Paul Hedrick is the cofounder and CEO of Tecovas which designs and sells beautiful, handmade men’s and women’s western boots directly to their customers. The company has raised over $30 million from Blue Collective, Elephant, Hammerstone, and YETI Capital.
In this episode you will learn:
- How Tecovas preserved incredible growth potential that attracted VC money
- When the founders knew it was time to open a physical store
- The five places you can enjoy a whiskey while buying your next pair of boots
- Why have bricks and mortar stores in this digital age
- The one thing Paul Hedrick says is more important than timing, design and supply chain
- The two pieces of advice he would give his younger self
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About Paul Hedrick:
Paul Hedrick is the Founder & CEO of Tecovas.
A Texas native, Paul Hedrick has always known the novelty of owning a pair of cowboy boots, and it was while he was wearing his favorite pair that he decided to leave his position in finance to start Tecovas in 2015.
While working in venture capital and financial service roles at L Catterton and Mckinsey & Co., Paul discovered Paul Hedrick‘s intrigue for consumer-focused businesses, and quickly realized a gap in the market for a high-quality leather boot offered at an accessible price point.
Paul Hedrick combined his passion for a Western lifestyle and investment expertise to create a brand that meets both those needs.
Paul Hedrick oversees all product design and manufacturing, as well as leading the team across sales, marketing and e-commerce.
Connect with Paul Hedrick:
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FULL TRANSCRIPTION OF THE INTERVIEW:
Alejandro: Alrighty. Hello everyone, and welcome to the DealMakers show. Today we have a very interesting founder, a founder that was going through the corporate America career of making it happen in private equity consulting, and then all of a sudden, a 360 degree and went at it as a founder. That’s definitely a story that many of us can relate with. We’ll have our guest tell the story himself. So, Paul Hedrick, welcome to the show today.
Paul Hedrick: Thank you for having me.
Alejandro: Paul, originally, you were born and raised in Texas. How was life there?
Paul Hedrick: That’s right. I’m a Texan, which plays well with our audience these days running a cowboy boot brand. I was born in Houston, raised in Dallas, had a pretty awesome childhood, honestly. Nothing to complain about, a great place to grow up. I did the 12 years in Catholic school route, which was an interesting experience and one that I’m grateful for. I love Texas. Texas instilled in me a love for the state, for sure. Like many Texans, when I left later on for both college and part of my career, I was yearning to come back. I always wanted Texas to be a part of who I am.
Alejandro: Some of the best founders that I come across are those that have the creativeness with them. I know that early on, you were into art, illustration, and even wanted to be a cartoonist. So, tell us about this.
Paul Hedrick: Yeah. My career desire trajectory was an interesting one growing up. Of course, like any kid, I fell in love with dinosaurs for a little while and thought I wanted to be a paleontologist. But, really, in my middle school, I realized I had a knack for art. I did art shows and competitions and mostly drawing and illustration. I also thought I was a bit of a comedian, although those dreams have long ago been crushed. I thought that being a cartoonist would be a good combination of those two skills. Then later, I actually wanted to be an architect. So, all over the place with my career desires. When I got to college, after spending a lot of time, I played piano for 15 years in a concert setting. It was in theater classes. I went to Harvard for undergrad. You have to pick what you want to be good at out there. Unfortunately, I ended up putting a lot of the right-brain stuff to the side. I was happy to focus and ended up studying economics and math with the intention of going into business, which I thought was a much broader use of skillset and potentially going into the arts and was happy with that decision. But, always in the back of my mind, I wanted to get back to it.
Alejandro: It’s quite a switch. Can you tell us more about right-brain and left-brain that you were discussing how you were using one side or the other?
Paul Hedrick: Yeah, sure. I really enjoyed school. Actually, I don’t think many entrepreneurs say that. I think a lot of entrepreneurs don’t love school because they feel it’s restrictive, and they want to get out there and sell and meet customers. I have that bone, too. I love retail, and where I am now is the right place to be. But I actually liked learning about all these different topics. So I like the right-brain and much as the left-brain. I was in painting classes, but I was also on the math team. I played sports but also was in theater. I was lucky to go to a tiny school. I wasn’t actually super-great at any of those things, but growing up, I was lucky to be able to do all those things. I believe in being a well-rounded person. I still do, and I try to encourage our team, today, to be well-rounded and to get involved cross-functionally. I ended up realizing that you had the concert and a few things, so I majored in economics, really on the left-brain side. I ended up picking a career in consulting to start out. I kind of got my dream job at McKinsey & Company, which was an amazing place to work, but definitely hard-core business training. Decidedly, left-brain, I would say, although you’re encouraged to make beautiful presentations, which I took very seriously. I think I ended up jumping from there into private equity. But part of this, like I mentioned, I always had this desire to work out more of my brain and myself. I think that ended up leading to a lot of my entrepreneurial decision-making later on.
Alejandro: Also, you were mentioning to me that the experience during the consulting — obviously, your father was also a consultant, so I’m sure he was happy that you went that route.
Paul Hedrick: Yes.
Alejandro: So you were very much inspired by him. But you saw McKinsey as a toolkit. Why is this?
Paul Hedrick: Yeah. I think looking at it in retrospect, first of all, amazing people worked there. That place, specifically, inspired me to see what a workplace looked like that stands by their values and attracts people who are amazing to work with, that care a lot, they’re passionate, they’re compassionate. I had those takeaways, probably first and foremost. But if you ask me what I got out of it personally, yeah, it was an incredible firehose experience. I was totally unqualified for the role. I went to a liberal arts school, which is code for — they don’t teach you anything about business or Microsoft programs. So, I literally went in not having ever opened Excel and was expected to be an Excel workhorse on project #1. You end up learning a lot of that, and you don’t leave that firm or any of those firms without having built a solid — analytical, but also strategic and important skillset, and learning what the difference is between just analytics and summaries, between that and driving synthesis. Asking the “so what” was always what I noticed to be the difference. It was an incredible toolkit-learning experience.
Alejandro: In McKinsey, were you able to, for example, understand or experience the before and the after on how you were tackling problems before the McKinsey experience. Then once you had all that toolkit, how you were going about tackling problems?
Alejandro: By far and away. I don’t think I had the ability before, and I came away with a style and the ability to create frameworks of thinking. Believe me, I had a long way to go. I had a very nascent consulting career that I cut short. Yeah. I don’t think I could have gone anywhere better. It could have been another firm, but I don’t think I could have done a better thing for my career than that. Because right off the bat, I wasn’t working in any bad habits that I might have gotten if I had gone deep into one trade or gone to work for a corporate environment that maybe would have shaped the way I thought about the world or close to their world view. Instead, I had a broad-based and open-minded, and problem-solving mindset from day one, which I think has inspired a lot of how I thought about my decision-making process later on.
Paul Hedrick: Obviously, you were achieving here, being in one of the best consulting firms, and you were making your father very proud, and I’m sure he’s still very, very proud even more. At that point, maybe he was shocked that you decided to go for private equity.
Alejandro: No. I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to make all of my education and career decisions independently with a lot of support from my friends and family. I ended up jumping into consulting early on mostly because I wasn’t working in the industry that I wanted to work in. I’ve had a love for the consumer industry for a long time. I had always gravitated towards brands. I was a bit of a product geek. I loved reading magazines about cars and technology products — just anything in the consumer-facing world. I wasn’t really working in that world of consulting, and I had this opportunity to work for this awesome, brand-building investment firm that literally and exclusively invests and operates in consumer companies. Not only that but high-growth consumer companies. I jumped at that even it, again, I felt unqualified for the role. I ended up having an interesting couple of years there where my role evolved. I became the first person of that company to focus 100% on helping operate companies that we had owned or invested in. In many ways, it was largely the same type of work that I did in consulting. I was spending a lot of time onsite with companies helping them think about strategic problems. The difference between that and consulting was that I was actually helping solve them because you’re helping out for companies, which is really fun, interesting, and got me closer to operating.
Paul Hedrick: How real is the pattern recognition that people talk about when you’re on the other side of the table as an investor?
Alejandro: Yeah. It is real. It’s a different skillset. I don’t even think the investor skillset is one that I was able to gain there, although I was lucky to have a lot of exposure to that world even though most of the time, I was traveling to different portfolio companies. Every week, I came to the office and was part of the deal meetings and got to hear how the senior partners thought-through decisions. It was super interesting and gave me a respect for knowing that there are good companies out there. There are great companies out there, and there are companies that aren’t so good or great. Sometimes, it’s hard to predict if they’re going to be good or great. If you commit to them, you commit to them, and you put resources behind them. That was the difference between being a service provider, client services versus having skin in the game. That was an important mindset that I learned more so than being an investor, although it’s a very similar type to being an investor.
Alejandro: You started to think, being there, that maybe business was the way to go, but a little rejection changed the course of everything.
Paul Hedrick: Yeah. You know, like every other person in my role, I went and applied to a certain school in Boston and a certain school in the Bay Area. I tried to get into each of them. I didn’t even get an interview in either of them. It made me think. First of all, like most grateful — I’m extraordinarily grateful that I did not get into either of those schools because I would have gone, and I probably never would have taken my career in the direction I’ve taken in the last five years. It was a moment that forced me to think. I hadn’t created any other options for myself. For me, I literally was at years with a couple of colleagues, and just had this moment where one of the guys looked to me and was like, “You know. You could start a company. That is on the options table” because I was going through my options. “I could go to business school. I could stay here. I could learn to do this — I could go the operating route.” That was like life-bolt moment #1 for me. I don’t think I would have had that moment if I hadn’t reached this rejection moment in my life. Yeah, and went from there.
Alejandro: The decision of becoming an entrepreneur, which is what led up to this, was a decision that was made in darkness. How was this process for you?
Paul Hedrick: It’s humbling. I’ve had a lot of rejection at different moments of my life. I think each of them has been really formative, as they are for many people. For me, it forced me to think more about myself in a critical way. I think it forced me to get off the tracks, and getting off the tracks made me realize that I was a little different from some of my colleagues and that I had this desire to create more so than I think a lot of my friends and colleagues did. It made me remember that I have this part of me that I hadn’t been working out in a long time. Originally, the idea of being an entrepreneur was crazy, but the more I thought about it, the more I was like, “I’m betting on myself.” If using the logical part of my brain — it’s illogical to just bet on yourself, I guess. The logical part of my brain was, “I’m 26. How many times in my life am I going to be able to risk everything that I have and make a bet that is high-downside that is relatively speaking? But very high-upside in both myself and the learnings that I’ll create. And also, potentially high-upside in the business world and financially. That was logical and had a risk-weight of decision. I don’t think I would have even considered that logical decision if I hadn’t been there. For me, I got comfortable with the idea of being an entrepreneur. I started to think about the idea of creating a brand from scratch and how excited that made me was signal #1. I was lucky. I was literally wearing cowboy boots to the office. As I mentioned earlier, being a Texan away from home, you gravitate toward your Texanist. So I made a point of wearing these exotic, ostrich-skin cowboy boots to the office every Monday whenever I went to Greenwich. I looked down at them. It was like, “Man! This industry is really interesting. I remember the moment that I bought these. I should look into this.” The more I learned, the more I realized it was the path I needed to go on.
Alejandro: Especially, with the consulting background, I’m sure you were able to do a lot of research and a lot of validation around the market and how big this could be. How did you apply what you had learned so far being at McKinsey or being at the private equity firm to understand if this idea had or didn’t have legs?
Paul Hedrick: I approached it from a couple of angles — maybe a few angles. One was fairly analytical, which was, this industry is bigger than a breadbox. How competitive is it? What’s out there? That angle’s answer was clear. It’s a much bigger industry than most people realize. I figured out that there were over 3 billion dollars of cowboy boots sold every year in the U.S., and it was a robust and growing industry. It was a fragmented industry. It had all these aspects of it that were really attractive. The second was the experience I had recently gained, which was more on the brand world and consumer-facing world. What was the brand problem that existed in the category, if any? It became immediately clear to me both as a customer and as an investor operator that there was clearly a brand missing from this category. There are only a couple of types of brands in the category, and they were all price-oriented. There were the really high-priced luxury brand and the value-oriented, kind of every-man brand. For me, I wanted the every-man boot price, but I wanted to buy the luxury brand. To me, it made a lot of sense that you should be able to do that. With the mass, you should be able to work, especially if you go direct to consumer. The more importantly, retail has evolved so much, and on the brand front, people want it all. The modern consumer wants the best price, the best product, the best experience, the best customer service, transparency, omnichannel, digital, and physical. They want everything. Nobody was doing that because a brand hadn’t been started in the category in 25 years. That was the brand side. Then the third was the emotional side. I had this on-the-tracks, corporate career. For me, I knew I was kind of a different animal, and I was going to be happier betting on myself, and I was going to be happier in a category in doing something that I thought was fun, and back in Texas, and unique to myself, and something I could put my name on, and get off the tracks a little bit. That was all an emotional decision. You know, those three things combined were enough.
Alejandro: I hear you. Paul, what was exactly that moment that you told yourself, “I need to do this. I have to do this.”?
Paul Hedrick: This was probably spring 2014. I was towards the end of my two years at this firm. I had thought about the idea of maintaining an income and doing this nights and weekends. I realized “I’m all in” on one thing. As people in my personal life might tell you, it’s hard for me to do a lot of things really well. “I’m just going to go in on this thing.” I realized I had to quit my job, and that’s when I truly committed. I would say mentally, I committed in the spring, and then I voted with my feet that summer and moved to Austin. I needed to get back to Texas, and I picked Austin as the place to start the brand. I was committed.
Alejandro: So, you moved to Austin, and what happens next?
Paul Hedrick: This is probably the hardest part of being an entrepreneur is; there’s no playbook for what happens next. The way I approached it was using the only skills I had, which was, “Let me break down the problem. Let me figure out if I’m going to start a brand.” At this point, the idea has evolved into a digitally native, direct to consumer western brand. There wasn’t a whole lot more besides that. But I knew that we would start online only. I’d need a website and a brand. I need a storefront online, an e-commerce store. I just worked backward. I looked at websites and figured, “Oh, they have terms of service. I probably need terms of service. I probably need an attorney. Oh yeah, I need an attorney to start the company. I just worked backward and ended up creating a list of things in different buckets like legal, brand, web, product, supply chain, marketing plan, go to market. I had seven or eight of these buckets, and I just had a checklist. I worked backward, and it was my first real project management experience that went to that end.
Alejandro: It’s unbelievable because also, you were a solo founder. When you’re a solo founder, it’s quite lonely. So, how have you managed this journey of being a solo founder? Then, also, going back to those early days, how did you go about building your team?
Paul Hedrick: That year in change that I was working solo, they were tough. I had not thought about the value of having a network of entrepreneurs and other people in the same boat. I didn’t even know that was possible. Today, I’m grateful. I have a network of people that I can talk to about these things, other CEOs, and founders. I wish I had sought that out more intentionally then. But honestly, it was a lot of putting my head down and knowing that I trusted. If I broke it down to discrete problems, it wasn’t going to be overwhelming because it was like, “I know I can meet with a branding agency, and I know I can pick a logo, and I know that logo will be used to do this, and I know I can hire.” If you break it all apart, the individual tasks were manageable. I was getting feedback along the way. I designed the product, and I got a lot of feedback on that. I drew stuff. I talked to potential customers. I talked to my friends and family. I didn’t lock myself in a basement for a year, but I knew I wanted to understand every single part of both the company and the product itself. Someone couldn’t teach me that. That gave me comfort in knowing that at the very least, I’d come out of this being extraordinarily knowledgeable. Maybe a CEO of nothing but an extraordinarily knowledgeable founder in my field, and I would have learned a lot through that process. I don’t think I could have sustained that for that much longer. I was lucky that Branden, my co-founder, and CMO ended up joining the team a couple of months after we officially launched. My approach to building the team was it was him and me for year one, and all I needed was one other guy at the end of the table, and that emotional burden could be shared. At the very least, you could split a couple of things. I think if you look back in the first few years of Tecovas, we just turned four. The first three years were defined by being scrappy, sales-focused, customer-focused, and not at all focused on infrastructure or anything that required fixed costs. We ended up having a really scrappy team. We only hired people when we needed them, and gave them a lot of breadth of responsibility. Everyone in the organization is super sales focused. I think the best piece of advice I ever got in that first year as it relates to building a team and building the company was, “Sales are everything.” This is a consumer brand. This isn’t an art show. You’re only going to make money if you make a product people want to buy and if they buy it from you. You’ve got to find them. They don’t care about it.
Alejandro: 100%. When we’re talking about cowboy boots, it’s been an industry that has been there for a while. When you’re building a brand of this nature, distribution and exposure is king. How did you go about doing that in a creative way, and also, getting out there and make sure that the world knew about Tecovas?
Paul Hedrick: We did a couple of things. One was the scrappy route and somewhat creative route, which was, “What can we do ourselves without any help from anyone or the internet for that matter?” We ended up going to a bunch of truck shows. Branden and I committed to doing at least one. The target was two in-person selling events a week. I had bought this 20-year-old forerunner SUV when I started the company because my old coupe was not sufficient for carrying boots, and I could fit 60 boot boxes in the back of this SUV. We would go. We’d drive to Dallas. We’d drive to Fort Worth. We drove all over Austin, and we’d sell them out of the back. We’d go to Junior League holiday fairs. I think the reason we did those things, it certainly didn’t drive millions of dollars of revenue, but it did two things. It actually did drive enough revenue to pay some of the bills, and we were a scrappy team. We had a two-person office and two under-paid guys. That was it. That was our only fixed cost. So we didn’t need a lot to cover it. But the other thing it did was, we ended up learning how to sale. We learned how to talk to customers. We learned what they actually said. One of the first things out of their mouth when they touched the boot, when they asked us about the brand, “What are all those things that we need to answer and make sure both digitally and physically will be present to create this amazing customer experience?” Then the other thing we did was — listen. We knew that the only way to grow at scale, which we thought was the right thing to do for our customers was to get good at online advertising. We wanted to do it in a measured way. We didn’t want to do it in a way that we were going to raise some huge venture round and then commit a huge chunk of it to ads or something like that. We wanted to do it in a way that we were only going to spend more money when we figured out how to spend the money we already had incrementally — one step at a time. That ended up becoming Branden’s job. He took over growth and marketing. I was like, “I’ll take everything else. I’ll take product and ops and general strategy stuff.” We ended up getting good at advertising. We only got good because we had to get good. Those are the two things we did to grow. That got us to eight figures in revenue without doing anything else. I was focused on continuing to design and develop and bring things to market. Branden and I partnered on how to sell it and kept things simple.
Alejandro: Very nice. Then, also, you guys have also raised quite a bit of money for this too. How much have you guys raised to date?
Paul Hedrick: The first three years, we raised about 4 million. I would say we are extremely bottom-line focused, it’s scrappy, and got the business to quite a bit of scale on that. The about a year ago, we raised a 30-million-dollar venture round led by Elephant Venture Capital firm, dual-based in New York and Austin.
Alejandro: Very nice. One thing that is super interesting to me here is that typically, a company like yours when you’re maturing in revenue, and you’re passing or getting to the financing cycle that it might make sense to raise money, typically is private equity firms and not so much venture capital firms. How did these VCs see the hypergrowth route on a story like Tecovas?
Paul Hedrick: It’s a good question. Finding the right capital partner is an extraordinarily important question for any CEO in that position to tackle. I would say, for us, it was a little bit idiosyncratic to the firm that we ended up working with. They’re in-between venture and growth at the end of the day, which is part of what their firm unique. I agree that we ended up turning off the venture world a lot in the early days. I met with a lot of venture capital firms for the first few years. I wasn’t avoiding them even though we ended up only raising money from angels. The reason that we never raised venture before was because I always had this pragmatic, grounded-in-realism view of the brand. Of course, I had big dreams for Tecovas, and I knew that we would have a huge impact on the category that we were in and for customers at large. But I also knew that it was a retail company at the end of the day and that maybe tech investors who expected to be a billion dollars or bust aren’t the right partners for us. That’s how I felt in the early days. Certainly, that turned off a lot of people. Yeah, you’re right, actually, in that the private equity mindset is a bit more measured growth and less risky. A fewer zeros, but fewer hundred x investments, too. But I think for us, the reason that we ended up raising venture is — man, it still felt like the early days. It felt like the second inning. A year ago, while we were doing tens of millions in revenue, we had literally only had one sales channel, Tecovas.com. We had no stores and no other sales chains of any kind. We really only sold one type of product, this one specific type of cowboy boot. Even more specific within that industry. People who don’t know about cowboy boots think maybe they’re all the same, but we’re actually serving a narrow set of even that market. There was both this massive growth potential on both the product and the channel side that it made a ton of sense to believe the story that we could 10x from there, or whatever the right number was going to be, and we still feel that way to this day.
Alejandro: You were mentioning Elephant as one of your investors. One of the folks there is Andy Hunt, who was one of the founders, as well, of Warby Parker. So he understood the concept of getting something that is consumer that is a bit more traditional. Then throwing it on the hypergrowth path and scaling it up. They’ve done it with Warby Parker. But now, I see as well that people are calling you guys the Warby Parker of cowboy boots. How is that?
Paul Hedrick: Well, I think they make the comparison because we’re 100% direct to consumer similar to them. We’ve started out online and have created what is a high-quality product at an affordable price by cutting out the traditional retail supply chain, the wholesale, retail markup, among other things. There’s been a lot of Warby Parker of x companies out there that have started in the last five or ten years. So I’m not surprised to get the comparison. I think I’m modern with that comparison, and that’s a great company doing great things and somewhat setting the pace in terms of how to measure growth and when to invest in a different channel-like stores. It was a big inspiration for us, token stores. Now, we’re doing that path. Of course, for all our own reasons and for reasons that make a ton of sense for our category and for our brand.
Alejandro: Typically, people would open the store and then throw the website. You guys threw the website, started doing a ton in revenues, and then you actually did the stores. Can you walk us through this strategy because it’s mind-blowing?
Paul Hedrick: It’s funny because that is the market perception, but from our perspective, and when you think about it, the online first and then offline makes a lot of sense. The way we view it is, you can have national reach right off the bat with online with very minimal fixed cost investment, and you’re able to test and learn quite easily on the product and the customer front, much more so than you are with slower-moving static channels. The other thing that we found is that if you have a business that’s large enough — when we opened our first store in Austin, we had thousands of customers in Austin already. One of the biggest risks of opening a store is, is it going to work? We have two advantages on that front. First of all, we know where our customers are. We’ve literally shipped every customer that’s ever bought our boots online or bags or belts or jeans for that matter. We know where they live. We have their address and their email address. So we know where our customers are. The other thing is, not only do we know where they are, but we can talk to them, and they’re interested in us being around because they’ve already experienced us. Most people who experience a brand online are quite a bit more interested than the average person when that brand opens a store. So, it’s a virtuous cycle, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s led to us having a successful retail strategy so far. Every one of our stores has opened extraordinarily successfully because we put them in the right places, and we already have a built-in customer base.
Alejandro: I’ve also heard that going with this strategy also increased by a mile the loyalty on the people that are buying your boots. Is that right?
Paul Hedrick: Yeah. We’ve got a long way to go to understand how this is all going to work over the years. But, yeah. Immediately, we’ve noticed customers that experience this first or even as a repeat customer in the store tend to come back significantly more quickly. Here’s the thing. We view stores as an opportunity to raise the bar of customer experience, not just get another place to sell the boots. Tecovas was created to fill a brand gap, which is regardless of sales channel. We want to be the brand that’s going to have the best quality, the best customer service, and the most transparent, straight-forward, honest business model. What we’ve treated stores as, as a way to add hospitality and an even more elevated level of service in a cool environment, that frankly, you can’t match online. It’s not just that it’s easier to buy because you don’t have to worry about putting a return label on the box. It’s actually really cool. We serve alcohol and have music and really cool, awesome sales associates. It’s more fun to do that sometimes than the click-buy from your cubicle.
Alejandro: Absolutely. The next question here that I have is for the listeners to get an idea of how big Tecovas is today. Can you give us a 30,000-foot view?
Paul Hedrick: Yeah. We don’t share revenue or valuation or anything like that since we’re very much in the throws of things in the private market, but we currently have five stores. We’ve been around for four years. We’ve been an eight-plus figure business for a couple of years now. What I’m most proud of is the team has grown a lot. We were scrappy with the team in the early days, and we still are. But super fortunate to have a lot of people join the team. I think we’ve got a little over 60 in the corporate office now, and over 100 in the field and retail stores. A lot of people that I’m proud are drawing a Tecovas paycheck, and I held a lot more than that as happy customers.
Alejandro: That’s amazing. From your time doing consulting, you probably knew what worked and didn’t work when it came to people. As you’re thinking about now as continuing to build a culture and make sure that those founding, building blocks are still intact, how do you go about it when you’re growing a company so fast and adding so many heads in such a short period of time?
Paul Hedrick: Listen. It’s the absolute artist’s thing in the game. It is not something that I had much experience with. I think the hardest thing for me to grapple in my brief career at Tecovas has been learning how to manage people individually and mange in a culture as it grows. I think because I was so mindful of that from the beginning and the team at large was mindful of the fact that “We’re learning how to do this well together.” We’ve had a healthy growth mindset there. But we’ve had to eat a lot of crow, and we’ve had to eat a lot of humble pie, and we’ve given each other a lot of feedback, and it has not been easy. I went from being at the bottom of the totem pole at multiple organizations to being a CEO and never having managed someone. I feel bad for my first person that I ever had to manage, which is my co-founder, Branden. He had to bear the brunt of my learning experience, but it’s been a blast. Every company at our scale who is still quite young as far as the company age is concerned — now, we’re four years old. We’re a toddler as a company. There are still a lot of things we don’t know how to do, yet we have to do a lot of big-boy things. We have scale, so we have to — balancing growth, and remaining scrappy, and the culture remaining strong, and upstart, and growth mindset, it’s in some ways a stool, like a three or four-legged stool that won’t stand up without those things, but they’re also stool legs that are constantly growing at different lengths, and you have to make sure that they’re scaling together in the right way.
Alejandro: Absolutely. One of the questions, Paul, that I typically ask the guests that come on the show is, knowing what you know now — all these years now. The hypergrowth, building the business — if you had the opportunity to go back in time, let’s say you had a chance to have a chat with your younger self, that younger self that was still at the private equity firm and that was maybe that day that gave the notice, and that was about to start the business. Knowing what you know now, what would be that one piece of business advice that you give to your younger self before launching a business and why?
Paul Hedrick: I think, first of all, I wouldn’t ask him or tell him to do anything. I wouldn’t try to change the course of events in any way. I don’t have any regrets in that world. I do think I would tell myself to go on the path of mindfulness and self-betterment earlier. You don’t want to be forced into being mindful. I’ve been lucky. I have a long way to go, and I think always being open to feedback is a really healthy mindset. I think I had that then, but I don’t think I quite understood the level of — building a successful company is a lot more about understanding how people work and making them work well together than it is about being right all the time or being able to draw well or create a supply chain that works. You’ve got to do all those things; it’s table stakes, but I would have told myself to be mindful. I probably would have saved myself a bit of heartache in the early years. We survived, and I’m here.
Alejandro: That’s it. Very profound, Paul. For the folks that are listening, what is the best way for them to reach out and say hi?
Paul Hedrick: The easiest way to find us is tecovas.com if you don’t live near one of our markets that has a store. We do have five stores, so if you live in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, or Oklahoma City, we have a beautiful place for you to come and experience the brand in person, grab a sparkling water or a whiskey, for that matter, and try on some boots. Otherwise, we’ve got a really friendly customer service team. Tell them you heard about us on the podcast, and I’m sure they’d be thrilled.
Alejandro: Amazing. Well, Paul, thank you so much for being on the DealMakers show today.
Paul Hedrick: Thank you for having me, Alejandro. This is really enjoyable.
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