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From Soccer Star to Globe-Hopping Entrepreneur: Martin Dunphy Finds Success

Many say the key to success in business is reinvention—the ability to reinvent yourself, your product, your company. That may explain the success that Martin Dunphy, BS ’90, MBA ’92, has had throughout his career that has seen him reinvent himself from trained chef to soccer star to globe-hopping entrepreneur.

A native of Ireland, Dunphy came to the United States on a soccer scholarship to pursue his education at George Mason University. The first day of classes proved to be one of the most important in his life. He stepped into his English 101 classroom and met his future wife, Teri. Dunphy enthuses, “I have athletic advisor D. R. Butler to thank for that! He helped me choose my classes.”


Martin Dunphy

Dunphy not only earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing, but he also pursued and earned an MBA from Mason. He credits the program for helping him find his “first real job” as sales and marketing director with HRE, a mechanical contracting company in Maryland.

But Dunphy’s true passion was in starting and running his own company. He even started a small soccer coaching business that he ran while a student at Mason. His entrepreneurial spirit and international mindset—he credits one of his marketing professors for inspiring him to think internationally—led to a highly successful series of ventures including telecommunications companies in Taiwan and China and a financial services company in the United Kingdom.

While his career has spanned continents and industries—serving in senior management positions in the financial services, telecommunications, and insurance industries—one thing he learned during his MBA studies has stuck with him. Dunphy says that he was the youngest guy in the class and with no real work experience, he didn’t really appreciate the role human capital has in a company, especially the impact it can have within a small company. The MBA program changed his thinking and made him realize that he, as an individual within a company, matters.

“Even now,” he says, “I am always looking for people who will do that extra little bit. You can do a lot better with less people if you get the right kind of people.”

This is truer than ever with the globalization of business.

“In the past, a global business was very large with manufacturing and distribution and lots of staff; now a global business can—with social media and the Internet—be run out of your parents’ garage with one or two workers and a well thought-out outsourcing plan,” says Dunphy. “All business has a global dimension to it now. It can be [intellectural property] protection, distribution, supply channel, competition, etc.”

Dunphy currently splits his time between London where he serves as founder and CEO of Marlin Financial Group, and Virginia, where his family is based. After growing the business 75 percent a year in the past five years, Marlin Financial Group was ranked as the #5 fastest growing company in the United Kingdom, and Dunphy was named a London finalist of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards.

“It’s the recognition that we’ve build something special and sustainable,” Dunphy says about the honor of being named a finalist. “The business is getting recognized, and there’s so much more we can do.”

There is much more on Dunphy’s personal to do list as well. He says he’s hired a CEO for Marlin Financial Group so he can transition and pursue new ideas.

“I would like to start a foundation that supports entrepreneurism, take a company public, and develop a global brand.”

It’s an ambitious list of goals but an achievable list with a little support. The father of three says, “My wife is the unsung hero. Without her I wouldn’t have had the time to focus and put energy into the companies and be successful.

–Nicole Hitpas

This article originally appeared on the School of Management website [2] in a slightly different form.