This week’s Misfit Entrepreneur is Michael Juergens. Mike is a very interesting guy and a modern-day renaissance man. He runs the winery solutions practice for a Big Four firm. He founded the wine industry in the Kingdom of Bhutan. He owns the award-winning So-Cal Rum company that boasts the highest rated silver rum of all time. He runs the Drinking and Knowing Things newsletter and is the author of the best-selling book with the same name. And if that is not enough, he is an adventure race addict and candidate to become the 58th American to qualify as a Master of Wine. Oh, and he’s also a professor at the University of California Irvine.
Mike’s motto is “do epic stuff with awesome people,” And on this show, we have epic conversations with awesome people. So, I’ve asked Mike to come on today to share how he’s done all he’s done and what he’s learned along the way.
Mike got to where he through interesting experiences that he was not afraid to lean into. As he says, the universe is constantly presenting us with opportunities and we are often too caught up in our day to day to realize or, even if we do, we don’t lean in on it. So, Mike decided to lean in on everything that seems cool and that has lead him to where he is.
Explain more about we should and can lean into the opportunities in our lives…
- If you are going Kayaking in a whitewater rapid, the rapid is going to take you to the bottom.
- The goal is the make it to the bottom and have the best time without having any major issues.
- If you can nudge yourself into the middles, the fast part, and not try to control it, but let it take you, it will get you to the bottom.
- The analogy applies to the universe as if you try to fight the universe, you don’t get anywhere and get beat up, but if you get into the flow of the universe, you will go places you don’t expect – but they are the right places for you to be.
- Mike gives a few examples at the 6:30 mark.
With all that you do, you still choose to work and have a job. Why still do that when you have all your businesses?
- Mike loves what he does, and his job is to travel around and hang out at wineries and help them.
- He was doing that as a hobby before starting the vertical at the firm.
- He gets paid to do his passion.
- He’s built a business within a business.
Talk about how you created your role…
- The corporate culture allows for it.
- He has started 6 different practices during his career at the firm.
- It has been having a good idea and the sponsors for it, communicating it well to get support and momentum – and then having the guts to do it and take the risk.
- It also easier to do when you have already done it and shown success which he has done.
How do you keep up with everything? How do you schedule your life?
- He was a single dad for many years and had to be very structured around their schedule.
- He would get up at 3am every day.
- As the kids got older and did not need him for so much, it freed up a lot of time as he stayed on the same schedule.
- Don’t attend non-essential meetings.
- Delegate and let go where needed.
- And he truly wants to live the life he has and does what is needed to do so.
How did you create the wine industry in the Kingdom of Bhutan?
- Mike has been adventure racing in all kinds of different places and his girlfriend had read a book that took place in Bhutan.
- She always wanted to go there.
- He got an email about doing a marathon in Bhutan and applied.
- He surprised his girlfriend but was confused and thought it was an island in the tropics, and she explained it was in the Himalayas.
- Bhutan is self-sustaining and has incredible crops/soil.
- Everywhere he went, he asked about wineries, and no one knew what he was talking about.
- He met some people from the government, and they told him they did not have wineries.
- He told them they were screwing up, went home and wrote a white paper about it and sent it to them.
- They asked him to help build the industry.
What did you have to do to get started?
- He helped them understand the possibilities.
- He wrote a 10-year business plan to follow.
- It is literally building from scratch.
- Mike paid for phase 1 and then got a series A round for phase 2.
- He personally planted the first vine, a merlot.
- Pre-covid, he went every quarter and there is a team of 100 people there.
- They don’t know what grape will ultimately work best, so they have adopted a philosophy of failure to see which grapes are going to work.
- It takes 3-5 years to figure this out.
- It’s a core strategy for them to try a bunch of different things and see which ones work which is different than a typical business strategy.
- You have to be careful not too be wide and broad, but not too narrow at the same time.
- Building the industry is the most risk he’s take in business.
At the 29 min mark, Mike talks about how he got into the rum business…
- One of his best friends and his son are big rum guys.
- One day, they were all sitting around having drinks and his friend said, “we should start a distillery!”
- Mike said, “what if?” What if we could create a competitor to Bacardi silver rum and focused on that category – and just did it better.
- They didn’t know anything about how to do it, but started talking to people who did.
- They found out that they could be better and it would not cost much, so they did it and had it made. And it won.
- They outsourced the making and bottling of the rum.
You’ve spent 25 years traveling the world meeting people, what are the most important things you’ve learned about life and business?
- It’s all about people and relationships.
Advice for people that aren’t living the life they are capable of?
- Get outside your comfort zone. The people least like you are the ones you need to meet and learn from the most.
What does it mean to optimize the runner’s mindset?
- Recognize that you are capable of much more than you believe.
- We place limitations on ourselves.
- 40% rule. When you body is telling you that you are done – you have 60% still left.
- Acknowledge that you are capable of more because you are.
We have a great conversation on racing and breaking through mental limitations…
Drinking and knowing things – what should they know about wine?
- There is a wine for everyone.
- Just explore and be willing to try them
- Drinking and Knowing Things book Vol 1 and 2 - check it out.
What’s your favorite wine?
- Burgundy, Pino nior from France
Best Quote: Get outside your comfort zone. The people least like you are the ones you need to meet and learn from the most.
Mike's Misfit 3:
- Do epic stuff with cool people. Don’t leave anything on the table.
- Don’t fight the universe.
- Ask “What if?”
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