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‘It was through education that I found the answers’

Alumnus Zach Oehlman has realized his dream of owning businesses and traveling the world

Monday Feb 22, 2016

When Zach Oehlman was pursuing his business degree at Indiana University Northwest back in the early 2000s, he admits that didn’t much care for education and he couldn’t wait to graduate.

The Kouts native, who double-majored in Business Administration and Financial Information Systems, and earned his bachelor’s degree in 2009, had big dreams of traveling the world and owning businesses, but he was clueless about how to do that.

“It was through education that I found the answers,” he said. “I eventually fell in love with education because I saw it as power. Power to do and have anything I ever wanted – as long as I was willing to put in the work.”

About his career

Oehlman is now president of his own Northwest Indiana-based investing company, called No Limit Investing, a company that invests in other businesses and assets either through acquisition or start-ups.

His duties include prospecting for new businesses and assets to acquire; performing due diligence on potential business / asset acquisitions; building systems and processes to scale businesses; and managing the different businesses that he owns.

“I am proud that I was able to start my own businesses and become an investor,” Oehlman said. “It was something I always dreamed of and I am so grateful I get to realize my dream.”

What IU Northwest did for him

Oehlman said that a turning point in his education was the opportunity to work with Professor of Finance and Gallagher-Mills Chair in FinanceBala Arshanapalli. It was through him that he learned so much in-depth knowledge as it pertains to business valuation. Oehlman was passionate about finance and Arshanapalli became a valuable mentor, answering his endless questions and creating additional assignments so he could get a better understanding of finance.

“After I graduated college I was given an amazing opportunity to work with individuals that had Ivy league MBAs … that didn’t have the training like I received from IU Northwest as it pertains to business valuation,” Oehlman said.

Oehlman admits he lacked some confidence in his field while in college, and it wasn’t until he entered the profession that he realized how much he actually learned while in college.

“I owe a lot of my success to everyone at the School of Business and Economics that saw something in me when I didn’t see it,” Oehlman said. “They were so supportive and encouraging the entire time I was there. They would help me find jobs to make extra money and let me know of any opportunities that came their way. They would take the time to explain things to me after class and challenged my way of thinking.”

This course was a game changer

One of the most influential opportunities that Oehlman received at IU Northwest, he says, was being urged to take Arshanapalli’s course “Financial Decision Making.“

This unique course enables students to learn about investing, not through fictitious scenarios and case studies, but by actually investing real money. The course was made possible through a gift by William Nelson, who has been teaching finance at IU Northwest for more than 35 years and wanted to give this authentic experience to students. Nelson, also the Associate Dean of the School of Business and Economics, said he wanted to help students in a way that someone else likely wouldn’t provide otherwise, so he donated $50,000 to begin a student-managed investment fund at IU Northwest.

Over the course of the semester, they use state-of-the-art financial software (FACTSET) to do their stock research. In the process of researching, students learn how to conduct fundamental, technical, sectoral and macroeconomic analysis.

Oehlman said the opportunity to make real investments with someone else’s money is a real game-changer when it comes to learning. This hands-on experience really helped him make sense of what had previously been a mysterious notion to him.

“I learned that business valuation is a cumulative evaluation of everything in business including: marketing, operations, finance, accounting, processes, law, etc.,” he said. “I learned that value is not a tangible or definite number, but a range of numbers and outcomes that need to be assessed for their probability of actually happening. I learned that there is a difference between valuing a business and trading stock. I learned that a business can have an infinite number of values because everyone has a different perspective on reality which causes them to value the business differently.”

What’s more, the experience gave him the confidence to trust his own education and instincts.

“It was the idea that no one really knew the value of a business that gave me a lot of ease and confidence once I become a valuation consultant,” Oehlman explained. “I knew all I had to do was look at all the given information and make a judgement call rather than try and find the ‘exact value’ everyone was looking for. This really helped reduce the stress and made things a lot more fun.”

What the future holds

Oehlman said he loves the challenges that come with running his business – buying businesses and real estate and building his team. He is currently training with high level personal development coaches and one day plans on becoming a personal development coach himself.

Reflecting on his own personal challenges throughout his educational journey, such as his early lack of confidence in his field and his aversion to higher education, Oehlman intends to use experience to help others.

“I want to travel the world helping people get over the challenges that get in their way of living the lives they want to live,” he said.

His advice for others

“IU Northwest has everything you want and need if you’re willing to put in the time. The faculty will go to whatever length they need to make sure you’re supported so keep pushing the limits,” Oehlman said.

But the learning should not end once you graduate.

I spent so much time in college mastering the material and then even more years after college mastering my craft and actually read more books now than I did in college. I consider myself a student and learn something new all of the time so don’t expect the learning process to be over after college,” Oehlman explained. “Surround yourself with people that are better than you, know more than you, and are willing to share their experiences with you. Most importantly have a great attitude and find something your passionate about because you will give up and won’t achieve your dreams if you’re not in love with what you doing.”

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