Words of Wisdom with Robby Berthume co-founder of Bull & Beard
I had the pleasure to interview Robby Berthume. Robby is a mentor and matchmaker for ad agencies. As the co-founder of Bull & Beard (http://www.bullandbeard.com), he connects marketing decision-makers with specialized ad agencies, boutique consultants and diamond-in-the-rough resources. He also coaches agency principals on growth and biz dev through the Trailblazer Program.
What is your “backstory”?
I started my first business in 2000, at the tender age of 14. I had a knack for business development and I literally racked up sales while my mom waited patiently in the family minivan. After graduating high school at 16, by the time I was a legal adult I stewarding over 50 active clients. After becoming overwhelmed with the work, I started to scale and became laser-focused on moving the decimal point and growing the business to seven figures. To help make this happen, I drove to Los Angeles with my former business partner and team in tow. By 2009, I was 23 years old and had bought my dream car, had a penthouse office in LA and even earned a spot on Los Angeles Business Journal’s Twenty In Their 20s. And after nearly a decade of hard work, I was feeling good and drinking my own Kool Aid.
Fortunately, I went through my mid-life crisis in my mid-twenties. The recession hit. My former business partner drifted away and ended up embezzling from me. I faced just about everything you could think of. Yet I ended up learning more from my suffering than from my success. I learned the power of resilience. When my world flipped upside down, I lost my ego, not my confidence. I lost my resources, but not my resourcefulness. It was a painful process, but I worked my way back, taking leadership roles at several ad agencies before starting my latest venture, Bull & Beard, in mid-2013. There were dark nights when I felt my best days were behind me, but I’ve been able to carefully, patiently build a better company and a better life. Building a business around my life instead of living a life built around my business has allowed me to be thrive not only as an entrepreneur, but as a husband and father of three.
Which person or which company do you most admire and why?
I admire my business partner, Jason Drass. In the six years we’ve worked together, I’ve learned so much, despite hardly letting him talk. He’s a bit older than I am and I have grown from my daily exposure to his perspective. He sees the best in people, while remaining as cynical as ever. He’s shown me what’s possible in a partnership, leading by example and consistently choosing to put me first, even though we’re 50/50. I admire him the most because, as corny as it sounds, he really does bring out the best in me. That’s what you call the perfect business partner!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Through our work, we’ve been able to directly impact some amazing organizations and causes that I’m grateful for… organizations like the National Center for Families Learning and Minds Renewed. But what I’ve enjoyed more than anything is helping other entrepreneurs and agency owners grow and find community. It’s “lonely at the top” and high-flying, high-functioning entrepreneurs are humans, too. I try to expose my own vulnerabilities so people feel comfortable talking about their own truth. I relish being able to use my struggles to benefit someone else’s hustle. My success is helping others succeed. With more resources, I want to build a bigger table, not a taller fence. That’s how you bring goodness to the world. One relationship at a time.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Two types of people work well together: those good at selling and those good at scaling. If you’re strength is in sales, find an operator. And if you’re an operator, you need a sales guy. My business partner and I work well together because I’m a thinker, he’s a doer. He’s process-driven, I’m ADHD-driven. He’s good at breaking the ice, I’m good at closing the deal.
2. Trust, but verify. When I was a younger entrepreneur, I was far too gullible. I didn’t review our books for months on end (and paid for it!). Over the years, I’ve gotten much better at protecting myself, my business and my time. After getting burned more than once, I realized there’s nothing wrong with cynicism. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. My bullsh*t radar has been carefully calibrated over time.
3. Pay attention to opportunity cost. When you’re starting out, it can be easy to say “yes” to any and all opportunities that seem like they could positively impact your business. But be patient and remember, time is money. In a business climate obsessed with speed, sometimes slowing down and saying “no” is exactly what it takes to grow a company with vision and intention.
4. Make time for good friends. I’ve only recently joined communities like Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) and The Founders Organization and I’ve come to regret not finding a community of like-minded entrepreneurs sooner. I’ve made so many amazing friendships and have grown at a faster rate by surrounding myself with wisdom.
5. Embrace the tension and lean into the struggle. There comes a time in life when you have to realize for yourself that the struggle never ends. Stop chasing the end of struggle and start embracing the pain. It’s the struggle that makes you great, it’s the struggle that builds your story, and it’s the struggle that leads to breakthroughs and growth. Comfort is the enemy of greatness.
5. I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
It would probably have to be Seth Godin. Permission Marketing and Purple Cow really inspired me as a young marketer and entrepreneur finding my way. I think he’s an incredibly astute thinker and writer.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
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If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” series in Huffpost, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.