The Breakdown EP 15: Dan Alarik on Perseverance and Leader Building


– Are we good? – Alright. Hello everybody. It is Monday, November 20th. Bitcoin is over $8,000 so maybe buy in. Net neutrality is on its death
bed for like the 11th time. Contact your local maybe Congressman. They know that’s a bad thing. We have Marquel Smith here. Lead programmer as well as Jessie Munoz, might see him the last few weeks, also a Marine Corps veteran. And the audio works. Welcome to the Breakdown. (upbeat music) – Cool, so we are back here. Welcome, it’s Monday November 20th. How are you doing? Marquel, will you introduce yourself? – So I’m Marquel Smith. I’m the founder of Outspoken Studios. We create dope tee shirts and apparel around stuff we care about. You can actually visit our
website, outspokenstudios.com and find out about what we’re going to do for Black Friday. Cus we’re going to release a new product. We’re designing one new product everyday. – Amazing. And Jessie, just because
the audio last week was a little off, why don’t
you introduce yourself? – Sure. So my name’s Jessie Munoz. I am the owner and creator of the Elite Amateur Fight League. We are, basically, the NCAA
version of mixed martial arts. We had an awesome national
championship on the Marine Corps birthday a couple weeks ago. It’ll all air on NBC
sports regional networks first quarter 2018. – [Guy] That’s amazing. And then we also have the
very special guest today, Dan Alarik, who’s the
founder of Grunt Style. We’ll tune in with him in a minute. Right before that I just
want to say last week we launched a campaign. We’re trying to get
1,000 military veterans to start businesses. This campaign over the next
two months we’re trying to accumulate a lot of people to sign up. It’s called Launch Lab online. You can go to
bunkerlabs.org/launchlabonline. We’ve built up this ten
week linear entrepreneurship eduction platform. Actually Marquel is in
the class that we film. We film this class, we film the journey of five entrepreneurs. That’s going live January ninth. Please sign up today. And we’re trying to get 1,000
veterans to start today. So the campaign’s called step forward. We’re trying to get military
veterans to step forward and start up their own businesses. So without further a due, at this point I’d like to welcome Dan. Dan’s the founder of
Grunt Style and let’s just say he’s built a bit of an empire. So Dan, welcome. Thank you for joining us. – It’s an honor to be here. I appreciate it. – So you very famously,
you have this business that you took from $1,200 to what is it? What are you at now? Like 100? What is it? – [Dan] The last value we
had was over 150 million a while ago. We’re 500 employees now, all of that. – It’s amazing. Wow. Let’s see, let’s just dive right into it. My first question is,
I guess, I know that- how do I want to say it? I was down at Fort
Benning two weekends ago. My little brother Jack
is currently in AIT. 11 bravo. Went down there and I saw
Grunt Style everywhere I went. Saw it all over the place. That was really cool for me
to see, because I’ve know you for a couple years now, and
you’ve been at the monsters. What’s that like to see
your own brand to see like years and years of hard
work just like swarming over this country. – It’s pretty incredible. And Marquel, did I say it right? Marquel? – [Guy] Marquel, that is it. – Marquel. I’m sure you’ve experienced this already because you’ve been
doing this for a while. First time you run into
somebody who you don’t know that’s wearing your
product you look at them, you’re so excited. And ask them like, why
are you wearing that? Cus you know, like I made that, it’s a weird feeling. Kinda you don’t expect it. You want to be like why did you buy that? I want to know everything about you. It’s like a creepy stalker thing. But it’s really exciting. It’s something that, and nowadays
half the products we sell, I don’t even, I recognize a lot of them but our team does such a great job. They’re just turning out
awesome products all the time. It’s just refreshing. When I go and ask it’s one of ours and it’s pretty cool too, I like that. It’s just a huge
accomplishment to our team. – Awesome. And talking about your team,
Dan, you guys grew so quickly. We’re in the process of
growing at the Elite Amateur Fight League, I’d love to
know how you grew your team and how you got such a great
team to work with here. – Yeah, it’s finding people
who get the same vision you do. Your job as a leader
is to communicate that. You want people who can eat
this morning, noon, night, everything right. They’re not in it for just the ride, they get the mission
they get the objective. Because these guys are
going to be churning out all day long. When they’re out on
holiday they’re texting you or sending you messages
because so exciting, hey send this thought, sending
you pictures all the time. Trying to make everything better. Those are the guys that
you want to build with. – Awesome. – I have a question,
because I always think about I’m sort of at a point where
I want to actually invest in growing my team beyond
myself to do more of this stuff. I’m curious how your military
experience played a role in actually how you grew
your team and what leadership skills from your military
experience actually informed that decision? – When you’re in the military,
if you have a mindset of I just want to meet a
leader that I would follow. That’s the person you should meet. It’s that simple. What kind of leader is it
that’s someone who displays the mission well. Who understands what success looks like and can communicate that to me. Then you will be
successful if you do this. At the end of the day, let’s find out how to do it successfully. That’s it. I mean sometimes you can like you do in the military. This is something we’re going
over today to be successful. And at the end of the day,
alright you did one through four we didn’t do five and
we’re not successful. But we’re not. But a lot of us, something
we did in the military too is always mission first. I used to have guys that
stay up all night long. I remember we did this
it was, we were just out of screen printing right, we
had no idea what we were doing. So blows out to a trade show. She used this automatic
screen printing machine and brought it back and said
okay guys figure this out and make it work. At the same time I was sold
a bunch of orders saying that oh yeah, sure we’ll print that for you. (laughing) – Making it a lot more complicated then it really was, right. So a friend of a friend
who did these bartending tank tops or something like
that for all the ladies. I promised him yeah we can
do that, we’ll have it to you on time. And we must have, it was a
small order like 50 tank tops. We must have gone through
like three or 400 shirts trying to make it right. And we were up all night. And at the time we didn’t care. We were like, you know
what, it’s the mission and were going to do it. And they set out to it. It’s Saturday morning, we
probably should have done this three weeks ago. But it wasn’t because we
weren’t trying, it’s because I was stupid and I sold
something I couldn’t produce. And eventually we got and
delivered it to house. I changed the wording
because they were leaving in like an hour and a half. I’m like here you go. We figured we weren’t adding to it, but. – See you talk about your
team a lot so that’s probably one of your driving forces. In the early days, what kept you going? What kept you motivated
before you had this team? Before you had these guys to take care of. – I was probably stupid,
didn’t know better. (laughing) – The same thing, you know. Do whatever it takes to get done. And everyday I’d wake up,
I’d pull out my leaders book. I still do that. And I write down okay,
today I’ll be successful if- and I have whole list of
stuff that we have to do. Talk to this person, email this person. And after starting off it
was 2012 is when I really started taking eCommerce serious. So what I did was there is
only things that I care about- email addresses and Facebook likes. Because Facebook likes at that
time were important, right. Those two things attracted to what I say. If I attracted to the site, that works. So everyday, how am I going to
get 3,000 more Facebook likes and 1,000 email addresses? And everyday I’m frying my brain, how do I do that? How do I do that? How do I do that? On everything. If you remember just a few years ago, Facebook turned into meme everything. Some eCards this, you got
all the memes everywhere. With the scary redneck here, or whatever. (laughing) – And that’s what I did. I made a bunch of funny
memes that would communicate to the people that
would like our products. And I’d wake up everyday
and grow our Facebook page and grow our email account list. – So random question, so were
your memes directly related to your product? Or they were just about
whatever was going on? – It didn’t have to do
anything with product. It had to do with the people
who would buy my product. – [Marwuel] Okay. – [Dan] So think about
it, so your business, you explained it to me earlier. You have a pretty, it’s a big
audience but it’s a niche. And so what you do is you- but they probably would like this meme or this video or whatever. And it doesn’t matter. All you’re trying to do
is get their attention. You get their attention,
you get then to notice. But now it’s all. You get their attention and
hopefully you can convert that into an eCommerce. Now, you have their attention on Facebook now that you control. – Excellent, I have a quick question. We’re in the process of trying to get some strategic partners. I know you have a lot of
strategic partners over at Grunt Style. How did you build those relationships? – If you’re just starting
you grow very quickly and you’re building your
building your service to be pretty substantial pretty quickly. But when you’re starting out it’s hard because you really don’t
have a lot of assets. And a partnership works
because you both get some sort of fair reserve. It’s difficult if you can’t
come up with something bigger. So you have to figure out
what assets do I really have. Is it close for me to
reach, is it an email list? Is it maybe free products? So when you’re talking
to people your product retails for, how much
does that retail for? – $32. – $32, what’s your, so
your direct cost for that is probably a fraction of that. – [Marquel] It is. – [Dan] Is it. So if you come to somebody
who’s much larger than you and you want access to their email lists and their audience or
whatever you say listen, I’m going to provide you 50 $32 hoodies. Do the math on them right. Now they’re thinking 32 times 50. But you’re thinking
whatever, nine times 50. So you make it three times, you’re saving, you’re only paying a third of that cost. – So I’m thinking maybe I’ll try that with you after the show. (laughing) – I think, so moving on
from that, I want to kind of get your opinion on a couple things- I love that you’re just
pouring yourself a glass of America bourbon at the moment. You gotta rep the brand. So you, there’s a couple
other things that Grunt Style is involved in. I see you on alpha outpost
behind you, America Bourbon. So you’re trying to
diversify this retail brand. And it’s amazing. One of the things I want to talk about was Stitch Fix is a retail company. Started about four years ago. They had an IPO on Friday
and it’s significant because they’re just a retail brand. They’re basically a broker. They’re the middle man for clothing. And for them to take a
company public in four years is really remarkable and
they did that obviously through selling one product
and adding more products to that so that’s something
to think about long term. So here’s my question. What’s your number, Dan? – For IPO? It’s called over my dead body. (laughing) – I had a feeling that was
going to be your answer. – You guys are around a lot of
people starting up companies all the time. And it’s interesting when you
talk to people who are really not passionate about business. There’s something wrong with that. Before they make their first
dollar they are already buying jets and Lamborghinis. Right? Most of those people are
probably going to fail. Just like most entrepreneurs. And that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong
with wanting to sell. But if they’re ever in
business I don’t want a mere bargain. But if even they want to talk about what’s your entrance strategy. Think about it, that’s
probably a question that only was invented 20 years ago, or 30 years. What’s your exit strategy? Why should I have to think about it? I want to build a brand that
lasts and lasts forever. Because very few corporations
that have been around for a hundred plus years. But I want to be brand
that’s around for 500 years. And that’s the culture
that I want to build here. – I worked in mergers and
acquisitions before I ever started selling tee shirts
for a big fortune 50 company. And it was pretty fun to be
bought out so I’m curious how do you turn down the
call with the big check when they can see your value. Because obviously you’re
adding a lot of great lines to your business. You offer something that another company that may be struggling
in that area can’t do. Like canvas, for example. How do you say no to those companies? – For me it’s easy because
we’re not at our goal so we have a long way to go. People that I see go oh
you’ve gotten so far. But to me we’re on the
first mile of a marathon. We’re just getting started. I remember the first time
someone came in and did a soft offer to us years
ago like 30 million bucks. And I went on with
them, and I was so proud and like that’s a conversation. Melissa’s my lovely wife, by the way. She’s like what. Clothing and fashion obviously. Then we were offered 60 and
it just got up and going from there. But I made it very clear,
guys we have such a long way to go. That’s how I’m interested. And I hope I can repeat
that well to our team. I think it would be hard
to work for somebody knowing that they just want a big pay day and you’re building that payday for them. Who would want to work
for someone like that? There’s nothing wrong with
having an exit strategy or going public. Going public is not an exit strategy. It’s a way to raise money. I don’t want that pressure
from people who have nothing to do with our
business get to take what we’re doing. That’s not for us. I like our end of things. But if you’re from day one
you’re telling everyone, yeah in three years we’re
going to exit and do this, why would I want to work with you? – [Guy] Seriously that’s a great point. How we doing on audio? – [Christine] He’s scratchy. – Dan’s kind of scratchy? – [Christine] A little bit. – Okay, I think we’re good. We’re good. I just want to double
check, last week we had a- – [Dan] You can do a little here maybe. – Okay cool, so here’s
kind of a relevant topic. So Apple, I don’t know,
are you an iPhone guy? – Absolutely not. (laughing) – No fruit for Dan. So Apple had this weird glitch
where you type the letter I. It’s probably the most common
letter ever and it’d show up as like a capital
A and a question mark. Which is strange for the
world’s largest company to take three weeks to
basically fix that glitch. I’m not hating on it, I
don’t know how to run Apple so whatever, they’ll figure it out. So I want to ask you though,
when you feel like your gears are turning, you
feel like everything’s operating smoothly, can
you share a story where things just fell apart or
like something weird happened. I’m just curious, this stuff happens and entrepreneurial
start up mistakes happen at every level so I was just
curious about if you had any stories like that. – Maybe not, I mean we’re
not the size of Apple so we don’t have of that to go on. We did find out that one
of our designers had a joke for once that he unveiled
the male genitalia in some of our artwork
and everyone would wear. (laughing) – [Guy] What did he do with
that information, do you know? – Yeah. (laughing) – Whatever. So that was interesting. We make mistakes all the time. I’ll make most of them, that’s okay. Our rule is make mistakes, just don’t make the same one twice. It’s like you’re a mouse in a maze. Find that dead end just
don’t keep going down the same dead end. When we first started
off, I had this brilliant, I had no business experience. There was this big billboard
on exit three or four. Right before exit one is the one, right. So exit three or four, nobody believed me because it’s between four,
it’s not a great place to be. So there’s a billboard on exit
whatever three or whatever. So I take the little money we had. Which was like 1,000 bucks
a months and I commit to this billboard. And I put some corny phrase on there. It says, there’s a lady in the shirt, says hey you look good in that shirt. The guy says no, I look
amazing, gruntstyle.com. And it was a cocky thing. I thought it was hilarious. And it would be our marketing forever. Turns out nobody cares. We had the up for a year and
I couldn’t even afford it. It was bankrupting us. (laughing) – You’ve been all over the
map with this business, Dan. I love it. – [Marquel] So I have a question. You have a team of 500
people, how do you incentivefy people in your early days
when you’re talkin about you have limited resources. How do you incentivize
people to want to do things for you and help you build
the brand that you’ve built? – So that’s really hard,
that type of work force or people that you recruit is special. Because they’re looking for opportunity where most people are
looking for, yes opportunity, but a very safe structure to do it in. Especially if you’re
coming from the military most people have that
structure their entire lives. So when you’re going
out saying hey listen, we’re all going to hold in
next together if you do well. You have the opportunity
to rise up the ranks really quickly. And those are the people you’ll find out who are inspired by that. People who can inspire others to do that. It is hard to find. Because when you’re first
hiring your first few people and you’re interviewing,
you have to tell them that’s a normal job and they ask,
hey what kind of benefits do you have? A lot of hard work for very little pay. (laughing) – I like that. Thanks Dan. So every week we do a
things, we just kind of talk about hacks of things we
use in our day to day life that can, either they’re
like free or cheap services that we can use to improve
our chances of success. I was wondering, do you have any hacks? Is there anything that
you do that can be applied to any start up? – Yeah, one of the biggest
apps that we use is called the Boxer. B O X E R. It’s pretty popular now,
we’ve been using it for about three or four years. It’s like a walky talky,
text message, video phone, whatever, right. It’s great because you can
create all these little subgroups and you can talk while you’re in the car and it’s just constant communication. My leaders will send
messages back and forth on like Saturday night at 9pm. Just whatever rolls in your head. It is when it doesn’t
really require an email but you want to pass along ideas. It’s a great way, honestly, especially now that we’re in San Antonio and in Chicago. And we’re two different
buildings in Chicago and we’re standing all over the place. We’re traveling all the time. It’s a great way to always be
there while you’re on the go. That’s probably our favorite app. – [Guy] Very cool. – It’s also kind of a curse too because you’re always available. – That’s great. Marquel, do you have a- – My new favorite is, I’m a creative guy, so I use Adobe products. So Adobe Spark. They have this new thing
where you can actually brand your social media content now. So it’s built into the app. So if you have iPhone or Android. I find it pretty helpful. It’s free and it’s a great app. – For the military veterans
out there, I think everybody uses LinkedIn. But you can get the
premium version of LinkedIn for free for a year if you’re a veteran. So you just log in, find the veteran page. And get your free premium
version of LinkedIn as long as you’re a veteran. – That’s actual valuable
information, I wish I’d know that a year ago. (laughing) – [Christine] Online brochure. – Yes. – I have one more too for social media because there are social
media people everywhere. Probably the best tool out
there that’ll kind of tell you how you’re doing social media is FanpageKarma. It’s a German company. But they do a really good
job of breaking down your engagement, your growth, etc. Things that actually matter. They’re probably one of
the most accurate at it. – [Guy] RanpageKarma. So that’s what Grunt Style uses. Good to know. Alright. Looks like we have an online
question from somebody. Christine- – [Christine] Omar Gonzalez. – Omar Gonzalez is asking,
what skills do you feel, getting radioed in. What skills do you feel you
lack as a business owner? – I’m sorry, say again. – [Guy] What skills do you fell you lack as a business owner? Deep question. – So one of the biggest ones actually starting out was finance. I didn’t know anything about finance. I was a marketing and sales
person, loved anything creative. Lightly edited videos and
photos and everything like that, but the financial side, I
was like uh keep selling and everything will
kind of work itself out. And that’s not true. You really need to have a
strong financial hold on things. And I’ve spent a
considerable amount of time interviewing myself, but
even last week I was having another financial meeting
with our financial team and it’s almost scary and
motivating at the same time but how little you really know and how important that business is. Every business has an
offense and a defense. You have your offensive
side which is customers, go make money, be creative, etc. And then you have your defensive side. Which is your fulfillment, your operation, deliver that promise to the customer. But also make sure
you’re financially sound. That’s something that I
really, really struggled with for a long time. – Good answer, thank you. And thank you for the online
questions, keep them coming in. So I’ll wrap it up with my hack. And this was actually
the hack I said last week but we had horrible audio. It’s called Shake. If you’re a freelancer or you’re
trying to start a business and you think you’re about
to go spend a bunch of money on operating agreements
and stuff or you want to do a freelance project for somebody there’s a tool called Shake. It’s free legal documents. It’s great. So if you need to do that
it saves you time, money. Because a lot of people
get caught up in the nuance of the legal, operative
agreements between co founders and things like that but
in reality you should be focused on selling
and generation revenue. So that is my hack. I just want to say, Dan, thank you again. I really appreciate this. This is amazing. And we’ll definitely be
seeing you soon, hopefully. Yeah, it was great. – Glad I got to meet you all. – [Guy] Yes, almost in person. (laughing) – And next week, we are
excited to have Nick Toronto on next week. Nick is also a Marine Corps veteran. You guys. Nick is the co founder of Plated. Plated is a on demand meal
kit delivering company. And you might have heard
about them on the news because they recently just
sold for $200 million. So Nick will be joining us next week. That’s going to be a fantastic interview. So thank you very much for
joining us on the Breakdown. – [Dan] See you guys. – Appreciate it.

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