On Friday, the Rockefeller Center was pleased to welcome Bernie Marcus, co-founder and former CEO of The Home Depot, as the Inaugural Portman Lecturer in the Spirit of Entrepreneurship. If we were to look across college campuses today and examine the list of people whom they invite to speak, I think that entrepreneurs would be the least well represented group relative to the contributions they make to society. And there really is no one who better exemplifies that than Bernie Marcus. He's the son of Russian immigrants, and a self-made man who has given back to his communities--primarily Atlanta, Jewish causes, and the medical field--many times over.
He viewed his contribution to the economy as making it possible for the United States to become a nation of "do-it-yourselfers" by putting everything they would need under one roof and doing so on a scale that would lower the prices they would have to pay. When asked (the presumably familiar) question of "What about your competition?", he gave a two part response. First, for the big box competitor, it was all-out warfare. Second, for the smaller hardware and other stores, he said that they shouldn't expect to survive if they couldn't adapt to provide a better or different service at a good value. He cited some examples of smaller stores that had done so.
Read the coverage of the event in the student newspaper.