Rank #1: 026: Claire Coder of Aunt Flow
Claire Coder was a competitor in 2015 GSEA Competition, and also the founder of Aunt Flow. In today’s episode, she shares the stories of her business ventures, and she started her business and grew it to where it is today. On a mission to change the world one cycle at a time, Claire talks about the importance of investing in your business and nurturing your entrepreneurial inclinations from a young age.
[:45] Claire started her first company — There’s A Badge for That — when she was only 16 years old. In a matter of two years, she grew the company, and this company got her excited and engaged in entrepreneurship.
[2:50] When she was school at the Ohio State University, she got the idea for her second business: insert name. The company is growing rapidly, and the products have been well-received across 47 states.
[5:45] What has been most surprising so far is the difference in reception that they’ve received from men and women when they’re selling business-to-business. They get the most criticism from females, whereas men are more likely to see the logic behind providing menstrual products in their bathrooms.
[7:19] Claire was on a TLC TV Show called Girl Starter — a show design to show entrepreneurial grit and stamina. She placed second in the competition with her partner and the show. Though she had just recently launched her company, this was a great experience for her.
[9:24] Their warehouse and distribution center is located about 20 minutes outside of Columbus, with a small office in downtown Columbus. About 70% of their revenue comes from selling to other businesses, while the other 30% comes from individual consumers. They also have an educational component to their company, which they feel is very important in changing lives around the world.
[10:25] What’s next for Claire and Aunt Flow? As the business is growing significantly and quickly, Claire’s personal mission is to make sure everyone has access to menstrual products so she is always working to complete that mission.
[11:30] Their team is in a period of transition, so by October, they are hoping to be fully staffed with two employees, as well as a few contract employees. They have received investment from an angel investor in Columbus, and Claire was also successful on a podcast called The Pitch.
[14:00] People listening to the podcast can help Claire and Aunt Flow by stocking their businesses with tampons, that has all information about why it’s important to stock these in your business. If you are interested in trying the product, visit the website below!
[15:15] The hard part about working with some of the public institutions is that it’s a long sales cycle, and there’s a lot that goes into selling to the public institutions. They focus primarily on the public sector but will serve the private sector as companies reach out to them.
[16:38] Claire attended Ohio State University for one semester. Since she already had her business in high school, she really already knew what she wanted to do and how to do it. She made the decision to use the money she would’ve used for school to put towards her business. Though it was a little rough at first, her parents now are huge supporters of her business.
[20:05] At the beginning of the business she really felt like “the lonely entrepreneur.” She worked several waitressing jobs when her company started to help pay the bills, and she wants to encourage listeners that it’s okay if you have to work a part-time job until you reach the revenue metric you need to sustain yourself.
[2:28] To avoid burnout, Claire is going to take one of her first vacations in the two years since the business started. Focusing on this balance between work and life will hopefully allow her to come back to the business refreshed and ready to go harder.
[23:27] For Claire personally, she had an entrepreneurial drive that her parents encouraged from a young age. She tells the story of her “first business” as a child selling beer to construction workers. This helped her learn the importance of identifying the target audience, understand the customer, and making the sale. As a parent, it is important to observe situations like these with your kids, and decide how you can respond in a nurturing way.
[25:49] If there are any businesses who want to join the menstrual movement, please visit the Try Aunt Flow website below to learn more details.
Mentioned in This Episode:
Rank #2: 025: Keeping It In the Family
Jim has a unique entrepreneurial experience moving from one family business to another. After growing up in one family business, he left and started on a new venture that would eventually turn into a first generation family business. In this episode, Jim talks about his work with Advance Sign Group, working with his immediate family, and how EO helped to shape some of his business decisions as he was getting his new company on track.
[1:15] Jim shares his lifeline: Growing up, Jim had a good understanding of work ethic, and seeing how transformative the food service industry business was. After college, he went into the manufacturing side of the family business and was involved in several departments.
[5:07] He had worked in the business for about 20 years when he realized that he really had an entrepreneurial spirit that he needed to explore (outside of the food service industry). While dabbling in other ventures, he secured Advanced Sign Group in April of 2001, which was a little more in his wheelhouse as a full manufacturing business.
[9:29] Advanced Sign Group became a family business when Jim’s wife joined to help with the business operations while Jim focused on sales and building new relationships. When their son graduated from college, he came on in sales and wrote a business plan and they’ve set him up to eventually take over the business. Since their son got involved, they have quadrupled their size.
[13:17] It was a process to make Advanced Signs a family business. When Jim’s wife joined the business, her talent was in project management. While Jim was more focused on gathering customers, pitching sales, and company maintenance, his wife served as the relationship manager for the account once the sale was made. It was very good teaming at the beginning.
[16:33] When their son first came to him with the business plan, he wasn’t sure if it was out of desperation or genuine desire for being in the family business. As they grew their family business, it developed a little differently than when he was joining his family business. It’s truly a first-generation family business.
[22:10] When Jim joined EO, his forum gave him an outlet that served as an advisory board as he worked on the business. EO was a tremendous help, especially when he first gotted started.
[25:57] What do the next stages look like for Jim and his wife? They are in the middle of a ten-year plan, and they’ve been looking internally as individuals to see what drives and inspires them. Jim and his wife plan to travel, and they’ve also been deciding what kind of parents they want to be for their married children, and their future grandchildren. Jim has been talking with his own mom about how they want to shape this.
[32:05] In regards to the business, they will be able to be present for the future due to successor and management team they have. They have also been implementing the EOS system. Over the last three years, they’ve been building up their personnel and management team to get the right people in place.
[36:00] Sharing stories can serve as a release valve. When people are on the other side, it’s nice to see that they made it work. And if you’re in the middle of something, it can be helpful to share your story so you can garner some discussions around it. By sharing some of his story, Jim was able to solidify his stance on investing in risk for a reward.
[47:34] This podcast is a great opportunity for people to share their stories, especially being able to put a story to the people you may meet at social events.
Mentioned in This Episode:
Rank #3: 024: Senior Living Reimagined
Lisa M. Cini has spent many years developing her business and curating important technology for senior living. Her background in interior design led to the development of Mosaic Design Studio and Best Living Tech. In this episode, she talks about her lifeline and the impact EO has on not only her own life, but her family’s as well. She shares some stories about some rough patches in her life, and how she overcame them and continued to grow her business.
[1:24] Looking back on her lifeline, Lisa’s greatest realization is how much her perspective has changed. She talks about some different big moments in her life that led to where is now — starting with a leadership camp in middle school. She attended a variety of school programs in college, finding the one that was going to give her the degree that would allow her to do what she wanted with interior design. The birth of her children and their early childhood was also a defining moment.
[3:30] In 1998 she started her company and made $1 million in business in her first year. She won an award and joined the Women’s Presidents Organization, which was defining for her development as a business owner.
[5:00] Lisa talks about her relationship with her parents, and how they helped with Lisa’s daughter when she was sick. Having her mom around allowed Lisa to take care of her daughter and keep/grow her business at the same time. In 2004 she joined EO, and also joined Strategic Coach — the family conferences they attended through Strategic Coach had a profound impact on her family, especially her kids. Her son is now an entrepreneur.
[6:45] While she was working on her business, Lisa got sick as well. For a couple years they didn’t know what was going on, but she was eventually diagnosed with lupus. She started to receive treatment and now things are much better. While it is still part of her everyday, she has found ways to make it work so she can continue with her business, and is also looking to more homeopathic remedies.
[10:18] Another organization she joined was Genius Network. She is a big fan of joining organizations, and her forum benefits from the knowledge she gains. She was able to apply some of the stuff she learned in EO and with Genius Network to goal-setting for her children’s sports team. This had a profound impact on her and her kids, as well as the other students on the team.
[13:05] In 2014, a very personal tragedy shook their family. Her nephew was killed in a car accident and in addition to the emotional grief, there was also family matters that needed to be taken care of. She says the blessing of it all was that the family was able to be together to celebrate his life and love. This was a big point in her lifeline, personally and emotionally, but also in her business. Her business doubled in revenue and she also published her first book, Senior Living Reimagined.
[18:10] She wrote her second book in the aftermath of this tragedy as well, about the daily life of having four generations living in her household. She also began trying some of the technology she had seen at Abundance 360 on her family members; she created an online company called bestlivingtech.com, that includes things used in the home to help people age in place and be independent. She shares an amusing story about testing some of the products on her family members.
[23:50] Lisa talks about some of the other technologies they use in her family for her parents and grandmother, including a robotic cat. At Best Living Tech it’s like Sharper Image meets AARP. They have health tools as well as other technologies that might be appealing to the Baby Boomers as they age.
[24:55] Lisa talks about her decision to make Best Living Tech a separate business. Her goal is to keep this an evergreen company that will keep growing without a huge staff. She is also starting a personal brand as well.
[26:35] Lisa talks about how the dynamic of interior design has changed with the development of technology and applications — some of these apps provided things that interior designers couldn’t. Why thinking about how to best service her range of clients, they transitioned the company to be an 80-20 split, where they project manage their designers, but they do the work. She talks about how they used their books as a marketing strategy.
[29:55] Most of her work focuses on senior living, but she also has the flexibility to work on other projects, and they’ve even expanded to some different countries around the world. This helps her to feel invigorated as well as to be able to focus on some of the projects outside her business, before bringing them to the business.
[31:50] The first book positioned them as a company consistently, and created them as an expert, and attracted a staff that was aligned. The next step was to get their work out in the world.
[33:53] Some of the ways she manages all her projects is by creating some partnerships. Someone else runs Best Living Tech, but she still curates the products and manages projects. She has been exploring where she is needed and where she can let go, which has been instrumental for her.
[36:20] EO was very important not only for Lisa’s development in business but also for her kids’. Being involved strengthened her relationship with her son and daughter, and a mutual respect was able to develop for how the kids learned and for the kids to see how hard their mom worked.
[40:50] Some of the next things she is working on are finalizing their training and testing platform, and being able to leverage that to sell to her competition to create software as a service. She’s also been building another software that is a 3D visualization program that will allow you to build your budget as you add things in real time. Hopefully this can help cut development time in half. Her next book is called Boom, and explores the latest technology that Baby Boomers can use.
[42:41] Lisa talks about the process of getting her first two books published, and how they helped to propel her business. Her books have given her an authority she didn’t know she had.
[48:05] If you know of someone who has great tech that could be applied to senior living, let Lisa know!
Mentioned in This Episode:
Rank #4: 023: Michael Erath, Smart Directions
On today’s episode, Michael Erath joins Kevin to talk about his story. Michael shares the ups and downs of his entrepreneurial ventures in the family business, and how he took ownership of his time and business to find entrepreneurial freedom. He now works actively as an EOS implementer, and is releasing his book Rise, on August 29th.
[:47] Michael grew up as second generation in a family manufacturing business, where they manufactured hardwood veneers. His dad was on the sales side of the business, and after he graduated college, Michael moved to Roanoke and became the manager of operations. Michael talks about the ups and downs during his time, particularly how they were affected by the recession, and moving all the ownership from his mom’s estate to his name.
[5:17] Michael had to work with lenders and banks to orderly liquidate the business. They avoided bankruptcy and Michael kept his credit in tact. At the same time this was going on with the family business, he found out that his business partner at his other company (began in 1999) had been embezzling from the company and committing bank fraud.
[11:27] Unfortunately both companies didn’t make it through these events. Once he got back on his feet, Michael decided to start a new business in the same industry in 2011. They outsource their production, and keep a small warehouse in Columbus. They also have a log trading division within that business. It’s now about a $7 million business.
[13:50] One of the frustrations of building this new business was struggling to reach a point where they could start to turn a profit. He began to focus more on revenue, and it blinded him to other things he needed to watch out for in the business. He joined EO Columbus in 2011 to get the peer-to-peer experience.
[16:10] They implemented EOS beginning in 2013, and over the next year and a half the business became very profitable. EOS helped shine a spotlight on the real issues they had and helped them with a system to solve those issues and clean up the company internally. The biggest value for Michael was to realize that he could delegate more and strengthen his teams. This gave him more freedom and time on his hands to do what he wanted.
[19:35] With this spare time, he went through the training to become certified as an EOS implementer. He is now sitting in the “owner’s box” at North American Veneer, and has taken himself out of the day-to-day operations, and runs their quarterly and annual sessions. Michael talks about the areas where he still has to stay a little more engaged.
[22:00] As an EOS implementer, Michael gets to work with other companies, and he’s realized a passion for that kind of collaboration. He enjoys getting to see companies build momentum and watch things come together.
[23:47] Going back to his roots, Michael’s dad started the original veneer business in 1968. Both of his brothers worked in the family business for a period of time, though not without drama. Michael’s entrepreneurial streak started in high school and college, where he worked summers to make money, and also was involved in a band and handled a lot of their promotion.
[27:50] Michael’s book is written as a memoir, taking a reflective look at some of his success and also some of the blind spots that led to the collapse. One of the main focuses is the idea of entrepreneurial freedom. This idea of an “EOS Life” allows people to work with people they love, doing things that they love, making a difference, being appropriately compensated, and having time to pursue other passions. You can live the life, but it takes getting out of your own way.
[30:52] Michael’s wife encouraged him to write his book and share his story. He began to realize his struggles were something other entrepreneurs were encountering, and he felt he could help share lessons learned and help others. His work as an EOS coach helps him do this as well.
[35:43] Michael’s book is out on August 29th with a one-day only discount pricing. Follow the link below to see where you can order the book.
Mentioned in This Episode:
Rank #5: 022: Investing in First-Generation Entrepreneurs
Randy Gerber is an original EO member of the Columbus chapter. On today’s episode, he shares his story of breaking off the traditional path and discovering what he really wanted to do. He talks about starting Gerber LLC, and some of the challenges and triumphs they faced as they rebranded to support first-generation entrepreneurs with financial planning.
[:35] Randy grew up in sort of a “traditional” background, thinking he would get an engineering degree and then get a job in the work force, because that is what he was already surrounded by. He went to Ohio State for engineering, and joined a fraternity and learned two things: 1. Many of his friends’ parents owned businesses and 2. He had some natural raw leadership skills.
[4:42] During his sophomore year, he realized that he didn’t want to be an engineer. He got a job as an intern at a financial planning company, and decided that was the path he was going to pursue.
[6:50] He started his business in late 1990, and watching the stock market of the late ’90s into 2000, he was able to notice who he wanted to work for — business owners. First generation entrepreneurs have an innovative, optimistic outlook on things, and by 2010 their book of business was nearly all first-generation entrepreneurs.
[9:35] Throughout this time Randy also got married and started his family. In addition to the changes in his business and his family, Gerber got sued in 2006. The timing was pretty unfortunate, but they were able to settle the lawsuit for significantly less than they were sued. The positive by-product that came out of the whole ordeal was that it caused Randy to reevaluate all their business processes to make sure they were doing everything the right way.
[13:53] Randy was already a part of EO during this time (joined in 1999), and his forum was a terrific support system for him through the lawsuit.
[15:08] Randy talks about some of the other highs and lows of the companies. In 2010 they officially decided to rebrand for first generation entrepreneurs, which was one of the biggest highs.
[16:45] Looking forward, Randy and his wife are going to be in a movie coming out next year. They have also launched an emerging entrepreneur product (for $300k - $1 million in sales), which is designed to help that entrepreneur make the right decision at the right time. It is a year-long program with nine sessions. Hopefully this piece can be scaled to other entrepreneurial marketplaces.
[22:30] For the Columbus chapter of EO, the accelerator program is the next big thing — hopefully in the next three years. This would be a great way to feed the energy in Columbus!
Mentioned in This Episode:
Rank #6: 021: Good Nature Organic Lawn Care
We’re back with a brand new episode! On today’s episode, Matt Cellura joins Kevin to talk about his entrepreneurial ventures with Good Nature Organic Lawn Care. Matt shares his story of how he got started in the business, as well as what their future plans for the company are. He talks about some of the challenges of expanding a small business, as well as the unique components of their company that set them apart from others.
[:32] Matt shares his lifeline. He grew up in Northeast Ohio, and received his Finance degree from Ohio University. He took his first job out of college working for Enterprise Rent-A-Car as part of their management training program. Though he left that job because it wasn’t what he really wanted to do, he gained experiences that have benefitted him even to today.
[2:15] As he started to think about what he really wanted to do, he realized he wanted to do something that would make an impact, or be part of something that was growing. This is where he got his entrepreneurial start. He teamed up with an acquaintance-turned-business partner and began managing the operations for Good Nature, an organic lawn care company. When they decided to expand, Matt founded the Columbus branch in 2008. Since then, they’ve grown to service about 2000 clients in the central Ohio area.
[5:15] When they were brainstorming different cities to which to expand, Columbus seemed like a fast-growing, fast-paced city that would have the customer-base they would look for.
[6:57] The year at a glance: They try to get started at the end of February or the beginning of March, but it really depends on the weather. The spring is their big burst of new customers; the summer is still busy, but it steadies out a bit. Late summer and early fall is another busy time as they add a new group of services. They end before the holidays in December, and then use the off-months to focus on their processes as a business, and tune-up whatever needs to be addressed, whether it be equipment or business aspects.
[9:10] One of the biggest struggles was when they needed to bring on a lot more people — finding and retaining good people can be hard. Delegating work was also a struggle, but necessary to continue to grow the business.
[10:45] Outside of the business, Matt is very interested in EO, after having his first introduction while he was in Cleveland. He also participates in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Matt has two kids, and enjoys spending time with his family, and doing projects around the house.
[12:51] One of their goals at Good Nature is to open their next office. Ideally they would hire internally, but they have also entertained the idea of franchising. Their focus is on expanding, but to do it in a way that won’t require a large investment. Hopefully they will be able to launch another branch next year. Another project is getting all their processes in line as if they were a franchise, to make it easier to possibly hand off to someone else to get a new branch started.
[15:25] At Good Nature, they don’t really compare themselves to the large commercial lawn care companies, because they are quite different in terms of product and focus. As they are building their brand, they have become one of the largest organic lawn care companies in the nation. While they still want to expand, it is important that they keep their impact a priority.
[17:24] The approach they take at Good Nature is soil health first. By creating a healthy soil with microbiology and earthworms, it encourages activity that is beneficial for grass and other plants on the properties they work with. Traditionally lawn care products generally are always fighting symptoms. At Good Nature, the goal is to create a sustainable lawn that has less issues over time. Matt talks about some of the other differences that make their company unique.
[20:47] Is there anything members of EO can help you with? Matt is interested in pulling from other people’s experience, in terms of expanding a business, and how to get everything together to give, to make it easier for a new person to get a new office up and running.
[23:59] They do try to advertise the benefits of the products they use, but they also want people to know about their commitment to customer service, and this is where they try to keep their focus. Other marketing they do is try to partner up with services that support similar aims and go to events that may attract people who would be interested in their products.
Mentioned in This Episode:
Rank #7: 020: Jeff Flamm
Today’s guest joins Kevin from Salt Lake City, Utah. Jeff experienced great entrepreneurial success in the business world. Jeff talks about creating (and selling in one case) two companies: Health Benefits America in eyeQ. In this episode, Jeff focuses on the attitudes and preparations he took to ensure that he was successful in his ventures.
[:45] Jeff shares his lifeline. He switched his major several times during college, but graduated with a business degree and went into financial planning with his father and brothers. Right from the get-go, Jeff found a lot of success with financial planning. But after several years, he began to observe and seek out a new way to use his expertise.
[2:24] Jeff talks about what was going on with health care in the government, and how this served as an impetus for his business. He also talks about other instances where businesses were able to do something better, faster, and cheaper — a great opportunity to get on the map.
[4:57] In 1986, Jeff and his partner Ron started their company called Health Benefits America. In order to build their database, they traveled around the states to gather data so they could provide information on which health care plans were best in each state. This database made it much easier for corporations as well as the employee.
[10:22] They changed the industry by making things simply: doing it better, much faster, and much cheaper than the systems that were currently in place. In ten years, they picked up 127 Fortune-500 companies. After they built up the company in the West, they were able to sell services around the country.
[13:33] Jeff talks about how they were able to sell and grow so quickly. They got connected with ADP and were able to grow at an even quicker rate. This whole process of selling the company to ADP was done in ninety days.
[18:54] Jeff credits much of his desire to grow and “be the best” to his father. This initiative allowed him to use some of his past expertise, such as landscaping, as well his new knowledge.
[23:22] In 1996, Jeff began exploring ventures with his current company, Infinite Minds. This program helps to make kids better learners. Jeff got the rights in all English-speaking countries. They went to market in 2000.
[25:02] It is very hard to make it in Ed Tech; Jeff has stuck with it because, unlike some of his other businesses, Infinite Mind/EyeQ really helps to change lives. It only takes 5-7 minutes a day, and the payoff for reading speed and comprehension is huge.
[28:43] Some of the things Jeff is interested in, outside of work, are things that challenge him personally, rather than team sports. He is involved in triathlons, as well as climbing, and endurance runs.
[29:48] What’s next for Jeff? When he sold the company, he decided he was going to learn one new thing a year. So he’s been taking the opportunities to gather new experiences.
[31:30] Jeff talks about his influences, and what he finds inspirational in others. Overcoming obstacles makes you more driven — the secret to success is not your IQ, it’s your ‘I do.’
[33:50] Jeff’s current goal is to get eyeQ in all schools. It’s more than just speed reading, it’s brain training.
[35:05] Jeff is willing to talk to people and share ideas about how to get started. His biggest advice is that you’ll never make it until you know something well. Spend some time getting to know the business you want to help change, and let them pay for your learning time before you try to implement your ideas. Don’t get into businesses you don’t know.
Mentioned in This Episode:
Health Benefits America (now owned by ADP)
Rank #8: 019: Michelle Galligan
In this episode, Michelle Galligan joins Kevin to talk about her experience with entering into a joint venture. She shares her lifeline, and how she went from working in a firm to starting her company, and the steps taken to get to where she is today. She shares some advice on working with investment bankers, as well as the rationale behind her decision to maintain and grow the value of her company.
[:30] Michelle was born in Springboro, Ohio, while it was still a small town. She originally went to school to be a chemical engineer, and then switched to the business school. While she was still in school, she worked for Ernst & Young, and discovered her knack for data.
[2:55] Due to family circumstances, Michelle had to take a leave of absence from her position with Ernst & Young. This ended being up a great opportunity to explore working in business development. Following this, Michelle talks about her journey through corporate America and how she ended up starting her own business.
[6:12] Michelle talks about the business, financial, and personal struggles that defined the first few years of her business — from joining with investors, to buying out the investors, and getting out of debt to move the company in her own direction.
[11:17] She ended up hiring an investment banker to find someone to sell the business to. She entered into a joint venture with GBQ, which allowed an opportunity to build the business without debt and let Michelle focus on growing the company.
[15:45] Sixteen months in, they aren’t quite where they imagined they would be. They are still working towards full integration of their back office, and they had to re-evaluate their business coming from some of the smaller branches. GBQ is a BDO Alliance partner, and they are unique because of their leadership offerings. They are now working on building partnership agreements with different firms across the nation to offer inner leadership and accounting project work.
[16:25] When deciding which investment banker to work with, the same two recommendations kept coming up. They ended up going with a local bank called Copper Run, but this coincidentally also started the relationship between Michelle’s company and GBQ.
[20:43] Michelle talks about the transaction process of signing on with GBQ, and the deal actually going through, from the pricing of the transaction to the due diligence, and how the whole process set the company up for success later on.
[24:40] In addition to her company, Michelle has been doing some side-CFO work, which has been very fun! She is also working with a local tech company right now, working on some things to get ready for growth. She has also taken up diving as a hobby. Coincidentally, many of the people she dives with are also entrepreneurs!
[27:44] Her next focus is learning the expansion piece of her business. She has a plan to gain twenty strategic partners in four years, in the hopes that each can be grown into an actual location.
[30:12] What made Michelle decide to do a joint venture instead of selling her company? Ultimately it’s because 100% of the value is significantly less than 50% of the value it’s going to be, and it has allowed her to focus her time in the right places. The joint venture was more like a partial sale because it allowed her to clear the debt of the company. It also allows her freedom in her schedule and decision-making.
Mentioned in This Episode:
Rank #9: 018: Dave Will
Today’s guest is actually member of the Boston Chapter of EO, and is also the host of the official EO global podcast. In today’s episode, Dave talks about how he got started with his business, and growing the culture of his employees. Culture has been a very important aspect of his entrepreneurial ventures, and today he shares how this focus has helped to develop his current business, Prop Fuel.
Key Takeaways: [3:11] Dave shares his lifeline. He was born into a great family and had a really good childhood/upbringing. His father was someone he really admired growing up. [7:13] Up until about age thirty, he was living a typical trajectory with getting his education and starting his family. On the last day of his internship, he got advice that would shape the way he dealt with his business ventures in the future. [13:21] When he really began to follow the mantra he learned, he found that he could excel when he is able to completely behave like himself. Starting his own business allowed him to do this. [16:34] Dave tells the story of how getting fired from his job was the beginning of him starting his own business. His friend had come to him with an idea to resell web conferencing. This gradually grew and he bought out his business partner and they started to find a niche. Finding this niche allowed them to tailor the product to their buyers’ needs, which led to exceptional growth. [22:08] At this point, they turned it into a software rather than a service. This allowed them to reduce manual efforts and increase automated processes, focus on standard operating procedures, and focus on their culture. His new business is a tool for encouraging and enhancing great culture among your employees. [26:42] For the first nine years of their business, they grew gradually, but really well. When they acquired another company in 2010, they were hit with the effects of 2008. It was a really hard year for the business, but the culture rallied and they were able to make it through, despite compensation cuts. It was after this they turned it back around and got things kicking again. [32:30] The culture piece was always something Dave was really passionate about. Throughout the rebuilding year of 2010, his focus was building a bonded, driven team by providing a clear vision, the right motivators, and the cadence to make sure they were always on track and moving toward that vision. Culture was huge driver in their success. [36:29] EO became a part of Dave’s life for the first time when the two companies came together in 2010. He left for a little while and they came and found a forum that was a good fit for him. [38:25] Dave talks about his driving force and what keeps him going today. His philosophy is to enjoy what surrounds you, rather than focusing solely on the destination. He also strives to do things that are going to make him smile, rather than provide frustrations. He tries to instill this in other people at work; this includes helping entrepreneurs create jobs that allow people to walk slow and smile more. [42:26] Though he started out on a very traditional path, as a kid he grew up with a desire to make money himself. He tries to foster this in his children as well. Taking time to think about starting some sort of business, maybe during the summer — and you might even be able to evolve it. It’s the thought process of ‘figure it out’ that he’s trying to instill in them. [47:30] EO is the perfect kind of company that would get some value out of Prop Fuel. If you’re listening, check it out!
Rank #10: 017: Kevin Stoller
On today’s episode, our host becomes the guest! Bill Troy turns the table to have Kevin share his lifeline. Kevin talks about how he got started with his current business, Kay-Twelve. Not only does he share his business journey, but he shares some personal stories from his life, and talks about the business’s future as well as his family’s. This is an episode you won’t want to miss!
Key Takeaways: [:38] Kevin shares his lifeline: He grew up in Chicago with three brothers, and had a fairly idyllic childhood. He started working when he was about 14, and since then he’s always had a job, and always knew he wanted to do/start his own thing. He attended Miami University in Oxford and majored in Mass Communications. [4:01] His first entrepreneurial experience was at Miami University with a scholarship program that would allow students to do whatever project they wanted, would pay money, and give credit. Kevin made a documentary called “The Commercialization of Michael Jordan,” which introduced him to many different facets of business, marketing, and video production. [6:21] He originally thought he might want to do video production, but realized there weren’t a lot of jobs in the industry. His first job after college was driving the Eckrich FunHouse around the country. To further his career, he got a job selling copiers while working on his MBA in the evenings. While struggling to figure out what it is he really wanted to do, he went to work for a small company that specialized in compact storage. [10:43] This opportunity allowed him (and his business partner) to learn new skills and make connections in the Columbus area. They teamed up with another company and this sparked his interest in school furniture. [14:53] Kevin talks about his family dynamic during this time, including a tragedy, and how his business partner helped during this time. He also talks about the steps they took to buy out the business they were working for so they could further their business goals. [17:38] Kevin joined EO during the rough year, but it brought him into contact with other people that helped bolster their business decisions, as well as helping him through some personal stuff in his life. This includes his decision to buy out his business partner, as well as the time when his wife was diagnosed with cancer. [20:15] The business today has come full circle. They originally started Kay-Twelve with the intention of bringing in the ecommerce piece. They also balance this with inside and outside sales. Everything they do is about creating better learning environments. [22:14] When it comes down to it, they are selling furniture, but they approach it as a very consultative sale, of what is the specific learning outcome their clients are trying to achieve. Kevin talks about the motivation behind the company, and some of their goals to help further education. From here, they hope to build out the national sales team — specifically hoping to grow out in the West (Kevin is actually moving to Arizona). [25:50] With the changes to the company coming, how can people help Kevin with the transition? He’s already been getting connected with some people in the EO chapter in Arizona, but his biggest concern is ensuring that the office runs really well (both here and out West). Kevin talks about the scope of different types of learning they hope to accommodate. [28:20] Kevin talks about EO moments — Many members talk about forum, but there is so much more than that. Attending regional events allows you to meet members from other cities as well as different programs to get involved in. [34:05] Kevin talks about looking up to his dad as a father and a businessman, and how Kevin is using this inspiration to sort of make it on his own in his business.