Recently we had the pleasure of speaking with Daniel Alarik, the CEO of Grunt Style! During this interview we were able to ask him some questions about his time in service, his transition into grunt style, and the struggles of getting his company where it is today! We discussed various things throughout our conversation but the one thing you learned quickly about Daniel, he is humble. Daniel has this presence, even through the phone, of someone who does what it takes to achieve their goal and he has a way of projecting that motivation to other people as well. It was honestly a great learning experience for all of us, and we hope that it can assist others transitioning out of the military also!
First we just want to give a huge shout out to Grunt Style, Daniel Alarik and Christine for their support along the way and making this happen! It is awesome to be able to provide some insight into the mind of a CEO especially one that transitioned from the military like many of our readers and community members!
(The following are the Questions and Answers from our discussion with Daniel Alarik. For the article purposes, RC : Rob Cox – FTG Community Director, DA: Daniel Alarik – CEO, Grunt Style)
RC: So what I did was, I asked the community what questions they would like to ask you, and I just got like, a bunch of responses, so I guess I will just go through them, if that’s cool?
DA: Alright, Let’s get weird (Laughs)
RC: This one is from DBLDeathDealer, he would like to know where you grew up?
DA: Alright so originally I was born in Anaheim California but I grew up in right outside the Chicago area suburbs it was still Suburban but had plenty of outdoor area so it was fun. I got to play in the pond as a kid so I used to catch tadpoles when I was a little kid growing up and go fishing down there when I was younger.
RC: He also wants to know when and why did you join the military
DA: It was 2000 so I just graduated from high school, I didn’t want to go to college, my grades sucked, I was a very average student. I think I graduated exactly at 2.5GPA. I just didn’t care about school at all I didn’t want to go to college specifically because you went to college and you had to go get a job then you have to go to work the next 40-50 years your life for something that didn’t really matter. I wanted to go do something that mattered, something that I felt was important, I wanted to do something bigger than myself, and the Army just made sense.
RC: Did you transition directly into Grunt Style when you got out or was this something you planned for you were getting out, basically how did Grunt Style become a thing?
DA: So I was a drill sergeant out of Fort Benning, Georgia. Brand new wife, brand new baby, I hadn’t seen them in nearly two years, my baby probably like nine months. So my wife’s like “hey you need to start thinking about getting out” so I’m like okay great. What does an infantry drill sergeant do when he gets home? Probably like Paul Blart Mall Cop or something. I didn’t want to leave and I was transitioning in the National Guard in Illinois so I thought how do I take it with me and better yet can I share it with others? The best way to show off your pride is to wear it on your back, so I started making some T-shirts and slept it in my car selling around the country for about two years and now we’re here with over 200 employees, we design, produce, and ship our own product!
RC: So is there a moment when you were selling things out of your car and stuff and it suddenly took off and you realized that you made it?
DA: Not while I was selling out of my car, those years sucked! So what I would do is I would do those and stretches so it wasn’t like the entire 3 years living in my car, I would do like scheduled trips and we go to different posts and I would do a route and it would take like 1 to 3 weeks of doing that then I would head back home and work maybe one or two other jobs during that time or something like that so it’s very sporadic put it was working the entire time the problem was I really didn’t know what I was doing I literally Googled what is business cuz I had no idea what I was doing. But there was a moment in January 2012 that really was the turning point for us and it was down in Las Vegas it was our first trade show and I say us because it was me and my wife she would help me with the work she was like hey it’s not working we’ve been doing this for a few years you need to start thinking about shutting it down and I said well okay I guess you’re right we’re spinning our Wheels not really doing a whole lot for us and we’re just burning money and again I started the whole company for 1200 bucks. We didn’t have a lot of money at this point, we were broke but we weren’t poor if you understand the difference, so we had our first trade show in Las Vegas and I’m like listen we’re going to do this trade show I can’t make 6 grand at this one trade show then we’re going to shut down our doors for good. So we hop on the plane, we take the free shuttle back to the hotel we walk a mile and half to the grocery store,we buy a jar peanut butter and a loaf of bread and that’s all we have for the next two and a half 3 days, My Wife had one Groupon, so we had a hamburger on one night. We would hustle this entire show telling everybody about this great product, what Grunt Style means, what it means to us, what it means to others etc etc, and by the end of the show we hopped back on the plane and we were just exhausted and as I’m tallying up all the receipts and it comes to $6,200, just enough to be depressed about staying in business and I thought damn why is this so hard? So I pulled out a yellow legal pad and drew a line down the middle and on the left side I wrote down everybody that I believed was doing business better than myself and what they were doing better, and I thought to myself okay what can I do that the winners are doing how can I use them to mentor me cause I didn’t know them personally, I didn’t know anyone that was successful in business, my family didn’t have any money, so I didn’t know anybody. I started watching them on social media, watching how they operate their stores and slowly but surely I started to pick up a few things! We realized if you can humble yourself enough to realize there are people who are much better than you and if you are able to watch what the winners do you can be successful as well.
RC: Could you tell us more about your Beer Guarantee? I just recently used it, and it’s amazing!
DA: So, when you’re first starting out you don’t have a name for yourself people don’t know if they’re going to take a risk on you right? With our stuff you may be paying a little more than your 3 pack of shirts at Walmart but you’re getting the guarantee that it’s good for life and that does two things. One, it gives you the confidence that you’re getting a great product and two, it forces US to have great products, because I can’t afford to have a bajillion returns, I have to keep it under a certain number and we will honor every single one no matter what, we don’t quibble, we don’t ask questions. When we get these returns, we know this one’s coming back because this piece washed out or this thread is messed up and it allows us to identify the problems and fix them and put out better and better products in the future.
RC: I can attest to that! I recently used it when I ordered 3 shirts one size too small, and I didn’t have ANY issues getting credit back from Grunt Style and getting my stuff back within 1 week!
DA: Well I am glad to hear that it is working!
RC: Has there ever been a shirt that you guys had made that just flopped that, just didn’t work, wasn’t good and just wasn’t selling?
DA: All the time, all the time. The rule in business is, and this is something I learned the hard way, promote the winners and you kill the losers, so if your team is the average sum of everybody on it and you have laggers or people who can’t pass their PT test or they can’t shoot BRM. well they still make up the sum of your team. So the faster you can rotate those things out or enhance them, the faster your whole crew will become more effective, and it’s the same thing in the product world as well. I’m not going to try to promote the losers, I’m not going to try to make them better, I’m going to kill it, it’s done, get it out. People vote with their wallets, there is no marketing strategy or campaign that’s going to significantly help it, all you’re doing is throwing good money after bad. The same thing with the team member and I don’t mean if you have someone on your team that sucks you should kill them, but the attitude that person really is what makes the most impact so if people want them on the team and they improve the team then yes they’re adding value.
RC: So just one final question, do you have any words of wisdom to other veterans who are thinking of starting their own business after getting out of the Military?
DA: Absolutely! BE HUMBLE! Find someone that is doing better than you and find out what they’re doing right. If you’re starting a business, you have to spend 80% of your energy in some form of sales, you have to sell your product that’s the fastest way to know if you have something that’s going to work or not and just because you fail on this product or this business doesn’t mean you’re going to fail permanently. Business is all about how fast you can fail, if you think about it, it’s like Land Nav, you know whats on the map and it made sense to go from here to here, but you happen to just run into some deep gulch or some wait a minute vines that you didn’t see on the map, so now you can change your course and circumvent them and still get to your goal.
Once Again we just want to say a huge Thanks! To the Grunt Style Team for giving us this opportunity and we ask that if you haven’t already, head over to www.GruntStyle.com and check out their website and their products!