Dave Brown is the CEO of Coastal Cigars, a luxury cigar distributor to casinos, golf courses, hotels, and resorts, as well as a leading source for cigar rolling events across the country as well as Canada and the Caribbean. Born and raised in New York, but living in Charleston, South Carolina, he tries to apply big city ideas to all of his endeavors. Prior to entering the cigar business, Dave spent several years playing professional tennis, and the lessons he learned there continue to inform his everyday decisions. You can learn more about Coastal Cigars by visiting www.coastalcigars.com, or www.cigarrollingevent.com.
What are you working on right now?
Right now, I have big projects in both my personal and professional life. Personally, I’m working on getting back into tennis. After coming off the tour, I stepped away from consistent playing for about eight years, so it’s great to be playing again, but also pretty frustrating at times. Nothing like remembering what you used to be able to do!
Professionally, we have just locked in several massive contracts in Las Vegas, so we have recently opened a satellite office there. This will allow us to service all of our accounts there and also be a more competitive option for cigar rolling opportunities on the west coast.
3 trends that excite you?
Luxury seeking – even with the recession, people continue to seek out exceptional products and experiences, and cigars play right into this.
Young entrepreneurship – there seems to be such a great new wave of young entrepreneurs opening all types of businesses these days, and their creativity is what the world needs right now.
Corporate giving on the rise – I think that more people seem to be understanding the value of giving and being socially conscious with their businesses, and the type of impact this has on the community.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Visualization- I spent a lot of time meditating and visualizing when I played tennis, and these are some of the most important lessons I learned while playing.
Forum – Along with another CEO, I have created a Forum group in my area, which was something Young Presidents Organization started and we were lucky enough to be taught by someone who has experience with it. Essentially, it is a not for profit peer review board that meets monthly to discuss all facets of our life in a confidential setting. It is overwhelmingly valuable to all of us who participate.
I break up yearly goals into weekly goals that need to be achieved to keep everything on point and manageable for the team.
Spread the word – When I am working on a new project, I talk about it with everyone that could have even a remote connection to it. Talking about it helps clarify my own thinking, and the world is getting smaller by the day, so you never know who they may know that can help you.
What inspires you?
My inspiration comes from many different places. I’m inspired by my family, who sacrificed so much to help me be successful. I’m inspired by other entrepreneurs doing great things. I’m inspired by the passion of others, whether it is found in business, the creative arts, or anywhere else. Its hard for me NOT to be inspired.
What is one mistake you’ve made that our readers can learn from?
If I could go back and change one thing about my entrepreneurial career so far, it would be that I would have hired a CFO a long time ago. Having a product-based business can be extremely complex from a cashflow standpoint, and at times it was really beyond the scope of my understanding. I thought I could figure it out on my own, but outside eyes would have been very helpful in our growth. Now that I have that piece in place, I enthusiastically share that advice with other entrepreneurs. When people are looking to start businesses, it’s one of the main things I want them to wrap their head around.
What is one book and one tool that help you bring ideas to life?
Do You by Russell Simmons is a great book that gives advice that you can apply to business and life. I’ve always seen a lot of myself in Russell Simmons. He loves hip hop, he has a great spiritual practice, and he curses like a sailor. These are all things I can get behind.
I’m more of a Twitter stalker than a participant, and it is an amazing source of information in real time. There is an overload of information available, but if you link into thought leaders that inspire you, the links they put up on Twitter are amazingly efficient and useful.
What is one idea that your willing to give away to our readers?
CEO Swap – My fiance owns a marketing company, and we did a CEO Swap, where for one week we ran each other’s companies. We have very different strengths and weaknesses, and both of our organizations really benefited from having some new DNA put into the company genome. After it was over, it also allowed us to be more helpful to each other because when one of us had a problem, the other person really had an inside and outside view of what was happening. It was also one of the most fun things we’ve done in business, as it felt like a mental vacation for each of us. Somewhere in there, I do think there is a profitable idea for a business, but definitely it’s an idea that current entrepreneurs could benefit from.
Who is the one person you’d love to see interveiwed on IdeaMensch?
Can we get Jay-Z? I think there are so many people in America that aren’t aware of the ineherent advantages they live with on a daily basis. The more that we all hear stories of people coming from absolute nothing, I think it takes away our excuses for not being successful.
Whatever measure of success you’ve had so far, what would you chalk that up to?
I think that obviously you have to have an idea that fills a need and has some level of uniqueness. Doing what someone else has done, to me, is less fun than blazing your own path. That being said, there are tons of great ideas out there. I think one thing I did well that maybe other people miss out on is I collect mentors like friendship bracelets. When I’m in networking situations, I’m always on the lookout for people smarter and more experienced than I am, and now I have a community of people invested in my success and looking out for my best interests. I think its really important to not be an island in business.
How do professional sports relate to business?
Whether its a team sport or an individual sport, athletics in general offer numerous lessons and skills that can be applied to business. With an individual sport like tennis, I think the main lessons are accountability and responsibility. Once you step out on the court, its just you that gets all the glory or takes all the blame. Its an objective sport, in the sense that a coach’s opinion doesn’t affect your playing time or the outcome of the match. Being a CEO, you have to live with the decisions you make for the business everyday, and that’s just like playing a tennis match.
You can connect me with directly at [email protected], and I love to hear from people who want to discuss these types of things.