Don’t try to grow your company too quickly. Everyone wants to be successful quickly and grow their business, but there are growing pains associated with that. It can create cash flow problems, causing you to struggle to cover payroll for the staff that just busted their bump to meet the most impossible deadlines that you set for them to satisfy a customer. Take things slowly and you will be better off in the long run for it.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric Brashear.
With his finger on the pulse of the latest and greatest in recreational entertainment, serial entrepreneur Eric Brashear has developed, managed and sold various companies throughout his 35-year career. It all started when Brashear left his position at Wedges/Ledges in California, the company responsible for the resurgence of stuffed animal crane games, to go out on his own and start Access Entertainment, operating the very games he helped build.
After a thrilling shooting expedition in the desert with friends in 2012, Brashear recognized the potential for an outdoor shooting range and conceptualized his next business, Shoot Las Vegas, with the same innovation that had brought him success with his previous companies. Always seeking to maximize the guest experience, Brashear built climate-controlled mobile firing lines to ensure guests’ comfort during the hot summer and cold winter days. He also created a series of movie posters that tied each pistol to a popular movie, allowing his guests to shoot like their favorite characters/ stars.
In 2017, Brashear purchased the world’s longest monster truck and added a track to the 100-acre shooting range to allow guests the unique opportunity to drive the truck. After learning that many of his shooting guests also frequently participated in off-road tours, he added a fleet of Honda Talons to the roster of attractions and acquired additional land, expanding his “adrenaline amusement park” to almost 400 acres. Recognizing the guest benefit to creating a one-stop-shop of popular extreme activities, he branded the park “Adrenaline Mountain” and added axe throwing, archery, shooting, digging with earthmovers, car crushing and glamping, along with areas for hosting corporate groups and an outdoor wedding chapel for extreme and shotgun weddings.
Brashear’s vision for Adrenaline Mountain continues to evolve and expand, with plans to add miles of custom off-road trails, build Las Vegas’ longest single-span zipline, as well as other extreme attractions.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
After many years in the event industry, I chose to make the switch all because of a day in the desert. On New Year’s Day 2012, a friend invited me to go shooting in the desert. I originally declined the offer as I wasn’t a big pistol guy, but she talked me into it. We had access to a variety of pistol including an AR-15, AK-47, and many more. Despite being reluctant to go, I had a great time and thought to myself: “there is a business here”. There were very few outdoor shooting ranges in the Las Vegas area and I recognized the need for it.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Without a college education and very little work experience, I started my own company at 21 years old. The company was netting about 15,000 dollars per month and I thought I must have the Midas touch! I ended up selling that company in favor of starting an arcade game manufacturing company. I spent the next 10 years learning that I did not have the Midas touch. I learned the hard way about paying taxes on time and other infrastructure necessities. With little work experience, I didn’t know how to manage people effectively and always felt I was groping my way through a dark room looking for success.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I knew as a teen that I wanted to be a business owner. I think the lessons I learned (both easy and hard) helped propel me because I was learning how to be in business. There was a time I had no respect for formal education, but as I continued to grope through the “dark room” I envied people who were educated and had a road map on what to do. My advice to those starting out, finish school first and then start your business. You’ll be better for it.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Business is good today, but it can always be better. Every tough time I experienced and every hard lesson that I’ve learned, I’ve learned through trial and error. It’s been a long and difficult process, but the more I learn, the more potential I have to create something bigger. Every business I have started I’ve sold for more than the one before, which is exciting for me. Adrenaline Mountain will more than likely be my final business before I retire, which puts more pressure on me to make sure it’s successful and is profitable enough to command “retirement money.”
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I started Adrenaline Mountain, formally known as Shoot Las Vegas, many of my previous clients in the event industry offered shooting to their guests. My previous company was a special event rental company, where we would supply products for events sized anywhere from several hundred to several thousand people. I was accustomed to supplying on a larger scale, so when I started Shoot Las Vegas, I invested in a mobile firing line that we could take to the local shooting range and set up for events. Many of my event contacts said they hosted shooting events several times a month, so it seemed like a no brainer. The line requires 13 people to set it up and take it down and I was receiving calls to book events for 5–10 people at a time. When asking my clients about their shooting events, I failed to ask how many people would be hosted at these events. I based it off of my previous experience and ended up with a model that didn’t add up.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
As someone who worked in the special events industry for 25 years, I learned the importance of attention to detail and presentation, and have been able to implement that into Adrenaline Mountain. I used to describe the company as “special events meets shooting”, but now with the addition of off-roading, axe throwing, car crushing, and monster trucks, it’s become so much more. I’ve incorporated everything that I learned from hundreds of amazing event professionals over the years into my business and it’s paying off.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
My advice to avoid burnout is to take things slowly and don’t try to grow too fast. We all have a natural ambition that pushes us to want to grow our businesses rapidly. With previous endeavors, I would double my revenue every year, which made me painfully aware of cash flow challenges, resulting in a lot of stress and frustration on my end. In my experience, slow methodical growth is the key, although it’s not always my first choice, I had to shift my perspective. I used to work seven days a week, so when something would go wrong I’d feel completely deflated. Once I stepped back to look at what I created and was proud of it, I no longer felt that way. It’s the most invaluable way to prevent burnout.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I would say there is a collection of people, including some that I learned what not to do. Spending time with like-minded, intelligent people can be very inspirational. I attend a weekly Scotch and Squash group (not in that order) where we play squash and drink Scotch. The host has curated a great group of people inclusive of doctors, lawyers, business owners, and more. We talk about various topics and then collectively share our opinions on whatever the issue at hand is. The only agenda is to play squash, drink Scotch, and have dinner. Since I started spending time with this group of individuals, it has made a tangible difference in the quality of both my professional and personal life.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Adrenaline Mountain provides an experience that leaves each guest with memories for years to come. I strive to be fair with my guests and not take advantage of them or capitalize on their weaknesses. There are a lot of businesses out there that will find every possible way to make an extra dollar, even at the expense of others, and I don’t like to operate that way.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- It’s not enough to simply pay your employees well. They are people who want to feel good about the job they’re doing. You have to take the time to communicate with them respectfully and not overreact when something goes wrong. When you treat your employees with respect, they are more willing to work harder for you. As a fairly new business owner, I would stay up all night organizing the warehouse that they had let go. When everyone came into work the next morning, I blew up on them, yelling about the work that I had to do because they let it get out of control. Due to the way I reacted to the situation, they all walked out and quit with no notice. I learned quickly not to do that again.
- Don’t try to grow your company too quickly. Everyone wants to be successful quickly and grow their business, but there are growing pains associated with that. It can create cash flow problems, causing you to struggle to cover payroll for the staff that just busted their bump to meet the most impossible deadlines that you set for them to satisfy a customer. Take things slowly and you will be better off in the long run for it.
- Be prepared for a rainy day. As I have seen recently, the unimaginable can happen and it did. The 1 October mass shooting at Mandalay Bay in 2017 caused our business to be cut in half. Most recently due to COVID, we experienced the effects of the Las Vegas dancer being completely shut down, which impacted us more severely than the shooting. Luckily I had some reserve set aside for a rainy day and with the SBA assistance, we’ve been able to stick it out. Unfortunately, not every business has been that lucky. It just goes to show how important a rainy day fund is because you just never know what the circumstances will be.
- Be cautious with who you trust. I learned this the hard way with a friend that I thought I could trust, but it turns out I never had all of the information. I had a casual friend offer to loan me some money for needed expenses. Due to the fact that we were friends, I just downloaded a contract from Rocket Lawyer to document the fundamentals, but didn’t get a lawyer involved. After the 1 October shooting, due to business levels dropping, we made a few installment late. That “friend” exploited a clause in the contract that if I was ever late, he could accelerate the note. I knew something was fishy and did some research on this friend and came to find that he was a con man. He had even contacted my employees and told them that he was taking over my company. A two-year court battle ensued despite me paying the note earlier than the contract stated, which resulted in 200,000 dollars in legal fees. The moral of the story is to be mindful of who you choose to trust when it comes to business.
- 1M dollars is not as much money as you think it is. A serial entrepreneur at heart, I have a history of starting, building, and selling businesses. I’ll admit that I was lured by the thought of a large bank account balance, especially after stressful times in the business. In hindsight, I feel that I sold my businesses too early. Unless you are able to sell for enough money to retire with, waking up the morning after the wire transfer hits you’re also waking up tp the fact that you don’t have an income. It can be pretty scary depending on your situation, but I’ll tell you from experience that 1M dollars is not that much money in the business world.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could start a movement, it would be to start businesses in a charity’s name where they would receive ongoing profits instead of just giving a one-time donation.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow us on Facebook and Instagram @adrenalinemountain
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.