Shane Evans – Founder & CEO, Massage Heights

Shane Evans is co-founder and president of Massage Heights, an international franchise company founded in San Antonio, Texas, in 2004.

Massage Heights’ vision is to elevate the lives of the people they touch. Massage Heights provides a heightened service experience to the Guests and Members of its retail spa-like Retreats, a purposeful, values-based employment opportunity for over 5,000 Team Members and a proven business proposition that Franchisees can be proud of in a space where the sky is the limit!

Massage Heights retail locations provide professional, quality, therapeutic massage, and skincare services in an upscale environment through an affordable membership model.

While Shane’s day-to-day responsibilities are leading the franchise company, she is also the co-owner of several Massage Heights retail locations; co-owner of the supply chain, Summit Franchise Supply, LLC; co-owner of The Gents Place Franchising, an ultra-premium men’s lifestyle and grooming club; and is on the Board of Directors of the Massage Heights Family Fund, which she passionately co-founded as a crisis relief resource for Massage Heights franchisees’ team members nationwide after her appearance on Undercover Boss in December 2013.

Shane is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and serves on the local chapter’s Board of Directors as the Learning Officer. She’s also active in the International Franchise Association (IFA), including several IFA committees such as the Franchise Relations Committee and Women in Franchising Committee.

Shane is married to Massage Heights co-founder Wayne Evans and they have three daughters — Kayci, Wesli and Braydi.

Tell me about your early career.
I started out working in the health club industry, which is where I learned to refine my customer service skills, sales skills and got my initial management and leadership experience. My next job was in medical sales for a company that manufactured and distributed medical supplies where I would visit doctor’s offices regularly to detail doctors about the devices. The job required personal motivation and accountability due to the nature of the position and the territory. I learned how to develop and nurture relationships and also how to handle rejection without taking it personally. It just encouraged me to find better ways to get to the referral source and to be diligent in my pursuit of reaching goals.

How did the concept for Massage Heights come about?
At the age of 19, I hurt my lower back and ended up laying flat on the floor for a week with my feet up on a chair. I was miserable. A similar kind of back pain would occur about once a year. After going to the chiropractor many times, I realized that my visits were making the pain worse. One year, I decided to get a massage instead and felt better in a day or two and realized the immediate benefits. I started to get massage therapy but not too often because it was expensive at spas and hotels and the less expensive places were not reliable nor professional. I knew I wasn’t the only one who would benefit from an affordable, convenient, and professional massage therapy option, so I sought out to come up with a more costly solution.

A family road trip to Sedona, Arizona really helped the idea of Massage Heights go into motion. Being in the car for days significantly increased my back pain, so my husband scheduled a massage for me in spa of a international brand hotel and unfortunately, I didn’t have a good experience. The negative experience coupled with the high price point at the hotel inspired me to look into membership-based massage therapy options and after doing many visits and research, we weren’t able to identify a single company that stood out so we completed our business plan which we had started in the car ride home from Arizona and started Massage Heights four months later.

How was the first year in business?
It was hard. We didn’t have a lot of money and cashed out on stocks, our 401K, the Texas Tomorrow Fund we had established for college tuition for our kids, along with any additional savings we had. In the beginning, we would buy the least expensive massage lotion at the grocery store which was also used by one of the local massage schools and therapist liked, but the point is that it was inexpensive as we were watching all of our costs. We would purchase essential supplies such as toilet paper or cleaning supplies on an as-needed basis, no big expenses with bulk products. We had no money to spare so we had to go day by day.

As business really kicked off, we were making money and were able to start building our second Retreat about nine months after we opened the first. The local community kept asking when we would open a Retreat near them and at that point we realized people were utilizing massage therapy for reasons surpassing a day at the spa. We realized we were truly elevating lives and the momentum continued to build. We needed to expand and do it quickly.

What was your marketing strategy?
You’ll often hear me say that I don’t believe we would have been as successful if we started the business anywhere other than San Antonio. Your roots are so important when starting a new venture and with that, a lot of our initial efforts were guerrilla-marketing techniques. We really counted on the friends and family in our community. We leaned on inexpensive tactics in the beginning such as putting flyers on cars, placing door hangers in local housing communities, direct mail campaigns, and word of mouth. The Internet barely existed back then. Of course we had a website, but that held very little weight in 2004. We established a strong referral program amongst new Members and also formed relationships with local doctors and chiropractors to have them refer their patients to us.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We opened the doors to our first Retreat in 2004 and the second location in 2005, just 9 months after the first. Two years later, we started franchising. By 2007, we had grown to 10 locations in and around the San Antonio and Austin areas and the next step naturally was to start franchising the brand on a national level and our growth has been substantial but strategic ever since.

How do you define success?
Success for me is defined by the success of others. If our franchisees are successful, then that means we, the franchisor are successful. If our franchisees are successful then we are a successful brand with scalability and sustainability. We’ve seen our franchisees reinvest in the franchise over the years as they’ve been able to surpass their personal and professional goals and that is super exciting and really rewarding.

The whole concept of Massage Heights was founded to help people live their lives better and that stems further than solely our consumers. It is my hope that all of our team members can go to work every day and do what they love in an environment where they feel cherished and appreciated. The franchise model allows franchisees to live out their dream of business ownership, but most importantly, it should help them realize their personal aspirations and the reasons they first walked through our doors. People don’t buy a franchise just to make a living; they are looking for something more fulfilling. Whether that is to control their own destiny, have freedom in their business, or to determine their hours and spend more time with their families, we have the flexibility to allow that to happen. Seeing other people’s dreams come to fruition is a true testament to success in my eyes.

What is the key to success?
Diligence. Too many people stop when it gets hard but it is vital to keep moving forward. Have a plan. Follow the plan. Pivot when needed. Never give up.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Talk less, listen more, but do ask questions; lots and lots of relevant questions. The only bad questions are the ones that weren’t asked.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Culture is what culture does.” – Shane Evans

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” – Richard Branson

“So long as there is breath in me, that long will I persist. For I know one of the principles of success – if I persist long enough, I will win.” – Og Mandino

“Begin each day with the blueprint of your deepest values firmly in mind then when challenges come, make decisions based on those values.” – Stephen Covey

“Its not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.” – Unknown

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” – Henry Ford

What are some of your favorite books?
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz is a great book about a company that has experienced challenges and how to come out of them. A few additional of my favorites are Good To Great by Jim Collins, Start With Why by Simon Sinek and many of the books by author Brené Brown.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
There is a consistency in the toughest days I’ve gone through as an entrepreneur. The days are the challenging ones when I feel like I am not enough and question whether or not I have not done enough to help enough people. I tend to take it personally when someone is struggling. The question “Are we as an organization doing enough of the right things to help all stakeholders realize success, inclusive of our corporate team members, our franchise partners, and the 5000 people our franchisees employ in our nationwide Retreats who are the heartbeat of our brand?” tends to arise and it helps me step outside of the day-to-day and strategize on ways to improve.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Having the responsibility that so many people rely on me. There are more than 5,000 people that work for Massage Heights and there has been millions of dollars invested into this company by our franchise partners. Each of these individuals, along with my family and loved ones, and our HQ team, rely on me every single day to be a good leader. The responsibility to get up and continue leading for them, to help them realize their personal goals and dream, is the fuel to my fire and the reason I keep moving forward.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
It may be cliché, but the advice I give is to “Just Do It”. Once you come up with an idea for a new business, start making it become a reality. Create a plan and bounce your idea off of as many people as you can. From my experience, you will truly be surprised with how many people want to provide beneficial feedback or even be a part of the process. Lastly, search for a mentor that will not only help develop your idea, but also help grow yourself as an individual.

Anders Gustafsson – CEO, Zebra Technologies

Anders Gustafsson became chief executive officer and a director of Zebra on September 4, 2007. Prior to joining Zebra Technologies, Mr. Gustafsson served as CEO of Spirent Communications plc, a publicly-traded telecommunications company.

At Spirent, Mr. Gustafsson redirected that company’s growth strategy, divested non-core operations, integrated historic acquisitions, and streamlined the organization to realize significant cost savings. Prior to Spirent, he was senior executive vice president, global business operations, of Tellabs, Inc. While at Tellabs, Mr. Gustafsson also served as president, Tellabs International, as well as president, global sales, and vice president and general manager, Europe, Middle East and Africa. Earlier in his career, he held executive positions with Motorola and Network Equipment Technologies. Mr. Gustafsson has an MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business and a Master of Science in electrical engineering from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. He was a Fulbright Scholar and received numerous fellowships and scholarships for academic excellence.

How did the concept for Zebra come about?
With a capital investment of $1,000 back in February 1969, engineers Ed Kaplan and Gary Cless, both in their mid-to-late 20s and employed by Teletype Corp, started their own part-time venture called Data Specialties Inc. (DSI), engaged on consulting and other small projects. Most notably, they developed a tape punch to record transactions at the point of sale (POS). By July 1969, they had an order for 500 POS paper tape punches.

What was your marketing strategy?
DSI featured its first two products in print ads that showcased the customer benefits of the products and low cost. Trade shows also proved successful to demonstrate products directly to potential customers.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
By 1975, the company’s sales grew to $500,000 based on its paper tape solution. In 1982, DSI created the first barcode printer, changing its focus to specialty, on-demand labeling and ticketing systems. That year, company sales exceeded $5 million. And in 1986, DSI changed its name to Zebra Technologies, aligned with its introduction of the world’s first thermal printer for on-demand barcode labeling (picture the stripes in the barcode).

How do you define success?
A strong vision that engages customers and ultimately delivers good performance.

What is the key to success?
The keys to success are the 4 Rs – results, reciprocity, risk, and resilience.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
I have a truly international view. I grew up in Sweden, traveled extensively, and lived in Asia. My greatest lesson involves embracing diversity – listen carefully – lots of cultural differences but lots of commonalities!
A) Perspective on culture is very relevant to role as CEO (especially when bringing two corporate cultures together)
B) Create and share a VISION that all stakeholders can rally around

What are some quotes that you live by?
“The definition of luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

What are some of your favorite books?
I enjoy reading biographies (e.g. Steve Jobs), business books (Satya Nadella’s Hit Refresh) and mystery books (Graham Greene).

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
The tougher days are when you are working hard but can’t catch a break – things just aren’t falling your way. This is when you need the resilience to stay the course.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I deeply believe in our vision and strategy and a fear of failure.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Stay close to your customers. Be prepared to pivot and adjust strategy as needed. And again, tap into a deep reservoir of resilience.

Taro Fukuyama – Co-Founder & CEO, Fond

Taro co-founded Fond (formerly AnyPerk) in 2012 and serves as the Chief Executive Officer. Born and raised in Tokyo, Taro is a Y Combinator graduate and part of the first Japanese team ever to be admitted into the program. He studied Law at Keio University in Tokyo and was named one of Business Insider’s “Silicon Valley 100: The Coolest People in Tech Right Now”. And yes, he helped found Fond in a Taco Bell parking lot.

How did the concept for Fond come about?
When I moved from Japan to San Francisco, I was shocked to hear that employees change their jobs every two years. In Japan, where I grew up, people tend to stay at their employers for their entire careers. The difference between the Japanese and U.S. markets really piqued my interest and that led me to do an in-depth study of the market. One of the most startling stats I came across showed that two-thirds of employees in the U.S. are either somewhat or totally disengaged at work. This finding motivated me to solve this challenge by building a company to help companies engage better with their employees.

How was the first year in business?
Like most start-ups, our first year in business (2012) was pretty scrappy. To gain initial client traction, we utilized our investor network for referrals and introductions. The corporate discounts business is a marketplace model that required that we scale both customers and perk providers. So we targeted each one of these groups to attract them to our platform to create a vibrant experience for buyers and sellers. Within no time, we were reaching out to literally 1,000 potential customers and perk providers every day until we got enough traction to launch a viable marketplace.

What was your marketing strategy?
We knew that we had one chance to earn our customers’ loyalty so we focused on customer satisfaction. This ended up being a core component of our marketing strategy. Marketplaces are classic “chicken and egg” constructs; once we’ve achieved a critical mass of active customers, the aggregate demand they represent would enable us to attract more and better perk providers to the platform. Having more perk providers on the platform made it easier to attract more customers. That form of network effect really helped us grow.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
The business took off quickly and in no time we were experiencing growing pains. I remember at one point we didn’t have enough meeting rooms, and the team had to make client calls in hallways, stairwells, and even in the bathrooms!

How do you define success?
Our success is when, after our solution is implemented, employees of our customers find their companies to be greater places to work for than before Fond entered the picture.

What is the key to success?
Keep learning and challenging yourself to grow in order to accomplish your goals.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
What you wish to accomplish is more important than what you are actually able to accomplish today. In other words, don’t limit your dreams based on what you feel capable of doing today. Dream big, work hard, and you’ll find that your skills will expand to meet the challenge.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

What are some of your favorite books?
The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni, The Effective Executive by Peter F Drucker, and Drive by Daniel Pink.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
During our initial period, we were a Y Combinator accelerator company. One day, the Y Combinator founder, Paul Graham told us we were the worst startup in the batch, among sixty-five other startups. Our ideas were not working and I could not speak English as well as I do today. Paul and I joke about it today, but that was one of the toughest days we’ve had.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
When facing adversity, I’ve found that staying as close as possible to our customers is the best medicine. When I hear from them how they have improved their employees’ engagement by using our products, it always energizes me and gives me the extra impetus to work our way through whatever challenging situation we’re facing.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Always be vulnerable. As long as you are open to feedback, there will always be people around you who will help you move forward.

Sébastien Dupéré – Founder & President, Dupray

Sébastien Dupéré is the founder and president of Dupray, a leading provider of advanced cleaning systems; being vapor steam cleaners, floor scrubbers and carpet cleaners. In North America, Dupray is known for providing world renowned Tecnovap® commercial steam cleaners, Multiplo floor scubbers and carpet cleaners.

Tell me about your early career.
My early career was eventful to say the least. I had a ton of ideas and often got distracted by the million and one things that kept popping into my head. I’ve always been on a quest to order the chaos of thoughts and ideas that I have. Everything finally clicked when I was able to order them into manageable and palatable bites that I can chew off.

How did the concept for Dupray come about?
Dupray came about primarily because I was unsatisfied with the tools that we were using in one of our side businesses. We had gotten into the business partly because we were realizing that cleaning chemicals were toxic, and there was no real alternative for many verticals such as retail, QSR and hospitality. Even worse, we felt as if the North American market was lagging behind Europe for alternative cleaning methods.

How was the first year in business?
Our first year in business was the most frantic time of my life. If I’m being completely truthful to myself, I don’t remember much. I’m sorry if it sounds cliché. However, the reality is that we were working, grinding hard and creating so many new things. There were really long nights, with some long hours of work – with some really great people. I think our first year was bearable partly because the people I worked with maintained excellent states of mind.

I think one of the really underreported elements of being a successful entrepreneur in the early phase of business is your ability to deal with your surroundings. In my time as an entrepreneur thus far, I have seen people and companies with amazing ideas and outstanding products that end up nowhere simply because they weren’t able to maintain the perseverance and focus that it takes to weed out the negative thoughts and sense of being overwhelmed.

What was your marketing strategy?
Our marketing strategy was, and to a great extent still is, based on simplicity. Simplicity makes sense when you’re starting a new business. Why? Because your business will evidently evolve in the early years, which means you shouldn’t pour resources into it. You need to maintain the flexibility that comes with simplicity until you refine your brand.

We wanted to convey a simple message to the people that bought our products. Our products would be functional and reliable, but maintain a top threshold of elegance. Our entire strategy revolved around these three quintessential characteristics. I think our current website and branding are a reflection of an evolved version of this simplicity.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
It grew fast enough that we had some online placements and ended up in the city paper without us having to make any effort. We actually had difficulties filling the orders that we received at one point. It grew fast enough that somebody approached us to purchase the company. We declined.

How do you define success?
I think success has an internal definition. It’s variable based on your outlook on life. Some of the most successful people I know are making minimum wage and have a big smile on their face all day long, for eight hours a day. The reality is that you are successful when you finally feel like you need to stop working like an animal. For some people – and I’d like to include myself in this segment – it takes significantly longer to feel that.

What is the key to success?
The keys to success are very much aligned to what the majority of society believes. Hard work and long hours are to name a few of those tenants. That being said, the reality is that the keys to success are actually perseverance and persistence. Yes, it’s great to be focused for twelve hours on a Monday – but what about Tuesday? Even more important, what about twelve hours for the seventh Monday in a row? How many people can say that they execute a mentality of success for a persistent and sustained amount of time?

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Being humble and sincere go a long way in today’s world. Consumers can see right through marketing lingo and desperate ploys to get their attention. If you are sincere in your messaging and humble in the hawking of your product, you will likely reap your rewards. Also, another great lesson – try to laugh once in a while. It’s healthy.

What are some of your favorite books?
Great question. I think all good entrepreneurs read as much as possible to increase their ability to field different perspectives. My favorite book is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Most people have heard of it in passing, but even though the book is over 80 years old at this point, it still gives great basic tips on how to deal with people and tough situations. The only thing to keep in mind is the relevance of modern technology!

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
I think one of the toughest days I had as an entrepreneur was the first time I had to hold firm with one of our costumers. We are proud of the products that we put into the market and we stand by them. That being said, one of our customers very clearly broke several of the terms in our warranty and wanted a complete refund despite their actions. It took everything I had to respect the business process that we had implemented. I knew that we would lose this customer. You would be shocked to know how hard it was, and still is, to respect the boundaries of our business. When you are customer-centric, it really hurt me deep down to know that I had to take a firm stance. I knew it was the right decision, but no entrepreneur sets out to disappoint anyone.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
This is a very simple answer – I don’t want to have all the great work I’ve put in go to waste. I’ve spent years building this business. One hiccup doesn’t tarnish the work that I have done or the accomplishments that I have had. If anything, it just makes me want to fight more to preserve AND enhance what I have done.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Persistence is key. Remember those twelve hours on the seventh Monday.

James Marks – Co-Founder & CEO, Whiplash Merchandising

James is a serial entrepreneur, multi-year member of the Inc. 5000, and the co-founder and CEO of Whiplash Merchandising. Whiplash connects eCommerce sellers with warehouse capacity and coordinates fulfillment for millions of orders.

Prior to Whiplash, James founded VGKids, a screen printing company focused on high quality artist prints and custom printed goods. James also founded SPUR Studios, providing work spaces for artists and musicians, and The Vegetarian Grocer, a natural foods store in Pontiac, Michigan.

Tell me about your early career.
I started my first business when I was sixteen. My friends and I chipped in $200 each to buy a t-shirt press so we could make t-shirts for local bands. It was a disaster; we had no idea what we were doing. I remember going through the trash behind a screen printing shop and pulling out the screens they’d thrown away. That’s how scrappy we were. After I graduated high school, I opened a vegetarian grocery store in a blighted neighborhood outside of Detroit, MI. We sold some groceries, but primarily paid rent by putting on shows in the basement. After two years, I was buried in debt and ready for something else. I focused on making t-shirts fulltime, and started to get a little bit of traction there.

How did the concept for Whiplash Merchandising come about?
When you make shirts for touring bands, you ship some to the band on the road, and some to their warehouse to sell online. It seemed silly that we’d ship these shirts to sit on someone else’s shelf instead of our own. It also seemed like a lot less could go wrong shipping orders on the Internet than interpreting someone’s art onto a shirt. The last ten years had a been a series of hard-earned lessons in all the ways custom printing could go wrong. I thought it would be an easier business to run, with better margins.

So when we started Whiplash, we thought it would be a licensing deal with the bands – we’d just earn a percentage of retail. We signed a couple of deals very quickly, but couldn’t land any others. So we pivoted away from licensing to just earning a “handling fee” to hold the inventory and ship orders. It was still slow at first, but we won a couple of clients and we started building a reputation.

How was the first year in business?
The first year was when we were on the licensing model, and it was just a part-time project. It took 10-15 hours of our time a month, and lost a steady trickle of money. Not enough to shut it down, but not enough to go full-time, either.

One of the key ideas that keeps me motivated in the early stages of a company is from the Zingerman’s team – this idea that success and failure are indistinguishable in the beginning. The fact that it feels like its going well or poorly isn’t a reliable indicator. I couple that with something my brother noticed, which is that it takes about three years minimum of sustained energy for a brand or concept to be known.

In those first three years, I try to stay totally disconnected from whether or not it’s “working.” Likewise, when I start a project, I’ve already cleared the hurdle in my head, “Am I willing to hang on with this idea for three years, knowing full well that for some amount of that time it will be dragging me through the mud?” And that mud could be anything – feelings of failure, self doubt, flaws revealed about the model, cash flow problems, partner problems, etc. You have to disconnect yourself from those negative emotions.

If anything, those bad times may actually be positively correlated with success. Maybe it’s just survival bias and that pain is proof of being alive, but all the good things are on the other side of bad things.

What was your marketing strategy?
The better your product is, the less marketing you need. We’ve done virtually zero marketing for that reason, but there are few things that generate passive leads that are beneficial. One was the mailer we ship vinyl records in – we designed our own that was better than anything we could find, and made sure it had the Whiplash logo on it. When we build an integration to a webstore like Shopify, we make sure it’s listed in their app store – basic stuff like that.

When our customers are happy, we grow. When they aren’t, we stall out. It’s as simple as that. Nothing beats the value of just doing good work.

Would we have grown even faster if we’d done good work and had strong marketing? Of course. And if you can do both, great. For us, improving the product has always seemed more valuable.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
The first two years were flat. Once we pivoted to eCommerce fulfillment, it was about 140% YOY.

How do you define success?
Daniel Pink narrowed work satisfaction down to Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose, with financial stability as a pre-requisite. That’s just as relevant as an entrepreneur and CEO as an employee. I used to have ideas of success based on X employees or Y buildings or Z revenue – some external measuring stick. Now I see those for what they are, which are ego drivers. Success means doing great work.

What is the key to success?
Resilience, Preparation, and Positioning.

Resilience because so many skills are based on time spent practicing, and that means getting up every time you get knocked down. Starting a business means you are going to be knocked down and/or want to quit a lot.

Preparation because you will be presented with opportunities, and whether or not they go in your favor depends on the condition you’re in at that moment. Warren Buffett can have a great insight on an investment opportunity, but it’s useless to him if prior to that he hasn’t amassed capital. You have to know in the bottom of your heart that the opportunity will come, and you have to get ready for it. That’s why we love characters like Jason Bourne – they are deeply prepared, and we get a vicarious joy when we see their preparations play out.

Positioning because you can increase the number of opportunities that come your way – you place yourself on their path. Whether that means working at a co-working space instead of your spare bedroom, going to conferences, getting listed somewhere there’s built in traffic, etc., you increase the number of opportunities you’re exposed to.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Everything is negotiable, though many institutions work extensively to hide that fact.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Luck favors the prepared mind” – Louis Pasteur

What are some of your favorite books?
Anything by Malcolm Gladwell, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, and The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life.

I actually read more SciFi and Fantasy than business books these days. I like big fantasy series’ to help soothe my mind when things get stressful. Kingkiller Chronicles, The Expanse Series, and Dresden Files are all good.

It’s counterintuitive, but reading fiction helps me make better strategic decisions. By stepping away from a problem and coming back to it fresh, I can think more holistic and long-term, instead of reacting to the moment’s fire.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur
In the early 2000s, the IRS showed up on our doorstep to collect a year’s worth of late 941 payments. It was 10x the amount of cash I’d ever had at one time. They were going to padlock the doors if we couldn’t convince them we had a viable plan to get caught up, and I ended up writing them a check on the spot for a small fraction of it. That check alone drained our bank account, and the payment plan for the next two years kept us on the brink of bankruptcy.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
The adversity is expected – on a long enough timeline, there’s a 100% chance of bad things happening. When bad things come, you’re just discovering the details of something you were already mentally prepared for. It still sucks, but it’s less scary than feeling like you’re somehow off the path and unrecoverable.

We’ve tried to foster a culture at Whiplash that problems are okay. What’s not okay is repeating the same mistakes. So when bad news comes, as it always does, we gather facts and abstract the problem to prevent as many future variations as possible. It keeps you focused on what you can control instead of getting caught up in the emotions of failure.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Start your first business now. In my 20s, I would meet people in their 30s and 40s who would ruefully tell me how brave I was to start my own business. I didn’t realize it until I was 30 myself, but starting a business when you’re used to getting a paycheck and supporting a family is very different than what I did. When I started my first companies, I was young and broke with no dependents. It didn’t even seem like a risk, because my standards of living were already low. It wasn’t brave, I was just young.

Now that I’ve built up my skill as an entrepreneur to some degree, starting a business still isn’t brave, because I’ve done it before. But starting your first business in your 40s with a family to support? That’s brave.