Updated: Jun 2
Is a food truck selling deli food in Denver so special? It is when the sandwiches are made by Mike Gropper, a veteran with a mission and motto "Supporting Veterans One Sandwich at a Time."
Starting a business is hard stuff. The hurdles, daily highs and lows, and self-doubt will test your mettle. Mike had no formal business background. Previously he was a cook in the army and a schoolteacher, but he had the “Right Stuff”. Mike was undaunted by this overwhelming challenge. How did he do it?
If you want to make a deli sandwich, it's easy. The ingredients are bread (good rye bread makes for a strong foundation), a protein (corn beef is excellent), and a tasty condiment (mustard is never a bad choice). But if someone tells you they want to start a business, can you give them a sure-fire recipe for success.
This past year I helped a friend of mine, Michael Gropper, start two businesses. The first, Full Battle Rattle Deli, a for-profit food truck that, in his own words, is a "vehicle for change" and the nonprofit Culinary Arts Boot Camp to teach and certify veterans for food industry skills to run the food truck and get jobs in the industry.
Every few weeks, I sat down with Mike to help him create a plan and hold him accountable for execution. He took SBA classes, wrote a business plan, made cold calls to anyone in government, nonprofit, and the food industry that could bring his vision a step closer to reality.
The tasks and challenges of starting a food truck are no different from the ones required to start a high-tech startup;
"The Pitch" - Mike had to elaborate his vision and effectively communicate it to many parties.
"The Raise" – Mike had to build a business plan and get lenders to finance him.
"The MVP" - Finally, Mike had to develop his product. This meant buying and outfitting a truck, selecting a menu, putting together processes for purveying, cooking, storing and serving food to customers.
Here are my top 3 ingredients for an entrepreneur.
#1 Passion. Passion is the bread of entrepreneurship. It's the first thing you see and taste when you bite into a sandwich. You can dress up and hide a lot of mystery items inside a sandwich. But without the bread of passion for holding it together, you will never get there
#2 Integrity. The quality and taste of the meat inside a sandwich tell you a lot about the sandwich maker. You must really care about the final product and what you want to serve your customers. There are always tradeoffs in business. Nevertheless, an entrepreneur with integrity knows never to cut corners for the sake of their customer or the product. Guy Kawasaki famously said, "If you make meaning, you'll probably also make money." So, if you care more about the quality of the meat or your product or service, the rest will come.
#3 Self-Determination. Now you have a good product and you are serving customers. But many companies may have something similar. How can you stand out from the competition when other delicatessens also make a great sandwich with fresh bread and quality meat? You need something extra, that little touch that makes your product better than anything else. Self-determination is the condiment that makes your sandwich tastier. It's the way you bring all the ingredients together and dress it up differently than anyone else has ever done before.
All successful entrepreneurs believe they can control their destiny and define outcomes when they start their business. They know they can solve a previously unsolved problem or build a product better than anyone else. Good entrepreneurs do not look to others to copy their ideas or products The principal trait of self-determination is to have an internal locus of control with an almost maniacal focus on making their company, product, service better than all the rest.