Entrepreneurship Week, a celebration and acknowledgment of entrepreneurship in the U.S., started early at UR. The week runs nationally from Feb. 24 to March 3, but because of the huge number of activities planned, UR started their own “week” on Tuesday, Feb. 13 and will conclude on Friday, March 9.

The events ranged from speeches, such as PAETEC’s Arunas Chesonis’ discussion of his new book, to instructional sessions about starting a business, to presentations of entrepreneurial projects by high school students. The events were sponsored by different UR schools, individual clubs and organizations around the community.

Chesonis, a William E. Simon School of Business Administration graduate, spoke about his new book, “It Isn’t Just Business, It’s Personal: How PAETEC Thrived When All the Big Telecoms Couldn’t” in Gleason Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 27. Chesonis is the founder and current chairman and CEO of PAETEC Communications Inc. His company, which he founded in 1998, succeeded when many similar ones failed in the late 1990s. On Wednesday, PAETEC went public at $18 a share following a merger with USLife.

Chesonis primarily spoke about his philosophy of fostering a “caring culture” in his workplace. He spared the audience complex business terms and ideas and instead explained how treating employees and customers with respect and gratitude will yield better results and more profit.

Chesonis stressed putting people first, making employees feel like family and giving back to the community. However, he always related his ideas back to profit and showed how being a good person can be synonymous with being a good businessman. He used the example of a Halloween party that he threw for his employees and their families in the corporate building. He made sure to put a lot of detail into the kids’ events and even gave 25 stock options to the best-dressed employee. He noted that the entire night cost the company only $8,000, but gave employees’ families a positive opinion of the company, which made it easier for the employees to come into work on weekends.

“It’s the Triple Play – do what’s right, have fun, make money,” Chesonis said. Another example he cited was the need to donate to charity. PAETEC gives money to officers around the country to allocate however they want; this lets officers use the money to support their passions while also forming valuable connections with hospitals and other institutions that might do business with PAETEC.

Chesonis has indeed given generously to the Rochester community. His Rochester-based company has spread to branches in other cities, but he has given generous donations to both the Simon Business School and to the Rochester Raging Rhinos, in the form of PAETEC Park. He has also honored his heritage by donating to the Lithuanian and Baltic communities.

Chesonis spoke at length about other topics, such as the need to have open communication with employees and unmatched service with customers. He said that owners should engage their employees in decision-making.

“Make all your employees feel like part-owners,” he said.

After the speech, Chesonis signed copies of his book and gave out 100 free copies. Always thinking, he even pointed out that this was financially sound because each copy only cost slightly over one dollar.

Another event was called the “Entrepreneurial Educator: Adding Value to Our Community.” Sponsored by the Maragaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development, the discussion featured Dean of Rochester School of Nursing Patricia Chiverton and former school principal Ralph Spezio. The presenters spoke on how they used their knowledge of entrepreneurship to achieve their respective successes.

Spezio is the former principal of School No. 17. He explained to the audience how it is sometimes hard to decide what idea to go with because there are often so many possible ideas to pursue. One of Spezio’s points of pride was how he orchestrated a partnership between the school and Eastman Dental Center to provide dental care for people who needed it. “Entrepreneurship is more than just starting a business,” he said.

Chiverton became Interim Dean of the School of Nursing when the school was mired by a one million dollar deficit. She helped form a plan to turn the school around by beginning to meet students’ needs and moving the tenured faculty away from complacency. She is currently working on a joint venture with the Simon School.

These events and others like them provide an opportunity for students to see what possibilities lie ahead for hard-working and innovative individuals in the business field.

Wrobel is a member of the class of 2010.

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