Devin MillerThe Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
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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no you do you need to know enough about finance to be able to speak the language and and i relate it to just communication like if i'm going to go to a foreign country if i know how to speak the language i'm going to have a much better trip than if i have no idea how to speak language and that doesn't mean that i've got to be like a professional speaker i've got to be you know a literary genius in that language but i've got to have a basic level of literacy [Music] hey 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 in the seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo miller ip law where he helps startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com and grab some time with us to chat now today we have another great guest on the podcast ryan murray and uh ryan started uh as entrepreneurship in uh pre-high school and uh he'll maybe give a little insight there but then really when he got married launched a catering business did that for about three years i've decided to spend some time learning how to run a business as opposed to just diving into a business and so went and got a degree in finance from westminster um and then also got an mba and uh with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and then wondered what he wanted to do after graduation so did a few internships while i was going through all of that but then sir quickly realized that he enjoyed working with entrepreneurs and so got into uh doing a bit of more mentoring coaching training and those type of things i'm looking at marketing and management and money and other keys that will uh help help individuals and entrepreneurs and i built the training program um did a few different programs and i've been doing that since uh 2014 and been growing the business ever since so with that much is introduction welcome on the podcast ryan wow thank you i appreciate it so i gave a much more condensed shortened version of what is a much longer journey so why don't we unpack that a bit so tell us how how your entrepreneur entrepreneurial journey got started and then uh we'll talk from there i i was gonna say you know i feel like when those people you know they get in a car accident they're like my life flash before my eyes i'm like wow listening to you my life flashed before my eyes and so no i i appreciate the introduction it it was actually don't die on us yet let's keep you with it [Laughter] but uh yeah my my entrepreneurial journey uh i i don't know that it uh was too obscure from what a lot of other entrepreneurs have done is you know they kind of they kind of start out at a young age with this idea of of entrepreneurship me personally i always say that entrepreneurship is a terminal disease once you have it you're never going to be cured from it and you know you might go on pause for a minute but you always kind of come back to it and and so when i when i was a kid i always kind of dabbled in in different things and a little bit more than you know the typical lemonade stand and uh yeah and so by the time i uh you know finished high school and was getting into uh getting into college i decided to launch this this catering company and i remember there was there was this pivotal moment for me when uh it was i was gearing up for an arts festival uh you know i was gonna be one of the food booths at this arts festival and it was a little bit after midnight uh i was still sitting there prepping food and needed to be up at five in the morning to get ready to to set up and i'm thinking myself i'm like it's after midnight i'm still working hard and i haven't even started yet like you know the day starts tomorrow at 5am and i'm already dead tired and it was a moment where i started thinking there's a better way to do this you know when when i was running my catering company so i did that for about three years and you know i mean technically i made it i turned a profit every single year and so you know by by some definitions you could say wow you know that that success is you know you're able to turn a profit in those first few years i'm like you know what yeah sure but there wasn't there wasn't growth i was working way too hard for my dollars i wasn't counting my hours if i would have given myself any sort of hourly wage above you know a buck 17 i wouldn't have been profitable and you know so it it just wasn't the right mix and and that pivotal pivotal moment uh allowed me to really think about entrepreneurship as more of a an art and less of a just dive in and start swimming so i decided to actually learn what i was doing and uh i went to westminster college and uh at first i was gonna just you won't get definitely get into westminster and that was there a tipping point in other words so you're working hard and i get that and first of all a lot of times you're saying man i work a lot of hours for not a lot of pay or you also tend to get burned out and you're saying you know this isn't where i want my life to go in the long run but was there kind of a tipping point or something to say was it just kind of slow transition to where one day to say no i'd like to or look at something else or is there a tipping point or kind of what causes you know kind of that going over going along for a period of time and saying i want to switch yeah yeah great question so for me the first year that i went out i just made all my mistakes and i sort of had in the back my mind that you know you're supposed to make mistakes everyone tells you as an entrepreneur it's just you make mistakes and you just keep on moving forward right and so i made all my mistakes and uh and i thought to myself okay my second year's gonna be better and and i got into my second year and man i had improved on so many things i i had refined my recipes i dialed in kind of who i was targeting in terms of customers uh you know i had dropped some of the events that were not very very good for us you know and i i kind of moved to better events um you know i i had figured up figured out how to do faster setups faster tear downs and and just really you know really kind of refine the process and at the end of year two there was not a significant difference between year one and year two like in terms of the bottom line it came out about the same and i thought to myself okay i need to make some you know some dramatic changes i i shouldn't just try and you know incrementally improve like i need to really shift things up and so so i went and you know kind of made some of these big shifts and at the end of year three there wasn't you know there there wasn't much change from year one two or three and and that to me was when i knew what i was doing wasn't making any sense because you know when when you're an entrepreneur there's something to be said about working hard and you know being willing to put in the long hours and and chase a dream but there's also something to be said about okay at some point you're not on the right road and you need to have the humility inside to recognize that so for me it was year three i remember talking to an entrepreneur once that they had gone seven years they owned a small boutique retail business on on main street and they had gone seven years and had never turned a profit in seven years and i just thought to myself what are you doing i mean at some point you got the wrong business model and so you know for me it was it was three years and i had had you know i had had a couple a couple moments like that one where i was just you know flat out exhausted thinking why am i doing this and you know realizing that it wasn't working correctly but it was really at the end of year three that i said you know what i've tried a lot of things i've experimented with a lot of things i'm on the wrong road it it's time to just you know pull off to the side and ask for directions hypothetically speaking you know and so so so that that's kind of what i did is uh is i i thought to myself there there's no growth happening here uh i'm beating my head against the wall sure i could go around and tell people yeah i own a business and you know kind of brag about it a little bit but deep down inside i knew that it wasn't what i wanted it wasn't getting me anywhere you know i wasn't quitting my day job over it that was for sure and uh and so it wasn't uh you know it wasn't right it was not the right fit i kind of think that that makes sense i mean you're going along and you see all those and i you know now i'll give it the the caveat is i think you get into your own business and you a lot of times you you have those thoughts no matter how hard or how well maybe at some point if you reach to a level of success but for most startups and small businesses saying you know is this worth it should i go back to just working for someone else or should i go do my own thing or you know that but i think that you know you also get that point of you have to look back and assess and say is there if i really see this as a long-term plan is this really what i want to do am i passionate about it or do i want to go to different directions so it sounds like you hit that tipping point so now you're saying okay i'm gonna go back to school and learn a little bit more about business and you went into finance and then went and got the mba and so you know coming out of those programs it sounded like you were still saying what do i want to do when you're trying to figure that out as far as now what do i do with this education or how do i position myself to something where it is sustainable that i do enjoy so how did you kind of as you're getting those degrees and coming out of it how did you figure out what you wanted to do yeah so uh for me it really was third time's a charm uh so you know the current business that i have marketing management and money um we we actually you know we've been going eight years strong and it's it's it's a great business model that works for me uh this is the third entrepreneurial attempt uh you know that that i took and so the first one was the catering company three years and i'm just like no that's not going to work the second one was kind of interesting so i had gone to school and you know i studied finance and i figured okay finance is the language of business now i'm going to know what i need to do there's a huge difference between learning corporate finance in you know in a college setting versus what startups actually do you know i'll just put that that little caveat out there but uh and you know and then i went and got an mba with emphasis in entrepreneurship and figured okay now i've got some education behind me let's do this again and i went and uh and i i actually went into very similar to what i what i'm doing now with my business uh but the the whole emphasis was on the marketing side of things and you know we were gonna do some marketing consulting that was supported by digital advertisement and uh we we had kind of an interesting uh i i had a really unique experience that that taught me a lot so we contracted with a company out of pittsburgh to manage all of the back end for the digital advertisements that we were going to do and so we were we were working with businesses putting together some you know digital advertisement packages and we had this company out of pittsburgh that was doing the back end support for us and it was interesting because as i was working with them all of a sudden i got to this point that i'm like uh something's not working you know like there's there's a serious problem and and i went and talked with the uh you know i talked with this company and there's like no everything's good on our end you know i'm like there's a serious problem serious problem a couple weeks go by and i'm like look there's got to be something wrong because this is just not working and so they dig into a little bit they're like oh we did a major coding error that broke everything i'm like oh yeah i'm glad that this is casual for you because it completely you know just ruined the the business that i was going after and you know and they wouldn't do anything about it and you know and so i ended up having to shut that business down because of a single coding error and that taught me to you know kind of like back up my core competencies you know if there's something that i profess to do that you know i'm going to have expertise in it needs to be something a little bit closer to home rather than you know going halfway across the united states you know relying on a on a partnership that i barely formed you know two months prior and so you know when i launched into it the third time i really went into it saying okay what are my strengths and i'm like you know what i'm really good at i'm really good at training like i i can work with companies and i can go in and i can get them to perform at a higher level like like that that's my specialty and so i built everything around what what i was good at because everything else it wasn't it wasn't what i was strong at it was stuff that i thought there was opportunity in you know i'm like oh yeah digital advertisement that's this is huge you know you look at today with how big you know pay-per-click is and amazon and all these huge players that are making you know billions of dollars off of all this advertisement but it wasn't my specialty and so even though there was tons of opportunity it didn't make sense for me and so i i guess one of the things that that i learned and i didn't learn this in college i learned this you know out doing it was to stick with your strengths you know understand where you fit in and where you're really good and leverage that and and that requires you to have a little bit of humility and say you know what there are things that i don't do i mean i'll do marketing trainings and this is this this took me a while to understand you know like i'll go in and train small businesses on how to do their marketing successfully but they'll come to me and they'll be like okay i want to talk about social media and digital advertisement and i'll just flat out tell them i'm not your guy you know what i will talk about how that fits into your marketing strategy but you need someone who has that technical expertise and and i i felt like because i did these marketing trainings that i had to know everything there was to know about marketing i'm like no no i need to understand how to put together strategy because that's what i teach you know and so i stuck to my strengths i stuck to what i was good at and that's how i've had a successful company for eight plus years you know is just sticking with what what makes sense and what yeah i think that makes sense now one question i'll ask is in one sense you're moving out of entrepreneurship and on the other and you're in other words you're helping other entrepreneurs be successful which is a bit of a different approach on the other hand you're still having to run a business you're still having to find clients you're still having to provide that service and otherwise assist them and so you know in a sense you're still a startup you're still small business so what do you think was the difference or the the shift was it the hey i'm now more you know enjoying passionate or whatever you know whatever the buzzword you want to use but you know that there's something there that this is what i enjoy doing and so that now the aspects of startups and small business entrepreneurship is something i i tend to enjoy was it more of the shift and the type of business or service you were providing or kind of what or what aspect was it that lended it to being more successful within that given avenue when some of the other entrepreneurial endeavors you found that it wasn't what you're enjoying yeah you know so i don't know that i would use the word enjoy um that's kind of an interesting thing uh you know like i uh my wife asked me just the other day she's like so do you enjoy what you do and i'm like well i'm bribed with money and you know like if if the money stopped i would stop doing i would i would you know i would spend my time like out hiking around because that's that's what i really and like you don't have to pay me to go hiking but you do have to pay me if you want me to come and provide my services and so so i'm like if you look at enjoyment i'm like do i enjoy helping businesses absolutely do i enjoy making a difference absolutely you know that that to me um i i guess and and i'll i'll get back to your questions in just a second but what really what really gets me going is when i can sit down uh with a company you know so i i had this opportunity where i you know i i had uh this company attend one of it's our growth by the numbers training it's our finance training one of our more popular and they they sat through this training and they came up to me at the lunch break and they said i just want you to know that i've done tons of financial trainings this is the most relevant that i've ever seen for small businesses and i thought it was a huge compliment i'm like wow this is wonderful that you know it made a difference for them and then at the end of the training they came to me and they said hey could you help us implement some of this stuff and i'm like oh okay yeah you know what are you thinking they're like what are you doing now like oh wow you're serious and they're like yeah we literally want you to come check out our business now and so i'm like well let me let me wrap up with the training finish up what i'm doing you know and so i went over to their business and i sat down with them for a couple hours and literally in a couple hours i saved them between about ten to twenty thousand dollars of you know a simple mistake that they were making and you know and and i walked out of there like feeling like one i you know well learned what they paid me and two i made a huge difference for them because this was ongoing that they were going to see these savings you know in their business and so that to me is is really where i kind of found my groove and where i found my passion now now tying that back into the question that you were asking is i needed to realize that that was where i needed to be um you know like i i love one one of my skill sets is being able to relate well with what is happening in a small business you know being able to understand what what some of the real challenges and the real problems are and and so i developed training models around that you know trying to keep it very real and authentic and and not so much shark tank style where i'm like yeah sure there's nothing wrong with shark tank but you got to realize that that's like a really small minority of businesses they're going to fit the shark tank model the majority of businesses are guys that you know they they run a quick lube joint they they run a restaurant they they run a bookkeeping service and and it's not flashy it's not exciting but they still are entrepreneurs and they still have passion and i've been able to connect with with those types of businesses and so for me for my own business we realized that our target market was the the real entrepreneur as we like to call it you know the the people who make up 80 to 90 percent of the small businesses you know across the united states that they're just they're just doing their business they're just out there you know doing what they're what they're good at and they need a little bit of support complementing the you know the the money side of things the management side of things the marketing side of things you know and that's where we really shine is coming in we don't we don't consult you know i i've done consulting before i've enjoyed consulting um i'm i'm pretty good at consulting but that's not you know that's that's not the that's not the mix that you know that those are not my secret herbs and spices no and i think that makes uh that makes perfect sense and you know what i don't know you raise an interesting question which is i tend to use the word enjoy in a sense if i had unlimited funds would i come in and work i'm i still might i mean i i have a sense of i love to build things and to grow things but there is a point of would there be a trade-off to where i may not work as much or i may adjust that sure but i think that there is a level of enjoyment you can still find within a business or a startup first or maybe it's a relative term in other words hey i don't like working for someone else and if i'm going to by necessity of life i have to earn an income and i have to pay the bills and if i'm going to do something relative to working for someone else or doing this other job over here i enjoy it much more now maybe i'm not as saying as is what my passion about or what i would do with unlimited funds so that is a fair point or an interesting question and and this is something that i like to bring up with entrepreneurs because a lot of people they love what they do and so they automatically want to turn it into a business and i'm like there's a difference between a hobby and a business you can be going through the exact same actions but i've seen so many people hate their passions once they turn it into a business and i'm like you got to understand like why are you why are you wanting to turn this into a business you know is is it that you really want to be an entrepreneur or is it that you're just super passionate about that and some things you know you see this a lot with artists like my wife she she's an amazing singer a phenomenal singer and you know she gets asked all the time to sing and she does like these community concerts and different things like that and she's kind of a little bit of a local celebrity and she always talks about oh i want to go big i'm like um do you want to go big because you're having a lot of fun right now like you really enjoy it and i'm not sure that you would enjoy it if you were you know having to travel constantly to you know to sing to a different audience all the time i'm like you know maybe you've got a good thing maybe you should just leave it a hobby and and and be okay with that but other things you know the passion comes in growing a business i mean there's a lot of satisfaction in providing you know great jobs for people and you know providing great products and services like that that has its own level of satisfaction so yeah it's and i agree and you know that we and that's an area where you can chat i'm sure for quite a long time in the sense that you know it's interesting i i left i worked for some very large law firms over the the space of my career before starting my own and i always think you know i always think well you know most attorneys is hey i want to go and just become a huge behemoth law firm and that's my passion and when i start a law firm and i think you know what growth is good and i want to make a good income and i want to be sustainable on the other hand do i want to become a huge law firm to where you have hundreds of attorneys and you're having multiple offices does that sound fun and i think to your point is sometimes that doesn't sound fun and it's you know the it would lose uh what is does make things enjoyable or what makes it fun to come into the office you would lose some of that so i think that's a fair point and we can now we could talk on that all day and i'm sure it would be it maybe we'll have to have you back on for a you know an expert episode and we can dive into that a bit more um but in the meantime is as we're getting back a bit to the the journey and which is happens to be the folks of the podcast um so we bring ourselves up to you know kind of where you're at today and how you're helping other businesses and how you find that that's where you're kind of your sweet spot or the the area that at least i would say enjoy it however we uh defied that enjoy it i mean don't get me wrong i love what i do but you know so now as we've got to uh caught up to a bit of the the present you know i always ask you questions as we talk through the journey as we reach the present portion of the journey which is so along your journey as you've now come up to where you're at today what was the worst business decision you ever made and what'd you learn from it so you know i don't know that i could pinpoint it down to one worst business decision but there's been a recurring theme and that is um like who you partner with and so so first off i think that every business has partnerships whether you're in a formal partnership or whether you just have you know people who they might be mentors they might be advisors they might be a spouse you know but you've got to be so selective with who you partner with and so all of my you know regrets business related i can always pinpoint down to a partnership that i wish that i either would not have been in at all or i wish that i would have not taken as you know seriously as i did you know when i talk about that that second business that i did that fell apart because i jumped into you know the the company that we were working with they weren't a bad company there was nothing wrong with the company they just weren't qualified to do the level of work that we wanted done and so i formed a partnership with them thinking that they were just as excited about my success as i was i'm like no they weren't they were collecting a paycheck and you know i was just i was paying them for a service that was a little bit over their heads and and so you know i i i look at at like who who do i partner with and and are those the right people and you know i could say the the the flip side of that is the best moves that i've ever made in business have always been connecting with the right person and that can be a formal partner that could be connecting with the right customer you know i mean like i i've got this one customer she is amazing and i look at how much business has grown because of her like she goes and and just you know every time that i've done a training for her she'll tell you know three other people and and like just i get these quality contracts that are all coming from her and i'm like that's the type of partnership that i want to have so to me i i think that we we don't recognize how critical to our success partnerships are and just the right partnerships they they make your business the wrong partnerships they break oh and i think that that's an absolute a great takeaway and i think that one you know one thing you hit on is that oftentimes you think people either whether it's partner and employees that are coming into the business that they're going to work every bit as hard as i am and they're going to be as passionate and they're going to love it and they're going to just work the nights and the weekends or whatever it takes to be successful then you get in and say no they're not like and that's not a bad thing it's not that you're you're probably putting a unrealistic expectation on them to say they're not going to be the same as a person that starts a business they may not have that and some people are there you know and it sounds like you know you say they're for a paycheck and that's not a bad thing they're if they're doing a good job they're providing a lot of work yeah they're doing a great job they're helping you build your business that's what they're there for and you should just recognize that but i think that when you then change that from is an employee or is it you know a contract or something else you as a partner you got to make sure that those are the people you really are or pat that are going to be worthwhile to make and or they're going to be passionate and otherwise and you that you want to take on a partner put aside that whether they're a good fit some people and i'm probably in that boat i don't want a lot of partners i don't know if i want any partners just because not that they're bad but i like to be in control i'd like to say hey i want to decide the direction for my business i want to maybe be able to make the decisions i don't want to have to do decisions by committee i want to know if we if we do well then it's because i mean if we don't do well i have no one else to play with myself and on and on and so i think that you raise a lot of interesting points with that second question i always ask is if you're talking to somebody that's just getting into a startup or a small business would be the one piece of advice you'd give them so i i know that i kind of uh downplayed this a little bit and so i'm glad you're asking this question to give me a chance to uh to uh just kind of clarify uh what i stated earlier with i i went to school and i got this degree in corporate finance and i said you know corporate finance and small business finance you know they're so unrelated however finance is the language of business and one of the things that i think is absolutely critical is every entrepreneur i in my mind i put no exception to this i don't care what you know i mean you you're uh you're a legal firm right and you're a legal firm who does a podcast so you could argue you're like well i don't necessarily need to have you know this this understanding financials because that's not what i do and i'm like no you do you need to know enough about finance to be able to speak the language and and i relate it to just communication like if i'm going to go to a foreign country if i know how to speak the language i'm going to have a much better trip than if i have no idea how to speak language and that doesn't mean that i've got to be like a professional speaker i've got to be you know a literary genius in that language but i've got to have a basic level of literacy and i think that's one of the mistakes that entrepreneurs make is they assume that because they're an amazing you know uh web developer that they don't have to worry about finance i'm like no finance is the language of business you need to speak enough that that you can see what's happening and and know where it's going and so the advice that i would give kind of get summed up in if you don't have a basic understanding of small business finance get one and and spend the time reviewing your financials and and just being you know being current it doesn't actually take that much time but it gets ignored by so many entrepreneurs and so don't ignore the finance learn what you need to learn you'll be so much happier with whatever business endeavor you're in oh and i think that that's absolutely great great piece of advice and great takeaway so well now as we wrap up with the podcast if people want to reach out to you they want to be a customer they want to be a client they want to hire you they want to be an employee they want to be an investor they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out to you contact you find out more so uh email is going to be the best ryan at marketing management marketingmanagementmoney.com you can check out our podcast it's marketing management and money uh or you can go to our website marketingmanagementmoney.com and check out the different trainings that we offer the different programs that we have we would love to love to connect and uh love to meet new people who who are interested in the entrepreneurial journey all right well i definitely encourage everybody to reach out connect and find out more and with that thank you again for coming on the podcast it's been fun it's been a pleasure now for all of you that are listeners if you have your own journey to tell and you'd like to be a guest on the podcast we'd love to have you just go to inventiveguest.com why to be on the show um a couple more things make sure to listen make sure to subscribe make sure to share make sure to leave a review because what we want to do is make sure that everybody finds out about all these awesome journeys and they can find helpful on their own journey and last but not least you ever need help with patents trademarks or anything else with your business feel free to go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us to chat well thank you again ryan and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thank you [Music] you