Incredibly grateful to Tom in sharing his story with me about his military experience, both in the Air Force and Marine Corps, and how he has developed his skills in his post-military pursuits. One of the many things we spent time discussing was the importance of earning trust and that relationships are built through relationships.
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 edition of the Veterans Business Podcast. I’m Aaron Spatz. Thank you so much for tuning in. I love to invite you to be a part of the conversation, share your thoughts on social media, whether it’s a like or comment, or shoot send me a note, you can send me a note at podcast at Bold media.us. I enjoy discussing these topics with you. And if you’re really getting value, take a quick second lever a review of the show. It really just simply helps others find the show so they can so they can see all these amazing and great conversations. This week. We welcome Tom Daly to the show. Tom is a retired US Marine is a fascinating journey over his last 20 years in the civilian space, which I’m really excited to unpack today. He’s the founder of Ridgeback business solutions, and an active advocate for veterans in the business space. Tom, I just want to thank you so much for being part of the show.
Tom Daly 01:24
Hey, thanks, Aaron. Pleasure to be here. Thanks for asking.
Aaron Spatz 01:28
Absolutely. Yeah, we just would just love to get a little bit more insight into you. So just share with us a little bit about your your upbringing. What motivated you what inspired you to join the military?
Tom Daly 01:39
Yeah, my, my dad was a Marine. And we had a pretty good family background in the Marine Corps. And it was just something that I just felt was natural. From the start. I was literally one of those kids, when you blow out the candles. My wish was to be to become a Marine. And when I hit high school age, I wasn’t going to go to college. And my mother asked me was going to do I thought I was going to go join the Marine Corps. Only one problem is I was 17 years old, and she wasn’t gonna sign the papers. Saigon had just fallen. And she said, No, you’re not signed, and you can join the other services. So I ended up joining the Air Force, and turned out being a great, great decision. rare that you hear marine talk like that. But it truly turned out being a great, great decision. My supervisor, there was NCO of the year, I had a phenomenal squadron command and the base commander was a POW for five and a half years in Vietnam. And it’s just just absolutely incredible leadership that helped me in my path. Wow, no, that’s
Aaron Spatz 02:45
a that’s that’s not often Right. So there’s, there’s a lot of times when there’s a lot of people who who do have like split service, they will. They’ll join one branch of service and they’ll jump out and go something else. But it’s, it’s certainly I feel like it’s more rare. So you know, what, walk me through then like, what was that process? Like? So you’re in the airforce? Yeah, sure, this little bit about what you did in the Air Force. And then and then how you ended up into the Marines?
Tom Daly 03:11
Well, the Navy recruiter wanted to make me a ship’s home mechanic. And the way he described it wasn’t really too, too positive. So I won’t go into detail on this one. But it’s a interesting story. So on my way out of the, the Navy recruiters office, I saw that the Air Force Office had a spot and they literally had two couches and three recruiters in their office. And there was one spot left on one of the couches. So I went sat there my cousin had just joined the Air Force and sorted his sister’s fiance now husband, and check out the Air Force and never considered it never considered a million years. But I figured I’d check it out into the record was off limits. So I’m sitting there and I look across the hall and is the Marine recruiter, and he’s standing there in his doorway with his hands on his hips looking at me, and he’s nodding up and down saying okay, and he turns around he plugs in this VCR tape or whatever it was most days and, and is we never promised you a rose guard. And he’s showing me this video during my wait in the airforce office. And I don’t listen and 15 minutes long or whatever. And all of a sudden, he nods. Hey, come on over and take a stand up. I take a step and you’re here next, and I was the next guy. So I went over I sat down with this. This gentleman he was a tech sergeant and man I had what I consider the Goldie Hawn Private Benjamin experience. They’re flipping through the recruiting brochure, and it’s like, here’s the condos. Here’s the sailboats Where do you want to sign? And it was just too good to be true. You know, I signed up for for the Air Force. And it was just a very, very interesting journey but I really lucked out with the the command that I got Wow. Yeah. And
Aaron Spatz 05:02
that the, I can’t imagine the the contrast there I’m like was what was marine recruit? Was he standing in the office like where the Air Force recruiter was
Tom Daly 05:12
across the hallway. So when if I had to get the Navy recruiter I had to pass both the Air Force Office and the army are actually in the army office and the Marine Corps. So when I walked by the Marine recruiter was sitting there flipping through the newspaper, and he looked up and saw me and then when I came out of the Navy office, like 15 minutes later, and sat in the Air Force officer, I was wearing my football jacket, and he was just like, Alright, let me give it a shot. I commend him, I commend him for his, his efforts. So yeah, just I knew my mother, frankly, I was embarrassed that my mother would sign the papers. So you know, who wants to say that? Right? Sure.
Aaron Spatz 05:49
No, I get it. Yeah. And then and then what what did you do when, when you were in the Air Force?
Tom Daly 05:56
Yeah. Again, I sorta was fortunate, I wanted to be like, security forces. And, lo and behold, they, they put me in a position called Site developer. So is primarily surveying and drafting. And we’re trained in soils analysis as well, but we never did it that was always contracted out. So I would say 90% of my job was drafting and 10% or so was, was outside serving. And I work with the engineers. And at that point in my life, when I first learned, I thought, I might want to be an engineer. But man, I saw how often the engineers got out of the office was was rare, they were always behind the desk. You know, looking at specifications stuff, great, great guys. I really, really was part of a great crew. My supervisor was 18 years old when he joined the Air Force. And 39. He retired. And he was NCO of the year when I got there. And I noticed that he, he was always answering everybody’s questions, lieutenants would come to be out of college and have their engineering degrees and stuff. And they come ask him questions, and he had the answers. And, but I realized also that they were making a lot more money than him a lot younger than him as like, what’s, you know, what’s the difference, and the difference was education. My supervisor never went to college. And they did. And that was really the big difference as far as where they stood, you know, in the organization. So I was very, very fortunate. He earned in SEO, the year in he had me in an NCO school is 19 years old, a year before he became an NCO, and he just knew how to develop people. Wow.
Aaron Spatz 07:35
And that’s a it’s a rare trait of someone to do that. Well. And I think it’s phenomenal that you’re able to, of all places, right, you could have been in any unit been with any group of people had any any type of leaders. And it just so happens that you’re, you’re you’re with someone who, who’s who’s really going to mentor you and coach you along and, and help get you where you need to be so well, I’m what was it like for you then when you were? I mean, cuz obviously, you only did a few years and Air Force. So tell me about like the story of, you know, what further impact did he have on your life? And then what what kind of drove you to, to go and exit?
Tom Daly 08:15
Yeah, so I gained 40 pounds from weightlifting, and all that good Air Force food in my first year in the Air Force. And, and I can tell you, I didn’t go to church as often as I should have, because I was out too late the night before. And when young men are in those types of environments, they tend to, you know, get in trouble from time to time. And I certainly was a leadership challenge at times. I mean, he trained me I was aiming to the end of the month, three times or even to the quarter. And, and he put me on the right path, but I remember sometimes him sitting me down to say, what are you doing? You’ve got this great future ahead of you that he really became like a big brother. I actually loved him as a brother. And then I did get in trouble right before I got out of the Air Force. And the had West Texas, Golden Globes team was boxing. I think the Air Force Academy team is awesome. For the Air Force boxing team on our base, it was a Sunday. And some brain surgeon said hey, let’s have 25 cent bow visors. And needless to say, there are a lot of people drinking that I probably had about, I don’t know, two to 250 worth of beer, you know that they and and I was there with a friend and he was there with his girlfriend, and this guy was bigger than then his friends that were there. But man, they just like dominated him mentally. And they actually were bullies to him. And I was shocked that she was strong guy. Our going in everything and when they saw him there with his girlfriend, they they wanted to take advantage of his girlfriend. And my best friend was so drunk that He was just, you know, didn’t care because he was flirting with him and stuff and, and I didn’t allow that. And I, I stopped it, and ended up putting one guy in the hospital for four days. And then their command, his command came after me. And this was, I think, three days before I supposed to check out the excerpt from the Air Force. And I had the same squadron commander my entire time, big old West Texas guy. His name was I don’t think I can say names on this, but I’d love to be able to never forget it.
Aaron Spatz 10:29
I mean, he was he would like to you can it’s it doesn’t hurt me. But if you’d rather not, it’s okay.
Tom Daly 10:34
Yeah, he was I just want to say, but he was just big old West Texas guy fits that stereotype. Just just an outgoing, really, really strong leader. And I actually used to play against him on the flag football team, and when we scrimmage and stuff, and we’re in the same building, so I saw him every day when he come back to get his coffee in the backroom. And and he knew me, and, and the first Jordan had told me that I was gonna be court martialed for the collision, you understand the story behind this? Yeah, well, you have the chance to explain. So I had to get in front of the colonel to try to explain to him before it went anywhere, because he didn’t know anything about it. So bring up the set of drawings on Friday afternoons, like four o’clock on Friday afternoon. And I’m supposed to be checking out pretty soon. And I think it was within two weeks of my EAS. So needless to say, you go on legal hold, you’re not going anywhere. And so I knock on his door, ask if I could come in and first sort of sees me and so he course runs into what’s going on. And I open up this set of drawings, he says Dressman, and they open up these drawings. So I need to explain this project to this. I’m using my right hand pointing tone, and my hand was all cut up from from the fight. And, and Tom, what’s what’s, what’s the matter with your hand? That is, sir, I was hit the other day, and I had to defend myself. Is that right? He does. ZIL, I hope his face looks worse than your hand. And I said, Sir, I can assure you it does. And I think I just lost the picture for a second. And I can assure you, it does. Good. Good. Now show me this project. And the first sergeant standing there, and he wasn’t going to go to bat for me. But that Colonel stop that all right there. And it’s all I had to say. So And I bring this up, because here I was that knucklehead that didn’t listen to his supervisor when I should have. And, and this major, actually lieutenant colonel who was promoted at that time to Colonel, you know, really put an end to it, because he, the first sergeant stayed in there for about a half an hour, 45 minutes afterwards talking, and never heard another word of it again. So as a Marine officer, I’d be you know, sitting at my desk, and the NCO would bring somebody into some young Marina does something stupid. I mean, if it’s drugs, you know, no choice, right? I mean, some, there’s some things that you just don’t second guess, but just doing some stupid get in trouble for you know, something out in town or whatever, I would literally lean back in my chair and look at this marina and say to myself, What would I say, okay, and just think about that, man, that that spared me, you know, 1015 years ago, whatever. And then one day, I’m just retired Marine, I’m sitting there. And I’m like, man, you know, what I should call him up, I should look this man up, and just tell him what he did, and how it impacted me. And he has such a unique name that you can find them pretty easily. So sure enough, he had transferred and came back to that town and, and retired and from the Air Force, and then worked at a local university. So I called them up. And I said, Is this someone so he goes, Ah, sure is. And I tell him, you know, everything that I was just explaining to you, and he loved it. I the way I looked at it was all these years later, that man made such a difference in my life, that I felt that you know, he deserved that call. So I called him up mate. And, and just, you know, it was just a great American that served his country. And I just thought that he should know some, some of the impact that he had on young young knuckleheads. So that’s my full story.
Aaron Spatz 14:18
Wow, that’s a cool story. And it’s a it’s a great example of, of, of leaders providing some top cover and exempt. Yeah, absolutely. And kind of working out, you know, more behind the scenes things and I think there’s a lot of that that happens and we don’t realize sometimes the the, the great lengths that some of these discussions happen, right? Like, I mean, you’ll you’ll never know, the extent of the back and forth that he may or may not have had, you know, with the other command or anything like
Tom Daly 14:49
that. Absolutely. Yeah.
Aaron Spatz 14:53
That’s a great story. I appreciate your sharing. So then take us then through like okay, so So you you were able to Get out. You didn’t get put on legal hold. And I got out. Yeah, yeah. And so then you somehow found your way into the Marine Corps. So tell us that story,
Tom Daly 15:08
the PLC program, and then nothing about it. I was still in the Air Force. You’re allowed to go out into town and your uniform. So I going into this gym, I was working out and I got sick, I lost a lot of weight. And I joined a gym out in town, because so work at night. And I was either going to school at night or working at night after I got off my Air Force job. So I was working at that time. And so I joined a gym. And as I’m going into the gym, this Marina is walking in his trolleys. And I hold the door open for him, we start talking to lock on everything. And I asked him what he’s doing. Because still, I still had the dream of being a Marine. And the he told me, he worked in a recruiting office, and he explained the PLC program to me and hooked me up with, you know, how to apply and all that. So when I got out of the air force with the college, I was saying, okay, who’s this? Oh, so we’re, you know, and I, and I knew to look for the Oso. And I took the test right there when I met the Oso on college campus. And he processed me through and was fortunate enough to get picked up and went to OCS that summer. So I did the old PLC, junior and senior route. So I had no idea PLC existed. And it’s the primary commissioning source of marine officers. And a lot of people surprised by that. But I think it was like 60% came in through PLC back in those days, something like that. Okay. And it’s just a great program. Was you to check out the Rinko. Well, let me quick fix you up. Wow. Yeah,
Aaron Spatz 16:38
no, I’d say I do. I do remember that program, because we’d have a few guys that were in the PLC program, kind of come check out the the ROTC stuff that they had going on. And some sometimes they would, sometimes they would partake. But yeah, generally it’s saying it’s a really. Yeah, I didn’t realize it was that high of a percentage. So I mean, that was that’s
Tom Daly 17:00
what they told us. And you bring it up how some of the guys would go work out with the ROTC unit. And years later, I went became an OSO out of Syracuse, New York, and Cornell was one of my schools. And they had this Gunnery Sergeant there, that was just unbelievable. I mean, this guy was, I put up I put him up there, the top three leaders, NCO leaders that I’ve ever worked with. And two of them were the reconnaissance unit that I that I was in back in Pendleton used before. And it’s like, Man, if I ever want this guy to fly, he’s gonna work for me. Sure enough, a couple years later, we ended up in the same unit three, two, and I was lucky to get him as my company, Gunny. And man is just the request small like that, right? And you just never know when you’re going to cross paths with somebody again. But he would work out some of my candidates and tell me whether they’re worth it or not. And this guy was a stud. I mean, little story we on deployment is my company Gunny. So we’re at the back of an LPD for workouts and workout every morning. And I would have I hand out hand off PT to him. I always thought it was important for the, for the NCOs to work out the Marines so that they’re in that leadership, front of leadership position. And then also when the Marines when the officers would step in and the Marines so now I’m in for workout. And so, but this Gunny was just phenomenal. He’s now retired Sergeant Major, and, and he worked us up from half an hour of calisthenics to an hour and a half of calisthenics on ship every day, and then, let’s say us an entire company, and then we would go do a half an hour of pull ups and setups and a half an hour run on the flight deck. So every day would have a two and a half hour workout. And, and he led it I mean, the Marines love to you talking about having just strong NCOs because he was great at developing NCOs as well. This is very, very fortunate. Wow. Well, it seems like
Aaron Spatz 19:05
a Yeah, it seems like a common thread is like you’ve you’ve been you’ve been fortunate enough to have been surrounded by just a lot of really great leaders. And yeah, it’s so like, no doubt the impact that that had on you, especially earlier on in your career. So you know, earlier on when you’re in the Air Force and the shoot even later on, and then you earlier on into your into your career as a Marine, so
Tom Daly 19:29
I no doubt definitely got that from my boss, my my initial boss, the NCO. Yeah, the Technical Sergeant, he, he just instilled the importance of professional development. And you know, when you’re 19 years old, you say, why don’t have to go to NCO school, not an NCO, and he explains it to you and you see it and then you see the difference it makes. So when I was a lieutenant, I inherited some some NCOs that weren’t very strong, and the quickest way to really Get them stronger wish to have an in house NCO school and also identify my strongest Lance Corporals and get them spun up for mentors promotion. So literally as the quickest way to turn around an organization is, you know, your frontline managers, in this case leaders and CEOs, get them trained up so that they can do the job, right. And you’ll perform a lot better. And it’s just, when that happens, Lieutenant, we did the same thing as when I was a company commander. And then when I got out into civilian life, I was really surprised at how little emphasis there is on professional development. And I believe that those companies that invest in it, really reap the rewards from it. But it’s usually the larger companies that do it. So I think that this is where veterans come in, when veterans enter the workforce, they bring such value, it’s unbelievable, to an organization, how much value they bring. And so my job is more, I do a lot of recruiting, as you know, and my job is to educate the potential clients on the value of the difference they can make. And I try to you know, establish case studies and tell them stories about how organizations turn themselves around, and, and all that. So I’m a huge proponent of veterans in the workforce, not just because of veterans and taken care of, but really the value that they bring. That’s their value proposition, you know, the integrity, the dependability, the work ethic, all that. It’s just, it’s something that should not be taken for granted, that the corporate leaders know that. And if they do, you know, and not acting on it, well, that’s a mistake. Yeah,
Aaron Spatz 21:45
I mean, that’s a great observation. And so like, you’ve already you see, you went ahead and already kind of jumped forward. So like I was going to ask you about, you know, your, the tail end of your Marine Corps career a little bit more about what you did. But if you wanted to go ahead and transition, then until, you know, what, what, what was the exit? Like, for you out of recording and start start to take us along with you on the journey of yours? Yeah,
Tom Daly 22:07
yeah, I’ll tell you what it was. It was odd, because I was an instructor at the amphibious warfare school as teaching operational planning. So all the captains that would go to school, I mean, I was the guy that taught that ship to show movement that amphibious operations and operational planning, and I was selected to go to command and staff. And that a pretty good feeling, make it to Lieutenant Colonel which I did get selected, on my way into retirement. But for me, it was a matter of when I realized that my youngest was going to be eight for retired at 20 years, or 18, or retired at 30 years, like I’m done. I mean, it’s just like, it was that simple. There was no worry or anything. I was approached about stepping out and becoming president of a company. I did that. And when I committed made that commitment, I shook for three days. And I really had to think about why am I why am I doing that. And I looked at the photo to be pretty competitive to be a battalion commander and view commander and, and start looking at, you know, the trade offs for that. And like I said, when I realized that my youngest was, I was gonna lose those 10 years with him, just to be dad. And that’s why I left. And man, when I left, I think I transitioned to fine. But I did one thing wrong. It really didn’t consult my wife about it. So I never realized that when I leave, I’m pulling her away from her best friends. And, you know, so for years, she would remind me of that from time to time. But to this day, I missed the Marine Corps, but never have second guessed that decision because I feel it was trying to be dad, couple of years after I retired 911 hit and I lived in Tampa at the time. And I literally was lived two miles from the front gate. So the Chief of Staff at Morrison was my boss when I retired. So I kicked him an email and kick the another fellow instructor from AWS. He was over at SOCOM, kick them both emails. And the guy from SOCOM said, Hey, if you’re really interested, here’s the link, you know. And so I pursued both those routes through so common CENTCOM, more sense to come back on active duty and, and more cent was able to make it happen. And so I came out of retirement, went back two miles down the road and went back on active duty and was basically the bridge between plans and ops and the I think they landed in Afghanistan, like three days after I think I came in on a Monday and they landed on a Thursday or something. So what was interesting, I had a different perspective at that point, because I’d already been in business for two and a half years. And it was it was just interesting to be back on active duty after all that Yeah,
Aaron Spatz 25:01
I can’t imagine having like such a break. And you’ve already moved on with your life already doing all sorts of other things. And then you’re, you know, you’re, you’re, you’re coming back. So like, what? What was that experience? Like? How long were you back on on the active duty,
Tom Daly 25:16
very short period of time. So I am because of my background, I just very operationally focused, so is very comfortable in that environment. And because I taught, you know, at AWS I, I understood, you know, operational planning and the operational level war and all that very, very well. So, uh, supposed to go to command staff, but that’s what I turned down when I decided to retire. So I was, you know, I went back there and here I am. I’ve never been on a staff that large before. And the was a test was 55 I guess that was 55 or whatever General Mattis had the colonel Wald Houser was my boss. When I was in a BLT as a company commander, he was a battalion commander and he was the the colonel in charge is ASO’s, a fellow company commander, and then the mew that replaced them up, so was a friend of mine, the mural that was out there that came in after that, we were the tennis together and one five. So it’s just like, you know, Hey, Dan, he, rich, you know, Hey, Greg, just, that would not have been an issue. But the way I looked at it was I really didn’t reach out to them outside of the initial a email saying, Hey, this is where I’m at. If you need to let me know, I did not want to get in the way of the chain of command. Because what I had noticed that I might be seeing things from a certain perspective, but from where I was hearing the Word, and from where they were getting the word, a lot of change takes place. And I did not want to be the source of bad words. So I was more in the observer role they’re trying to support behind the scenes. And you know, my role really was just to monitor it and make sure that everybody more sense, understood what was going on and all that. It was very, very interesting. But you know, as you remember, Afghanistan went down pretty quick. And when everything quieted down, okay. It’s decided to retire again. So the thing was, like five months, six months, something like that.
Aaron Spatz 27:25
Okay, so it was it was long enough for you to Islamia for you to get your feet wet again, and kind of kind of felt like,
Tom Daly 27:33
Yeah, I had the opportunity. I could have been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. And if I did, I would have had to say, Okay, I’m coming out of retirement and back on active duty full time. Yeah. And I wasn’t, you know, committed, decided to retire the first time. I was glad with that decision. And I said, Now, pass it up again. And, you know, so retire second time from there went to Merrill Lynch. And, you know, obviously had no idea that Iraq was right around the corner. I knew, I knew some things were being planned and discussed, but didn’t realize it was Iraq. Sure. And if things were different, I probably would have stayed on duty. Just but you know, at that time, Afghanistan looked like it was going to sleep. And obviously, it didn’t. But yeah. So I’d love to get Wow, okay, well, then let’s,
Aaron Spatz 28:24
let’s just let’s go and shift topics and into into the business world. So then, tell, tell me about your experience at Merrill Lynch? Like, what was that? Like? What was I mean, what were the first several things that you learned Asian,
Tom Daly 28:35
I’ll tell you what, I, I love Merrill Lynch. The people at Merrill Lynch were fantastic. Probably my favorite contemporary since I retired, they, I think they’re more most like what I would consider, you know, military members in the sense that to succeed there, you got to be a go getter. And I mean, you really need to be able to put together a business plan to grow your practice, and go out and make it happen. Really, the organization itself, the company itself, provides you the tools that you need, but you’ve got to be the person to go out there and convince somebody to give you their money to manage. And that’s not an easy thing to do. The one thing that bothered me though, is that there was a tremendous amount of mistrust of brokers. So I was so used to after a career in the military, when I’d be introduced to somebody and shake their hand and then lean forward because they were an I never noticed that before. But there was mean forward because they were happy to meet you, you know, they’re meeting a Marine, or used before Air Force veteran or whatever, but then all of a sudden, be introduced to somebody and go to shake their hand and say, at times with Merrill Lynch, and they would just stiffen up and like, they didn’t realize it, but they just like go on guard. And I just did not like that. And I had a meeting with a manager, who was probably the best leader that I’ve crossed paths with since I Retired, non military guy. And I mean, he was just phenomenal. And he’s the type of guy that you could go to the shoot, shoot straight. And I say, Hey, listen, you know, this is what I’m feeling. What do you think he’s like, if you’re not used to this by now, it’s not going to change, it’s going to continue. He goes, you’re right, and probably should, should go. I mean, I was top 10%, my class was succeeding very, very well had a partner. And I mean, everything was going great. But for me to walk away from that, it was just that gut feeling of mistrust, they didn’t like, and so I walked away from from rural and went out on my own. And I was also surprised to hear, quote, Merrill at a bad time, where, you know, there was a coming out of a recession. And I think that does some severe, I mean, like, really, really severe cost cutting measures in play. And I was shocked when they did away with their training, you know, used to be that Merrill Lynch was known for its training, and they would send people to the corporate office where, you know, set the foundation. And I only got to go there a year later, because I was in the top 10%. And what did they do? They gave you entry level training, I have to tell you, the people that I was there with just blew me away, the practices that they were building already one year, was just absolutely incredible. And I mean, just really, really super high quality people. And you’re going to introduce them to the, you know, financial planning 101. Come on, they’ve already been doing this for a year, and they’re like, top one 2% In, in the year group. And I think that’s just because neural was just churning trying to survive at that point, because things are just so bad. And then they got bought out by Bank of America. And from what I hear, it’s just not the same that it used to be really, really great people there, but I went out on my own for a while. Wow.
Aaron Spatz 31:49
Yeah, as I say, buyouts buyouts generally never result in things being the same. Yeah, but no, really this a question I’ve been really curious to ask you, because in this is a perfect time to ask you this question. So what what do you feel you most learned in the years after the military leading up to the decision to start your own business and go all in?
Tom Daly 32:11
Yeah, that’s a great question. What did I most learned? I learned a lot. I mean, first of all, I guess I learned that people that you deal with in the military, you can trust. And, and that’s expected. That’s not the same in the corporate world. And I think today, our society is so focused around individualism, that we’ve lost a lot of our team mentality, and in helping each other out. So it’s I don’t know if it’s competition, or what I mean, remember the first time I watch Survivor, and, you know, the guy that wanted on the first survivor, it was just, it was all about cutthroat and backstabbing and all that. And He’s the champion. There’s just like this huge disconnect here. So I’ve seen a lot of that. And, and I think that the biggest thing that I’ve learned is that trust should not be just taken for granted that it’s got to be earned. Whereas in the military, it was expected. You know, just, you know, it’s just totally different. I know, that’s probably a little bit different type of answer than what now
Aaron Spatz 33:30
expecting, but no, no, that’s okay.
Tom Daly 33:32
I was gonna ask you to Sokak a follow up to that. Has that affected the way that you trust people? Yeah, eventually it has. I remember, as a kid, my aunt Tell me, are you too naive, you know, and she was right means she’s my godmother. And, you know, she told me what she thought. And she was right. You know, I believe people too easily and, and I’ve been burned pretty, pretty hard since I went out on my own after Merrill. And I learned the hard way. And it still has, you know, never caused me to second guess the decisions that I made, whether I should have done this or should have done that. It’s just I felt the decisions were right. And I don’t spend much time rethinking my decisions. I think that’s pretty sign of decisiveness. Right. So when I make a decision, it’s like, Okay, let’s go and follow me. So I never really second guessed any of that. It’s just one of the things I’ve learned along the way is that I wish there were times out there that I wish I was dealing with military members
Aaron Spatz 34:39
Yeah, I think I understand what you’re saying there. And because there’s a there’s an implicit trust there. I mean, there’s sure there’s they’re scumbags in every branch of the military for sure. But the the percentage of people that you feel like you can trust even when People are really aren’t that maybe you’re on people that are not very good performers. But you can still pretty, you can still pretty much count on them to, to do what they say they’re going to do. And so it’s, it is a challenge. And again, I mean, it’s not military’s definitely not perfect, perfect place. But you definitely get the sense that there’s a much higher concentration. And it’s either a is just it’s forced on you, or that’s the way you were raised or a combination of both, that you do what you say you’re going to do, you honor your commitments, you, you follow through on what you say. And so when you realize that other people don’t subscribe to that same belief system or that same perspective, it’s, it’s kind of startling, I think, is the best word
Tom Daly 35:46
is an example. As you know, I’ve taken a break from my Christmas tree business, and actually two businesses, one’s rich back. And the other was a Christmas tree business that I was brought into 14 years ago, by a retired Navy Master Chief, who I came friends with, literally the first week that I had moved to Tampa in 1998. And, but the grower that I’m using now, he really, really good man of North Carolina, he had sold some of his land with the understanding that the land would be available for him to reach back for five years and take trees. And, you know, and sell them. And that was all part of the deal. So when that happened, the the other party, if they’re close, the other party said, No, we own the land now, and you’re not getting those trees. But we had this deal, you know, whatever we had was verbal, but it’s not in the contract. And I you know, it’s my understanding that in the mountains, you know, what men say matters. So I was very surprised, and this man was, was very surprised as well. But he was left with, you know, having to discover about and I actually had to go find another source of trees, which is really my sweet spot in what I sell. So, you know, the tree business is really very, very intense three to four weeks. And then we’re done. We have a couple weeks off till New Year’s, but it’s really a great time. It’s really great being around people. But this is an example right there about trust. Whereas the grower that I deal with, I’m telling you right now, I’m sure there’s times when he’s been stuck. And he still provides me my trees, it. I don’t know about a loss, but it’s all on trust, you know, I pay him after have sold my trees and this and AdWords and get get going. And and that’s what I mean, I think business is all about relationships. That’s the way I look at and if it ever gets to the point where it’s the type of relationship that he had with that other party in the sales agreement. And it’s a sad state of affairs when things go south real fast. Yeah, that’s I mean, that’s a great. That’s a great practical
Aaron Spatz 37:56
example there. The and then you you mentioned ridgebacks, I just I wanted to kind of pivot there and start kind of down that track. So I mean, describe describe to me the process behind starting Ridgeback?
Tom Daly 38:10
Yeah, so I, when I first retired, there’s actually a couple months before I retired, I was approached by the CEO of a publicly traded firm here in Tampa. And he wanted to bring on the hit, let me take a step back, his company had grown tremendously over the previous few years. And they had grown through acquisitions. So think about that. It’s like putting together a quilt, you’ve got this orange piece, that red piece, the blue piece, you know, you put it all together, and then when it’s done, doesn’t look right, because it’s, you know, it’s all bits and pieces. And that’s how they grew their business. And he found that, you know, he literally could go, I still remember him saying, I could go to Denver, sit down with a manager there, walk out the door, you know, what he’s supposed to do? I can’t I don’t know if I could trust it or not. Because, you know, he, we acquired them, and I don’t have a relationship with Him, and so forth is very interesting, because, you know, the Marine Corps, if the general came by and sat down with you, and said, Well, you’re doing a great job, but I think you should do the following. You’re going to take that to heart, right? Well, he didn’t feel that way. So what he wanted to do is he wanted to establish a program, a leadership development program, where I would go out and recruit prior military leaders, they had to be good proven leaders, and that’s what he wanted, and he would take them in and, and train them in, in his industry. And they would, you know, then start being peppered, you know, throughout the country. And in a year and a half, I think so we had recruited 55 military leaders, and they started going through all these different series of classes and development and all that. But then the company came under Financial string. So, you know, the program sort of stopped. But a number of people stayed with the program. And one is now retired. Another is a regional president. Another is the Chief of Staff of the corporation. And those are guys that were young lieutenants, captains that got out. One was a retired Major when, when he got off prior enlisted, and, but just very, very strong leaders and done very, very well inside that company. So, I bring that story up, because that got me into recruiting, I was an OSO. So that was, I was, you know, Xerox sales course trained. You know, also officer selection officer. And I was used to going out and recruiting people for the Marine officer programs. So I figured I’d give it a shot. And that was the first recruiting company that I formed. And then I got involved with emergency management years later. And that was just a natural fit. I mean, forgot with my background, all of a sudden going out to the hurricane disaster area, or to, you know, the BP oil spill, you just sit right in, and you just in your environment. And I ended up working with the company for five years. And along the way I realized, you know, I don’t want to deploy anymore. i They have room for me a corporate level, great gives me the stability that I’m looking for. But you know, these guys were all about going out and getting the business and, and then deploying there. And if I wanted to continue to deploy or stay in the Marine Corps, and didn’t had more fun, and you know, so I ended up going out on my own about a year before I went out on my own, maybe two, I just started putting it back together from my previous experiences that okay, so I did one last time, this is what I’m doing now, this way did wrong there, this one doing that, and really, really made it very, very process oriented based on the lessons that I learned over the previous 1015 years. And it’s worked well, this worked well. So along the way, I’ve started a group inside LinkedIn for executive decision makers, veteran decision makers, as you know, it’s the veteran executives network. And it’s really a matter of bringing together veterans that want to work with other veterans and whether it’s utilize their services, or refer them to somebody or help get them going in a particular direction. So right now, we’re building that out with some really, really strong people that have taken operational and membership and communications roles. And we’re putting it together. And I think we’re 1500 strong right now. And in the middle of transitioning and taking it not so much out of LinkedIn, but building a platform on line where people come and get a tremendous amount of information that can help them either in their careers, or, or their business. So it’s really focused on veterans that are executives or on the on business. Well, I just want to
Aaron Spatz 42:58
thank you for for sharing some of that insight. moment ago about about business. So like, it, I think it’s important people take note of the fact that you can use, you can you can call it failure, you can call it shortcoming. You can follow it, you call it mistakes, whatever it is that you may want to label it. But I think it’s so great, how you’re able to sit down and just reflect on some of the things that you’ve done really well, things that you maybe struggled with, things that you’d seen other people do well and other people struggle with. And then you’re able to kind of kind of piece it all together and just come out the gates strong in really have a better idea of where it is that you’re going. And so I that I think is is a quick point that you made, I think it’s it’s an important point, I think it’s easy to miss. And, and we’ll we’ll circle back to the networking and things perhaps further down here towards the tail end, because I think it’s important that people reach out and they get connected in the network with others. And so, but back back to how you were getting things started with it, like, tell me, like walk me through those early days, right. So you were you’ve gotten the company going, you’re now you’re out pursuing contracts, you’re you’ve got all this amazing training, all this phenomenal experience. What What were the biggest challenges of just getting it off the ground? How were you able to get it to where you’re able to sustain yourself?
Tom Daly 44:29
So I remember having this conversation with my, my director at Merrill Lynch. She was a trailblazer inside the company. I mean, people, people that became legendary, inside Merrill Lynch worked for her on the way up, and when she ran the New York City Merrill office, and I remember how she emphasized cold calling cold calling cold calling. And, you know, I had some close relationships that were deceit row one CEO of a public company, right? That I mentioned before, and others, maybe not as significant of that, but I just, I just never felt that, you know, calling a man or a woman, when they get home at six o’clock at night, and trying to sell them some stock to get their account, they just never felt that that was the best approach. And early on, I just felt it was all about building relationships. And and that’s where, you know, wherever you go, they always talk about referral based business, right? I think that makes a lot of sense. You know, you bring value to one, and they ask them to share it, or they do it on their own, and just grow your business by doing a great job. I think that’s very, very consistent with what I learned as a kid, but also, from my military mentors on the way and do your job and things will work out. And that’s just the approach that I’ve taken. And if something’s wrong, now, today, I had somebody that’s buying 100 trees from a little over 100. And there was a little bit of discrepancy in the in the amounts. And as explicit, we’re good. We’re good. Don’t worry about it. You know, it is what it is. I honor that what I quoted, and, you know, I want the relationship and just go Okay, great. Thanks. So that’s what I believe it’s all about and when there’s a relationship, that’s when I think there’s issues that they can call you up at anytime say, Man, I got a problem, can you help me out. And that actually happened on Saturday where I had a client call me up, say, Listen, we won this major contract on Friday. And we need people on the call on Monday. And the resumes that we used can participate. So I actually Here I am, was literally my Grand Opening Day this year. And I get that call in the morning. And thankfully, my recruiting manager, she’s a go getter. And she’s been busting her tail all weekend making that happen. And she’s just phenomenal. I mean, I don’t know how often that this isn’t staffing, it’s permanent recruiting, staffing, you’re always making fills. But, you know, I mean, I don’t how often you can turn around and pay somebody in a day on a weekend. And that’s, you can only you can only put forth that type of effort when there’s strong relationships. And that just is at the core of it all. I believe. That’s what I try to go back.
Aaron Spatz 47:33
Man. Man, I love that. Holy cow. So I mean, you’re kind of leaving me on the on the edge of my seat here. So how did that how did that whole thing play out? Were really good.
Tom Daly 47:43
They were negotiating yesterday. So I had we haven’t people buy we had one person to them by fully qualified to them by Saturday night. I think the last email I got was at 1202 Sunday morning. And then she was up at it again today looking for the other position and people that are now. So it’s just, you know, it’s but that’s built upon trust, and you know, that your clients in a bind, you’re going to do whatever you can do to, to, to help them out, even if it’s only if you’re available.
Aaron Spatz 48:16
Wow, that’s phenomenal. And I couldn’t agree with you more as it relates to relationships, I feel. Nobody likes to be hard sold. I like I believe there’s a lot of due diligence that needs to be done in in business development. But it all starts with a meaningful relationship. And, and I couldn’t agree with your points more. I’ll just leave it there. That’s, that’s fantastic. So like it because I realized we’re actually already starting to come wind down on the end of our time here. And this, this happens all the time. That’s a good thing. Yeah, no, it’s good. I could go forever. But that that’s, that’s not that’s not part of the plan here. But um, will you just share with me a major challenge that you’ve had to overcome? So then I guess we’ll just we’ll just, we’ll just cut to the chase here. So like, what, you know, what advice would you have them for those that are looking to start
Tom Daly 49:15
or grow their own businesses? Yeah, no, I think you know, you look at how we formed veteran executives network, it started with the name friends and commerce. But then we’ve obviously changed the name recently. But somewhere along the way, I put together a presentation just explaining people about my growth over the last 20 years. And what I realized that every every major financial event that occurred, you know, revenue driven event occurred came from a referral or a military relationship that I had had. And I don’t know how much money that equated to. But I mean, we’re talking about when I went to the emergency medicine space, I was referred there by a Vietnam veteran. When, you know, I had this role, I was referred there by somebody else, Merrill Lynch, that was a military for all, as a matter of fact, that person made the call directly to this managing director to to get me in there. I mean, it was just the, the Christmas tree business, which I have been doing for 14 years. That was a gentleman that I met at first weekend in, you know, here in Tampa, and retired Navy, Master Chief that using the reserves, and he sold his business and what, seven acres of land down in Florida, and then acreage up in North Carolina, so obviously sold it for a pretty good Penny. And he’s just an entrepreneur at heart and probably learned more from him in the past 22 years, and I’ve learned from anybody else, and about business and friendship and all that. But every one of those came from a military relationship and that trust. And I think that’s probably the biggest thing, if, if you’re transitioning, and you’re looking to grow a business, don’t try to blaze it on your own, there’s plenty out there that want to help you. When I used to invite people to friends and commerce, they would accept, and then I would go back with, you know, question, what is the one thing that you hope to gain from this? From this being in this group? I think the number one answer was networking. Okay. The number two answer was helping other veterans. And when you’ve got a community like that, why are you avoiding it? You know, you try to get involved in it. There’s so many great programs out there that nobody knows about. You know, I think one was I VMF, when I came across that the Institute for Veterans, Military families, Syracuse University runs that 15 minutes from my house, I had no idea existed, none. And until I was looking for project management certification online, and I ended up getting my certified project management for free, you know, through IVMS. And I think that, that’s what we’re trying to do with veteran executives network is become this network of networks where you go there, and you find out what’s available. So the National Veterans Small Business coalition, I mean, that’s something that helps small business owners that that are looking to operate in the federal business line, whether your services able, veteran, small business or some other bit own business, those are out there. And they can help many. And just instead of competing with everybody, let’s just try to put together a community where you’ve got go to avenues that people can can follow through on in order to achieve the goal. So I think that that would be my number one, just try to network. And by the way, a great book to network is to learn about networking. And I’m not talking about going to, you know, events where you hand out your business cards, that’s not networking, that’s that’s business card handout day. But you want to want to read a book by Tom Stanley, I have a Stanford PhD. It’s called, I believe, networking with the affluent, and their advisors. And I would listen to that man every day for an hour driving to work, and every day for an hour driving home from work. And I probably listen to that book five or six times. And it really, really brings home innovative ways that you can build a network that you you can build relationships. And that was one of the ideas behind the friends and commerce, which is now veteran executives network, is let’s put together this network of veterans that can be very, very helpful to others.
Aaron Spatz 54:04
Yeah, no, I I couldn’t agree more with with your points related to networking. I mean, I think it’s, I think it’s so important and Done, done right and the right way, it can lead to some amazing, amazing relationships. And so I won’t try to add anything more to what you what you just shared. I really, really appreciate you sharing that. And also, I just want to thank you for spending some time with me. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you, thank you for sharing some of these these unique insights and perspectives throughout your career. So I just want to thank you.
Tom Daly 54:38
My pleasure. I love being there. Thank you.
Aaron Spatz 54:44
Man, what a great conversation. I really enjoyed hearing Tom’s perspective and just really getting some insight into his background, his story and some of just the golden nuggets that he shares. I’d encourage you to really take a lot of that to heart, especially with networking networking is so so so And I would encourage you if you haven’t practiced networking, the big the biggest thing is to introduce yourself and to not sell and to see how you can add value see how you what you can learn from somebody, but if it’s natural and non salesy, it is incredibly incredibly effective in creating opportunity for yourself but also for for other people. There. I just want to thank you again, for listening for watching and I hope they have a great week.