 1990. Since then, our teams have secured more than $600 million in grants for school districts, government agencies, universities, and nonprofits and have trained 25,000 individuals on finding and writing grants. The 40,000-square-foot Columbia Conference Center, completed in 2002, housed our corporate offices and training facilities and hosted weddings, receptions, and meetings. I learned some priceless lessons over the 30-year life of my companies (and by reading 100+ business bestsellers), including: what works today might not work tomorrow; great organizations need a vision, purpose, mission, and strategic plan; and if you hire outstanding people and treat them well, they will excel. My book, The Art of Building a Great Business, explains these and more.

Mike’s Journey

Entering a New Era: Retirement!

In my opinion, realizing how little you know is the beginning of wisdom and humility. I still have much to learn, but I’d say that the biggest lessons life, God, and experience have taught me is your actions should reflect the Fruits of the Spirit which include: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And, implementing those eight areas consistently is tough! But, in my Christian walk, it’s a noble goal to strive for the Fruits of the Spirit to find happiness in life! I’m so grateful to the people who have helped me grow on my wonderful journey through my 70 years, especially my wife, children, and friends. I’m still a work in progress, but it has been a great ride so far, and I wouldn’t change a thing, no matter the pain, suffering, and failures I experienced! Praise God for my life! Click here to read the extended version of Mike’s timeline.

Mike’s Journey

Inspirational Quotes

A robust collection of quotes reflecting Mike’s philosophies that are intended to foster introspection, inspiration, and personal and professional growth. Enjoy some of his favorite wisdom on business, leadership, health, happiness, and more.

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Recommended Reading

In search of knowledge to propel his three companies to greatness, Mike read over 100 bestselling business books beginning in 2006. See the list of those he found most impactful and useful for business leaders, professionals, and beyond.

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