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Bobby Martin ’92 – from “lousy student” to magna cum laude to entrepreneur – shares thoughts on success

April 15, 2016

Are you willing to work a 60-hour week? Be on call 24/7? Put your life on hold as you build a career? If you answered, “Yes,” don’t ask banker, author, angel investor and entrepreneur Bobby Martin ’92 for a job.

One would think Martin, a magna cum laude graduate of the Walker College of Business and captain of the Appalachian State University soccer team, would value the work-first ethic of a workaholic, but not so much. “I don’t want to hire anybody who wants to work more than 40 hours a week,” Martin said. “I am looking for passion. You gotta love what you do. That’s the secret. But work to live, don’t live to work.”

It is difficult to believe he has followed his own advice.

After graduation Martin worked six years with Bank of America managing a large commercial banking pool. “I think now I settled in banking too soon and for too long,” he said. “I should have explored more of the world during that time.”

Although Martin encourages young career makers to move around and follow their dreams, he acknowledges there is true value in getting down to hard work. He has done a little of both. In 1999 he left the bank and co-founded First Research, a sales-friendly industry profile company. He sold First Research in 2007 to Dun & Bradstreet and today is an active angel investor who serves on the boards of a number of innovative start-ups.

His latest project is researching and writing “The Hockey Stick Principles,” a book about four stages of entrepreneurial growth. He is also active chairman and co-founder of Vertical IQ, a leading provider of sales research insight for banks. He speaks frequently about entrepreneurship at a number of universities, including Appalachian, and he recently sponsored the Pitch Your Idea (PYI) competition at Appalachian’s Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship.

“Bobby has served on the advisory board for the Center for Entrepreneurship for many years,” said the center’s managing director, Erich Schlenker. “As a successful entrepreneur himself, he has a tremendous amount of practical wisdom to share and we are delighted to have his support.”

Martin, who has been generous with his time and money on behalf of the university, believes all alumni should be involved. “Even the smallest act or contribution can make a difference in a student’s life,” he said.

Martin, writing in his blog that he was “a lousy student. . . who (had to repeat) fourth grade,” credits his high school American history teacher who “practically danced across the room, engaging students from the front to the back. He loved American history, and said, “his passion for the subject helped me come alive, opening my mind to a love for learning.” Martin said he found the same passion in his professors at Appalachian and looks for that in the people he chooses to work with, several of whom are Appalachian graduates. “They are the best employees I’ve ever had,” he said. “Again, it’s all about the passion.”

Martin lives with his wife and two children in Raleigh and frequently visits his mountain home in the Linville area.