The best money I’ve spent is that which gains me free time.
Earl Choate is the Founder and CEO of Concrete Camouflage, a company that manufacturers artist grade concrete stains, sealers, floor waxes and supplies. After running a construction contracting company, Earl realized there wasn’t a great concrete stain on the market that was available to everyday homeowners. He decided to sell his contracting company and launch Concrete Camouflage, with the goal of helping do-it-yourselfers design and color their indoor and outdoor concrete floors. Today, Concrete Camouflage is one of the leading providers of concrete stains.
Where did the idea for Concrete Camouflage come from?
Being a contractor when acid staining concrete was still in its infant stage, we soon discovered the need for a new and better set of products. We needed much higher quality, better user friendliness and of course the right price point to ensure the best value. After much research and development, what we created surprised even us. It wasn’t long until we realized that we had perfect DIY products and the process to match. We decided it wasn’t fair that acid staining was a contractor only product and so we sold the contracting company, invested the money into manufacturing and continued R&D and jumped head first into that new fangled world wide web internet website thing. Successfully helping to introduce concrete stains to the world, educate the public and bring acid staining concrete into the mainstream.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m very hands on. I spend some part of my day working with each deptartment. While a CEO certainly has to delegate, it’s important to be a guiding and inspiring part of your team. I stay productive because I enjoy what I do and I’m passionate about not only the success of our company but also successful results for those who use our products.
How do you bring ideas to life?
With extreme enthusiasm. If you’re not excited about your idea then maybe you should think a bit more about some different ideas.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The trend that excites me the most is DIY. With the internet came published information, blogs, videos and forums. All of which has helped to empower everyone to accomplish whatever their goal, especially DIY. We’ve often said that a contractor is just a DIY with confidence.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I do what makes me happy. If you enjoy what you do, then being productive isn’t an issue. If you open a carpet cleaning business because you thought it would make some good money but you don’t love floors and cleaning carpets, then you’ve denied both your business and yourself the joy of doing what really makes you happy. As such you won’t be nearly as naturally productive as you would if you were truly enjoying what you do.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I’m not sure I’d give any advice to my younger self. Our lives unfold in a series of events. It’s true that our successes and failures, mistakes and the lessons learned from it all becomes part of who we are. It is also true though, that the way those events unfold and the timing in which our lessons are learned also is of great importance. Our lives and our businesses are like a tapestry. Pull one thread out and it all begins to unravel.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Take at least one day a week completely off. Preferably two when you can. As entrepreneurs, we tend to work more than most. On one hand we have to and on the other we’re so invested and passionate in what we’re doing we can easily get lost in it. So it’s very important to make ourselves take a day off to recharge our batteries and catch our breath. Then we can’t help but to come back with a fresh outlook, new ideas and a different perspective.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Customer Education. To provide as much useful information as possible so as to answer our customers questions before they are asked. In the beginning our phones and emails were constantly busy which kept us quite occupied. So we added How To pages, information and FAQ pages to our website. We also began to blog, make an audiobook and then videos. We found that our calls and emails diminished while our sales increased. With fewer calls and emails to answer we were able to spend more time on other things which also helped contribute to continued growth. Which brings us to customer service. Astounding customer service should be the goal of all companies. However, It’s not only having a toll free number with a friendly voice and answering emails quickly, but also giving enough upfront info to your customers, so they don’t have to take their time to contact you.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I’ve had several failures as an entrepreneur. I overcame them by reminding myself that ideas are like noodles. You just gotta throw them against the wall and see what sticks. I mean who would have known you could get rich by selling Pet Rocks? Or these new Spinner things? The truth is you will never really know if an idea is good until you throw it against the wall and see if it sticks and whether it does or it doesn’t isn’t a reflection on you, just the idea and its timing.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Invent a coaster that will not stick to the bottom of your glass or bottle, ever. Then make it as inexpensive as you can while maintaining good old U.S.A. quality. Set a good price point to be both profitable and of a good value to the customer. Then market like crazy.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best money I’ve spent is that which gains me free time. True wealth isn’t measured in houses, cars, clothing and bank accounts. It’s measured in free time. Time to do what you want.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
We use the full service option with CanIRank and as such we have a full marketing team and SEO specialists working on our behalf. Of course the DIY service they have will give you better insight into what you need to do with your site than most SEO software, but we’ve found that the full service option makes their team a part of our team, which ensures our marketing needs are met but also gives us more free time to work on other things.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale.
What is your favorite quote?
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” – Albert Einstein.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.