secrets to scale

Secrets To Scale Podcast
009 - How To Find Your WHY And Find True Success As An Entrepreneur

009 – How To Find Your WHY And Find True Success As An Entrepreneur

Secrets To Scale is a marketing and entrepreneurship podcast that revolves around hearing the stories of successful entrepreneurs and uncovering their secrets to scaling their businesses. Music for every episode of this podcast was written and produced by Treycen Clausse.

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Tanner:

This week on the show, I have Victor Gill. He is the CEO and co-founder of a new startup out of Salt Lake City called STRT. They have a really amazing mission and Vic is a really amazing guy. Vic and I talk about entrepreneurship and how we can find our “why”. I really think you guys are going to love this episode. It’s really powerful. Let’s just get right in.

Welcome to the show, Victor. It’s an honor to have you. Go ahead and introduce yourself to the audience.

Victor:

Well yeah, so I’m big currently employed as a CEO and co-founder of a business called STRT. I’m sure we’ll talk more about that. I’m also an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship and marketing at the University of Utah. I guess by way of background you know, probably all the resume stuff is available through LinkedIn or easily discoverable, but just a little bit about myself. I’ve always been drawn to technology, drawn to kind of creating things and building businesses for as long as I can remember just very lucky to have found a lifestyle in an occupation around it. So spent most of my professional career in product in enterprise software and technology. But it ventured outside of that a little bit here and there. And yeah, I had some pretty successful startups. And some, not so successful startups, but yeah, that’s a little bit about myself.

Tanner:

Cool. Can you can kind of walk us through your timeline of your career and the companies that you have been part of building and how you ended up with STRT Now.

It was so well aligned with what I was passionate about: trying to find a way to help entrepreneurs succeed.

Victor:

Yeah, for sure. Actually, I’ll share a story with you about like very, very early on, this is like pre “career”. So you know, one of my formative memories, one of my earliest, I was in school. It must have been first or second grade, maybe first grade and you know, the 49ers we’re coming up in our market. And at the time it was like Joe Montana, Steve Young, and for whatever reason, my brother and I both got these box top cutouts from our cereal boxes. And we sent them in and he got a Seattle Seahawks headband and I got a 49er’s headband.

I was just like this little 49ers fan for as long as I can remember. And I would go to the grocery store and they had this like pack of pencils and it had of all the NFC teams in it. And the only pencil I wanted was the 49ers pencil. So I grabbed that pencil and I took all my other pencils. I sold them at school and then I would take the money that I get from of the other pencils and then buy another pack of pencils from the grocery store across the street. And I did this until I got called to the principal’s office, because I was a nuisance. So, you know, like really early on, I just liked the hustle. You know, I could tell you the stories about yard sales and selling you know, those helicopter seeds that fall down out of a maple tree to neighbors. And that was just kind of like a little things I did growing up.

But you know, about the time that I entered my undergraduate career, went to the University of Utah as a mechanical engineer or a student in mechanical engineering and that summer I was actually doing mortgages. So I was a loan officer and doing that work coming into my freshman year of undergrad and it was just kind of a weird experience, changed my relationship with money because it was a very lucrative field to be in. And as an 18 year olds, we didn’t even really have a bank account set up. It was a brand new experience for me. But then, you know, series of events, I get an internship at L3 Communications where you know, I was just interning and doing design engineering work using gosh, they were using software, it’s called Solid Edge. And I was doing, you know, some computerized design work went from there to working at a place up in Ogden called Autoliv did engineering for airbags and the tooling and processing equipment for the manufacturer’s airbags.

I worked at Triumph Gear Systems, which at one point, was a Rolls Royce company for a little bit. But anyhow, I was just kind of bouncing around and in my life experience at that point, you know, the work of mechanical engineering was very cool to me. Like some of my classes were very interesting to me, but I was really in this like weird spot where my entire life been a very high academic achiever. It kind of had a really clear direction of what I want to do. I was having this crisis of like, what am I doing with my life? I made all this money doing loans. This other stuff is not that interesting to me.

So just as it so happened, I ended up getting this gig at this company called Delta Valve. It was an industrial valve company that was what we would call start-up. Early stage, 30 employees, less than 10 million in revenue. And they were growing and growing very rapidly. I got a job there because of my experience doing this design engineering work, and it fundamentally changed my life. I realized that I was much more effective at a smaller organization than a larger. I realized I had a lot more fun and I was able to kind of bring whatever skills or tools I had to bear a little bit more effectively in that environment. And maybe more importantly, I’ve found what my skill set actually was. So my entire life I loved information technology and computers and systems and that’s what I ended up doing. So they hired me to help you know, do the computerized design of industrial valves.

But, what I ended up spending most of my time doing was implementing the business and operating software to help that operation run. So I changed my major at university. I went with management information systems. Finished my undergrad, got a master’s and that ended up being kind of my career path was or at least where I thought it was going to be at the time was implementing and deploying information systems for you know, like operating companies. A colleague from Oracle who was going to work at a startup called Arena, in the Bay area, recognized that I was really passionate and excited about this and I was a hard worker, asked me to come out and be a product manager. And I did, so I left Salt Lake, moved to Silicon Valley worked for Arena, Arena was eventually acquired by JMI private equity.

That business has done incredibly well. I started my own company while I was out there that worked in the electric vehicle infrastructure space. When my wife and I had our first child, I moved back here to Salt Lake. I went to work for another enterprise software company, also kind of in the change control build materials space. They were servicing FDA regulated companies. The company was called Master Control, and I helped you know, kind of grow their cloud product. I built out their SIV brand which was Sparked, and that’s been a very successful business unit within Master Control. And from there just a few other startups one is called Basket APS – private equity investment, Stylize in Seattle, I’ll use Computer Vision for fashion and interior design. And then my last gig before STRT, I was the chief product officer at a company called Blinks where we were working on intelligent mobility solutions data analytics and connected and autonomous vehicles help that company kind of go from being a project based in some sense pre-revenue company to being, you know, a fairly stable good growing company that was really founded in stride and is growing as well.

How I arrived at start is a bit of a story, and I’ll try to tell it quickly. In 2013-14, when I came back to Salt Lake from the Bay area, I had this life experience, which was I knew that when I left from Salt Lake to San Francisco, that like, okay, this is like the epicenter of technology and innovation and startups, but I did not really understand how much resource and support was available if you were an early entrepreneur in that geography. And when I came back to Salt Lake, I wanted to help Salt Lake have some of those resources and expertise. So I just started volunteering and I just started showing up and, you know, doing mentoring gigs and volunteer gigs. And I met Troy D’Ambrosio, who’s now my current business partner at STRT also the Assistant Dean of the business school and Executive Director of the Lassonde program at the University of Utah.

And he was just really getting the Lassonde entrepreneurship program off the ground. And about the same time I started teaching and we’ve kind of kept in touch and discuss kind of like, how can we grow entrepreneurship? How could we help this community in early 2019. We got together and started talking about the idea of, you know, what would it take to provide kind of a lifestyle solution for what is a lifestyle of being an entrepreneur? And it’s something Troy had done before it in a variety of ways, but one that stands out from the rest is he built this facility on the university of Utah campus called Lassonde Studios that was wildly successful in helping entrepreneurs, kind of have all the resources, the community that they need. So early 2019, we got to talking about, but I absolutely fell in love with the idea. It was so well aligned with what I was passionate about: trying to find a way to help entrepreneurs succeed. So I quit my job, we raised some capital and we’ve been running on that business sense.

What is the difference between playing and working?

Tanner:

Awesome, man. I really love what you’re doing with STRT, of course. I think it’s awesome. And what I really like about it is that it aligns with your “why”, right? Like you’re passionate about it. And, you know, if you can do something in business that aligns with what your, “why” is and what your passion is. I mean, what’s stopping you from just being as successful as you can be, right?

Victor:

A hundred percent like you know, a thought that I always keep with me is philosophically, what is the difference between playing and working? And if you were to like describe them in the abstract, right? Or maybe not in the abstract, but by definition, play is showing up, putting in effort putting in resources a commitment to do something. And then it happens to have this component of enjoyment. Work is all of the same things it’s showing up, putting in a resource, putting it effort, commitment to do something. Yet, that word, joy, doesn’t seem to follow the word, work around, like it follows the word play around. And so much of that I think has to do with, even think of the situation as we use the word play, like you play guitar, you play soccer, you play football, you’re in a play, you play with your children, your children go outside and play.

You know, these things all require commitment and energy being put out. It’s a difference of attitude. And I think, you know, Tanner you hit the nail on the head. What makes life play is doing something you actually care about that has some kind of reward. And if anybody has played at a high level whether it’s competitive in sports or anything else, they know that it’s not always awesome. Like there’s downs, like there’s times where it’s not dope, like it should be. But the reason you come back is because there’s something inside of you that very much wants to be doing that thing. And the only thing I can equate that to is like, there’s this internal motivation. It’s totally intrinsic. It is your “why” that keeps you coming back. Right? And if you love golf, tennis, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Or if you have children, right, you love the kids. Like it’s not always fun, but you play with your kids. You don’t like, you don’t leave the office and say, okay, I’m going to go home and work on my kids. Like you said, I’m going to go and play with my kids and just cause there’s this intrinsic motivation. And that’s a big part of what we try to do at STRT, and the big part of what like I care greatly about is how can I help people find the thing that they’re going to be great at? I know I’m going off the rails here a little bit, but I’ll say two more words about this. If you went to like a shopping mall, grab 10 people and say, how good are you at basketball? Probably like at least like eight or nine, probably all 10 out of 10 can give you some kind of answer and give you some kind of semblance of how good they are.

Like, “I was terrible. I played as a kid, I played with my friends. We didn’t really have a basketball pole, but like, you know, we shot buckets at school,” whatever, right. You get an answer. You ask those same 10 people, most of America, how good would you be as a founder? There’s no reasonable response for most of them because they’ve never been exposed to it. And for me, entrepreneurship is one of the most fantastic ways to be allowed to work on your “why”, to have control of your time, to have control of your resources. So you can do the thing that you’re most passionate about doing. And certainly just like not everybody who’s played basketball is going to end up in the NBA. Not everyone that tries to be a founder or an entrepreneur is going to end up on, you know, Fortune’s 1000.

But I do believe we’re all better off from having tried it and endeavored to give it a go. You learn a lot from it. You learn a lot about yourself and almost equally, importantly, if not more importantly, it’s a great way to fail forward. Like if you try, if you love, love fly fishing and you start a fly-fishing company and it fails, guess what? You can go work at a fly fishing company because now you have real relevant experience. It makes you more employable. On the other side as well as, you know, if you can create gainful employment, a valuable product, economic growth, which are all phenomenal things, that’s dope too. I just don’t think enough people have access. Like that’s what we’re really starting to talk about. You know, we would build communities and we’re in the on-demand residential community space and that’s a segment we operate in, but really the problem that we solve, the problem that we’re passionate about is how do we get as many people access to this really wonderful world that is entrepreneurship without having to move or without having to like drop a bundle of money on, whatever it might be to just gain access?

So, yes it really does tie to my “why” and I’m very lucky to be able to work on it. Hopefully I’m doing some work to spread around that access to others.

We talk a lot about entrepreneurs, but the truth is creators run the gamut.

Tanner:

Yeah. So I love what you said about failing forward because being entrepreneurs has a lot to do with failing. Because failing is how you get to where you’re going and you do it many, many times. But yeah, one of the biggest barriers to entry for becoming an entrepreneur is getting access to funding. Right? And I know that you guys over at STRT are helping out with that. Can you give us an idea of what resources are going to be available? And I know you guys are still in the process of ironing those things out, but

Victor:

Yeah. So the model for the business right now is look, if, if you’re interested in being an entrepreneur, but how many had exposure to it by way of your social circles, of your upbringing, how can we get someone involved in that type of lifestyle or that community? And what we found is the common denominator that you have to have for everyone is housing. So everybody needs a place to live, right? And as it turns out, if you think about what makes the Bay area so special or New York so special or Florence during the Renaissance or Germany and Austria during this explosion of wonderful composers, it was two major things. One is creative density. Having a sufficient number of human beings that are working on the same thing that are passionate about the same thing around each other.

And then the second is resources and capital is one of them, but not the only one. You need intellectual resources, physical resources, you need space, all those things are required. So the concept with STRT is what if we could package that up? What if we could take that entire lifestyle that’s right now, very disparate? You can get affordable housing through products like co-living but they’re really just focused on the housing component of it. And maybe a little bit of that routine. You can get phenomenal desk space at a killed or an industrious, or we work or a WTC or whatever it might be, right? Like there’s places you can get that’s desk space and then you can get mentorship. You can take classes, you can join an accelerator, you can apply to be in Y Combinator. But when you think about all of those little activities as separate burdens, separate costs and separate time for an entrepreneur to take on, you just start stacking the deck against any one individual, being able to put all of that together and succeed themselves.

So our thought is this: if the central metaphor is housing and we can bring in partners that do all of the other stuff we can create an environment that look – it’s purpose built for someone that cares about creating. We talk a lot about entrepreneurs, but the truth is creators run the gamut. We’re talking about musicians, we’re talking about artists, we’re talking about designers, we’re talking about tech CEOs. And we’re talking about people that want to eventually own a brewery, right? Like all of these people are creators and all of them need basically the same ingredients to get going. So we put them in a building, we make that building highly interactive and community oriented. And then what we do is we take the revenues collected from rent and we deploy the amenities to be focused on what these folks care about.

And one of those things is access to capital. So we take a little bit of everybody’s rent, put it into a marketing budget, that marketing budget instead of being used for wine and cheese tasting is used to write someone a check and say, keep working on your business. So that’s, that’s the model as we’re thinking of it now. We’re still working on making the deal on our first property. And we’re focused here in Salt Lake, but long-term vision – and, you know I think as an entrepreneur, if you don’t have at least a little bit of a crazy vision to, to chase it’s harder to justify what you’re doing. But we want to build the world’s largest network of creators and entrepreneurs in the history of humanity. And we want it to be geographically distributed. And we want it to have such a low barrier to entry that, like, you could put this in Sub-Saharan Africa, you could put this outside of Mumbai, you could put it in you know, Eastern Europe and people would have access and they would also be in a wave network together.

So we think of all these properties as nodes in a network. So right now we’re focused on node one and building it out. But hopefully, you know, in the next five, six years we have about 20 and it grows from there. Really right now, it’s, you know, let’s get this first node. The second is how do we grow the community while maintaining the quality of what we’re trying to put out? And that’s why it’s still very important. Like we don’t think of our community are just the people inside the four walls of the building. It’s anyone that cares, anyone that wants to be involved. And because of that, anytime we run promotion, we’re really trying to put the brands of the companies inside of our building up on the billboard and then say, Oh, by the way, they’re a part of the STRT community. We just put out our newsletter today. You know, we referenced Blurp who just had a nice round of funding and is growing their business. We mentioned Jay Warren who’s coming out with a record on Friday and selling an iTunes. And then it says, Oh, by the way, these people are members of the STRT community. So that’s kind of our vibe it’s our community members first, and then we’re there to support.

Tanner:

Yeah. I mean, networking is such an important thing when it comes to business. I mean it really is about who, you know, and I think it’s great that you can get all these passionate entrepreneurs. They don’t even really know who they are yet at this point and you put them all in a room and just imagine what they’ll come up with.

There’s this outdated belief that you have to have a mentor or someone telling you what to do.

Victor:

Yeah. The two terms that we say a lot and now like they’re stuck in my brain. One is creative density. The other is productive collisions. I think there’s this outdated belief that you have to have a mentor or someone telling you what to do. The truth is you need a lot of other people that are going through the same experience as you. And the number of mentors can be pretty few. And actually where this is really well articulated in organized is in organized sports. Like you don’t have one-to-one mentorship between athletes and coaches. There’s usually, you know, one coach to several athletes, but the athletes compete against each other and they learn from each other and they compare notes with each other. And it’s this spirit of competitiveness and a system to bring you up, right?

Like in world soccer. The way that they do it is like from a very early age, right? If you’re Massey, you leave Argentina and move to Catalonia and you spend your upbringing at Barcelona’s camps and you live and breathe soccer. It is crazy to me that this is available for athletes, but not for founders. So in a way, like that’s, what we’re trying to do is, if you want to go away to entrepreneur camp you could do it for a week or you could live with us, do it for a year and really try it out, be with other people that are trying to compete the same way you are.

Growing up where I grew up in the socioeconomic environment that I did, like we weren’t at a country club and we weren’t around people that were deploying capital to start businesses left and right. We had everything we needed and we lived a comfortable lifestyle. More than we needed, but, you know, probably on like the more socioeconomically not advantaged side of Salt Lake, growing up in Kearns. And I know so many people that are smarter than me that would likely work harder than me, but just never had access. So give folks like that, like getting them together, give them an environment to come up with stuff. And those productive collisions will lead to something interesting. We believe. And we know this because it actually is happening at Lassonde studios. You know, the, the data on how many startup companies were there before the studios was deployed versus once the building opened the numbers are somewhere around a hundred companies were being created, a hundred teams were being created at the university, started businesses every year before the studio is open. The student population doesn’t change the psychographic profile of the students doesn’t change. And all of a sudden the number goes from 100 to 300 and Oh, by the way there’s a selection bias that all of these are students that have to maintain academic good standing to even live in the building. Which, you know, maybe precludes a whole population of people that either are done with school can’t afford school, or school’s not for them anyways. So yeah, we think, we think the same way that you do Tanner, which to this, like networking is important, but it’s not just about finding a quote unquote mentor. It’s about finding a peer group and being able to let go the ups and downs with them and hang out with them and you know, live that life and be able to rely on them for support and advice as well.

Tanner:

Yeah. I love that. You know, I think that we need multiple types of people in our lives. We need people that we look up to that are ahead of us. We need people that are going through the same things that we’re going through, but we also need people that are following in our footsteps, right. People that we can mentor.

Victor:

A hundred percent. And they, they say, the best way to demonstrate knowledge of something is being able to teach it to someone else. There’s nothing better than seeing two entrepreneurs that are figuring stuff out and one’s helping the other out because as they’re explaining it to the other they’re generating some level of mastery themselves. A couple of things that I think about that are interesting side notes, we live in a world now that the ubiquity of digital social networking, you would think could bridge the gap, right? Like why can’t people just do this networking online? Well, if it was true, particularly now, but this is like magnified lens of COVID and the social kind of isolation, but at least physical separation, that many of us are experiencing. People should be going on to Reddit where they’re like massively interested in LARP, or whatever it is, and starting businesses. This should be happening at a high frequency, but it isn’t.

And one kind of, you know, milepost, I think of in my own life is okay, one of the most one of the activities that’s most clearly aligned with being digital friendly is gaming, right? So like if you were a gamer, why would you ever live with your other e-sports teammates? Like you can do everything online yet, most e-sports teams live either in close proximity or like directly together. And there’s because there’s a huge value in the actual human interaction. And at some point the digital tools may get good enough and be rich enough to, to at least supplement it. If not, you know be a partner to it, but right now they’re not there. Actual human interaction is important. And, you know, I would take the position that for the foreseeable future, probably in my lifetime, it will always be critical. People need be able to like, hang out physically with other people. And you know, the indicators I look at, and obviously we’re tray picking anecdotes here, but like e-sports teams live together fenders and entrepreneurs would benefit from living together or at least in close proximity.

I think most of my ability to execute is a function of not something I’ve done once, but things that I every single day.

Tanner:

Yeah. I couldn’t agree with you more Vic, what would you attribute your success to over the years? I know that’s a really loaded question, but try to answer it the best that you can.

Victor:

Yeah. So this is the great. The term is pretty relative, right? What success is to one person isn’t to another. Look, the way that I would sum it up is, I’m in a very fortunate position to be able to do some good for the world around me. Whatever resources or talents or capabilities I have, I’m able to direct them in a way that hopefully helps more than just myself. So for me that feels like success, right? Like I feel proud of that. It makes me feel good. And then also, like I have the resources and ability to spend time with my family, to be with my wife, to be with my children. And that feels good to me. So how did I get to a situation where I’m able to use my resources to be productive and to do things I enjoy? You know a lot of it is stuff that really was outside of my control.

A lot of it was my mom was a researcher at the university of Utah. She was a chemist and put me in the path of opportunity despite my best efforts to screw it up, through my upbringing childhood and early adolescence. So I was just very fortunate and lucky to be put in the path of opportunity often. It was really impressed upon me that, you know, academic success was the clear path to socioeconomic mobility. And I still believe that today. I got that job at Delta Valve and I learned that entrepreneurship is also a really wonderful path to socioeconomic success. I just happened to meet certain people at certain points in my life. I was at Oracle OpenWorld. There was someone that I’d been working with that was on the agile teams name was Steve and he decided to take a chance on me and bring me on as a product manager. And that fundamentally changed my life.

Troy, when he was starting to work on this idea with STRT, reached out to me. Things that are within my control that I try and be very thoughtful of is one, what habits do I create? Right? So particularly like in COVID world, you lose track of like how you’re spending your time, because you have so much more time. You’re not commuting. You’re not doing a lot of the other social things that you may have otherwise been doing. What do you feel your time with? Do you read books? Do you play video games? Do you flip through social media? Like, what do you do with your time?

Interestingly enough, I think most of my ability to execute is a function of not something I’ve done once, but things that I every single day. Like I try to be responsive to emails.I try to be sensitive people that I work around. I work on those things every single day. I try to be empathetic and these seem to be fairly useful and fruitful activities. But you know, if I was thinking about it, like abstractly at like a thousand foot level – I try to spend a lot of time understanding and developing and changing the habits that I have in any given day good and bad. Then really understanding what the trade offs are, you know, like I probably eat too much junk food but also save a shit ton of time in food preparation. And, you know, sometimes that’s a reasonable trade off. And sometimes like that changes too, right? You’re like, dude, can’t eat junk food anymore, I gotta change that. And I just work a lot, but maybe the other way to put this, it goes back to your comment about finding your “why”. Myself, my cousins, my family, we grew up with a spirit of competitiveness like it, I don’t know if it was by, by nature and nurture chance.

But all of us are very, very competitive. My brother and I are competitive cousins and I are competitive individuals like younger cousins, everybody. That nature of competitiveness seems to have paid a lot of dividends in other parts of life. And the way that I think about it now is like, I loved, loved, loved playing soccer. And, you know, if I could have done that every day, every hour of every day, I would have, I wouldn’t have slept. I wouldn’t have gone to the bathroom to break, I would’ve just played soccer. But I was never quality of talent for that to be something I could productively do for society. But this other thing that I do, which is understanding product, understanding, positioning, and marketing understanding how to develop a brand and a business. Like I’m pretty good at that.

And because I’m pretty good at it, when I’m in a situation where I’m able to do it, I get like competitive, probably like a little ridiculously competitive, but like for me, that’s what motivates me to just like, all right, it’s time to go. It’s competition time. It’s time to showcase your skills. So like, when I think about my life and how I use my time now, I do the thing that I’m good at. Like there’s not many things that I’m very good at, but the thing that I’m very good at, I spent my time and energy doing that. And the reason I enjoy it is because when I do it, I tend to be successful at it. And the more successful I am at it the better I feel about how my level of competition is. So that was a very, very long and roaming answer, but I hope it was helpful in any way shape or form.

Take your strengths to those things rather than trying to flip your weaknesses.

Tanner:

Yeah, definitely. It was, you know, I think like you said, you focused on your strengths, not your weaknesses, you know, there’s, there’s always been the saying around that said you should focus on your weaknesses and get better at them, but I don’t think that you should.

Victor:

That’s bullshit, such bullshit, Tanner! I’ll give a terrible sports analogy. But you can imagine if you’re the coach of a football team and you have a wide receiver on the other team that runs a four, two, 40 fast, and your quarterback runs a four, six, 40, do you tell that quarterback to run faster or do you find a different way for them to play because they’re tall and they can pick the ball? Like you’ve got to find what people’s strengths are and play to those and accentuate and highlight those. And you’ve got to do that in yourself, which isn’t to say that if you’re running four six, because you’ve been eating big Macs all the time, that you can’t make it better, but it is such a heavier lift to become good at something you’re terrible at than to become better at something you’re already good at.

I think you’re spot on, right? Like this whole this whole sensibility of like, you know, work on your weaknesses, turn a weakness into a strength. That’s, that’s a recipe for unsuccessful self-management, but even worse, it’s a recipe for unsuccessful management of others. You’re just setting people up to fail and then feel bad about it and telling them, well, you didn’t rise to the occasion. Well, maybe find something that they were good at and then let them be good at it. Right. And do that for yourself. I’m passionate about this point as well.

Tanner:

I love it. I love it. Yeah, I mean, if we’re focusing on our weaknesses and that’s just time we’re taking away from focusing on our strengths then would we do that? Because we want to get even better at what we’re good at, because that’s how we find that success that we’re all striving for.

Victor:

You know as we’re saying it and discussing it, I hope I’m not becoming binary in my thinking. I think there’s moderation in everything.  Like you cross train for a reason and you expose yourself to different things for reasons. So Charlie Monger, Warren Buffett’s partner at Berkshire Hathaway, I think he has a really eloquent way of defining this, which is you build your loudest work of your mental models. You find the things that you’re good at and maybe connect it to something that you’re not terribly great at. But you have some kind of connection. There’s a way for you to draw and punch from a power of position, so to speak. So like, I don’t think like you shut the brain off to something that’s challenging or difficult. I think there’s you know, really great human and personal development in doing things that challenge you, but also think if you’re 5’9”, you’re not 7’.

If you’re exceptionally charismatic that doesn’t mean that you’re exceptionally arithmetic. You don’t have to be everything. We live in a world, I think also increasingly, that rewards specialization over generalization, but I would also say if you don’t have general competence in a lot of things anymore it’s very difficult just to get by. Like, if you can’t speak somewhat intelligently to a variety of things, it’s hard to get by. So maybe I’m going a little bit overboard on the dump your weaknesses, stick with your strengths. But I don’t know, that’s where on a continuum, I would think of it. Like, that’s probably what you want to bias yourself, but you know, maybe it’s too much to say like, Oh, don’t do it in at all. I don’t know. Maybe you’ll talk to me like four weeks out. I’ll be like, that was crazy shit. I was way wrong about that. But that’s how I think about right now, thought about it that way for awhile, you know, accentuate your strengths know your weaknesses, be a well-balanced and a person that’s willing to try out a bunch of shit and, you know, take your strengths to those things rather than trying to flip your weaknesses, I guess.

Tanner:

Yeah. And from an entrepreneurial standpoint, like if I’m really good at marketing, but I’m not very good at accounting, it makes more sense for me to invest my time in marketing and hire an accountant. And that’s kind of where I was going with that.

Victor:

Yeah. Yeah. You’re spot on. You’re spot on. I couldn’t agree more with that.

Understand what the hell it is that you care about.

Tanner:

So if anyone listening is thinking about being an entrepreneur, what’s some good advice that you give to those people?

Victor:

I think everybody is. Everybody is an entrepreneur, whether we realize it or not. And the reason that I have that sense is entrepreneurship is increasingly in popular culture and it always has been right, but like the TV series, Shark Tank. The reason that’s attractive for people to watch is because they got a little bit of an entrepreneur in them. They want to see how it pans out for others. You know, more people than not, that you’ll talk to, will be like, Oh, I had this idea and now it’s a real problem. So I think everybody has their spark of creativity, more than not. So the question is how do we take that and move it down the continuum from, I had an idea – to I had an idea that I did some research on, or I had an idea that I socialized with a friend or I socialized it with a friend and I did some research on it and I’ve reached out to a customer to try to make a sale. Or, you know, on and on and on and on down the continuum to have employees to generate revenue, to be profitable, to having growth, to becoming a public asset, whatever it might be.

The first thing that you can do is understand what the hell it is that you care about. Most people get very fixated on a product idea in a moment. A cool product, a good product, I should say. There’s little stoppers that go on top of my seat belt clip that stop when my phone slides out of my pocket for my phone sliding in between my seat in the center console. And it’s a good product. It’s a good business, right? I don’t remember the brand name of it. It serves a function and someone probably made decent money on that. And the thing about it though is, I think that that’s the experience that most people think entrepreneurship is like. And I think for most of my colleagues that are successful serial entrepreneurs, that’s not what it’s like at all. What it’s more about is really looking in at yourself and saying like, what makes me tick? What would be playful for me? What do I give a shit about? Because once you have that dialed in, then when ideas come up, you can kind of put them through the prism of like, do I give a shit about this and would I be willing to sacrifice at great length to pursue this? And I didn’t realize I never had a good analogy for the extent of what that sacrifice is until I had children. If you had a kid or babysat a niece or nephew or cousin, and that kid is crying and you don’t know what’s wrong as a parent, particularly, it would take something to physically stop you from going and taking care of them.

If you don’t feel that way about your startup, it’s probably wise not to do it because you’ll invest a little bit of time. It won’t be successful, grow up, screwed up or not at all. So you got to find something that you get shit about that you’re really passionate about. You got to find your “why,” so to speak, or you’re a key guy or your hedgehog concept. Once you have that, then it’s a matter of saying, what can I solve? You know what painkillers can I deliver vitamins? Can I produce and, and then pursuing those. And then the other thing is really what motivation at its core. So beyond like the motivation to be an entrepreneur, but motivation to do anything is about the neurobiology of releasing dopamine. And for entrepreneurs, dopamine gets released when you have some kind of success activity, I made a sale, I got funded, my product is in prototype. That releases dopamine and gives you like when you’re on a downward trajectory and shit is not going right, you have the memory of that dopamine, or you have something to look forward to – that next dopamine release to see like, all right, triumph, I can get to this. So one thing that I’ve found personally, if you shorten the cycles of success and failure to being like a day or a week, rather than months and years, you can get to that next dopamine release a lot faster because you’re setting more meaningful short-term goals and you can cross stuff off the list or have celebration parties to the extent, right? Like you’re starting at point A and you’re trying to get to this nebulous end result of your business.

It’s not a straight line. It’s kind of a curvy path and you need to get through the valleys. It’s easy to rock it when you’re in the peaks. So the best way to get through the valleys, in my experience, is basically three things. One shorten the cycle between peaks and troughs. Two, be in a community of other people that will support you, that care about what you care about, or know how to relate to what you’re going through. And then three, and this one’s the most important. You need some kind of intrinsic motivation to get through that. Anyways, if you don’t have this term that they call grit or intrinsic motivation, you’re going to hit a valley and like most people “Oh yeah. I never researched it. Oh yeah. I never talked to anybody that I knew about it. Oh yeah. I never tried to sell it. Oh yeah. I never built a prototype. Oh yeah I never tried to work in it.” So on and so forth.

So I don’t think that there’s a magic formula. I think, regardless of what discipline you come from, you can do it. But you gotta have a strategy of how you’re going to stick with it. Because most, you know, this is kind of cliche to say, but most overnight successes did not happen overnight. They take a lot of time and energy, and effort, and sacrifice. You gotta be prepared to do that. The other thing maybe as an anti-requirement, people tend to think the skillset that they don’t have is the missing piece for them to succeed. So if you’re a great engineer, like, ah, finally I have marketing and sales people and product people. And if you’re a product person, you’re like, well, shit. If only I had a developer and if you’re a marketer, you’re like, well, shit, if only I had a computer science engineer. That’s almost never the case.

If you can take a skill set you have and just really diligently apply it to your idea and then learn the other things as they’re necessary or bring other people in, do them well enough, you’ll be amazed at how far you can get in jury. Seinfeld actually has an interesting methodology to do this. So I think at some point he was asked, how would someone become a great comedian? And he’s like, I used the red X strategy and kind of ask, like, what does the red X strategies. He’s like look, I got a physical calendar, like an actual calendar. I got a red marker. And every day that I work on my stand-up, I put an X in the calendar and I try to make the chain of red Xs as long as possible. And the thing about it is there becomes this like psychological dependency on not breaking the chain. Once you get to like a certain number of red Xs, he’s like, that is more useful to me in developing any trait than like some kind of special plan. And it’s as simple as you just gotta work on shit every day.

If your only motivation is making a bunch of money, there’s probably more practical ways to do that.

Tanner:

Exactly. Exactly. I love that. I love that. Thank you. You had some really amazing advice, especially about finding your passion and not just looking for an overnight success. Right. That’s why everyone seems to want, when they’re trying to become an entrepreneur, like, “Oh, if I invent this product, I’ll be rich,” but what they don’t understand is that what they should be searching for is that fulfillment, right?

Victor:

Yeah. I mean, being rich is dope too, right? Like I don’t think there’s too many people that given the option of having plentiful resources would say no. But you may or may not be able to control that. What you can certainly control is how you spend your time in that endeavor. And if you want that to be fruitful time, and the thing is you could still have the outcome, right? Your likelihood, in my opinion, to have that nice financial outcome is more likely if you’re having a good time and you’re playful at what you’re doing. If you’re like damn miserable and it’s the worst thing you’ve ever experienced, if you get the financial payoff it’s a relief, but if you don’t it’s absolutely devastating. Whereas like if you’re having fun and you’re playing, maybe it doesn’t come but you’re still happy at the end of it.

So for me, it’s like, look, if you look at the empirical evidence suggesting like how much money can you make being an entrepreneur, the cards are stacked against you. You’re not likely to be Bizos per month. But there’s plenty of small to medium enterprises businesses that make a good living, provide gainful employment to the people that are in their ecosystem, provide value to their community and the people love what they’re doing. And I don’t know for me, that’s kind of what like being alive about. You only get so much time to spend. How are you going to spend it? It may as well spend it doing shit you enjoy. And hopefully it provides enough resources for you to live happily. And if you have like lots of, lots of, lots of resources, even better, maybe you can commit those to doing something better than the world. But yeah. If your only motivation is making a bunch of money, there’s probably more practical ways to do that. And that would be, you know, getting an income safe money and investing in index funds, is probably the safest bet that I’ve found.

Tanner:

Yeah. Couldn’t agree. More Vic. This has been really amazing. I really appreciate you taking the time. What’s a good way for everyone listening to get in contact with you?

Victor:

I’m [email protected] You can email me. You can find me on LinkedIn. I’m an odd duck in a way. Our business has lots of social media. I have no social media and I’d have zero social media if I could have absolute control over it. But yeah, email’s probably the best way to get ahold of me. But you know, if through Ranksey anybody reaches out, Tanner just send them my way. And the other thing is, what is also playful for me is helping early stage entrepreneurs. It is not my work, it’s my pleasure. If anybody has an idea or a business or whatever, that they just need someone to jam with, time permitting, I’ll always make time to do that because I very much enjoy it. So yeah. Give me a shout. Happy to connect.

Tanner:

That’s amazing, man. Anyways, thank you again. I really appreciate it.

Victor:

Tanner you rock. Thanks for having me, buddy.

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