The Inventive Journey
Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Have FunIt's going to cost you more than you ever thought it was going to cost and, it's going to take more time than you ever thought it was going to take to get where you want to go. That being said, have fun. If you're not having fun starting a business, and that includes all of the angst that comes with it, you need to back up the truck a little bit. When it stopped being fun for me, that's when the juice starts going out of it and I needed to reinvent myself.
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The Inventive Journey
Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.
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it's going to cost you more than you ever thought it was going to cost and it's going to take more time than you ever thought it was going to take to get where you want to go and that being said have fun i mean really if you're not having fun starting a business and that includes all of the angst that comes with it you need to back up the truck a little bit i mean when it when it stopped being fun for me that was when the juice starts going out of it and i needed to reinvent myself [Music] everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups into seven and eight figure businesses as well as a founder and ceo of miller ip law where we help start up some businesses with patents and trademarks and if you ever need help just go to strategymeeting.com and we're always here to help now on today's podcast we have another great guest and it's blaine and bart or bartlett hopefully i don't mess up the name i always struggle with those but uh blaine is is a quick introduction so he grew up on a farm in oregon um and uh nature was he he says nature was his biggest teacher and so as he went off got a degree we got in marketing and business uh did an exchange program in the netherlands and he worked for a newspaper for a while and then evolved over to the human potential industry and he's worked in asia and middle of the u.s worked for bell labs for a while which i think if i remember right bell labs is now part of a t um worked for nokia and wish him initiatives and then um had his uh wife of uh i think 20 years or so um passed on and he decided to step back make a change and that kind of led him to now where he's at today and he'll get into a little bit more of that journey so if that much is an introduction welcome on the podcast blaine hey devon it's good to be here thanks for the invitation absolutely so i gave the very quick run-through of your journey but let's go back in time a little bit so you grew up on a farm in oregon and uh you nature's your biggest teacher so tell us a little about it good yeah yeah grew up in the willamette valley uh yeah eugene springfield oregon you know university of oregon um track capital of the world all that good kind of stuff steve yeah steve prefontaine and we had a small little family farm and some of my earliest memories i mean pre-dating actually the farm was um you know having big open spaces in the backyard and my brothers and i i mean yeah this was you know back in the 50s yeah which will hate me just a bit here but we'd go out and just wander and it was fine i mean mom you know always trusted that we'd you know we'd get back home in time um but we had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of acres yeah in the back side of the house here and so i just go out and i just fumble around outside and i was always marveling just at the way that things grew and just the seasonality in oregon definitely there was you know definite seasons um that kind of uh hallmarked the passage of time and each season obviously had a growth cycle or a death cycle uh associated with it a transition of some sort so uh when we actually moved to the farm and uh you know hit my chores i mean the cows needed to be milked uh the hay needed to be uh brought in i mean all of that sort of stuff has seasonality to it but more importantly and this is really i think the root of this um everything was connected there was nothing that stood by itself and when i went to university you know economics you know the dismal art i started just kind of you know getting cognizant of uh some of the things that adam smith spoke about um when he wrote the wealth of nations and uh the the one thing that always kind of fascinated me was his notion around the invisible hands of commerce yeah that invisible hand notion which was predicated on enlightened self-interest yeah i scratch your back you scratch my back you know we're mutual trading partners you have to benefit if i'm going to benefit and if it was just unilateral it was not going to work long term and the whole notion of the invisible hands was predicated on something smith uh had written about 16 years before 16 17 years before the wealth of nations and it was called the theory of moral sentiment it was essentially a treatise on on connection uh yeah everything being connected and it was in part written to uh counteract some of the stuff that was going on uh with rene descartes and blaise pascal which you know i think therefore i am separation man becoming separated and i use man generically here man becoming separated from nature um yeah and uh and standing on his you know mankind's own yeah kind of the uber uh yeah we are the overlord here that's not the case um the only free market economy that i have ever been able to find is nature everything else is constrained in some way and it's constrained by self-interest and that kind of fast forwards where you know ayn rand you know kind of comes into play a little bit here uh milton friedman um rational self-interest um doing things that serve me it's rational for me to behave this way it's rational for us to hike our prices and increase our profit margin and the hell with the rest um that sort of stuff so that begins you know to dilute and pollute you know what would be an ideal around a free market economy so nature i'm going to go all the way back to this and when you look at nature nature doesn't aggregate nature doesn't do things just for the sole purpose of accumulation it's a center of distribution everything in nature serves as a center of distribution in some way shape or form and that center of distribution notion is really important i think so now now help help me tie this together so certainly understand that you got you know nature and how it all applies and where that would there be applicable now how did that and then you went off to university now how did that go with your career because i think you started out in the newspaper industry and then you started to shift over to the human potential so how did you one you know how did you make that transition how do you make a business out of that and how do you make you know you know make a career out of that so to speak and you know how did that play out over the the course of your uh your journey yeah no that's a great question that that that that that migration uh you know when i'd like to think that there was or i'd like yeah i don't want people to think i would like to think that there was some green master plan there really wasn't here um so my experience in nature growing up on the farm actually provided kind of a philosophical foundation and philosophical in the sense of beginning to kind of frame how life could be you know it was an orientation it was a context it was a placeholder so i get into university and i get into traditional business and you mentioned uh my work uh i went to school in the netherlands uh the international school of business there was a it was an exchange program a junior year abroad so to speak and that's where i was first introduced with you know to iran uh fountainhead atlas shrugged it was kind of like oh my god this and growing up in the the west of the united states self-reliance you know you know you pull yourself up by your own bootstraps i mean ayn rand's works really resonated with me yeah and just as a complete aside that's one of my favorite book slash movies you know the movie series i still enjoyed it it was one where it was kind of a bit more disjointed as they had to do movies over a period of time and it certainly won just as a side note that i i'm i'm certainly a big fan of the the work as well exactly and yeah and so there was that piece but there was also curiosity i mean i'm a voracious reader so i started reading real early i started reading when i was about four years old uh literally truly started reading when i was about four years old um i had finished uh you know well we won't go into that that's a that's a rabbit hole but in terms of the reading um very eclectic uh carlos castanada uh abraham maslow i mean i would read anything and everything i can get my hands on and i started connecting dots and one of the things that began to emerge for me as i started moving out of university and into having to make a living for myself was a realization that most every organization i had ever experienced having experience with was toxic in some way and by toxic i mean toxic to the human spirit so now before we dive into what you're doing today let's talk just a little bit more kind of what that sir started as a newspaper and then he decided hey i'm going to switch over to now you talked a little bit about human potential industry before when we chatted was that when you were working in asia and when you work in the us or bell labs or was that more of a traditional job or how did you know what what did you do when you were working for that period of your career i worked my way through through school basically and in uh in eugene oregon um yeah i had you know contact at the uh the local newspaper i mean and i i worked you know at weyerhaeuser i we have timber industry you know worked in sawmills i mean just summer jobs and that kind of stuff i mean i started working when i was about eight years old um my dad was a serial entrepreneur but the newspaper came along and it was uh as a college student you know a nice way to just kind of yeah pay the rent um as i was going through school and uh after i got out of out of university um they offered me a job and then it was in marketing and well circulation circulation advertising sales uh so it did work there and then and this was serendipitous um my roommate at the time um still you know one of my best friends in the world he ended up actually managing the paper uh he said to me yeah there's this program i'm doing i think you'd really enjoy it and it was one of the very first human potential development programs uh that were being offered back in the early 1970s mid-1970s and uh i said well i got nothing else to do today i may as well go was a five-day program and so i went and absolutely blew my socks off uh it took the intellectual construct of maslow's hierarchy of self-actualization being the pinnacle up here and actually gave me an experience of what that could be like yeah self-actualization as a concept is interesting but as an experience it blows your doors off it absolutely does because it removes anything around being a victim in life yeah my life is mine to to to to produce yeah nobody and nothing uh if when i'm assigning blame to something out there uh basically i've given my power away and kind of consistent with ein rand in one way but but there was a more uh elegant component to it that i wanted to play with and that's where we started looking at its application in business so now so how so you kind of had this as an idea now how did you start to apply to your business or to your career or where did that take you yeah well when i took that class like i said and one thing kind of led to another i ended up taking most of their programs and then they asked me if i'd come to work with them and i said yes i mean it was kind of like a dream job for me uh but yeah what was interesting around it and this is kind of yeah nature of stat uh stasis you know nature i mean nature wants to grow everything wants to grow in nature it you know looks for expression and there was this latent piece and you know maslow talked about human potential yeah potential is another word for the spirit wanting to grow you know wanting to express itself in in in myriad forms so i said yes to this and i had never done any uh you know public speaking and this was you know this is what we did was we had public speaking yeah we would hold live programs with thousands of people so i found myself on stage yeah with you know all kinds of eyeballs looking back at me and you know there's a lot of studies that say you know public speaking is the number one fear that most people have it supersedes even dying yeah there's a fear that people you know kind of wrestle with so i stepped into that and um and really started exploring what it meant to be alive and to tap in now that's kind of a personal experience we started looking at in the business you know at that point in time how could some of these notions be taken back into traditional business and notions that i'm speaking specifically with here are awareness you know becoming more aware energy follows awareness energy follows attention what am i noticing what am i paying attention to i also wanted to start looking at how do we bring responsibility yeah acting with responsibility as causality back into business rather than people waiting around to be told what to do what if they actually acted responsible for the outcomes that they were experiencing in their organization that started to address some of the toxicity because most organizations will squash the spirit uh just to uh create compliance do what i said that's somehow so now just to help people kind of move along so get get kind of the concept idea now let's take it a little bit to the practicality of you know give me an idea so you went to bell labs or you went to a t or nokia were you running these programs later or kind of give us an idea of how if you have all these ideas and all this concept and how to apply it what companies did you actually do it at or where did you actually take that yeah the um well when i left that in you know that industry so to speak yeah i got you know i was kind of like i've been there and done this you know done what i did and i was looking really for application in business and the company that i was with wasn't doing that so i got hooked up with a consulting firm and the first gig that we did uh was with bethlehem steel now bethlehem's not around any longer but at the time it was one of the largest steel producers in the world one real quick so give me an idea on kind of timing so is this 1970 1980 yeah this would have been late late 70s early 80s yeah actually bethlehem was late 70s and the the year that we started working with them that i started working with them they had lost 1.4 billion dollars and that was real money back then it's real money today as well money today um we had made a promise when we actually guaranteed our result we said look i think yeah and we were brought in as part of a uh an initiative to close some plants because and this was uh reduction in forest the rifts i mean all that kind of stuff and some of our initial studies as a consulting firm said that we if we can get some concessions if we can get some work practices shifted if we can get some things done differently we might be able to profitably keep open some of these plants some of these facilities so um part of the contractual uh structure was we will guarantee a result and if we don't get the result you know we'll pay the money back sort of a thing um so we went in and part of my charter going in was to develop programmatic approaches that would address labor and management as a mechanism by which we could begin to get some of this stuff done and specifically that had to do with some of the stuff that we had been doing in the public public development personal development space how do we bring that in an appropriate way into a business environment so we had to you know work with linguistic structures and a number of different things um yeah net story on the short and a pretty long story and we were in there for a couple of years we did we did what we promised and we we kept these mills open and saved jobs and it was for me proof of concept one of the guys i was working with at the time um was heading over to japan to head up an organization and he said i think i'm gonna need some help over there would you be interested this is how i got into asia so i went over loved what i was seeing we ended up creating the largest consultancy in asia at the time human resource consultancy we ended up working with most of the major global companies that were doing business in asia american express apple i mean we we we worked with you know european as well as american firms um again with this sort of information this sort of uh modality and we're very successful you know and we in that actually begin the uh the move back to the states you know we uh we're looking around we're going well what's next and we wanted to move the company headquarters back to the states it was founded by an american and he wanted to come home so he had a contact in uh at t specifically in in the bell labs portion of at t at the time and that was the initial contract back into the uh the phone system and this is right after divestiture shortly after you know at t had been broken up and we ended up developing four major major training programs educational programs management and leadership development programs that were used within the att system for years as a way to kind of move them into dealing with the consequence of divestiture and bell labs was certainly amongst that because the bell labs when we went in uh was a pure r d center they they they did nothing that was organized around uh a conversation of margin or profit you know they would just invent stuff and after divestiture they now had to justify their existence within a context of a of a p l and that shift in purpose that shift in mission was highly disruptive and that's you know well that's where a lot of our work came into play how do you handle that disruption so now now let's let's take this just because i want to make sure to have enough time to talk about what you're doing today bringing it forward just a bit so you've been doing that for a period of time and i think you worked with everything from bail labs 18t american express apple starbucks a whole bunch of different ones as an independent contractor and then i think you mentioned when we chatted before the podcast about 10 years ago you lost your your wife and you had you took a step back and you decided to reevaluate things and look at how you were doing things and make a bit of a shift or a change is that right yep yeah yeah just in terms of chronology uh with that consulting firm that i was working with one that we came back from asia with i'd gone about as far as i could it was it was a closely held company and and i was getting itchy so i i branched out on my own i started my own company in 87 and we ended up with offices in four different countries uh so i mean it was a great run you know we really were doing some amazing stuff this is where nokia came into play i i developed and led a good chunk of nokia's global leadership initiative for about 12 years and we were all over the world um and then in 1990 i'm sorry in not 1990 in 2010 uh you know and i had gotten married in that period shortly after uh i'd founded the company my wife contracted multiple myeloma a uh bone cancer basically it's a plasma cancer and you know long battle but she ended up dying in 2010 and by that time 2010 i'd had the company for 13 years uh well 97 you know what a little bit more 23 years i think it was i the wind was going out of my sails a little bit i could do what i was doing pretty much by rote and it was very lucrative yeah we were you know lifestyle was great but when pam died it i mean it literally pulled the rug out from under my life in in so many ways as you can probably imagine um it was an existential crisis yeah yeah and i you know i mean to be a bit dramatic about it yeah everything that i believed was called into question including how i was working my business so i took a year off i mean i literally you know we had contracts in place we honored the contracts and whatnot but i started shrinking the company and part of that had to do with taking a look at just how i was doing what i was doing particularly from the messaging perspective if i had if i had to work with another client to achieve quarterly goals i was going to shoot somebody uh because nature doesn't work in that kind of a sequence uh again i don't go back to nature here there was a uh i had i had i had gotten separated from what got me started and pam's death actually reconnected to me to what was important uh in life which is relationship yeah how do i actually sustain create and maintain high quality relationships in all areas of my life and i came to actually kind of believe and and appreciate that that's all any organization is a collection of people that are in relationship now they're obviously in relationship with each other but they're also in relationship with values they're in relationship with vision they're in relationship with goals they're in relationship with ip yeah and and the problem with change isn't the change itself it's the disruption to the relationships that change causes and and people aren't schooled in how to handle that yeah they yeah leaders aren't schooled in how to deal with relationship disruption you know they they get dogmatic they give me a i'm the boss do what i say just go out and get that goal you know yeah and bring the game back that sort of a thing and it's a relationship process that we are missing opportunities around because if the relationships are working well in the organization you're going to have a successful organization so now now so take me to now where you're at today so you had you know you did that for a period of career had a life-changing event unfortunately with the passing year of her wife and they gave you a reason to pause and re-evaluate you made that change and you said we're going to change the messaging the way we do things so where does that put you at today what are you guys doing today and you know how how is that affected where you're at today the last well this is now 2021 so the last 11 years uh has been probably one of the most fruitful one of the most creative and one of the most productive times of my life and it's also been one of the most joyful um the company's not as big as it was and that's fine uh i've really come to appreciate that business is not the goal uh impact is is the goal and so in answer to that question i think what we're doing today is having more impact with a broader scope of people and a broader um range of uh conversation or with a broader range of conversations i mean i've touched literally a million lives yeah with the work i'm doing and uh yeah i've directly worked with over 300 000 people directly worked with over 300 000 people and a good chunk of that has happened in the last 11 years um yeah we're we're we're looking at modern ways that we deliver messaging in in completely different ways than we ever have before um i mean certainly there's a lot of stuff technologically that have come into play i mean in the pandemic it certainly brought a lot of that to the forefront uh but we're delivering programmatic uh material in in virtual environments i'm working right now with the uh with vr as a way to actually develop deliver some of the work that we do um yeah yeah so so now yeah go ahead plenty more things that we could talk about then we'll probably have time and lots of fun rabbit holes to go down that i would love to but as we're reaching we try you know we keep the podcast about 30 minutes so that nobody falls asleep and uh as we reach towards the end of the podcast i always ask two questions and so we've kind of reached that point in the podcast so maybe we'll jump to those now so the first question is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what did you learn from it [Laughter] um worst business decision i made um i think i think it was taking on a partner without really asking myself for the sake of what i mean it seemed you know it seemed logical to take the partner on i mean it was a natural evolution of the business just in terms of some of the things we're doing but the value fit wasn't there um yeah yeah she um she was coming from a different perspective and i mean in hindsight i can look back at um some of the conversations we had early on where some red flags were actually uh you know tossed up uh because the money has never been a driver for me for her it was the sole driver um and uh there was a a real bumping of heads that kind of you know came into play there so i mean that was probably the worst decision i ever made fortunately we were able to rectify it in a relatively short period of time not without some some angst but uh yeah it ended up working and it taught me a huge lesson uh to pay attention to values uh you know going forward and and that one has never left me i've yeah my oldest client has been with me for about 33 years now i've had partners since then and um and as a matter of fact i ended up building the business uh into the different countries that we ended up working with solely based on values fit yeah as opposed to uh what can they do for me yeah sort of a question you know and i think that that's an insightful thing both on you know things that we learn or mistakes made and things that you learn so now as we jump to the second question which is if you're talking to someone that's just getting into a startup or small business what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them um it's going to cost you more than you ever thought it was going to cost and it's going to take more time than you ever thought it was going to take to get where you want to go and that being said have fun i mean really if if you're not having fun starting a business and and that includes all of the angst that comes with it you need to back up the truck a little bit um when it stopped being fun for me that was when the juice starts going out of it and i and i needed to reinvent myself no and i i completely agree with you in the sense if you're not having fun then what's a little bit the point of doing the or being in the business or doing the business so i think that's certainly a good m or message or a good lesson to take to heart yeah so you know you'll go ahead i'm sorry no he's going to say as we wrap up and you know as we reach the end of the podcast now people want to find out more about your business they want to find out more about you they want to use your services they want to hire as a consultant they want to be an investor an employee be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out to you connect up or find out more you can go to my website my personal website blainebartlet.com or you can go to my company website avatarresources.com and a lot of them i mean not a lot all of the work i do is organized around what i'm calling compassionate capitalism and uh yeah i wrote a book on that i've written six books and there are five books now i'm on the sixth right now um and then people can find out much more about what i'm up to by you know getting those i'm books i'm not i'm not promoting the books right now if you want to find out more about me blaine bartlett.com is probably the easiest one and the work i'm doing is avatarrresources.com all right well i definitely encourage everybody to check out both websites reach out to blaine learn how to have that compassionate capital in your uh in your businesses and how to leverage that to even there to be continue to be even more successful well it's been a pleasure to have you on blaine now for all of you that are listeners if you uh would like to tell your journey feel free to apply to be on the podcast just go to inventiveguest.com if you want to uh and if you are a listener make sure to click subscribe as well as leave a review of the podcast so that every both you can get notifications as all the episodes come out and everybody can find out about the podcast as well last but not least if you ever need any help with patents and trademarks feel free to reach out to us at millerip law just go to strategymeeting.com and grab some time to chat well thank you again blaine it's been fun it's been a pleasure and i wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thank you devin yours as well thank you you English (auto-generated) All Recently uploaded