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Reverse-Engineer Your Entrepreneurial Success with Ramon Van Meer, Alpha Paw

February 16, 2022

Start with the exit strategy in mind and work your way back to where you are today – this is how you lay down the path to your entrepreneurial success. In today’s episode of Beyond 8 Figures, Ramon Van Meer joins A.J. Lawrence to talk about his own entrepreneurial journey to success after running multiple outstanding companies that have brought in millions. 

Ramon believes it is his duty to help others succeed in the way he did. He made it his mission to help 500 people start their own businesses, so he is here today to share his best advice for the new and experienced entrepreneurs. 

About our guest: 

Ramon is a serial entrepreneur who has created, grown, and sold many successful businesses like the multi-million dollar Soap Hub and Growth Hacker TV. He is the founder and CEO of Alpha Paw, a pet-focused company that creates products made from sustainable and biodegradable materials that enhance the well-being of pets everywhere. Ramon has an incredibly inspiring story. An immigrant from The Netherlands, he was homeless as a teen. He was a single dad who started with nothing and overcame his past challenges to become an incredibly successful businessman. 

On Today’s Episode: 

  • Where Ramon is on his entrepreneurial journey. -2:46 
  • Why Ramon always has an exit strategy in mind for his businesses. -5:18
  • How Ramon’s business methods allow him the freedom to live his life the way he wants.- 9:35 
  • The events that had the most significant impact on Ramon’s success. -10:22 
  • Why failure isn’t always a bad thing. -10:50 
  • Ramon’s approach to authentic networking. -12:45 
  • The difference between starting at the beginning of a business and starting in the middle. -19:50 
  • Maintaining company culture when your business has grown beyond 20 employees. -21:21 
  • The importance of understanding where your skillset is as an entrepreneur. -25:06
  • How “overnight successes” actually take years. -28:50 
  • How Ramon defines success. -30:00 
  • Why Ramon prioritizes his son over his business success. -33:28

Key Takeaways: 

  • When starting a business, it can be beneficial to think about the outcome you want and reverse engineer from there. This keeps you focused on the goal and more likely to succeed. 
  • Failure doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Failure will happen more than success; you just have to learn from it instead of letting it defeat you. 
  • It’s instrumental to your success as an entrepreneur if you focus on making you happy and then hire help for the rest. You are more likely to succeed if you aren’t caught up doing tasks you don’t enjoy. 
  • When looking for help in your business, you can get a lot of support when you just approach people authentically. 
  • When you have a new idea in business, it is helpful to move fast and optimize along the way. However, delaying and waiting for it to be perfect will only delay your success. 

Failure doesn’t have to be a bad thing. On the contrary, it can be the best way to learn and grow in your business. 

[10:49] “I was willing to take risks and have no ego about failure. It’s okay to fail.” 

What lessons have you learned from failing? Tell us in the comments, and don’t forget to say hello if you would like to share your entrepreneurship story on our podcast. 

Mentioned in this episode:

  • Clarity – An online source for startup advice from world-class experts.
  • Dynamite Circle – An online network for entrepreneurs.
  • Trends.co – Insights, analysis, and research resource. 
  • Design Pickle – About the founder’s interest in creating more balance in life.

Connect with Ramon Van Meer: 

Follow Beyond 8 Figures:

Transcript

[00:01:22] A.J. Lawrence: He’s had some pretty good companies, some acquirers, but smaller. And he’s done a lot of work in and around this space. So he wasn’t coming in as a complete newbie. He actually had some pretty good entrepreneurial chops before he’s had this little rocket ship, not little, this rocket ship on his hands. So please without much further ado, let’s learn about how hard overnight successes is with the CEO of Alpha Paw, Ramon Van Meer.

[00:01:53] Hello Ramon. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I’ve been really excited to get you on. You know, as I was just telling the audience, you’ve had such an amazing experience as an entrepreneur, and you’re really having such a, you know, with Alpha Paw now. So much cool stuff that’s going on. How you’ve been about it, doing it, and just created such a great discussion around acquisition entrepreneurship.

[00:02:17] But as you and I were just chatting, you’ve been kind of doing this for a long time, so it’s not this overnight easy success. You put in the hours. Thank you so much for coming on the show today.

[00:02:28] Ramon Van Meer: No, thank you. I’m very looking forward to a chat with you.

[00:02:31] A.J. Lawrence: Given how much you’ve done and you know, this journey and the intention you get in, where do you see yourself now as an entrepreneur? Where are you on your own entrepreneurial journey?

[00:02:41] Ramon Van Meer: Oh wow, going to start with the heavy questions right away. Ah, that’s a good question. Yeah, that’s fun. So I’ve been an entrepreneur, like since I was a 17, 18, and I’ve done so many different things from having a construction company to selling piñatas online to a content site to now selling dog products.

[00:03:05] So I think, you know, I typically, even if I have an exit like I sold that content site, I did not start another content site even though that would have been the most obvious one to do because I already had the connections. I know how to do it, but I wanted to do something else because like one of my motivations, of course, you know, success and, you know, money is a motivation, but I think as equal or more important is also learning.

[00:03:33] Like I like to learn. I like the challenge. I like to prove people wrong. I like, you know, all these things above. So now I’m an e-commerce entrepreneur for the last two and a half years. And I feel like a newbie I’m still learning every day new things. And if after I sell this business, I will probably do something else in a different category. And then I will start from scratch. I will be a new student, like a white belt in martial arts, basically. So I see entrepreneurship similar like that.

[00:04:07] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah, you’re learning the category from scratch, but do you think you’ve built up muscle memory in different concepts that makes each category a little bit easier or at least not so much from pure scratch?

[00:04:22] Ramon Van Meer: Yeah, that’s a good point, of course. And also like you’re building a professional network each time. Right. So now because I already had an exit and have been doing this for years, if I start in SaaS business, I already have a network that I can reach out to and pick people’s brain or get advice or get help from.

[00:04:41] So there’s definitely the longer you do it like you said, you built muscle memory. Try to see myself always as a student and learning like, and I want to always be the dumbest person in the room, even with the people around me, but it’s, it’s a cool, cool journey and learning every day new things.

[00:05:00] A.J. Lawrence: Very cool. I mean, in this, have you already started thinking about, since you just said, you know, until you sell this one, is that a concept you’ve already started mapping out or is it just something will come soon?

[00:05:13] Ramon Van Meer: I like, and everybody has different opinions about it, but me personally, I like to have an exit strategy in mind. So whenever I buy a business or start a business, I like, okay, what kind of outcome I’m looking for? And then I can reverse engineer myself back. To give you an example, if you’re wanting to build a business, it’s called a lifestyle business, basically like it doesn’t really scale fast, but you can, you know, you don’t have to work 80 hours, you make you know, growth is not extremely high, but it’s enough and it makes profit.

[00:05:50] But it’s a lifestyle business, right? If that’s something you choose for, you make different business decisions versus if you want to like, okay, I want to scale. I want to work my ass off for one or two years and then sell a business. You make different business decisions in my opinion based on that, or another reason why I like to reverse engineer is if you want to sell business potentially for a $100M, you have to optimize or work on different metrics than if you sell a business for a million dollars to an individual.

[00:06:23] So in my case, I want to sell Alpha Paw for $100M+, who in the pet space is buying similar businesses for that amount? So now you already can have a list of like, oh, these are the 10, 20 or a 100 company that are buying similar businesses, then you can do research. Okay, how do they make acquisition decisions? What kind of metrics do they look at? Is it revenue? Is it profit? Is it social media following? Is it product mix? Is it whatever?

[00:06:54] And then you can basically, if you already know all that stuff, you can optimize your business towards that so you can increase your chances to get acquired. And for, more importantly, for a higher multiple. Like I’m already, I already talk with big companies already. Not like, Hey, I’m for sale, but it’s more like, Hey, let’s have a chat. It’s like, I want to ask your advice. So I’m making sure myself and the company is already on radars at, you know, companies that potentially could buy us in the future. That’s why I like to have an exit strategy in mind when I start a business.

[00:07:32] A.J. Lawrence: I like also, because of the way you build the business it allows you to be more intentional into the structure because a $1 million business, your metrics, you know, it’s, and I know for a lot of people, 1 million is really huge, but it’s still that idea of like, wow, this works, you know, like what’s going on, but oh my God, it’s getting more.

[00:07:55] It’s, I thought this would be easier. It’s more. And then it’s operational. It’s structural. That starts changing along with obvious the growth requirements. As someone who’s floundered on $8 million business and recover back at four and grew back to the six and said, all right, bye. So yeah, I know that love, you know, making sure you have that right operation.

[00:08:19] That is really cool that you’re doing that. Though as you’re looking at that and you know, kind of maybe jumping ahead. Right now I’m seeing so many people out there who are talking about building portfolios, holding companies, you know, that there’s so much of the discussion out there. It’s like, oh, you do this and you hold this and you have that.

[00:08:40] And this is the tax pass through. I liked the idea that you are looking at this as one business to one business to one business. Now, obviously. Yeah, you’re getting, if you execute across your goals, that will be very well. But do you ever think about approaching some of these holding company structures?

[00:09:02] The CAM, CAM funds, that teeny approach, you know, all those long holding books.

[00:09:09] Ramon Van Meer: Yeah. I’ve I thought about it or look like I have friends in that space. I don’t know. Like, I think for me, I also get bored a little bit. I know it’s bad, but after three years doing something, I want to do something totally different. And also have the freedom like, okay, if I sell Alpha Paw, I have nothing else. I can travel the world for a year if I want to, or I can buy another business or I can write a book, I can do whatever I want. So yeah, I can, you know, I have that freedom. I think that’s gives me a little bit peace versus if I’m building a PE or like in holding or anything. I will basically, yeah, you buy-sell companies within, but you’re still running the business.

[00:09:57] A.J. Lawrence: Given that, you know, you’ve been on this journey while, and you’ve really, you’ve had some success, but you put in your hours. What is the one thing that you think has had the biggest impact on your ability to be an entrepreneur?

[00:10:13] Ramon Van Meer: That’s hard to pick one because it’s like- one thing that helped me as an entrepreneur and it’s more in the early stages. When I was younger, I was really willing to work for free. Not saying that people should work for free, but to learn basically. I was really already playing the long game, not so concerned, like, oh, what’s my salary today or, or et cetera.

[00:10:36] I was willing to take risks and have no ego about it, like in failure, if that makes sense. I think it is okay to fail. Like I have way more stories about failures and big ones than you know. I had to live in my warehouse because I lost all my money in business venture. And I had to rent out my house and I was just living in my warehouse at 24 years old.

[00:11:04] And it was not good for my ego, but, you know, screw it and being okay to fail because you either learn from it. What helped me when I was in San Francisco was actually when I started. What really catapulted my entrepreneurial career so to speak was, when I started really networking and learning to know, become friends with other entrepreneurs.

[00:11:31] Before that was just me in my bedroom, building websites and building things. But once I started, you know, really networking and getting to know other people in the space, especially the ones that were higher, like higher level than me, or like more advanced, then that really brought up my game so to speak.

[00:11:52] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah. Now that you’re you know, since we had talked that you’re living in Austin, some of us have this image that Austin has become like, okay, anyone who’s an entrepreneur just move there over the past, like all right, you’re an entrepreneur? Okay. You must move to Austin.

[00:12:07] Are there any groups or is it more just people who know people who know people. The type of entrepreneur, you know, when you go to spend time with entrepreneur or when you talk with any other entrepreneurs. Where are you finding these people?

[00:12:21] Ramon Van Meer: I’m an introvert so I’m not really good at going to network events or to conference by myself and then just walk up to strangers and then just like, you know, build relationship out of that. So I’m more of where I try to either grab coffee with a person or I try, you know, it’s more from- well they might not work but try, Hey, can you introduce me to this person? And yeah, that’s, that’s one thing that I do.

[00:12:54] So, yeah, I don’t go to network events. Because I’m also a single father, so I also don’t have the time really to go to many of those. So I’m more of a individual where I grabbed coffee with somebody or we, I get to know a friend of a friend. What is also helpful if you don’t know anybody, I always recommend, and you want to pick somebody’s brain that you know knows more about the subject, I use a service called clarity.fm. I’m not affiliated with them, but you can pay per minutes to jump on a call with experts in their fields. And you know, not all of them are great, but there’s a bunch of really great people on there. Online communities is a little bit better, like if you’re part of, you know, specific groups or, you know, like Facebook groups, that’s also where you can find like-minded people. But I think it’s important, like-minded people.

[00:13:52] A.J. Lawrence: I find those in-person groups sometimes a little. I have kids. Yeah. I’m not going out to four in the morning. I don’t want to go pass cards around cause it’s dopey one. What year are we living in? You know, but two it’s sort of like, yeah, it’s not natural, but then communities like I love dynamite circle, trends.co. You know, there’s a few of them out there that on different subject areas, you just get these robust online discussions that then occasionally will break off with real life opportunities.

[00:14:28] Ramon Van Meer: Exactly. And I think what you brought up is really important. It’s like, it has to be, that’s why I don’t think network events really, because everybody has an agenda. Like it has to be authentic basically. And another thing is like, I moved to San Francisco because I knew, okay, Silicon Valley, San Francisco tech hub. So I put myself in that position. I didn’t know, I didn’t move for a specific reason if that makes sense. Like not I had, I didn’t have a job offer or whatever, and you’re like, okay, if I’m around there sooner or later, something might happen or I might’ve meet a person.

[00:15:05] Right. It’s the same. If you want to become a Broadway actor or actress, you have a higher chance to achieve that goal if you are in New York and arounds those circles. So I also put myself, I try to put myself physically in situations that increase the chances to meet people.

[00:15:27] A.J. Lawrence: You know, that is definitely, yeah. I do miss that in New York, but what I kind of find funny living in Europe is you find not the density, but that there were ex-pats of different things. And you know, it’s like, oh, the conversation becomes a conversation and then someone’s like, oh yeah, my friend, he has some web agency, or I know some people doing NFT stuff out of your Balta.

[00:15:51] It’s like, okay, you got to follow the threads. What’s there across. But no, I like that a lot. That’s cool. Given that you are actually going out and, you know, everyone will have Ramon um, social, you know, is Twitter and stuff. Cause definitely twitter is pretty active with discussions of this. But you talked a little bit about what you think entrepreneurs should do. You know, things that can bring value. And you’ve jokingly said, just copying someone else isn’t going to get you the results. You kind of have to put the work in. As I like to say, it’s okay to steal, just not to copy. Stealing, you have to make it your own. Copying, I’ve seen way too much stuff.

[00:16:33] But someone who is an entrepreneur who has an idea that’s gotten off the ground, but hasn’t really hit, you know, even close to a million, but at least is now going and there’s something moving and it’s like, wow, this work. So what, what would you kind of say to them? What do you think would help them most in that phase of their efforts?

[00:16:55] Ramon Van Meer: It’s a good question. And a tough question, because it really depends on like what kind of business, but like what I did when I started my content site, because I started out really from scratch. Like I was living in an 800 square foot apartment living paycheck to paycheck at that time. And I started the content site that I eventually was able to sell for a good amount.

[00:17:20] But what I typically do is, if I don’t have product market fit,I bet on a couple projects. I work on a couple ideas at the same time, you know, and just feel out like what will have the highest potential. And then sometimes, you know, you know, within a couple of weeks, sometimes I work a couple months on different projects. But as soon as find like the product market fit, same with the content site, as soon as I was hitting thousand dollars a day in income for the content site, it’s okay. Now I’m going to just all in on this and then going to try to become a master of you know content sites. And I either stopped with all my other side projects or I sold or just gave it away or whatever.

[00:18:05] I just really focus and went all in on the content site and hired a person to help and really not focused at that time just on profitability. I was more focusing on growing and learning as much as I can. So, yeah, it really depends because if it’s half a million you know a year and it’s a SaaS business, that’s actually pretty impressive and good. Versus if it’s a half a million, you know, e-commerce, it’s still impressive, still good, but it’s different.

[00:18:34] A.J. Lawrence: Maybe the idea is when you get past 150 in free cash flow, because that’s about the point where not for everyone, but that’s generally you start getting to a point where you can pay yourself more than a decently good job in the space. If you’re in the tech yeah that’s entry, but at least to most everyone, you know, a hundred plus is all of a sudden where it’s like, oh, um, I’m living decently well, until you get used to it and then you want to go higher.

[00:19:07] Ramon Van Meer: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And it’s also what I’ve learned the hard way now too even with my pet business is, it’s one thing to go from 0 to 1 million, and then from 1 million to 10 million, but it’s –

[00:19:21] For example, now the pet business is close to 20 million a year. It’s such a different type of company. And it’s almost like, it’s so different than going from zero to one than going from building something from 20 to 100 million, you know. It’s a whole different type of company, different skill sets. And I’m actually, I now find out that I’m actually much better going from zero to 10 million than actually going from 10 to 50. I don’t enjoy it as much. So that’s also keep in mind there too.

[00:19:57] We are programmed to always grow, grow, grow, and like sky’s the limit, but it’s also like, yeah. And I’ve heard it from a lot of founders, like, yeah. As soon as you hit to 20 employees, then things become less fun because you’re just in meetings the whole day, you have HR problems, you have HR departments, you have to ask approval to buy something for your own company with basically your money, like, it’s just a totally different type of, you know, it’s suddenly becomes a job and that’s yeah, just to be aware of that.

[00:20:33] A.J. Lawrence: Twenty is definitely that number because I look back when I have my agency. It was sort of like okay 20 people, I could talk to almost everyone, even the people who lived on the other side of the country, which whew that was so crazy back then. Nowadays, no big deal. But it was like, yeah, you could talk to everyone weekly and still have enough time to do everything. Past that, then all of a sudden it’s like, who are you over there?

[00:20:59] Ramon Van Meer: And then it’s so different to make, maintain company culture, because now you’re not the one hiring each person because other people are hiring and other people are onboarding. And you’re just like, before you know it you’re just in meetings the whole day.

[00:21:13] And it’s fine like some people love that phase, right? Like I think there’s, there’s people who love to build, there’s people love to scale, there’s people that love to optimize. And just being aware of like where your skillset is at and where are you the most happy.

[00:21:27] A.J. Lawrence: What are some of the things maybe just to jump on it since you put it out there. While it is becoming not as much fun, what are some of the things you’re looking to put in place to help you deal with this now transition in your own role in your own effort?

[00:21:44] Ramon Van Meer: We are growing pretty fast, but it’s also like this year, e-commerce you know 2021 was a challenging year for a lot of e-commerce companies similar to us.

[00:21:54] A.J. Lawrence: Saw your tweets with the, I hope that’s my boat shipping.

[00:21:58] Ramon Van Meer: Yes, exactly. It’s like the supply chain, like maybe people have read the article. You know, there’s tons of boats basically stuck in front of the ports because the ports are backed up and you know. So a lot of our inventory is either delayed or we can not even get the inventory or because the price of freight is gone up so much in some products, the unit economics don’t make sense anymore.

[00:22:25] So we are really pivoting a lot and changing our model a little bit more from selling products that are one off product that a person only needs one time, like a dog ramp. You only need one ramp, you know, maybe two for your bedroom an extra one, but it’s considered a one-time product. Pivoting more towards consumables, right, like products that a person needs every day or every week or every month or in my case of pets. So yeah, we are really in that. Building a team around that. And how can you pivot while still maintaining the growth as well? So that’s the fun challenge for us.

[00:23:04] And how can you contain the pricing from Asia skyrocketed so it doesn’t make sense even to the unit economics doesn’t make sense. Okay. What can we do? Let’s let’s maybe pivot to manufacture to Mexico or ideally to the United States. But in some cases it’s just for example, box of pee pads, you know, pee pads that puppies used so they can be in the house. Nobody, no consumer is willing to pay a hundred dollars for it, right. So it’s like, there’s no way we couldn’t even produce that in the United States. So I’m bringing all of that stuff out basically. And that’s the fun part it’s really simply really problem-solving.

[00:23:41] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah. I mean, and that’s, it’s funny. You know, from other entrepreneurs I’ve had on the show that is, it’s like pushing into. One guy had this great line. He says the things that are most difficult, that’s where I look to spend my time, because that’s the most fun. It’s like, everyone’s telling you optimize and do this and that, and he’s like, nah, look for it. If that’s the, if that’s the most friction that’s going to be where the coolest opportunities going to be, that’s where the like fun is. But he said, I have to then make sure I hire really smart people who can optimize everything else that can be.

[00:24:19] And he said, yeah, that’s where he was working so much on. Just because of that. It’s like, okay, I look for, ooh, that feels like something’s wrong there. That’s. Yeah. So like you’re saying, finding the difference, finding those little opportunities to move things.

[00:24:36] Ramon Van Meer: And that’s a really good point of, I don’t know who it is, but you know, your other guests is because I think being an entrepreneur is like, it’s really valuable. It’s really important. If, you know, for people that are listening that are wanting to become an entrepreneur is like to understand where’s your skill set at, and it’s okay to not be good at all the things. Most people are good at just a handful of things.

[00:24:59] I suck at a lot of things, but I’m good at a couple of things. And then you, it’s important to then understand A: where you’re good at, what is your skill sets, where do you also, often that ties in like what makes you most happy, right? Often it’s aligned. And then you hire for all the other things you’re not good at. Like you’re not good at accounting or numbers, finance, excel, hire. Outsource it so you can focus on fixing the big problems or finding solutions for the biggest problems.

[00:25:29] Or is design your biggest skillset? You can do all the design of all the company and the creative parts, and to do operations, you outsource it, right? So I think that’s important for any entrepreneur in any phase in their journey.

[00:25:44] A.J. Lawrence: Focusing on your strengths. I want to kind of talk about, before I ask you about how you’re defining success, one of the things I felt was really interesting on one of your profiles, and I believe it was your Twitter, that one of your goals is sort of to help other entrepreneurs on their own efforts. You know, and I know you’re writing a book interviewing other immigrant entrepreneurs, but what do you think that’s going to look like for you? You know, what’s this effort to help other entrepreneurs look like.

[00:26:14] Ramon Van Meer: I don’t have like a plan yet like, okay, I’m going to build this website or I’m going to build this organization and do XYZ. I just, my, like, what I try to do day in day out is to be as helpful as possible to people. And I got DMs, I got the emails, I got people with questions.

[00:26:33] I try to be extremely helpful for doesn’t matter who it is. If it’s like a person that’s just in college or not even started a business to people that you know are further. And I, I like the internet business roles because I got a lot of help too. As soon as I started to learn people, it’s a very, people are really willing to help each other.

[00:26:56] You’ll be surprised if you just called, email or DM and your approach is authentic and correct or like, not correct but nice. You’ll be surprised how many people were willing to help you. You know, even people that run $100M companies, they will just, uh, willing to help.

[00:27:12] So that’s your question, I don’t have like a set plan in place. It’s just like, even with the book or, you know, with Twitter, I try to just give as much value as possible and also help people that have questions. Because I think that’s besides that’s the right thing to do as a person, it’s also, business-wise, that’s how you win the long game is basically by giving value.

[00:27:35] But yeah, hopefully I come up with an idea one day that I can inspire or help even, you know, thousands of people at the same time versus one DM at the time.

[00:27:43] A.J. Lawrence: You’re setting the foundation. I mean, obviously you’re doing the work, just the thing you’re, you know, you’re building businesses so, Hey, I may know something. Look, I’ve done a few things. Oh, here’s some ideas you’ve gone and you’re doing it. So in a sense as you figure that out or what that may be, you know, from the book to something more you know more hands-on I could see that layer is being set each time. So yeah, I would be excited to see what that ends up being.

[00:28:12] Ramon Van Meer: And that’s a good point too. It’s like, it’s like, okay, it’s not that, oh, I have this billion dollar idea. And then, you know, that’s going to work on just like one thing leads to another. Like, I don’t know what it’s going to be, but eventually it’s going to be. And then, you know, maybe some people at that time were going to say like, oh, that was an overnight success. No, I’ve been doing it for all these years. And then one thing leads to another, basically. So same happened with the dog ramp business. It’s no different, in my opinion,

[00:28:41] A.J. Lawrence: You had the foundation and then you worked on top of the foundation you had built. Given that you’ve had some success, you are already kind of mapping out where you’re going with Alpha Paw and, you know, you’ve talked about you know, some of the things, how are you defining your own success now as an entrepreneur? Not the business, because I know as someone who maybe for a good two long period of my life, someone would ask me how I was doing, and I would talk about the business. Yeah. I mean, instead of myself,

[00:29:14] Ramon Van Meer: Yes, I’m guilty of that too.

[00:29:16] A.J. Lawrence: It’s like, oh yeah, we’re growing and this and we just hired. No. How are you? Oh, well, no, we maybe it’s like, I don’t know what you mean. How are you defining your own success as an entrepreneur separate from the business?

[00:29:30] Ramon Van Meer: Okay. Success for me has changed because of like I’m 40 years old, started 17, you know. In all honesty, when I was younger, it was way more materialistic, you know, motivated money, was not really into cars, but you know, you get the point, like, it was more about like the status and the money and being rich.

[00:29:51] And the funny thing is when I had my first big exit where I got millions of dollars deposited in my bank in one day, I was actually really not that of, uh, was very, anti-climatic. It was actually, yeah, it’s four o’clock, I have to pick up my son from school and I have to feed him and I have to do him homework. And the next day I still have to work. Nothing really changed.

[00:30:18] So that was pretty interesting experience. So I think I will do, be an entrepreneur, do something for the rest of my life like I will not retire. I could have retired a couple years ago. I have so many, I just enjoy doing these things. I enjoy building businesses, helping other people, solving problems. What I do have the problem, as your question was more entrepreneurial, this is more personal is like the problem I have and I’m trying to learn still is how to take a step back of being an entrepreneur and how can I just, you know, you know, enjoy life more or like separate life with work. If that makes sense. So that’s something I want to be better at. And it’s hard.

[00:31:08] A.J. Lawrence: Do you know Russ Perry of Design pickle? Have you ever heard of design pickle?

[00:31:13] Ramon Van Meer: Uh, I don’t know Russ personally but yeah, I know design pickle

[00:31:17] A.J. Lawrence: I had a conversation with him saying, yeah, I’m going to do this thing and I’m going to call it after pickle. And I was like, sounds cool. Eight years later, I’m like, oh wow, you really did it. He says, as you were talking about, you know, working on your, he had something really cool where he talked, this design pickle now is also way, you know, they broke through 10, they’re scaling. They’re looking at, he goes back and forth.

[00:31:42] Sometimes he’s working on things around how to learn better about XYZ of the business, how to acquire companies, how to get better at finance. And then other times it’s like, oh, my kids are, you know, kind of not paying attention to me or I’m not, maybe I need to go work on myself now and, you know, and he uses it to kind of bounce back and forth.

[00:32:04] And I like that for you. It’s also, you know, finding that for yourself or putting the value on yourself versus just the business because it’s so much fun. But that’s a trap we fall into so much as everything is the business.

[00:32:22] Ramon Van Meer: And then what happens and I’m as guilty as anybody else that is also doing this. Like, then we justify. Taking away family time, you know, my son in my case, because I’m doing this for my son. I want him to get a better life. But then at the same time, you know, my son doesn’t really care if I sell the business for a hundred million or a dollar, he just wants to spend time with me. He doesn’t care if we spent a vacation in a four seasons or in camping in a tent, he actually prefers a tent. Right.

[00:32:53] So I think sometimes, I also like sometimes like put the priorities are, I think the priorities are more in the business side. No, priorities actually now forget actually the reason why I’m doing most of these things and it’s my son or my family, or for some people was, you know, the marriage or, you know, whatever it is.

[00:33:15] So I think that’s where I, uh, so after I sell this company, I’m going to hopefully force myself to take off a long time. And that’s, you know, and this is a great example. It’s that, you know, for some people, maybe I "made it" because I’ve had a couple of successes, financial. But in my mind, I’m still making tons of mistakes and, you know, learning. And that’s how I view my where I’m at actually.

[00:33:45] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah, I find myself a lot of times I have to work on accepting because I jokingly say when someone asks me, but that I make 90% of everything I do ends up being a mistake. You know, it’s like the vast majority of my efforts end up being wrong. It’s just the few things I do get right are more valuable. But it’s like that different mindset it’s sort of, you know, baseball, the sales person. It’s like, you got to just get used to just it not working, but I messed up again.

[00:34:22] Ramon Van Meer: Yeah. And also this is a great lesson I’ve learned is that. That’s why, if you’re young you don’t have family to have anything, go for it, right?

[00:34:33] Like because the older you get, and if you get a wife and kids, the more difficult that it is actually to make the jump into becoming an entrepreneur. I’m not saying it’s impossible at all, but if you have a wife and kids, you still going to need to pay the mortgage and you can also not work 90 hours a week.

[00:34:54] When you’re young, 21 years old, technically, you could just live on your friend’s sofa, you know, survive on breads and cheese and noodles and work a hundred hours a week to, you know, work on your startup. And then you can still try it again and again, and again. One thing that I have, I think one of the qualities is that I, if I have an idea, I just right away do it. Like most of my ideas I started with a very basic idea, but at the same day, like the content sites. I literally, I didn’t even have Photoshop so I used paint to make the logo, a WordPress, it was very ugly, but it was something right.

[00:35:35] And then I think I made the mistake when I was younger and I started business. I did it the other way round, where I was first, okay, let’s design the business cards, let’s come up with a logo, let’s pick out out 40 different logos that all look the same, let’s write. So I was before I actually was doing or starting the actual business, it’s already 4, 6, 8 months later. And typically most of the times it was for nothing because the business didn’t go anywhere.

[00:36:05] So now I have the opposite. It’s like just start and then optimize along the way. And especially nowadays, if you have an idea about in internet, there’s so many. You don’t need to know how to code nowadays, you can use WordPress. You can buy a template, you can hire very cheap talent through platforms like Upwork or freelancer.com.

[00:36:30] Don’t know how to write? You can find a writer like there’s so much out there where you can just for very cheap or free, test an idea, very quick.

[00:36:40] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah. I think that’s where some of the fun of being an entrepreneur still comes through. Because things have gotten so much easier, there’s so many more businesses. But I think the percentages of failed businesses to startups are still pretty much the same because it’s the logic, you know, you still have to figure out. You can’t just throw things together.

[00:37:01] You can’t, you have to kind of, alright, am I using my time? Am I gaining that piece? One engagement then the next, and then, yeah. So that’s that kind of fun of like, you need to move fast, but you don’t just move fast. You gotta move fast to learn, you know, as you said earlier, you got to do things that get you that next piece of learning or you don’t kill yourself trying to get from doing,

[00:37:28] Ramon Van Meer: Yeah, or figure out, I think, you know, that’s, that’s a question that nobody is like, okay, when do you stop an idea? Right? Like when do you say, okay, I’ve tried maybe for whatever reason, it’s just not the right idea. When do you go then to the next idea, right?

[00:37:46] That’s, you know, that’s a heart, uh, and there there’s no right or right answer. It’s not black and white, but yeah, I’ve worked on ideas. Wait, like looking backwards, like, man, I should’ve stopped, you know, six months before that. Like, um, so

[00:38:02] A.J. Lawrence: I know that feeling. Thank you. Thank you so much for coming.

[00:38:06] Ramon Van Meer: No, thank you so much. This was fine. We’ll keep in touch.

[00:38:09] A.J. Lawrence: We’ll talk more.

[00:38:11] That was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed talking to Ramon and I think I’ve learned a lot. And I think there’s a lot we can take away for the audience. I didn’t really dive much into, and he made some references throughout about his MA fighter background.

[00:38:27] So, you know, he has experience that only as an entrepreneur going through developers, but he’s also in kicking ass. But more fun was his reference to starting off in different entrepreneurial efforts as a white belt, as bringing a beginner’s mind, I’ll use that phrase.

[00:38:49] Yes, he has other entrepreneurial knowledge. He has experience and he utilizes a broader each time, a broader network of people that he can engage with for different levels. But that’s just part of the beauty of what we do as entrepreneurs. As we go along it’s like each time we do something, we bring a little bit more. But we need to give it an honest open beginner’s mind to what the opportunity is.

[00:39:18] So, so much there to do it. I also love, because it’s kind of something you don’t have someone say directly, but when he says he begins each effort with planning out where that he’s going to exit. What’s the end point and then reverse engineer. It’s not that he’s going to X, Y, and Z directly as he plans, buy something and then sell it at this. But he does plan right from the beginning what the exit’s going to look like and work towards it.

[00:39:50] It is radical. It’s very much like what you hear in the build to sell, you know, model and a lot of these other things, but Ramon’s living it. You know, he’s also kind of looking at this big picture as he’s kind of talked about, know how he’s looking already to what’s after Alpha Paw.

[00:40:09] So, you know, this is kind of cool seeing entrepreneurs look at the bigger picture, because like we’ve said very often on the show we spend so much time just focused in each of our individual businesses and just living there and just like trying to move it forward that to look at what we’re doing for our efforts ongoing and down the road and realizing that yes, we have this opportunity with the businesses we have, but really we’re the core value generator over time for ourselves.

[00:40:47] Now, a lot to think of and just such a great guy. I mean, please go check him out, you know. Hey, if you have a pet go to alphapaw.com, go check. I can’t wait to actually, when I moved back to the States, I can buy stuff. Now they are expanding globally. But there’ll be a lot easier when I’m back in the States. And check them out on Twitter. We’ll have the link below

[00:41:15] This episode of Beyond 8 Figures is over, but your journey as an entrepreneur continues. So if we can help you with anything, please just let us know. And if you liked this episode, please share it with someone who might learn from it. Until next time, keep growing and find the joy in your journey. This is A.J., and I’ll be talking to you soon. Bye bye.

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