Cap Treeger | Mentorship Best Practices and Tips for Launching a Successful Business

Cap Treeger is a serial entrepreneur, investor, and author. He has invested directly in several dozen early-stage ventures and indirectly in hundreds more through local angel and venture funds. He is also a Wall Street Journal and national best-selling author of Finding the Way: The Entrepreneur’s Tale. He enjoys sharing experiences of his own successes and failures to pay forward what he has learned from his mentors and hopefully assist others in finding their way.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Cap Treeger, a serial entrepreneur, investor, and author, about best practices for finding and working with mentors. They also talk about following your passion when starting a business, how to overcome discouragement, and Cap’s investment strategy.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • What inspired Cap Treeger to write the book, Finding the Way?
  • How to build a business network and stay connected to your mentors
  • Should you follow your passion when starting a business?
  • How Cap helps entrepreneurs set goals and articulate success 
  • Cap explains what his trademarked term “WAY-WAYG” means
  • Cap talks about overcoming discouragement, being wrong about an investment, and his strategy for investing in businesses
  • How Cap’s location has influenced his investment decisions
  • Will businesses that started during the pandemic become successful?

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:14

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right, welcome, everyone. John Corcoran. Here I am the host of this show. And for those of you who are new to this program, you know, check out our archives, we got some great interviews with really intelligent CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs of all kinds of companies. You’ve heard of many of them like Netflix and Kinkos, and YPO, EO Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, OpenTable, Redfin, you name it. I’m also the co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. But one of the things that I love about doing this show and why I’ve done it for 13 years now is because I get to talk to stories that not everyone has heard before, not everyone has, you know, read about their story or heard it or seen a YouTube video on it or anything like that. And I think that’s the case, with today’s guest. His name is Cap Treeger. He’s a serial entrepreneur and investor he’s invested in directly in several dozen early-stage ventures and indirectly and hundreds more through local Angel and venture funds, recently connected with him through a networking group. And, you know, just really an interesting guy who is really values, mentorship, and so put a lot of his heart and soul in this new book, which is called finding the way the entrepreneurs tail, which has been a Wall Street Journal bestseller and is doing tremendously well right now. So we’re gonna talk all about that book. And Cap, it’s such a pleasure to have you here today. And first of all, we should say, this is a pen name that you used. So tell me a little bit about why you inspired why you were inspired to write this book. And, you know, this is no small book. This is it’s a, it’s a tome, it is a thick book. So I can tell you put a lot of time and energy and effort into it.

Cap Treeger 2:19

Thanks, John, thank you so much for this opportunity. And the book is a little bit less scary than it looks because it has a big appendix with some exercises in it. But

John Corcoran 2:29

I should say, Yes, it has worksheets at the end, too. So that does take up a chunk of it.

Cap Treeger 2:33

Yeah. So hopefully less scary than it looks. John, thank you. Thank you for this opportunity. So as you said, you know, I was really lucky early. And when I was starting a business, having great mentors and role models, and ended up investing. Now I’m over 100, early stage direct investments. And, of course, John, you’re a member of EO and you know, YPO. And, you know, in those organizations, they have us, rather than telling people what to do, they have to live with the consequences. So we experienced here, so I never tell anyone, you should fire somebody, you should hire somebody, you should sell your company. Instead, I ended up with all these companies that I mentor, I just tell them, here’s what happened when we hired somebody, when we fired someone. And when we sold our company, the mistakes we made, the things we learned, and so end up repeating myself a lot. So I just kind of wanted to write sort of a vanity book that I could share with companies when I mentor them. Some other friends read it and said, No, you need to take this out and make it a best seller and try to reach more people. But I will say also, kind of underlying it, there are some sort of underappreciated things. The first is I think business model is a very big deal. And I can’t find good books or resources that explain it the way I look at it, you know, I sort of go through a process, the first thing I do with people, John has kind of worked through who you are and where you’re going. Because I think having that articulated is important. A lot of people do that. But I do it a little different. And I kind of people seem to like the way I do it. The next thing I like to do is kind of go through what your customers really buying. Sometimes it’s deeper than than what you see on the surface. And I think understanding that can be helpful. And again, I sort of look at it a little different than anything I’ve found in books out there resources. And then of course, I mentioned business model, but also, you know, getting the right pieces in place. I think there are a lot of resources that talk about hiring the right people in your company. But I think you know, having the right investors, the right lawyer, the right accountant, the right bank, the right stakeholders in your business throughout matter. And then there are a lot of resources that talk about alignment, but I sort of look at it different and I think it’s useful to look at alignment through a perspective of where the dollars flow or people understanding the greater purpose of the organization and where they fit. And so those are things that I probably look at different that maybe differently than maybe other resources. So So again, that sort of underlies the book. I know that’s a rambling answer, but combined all that stuff. And that’s that’s how we ended up with this book.

John Corcoran 5:07

Yeah. And, you know, you’re really well read you, you reference a bunch of books in the back, what are some of the books that were out there that you did value that you were inspired by?

Cap Treeger 5:17

Oh, gosh, there’s so many. And it was hard to narrow it down to a few. But, you know, growing up, I love to read Peter Drucker is a great resource. I’ve probably given away more Tony Robbins books than any others, I just love the book Awaken the Giant Within is, but it’s more than a self help book, it just about talks about constant improvement. And then, you know, almost all of the and I use the word gurus with respect, but you know, I think there’s so many great resources out there for entrepreneurs. And so I was trying to, I didn’t want to replace, you know, Verne Harnish. I just wanted to talk about things that I think others don’t talk about as much. But I can, you know, as you said, in the back of the book, there are a number of them. And I do think there’s some great resources out there. I think they just don’t go to the places that the things that I tried to emphasize.

John Corcoran 6:11

Yeah, yeah. And you mentioned building your network is an important piece for you. And you talk about that in the book, to talk about some of your philosophies and approach around that. Because of course, that’s, that’s one of the struggles, especially for a young and upcoming business founder, who, especially if they don’t feel well networked within the industry in which they want to build a business, what are some of your thoughts on how to become well networked and connected with, you know, more established players?

Cap Treeger 6:41

Well, first thing is called encore and I, looking at your LinkedIn, and you and I have a lot of mutual friends. And I know you have a great network. But I’m being a little facetious. But I think the, it’s funny, when I wrote the book, I started giving it to a lot of younger early stage entrepreneurs, and they were like, We don’t want to hear so much about the mentors. How do you get get them? And so I did add a bit of that in the book. But for me, it started out I think, with a couple of friends of friends and college professors. And I just said, Who can I talk to you and I didn’t know any better. So I started calling business leaders, you know, just get their number from a mutual friend, maybe a warm introduction. And I found out that if I asked him, if I could take them to lunch, they were usually busy and all but most people eat breakfast. And usually, if you’re willing to be patient, you can catch people for breakfast a few weeks out, no matter how busy they are. And usually they’re skeptical when you first meet them. But when you when they realize you’re not trying to sell them anything, you’re not looking for help, you just want advice, I think they kind of latch on to that and appreciate it. And so one success begets another I, you know, a lot of times I would you know, meet someone get a few breakfasts, they would realize I genuinely just want to learn from them. And then I would say, Who’s someone else who can connect me to you. And so I think the first one was probably the hardest and building out from there. You know, when people see that, you’re just looking for a mentor and a role model. I think they appreciate that and enjoy it. And anybody that’s too busy to meet you like that is probably not going to be a great resource anyway. But I think you’ll find that you get credibility and do it more. It’s a fun thing to do.

John Corcoran 8:23

What about how to keep in touch with mentor mentors like that? If you don’t see them all that often, what are some best practices for, for doing that.

Cap Treeger 8:35

And of course, everyone’s different, and some really are, are very busy. I always want to be considerate and respectful of that. But I’m going to address that one from the other side of it. So now I mentor so many people, and I leave it to the person, I do have sort of a schedule of things I like to do. But I find that if they take the initiative, it’s better. And so instead of there’s one exercise I go through where I do set sort of a date a few weeks out with with companies, I’m mentoring, but other than that, I leave the urgency to them. And the reason I tell you that is because I think a few of them are so afraid to presume anything, they’re so nervous about reaching out. But you know, if somebody’s pushing too much, I’ll let them know, if somebody wants to meet more than I can I’ll I’m okay with telling them I’m too busy. But really, I think most of them err on the side of being overly careful, considerate, respectful of my time. I enjoy if I find, you know, again, sometimes there’s just too many people too many priorities. But you know, having a genuine mentee that really wants to learn is fine. And so, you know, if you’re really in it to listen and, and want to show progress, you know, I think it’s not uncommon to have people that want a mate every three or four weeks for a period of time when we get through key issues. And then of course it gets a lot less frequent.

John Corcoran 9:56

Yeah, I think when you’re 2021 22 You know, in your 20s, you don’t really appreciate that, that it can be really fun for the mentor and that that’s what drives them to devote their time to giving back in that way, I want to ask you about following your passion, that’s a term that’s thrown around a lot. You know, some people say, you absolutely should follow your passion when it comes to starting a business. Other people maybe say, kind of like at the other end of the spectrum, you know, forget your passion, like figure out what the market wants go after that. Where do you fall on that spectrum of advice? You know, what, how important is personal happiness to a business owner?