A product of Butler University’s Radio/Television program (now part of the College of Communication), Dave Arland ’85 began his career working a graveyard shift at an automated radio station that played easy listening music … not exactly the stuff of which dreams are made.
That rather inauspicious beginning led to big things that included working at the then top-rated news station in the city (WIBC), serving as the Press Secretary for four-term Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut, and ultimately landing at Thomson/RCA in 1991 where he became Vice President of Global Consumer Marketing. One of those jobs you think you’ll be in forever—until you’re not. “I was there 16 years, but the last five produced a major shift away from the consumer business to B2B,” he recounts. “Every week, I was getting additional budget cuts and having a difficult conversation with someone.” Eventually, his job was eliminated as well, and for the first time in a long time, his future wasn’t so certain.
Friends encouraged him to launch his own firm—a rather daunting task if you’ve never run a business before. But another friend gave a stellar piece of advice: “What’s the worst that can happen? It’s an epic fail, and you go to work for some big company.”
Arland started with one client that soon became three that became six. “We moved out of my spare bedroom and into this office about six years ago,” he says, nodding to the wall covered with his beloved deck of the Starship Enterprise (yes, he’s a Trekkie of galactic proportion). “I hired my first full-time employee and then a second. It just grew.”
In January, Arland Communications celebrated its 10th anniversary. He has built upon the expertise in the consumer electronics industry gained through his time at Thomson/RCA to become a major player working for large manufacturers like LG and Panasonic (both in the U.S. and Japan), as well as the Consumer Technology Association that stages the annual CES. As one of the largest tradeshows in the world—with 185,000 attendees in Las Vegas for four days in a space equivalent to 47 Lucas Oil Stadiums—it garners hours of air time via reporters interested in the “next big thing.”
Staying nimble and relevant in the fast-moving pace of electronics and technology can present a challenge in and of itself. Calling himself a “reluctant entrepreneur,” Arland credits Butler with the preparation that enabled him to succeed.
“I picked Butler because of the Radio/Television program; they had a great intern program and offered substantial on-air experience,” he says. “It may not have prepared me for the exact place I am now, but I’d like to think Butler prepared me for new challenges and being willing to learn.”
And willing to change. He continues, “You have to learn to not fall into the same old way you’ve done things. I keep up by hiring people younger and smarter than me … they are amazing and do incredible work.” Among those people is Butler graduate Joshua Phelps ’12 as well as a rotation of interns from his alma mater that he touts as “fabulous.”
More than three decades after he graduated, Arland offers three timeless pieces of advice:
- Find a way to work somewhere doing something so you get a taste of what the real world is like. It may not be the be-all-end-all, but you have to show initiative, be thorough, and find a way in. In my case, working late at night at an easy listening station led to other opportunities.
- If you are a student, immerse yourself in something but experience everything. I didn’t have the highest GPA; I wasn’t aiming for that. But I was very involved—from choir and marching band to the radio station to being an officer in my fraternity (Lambda Chi Alpha).
- Get out of your bubble. I took a class called “Change and Tradition” that was taught by noted professor Emma Lou Thornbrough. We were on opposite ends of the political and life spectrum, and I learned so much. If you’re a college Democrat and I bleed blue, or a college Republican and bleed red, get out of your bubble to listen and respect other opinions. The world is not a bubble just for what you want to hear.