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Today’s most successful entrepreneurs are a lot like Harrison Rogers. When he realized formal education wasn’t the path to fame and fortune for him, he started a carpet cleaning business. Then he started another business. And another. And another.
Now Harrison has over a decade of business experience under his belt. He believes the keys to his success are his love of learning and the ability to learn from failure.
Join us as we discuss with Harrison Rogers how he got started, what he believes are the keys to his success and the five fatal mistakes of entrepreneurship.
Greg Corombos: Hi, I'm Greg Corombos. Our guest this week on Expert Insights is Harrison Rogers. He has founded several successful companies, and he's currently the founder and CEO of HJR Global, a private equity company based in Arizona. He joins me now to talk about his amazing success, of all of this entrepreneurial success at the age of 30, some of the things he's learned both positive and negative along the way that could also be beneficial to aspiring and existing entrepreneurs. And Harrison, thanks so much for being with us.
Harrison Rogers: Thank you for having me.
Greg Corombos: First of all, talk about how you started to think about launching your own business. When did you do that? And what type of reaction did you get?
Harrison Rogers: It started literally in high school. People thought I was crazy, and it hasn't changed. Wasn't very good at the formal education in high school. If so, I knew my grades weren't going to get me into university, or if I was going to have to pay for college anyway. A GED would do the same. So my senior year of high school, I started a carpet cleaning business that was doing pretty well and it took off from there. Was able to parlay some of the revenue and proceeds from the sale of that company into some real estate. Unfortunately, as everyone knows, in 2008, and especially here in Phoenix, that was not a good place to parlay your games into. But that's kind of my whole philosophy is living and learning and taking whatever lessons you can from the failures, and hopefully, the next venture is, you know, you're able to prevent those same mistakes were happening. And now we're in several industries, real estate being one of them, and construction and education. We have a private school for students with autism that has a variety of different services for them as well with the whole philosophy is helping them from early diagnosis through independent living. And they kind of play off each other, these different businesses we have. With the independent living, if they're able to progress enough to be independent, we help finance and build their residential properties that are managed by our real estate brokerages and so on, so forth. So it's kind of a big conglomerate that works together, but very uniquely different industries. So [they’re] kind of odd when they come together, but they come together nicely.
Greg Corombos: I think a lot of people can identify the background that you laid out there. Harrison. You mentioned that she struggled academically. But you had a knack for business. How did you know you have that knack for business? Or was it something you figured out as you did it?
Harrison Rogers: [I] absolutely figured out it as I did it. I did not think I had any special talents or special unique business knack. Learned as I went, I actually just had a blog come out talking about the necessity to have an always learning mentality. That is one of the skills that I would like to toot my horn on. If I have any, that's the one that I love--learning. Formal education wasn't the way for me. But getting out there, and learning all the different opportunities and industries and how they work together has been kind of a confidence builder. You know, didn't start out trying to be something special. But slowly, I gained enough knowledge and knowledge is power. And, and that's where the confidence comes into.
But you never know what you don't know. Like I said, well, you mentioned at the beginning, is learning through the positives and the negatives. And learning from those negatives is just as much of a teacher is...actually it's a better teacher than the successes. So now I'm feeling more confident--knock on wood--that those negatives aren't as common as they have been.
Greg Corombos: And we'll go through those five fatal mistakes that are sure to kill your business, and how not to make them as you term it in in just a moment. But I want to get a little more insight on what it's like to be treated as a very young entrepreneur. So first of all, what's your read on your generation? Is there more of an entrepreneurial bent, do you think, than previous generations? And at the same time, how are you treated by people you need to interact with whether it's a bank or a law firm? You know, do they take you seriously right away? Or does it take a little while?
Harrison Rogers: Unfortunately, and fortunately I guess, it does take a little while. Because as a young entrepreneur, I have the fortune of having a lot of successful years in a row. And so kind of having that ignorance and maybe arrogance that more seasoned banks or lenders or business owners know through their experiences that you don't always have bull years, It’s not always up and up and up. And so having a little bit more experience under my belt now, I am [being taken] a little bit more serious than before. But if you're able to articulate and really describe what your goals are, and your ambitions are, and how your plan is to get there, banks or other business owners definitely do listen. Maybe more now. I'm not super familiar with business in the past. But in my experience for the past decade...my age hasn't been too much of a factor. It's just looking back now, could tell there's been some hesitancy when talking about only successes. You know, the failures are going to come. And I think I was a little bit naive, always talking, you know, talking about the only the successes.
Greg Corombos: Let's talk about some of these five fatal mistakes. Now, hopefully, you've been able to dodge at least some of these. But the fact that you write so articulately about them, makes me perhaps suggest otherwise. But let's go through them quickly.
First of all, mistake number one that you should try to avoid, because it'll kill your business, the handshake deal.
Harrison Rogers: Yes, especially as a new company, a new business, you're trying to save costs and save time. You're wearing a lot of hats in your business. And so you're trying to be as quick and as inexpensive as you can. And so the cost of an attorney or the time it takes to formalize agreements or arrangements, it's kind of at the time, a waste of money and a waste of time. But man, can it save you in the long haul. I've learned if people are uncomfortable talking about the expectations or the fine details of an agreement. It's usually because one of the parties or both of the parties are trying to benefit from the gray area or from the unspoken descriptions. And so being able to formalize and articulate on paper is a must. And it's definitely worth the investment with an attorney. I, unfortunately, learn that last year. You know, handshake deals go so when a lot of money's on the line.
Greg Corombos: Another one that's been an issue really, for the past decade or so, social media can be a fantastic tool for marketing, for engagement, for just making connections in a number of different areas. But you said, the second mistake is the false security of social media. What does that mean?
Harrison Rogers: Absolutely. Social media, like you said, huge, crazy, powerful, inexpensive, and crazy powerful if you can set yourself apart on it. The problem is everyone's doing it. Being able to set yourself apart is not as easy as it sounds. And so being able to budget and make sure you're hitting all the other ways of getting your product or your brand out there is, is a must. And so you see him all the time, these small startup companies just start a Facebook page or Instagram and expect people to be following, and you can monetize these outlets. But if that's your game plan, and that's what you're banking on, unfortunately, I don't think you're going to be as successful as you hope.
Greg Corombos: Mistake number three is the impatient businessman. You say it's about proving the haters wrong. But that can backfire on you.
Harrison Rogers: Yes. You know, I'm all about starting a business, not being afraid and having confidence in yourself. But there definitely is a difference between confidence and recklessness of just jumping in and not having a plan. More than just a plan to start with, to even give you the first direction. But it keeps you disciplined as you're growing. There are so many opportunities in any business to expand into or to potentially invest into anything that if you're not at least...business plan deep into your beginning, it's so easy to get distracted. And it's going to be a very costly journey. And unfortunately, it's kind of unfair to your original idea. So it's very important to at least have a business plan, but be at least patient enough to do that.
Greg Corombos: One of the nice things about growth is that you can hire more people to take the workload off of you. But hiring the wrong person, especially when your when your growth is quite rapid, can also be a major headache. You call it the desperate higher, mistake number four
Harrison Rogers: Totally. And that kind of goes into the impatient businessman as well as if you don't quite know what you are going to need when you're going to need it. And you can't always know that answer. But if you can at least have your business plan set in stone, that says, ok at this time, I know I'm not going to be able to wear all the hats. And that is very important to least have because I've done many desperate hires, unfortunately, where it just solves this problem for me, Please, you take it over. I'm going to be focusing on all these other fires that I'll be putting out. And if you don't give yourself enough time to vet that person to make sure that they're able to either solve the problem for you or they're able to be trained enough for you to turn it over to them and adequately delegate, then it's going to cost you so much more time and money correcting that hire. And so being able to provide yourself enough time and resources to interview, hire, vet that person, it will save dramatically X amount of times of that investment.
Greg Corombos: Getting to the last mistake. Now you call it the price feeder. And basically, it's the idea of trying to make a big splash by selling whatever you're selling for less than your competitors. And in some cases, you're very well established, and larger competitors are selling it for and that can kill you on the margins. Sounds like from the way he wrote this, that you've dealt with this?
Harrison Rogers: Oh, yeah. I mean, starting off, you're desperate for money. You know, you're desperate for revenue, for just get my name out there, I'm willing to do it for free, almost. I just need people to see my product, I just need people to see my service...That only goes so far for so long.
And your competition, the companies that have been around for a while that you're trying to steal some market share from, they know the margins, they know what they need to be solvent and to sustain themselves. And always trying to steal business from just based on prices is dangerous, and unfortunately, very low odds.
But one of the resources I would suggest to read is Start with Why. I mean, a lot of brands will pay a premium for a company like Apple or whoever, because of just the “why”, you know, what makes them different. And if you can show your brand or you know, your services and your product, what's different about them, and you build that loyalty that's more than just the product of the company. What sets you apart is what is going to actually allow a smaller company to compete with these more established competitors, not just in price.
Greg Corombos: Harrison, one of the great traits of a business leader and a successful one is that they learn from their mistakes. They recognize when they've made it and they figured out how to correct it. And not only have you done that in five key areas, and I'm sure more than that, but you've shared them very effectively with our listeners today. We greatly appreciate that as well. Congratulations on all your success and best wishes for much.
Harrison Rogers: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Greg Corombos: Absolutely. Harrison Rogers is founder and CEO of HJR Global. He's also launched several businesses all the way back to a carpet cleaning company when he was a teenager. I'm Greg Corombos.
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