#37 – Season 2 Finale: Five tremendous high-impact takeaways. The season finale of season 2! I pulled five high-impact segments across the episodes to bring you some very impactful, thought-provoking, and challenging content. This episode featured Bill Militello of Militello Capital, Localvest, 10x Vets, Ty Smith of CommSafe[ai], Jay Rogers of Local Motors, Jeremy Stalnecker with the Mighty Oaks Foundation, and Alexander Kunz with OP2 Labs.
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 and service. Its stories of challenges and obstacles, and an inside look at how veterans find their life’s work, their purpose, and their post military lives. Welcome to another episode of the Veterans Business Podcast, I’m so excited that you decided to tune in today, you are joining the conclusion of season two. Season two is drawing a close but we are nowhere near finished. There is much, much, much more coming. And I’ll explain at the very end of the show. So today, I want to take a quick moment, I want to reflect on a few of the highlights from season two. So for me, it’s difficult, it’s difficult to single out my favorite episodes, my favorite moments because literally, I have loved every single episode, I’ve loved getting to interact with every guest. And there are takeaways literally from every show. So I feel like I’m trying to pick my favorite kid, which you’re obviously not supposed to do that. So but here I am. So I want to share the as some highlights that I feel like were just immense value adds they had either there a clear takeaway, or it was a profound point or a profound statement that was just worthy of some reflection. Maybe it gets gets to you at your core, maybe that’s a really helpful Business Insider business tip. Those and any other things right. So really excited to share those with you if you agree with the points. It made, this may be a great episode that you want to share on social media, you maybe you want to text it to a friend or or give somebody an opportunity to listen to it, maybe they haven’t discovered the show yet, it’d be a great way for them to kind of simple, what the show is all about. And a couple of highlights from season two. So we’re going to dive right into it here. So the first segment you’re going to hear is from Episode Seven with Bill Militello. Bill was incredibly insightful, he was hilarious, I loved his delivery, I love the way that he spoke the way he made his points. But he had a tremendous way of making these points. And so you’re going to enjoy these next several minutes.
Bill Militello 02:20
Like everybody, every other entrepreneurs journey. I’m sure mine was no different. It was, it was a side hustle for a little while, while I you know, got some things together. But I didn’t take a paycheck for 18 months. And you went out there and put on my tie and my suit and shine my shoes and my hair was a little darker and a little and a little shorter back then and and I’d go out and give my presentations in front of high net worth individuals and and they’d all and I’d for some reason be able to get in front of these folks and give my presentation but buy him lunch, buy my coffee, buy my glass of wine and talk to him. And they say, Wow, Bill, you know, you’re, you’re impressive young man, and I like your background and thank you for your service, but I already have a guy, I’ve already got a guy. And so, you know, you hear that enough times and and you know the bills are piling up there and your extinguishers, your personal savings and you got you know, couple car payments and mortgage, a baby at home and another one on the way and you start to start to feel the pressure and probably not unlike, you know, every entrepreneur who started so I mean,
Aaron Spatz 03:45
like get the hang on the edge of my seat now. So like what was next man? What?
Bill Militello 03:50
What’s next is the traditional way of like, hey, showing them my pie chart right here’s my asset allocation model and and seeing if they want to buy it and open up an account with me that wasn’t worth you know, I was a spectacular failure at getting them to to open accounts with me. And really it was out of frustration and feeling like I earned into a professional visiter for a living that as like, oh my god, I you know, what am I doing and I think I just lost my usually pretty calm and cool in front of people that I think I just lost my patience a few times and I just said what would it take for you to open account? Like let’s just let’s just you know bottom line is
Aaron Spatz 04:33
you finally said it you find what is it?
So I was like come on. Let’s let’s do some truth telling you you can be asked me all day long and pat me on the hat and thanked me for my service but that isn’t gonna I can’t bring that thank you to the grocery store. Right. And to be to be perfectly honest, the the I remember that I can remember like It was yesterday. And it was a while ago, right? You’re talking a long time ago. And it was just a couple days ago, then a couple of days ago, ya know, I don’t know, 15 years ago or so. And but I remember that meeting, and the guy kind of pushed back in his chair from the table and just said, Show me a deal. I said, What do you want me to research a stock for you a mutual fund? What is it that you want me to do? And he goes, No. How do I how did I make my money? I go, you in this case, this guy. That was an architect builder, you know, certainly had a nice little business with his as architecture design business. But really, he did it in in real estate, you know, you, you build homes, you flip them, you have an apartment building, you made some money on that yet a land deal. But it’s real estate. And he goes exactly, show me a deal like that. I said, Oh, okay. I had no idea. Look, I want you to open an account with me at Fidelity and I’m going to buy some mutual funds for you. Right? And, and he says, Now, show me a deal like that. And so I went out, I had nothing else to do, right? Yeah, it’s not like I had a lot of money to manage. And I found them a deal. And I said, Hey, here’s an apartment project that’s almost complete, they need some money, you want to take a look at it. He goes, Yeah, go get these questions answered. I’d run back and forth over this over the course of maybe a month or two, and get these questions answered. And I was happy because I was kind of learning. And again, I wasn’t my business was wasn’t exactly on fire. And, and then finally I got all this questions answered. And we met at a Starbucks on a Sunday, which, again, I was getting pretty good at being a professional visitor, and and I said, just kind of offhanded I was like, Okay, well, your question is, what do you want to do? He says, I think I’m gonna put 400 grand in this deal. Why? For real? And, I mean, I didn’t get a commission on it or anything. But I called up the guy and called up the developer and put the two of them together. And you know, so I learned a couple of things there, right, I learned. One, as I learned his process of diligence in real estate deals, right commercial real estate deals, I also realize what high net worth people most high net worth people are. And they’re not, you know, managers at Fortune 1000 companies, they’re entrepreneurs, right. That’s how they made their money. And so as a financial adviser, I needed to talk entrepreneur to these guys, in order to get them to listen. And they want to make money the same way that they they made their own wealth. And if you can help them by going out and bird dogging deals for them, then they’ll invest. And then what I found out next, which was what helped my financial advisory practice, is that after they were in the first deal, the next question was, so you have any more deals. I was like, the first couple of times I said, Now, that’s not my business. That’s open accounts, or mutual funds. And I smartened up right, former Marine, so it took me a couple of times. And but eventually I was like, Of course I do. And but you know, had been imprudent of me, as a fiduciary to show you any more deals without really having a better understanding of your total financial life. And, and so they were like, well, what do you want to do you want to see my statement? My brokerage statements? What do you want to do? Go? Yeah. And I said, yeah, why don’t you send it to me? Well, like, I have to say, and it would show up two days later, and a FedEx package, you know, it’d be the 80 page, Morgan Stanley statement, and then I’d go through it and, and show them where they could save some money, or they might be able to improve their returns. And I’d meet with them and tell them. Wow, and, and they would, and I would say, Well, what do you want to do? And they said, Do you want open an account? And I said, yeah, just just don’t go backwards. So they had no expectation of making money from the from the stock in the bond market. They just wanted access to more deals, they want me to bird dog more deals. And so that was what led me to creating Militello capital, okay. I
Aaron Spatz 09:28
like I like what you said, how you got to spin off, you got to speak entrepreneur, to other entrepreneurs, and speak in the language that they understand. And so with that kind of newfound knowledge like what did that do for you then going forward with your business
changed my life? It changed my life as soon as I realized that most people get it. If you come at the come at this as a financial advisor, which I was I’m no longer but you know, I was trying to break into the business. That’s trying to grow my book of business and earn a living doing this. And and when you realize that nobody ever dollar cost average their way to $10 million investing in mutual funds, right? That they all want the big, the big whale, right? Everybody wants the big accounts. But they they’re fishing in the wrong pond or their birth, they’re speaking the right the wrong language right there. They’re speaking Mandarin when they should be speaking Cantonese, right? It’s right, they think they’re doing it but they’re not. And, and so once once you focus on entrepreneurs, and if you’re a first generation wealth, you never had money, he kind of will, you’ll hit it off with people who are first generation wealth, you know, the entrepreneurs, small business owners, and use again, you don’t approach them as a financial adviser you promote, you approach them as an entrepreneur, and you start talking to them in terms of, you know, wealth, creation and risk. And they’re, and they just resonate with that. They just resonate with this idea that, hey, I could get a market rate of return by myself, I can go buy an index fund, I don’t need a financial advisor to do that. But if I want wealth creation, now I got to go with somebody who’s going to go find me deals that I understand. And so that my business exploded in a good way, from
Aaron Spatz 11:26
what I really loved about his episode was a concept of speaking entrepreneur to entrepreneur, rather than selling straight and being different, not differentiating yourself. And so I appreciate his raw honesty about the journey, about the struggles to get to that point. And really, what jumped out at me, also was a point about you may think you’re differentiating yourself, but you actually aren’t, instead of really think about what that looks like. And so I mean, he made several really funny points that were really true, though it was it was kind of scary, kind of sad, but some some really great points. And I just I really loved his perspective. Our next segment is actually episode eight with Ty Smith. Tyree is a retired Navy SEAL Senior Chief, and his perspective on leadership was profound. One, like one thing I kept hearing you say over and over and over again, was just, you know, the way that lead the way that the leadership culture there was, you know, whether it was a teammate or team one, or any other duty assignment that you may have had, I mean, it was very, a very positive leadership culture. And so in words, I kept hearing you say, you know, people were asking about me, people were people actually cared. And they were, it was, I mean, it was really their mentoring you, right? It’s like, they’re, they’re taking the time to like, Hey, man, you you may not know what you don’t know. So here’s, here’s something think about that. Right?
Ty Smith 12:49
Absolutely. And, and, more importantly, you know, those leaders were empathetic to me as a human being, and to what I had going on, outside of the Navy, even while I was on active duty, and what I would have going on outside of the Navy, once I transition into the civilian workforce, those people were genuinely concerned with my well being beyond their command. You know, that’s real leadership. These were people that were looking at me and molding me and going, Hey, man, I want you to continue growing, not just as a seal, but as a person. Yeah, even when I’m no longer responsible for you, right. And I putting that burden on you to make sure that you do that. For the sailor soldiers and airmen and marines that that you raised, based off the information that I’m teaching you right now. Yeah, that’s powerful. I’ve learned that when you’re a leader, you know, if you are a bad person, or you make bad decisions, you make emotionally charged decisions, the people that you’re quote, unquote, leading, they will begin to emulate that behavior, they will become, they will become that way as well. So you have to understand that if you’re being a crappy person, you’re going to be responsible for creating crappy people and making the world a much worse place. Because you’re putting the wrong example, out there. You know, I’ve also learned that when times are extremely difficult, the way a leader carries themself, it will define them forever, in the eyes, of the people that are following them. So when you fold simply because the pressure gets turned up, or you allow people to upset you and you make emotionally charged decisions and statements, the people that are following you, they will remember that when things are good. And times are good and there’s no pressure on you. They’ll remember that and they’re always going to question it. So I think more than anything As a leader, I’ve just I’ve learned to be extremely mindful of myself. You know, I’ve, I’ve grown to have much more emotional intelligence as a leader. And I think that it’s really, really important that leaders practice that mindfulness and emotional intelligence so that you understand that you are, you lead a company, you’re part of something that’s bigger than you, just because you founded the company just because the CEO, it doesn’t mean that it’s all about, you know, it’s all about vigilance Risk Solutions, and VRS makes up a bunch of different people that Ty Smith happens to be responsible for. And those people are counting on me to listen to them. And, and to teach them that their thoughts and perspective is important than that, I want it all the time. They’re counting on me to make good decisions, so that they can continue providing a living for their loved ones. And, and those are lessons that I learned in the SEAL team. And those are lessons that, especially when I’m old enough and mature enough to look back on and realize it now those are the lessons that I learned from my family growing up, because when you grow up without much, you’re forced to be that way anyway. And I can look back on those times go, man. That’s why every Christmas, your granny would literally open the front door to homeless people and allow them to come in and get warmth and a hot meal on a holiday. That’s why she did that. Because it was the right thing to do. Because she was setting the example for me. So that when I was this age, I understood how to lead people, and how to be empathetic and how to listen and how to genuinely care about the growth of other human beings before myself. I’m just a product of, of what my family and my leaders in the SEAL teams raised me to be. That’s it. I’m nothing special. I learned. And now I’m teaching what I learned. I just like to I’d like for people to know how I feel about what’s happening across the country right now. Because I want people to understand I’m a human being. And yeah, I’m a big tough guy. I’m a retired Navy SEAL. But I’m also a husband, I’m a father, I’m a son, and I’m a human being I got a heart. And I gotta tell you that that my heart is broken. It really is I I’m finding it harder every day to walk around with a smile on my face, because all of this hate across the country is it’s infecting my spirit. It’s draining my energy on a daily basis, watching and listening to people hate one another for the stupidest of reasons. Because you’re a Republican and I’m a Democrat, I’m going to hate you because you’re American. And I’m, I’m Arab. You’re going to hate me and I’m going to hate you because because I’m, I’m straight and you’re gay, I’m going to hate you because you’re white, non black, I’m going to hate you. It’s just I am tired. And we’re killing one another. And we’re killing our children by teaching them this example. And I’m afraid for my children, because I’m not always going to be around to protect them. It’s time for us to let go. It’s time for us to move on. I’m tired, man. I’m exhausted. I’m tired of fighting. I don’t want to fight anymore. I don’t want to see people fighting anymore. I want us to get past this and understand that. We are all we have. We have to stop starting the conversation with our differences. We have to get past that we have to start the conversation with a wire. Why are we alike? How are we alike? Give me a reason right now, to know that I’m right, because I want to love you immediately. guy that we have to start conversations that way. I’m just I’m just tired of the hate. And I think that it’s stupid. And I think that it shouldn’t take another 911 to get the citizens of this country to love one another again, regardless of what you look like, what you believe in. You know, I’m tired of it. I’m tired of people going Hey, as an African American male, how do you feel about this? Why are you putting me in that box? Why are you automatic? starting the conversation with a difference. What do you mean by what as an African American male? No, I am an American. I was born in the United States of America, I am a patriot of this country. Now, I am not a patriot of black people, or white people, or street people, I am a patriot of the United States of America, I built this country and I bled defending it, not for white people, or for black people, or for straight people or for Democrats. No, I did it for my children that are also Americans, regardless of what they look like. And it’s time for us to put all of those differences aside, I don’t care if you’re black, I don’t care if you’re white, I don’t care if you’re gay, you’re straight, you’re Republican, Democrat, we are all the same. Every one of us, we all bleed red. Regardless of where you come from, it’s, it’s time for us to let go of the hate. I’m exhausted, I am exhausted, with having to worry about my children having to look over their shoulder, just walking down the street. I am exhausted with turning on the news and seeing citizens of this country that are so frustrated with the way things are, they’re literally burning the country to the ground. I’m tired of turning on the TV, and watching and listening to our leaders say things to people and to other leaders, that real leaders should never say to other human beings. That’s not the way we’re supposed to lead. I’m tired. So I challenge every citizen of this country. I challenge every person on this planet from this day, to stop looking at at people and immediately seeing your differences. I challenge you to start looking at people immediately trying to find why you love that person instead of well, I’m black, and he’s white, so we’re probably not going to get along or he’s probably racist, or he’s probably a criminal. No, we’re human beings. I challenge you to look for why you love one another. Man,
Aaron Spatz 22:27
I so loved his passion, his love for people. In his humility, one of one of his many points that just really struck me was caring for people beyond their job and helping them get where they want to be most profound, I think was when he shared his thoughts on division in our country, obviously. I mean, it was so heartfelt. And what’s crazy, is if you realize the dates of of this episode, you’ll notice that this was several months ago, I mean, Episode Eight. We did this many, many months ago. And this the point still holds true, it is just as much, if not a more vital point now than it even was several months ago when he made the original statement. So I really appreciated that I appreciate just how raw and real and passionate he was, is, is really moving that last segment. And I think I even truncated it a little bit. I mean, that really messed me up, like in a good way, it really got to me and so I so appreciate his perspective that we all bleed red, let’s find common ground. Let’s figure out how we can get to know each other and how we can relate with each other as quickly as we possibly can. So next up, was actually episode eight. So or actually, episode nine was Jay Rogers with Local Motors.
Jay Rogers 23:44
I asked my boss at the time, he was a military, Marine General. And I said, What should I do? And he said, Look, he said, service for you, you’ve already put in a great almost, you know, you will have put in seven years. Service for you is just about how do you want to affect your country? And what do you want to do, and you have the potential to be a four star general, or you might top out as an O five or an O six, you just don’t know. Any said. But if you feel like you can go get something done and it’s in your control in civilian life, then go do it. But the only thing that I would say is that whatever you choose, and he left it for me, he was like, if you go back to civilian life, you will have been out for seven years. You need to go to school again. And I was like school, no way. I don’t I’m too old. All these kinds of things. And he said, I’m not asking you I’m telling you, you’ve been off for seven years, you have lost touch with what it means to launch a business you the the you need the time to think about it, bake it, figure it out. And I was full of vim and vigor and wanting to I felt I could do anything, but it was great counsel. So I applied to Harvard. I got in for two years, I tested my theories about what I wanted to do in business and I don’t think I ever would have been able to succeed in business. And I think what he was in parting with me as a final shot is you had the training in the Marine Corps that got you to where you are work to do, as well as you did take the training in business, like top flight training, and do the same thing. So it was an extra two years, but it was worth its weight in gold. So the insight that I had when I was in the Marine Corps is get technology into vehicles that were the desire the mission, we call it like an end state or an intent or Commander’s Intent, something like that, that was get technology into vehicles more quickly, airplanes, boats, cars, military vehicles, that kind of thing. So then I started to peel the onion back and you do sort of like your initial preparation of the battlespace, and you start to think about what it is. And what you I realized very quickly was that it’s actually the tooling intensity that goes into making a vehicle that stops innovation from happening. And so to break that down into very simple terms, to make a vehicle, any kind of vehicle, we stamp them out of steel, or reform them out of aluminum, those tools that punch a sheet into a shape that’s then riveted and welded and put together into what we call a body in white men is clad with various kinds of, of actual facial and other things like that. And there’s still no vehicle, it’s just a stump that you’re looking at. Those tools are hundreds of millions of dollars. So the way that we work is we per line of vehicles. So one kind of Cadillac versus even another kind of Cadillac, hundreds of millions of dollars of tooling different. So what happens is, if once you’ve spent that money on a shape, you don’t want to change it. And then if you can imagine every fastener and ledge and hole and muck it and rubber seal and piece of adhesive and small device and little computer and all of the things that go into make up a really well engineered survivable, robust system.
This is going to get metaphysical pretty fast. But robustness is what Henry Ford taught us to build, keep it the same, as you know, the he’s, you know, paraphrased as having said, You can have any car you want, as long as it’s black. I think Frederick Taylor was more the progenitor of that and scientific management. But the idea was, look, it’s hard enough to design a vehicle that works and is reliable, just don’t ask us to customize it like it’s exactly the same every time. And that’s all he could do. Because there was no digital production. And so we all lionized that phrase and the economy of scale for mass production was born. And for 100 years, we have assumed that you can only make money, when you make a lot of the same thing. Well, if there’s anything that I’m going to leave a mark in this earth, or a dent in the universe about is that that no longer applies. When you have digital instructions that can give a robot or a system instructions on how to make something there’s no cost really, in changing the thing from one unit to the next. So it means that there’s no benefit in actually making a lot of the same thing. Now there are 100 reasons why someone who could look at it and try to pump out that theory, but they’d be wrong in theory, and then you just have to figure out how to put it in practice. And so for me, putting it in practice was really what I had to get about doing. And and that’s been what I’ve been about is how to make an economy of scope work, which means that you gain in economy, meaning you gain profit by making lots of different things, as opposed to gaining profit or have an economy by making scale of a lot of the same thing. And, and that happens through a modern digital pathway. It means you can you know, if you think about it, we’ve had a 30 year love affair with the Internet. And it’s been wonderful. And we all use it. We’re talking over zoom today. But I can’t touch, taste and smell the environment that you’re around, we could probably have a much more robust conversation if I was really in your world. Imagine if we were building a vehicle together, you were using the vehicle that I was building that it’d be incredible. But over the computer, we can only see and hear. And I was deeply interested instead of API’s that were data API’s, I was interested in atomic API’s. I wanted the physical to become real, like Star Trek, where it’s like boop, boop, boop, and then all of a sudden, the person appears, you know, or the cleaner appears if you transported the wrong person. And so like I wanted to see that stuff or like in, in Ironman Jarvis, you know, he’s like, I want this, I want this, I want this and he puts it together digitally, and then it becomes real. Seems like sci fi but it’s not really when you are used to an internet. Our kids are born in the way where they use Minecraft. And they use Roblox and these other things. They build virtual worlds. And Minecraft is a great example. Kids were building Legos and have been for 60 years. But Minecraft is virtual Lego. And they play with them differently. Because there’s no cost of changing things up in Minecraft. And so and you can’t step on a sharp piece of Lego if you leave it out in your room. So you build them everywhere. And you make these amazing castles. So you think oh my gosh, kids are done with Lego because they can do so much more in Minecraft. Turns out not it just helps them to make Lego better. And so now they still build Lego but what they’ll do is they’ll blow away their Minecraft world, but they’ll keep the Lego that they’ve been working with for years because they built it. And so that physicality. But the modularity is something to really We tap into, we started the business with that on our website, like, we’re 3d printed vehicles, it’s amazing. And the thing is your customers, they’re sort of more like, I don’t want to know how you make it, I just want to know that it’s awesome. Right? So um,
so it’s been interesting because for business thinkers, I talk a lot about the digital manufacturing revolution and how that’s happening, that you won’t see it so much on our website, because it just gives the customer a reason to second guess your product. And so for us, we talk about our product. And so one of the challenges has been aligning the, the MO, the modus operandi of the business, digital manufacturing, with the marketing of a new product, and that marketing a new product is what does it do for me? Not? How did you make it effectively or efficiently? But as a user, what does it do for me, and users for shared mobility are municipalities, their business buyers, also users are the riders who use the mobility. And so like, if you think of Uber, who is the customer, you know, I mean, the customer is, Uber driver, the customer is maybe the Toyota that, you know, is is creating all the Priuses. And then it’s the end rise rider who’s riding in an Uber or Lyft, or a DD Ola get next, whatever it is. So the point being is that we have a really long downstream of users and customers, and we’re speaking to them. What is the utility of a productive mobility experience mobility as a service, shared mobility? And they could care less that it was 3d printed, they just that there are a few of them that would want to know, but for the most part is does it talk to me? Is it of quiet? These relaxing? Does it give me a great experience? Can I charge my phone when I’m in it? Can I watch virtual reality? Can I show my friends my YouTube channel that I’m going in? Can I make it a better Can I shop while I’m there? Can I see into a building when I go by it? You know, can I know what the history of this national park was when I drive through it with by seeing the dinosaurs roaming the earth outside through the very window that I’m driving there. I mean, these are real mobility experiences, and I don’t care, I don’t care that it was 3d printed, I just want to know that it’s awesome. But that makes my head goes a lot of times people will come to me seeing me having started a business with a with a big goal. And they’ll say I want to be an entrepreneur, but they don’t know what I want to do. And I hear that a lot. Meaning like, I want to be an entrepreneur. But I don’t know what I want to do.
And my answer to that is usually then don’t be an entrepreneur yet. Because you’re missing the What If. But if somebody comes to me, and they say, hey, what if the following things could happen? And there’s no discussion of I want to be an entrepreneur, they’re far more likely to be a successful entrepreneur, because that question is knowing them. So that’s where my head goes, when you call that out. It’s that, you know, it is that insatiable curiosity as a first piece, you know, Howard Stevenson was one of my professors at business school, another guy named Bill Solomon was two. And these were people that were deeply into the idea of entrepreneurship. They both had different definitions, but I’ll share with you what their two definitions were because they were real definitions. Howard’s definition was that entrepreneurship is relentless pursuit of an opportunity, with means currently beyond your control. So if you think about the what if is the opportunity and the relentless part of it, it’s like you’re relentlessly pursuing an answer to a what if? Or a solution to a what if? Or a result of a what if, and you’re doing it with means currently, beyond your control, you’re like, Well, I’m going to make this happen. I’m gonna build a whole business in an economy, but I don’t have enough money to do it. convince other people in time. I don’t have enough money time to do it. Or hands, I can’t, but I need more hands. And so that is Howard’s definition of entrepreneurship. And I think it sort of got right almost at that edge of the what if Bill Solomon’s definition was an entrepreneur is somebody who holds people opportunity context with one foot and deals with another foot and holds them all together. I’m an entrepreneur, like, drawn and quartered by these four things, but I’m gonna pull them together, versus letting them tear me apart. And so let’s go over them again. I have the people I need. I have the opportunity that’s in front of me, which is more of the what if, and then I have the context, like is that the right time in the world to do it? And then I have the deal, can I put it together for an amount of money where I can make money doing it? People opportunity, context and deal? And so what I like about that when I think about the what if is, whether it’s Howard’s definition of relentless pursuit, or whether it’s bills definition of people opportunity, context and deal the what f is pretty central to both of them. There’s more to it in entrepreneurship than just the what if that’s why I come in, if people say to me, what if they have a chance, but can they put the other things together? And that’s why military folks I think often have more than they think. Because if they say, What if they’ve already got so much of the other thing done? They know people, they know how to work with bad leaders and good leaders and good followers and bad followers, they just get it. It’s in their training. So they’ve got that nail, if they’re already saying, What if they’ve got the opportunity, nail, and context and deal that can be trained? Context? Is that the right time? Or do I need the patience to be able to start my ambush at the right time? You get that as a military person? And a deal is, you know, then that’s really more about the financials? Did I? What’s it going to cost me? And how much am I going to get from it, and that can be trained in business school, or even in short courses that you can take online? So I think the military people are really well disposed, if they can say, what if
Aaron Spatz 35:44
an incredibly intelligent and brilliant person, I’m genuinely excited to see the progress that Local Motors makes. Over the next several years, I loved his thoughts and insight on manufacturing, I loved his Minecraft and Lego comparison about how you actually still need both, you need both of them. But now it’s so much easier to experiment and to test and to try things in like a modeling environment. But you still want the real thing. And so I loved that idea. I think that really, for me trying to understand that that business and what he does, that for me really helped my understanding, very quickly. The marketing question, I think was brilliant, you know, what does it do for me not how does it work? Not why is it awesome? Those are all great things. And I still think that they’re worthy to share from time to time. And like he said, there’s gonna be a few people who really want to know that. But the what does it do for me? What is it doing in my life? What is it doing for my life to make things better. And so I love that I love his thoughts on entrepreneurship, some of the lessons he learned in business school that he shared. And it really was just like at the heart of defining entrepreneurship, which really is the delivery of a new idea to the marketplace. And I really, really appreciate his his perspective on that. Next was episode 14. So this one was really fun, really unique. As we did it live. This is the only episode of the Veterans Business Podcast to date that we have ever done live. And so Jeremy stole Necker from the mighty oaks Foundation, he was a real joy, real treat to have on the show. And so we decided, hey, why not? Let’s go for it. Let’s try something we’ve never done before. So we went, we went live, we did a live, I feel like it turned out really well. He was he was a lot of fun.
Jeremy Stalnecker 37:30
So I think one of the major struggles for people transitioning out of the military is identity. And that was absolutely the case for me. We could talk about post traumatic stress and combat trauma and all the other issues that many veterans are dealing with. And they’re very real. That’s what our organization deals with. But But I would say bigger than any of those is the identity piece. So you identify with the job you identify with the rank or the rank structure, you identify with the the uniform, in the Marine Corps. Our history is so tied to who we believe we are as Marines that, you know, the other services don’t necessarily view their service, you know, as in their branch of service the same way Marines do. But certainly, there’s a strong connection to what you’ve done in the military, you know what you’re supposed to do, you’ve been trained to do that job, it’s very clear. And then you transition out and you feel like you’ve been thrown in a dark hole, you don’t know where to go, you don’t know what to do. You don’t have your NCO or staff NCO or, you know, whoever it is in your life, giving you the next Tasker. So you have to figure that out, and you lose yourself in that process. When I transitioned out of the Marine Corps, into ministry, I absolutely lost myself. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that’s what I was struggling with. I’d sit in staff meetings at the church, and it was a smaller church at the time, and it was growing. That’s why I was hired by certain staff meetings at the church and like, get upset about something that was said and start yelling at the other staff members. Like, this is not how it works here. There’s not an infantry battalion. I just, I didn’t know how to how to deal with problems and issues and struggles any other way. Right? And then I’d get a lot of pushback, people would get hurt. I go home and take it out on my wife and kids. And it was just this this constant like who am I? Why don’t I go back there because back there, I was appreciated for this. Yeah. And really what it took for me a lot of things a gracious wife, a strong family, extended family, our relationship with God, faith was very important to me through that. A pastor who was also my employer, my boss, who called me into his office one day and said, This is just not working. I love you. I love your family. But something has to change. Now, this was 2003. We weren’t talking about combat trauma, post traumatic stress, right? He just knew it wasn’t working. He said, You need to go away. And when you come back, you need to tell me if you’re going to work for me. If this is going to continue on or if you’re going to do something else. I’ll help you with it. Next thing if there’s something else, but we can’t keep doing this. Now, that was a Friday afternoon, Saturday, we dropped my wife and I drop our kids off with my parents. And we just started driving up the coast of California. And that was a moment where I was confronted by someone that I cared about and respected. And I really had to understand the problem wasn’t everybody else, the problem was me. And I needed to take responsibility for my behavior, my actions, my growth, and even my healing. And that was the beginning for me. So that was about a year after I had left the Marine Corps. My wife and we talked about this often, my wife would say, and she does say, it took about 10 years before our relationship as a couple really healed and became what it should be. I struggled with, you know, a lot of things over a long period of time. But that was the moment in time that was that was kind of the catalysts the turning point for me. And understanding who I was not as a Marine, that was a job that I did, that was something that was important, something significant, but that’s not who I am or who I was, I was something else. And I think a lot of this and you know, I could talk about this all day, I think a lot of this is just how it works out, even leadership in the military. We’re taught that leadership is a personality type. It’s a style, it’s an ability, those are important for leadership. But leadership is not that people who transition well from one part of their life to another part of their life to another part, they do get at work they do get at home, they understand that leadership principle is using what you have to invest in the people around you. And if you can do that in the Marine Corps, then you can do that, that’s great. There are some tactics, techniques and procedures you need to use to do that there. But principally, the leadership is the same your leader there, because you’re investing in the people around you with what you have, I can do that at home, I can do that at my church, I can do that in my community. And when we get a hold of that, at least for me, it changes my perspective on everything. I am not a Marine. That’s what I did. And I’m thankful for it. Like now I can move forward 45,000 nonprofits, the United States would have somewhere in their mission statement or in their, you know, their tax documents that they serve veterans. So this is not a space that is necessarily in need of more nonprofits. So the question, I think that, you know, particularly the veteran space, those who are starting nonprofits need to ask is why I get asked regularly, you know, probably weekly, by folks who are interested in starting a veteran, nonprofit, you know how to do that. And a lot of that goes into that, and ask, What do I need to know? And I get the same advice every time, you need to know if there’s another organization doing what it is you want to do. And you have to really settle? Do I want to run an organization? Or do I want an organization to exist? Yeah, is there some need that I see that needs to be fulfilled or ministered to met? have a hard time with the words, there’s a need that needs to be met? Or do I just want to run a nonprofit that those are two different questions, and I think they drive people in two different directions. Yeah, if, if your goal is to simply meet a need, then I would recommend before you do anything else, find out if there is another organization doing, you know what you’d like to do or meeting that need. And if there is get involved with them, start there. And then see where that goes. starting a nonprofit is, is like starting any other business. It’s extremely challenging. It’s extremely difficult. There are days when you wonder why we’ve done this. So Chad, our founder, and his family really started mighty oaks about a year before I came on board. And so they they filed the 501 they got things going. And it took about that amount of time to figure out, you know, how are we going to do this, and that’s when I came and that’s when we started putting the program as it is now together. But in that process, he left a business that was, you know, prosperous, and he was making money and started into the nonprofit world where money comes from donations. And so if you’re going to do that, just understand there’s a price to be paid. I would also say that you don’t need to leave the employment that you have that the thing that’s paying your bills to start a nonprofit. A lot of people think they do. I need to be all in. You don’t need to be all in. You need to be like, you know, 20% in, get started, get it moving. See if anyone’s going to get behind it. You know, we would say there’s a point at which you’re nonprofit as a hobby. So do it as a hobby for a while and figure out if there’s something there and if there is, then jump in, stop doing it as a hobby and push forward. decide what you want. If you want a national nonprofit that’s going to need to raise several million dollars a year and do the kind of stuff that we do, just know that and go into it knowing that which means you have to get the right accounting team together, you have to get the right administrative team together, you have to get the right marketing team together, you have to think that way, think big. If that’s not something you’re interested in, you want to do fewer programs or a smaller thing, but do it well do it efficiently, do it effectively, there is nothing wrong with that. But then scale your business, your your organization. To that end, I think we were just trying to figure it out. But I think we thought small, let’s do some, and then it got traction and took off. And so we’ve been trying to pivot and we have, but it’s come with some growing pains. What we do and how we got traction is no different than any other business in the world. What we produce, if you will, if I can put it in those in those terms. That’s what we what we produce is healing, hope, direction, purpose, that’s what we produce. Others might produce, you know, something else, some other product. But when you produce something that is effective, word gets out. We, again, we’re working to convince people to attend our programs, we had somewhere a lot of people came in somewhere they didn’t the first year that I was involved, I think our goal is four sessions. Four sessions, we call obsessions. It’s a week. So people come to a where we are one of our locations for a week, they spend a week with us, we teach them we talk through trauma, combat trauma, life, trauma, moving forward, etc. So we were trying to talk people into that we get them they’re all veterans at the time. And what many of them experienced with us was that even though they had been through other programs dealing with the same issues, we were approaching those issues from a different perspective, from a faith perspective, whether they were believers or not, whether they ascribe to faith or not, they saw a contrast between what we were talking about and what they were living, they understood that if they would shift their own perspective, and, you know, move forward into what they were created to be and to do, that their life could be different. Well, when change happens in a life, word gets out. And again, it’s not different in any other business, when something effective takes place in your life. word gets out. And so for us, that’s what happened. After really that first year of having those four programs, word got out. And we had to start scaling as an organization to deal with the applications that were coming in. Because, you know, a man or woman would go home, and they would say, I’ve tried everything, this thing works. You’re my friend, I served with you, your family member, you need to go to this thing, just give it a try. They’ll pay for everything, it’s not going to cost you anything. Go try it out. And it was producing something that works that allowed that word of mouth to really put in motion for us. On the on the other side of that. I think it was 2014, we started working with the active duty military, specifically the Wounded Warrior battalion at Camp Pendleton. you know, we’re a faith based organization, they wouldn’t, they weren’t telling people they have to come. But what we asked them for was like, send somebody send a staff NCO send somebody just to watch what we do, and see if it works. And they did send a First Sergeant and a gunny to one of our programs, they came, they saw it again, same thing, they went back and they said, You need to go to this thing. We can’t make you but you need to go. And so we started getting traction through that with the Active Duty community. Now, about half of our students would be veterans, half would be active duty service members. But that was it. And you know, I could I could talk more expansively on that. But really, what it boils down to is produce something that works produce something that matters. It’s a great question, because and I get worked up about this one, because we have people come to us that will say, you know, how do you get some of the media that you get? How do you get some of the funding that you get? How do you get this? How do you get that? How do you do this thing and that other thing, and they’re looking for the formula that’s going to you know, one plus one will equal whatever it is they want. And, you know, I’ll tell them hard work 16 hour days, struggling to make it happen, trying to figure it out, trying to communicate spending five days at a session where you’re basically working 24 hours a day throughout that five days, trying to walk through, you know, the darkness of people’s lives with them and get them to the other side, produce something that works, and then you have something to market. I think a lot of times people are trying to market an idea market, a concept market, something they really believe is going to work Having not actually produced it.
Aaron Spatz 50:04
I so love that episode. I love the perspective, Jeremy shared, that he and I have very similar backgrounds, we have the same faith backgrounds or faith perspective anyway. And I was so grateful for her sharing of the story of dealing with a battle beyond the battle. And and how he grew that experience. And now how him, Chad and the rest of the entire mighty oaks team, you know, just what all that they’re doing to help impact people that are that are coming back from war or dealing with, you know, all sorts of crazy issues or things that that they’re dealing with in their lives. So I really appreciate what he’s doing there. A very compelling point was a concept of Do you want to serve the problem, solve the problem or run the organization? And so like he said, there’s like 1000s upon 1000s of veterans, nonprofits, the chances are that the problem that you’re wanting to solve is already being addressed by another nonprofit. So it’s a matter of, hey, do I want to be the guy running it all? Or do I want to impact the issue? And so I thought his answer to that question is actually really good. Because gives you the chance to maybe you go join a nonprofit, maybe, or maybe that’s not in your region, or you’re part of the United States. Or maybe it’s right down the street. And it may be you’re able to make an impact on that problem. And then, after a couple of years, like, you know what I’ve learned enough here, I think, I think I want to take this and I want to go a different direction with it. So maybe at that point, it’s more appropriate to do that. So I thought that was a great a really, really good point. Something to certainly consider because there there’s more than enough veterans nonprofits out there. So the last episode I wanted to highlight actually was the last episode we that we did was actually episode 19 With Alexander coons would love for you check this out?
Alexander Kunz 51:47
I think it’s an important point here. It’s it. You know, I hear all the time the excuses. Now I have a family, I have a child, I have bills, and I’m gonna put things in perspective. You’re what I suppose I had the clothing company going, but that was kind of a very slow road company. It wasn’t income for me that went to my brother’s sister, because I wanted them to have something frog performance was a new route to Labs was a new venture. And I you know, yes, I had bought a house. Yes, I had a company, you know, in working, etc. I was making a lot of money. But I when I left, but we bootstrapped our company, I didn’t have investor money, I had a child, I had a house and bills I had to pay. And I lived off savings for you know, for better partying for three years, I didn’t pay myself a salary. I just lived off savings and selling things. I was smart enough at the time, all the little toys I was able to afford at the time I had paid for cash. So like, sell things off as I needed to. But it was it was interesting, because my wife who I met at the time kind of went through this lifestyle, right, we had met when I was doing really well, I was able to take her to do nice things. And then we went into the lifestyle of poverty, which I’m not, I’m not really inflating. And it’s the truth, I had to sell my house that I you know, I bought the house and I put a lot of money into it. We love the house, but I had to sell it. So and we had to use the money to live off of and, and now you fast forward. Two years later, we’re back to where we were when we first started. And the funny thing is that it’s it’s you know, I always say it’s the memories that are most important. And that’s what I really realized. It wasn’t a struggle, it was the memories along the way. And to be honest with you, I wouldn’t do it any differently. I mean, I enjoyed even though we didn’t have the things that we did when we first started, it was great, because I learned to appreciate what we had more than what we built. And and if I had to do it over again, I absolutely wouldn’t do that question a lot of it’s ego driven to because of your friends, you know, your your you are CF, you know, you I got a lot of single bodies, and part of it is you don’t want a partner, you don’t want to see people you don’t want those people to see weakness in you. In other words, failure, you’re afraid for them to see that because when they last saw you, you’ve been operating up here so inevitably, you kind of put these artificial pressures on yourself, you know how people perceive you how your friends perceive you. And the important thing there is artificial because it doesn’t matter. What happens is if people see you struggle in this is the thing I think that’s important is if they don’t see you struggle, they’re never going to ask you for help and help you along the way but if they see struggle, then they’re willing to step out help you and so it’s perspective so don’t you know for me, it’s helped put the artificial pressure on yourself that gasps You know, last time they saw me I’m doing well. Now I’m living dirt floor because they don’t care. Right. You know, at some point, they are going to step up and help you succeed just as much as you want. To me, I think I think some of what you’re saying too, has has everything to do with dilution of values. So when you do values people, those values become important to people. And what I mean by that is, you know, when when a title becomes synonymous with leadership, that’s a dilution of value, right? Yeah. You know, titles, not salons or leadership, I don’t care if you’re CEO, CFO, CEO, CFO, senior vice president or manager, your executive manager, your manager, the only thing that that my title affords me is a set of responsibilities and things I’m accountable for on a daily basis, but it doesn’t make me a leader of the organizations by actions that do, right. And if the if the people, my team and my company don’t see me as leading the company in a direction that they’re willing to follow, I’m not leading anything. And that we all have heard, you know, the word Situational Leadership essentially implies that you can be in a roomful of people that are all different titles, because you have somebody who stands up and says, you know, I really understand this, I’m willing to take responsibility, accountability. So but that really goes down to your values, their values you have and whether or not you believe this values. It’s the same principle behind, you know, giving everybody a censure level. Right, if the right thing to strive for, then what do I Why am I even there to begin with? Yeah, um, culture is absolutely paramount. You’re right, it does start at the top. Um, you know, I think that, you know, I’ll share a little something that I really realized why Kate left the military, there were certain aspects of the military that I didn’t have an appreciation for, because, you know, you kind of hear the term bureaucratic. But the one thing I do remember, and I didn’t really give it any credence at the time was, when I stepped out of the military, I was handed two books. In one book was my professional, professional history, every school I’ve ever gone to every performance review I’ve ever done all the all my different ranks, the responsibilities I had, and everything else. And the other book I was given was my medical history. And I thought back to every every corporate culture I’ve ever worked at, and the most I’ve ever gotten was a letter saying thank you for coming here. And what that demonstrated to me is that these catch words like succession planning, and all this other stuff, like professional development don’t exist in corporate culture. It’s a namesake, it’s just a key word. And it but that’s all part of the corporate corporate culture, right? You know, many of these large companies, if you’re doing a survey, majority, people who work at that company are simply doing it for a paycheck, they could care less about the company name. And why is that and that that has everything to do with company culture. There’s more pride because the guys stepping in first first day of job, there isn’t a clear succession plan, there is no clear promotional path, or he doesn’t, he doesn’t know that he will become the CEO. But in reality, if you look at the military, it’s very clear, you know, you can start out as an easy one. But guess what, if you want to go all the way up there and become the admiral, you can get there, there’s a clear path on what you need to do, what training what experience you need, and what support you need to get there. But you can do it. Show me one, one corporation that can say to an ad, that, hey, you can be the CEO one day, and here’s your current path, it doesn’t exist, right? Pride, and ego is the number one problem I’ve seen with with veterans getting out, right? It’s not, it’s always trying to one up the next person, rather than working together, I can’t tell you how many times I’ll see 10 guys get out and start the exact same type of company are not willing to work with one another, right? And, and then you look at their businesses, their regional are not scalable, I’m sitting there going, Gosh, you know, you guys are on 10 Different states, if you just work to eat with each other, now you have a national brand, and definitely a global brand. So you know, I think the important thing, set aside differences and perspectives and look at opportunities to work with each other rather than being that guy who owns 100% of your company. I started off to labs, I started as a majority owner of that company, but I’m just I had a much smaller percentage over five years because I realized I can’t do it myself. I have to find my team. You know, my a team. And what I did over time is gave up portions of my ownership because the age old adage goes that you want to, you know, a big piece of a small pie or small piece of a big pie, right? Because you know, if you’re if you’re not willing to swallow that pride, ego, your company’s not going to scale it’s not going to grow. The other one I think’s important too is if you have an idea and you have a thought, don’t be afraid of failure. Don’t be afraid of check that you have a family and kids you have to be supportive. If you’re if you believe enough in that idea, much like he believes enough in going into the military. take that first step. Because at the end of the day, if you don’t take that step, you’re gonna have more regrets about why you didn’t do something and why you did and You know, the other thing I really learned to in business is, when your instincts telling you to get something done, and you have to do it, you got to do it right there on the spot. There are so many times where, you know, I knew I had to do something, but other things were distracting me, and I just kind of set that thing aside. And then, you know, it was it turned out to be the important thing I should have, should have taken care of. And, yeah, definitely don’t use money as an excuse for not doing anything. I mean, I share here that we I bootstrapped the company with my co founder, we started our company with a combined total of $50,000. And that was saved between us. And now we’re, you know, in our 95,000 company, and that’s because we’re willing to take risk. You know, the people’s perspective is I’m going to be here 20 $30 million company, and five, six, you know, yours that’s very few and far between, I mean, it’s the realities, it’s going to take you really four or five years to get everything situated. Your one is really learning about what you don’t know, your two is about taking what you don’t know and try and try and build that company and fill in the gaps. And then really, year three is where that growth year occurs. So always plan on about a two year period in which you’re not struggling. And once you hit your three, it’s all growth from there.
Aaron Spatz 1:01:21
So I figure what I think you get from episode is blunt, straight truth. I loved how raw he got with his journey, in the struggles in this first few years, I love how he was so transparent, open about how just how real that was how much of a struggle, it really was to get things going. And so I really appreciated him going really deep and being really open there. Because not a lot of people are willing to share that level of detail in the early days of their of their companies. And so I really, really, really appreciated him going that far that deep, because I think it’s going to help you I know it I know it helps me helps gives me a lot of encouragement. I really appreciate his points on pride and ego. He spoke at length about this topic at various points in the episode. And I feel like it’s so so so true. I feel like it’s so important to get our heads around, it’s it’s important to not put artificial pressure on ourselves. In really, I mean, again, another point he made was, you know, finding ways to collaborate with other veterans in the business space. And he brought, he brought pulling, like one example, maybe two examples. But there are so many more other examples of companies that veterans have started. And there’s like five of them in the same space doing the same thing. They’re going after the same customer selling a very similar product or service. And yet they’re competing with each other. They’re they’re operating in a vacuum, or they’re actually other operating in in solitude with their own team. And they’re there’s no collaboration, and how there’s, there’s so much that we’re leaving on the table as veterans if we put our pride and ego aside and decide to partner and work together. And and you know, to his point, do you want a Do you want a large piece of a really small pie? Or would you rather have a small piece of a much larger pie. And so clearly from his own journey, as you saw starting out with a small pie, owning all of it. And over time that pie is both growing in his share of that is shrinking. But the but the overall value of that is going through the roof. And so I think I have a ton of wisdom, a ton of humility to share that. So I’m really, really grateful for him to share that. So and that takes us to the end of season two, I cannot believe I’m saying this. So the podcast started early this year started in January of 2020. We produce season one that went for a few months and then then we’ve been in season two for the last several months. And here we are, so I can’t thank you enough for your listenership for your viewership. As I shared with you many times the show is a passion project of mine. I have not yet taken sponsors, only stories, stories that I believe will help you in some way that could be of service to you in your own journey. Whether it’s leadership, starting a company, growing a company any any number of things and and actually I would really be very I’m genuinely curious, what have been some of the biggest takeaways that you’ve taken from this podcast since since you started listening. You may be a new join to the show you may you may be one of my earliest subscribers. I would love to hear from you. And I and I, I’m actually the guy answering the email. I haven’t pawn this off to one of my assistants like this is me. So if you want to email me at podcast at Bold media.us I would love to hear what you think the show what of what have been some of the biggest takeaways, what have been some of the biggest things biggest lessons learned that you’ve really appreciated and so in any other feedback I genuinely enjoy getting to interact Getting to know you and getting to foster this community. And so, so what’s next? So what’s next is we’re going to roll to a numeric sequence format of the show rather than seasons. I feel like at this point, it’s most appropriate that we’re just going to drop the seasonal idea. It doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily going to go forever. That’s it. That’s my that’s my only my only hesitation going to just an episodic just numeric format is it’s implied it’s going to go forever. It may. It may, it may do so it may not. But for the foreseeable future, the plan is to continue producing the show, you’ll notice the guest profiles are going to change ever so slightly from time to time. And it’s it really is all in an effort to deliver maximum value to you, the listener, the viewer, and so I with that, I just I really want to thank you. I really want to thank you for listening for watching. We’re not taking any breaks. We’re going straight into the next the next episode the next show, so it’ll be titled, it’ll be prefixed anyway, will be episode 38. And will air next week. So again, I just want to thank you so so very much. And again, I can’t wait for you to tune in next week. Thanks