Robert Clinkenbeard | The Ironman Mindset for Entrepreneurs
Smart Business Revolution

Robert Clinkenbeard is the Owner of The Radix Group, which provides leadership and coaching programs for CEOs, presidents, and business owners. He founded and sold his $20 million business 15 years after immigrating from Scotland to the US. He is a respected Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) leader and mentor and published two books including Ironman Mindset for Entrepreneurs, which has helped him become a sought-after speaker at many global events. 

Robert is also a disciplined athlete who has competed in four different Ironman triathlons and played semi-professional rugby, giving him the experience to help high-performing business owners and athletes get to an elite level. At his peak, his business had about 350 employees in five different branches. He also hosts The Commercial Landscaper Podcast.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran sits down with Robert Clinkenbeard, Owner of The Radix Group, to talk about using an Ironman mindset to build a business. Robert shares his experience starting a company in the US after immigrating from Scotland, the challenges he faced growing the business, and how networking helped him navigate those challenges. Stay tuned.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • How Robert Clinkenbeard left Scotland for Arizona 
  • Robert explains why he started a landscaping business
  • The people that helped Robert build his business and the challenges he faced along the way
  • How Robert became an Ironman athlete and what an ‘Ironman mindset’ means
  • Why Robert sold his business and what he did after he exited
  • What Robert is currently excited about 
  • The peers Robert respects and how to get in touch with him

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:10

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, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:41

All right, welcome everyone. John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show. And you know, every week I talk to smart CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs, all kinds of companies. Check out our archives because we’ve got recent interviews with founders of Netflix and Kinkos’, EO, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, OpenTable, lots of great episodes for you to check out. I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners with their ideal prospects. And my guest this week, first of all, I want to give a quick shout out to David Anderson of Off Madison Ave, He introduced me to today’s guests. He’s a very talented fellow. Go check them out. But the guest today is Robert Clinkenbeard. He founded and sold his $20 million business in 15 years after immigrating over from Scotland. He’s a respected EO leader and mentor, published two books including The Ironman Mindset for Entrepreneurs, and this has helped him to become a sought after speaker at many global events. He’s also a disciplined athlete, competed in four different Ironman track triathlons, and played semi-professional rugby and rugby, which allows him to use this experience to now help high performing business owners and athletes to get to an elite level. At his peak his business had about 350 employees in five different branches. So we’re going to talk about the journey to get there. 

And of course, this episode is brought to you by Rise25, where we help b2b businesses to get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done for you content and done for you podcasts. Go check out or email us at [email protected] to learn more about that. Alright, Robert, a pleasure to have you here today. And you just decided one day around 1999. Just for the turn of the century, hey, I need a fresh start. You’re going through divorce, you decide I’m going to move over from your native Scotland over to somewhere that bears zero resemblance whatsoever to Scotland to the southwestern United States to Arizona of all places, and start a business which we frankly sounds crazy, but it seems to have worked out okay. But what’s going through your head as you decide to just completely start fresh and start over?

Robert Clinkenbeard 2:39

Yeah, I mean, no, thank you for being on John I ever definitely a pretty challenging time. I live to Scotland a beautiful place normally but I just went through you know, fairly a nasty divorce. The there was a great deal of opportunity to Scotland, Scotland, again, a beautiful place but it’s not really entrepreneurial. And after God be encouraged to go to a trip to Scottsdale Arizona, I mean, I had such a blast there. I was, you know, merchant baking it this was in December motorbiking up north I was skydiving. I went skiing within the state up in Flagstaff. And I thought, wow, this is unbelievable. All these different things to do within this fairly small state. And then I started to look a little bit coarser. And I noticed all these beautiful houses. There’s people driving all these fancy cars, Ferraris, wherever and I say, Well, what my What am I doing wrong here? And I started to really look at my life. I got back to Scotland. I’m looking at it to my dreary window, it’s raining, bouncing off the window. I said, How do I better my life here? How do I improve myself and just get a better place. And I pretty much from that moment is probably in January of 99. I thought you know what I’m going to, I’m going to quit my job. I’m going to sell my house. And that’s what I did over the next five months I went through the process of selling problem was to make goods Right. Or my sister my house or furniture, my car so my house. And in May of 99 I don’t say goodbye to my friends. I had multiple going away parties, which was fun. But I arrived in in Phoenix, Arizona, and I walked into the airport was probably eight, nine o’clock at night. And first of all, I was looking for this you know this million dollar check. And I was looking for the welcome Robert saying I was looking for and they stay at the Ritz Hotel. And of course that was there. So here was cedar was in Arizona and I thought you know what? I’m going to dig in and I’m going to figure things out. So yeah, that’s sort of the long journey from there.

John Corcoran 4:52

But at least it was warm, right? So you you you had a background you’d studied horticulture. Previously she had some kind of better background. So it was your idea that I’m going to start a landscaping business had you? Were you thinking that through at that point or did that come later?

Robert Clinkenbeard 5:08

Tomorrow, I wasn’t really thinking it through, I just felt I’m in a nicer place. I’ve heard of a lot of opportunities there. I didn’t really have my social security number, I don’t have any credit history there. So I just, you know, started to look around, see what opportunities are out there. Obviously, got all my paperwork, but you’re the first, probably six months, I was working as a contractor, doing silly things like changing our fire sprinkler heads. And then I just thought, well, I need to start making friends here. So I started to go to different networking events, I started at the gourd, socialize, meet some rugby people and eventually got to connected to some people there. And, you know, they just said, Hey, let’s start working, I started working for a small landscape company. And then I got a job at a really large national company. And, you know, doing all my time doing all my gets my experience, their goal was a totally different climate. And eventually, I was encouraged again, to start going out to network and night. So I just started to really get network and get to know people.

John Corcoran 6:17

Yeah. And I’ve interviewed a number of people that are immigrants to another country and start a business in, in that new country, not knowing a lot of people not maybe knowing the lay of the land. And sometimes it’s interesting, sometimes people just like, it’s kind of like, they don’t know what they don’t know. And so they just plow ahead other times, their backs against the wall, there’s nothing else they can do. So they just have to hustle. What was your experience? Like? Starting the business?

Robert Clinkenbeard 6:45

Yeah, I mean, it was I just, I just couldn’t ahead during just like grains, I, I didn’t really know what was doing at first, but I knew I could work hard. I can probably outwork anybody at the time. So I just started to get meat contact. So it was out there cutting the grass. So as though they’re showing shrubs. And you know, you obviously know the temperature now as well. I was out at 435 in the morning. So I’d

John Corcoran 7:12

be the starting early, right. Yeah, it was, it was

Robert Clinkenbeard 7:14

crazy. So I’d be finished by two o’clock in the afternoon, I go back, I would show up and then at night, and then quiet network or go to different business groups, get to know people. I think it was at one of those networking groups that, yeah, people start to then say, hey, you know, you should contact this person, contact that person. And I think just started to get that reputation. And I’ve started to get more and more business started to hire some more people to help me. But I, yeah, I’ve never run a business before. No clear, but the financial part of it.

John Corcoran 7:49

So let me ask you about that. Because that’s one of the biggest challenges I think people have is the idea of moving past beyond their skill set into areas where they need to become skilled. And eventually you have 350 employees and five offices. So we’ll get there. But was there anything that you leaned on? Did you have mentors? Did you have peers? Did you just figure it out yourself? In these early days?

Robert Clinkenbeard 8:09

Probably one of my biggest memories was probably back in 2007 2008. You know, we were doing a lot of big, large construction work. Through these were half a million million dollar jobs. And I had a team helping managing them, but I had no clue myself. And if the jobs were performing well, so I brought in a fractional CFO. And he started to dig in and dig into the numbers. And he he kept telling me hey, you’re I think you’re making any money in this side of their business. And I somewhat blew him off a little bit. And eventually he gets kept getting low loader. And eventually I listen to him allude to the numbers dug into the morn. And sure enough, yeah, I was losing a ton of money. And I started, I think it was an early 2008. I started to stop bidding on large construction, heartbeat jobs,

John Corcoran 9:04

and what other what other areas to the business were there at that point, was

Robert Clinkenbeard 9:08

it you know, we had the maintenance, that reoccurring maintenance spray. So we had all that naturally occurring revenue. But yeah, we all know to those, and it will happen then. Right? If I had not listened to him and had that outside help, then we could have easily not been in business these days. So yeah, I mean, that’s one of the things I talk about my book, is that use that help around you just trying to lead on their experience.

John Corcoran 9:37

Yeah. What were some of the other big challenges along the way and on the journey to, you know, eight figures 20 million in revenue 350 employees.

Robert Clinkenbeard 9:48

I would say the other big challenges were finding the right people. And I joined eel back and probably, yeah, 13 14 years ago. I’ve quickly listened to a lot of speakers and served my forum is my chapter events. And a lot of them kept talking about, hey, hire people that are better than you. So I knew I was growing rapidly. And I was yes, I had all the clients and a first name basis, but it was definitely getting out of my control. So I started to hire some really good people. And through bringing on those people coaching and mentoring them over a period of two or three years, they eventually became almost part of my senior leadership team, they became my branch managers. So I think I had that foresight and say, Hey, I need to start hiring some really good people to help me manage the business. And yeah, through that coaching and development, giving them some direction, giving them some KPIs that are really what helped me to take the company to the next level. Yeah.

John Corcoran 10:51

And then in terms of managing that, and improving your personal skills, what sorts of errors did you turn to, you mentioned EEO. Did you have coaches during this time period? How did you uplevel your own personal skills?

Robert Clinkenbeard 11:04

Yeah, I mean, I’m a huge learner. I mean, I feel as I’m sure sharpening the saw every single day. So yeah, I had some mentors, I had the mentorship program to EO. I also did a lot the EO courses, like the EMP portal giants course. So any type of learning I could get my hands on, I was engrossed myself and really getting involved in it. And, you know, I did make the mistake of bringing a lot of that information back to my company, and almost like, it was I was dumping too much on them. So it’s a great

John Corcoran 11:41

question to ask, like, yeah, you know, you go off, you hear this actually, you know, the founder, goes off, gets excited, gets an idea comes back, dumps all these different ideas on the existing team. And they merely freak out. Right. And it’s worse if it happens successively. So how do you manage that?