Wes realized that all he knew how to do was play guitar and make coffee. He didn’t find that much success in being a rockstar, so he went head first into the thing he loved the most: coffee.
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Worst Entrepreneur Moment
- Facing bankruptcy, Wes became a mean and angry person – someone he didn’t even recognize. Listen as I drag out his specific advice on how he turned it all around!
Entrepreneur AH-HA Moment
- Fortune favors the bold, Fire Nation. Wes’s big break came when he took bold and decisive action!
What has you FIRED up?
- 7 locations and 40 employees – what’s there not to be fired up about?!
Small Business Resource
- Google Drive: Get access to files anywhere through secure cloud storage and file backup for your photos, videos, files and more with Google Drive.
Best Business Book
- The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
- Roasters Coffee Bar
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Interviewee: Heck yeah, man. I'm ready to roll.
Interviewer: Wes realized that all he knew how to do was play guitar and make coffee. He didn't find that much success in being a rock star so he went headfirst into the thing he loved most, coffee. Wes, take a minute, fill in some gaps in that intro and give us a little glimpse of your personal life.
Interviewee: Yeah, man. It's always a good way to start. There's many people in America that love coffee. And I did try all through high school and in my twenties to be a musician. And not that it's not possible, I definitely did it. It just wasn't paying so well. So I had to figure something out. And I went headfirst into coffee, man, and never looked back.
Interviewer: Well, I love it because the thing is, is we have multiple passions. We have a lot of interests in life and we get pigeonholed into one. And a lot of times that's all the bandwidth that we have but we needed to step back, Fire Nation, and say; "Hey, there's other things that I love doing." I mean, Wes is a coffee guy as well and that has turned out to be something, as you're about to find out, that worked out pretty well.
And, Wes, let's just picture you being at that networking party.
Interviewer: Someone walks up to you now and they say, Wes, love what you have going on but what exactly do you do? How do you respond in ten seconds?
Interviewee: Yeah, that's always a good one and I get it often. All I say is, "*I do coffee," right, so a little bit quicker than ten seconds but then it always goes from there. "What do you mean you do coffee?" "Well, I am a coffee roaster. We purchase green coffee from farms throughout the world. We own real estate. We're building more and more locations, we're cultivating culture, we're educating people about higher quality coffee." So it's a huge operation and – but it's very easy to say, "I just do coffee."
Interviewer: Have you gone to visit some of the plantations?
Interviewee: You know what? We have opportunity to do it all the time. We haven't [inaudible] [00:01:50] a source yet but we definitely have relationships with a few of the farmers that we've – they've actually come up here and visited us actually. So –
Interviewer: Oh, wow. Cool.
Interviewee: But, yeah, this next year we have some plans.
Interviewer: Nice. That should be fun. There's a great book called The Fish That Ate the Whale. And it's actually not about coffee but it's about a guy that took over the banana world. And he actually went down and was in Central America buying property, doing the planting, [inaudible] [00:02:17] –
Interviewee: Oh, yeah.
Interviewer: I can see you getting into that later in life.
Interviewee: Yeah, yeah, as things continue to develop, absolutely.
Interviewer: So Wes, the obvious is what we're gonna talk about next. There's a couple obvious ways you make money but there might be some unique ways as well. So I'd like to kinda dive into that real quick. Could you share with Fire Nation the ways that you generate revenue?
Interviewee: Absolutely. To be honest I think listening to a lot of your podcasts, since I've been listening for a long time, there's amazing people that you have on lately. And it's just, man, I can't even compete. There's people that are at 50 books or on like their 55th book. I'm having trouble trying to finish my blog.
But generating revenue, man, at the beginning it was always about trying to pay my bills. So I had to do whatever it took to actually get people in the door. So I gave away a lot of free product in the beginning. I spent a lot of my own money trying to get people to believe what I was doing was good and that it was going to last.
And banks wouldn't look at me. Investors wouldn't even give me the time of day so I had to do everything on my own. And so at the beginning I learned how to sell a product first and foremost, how to get people in the door and out the door.
Then as things began to develop I became more and more aware of business practices and ways to sort of add to the cash value of the company. And we've actually gotten to a point now to where it's just almost like a snowball effect. It started in massive disruption and very difficult to get out of the first couple years. But once we did that, nowadays it's almost like anything we do is extremely successful.
It's a very rare time, I think, to be living in America and to be in business. It doesn't matter what kind of business it is just because everything's going so well right now. But we're definitely prepared for a rainy day.
Interviewer: Absolutely. And that's one thing that's so critical, Fire Nation, is to realize that once you get momentum things start to get easier. You can start going from strength to strength. Now it is flipping difficult to get that initial momentum going. But then once you do, keep that ball rolling down the hill.
In our pre-chat actually, Wes was kind enough to say that he's been part of Fire Nation since the early days. And, Wes, let's just be honest. You used the word; I loved it because it was raw. That's podcast speak, Fire Nation, for it was really bad. But, you know, it's okay. We made it past 1,000 now and you're still with us.
Interviewee: Yeah, it actually goes back to John Lee Dumas.
Interviewer: You remember that intro.
Interviewee: How could you not love that? That was always my favorite part.
Interviewer: Oh man, that is so funny. I'm gonna have to play a little clip in here for Fire Nation to bring them back to my initial intros. They were hysterical.
Interviewee: Heck, yeah.
Interviewer: So let's just talk about you and a story. Now, you're going from strength to strength right now. Things are going well for obvious reasons. You got some cool trips planned down to source this upcoming year, etcetera. But I wanna talk about what you would consider your worst entrepreneurial moment to date. And I really want you to tell us that story. I really want you to take us there.
Interviewee: Yeah man, I've listened to hundreds of your episodes and I always love coming to this part, mostly when people have something fantastic to give. But, you know man, I've actually thought about it a lot. I had a lot of bad moments, to be honest.
First and foremost, I'm a high school dropout. That's always a beautiful thing to tell people because they're like, "Well, how are you successful?" Education, no, it was absolutely not. I was really good at street smarts though.
The problem is that I'm a very reactional person. I react to things so intently. Mostly in the earlier parts of my entrepreneurial stuff in life I would always react as if people were attacking me personally or if they would say one thing that was slightly off I would be very, very defensive. And I've learned over the last seven to ten years how to react to maybe a critical customer or whatever it might. And I've gotten a lot better at it.
But in the beginning I tell you, probably within the first nine months of our company we were facing bankruptcy the very, very beginning. And we were just losing money every single month. It was 2009. It was so difficult to build business and to get people in the door and even make any type of revenue whatsoever.
So I really got to a point where I was really, really almost defeated. I had a lot of inner demons to sorta work through and sort of try to create this company that wasn't even moving at the time. And I just made a lot of bad decisions, I think, based upon reacting to either if it was customers or people or other competitors. I'd react out of anger and frustration and bitterness and it was a really, really bad way to be recognized in my community.
And so it took me the last five years or so to sort of change that reputation, but at the beginning it was really hard, man. We started to make a little bit of money, man, but I was still so angry inside for some reason, I think. I went through a lot of failure in 2008 before we even started our company and just learning how to be an entrepreneur.
And it just – it was difficult, to be honest. It was very, very long stories but in the midst of it, man, I think being very reactive emotionally to things that really didn't matter is really what got me off the wrong foot for the first year or two years of our company.
Interviewer: So looking at yourself as this mean and angry person, and probably somebody you don't really even recognize totally right now, what was it that got you out of that? I mean, we've all been there but how do we get out of it?
Interviewee: Yeah, you know, it took a lot of inner work, to be honest, a lot of alone time, a lot of really seeking what I really stood for. What life really meant to me, what I wanted my company to really represent. And it really did, I think all the way through 2010 went through a lot of struggle trying to figure that out, trying to figure out who we were as a company even. Even our identity or mission statement just didn't make sense.
It wasn't until maybe mid 2010 where I started to really come out of my shell and started to really understand that this wasn't just about me, that this was a crew of people. I had maybe ten people on my staff back then and I started really thinking about them. I think I started really thinking about the whole future of where we could go, what I wanted my life to mean. And I really began to change slowly.
But as time went on I began to learn to build blocks. And then pretty soon I was starting to actually do positive things rather than negative. And then that's when things really started to expand.
Interviewer: So if somebody was in this situation right now and they're listening and they're saying, "I'm that angry person. I'm that mean person right now and I don't wanna be. That's not who I am." If you could just give them one piece of guidance right now, maybe one thing they could do just to start to kind of unwind this, what would it be?
Interviewee: Oh, that's a good one. I think just keep on moving forward. It's always progression. We don't ever necessarily go backwards. People might say, "Well, you're going back to the way you used to be." Not necessarily. To me it's always progression. We're always moving forward, sort of building blocks upon what we've learned before.
And if we can take our failures and our wishing they were successes and using them for our benefit to actually do better things in this world then I think that's when we start to find our own selves, our own identity and things that really matter. But at that time it's like that's all you see is bad and all you see is difficult and all you see is a lot of nos and a lot of nobody coming up behind you. And it's very difficult in those times. But I would say press in, press on, that life only goes forward and it gets better.
Interviewer: I'm gonna stick here for one more question.
Interviewer: What's one specific action they can take?
Interviewee: Be comfortable with who you are.
Interviewer: But what's a specific action? I mean, like something they can actually do. You know, for me like meditation comes to mind –
Interviewee: Yeah – no, absolutely.
Interviewer: -- take a walk a day to give yourself some space. But this is you, Wes, like you got out of this. What's one specific action.
Interviewee: You know, I really started to believe in the people that were around me. I started to love them. I started to –
Interviewer: Yeah, so maybe a specific action would be, I said one thing every single day to somebody that made them feel better. I mean, what's a specific action, Wes.
Interviewee: Yeah, yeah – no, it was waking up every day knowing that my family depended on me, that my people depended on me, that I had to get up and go at it no matter what. And I actually did that for a lot of years and it actually turned out well. But I think it was just a state of mind saying, I have nothing to lose. This is what I've been made to do and pressing into that despite the circumstance, despite the failures, despite anything.
But, yes man, meditation, I think building relationships with people around you that are definitely beneficial, getting rid of the negative people around you. Maybe not getting rid of them but sort of not listening to them anymore. Not listening to the self talk continually saying that you're not good enough, that you're a failure, that you are what they say you are. Those type of things I think are begin to just believe that I was meant for better.
Interviewer: You got through that. You broke through the anger, the meanness to where you are today. And you've had many aha moments along the way, but what's one, Wes, one story of an epiphany, of a light bulb that you can tell us right now. And specifically the actions you took after having that idea to accomplish what you've accomplished?
Interviewee: 2012 I was reading business journal – a local business journal here where I live up in Washington State. And there was an old friend – not a friend but maybe an acquaintance, a business person I knew about that's fairly wealthy, fairly well known in the area, and he's opening some carwashes or something.
And I just sent him an email letting him know who I was, that – letting him know that, hey man, if there's ever an opportunity to build or partner up, I'd love it. And thankfully he actually emailed me the next day. We ended up meeting, building this great relationship. Honestly he was about 20 years my elder and really became my mentor for about two years. And it was exactly what I needed for that time in my life.
And that's really maybe the turnaround – a big turnaround in 2012 was when I started to sort of spend a lot of time with this guy, learning business practices, learning what it meant to be a leader, learning what it meant to be a dad and be a good husband. Not that I didn't know those things. I'd been married 15 years but a lot of things were just not clicking.
And so when I sent out this email to this guy, asked for just a bit of help, a bit of counsel and, man, it turned into one of the best friendships I've ever had. Still to this day I owe this guy a lot of my success, absolutely.
Interviewer: Fortune favors the bull, Fire Nation. You have to just make that initial contact, make that initial email, reach out. You know, you might get that no but, hey, that is a starting point for you. I mean, that's my big takeaway, Wes. What do you really wanna make sure our listeners get?
Interviewee: Man, we don't always know everything. I've always been very – I've always pushed the status quot. I never, ever listen to rules. I was one of those kids in high school that was like the one that disrupted the class, the class clown, whatever it might be.
Interviewer: Yeah, you ask for forgiveness, not permission.
Interviewee: Right, right.
Interviewer: And honestly, Wes, you sometimes even ask for forgiveness and that's fine.
Interviewee: Yeah – no, exactly. That's good. That's good. But, yeah, just being – I've always struggled with asking for help. I've never – maybe since I was a teenager just never asked anybody for anything, always wanted to do everything my own. But this one time where I was really in desperate need, I think emotionally, spiritually, just at a really difficult place internally, that when I reached out to this guy – and he actually – it was just amazing that it actually worked out.
Because I've always been under the impression that, man, you gotta take what you get and you gotta survive and do your best at it always without help. And I always struggled, grew up without a father so I never had much direction in life, where to go and what to be in. So this guy came in right at the right time. You think about divine intervention. If that was it then it was the perfect timing for me and it's been fantastic ever since.
Interviewer: Wes, what's your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur?
Interviewee: Delegation. I'm very – it's very hard to give somebody else a job that I know I can do better. It's very difficult to watch people fail and allow them to fail and then teach them through their failure. It's very difficult to do. But I think the last two-and-a-half, three years I've done that way, way better.
But as an entrepreneur what's probably my most difficult is trying to trust people to do a fantastic job. We have a lot to serve and a lot of people to satisfy. And it's very hard to see other people doing a job that is only done halfway when you know you can do it fully.
Interviewer: It's the super hero syndrome. We think that we're the only ones that can do it right. And we might be right the first time around but train somebody how to do it right, let them improve along the way and you're being freed up for all these other opportunities. And, Wes, what's your biggest strength?
Interviewee: As an entrepreneur, man, I think I maybe mentioned a bit, I've never believed in impossibilities. I'm always pushing the boundaries. I don't adhere to the status quo. And that's the reason why I think I have a lot of people that look up to me, a lot of people that follow. We have 40 something employees on staff now. I just brought on a new general manager, brought on a new project manager and we're moving fairly quickly.
But these guys are very aware of how successful they've been. And I think that that's definitely something that is definitely wanted by them, at least a little bit saying, "How do we go forward?" You know, a lot of people are looking for people to follow.
Like the prime – most of my employees are under the age of 30 so they're very young. They're very – most of them are uneducated so they're looking for a thing to do in life. And, man, I tell you, man, I think my biggest strength is also being able to press through things and then have other people come up under and sorta hold up my arms in the midst of warfare.
Interviewer: Wes, you're good in warfare. You're good when the chips are down, when your back's against the wall. And you've accomplished a lot because of that. But what is the one thing that has you more fired up than anything else right now?
Interviewee: Okay. Yeah, we're growing like crazy. We have been for the last three, three-and-a-half years. It's been pretty much like 30, 40 percent year over year growth, and that's insane. Yeah, mostly in the coffee industry because there's so much competition, you'd think.
But I think we really got into our local economy, man, and just really built the brand. And it really started sticking a couple three, four years ago. And then once it did it's just been massive growth since then, so trying to, I think, balance that.
It's got me excited that we just purchased a new piece of property. We're building a seventh location and then just working out some other leases with some other property owners. And we're just moving forward.
But I think the most thing that I'm most fired up about is the crew of guys that I have with me. And, man, I've really built up a solid foundation. And I'm surprised that we've gotten this well at this young of a stage of a company, that we have these solid, solid guys that are pretty much sold out to the company, sold out to the idea, the culture of what we're doing. And, man, it's exciting. It's exciting every day to wake up to have our meetings or whatever it might be. We go out and have lunches together. We're going here this next weekend to do some zip lining as a crew.
And so, we're just always building, always trying to be excited, man. We just had a huge summer party for the company and it was just – it's fantastic, man. We've actually come so far it's unbelievable. So it's just always fun every day. I get to wake up and I'm just unbelievably stoked that we get to do this.
Interviewer: Well, let me ask you this. Where can I buy stock in the company?
Interviewee: Yeah, right. Definitely privately owned right now but, yeah, there's always opportunity. And if people wanna franchise or people wanted to grow and even be – even some consultation, I have people coming all the time saying, "How do you do it? What do I do? What's the next step?" And I'm always willing to give some advice.
Interviewer: Yeah, and seven locations, 40 employees, I mean, strength to strength, Fire Nation. And don't go anywhere because we're about to enter the lightning round. But before we do, let's take a minute to thank our sponsors.
Wes, are you prepared for the lightning rounds?
Interviewee: Heck yeah, it's my favorite part.
Interviewer: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Interviewee: Not knowing that it was even available. I grew up, didn't go to college, didn't have an idea of what I wanted to be, what I wanted to do. Again, like I said, I wanted to be a musician and it worked out for a little bit. But I think in the beginning I've always been entrepreneurial. I just always have been. I didn't know it though until about maybe ten years ago and then that's when I really started pursuing it.
Interviewer: What's the best advice you ever received?
Interviewee: Stop following and be a leader. I went to see an old friend – or not an old friend, a guy that I really admired up in Seattle. And I think I was looking for answers, looking for something to be in life. And I really wanted a mentor, I wanted a dad, I wanted somebody to show – somebody to follow. And the best advice I got was stop following and be a leader.
And I think since that day I actually really did switch a lot of things that I was doing to begin to lead. And it really did take off from there.
Interviewer: What's a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Interviewee: That's a good one too. I actually noticed trends, mostly within the industry, yeah, coffee industry, man. I noticed – I spent a lot of time studying the competition, a lot more than most people. So I know everything about every coffee company within a hundred mile radius of where I live, and not only that but nationally too. If it's Blue Balls or Intelligentsia or Stumptown, I know exactly what they're doing behind the scenes, where they're moving, what they're up to, all that kinda stuff. So I think trends in competition is just what I'm good at.
Interviewer: Do you have an internet resource like Ever Note that you can share with our listeners?
Interviewee: Yeah, you know, one that we use all the time, Google Drive, it's just – oh, man, without we would all be lost. I think once we adopted it then it really became just where we share everything. Over seven stores, everybody can get in the same file, see everything. You know, if it's daily totally to scheduling to every type of file that you need to check, it's always there.
Interviewer: If you could recommend one book for our listeners, what would it be and why?
Interviewee: A book that's really helped me out a lot most recently the last couple years is The Power Now by Eckhart Tolle. It's way more philosophical but all it is saying is just, man, really appreciate the moment. Be aware of what you're doing focusing on this day rather than always living in the future or always living in the past, identifying with the failures beforehand or pressing towards something that doesn't necessarily exist yet. So just being comfortable with the present moment is very, very – it's been very therapeutic for me.
Interviewer: I'm gonna just sit here for a second and enjoy this moment, Wes. How's that?
Interviewee: Yeah – no, it's good, man. I've been looking forward to this for a couple months actually, to be honest.
Interviewer: Yeah, my good friend James Altuch, I think he puts it really well. He said, "Don't time travel, like don't think of the future and live in the future and don't live in the past. Don't time travel. Just be presence, be there."
Interviewee: Right. That's good.
Interviewer: So, Fire Nation, I know you love audio so I teamed up with Audio Books. If you haven't already, you can get an amazing audio book for free at EOFireBook.com. And, Wes, this is the last question of the lightning round but it is a doozey. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world identical to earth but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have. Your food and shelter is taken care of but all you have is a laptop and $500. What would you do in the next seven days?
Interviewee: You live in San Diego, right?
Interviewee: Yeah, I actually grew up down there until I was about 12 years old or so, so I fell in love with the beach, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach [inaudible] [00:22:46] –
Interviewer: I'm looking at it right now.
Interviewee: Yeah, so what I would do is I would probably, since my food and shelter's taken care of, I'd go to Mission Beach. I'd probably kick it on the beach for a week. I'd skateboard, I'd do some surfing, I'd relax, I'd make some friends. And then after the seven days I would figure out what I was gonna do next.
Interviewer: There you go, and that's what this question's all about, is what would you the individual guest do. And kick it and just chill out and relax.
Interviewee: Yeah, yeah, and at least for a week. I think after that I'd get tired of sitting around [inaudible] [00:23:17] –
Interviewer: Yeah well, maybe you'd have a great aha moment now during those seven days.
Interviewee: Yes, sir, absolutely.
Interviewer: So let's just end it today on fire with a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you and then we'll say goodbye.
Interviewee: Sweet. Yeah, I'm available at RoastersCoffeeBar.com or ResilientCoffeeRoasters.com. It's a couple of our businesses that we do. You can find out anything there. And that's it, man. I do coffee. That's what I do. I love it.
Interviewee: And a parting piece of guidance.
Interviewee: Don't listen to the naysayers. You know, they always have those sayings about haters and about people that mostly are jealous or struggling to be successful themselves. That when you hear those things just know that it's for your benefit that you'll continue going forward. And sooner or later those haters will turn into supporters.
Interviewee: Fire Nation, you're the average of the five people that you spend the most time with and you've been hanging out with Wes and JLD today. So keep up the heat and head over to EOFire.com and type Wes in the search bar. His show notes page will pop right up with everything that we've been talking about today, resources, books, you name it. Of course go straight to RoastersCoffeeBar.com. And what's the other one, Wes?
Interviewer: There it is.
Interviewee: Yep, yep.
Interviewer: I just wanna say, Wes, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. And for that we salute you and we'll catch you on the flipside.
Interviewee: Rock and roll.
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