by Kera Coyer, Sept. 2012
Whether you call it karma, kismet or just plain luck, John Walden seems to have it in spades. The local entrepreneur has had several successful business ventures in Florida, but he is best known for his work in Utah.
What started as a bid for water turned into one of the fastest growing cities in Utah. In 1994, Walden purchased 8,000 acres in Cedar Valley, which he originally intended to use for the water rights. However, when he saw the land, he knew he could do more with it and ended up partnering with other developers to build a city. He said people called him crazy for wanting to develop a rural area outside of Provo, but Walden saw it as a growth opportunity. He literally built Eagle Mountain from the ground up with his team, and today it is primed to become one of the hottest growth areas in Utah.
Here on the Space Coast, Walden has had a hand in the development of both surgical centers and residential areas. He admitted that his business ventures are “eclectic,” but within 15 minutes of talking to him, you can tell he has been passionate about all of them. He smiled and laughed as he talked about his different projects and became animated when he hit on his key points.
Seeing the Bigger Picture
What is it that has enabled him to be so successful? He’s admittedly followed a similar path as other professionals – he is a self-made man and has an MBA under his belt. But, Walden is adept at key skills that have made the difference in his business ventures.
He has been gifted with the ability to visualize on a large scale, which he said he inherited from his mother. “[She] could walk into any room and see it finished. When I first looked out at my land [in Utah], I could see the whole town.”
Visualization is easily transferable between industries and can help entrepreneurs see the bigger picture when planning new business ventures. Walden, for example, created a construction company when he decided to develop Eagle Mountain because he knew he was going to need to eventually sell thousands of homes – not just those constructed during the initial development phase – and he would need to make sure everything ran smoothly over the course of the city’s growth.
His long-term planning has paid off. Eagle Mountain’s population was recorded as 19,000+ during the 2008 U.S. Census – an exponential increase from the original 250 required to incorporate the city in 1996 – and is projected to pass 120,000 by 2040.
Staying Ahead of the Curve
Successful entrepreneurs not only need to be able to visualize their projects, but also to stay keenly aware of current trends and future growth opportunities. If Karl Fisch, the educator behind the “Shift Happens” video series, is to be believed, “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist and teaching them to use technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”
In order to align their business ventures with the emerging workforce that will power them, entrepreneurs need to stay ahead of the curve. Walden’s projects – medical, residential and commercial – all stemmed from anticipating the future needs of consumers.
In addition to thinking like consumers, Walden also thinks like his employees.
Keeping it Real
“People like to work with people who do their work,” he said. To promote an engaged workplace, Walden treats his employees fairly and demands the best of them. Aspiring entrepreneurs would do well to remember that they need to balance both sides of the equation in order to grow healthy businesses.
Beyond the innate skills that have honed his intuition and business acumen, Walden likes to think of his career path holistically. He attributes his success to luck and acknowledges that he has been able to accomplish many of his goals with the help of others. He speaks well of his colleagues when talking about any of his ventures and seems to be a proponent of the theory that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. He is equal parts vision, shrewd business sense and modesty.
Walden is currently working with his development team to expand Eagle Mountain’s commercial and industrial ventures. Next on the agenda are a new industrial corridor and an expansion to the Eagle Mountain airport – both projects are part of the original Master Development Plan that was set into place when the city was founded. Although it is not yet open for public use (it is only industrial right now), when the airport is finished it will rival Salt Lake City International in size.
Quoting Mark Twain, Walden summed up his business narrative in two short sentences: “What is it they say? Truth is stranger than fiction?” He may find it strange, but Walden’s is quite the epic story to tell.