It was definitely a one-of-kind experience joining the Business Bros as a guest on their podcast – the perfect way to start winding down 2020. With their inimitable energy, our live, free-wheeling conversation covered work, play, marriage, philanthropy and my adventures with serial entrepreneurism dating back to the pre-Google era of the 1990s.
The Business Bros
Hernan and James Sias – who are real-life brothers based out of San Diego – use their daily podcast to promote financial freedom while at the same time incorporating service to others along the way. They leverage their expertise in real estate and the insurance industry to teach aspiring agents the right mindset and systems to support all manner of money-making activities.
When it comes to promoting synergy between doing business and doing good works, you’re talking about my sweet spot. It’s an orientation that drove my business pursuits long before “social enterprise” was even a thing. Linda and I have engineered our own way of creating benefits for our non-profit through commitments to our for-profit enterprise. And it’s been a journey. The bros and I were all in agreement that even our failures have been critical to building future successes.
Our conversation started out with a bit about my journey from England to the U.S., which traces originally to a volunteer stint I did years ago with a substance abuse rehabilitation program in Nashville (link below). I loved America’s energy and opportunity. And I’ve been blessed in my life to have a wife who believed in me and the things I wanted to do, which is perhaps the most critical foundational component of all for aspiring entrepreneurs.
They had lots of questions for me about how to be both philanthropic and profitable, which Hernan emphasized is core to their own business philosophy: “Whether we realize it or not, someone helped us get where we are today … As humans we’ve got a responsibility to pay some of that forward and some of that back.”
I couldn’t agree more, which is why WorkLodge and my other ventures have all had our non-profit commitments baked into the business plan. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to the work that Linda and I do. Regardless how well-intentioned the objective, challenges are always there – starting with our relocation to Texas, far from the deep roots in England that had up ‘til then supported me in my every endeavor.
It’s taken time to assemble the amazing core team now at the heart of WorkLodge, taking flexible workspace to a whole new level. I enjoyed answering questions about the company’s evolution through Covid-19 and what we anticipate going forward as co-work spaces reshape the way we work and do business. Why would a small business owner sign an onerous long-term lease when they can use a model like WorkLodge to keep costs down? And then there’s the bonus of access to the network of other entrepreneurs onsite, launching businesses of their own. It’s win-win – with a third win in the profit-sharing that supports philanthropic pursuits.
It was an enjoyable, high-octane conversation about what it means to take a holistic approach to business and life – strategies for fusing family life, church life and entrepreneurial pursuits. My wife and I are able to help build children’s homes in India, deliver clean water wells and support a local Houston non-profit that has established a self-sustaining community for the homeless because for us it’s all about blending business with faith and service. Enjoyed lots of good energy with the Business Bros and took away food for thought as we all head into what will undoubtedly be a period of growth and opportunity for us all in the year ahead.
- My formative experiences starting out in England and the U.S.
- Balancing for-profit and non-profit pursuits, with the former sustaining the latter.
- The criticality of having a spouse or close support network when starting up a business.
- Why be a “solo-preneur”? The pitfalls of managing a fledging business without help.
- Rock bottom has its upsides when it comes to learning important lessons.
- WorkLodge – why it works and how it marries the charitable with the profitable.
- “(Potential entrepreneurs) have skills inside of them and just need someone to show how to bring them out.” (Mike)
- “Huge obstacles and roadblocks in our way are huge life lessons. I always say going broke was the greatest education in business I ever came across.” (Hernan)
- “If we could have a for-profit to fund this non-profit, we could go out there and make a small dent in the world. And never have to ask anyone for anything.” (Mike)
- “(Our non-profit) was there from the get-go. When we were pre-selling we were telling everyone about it.” (Mike)
- “We donate straight off the top from the gross revenues (at WorkLodge) and obviously try to keep a little for business growth and development.” (Mike)
- “On top of the workspace environment you’ve created, something amazing but affordable. But you take it one step further to do everything you possibly can to help your fellow man in need.” (Hernan Sias)
- “We want to start developing more training … in our co-working spaces and use the same material to go out to developing areas and train others who don’t realize that being an entrepreneur is something they can do.” (Mike)
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Mike Thakur is CEO of WorkLodge and Founder at the Gabriel Project. He is on a mission to change lives through entrepreneurship and sustainable social enterprise. With experience both as an executive roles both at established companies and multiple startups (commercial and non-profit), Mike is committed to giving back and creating environments that leave people better off than when they started.