The practice of bringing ideas to life has to be done in an environment that doesn’t kill good ideas, while still weeding out the lame ones.
Randy Minchew is a serial entrepreneur and chronic ideator. He has over 30 years of experience successfully launching and growing startups. Randy is the co-founder of Como Incubator LLC and GolfSo.com. GolfSo.com is America’s GolfSo_Cial Network, dedicated to providing golfers across the country with the latest updates in tournaments and so_cial events.
What are you working on right now?
We are working on three different programming ideas with the GolfSo team. We have a marketing class from Columbia College writing a new marketing plan as a class project this semester and we are also rebuilding the website. We are set to launch the new site with new features in mid-May. Finally, we’re interviewing for the GolfSo_cial Director position right now. The director will be responsible for all the GolfSo_cial events that we will be holding, from tournaments to evening GolfSo_cials.
Where did the idea for GolfSo.com come from?
The idea came to me because I hated the struggle of finding partners to play golf with, and I wondered why there wasn’t a database or social network of golfers that I could tap into for golf buddies. I also wanted to solve the coordination issue of my current playing group; every weekend, we all knew we wanted to play, but the email chain that started on Wednesday to schedule a game on Saturday was irritating. I pondered why I would see good golf gear collecting dust in our Swift customers’ garages when we were doing work on their homes. If these people had all this equipment, why wasn’t I able to find golfers for an impromptu round of golf?
What does your typical day look like?
I am responsible for the management and bookkeeping of six startups and two fully established companies, as well as one non-profit organization. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but I have a routine that enables me to play golf about twice a week and once on the weekend. Each startup has its own managing co-founder who keeps me updated on the issues or progress of each company.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Attitude is the key; I have to be vulnerable and feel safe sharing dumb ideas with my co-founders. As a result, we can be innovative. Innovation is really the word that describes what happens in fertile idea fields. The practice of bringing ideas to life has to be done in an environment that doesn’t kill good ideas, while still weeding out the lame ones. Creating a fertile idea field is a hard task, and it requires certain key ingredients, like authenticity among the team members (authenticity feeds innovation because people feel free to ideate without fear of shame or condemnation), a creative workspace with stimulation for your mind, a calendar that’s consistently open enough to allow intentional time for idea bouncing, and, lastly, a balanced team.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Since mid-2007, I have seen some new humility in my friends who are business owners, as a result of being kicked in the teeth by a slow economy. My generation is scratching its head because the formulas that worked yesterday don’t work as well today; for a 54-year-old man like me, I have to humble myself and look at trends and technology that a younger generation has grown up on and is using like an extension of its brain. The solid principles that worked yesterday will work today and tomorrow, but a down economy will flush out the pretenders. I have been challenged to adjust my life, for example, from big file cabinets full of data to an iCloud account that requires me to learn new tricks and techniques.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I had a few big breaks in the late ‘80s and cashed in on a couple of business ventures. I was on a roll and had never encountered anyone in business who was not totally honest or who would consider cheating me. I partnered with some business owners to convert a parking garage into an office building on the west side of Houston, Texas. The men I partnered with took me to the cleaners for more than $50,000. As a result, I went broke and had to find a job as soon as possible. I was so shocked and depressed that I rented a warehouse, put all my tools in it, and didn’t open the warehouse again for a whole year. I was convinced that my entrepreneurial days were over; I decided to go to work for a manufacturing company at a decent hourly rate with some benefits. I was 30 years old, and now I was the shipping and receiving clerk responsible for loading trailers every day with the items that were built in the manufacturing facility. I hated the routine; I hated wearing the company uniforms and eating lunch in the company cafeteria with people wearing the same uniform, hearing stories from co-workers about how “The Man” was doing them wrong. I lasted a year until I could get another sales job and restart my life.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I have started again several times; I used to think my value was in being the guy who got the ideas on the table, while everybody else did the rest. I haven’t always thought that my part of the puzzle was that special. What would I do differently today? I would not leave people holding the bag full of my ideas that I thought they could apply magic to. Today, I know that I bring vision and enthusiasm that creates a bridge over the soft soil of doubt and fear that most startups get stuck in. I stay very involved in the areas that I am needed in, and I am wise enough to get out of the way of my co-founders. I am trying to be the leader that they need, without being a bossy or controlling partner.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I network and increase my footprint every day. I read non-stop and listen to books on iTunes or Audible. I look for ways to increase my reach, and I examine my thought processes so I don’t have limiting thought patterns.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The power of a big network of people who like you, or want your product, is worth as much as any idea. Collect contact information all the time, organize the data, and reach out to the groups you create.
Tell us a secret.
I am trying to publish a GolfSo.com golf magazine. I also want to write a book, and I want to get my handicap down to a 3.
What are your three favorite online tools and what do you love about them?
These aren’t necessarily tools, but there are ideas in online development that I really enjoy. Social networks are huge for me today because I can test ideas out on my social circles in less time than I ever imagined. Online banking is great because I can keep an eye on balances and I don’t spend any wasted time worrying about accounts anymore – nothing gets by me. I like the cloud because when I store documents in Dropbox or other programs, I can open them on my computer, iPhone, or iPad.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell is recommended; it explains how we can resolve certain cultural issues. Also, the author gives us the formulas and the science we need to create momentum and change.
What’s on your playlist?
My Audible account has audio books, like The Tipping Point, The Power of Habit, The Lean Startup, and Steve Jobs’ autobiography. I also have iTunes audio books and music, like Jackson Browne, Elton John, Coldplay, Pearl Jam, ZZ Top, and Caleb Rowden.
If you weren’t working on GolfSo.com, what would you be doing?
I have eight other LLCs that we’re working on, and I spend a lot of time on our biggest company, Swift Companies. I also have a partner lined up who wants to start an invention and manufacturing company.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
@CalebRowden44, because he has widely diverse interests and shares often.
@andrewminchew is my nephew, and he has hilarious tastes and shares the strangest stuff.
@bfeld because it’s Brad’s world, and we are just living in it.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I laughed out loud this morning. I was in a classroom setting this week, and the guy next to me started mumbling about something the instructor said. I was so tickled by it that I had to excuse myself from the class for a moment.
Who is your hero?
John Lynch and Bill Thrall are my heroes because they wrote a book that altered the course of my life. The book is TrueFaced, and I read it three times in less than a year. It changed my view of myself and gave me words to use so I could express to others the idea of living a life by which we judged each other on our intentions and we would, therefore, be less critical in our judgments of each other.
What drives you to create more entities and work so hard?
I am still searching for the discovery of a method or practice in business that will for teach new startups, as well as make ours run more smoothly. I like solving the day-to-day struggles that we have, and looking for patterns that we can use to predict the future and be more prepared. I have this underlying sense that I am supposed to create environments where people feel honored by each other and where innovation becomes a normal practice. I think my sensation is that because I continue to see the need for foundational work, there must be some large structure being planned to sit on this foundation. Another way of saying it is, I have faith and confidence that my daily and weekly inspirations are correct, and that while I can’t see the coastline to which I hope we are sailing, I also don’t see any of the coastline from which we set sail.
How have you stayed married for 32 years?
I practice a few simple principles. Never allow a problem to stew for more than a day, if at all possible, and don’t go to sleep without at least agreeing to disagree for now. Do not believe your spouse when he or she says he or she doesn’t want gifts on holidays. Never let your kids partner with you in a battle against your spouse, even over minor things like where to eat. My kids laugh at my “yes, dear” phrases, but they see me as being an example of a loyal husband. Lastly, marry someone whom you can stay in love with for a lifetime, and then make the simple decision to be in love every day. It also helps to be a bit romantic, like finding songs that remind you of your spouse or your love for them. Then, make your spouse listen to them with you, even if he or she laughs at your selections. I have an app on my iPad that wakes me every morning with a song I select. I change the song from time to time, with songs that remind me of my wife. Today, it’s Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe.”
Randy Minchew on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/randall-lee-minchew/13/99/900
Randy Minchew on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Randy_Minchew