One of my goals for 2019 was to do more blogging. So far, I’m at a whopping two posts this year. Not a typo – one every six months. Far short of what I wanted, but completely aligned with a key aspect of business (or life). Unless you have a plan for achieving the things you want, those ‘goals’ quickly go by the wayside due to a lack of focus on execution. So this blog post is my first, of at least a dozen that I will be writing over the next 12 months on the topic of owning and running a small business.
Before we get started, a little background on me. I started life as an IT Business Analyst after graduating from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire in 1999. (For those working in IT at that time, this was when everyone was working crazy hours getting ready for ‘Y2K’ - there was all this worry about what would happen when the clock struck midnight on Jan 1, 2000. It’s easy to laugh about it now, but it was a BIG DEAL back then!). I’ve worked at a couple of the largest companies in the Twin Cities, with roles ranging from highly technical IT work to training development/delivery. Along the way, I finished my MBA (don’t hold this against me!) at Augsburg College. While I enjoyed working at large companies, I really wanted to try and put the knowledge I learned while getting my MBA to use. My logic was simple – if I didn’t start using what I had learned, it would quickly be lost. Rather than just jump ship from my day job to start something new, I decided to start a small business on the side.
This new business had to be fun, outdoorsy, and include my family. It was important that it didn’t feel like the work I was used to doing. It was 2010, and SUP was just starting to take off, especially on the west coast. There were some articles in magazines, but local outdoor retail establishments in the Midwest hadn’t yet taken notice. I had grown up canoeing, owned a kayak, and knew that SUP would have appeal. My wife DeeDee, encouraging me to move from ‘talking’ about owning a business to taking the next step, was ‘on board’ (pun intended).
We set up an LLC, found a board manufacturer out of CA to supply us with product, built a website, and started demoing boards at local lakes that summer. We sold more than we thought we would (expectations were NOT high) and started distributing boards to other outdoor retailers in the Midwest during 2011. We continued to build the business, while still working our regular jobs, until 2013. At that point, I accepted a position as sales director for the SUP company I had been distributing for and left my corporate gig. I worked as a sales director until 2016 then decided it was time to venture back out on my own, and The Grey Duck Group was born. Today, we not only manufacture SUP, but I also work as an independent sales representative for multiple outdoor brands with a longtime friend. While I’d love to say my life is rainbows and unicorns every day, I’d be lying. Life is full of ups and downs, and operating a business (even your own), is full of surprises. Over the next few months, I’ll be writing on these topics. I hope you not only find them interesting but that it spurs thought and interaction – perhaps even you pushing back on my point of view. Here’s a shortlist of topics I’m planning on writing about (subject to change and not in any order!):
- Following your passion (and why that still means work)
- The benefits of starting small (why the “side hustle” works)
- The Importance of Grit
- Riding the Roller Coaster (high highs and low lows)
- Understanding Risk and reframing the worst-case scenario
- Making and keeping promises to yourself and others
- Thinking a year or two ahead tactically, 10+ strategically
- Comfortable being uncomfortable
- The ground game requirement
- You can’t be a solopreneur (Nothing is ‘self-made’)
- Failure is a myth
So, there you have it. I have blog topics that I want to write about, and a timeframe I want to cover them in. We’ll also be blogging on SUP related topics along the way, so hopefully, it will be a good mix.