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A Tufts Legend Shares Words of Wisdom

Bill Cummings, Founder and CEO of Cummings Properties, was awarded the 2019 Tufts Legends of Innovation & Entrepreneurship Award on October 25th. The Tufts Entrepreneurship Center introduced the Legends Award in 2018 to show appreciation to alumni who best exemplify the spirit, experience, and success of entrepreneurship. Bill fits those characteristics with his expertise as an author, serial entrepreneur, and philanthropist.

The event kicked off with an introduction from President Tony Monaco who said, “It is hard for me to imagine anyone in our alumni group that’s more deserving, or fits these criteria, better than Bill Cummings. Bill is a true Jumbo! His generosity and commitment, when he was a trustee and afterwards, to the university is just extraordinary.”

Bill then sat down with Jack Derby, Director of the Tufts Entrepreneurship Center, for some Q&A that delved into Bill's perspective on what it is like to be in business for yourself. Bill continued by sharing wisdom he acquired on his journey to where he is today and discussed what being an entrepreneur means to him.

Bill said, “I clearly remember the very first time I heard the word entrepreneur. I heard it at Tufts University! I felt empowered by the word ‘cause that was describing me and the idea of taking risks which is an essential part of entrepreneurship.”

According to Bill, the key to entrepreneurship is having a group of people that are all invested and interested in giving the venture a good honest effort. That dedication is the driving force that can make any business work. As an entrepreneur, Bill feels it is important to enjoy dealing with and solving problems. This means that trusting in colleagues is a vital factor and motivator for people to stick with a company.

“The best way to acquire entrepreneurial skills is by having a mentor. Go somewhere where somebody cares about you and wants to give you the opportunities to do things.” Almost all the successful people Bill has come in contact with are dedicated individuals who care about other people. These are the people who were given the chance to explore and utilize their unique skillsets to help grow a company. Bill believes that everyone has something that they are great at and can provide to a company once they find it.

Bill’s Key Lessons

  • Entrepreneurship tolerates errors. It is important that people take risks sometimes. These shouldn’t be huge risks, but rather ones they can afford to lose.
  • Those who think they have all the answers, so often don’t. It is best practice to talk to other people when seeking out an answer to get a variety of perspectives.
  • Hire a person, not a resume. Most people will stay at a job if they like the people they work with, valued over almost any other factor.
  • In order to encourage people to stay working with you for a long time, you need to build long term, personal relationships.
  • People will work with you if you make an effort to work with them.

Ten lucky attendees of the event were selected at random to receive a signed copy of Bill Cummings’ book, Starting Small and Making It Big: An Entrepreneurs Journey to Billion-Dollar Philanthropist. Like a true businessman, Bill followed the raffle announcement by saying, “If you don’t win a book, there are a lot of [my] books for sale at the bookstore and 100% of the profits go to the Cummings Foundation.”

Cummings Foundation, Inc. was founded in 1986 by Bill and his wife, Joyce, when they began donating property to the private charitable organization. All of the rental profits from these buildings across Massachusetts contribute to charitable causes. The largest single commitment to any one entity made by the foundation was $50 million to what is now known as the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

Bill Cummings and Tony Monaco, Book Signing