Cole Rickles talks with Marshall Schreeder, Jr. about his experiences and his role as EVP of Corporate
Development at Discovery Life Sciences
(03:53) Marshall describes what Discovery Life Sciences does. They support medical research (drug
development + diagnostic development).
(11:00) Marshall talks about how finding a process that is inefficient and making it more efficient can be
enough reason to start a business around it. Like nearly every entrepreneur, their initial launch seemed
like it would be easy (and it never is).
(19:20) Marshall explains why he partnered with his friend Luke and started their own business in
Huntsville in 2005-2007 (after them both working all over the country at different companies).
(26:30) Marshall talks about their initial desire to raise “a million dollars” when they were starting their
business (a common theme in the entrepreneur community). With the hope of raising that initial 10% of
the million, they met with the late famed entrepreneur Lonnie McMillian who pulled out a checkbook in
their first hour of the pitch and he offered to cut a check for the entire amount (and said his attorney
would figure out the terms with them later).
(49:35) Marshall breaks down the importance of a great team. As long as you are pointed in the right
direction, the impact of your team members can be as much as 80% of the reason for your success.
Marshall Schreeder talks about his experiences in investment banking and how it eventually led to him
partnering with his friend Luke and moving back to Huntsville in 2005 (Marshall is a rare Huntsville
native). Coming from a medical family (his dad is a doctor in town), there was a bit of pressure to follow
in his father’s footsteps but found his own way working in private equity and then focusing on the
biomdedical science industry. Marshall talks about their start in Huntsville launching their own business
and that common story we all hear (and many of us know) about thinking a new business will be “a
layup” where in reality it’s always at least 2X as hard (and cost 2X as much) and is more like throwing a
medicine ball from half court over and over again. When they were starting their Huntsville business,
they had a desire to raise a million dollars to get things rolling. They were rather shocked when they met
with Lonnie McMillian and watched him pull out a checkbook in their first offer willing to write the full
amount on the spot. Fast forward the last dozen years or so and Discovery Life Sciences (the entity after
they were acquired last year) is on a roll with a half dozen M&A activities in just the last 15 months.
Marshall talks about how his prior experience in private equity has been so valuable as of late in doing
due diligence and strong work ethic in managing teams all over the world working toward a single
- Marshall Schreeder bio
- Discovery Life Sciences
- Hudson Alpha
- What is private equity?
- Lonnie McMillian (founder of ADTRAN and HudsonAlpha)
- The Private Equity Playbook
Matt and Toni talk with Jorge Lima about founding and operating Civil Axe Throwing with his wife Erin.
(04:45) Jorge discusses the difference between a boss and a leader. A leader moves with his team to do
the hard work to be successful. A boss may watch from a distance.
(8:30) Jorge talks about how he has used his experience in counseling and psychology techniques to lead
(9:45) Toni talks about her evolution since childhood on wanting to be the boss when she was younger
(desire to climb the corporate ladder) to being a leader today of the Urban Engine team.
(19:35) Matt talks about the importance of alternative experiences (over books) have been so important
for him, especially what he learned when he went thru an AltMBA program last year.
(25:00) Jorge talks about how true leaders fosters a work environment that is purposeful, influential and
Jorge Lima founded Civil Axe Throwing with his wife Erin. Coming from a counseling background and
desire to some day be a pastor (Jorge has a Master’s in Counseling Psychology from Evangel University
in Missouri before moving to Huntsville), he has been very mindful about his role as a leader and
fostering the right environment in his businesses (he also founded Huntsville Escape Rooms before
getting into axes). Jorge talks about the importance of moving with your team and doing the hard work
side-by-side instead of sitting back barking orders like a boss from the sidelines. He talks about how his
education in psychology has led him to implement various techniques that are impactful to his team. He
discusses how true leaders foster an environment that is 3 things… purposeful, influential and positive.
With 7 Civil Axe Throwing locations now open in the southeast and glowing reviews from customers,
Jorge and Erin have been able to leverage their backgrounds into a rapidly growing fun business and are
mastering the customer experience.
- Story on when they launched Civil Axe Throwing in Huntsville
- 5 year trend of the popularity of axe throwing
- altMBA information
- Civil Axe Throwing website
- Good to Great (emphasizes the importance of humble, hardworking leaders)
- The Psychology of Persuasion (the book Charlie Munger gives college graduates he knows)
Matt and Toni talk with Brandon Kruse about the importance of obsessing over your customers.
(00:58) Matt and Brandon explain how a “sure thing” doesn’t exist even though it appears that way to an outsider.
(3:18) Vetting opportunities is hard. Entrepreneurs tend to be optimistic and tend not to share their real struggle running a business (and few really want to hear the details of your problems).
(6:45) Brandon explains how he always looks for an unfair competitive advantage over the competition (as he wisely assumes that they can execute better than you can).
(29:50) Matt explains how he didn’t have t-shirts for Absolute Nutrition for years because he couldn’t make a decision and the printers weren’t very helpful in guiding him (now he owns a printing business and guides customers thru the design/selection process).
(34:35) Brandon talks about how he really stays obsessed with the customer and their pain (point) so you can come up with a good solution (which they won’t solve on their own).
Toni and Matt sit down and talk with Brandon Kruse about the importance of obsessing over your customers. Looking from the outside, it often appears like a lot of ideas are a “sure thing” and that customers will flock to your great idea once you just get it built. In reality, that’s absolutely not the case as it takes tremendous effort to attract and drive customers to your business. Almost every retail entrepreneur has their personal story about how they had almost no customers at all in the first few months of opening a physical storefront. Vetting opportunities is harder than it may appear especially when talking with other entrepreneurs as they are inherently an optimistic bunch that don’t voluntarily divulge their real ongoing struggles with running their own business. When you do learn and adapt in ways that do attract your initial customers, it is essential to obsess over them as the cost of acquiring them is significant and they often are your best sales force in the modern era of social media (where good and/or bad customer experiences spread like wildfire). A good entrepreneur obsesses over their customer and their biggest pain points to come up with a better solution that solves the pain. Continually iterating thru this process leads to continuous improvement and a virtuous cycle for your business. Never forget that your customers are what allows you the freedom to work as an entrepreneur in the first place.
- (Harvard Business Review0 Obsess over your customers
- (TED) I was seduced by exceptional customer service – John Boccuzzi, Jr.
- Built to Sell – John Warrillow
- The Toyota Way – Jeffrey Liker
- What Customers Crave – Nicholas Webb
- Be Our Guest (Disney) – Theodore Kinni
Matt and Toni talk about the perks of entrepreneurship.
(01:50) Matt describes why he started Absolute Nutrition in the first place.
(2:50) Toni talks about how she now feels "unemployable" after being a business owner and decision maker for so long.
(4:50) Expectations vs. reality about expected freedom of time as entrepreneur. There's so much more to do (and prioritize).
(7:15) Change is continuous, even with an established business that's 10 years old.
(22:40) Toni talks about how being an entrepreneur allows Matt to be involved in the community and work to make the area a better to place to live.
Toni and Matt sit down and talk about the perks of entrepreneurship. They talk about the motivation for why Matt started Absolute Nutrition in the first place and how expectations of having a lot of free time once you start your own business usually don’t match the reality of actually launching one since there’s just so much to do and prioritize. Running your own business provides a much more direct system of reward (when you do the right thing) and punishment (when you make mistakes). After working for yourself for years, it’s typical for you to increasingly feel “unemployable” working for someone else as being a decision maker for so long makes it incredible hard to let those decisions be made by someone else (who you may completely disagree with more often than you are comfortable with). In entrepreneurship, change is a continuous process that never ends. This isn’t a bad thing as it makes you a better person in both business and in life as it trains you to be ever more capable. Entrepreneurship can pave the way to you building the life that you really want, whether it is becoming more involved with the community or spending quality time with your family.
- The Advantages and Challenges of Entrepreneurship
- (TED) How to find and do work you love – Scott Dinsmore
- 60 reasons why entrepreneurship is amazing
- The 4-Hour Workweek – Tim Ferriss
- The Richest Man in Babylon – George Clason
(Not an entrepreneur book specifically, but simple guide to focus on where you are headed and why you are working in the first place)
- Why We Sleep – Matthew Walker
(It can be hard for entrepreneurs to “turn off” as there’s always something to worry about when it comes to their business, but it is essential they get enough sleep to avoid burnout and medical ills)
(01:32) Grit is not choosing the easier path because long-term you're actually going to be more satisfied with the decision that you made.
(08:05) Cole explains the impact of having entrepreneur parents are entrepreneurs (see the academic paper listed below with data on this subject; children are 1.3-3X more likely to be entrepreneurs when their parents are)
(08:30) Cole describes his first business in middle school (pressure washing). He printed out 250 flyers and received zero calls.
(13:59) Cole tells the story of his 1st Amazon business he started about 3 years ago with the idea of selling gun grips. The day after getting the delivery, Amazon stops allowing sales in that product category. Instead, he had to pivot to selling on EBay (more manual labor than Amazon, but was able to clear the inventory). Now have an actual successful business selling other products on Amazon today.
(17:59) “You gotta be closed-minded on the end goal, but you can’t be closed-minded on how you’re going to get there”
Cole Rickles sits down to tell quite a few interesting stories of the various startups he has been involved in going all the way back to middle school. Most attempts fail, but the successes only occur because of the presence of grit. Good things never come easily, so persevering while being open-minded on how you are going to get to your clearly-defined end goal is essential to success with any entrepreneurial undertaking. The idea of grit has been popularized in the last few years (especially by Angela Duckworth’s book on grit listed below released in 2016), but the idea of how one can instill grit in another person is still up for debate on how that is done. One significant advantage Cole (and many other entrepreneurs in the Huntsville community) has is entrepreneur parents who provided first-hand real-world lessons in the value and results of grit.
(SpaceX failures video)
(TED talk on grit) https://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_grit_the_power_of_passion_and_perseverance?language=en
(Grit from a psychology perspective)
(How Parents Are Robbing Their Children of Adulthood: Today’s “snowplow parents” keep their children’s futures obstacle-free — even when it means crossing ethical and legal boundaries.)
(Podcast: How I Built This)
(Academic paper: Why Do Entrepreneurial Parents Have Entrepreneurial Children?)
The Little Engine That Could
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
Matt talks with Michael Carroll, Lacey Reinoehl, and Jarrod Parkes about mobile app
development and solutions. They discuss the common options and features in app
design, and cover the importance of determining scope of work and managing
expectations with the customer desiring the app.
(2:50) Lacey talks about process to define minimum viable product for your desired
app. Clarify the base functionality and allow the app developer an initial idea of
what the scope of work is required to complete (along with if a native or non-native
app will be required).
(13:10) Jarrod walks thru an example of the app developer’s estimate of the work
required to start an app and what stages of development are expected.
(19:14) There’s often sticker shock when it comes to paying for app development.
Michael explains how a couple developers working on an app for a month (typical to
get an app to at least the minimum viable product stage) can hit $20,000-30,000 in
burn rate. The hourly rate for app developers currently is typically in the $50-
(25:08) The group talks about the importance of qualifying the customer and
managing expectations, along with determining if a native app is actually needed
(as that is far more costly than non-native apps).
(46:41) Lacey talks about the importance of pitching yourself to a developer.
There’s currently no shortage of work for app developers today and you need to
convince them that this will be a project they would like to take on and is viable.
Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 and Android in 2008, smartphone
applications have quickly become an essential part of our daily lives. Options for an
app are either native (iOS and Android have 97%+ of the global market share) or
non-native. An app developer works with a customer to determine how best to add
value via the creation of the app with regards to required functionality (native apps
enable more real-time interaction with smartphone sensors like GPS, the camera,
etc.) within the limits of the budget available for the project. Ideally, the customer
spends time before reaching out to the app developer to clearly define the purpose
of the app and mock up a draft design and functionality (in Keynote, PowerPoint, or
various app mockup tools). The customer should clearly explain the viability of the
project to convince the developer to take on the challenge. The app developer will
work with the customer to further refine the minimum viable product and set
realistic expectations about milestones, costs (both up-front development and long-
term maintenance), and level of support provided by the developer. The end result
should be a meaningful app that adds value and achieves what cannot be done with
any other existing app today.
Lacey Reinoehl’s company:
App mockup tools:
Global market share of smartphone OS options:
Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days
The Lean Startup
Don’t Make Me Think
Toni and Matt talk with John Thornton about the Business Assistant Microloan via The Catalyst Center. Brandon Kruse and Trey Sharp joins Toni and Matt to talk about their experiences in selling a business.
(00:57) John Thornton summarizes the benefits of a Business Assistant Microloan (typically $5,000-$25,000) available to startups, early stage businesses, and established small businesses.
(09:55) Trey Sharp and Brandon Kruse talk about their experience that led to them selling Sharp Communications and DialMaxx.
(27:00) Brandon explains private equity acquisitions are likely to continue (outside of during significant recessions) with continual desire for companies that are generating $1 million+ in net profit per year.
(29:43) Brandon explains the fear that a competitor will buy out your customers is silly. Customers leave because they haven’t been serviced, not because they’ve been marketed to better.
(52:22) Brandon talks about the importance of knowing your business financials well. Otherwise, you tend to hit a ceiling and it’s hard to get to the next level.
The process of building a successful business is quite the challenge, but selling your business is no walk in the park either. Most tend to underestimate the time and effort required to prepare for a sale. Following efficient business practices (making sure personal and business expenses are always separated, running very clean accounting books) does make the acquisition process run smoother. Entrepreneurs today tend to be increasingly focused on the sale of their startup when they should be more focused on actually building a successful business that generates cashflow first. Selling your business when the stars align can bring peace of mind by trading ownership for an immediate return of your time (via payout of the projected returns of the business for the next 5-20+ years depending on market sector and position in the business cycle). The seasons of life often aim an entrepreneur toward another creative direction for a new venture, so selling a prior business can ease and accelerate that transition. There’s plenty of experts in the M&A space (M&A attorneys, veteran entrepreneurs) in the Huntsville area so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions as they can distill years of hard lessons into just a few minutes of your time.
The Catalyst Center Business Assistant Microloan info:
If you want a thorough sneak peak of everything that’s involved in selling your business, this prior edition covers most of the details for $6 shipped:
Last 30 year chart of global M&A activity:
Rich Marsden (HSV M&A attorney Brandon mentioned who is very active in the HSV area):
Toni and Matt are joined in this special episode by Brandon Kruse, founder/CEO of CommentSold to discuss all aspects of serving customers in the modern market. Topics discussed range from handling customer problems, how to measure customer satisfaction through surveys, properly qualifying customers to avoid problems in the first place, and more.
You've often been told that networking is important. "It's not what you know, it's who you know" and "Your network is your net worth" are common quotes. But, how do you actually network with others and build your personal circle? For most of us, it doesn't come naturally, and it's not taught in school. Matt and Toni talk with networking guru Kevin Fernandez about how to build your network the right way.
Brandon Kruse of CommentSold joins Matt & Toni to talk about managing relationships in entrepreneurship, thinking about competitors, the power of an abundance mindset, and his favorite downtime hobby at Huntsville West.
Matt, Toni, and Trey talk tips, tactics, and routines to get motivated and stay that way. The team also talks about the power of great customer experiences and how key customer experience is to achieving success in the current market.
We discuss reflections on the 3 years of CoWorking Night, the positives, negatives, and things to considers in working with partners or co-founders, and how to network and find new people to grow your circle.
We discuss how to deal with burnout, how to get out of a rut, how to handle failure, the importance of making it hard on yourself to quit things you really want to do, and how to manage, train, and lead people.
Matt, Toni, and Trey discuss how to get new ventures off the ground, the pitfalls of being a perfectionist, how to go from idea to perfect product, when/why to bring other people into your idea, and how to invest your time.