What was the first business you started?
The first true full-time business I started was Service Telephone Company back in 1990. We negotiated a resale agreement with AT&T and sold to corporate accounts nationwide. Later we add a division selling exclusively to hotels all over North America and the Caribbean.
What is your background, and did it help you get where you are today?
I have always been an entrepreneur and owned my own business. I went to college at the University of Northern Colorado and left in the middle of my senior year to start my first company. (One of my few regrets in my life was not finishing college when I was so close).
How did the idea for your current business come about?
Once you have had some success in life, you find yourself in a season where you get to decide what you want to do next. As a result, I said, “Why not start a company where everyone is in a great mood and happy to speak to you” Thus, With A Twist Events Services was born.
What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur?
That’s a tricky question… When your young, you are driven by making lots of money. What you learn as you get older is the true value to being an entrepreneur is all the great people you build relationships with and the incredible stories you get to tell. In the end, no one really cares how much you do or don’t have, but the stories you can tell are priceless and worth all the risks along the way.
Did you raise funding for your business or bootstrap it?
I’m a bootstrap guy. Raising money (which I have done) forces you to listen to people who only care about money and never really know the best way to lead the business. For most people, capital is an issue, and bringing in outside money is required. My advice is to set good expectations for investors and never give up control. If you do, I assure you it will feel much more like a job.
How did you build a successful customer base?
I’m a build it, and they will come type of guy. I will ways focus on driving leads and customers first and figure out how to serve them or build the products later. If the biggest problem you have is too many customers and not enough products, then you’re doing something right.
Which marketing tactics have been the most successful for you?
I have done them all over the years, but the one that always bears the most fruit is Business Development. It is costly to build a brand from scratch and too slow for my liking. I prefer to partner with others who have the same or similar customer base and figure out how to work together with them. I have built multimillion-dollar businesses in 12 months and never spent a nickel on advertising.
What kind of culture exists in your organization, and how did you establish it?
We have a “Servant First” culture. We are here to serve everyone we work with, whether it’s our franchise owners, staff, partners, or customers… we are here to serve. Once you realize the secret sauce of success lies in relationship building and putting others first, you are well on your way to winning.
Can you describe your typical day?
From 5 am – 8 am I quietly think about all the projects or companies I’m working on and focus on how to solve the hardest problems. 8 am – 9 am I focus on the three things I want to complete before the day is over. At 9 am, I turn on my phone and computer and go as hard and as fast as I can all day. At 6 pm, I reflect on the three objectives I set for the day, and most days feel pretty good about what was accomplished. I decompress at night and try not to look at email, which tends to distract me from getting a good night’s sleep, and I can’t afford to disrupt my routine.
How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
Work-life balance is important. Being an entrepreneur is a lifestyle, not a job. Once you understand that, it’s easier to make family a priority.
What motivates you?
Winning! What you learn over time is what is Winning? We all like to cross the finish line first, however, building your own business is hard, and most days don’t feel much like Winning. The secret is to set simple goals and drive toward Winning those. Over time you create a culture of Winning in your own mind as well as your teams. As those little Wins along the way build and build, the next thing you know, you’re winning in the big picture too.
How do you generate new ideas?
20 years ago, I used to subscribe to 100 magazines—everything from Family Circle to Teen Beat. I look for trends in the market that cut across lots of different verticals. Nowadays, I read hundreds of blogs and articles on all types of subject matter. Trends present themselves in and across all types of environments. At that point, I solve a problem I believe will soon exist, and there’s your idea. Every business I have ever started was early to market, which gave me an incredible advantage, with no competition.
What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
My Christian faith gets me through all the fearful times. Having an eternal perspective actually makes every day a blast, regardless of what is thrown at me.
How do you define success?
Success is impossible to define. Some days it feels like you’re losing and you’re not, and other days it feels like you’re winning and you’re not. Success is slippery, and I believe perceived success has crushed a lot of companies. I focus more on Innovation and never being satisfied with what I have done or created. In the end, success does happen, but if you focus on it along the way, you’ll get lazy, and someone will sneak up behind you and pass you right by.
Do you believe there is a pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
I wish! Most of it comes from experimentation and hard work. Learning that failure is not a reason to quit. I never use the word “Trying” like I’m trying to do better or trying to build a company. The word “Trying sets you up to fail because it is not confident and convicted. I prefer to say I’m in “Training” to build a business or I’m in Training to do better. No Olympic athlete ever sets out saying… “I’m trying to be an Olympic swimmer. Like an athlete, I’m always in Training!
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The feeling you get when the idea comes, the whiteboard is full of ideas, the wheels are in full motion, and what originally started on a blank white piece of paper actually becomes a real viable business is a rush like no other.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
I started a company from nothing a few years back and within 4 years sold it to 3M; a fortune 30 company was pretty cool!
What are some of the mistakes you wished you could’ve avoided?
This list is too long to mention. The bigger point is don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not training hard enough.
Are there any books you suggest other entrepreneurs add to their “must-read” list?
What is a favorite quote from an entrepreneur that has inspired you?
“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do” STEVE JOBS. “Invention, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple”. WILLY WONKA. “Invention is messy.” TOM STEMPLE.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Have a new idea? Stop listening to everyone else and trust your own instincts. Don’t follow the crowd. If you do, when you get to where you’re going, it’s going to be crowded. All the market research in the world will never tell you the truth. The truth lies in you and your willingness to think differently. Trust yourself! Ask lots of questions and never assume you know everything because you don’t. The best entrepreneurs surround themselves with smart people who can give you good counsel, but it’s always up to you to make the call. Remember, you’re always in training!
What is next? Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years?
My personal time horizon is always 6 months out. I have learned that things can change so fast, it’s better to focus on shorter time horizons. 6 months from now, I see myself 180 days smarter!