What does it take to get a person to catch their dreams and change their world? To live life on their terms and to not let anyone else determine who or what they are supposed to want? Determination, support from loved ones and family and a firm belief in your own convictions. Also, a douchebag manager on a sales floor comes in handy as well.
Brennan Helman the founder and front man of Silverback Outdoors, may very well one day look back with gratitude at his time spent working on a sales floor for an electronic payment system company. It was, after all, his experience there that inspired him to break out on his own, follow his dreams and live his life the way he wanted to.
“It is important to take note of where you’ve been,” he says, “To make sure you never make the mistake of going there again.”
A COMPARISON OF REALITIES
Brennan, who is 28, runs his business Silverback Outdoors with intelligence and direction. He knows what he wants to get out of the business and has surrounded himself with likeminded people who can help it grow. His business, specializing in producing bespoke jewelry and camping gear, sources products from manufacturers all around the world to ensure the best quality and diversity.
“It’s important that customers get new takes on traditional products,” he says, “For example our solar panel USB charger is a product rarely found in UK stores, yet is immensely handy if you want to take a camera or phone on a multi-day hike. Things such as our jewelry are custom designed by us with the sole aim of connecting our products with the ideals or imagery true outdoor enthusiasts relate to.”
Since the business launched in early 2018 it has been a lot of hard work, a lot of negotiating, building relationships and planning ahead with a firm idea of where he wants to be and the sort of lifestyle he wants to have. A life where he is not relying on someone else to set the pace or direction.
“A business is a vehicle,” he said to me over coffee while we were discussing his article, “It is how you reach your goals. But only if you’re driving.”
His reality now is one that is bright and full of promise.
Compared to a year ago. Where his reality was one of slaving away to make someone else rich.
A YEAR AGO
Like millions of people, last year saw Brennan working as an outbound sales agent for a company that had scored a lucky hit and become a “name”. One of hundreds of people sitting on the sales floor he was expected to work long hours cold calling potential clients from overused leads and to come in on weekends.
“The earning potential compared to what we were expected to do didn’t add up,” he explains, “They stylized it as this party-driven sales floor reminiscent of a Boiler Room or Wolf of Wall Street film, which only works if the rewards are worth the effort. At any moment you could be hit by a nerf dart to the eye or a football could land on your desk, loud music would be blaring at all times and you were answering to people who did not know their jobs. And those that did were wasted there.”
This is something that millions of people can unfortunately relate to. Looking back, Brennan admits that he doesn’t know why he put up with it at all at the time. The breaking point came when his sales manager actively went out of his way to humiliate him in the office and then claimed that he wasn’t “getting into the spirit” of things. After that Brennan left and hasn’t even thought about them since.
“I must thank that sales manager one of these days,” he says, “If not for him I may have become him.”
MAKING YOUR OWN REALITY
The day he left, Brennan recalls, he sat down and poured himself a glass of whiskey and decided that something had to change.
“A part of me died that day… the part that was willing to ever work for someone else again,” he says, “I wrote down a list of everything I enjoyed in life and started connecting dots. All signs pointed to something outdoor related and the path was pretty straightforward from there.”
After exploring the industry and what his options were, he taught himself how to build a website and how to do SEO, PPC, Social media marketing and graphic design. How to prototype a product design, e-commerce, how to import and export and subsequently how to manage a growing business.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” he says, “More than you’d ever expect but life is only worth living if you’re in control.”
With this in mind, two moments were the best for Brennan. His first sale and his 1000th.
“It was one of those moments where you have to take a minute and appreciate what your reality has become.” He says, “I could hardly believe that I was able to live off of doing something I truly love doing. While I work 7 days a week without stopping, the business is now growing to a point where I can delegate more and build up the team.”
Beautifully, another triumph came in the form of an email from someone in Virginia in America who reached out to tell Brennan that one of his products, a necklace, had inspired them to commit to hiking the Appalachian Trail. The person explained in the email that the image on the necklace got them thinking about what they wanted from life and they felt it motivated them to make the commitment.
With his business growing at an unexpected speed, Brennan makes full use of all the technology at hand to achieve top level SEO, PPC and social media analytics. He credits a great deal of the success of his business to making use of the paid for advertising to be found on social media and keeping up with technology.
“We embrace and utilise all new technology and see it as an opportunity not a threat. Apart from our supply chain we are almost entirely a cloud-based business as that’s the way businesses are going and it also offers huge benefits.” He says.
“Also, as much as this is a buzz word, agility is the key. Consumer tastes change fast and having a business model that can pivot and move easily is key. I always noted a strong lesson from the collapse of Blockbusters, if anything it really shows that modern businesses need to embrace and adapt to new tech and changes in the market before new companies pull the rug out from under them.”
And his team. Taking leave from his past experience, Brennan sees value in building up his team mates, leading by example and making sure that they know what is expected of them. His approach is quite simply how he would like to be treated and to not allow his leadership of the company to form any distance from that.
“Respect and communication go a long way,” he says, “People will not believe in you if you don’t respect and talk to them.”
WHATS COMING FOR SILVERBACK OUTDOORS?
Brennan explains that the marketing strategy of his business is about testing, revaluating and testing. There are so many resources available for getting in information on how well a business’ SEO is doing; how many people are seeing the product and buying and where are people buying from. And all of this makes a difference to how he is approaching the long-term growth of his business.
“Right now, though, things are moving so fast that it is hard to see passed next month as things are changing every day. But, my vision is to have a firmly established brand with a strong customer affinity and solid team running the day to day of the business for me. And I want my business brand to inspire people to surprise themselves, that’s important to me.”
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