S1E15. This week I sat down with entrepreneur and business leader, Christopher Hummel, the founder and CEO of Fitteam Global. Chris is an Air Force veteran and we had a very fruitful discussion about entrepreneurship, business, and overcoming challenges.
Chris’ LinkedIn profile.
Chris’ company, FITTEAM Global.
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Aaron Spatz 00:05
I’m Aaron Spatz, and this is the Veterans Business Podcast. A podcast centered around the stories of US military veterans, and their adventures in the business world following their time in service. Its stories of challenges and obstacles. And then inside look at how veterans find their life’s work, their purpose, and their post military lives. This week, I sat down with entrepreneur and business leader Christopher Hummel, the founder and CEO of 15, global. Chris is an Air Force veteran. And we had a very fruitful discussion about entrepreneurship, business and overcoming challenges. Chris spoke about not cutting corners.
Christopher Hummel 00:44
A lot of times people are looking to cut corners, you’re not going to build a solid foundation. That way, about being yourself, be somebody that people want to connect with. In Norway, that that’s going to happen is being by being yourself, and about how people see us. We’re programmed for whatever reason to worry about what other people think about us. Sooner or later, we’re able to get over that the more successful become,
Aaron Spatz 01:08
this is a great episode that you are going to absolutely enjoy. Well, Chris, thank you so much for taking some time out of your day for being with me on the show. I really appreciate it.
Christopher Hummel 01:24
I look forward to speaking with the intern, I’ve received a lot of requests to do something similar to this and just really like the way you approached it. And there’s a lot of other great people out there I need to get back to doing so once this is out there. I’m struggling to get some more messages. But I look forward to our conversation
Aaron Spatz 01:39
today. That’s fantastic. I really, I really do sincerely appreciate that. I’d love to hear a little bit about your story. I obviously I followed you on LinkedIn for quite some time. I love the work that you’re doing there. But I’d really love to just dive into going back to your time writer on the Air Force like to share with us a little bit of your journey of what led you to join the military and then give us a sense of what you did when you’re in
Christopher Hummel 02:08
look forward to it. One of the things that I love just giving back anything I can for veterans and appreciate appreciate you reaching out to me. So at 17 I I joined the basic training went to San Antonio, Texas I actually spent my 18th birthday in boot camp there then shortly after that went to Camp Bullis do my my tech training I went in as security forces so that was interesting didn’t know what to do is actually my recruiter that’s what he did so so they’ll give us a world nice so that was a that was interesting it was it was a lot different from a lot of other other jobs so to speak in the Air Force you know we had training and exercises all the time a lot was happening where some people I’ve always just felt like this you know showing up from a job for certain hours is definitely wasn’t the case for us. Well we were always both was always happening we’re the ones that did securities for the base and for different different things so after after San Antonio went to North Dakota was in North Dakota there’s the missile silos up their priority party a we’re in security for through can imagine just looking at a field for 12 hours three to six days a week that that was what we did and in the freezing cold six months out of the year to save Why not might not reason is the reason that’s great. I’m not sure if you’ve heard that one before but no I was there I actually went over to Aviano airbase Italy for four months had a great time over there there was some stuff going on with us either ramp up or ramp ramp and down with Bosnia okay stuff was happening over there so so there for a little bit but it was nice because get to get out the other states for the first time in the military and then could see a little bit of Germany and some other other countries over there. My stay was there had some great time there. Went to after went back to my aunt after that TDY went to Greenland for a year. Oh you’re seeing a trend here I was at the coldest place and you could possibly be was there for a year and end up going that was different there’s 100 people on the base there there was regarding satellites up there and was there for a year then I my last stop was Albuquerque New Mexico and in a year there and had worked out to be close to five years to get out of did like six more months in Greenland or something instead, I did like an extra time to go one more station back in the States. But I ended up in Albuquerque and you know, just learn A lot of different things in the military, you know, focus, leadership, discipline. And I think a lot of those things have, you know, got me where I am today? Wow.
Aaron Spatz 05:13
No doubt, and especially in a in a job like security forces, the Air Force, I mean, you’re dealing with a lot of sensitive sites, and you have to be flexible, that you’re having to respond to unknown situations of, you know, like, an unknown severity. And so I can’t imagine what that was like. Because I mean, you’re, you’re saying how much different it is from many other roles within the Air Force. And so I can’t imagine like that, how that tempo was in terms of just having to be flexible?
Christopher Hummel 05:44
Absolutely, you’re, there’s always that it was almost nonstop, you’re all not always on edge. But you almost felt like you always were the position. In that there’s always said trainings and exercises that you had a couple days off to three days off, you would alarm would go off, and you had to, you know, respond accordingly. So, wow. That’s nuts.
Aaron Spatz 06:06
Well, sure. So share with us a little bit of that transition. So you’re, you’re in New Mexico, closing out your time. And so what was that path like for you like when you decided you wanted to get out? And would you jump into?
Christopher Hummel 06:24
Well, I got out of Albuquerque, I believe was 2001, went back home to Michigan at the time, didn’t know what I was going to do had no idea. And it took me probably a good six months to even get a job but resumes out everywhere. And finally landed in a place that did like some surveillance and background checks. Well, that was that was interesting. Did that for about about a year, and then I got I got laid off. And if you’re looking for a moment that completely changed my life, that was it, I decided, literally, probably that day, or the next day, I would never like be put in that position. Again, because it was about a month or two before my daughter was born, just got a new house to start a family. And just remember the chair being pulled out from underneath me the rug being pulled out where I didn’t even know what was going on. And I didn’t know how I was going to fix the situation, I was kind of naive that something like that could ever happen. Here I am, you know, enjoying life one day, and the next day, I don’t know where I’m going to, you know, make money and be able to pay for my house and car payment and the family and all types of things. So it was something that definitely knocked me down.
Aaron Spatz 07:34
Wow. So like, what did you do? I mean, I mean, you’re you’re you find out that your job is gone. And and you’ve got family responsibilities and man with a with a newborn on the way. I mean, I can’t imagine what that was like, I mean, what what were the next steps for you? And then like, how did you get through that?
Christopher Hummel 07:56
Right? It was a it was tough. It was really challenging time. You start putting out resumes, you know, wanting to figure out what I’m going to do. But I knew in the back of my mind I needed to control my own destiny. And I thought I’d share the story about just had a house and just bought a house recently. It’s remember the real estate agent had a nice car had a nice, you know, had the nice suits are looking dressed well and always intrigued me like okay, this, this guy’s got money, he might be doing something, right. So as I was putting stuff out there, I jumped in real estate fairly quickly. And just said, I’m gonna make this happen. And unfortunately, it make it happen right away. I didn’t get it. I literally think I had one resume call back. But I’m just not a desperation. I just didn’t make something happen. I started just, you know, calling every single for sale by owner. As soon as I got my real estate license, I got fairly quickly got into an office and just started calling for sale by owner out of this magazine I used I used to call hundreds a day. Now just kind of given the same script. Have you considered listing your home with the realtor? Yes or no, I’d go into the same response. And I would just mask just do math numbers and desperation was able to set up a bunch of listing appointments, and I would secure some listings. And I did very, very well very fast because it was like I said, out of desperation.
Aaron Spatz 09:13
Wow. Well, sometimes sometimes when we’re faced with desperation, it really causes us to make, you know, life altering decisions and helps bring some clarity. I mean, so you’d had like this itch I guess that you I mean, maybe you weren’t even aware that it was there. But then as time goes on, and then you’re presented with this crazy situation, it’s like it just awakens and come comes to the very top and you’re like, Okay, I’m not. I’m not gonna go through that again. I’m gonna go, you know, 100 miles an hour forward doing this. Right? Absolutely. Yeah. That’s crazy. I mean, that’s that’s really cool and just very inspiring. So, you know, there’s there’s ways to handle that. adversity and you’re, you’re still standing. And no doubt, I think that your experience is there, especially with having a hustle to sales. I mean, I can’t imagine how well that has served you, you know, in years later, as you’re leading companies, so tell us about that. Tell us a little bit about the impact that’s had on you and and walk us through kind of where you’ve gotten to be where you are today?
Christopher Hummel 10:25
Sure. So jumped into real estate did was a realtor for a few years. And then I think it was about three years later, I think there’s a requirement Michigan, came a real estate broker where I had basically was a broker of an office at 42 agents was doing well. But I noticed in real estate though is you’re always at the mercy of other people, you’re, you know, they’re showing houses at nights and weekends, you’re always kind of you feel like you’re on this hamster wheel. Even when you have agents in your office, you’re still responsible for them, you know, that we have 42. So there’s a lot going on. And I was doing a lot of new construction, a lot of new developments. times were good. And it was, you know, start a new realm. And obviously, the market shifted in Oh, eight, it was oh eight and oh nine, the market shifted basically collapsed. I went from, like I said, doing the new construction and a lot of new developments to you know, people find their dream home picking up their, you know, their cabinets, their kitchen and all this stuff to now, short sales and foreclosures to the market just completely turned upside down with the crash of Oh, eight. So it was a, it was more eye opening experience lost my passion for real estate very quickly. I felt like I could have pushed on, did some things I just didn’t have the passion for you know, like I said, it’s on getting a new dream home to now it’s like everybody’s losing their house. And I was looking in the market crushed me and it kind of just kind of paralyzed me kind of nervous situation didn’t know what to do. Lost the passion for it. So looking for something different at time. That’s kind of what brings me to where I’m at today. Everything I was looking at was, you know, the trend is your friend. It was like into the health and healthcare and fitness nutrition in. So that’s why what I did is kind of took a leap into that. And then five years now since 15 has been around, was a rapid couple companies in India very well. And then decided in January 2015 is when we our official launch date is to bring some higher quality products to market in that aisle 15 was born. Wow.
Aaron Spatz 12:41
Well, congratulations on. I mean, you’ve you’ve now been 15 now has been going strong for five years. And so I mean, that’s, that’s phenomenal story. And I mean, it really when we think about it, like just as you’re talking about the real estate situation. It’s like, there we are, again, I mean, it’s it’s going right back to zero in terms of like okay, I’m dealing with another adversity, I’m dealing with another major challenge and kind of the same thing. I can’t imagine what that was, like, especially coming out of being laid off years earlier. I mean, what was that triggering inside to you, when you are seeing the the real estate market just start to collapse? And you’re, you’re losing your passion for it, but like, what’s, what’s going on, on on the inside of you during all that?
Christopher Hummel 13:35
Right at the time, obviously young, inexperienced never been through anything like that before this time is different. It’s it’s obviously different, what’s happening, but I just, there’s definitely a column and I see things differently see how, you know, people right now that are going to, obviously you’ve got to scale back which you can but you really have to push forward and really push through this. If you did right did back in 2008 and just stopped and almost paralyzed by it and worry and confusion is going to really struggle to get through it the people that you know, are able to just have that face because everything’s gonna everything’s gonna pass it will this will pass it will get better we’ll overcome it so but you have to decide that now you can’t wait around till you know two months later, or whatever timeframe is going to be when they say it’s everything’s clear to go back to normal. Yeah. Wow.
Aaron Spatz 14:30
You seem to be pretty calm and collected. I mean, do you have you always been that way? Or would you attribute that to your background and into some of the struggles that you’ve had overcome like now is it just like, okay, it is what it is we’ll get through this or, or is this just been how you’ve been wired?
Christopher Hummel 14:47
It’s a great question I hear a lot of times people say that I’m just that’s kind of like how I am even keel I don’t think I was always this way. I think you just learn through through adversity as you mentioned, just just Keep the level just keep level don’t get too up. Don’t get too down. almost hate to say be robotic in your motion. Sure. But if I don’t get up into down, stay steady. That’s a good place to be.
Aaron Spatz 15:15
Yeah. No doubt. What advice would you have four veterans that may be kind of on a similar journey? I mean, they’ve many of our listeners on this podcast are folks that have been separated from the military for any number of years. And it in everybody has a very unique story in a in a unique way of how they’ve navigated life, but what advice would you have for folks out there that are just really trying to find their stride? And what and what really lights their fire? Because I mean, it probably I mean, it’s it obviously took you some time to figure that one out. But what like, what process? Have you gone through? Like, you’ve gone from real estate now you’re doing fit team? Has that? Has that always been a passion? Are you more passionate about business? Are you are you just are you? Are you passionate about the specific type of business that you’re doing?
Christopher Hummel 16:10
I’m passionate about building things with people of teamwork. Something that I love that about in the military, as you know, get smaller teams, which also lead to bigger teams. So leading people, something I’ve always loved, but for anyone that’s, you know, getting out of the military or looking, you know, become an entrepreneur, a few things I would recommend is, is the first is, you know, planning and preparation is going to be key. I always say, you know, you’ve probably heard before the Stephens favorite. Season, Favorites have prepared, the more you can prepare for something and plan, the better off you are. But that doesn’t mean like everything has to be perfect. Some people want everything so perfect before they start doing anything, that it stifles them and nothing happens, they procrastinate and analysis paralysis, they overthink things so that the next thing is the people you have to get, you know, great people around you. You have certain touring. So whatever it is you’re looking to do, where weaknesses are trying to fill those blood or people consistency is key every single day, you got to develop these habits, you’re gonna get better at doing certain things, when we’ll do that. Do it day in and day out consistently. I’m big on being whatever business someone’s looking to start is to be big on customer, you know, customer focus quality, don’t cut any corners, a lot of times people are looking to cut corners, you’re not going to build a solid foundation that way, the best thing you can do is, you know, build a solid foundation if you’re looking to build a long term sustainable business, and then keep things simple. And that base is going to work out
Aaron Spatz 17:46
some golden advice. Do you have people that are close to you that that you can find in like, do you have mentors or coaches? Or is this been like, mostly self taught and you just kind of recalibrate? As the train is on the track?
Christopher Hummel 18:02
A lot of it is the people around me, I won’t say I had some much mentors, have never coached me on a daily basis, which I highly recommend, because I think you can cut the learning curve with that. And but I have had people that have mentored me in certain things. So like that helped coach me like they’ve been through it, they have the experience. And they recommend, hey, do this. So I haven’t had one one or two people I’ve worked with over, you know, a long period of time. But I have numerous people that have gotten wisdom from an experienced user experience they shared with me to cut the learning curve. Yeah.
Aaron Spatz 18:38
Tell us about what what 15 does. And like, how can people learn more about it? What, what What opportunities are there because I’ve read up on the company, and it talks a lot about brand partnerships. So share share with us a little bit about that.
Christopher Hummel 18:56
Trouble 15 What we do is we are healthy lifestyle style brand. We market nutritional products, and that we’ve actually developed ourselves and we’re known because the quality of them USDA, organic, non GMO, vegan, gluten free, kosher. And with our brand partnership program, we give everybody the opportunity to basically partner with us and do that. And for a very small annual fee $24.99 We give them a website. And then they can become part of our program where they’re able to market it through their website. Any basically any way they’d like to and as they move volume, they’re paid on that volume that they produce sales for
Aaron Spatz 19:36
Fantastic. I like to pivot ever so slightly because you you spend a lot of your time doing doing a lot of things on social media, you’re very active on social media. So I think a lot of people could learn from you and one of the things that I find regularly because I do a lot of I do a lot of marketing for for different companies and just for people by themselves but loved I would love to get your opinion Bective on this is, how did you overcome the fear? Because I feel like this is the one thing that holds so many people back is the fear of producing content and getting your face out there. And people seeing your mugshot and your voice and all that? What did that process look like for you? And like, when did you fully embrace the power of social media?
Christopher Hummel 20:20
That’s a great question. I think so many people. And I probably did the same thing. In the beginning, it was like, they overthink it. And you just have to decide or get a game plan, and then just go, and I just decided, I’m just going to post everywhere, a post on multiple different social media platforms, I usually do a video or a few videos. And then whatever day it is, I’ll post, you know, one a day, on multiple platforms, usually every morning, and just get out of the way. And it just helps obviously, create brand awareness gets you, you know, gets you out in front of people. And the more you do that consistently, like anything, you create a habit of doing it, and then the better the results will be over time.
Aaron Spatz 21:01
That’s true. And have you found, and I’m, I’m leading you on this, purposely so like, but I want to see, cuz I think it’s a little bit non intuitive for people that are not in this like you and I but but do you sell? And I already know the answer to this question. But do you sell your products over social media? Or are you simply documenting your journey and talking about your day to day and things that you’ve learned?
Christopher Hummel 21:27
Definitely, definitely the ladder, but tons of platform you’re on? Sure. If you’re not, if you’re on Facebook, or Instagram, you’re gonna notice more selling on there. If you’re on LinkedIn, you’re definitely, you know, given business tips and more brand awareness. So it depends where you’re at and what you’re doing. But you want to obviously, know, be somebody that people want to connect with, in a way that that’s going to happen as being being yourself. And the people that are like, you want to be like, you are gonna follow you and connect with you.
Aaron Spatz 22:00
I think that sums it up perfectly. Because I think people kind of start to attract different types of people. But no, I appreciate your your perspective on that. Because that’s something that a lot of people struggle with, I think it’s just that initial fear of just getting over the fact that, yeah, people are gonna have an opinion of you, who cares. And you just you just drive on and learn it as you go. And I would err on the side of action versus, you know, as you said it earlier, just, you know, paralysis by
Christopher Hummel 22:31
Yeah, now, sprawl is definitely one of the biggest, one of the biggest mistakes I think we make, I don’t know why it is or when it starts, is we are so we’re programmed, for whatever reason to worry about what other people think about us sooner, we’re able to get over that the more successful become being uncomfortable is what makes people successful. The more the more you’re uncomfortable, more uncomfortable situation that you’re in, that you overcome. If you look at a very successful business person, they’ve overcome time and time and time and time again, to get to where they’re at. And most people are just afraid, they don’t want to make a mistake. They don’t want to do anything wrong, they don’t want they don’t they’re worried about how this person is going to perceive them, or what that person is going to say about them. And it’s, it’s just something you have to get over. And sooner, the better.
Aaron Spatz 23:18
So what are some other uncomfortable things that you’ve gone through that that have just that you feel like has differentiated you?
Christopher Hummel 23:26
Great question almost 17 be in the military at 17. And most of my friends, were getting ready to go to college and have a good time being in basic training at 17. That that was a both those are very uncomfortable, did not expect it. Basically, most of my time in the military is very, very uncomfortable. You know, and then just get into, you know, real estate, there’s that sale where, you know, it’s it’s scary to sell so to speak, people are afraid of rejection, what will they say? And you just you just you just take it you guys get through it, you push through it eventually. Like I was fortunate, like I was desperate at the time. So I don’t have I didn’t care if somebody said no to me, I would go to the next person. But as you sharpen your skills, what you what you realize is it’s about it’s obviously about relationships, and if you listen to people and you’re looking for people that want what you have, yeah, you know, you you develop that but other other uncomfortable situations. I’ve been divorced, I’ve had had foreclosures bankruptcy in oh eight when the market crash but what makes the unknown I think it was Doug, Ben, I’ve had my share or rebound. My list of being uncomfortable goes around the block.
Aaron Spatz 24:39
My gosh. Yeah. I mean, we could spend hours talking about those two but no, I mean, thanks for giving us a little bit of a little bit perspective on that because I mean, I I mean, you’re you’re clearly successful because you’ve learned and you’ve endured, and you just you’ve refused to give up you just you’ve just kept going you gotta learn. You can He need to refine and just keep driving on and that’s obviously made a huge impact and, and a huge difference in who you become today. I mean, I think it’s phenomenal.
Christopher Hummel 25:08
Thank you, you know, get knocked down seven times get back up at the same.
Aaron Spatz 25:14
This last segment I would love to get back to you, I typically like to turn it back over to you. And if there are any other words of wisdom, any other stories of hardship or things that you’ve gone through, if there’s just any parting words of wisdom, words of advice that you’d love to share, I’d love to give this back to you
Christopher Hummel 25:35
both Well, first, I definitely want to thank you for your service and in invite to join you, certainly. And then for anybody that’s listening and thinking about, you know, becoming an entrepreneur, for both have heard me before they’ve heard this 1000 times, but you have to, you’re starting a business or starting something you have to, I say go all in, that’s where the magic happens at first usually start you’re interested, that’s when you’re dreaming about it. But you’re doing it when it’s convenient. The next level of being committed, you’re committed, you have passion for the business, you know, you’re doing most of the things right. In probably, you know, 80 90% of things right then. But when you’re all in, that’s when the magic happens, and you’re putting your blood sweat and tears into making, making it happen. And it may not happen when you want but a lot of times happens if you stick through and persevere. There’s one word that anyone take out of this, this call, it’d be first of your that’s what it takes as an entrepreneur.
Aaron Spatz 26:38
Chris, I just want to thank you so much for spending time and just sharing these words of wisdom. I mean, absolute gold, and i i I’ve just treasured the opportunity to speak with you. Thank you so much.
Christopher Hummel 26:51
Thank you. Appreciate you.
Aaron Spatz 26:57
What an amazing conversation. We covered a lot of ground quickly, and I so appreciated Chris’s willingness to talk about some of the obstacles and challenges he’s overcome to get where he is today. Listen to this episode again. You’re going to hear parts of it differently when going through the second time because there’s so much gold in this discussion. Be sure to follow Chris on social media you can find him as Christopher Hummel and the work that he in 15 global are doing. My fellow veteran brothers and sisters and anyone else that is listening. Thank you. Your listenership is the reason this show exists. I want nothing more than for you to be inspired, motivated, entertained and encouraged. As you listen to this podcast, if you would share your thoughts on social media about an episode and his impact on you. What have you learned? What value Have you gotten from this? For those that have shared feedback? I so appreciate it. Tune in next week as a curate some highlights and memorable moments from season one. We’re already in production for season two, and I am so excited to share it with you very soon. Connect with me on social media, or drop me a line at podcast at Bold media.us. And if you’re new to the show, new episodes every Wednesday at noon, be sure to follow or subscribe so you don’t miss a thing. See you next week.