In this episode, Dave is excited to welcome his long time business partner, adopted brother, and all around damn good guy, Erik Mueller. Erik is the founder of Grasp Technologies, a multi-time INC 5000 award winner that has averaged over 50% growth per year for almost a decade. In addition, he has been honored as one of the Top 25 Most Influential Executives in the Travel Industry, and is credited with creating the first graphic reporting system for the travel industry.
Erik is one of the main inspirations for the Misfit Entrepreneur as he is a former musician who is a self-taught programmer, turned business owner. He has had an amazing journey from being a self-taught programmer with a vision to transforming to a true CEO of a top performing company. Dave knows as he has been there along the ride for every step for the last decade.
At early age, Erik had a natural ability for programming and bought his first computer at the age of 10 and started to build games. As Erik notes he has always been drawn to the arts, especially music and photography. In fact, he went to college for photography and cinematography. But never completed it. At this point, computers still weren’t a big thing in the business world and he didn’t know that he would ever really end up on that side of things. Instead, he was in a band and did every type of odd job. He was big in the punk rock scene.
At one point, he got bored and decided to do the exact opposite of what anyone thought he would do and he went into the US Army. He says he loved the experience. It gave him discipline. It challenged him to push himself. And it made him realize that he can overcome major barriers.
Once he got out, he got a job at the State of Ohio, but it was not for him. He went back to odd jobs and music. He had a music studio in his basement and a gentleman came in, who worked at Bank One, and saw Erik programming Asteroids on his computer. He mentioned to Erik that they were looking for a programmer to come in and automate some large reporting that they were struggling with. He interviewed and got the job. It was this endeavor that allowed him to create the first graphic reporting system for the travel industry. Of course, doing this while playing in his band at night.
As things grew and got even more corporate, Erik decided it was time to move on. He started his first company, an IT services company, which shortly thereafter spawned Grasp Technologies. He started building the initial Grasp solutions and worked on funding, but then the dot com bubble burst and 9/11 followed shortly after. So, he just continued on building and working the business from there.
At the 9:50 mark Erik talks about becoming a CEO and the transition and realizations he had to go through.
Erik talks about “aha moments” and how there isn’t just one that happens on the journey, but many. You reach a plateau and then bust through it and then on to the next one. And each new level you get, there are “aha moments” and amazing things to discover and do. Erik says he seems to see it as an every year thing in which your challenge yourself to new levels.
At the 18:20 mark, Erik talks about overcoming obstacles and how each challenge you over makes it easier to overcome the next one. He talks about how to bust through your fears and how to let go of the past that may be holding you back.
At the 21 min mark. Erik talks about staying true to yourself and how in reality the more successful you become, the more your true self and value get amplified. As he says, “People that are a$$holes become bigger a$$holes and people that are good just become that much better.”
Biggest challenge as an entrepreneur? Letting go and trusting your team. Giving up the control so that your business can truly grow.
Erik recommends the book Scaling Up as a good blueprint of how to create a great business. The other one he recommends is Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy to help with learning to prioritize correctly.
Best piece of advice for a new entrepreneur?
How do you measure personal success? What does success mean to you?
Staying competitive in technology, are there best practices that are relevant today?
Hardest part in growing a company?
Do you have a coach? Who do you look to for advice?
Will computers and AI take over the world and our live?
Will VR get to a point where people cannot distinguish between reality and lose themselves in it?
How will VR impact travel?
Best Quote: "Great ideas aren't anything, unless you have great people that execute on them and make them happen."
Erik's Misfit 3