Everyday Warrior Podcast Episode 13: Tecovas Founder Paul Hedrick
Men’s Journal’s Everyday Warrior With Mike Sarraille is a new podcast that inspires individuals to live more fulfilling lives by having conversations with disrupters and high performers in all walks of life. In our thirteenth episode, we spoke to Paul Hedrick, founder & CEO of Tecovas.
Listen to the full episode above (scroll down for the transcript) and see more from this series below.
This interview has not been edited for length or clarity.
Mike Sarraille: And welcome to the Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior podcast with your host, me, Mike Sarraille. I’ve got a great guest today. Paul Hedrick, I think it’s safe to say, now Austin royalty.
Paul Hedrick: I would not go that far.
Mike Sarraille: You’re not going to? He’s humble. I actually did get a call from a friend, who usually I ignore their phone calls, I’m sure you have those share of people. Not my parents, let’s put that out there. And this guy’s a good guy, he just sort of annoys me a bit. I told him, “Well, man, I got to go. I’m interviewing someone.” He’s like, “Who?” And I’m like, “Paul Hedrick.” And he is like, “Oh, he’s like the Elon Musk of cowboy boots.” I’m like, “Oh, I don’t know what that means. Okay.” Hey, so that’s a pretty damn good comparison, dude.
Paul Hedrick: Yeah. I have not heard that one before.
Mike Sarraille: Well, Elon is… He’s just sort of the new it. Used to be like, “Hey, he’s the Michael Jordan of cowboy boots.” Now it’s Elon Musk. But want to dive in to Paul. Where were you born? Where were you raised? What was that like growing up?
Paul Hedrick: Yeah. Well first of all, thanks for having me, Mike.
Mike Sarraille: Absolutely.
Paul Hedrick: Awesome to be here. We’re actually literally next door to where I live, so this was a convenient podcast recording location. Yeah, I was born in Houston, actually. Born and raised Texan. Grew up in Dallas. I moved to Dallas when I was young. Went to elementary, middle school, high school there. You know, I was a fortunate kid. It was a great town to grow up. I went to great schools. I went to a very small high school for example, and really was encouraged to do a lot of different things and was able to do a lot of different things because of that. And I think that was the beginning of what was ended up being an entrepreneurial journey. But I didn’t know I wanted to be an entrepreneur or anything. I was not the kid who was inventing businesses and selling pens to my classmate and stuff. I actually wanted to be an artist for much of my childhood. And then an architect later in high school. And then I just decided I want to be a businessman at one point. I didn’t know what that meant, but yeah, I would say I was definitely a nerdy kid. I did well in school but had a lot of interests and it took me a long time to figure out how to wrangle those.
Mike Sarraille: Did I see you wanted to be a paleontologist at one point, too?
Paul Hedrick: I think that’s on our Wikipedia page, somehow. I don’t know how it got there. The answer is actually yes. So, when I was in fourth grade… I only know this because I confirmed this with my mom the other day, she found a picture or something, of a project I made when I was in fourth grade that said I wanted to be a paleontologist. I really liked fossils and rocks and stuff when I was a kid. So like I said, I was a pretty dorky kid.
Mike Sarraille: So, at least we found one area in your life where you failed miserably. I mean, you failed to obtain that goal-
Paul Hedrick: I did not become a paleontologist.
Mike Sarraille: … so you are human. That’s good. What did your parents do?
Paul Hedrick: My dad was a consultant for many years. He actually worked for the same consulting firm that I ended up working for later. And so traveled a lot growing up, advising different businesses. My mom was a nurse until… I was the second of three. And after I was born, she focused on us full time. And yeah, I just honestly had a wonderful childhood. Nothing to complain about. A lot of leeway to be who I wanted to be. And out of my siblings, I think I became… I was definitely the more independent, confident. I had a lot of faith in myself from an early age to do well in school, to go make my own destiny. And as a result, didn’t really have to get a lot of… Didn’t really have to get a lot of boundaries, or push from my parents. So yeah, honestly, just a lot of fond memories growing up. Had a lot of hardship to lean into later. If I’m being honest.
Mike Sarraille: I love how you say, “Yeah, I did well in school.” Yeah, dude, you got into Harvard.
Paul Hedrick: Yeah.
Mike Sarraille: I think you did beyond-
Paul Hedrick: I was wait listed.
Mike Sarraille: … well in school.
Paul Hedrick: I was wait listed.
Mike Sarraille: Wait listed?
Paul Hedrick: But I got in off the wait list.
Mike Sarraille: Yeah. I’m sure they’re not mentioning that now.
Paul Hedrick: No.
Mike Sarraille: When they brag about you. It’s funny you say nerdy. That is one of the best qualities you can have in high school. All the guys that were super focused to some degree, were highly successful. My son just built a computer. I don’t know where he gets it. I didn’t graduate with my senior class. So no, that’s-
Paul Hedrick: Nerds are definitely cool now. I don’t know if they were cool when I was growing up.
Mike Sarraille: I’m trying to remember. So overseas, I used to listen to… I’m blanking on it. It’ll come to me. The guy became a electronic music star and I was listening to his music overseas, prepping for missions. And then I saw his real name, not putting two and two together. Because the name of the band is different. And the guy was in my high school class.
Paul Hedrick: Oh wow.
Mike Sarraille: And I remember he was just… Yeah, I don’t want to say odd. He was a nice guy. Not mainstream. Didn’t pick up a lot of attention, but… God, it’ll come to me. I’m blanking on that one but… So, how many brothers and sisters?
Paul Hedrick: I have an older sister and a younger brother.
Mike Sarraille: So, you were the middle child?
Paul Hedrick: Middle child.
Mike Sarraille: Ignored? [inaudible] I always make fun of my brother, who’s the middle one.
Paul Hedrick: It’s funny. You know, I see a lot of these… On Instagram, you see these memes making fun of middle kids, middle… And I don’t… There was nothing particularly notable about it. My brother’s definitely a younger, a youngest. But I don’t even know if I could name what the quality of a middle kid is.
Mike Sarraille: My brother is the middle one. It’s funny, you say independent. You were always independent. He was, by orders of magnitude more independent than my sister, who’s the oldest and myself, who’s the-
Paul Hedrick: Oh, maybe that’s it.
Mike Sarraille: … youngest.
Paul Hedrick: Oh, you’re the youngest. I get it.
Mike Sarraille: Oh, I very much got away with murder because I think my parents just didn’t care, by that point. What was the shift like from Dallas, Texas to Boston for Harvard? That had to be a little bit of a culture shock.
Paul Hedrick: Oh, definitely. I literally had never visited before I decided to go. I told my college counselor, I think, at some point, I had to pick which school I really would want to get in, off the wait list. And it’s like, “Well I guess if I can get into Harvard, I’ll go.” Just because it’s Harvard. I didn’t expect to get in, so yeah, I just never visited. And so I knew nothing about it. I didn’t even know if it was in an urban environment, in a rural environment. I knew I wanted to leave Texas. I’d been to Texas my whole life and something about the outside world was calling me, I think to… I wanted to learn about it. I was curious. But I think I’ve been away from Texas twice. Four years for college and then two years, a couple years out of college. And both times I found myself drawn back to Texas. I found myself drawn to what I… It highlighted everything that I loved about where I was from, actually. So yeah, I joined the Texas Club.
Mike Sarraille: Really? So, there’s a Harvard Texas Club?
Paul Hedrick: Oh yeah. Yeah. It’s not huge. But we had a good time.
Mike Sarraille: I mean, with the jacked up pickup trucks? Like pull up to Harvard with the Texas flag [inaudible]?
Paul Hedrick: You know, not many people have cars there. That’s the thing. It was an urban environment, which again, I didn’t know. But yeah, I’d say the biggest shock was more, hey, if you’re in a school like that, there are hundreds of people better than you at every turn. And you know, it was one of those, you’re never going to be the best person in any of those classes. And so it was a humbling experience. I treated college as more of a, “Hey I’m in college. I want to have fun.” And you can have a lot of fun at those places too, believe me. But it wasn’t until junior or senior year when I realized, “Okay, it’s going to be really hard to stand out here. I got to start working on, what’s going to make Paul Paul, after college.” And it was harder there, I think, than it would’ve been at many other places.
Mike Sarraille: Would you describe it as cutthroat a little bit? I’ve heard that about the Harvard MBA program, that it’s pretty cutthroat.
Paul Hedrick: Yeah. I would definitely say if you were trying to be top of the class, get high honors, if you were in pre-med, if you were in these pre-law. If you were trying to do things that required a really good GPA and whatnot? Yeah, it was cutthroat. I went right down the fairway for economics, which literally 50% of the graduating class majors in and figured it was going to be a little easier to stand out from the crowd in that major. Some people ask me why I majored in economics, that was pretty much the reason. It had the least requirements out of any other major, and I could take a lot of electives senior year. I took acting class senior year, which was really fun. I think I enjoyed my electives more than my core curriculum, if I’m being honest.
Mike Sarraille: What’s the bare minimum? Was my name in high school. So, I’m with you.
Paul Hedrick: Yeah.
Mike Sarraille: So I’ve got to ask, how did you enjoy the winters in Boston? Because those are brutal.
Paul Hedrick: You know, when you’re 19 and you’re BAC is above legal driving limit for most of the time, you don’t really care that much, I think. If I’m being… Yeah.
Mike Sarraille: Did so did we leave a Brady fan? Patriots?
Paul Hedrick: No.
Mike Sarraille: No [inaudible]?
Paul Hedrick: No, I’m a Cowboys fan still. Somehow. Yeah. It’s been a rough…
Mike Sarraille: That’s rough.
Paul Hedrick: Long time.
Mike Sarraille: I’m a fair weather fan. I will jump ship. Since Tom Brady went to my rival high school, I just became a Patriots fan.
Paul Hedrick: Oh yeah. Well he is the goat, he is the goat.
Mike Sarraille: He is the goat. It’s crazy. He came back out of retirement.
Paul Hedrick: I know.
Mike Sarraille: It’s insane. Do you see the memes? That were just like, because he realized staying home with the kids would’ve been insane.
Paul Hedrick: Oh man, no. I feel bad, there was a guy who bought his final game ball for half a million dollars.
Mike Sarraille: It’s that, or he’s just a marketing genius.
Paul Hedrick: Yeah.
Mike Sarraille: It was planned all along. Regardless, the goat’s back.
Paul Hedrick: Can’t stay away.
Mike Sarraille: We should see a good season. So your senior year, you pretty much have zeroed in on, should I say management consulting?
Paul Hedrick: You know, the truth was at that stage I had no idea what management consultants really did. Everyone was talking about this thing called I-banking and I literally thought it was like iPod. Like it was technical, it was technological somehow. But it just stood for investment banking. I had no idea what that job was either, but everyone in those environments just always just gunning for the names and gunning for the…
Mike Sarraille: Yeah.
Paul Hedrick: So yeah, I thought I wanted to do those things. I ended up getting a job, the job that I could get really, which was options trading. And I was an options trader in Chicago briefly, which was a killer job. And I, for a couple years afterward, thought about whether I made the right move leaving it. And it wasn’t until after college that I realized, “Hey, I need to really focus and double down on my career. And I need to focus on what was going to open up the most doors.” And so I, after every day when I came home from work, first six months out of college, I studied for case studies basically. For managing management consulting interviews. And I just told myself, I set a goal. I’m like, “I’m going to get a job at the best consulting firm in the world. And I’m going to do whatever it takes to get there.” But it was after college because I… Candidly, my grades were not good enough to get the job in college. I got rejected twice. And yeah, a series of not my first rejection and not my last, that led me to where I am now.
Mike Sarraille: What type of hours were you working with the options trader?
Paul Hedrick: Honestly, that was kind of nice. It was 30, 40 hours a week, so I had plenty of time after work to study for other things.
Mike Sarraille: You’re kidding? I mean, you hear the horror stories.
Paul Hedrick: Just market hours.
Mike Sarraille: Market hours?
Paul Hedrick: It was all… It was a mental math job. It was basically… Yeah, it was all mental math. It was at a firm that specialized in trading equity index options is what they were called. And you just tried to get in and out of positions all day.
Mike Sarraille: What were your most valuable lessons learned from that position? I mean, did you have great mentors? What did you take away and then segue into management consulting from there?
Paul Hedrick: Honestly, the biggest thing I learned was that I… It was more about myself, I wanted to have a wider breadth of exposure. My twenties were a time that I needed to spend investing in myself and my career. And that did not mean going for the job that paid the most, nor the highest pedigree for that matter. It meant going for… Trying to spend my time learning and accelerating who I was in the business world, at least, as fast as I could. And that wasn’t… That job was more of a… Probably the fastest way to make a lot of money by 30. Not so much the best way to expand my mind.
Mike Sarraille: And was it management consulting, because they touch so many industries, that drew you in?
Paul Hedrick: Yeah, by this point I had figured out what a management consultant does and realized that it was a pretty cool job. You’re basically hired to jump into a different business every one to three months, essentially. Immediately get accredited to be an expert. And by accredited, I mean you just tell the client you’re an expert and you better figure out how to seem like one and really learn on your feet. And I couldn’t think of anything better than being forced to learn on my feet and being around really world class people. And that’s what I realized later was probably the best. I mean, the best part of the experience was every one of my colleagues, it was similar to being an Ivy League school where everyone around you was good enough to get a job there. And some ways I felt like an imposter, but I knew that knew I could do it. And that’s where the confidence started building, I think, that I needed a few years later. And that I started to see how these businesses were operating and it’s all normal people. You know? It’s normal people going to the office every day. And everyone gets a job, you know? Almost everyone gets a job. And consulting for these really big corporations, you see a lot of people kind of there to just to show up and punch their ticket. And that’s okay. And they’re an individual contributor maybe, and they want that to work, to play a certain part in their life. And then you see other people who have risen up, and you get to see this diversity of how people are approaching their careers. Which I had never seen before and it was a lot more tangible. And so, yeah, that was the main draw for me.
Mike Sarraille: Management consulting is so interesting to me. It’s almost like you look at these companies and you ask yourself, “Why would they need consultants to come in and solve the problems for them?” But they’re looking at the problems from six inches away, where you have the luxury of coming in, looking at it from feet away. Because they’re so engrossed in the day to day, they just don’t have the time to take that step back and look.
Paul Hedrick: And consultants have [inaudible] up developing pattern recognition at the highest level. And they’ve seen what great looks like, and many times it takes not… So, we just hired a consulting firm. I never would have thought we would get to that point, but we just… 10 years after I left the industry, we just hired a… Got a blue chip consulting firm, if you will, to help us work through some things. And it was extremely helpful. And I’d say, yeah, it was all… It’s because they were bringing pattern recognition and expertise to bear in a high octane, short term period. And sometimes a business needs that to see what they really have ahead of them.
Mike Sarraille: It’s funny you mentioned pattern recognition. Some things just cannot replace experience. It’s just iterations. You just have to give it time and so many iterations under your belt, before those patterns pick up. I’d be interested, what in your opinion, beyond the knowledge, makes a great management consultant? Is it the ability to build relationships with the people you’re working with within the companies? I mean, what makes a great management consultant stand out?
Paul Hedrick: Yeah, I think you can… There are different types of great, for sure. Yeah, there were the senior partners that you knew that were just great at, what you said, relationships. And they were going to find the way to get in the ear of the CEO and be a trusted partner, and then always have business coming in. And those firms don’t like to think about themselves as sales organizations. They don’t like… At where I worked, they didn’t even use the word sales. It was a bad word. But the truth was, that the people who were up the top making the most money were the people who were the best salesmen. But the people who I think ended up also generating maybe the most respect, were the people who knew that this was what they wanted to do. And because frankly, most people figure out in their first year or two, if it’s something they want. Do I want to be a partner or not? I knew three months in that I was not going to go for partner track. And so, it’s a bit of a self selection in that regard. But the people who know why they’re they want to do it and it’s a good reason, it’s because they’re great problem solvers. And they’re just so energized by solving problems that they’d rather see a lot of them, than work their way through one system, or change careers a few times. And so, yeah, I really admire a lot of my former colleagues in that regard. But I knew that wasn’t going to be me. I needed to go all in on a few things.
Mike Sarraille: So what was it in particular that you knew three months in, you were not… This was not the permanent track? This was just a stepping stone to what you wanted to achieve later in life.
Paul Hedrick: Yeah, so I had two jobs before, well three, I guess if you count the trading firm before Tecovas and the source for starting my business. I guess we haven’t introduced Tecovas yet, but-
Mike Sarraille: Oh, we’re going to get there.
Paul Hedrick: Yeah, I would say each of them brought me closer to operating. And I knew when I was a consultant, that I was… Basically, when most people leave consulting firms and you ask them why they’re leaving, to either join an operating company, or start their own or something else. They have a pretty common answer as to why, which is they’re tired of doing the work and then handing it off and then not seeing it through.
Mike Sarraille: The execution.
Paul Hedrick: And they’re like, “I want to see it through.” And I knew that I wanted to see it through, too. I thought that a lot of the most interesting decisions were being made outside the meeting and outside the steering committee. And it wasn’t as much about seeing it through for me, at least then. It was more, “Man, that’s a cool decision that guy’s responsible for making. I want to be in that seat.” And I knew I had to work my way toward getting in that seat somehow.
Mike Sarraille: Okay. So we’ve been an option trader. We’ve done the management consulting piece. You’ve got a unique look because you’re wearing… I’m assuming you’re wearing cowboy boots and all your suits?
Paul Hedrick: Yeah.
Mike Sarraille: Or were you told, “Hey, that’s not…”
Paul Hedrick: Well, yeah. That was the other thing. I didn’t really. It was frowned upon. You really told as a consultant, to kind of blend in. You wear Brooks Brothers, and neutral colors, and Cohan. And you never want to be the guy who’s wearing the too expensive thing or the too flashy thing, or the signature look. You want to be the guy who’s just… A lot of times, they don’t want to know that you’re there. You know? No actually, what happened was I moved to New York. I lived in [inaudible] where I grew up in Dallas when I worked in consulting. Although I traveled a lot, it’s a travel job. I moved to New York to work for a private equity firm that focused on consumer and retail. And that’s when I… I had already had the taste of Texas post-college and I’d really lived there for the first time as an adult, in my view. And I was so certain that’s who I wanted to be and where I wanted to be long term, that I started wearing boots in New York. Essentially. I mean, I always had them, right? But I really started wearing them pretty much every day when I was going out and when I went to the office. When I went to New York. Because I wanted to… At that point, I knew I wanted to be the Texan guy. And I was proud of where I was from and yeah, I never thought about beyond that. But yeah, that’s when I started wearing them.
Mike Sarraille: So, always representing Texas in some way to the best of your ability.
Paul Hedrick: Yeah. And I hung out with Texans in New York. You know, I went to see Texas country musicians. Robert Earl Keen, Josh Abbot, Randy Rogers, Corey Mora, a lot of these guys.
Mike Sarraille: Those guys go to New York City?
Paul Hedrick: Every now and then. In fact, what made me angry when I lived in Texas, is Texas independence day every year, first week in March. They did a concert that weekend in New York. But it was just to draw all the… Well, so, we created a name for ourselves. We called ourselves Texpats. And so I only hung out with Texpats pretty much. Which, looking back, was pretty close-minded but it’s what I did.
Mike Sarraille: It is so funny. You take a Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, New York. If you wear cowboy boots and a suit, you stand out.
Paul Hedrick: That’s right.
Mike Sarraille: Sometimes not in a good way. But you do that in Dallas and Houston, it’s the norm.
Paul Hedrick: Oh yeah.
Mike Sarraille: It’s the norm.
Paul Hedrick: I’m trying to make it more the norm now, which, we’re on our way to do that.
Mike Sarraille: You’re doing a pretty damn good job. So, you take one more job with a trading firm.
Paul Hedrick: Yeah. It was a retail and consumer focused, private equity firm. So this is when it really started to come a little more full circle for me. I knew I wanted to be… Work with products. Physical products. Brands. I was a product kind of nut growing up. Would read consumer reports, and I loved cars. I liked Gear and got into the blogs later, like Uncrate, at Gear Patrol and whatnot. And so, I knew I was drawn to that. I didn’t know what it meant. I just knew that I wanted to work… I could relate more easily to things that I interacted with and bought and sold myself. Which, that’s not a very unique thing to notice. I think a lot of people like to get into the business of consumer because they can relate to it more directly. But that was my line into working in consumer, was I got an opportunity to work for an investment firm that basically invests in and buys and sells consumer brands. They’re actually now the largest consumer retail investment firm in the world. At the time it was smaller. And I ended up working, mostly for a company that made and sold candy. So I know a lot about gummy bears, jelly beans, candy corn.
Mike Sarraille: All the essentials to a good diet.
Paul Hedrick: Not chocolate. Yeah.
Mike Sarraille: So before we get to the mid roll, what we call the hard questions, when did the idea hit? I mean, was it gradual? Or did all of a sudden it hit hard, like a bunch of bricks?
Paul Hedrick: A little bit of both. I had done… Almost getting close to my two year stint, which there, was the standard length of time to work in my role. Although I had the option to stay longer. I had applied to business school. I actually got rejected from the only two schools that I applied to. And that was literally the reason that got my juices flowing, as to needing to figure out like, “Oh, what the hell do I do next?” And I remember getting drinks with a colleague and he said, “Hey we meet a bunch of these CEOs who run consumer businesses. Like how hard could it be?” Which at the time… Luckily, I was a little under the influence, and so I didn’t quite grasp how naive of a statement that was. And it was a first spark, at least in my mind, that maybe I could think a little bit more about starting something. And then basically, the wheel started really turning. And I started… Actually, I looked down at my feet, literally the next week. And it got me thinking about, “Well, what do I like in my life? What do I buy in my life? I should probably do something in consumer and products, because that’s where I have the most expertise.” And I could theoretically have a bit of a head start compared to a lot of other industries. And I just remember, I had this pair of ostrich boots on and they… I’m like, “Man, this experience of buying them was so, in many ways, unmemorable.” I couldn’t even really name the brand. It actually was one of the retailers’ private label brands, as it turned out. But I didn’t even register that. The experience was not a great one. I had to go home to Dallas to even buy them. And I was at a brand building firm. We knew the power of brand. We knew that brand is all about connecting a consumer and a customer with a feeling and a story and a physical product in many times. And nothing in this category, as I viewed it, was doing that for me. And then, every single time I looked into it, the more I realized, “Oh, I could do this one thing better. We could have great customer service. We could… I could make him good looking. I could make him better price because I could… We could do this different business model because no one is selling direct to consumer.” And so it was one of those things where it was a bit of a slippery slope, but the idea became very obvious to me over time.
Mike Sarraille: This, and we’re going to get into this after the break because-
Paul Hedrick: This was months, though. Not days. Yeah.
Mike Sarraille: Just the fact, even if it was a year to come up with the idea. To go into what I’d describe as a legacy industry and try to disrupt it. What’s even more insane to me, and I’ve written a book on talent acquisition and assessing character, is that two MBA programs rejected you into their programs. I bet they are licking their chops to this day, saying, “Who the hell’s in charge of our selection process?” That’s insane.
Paul Hedrick: I think they’re okay. It was Harvard and Stanford. They’re the most exclusive business schools.
Mike Sarraille: Well, we can say Stanford and Harvard, just don’t come to Texas. We do things here a little differently.
Paul Hedrick: I’m glad they did.
Mike Sarraille: So before we get to the mid roll break, the hard questions. What is the biggest regret of your life? And I don’t accept, “I have no regrets,” as an answer.
Paul Hedrick: Yeah. Well, I mean the truth is I try not to think too much about… I will preface by saying I try not to think too much about regrets, because I think it’s more productive to be grateful than regretful. And honestly, I’m really lucky. From my upbringing to the positions that I was in, to my agency that I had to make a choice that I did, which was to quit a high paying job and risk it all. Most people don’t have that and so I think the gratitude and the regret are extremely outweighed in proportion. But you know, to be reflective about it, I think it would be… I interpreted being independent, being an entrepreneur, as being headstrong and being in my own universe. And I didn’t ask for… If I were talking to myself even a year ago, if not seven years ago, I would say talk to more people. Get help. Ask for more help. Just you’re going to have to figure out enough on your own, share the load a little bit. Distribute leadership. Call for experts, create a network. Talk to therapists. I didn’t start talking to a therapist until this year and I wish I had done that earlier. So, I think every part of my life would be better if I had just had a little bit more of a help in networking oriented mindset earlier. I hated networking. So I just avoided-
Mike Sarraille: Yeah.
Paul Hedrick: And when I was trying to figure out how to start the company, I didn’t hire a sourcing agent or… I just blunt forced it. Which in many times was the right call. But most of the time, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help.
Mike Sarraille: So before we get to the last question, I’ve got to ask you based off that response, and this is one of my weaknesses, do you consider… I don’t want to say so much as a weakness. I would say it for myself, but is it hard for you to ask for help? Or a younger Paul? Was it harder to ask for help?
Paul Hedrick: Yes, I’ve gotten a lot better at it, I think. Because I’ve realized that self reflection and being vulnerable with your team is a big way to move the ball along. And life is short. Don’t hide stuff, get ahead of it. But that has not been a natural instinct of mine by any means. That has been a learned… Learned and always improving, I’d say. A lot of room for improvement, still. Skill.
Mike Sarraille: Hey, I don’t care if you’re 34 or 74, there’s there’s always room for improvement.
Paul Hedrick: That’s right.
Mike Sarraille: Last question before the mid roll break, hardest decision you’ve ever had to make?
Paul Hedrick: Yeah. There’s been a lot. We’ve had to… There’s these moments in your journey as an executive, as a CEO, as a founder, that every time will feels like, “Oh, that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” I know that’s not the question. I think the hardest… As far as hardest decision, honestly, just in terms of gravity, it’s the easy one. It was fully committing to one idea. And it should have been hard. And it was appropriately hard. I think even I underestimated how much effort it would take and I knew it was going to take a lot. And I was afraid of committing a big chunk of my life to one thing, wake up 5, 10, 15 years later and maybe the worst thing that… The worst thing that could have happened maybe, was not a quick failure or a quick success, but something in between. And that really prevented me from going all in on one thing until I absolutely had to. I mean, I literally… The decision to start a company was not hard for me, because of a lot, a myriad of factors. I was 26. I was lucky to have paid off… You know, I didn’t have any debts. I had a fortunate upbringing. I had a lot of agency, had a great job and I could, I could risk it all. That wasn’t the hard part. It was committing to one thing. And so it wasn’t until I… I moved to Austin, I was still actually working on a couple ideas. And it wasn’t ’til I had to write a… I had a rule for myself, as soon as I had to write a $10,000 check for something, I needed to just bet on it. And I mean, shoot, I made the decision to start the company eight years ago and we’re still in the thick of it. I mean, this is a long… It’s going to take a long time. So it was hard, but it should have been hard.
Mike Sarraille: Brother, if you consider this a long time, with the fact that you founded Tecovas in 2015 to where you guys are now, I have no doubt… I mean, you were working the longest hours of your life. But rarely do you see a company this successful so quickly, that has built such a strong brand for which a culture, an established culture is behind it. That’s impressive. But we’re going to take our mid roll break and we will be right back. And we are back with Event Journal Everyday Warrior podcast with Paul Hedrick, founder and CEO of Tecovas. So we left off, you are 26, making a good career on a trajectory and you say, “To hell with it, I’m going to start a boot company.” Now I’ve got to ask, it was either your parents or friends that you brought this idea to and they’re like, “Oh, Paul, that’s cute but why would you give up your career to risk it all?” Or it may have been, “Paul, you’re just damn crazy. Let this go.”
Paul Hedrick: Yeah. You know, the truth is I didn’t get a ton of pushback from my parents. And most people, I think, understood that this was something that could scale quickly or fail quickly. And that yeah, I’d be a big financial risk in some ways. But I would probably be better off whether it succeeded or failed. Now, my college roommates who were all from Boston, and the New York area, they did not understand. They said, “You’re quitting your job in private equity to start a cowboy boots store?” And I said, “That’s not exactly how I would describe it. But yeah. Essentially, yes.” And so, yeah, I would say… But actually the only people that really kind of scared… Almost scared me off or gave me pause, were the people who… I did end up talking to some people who had been in the footwear industry. And honestly, those guys were not encouraging. And they told me how challenging starting a footwear company is and how the inventory’s hard and there’s a million sizes and you know, why the hell would you ever start a footwear company? And those were probably the only people I should have listened to. But luckily, I had enough check marks in the pro side of my pro and con sheet, that I still believed enough in the opportunity to do it. And I’m glad I did, although it is hard to run a shoe company.
Mike Sarraille: It’s so funny, those little techniques, the pro and con list, as you’re sitting in your apartment at the time. Properly, literally writing this on a whiteboard or down on a piece of paper.
Paul Hedrick: I had an Excel file too, if I’m being honest.
Mike Sarraille: Excel, there you go. Very, very trader, private equity of you. I got to switch my tone up almost to, who do you think you are? That you can come in and disrupt a legacy industry owned by companies like Tony Lama, Casey [inaudible 00:36:31. But seriously, you’re looking at this. What do you possibly see that you could do differently, to come in and gain market share?
Paul Hedrick: Yeah. You know, I definitely had that reaction from some people. A lot of people were… The first question they asked me was like, “Well, have you made a cowboy boot before? Are you from… Is your family in the industry?” And I said, “Well, no. I don’t think that’s… I’m not going to make them by hand, myself. I’m planning to go to whoever the best people in the world are at making this stuff and then take the best product, make it better.” And yeah, and the make it better part is the answer to your question. Which is there wasn’t something that I wanted in the market. And I trusted my instincts on that front. And I trusted myself, knowing that there’s enough people out there that were thinking like me. That what I wanted was a more approachably priced boot. A comfortable boot. A boot that I could buy on the internet and actually, the same way that I buy a lot of my stuff on the internet. A company that has great customer service. A company that whose values I share. And so I knew that there was 10 of these things on the list, that we could do better than everyone else. And no one else was doing more than two or three of them. So yeah, there was definitely a confidence that came from knowing that and knowing that at some point, most ideas sound like stupid ones until they work. And believe me, I remember someone telling me on the phone, for advice, and they’re like, “Oh no one’s going to ever buy cowboy boots on the internet.” And I’m like, “You realize what you sound like? People said the same thing about every other category. I can’t believe you still have that mindset.” So yeah, I mean, obviously it was true that you could. And by the way, that what also gave me confidence is that the product was… The experience was not great, you know? There was only one company, one brand that even had the cart button on their website in 2014. I mean, this category was behind the times.
Mike Sarraille: I can’t blame the person for saying that. Because as unremarkable as the boot buying experience is, which it’s just like athletic shoes. You go to one of those large stores, it’s like, “Here are all the 10 and a halfs.”
Paul Hedrick: Yeah. Like a grocery store.
Mike Sarraille: From all the brands. Here are all the 10 and a half, double Es for cowboy boots. All the different brands. But I don’t think even five years ago, I don’t think I would’ve bought a boot online. It just… I mean, that had to seem like a gamble.
Paul Hedrick: Well, that was a hurdle we needed to get over. Because that definitely was the mindset. And I just believed that the formula that we were going to create would get people over that fact. Which it really had to do with making it more approachable and making it… And so, what were all the barriers that were preventing people from potentially buying boots on the internet? It was questions about fit. Questions about quality. Questions about brand story. Questions about merchandising and what do they need? And we solved a lot of that with simplicity and approachability. We designed one cowboy boot, one roper boot, one cowgirl boot, one booty. We were very clear about where they sit in the market. We were very clear about why they were priced the way they were priced. We had free shipping returns and exchanges. We did all the stuff that was table stakes now, but at the time was actually innovative. And knew that a lot of people would still opt for the physical experience, and that’s okay. But in the back of my mind, knew that at some point we were going to be more than that as well, and that we’d get there at some point.
Mike Sarraille: So beyond all these smaller items you were going to innovate on, the business model, you were going to double down on the direct to consumer because no one was doing it at the time? Paul Hedrick: Yeah. There were no direct to consumer western footwear or apparel brands at that time.
Mike Sarraille: So you settled on Leon, Mexico where you make your boots. What drove you there? What research? And then did you just say, “Hey, I’m going to buy a ticket, go down there and start talking to people?”
Paul Hedrick: Pretty much. I’d say that there were two major drivers in the discovery phase of figuring out the Tecovas journey. One was the scale of the industry. You know, I had no idea if it was a hundred million dollar industry or a hundred billion dollar industry. Turns out, about 4 billion dollars of cowboy boots are sold in the US every year. Which was, to me, bigger than a bread box. Definitely bigger than I thought. And the second thing was… And if I hadn’t found that out, I probably wouldn’t have gotten to the next step. And the second thing I found out was that pretty much all of the greatest handcrafted brands had started making boots in this one town in Mexico in the late eighties, early nineties, and transitioned most US production down there. In part, because this town had been, for really since before World War II had been making shoes, you know, great… What’s called welted. Goodyear welted and Blake welted leather shoes for that long, and had developed a bit of a cottage industry down there. And so it’s like, “Okay, great.” I know what the market’s like. I know where to make it. So the rest will be easy. No, I made a lot of cold phone calls. I called a lot of custom boot makers. Actually, I found a list from… I think Texas monthly had this list that was like 20 years old of all the Texas boot… And most of them were no longer alive, unfortunately. But a few people answered the phone and a couple of them took a liking to me and were late… You know, these are older industry vets. Probably close to retirement, and they said, “Hey, I’ll take you under my wing. You should fly to Leon. Here’s the name of one factory I know.” And yeah. But I cold emailed a factory and flew down there. And came with a PowerPoint presentation that I don’t think I opened. And then he quickly rejected me and sent me across the street to another factory. And they said yes, thankfully.
Mike Sarraille: That is amazing. Now, what facilitated the move from Dallas to Austin, to start this venture?
Paul Hedrick: Yeah. I was living in New York at the time and knew that I wanted to move to Texas to start my business. And I was between living in Dallas and Austin. And you know, honestly, the main reason I picked Austin was I just wanted a new adventure. And I had never really been there and every time I looked into the town, I thought it’d be a cool place to start a business. And you know, it was very entrepreneurial. There was a lot of tech industry there. And felt like the best place to start a new Western brand. Now, what I didn’t realize was that not having any retailer, retail or apparel companies here was actually going to make it extremely challenging, to start a business in a town without a lot of industry talent already there. But we’re figuring that out now. But it’s a great town. I love it. And I actually thought I was late to the game in Austin in 2014, turns out I was wrong about that.
Mike Sarraille: Well, you’ve definitely overcome those obstacles. Tell me about the early days in Tecovas. I mean, were you bootstrapping this thing, more or less? Friends and family? How big was the initial team?
Paul Hedrick: Yeah, well, I really leaned into the bootstrap word. Because it literally means you pull yourself up by your bootstraps, which-
Mike Sarraille: No pun on words.
Paul Hedrick: Very few companies could say they were literally bootstrapping a bootstrap company. But tried to… I endeavored to bootstrap it. I got it basically all the way to launch. I had spent every dollar in my savings account. I cashed out my 401k. Paid a big tax penalty, I don’t recommend that. I sold my BMW and bought a 20 year old car. I went about $30,000 in credit card debt. So fall 2015 was very challenging, and I realized that I couldn’t afford the inventory bill. And so, first of all, I committed to a big inventory number which I had faith that we could sell through. And we did. But yeah, I ended up raising a friends and family round that fall after launch. And as soon as money came into the account, I would pay a supplier this, pay the rent there, and realized that we were going to have to do this a little differently from a lot of other companies. We weren’t going to be able to raise as much money, maybe, as a lot of other companies. We were a cowboy boot startup. Most tech investors weren’t going to take a look at it. Most venture investors weren’t going to take a look at it. We eventually raised money every year. And after the first three, I’d say it got a lot easier to get people to believe in our mission and our vision to create a really big company. But those first two or three years were… People didn’t… A lot of no’s. A lot of people who did not understand what we were doing and credit… I should have done a better job explaining it, but at the end of the day, I just don’t… At some point, they got to see it to believe it.
Mike Sarraille: You know, most entrepreneurs that have been successful have said to me something along the lines of, “You can choose one or two things in your life when you’re an entrepreneur. And one of those things is already chosen, the company.” So it’s the company and family, it’s the company and health. I mean, did you even have a social life during those early years?
Paul Hedrick: Yeah, I definitely agree that it… Obviously, you have to… It’s going to consume a much bigger part of your life than work will for most people, for obvious reasons. But I wasn’t married. I didn’t have kids or a pet and once you take those out of the equation, I mean, that left a lot of room to focus on myself and the business and my friends. And yeah, I really believed in having balance early. And even though a big part of my life was going to be Tecovas, I didn’t want to be a hermit and I’d seen people do that. So no, I had definitely tried to balance my life as much as possible. And luckily, I was in a town that was pretty fun town to hang out in. So it wasn’t too hard to find people to get a drink with when I really needed it.
Mike Sarraille: There’s no shortage of fun here in Austin. And I learned that the hard way, in my first two years when I was going through my MBA program. Not the model student, let’s just put it that way. Was there a time in year one or two, where you thought to yourself, “We may not make it?”
Paul Hedrick: Honestly, that didn’t come in those first two years. I think by far, in a way the most existential risk we’ve ever faced, honestly, I wish it had come in those years because I… Would’ve been nice to learn those lessons earlier. COVID was by far and away, the most challenging time our business has ever experienced. 30, 40 plus percent of our business wiped away overnight. And that was a very tough weekend, week, turned into month, months. And you know, we had to reduce our… We did we did a reduction in force. Laid off a third of our team. I had to raise money to have enough money to support our budget for the year, and took six months to do that. And so, that was by far and away, the most existential risk. And thankfully, there was enough belief in our vision and we had a great team who was ready to hunker down and do what needed to get done. But yeah, my sanity was not tested as much in the first couple years. I think because I was powered by a lot of naivety, honestly, in the first couple years. The truth is, if most people had looked at our balance sheet and when we needed to raise money next, and what results we needed to hit to go do those things, they would’ve been nervous. I should have been nervous. But I had a bit of a blind faith in the business and the ability that, hey, I know this, we make a great thing. I know if just more people could see it and experience it, it’s going to keep growing. And so yeah, every year we were able to set a big goal and blow through it and set another big goal and blow through it. And I think because of that, we were able to build a little… Enough scale to withstand a very challenging time later.
Mike Sarraille: Before what we get to what I think sets Tecovas apart, and I want to dive into where you drove that. One of the things about successful CEOs is, this is my observation, where a lot of people will describe them as hard headed, they don’t necessarily use that in a great context. It’s you see the field for what it is. Or you have a vision and you just refuse to accept no for an answer. And you sort of alluded to that, that you were hardheaded earlier on. Do you see that as both a strength and a weakness? Or just a strength?
Paul Hedrick: Definitely both. I think it’s a weakness at some points. I would say it’s increasingly a weakness when the company and relationships for that matter, need an evolution in thinking. When it’s the critical time, when your belief is driving a lot of the value in the business, then complete strength. And we wouldn’t be here where we are today, I think, if I didn’t have some of that stubbornness and that vision for where we were going. Candidly, we’re now at a point where I think we benefit less from that than we did before. And you know, a lot more… Running the business today is more about aligning people around the vision. Getting other people to buy into it, figuring out how to scale it operationally, and what I like to call hand to hand combat. And a lot more… A lot less let me brute force it and a lot more, how do we get a team and hundreds of people out there to execute on a vision? Which is a very different skill set than being hardheaded.
Mike Sarraille: I love the war analogy. And there are so many parallels between war and business, it’s not even funny. This is why I say business is war by non-violent means. But let’s be honest, sometimes it gets a little violent.
Paul Hedrick: Yeah. Hopefully non-violent.
Mike Sarraille: Non-violent. So, COVID impacted almost everyone to some degree. Whether you’re the leader of an organization, CEO, or just parent of… A single parent, or even sitting in your apartment alone, what was the greatest leadership lesson you learned from COVID, for our listeners?
Paul Hedrick: I think that was the time that it became so obvious that I needed to hug the people around… Talk more often. Focus on how people were feeling. Really get in touch with uniting around the cultural part of what we were doing. And the truth is for me, that it took a bit of a crisis for me to realize how important that was, when you shouldn’t just be doing that in a crisis. That should be the day to day operating model of any business and any leadership team that’s high functioning. And I’d say it took a crisis for me to realize what a scaled company CEO needs to start doing more. Now, that was definitely wartime CEO frame of my life, for sure. It was a lot of, “Hey, we got to set… We got to be really disciplined in these areas. We have to make a few bets that we know we’re going to have to drive a lot of faith behind. And it’s going to be a very simple plan to get out of this.” But the people side… And it is also working through the virtual side of things too, which is now going to be the operating model of a lot of businesses for better, for worse, is going to be more hybrid. And I think it forced people to… I think a lot of people just went to the office and paid lip service to what it meant to work at a company and a business. And you know, really, it’s still a hand to hand combat. Still one on one. It’s still cultural. It’s still part of a team. And I think COVID for us, was good in that regard in that that it forced us to get closer. But it shouldn’t have been the only reason we did that.
Mike Sarraille: Adversity can really bring people together, especially teams.
Paul Hedrick: Yeah.
Mike Sarraille: It’s funny you mentioned culture because I want to get into that. You see so many brands, and every company has a soul. To some degree. You see so many products out there that still do well, but they’re not soulful. You built something with Tecovas and this is not only from looking at what you got online, the message, your social media, but actually being in your HQ. Because I built a relationship with you guys, because you basically sent me to Mount Everest. Thanks for that. On your dime. Awesome. It was a great trip.
Paul Hedrick: That’s great.
Mike Sarraille: I mean, you guys have… Is it safe to say you guys have democratized western wear in a sense?
Paul Hedrick: Yeah, I like that phrase. I actually used it a lot in the first couple years when I was describing the opportunity, I’d say that was a big part of it. I’d say that actually, our vision now or really our mission, is to free the spirit of the American west that exists within everyone. And I think you mentioned soulful. We’re blessed with where we work today. What we’re working in. What we work with. What we make for people. It’s a piece of American heritage. It has a story. And it was something that drew myself to it very early on, was when I was thinking about the different categories that you could start a business in. And I thought about others, for sure. This was the first idea and the one I couldn’t get away from, if you will. But if you’re wearing a pair of cowboy boots, you’re ready to get asked about them, and you’re going to get asked about them. And you’re going to get complimented on them. And they almost all have a story. And that’s really… When your main thing has a story, then it’s easier to be soulful, I guess, to use your words. But also, it’s really cool to now work with people who sometimes see that vision better than I could, even. And sometimes I would get in my head and I had to be both the numbers guy, and the COO, and the CEO and the designer. And I think a lot of times I was so focused on just setting a goal for the next year, setting a goal for the next year and making sure all the pieces in place were getting there. And sometimes I lost track of the, “Hey, what could this really be five years from now? 25 years from now?” And couldn’t this keep going? What’s to say that it couldn’t just convince a lot more… It’s not just about giving someone a better option who was already going to buy a cowboy boot. It was about actually representing something cultural about our country and representing the best of what the American spirit can represent. And I think, honestly, that sounded cheesy to me at first. And it wasn’t until pretty recently when I realized, “Hey, by the way, we have to have something like that for this to keep going. For us to keep going.” But the good news is, it’s there and it’s authentic. And it’s real. And if you… A cowboy, the spirit of the cowboy. I think the big thing we’re trying to do to get back to the democratized western, I think there’s a lot of people out there who think, “Well, I can’t rock cowboy boots.” Or, “I’m not a cowboy.” Or, “I’m not from Texas. Why would I buy it? I live in New York. That’s why I can’t do it.” And those are the people that we got to figure out that screw that’s different in their brain. And we had to figure out how to tell them why that’s not true, because really all the American west represents, it’s the frontier. It’s making a choice. It’s believing in yourself, it’s being genuine. It’s being authentic. It’s being confident. It’s being welcoming. It’s being all these things that we’ve innately tried to do from the beginning, but we’ve never really sharpened our approach and our language around it. But yeah.
Mike Sarraille: It’s funny. You go overseas, even in Iraq and Afghanistan, every deployment somebody would come up. One of the foreigners or local nationals to say, “Are you American cowboy?” I mean, just, it’s synonymous with American. We are seen as Cowboys to the world. And you brought that into reality. I mean, this is coming from a kid who’s born in the Bay Area of California and you can rarely see me without a pair of boots.
Paul Hedrick: And a pearl snap shirt.
Mike Sarraille: And a pearl snap shirt. So the mustache. We had to get there. I’m not going to let you go before we end here. Because I mean, in the seal teams, when we couldn’t grow beards, we’d have mustache contests and you would’ve won one of those contests. But rarely did the guys ever keep the mustache. I mean, you’ve had this mustache for how many years now?
Paul Hedrick: Almost five.
Mike Sarraille: Almost… Is it here to stay?
Paul Hedrick: You know, it’s hard to answer that question. I can’t. That’s harder than the other questions you’re asking.
Mike Sarraille: Well then, let me ask you this-
Paul Hedrick: It’s here indefinitely, I’ll say that much.
Mike Sarraille: Okay. I mean, did it affect your dating life at first? Because, I mean, I’m sure you had to come up with a whole new repertoire of opening lines and-
Paul Hedrick: Ask my girlfriend, she’s here. No, I grew it for Halloween one year actually. I dressed as Freddie Mercury for Halloween, which is an interesting costume. But I had fun and then November rolled around. And then, yeah, was able to go on dates with people who somehow didn’t hate it and just kept it. And then at one point, I realized that the majority of our team had never seen me without one. And at that point I was like, “Well, I got to just keep it, then.”
Mike Sarraille: Well, I know some of your team’s in the audience. Has there ever been wagers on the team hitting some number or accomplishing something where you would shave the mustache? Have you ever put it on the line?
Paul Hedrick: I hope we do not do that. Because I don’t want my mustache determined… The fate of my mustache determined by our results. There has been a few wagers in our past. One of which resulted in Tecovas tattoo on my arm. But I’ve realized it’s not very productive for me to bet on or against the business. Because I’ll bet against it to hedge my odds and then I’ll lose. And I’ll bet on it, and you know, won’t be hedged. So I’ll just get tattoos when I want them, and I’ll shave my mustache when I want to. But I do like a good bet.
Mike Sarraille: Who doesn’t? Who doesn’t? Before we get to our final questions. In the morning, when you put that pair of boots on, what does that mean to you? What’s that initial feeling?
Paul Hedrick: Well, for me at this point, having worn them literally every day for seven, eight years and obviously a lot before that, it’s familiarity, it’s comfort. It’s whatever, the confidence to get through the day. It does sound a little cheesy, but it’s also a choice I’m making that it feels like I have more agency in that choice than a lot of other things. A pair of blue jeans, you kind of wear the same pair. I’m not just wearing a pair of shoes because it’s comfortable or it’s easy. I think when you… It puts a little more interest behind the choice. It puts a little more intention behind what you’re wearing. And I think one thing we’ve talked about internally when it comes to our brand and how we want people to feel, because really that’s ultimately what we’re selling. Is we’re selling a feeling. And great brands connect people to feelings and we connect people to confidence. We connect people to, hopefully, a more genuine version of themselves. And I think our job is going to be to convince more people that at least some part of you, genuinely, that the boot will represent. And kind of trust us, you’ll put it on the first time and it’ll plop in and it’ll feel more comfortable than you probably expect, if you’ve never worn them before. And I mean, when you see people wear them the first time… And that’s not just our boots. Although I’m biased, obviously. You’ll see a smile on their face. They walk a little taller. That’s one of our taglines is walk taller. And it’s literally and figuratively. And I certainly feel that way every day. I don’t know. I think every now and then I’ll be on a vacation with a swimsuit and I won’t be wearing them. And I’m a little shorter. I’m a little… Doesn’t feel as good.
Mike Sarraille: So, don’t wear them with swimming suits? Is that a recommendation?
Paul Hedrick: No, I’m never going to say to not wear them. If shorts with cowboy boots takes off, we’re here for the trend. We’re here for it.
Mike Sarraille: Underwear and cowboy boots ain’t a bad look. It can be sexy. It can be pulled off.
Paul Hedrick: There’s a guy in Times Square, I think, who pulls that off.
Mike Sarraille: Exactly. He does it well. He does it with pride and he walks taller. So Paul, I can’t thank you enough for joining us. But before we let you go, the point of this podcast is not just great conversation with high performers within a vast range of industries, but it’s to take very poignant, salient lessons learned and recommendations from you guys. So first question is, how is Paul going to judge whether he’s lived life well? What’s that metrics for you?
Paul Hedrick: Yeah, it’s a great question. And the truth is, I’m in the process of answering that this year. It’s one of my goals for this year. And therapy actually, but I would say I don’t have a metrics driven approach today. I’ve been inspired to think more about it. Actually, I was listening to a podcast with Martin Short, the comedian was being interviewed and he of all people, I mean, I had no idea. He’s very thoughtful about how to measure his life. He has nine components of his life he thinks about. It’s self and health and wealth and career and family and he rates one out of 10. I don’t know if it’s once a month, or once a week or what. But I’m very much looking forward to being more thoughtful about that. I think mine will be a little different than his. I think mine is going to be more about balance, to be sure, but also impact on others. And so I think the way I thought about it to date, which could use a lot of improvement is first, myself. I’ve got to be in a good spot. I got to be healthy. I got to… If I’m not working out every day, every morning. I’ve got a little Peloton and weight lifting routine. And if I don’t get that in the morning, I’m not going to feel good. And I know that about myself. If I’m drinking, if I go out to dinner too much, if I’m not being healthy. So it starts with that. Starts with healthy sleep. And then I think it starts with that. And then beyond that, it’s balance. And for me, again, the balance is in some ways easier. I’ve got a great team. Still no kids. Not married yet. So there’s different pressures in my life, but really the thing that I think I’m going to think more about, and that I want to add to that list that maybe not be as apparent in some of the other things I’ve seen, is impact. And really, what impact do I want to have? And really today my impact has mostly been… It’s through Tecovas and that’s fine. It’s obviously consumed my life. And impacting people by creating a good product and giving them a great experience, that’s the impact that’s going to have to do for now for the most part. And creating jobs. You know, we’ve got 400 people in the US and probably just as many or more globally, who are really drawing an income because of Tecovas, which makes me proud. But I think the big thing I’m working on is focusing more on how you make people feel. And I think I’ve had to be a lot more intentional about that.
Mike Sarraille: What are those one to three tenets? Those principles, those non-negotiables by which you live your life? Or at least try to stick to, as best as possible?
Paul Hedrick: Yeah. Also a great question. I think it’s emblematic in some of our… It’s infused in our values and as an org, I think, in some ways. I think striving to do the right thing has been… Is our number one in value internally. And you know, in some ways it’s cheesy. It’s like, “Well, of course, every company wants to do the right thing.” You know, why would a company not have that as a value? But I do think, to me, I view it more as a call to not necessarily do the easy thing, but to do the right thing. And I think in work, it means having a growth mindset. And often. And I think that flows into to me, if I’m not growing, if you’re not growing, you’re not living. And growing means different things to different people. And it’ll be different things to me in my life, at different points in my life.2 I’m having to grow in very different ways than I’ve had to grow in before. And then, yeah, honestly I’d say the third is… This is new. I think there’s do the right thing. It’s growth, mindset, it’s being centered. And what are your personal non-negotiables? And I have mine and mentioned a couple of them. And I think it’s similar again, to what I just said. Which is something I’ve had to work on. Which is you’re having an effect on people all the time, every day. And my biggest to-do list on my non-negotiables is to be a lot more thoughtful about how did people feel. I’ve thought a lot about, over the years, with how people feel when they put on a pair of boots and how they feel when they go on the website, and how they feel when they walk into one of our stores, and how are they greeted. And I’m now… That stuff is on a good track, to be honest, it doesn’t really need a lot of my input to figure out how to make that many people feel good in those ways. So, I’m a lot more focused on figuring out what that next thing is, which is tied into the growth mindset.
Mike Sarraille: Well when you figure that out, let us know, and we’ll bring you back on the podcast.
Paul Hedrick: All right. Give you a call.
Mike Sarraille: Well, no, between how would you measure your life, trying to figure that out right now, from being more intentional, impactful, balance, how other people feel. I think, especially in the wake of COVID, we’re all struggling with those questions. And those are excellent answers. And I’m going to say strive to do the right thing, that’s not cheesy at all. It almost is a tagline that every company puts up on the wall. And there’s a famous company in Houston that had integrity, communication, service, and excellence on the wall and fell far short of the integrity, you know. That’s the Enrons of the world. They feel like they have to put that up. But the difference between those that actually mean it and follow through on it, is far and few between. And I know that you guys mean it and you’re living it. And it’s apparent in the brand.
Paul Hedrick: I appreciate that.
Mike Sarraille: Where is the best place for our listeners to go find your organization and make that first order of boots?
Paul Hedrick: Well, we are ready for them. Best place is to go to our website, tecovas.com T-E-C-O-V-A-S. We do have 20 retail stores. If you live near one of our stores, I highly recommend going in. There’s complimentary beverages, boot shines, friendly faces, comfortable couches. And you don’t even have to buy anything to go. You can just go if you want. So, I think we’re in 11 states. So, increasingly probable that you live a close… A short drive from one.
Mike Sarraille: And we recently visited your store, doing a Men’s Journal guide to Austin. And that is one hell of a customer experience. I mean, you guys have defined… You’ve made it remarkable as-
Paul Hedrick: Oh, I love it. I’m glad you felt that way.
Mike Sarraille: … per our previous conversations. Well, Paul. Thank you very much for joining us. And for all of you, this is the Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior podcast, and we will be back. Thank you for joining us on this episode of the Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe to the show and pick up a new issue of Men’s Journal Magazine. Men’s Journal Magazine has features on health and fitness, adventure and travel, style, and my favorite, the coolest gear hitting the market today. Until next time I’m Mike Sarraille, and thanks for listening.