Today’s entrepreneur and storyteller: Brandon Apparcel
Brandon is a California native, he’s been in tech for over six years, but he’s been an entrepreneur for at least almost 20 years now. He started his first business at eight years old, helping restaurant owners with their business and expanding its multiple locations. He always looks for opportunities, where there’s money being left on the table for any marketplace. And from there he started meeting people. As an extreme extrovert, Brandon loves talking to people, figuring out where they’ve been and what kind of stories they have. And from there, you can learn a lot as well as start building your own professional relationships where they’re mutually beneficial and everyone can make money. He is a self-starter, continuously building his network and tools that would later help him in life. Um, because even before I graduated, I was helping out a real estate broker, um, expand his business. To date, he probably worked with over a hundred different companies, both non-tech and tech. He loves the way that tech can move.
Now that he is focused on enterprise software, he is looking at applications and how they’re packaged. Not just focusing on another product for the big companies to put on their spreadsheet. It is always about what can we do to enhance what’s already there. Brandon is a strong believer in that as well as the power of the team.
Name of the project: Jane Doe
About: Contractor project driving adoption and sales of solar systems for corporate offices.
Year started: 2010-ish
Year closed: 2011-ish
Industry: Solar Energy
Category: B2B Sales
Stage: Soft pilot
Traction reached: The business grew to $2m in 2 months and was reaching $20m in six months. It continued to grow post my involvement to $10b worldwide.
Target market, the market situation at the time of start: Seeing the beginning of the rise of solar energy, I grew the relationship with the regional manager of a large corporation that was headhunting me. I finally pitched him an idea where we could do a soft pilot where we can help them start selling solar products as well as actually the solar systems itself where it would be a mutually beneficial win.
What inspired the idea: I saw the trends and the opportunity, we became a service-based company, connecting the dots and collecting commissions. Think of it as corporate innovation, 10 years ago.
Success parts, what worked: It was more of just high-level sales, it was about relationship building, B2B sales where we would connect to the end-user, and then we would do the installation for them. Then the partner company would actually sell the products in between — figuring out the motivators and processes of multiple players worked really good. Their original business was doing about $1b in 2007. A successful pilot showed to the big corporate — Hey, we can multiply this. And sure enough, it grew 10x in five years.
- I was 27 at the time and rushed into a lot of it without deeper insights. When I look back at it, what I rushed the most was the team, because I didn’t know the customer that well. Our customers were the managers of each individual location and we were working with 16 locations in California. You gotta pay attention to characteristics and you have to know the past experiences and read their body language to identify what decision stage they are really at. I didn’t do any of that, I just dove right in because there were a lot of dollar signs out there and I found an opportunity to bring value.
- Secondly, it was the team itself. I just planed wrong, again rushing into who to partner with, I should have looked out to more of my mentors instead of trying to prove something to them, I should have reached out to a couple of people, even if they weren’t in business, just to run by some ideas.
- Within the business, I relied too much on my partner. I looked at it as we’re an individual company, the larger mothership company was a partner. And I relied on them to give me information on the best installers. One partner fell off very shortly cause, they weren’t getting things done quickly enough, couldn’t manage their time. Then the second one was managing his time well, in the early stages, but then he couldn’t scale. I am a very big team player so I didn’t see the writing on the wall that I should have ended that relationship first, restructured, and regrouped and pivoted.
- I guess you can call it the hourglass ticking with this situation, how fast I can build a relationship and how less of an error I could make. Basically, I could make no mistakes. You have to build trust with everybody, which is part of the growth of the business. So whether it be investors, advisors, team members, all those people will not do or help you out or put their full effort in unless you’ve already established that trust and relationship. That was the kind of the backbone breaker, I didn’t think they want to talk to me, that they just wanted to do the business.
- The solar bubble — we were riding the high. Cause this was before the Solar City, really.
- After the project, I actually pivoted and tried to do my own solar business. I tried to pivot a few times, looking at more city projects because I understood just from my research, there was a lot of commercial and city places that could use solar, we can actually sell it to the school systems. However, there’s just a lot of politics involved and I didn’t know about it.
Key causes of failure:
- Rushing into go-go-go mode without doing deeper research
- Understanding how to read the customer and identify their decision stage
- Wrong team and lack of deeper relationships/trust, learn about how people operate
- Riding the high wave, first-mover disadvantage
Grateful for/Key Learnings:
- I think all the teachings that we learned to go-go-go are wrong. You definitely can’t rush the beginning stages, especially if you’re dealing with a dinosaur customer.
- It is important to spend that initial time to really figure out how you should go about and who should be part of it. Cause it’s a journey that you need to share, not just do it yourself.
- I think the team is more important than anything, and building trust and deeper relationships within it.
- I took time to understand what I did wrong and right, took valuable lessons with me, I still use it today on how I identify things, how I go through just the processes of meeting people. I think even with meeting people, that’s where everything starts. Take significant time to learn about people, find out who they are and how they operate.
- I think for every death, there’s a rebirth.
Today, Brandon is a creative serial entrepreneur who provides various benefits for any stage of venture capital. He advises his trusted, evolving network within various business verticals. Brandon primarily works with Corporations to support their “People ROI.” All in all, Brandon helps leading entrepreneurs, top tier developers, & executives to achieve their goals by providing strategic relationships & planning to convert valuable growth.
This information’s purpose is to help learn from the mistakes (and pivots) of others, as well as to encourage founders to openly speak about things that failed. Look at it as a shared f*ckup depository for resilient brilliant minds.
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