When the clock struck 12:01am on January 1, 2021, we were knee deep in finalizing the acquisition of SteelSafe Shelter, Inc – a decade old storm shelter manufacturer based in Madison, Alabama (USA). Still today, our vision for the acquisition hasn’t changed. We strive to build a nationwide emergency preparedness brand thats sole purpose is to provide safety, security, and confidence to a world that needs it now more than ever. I (not we, us, or them) didn’t properly capitalize the company post acquisition, so for this business to continue, we needed to come out of the gate hot, on fire, efficient, and growing or we ran the very large risk of falling flat on our faces. An entrepreneur is by nature a risk taker, an optimist, and someone who believes (right or wrong) that no matter what they encounter, they’ll figure it out. Well, the events that would unfold in 2021 would prove to be the biggest test of resiliency, perseverance, and growth in my entire career and placed me with my back against the wall of defeat.
Here is our first team meeting back on January 4, 2021. Today, our company looks very different. Let’s turn that into Lesson #1.
𝗟𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗼𝗻 #𝟭: 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗣𝗼𝘄𝗲𝗿 𝗼𝗳 𝗖𝘂𝗹𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲
Culture starts at the top. Whether you consider yourself the CEO, Founder, President, doesn’t matter. Your biggest and most important job is defining the company culture. That starts with each conversation, each action, each phone call, and each email. You, “Leader” must show up each day ready to help, learn, grow, and evolve. People don’t need you to be perfect. They need you to be present, committed, and engaged. They need open and honest communication.
So, why does our team look different today? I believe each person (or at least each normal human being) desires to do a good job. I also believe people need certainty… In the early days of any startup (or new acquisition), things are messy. Situations change, information changes, and decisions change. When you start a company, you hire into a culture. When you acquire a company, you inherit a culture. Your culture will determine how successfully you navigate difficult and changing situations.
𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝗿𝘀𝘁 𝗤𝘂𝗮𝗿𝘁𝗲𝗿: 𝗦𝗮𝗹𝗲𝘀 𝗦𝗸𝘆𝗿𝗼𝗰𝗸𝗲𝘁
Remember I mentioned we needed to come out of the gate red hot? Well, we did. We were firing on all cylinders. We had began the name change to RemainSafe to allow us to broaden out our product offering and regional coverage. We sold roughly 50% of the historical annual sales in Q1 alone. We met a wonderful human being named Dirk who founded a great company called New Day Storm Shelters out in Tulsa, OK that we aligned ourselves with to offer his product to our market. We were having fun. We also began to expand. We set up various subsidiaries around the southeast US. We set up RemainSafe of Chattanooga, RemainSafe of Auburn, RemainSafe of Memphis, and were looking at Nashville and Florida for expansion.
But, something else happened in the first quarter that jolted and shaped us forever. Fultondale, AL experienced a deadly EF-3 Tornado in late January. Jordan Triplett and I visited the area to volunteer and it forever reinforced our why, our drive, and our mission to create a safer, more secure, and confident place for our customers.
𝗟𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗼𝗻 𝟮: 𝗔𝗹𝘄𝗮𝘆𝘀 𝗘𝘅𝗽𝗲𝗰𝘁 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗨𝗻𝗲𝘅𝗽𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗲𝗱
In April of 2021, we started hearing rumblings of supply chain issues. We ended up seeing our costs prices exceed our sales prices following a 215% price increase in metal alone (all of our shelters are made 100% from steel), yikes. We saw material increases in everything (wood – yep, handles – yep, stairs – yep, paint – yep). Crazy times… On top of that, material availability became a huge issue. The demand for tornado shelters outpaced our ability to supply product. We were in a pickle. We needed to work harder and smarter, but we were striking out at every turn. This is where the residency of entrepreneurship comes crashing in. When the world is crashing around you, nothing is working, and failure is imminent, how do you respond? My advice? Never, ever, give up on your dreams! Get innovative, Get creative, Get HELP.
𝗗𝗶𝗱𝗻’𝘁 𝗦𝗲𝗲 𝗧𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗖𝗼𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗴
One day in the middle of this poop show of supply chain failures, I received a call from an entrepreneur who wanted to see if I’d be interested in helping him take his product to market. It was a patented, software solution designed for the aggregate mining industry (think rock, sand, asphalt, concrete, etc). Some say don’t chase shiny objects. I say, always keep your eyes and ears open entrepreneur. You never know what new opportunity is coming your way without ever knowing it. Long story short, we jumped to help these entrepreneurs with their new invention with both feet. Lead with gratitude and a giving heart and watch what happens, entrepreneur. Here is a picture of us onsite at our first mine. So fun. Oh, by the way, we named the product AXL Eye.
𝗔 𝗟𝗶𝗳𝗲 𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗘𝘂𝗿𝗲𝗸𝗮 𝗠𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁: 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗶𝗿𝘁𝗵 𝗼𝗳 𝗕𝗹𝗮𝗰𝗸𝗦𝗺𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗩𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲𝘀 #𝗕𝗦𝗩
I was beginning to realize that I really love working with entrepreneurs, founders, and business owners. I also really love helping companies go from zero to the preverbal “hero”. But, how do you do that without looking like an unguided, unfocused, squirrel chasing every shiny object? That was the question that needed solving. The most wonderful part of this journey of discovery was that it certainly didn’t come from me and it didn’t come from just one person. It came through a tribe of people pouring into me. I wrote about it on Linkedin post. I remember being on the phone with our early team – the ones who have been with me for years (some even decades) – Kevin, Katie, and Jordan – and we talked about the ability to help entrepreneurs, founders, and business owners at scale and how we could in turn make an infinite impact on those around us. We coined the opportunity to help others BlackSmith Ventures. This would be our path (aka Holding Company) that would allow us to impact entrepreneurs, give relevance and impact to our investors, while growing the best product and service companies imaginable. Here is a video I shot on it:
𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗛𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗲𝗻𝗲𝗱 𝗡𝗲𝘅𝘁 𝗪𝗮𝘀 𝗨𝗻𝗶𝗺𝗮𝗴𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗯𝗹𝗲
Check out that hat above… I found that a Buckeyes while traveling through Alabama for RemainSafe. Carol, Jordan, and I were going back to Fultondale, AL six months after the tornado struck in late January. The words “Faith”, “Family”, “Flag”, and “Freedom” are coined by our team as the 4-Fs. These are the ingredients that make me who I am.
I was on a call with my mentor, David Daugherty, one afternoon in late Spring 2021, when he said a few words I’ll never forget. He said, “Andy, it’s time to “𝙇𝙀𝙑𝙀𝙇 𝙐𝙋”. Those words unlocked a chain of events that I can’t explain in any other way than Devine Intervention.
𝗟𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗼𝗻 𝟯: 𝗦𝘂𝗿𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘀𝗲𝗹𝗳 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗔𝗰𝗰𝗲𝗹𝗲𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗕𝗲𝘆𝗼𝗻𝗱 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗪𝗶𝗹𝗱𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝗗𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗺𝘀
My number one lesson from 2021 is this entrepreneurs 👆. Surround yourself with the best and brightest and watch where your company, career, whatever goes. When I was failing in my pursuit of triathlons, I learned that a good coach and good company changes everything. In business, I believe the same. I put myself in a place to meet some amazing people and that has changed my trajectory forever. Who would have thought an Alabama boy would now run in circles with amazing people like Anric Blatt who have helped shape investment the investment world on an international level. Oh, did I mention I was invited to speak on my first podcast with Steve Nudelberg, woozier, what a guy. Check that out here.
Fast forward to today, December 31, 2021. I’m getting ready to watch College Football and simply reflecting on how far we have come. What does BlackSmith Ventures look like today?
BlackSmith Ventures is a modern-day holding company engaged in acquiring/funding subsidiary businesses and unique technologies and supporting their entrepreneurs/business leaders to achieve more rapid growth in the Emergency Preparedness, Clean Energy and Logistics Industries.
RemainSafe is navigating past the supply chain issues and tomorrow we’ll open the doors on our new manufacturing facility in Decatur, AL. We are committed to bringing safety, security, and confidence to the Southeast US as storms continue to increase. We just saw the most deadly and active tornado month of December eve
CISTANT is a solutions company created to help take the friction out of Logistics. AXL Eye (remember this from above) was recently acquired by CISTANT and will be our flagship product in 2022.
Purified Simple Solutions is our Clean Energy company created to provide low emission solutions to the Oil & Gas, Food, and manufacturing sectors.
This year has been one of the biggest test for me ever, but one that I will cherish forever as well. The power of culture, expect the unexpected, and surrounding yourself with the best & brightest guided me to where we are today and set the foundation on what we want to conquer in 2022.
My word for 2022 is SEA: Simplicity, Effectiveness, and Acceleration. Cheers to closing out a great year and cheers to those who stick with me each and every day.
While this video (watch here) sums up 2021, I couldn’t be more excited about navigating 2022.
Thank you Team BSV!
Thank you to my family.