Confidence comes up in all parts of leadership. However, leaders trust themselves because they have to believe they will overcome challenges in front of them. If you are uncertain of the future, the worst thing you can do is sit in doubt. Today’s guest is Aaron Anders, a co-founder at Woo Tungsten. Inc Magazine ranked his company #235 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list. Woo Tungsten is an innovative e-commerce brand for those that love to fish. Aaron opens up to me about his understanding of why leaders trust themselves if they want to create their future. In my years of being an entrepreneurial leader, I know that leaders trust themselves even in times of doubt. Aaron talks about the power of taking action as a way to move forward. Leaders trust themselves even when it is hard and the future is uncertain.
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Aaron Anders: The Transcript
About: Personally I try to spend as much time as I can in the outdoors. I’m an incredibly competitive person and I combine my love for the outdoors and competitive nature by taking part in numerous fishing tournaments across both Ontario and the northeastern part of the US. If I’m not working with someone on their personal development in one form or another the most likely place to find me will be on the water with Finley, our Yellow Lab.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
Aaron Anders: Confidence that happens. And there’s a, an idea of self-efficacy and I don’t think I really, really, I don’t think it was like a realized thing until recently. And COVID for me, really brought it out is it’s almost like that trust and faith that you’ll figure it out. And I think that’s been something that, , through a bunch of other experiences in let’s say challenges along the way when you. You know, you run a marathon at your first marathon. You don’t necessarily know that you’re going to get to the end of it. You think you probably will, and then maybe hit some challenges along the way, but you like cross the finish line. It makes like the next marathon easier to run. And then the next one, after that, I’ve done two. I know I’m going to get through it. I know I’ll figure it out. I just don’t know exactly how this thing’s going to go. And I think that’s been the biggest, , the biggest piece of it, because that for me is allowed me to be okay with being wrong. Yeah, I think I’m wrong more than I’m right. When it comes to a lot of different things, it just, I can’t be wrong about something that would end the business.
Intro: Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett: Today, we’re going to talk about a subject that I really love for you to understand better. And this is the big idea behind it in this episode is if you trusted yourself, then you can overcome any level of challenge or uncertainty trusting yourself is the cornerstone of you really understanding who you are being grounded and your worthiness, and having the confidence to know that you can figure out anything in front of you. When leaders trust themselves, they’re really signaling to everyone around them that you can follow me. But if there’s a shadow of doubt in who you are, where you’re going, then they can sense it. Just like a dog senses, fear. You want to make sure that you are trusting yourself at the deepest levels. I so much believe about this because I’ve seen so many founders CEOs that are struggling and at some level they realize that they don’t trust themselves. Something’s happened. And when I can get them to see that, that they’ve lost, that that that’s the key to them actually seeing their way forward and making the moves and executing with precision, all this to share with you leaders must trust themselves even in uncertain times, because that’s the way you get through it. We have a special guest today is the CEO of Woo Tungsten. Number 235 on the Inc list this past year. It is Aaron Anders and Aaron. And I talk about trusting yourself. We talk about what is really behind that, what gets in the way of trust and all of the things inside this episode are critical for you to understand how to be an extraordinary leader.
Before we get into the interview. Let me remind you that if you haven’t already checked out the fast-growth boardroom, You may want to grow your company faster. And if you’re not on the Inc list, that’s okay. Most of my clients are, but we have a special group just for people that aren’t on the list that want to grow faster and they are gathering together, learning from each other and I’m challenging them and supporting them so that they can actually get where they’re going. Just check out fastgrowthboardroom.com. If you want to be an extraordinary leader and lead growth in your company. Now here’s the interview with Aaron,
Aaron, How are you?
Aaron Anders: Good. Good to see you, Gene.
Gene Hammett: Well, great to have you here on the Growth Think Tank podcast, where we talk about leadership and growth and you’ve had multiple companies, but one of them recently made the Inc list at number 235. Woo Tungsten. Tell us a little bit about what you guys are to there.
Aaron Anders: It’s been a really cool four-year run for us. You know, we started as a kind of a hobby passion business, trying to blend things that we, you know, my partner, Chris and I really like to do and, and fish and be on the water and some of the business experience, I guess, in the past. And it’s been a really cool ride and became more than we thought it was. So we had to expand real quick and we make fishing weights and fishing-related weight-related products, a lot of products that were typically made out of that. We’ve made a lot of those in, out of Woo Tungsten, to try to have more of a, I guess, a higher-end product, for a lot of things that have been around for decades. So that’s what we do. We built a community around it and we love being a part of it everyday.
Gene Hammett: Awesome. We have done some research on the company on what makes you guys tick? What, what really has allowed you to grow and you, you really have contributed having a lean team is one of the big things that, that allowed you guys some flexibility and growth. What is a lean team to you, Aaron?
Aaron Anders: Well, I think lean team, to me, means not having a lot of heavy over. And that a lot of times is like asset-light businesses. But I think it also can be around people, right? People are our overhead. And, you know, for us, we run three full-time employees. Then I consider myself an employee of the business. That’s what you are, you’re an entrepreneur. And then we run, with eight to 10 other freelancers depending on the time of the year. And I think about some of our partners as well. We’ve got our fulfillment partner. We’ve got our manufacturing partners too. So we’ve got more partners than we do. Full-time people in the business, which allows us to actually kind of evolve, especially in the last year, year and a half, we were able to scale up and scale down and scale up and scale down as we needed to, and be lean and try and take advantage of some of the opportunities that were happening, especially in the outdoor space, over the last year e-commerce and outdoor kind of came together with this like incredible. Like, I guess just growth opportunity. We were able to take advantage of it cause we weren’t. So we weren’t like trying to turn on the oil tanker. We were able, to add an iterate really, really quickly and be able to be a part of a lot of the things that were happening as they were unfolding because nobody knew what was going to happen a year ago.
Gene Hammett: Right. As we’re recording this, this is, you know, mid-March and we all went into a sort of locked down in our own ways a year ago. So you guys were able to take. You know, see an opportunity out there and really kind of be nimble enough to take advantage of that. , tell us a little bit about like, just how you were able to, to turn the ship toward this opportunity.
Aaron Anders: Well, I think one of the things that, that we did when we look back on it is that we, we had partners with capacity. So for example, our two main partners, again, manufacturing, fulfillment in a direct to consumer-style brand. So in saying that, our manufacturing could scale, we had many, we weren’t at capacity. Same thing with our fulfillment. So when we’re able to move our orders through technology up, we could take advantage of some of those things. What we also did is we made a bet and, you know, we thought that this was a not, we saw sales starting to move as lockdown, starting to happen. And we took our key products that we knew would not, we’re not a fad. We’re not going to go moldy. We’re not going to go old. And we just over-indexed on them. It was a cash flow bet. And that was something that I think worked really well for us, where a lot of people stopped and hesitated. We took the things that we knew that, Hey, look, this is typically a six to eight week lead time. And if we triple what we bring in on inventory, they’re the worst-case scenario for us was then we had the product for 6, 8, 12 months, which was a cashflow challenge, but it was a better challenge than if we didn’t have things. So we kind of made a bet on a part of the business that we knew. Or felt at least I shouldn’t say new, but felt that no matter what happened with COVID and what happened, whatever that was still going to be a strong product for us, which meant we had the ability to really lean into it and then continue to add on some freelancers. So we brought on, what happened with us retail. All of a sudden retailers didn’t have inventory. We did. So, the retail side of our business really started to grow, but we could bring in a freelancer to help with some of that stuff. And that’s really. We really tried to do with it is that, Hey, this side of the business is growing. Are we interested in growing with it? Yes. Well, we’re only two or three people, so we need to bring in some extra-human capacity. How can we do that? And if we can do that, we’ll go down that path with a product that we know we’re not going to get stuck with a t-shirt that nobody wants to buy.
Gene Hammett: You know, I remember a lot of my friends and a lot of the interviews we did here, everyone was talking about, you know, when COVID hit, no one was really sure what was going to happen. No one was really sure that outdoor was going to take off. I don’t think, but there was a pretty good bet. Okay. People are going to have to find something else to do besides watch TV and, , go to restaurants and things like that. But what you did there really is just looking back over it is you saw an opportunity and you really doubled down on what you thought the opportunity would be. You had a vision as a leader, and you were able, to align your resources and your people to that vision. Is that fair to say?
Aaron Anders: Absolutely. And, you know, I wish I could look back and say, Hey, it was definitely intentional. I think it was, it was a hedged bet. So I, you know, I, I think it would be a great story to be like, we knew it. We knew exactly what was going to happen. We just went, Hey, look, this looks like it’s going to be a potential opportunity. Exactly. Like you’re saying, we aligned our resources and we want our people to be in a position to take advantage of it. And we chose it in a place that if we were wrong, the business didn’t die. And I think that was for us like it was kind of in an uncertain time, you know, it really came down, we ran a big sale. We thought that everyone’s looking at their phone right now. No, one’s got anything else to do. Let’s run a sale. , and we ran a sale through our social media and our community, and it was the biggest, the biggest three days we’d ever had at that point in the history of the company. And we went, whoa, like there’s something going on here. So seeing that you said seeing that the opportunity and honestly making an educated guess. In an area that we didn’t think was going to hurt the business if we were really, really, really wrong, but then being in a position to take it. But there was like a domino effect that came and was like that ripple effect that happens of be correct on that. And we were able, to continue. To bring people on, in a fractional way to take advantage of the opportunity without adding significant overhead to the business. Now we’d like to get to that point where we can, but at the same time, I don’t know that we have to. So that, that was really for us what it was, it was iterated. It wasn’t a line in the sand written in stone. Here we go. It was do something. So it’s action learning iteration, next action learning iteration. And we’re able to continue to ride the wave with that a bit opposed to, yeah. Opposed to just being so far behind that you can never catch the catch, the wave it’s past you before you can get paddle back up to it.
Commentary: Hold on for a second. Aaron just said, take advantage of the opportunity. Now, every leader knows that they must be able to see opportunity and be able to take advantage of it. Here’s the problem? A lot of leaders are so focused on their own productivity. They’re over-scheduling themselves. They have no time to think. And so they have very limited time to actually see opportunity. But even if they saw it, they don’t have a chance to really act on it. They don’t have a chance to align resources and redirect their energies around that. And sometimes they do, but they, it comes at a cost. You have to give up your family time, you have to give up your weekends. And this happens from time to time. But I want to give you a different way to look at it. If you’re the CEO of a fast-growing company, you want to make sure that you’re not over-scheduled, that you’re not overwhelmed because you create space to see around the corners, see the future, see the competitive landscape, see the opportunity to innovate that space within your calendar is so important for you to think not to do. And when you think about what it takes to really think, push your business to the next level, you are probably the only one. That’s taking time to look at the future and time to think. But if you over-schedule yourself, you overwhelm yourself with the details and you focus on productivity and zero inbox and all this other stuff, then you will miss the opportunity and you won’t have time. Even if you see it. I just want to make sure that that’s clear because my job is to help you grow and be the extraordinary leader you can be. Now back to Aaron,
Gene Hammett: Aaron, I appreciate you going through a lot of that story and giving us the context of what happened over the last year, but I want to go even deeper into your mindset as a leader. You’ve got multiple companies, we could talk about, you know, collegepro.com and you can give us one sentence on what that is. And then I’ll ask my question. What is collegepro.
Aaron Anders: A home servicing company that teaches and trains, through an environment of entrepreneurship students, to be able to, to figure out how to get from point A to point B. So we do a lot of window cleaning, home servicing, gutter cleaning, et cetera. And then we’ve got a student workforce that learns how to manage that and be their own leader in, with their student’s team.
Gene Hammett: That’s a great idea. Putting the real spotlight on the leadership mindset that it took for you to build multiple businesses, aligned people together. What do you think has allowed you the strongest mindset that you needed to be the leader that you are today.
Aaron Anders: I think there’s a confidence that happens. And there’s a, an idea of self-efficacy. I don’t think I really, really, I don’t think it was like a realized thing until recently in COVID for me, really brought it out is it’s almost like that trust and faith that you’ll figure it out. I think that’s been something that had through a bunch of other experiences in let’s say challenges along the way. You know, you’re running a marathon at the, if it’s your first marathon, you don’t necessarily know that you’re going to get to the end of it. You think you probably will. And then maybe you hit some challenges along the way, but you like to cross the finish line. It makes like the next marathon easier. And then the next one, after that I’ve done two. I know I’m going to get through it. I know I’ll figure it out. I just don’t know exactly how this thing’s going to go. And I think that’s been the biggest, the biggest piece of it because that for me is allowed me to be okay with being wrong. You know, I think I’m wrong more than I’m right. When it comes to a lot of different things, it’s just, I can’t be wrong about something that would end a business. But for me, like the, I’m not really afraid to go down a pathway because I have the belief that we’ll, we’ll cross the finish line. Don’t know exactly what the whole thing’s going to look like from wrong a little bit, along the way we’ll, we’ll be able to navigate. And it allows, it allows me to at least do and take action and try things and then learn from them and continue. And I think that was one of the biggest things that I saw, the biggest things or in any business over the last year was the people that froze. And didn’t in uncertainty and didn’t move forward, ended up so far back. And the people that continued and pushed and just had that kind of like faith to go figure, figure it out. And they’re going to go do something or so, so, so much exponentially further ahead. There’s the polarity, I guess right now is significant. Some businesses are gone and I understand there’s situations and industries that didn’t have a chance. And I think there’s a lot of industries that really did have a chance. That people, when people froze, they missed it. And I think that’s a big thing. It’s just that the belief that we’ll figure it out, we’ve got to keep going. I’ll get to the finish line. I don’t know if this one’s going to be pretty or whatever it’s going to be, but we’ll, we’ll get there. So it allows you to take action and move forward, which means you got it. You got a chance.
Gene Hammett: There’s a couple of things in there. Aaron, I want to put a spotlight on one of them is decision-making, you talked about just trusting yourself and that, to me, that’s the core of decision-making because we don’t know what the future will be. We don’t know what challenges may come up and I’ve even had to remind myself in my journey. 20-30 years of running businesses and being an executive coach, the empower of trusting yourself that it will work out. Did you, do you consciously do this or is this, was there a turning point that you could take us back to and, and really trusting yourself? Or is it just something that’s kind of stacked on top of each other over time?
Aaron Anders: I’d say it’s definitely stacked on top of itself over time. And then I think the last year has been. , validation of that for me. And I think that’s a really powerful thing. Like it’s, they’re, milestones there they’re markers that kind of tell you you’re going in the right direction. And I, you know, a year ago we were talking about it. I was, I was at an event, on the 15th of March last year with a hundred thousand people. Like, you know, the thing, how quickly everything changed, but then to be able to. , navigate successfully through that, not easily. So, you know, and I, but navigate successfully is validation. And I think further stacks on the trust and belief. And again, it doesn’t mean it’s always rainbows everywhere. You know, there’s a lot that has to go through it, but just like you said, like, I think it builds on itself. And then to go to the validation. I think for me, my biggest challenge that comes as a by-product of that is it means there’s a lot of opportunities that you feel like you could take advantage of and then making a choice as to whether or not. That’s something I can do right now without sacrificing or hurting the other things that are ongoing because you have this almost like you see something you’re like, well, I know how that would work. I think I could figure that out. Or like, I know how to and make that a success, but should I, and just because you can, it doesn’t always mean you should. And I think that’s, that’s almost like, the by-product I’ll say that, that I fight a lot of the times is like trying to innovate or make things, you know, change things too quickly, or try to like really morbid. Quickly and with too many, too many things going on at the same time because there’s that belief that because you can do it. So that decision-making, you mentioned that, that I think is huge. One of the biggest things in leadership is where do you spend your time? And then when you’re spending your time, how are you executing at a high level? And I think that’s a really, really big piece that has come up for me, that I battle. , and when I’m at my best, I make good decisions there. And when I’m not, I don’t, but where do I spend my time based on the belief that that’s an opportunity. Couldn’t be taken advantage of and then going deep down that path versus, you know, wide with a whole bunch of different things.
Commentary: No, hold on a second more, Aaron just talked about the confidence that he has is stacked on top of each other. Now, this is a very common way to build confidence and it actually is something we all expect. But there’s another side to this. Aaron, didn’t go into it. But when you have a big event that shapes who you are, maybe it’s something that you really dug deep and you push yourself harder than ever before. And you pushed others around you. That is really important for you to understand that it doesn’t happen just by small steps. Sometimes you can take big leaps. I’ve done this personally. My story is something I’ve shared about it. I’ve wrote a book about the trap of success and about some of the big changes that are necessary. But I just wanted to remind you that it takes both of these things. Sometimes it’s big leaps forward, and sometimes it’s the small steps that really build on your confidence. Make sure you’re aware of all of those in your journey to be an extraordinary. Now back to Aaron,
Gene Hammett: I’m a big fan of going deep versus going wide. , that’s one reason why coaching founder CEOs like yourself is what I’ve committed myself to doing. I do want to ask you about this confidence thing because I was discussing with a, an early entrepreneur last night, that was, you know, her response was, you know, I’m, I’m pretty confident about what I’m doing. This is my own journey. I’ve, I’ve went through levels where I thought I was as confident as I needed to be. And then I looked back. What was that thinking? Like there’s so much more confidence ahead of me and now I’m smart enough to know that like, okay. As confident as I am about what I do in serving the people I knew there’s probably another level of, I can’t even really put my head around. When you think about confidence, have you seen yourself grow? When you look back at the confidence that’s just inside, you just get stronger and stronger, deeper in deeper.
Aaron Anders: I would say yes. And I, I equate it to almost work like working out. It’s like one of those things where, you know, when you see, you see a kid every day and they’re the same height, right. They grow. And then someone hasn’t seen them for a while and they look away. They’re like, oh my God, I can’t believe how much they’ve grown. Right. Or if you’re working out consistently. You still have good days and bad days and working out, but you’re constantly getting more fit. That’s how the analogy I would, I would bring to it. Right. Like I think my confidence there’s days where I’m like, I don’t feel like I know what the heck I’m doing, or there’s, you know, there are these things where I’m like, what did I, what was I thinking with that? Or, you know, you’re in a bit of a mess because there’s, you know, things have just kind of like gone down a bit of a tangent with something, and Elizabeth, your confidence takes a bit of a hit, but to me, I’m only. As long as you, you know, if you’ve been working out consistently and you take a break or a week off or whatever, you may not be exactly where it was, but there’s a trajectory with some of those things. And I think that’s where it would be for me. I think I probably have some of the let’s call it most challenging days are ahead of me in my business career. I just think I’ll figure them out in those moments where Hey, things aren’t going so well. I’ll probably. , question myself, but I don’t know that it means you for me, at least questioned myself to my core. There’s like an element of like, Hey, like, can I figure this out? But at your core, for me, at my core, like I have that confidence that’s firm and strong, but it’s not a consistent wake-up every day. The world is mine. Carry through. There’s days where I feel like that, for sure. And, but at the same time, I think it’s like this, this consistency that goes through experiences that you can stack on top of themselves, that if you’re fit, you’re fit, if you’re confident, you’ve got it. But it doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily there every day. If you’re working out hard, you know, you’ll, you’ll hurt, you’ll get injured. Right. You’ll hurt yourself. Like you got to have there’s some setbacks along the way, but it doesn’t mean that you lose the fact that you’re a fit person.
Commentary: If you’re listening on your phone, if you’re at the gym, you’re in your car, then we appreciate you being here. So thank you. If you want to make sure you go deeper, become an extraordinary leader. There’s some content we put on YouTube that you won’t find anywhere else. Just go to www.genehammett.com/YouTube. You will get all of the training and all the insight that you need to be a great leader. One of the things I believe is I’m not going to hold back anything. I’m going to give you everything I can for you to be the leader that you want. My hope is that you’ll continue to lean in and listen to things. If you have any questions, you’ll reach out to me. I’d love to get to know you and help you find exactly what you need to unlock your greatness. Go do that. Now, go to www.genehammett.com/YouTube.
Gene Hammett: I love that analogy. , you know, the confidence happens, the consistency of going to the gym. I went to the gym this morning and I had to. Rustle myself up to get cleaned up for this interview. , cause I was still sweating, but, I go every day and I think that’s confidence. You have to take action. And one little thing that you were saying, I just want to make sure the audience keys in on it is when there was an opportunity for you to, to move forward in the business. We could either freeze and sit back and say, let me think about this. Or we could take action. And that’s just, , to me, that’s confidence and courage kind of working together saying, you know what, if I take action, I’ll probably learn something and whatever it will be, it will be a step in the right direction. Is that the way you felt through this big shift that, you went through?
Aaron Anders: Yeah. And I think, I think it’s a great agreement to play. Like, you know, I was talking to my partner recently about some, a few things that we’re working on in the business and we’re like, well, what if we, what if we do this? I’m like, well, something’s going to happen. Right? Like, I, that was the way we talked about it. Like, well, what if we go do this? They might, well, something’s going to happen. And a lot of it is talking about, we sell a product, but we’d love to add some service. I mean, a product business is really. Challenging with inventory and lead times and cash flow, it’s, it’s a complicated business versus services. So we’re looking at how do we potentially add some content and services and things like that. And I’m like, well, should we go that way or not? Well, what, what if we do? And it doesn’t work well, I don’t know something’s going to happen. And I think like that’s a way to think of it cause no one else is doing it right now. I think that’s where it was challenging is that no one in our industry is doing a lot of those things in that way right now. So you don’t have that thing to point to that as a track record of success. And that makes it even tougher that you said to create action, but somebody is going to go there first. Somebody’s going to go play with something like that. And again, I always come back to like, if we do it and it’s a disaster, it’s a complete zero. Well, our business doesn’t add. I think that’s like the thing, you know, there’s gotta be a good choice, no, as to what you’re doing and a bit of an educated guess with some of those things and it can’t end the business, but so long as it so long as it’s not going to end the business. You can kind of do my, you can kind of do anything as long as you’re doing it thoughtfully and moving forward, because like you said, you’re going to learn from it. And if you learn from it and you’ve taken action, you’re going to be further down a path and have more experiences to bump future decisions up against. And if you’ve got more experiences, Bump, future decisions up against your future decisions are better. And then you can continue to move down that kind of that path. So that’s how we think about it. Yeah. I think it’s action over everything. , when it comes to, , trying to grow a business, if you’re trying to maintain or sustain, that might be a bit different. I guess I’ve just never been in a business where the goal was to stay flat. So if the goal is not to stay flat, you’ve got to take action. Otherwise, there’s no, no option. Going to grow unless you win the lottery.
Gene Hammett: Well said Aaron, I appreciate you being here on Growth Think Tank to talk about some of the inner workings of your own leadership mindset, how you see the world. And that makes us understand what has made your companies grow fast so that we can tune into that. So thank you for being here.
Aaron Anders: Hundred percent. Thanks for having me. Good to see you.
Gene Hammett: I want to wrap up here. I know Aaron’s still kind of listening in, but I want to just really help you understand what we just heard. If you are facing some difficult challenges in your business, and you’ve got to step up as a leader, you want to really learn to trust yourself, really go into the depths of your own confidence so that you can make a decision that allows you to move forward. Even if it’s not perfect, you will learn taking action will give you insight. We’ll give you a way to move forward. And if you want to surround yourself with other leaders that are doing the same thing, we’re building a community that really is about leadership and about really achieving some extraordinary things inside your company. I’d invite you to go check that out, go to fastgrowthboardroom.com.
You can see kind of what we’re looking for. It’s really founder CEOs and presidents of fast-growth companies that want to grow together and want to learn from each other. If you want to check that out, just go to fastgrowthboardroom.com. When you think about growth and you think about leadership think of Growth Think Tank as always live with courage. See you next time.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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