Ryan Tansom is the Founder of Arkona and the Creator of the Intentional Growth Framework. He started his entrepreneurial journey at his family business, where he helped turn it around and enabled it to be sold for eight figures to a local competitor. At Arkona, Ryan helps entrepreneurs grow the value of their company through educational training, fractional CFO services, and strategic planning. He is also a speaker and host of the Intentional Growth Podcast.
In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran sits down with Ryan Tansom, the Founder of Arkona, to talk about intentional growth strategies. Ryan also explains how business valuations work and shares his experience working at his family’s business and selling the company.
Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:
- [02:05] Ryan Tansom’s entrepreneurial background and the business lessons he learned from his father
- [08:46] What drove Ryan to work in his family’s business?
- [17:27] The cash flow challenges Ryan’s father faced running his company
- [24:35] How Ryan’s management leadership training supports his career
- [26:18] Ryan talks about his relationship with employees, selling the company, and the lessons learned from the experience
- [42:40] How Ryan built a seller-buyer relationship with his competitor
- [45:21] What inspired the founding of Arkona?
- [56:00] The people Ryan acknowledges for their support
Resources Mentioned In This Episode
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John Corcoran 0:00
All right, today we’re talking about intentional growth and how to view and run your company like an asset. My guest today is Ryan Tansom. I’ll tell you more about him in a second. So stay tuned.
Welcome to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we feature top entrepreneurs, business leaders, and thought leaders and ask them how they build key relationships to get where they are today. Now, let’s get started with the show.
John Corcoran 0:29
Alright, welcome everyone. John Corcoran here. I am the host of this show. You know, every week, I talk to smart CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs from all kinds of different companies. We’ve had Netflix, Kinkos, GrubHub, Redfin, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, check out the archives, lots of great episodes for you there. And of course, this episode’s brought to you by Rise25 where you find my company where we help b2b businesses to get client referrals and strategic partnerships with done-for-you podcast and content marketing. And you can learn more about what we do at Rise25.com. Lots of great resources for you there as well. And my guest here today is Ryan Tansom. He’s the Founder of Arkona and Creator of the Intentional Growth Framework, we’re going to talk about how he’s got a really interesting background, he grew up in a family business. And he eventually got to the position of executive VP; this was a 21 million-plus entity. And he had a background and training in leadership and management. And really, that became relevant because he had to help this company really kind of steer the ship in the right direction. And eventually, they were able to sell it to a local competitor in 2014, for an eight-figure sum. And from there he went and created like many entrepreneurs, the solution that he wished that he had the company that could have helped him guide him through this rough patch. So we’re gonna hear all about the highs and lows. And he’s a big speaker speaks to vintage and eel entrepreneurs, organization, all kinds of stuff. He also is a longtime podcaster, about 400 episodes of the Intentional Growth podcast. So kudos to you, Ryan. That’s not easy to do. Congrats to that. Go for it. Be sure to go check that out. But, Ryan, hey, I’d love to hear stories about where people started. I’d love to hear stories about what you were like as a kid. And, you know, you grew up in Minnesota, cutting grass. How did you know, growing up in this entrepreneurial family with a father who started a company? You know, what, what were the sorts of side hustles you had his good?
Ryan Tansom 2:25
Well, probably the very typical in thanks for having me, John, and very typical stuff. It also it all started out with John with me asking, I want I want this and my dad going, Oh, isn’t that nice? I don’t care. Why don’t you go earn some money to go buy it. And so there was my desire to get a CD player of a portable CD player that was probably like $400 back then. And I had no money. So I decided to cut our grass. And then it actually migrated into my mom’s mom and her stepfather went over there cut their grass and push mower and then they’re like, Hey, you can keep doing this each week. And then I just ended up giving getting everybody in the block. My grandfather would I would I would get dropped over dropped off on a Sunday and it was like a whole Sunday John and I was probably like I started out like 1011 or something like that. And I remember all my buddies are having fun and I’m getting dropped off in this neighborhood half an hour away from my house and spending a whole day cutting grass and eating every minute but loving the money. And so vitamin my grandpa would then all the way till I got my driver’s license. We would then because I begged all it was like neighborhoods, I’d beg all the big all the the yard clippings and then I’d have a laptop I learned back in a trailer in front of a bunch of people. So it went from that to then like selling Cutco. And just I was always in the hustle and mode because like my sales. Oh, yeah. And that was because of my dad. So like it was truly truly I was emulating what he knew best. And that was how to sell.
John Corcoran 3:55
Did you learn sales from your father?
Ryan Tansom 3:59
I don’t know if anybody learns sales. Like Like, I mean, you can learn sales I wanted to go that that extreme. What I meant is like, I don’t know if you’re a natural salesperson or if you’re just like an extrovert. I don’t know John, other than the fact that like what was ingrained in my head, John from an early age, so my dad barely graduated high school. When t always jokes around he went to 90 days of college until he ran out of beer money and pizza money. And then he decided he had to go sell something to keep the money coming in. So his deal was like calling cards I don’t know if you remember back then back in the day calling cards and then credit card machines landed on copiers. But I say that because John I at nine o’clock at night, as he was starting our business and I know we’ll get into this, I would go home every night. And I would wait because at nine o’clock when he got home because he would work so long. That’s when he would give me the play by play of the business. And I’ve watched what he was able to do. And he what he said to me John and like, my my upbringing was not like hey, here’s how the world works. It was more like you have some Soccer cleats and a soccer ball and we will bring you where you need to go and you’re fed and dry. And but there was not a lot of mentorship, I guess. But like, there was certain things he said to me in the car once he was like Ryan, here’s the deal. You know, I wasn’t good at school. I wasn’t, you know, all this stuff, but I know how to be nice, talk to people and provide value. And if you can figure out how to do that, you’ll have a job for the rest of your life. And that just, like, stuck inside me. So it wasn’t whether it was like good at sales or not good at sale, it was just like this kind of like, foundational principle. And you know, like, I’ve got friends, brothers, parents are a CPA, they got a completely different mantra at an early age. So I think it was that that just really hit me and then I don’t know, man, you’re young and all of a sudden you go do hard work, get 100 bucks that none of your friends have 100 bucks, they got two and you can go buy a CD player buy PS two or whatever the hell you know, back in the Dreamcast early Nintendo. Yeah. Watching that is pretty sweet. Yeah. Now,
John Corcoran 6:02
I’ve interviewed plenty people who have described like you did a father or family member who was charismatic or who had good sales skills. But they didn’t build a business from nothing to 20 million a year. without a college degree. That’s like a unicorn type of result. So what beyond your father’s sales skills do you think led it to to get to that height? Was there something you mentioned that they went from calling cards credit cards to, to copiers? Was it kind of focus? What What was it? What were the few levers that led to it being that that large,
Ryan Tansom 6:41
There’s never going to I don’t think there’s a place on this planet where the word focus is in the same sentence as Koreatown so much. Honestly John, and I just did a podcast in my package interview. And I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, but like, there’s something about entrepreneurs with a visionary founder like is I can defy gravity and create something that’s out of nothing. And there’s this inherent competence. And I’ve noticed it’s either like complete narcissism, egotistic crazy, which is not usually a lot, which is good, or it’s just this crazy belief in yourself, or what I think is the biggest pool, John is people that need to prove to themselves or the world, that they’re worthy. And might have had some stuff going on as many as past that. It was it was that driving force of you don’t think I can do it. And, you know, we’ve heard you know, the third of entrepreneurs are dyslexic, or ADHD. And I think there’s a lot of labels that it gets new. I think it’s a lot more nuanced than the labels. But I think my dad is one of those people where there was this intrinsic, I need to show everybody that I can do this.
John Corcoran 7:54
And what was that? Did he did he have those? The generation above him didn’t believe that he could do it? Was it kind of like a chip on her shoulder? He wanted to prove it prove himself. Definitely,
Ryan Tansom 8:03
definitely a chip, but it was the schooling system like ADHD. I mean, I was the same way to like, sit down and read this. Why? And then is it because and if you want to really make me go on to a decade long journey, just say because No, give me a good answer. So his deal was not good at school there. I mean, my grandpa was a janitor. And my grandma was a school nurse. And they were tinkered with, and they died with a bunch of money and not a bunch of money, but for them, like changing money. But so they it was humble upbringings. But it was that school and a lot of it, it’s that underdrive have been told you can’t or you’re not fitting into the way that things are supposed to be.
John Corcoran 8:44
Yeah, yeah. And so, you know, I didn’t read a lot of people that are second generation from a family business. And I find that they there’s kind of like two different paths. There’s the, you know, someday I’ll go into the family business, you know, I really liked the family business, but many more of them are on the path of I never want to go on this family business. And then oftentimes, they’re drawn into it sooner or later, at some point anyways, and you’re kind of more of that path.
Ryan Tansom 9:12
Correct? I had, I mean, this person context. So I was like, 12, when he started the business, I believe. And so like, I was loving the play by play. That’s really how I bonded with my dad, because I was the oldest of both kids oldest out of both sides of my family, I should from all their cousins. So I got to see. And I was the first person I went to college out of both sides of my family. So it was kind of like, Hey, we’re all just doing it. And so like it my dad kept saying, like, look, I can do it anyways number regardless of what the world said. And so there was that kind of distant mantra. And so when I watched him, I watched him go from maybe he mortgaged our house about a quarter million dollars to old, old Panasonic copiers in the early 90s.
John Corcoran 9:51
That was back before I mean, now it’s like you don’t need to put money down a lot of the times unless you’re starting some hardcore manufacturing business but back then you had to put A lot of money down. Wow. Well,
Ryan Tansom 10:01
I mean, for the copier business, I mean, he had to buy all the equipment and all the it was actually most of it was junk anyways, but he so he, my dad had a big Paragon going on his man like he just like 30 days. And all I had to do, he had to sell all of them in 30 days, but it was when I watched that. I mean, he had tried, like he said a couple other things. So I had watched all of this, John, and I want your 12 when this happen when it started. Yeah.
John Corcoran 10:26
Do you remember that? You did. Were you aware at the time that your dad had spent $250,000 In copiers because they were all in the garage or what? Like, we
Ryan Tansom 10:35
well, I helped him move. I mean, it’s like, like, Yeah, I mean, like I I really well aware of it. Oh yeah, we’re in between soccer games and stuff, man. And like my dad’s a hustler, like still to this day. So I remember he had one of those car phones John routed to the center counts over 1894 suburban that was a piece of crap. And it was like the thing was screwed into buttons around the back.
John Corcoran 10:56
It was like big old wire on the back of the thing. Yeah, probably it was like two grand
Ryan Tansom 11:00
a month because he was cool Gallen deals and so like I always knew that there was no certainty. That’s been the number one theme of like, there’s never been certainty like it because he just took the risk. And so I was moving moving locations with him I was helping install copiers I started doing it’s called meter reads back before they were the copiers are connected to the internet
John Corcoran 11:22
to go out and see how many John how many of you, Brett,
Ryan Tansom 11:27
like everything I did in the business. And then I watched it go from two employees up to 115. I mean, these people were like part of my life, like the family parties, the pig roast, the the trips, all that stuff. And I just my dad and I are very similar in the visionary extrovert salesperson, but like I’m very detail oriented. And I want to know how everything works, and he just doesn’t. So I was like, very adamant that I have wanted nothing to do with the business man. And I remember, in one of my internships in college, I was cold calling for copiers selling for the summer. I remember sitting in traffic John, at 715. On the way in to Minneapolis, stuck in traffic in a suit. I’m drowning in a suit at age 19. Like, why in the hell do I gotta wear a suit to sell copiers. And I was like, if that was that scene from office space where people guys like changing and stuck in traffic at the beginning. And that’s what I felt John, I was like, This is what it’s all about. This sucks. Like, I don’t like copiers. I don’t like doing this. So like I never wanted to. And there was a dynamic with my dad that I was like, I just don’t know if we’re gonna build a mesh because I want to make something for myself or he’s a very dominant personality. I’m like, I don’t think there’s room for both of us. So that was all going on. That’s good.