Cameron Davies of Cruising Kitchens: “You’ve got to have purpose”

You’ve got to have purpose. If you don’t have purpose, you don’t have goals or anything to work towards, you’re going to get stagnant and just get by. If you have purpose you’re going to strive to be the best. I don’t look at what other companies have done. We’re the pioneer and we’ve set […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

You’ve got to have purpose. If you don’t have purpose, you don’t have goals or anything to work towards, you’re going to get stagnant and just get by. If you have purpose you’re going to strive to be the best. I don’t look at what other companies have done. We’re the pioneer and we’ve set the standard in the industry. If you can’t take your success and put it on a platform to help, why do it? I give more money than I make a year thru charitable assets. You have to take your success and do good with it. I spend a lot of time helping people.

As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cameron Davies, owner and president of Cruising Kitchens, who didn’t always build mobile businesses.

In 2005, Cameron started his first business which specialized in customizing and restoring classic cars for celebrities and NFL athletes. In 2010, a food truck owner saw the craftsmanship that Cameron put into his work and proceeded to ask if Cameron could install an audio/video package on their truck. Being the go getter than he is, he immediately agreed and went to work. After learning how these trucks were built, Cameron decided to venture into building them himself, thus Cruising Kitchens was born, and the rest, as they say, is history. First introduced on Discovery Channel’s Blue Collar Backers in 2016, Cameron Davies and his amazing Cruising Kitchens team are back with their very own, self produced reality series, Built for Business, which just wrapped its first season on Motortrend TV and is already in the midst of filming for it’s second.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better, can you tell us a bit about your background and how you got started?

I graduated high school in 1999, went to Baylor University for a couple years, and had more fun than did school. I came back to San Antonio, and started in the airplane upholstery world, and eventually transitioned in building custom cars. From there, I started doing audio visual packages and started doing food trucks for a business in New Braunfels. I taught myself how to do full trucks about a decade ago and now we are the largest food truck manufacturer in the world.

Can you let us into some of the hardships you faced starting your business? Did you ever consider giving up, or did you always want to keep going?

I lost everything building custom cars, a lot of people couldn’t afford their builds. The first guy I started building food trucks for stiffed me and I almost gave up. I couldn’t pay the rent, when we found out we were pregnant with my now 10-year-old daughter Kenadee I had to borrow money from my wife’s family to make ends meet. I decided to build food trucks, and everybody said I was crazy. I said I was going to build more food trucks than anyone else in the world and now 10 years later we do. You’ve just got believe in yourself and work hard. As a business owner there’s no such thing as a 40-hour work week. I’ve worked almost 100 hours a week non-stop. I built a food park called Boardwalk on Bulverde that has gotten nationwide recognition. From there people wanted me to build food trucks based on the popularity of the park. Back then we were 90% mom and pop shops, but today we’re 90% corporate driven. In the midst of the pandemic especially, most companies realize they need mobile assets for more than just marketing, they can be for profit and even be franchised.

Can you tell us a funny mistake you made when you first started, and a lesson you learned from that mistake?

I actually had a client in our shop, and we had a mechanic that was kind of a loose cannon. We were draining the fuel system, and we were upstairs watching from my office. Reese had a torch and the frame caught fire and blew up the side of the truck, and with the client being there it was definitely kind of awkward. I knew then safety has to come first. I had the client leave the building and we rebuild the side of his van, it cost a lot of money, but it was definitely one of the more funny and scary experiences at the shop.

What do you think makes your company standout? Can you share a story or example?

It’s a big family. I have a tattoo on my arm that says without family I am nothing, that’s how I run everything. You come to our facility and we have a 64,000 sq ft. mega facility that has a basketball court in it, then there’s a 73,000 sq. ft. facility down the street that serves as the headquarters for the entertainment arm of this. What I get the biggest kick out of is everyone who comes to our facility, they always talk about we have this family atmosphere and how happy our people are to work here. When the pandemic hit, we were asked to shut down for 2 weeks even though we were labeled as an essential business. Our employees didn’t want to leave, and said they would work for free because we had deadlines to meet. When you give somebody something that they’re proud to do and a place where they’re proud to work, they’re going to be loyal to you. It was very rewarding to see as a business owner.

What tips do you have for colleagues in the industry to help them thrive and not burn out?

Integrate change. When you build the same thing and don’t try to innovate, you’re gonna get burnt out. One thing I love about what I do, we’ve become kind of the industry standard. Always try to improve. Move forward. These are changing times, and they’re challenging times, but if you can find creative ways to do something more efficient and more effective, then run with it. We’ve gone from 18ft trucks to 30ft for the kitchen alone. We built the worlds largest mobile kitchen, a 2 million dollar, which is 97ft bumper to bumper. Things like that don’t come without risk, we built out a lot of competition for this build, and I understood when I took it that there was no room for error and a tight timeline, but without risk you don’t get reward. Be innovative, be your own brand, and create a culture and not just a company.

None of us are able to achieve some success without some help along the way, is there a particular person you’re grateful towards who helped to get you where you are? Can you share a story?

My wife is my rock, she’s always had my back even when we were broke and couldn’t make a living. She continues to have my back even as we’ve grown, but my grandparents were the ones who believed in me from day one. They’re the ones who told me I should start building food trucks. I did my research with them and ran with it. They helped me initially and I paid them back every penny. It was really rewarding. They’re in their 90s now, but at the unveiling of our new mega facility they got to cut the ribbon at the grand opening, which was a huge honor. Finally, my mom is my hero, she’s always been there for me no matter what.

Thank you for that. Let’s shift to the main focus of the interview. The title of this series is how to take your company from good to great. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a good company? What does that look like? How would you define a great company? What does that look like?

A good company makes money, sustains, provides opportunity for employment. A great company is successful and takes care of their employees. When media calls, they always ask how many employees do you have, and I always say none. I have 70 people that work with me, not for me. You’re only as strong as your weakest person, and if you do it together you can accomplish so much more. So, a great company provides valuable assets to employees, not just employment.

Based on your experience and success, what are the 5 most important things you should know in order to lead a company from good to great?

Faith, Family, Charity, Hustle, Innovation

Extensive research suggests that purpose driven businesses are more successful in many different areas. Can you help articulate why businesses should consider becoming a purpose driven business or consider having a social impact in their community?

You’ve got to have purpose. If you don’t have purpose, you don’t have goals or anything to work towards, you’re going to get stagnant and just get by. If you have purpose you’re going to strive to be the best. I don’t look at what other companies have done. We’re the pioneer and we’ve set the standard in the industry. If you can’t take your success and put it on a platform to help, why do it? I give more money than I make a year thru charitable assets. You have to take your success and do good with it. I spend a lot of time helping people.

What would your advice be to a business leader who went thru years of growth but hit a standstill be?

As bad as the pandemic has been, it gave us a lot of insight into how to not be stagnant. We kind of restructured, brought some new people in, and came up with ways on how to maximize our potential. It’s times you need to disconnect, shut down, and really take a step back and look at how you’re running things. The people you have in power, just everyday duties, and make sure you’re maximizing efforts. There are times you grow fast and put the wrong people in place. You don’t let them go, but you put them in positions better suited for their skillset. Sometimes you need to take a step back and reflected on not only your efforts but the efforts of those working with you.

In your experience, what aspect of running a company tends to be the most underestimated?

Communication. Although I’m the CEO of many companies, I’m right there on the forefront of everything. You can’t lose sight of how you got to where you’re at, and I couldn’t have done it alone, so I think that you’ve got to keep a close relationship with everyone that helped you get there. Make sure you have time for people and time to give back. You’re put in power because you work hard, and because you’re there to help.

The main way to increase conversion rate is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that your business has earned that reputation?

We build the mobile units on the road. Warranty is number 1, you can’t take people’s money and never speak to them again. We’re set up for continued success and relationships with clients so all of our clients we have repeat builds from and we become their sole vendor. Repeat clients is what keeps companies in business.

Great customer service and great customer experience are essential in building a beloved brand and be successful in general. In your experience, what are a few things a business leader should know to create a wow customer experience.

We control the entire process, from conceptual drawings, to fabrication and implementation. We provide customers with maintenance manuals and we have warranty systems put in place. We answer questions and assist with warranty.

What are your thoughts on how a company should be engaged with social media?

You have to be careful with social media and stay away from certain topics, but you also can’t oversaturate your base because you can lose engagement. We follow algorithms, and our team works constantly to provide us with great content.

What is the most common mistakes you’ve seen CEOs make when they start a business, and what can be done to prevent those errors.

Not enough work ethic. They get funded and misappropriate funds. I started from scratch and had to work for it. You’ve got to know going in and starting a business its not going to be a 40-hour week and it never will be. Being careful with how you use your funds, and just work hard. Hire people that can help you get to the top.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...


    The Truth is Your Life Doesn’t Have a Single Purpose, so Stop Trying to Figure it Out

    by Dr. Christine Bradstreet

    “When You Work From Home, You Must Separate Home From Work” With Blake Emal and Marco Derhy

    by Marco Derhy

    3 Ways to Find Success and Purpose in Any Job

    by Anthony Bart

    Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

    Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

    Thrive Global
    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.