Keep What You Earn with R.T. Custer

Keep What You Earn with R.T. Custer

What’s the goal of the financial side of entrepreneurship? We’ll give you a hint  — it’s four words.

In fact, these four words could summarize the goal of gaining income with your regular job just as much as it can with entrepreneurship. Essentially, we all want to do this one thing with our money: we want to keep what we earn.

Keep What You Earn is a podcast show hosted by CPA coach and business mentor Shannon Weinstein where entrepreneurs of all levels learn how to navigate the financial side of entrepreneurship so they can keep what they earn and grow their business with confidence. It is Shannon’s goal to simplify the money side of business for you so you can build your wealth and create the life you desire.

Each week, Shannon brings her listeners a guest on the show to help them unlock growth in their business through both strategy and mindset. 

Our very own R.T. Custer recently appeared as a guest on the Keep What You Earn podcast to speak about how he has been able to pull off managing three different businesses as a serial entrepreneur and what kind of valuable lessons he’s learned along the way. Not only does this episode contain excellent tips on how to succeed at growing your business, but it also lets us shine the spotlight on R.T. himself!

Many of you are probably already aware of R.T.’s story and how he came to grow Vortic Watch Company into a nationally-recognized, six-figure luxury watch brand, so we’ll jump right into the meat and potatoes of this podcast episode featuring R.T. as a guest.

Knowing Your Strengths and Taking Life’s Mistakes as Lessons

Raising capital is something that doesn’t get talked about enough. 

The early stages of entrepreneurship are somewhat clouded in mystery for many people. When you’re in the early stages of developing your company, where do you start? How do you approach taking on investors to scale your business? Shannon asked R.T. what the beginning of his company looked like and what kind of lessons he learned through the process.

“I've raised over a million dollars in equity-based financing for Vortic Watch Company. We started the company on Kickstarter, so I'm familiar with crowdfunding as well. And then I've also raised 3 million in financing — basically debt financing. So I feel like raising capital has been a part-time job my entire life.” - R.T. Custer

R.T. explained that it wasn’t always smooth sailing, however, but that’s all part of the process. 

Learning and growth must always take place through failure first. He admits he’s still learning every day, but one of the biggest lessons he’s learned so far is the importance of failing small and failing quickly so that we can learn in small doses and learn quickly. The idea is to not fail too big so that we can keep the momentum.

“Manufacturing a watch in the United States is expensive. It's very difficult to do what we do. So we needed a lot of capital to do so, and it all starts with the art of the pitch. If you had to ask, what's the thing that you feel the most confident doing? [Mine is] asking people for money, especially in front of a room pitching. I love it. You have to know your numbers. You have to be ready for anything. You have to answer any question that you get in some way. And I think, if you have a really genuine passion for what you do, then it all comes from the heart.” - R.T. Custer

r.t. custer on the stage

That’s such a good piece of advice that can be applied to almost anything. You always want to be prepared for the unexpected, and you always want to know what you’re talking about. This is especially true when asking investors for money. 

Conquering Fear with Practice

Not all of us are as equipped to excel at public speaking and giving big presentations as R.T. is, however. Public speaking is terrifying for a huge percentage of the population, and entrepreneurs aren’t excluded from that. Shannon asked R.T. what advice he had for those of us that aren’t as inclined to get up in front of a hundred people and make a pitch.

Here is what he had to say about delivering a great pitch:

“I feel that the best advice is practice. You have to practice a lot. And the best practice comes with just taking action in terms of making that pitch deck, making your presentation, making your business plan, and writing your financials. Try to do it all yourself. The best you possibly can get is 80% of the way there and then ask for advice.” - R.T. Custer

Just like with everything else, you’re going to trip a few times and make mistakes. You’re going to stutter as you begin your presentation. Making these mistakes is part of the learning process, and you have to get through them without being hard on yourself if you want to improve. 

“You're gonna stumble over your words all the time. You have to get over what your voice sounds like. Get it most of the way done, and then start asking anyone that has done it before if they can spare 10 minutes to hear your pitch and give you feedback. Then just do that a lot, as many times as you can, before you actually pitch a live audience or a real investor.” - R.T. Custer

When R.T. started pitching, he was doing so frequently at 1 Million Cups with only about 25 people in the room at a time. Not only did this serve as a unique and valuable practice experience, but many fellow entrepreneurs watched him progress and improve over time. There’s nothing like fellow entrepreneurs and colleagues telling you how much you’ve improved. 

r.t. custer presenting with fellow entrepreneurs

“The first time I made some good connections — I just met some other entrepreneurs in the area that I wouldn't have met otherwise. I learned a lot from them over the years. I still know some of those people that saw me at that first 1 Million Cups presentation and got amazing feedback. That's totally unfiltered because they don't know you. There's nothing to lose. They're just gonna tell you what they think. When you go back and pitch again a year or two later, and those potential investors are in the room, they see the progression in you.- R.T. Custer

People love familiarity, and investors are no exception. When people watch you improve and up your game, they naturally want to root for you. They’ve seen the journey, they know where you started and where you’re at now, and they begin to believe in you. 

The Balance of Running Two Distinct Companies

It takes a unique mind to run such distinct companies simultaneously. Vortic Watch Company is a product-based business that thrives on in-person collaboration and innovation, while R.T.'s marketing agency, Carter & Custer, is a digital service-driven business that functions remotely with employees located all over the world. Shannon asked our co-founder what kind of unique skills are required to maintain this position and what skills he has developed along the way. 

“So running a physical product business, especially one like us where we manufacture the product in-house, is all in-person. For my first eight years of being an entrepreneur, everyone that worked for me saw me basically every day. We were manufacturing these watches and then packing and shipping them and all that kind of stuff. I was really the only employee that could be remote, but everyone else had a hand in making it. So I got good at leading and managing people and managing a business by literally and physically being there.” - R.T. Custer

Learning how to manage one company is one thing, but starting another company with an entirely different mode of operations is another undertaking entirely. 

“Most ad agencies are completely remote at this point. And so that was a completely different change. Especially with the pandemic — we started in 2020. So it all had to change really quickly, and that was a new and different challenge. It's much more difficult to manage people and hold people accountable without micromanaging when most of your team is remote. You need a lot more software and tools and things like that to know what people are doing and when they're doing it. [There are] pros and cons to both, for sure, but I definitely personally prefer all in person.” - R.T. Custer

learning to work remotely

We feel like R.T.’s ability to adapt to running two completely different businesses is a huge achievement. The balance in running two very different companies is nothing to take lightly. It’s also incredible to be so keenly aware of your own shortcomings and how to go about operating in the way that’s best for your company and its employees. 

What Makes Vortic Stand Out

Vortic Watch Company is a small batch, custom, watch manufacturing and vintage restoration company located in Northern Colorado. Our objective is to preserve and improve the tradition of excellence in American manufacturing. To do this, we combine traditional and cutting-edge technology to produce distinctive, efficient, high-quality watches of excellent value. 

As a business, we’ve learned that manufacturing is not as simple as giving your designs to someone and asking them to make them. Going from concept to final product is a long process of working with suppliers on design, revisions, prototypes, etc. Assuming that everyone has access to similar machinery, why is it that some facilities perform better than others? 

The answer is that the individuals who run those machines are the most important factor in creating a quality product.

We have confidence in the people behind each of our components, and we want to share that confidence with you. As we continuously work to build our in-house capabilities, our belief in transparent manufacturing practices paired with the desire to tell people exactly what they’re buying will govern our marketing. We truly believe that the more you know about our products, the more you will want them.

Check Out Our Instagram and YouTube Channel for More Vortic Content

Our specialized watches are unique — check out our Instagram to see our featured watch of the day, and make sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get email notifications. Our watches don’t stick around for long! 

At Vortic Watch Company, we don’t just make watches, we restore pieces of history. Vortic takes timeless, antique pocket watches and reimagines them as incredible, one-of-a-kind wristwatches. We take pride in our process, and we think that care is present in the quality of our products.

Subscribing to Custer & Wolfe's YouTube channel will keep you informed on all things Vortic. There, we'll keep you up-to-date on everything that's happening with us, including our warehouse growth, production process, and ideas for creating an impactful business!

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