| 12 minute read

Podcast Pit Stop: Spencer Sutlive on Thinking About “Who Not How”

Posted by Arielle Walsh on May 20, 2022
Arielle Walsh
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In Episode 36 of Pit Stops to Podium, Spencer Sutlive speaks on unleashing the power of the “Who Not How” mindset in your organization. Spencer has applied these principles in his many entrepreneurial efforts, most recently as the Founder and CEO of Rugged Road Outdoors, a company reinventing and rethinking the high-performance cooler. Learn from his experience on how breaking our way of thinking, dreaming big, and creating clarity will bring you closer to your "Big Hairy Audacious Goals" as well as attract others to join the mission.

Take 15 minutes to listen and digest and then head back to the races! 🏁🏆

Pitstop Highlights

Breaking Our Way of Thinking

When first starting a company, many entrepreneurs often take on multiple roles in the company, whether it be marketing, sales, or revenue operations. However, it’s important to “break the mold” and identify core areas that you’re good at and spend the majority of your time there within the business.

There will then be a time to sell people on your company’s vision and have them assist you in the areas you are not particularly strong in. If you allow yourself to trust the people you work with, they’ll have more freedom to excel and grow within your company.

Dreaming Big

Dreaming big can often revolve around massive goals that are not within the ordinary. Understand it won’t be an easy path, but it will be a path worth taking! 

When dreaming big, identify your overarching goals and the steps you have to take to get there. 

Creating Clarity

When you identify a big dream, ask yourself, “who is getting me there, and what direction am I headed in?” It’s important to be able to know what you truly want in your dream, not just a vague idea.  The more you define your clarity, the more people will be attracted to what you’re doing.

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Full Transcript

Brendan: Hey everybody, welcome to Pit Stops to Podium, the RevPartners podcast where we talk to execs who compete and won, taking their companies from high growth to high scale. My name is Brendan Tolleson. I am the co-founder and CEO of RevPartners, and I'm delighted to have with me today, my friend Spencer Sutlive. For this episode of Pit Stops to Podium, welcome Spencer. 

Spencer: Howdy! 

Brendan: Spencer Sullivan, founder and CEO of Rugged Road Outdoors. You want me to tell a little bit about the business, or I think that'd be a great place to start. What is or who is rugged road? 

Spencer: Awesome so, yeah, Rugged Road Outdoors is a cooler company that sells high performance coolers that are a third the weight of comparable coolers on the market. So everyone's familiar with Yeti Arctic orca, that kind of thing. And we're able to hold ice just as long we're comparably durable, but our cooler is actually a third, the weight. So that was our flagship product, and that is what the business revolves around at this time.

Brendan: It is a super cool product. And for any of our audience that enjoys being outdoors or just having a cold drink, whatever beverage of your choice, it's a good one to check out and we'll get into more of the business side. But Spencer, we do have a tradition here at pit stops the podium, and it's an opportunity for us to get to know our guests outside of work. So what are three fun facts, Spencer, that people should know about you outside of rugged road?

Spencer: I'd say, first and foremost, avid rock climber, it's something I'm very passionate about. Talk about that all day, but for the sake of time and your audience, I'll go to the next one. 

Brendan: Seems fitting for what you do, so that's a good hobby to have. 

Spencer: Yes, I also really enjoy uncomfortable situations, which is probably a weird, fun fact. But for me, I like putting myself in hard situations, whether that's doing Spartan races, things like that, doing public speaking. I'm not naturally very good at it, just uncomfortable situations where I feel like I'll grow. That's something I really enjoy, and that's part of rugged road pursuing the path less traveled. So another fun fact about me. And then third, I'd said a bit of a serial entrepreneur. 

Brendan: So what does that mean, so how long you been doing this? I know you're not too old, but that doesn't mean you can't be an entrepreneur. So what have you been doing?

Spencer: Yes I'm 23 now, but my first legitimate business venture, I would say, was when I was 14 started to teach my brothers. It was when the pocket craze was pretty big. We're in about 50 brick and mortar locations, but we had no idea what we were doing. We were losing money. But that was where I learned a lot about t-shirts, apparel, actually trying to run a business, operate a business. It was phenomenal learning experience, so that would be kind of a high note there. You know, I always did. Lemonade stands, things like that. I had a company called Gwinnett tree cycle where we recycle Christmas trees. That was kind of a smaller gig. Peachtree pressure washers, just all kinds of oddball stuff throughout high school, sold t-shirts to fraternities, Greek life, different high schools. So just always trying to do something, you know, middle school and high school make a buck. Learn some business and then, you know, senior year in high school. I ended up starting a good read. 

Brendan: So yeah, I'm sure since then that is not a normal path and it doesn't feel like you enjoy idle time and it sounds like you get quite a bit of grit. So it definitely speaks to the uncomfortable situations as well. Being an entrepreneur at that age and seeing an opportunity going for it, but I think that's a good segue, Spencer into the big idea in light of your experience as an entrepreneur and the big idea I want to talk about today is really around the who and not the how. And so before we kind of get into what that means in the context of rugged road, what do you what does that mean in terms of the who, not the how? 

Spencer: Yes, some way to put it, you know, for our readers who are unfamiliar with this concept, who not how, was developed by a man named Dan Sullivan, who is a serial entrepreneur coach. He is a CEO coach, and he's really good at taking big concepts and simplifying them down to make them very understandable, very memorable and very easy to apply to your life. So who knows how really takes the idea of finding the right person for the job instead of being too focused with how the job is going to be done? Which, you know, I can expand a little further as we roll through some. 

Brendan: Yeah, I think that's a good foundation as we think about that concept, and let's apply it into the rugged road context. And so the first topic that I want to look at is this idea of breaking our way of thinking. So what does that mean for you as you're building rugged road in your lens? 

Spencer: Yeah, awesome, so kind of interweaving it between rugged road and who not have concepts with Dan Sullivan. Traditionally in culture, we're taught when you identify a problem, you're supposed to figure out how it's done right and his whole concept of who now talks about identifying the right person, the right who to accomplish said task, said goal. And sometimes that's going to be. Sometimes that's going to be other people you come across in your life and it really breaks the mold there, because that's not how we're traditionally taught to do things. And for rugged road, that has just been an absolute game changer for me. You know, for the first couple of years, I was trying to be the who for everything we were doing. I was trying to do all of our digital marketing. I was trying to do all of our infographics. I was trying to do all of our logistics. I was trying to do everything, which every entrepreneur is going to have to do that at some point. So I'm not, you know, you can't just immediately start hiring people, but what you can do is identify what you're best at naturally, which for me, that's working with products, that's selling the brand, that's presenting it to other people and that's interacting with customers. And you can identify those core areas and spend most of your time there. And then you can sell people on your vision and help them assist you in little ways in other areas. So, for example, for me in the past few years would be, you know, I've found someone to help me with infographics, marketing things like that you should just take up so much time. And now I'm getting that time back and I'm pouring it into other parts of the business. And through a applying this principle, I've gotten farther in the past year the business than I did in the first floor. So that's why I really wanted to share it today. 

Brendan: Yeah, I love that principle, and it's, you know, it goes on that whole concept of Jack of all trades, but master of none. And how do you I think the hard part, especially for an entrepreneur, when it's your idea and you're building, it's how do you relinquish control? And that's not an easy thing to convince somebody in your seat to say, hey, there are actually better people. Yeah That and you have to kind of give that ownership away to someone else and to take that vision that you have and ultimately run with that. So I'm sure that's not an easy thing. But to your point, I think you've learned the humility of, you know, finding the right people for the right seat to ultimately help you drive the business forward. 

Spencer: Absolutely. And there's a lot of trust in it to what you're talking about, just trusting that people will do a good job and just letting go. And that was really hard for me for a while because it was like, oh, I'll do it better. But if you really allow the right who to step in, then they can excel and you'll be blown away by what they can do. I mean, it really can be emotional watching what other people will do once they buy into your vision and they start working on your team, which I'm sure you can relate to that as well with rev partners. 

Brendan: Yeah, certainly. And I mean, one of the big things that we learned is, you know, one of our sayings is don't do it alone and you need to have people with you if you have a big vision. It's probably a good segue into the next topic, which is OK, you have the right person and the right seat. What's what's the next thing is you think about this concept? 

Spencer: Yeah so for me, it's once you really start to break down, do not have a concept start to dream big and it sounds simple. You know, you always hear that reach for the stars, but truly dreaming big, knowing that you can achieve set goals. It's not like you're daydreaming. Like, for me with rugged road, It's a pretty ambitious goal as a 20-year-old at the time to think I'm going to take on $5 billion. Yeti are a couple million arctic, but applying these principles, I was able to dream big and know like, hey, you know, it's not going to be an easy road, it's going to be a rugged road. But we can compete in this space. And I, to this day fully believe that with the right product and the right who is, we can actually achieve that goal. So for me, you know, just dreaming big. And I think everyone should be able to do that.

Brendan: Yeah, I think it's Jim Collins. It talks to the bag, which is the big, hairy, audacious goal, and it provides, you know, clarity for the team. And then it's a rally cry momentum. If everyone understands, OK, what are we really trying to accomplish? And now I know exactly what I'm supposed to do. It allows all of us to row that same direction to ultimately take the hill for whatever that said, dream is for the organization. And I think the challenge to what you're describing, too, is when you're bringing on these who's it's no longer you necessarily. That's the only one doing it. And so it goes back to your concept of trust is like, hey, I want to cast this big vision. I'm going to cast this dream. And now I need you guys to really help me come alongside me to take me where I never could do by myself. 

Spencer: No, exactly, which I think that also kind of segue is not to jump around too much, but into topic three of clarity. Yeah, we could have done this a little bit better in order here. But when you're thinking of dreaming big, then you identify what are your exact goals to get to that overarching big goal? Who are the who's to help you get there? And then what is the agenda that you're going to give them? What is the goal when you're talking to? This is like how narrow down are you going to get with that? And that clarity is going to help you attack those goals in a much stronger way. And so for me, that's also one of the most important parts of this whole concept, like knowing truly what you want, which, you know, for me for years, I'm like, oh, you know, I want to be this great cooler company, but how do I want to get there? And what are the steps along the way to get there? And that clarity really helps. And you know, as you guys know, when I first met you and Matt, you were all over that. You know, you're saying, I tell you, you're trying to get over here, but first we got to get here. And what are the steps in between that and that clarity and giving just that structure to whatever who you bring in the equation. It will really help them and it also attract more who's like the more I have defined my defined my clarity, the more people have been attracted to the idea because they've said to me, hey, this guy knows where he wants to go and we want to get. 

Brendan: So I think clarity is also so important. I think the other thing is that it provides its focus and so it allows you, it informs what the tactics, what the strategies are. So if you not only have clarity where you want to go, how do you get there? That's kind of what I'm thinking about in terms of focus. So that informs. It's just kind of a snowball effect. If you have that understanding of where you want to go, how do I get there and then what's required to do it, which is really important. This is off script. But if you don't mind me asking, what is the, you know, that had a goal for rugged road, the one goal your big, hairy, audacious goal when you talk about our dream, what is the dream for rugged road? 

Spencer: My dream for rugged road is to be known as a household brand and to really be known as the superior cooler on the premium cooler market. And I want people to look at us kind of like right now, if you look at Arctic grizzly lit or yada yada yada yada, you say, OK, that's a Yeti comparable cooler. I want people to be able to look at rugged road and say, hey, anything else is subpar compared to them. That's my big audacious goal is to grab not only in that market share, but that mindshare. 

Brendan: I love it. Well, hopefully this is a small step to getting you there with our audience. But hey, since I really do appreciate you walking us through this framework of the who, not the how. It's a really powerful framework to provide not only the clarity on where you're going with that dream, but ultimately make sure you have the right people, the right seats to drive that strategy and get you where you want to go. Spencer if our audience what are some practical tips that are not tips, but next steps they can take to engage with both you and with rugged road? 

Spencer: You know, for me, social media is really big for us. We love sharing the cooler things like that. So, you know, anyone checked out rugged road outdoors on Instagram or Facebook and then also just our website. It's fun to interact. There's a lot of interactive things on the website where people can really see cool or floats up, right, the ice performance demonstrations of the way. And there's some really fun things for people to check out there. So I always enjoy pointing people back to that. 

Brendan: All right. What I heard is go by a cooler at rugged road and you guys have a great summer fall, depending on when this podcast comes out. But Spencer, hey, really appreciate the time and the opportunity to connect with you and to learn a little bit more about this framework and ultimately the rugged road story.

Spencer: Awesome I appreciate you having me on here. 

Brendan: All right. Talk to you later. 

Pit Stops to Podium: A RevPartners Podcast

On the RevPartners Podcast, we talk to executives who have competed and won, accelerating their companies from High Growth to High Scale. Hosted by RevPartners Co-founder and CEO, Brendan Tolleson. Take some quick notes from each week's "Crew Chief" and then head back to the races!

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