Being a founder, entrepreneur, or a business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur” we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Blue.
(Daniel Blue is a former drug addict turned entrepreneur. A Forbes contributor and owner of Quest Education, Daniel was able to channel adversity he experienced at a young age into an opportunity in becoming a business owner.)
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Daniel Blue: My parents got divorced when I was 12 years old, and all of a sudden, it was just my mom and me. Once I got into 8th grade, I started doing poorly in school and watched my mom struggle to make ends meet. We moved around a lot during that time. There was a time during high school where we lived with a friend and lived in a hotel. After I graduated high school, I had no clear direction and hung out with the wrong crowd. I got addicted to Oxycontin at 18 years old and could not stop abusing drugs for two years. My daughter was born when I was 19 years old, and that was a pivotal moment in me being able to get clean. Despite making bad personal choices, I was able to land a sales job when I was 18 years old and found myself doing well in the sales industry, which planted seeds to become an entrepreneur one day.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Daniel Blue: One of my sales positions was in the real estate coaching arena. During that time, I was introduced to self-directed retirement accounts’ flexibility and how they can do things like invest in real estate. At that time, I thought IRA/401k retirement accounts could only be used to invest in traditional investments like stocks and mutual funds. When I found out there were other options besides the stock market; I was very intrigued. That strategy was planted in my head at that time. Knowing that information and having the right network of people around me, I switched industries after a few years in the coaching sales arena.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
Daniel Blue: I believe I developed the skills needed to be an entrepreneur as I got older. One thing that helped me develop the skills required for entrepreneurship was playing competitive sports. Playing sports taught me to compete. Entrepreneurship is all about competing with yourself and others in the marketplace. Sports also taught me how to gain a perspective on losses, failure, and culture. All three of those concepts are a big part of being a business owner.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
Daniel Blue: My mom was someone who inspired me at a young age. She raised me on her own from when I was 12 years old and was an excellent example for me. She had a fantastic work ethic, ambitious mindset, and despite many challenges thrown her way, she never demonstrated a victim mentality. All three of those qualities are specific qualities that are necessary to have when you own a business. There was a time when I was a freshman in high school, and we were in a bad spot financially. We lived in a hotel for about a month, and things were not looking good for us. I never remember my mom complaining or being negative. During those years, the struggles we had inspired me to get to a level financially where we would never have to struggle like that again.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Daniel Blue: We teach people specific financial strategies regarding their retirement accounts that they won’t hear from their financial advisers or CPA’s. After many years of working for a company, one of our customers wanted to leave her 9-5 job to become a full-time business owner in the e-commerce space. To make this transition, she needed to have working capital for her online business. She didn’t want to borrow money from the banks to make this happen. Instead, we helped her access the cash inside her retirement account in a tax/penalty-free way, and she was able to use those funds to grow her business to where it is now. Now she is working from home on her online business that provides her enough income where she doesn’t have to work a typical 9-5 job.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Work ethic: My first job I worked as a grocery clerk when I was 16 years old. I went above and beyond at my job, where I wanted to be the best grocery bagger, best shopping cart gatherer, best restroom cleaner, best floor sweeper, and anything else I could be the best in. The grocery store helped shape my work ethic, and I realized that I knew I needed to outwork people to be the best in those areas.
Salesmanship: Most successful business leaders are excellent salespeople. My first sales position was a phone sales job when I was 18 years old. I was one of the youngest employees at a company with around 50 salespeople, so I was very intimidated when I first started. I had no sales experience before this job. My first week, I went in with a fearless mindset and was the first one into the office and the last one to leave the office. That first week resulted in me putting up a record sales week for a rookie.
Good communicator: I was given my first sales management position at 19 years old. I was in charge of a sales team of 4 other sales reps who were also around my same age. No one thought we would succeed, given how young and inexperienced we were. I was able to hone in on my communication skills to effectively train and lead my team to perform at a high level. Our team was one of the best teams in performance every single week.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
Daniel Blue: One of the first paychecks I received in sales was a $3,000 weekly commission check. I was 18 years old and was clueless about finances. I remember opening up my paycheck that day and expecting a $3,000 paycheck based on my commissions. After opening up my paycheck, I saw that I only netted $1,800. I complained out loud, “Why is my check so low?”. My manager overheard me and responded to me, “Oh that’s money the IRS took from your check for taxes. Just claim exempt on your taxes, so the IRS won’t take any taxes from your checks moving forward. You will have bigger paychecks if you do that”. I took action on his advice, and from there on out, I claimed exemption and dug a hole of over $20,000 in tax bills I would owe in the future.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
Daniel Blue: Make sure every employee has a job description, and they are not taking on too many tasks. What tasks can get delegated? What tasks can get automated? What tasks can be removed altogether? Identify the strengths of your employees to ensure the right employees are in the correct position within the business to have the best chance for success.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Daniel Blue: Building a personal brand that includes having a social media presence, creating video content, blog posts, writing a book, speaking on stage, and starting a podcast are some of the things that make up a personal brand.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
Daniel Blue: People do business with people they know, like, and trust. If you don’t have a personal brand, it is harder for them to get to know you, like you, and trust you. We live in a digital age where personal branding will only become critical to business owners’ success.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Daniel Blue: A big mistake is not knowing their numbers when it comes to sales metrics and financial metrics. It’s hard to measure and improve a business if you don’t know how many leads you have coming in and what your conversions are off those leads. If you don’t know your revenue and expenses for your business on the financial side, it will be hard to forecast your cashflow. Getting a CRM set up early in the game will help track the sales metrics so you can measure those numbers, make adjustments and improve in that area. Hiring someone to do your books is vital to have accurate P & L’s on time to understand your financial metrics within your business better.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
Daniel Blue: Having a regular job means you have less risk than the person who carries the risk is the person you work for. Being an entrepreneur means you are taking a big risk. According to a data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of US small businesses fail within the first year. By the end of their fifth year, roughly 50% have faltered. Taking on a big risk, such as starting a business, means you will take on more challenges, and with challenges come highs and lows. There is a risk-reward factor in starting a business, and that’s why it’s important not to get too low when things aren’t going good and not get too high when things are going good. Success and adversity are always around the corner. If you can find a solution that solves a problem in the marketplace, create a profitable strategy of getting new customers, provide excellent customer service and create a strong culture within your team, the reward on the other side of the risk is always worth chasing.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Daniel Blue: Seeing our customer testimonials always creates a sense of excitement for me. A customer recently told us, “Thank you for helping me get my issues under control. I appreciate what you have been able to do for me”. That put a big smile on my face as our business serves to impact people. Solving a problem the customer wasn’t able to solve without our help is a super rewarding feeling.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Daniel Blue: When COVID hit in March of 2020, the city of Las Vegas was pretty much shut down. Our employees were anxious about the situation, and we went from seeing each other at the office every day to now having to work together remotely. That was very challenging as we never worked remotely and got so used to working with each other in person over the years. I remember the first few months of this new arrangement feeling in a funk about where we were with things. Business slowed down, and the sudden changes impacted our culture.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
Daniel Blue: We got on more Zoom calls and talked through how everyone felt. Our leadership team stepped up to get the culture back to order. We could get back to seeing each other in the office last summer on a part-time basis. Even though it wasn’t on a full-time basis, it was nice to see each other in person once or twice a week.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
–Strong mental health: You will get punched and kicked to the ground as an entrepreneur. How strong are you mentally? How much pain mentally can you stand? Eating healthy and exercising are two things that are very important in maintaining robust mental health for you to withstand the punches and keep going.
–Healthy relationships: Last year was a challenging year financially business-wise. If I didn’t have healthy, strong relationships with my wife and daughter, it would have made the business that much more difficult. Keeping your relationships healthy and drama-free will help your focus and performance when running your own business.
-Solid company culture: A company’s culture will stand out when experiencing challenging times and when times are good. Does the company have core values that they stick to? Knowing what a company stands for is essential to have in place.
–Who’s in your circle?: Do you have a mentor? Do you have a close circle of friends you can lean on during challenging times? Are they the kind of friends that will call you out when you are doing well for yourself but you start to act careless and make bad choices? Your close circle of friends will shape you and will be pivotal during times of challenges and success.
–Have a long-term game plan: Businesses need a game plan to follow. There needs to be a vision mapped out, so there is a sense of direction. When things aren’t going well, are you sticking to the game plan and executing? When things are going good, are you no longer following the game plan, losing your hunger, and making careless decisions? Why did you start your business? What are your goals with the company? Those are questions you may need to revisit during times of adversity and success.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Daniel Blue: Resilient people are those who do the work despite whatever excuse is thrown their way. No matter what obstacle is in front of them, they still find a way to win. Resilient people understand that things happen FOR them and not TO them. Challenges thrown their way are opportunities they can use to grow into a better person. They never accept a victim mentality and blame other people.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
Daniel Blue: When I was 20 years old, I was addicted to OxyContin and used the pills for two years. My life was going downhill fast, and I unsuccessfully tried to stop using the drugs many times during those years. I was 19 years old when my daughter was born. It wasn’t until my daughter was six months old that I finally developed enough resiliency to get clean finally. I’ve been clean for 11 years now.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Daniel Blue: I tend to keep a neutral attitude. What helps me is understanding a negative attitude gets you nowhere, so I avoid that at all costs. I’ve made many mistakes being naive and too optimistic in situations. I make a conscious effort to remove my bias, remove my emotions and look at things from a fact-based perspective.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
Daniel Blue: During COVID last year, when Las Vegas was shut down, and we quickly had to switch from working at the office to working remotely, I knew I couldn’t have a negative attitude. I also knew I couldn’t be overly optimistic and say we would get past the COVID situation in one month. I knew it was going to take some time, so I took a neutral stance and dealt with the reality, which was “This is where we are now. Working remote and getting new systems in place to adapt to keep the business going is what we need to focus on. Let’s control what we can control”. The leaders’ attitude will impact the employees of the company. If the employees have a terrible mindset and a negative attitude, that will rub off onto the clients since the clients are talking to the employees. That circle between clients, employees, and leader has to be working correctly.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
Daniel Blue: “Are you chasing a better version of yourself?”
I first heard this quote in 2017. At this point, I wasn’t reading a whole lot of books nor diving into personal development. That question I heard was a gut check for me. Here I was, this father, husband, and son. Was I chasing a better version of myself every day? I couldn’t answer that question with 100% certainty, and since that day, my perspective about my growth journey has changed.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Facebook: Daniel Blue
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!