Try more things faster.
Ad is an engineer by education, designer by disposition and an adventurer at heart. He finds life exciting when he is getting to build things better. He went to college for aerospace engineering, left for the gulf coast for relief work the year Katrina and Rita made landfall. After a year and a half of that, he took to the road to see small town America on his Schwinn. He spent the next few years traveling on his own or with organizations like Invisible Children and Falling Whistles, in cars, vans, RVs, motorcycles or bicycles. He eventually did receive his diploma and decided to start his own ventures.
Based in Los Angeles, one of the strongest cities in this country for manufacturing, and believing in creating a sensible supply chain, developing new processes for treating age old materials and building elegant products that will stand the test of time, he keeps himself busy (but not too busy).
His favorite things in the world are the open road and letting his dogs off the leash.
Where did the ideas for Treeline and Redbone come from?
I had been interesting in working with reclaimed lumber for a few years before I jumped in it head first. Early on I found that the closer you keep it to its found state, the better it looks. I wanted to make things that look great, serve a practical purpose and will last a long time.
As for Redbone, it was a product of a very late night conversation with good friends (over whisky, of course) and all looking for the next iteration on how to do business better.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Every day is different. Except for how much coffee I consume. I try to spend as much time in the office/shop as I do outside of it. Be it running errands or making deliveries, or just taking the dogs out on a hike. In the shop, I usually make sure the next job is all lined up before the current one is done with. There’s always lots to do — client relations, operations, prototyping the next idea, locating the next source of lumber, exploring newer markets — if I get sick of something, I circle through it all.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I think about an idea for a fair amount of time, visualize, test, redesign it as much as I can in my mind and then it is time to cut actual pieces. We have all sorts of machines and the reason is that I don’t like to wait on an outsourced part. If it takes 3 or more days, chances are I’ll lose interest in that design and would rather focus on things I can do in house. Generally this timeline looks like this — think of an idea in the morning, get my lathe guy or CNC guy to cut the parts by lunch and see how we can put it all together by mid-afternoon. If it works, that’s great. If not, try again.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The focus on American made products and American manufacturing.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I can’t stop thinking about something until I’ve tried it, especially when it comes to solving problems. I (borderline) obsess over it until it is a reality and then I can move on to other things. Often I have to teach myself new things to come up with the solution.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I worked for a telethon company contracted by my university and our job was to raise scholarship money by calling all the alumni. At first it was interesting, I got to talk with all sorts of people but then the fluorescent lighting and the monotony got to me. I just got up and left after two weeks. I feel bad, I never even gave them a notice. I don’t even think I picked up my paycheck.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Try more things faster.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Be agile and open to new ideas. Its important to be willing to change what you envision based on the counsel of your mentors and friends, and the market. You may want to create something close to your heart, do it but also be prepared that maybe the market isn’t ready for it yet or you may not have all the resources to make it happen. There is a difference between creating something because you think it should exist and something that will allow you to keep doing what you are doing. More often than not, it takes some time for two things to become one and the same. Ideally they are one and the same.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Find an investor who you trust and who trusts you. I’ve sensed this is an intimidating frontier for most entrepreneurs but investors are people too. They get excited and nervous and everything in between. So be honest, confident, willing to accept you can be wrong and lay it all out on the table. If this one doesn’t work out, you’ll get another chance.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I was never PR savvy. I didn’t really think of myself as “well connected.” So we basically had no press for either startup. We still don’t. The only way I overcame that was by doing good work and letting it speak for itself. I tell you what, it takes a really really long time but press eventually comes.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
An iPhone case that will make it smaller.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I want to build my own plane and fly it someday. I first thought of it when I was 10.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Fancy — site and app. Great collection of new or trending products.
Tictail — fantastic (and closer to free than most others) e-commerce platform. Very easy to use and completely customizable.
Google Analytics — very helpful insights for my online presence.
Freshbooks — By far the easiest (to use and maintain) accounting platform.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Alchemist — keep the dreamer and romantic in you alive and well.
Anything with poetry will do too.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
My investor for Treeline Woodworks, John Mahroukian. A very humble but energetic entrepreneur. I recommend swapping stories with him over some brandy and a couple of cigars next time you are in Los Angeles. (He prefers JM Tobacco’s Churchills).
Treeline Woodworks on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TreelineWoodworks
Redbone Collective on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/redbonecollective
Ad Sachan on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/adsachan