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In this outstanding discussion about entrepreneurship, TK shares a bit of his journey and the challenges and obstacles he’s overcome. TK is the author of Stop Whining, Start Winning (https://amzn.to/2QIhtRC) and the CEO of Verve Systems, LLC (verveunited.com). TK is also the host of The Celebrity Softball Classic (http://celebritysoftballclassic.org/).

Aaron  00:05
You’re listening to America’s Entrepreneur, the podcast designed to educate, entertain, and inspire you in your personal and professional journey. I’m your host, Aaron Spatz. And on the podcast, I interview entrepreneurs, industry experts and other high-achievers that detailed their personal and professional journeys in business. My goal is to glean their experiences into actionable insights that you can apply to your own journey. If you’re new to the show, we’ve spoken with successful entrepreneurs, Grammy Award-winning artists, bestselling authors, chief executives, and other fascinating minds with unique experiences. We’ve covered topics such as how to achieve breakthrough in business, growing startups, effective leadership techniques, and much more. If you strive for continual self-improvement and enjoy fascinating and insightful conversation, hit the subscribe button. You’ll love it here at America’s Entrepreneur.

Incredibly excited to welcome a friend of the show, Tim Klund, also known as TK. And TK comes from a background from the United States Air Force. And he’s done a lot of things on his own in terms of business. So whether it is founder of Pro Sports Connection then moving on to Verve Systems, LLC and a whole bunch of brands that operate underneath that. He’s also the author of the book, Stop Whining, Start Winning. So you can pick that up on Amazon and I’ll have that linked up here in the show. So you can go buy that book and learn more about that. So anyway, TK, I’m so excited that you’re here, man. Thank you. Thanks for spend some time with me today.

TK  01:40
Oh, man. Thanks for having me. I always love coming on your podcast. Always a great time.

Aaron  01:45
Absolutely, man. So, I mean, I would love to kind of go back to the beginning for you and just kind of understand one, where are you originally from? So, I mean, one of the fun things about DFW is it is home to so many different types of people and it’s rare that I find somebody who’s actually from here. I’d say 20% of my guests are natives. The rest of us, we all made our way here as quick as we could. So where are you from?

TK  02:10
Yeah. Kind of I got here as fast I could, right?

Aaron  02:13
That’s right.

TK  02:13
I grew up in a small community in Southeast, Missouri called Scott City. But it’s literally, you know, if you do grocery shopping or anything, you have to go to Cape Girardeau, hometown of Rush Limbaugh. So most people know Cape Girardeau a lot faster than they do Scott City. But Scott City is actually my hometown. Go, Rams!

Aaron  02:31
Nice, nice. Okay. Well, then we’ll have to ignore all the other division rivalry related stuff.

TK  02:39
Oh, yes.

Aaron  02:40
Yeah. I mean, you start talking football and, I mean, you’re going to get some people who stand up and get really, really animated.

TK  02:47
Oh, yeah. Well, I grew up, again, just right between Cape Girardeau is really – Scott City is really rough between St. Louis and Memphis. But growing up in the 70s, because of the limited TV network coverage, we really got the Bears or the Cowboys. Thank God. So I grew up a diehard Cowboy fan in the 70s, moved to the Bears in the 80s, of course, and back to the Cowboys in the 90s. So ever since our last Super Bowl when the Cowboys, I’ve kind of been trying to hang in there the best I can, but I’ve never liked the St. Louis Cardinals. I’m glad they left. I did like when the Rams came into town. It was a fun time in St. Louis with the Rams, but it was disappointing when they left as well. But we got a Super Bowl out of it regardless.

Aaron  03:32
Yeah. That’s true. I mean, there’s always tons of movement with pro sports teams and I mean, it can be –

TK  03:39
Always about the money.

Aaron  03:39
Yeah. Right. Exactly right. I mean, my beloved Raiders, really – I’m a Raiders fan because I love Jon Gruden.

TK  03:46
Yes. Oh, he coaches Southeast Missouri State, Cape Girardeau. One year, receiver coach.

Aaron  03:53
Okay. All right.

TK  03:55
See y’all, baby.

Aaron  03:55
Yeah. But taking the team from Oakland, which, I mean, the city there just didn’t want to invest the funds to give them – to update their dilapidated stadium.

TK  04:05
Right. It’s crazy. I was with a good friend of mine, Joe King, who played for the LA Raiders back in the 90s. And they spent the entire week in Oakland at their facilities and they would fly for their home games down to LA to play their home game in LA. And then they’d all go back to Oakland, which was kind of weird. So you think LA Raiders during that time they were in LA, but they’re only in LA for game days. It’s crazy.

Aaron  04:32
That’s funny. I didn’t know that little piece.

TK  04:34
I didn’t know that either until this last weekend.

Aaron  04:37
That’s awesome. So what’s the story for you? So you joined the Air Force. Give me a little bit of sense of what motivated you to join the Air Force?

TK  04:46
Oh, my dad did. Yeah. My dad helped me out. I actually wanted to go play football at Southeast Missouri State, which if I would have – coming out of high school, we went to see Coach Gruden would have been there that one year in 1988. But I had a lot of fun partying too much my senior year. I thought I was going to go there. And my GPA fell just a touch. I would’ve had to go JuCo first. And my dad was nice enough to take me to armed forces recruiters and tell me to pick one and Air Force is what we went with. And probably one of the best things, you know having a great dad who’s done a lot of great things. For me, it’s one of the best things he could have done for me.

Aaron  05:22
That’s so cool. Yeah. I mean, and for a lot of people, I mean, it’s a very similar story. I mean, there is a tremendous benefit to, you know, obviously it’s not all about us as the individual because we’re serving our country, but it does so much for you though. There’s so much personal development, a lot of growth, a lot of maturation, a lot of things that you’re going through especially when you’re younger and then being able to serve and there’s a lot of lessons that you learn real quick.

TK  05:52
Oh, hundred percent. A hundred percent. I mean, I honestly think if it was up to me, every kid coming –  I would almost be like Israel. Every kid coming out of high school at least go serve two years. And that would stop A lot of the nonsense that we have going on in this world, especially in United States as is from a patriotism standpoint. But it’s always a great place to start. And having two kids have gone through college now, I look at what it cost and what they got out of it and they’re both doing very well, but it’s almost like I probably could have even got a faster start if you went in the military at 18 and got your college in the military and then got out after four to six years. How much further would you have been along?

So I’m not a big fan of college, to be honest with you. Sorry, people that went to college. I’m a bigger fan of people who learn how to act as a human being and respect and all the things you learned from the armed forces. And my wife loves it because I’m OCD. So working out of my house most of the time out of my home office. I mean, beds are made, clothes are washed and floors are vacuumed. And so she has it great. She has a live-in maid 24/7. So yeah, works good.

Aaron  07:03
Yeah. I always joke with people too. For as many bad habits as the military can create, there are certainly a number of great things that are byproducts. And so it looks like your family is the beneficiary of some of those in a very real way.

TK  07:20
Pretty close. Yeah. And, listen, I mean, I’ve got the camaraderie from the military, it’s lifetime, right? And it’s one of the best fraternities, also now sororities with our sisters that are military as well. But you can’t get a part of a better family than being a veteran in the veteran community because we all rib on each other, whether you’re Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard. But when it comes down to it, it’s all one family. So all one love. But yeah, it’s great.

Aaron  07:51
That’s cool. So take me through then the journey that you embarked on. So, post-military, I was just looking at – using your LinkedIn as a reference. I know there’s a lot of other things that you’ve done that’s not reflected on here, but take me through a little bit of your journey, though, in terms of where did the entrepreneurship bug bite you? Where did some of these other ideas and these things kind of come to the forefront?

TK  08:17
Well, I really didn’t have… I always had good mentors, but your success is by design. So it’s really who you’re around is where you’re going to end up. So I tell people, if you’re a 35,000 a year employee, great. And if you’re hanging around $35,000 $40,000 a year employees, great. But that’s probably about where, you know, your mindset isn’t going to be that one day, you’re going to be $100,000 employee. And my thing is why not? But it’s always birds of a feather. So what happened when I got out of the Air Force, I think I was making 14,000 a year, thought I was rolling Donald Trump style.

And I actually got out to go play college football at Southeast Missouri State. My little brother was already all American there after his sophomore year. And while I was getting ready for football season to start that fall, a great friend of who is a mentor of mine growing up, he was the guy that graduated about four years ahead of me. So he was the guy that always buy the beer in high school and stuff for you. But he was like, “Dude, why are you wasting your time of college? If you want to be in sales, won’t you come with us and start working for me?” And he was making about 90,000 a year and this was ‘94 in Southeast Missouri where the middle income is about 25 a year. And of course, I was like, “Man, what are you doing?” And he’s like, “I’m selling trailers.” I said, “Man, I’m gonna go ahead and go to college.”

But then when I started really looking at manufactured homes and how they were compared in the 90s, compared to the 70s that I grew up in, it was a no-brainer. So I went and talked to Coach Mumford who was head coach for Southeast at the time, he was like, “Klund, hundred percent. You could go get a job like that and make that type of money and you don’t have to rack up student loan debt, hundred percent.” So with Coach Mumford’s blessing, my little brother’s blessing and a couple of other friends, I went ahead and took the chance and escalated success at a Fortune 500 company. Oakwood Homes recruit me down to Texas in the late 90s. And that’s actually how I got down here as a general manager, run a couple of stores.

And yeah, then I was in a car accident in 2000 that actually killed me. And that’s why I’m so congested during sinus season because my whole face had to be replaced, my forehead. So yeah, it’s been a great journey. Actually, My forehead and face got replaced on my 30th birthday, October 13th, which was a Friday that year, 2000. So my Catholic mother was not overly excited about that Friday the 13th, superstitious Friday surgery.

But anyway, two things that happened to me. One thing is while I was in the hospital, I was getting ready to get opportunity to be a district manager. And I’ve been being groomed and been shadowing the district manager at the time, the whole nine yards. I was worried that, you know, with my wife, we’re going to have to relocate and we’re gonna have to go back a step and take a step down. It’s just kind of what was me in my bed and whining. And my mom was the person who would start a job at 18 years old and walk out at 65 at the same desk. Really caught me off guard. She was the one who was like, “It would seem to me, they’d be more worried about losing you than you worried about losing them.” And that was probably the first time I realized I actually had value. And most people, I think, up to that point, I just thought that the companies were doing me a favor by letting me work for them. Even though I was the number one sales guy, making them a ton of money. I’m making this much money compared to what I’m making them. I thought it was always they were doing me a favor. And the reality is, it’s a true win-win for each other, right? The corporate and the employee, they both benefit.

But that was the first thing that kinda set me off. And then while I was sitting at home, waiting for the bells to go off in my head, my wife who worked for the federal prison at the time came in and said, “Hey, you can go back to mobile homes. We’re now working seven days a week no more. You couldn’t go to the corporate world. Try something else.” And I was watching Jerry Maguire, and I was like, “I think I’m gonna be a Jerry Maguire.” She was like, “Oh my God, you fricking hit your head way too hard. You don’t have a degree. You don’t even know an athlete. What are you talking about?” And again, that was just early 2000. No, I’m sorry. That was early 2001.

So probably within three months of that time, I had a buddy of mine called me and said, “Hey, we have a VP, now he’s getting relieved. We want you to come in and take over his VP.” At the same time, probably within a month of that, I went to a restaurant, waiting on somebody, ran into one of my first athletes and we became best friends. Two weeks later, he called me, he’s like, “I want you to handle all my marketing, all my endorsement stuff, the whole nine yards.” And so here’s my Jerry Maguire opportunity. And I’m going, “Man, I don’t know anything about that. I wouldn’t want to put your family at risk.” And he was like, “Nope, you’d be great at it. And whatever we get, we’ll split 50-50.” And I was like, “Bro, you can keep your money. I’m good. If you’re willing to take the chance, let’s go.”

So that’s how I started working with professional athletes and celebrities because he and I started doing stuff and he was introducing me to people like Super Bowl MVP Larry Brown, Michael Orban and just kind of took off from there. At the same time, I had my corporate career growing and just killing it. We were printing money in the corporate world in the mid-2000s and 2008 came. And actually, the second thing that really changed me, 2007 came. And when really the economy started taking a hit, the shareholders have let the VP of Customer Service go. Not a revenue generator, customer service, right? So they felt that he was expendable.

And when they let him go, I went in to calm him down. And he told me – he was 55 at the time I was 36. And he was like, “TK, listen. Do not let this happen to you.” And he had his master’s degree. He’s like, “I’ve got my master’s degree. I’ve worked for corporations my entire life. I’ve missed my kids’ birthdays. I’ve missed vacations. I’ve done everything for these corporates. I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do for these corporations and I’m out. I’m out at the worst time in America history besides The Great Depression. I’m out. And I’m going, “Dude, you’re a stud, you’re going to find a job. He’s like, “Who’s going to hire me? I’m 55 years old. Who’s going to pay me in six figures with everybody losing their opportunities right now? I’m done.”

And that really stuck on me real hard. And over the probably next 10 to 12 months, again, the economy was just getting worse and worse. And mid-2008, June 2nd, actually, the shareholders had called me June 1st, asked me if I come in at 7:00 AM the next morning early. So I kind of figured I was the one getting next because I was making more than the CEO at that time with bonuses and everything. And so I went in early and they were like, “Hey, we need to get rid of half of this company today and we need your help on who we’re getting rid of.” And I mentally prepared that, you know, I’m done. If I’m gonna make anybody money, it’s going to be me. And so I’d already mentally prepared and I just told them, “I’m not firing anybody today.” Didn’t sit real well with them. And we had some choice words, but I was like, I’m out of here. I’m not firing anybody.

And so yeah, it was the day that I actually walked out of the corporate world for the rest of my life. And from there, we had some struggles and trying to figure out which way we want to go, what we want to do. And then we got into performance mouthwear and people were asking me to consult for them and help introduce athletes to their products, which we did. And then a partner of mine decided in 2010 to just create our own company, our performance mouthwear company, which we did. But we had gotten a product down, a dental product from $2,500 down to $800. And I probably have 400 top pro athletes around the world, where not everybody loved it, but pro athletes wanted it free and everybody else couldn’t afford it.

So 2016, I told him, “We need to do a retail product.” He didn’t want to do it. Great. Buy me out. And so here I was again, 46 now, going, okay, now I’m back to square one. What do I want to do? And what I realized is I’m gonna need to control my own destination. Then I kind of felt myself a little bit whining again and what was me and what are we gonna do. I put all this time and effort and did all this and nothing came out of it. And well, a little came out, but now what my expectations were. And that’s when I sat down and wrote the book, Stop Whining, Start Winning, with tactical16.com publishing group. And at the same time, while I was trying to figure out what I want to do, and I knew I was going to probably do my own, I was getting a lot of companies calling me to consult with them and “Hey, I see you’re no longer with those guys. Come with us. We want you to consult and help us.”

So I was just kind of doing little gigs like that for a little while, just trying to catch my breath and really kind of figure out what I really want to do. And at the same time, that’s when we created the first Red River Celebrity Softball Game. I’d done a couple of celebrity softball games the years prior and I had called Roger Clemens and said, “Hey, what do you think about doing OU versus UT alumni, kick off OU/UT weekend in Dallas?” He was like, “Hundred percent together.” Ten days before the first game, he called me. He says, “Hey, what do you think about Matthew and Toby playing?” “Great. Matthew and Toby who?” “Matthew McConaughey and Toby Keith.” “Oh, yeah, they can play.” And then after that first year, all four of us became partners in that with their foundations in doing it every year since.

And then after our second year of that, all my other celebrities and veterans started complaining, “Hey, this is an awesome event. What about us?” So we turned around and created the Celebrity Softball Classic, which this year will be June 12th. But a lot of people didn’t like what happened to COVID. I know it was hard on a lot of people financially. It actually worked out great for me, personally. We were able to pull the train in the station. We were able to survive. But a lot of opportunities ended up falling in our lap because of COVID. And one of the opportunities is that they sold the stadium that we were going to have the games in. And now we moved both games to the new Globe Life Field, where the Texas Rangers play. So it’s kind of a benefit for us to actually be able to play and have those games at the major league baseball park level.

And then in 2010 also, I got the idea to do my own company, Verve Systems. If you can’t see all over here, just make sure everybody’s aware. But we’re gonna do performance mouthpieces. And while we’re working on that, CBD became legalized, knowing what CBD does help our veterans and a lot of my pro athletes that are being overmedicated like most of the general population in America right now. I knew what CBD did to help people get off their prescription meds and get their bodies back in shape from a health and wellness standpoint. So we got into the CBD world with Verve Forever.

While we’re still, again, building our performance mouthpiece retail side out, we ended up and COVID hit. That took a step back because our manufacturing centers and everything closed. So really, we had to take the whole year off from a manufacturing standpoint and from launching these on a national TV standpoint. While we did that, we ended up creating Verve United, which is an apparel line, patriotic apparel line, but we’re going to start adding some performance apparel stuff here real soon, probably within the next year.

And then we’re finally at a point now that we’re getting ready to launch our custom fitted performance mouthguard, the VO2 Max (Verve Oxygen Max). And that’s really what the performance mouthpiece does. We have an upper one that protects your teeth. We have a lower one. If you’re not worried about losing teeth, wear either one. But what it does, it actually opens your airway. So when your output is high, you’re getting your recovery oxygen back, that acts like carburetor for vehicle, right? So what happens is your performance will be able to run longer. You’re actually play at a higher level for a longer period with the oxygen intake. So that is coming out May 1st and then our retail product that will retail for $49, that’d be on national TV, will come out this fall on DRTV. Same people who did Tommy Copper, Copper Fit, MyPillow, Flex Seal. They’re the ones doing all of our production, all of our commercials and all of our media placement on digital national TV.

And then all that stuff will be in big-box stores by the beginning of 2022. So yeah, a lot of going on. And then throw some celebrity games in there and throw some stuff I’m doing with a great group called ConFlix Studios on a new show called The Connection that’s coming out, that will start pre-production on in 2022. That’s ran by Antonio Sabato and Kaya Jones and Scott Baio and Stacey Dash. I got a lot of great partners in there. John Schneider. So yeah, there’s always a lot of interesting, exciting things going on TK’s world without a doubt.

Aaron  20:20
Yeah, no, I mean, it’s a fast and furious tour of a lot of things that you’re doing, man. And I like to go back to your experience in Corporate America and those decisions. Because I think there’s a lot of people that can relate to your experience, right? Like that realization – and again, not knocking the corporate world because there is definitely a value exchange there and it works for a lot of people, right? People are wired different ways. There’s folks like you and I who are more entrepreneurial minded. We want to go do our own thing. And then there’s other folks that want to be a part of the machine but take a leadership role and be very active participant. There’s nothing wrong with that. But the point that you made, though, about that VP getting let go and he’s 55 years old and I’m just like, man, I cannot imagine for you seeing that firsthand. And then just seeing, man, at the snap of their fingers, he’s gone and how invaluable –

TK  21:25
He’s done. Well, and it wasn’t unpersonal to him, right? Again, it goes back to his business. They liked the guy. The problem was he’s a number, right? And if we can eliminate $120,000, $130,000 off our bottom line, it’s going to help the company to continue moving forward and we’ll just pan over his duties to his right-hand person, right? And the biggest thing, though, yeah, it hit me that, again, I’m working thinking they’re doing me a favor and a lot of people want to be an entrepreneur. They want that reward. They don’t understand the sacrifice to be an entrepreneur. Because again, you only see about this much of the success. You don’t see all the hardships and everything else that comes with it.

So there are people that are more apt to be very comfortable in the corporate world. And then just go through life in what I call being a paycheck player never, really have a much ownership, could be let go in any time but are comfortable because I’m not the bottom 20% of my company, so I’m not really somebody who’s gonna get fired. I’m just going to be somebody who’s going to keep on moving through. And to me, I’m just built a little bit different. But to me, it’s kinda like, man, God didn’t make me be ordinary. He made me be extra ordinary. So sitting around, hanging out, that’s probably not using my talents to the best of my ability. And obviously, I’d rather be broke than to be making 500,000 a year at corporate world. That’s just me personally.

When I had almost 200 people underneath me in the corporate world, it’s very, very hard to keep 200 people motivated and being seen in both sides of the curtain and how things are ran. And the only difference between the Elon Musk and your paycheck player is risk. Somebody was willing to take the risk and saying, “Hey, I’m betting on myself and I’m going all-in.” And compared to the person going, “I’d like to be able to do that and I’d like to have all that, but I’m good.” And again, for me personally, there’s no reason just to be good. I mean, everybody has a talent. But also goes back to the mentorship, right? Again, success is by design, and again, being around a lot of great individuals coming up in the corporate world, in philanthropic world who were also in the corporate, who were also on their own companies.

In 2000 – I’m sorry, in 1994, when I got out of the Air Force, when I got into trailers, manufacturing homes, the VP we had, she says, “Hey guys, I got this new tape set by this new guy. It’s supposed to be really good. This guru named Anthony Robbins. Anybody want to hang out and listen to these? One hour a night after we get done, you know, I’m going to stay here and listen to them.” Everybody is like, “Oh, I’m out of here.” She’s nice. Well, I was single. Everybody else is kinda married or just didn’t care. So I was like, “Hey, what have we got to lose with this?” And so I did. I went. I did the cassette thing with her. I think it was called Awaken The Power [Awaken The Giant Within] off the top of my head. I can’t remember which one of his first ones it was. But the whole gist of that, though, Tony Robinson and how he’s become a built worth billions is just find out who does it, who’s the best at doing what you want to do and copy them, right?

That’s this whole thing. If there’s somebody where you want to be, who’s doing what you want, go copy them. And nowadays with the internet and social media and YouTube and all these different platforms, there’s no reason why somebody couldn’t be highly successful at this point. Because even right now, today, I spend most of my time doing research on something I want to do before I actually do it. Research in marketplace and 10 or 12 other things before I make a decision on what I’m going to do. But if there’s somebody who’s doing – kind of in that category where I want to go, or a top doc or top dentist or a top health and wellness, I just go look them up, find them, start watching their videos, listening to them, getting a free education online.

Aaron  25:26
That’s right.

TK  25:26
And start kind of putting my own stuff together, right? And then the other thing I’ve learned in the corporate world is I learned early on actually is if you want to be really successful, surround yourself with even more successful people that’s ten times better than you and they’ll make you a superstar. And it kind of goes back again to Elon Musk’s, “Hey, I didn’t go to an Ivy league school. I just hire people that went to an Ivy league school.” So I have the same concept, the same kind of mindset of the way I do things. I know how good I’m going to take care of people. And so by bringing in good people, they get taken care of great. And we have a lot of fun and we make a lot of revenue and our families are taken care of. And in exchange, I get their expertise for that, which again makes me look great.

So the reality is there’s a whole team behind TK. It’s not just TK on Verve. The reality is there’s a team that you don’t get to see. It’s kind of like Steve Jobs and Wozniak. I’ve got my own Wozniak who is just fricking about as brilliant as can be – my partner, Raj. Unfortunately, he just never gets asked to be on podcasts. But he’s really the brains that I lean on quite a bit. We have some other team members we all lean on. So yeah, literally, it takes a team to make the dream, right? Teamwork to make the dream work. But again, if you can eliminate the egos, you can eliminate the greed, then you can get to doing some really fun stuff.

And trust me, every day there’s probably nine things that most people be going, “Oh my God, it’s the end of the world.” It’s just another day. It’s just like, okay, we’ll deal with that. We got to deal with it, right? So that’s why I tell people don’t get too excited about the life things going on in your life, the goods or the bads. I’m pretty much right here all the way. It could be something great today, man. Awesome. Something bad happened today, man. Awesome. So what? I’m still alive, still moving forward, still in business and that’s just life. I mean, people have to understand there’s ups and there’s downs and you’re never going to be on top every single day of your life. But you never gonna be at the bottom every single day of your life either. You just have to take the good with the bad, keep moving forward.

Aaron  27:43
Yeah, for sure. I mean, there’s so much, so much wisdom packed into the segment. And you’re talking about mentors, just how important that is. And it’s so true, though. The people that you surround yourself with are going to be the people that you become. And it’s some phrase, right? I’m sure it’s been passed down several generations. But you’re five or six or seven closest people to you, that’s who you’re going to become in the next five, six years. And so it’s really –

TK  28:12
Birds of the feather, brother.

Aaron  28:14
That’s right.

TK  28:15
It’s real.

Aaron  28:16 
It’s so neat how you discovered that, but then going back to your journey then. You’re having literally your own Jerry Maguire moment of, hey, this is the direction that I’d like to go. And, I mean, what was that like for you? All of a sudden, you’re rubbing shoulders with different people that you’ve never interacted with previously.

TK  28:37
Well, I’ll give you an idea. So my son and I, he was probably five, we’re in top row of the Cowboys Stadium watching the game, enjoying ourselves. A year later, we’re on the field or in the suites or mixed mingling with Oak Cowboy stars and corporate people and you name it and then it just went straight up from there. And it was kind of crazy to be honest with you, but it’s a very, very hard circle to get in, a very, very fast circle to get out of if you don’t do the right thing.

So that’s the other thing it always goes back to is your ethics and what you will and won’t sell yourself out for. And I’ll never sell myself out for anything. It’s just not worth it. Even losing one relationship is not worth it. So, again, it was not easy at first because you get caught up in it. And I got caught up in it. And luckily, I had a great wife that was like, “Hey, you got to remember, you’re not the celebrity. This is a business thing for you and you have to act that route.” And so she was somebody who kind of – she put me on track, keeps me on track. She’s the only person that can get away with a lot of the stuff that she says to TK, to my face, without getting put six feet in the ground. But I appreciate her for that because she’s the only one that I trust more than anything to tell me like it is and say, “Hey, you’re messing up over here. You’re messing up over there.” And if I would have listened to her ten years earlier, my God, I’d probably already be worth a billion.

I mean, being hardheaded, I kind of knew how to do everything in my early thirties. She’d be like, “I don’t know if you should do that” or “I really don’t like that person you’re doing business with”. And she’s pretty much called it right all the way through. And then finally, after I left the corporate world, I was like, you know what, I need to start listening to her. She’s pretty much spot on. I don’t want her to know that, but she’s always spot on. So once I started actually taking a step back, get rid of my ego, listen to her more, asking her, “Hey, what do you think?” Taking her to some dinners saying, “I want you to meet some people.” Because she has a good read on people real quick. So you’ll leave a dinner and she’ll go, “I like them” or “I don’t like them”. And I mean, that’s really all I need from her at that point. Because if she says I like them, then okay, then we’ll proceed forward. If she says I don’t like them, there was no reason to proceed forward. I’m not even going to look at it. So again, it’s a lot of everything, a lot of mixtures, a lot of failure, honestly. A ton of failure to get this. It’s more failure than success, but most people only see the success.

Aaron  31:10
No, you’re dead on. I mean, cherry pick any number of examples, but what’s been some of the toughest struggles in terms of entrepreneurs that you don’t – again, you’re dead on. People don’t see the other 93% of the entrepreneurial journey. They only see the sliver of success that’s shown, but they don’t see all the other crap that goes on behind the scenes. And so, just curious. For you, what does that part of it been like for you?

TK  31:39
Well, when I left the corporate world in ‘08, I mean, we almost lost everything – house, vehicles, you name it. The good Lord stepped in and saved us on everything through a good friend of mine that was like, “I know you’re struggling. And you never charged me. And here’s a check,” and not even knowing what the check was, it was more than enough to actually get us back online, take care of everything. And ever since then, it was straight up. But I mean, for me personally, it’s not just from a corporate standpoint too. It’s a spiritual standpoint. So the good Lord is going to get you. I mean, when you start getting too far out, he’s going to pull you back. And most of the time, he pull you back is not going to be something you probably going to like.

So that’s the other lesson I learned in life. You know what, I’m just going to stick close to him. I’m going to make sure from a disciplinary standpoint, I continue to have my conversations with him every day in prayer and put him first and really think about what I need to do. And, again, I look at situations and I really expect different things to happen to me in a good way all the time just because I know the good Lord has always taken care of me. So from a spiritual standpoint, that’s been another thing to pull me in to pay attention. But when you get ready to lose everything and you’re literally like, we’d be out on the streets or I don’t know what’s going to happen, and all of a sudden, good Lord steps in, then you’re like, okay, I know he’s got us. Everything’s going to be okay. Now let’s press forward, right?

And there’s only two things you can do: you can have faith or you can worry, and they each counterproductive to each other, right? So you can’t say, “Hey, I’m faithful” and then worry at the same time and you can’t be worrying, but then saying, “Hey, I’m faithful.” So you’ve got to pick a lane. And my lane is I’m faithful. And there’s going to be a ton of stuff always thrown at you on a regular basis that’s going to try to distract you, go to try to bring you down. I could tell my wife, “If you can’t deal with it, if you can’t fix it right then, don’t worry about it. Keep pressing forward.”

A lot of people get too worried about the what ifs and what if this happens or oh, I got this problem. And if you can’t fix it today, move on. You’re not going to do anything except waste a lot of energy over something you can’t deal with anyway. So just move on and go put that energy towards something positive that can help you move forward. And a lot of times, if you do that, this little thing over here all of a sudden disappears. You kind of go a few days later, “Oh, what happened to that?” It kind of took care of itself.

So I’m just wired a little bit differently. Again, I grew up a street kid. It wouldn’t bother me at all to drop the gloves and scrap somebody on the street in a heartbeat. I still have a little bit of that in me from the old days. And I’m not going to get bullied and I’m not going to take no crap. And my thing is my only competition is me. I get up every single day and compete with myself. Whether it’s getting up at 5:00 AM to go get my workout in, whether it’s trying to eat right, whether it’s trying to do better than I did the day before.

And then one thing I tell everybody is my one thing is just win the day, right? If you can just do one thing that at the end of the day, you’re like, I accomplished something today. There are some days that, I mean, my cup’s just overflowing with just greatness that happened. There are some days that you’re like, I made my bed. At least I made my bed this morning and got half-assed workout in. I have those days too, right? But at least there’s always something that I can chalk up and go, hey, something happened in a positive light.

And again, it’s just 24 hours. So just go get a good night’s sleep and just hit the reset button the next day and get recharged and come back at it again the next day. And like I said, some days would just be overflowing and some days would just be like, you know, I just turn this phone off, take the rest of the day off. That’s okay too. Or I’m just done with it for today. It’s okay too. So you have to understand yourself, your body, where you’re at. When things are going good, keep the gas pedal pressed hard. I mean, you just keep going, going, going. Don’t take your foot off the gas pedal. When things are going bad, put the car in park, get out, take a break, go do something else. Get refocused, take a deep breath, get a good night’s sleep. Get back in the car and hit the gas pedal the next day. So again, you just have to understand where you’re at and you don’t work too hard one way or the other.

Aaron  36:06
Yeah. I mean, that’s a solid. Take me a little bit into some of your thoughts, some of your decision-making processes along. Because there’s a lot that I feel like entrepreneurs could potentially glaze over because it’s such a part of you and who you are. So it’s easy to overlook. But some of the things that you’ve done in terms of the decisions that you made on developing a certain product or starting a different business or get into a partnership. How have you gone about evaluating those opportunities? And again, I know you mentioned earlier, but there’s no doubt when things that you’re like, nope, that didn’t work.

TK  36:48
That’s really where you figure it out – through failures. My last partner that I had at the last company when we did a performance mouthpieces, unbelievable, great guy. Top guy, a hundred percent stud. The problem was we’re both identical. We could sell each other faster than anybody could sell each other, right? Because we’re identical. So one got us good. So we both got excited. So it wasn’t nothing about my last partner. It’s just the fact of the matter is that we both had the same half of the brain. And what I realized moving forward if I go start my own company, I need somebody with the other half of the brain. Somebody who is going to be counter TK, still a superstar, still great individual, but somebody who’s going to have a different mindset outlook in the way I think.

Also, I started looking at, you know, I want to see people’s track records. And my partner I have now has an unbelievable track record of wins and things that he’s done in his life that I want to do. So I knew he would know which direction to go to. And so again, I’ve kind of cheated myself a little bit by copying what Raj has done and saying, “Hey, Raj, you’ve been there and done that. This is where I want to go. Do you want to come play?” And that’s kinda how we got together. And then from there, you just cherry pick the best of the people you surround yourself with from there, right? But it’s all been failures. I mean, I’ve lost hundreds of thousand dollars doing some events, made tons of money. I mean, if you learn from it, it’s not really a loss. It’s just you’re paying for an education.

But it’s not easy because I’m a little bit, to a certain extent, I want to say micromanager, but everything starts and ends with me. If we win, it was because of the people and because of the determination and the drive we had, the focus we had. If we lose, it was because of me and maybe I didn’t have the proper determination or focus or I wasn’t given my team what they need to be successful to help me be successful. So it’s always just a stop, let’s take a look. What went well, what didn’t go well, let’s reevaluate, let’s refix. Is this something worth continuing, moving forward? Is it something not worth moving forward? It’s just takes a lot of that before you just find that sweet spot, right?

I mean, right now, having this celebrity game at Globe Life Park, it’s increased my budget five times, but it’ll take a little by part. And now when we’ve got amazing celebrities that want to play me, we got 50 people on every team. We got two veteran teams playing each other, got two celebrity teams playing another, 200 people playing in these two games. I should say participating. The 200 people won’t be playing, but most people just want to participate. I mean, half of the celebrity team don’t even want to play. They just want to be a part of it. And there’s some really great names that are on the celebrity roster. They’re like, “Dude, I just want to be involved. I’m not going to get out there and try to swing a bat or get out there and field the ball. I’m not going to go that crazy on myself. I just want to be involved.”

So it’s going to turn into a fan fest, but yeah, you have me every day, you’re like, yeah, TK has to come up with $150,000 budget to make this game happen and to make sure that the foundations get some checks. So this is something you sweat. No, not really. Because it’s either going to happen or it’s not going to happen. And it’s just kind of where it is, right? And it’s not really something to sweat too much, to be honest with you.

Aaron  40:16
Yeah. Well, let’s dive into that for just a second. Because I think that’s probably a really, really awesome point. So you’re describing that, I mean, it’s like you’re reading my mind. Man, that’s a lot of pressure. Let’s just call it what it is. There’s a lot of money.

TK  40:32
Oh, it’s true.

Aaron  40:32
Right. And so it doesn’t mean that we have to pretend it’s not there. It’s definitely there. But the way that you go about managing that and the way that you think through that, take me through how you’re able to reconcile that in your mind so that it’s not crippling you?

TK  40:50
First thing is don’t tell your wife what the budget is when we’re having a game. That’s probably the first thing. That takes a lot of the pressure off. If she knew what my signature was on, she would probably be going – every day, she’d probably be the best CEO on top of me. So the biggest thing is just, again, a lot of faith knowing that’s going to happen because it’s always happened in all the games I’ve done in DFW. Everybody comes through and lends a hand and helps out from a sponsorship standpoint or participating. We don’t pay any of these athletes, which is unheard of. I mean, I don’t even pay for their flights in. I don’t pay for their hotel. I don’t even pay them to come play. I give him a jersey and a ball cap and provide a venue for them to come have some fun and to give back.

And this game will raise some money for Folds of Honor, the DFW Folds of Honor office and the Vets For Child Rescue, which is Craig “Sawman” Sawyer who’s a SEAL team. He’s the guy who created this foundation help with sex trafficking. And what he does is give intel to local state and federal authorities and helps lock up the perpetrators and save kids. So two things that I absolutely love and adore for both foundations. So it was like, hey, if we can give these guys exposure and have some fun, we’re doing it, but it really does take a village to make these things happen. And I’ve got to get a great team on the event side that helps me. If my girl Brandi, who’s my game day event coordinator, with my girl, Diana Davis, who does all out there tracking sponsorships. I pretty much handle the rosters, getting players and jerseys and putting the stadium together, the rest of the team, and then I have Raj’s wife handles all the PR. So, I mean, again, it takes a bunch of people to help put this together and hell a lot of celebrities. I mean, celebrities are referring people to me, “Hey, TK, this is my guy. He needs to be a sponsor. Call him.” So it takes everybody getting involved because everybody wants to see a success.

But it’s a little bit of a scarier when you’re like, okay, the event usually costs 50 grand and now they’re 150. So it’s a little bit different. But again, it’s Globe Life Park. So it’s just one of those opportunities. And you never know, there might not be one next year. So let’s have fun this year. And I always do every event as it’s my one and only. Luckily, they continue to go and grow, but it is what it is. Again, I don’t get too overly worried about it. I always look at what’s worst case scenario. What’s my worst case scenario? Okay. It might cost me X amount of money to make sure this gets pulled off. Is it worth the risk? Yes. If it’s not worth the risk, then I might not do it if I look at the worst case scenario. Doing a business deal, what’s worst case scenario? What’s the worst thing could happen out of this? And if I’m okay with that, then I’ll probably move forward. If I’m not okay with it, then I’m probably not going to take the chance.

So that’s kind of how I do my decision-making. It’s the risk versus reward and how much are you going to actually – what’s the worst case scenario? Like if I’m a corporate guy right now and I’ve got some skills and I’ve got some friends and I know some people, and I’m thinking about wanting to do my own job or do my own entrepreneurship or create my own company, what I would be looking at is, okay, what’s the worst case scenario if I left my corporate job? What’s the worst case? Well, I’ll lose my house or I’ll lose my wife. What happens if I’m financially ruined? Or if things go bad financially, how’s my wife going to react, how is my banker’s going to react? And if it’s a situation where it’s like, we would be okay, then hey, go for it. If this, yeah, probably wouldn’t be okay, then you probably need to say where you’re at.

If you’re an entrepreneur looking to do something else, do it when you get home from work. Do it on the weekends. Continue to start building it. When you’re away from the corporate world, it’s always better to – I was very fortunate I got to build my name brand in the world and my company, Pro Sports Connection, at the time, working with professional athletes and celebrities. I had a high paying job in the corporate world. And my shareholders loved that I did both because they got the benefit out of it too, right? A lot of celebrities going to games would be different things. I’ve taken risks my whole life. And when you start off at the bottom and you can live with it – I’ve been there, done it. That’s the worst case scenario? Okay. I’m going for it. The rest of it, I’m going for it.

It’s people who’ve never been through adversity are the ones that have the worst trouble with adversity. If you’ve had adversity in your life, easy, game on. There’s not too much that’s going to bother you. So that’s really the difference in two people. If you’ve gone through adversity, I mean, if you go look at successful people and really look at them and look at their backgrounds, most of them have had tons of adversity. Should have been out of the game a long time ago, but they never give up. They keep pushing forward and look where they’re at, right? And then people who have had no adversity and have good careers and then one bump in the road, man, they’re done. They’re derailed. They don’t know how to handle it. They’re out of the game. Never to be heard from again. So that’s kind of the difference. And again, what’s the worst case scenario, what’s best case scenario. Figure it out from there.

Aaron  45:48
I mean, it’s simple, easy to understand and really, really practical. And what I’ve told people when they’ve asked me some more questions is, man, try to build whatever you’re working on, build it on the side.

TK  46:12
Build it on the side.

Aaron  46:12
Do it after work, do it at night, do it on the weekends, whatever you got to do. And then there will eventually – if it continues to grow, you’re going to eventually reach that decision point where it’s like, okay, I owe it to my clients now, I’ve got to jump ship. But here’s the best part. And this is one of the things that I don’t think a lot of people understand until they’re in it. You could always go back, right?

TK  46:36
It’s just a job.

Aaron  46:36
Yeah. Corporate America is never going away. So if your venture, you run out, you go try it. It doesn’t quite pan out the way you’re wanting it to. Or you’re like, yeah, I’m burning more cash than I thought it was going to be required.

TK  46:53
Boy, she will as an entrepreneur.

Aaron  46:54
Yeah. Exactly right.

TK  46:56
Whatever you think it’s going to cost, double it.

Aaron  46:58
Yeah. Right. Yeah. I mean, so you’ve either got to generate enough sales, keep your costs low and/or pick up side jobs.

TK  47:06
Have enough start off cash before you even started. 

Aaron  47:08
Yeah. So there’s any number of ways, right? And I think that’s the point. There’s not just one set recipe for making that happen. It’s just everybody can arrive at the same general destination. There’s just maybe a different ways to get there.

TK  47:21
Well, it goes back to what you said. What’s the worst case scenario? Okay. I fail. Maybe it’s not – I wouldn’t even consider failing just the first shot, first run didn’t work. So you have to go back to corporate work or job or you have to work harder. That’s the other thing a lot of people don’t realize. Being an entrepreneur, that’s not a nine-to-five. I kid you not, I’ll go to bed about 11:00 AM – or 11:00 PM, I’m sorry. And again, OCD. All my emails are answered, all my text messages. My phone is spotless when I turn it off. I’ll wake up. It’s like casino going off at 5:00 AM. It’s just ching, ching, ching, ching, ching, ching. And I’m like, man, what were these people doing after 11:00 PM?

There could be a lot of West Coast people. It just depends. But I mean, I’ll wake up with ten or 15 text message. It takes me an hour in the morning just to go through my emails and get everything caught up before I even go to the gym. And that’s after having everything caught up before I went to bed at 11:00 PM. I always kid my wife, go, “I must be down the right path because activity, activity, activity, activity is a good thing if it’s taking you forward.” And I always tell her, “Man, I can’t even imagine Cuban’s phone.” I wonder it takes so long to get a response on text message, right? So I can’t even imagine what the text messages stuff he gets. And some of these other guys and girls that I know.

But again, it’s just kind of, man, you only have one life. And I did it the hard way. I did it after having been married with kids going in junior high. I did it probably the worst time ever and still survive. And not only survive, thrive. But a lot of it is, there’s two things. There’s two things to get to the next level. Number one is relationships. It’s all about who you know. You could be the smartest person on the planet, smartest person at your corporate and go, “I’m going to do this on my own.” If you don’t really know anybody outside your corporate, probably I don’t care how good you are. Probably, you’re not going to make it. That’s reality. You could be probably not the brightest person at your corporate, that’s going, “Hey, I’m going for it.” And if you’ve got a lot of relationships outside your corporate world, family and friends, you got a pretty good chance that you could probably do pretty well.

I tell people all the time, when they’re young, go get involved with the philanthropic calls, whether it’s Big Brothers Big Sisters, could be a mentor. Go down and help out a boys and girls club, get involved with whatever you want to do in life, whatever you’re passionate about – helping kids or veterans or whatever. Find a foundation in your local area that is where you want to be and go get involved. Because what you’re going to do is you’re going to find – while you’re helping them, you’re going to find out that the people that keep these foundations’ lights on are corporate individuals or corporations, CEOs of corporations, employees of corporations, and you’re going to get to mix and mingle with a lot of great individuals. And if you do what you say you’re going to do and do your part, you’re going to find out those people become longtime friends and acquaintances that can help open up doors for you as well.

That’s really how I got started. Again, all at one time, got into corporate world as a VP. Met my first athlete. While I was the VP, Big Brothers Big Sisters came in doing their pitch. We were looking for mentors. Out of 75 people, nobody raised their hand off the sales floor. I raised my hand. I became a mentor. Came home and tell my wife, “Oh, by the way, this Big Brothers Big Sisters was gonna probably want to come by and do a spot check on the house down the road.” “When are you going to have time to mentor? You got three kids already.” “We’ll figure it out.”

And that young man is just instrumental in our family. He is our family. And we got him at 12 years old and now he’s graduated with his master’s degree. He got to play college football. That’s what he wanted to do. The boy couldn’t carry a code when he was in seventh grade when we got him and ended up, you know, because hey, you can do this. If you can’t, we’ll figure out a way for you to do this. He’s been highly successful. And crazy thing is his first job out of college was working for Big Brothers Big Sisters in Abilene before he moved back to Fort Worth. So, again, he’s family. I just texted him yesterday. So again, I’ve known this kid since he’s 12. That’s 2001. Whatever year we’re in, 2021, he’s still rock and roll and got a beautiful wife, two beautiful daughters. And couldn’t be more proud of him.

Aaron  51:43
That’s so cool.

TK  51:43
But there was a guy from Big Brothers Big Sisters that says, “Hey, to be a man, you must first see a man.” And that’s a quote by the hall of famer, Dale Long of Big Brothers Big Sisters. But that’s how it goes in anything you do. Again, it’s all about who you know. It’s all about mentorship. It’s all about giving back. But if you go do that, that’s going to help you get a lot down the road as well. So take good care of people. Do what you say you’re going to do. Don’t give up. If you believe in it, go for it. Everybody is gonna tell you why it’s not going to happen, why it’s not going to be a success, why you’re not gonna be able to make this work. There’s all those people all the way around, but guess what? They’re not taking the risk, you are.

And I just turn off the noise. And actually, I like that. I love when somebody tells me, “You’re probably not going to be able to pull that off.” That’s almost like I’m going to go cash the check because that’s almost a point where I’m like, oh God, thank God. Somebody finally told me I’m not going to be successful at this. Awesome. Thank you. Yes, that’s what I’ve been needing. So it’s just fueling my burners just to prove people wrong. But again, success, failure. You’re going to have your rear end handed to you a lot more times than you’re going to get rewarded. But if you can understand the rewards coming right on the other side of that failure, then everything kind of just evens out and your good days are just as good as your bad days. And that’s why I tell everybody, “Hey, how’s your day going?” My day is always good. Even my worst days are still good.

Aaron  53:16
That’s good, man. Well, time flies, man. We’re having fun.

TK  53:22

Aaron  53:22
But so it’s Thursday morning, April 22nd. It’s a big day today, right?

TK  53:28
It is. Actually, tickets are actually going to go sell tomorrow, Friday morning at 10:00 AM. We’re going to go on sale today, but the Rangers are at Globe Life doing some kind of computer system check or something. So they got pushed till tomorrow morning at 10:00 AM. So tomorrow morning at 10:00 AM, you can go to celebritysoftballclassic.org and check out the rosters and tickets will be on sale. I think our highest, which is the front row seats, are 20 bucks. We are only selling 5,000 tickets for this first game. If you are a person who thinks you’re corporate might want to get involved or you might want to be a sponsor, there’s a tab on there. You click on Sponsorship tab. There’s a PDF you can open up and read. And if you want to be a sponsor, there’s easy way to get it. I’m on the Contact page. So feel free to reach out and do us a favor. Make sure you share this video. Definitely help my boy, Aaron, out. He will be at the veteran game. He will be playing in the veteran.

Aaron  54:23
Spoiler surprise.

TK  54:24
So it’s going to be a lot of fun and he will be one of the people that will get out there and play because I want to see it. So The DFW Business Podcast, keep doing what you’re doing. You guys keep tuning in, keep sharing this with your family and friends and help my boy out.

Aaron  54:39
TK, I appreciate you, man. It’s a sincere pleasure.

TK  54:41
I appreciate you, brother.

Aaron  54:43
I’ll be seeing you real soon.

TK  54:44
Yes, sir. Appreciate you, guys. Have a great day.

Aaron  54:47
Thank you.

TK  54:48
Okay. God bless.

Aaron  54:54
Thanks for listening to America’s Entrepreneur. If you enjoyed the show, please leave a review or comment on your preferred social media platform. Share it out with friends, family, coworkers, others in your network. And of course you can write me directly at aaron@boldmedia.us. That’s aaron@boldmedia.us. Until next time.

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