Founder Shares

Hosted ByTrevor Schmidt

At Hutchison PLLC, we work with founders and entrepreneurs as they fight and grind and stress and push to bring their visions to reality. We are inspired by their incredible stories of success, of failure, of reworking and trying again.

We get to see this every day through our work, helping technology and life science companies start up, operate, get funded, and exit, but we want a chance to share some of these stories with you, our listener. So whether you already are an entrepreneur, have an idea that someday you want to start a business or are just fascinated by the stories of how a business goes from idea to success... or not such a success, this podcast is for you. 

The Fracture Startup Journey: Jumping off a Cliff to Learn to Fly with Abhi Lokesh

Abhi Lokesh started Fracture from his college dorm room at the University of Florida.  As a young entrepreneur, he made a lot of mistakes – in hiring, in marketing, in leadership, and more – but he learned from those mistakes and is now at over 1M Fractures sold!

Note: this episode was recorded in July 2020, so Fracture is well beyond 1M sold now!

Transcript

Trevor Schmidt: Hello and welcome to the Founder Shares Podcast!  I’m your host, Trevor Schmidt. As an attorney at Hutchison Law Firm in Raleigh, North Carolina, we work with founders who have incredible stories about their companies’ successes – and failures. Entrepreneurship is not about having the best idea for a company – it’s about resilience through the struggle, hiring the right people in areas of weakness, and finding the time to do just about anything to get your business to the next level. 

On this podcast, we hear from founders who have had some success, and they share their stories about life as an entrepreneur.

Our first guest is Abhi Lokesh, co-founder and CEO of Fracture, a company that prints your photos in vivid color, directly onto glass.

I have a smart phone in my pocket that takes amazing photos, and you probably do too. So that means you probably take maybe 10, 20 pictures a day, maybe more if you have kids? Well, I looked it up online, and it is estimated that there will be 1.4 TRILLION pictures taken around the world in 2020. 1.4 TRILLION. But in your thousands of pictures on your phone, how many do you actually go back to look at, much less print out?

Abhi Lokesh and his partner Alex Theodore first noticed this trend back in 2009. c

Abhi Lokesh: We saw a really compelling opportunity in front of us, which was the fact that smartphones were just taking off.

They were getting cheaper, more affordable, stronger, and the camera’s on those smartphones are also getting more affordable, faster. The resolution is getting better, et cetera. Yet, fewer and fewer people were printing pictures, even though more people than ever before were taking pictures.

And we thought to ourselves, ‘You know, that’s really interesting. Paradox and dilemma. Why is that? Why are people printing fewer and fewer pictures?’ We knew then that no one would ever back to the days of, you know, pre-digital printing out your rolls of 35 millimeter film, but we felt like with digital imagery getting so much better in quality, we could give people a reason to print and frame their digital images.

I couldn’t even pre-qualify for credit card that normally you get, you know, mailboxes full of pre-qualified credit cards in the mail and I couldn’t even get one of those. And so, and we were in Gainesville, Florida as well, which again, didn’t have exactly most well known support ecosystem for young entrepreneurs or young business owners.

And so, you know, in many ways we felt lonely because we were kind of isolated trying to do this thing. We weren’t very good at explaining, no one could really understand, and took a lot of money. And I think really just relied on each other for support and, you know, we had a healthy dose of naivete and I just think that youthful ignorance to kind of see us through the first couple of years.

But again, fortunately, we pushed ourselves to have pretty concrete milestones and the promise of the product was always, in our opinion, so obvious because whoever we did show it to would always respond in a really positive way. Now, by no means did we ever really do statistically significant market research.

Like, we didn’t run really intense surveys or focus groups, but we just innately believed that this was something that people would really want. And you know, slowly the sales started to trickle in. It took us a long time, a number of years, but that journey was really important because it just made us appreciate every sale, and that was what helped us get to where we are. 

Trevor Schmidt: And how did you go about kind of expanding those sales channels? Was it primarily through word of mouth or did you ultimately kind of get a sales team together to go out and kind of show people the product and get them excited about it?

Abhi Lokesh: Yeah, that’s actually, Trevor, that’s been the hardest part about Fracture, you know, engineering and manufacturing and fulfillment, while tricky, is ultimately a pretty straight forward process. It has certain variables that you can control, et cetera. Like, it’s a system that you can actually like, watch and learn from. Consumer marketing and consumer psychology was really hard for us to figure out. We, again, neither of us came from, you know, marketing or PR backgrounds. We really didn’t know how to market this product. And that’s really where we fumbled the most for the first, I’d say, five years of business.

So, honestly we tried everything. We tried traditional PR. We tried working with Groupon, which was a near fatal disaster. We were on I believe it was Good Morning America, that did nothing for us. W e tried dabbling in Google and Facebook in the early days, and that wasn’t really taking traction as well.

But, we caught a really lucky break in 2013 when we realized that actually video advertising was really powerful for us because in hindsight, you know, it always makes sense. Hindsight is always 2020, but the thing that was really powerful about video for us was that it allowed us to show off the product in as close to a real life format as possible. So, you know, showing someone a picture of a picture, which is ultimately what fracture is, is really hard to – it’s really hard to make a compelling sales pitch that way,  in kind of 2D format. So video was great because we could rotate a Fracture around, we could show how slim it was, we could show how, how glossy it was. We could, you know, show someone taking it out of the box and hanging on the wall in a really efficient manner. And that was massive for us. So we actually, by happenstance, were able to get on a, a small TV show on HGTV’s sister network called the DIY channel.

It was a show called “I Want That,” and basically, the producers reached out to us for some samples, you know, we said, “Sure, why not, all it’s going to cost us is the cost of those samples.” And, unbeknownst to us, they actually liked the product, produced a segment and started airing that segment.

We started to see, randomly, visitors start to come to our website and ultimately just connected the dots and realized that this TV segment is what was really working for us. So we essentially tried to bottle that and, you know, we were one of the early pioneers in terms, but D to C company – a direct to consumer company – that invested in, in TV advertising.

So we just evolved that channel and that’s become one of our best ways to, you know, get customers. 

Trevor Schmidt: Now you said that the Groupon incident was almost a disaster. What went wrong with that? 

Abhi Lokesh: Oh, man, so many things. Like everyone, we were really excited about Groupon back in, you know, 2010, 2011. You couldn’t, you know, throw a stone without hitting a Groupon deal locally. And we were actually one of the first businesses in Gainesville to offer Groupon, you know, and we did really well. Groupon was really interested in this market. Ultimately, the economics were really hard, you know, the way Groupon worked was, you know, it’s at least half off, right? So for a $40 order, you know, the, the most we’re making is $20, but then Groupon took their cut of the $20 , and you know, they took 60% of that $20 and we left at 40%, but in addition, the straw that broke the camel’s back for us was, was we also offered free shipping. And, that basically puts us in the red for every order, and that is – those unit economics are not sustainable, especially because Groupon customers were not, you know, loyal customers, they were more bargain hunters, and that’s not a knock on them.

That’s just kind of the way Groupon trained people to look at their deals. And so, the lifetime value of those customers was, was nonexistent. So long story short, we had, I think, you know, 4,000 to 6,000 people buy a bunch of Groupon coupons, that was in summer of 2011, and Groupon coupons traditionally had a six month kind of expiration period. So, if you do the math, that meant they all expired in Q4 range of the hardware holiday season. So in the middle of, you know, December of 2011, we were flooded by this, you know, this cohort of free non-revenue generating Groupon orders that we were expected to fill, ship on our own dime. And they, those are actually taking the place of, you know, full paying customers who wanted actual product. And so it was just a challenge in every perspective, from a manufacturing perspective, from a financial perspective, from a customer support perspective. That was just a tough situation to go through. 

Trevor Schmidt: Sure. Now how did you start to grow your team?

I mean, who are some of the first adds to the team to kind of grow the business? 

Abhi Lokesh: I t bears emphasizing that finding the right teammates was what truly catapulted the business and in the right direction. Ultimately, I think one of the biggest mistakes Alex and I did when it came to hiring was that initially, I’ll take most responsibility for this, I just hired people that I thought I would enjoy hanging out with and liked, and, you know, looks like me and were my age, et cetera. And that’s great if you want a bunch of friends, but that’s not great if you’re trying to run a business and build a company. And so ultimately I realized they error in my ways and in 2013. we were able to hire kind of our first clinical grade air hire. So someone who wasn’t in their twenties. His name was Herb Jones. He’s our CMO, he’s been our CMO since then. And just the experience he came with and the, the background and the confidence he had in the company. You know, born out of a background of doing this was really meaningful to us. He came in October 2013, right at the beginning of our holiday season.

And we basically said, “Listen, you’ve got one job: sales, right? Like, you need to bring orders in the door.” And, you know, he didn’t bat an eye. He didn’t blink. He  wasn’t overwhelmed or daunted. He said, “OK, I get it. Let’s, let’s go make it happen.” And, yeah, that mindset was really huge us.

So, we kind of tried to use that as kind of a template for, for additional hires we needed to make, of course, they’ve got to be a good cultural fit. And it was, it was a course of the past couple of years, we’ve been really able to put together a strong team that I think the best thing I can say about us is, and them, is that we always, in my opinion, punch above our weight.

So we’re, we’re a really small team, but I think what we’ve been able to pull off with the, with the leanness of the team we have, has been really commendable. 

Trevor Schmidt: And, you know, kind of aside from hiring the right people, is there something that you can attribute to that notion of punching above their weight?

What is it that kind of allows them to do that? 

Abhi Lokesh: You know, I think a lot of it was, you know, in the early days there really wasn’t a week or a month that went by where I didn’t consider, you know, uprooting the company and moving it elsewhere, where I wasn’t suffering from like this FOMO, this fear of missing out about in terms of what would the pastures be greener if we were located in, you know, fill in the blank city. And ultimately what I realized was that was a really good blessing. That was a huge blessing in disguise for us because it allowed us to put our heads down and, and filter out the noise and just stay gritty and stay humble and work. And that mentality really, I think, embodies kind of a lot of Fracture’s spirit and that, I think, has a direct impact on, you know, what you pointed out in terms of, being able to punch above our weight, you know, we, we don’t get caught up in trying to measure ourselves on vanity metrics that other other companies might in terms of, you know, maybe top line growth without considering profitability or cash flow or things like that.

So we, we really, I think just in many ways, kept to ourselves and, you know, kept repeating to ourselves, the mantra of what mattered to us instead of, you know, kind of what mattered to the outside world and having that be impressed upon us. 

Trevor Schmidt: So, if you could describe kind of what Fracture’s culture is about. I mean, is there, is there an overriding sense as to what you’re looking for in a teammate that you hire as far as a cultural fit? 

Abhi Lokesh: Yeah, so, you know, we have, kind of what we call our core values and those are, grit, drive, radical candor, comradery. And this one is going to sound, I guess, a little nerdy, but efficiency.

And you know, ultimately we want someone who, who embodies those characteristics or is, is, has demonstrated the willingness to internalize those characteristics. And again, we take it as a bit of a chip on our shoulder that we’re located in Gainsville, Florida, and we want to do as much as possible for local ecosystem.

So we’ve always prioritized and preferred hiring locally, hiring from the region to build the talent here. And even, even when they move on from Fracture, we know that we’ve net added better people into the talent pool and ecosystem here in Gainesville and in Florida. So, yeah, we’re, we’re, we’re doing everything we can to, you know, build the best talent for us.

Trevor Schmidt: I understand the company just had it’s 1 millionth order. Is that right? 

Abhi Lokesh: Yeah. So we had our 1 millionth order at a, I believe 11:49 PM on Sunday night.

Trevor Schmidt: Congratulations!

Abhi Lokesh: Thank you, yeah. My, my business intelligence team whipped up this really neat infographic, and I thought it was really telling because, you know, I think anyone would be really excited to accumulate 250,000 orders in about 250 days, which is what we had done, you know, most recently, you know, you zoom back and rewind a little bit and you realize it took us about 2,700 days to get our first 200,000 orders. And it really makes you appreciate the fact that there’s really no such thing as overnight success.

Like sure, we’ve been able to, I think build a flywheel and generate some momentum over the past three, four years, but none of that would have been possible without like the grueling, really strenuous journey of the first seven, eight years that kind of made all this possible. 

Trevor Schmidt: I thought it was an interesting bookend because looking at some of your earlier blog posts, you know, you had a blog post when you crossed over the 100,000th order and talked about in that blog post about “No, I want to get to the millionth order.”

And you know, I kind of wonder for you, how do you feel the company is different now that you are at the 1,000,000th order versus where you were at when you were at the 100,000th order? 

Abhi Lokesh: Yeah, that’s a good question. I don’t, I don’t know if I’ve given myself the time to reflect on that. I’m bad at doing that.

But, in many ways I think we’re the same, which is a double edged sword, right? Like I like the fact that I think we’ve maintained the same mindset and same mentality of kind of being the underdog and wanting to keep striving for our 10 millionth order now and not being complacent because we had a, a nice round number, like a million.

But I think the other edge of that is that, you know, we need to mature and we need to grow and we need to put the processes and systems in place to be able to handle an additional 9 million orders because what got us to a 1 million just simply won’t  be able to sustain us to get us to 10 million.

So,  I think, you know, I’m going to try and be selective and try and keep all the things that were super helpful in terms of, you know, spirit and values, but realize that we’ve got to grow up you to grow and mature to be able to handle the next 9 million orders. 

Trevor Schmidt: Yeah. And so, I mean, it seems like, especially with the products company, it’s a little bit harder to scale up to that, you know, 9 millionth order and 9 million more orders.

So I guess, what are the next steps as far as kind of scaling up to that point? 

Abhi Lokesh: Yeah. And I think that summarizes very well the next phase for us which is investing in the company to put the right foundation in place for us to get the next 9 million orders. I think one of the things we’ve always done is we jumped off a cliff without necessarily having figured out how to fly yet. And so like we’re building those wings on the way down and that that’s great for a startup that’s hungry and then try to prove itself, but I believe we’ve passed that startup phase and are now kind of in that maturing company phase, which isn’t a bad thing at all. I don’t think we’re stodgy or old or anything like that. So now it’s, I think for the first time ever, we’ve got the luxury of, “OK, we know we have runway let’s figure out how to put in the right investment, the right infrastructure. Sure. And build that, build that foundation for the next, you know, 9 million orders.

So, first it’s really all about investment and we don’t want to be reactive and kind of do this in a piecemeal fashion because that’s why it took us 11 years. And I have no regrets about doing so, but I think we can get the next 9 million orders in a much more expeditious fashion. 

Trevor Schmidt: So with a million orders, I imagine you see some interesting things come off the production line.

Are there any particularly memorable prints that, that stand out to you over the years? 

Abhi Lokesh: Oh, man. There are a ton, I don’t know how many of them we could actually discuss, but. Yeah, you could probably guess the top five categories, right? It’s babies, you know, weddings, sunsets, puppies, and more babies, which is what people take photos of in terms of their family, their loved ones, where they go, events that are that matter to them. And so it’s incredible to see just really incredible images people take. It feels really neat to almost get a glimpse into people’s live and people are sharing some very personal, sentimental moments with us. It gives what we do meaning because people are willing to share with us, you know, things that are profoundly deep to them.

And that that’s always nice to see. 

Trevor Schmidt: Well, I think it’s interesting. ‘Cause you mentioned at the beginning that we’re in an era where people take so many photos, but by the time I think it gets to Fracture print, you know, this is a photo that has even more meaning to that, that individual. This is something that they want to encapsulate forever. So, I imagine you see some of the best of the best, or at least what’s most important to them. 

So I want to go back to kind of, as you were talking about growing the company and reaching that next step, ’cause it reminded me of something that I saw on your Twitter feed a while back. You talked about company size is a challenge and not an excuse, I believe at the time it was in relation to really maintaining connections with your team.

And so I wondered if you could speak to that. I mean, how do you execute on that as your company continues to grow and get larger? How do you maintain that connection with the people that are working for you and that you work with? 

Abhi Lokesh: So, a couple of ways, so number one, I think it’s by actively being really thoughtful about the number of people you have in the company. Right? So yes, growth is necessary, but oftentimes I feel like a lot of companies, when we talk about vanity metrics, often times people add head count, just because it sounds cool to say I have a hundred people or 200 people work at your company.

And so, you know, quantity doesn’t always correlate or equate with quality. So the first thing first, you know, we, we always try and be really thoughtful and selective about the hires we make. And I think, in that way, we’ve been able to maintain a relatively low head count, which naturally makes it easier to maintain more one on one connections and relationships.

But with the people that we do have, honestly Trevor, I just think it’s about making the effort, and not leaving anything to chance or make any assumptions. So, you know, I am here, you know, even in this new COVID era, I’m here at the office because I want people to see me.

I want people to know that I’m here, that I’m not just in an ivory tower, kind of commanding from upon high. And, I think just doing the small things like walking through the production floor, you know, reaching out to people on Slack, just checking in, you know, sending yourself a reminder, checking on people.

I think it’s the small things and more nuanced things that really add up and compound over time to build a sense of genuine and authentic comradery, because I think people are very smart and your workers or your employees or your team members, they can tell the difference between something that’s a forced interaction and something that’s more genuine and real. So I think it’s really the small things, that, that do take time, but have such an incredible payoff if you are consistent with them. 

Trevor Schmidt: Yeah. And I’m thinking about that, if you say, you know, it takes time and you’d have to be invested in these teams. And I think about kind of the other challenges that you’ve talked about, and it leads me to this question about, you know, I understand being a founder and CEO of a startup is really challenging and all consuming. And so I wonder if you have any thoughts about how you maintain that balance between the demands of your job, the demands of life outside of the company, how you find that balance and how you kind of make the success of this company, I guess, more personally valuable because you have time outside of the company as well?

Abhi Lokesh: I think this is a really interesting topic  where my perspective has evolved over time. I started this as a single, like I said, a single person with nothing to lose, no family take care of no debt. Now I am a father. I have a family, et cetera, so things have changed. But if I’m being candid, I don’t think you can do this while always maintaining balance.

I think you ultimately at some points in time, the company do have to give a balance because that’s oftentimes what it takes, but I think trying to always find this perfectly steady equilibrium is very difficult. If not impossible. I think what you have to be upfront with yourself and your family and your loved ones about it is like, “Listen, if I’m going to sign up for this, there’s going to be some points in time where there’s not going to be a lot of balance and I’m going to have to go all in, but then there’s going to be other points in time where I can shift more to being available and actively part of the family and life outside of work. It’s a continuous kind of seesaw and every dynamic situation. So there are definitely small things you can do to maintain balance, right? Like there’s always some things that you want to have in your life, be it hobbies or habits or small breaks that you used.

But in the big picture, I think it’s hard to always try and, Find this perfect balance. And ultimately you might be searching for something that doesn’t exist. And this is only, you know, one man’s perspective. Right? And I look back at my journey and my co-founder, and we definitely were not balanced early on because that’s what it took.

You know, we had to burn the candle at both ends and we really push ourselves really hard. and we, you know, even the ratio of work that my co-founder did to what I did was oftentimes imbalanced at times because that’s just what it took. So, I think the biggest thing has to be like very genuine and self-aware communication both with yourself when you kind of look at yourself in the mirror, but also with.

You know, the people who, who you impact on a daily basis. So like, this is what we’re getting into, and this is, what it’s probably going to mean from a balanced perspective. It’s not going to be this way forever. You know, this is what it’s going to look like for the next foreseeable future.

Trevor Schmidt: Yeah. I think that’s really important. A couple of key points that at least resonate with me is this idea that people kind of beat themselves up trying to find a balance with the understanding that it’s somehow always going to be in that sense of equilibrium, but really it is just this challenge of understanding that sometimes you’re going to have to be all in on one side and all in on the other side and just finding a way not to fall to one side or the other too often, I guess. That’s the balance. It’s not that it’s equal time all the time. It’s just over the span of your life. Have you found that something that works for you 

Abhi Lokesh: Exactly, yeah. 

Trevor Schmidt: So you touched on it a little bit early on about your, your investors being super patient with you kind of at the early stage. Has your relationship with your investors over time changed or is there other things that you’ve learned kind of through working with outside investors?

Abhi Lokesh: Yeah, I mean, our relationship has definitely changed, especially as the needs and the phase of the business has changed and the business has evolved and matured. You know, again, the biggest thing that I’m grateful for is that the investors believed in us enough to give us the rope to be able to grow and get us to this point.

And again, where they’ve been really demanding has changed over time, right? So, you know, it used to be more on showing any sort of progress now to fine tuning and optimizing profits and team growth. It’s really powerful to have someone holding you accountable, even if you consider yourself the CEO or the boss.

I think it’s really powerful to feel that sense of accountability to someone or something because otherwise, you know, everyone has an ego and you can let that get to your head. That sense of accountability, that sense of professionalism has been something that the investors a really harped on me and not that they’ve kind of called me out on it, but it’s expected of me, and I appreciate that expectation. So, every, every set of investors is different, every person is different, what they’re looking for is different, but, you know, they’ve entrusted me with their money and that’s a big responsibility, so. And without that we would not be here.

So, you know, I take my responsibility to them to, you know, very seriously. 

Trevor Schmidt: So if you were starting out as your kind of your business from the outset, and there was one piece of advice or, or something you wish you had known about working with investors, kind of from the early stages of your company, is there something that stands out to you or.

Abhi Lokesh: Yeah. So, I think.

There are two pieces. Number one, know your worth, right? Like, I’ll specifically kind of admit to this. I was incredibly intimidated and nervous about working with investors because I’m like, “Oh man, here are these people who do this for a living. I’m thisyeah 21 year old, 22 year old. I’ve never done this before.” And I think in many ways I was oftentimes too deferential and too willing to just say yes and do whatever they expected of me. But this is a partnership where we are equals working together because they believe me.

I have something they want, they have something I want, right? And you always need to remember your power and your leverage, I think that’s something that most people forget. Especially first time founders, I will say. I think the other one, I think is more on communication, don’t hold anything back. Investors want to know everything.  Show them the works, show them that the skeletons in your closet, they’re here to help, hold nothing back. I think that’s the only way you can develop a true, genuine relationship with your investors. Show your emotion, show your passion, obviously in a professional way.

But, you know, and again, we talk about balance, right? Like investors, especially in early stage ventures know that this isn’t a nine to five job. They know that they need to be on quote, unquote, call, potentially on nights or during weekends and, they, they know what they’re signing up for.

Right? So really lean into that and push them, to help you the way you want to be helped. It could be resources, network, you know, diligence, et cetera. So, know your worth as a founder, what you bring to the table and just really be transparent . 

Trevor Schmidt: So more generally, what would you say is the best piece of advice that you’ve received about running a company?

Abhi Lokesh: I don’t know if I’ve necessarily specifically received this advice, but one piece of advice that I’ve realized is really important is to not have any notions of how quickly you think this is going to go or how long you think this is going to take. In my opinion, if and when you start a company, you need to be willing to commit the next 10 to 15 years of your life to it, at a bare minimum.

And I fundamentally did not have that opinion early on, and I suffered from it because I always made decisions from a very short term perspective. And in my opinion, that’s just not how the best, most endearing, most impactful companies are made. And so, you know, dismiss any notion of a timeline or “I need to exit by this point in time” or whatever the case may be.

Or if you do have those realize that those are subject to change very quickly. Just go in knowing that everything’s going to take longer than you think it will. and be prepared kind of for long haul. 

Trevor Schmidt: That’s interesting. ‘Cause I imagine it’s gotta be a hard something to kind of hold and balance this idea of that I’m in it for the long haul and that long haul, maybe 15 years, but at the same time, sprinting and running and growing and trying to, you know, grow the biggest company you can and in a smart and sensible way, and being prepared that, “Hey, it may take off in five years and we want to be ready for that.” And holding those two intention. I mean, is that a challenge or do you just hold on to all of your plans loosely and just go with things as they come?

Abhi Lokesh: Yeah, no, it is a challenge and there is a tension there. but I think you put it best, right? Because I don’t, it’s just fundamentally not feasible to sprint for 15 years. Right?

Like you can sprint for, you know, bits of periods of time, but then you have to, regulate your pace and speed at which you’re running this thing. This thing is, is a marathon. And so, again, I think you have to read the room and get a sense for when a sprint is necessary.

But you have to work at a company at a very sustained pace. And that doesn’t mean, you know, you take it easy, whatever the case may be, but you just have to realize when it’s time to kick things up a notch because you know, the moment demands it and meeting the moment from a pace perspective. It’s a skill that you develop over time. And again, I’ve only, I think, begun to develop it because now I have a 10 plus year journey to reflect on that can I have various experiences that I can kind of draw from. And I think that is something that comes over time. 

Trevor Schmidt: So I want to move to the flip side of this now, any particularly bad pieces of advice that you’ve received, either unsolicited or solicited? 

Abhi Lokesh: Any, any bad pieces of advice.

Yeah. I think there are a couple, and it’s not necessarily any one person, but it’s more of, you know, what an impressionable young founder may see or hear from the media, or what’s kind of captured in the media. There’s no one perfect style of leadership.

There’s no one perfect style of communication. You know, there’s a certain archetype of a business owner or entrepreneurial archetype that is lionized in the media, right? It’s the Steve Jobs kind of swashbuckling entrepreneur who takes no prisoners and kind of, is, is very extroverted and authoritative and does things their way or the highway sort of thing.

And I tried to be that, but it did not work. That just was not me and it kind of failed miserably. And so I think the thing that I thought I needed to do was act and behave a certain way versus just being myself so I think that’s something I would encourage for especially first time founders to realize is that there is no archetype for being a leader, right? Like, it really takes a lot of, again, self-reflection to understand who you are, what are your communication strengths and weaknesses, and then going about developing them versus trying to model yourself after this one person whose context could have been completely different. You never know that other person’s story until you really get a chance to walk a mile in their shoes, and that’s just very hard to do so. I think I fell prey to that and succumbed to that. But fortunately I think I’ve begun to work myself out of that. 

Trevor Schmidt: Oh, it’s interesting. It goes back to what you said earlier about understanding your value.

You know, I think you were talking about that in the context of the company, but really as a founder, as a CEO, understanding your unique value in that leadership role, I think is important as well and understanding that you don’t have to be anybody else. You just have to be you and make that work for your business.

Abhi Lokesh: Yeah. 

Trevor Schmidt: Well, so now I guess it’s your turn. So we are the Founder Shares podcast, and I always like to ask our guests, you know, if they had one or two pieces of advice that they’d want to share with, you know, a young entrepreneur or somebody who’s at home, thinking about starting this business that they’ve had in the back of their mind for a while, you know, what’s, what’s that piece of advice that you’d want to offer to that person?

Abhi Lokesh: Well, I guess a couple things. Number one, don’t fall prey to, you know, the latest, greatest, shiny object in terms of the sort of company you need to run, the type of leader you need to be, just be true to yourself and that’ll go a very long way. I think a more, a more concrete piece of advice is I wish more and more companies kind of behaved in this manner, you need to be able to control your own destiny. And by that, I mean, financially. Learn what it takes to run a profitable, capital positive business.

I think that’s so important, especially in the direct to consumer sector, because over the past, not just, you know, since COVID started, but over the past year, the highway is littered with companies who were high flying, valued, incredibly highly, took on a ton of money or on a bunch of impressive aimless investors that are now dead or dying because they did not understand what it means to run a sustainable business.

And there’s nothing unsexy or uncool about building a strong profitable business that gives you optionality in terms of where you want to go with it next. But so many investors and so many founders, again, get excited about raising money. And it’s a means to an end and it’s a great milestone, but it’s only ever that, right?

It’s a milestone. It shouldn’t be seen as an ultimate indicator of success. So I think being able to control your own destiny financially, learning the ins and outs of, you know, things that may not sound like a lot of fun, like counting and financial discipline are just so vitally important that I wouldn’t want people to dismiss that.

Trevor Schmidt: And how do you, I mean, how do you go about learning those things? I mean, are you just reading constantly, you’re surrounding yourself with a network that advises you on it? I mean, what are some of the strategies that you’ve adopted to learn all these different skills that you need for this? You know, do what you just talked about.

Abhi Lokesh: Yeah. So for me, yeah, I think admittedly desperation was a phenomenal teacher, right? Like I dove into the deep end and in order for me to survive, I had to figure out how to navigate it on QuickBooks and how to speak the speak and learn the vernacular to be able to talk to accountants and engineers and developers and customer support staff.

But I think the beauty about the age we live in today is so much information is at your fingertips. If you want to understand what, you know, what accounting looks like and how to prepare yourself, there’s no excuse for you to not to be able to do so, right? There’s so many online courses, so many online institutions, YouTube, I mean, there’s anything under the sun that gives you the arsenal and the ammunition to be able to do so, you just have to really commit yourself to, again, don’t get frustrated if you don’t learn, CPA level accounting in one night.

But you know, take the time and really persist and have the discipline to build out a process or how you’re going to learn something. It took me, and it is still taking me, over 11 years, which I’m still kind of in shock when I hear that number.

Trevor Schmidt:  I mean, I think it’s all great advice and, you know, I’ve really enjoyed this conversation and I’m excited to see what’s next for you, what’s next for Fracture, and it’s just been a great conversation today, so I appreciate you sharing the time.

Full Episode Transcript

Hosted by Trevor Schmidt, Founder Shares is brought to you by Hutchison PLLC, and is edited and produced by Earfluence.

Amplify Your Expertise
About the Author
At Earfluence, we are proud to produce this podcast. We believe in sharing amazing stories, providing knowledge to the world, and celebrating diverse voices. Through podcasting, our clients are amplifying their expertise, expanding their networks, building a content engine, and growing their influence. If you're interested in podcasting, we'd love to hear from you! Schedule your free 15 minute podcast consult today.