Admin up front. Travis Winn is the owner of Floor Coverings International, NE San Antonio as well as a friend of mine. We both worked at Amazon together in Operations. As always, this is not a paid interview.
You know, you hear it everywhere these days. Quit your job! Follow your passion! Get out! Start a business! Be your own boss! And while I support these statements, I think it is reckless and irresponsible that the vast majority of the stories you hear are success stories when 50% of businesses don’t survive past year three. Travis has not failed and I don’t believe he will. However, his point of view should help shed some light on the other side of the issue.
What was your motivation to leave Amazon?
A: Amazon was always a short-term plan. I joined for the stock option and experience. I knew I would be leaving to start my own business, I just didn’t know it would happen quite so fast.
What has been the most difficult thing about being a business owner?
A: Nobody loves your business the way you do. When you are just a manager in a corporation, with someone else is making the payroll, small wastes and inefficiencies don’t hurt so much. When YOU are paying all the employees out of your pocket, and every dollar you pay someone else is a dollar you can’t pay yourself, it is VERY difficult to find people that will meet your expectations. You can try to do more yourself, and your life quality will deteriorate rapidly. You can hire a bunch of people and operate at a loss while you get people to perform the way you want and need them to. Finding that middle ground as you ramp up is extremely challenging.
Have you ever wanted to quit?
A: Yes, I want to quit often. This has been the hardest professional challenge of my life. However, I know that if I don’t succeed at this, my chance of entrepreneurship may not come again for a decade or more. There is too much at stake to quit now. I also know that I haven’t done EVERYTHING in my power to be successful, and that new businesses can take years to be successful. I remind myself of that every time I feel like giving up.
What do you wish you would have known prior?
A: I wish I would have known just how expensive it would be to operate my business. I underestimated several costs, and failed to plan for a few costs altogether.
What advice would you have for other Veterans?
A: Being a good leader doesn’t automatically translate into being a good business owner. You need to be self-motivated. There is no secret sauce, there is no special book, and there is no shortcut. If you aren’t rich, extremely well-funded or didn’t invent something, it’s just going to take 1,000’s of hours of work, much of which is not fun or glamorous.
Any Veteran specific resources you used to help get started?
A: I researched several vet friendly franchises, and took advantage of a discounted franchise fee that was/is offered to Veterans through the franchise I bought. However, for funding, I used an SBA approved lender and got the SBA Express Loan. A small business can borrow up to $150k without a personal guarantee.
How can you support Travis?
If you are in the NE San Antonio area, to include Boerne and New Braunfels and will be in the market for flooring, follow this link to Floor Coverings International, NE San Antonio
Thank you for your time.