There’s a saying that “under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training.” I’ve found that in business you can’t be too emotionally invested in outcomes that you are expecting.
John Timar is a Navy veteran and serves as President & COO of Kill Cliff, America’s fastest-growing clean energy drink company. He engineered the brand’s breakout growth and led the launch of Kill Cliff CBD as the first and largest national brand to introduce a CBD beverage. A start-up executive at heart, John previously led sales at a software company called TerraGo, which pioneered the first B2B platform-as-a-service Smart Grid software application. He also built a $40m subsidiary at Control Risks in 24 months. John served as a U.S. Navy SEAL and actively advises startup companies and mentors veterans. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and daughter and enjoys playing guitar and practicing jiu-jitsu.
What was your experience in the military?
I enlisted in the Navy in 1995 and spent my entire tour in the Naval Special Warfare community. I served as a Navy SEAL with SEAL Team Eight in Virginia, deploying to the Balkans and the Middle East. My time in the SEAL Teams was amazing. We went out everyday, pushed ourselves to the limits and prepared for the unexpected and unpredictable. Everything was extreme. The camaraderie was unbelievable. It was an incredible experience.
Tell us about your transition from military to civilian life?
It was more difficult than I had imagined. I joined the Navy with an incentive called the “Navy College Fund” and went to college following my enlistment. The jobs and opportunities I had dreamed of pursuing following college didn’t materialize as I had anticipated and I spent several years barely getting by and doing odd jobs. Nothing went as planned. That was really tough, especially having rolled the dice giving up a job that I loved. I basically had to start all over and build myself back up from nothing.
What is your business and what do you do?
I lead the country’s fastest growing clean energy drink company, called Kill Cliff. We were founded and are operated by Navy SEALs and were the first ever official partner with the Navy SEAL Foundation. We’ve donated over $1m to military charities, in some cases donating before we could even pay our own expenses. In June 2019, we were the first nationally distributed beverage brand to launch a CBD beverage and are currently the fastest growing CBD beverage in America, as well.
What are 3 things you learned in the military that you have applied to your business?
– How to win.
In BUD/S, you are overwhelmed with chaos, an unrelenting beatdown, and continuous exposure to the cold. Instructors urge you to focus your mind on succeeding in the moment and not succumbing to fear of the future, which you cannot control in the present. These lessons apply to the uncertainty of business and how to make progress at pretty much anything. Focus on what you can control and win that battle. Do it consistently.
– How to adapt.
I don’t think anything ever went as planned in the military. You learn how to draw upon your strengths and surmount unforeseen obstacles. There is a lot of preparation that goes into operating well in the face of unexpected realities. There’s a saying that “under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training.” I’ve found that in business you can’t be too emotionally invested in outcomes that you are expecting. You have to be able to change on the fly and adapt to win. How well you can do this reflects your preparation and planning to deal with contingencies. With this mindset, it may also force you to contemplate what type of employees you hire. A one trick pony… or maybe not?
– Hard work and tenacity beats talent.
I am a very average guy and became a SEAL after graduating a BUD/S class with a 94% attrition rate. I wasn’t the fastest, smartest, or strongest person in that class. I just didn’t quit, had a passion for achieving a dream, and continued to persist. I believed in myself and outperformed people way more talented than myself. The same holds true in business. I seek to hire employees who are driven and have something to prove. Those with passion and a thirst to learn get my attention. I’ll take a person like that any day of the week over a specialist.
How have you used your success to send the ladder back down? (pay it forward)
I regularly mentor military people leaving the service. I participate in programs with The Honor Foundation and Elite Meet, in particular, to support special operators navigating their way into civilian life. I hire veterans when I can. Likewise, I do my best to support a variety of local military focused charities through Kill Cliff, including the Atlanta chapters of Merging Vets & Players and Bunker Labs. At Kill Cliff, we also endeavor to become the largest donor to the Navy SEAL Foundation.
Where can readers find you on social media?
Check me out on Linkedin under my name and on Instagram under the handle @jt.hammer. Please make sure to follow our company on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter via @killcliff.