Phil Leiritz – Owner of Your Custom Cellar

[quote style=”boxed”]Learn. Read. Communicate. Meet people and ask questions. Travel.[/quote]

Born in France, in the white wine region of Alsace, Phil moved in Michigan in 1993 as a mechanical engineer for a big machine tool company (Charmilles Technologies, at the time). After nine years he decided to quit, and then took his little family to Missoula, Montana, where he worked as the production manager and then VP for a small, family-owned company that specializes in landing gear parts for fighter planes (yes, in Missoula!). Then in 2009, Phil decided to start his own business. He now designs and builds custom wine cellars. Learn more here.

What are you working on right now?

I am making a wine cellar for a customer in Missoula, Montana. It will hold around 800 bottles.
In the meantime, I am creating two wine cases for a good cause, Child Care Resources of Missoula. They are having an auction on November 9th, 2012, and I am happy to give some of my time and material away to help them.

Where did the idea for Your Custom Cellar come from?

After working for 20+ years for big and small companies, and giving a part of my life to them to see them prosper, I decided to do it for myself. It did not happen in a few days; this process took two years of planning and money saving. I wrote a list of things I liked and disliked, and narrowed it down to what I would regret not doing the most. I just wanted to do something that was a good representation of me.

What does your typical day look like?

I wake up at 5:30 a.m., shower and go to work (my woodshop is 15 minutes from home). Then I spend one or two hours checking my emails and doing social media work, while drinking coffee. I check to see if there is anything interesting in town coming up (wine tastings, trainings, seminars, people to meet, etc.). From 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., I work in the woodshop. I may have a lunch. Every Wednesday morning, I have coffee in town with a friend and we talk business for an hour. After 5:00, I check my emails and work on my social media for an hour or two. (Once a month, I update my local potential customers–architects, contractors and designers–about my projects.) Then I head back home.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I like to use Google Sketchup. I design the wine rooms with this application. It’s a great tool and it is free!

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Mobile applications. They’re the future.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I never had any “worst job,” but I had a “worst boss” who made my life at work miserable. He told me how to raise my kids during my reviews. He took credit from everybody’s ideas. He cheated on his taxes (and got caught and fined by the IRS after a 10-month audit). He took some drugs (and went to rehab and used again). His ego was the size of Alaska! Needless to say, he was not a fun guy to have as a boss! What did I learn from it? I don’t think that there is anything to learn from people like that, so I quit!

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would have bought shares in Microsoft 30 years ago!  Beside that, nothing.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Learn. Read. Communicate. Meet people and ask questions. Travel.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Paying myself! I have not overcome this one yet! I am trying hard, though.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Invest in real estate and create a passive income.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

Alternate energies. I would enter the political arena and create laws to promote and enforce the use of alternate energies.

Tell us a secret.

Live your life without regrets. Ask yourself this question: “What would I regret if I was now on my dying bed?” Then you will have your answers.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

  1. Facebook. I stay informed with what I “like.” There are a lot of great resources. For example, I stay informed on IdeaMensch by “liking” its page. Facebook is good for local or world news, business, art, etc.
  2. LinkedIn. Same reasons as stated above, although it’s more focused on business.
  3. Google Alert is a great tool that saves me tons of time. Instead of me having to look for info, the info comes to me.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

There are plenty of great books, but one comes to mind: 6 Disciplines for Excellence by Gary Harpst. This book offers great advice for small businesses (and bigger companies too). It provides a lot of examples and tools to use, and is also great for everyday life. It’s a must read and re-read!

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

  1. Daniel Burrus has great foresight and makes you think of what’s coming. He asks the right questions.
  2. Harvard Biz is great for cultivating general knowledge. I like to learn, and they do it right.
  3. Imdb is a must-follow for fun. I love movies, and that’s my way to recharge my batteries.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

At the movie Bridesmaid. It was just a good time.

Who is your hero?

The Wolverine. He’s strong, mean but just, and does not care about what people think about him.

Why did you choose this path?

People work to make money. They may have some abilities (training, schooling, any kind of affinity, etc.). It does not mean that they like the job they’re. And that’s sad. We start with ideals, energy and motivation for our future, and then most of us enter into the monotony of life (work, sleep, and some kind of family/social life). The two things that we need to control are work and family/social lives. For work, we need to do what fulfills us and makes us happy. There are no bad jobs, just bad choices.

What made you come to the United States?

As far as I can remember, I always wanted to come to the U.S. Remember, there was no internet at that time. What I knew about the U.S., I learned at school, through some books, and mostly through television shows. For me, U.S. was synonymous to freedom and big spaces. Freedom in a sense of living your dream. As I grew up, in France, I was frustrated with so many stories of businesses struggling due to high taxes. France was not “business friendly.” But if you made it, somehow, people looked at you and thought that you must have done something wrong to make the money you made. So instead of having entrepreneurs we aspired to follow, we had entrepreneurs we despised.

Here, in the U.S., we push people to make it. We look at successful people as examples. They motivate us. They are the examples to follow. But most of all, they are willing to share their stories, their time and their energy to help others. That’s what attracted me to the U.S.–and the big spaces.


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Your Custom Cellar’s email: [email protected]