Students looking to launch consulting start-ups would do well to start by working for a large firm, says successful serial entrepreneur and Pamplin College of Business alumnus Kurt Zuch.

Learn a trade there, he suggests, “preferably one that’s industry focused, as most consultancies ultimately organize by sector, and prospective clients prioritize industry expertise.”

Zuch, of Atlanta, Georgia, has launched, grown to success, and sold three consulting firms — the third and most recent to Ernst & Young in May after topping $50 million in revenue in five years.

He also advises students to find a business mentor, network diligently, and master accounting basics.

Zuch, who earned a bachelor’s degree in management science in 1990, says his Virginia Tech education has played a major role in his business success.

His studies, in what is now the business information technology major, he says, had “a material impact” on his career, establishing a technological foundation that was immediately applied at his first job with Andersen Consulting (now Accenture).

At Virginia Tech, Zuch adds, he learned to work in teams and with diverse personalities and undertook thought-provoking case studies, “all of which also prepared me to manage many of the challenges I’ve faced throughout my professional career.”

Perhaps most significantly, it was at Virginia Tech, he says, that he discovered his passion for technology and people, leading him to a highly successful career as an entrepreneur and consultant.

Now a principal/partner at Ernst & Young, Zuch is the subject of the cover story of the fall issue of Virginia Tech Business, the magazine of the Pamplin College of Business. In the story, he discusses how he found success competing as the “small guy;” analyzes the challenges confronting consulting businesses; and identifies some core personal qualities for entrepreneurial leadership.

A generous donor to Virginia Tech athletics and Pamplin, Zuch is also a member of the advisory board of the business information technology department.