My Dad has never been on a podcast, but he HAS been an entrepreneur for over 25+ years!
I always learn something insightful whenever we talk, and so when he was in town, I convinced him to come on The Not For Lazy Marketers Podcast and drop some truth bombs!
After starting 4 wildly successful businesses, he has A LOT of fascinating insights on business and entrepreneurial life.
We go deep into…
- What he wished he would have known when he started.
- How to build a business that fits your skills and desired lifestyle
- The mindset he attributes to his consistent success as an entrepreneur.
- How he learned what to do and what not to do in his own business.
- Oh, and PLENTY of embarrassing stories from when I was a kid.
This is a fun episode and a rare glimpse at what it really means to be an entrepreneur.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received from a parent figure or mentor? DM me at @EmilyHirsh I’d love to know!
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READ THE EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
You are listening to the, not for lazy marketers podcast, episode number 388.
Emily: Hello my friends, welcome back to the podcast. I have a super fun treat for you guys today. For those of you guys who have been long time followers, I think you’ll really appreciate this. My dad is in town and I asked, ‘Hey dad, do you wanna be on my podcast? And he said, ‘sure, what do I have to do?’
So I am bringing on my dad, Dave, and he’s an entrepreneur who obviously raised me and knows a lot about me. I thought it’d be fun to do a quick interview with him and have him give some of his best advice from his experience as an entrepreneur. And maybe also share some secrets about me as a kid, I don’t know.
So welcome dad to the podcast.
Dad: Thank you very much. This is my first podcast.
Emily: He was asking, are we gonna be on video too?
So I am so excited. All right. Let’s dive in first.
So you’ve been an entrepreneur ever since I can remember. I remember a little bit when you had a job, but all my life growing up, you were an entrepreneur. I always say I got the entrepreneur gene from my dad. So tell everybody just a little bit about you and your business that you have right now.
Dad: It started when I was about 10 years old and I started going up and down this street with a lawnmower knocking on people’s doors for them to hire me to mow their lawn.
Emily: Yeah, we have that in common.
Dad: Currently I run two construction companies. One, we do new construction in Northern California and the other one, we focus on water damage, mold damage, fire damage and clean up.
Emily: Yep. So when I was really little, my dad had a job. You worked for shell oil.
Dad: That’s correct.
Emily: And that was your corporate job. And I don’t even think I know the answer to this, but what made you go start your own business and leave that job officially?
Dad: Uh, really, it was an opportunity. I had completed 10 years with shell oil and in my last year I was employee of the year. And at the same time they were trying to downsize and they offered me three weeks every year. So I had 30 weeks of basically paid time.
Dad: And I used that time to start my first business after college which was a Remediation company. Construction. Yeah. Yeah.
Emily: All right. And so I remember a little bit of your job growing up, but then mostly I remember going to work with you at your office and watching you as an entrepreneur. But I really believe it’s like we’re born this way.
Like we didn’t just watch our parents do this and then become entrepreneurs. Like we didn’t know another way
I just was driven and I think that’s the big thing, being driven to try and do better. And you know, just strive for more than what you know, what you have just continue to reach out and if you want something, you have to go out and get it and you have to make it happen.
Emily: Yeah. All right. So let’s start with some advice for people around being an entrepreneur. You’ve obviously been one way longer than me. So what would you say?
My dad has prepared 0% for this podcast interview. So my off the cuff questions for himare going to be very raw and transparent. What would you say is like your top one or two pieces of advice for entrepreneurs? Like what mistakes have you learned from that? Now, looking back, you’re like, this is what I would’ve told myself when I was 27 or an early entrepreneur that you’ve learned.
Dad: Well, there’s a lot to that. The first thing I would say is it’s okay to take a risk, especially when you’re younger. I felt like I was a huge risk taker. In fact, I know you can take a risk and you have to work hard. It’s not an easy thing, nothing in life is easy. And especially starting a business, you have to work very hard, stay focused. I just believe hard work pays off.
When you talk about mistakes, one of the biggest things when I look back, I wish I didn’t do, especially when I was raising a family, I wish I didn’t worry so much. I don’t know if you can help that or not, but, you know, lots of nights of just thinking about the next day, and what I have to do? Is the business gonna be there? I’ve been in business for a long time. I don’t stress as much anymore just because I’ve kind of been around and I don’t worry when the business gets slow. There’s ups and downs, just continue, stay focused.
That’s my advice.
I’ve started four major businesses and all of them have been successful and I just attribute it to just staying focused and working hard.
Emily: Yeah. Yeah. I totally agree. So you sold two, right. Sold two businesses, and then you have two right now. Right? So any advice there on that, because that’s a whole different thing. I’ve never sold a business, that’s a whole different experience, but like growing a business to sell it and then starting a new one. And just any lessons that you learned over that experience.
Dad: You know, some of this is just, I don’t, I believe in luck. After college, because I had other small businesses, but the first major business after college, the business continued to grow every year; it doubled in size for four years. And at some point I think I talked to one of my suppliers and said, you know, if someone offered me a certain price, I would take it.
Two weeks later, three businessmen showed up, knocking on my door saying, ‘Hey, we heard you want to sell your business.’ And they offered me a price that I couldn’t refuse. And I sold it. I was really lucky because I did all of it myself. I didn’t have an attorney. We wrote up the documents, I signed everything like I knew what I was doing and I probably didn’t. I’m lucky that they didn’t take advantage of me, but I sold it. And so that was my first business. And after that, I had to stay out of construction. So I got into, believe it or not, the web business. And, that was really fun and exciting. But, it was not as rewarding as construction. So after about five years, my non-compete ended and I started another construction company.
Emily: Yeah, yeah. That’s so funny, you were in like web development, I remember that a lot as you go into your office and, and remember being around that, but you’re not an office guy at all. Like you are outside active all the time using your hands.
Dad: I’m a working CEO. That’s what’s nice about my position. I can do whatever I want during the day, but I like to go out in the field. I don’t mind picking up a hammer, so to speak, and getting dirty, but then the next day I’m dressed up and I’m meeting potential clients or vendors or suppliers.
I really enjoy working with all of my staff and vendors that I work with. I think that looking back on it I would say whatever you do, whatever you start, you really have to enjoy it. If you don’t, what is all this for?
You have to enjoy it.
Emily: So you’ve built four successful companies you provided for us growing up, you’ve been super successful. What would you say is the reason why entrepreneurs are successful and some aren’t cuz obviously some do work hard and then something happens and it doesn’t work out. I know you do believe in some luck there, but I know you’ve witnessed people who haven’t had successful businesses. What do you think is one of the biggest things that causes that differentiation in success? And I have an answer I can add after I hear yours, but what would you say to that?
Dad: Well, I learned early on when I was in shell, I actually read a book called The Eighth and I really enjoyed that book. It talked about why businesses start and why businesses fail and how many, what percentage of businesses fail, which I think 80% fail in the first year. And then another 80% that survive, fail in the second year.
Why is that, you know, I think people lose focus. In some cases, I’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of franchisees when I was with Shell Oil company. And I noticed a lot of it was, they were set in their ways. They weren’t open to course correct and open to new ideas. If something you’re doing doesn’t work, stop it and do something else. And don’t be afraid to take that risk to do it.
If it’s not working, don’t sail off the cliff. That’s what I still say even today, if somebody has an idea, even if it’s one of my laborers, it’s the best idea wins. And it’s great when we have a set of tasks that we’re doing and someone says, Hey, we should do this, I instantly go, we’re doing this. So we do that instead. There’s no pride, it’s whatever works and, and you just use whatever tools you have. I am a big, uh, fan of listening to other ideas. In grade school, it was copying and, today it’s being an entrepreneur.
Emily: I love that. See, we did not plan for this. And I’m here with similarities in the way that I lead my team too, where I’m constantly looking for ideas from the team on the front lines who have that Intel. And it’s not about me coming in and saying, ‘hey guys, this is exactly what we’re gonna do. And I’m always right.’ It’s about me coming in, and creating this space for that collaboration. But to answer that, I love how you said focus. You don’t know this because I don’t think you listen to my podcast, but I talk all the time about focus and, and in marketing terms, it’s one funnel, one offer, one business until you at least get to a million dollars is what I teach. I spend a lot of time and my team spends a lot of time convincing business owners to not have three things they’re trying to do at one time and only do all those.
Okay. But my other answer to this, I think is grit. It’s the difference between people who succeed and don’t succeed. An idea is one thing then there’s the execution and the follow through. That’s the other thing. And like you said, at the beginning this is not easy. If anybody signed up to be an entrepreneur because they wanted the easy way out, like, yes, so much freedom comes with it. And so many positives, but it is not easy. And people who try to sell you on that, aren’t giving you the entire truth. And I think that’s something you have that I have is we don’t give up. Like we will not give up. If it becomes obvious it’s a bad idea, then, we won’t keep going on with the bad idea, but we’ll still get to the end
As a kid, I think that’s one thing that you and mom like instilled in me, you can have anything you want, but you have to go get it and you have to work for it. And that’s how I’ve achieved what I have so far. I attribute a lot of my success to that. So I think there’s a lot of people who, as soon as something gets hard or they have to invest money in it, or they have to make a hard decision, or it feels like it’s hard they want to quit. They do, or they slow down and they wonder why they haven’t made progress in three months. I see that a lot with business owners and in marketing.
Dad: So when I was with Shell Oil company, I was very, very fortunate to see a lot of franchisees going in and out of basically gas stations of these independent owners. I saw how successful businesses work and how not successful businesses struggle. And, many of them failed. I would say it’s paying attention to details. One thing I learned early on about marketing is that everything you do is marketing. It’s how you dress, how you send an email. It’s not just your advertising and whatever business you’re in, if you’re into merchandising and just the cleanliness and how your employees are is a reflection of you. So everything in your life is marketing. And, those that do it well, really understand that.
Emily: I love that. So good. All right.
Let’s pivot a little bit and talk about me as a kid. I get asked all the time, ‘what made you who you are?’ I mean, you know how I am, and maybe there’s some stories that would be fun to share, but I am extremely disciplined, and I would love for you to share just like, what was it like being my dad growing up with that drive?
Dad: Well, it was, it was really fun. You were always driven. You would never be afraid to say what it is you wanted at an early age. Going out there dragging me along to your lemonade stands. Always trying to work. It was always business related, creating dinner, a meal, having me go to the store and buying the food that you’re gonna sell me that next day. It was fun being your dad, all great memories. And I will also start with going backwards. I’ve never listened to your podcast and I actually don’t really know what you do and that’s okay. I know you’re good at it
Emily: What do you think I do every day
Dad: When people ask me, such as friends back home, I shake my head. I’m like, I don’t know. It’s marketing of some kind. She helps people. She helps other businesses. She’s doing really good though. She’s really doing good. But that’s about it. I think it has something to do with Facebook, but I’m not a big fan of Facebook.
Emily: Oh my gosh. That’s so funny.
Dad: Did I get it?
Emily: I do marketing Facebook ads. Yes, you got it. You’re pretty close. So I wanna talk about when I was a kid, what would I, I know the answer, but I want you to tell the stories of, what would I say when you would take me to school? And I got to be like, maybe seven. Did I wanna be in school?
Dad: No school was a waste of time. You used to tell me on the way to school, you don’t want to go here because everybody’s goofing around and you were so serious about school and it was a big waste of time. You actually wanted to go to college. Yeah, and I remember in junior high, you said: ‘why can’t I just skip junior high and go to dad?
I said, ‘you know what, you’re a little young for that’
Emily: I dragged you to junior college
Dad: oh, that’s right.
Emily: And got us signed up for an appointment because I wanted to skip high school altogether and go straight to college. Because I thought that was the most efficient way to go. So I was not a normal kid and I have talked about this slightly on the podcast before.
When I was younger, I would always be like, ‘what you want to do that, that’s such a waste of time’
‘let’s go wash cars and make money or do this productive thing’
And it wasn’t always money, remember I used to run and track my food. I was driven wherever I put my mind. It could have been:
I have to take care of her pets this week. And so I’d make like a whole schedule and all these things
or it would be making money
or it would be health
or I’d be waking up at 6:00 AM before going to fourth grade and doing workouts on the TV
Dad: A lot of it though was centered around taking an idea, it could be simple and then turn out a way to make it a business. And I think some of that may have stemmed from, do you remember you savings system that we set up, and I don’t know where I got it from where you had to take a percentage of what you made and you had to put it in a long term savings, short-term savings
Emily: And, and you made me pay tax
Dad: Taxes on. We had a tax
Emily: Mom vetoed that idea
Dad: No, I know. But you had it at first and like we had a tax jar, which I charged tax. And then we were able to use that for family money. Yeah. The taxing had to go away though. My mom wouldn’t didn’t
Emily: We didn’t go for that. That’s so funny. Yeah. And so do you feel like you were really purposeful with me growing up, trying to push the, ‘you can have anything you want and you have to work for it and you have to work hard’ Did you do things that were like that or do you think it came from, I honestly don’t know. But do you think it came from me watching you and mom be that way? Or did you guys purposefully decide like we’re gonna instill this in our kids?
Dad: No, I, I think it was more about just our family dynamics, we were always working. I’d work all day. We’d, I’d come home and we would start a project outside. We could be landscaping, building a wall. Whatever it is that we’re doing whether we were fixing up the house, you know. When we moved to Tahoe, we built the house. but there was always a huge list of things, activities like what’s next, what’s next. And, I think you, you kind of absorbed both of your parents were very active and always looking for, opportunity. And, to this day I look for opportunities. I have people that come by and say, ‘Hey, what do you think of this?’ I’m like, let’s do it. I’ll do it with you.
Dad: Most of the time they say, no, I’m too nervous. I can’t do it.
Emily: Let’s pause on that. Because you’ve said that twice where you’re like, let’s do it right now. So you operate and move very fast, right? When you make a decision, how fast do you execute it?
Dad: I think, I don’t think it through. I mean, I just have this gut feeling. That’s the right thing to do. And I think for me, this is more personable. I feel like my whole life I’ve always seen the path and I don’t second guess myself, I have made mistakes. I’m not going sit here and lie, but I think I’ve had more success by just making the decision in the now that we’re doing this and if it doesn’t work. Okay, fine. I mean, if you want to know something that didn’t work. Talk to me, talk to me about oil well. Well, yeah, don’t do it. I bought oil well.
Emily: Well, yeah, I remember that was like a family joke for like two years. And when you find, let’s say, you find a problem, how fast do you move to change it, to execute its solution?
Dad: I’ll do it instantly. Yeah. If there’s a problem. I mean, I can’t stand it. I will find out what’s the problem and, and come up with as many ideas. Here, these are the solutions, we could do it right now. Yeah. I don’t think you can wait on things, especially if it has to do with your revenue, your reputation. Yep. Bottom line you gotta make a decision.
Emily: Yeah. So one of our core company values is speed is queen. And I instill that in our team and I have talked about it on the podcast. Like it used to be something that I used to almost be like I have to tone this down. I don’t want to scare people with how fast I move or freak employees out. But then I realize, like, this is our superpower because we execute so insanely quickly. And when there’s a problem, we fix it. When we find something, we could do better. It’s like, we’re doing it tomorrow. And so clearly that I got from my dad and my mom’s like that too. I think that it’s such a key because a lot of people take, I mean, it drives me crazy. It’s like they decide something and two weeks later there’s been no progress. And I just do not understand.
Dad: Right. I like to think about it as like a ship. The business you’re running is a ship, it’s a big ship and you need to course correct. It takes a long time to turn that ship, but run your business as nimble as possible. Even if you’re growing and big, don’t be afraid to run it. Like smaller businesses are nimble. They can, yeah. They’ll shift a couple times in a day. If they need to, like, yeah, let’s do this. It doesn’t work. Um, and no matter what size my business is, I always shift, you know, as quick as I can.
Emily: Yeah. And not being afraid, combining that with not being afraid to mess up, what’s the worst that’s gonna happen. You make a mistake, you learn from it. You go to the next thing and you just keep going. And I think so many people get paralyzed in that fear of making a mistake or they have to do it perfectly. Or what if it’s the wrong choice? And that really does paralyze your growth overall
Dad: Yeah. I agree. That’s good.
Emily: All right. So a few more questions. I wanna know what was like the hardest thing about parenting me.
Dad: You were so damn cute. I couldn’t say no. When you were much younger
Emily: Yeah. You never got me in trouble.
Dad: No, I know that was probably a mistake.The hardest thing you were very driven and if you had a belief, I kind of knew we you’d get your way eventually because you would prove us wrong that no, this is, this is the best thing for me, or this is the best thing to do. So I think your drive was, uh, challenging sometimes. Yeah. Yeah. It was, it was great. And it was hard sometimes.
Emily: Yeah. I can remember in my head hearing you and mom constantly saying, Emily, you just cannot accept the answer is no when we say, no, you just do not stop until you get your way. Whether that was like a sleepover with a friend or whatever, I wanted sign up for a class. Like it didn’t matter. I just was relentless until you guys gave
Dad: You continue to come back with convincing arguments until, I mean, how can you say no when you’ve come up with every scenario possible and this is why it’s important. We have to do this.
Emily: I have three younger brothers also, I’m the oldest of four. So anything you wanna share on like the dynamics of me as the oldest and the boys and, and how that was.
Dad: Well, you were too smart for your britches and, uh, I will say you used to pick on your brothers a lot, a lot and you’d sit back and stir the pot and watch all the problems happening, the fighting going on. And you, I think you kind of liked that part of it.
Emily: Yeah. I’m sure I did. I’m sure I got entertainment out of that. Okay. Looking back, Im curious as a parent now, what’s one thing you would do differently in your parenting.
Dad: Hmm. That’s really hard to ask me that on the fly.
Emily: I know I’m the queen of that, on the fly.
Dad: Yeah. I wish I really took more time to enjoy it. I envy, you know, your family dynamic. I know you really enjoy your kids. I worked really hard. I put in a lot of hours. Yeah. I still enjoyed time with, all four of the kids, but I wish I had more time because it goes by fast. Everyone says, time goes by fast. Life goes by fast and it, and it does. Yeah, I would love to relive some of that because that, to me it is the best time of my life raising the family. And even though I worked hard at shell for all those years, those were the years I was raising kids. And, I wish I had some of those days over
Dad: Okay. Have two more questions. So I dropped out of college and that was not what you and mom, especially mom, I would say more so my mom than my dad, what you guys wanted for me. So share what was that like before you knew that I was going to be able to create a successful business? I know you believed in me, but you guys wanted the best for me. And you thought college was the right route out. What was that like, what was going through your head then? Did you think I was gonna totally fail
Dad: No, you didn’t. I never doubted you would be successful. In fact, when you told us, or you told me first that you weren’t, I think the initial reaction as any parent is, ‘no, you have to go to school, everyone goes to college.’ It was in the same conversation that I realized that college today and, and being successful today is totally different than it was in the past. And I look at a lot of people that are successful, but do not have college degrees. And in my industry in construction, you know, your local plumber probably makes more than your doctor. You can have a wonderful life running a business and you didn’t go to college andou don’t have all that college debt. So I don’t think it’s a prerequisite to being successful. And so I didn’t really push you hard at all.
Emily: Mom was a lot more
Dad: She pushed you very hard, but I was very supportive. I think after our first conversation
Emily: Did I change your mind at all by watching my journey? This kind of ties into my last question. You always used to say to me, ‘Emily, you have to play the game before you can break the rules.’ Meaning you have to get a job, you have to go check those boxes and then you can go start your own business and do it that way, because that’s what you did. And that’s what you thought was the right path. But I obviously was like, no, and for me, my business was starting to already take off when I decided to leave college. And I felt, well, I’m not staying in this just for myself at this point. It’s not for me. And it’s costing me money. Did watching my journey change your mind at all about what’s possible?
Dad:Not as much as you, you might think. I still look at my three sons who, you know, they haven’t finished college, but two of them are still in. As far as what I think about a college degree, it teaches you how to think. Even though you may not do what your degree is in, it’s still accomplishing. And so I look at my time in, I majored in economics, but a lot of the classes I took taught me how to problem solve, how to be successful. I think that that is a lesson that’s very difficult to learn outside of college and just going straight to work because it’s, whatever you’re presented with, those are what you are challenged with. And this kind of gives you a more diverse experience. Having said that again, I still don’t think it’s necessary. If you can go, without debt, don’t go into debt, go to a junior college and then somewhere else or something. But, I still think for a lot of people it teaches you life skills. Again it’s not as necessary as it was back when I was a kid.
Emily: Absolutely. And I think my insane drive and discipline is the only reason why I’m able to go get all that experience without the traditional path. I think like for my brothers, for a few of them, it’s the right path for them to go to college because they wouldn’t start their business the same way that I did and throw themselves out there.
Dad: But then you have your oldest brother, his name is Brady. He started in college and he said, ‘Idon’t, I don’t want to do this’
Emily: Poor mom. She had high hopes. We were all gonna,
Dad: You guys are a total disappointment. Your next brother, he’s still hanging in there. And your youngest brother is finishing his first year and who knows? I hope someone’s gonna graduate from college
Emily: It’s actually crazy because he would’ve thought all four of us would’ve, if you look back 20 years ago or something and none of us have yet, but we’re all doing well. We just have different paths
Dad: No matter what your path it’s okay. You know there’s not a prerequisite. So if you don’t, you don’t um, I’m more interested in my kids being happy and healthy and successful like you.
Emily: All right. Well thank you so much for this impromptu interview. Is there anything, any last words of advice you wanna share?
Dad: Well, I am very proud of you and I don’t think I tell you that enough, you make me smile. When I think about you. When I get to tell my friends what you do or what I don’t know about what you do, I’m still very proud, guessing, regardless of the answer, they can tell that I’m very proud and I’m always smiling.
Emily: Well, I would not be here without my dad and his drive and example growing up. So thank you for being on the podcast. I think you’ll listen to this one. I’ll send it to you. All right. Send it to you. You’ll tune in and become a subscriber.
Emily Thanks so much everybody. I’ll talk to you on Thursday.
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