035 | Key To Becoming A Successful Entrepreneur, With Thom King

Thom King - Podcast Episode

Today we have Thom King with us on the show and he will share with us some secrets on how to become a successful entrepreneur. So regarding Thom is part CEO, part personal development and part biohacker info geek. And Thom King is a self-confessed serial entrepreneur.

 

Thank you, Thom, for being with us today.

 

Thank you. I appreciate it. Yeah, I am, super eager to dive into this.

 

Awesome. So just a few more words about Thom. He has built several successful businesses. And he’s an experienced entrepreneur. And he has agreed to share his experience and wisdom with us. So it’s going to be fun. All right, let’s dive in. So, Thom, I just, you know, before we get into the nitty-gritty, why don’t we start with your background and experience and education so that our audience can get to know you better?

 

Um, well, my background. I was born in Wisconsin, and I was raised in Colorado. Um, you know, and I was basically raised on a small ranch or small farm. So I guess you could say that growing up, I got to experience slave labor. So I got to work for free. And I worked really hard. I’m a fifth-generation entrepreneur. So my dad was an entrepreneur, my grandfather was an entrepreneur, great grandfather, great, great grandfather. So entrepreneurship is in my DNA. But I didn’t really jump into being an entrepreneur, entrepreneur. Until like, I was in my 20s. So I wasn’t that enterprising, you know, guy, you know, at 12 years old, with a lemonade stand at all. You know, and I wouldn’t say that I really found, like, true success and being an entrepreneur, entrepreneur, until, you know, I was in my, the probably late 30s or early 40s. So, it’s, it’s, it’s been a definitely been a journey for me.

 

So, that’s, that’s quite interesting, like, so you had, you know, good background, from your family side, you knew how entrepreneurship works. And yet it took you some time to find your ground and, and gain success. So tell us a little bit about the early, early part of your entrepreneurial career, like, you know, what kind of struggles did you have? What did you learn anything that you can share with our audience today?

 

Yeah, well, my first business, believe it or not, was serving legal papers on people and, and repurposing cars. So that’s kind of how I made my way through school. So that was, that was my first business, I’m not sure I would really call it much of a business. I mean, it’s supported, you know, supported my lifestyle when I was in when I was in college, you know, and I was able to save a little bit of money, but it wasn’t like I was really growing an enterprise. I would say that you know, the first enterprise that I really saw, like, amazing growth and success was probably the one that, you know, that I have today. You know, and that one, that journey started out, you know, in the 90s, late 90s, when I ran into a gentleman who had come back from Paraguay on a hike, and he had been collecting herbs. And he introduced me to one of the herbs and he said, you know, you should try this, you know, it’s really interesting, and I tried it, and it was about 25 times sweeter than sugar, and I was like, What the heck. And he said, yeah, that’s stevia, and, you know, grows, grows in Paraguay. And that is when I would say that sort of this entrepreneurial spark sort of ignited in me, because I thought, you know, if we could find a way to extract those sweet constituents out of the leaf, this could be like a really great high intensity, sweetener that can be used to replace like Nutra-sweet or, or aspartame. So, um, that began my journey. So I had to find a company who that would be able to, you know, to be able to extract that and a natural process, just using water and filtration. So that’s how it started. But it also took me three to four years to be able to find the company that I could actually, that would actually manufacture the product for me. So that entire time, my, that sweetener business was my side hustle. So I had a job at a Fortune 100 company, in an executive role. And just about every penny that I made, would go into my side hustle, because, you know, this building, building my future, and then in 2004, I moved, moved from California to Oregon. And I think that that’s when I really, that’s when things came to fruition. I thought was pretty broke at the time, because I went through a divorce, which they’re expensive, you know, and I also was still working on the research and development of the product. So it was four years later, in 2008, that I really started to see, you know, I really started to see that the company was starting to grow legs. But at that point in time, I was out of money, completely. And I actually had to go to my father and ask him for a loan. And, you know, my dad was, he was kind of a hard, hard man. And it was very difficult for me to come to Him and ask Him for you to ask him for lunch. And so, you know, I put together a business plan, I offered him a return on investment and a return of investment. And, you know, much to my surprise, he wrote me a check. And that’s what kept me afloat.

 

That’s great, great story. So that has been an amazing journey sounds like. Now one thing that strikes me is, you know, you had an idea as an entrepreneur, and you needed some help from another expert company, or somebody who could, you know, take the idea and sort of, you know, build a product around it, how do you trust somebody enough that you can hand over your idea to them and say, okay, you know, build it for me? Because a lot of people sort of struggle with this. So can you shed a little bit more light on this? Like, how do you? How do you go about recruiting the right person who you can trust with? With your idea?

 

That’s, you know, what? That’s great, a great question. And I really think like an entrepreneur, you are, you know, you’re only as successful as the people you surround yourself with. So I mean, making sure that you vet every single person, you know, that you’re going to, to trust. I think also, you know, easing into a relationship, you know, instead of turning over all of your intellectual property, and all of your ideas, you know, maybe easing into it a little bit and making sure that you’ve got, you know, a pretty good lawyer to, you know, to draft non-disclosure agreements, you, you don’t have people infringing or stealing your intellectual property. But you know, that drawing the the most excellent people into your life, that is also as much of a journey, as you know, as being an entrepreneur, because that sort of defines you and defines your success on, you know, having the right people be, you know, be within your circle.

 

Yeah, that’s true. Yeah, I mean, your team is, is, is critical for the success for sure. Now, once you know, you, you found the success, do you still continue to work with them, with the company that originally helped you to, you know, bring it from concept into a real product?

 

Yes. So we, we do still work with them. But diversifying your supply chain is also something that’s super important. So like, if you are, if you’ve got a product or a device or something like that, it’s always it’s always smart to have redundancy, it’s so smart to have, you know, multiple suppliers, because you don’t want to be dependent on just one supplier, in case they go out of business in case they in case the quality of the product starts to start to degrade. You want to be able to pivot quickly. So, yes, we’re still working with them. We also have redundancy in our supply chain.

 

That’s great. That’s great. All right. Now, you already highlighted some key factors that were part of your success, but just, you know, to, to make it comprehensive, what are some of the key areas that you will say, need to be emphasized for entrepreneurs to ensure their success? Not I mean, obviously, nothing can be sure, but something that can sort of, you know, give them an extra edge.

 

Um, I would say, mindset is number one, like making sure that you, you know, that you’re constantly in, you know, in a growth mindset, instead of fixed mindset, you know, because that’s going to open your mind, open your mind and your eyes to all possibilities, because just because you’re going one direction at one minute, doesn’t mean that you’re going to have to pivot and go in another direction, depending on market, depending on, you know, competitors, you know, and other factors like that. So, I mean, that’s, I mean, I would say that that’s probably the biggest key factor for me. So,

 

um, do you have any, any sort of advice are, you know, things that people can do to get into that growth mindset, like, mindset is something that it’s kind of difficult to, to, you know, to inject into somebody, right, but I’m wondering if there is any, any practical advice or tips, tips or tricks that you can share to get into that kind of mindset.

 

Um, I would say get up early. I mean, you know, I try to get up around 4:45 to 5 am, I would say get up early. And that’s when, you know, that’s when I have what I call my hour of power. And I kind of stole that from Anthony Robbins. So in that time, I would say the most important thing that I do during my our power, is journaling. So I keep a journal I write in a journal, it helps me sort of purge the things that are in my mind. But one of the biggest, I would say, parts of journaling is the section that I talked about, you know, to myself about gratitude. Like, what are the things that I’m grateful for, and even when, you know, when things look dismal and bleak, you know, you always need to peel away the layers and find the things that you’re grateful for, like, um, you know, I follow, I follow a guy, his name’s Jocko willing, and he has a video that’s called good. And he said that anytime that he encounters, you know, adversity, he’s got one word, and that’s good. And I try to follow that, meaning that there’s always some good and every situation that appears to be, you know, that appears to be bad. Like, you know, if you didn’t, if we didn’t get new equipment that we needed, good. We can use the equipment that we’ve got, you know, or if we didn’t get venture capital on a particular project. Good. We own more for the company. So there’s always a little bit of good in every bad situation.

 

Yeah, that’s for sure. Yeah. And, you know, the physical manifestation is basically what we, what we have in our mind anyway. So that’s very good advice. And, and I’ve heard the journaling part from multiple guests on this show. It’s also, that’s again, very interesting. I haven’t picked up the practice yet. But I’m going to definitely look into it. Now, when you journal. Do you also go back and refer to the journal once in a while?

 

Yeah, I do, actually. I mean, that’s how I can see if that I’m making progress. So I would say the most that I go back to into those journals would be at the end of the year. So at the end of the year, I gather up all my, you know, all my journals, and I go through them page by page by page, so I can see progress. Because a big part of my journaling is, you know, the section that I’m you know, that I write about, what do I want to create? And what do I want to manifest? So when I write that down, and brings it into more of a tangible place, but then, you know, I sort of augment that by creating an action plan for each one of those, but it is a touchpoint, for me on a daily basis, where I look into, you know, what I want to create, and what I want to manifest, and it’s pretty amazing, like, at the end of the year, you know, I can actually see progress on all of those things that I want to create. So I would say that, incorporating that into, you know, your journaling, that you’re going to see almost magical results from that.

 

That’s awesome. That’s great. Now, Was this something that you acquired along the way, like, mindset, you know, growth, mindset, journaling? All these things? Did you learn? Or did you already sort of having this in, in, in your DNA? as you put it?

 

No, no, none of this was in my DNA. Growing up as a kid, I mean, I was forced to work, but if I wasn’t forced to work, I would have laid around all day, like, I was pretty lazy. I, the skill, you know, the skill, I guess, you can say, of, you know, of journaling, and of keeping my mindset, you know, in a growth mode, this is all stuff that I’ve learned, and, and I don’t have it perfected, and I can’t actually be more clear about that I am a total and complete work in progress. I still don’t have this stuffed down, I still have to journal. And you know, and I still have to, you know, keep myself on track and keep discipline and, you know, and it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating, because, you know, I, I continually asked myself, you know, okay, so when am I going to have this down? When am I going to find perfection? When am I going to have peace of mind? And I think that probably last year, I came to the conclusion that, well, this is the process of life, the process of life is you’re constantly growing, you’re constantly succeeding, you’re constantly failing. And it’s like, and what you do with those failures is up to you? Are you going to grow from it? Um, you know, are you going to learn from it? So, yeah, I am totally and completely a work in progress. So I don’t want anybody to misunderstand that. I’ve got it all together, I fully don’t.

 

Well, thanks. Thanks for that humility. But yeah, I mean, we are all working progress. And as you said, this journey is what’s enjoyable, you know, the old ups and downs and, and unexpected things that will happen, you know, that’s the exciting part about it. Alright, so, now what? So, what do you love? What do you love about being an entrepreneur? You said that you know, you sort of started late. So was that was there a trigger something that shifted from the sort of, you know, a non-entrepreneur mindset to entrepreneur. And then once you became an entrepreneur, and you struggled? Like, what was exciting about it, such that you kept going, even though you didn’t have early success?

 

Yeah, I think I mean, I always had that sort of entrepreneurial bent that was built into my DNA, for sure. My thing was, I was afraid. So I think I was afraid of failure. I think I was afraid of risk. So I would, you know, I would just keep taking jobs, they were executive-level jobs. And you know, so the pay was great, and everything else, but it was pretty unsatisfying. And I think that human beings, we were pretty simple. I mean, we basically, we, we basically, live in constant, you know, pain and pleasure mode, meaning that we try to avoid pain, and we seek out pleasure and when the things that we’re doing, don’t give us pleasure and cause us pain, that’s when we make a shift in our behavior. So when I had a job, I felt like I was false. Like I, I mean, I felt like there was a veneer, you know, on my body, I felt like an imposter at work, I also I didn’t really enjoy what I was doing. So what happened is that the pain of that job outweighed the pleasure like of the paychecks and the security. And at that point, I just, I felt compelled to step into being an entrepreneur, now, an artist being an entrepreneur is not without pain, and, and sometimes even less pleasure, because you don’t have the security, but the pleasure of enjoying your own success. And the success that you build exceeds any, any kind of pleasure that you would get from a job, well, you got a bonus, multiply that by 100 times, you know, when you see your first dollar coming in on your business, it’s just that exciting. So it was, I mean, it’s always a struggle, like being an entrepreneur is a struggle. I mean, it, it sort of mirrors life, you know, and even for me, like I’ve built a certain level of success, that there’s still plenty of pain, but I leverage that pain into growth opportunities. Awesome.

 

Alright, so obviously, you are experienced entrepreneur, and you must have worked with other entrepreneurs or observed them. And also, from your own journey, what are some of the common mistakes that you’ve come across, that entrepreneurs make, whether that’s from your own experience, or, or some other people, other entrepreneurs experience,

 

um, I would say, collectively, and individually, I would say the biggest mistake that entrepreneurs can make is surrounding yourself by the wrong people. You don’t want people that are going to agree with you all the time. I was once told that, you know, in a relationship, if there’s two people that continually agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary. So I look for relationships that that, you know, that can engage me, you know, indifference, meaning, you know, their opinions are different than mine, the way they do things is different. I would say that, you know, surrounding yourself by quality people, you know, that, understand your vision, come to the table with different ideas. I think that that’s key. So the number one thing you want to avoid is surrounding yourself with the wrong people.

 

But then, in the same token, you know, if there is such a diverse group of people working together, takes a certain type of a person to, to be able to work with them and avoid friction, isn’t it?

 

Yeah, it is. And that’s where I mean, I would say, developing your listening skills, and understanding that as the entrepreneur or the CEO of your company, you have the final, you have the final say, and the final word, and what and what is going to get done. So, you know, I would say, Get as many opinions as you possibly can, some of them you’re going to disagree with some of them, you’re not going to agree with, but you’re going to be able to use that information, I consider that data collection. And data collection is paramount. Any decision making.

 

Cool, cool. Alright, so now that you know, as you put it, like you, you know, you as humble as you are, you’ve had some amount of success Now, what is? What is it that motivates you most, at this stage

 

Creativity, like, in what is the next thing that I’m going to do? So, I find myself in sort of a conundrum sometimes, because, at the president, I’m the CEO of my company. And I’m very, very grateful for that. But what I find is, I’m away way better entrepreneur, then you know, that I am a CEO, I think that I’m okay at it. But I think that there’s a lot of other people that would be better suited to being a CEO of the company. So I long to create I long to build, you know, and those are the things that that, you know, keep me engaged and keep me excited about what I do.

 

So you’re basically saying you want to, you want to launch new companies and hand them over to somebody else to run them.

 

Ultimately, I think that’s the that is the perfect place for you know, for an entrepreneur to be, you know, come up with the ideas, get the start-up going, you know, and then bring in people that enjoy the day to day operations of the business. That’s the best. Yeah, that’s the best place to be getting there. That’s the challenge, you have to find a great CEO, you have to find a staff that can take you from point A to point B. So I mean, it’s continual, you know, it’s a continual process of surrounding yourself with the best people that can take you there.

 

Yeah, for sure. All right. Now, entrepreneurship, as you said, like, you know, you are, you’re passionate about it. But entrepreneurship is all about risk. And so I wanted to ask, what, what does the biggest risk you have taken in your career? And how did it play out?

 

That’s it. That’s a pretty recent risk, actually, like I’ve taken I mean, being an entrepreneur is all about taking risks. I mean, you’re taking the biggest risk by not having a job. I mean, if you’re an entrepreneur, you’re unemployed. And if you if you’re, if you’re an entrepreneur long enough, then you’re unemployable. Like, I don’t know anybody who would hire me. So you kind of just build your own your own prison that way. But I would say that the biggest risk, I’d say, the biggest risk that I’ve taken is, was pretty recent, it was last year, I saw an opportunity for us to, to start making sugar free chocolate chips. And I saw that the market was there, I, I felt like this was a good place for us to be, I did my research. And then I ordered 100,000 pounds of chocolate chips during the summer. Wow. And that was a huge, huge, huge risk. But I was amazed by how receptive our customers were. And it turned out beautifully. And now we’re bringing in 100,000 pounds of sugar-free chocolate chips, every couple months, we’ve developed an amazing relationship with the manufacturer who’s co-manufacturing them for us. And I mean, in the end, it turned out to be a terrific profit centre, we built a great relationship with a vendor, you know, and it worked out. If it didn’t work out, then I would have ended up losing probably a couple hundred thousand dollars and would have had truckloads of melted chocolate chips and no place to put them. Right. So it was a pretty big world risk in this one happened to pay off. Thankfully,

 

that’s great. Otherwise, some kids would be quite happy, I guess,

 

It’s true, It’s true.

 

All right. So um, one of the key areas of improvement or struggles that entrepreneurs run into sales and marketing. So do you have any advice on that? particularly for people who are just starting off? Yeah, how they can? How they can, you know, get into that sales and marketing mindset and be able to do it even if they don’t have, you know, expertise in that field?

 

Um, well, sales. It’s interesting. I did, I never had a sales background. I mean, honestly, I got my sales background, when I moved from Colorado to Arizona, and I was out of work. So I tried to get a job at a radio station selling ads on the radio station wouldn’t hire me because they said I didn’t have sales experience. And so I was at a loss, like, where does one get sales experience? Like, where do they understand how to sell. So I ended up actually getting a job that I found in the paper at a place called ABC, Nissan, in Phoenix, Arizona. And the ad in the newspaper said, will train salespeople. And so that is where I learned that’s where I learned how to sell. So I went and sold used cars on a car lot in the middle of summer in Arizona 110 degrees every single day. And it was another pain and pleasure moment, you know because you know, the pain, you know, the pain of being on that card lot really, really forced me into really learning sales and developing sales as a craft. And if you want to learn how to sell, go door to door, I mean, when I run into people that have to go door to door selling like Cutco knives, I have the deepest level of respect for them, because that takes a lot of courage to actually knock on somebody’s door and offer them you know, some merchandise you’re selling. So if you if you can’t absorb yourself into like Zig Ziegler or Tom Hopkins their sales material, I would say go through classified section or on Craigslist, find yourself a sales job where they’ll train you, and then just stay there for six months until you have that sales method. You know, down pat, as far as the marketing end of things goes, I think that we are in a time where it’s like no other time like marketing is is through social media is I mean, I people may think oh, you know what this is this is dead and gone. I just think it’s starting, I think if you can find a way to leverage social media into your into your marketing campaigns, that’s paramount. It’s it doesn’t cost you anything. It’s that mean, it’s easy to do you just develop content. So between those two of getting good sales experience, and you leveraging social media, I think that that’s an excellent pathway to success.

 

That’s great. All right. That’s awesome. Very, very useful advice. Thanks a lot. Is there anything else that I haven’t asked you about entrepreneurship, that you may want to share,

 

um, leisure activities and recharging your batteries. Um, you know, that’s one thing like being an entrepreneur, entrepreneur, I mean, you can find that you’ve thrown yourself into work, and you’re working 24 seven, and that’s all you ever do. And if you get to that point, what you’re going to find is going to be sacrificing relationships that ultimately will translate into unhappiness, like you’re going to end up being alone. So I think it’s important as an entrepreneur, that you take time for yourself, you know, like, don’t work 24×7, you know, always take a couple of days off. Don’t forget to engage with the family. Don’t be a workaholic, there’s nothing to be proud about being a workaholic. take time for yourself, take time for your family, take time for your relationships, go on vacations, on vacation, take a week, take two weeks, you know, and the thing is, is you’ll come back and your batteries will be recharged. And you’ll be 10 times more effective than you were before.

 

That’s very true. Yeah. I used to actually, you know, one of the things that I adopted this year was, instead of waiting for the whole year to take one week or two week’s vacation, I’m taking like, you know, mini-vacation. one weekend here there. And you know, before the interview I was just telling you about how visited your neck of the woods like going to Portland withering Mount St. Helens that was like two day trip and was just an amazing, amazing experience and the after-effects, as you said, like the batteries were charged four days after that. So it was it. Yeah,

 

yeah, it’s rejuvenating. I cannot stress that enough. Because like, I because I’m a living example of it. I’ve gone two years without a vacation. And it’s starting to show. And so I mean, for me, you know, advice. I mean, I would love it. If somebody would have given me advice years ago and just said, take time for yourself. Get a massage, you know, go out your friends do things that rejuvenate you. Exactly, yeah.

 

Now first, first find what? What excites you and then do it right.

 

Absolutely.

 

Awesome. Thank you so much, Thom. This was an amazing interview. And thank you so much for sharing all your wisdom and knowledge. Now, before I let you go, can you tell us a little bit about your company, I consult services and what you do and how you, you’re helping make us healthy

 

Yeah, so I mean, so icon foods, I founded it in 1999. And we’re a supplier of clean-label sweetening systems. And what that means is we basically help consumer products cut back on you know, the amount of added sugars that they’re putting in your food. So if you’ve ever had like a protein bar or drink mix, or soft drink, you’ve probably had our sweeteners. So we are the ingredients supplier to the majority of those companies. And we also have the research and development team. And in our lab, we reformulate and formulate new products that have less sugar. That’s what we do. So if you want to see the Mad Science behind what we do, you can go to icon foods calm or look us up on any of the social media under icon foods. com. That’s right.

 

So do you, like work directly with food manufacturers? Or do you also retail the products for home use?

 

We have a retail line that can be found at Steviva dot calm. And that’s s as in Sierra teviva dot com. So we’ve got a retail line there. And then I wrote a book last year came out last May so almost a year ago called guy gone keto. And so if you go to guy gone keto calm, you can see we’ve got sugar free condiments, specifically for people on ketogenic diet. Low Carb, high-fat diets whole 30 and paleo. So you can go check out that and you can get a copy of my book if you’d like. If you want to see the magic science that we’re up to, you can go to icon food science. com. Yeah, and so that’s, I’m available on any of the socials. If you are a budding entrepreneur and want to reach out to me, by all means, do it. I support what you’re doing. It takes a lot of courage.

 

Awesome. That’s great. Thank you so much. And thanks a lot for your efforts on, you know, helping us eat healthily. And, you know, I’m passionate about that. That’s a huge problem. Being the father of two young kids, you know, I see what they eat. And it’s not it’s not a good situation here. So thanks a lot for all your folks.

 

Oh, you’re welcome Manuj. I appreciate you having me on your podcast. I really appreciate the questions too.

 

Thanks. It was so much fun. Thank you.

 

 

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