Bret Rasmussen Transcript

Clint Betts

Brett. Thank you so much for coming on. I want to talk about your journey, I want to talk about why footwear, but first give us a little background on you.

Bret Rasmussen

Yeah, thanks for having me. I'm excited to share more about Kuru, and what we're doing, and why we matter in the Utah ecosystem, and the greater ecosystem of eliminating foot pain.

I'm Brett Rasmussen, I'm the founder and CEO of Kuru. Launched Kuru, let's see…I started developing the technology and decided I was going to start a shoe company. Actually, in fifth grade I wanted to start a shoe company. I actually in earnest decided to chase the dream in 2000, the end of ‘05, 2006, really. Developed the technology, filed for a provisional patent, started working in my network while working on building a network into the footwear industry. I had no experience in footwear prior to that and decided to pursue Kuru.

Before that, I worked at a startup. So straight out of college, I worked at a... Well actually in college, I got the job working for the startup and then continued to work for them after for a short period. It was a carbon fiber technology that ran out of cash, so they laid everyone off. We were trying to commercialize a technology that was really difficult to manufacture. I worked for them, learned a lot about what not to do when starting a company. It was a great learning experience. It was a really promising technology, we just couldn't make it happen.

Before that, I went to BYU, got a degree in business finance and actually a minor in English.

Clint Betts

Oh great. That's a good mix of degrees, actually. I really like that.

Bret Rasmussen

Yeah. I disliked English a lot throughout my high school career and I swore I'd never take any more English courses than I absolutely needed to. Then when I got to college and took English 101 and learned English is about persuasion, and tools of writing, and tools of persuasion. I'm like, whoa, this is kind of interesting. I like this stuff. So understanding the power of language and communication. Obviously a very, very powerful thing to have in a business environment.

Let's see, I can go back to my childhood. You want to go back that far?

Clint Betts

Yeah, of course, man. I want to go all the way back. This is going to be like the best free therapy session you've ever received.

Bret Rasmussen

I love it. So let's see. I was born to an immigrant mother and a father who grew up in a small town in Idaho called Soda Springs.

Clint Betts

Oh, Soda Springs. I've been to Soda Springs. That's a great spot.

Bret Rasmussen

Have you?

Clint Betts

Oh, of course.

Bret Rasmussen

Yeah. You've probably been to, is it Lava Hot Springs? Just north of Soda, right?

Clint Betts

That's exactly right.

Bret Rasmussen

Yeah. That bustling metropolis of Soda Springs that I don't think the population has grown much since my dad was there. My mom's actually an immigrant from Italy. I was born to them, and then growing up, we actually lived kind of all around. We bounced around, lived in Indiana, lived over in Europe, in Italy, lived in Taiwan. Actually went back to Indiana and then graduated high school in Texas. So kind of lived all over the place.

Clint Betts

You said you were thinking about building, or creating, or starting a shoe company all the way back in like 2005, I think you said. Why? What was that? Why shoes?

Bret Rasmussen

Well, actually it was in fifth grade that I wanted to start a shoe company and then 2005 is when I decided to actually pursue the dream. The childhood dream. When I was a kid in fifth grade, I don't know, I just got fascinated with footwear. I think I can remember one friend in one of my classes saying I got these shoes called Nike Air, and they make me run faster. They make me jump higher. I can shoot better. I was like, “Wait, what? Shoes can help you do that.” He'd go, "Oh yeah. I'm a better athlete," type thing. So the concept of you can put something on your body that changes the way your body works I think just fascinated me.

I think I have a little bit of an engineering mind or interest. You know, tinkering and solving problems. I used to build remote control cars, and airplanes that I would fly, and build forts. I was always kind of tinkering and trying to figure out how to assemble things and build things. I think that just really fascinated me, “Wait, we can engineer something that goes on the human body that can actually change the way the body performs, or enhance the way the body performs.”

I used to sketch shoes and fortunately my mom has all my original sketches, and drawings, and catalogs and everything. It's funny in that pile of keepsakes, I have a page where I had all these companies that I wanted to start. Next to shoe one, I put “number one goal.” I don't remember when I did that. I think that might've been junior high, maybe high school when I wrote that sheet.

So I went to college and was not planning on being an entrepreneur. I was like, well now I'm a grownup, so I have to do grown up things. Starting companies is what kids do because that's what I wanted to do as a kid. You know, that was my point of reference. My dad was a businessman himself, but worked for the same company his whole career. So I was like, well, that's what I'm going to do, because that's what I knew. As I learned more about entrepreneurship and I was like, whoa, this is pretty cool and fun and exciting.

I'm actually, in a lot of ways, very risk averse. I'm not a big fan of risk. In hindsight I realized, I'm not a big fan of uncalculated risks. At the time I thought, no, I want a job. I want stability. I want financial stability. I don't want all this up and down because growing up, what I equated entrepreneurship was a lot of small business owners where one year it's up the next year down. One year it's up, next year it's down. They might have to shut down. That scared me. I didn't want that kind of up and down in my career and income.

Then I was like wait a minute, Bill Gates, he's an entrepreneur? Oh, Steve Jobs, well, they're financially okay. Maybe you can achieve financial stability and be an entrepreneur. So that's what kind of shifted my gears. Like I said, I ended up going out of college, working for a startup because I was like, I have no clue how to start a company. I mean, in hindsight now of course with experience, you learn it's not that difficult to go create an entity. Even that intimidated me coming out of college. How do you even... you’ve got to have lawyers, you got to do this and that. No, you just go to the state of Utah's website and spend 35 bucks and register and boom you're in business.

Clint Betts

Hey, did you study Phil Knight?

Bret Rasmussen

Study, no. I've read the book Shoe Dog. Great book.

Clint Betts

Yeah, Shoe Dog is awesome. Were you fascinated by Nike? Because that's obviously the biggest... That's one of the greatest brands ever created, right. Probably the biggest shoe company. They're a competitor of yours now, which is fascinating. Did you look at them? You said you mentioned hey, growing up, other kids were wearing Nikes and saying they could play better basketball and that type of stuff. What have you learned from looking at that company and the way they've run it?

Bret Rasmussen

Yeah, Nike's definitely admirable and what they've accomplished, and Phil Knight obviously is an incredible visionary that has pulled off... I mean, he's completely transformed what we expected out of our footwear, right. He and Nike of course. Before Nike, footwear just wasn't as compelling. I mean, it's definitely still a fashion item for sure. It just wasn't as compelling from a brand and what we thought was possible.

I think Nike is for sure. I mean, they're a marketing machine. They make great product as well. They know how to sell that product in a way that makes it so desirable. Little admission, I kind of hated Nike because I was going to go kick their butts, you know. I was going to go beat them. That's a great vision to have. I don't think it's going to happen. Nike is a pretty impressive brand.

What would I say I've learned. It's funny, reading the book, Shoe Dogs, actually one of my employees, she started reading it before I did. She was like, "Hey, have you heard of the book? Have you read it?" And I'm like, “No, not yet. Have you?” She's like, "I'm reading it." She's like, "Brett, this is everything we've been dealing with." I'm like, “Really?” So I'm like, I got to read this thing. As I was reading, I was like, oh my gosh, we dealt with this. Oh, we have a similar story. Oh, that happened to us too. It was really interesting as I learned his story and read about it, and realizing man, we faced a lot of these same issues.

With factory substituting materials, simply not making. We had a factory that ran off. Just literally the owner just disappeared. I had met with them and he said, "Give me $30 or $40 grand deposit and I promise you I'll make you your next order." My intuition just said, no, don't do it. Just don't do it. Just didn't feel right. Two months later he literally just disappeared, and his employees showed up and everything had been locked. To this day, we've never heard from him since. So we've had some crazy stories.

We have stories where factories substituted materials out and we had to recall, or not recall, but we had to quit selling the shoes. We went ahead and basically gave every single customer a credit towards another pair. So we've definitely had some similar hiccups in our journey as well.

I would say one of the things is just perseverance, and find your voice, and find out who your core customer is. I think that's where Nike, they persevered, man, for decades. They finally stumbled into this technology called Nike Air, which was visual, which completely transformed things. Then you add Jordan and the Jordan brand on top of that, and it took them to the stratosphere. It took some time though, they were patient. They didn't have this, like... There's definitely an urgency to compete and win. They had to discover their way. I think that's one thing that I admire a lot is the grit and the perseverance of will.

Clint Betts

Who is Kuru's customer? Who are you tackling? Who are you marketing toward?

Bret Rasmussen

It's funny, we stumbled into this. Of course, I had a business plan and I pitched to investors when I launched Kuru. If I had executed my business plan we'd be dead today. The business plan and the brand I wanted to build is very different from who we are. So we actually stumbled into our customer.

I invented a technology that I patented, and it's shaped like the heel, so it's very rounded. Most shoes are flat. The midsole would be flat, and our technology is cupped. It's actually designed to cup and flex inward with every step. As you walk, it just flexes inward, and it cuts that fat pad. Well come to find out, that's actually really, really good for people with foot problems. If they have all kinds of plantar fasciitis, heel pain, these kinds of things.

The other fascinating thing is that it doesn't just afflict out of shape people. You can be young, you can be old. Of course, as we age that fat pad gets smashed and flatten in the heel, and so that causes more problems. That's nature's cushioning starting to fail us as we age. However, even as athletes, that can be hard on that same fat pad. There's a lot of different activities. So in-shape, not in-shape, old, young, gender, it doesn't matter. We're all at risk of foot pain. If you have foot pain, there's a pretty good chance that there's a Kuru that can help you with that and put your body in a position to heal itself.

In addition to that, the reason it's able to do that is this patented technology that keeps that natural cushioning healthier under the foot, and actually amplifies why nature put it there in the first place.

Clint Betts

Yeah. That's interesting. You said something interesting there that I want to double click on. And that was you came up with a business plan. Had you followed the business plan, the business wouldn't have survived from it. It made me think you studied business in college. Is that useful for those who are thinking about what they want to do in college, all that type of stuff. Is going to business school or getting an MBA or all these questions, these debates rage all the time in our world. But what do you think?

Bret Rasmussen

Yes, I think education is always valuable. Do you have to pay top dollar at a top school to get a good education? No, I don't think you do. There's absolutely advantages to going to a structured program like a business school, or university or things like that. I'm a big fan of education. I'm a big fan of the discipline that education brings. If someone's able to exercise that self-discipline without having a teacher and finals and all this structure to force them to learn, then go knock yourself out and do it.

I'm constantly learning. I'm constantly reading. I've probably read, I don't know, 10 books this year, 15 books this year already, or more. So constantly reading, constantly learning because there's no end to knowledge. Having said that, when I've talked to people, if they want to be an entrepreneur, typically I say, you know what? For me, my perspective, accounting or finance, study that. Because if you have that understanding, accounting is the language of business. You can learn a lot about marketing. You can learn a lot about supply chain. You can learn a lot about operations outside of school.

I've not met too many people who taught themselves accounting out of school, outside of school or a structured class. I don't know, sorry to all the accountants who are listening to this, but for the rest of us that don't think like accountants, it's kind of tough to teach ourselves accounting outside of school.

Clint Betts

Yeah. That's a good point.

Bret Rasmussen

That's typically been my advice, take enough finance or accounting classes in school, if you're going go to college to learn enough. Because that's so powerful in understanding what's working for the business and what's not.

Clint Betts

By the way, Kuru is doing phenomenally well. At what point did you realize we have something here? You have the patent, you'd figured out that stuff. At what point did you realize we've got something?

Bret Rasmussen

Yeah. Well, I'm glad that's what the rumors, the rumblings are. That Kuru... And we are actually. It's been great for us.

Clint Betts

No, people don't understand. You're building something really interesting here. The only thing I can compare it to is Allbirds. When Allbirds, a few years ago... and I don't think people realized how big Allbirds was going to get. We've had Joe and those types of people on the show and stuff. But I think what you've got here is really incredible. Well, at what point did you know that was true?

Bret Rasmussen

Let's see, I can go back to the sad story when we launched at the end of '08. Lehman Brothers had just gone bankrupt. I was in China, actually, at our factory partner at the time overseeing the production. I called home. Actually, my dad, he was helping me. He had retired, and he's an accountant actually. So he's like, "Oh, I'll help you do your books." So I was like, "Hey dad, how are things going?" He's like, "Lehman Brothers just went bankrupt." And I was like, "Okay, what does that mean?" He goes, "Well, the financial markets are completely melting." Okay. What does that mean? He's like, "You know what, don't worry about it. Just get the shoes made." Probably a good thing. I was too young to understand and appreciate what was really happening.

We launched right after Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, and it was a terrible time to launch a shoe brand. So come 2009, we had the pivot. And actually, no wait, we launched... We were actually selling through stores and we had an online presence, e-comm presence, but wasn't really our focus. It was mainly brick and mortar. Well, we pivoted in 2009 because brick and mortar just got pummeled from the economic recession. So we went direct to consumer and I was like, “I don't know if it's going to work, but we're just going to start selling and see what happens.” All the cash was tied up in inventory. I had raised less than half of my target raise and financing. I had spent all of that financing in tooling up for mass production and buying inventory.

I was like, who am I going to market to? Because I can't market to just hikers, or runners, or whatever because I'm up against the Nikes of the world, and the Merrells. It's like, what am I going to do? And sure enough, customers started calling saying, "Hey, I bought your shoes at such and such general sporting goods." Or, you know, whatever the store was, “And, you've completely changed my life." How did we do that? I used to walk my dog every morning and I couldn't for the last two years. I bought your shoes and now I'm walking every day. Really? Why is that? Well, I had these foot problems. What foot problems do you have? Oh, I have plantar fasciitis. What's plantar fasciitis?

So I started hearing customers calling in and they were actually calling to place another order. They were like, "I went back to the store and they were sold out or they didn't have a very good selection. Surely this brand has more than what this store is selling. And you do, so can I place an order?" That's when we pivoted and said, “Hey, I think this helps people with their foot problems.”

We created a landing page, started spending money on online advertising, and it just took off. It absolutely just took off. I was like, I don't know if it's going to work. Let's see if it helps. Customers are telling me it's helping, and actually, there were some doctors that I talked to, some podiatrists and said,” Hey, customers are telling me this. Does that make sense? Why would they be saying that?” The podiatrists were like, "Oh yeah. Well, your technology does this and it's shaped this way, And it's designed to do these things. That would make sense that they would experience this level of benefit." I'm like really?

I didn't know that, I just knew what's biomechanically correct, and what the science says. How do we marry those together in making a better shoe. In doing that, we invented this technology. So I took good principles, but I had no clue it was going to solve plantar fasciitis, or foot pain, or whatever customers are telling us. We started marketing to that and it completely launched us. We got a lot of traction early on with that and have grown organically, basically bootstrapped ever since.

Clint Betts

How did you figure out the supply chain stuff? I think a lot of people would be interested in how you worked with China, how you even figured out that whole process. How did you figure that out?

Bret Rasmussen

Skype had recently launched when I launched Kuru. I'm not sure how many of us have been using Skype, especially during the pandemic. I think it's all Zoom and Google Meets or whatever. Back then Skype was just getting traction. There was a lot of Skyping.

I'll tell you what though, I had no clue how to make a shoe when I launched Kuru. I had no experience in the shoe business and never even worked in a shoe store. No clue what I was doing. So I started networking, started asking a lot of questions. Found a local design agency here in Utah who designed the product. Then I said, well, who can I talk to? And they knew some people in the shoe business, and they told me about this shoe trade show up in Portland. I started attending that, and then there I would walk around and ask, "Who do you know? Who do you know? Who do you know? I want to start a shoe company." They're like, "Are you sure? You really shouldn't go into this business, Bret. This is a terrible business to start a company." And I'm like, no, I'm starting a shoe company. I've been wanting to do this since fifth grade. I'm going to do it. And they're all, "Okay then, well go talk to this person." Or "I'll introduce you to this guy or that gal or whatever."

So I made some connections in Asia in anticipation of traveling over there. Then I said, well, I'm going to come over and I'm going to spend... Gosh that first trip was probably three or four weeks. And I just did the rounds and just figured it out. I like to travel, and it was a huge adventure. I can't read Chinese, I can't speak Chinese. Even though we lived in Taiwan for a year growing up, I forgot it all. Whatever I learned for that year, as an eight year old, I forgot completely. Other than [foreign language 00:22:08] which is thank you, and [foreign language 00:22:10] which is how are you doing? So I completely forgot everything, and I was like, well, I'll go figure it out.

I just started traveling around China and making contacts, asking questions, and visiting factories. It was not easy. It was a ton, a ton, a ton of networking, and a ton of perseverance and not giving up. Because I kid you not, there are so many people in the shoe business that I would go to these shoe trade shows where the brands were too. I'd meet some of the owners of smaller brands, and they're like, "Dude, you're crazy, man. You don't have any money. You don't have any financing. You've never been in this industry before. Good luck, man." They're kind of like, nice kid here wants to start a shoe company. Wish you luck. That'll never happen. I admire the perseverance in Nike. And that's really what's made Kuru successful is just the grit and perseverance and not giving up, and just asking over and over again.

I had an internship back in college, actually, selling life insurance of all things. It was an excellent program. It actually taught me a ton. One of the things that I use to this day that I learned in that internship was how to ask for referrals, and how to ask for introductions to other people that I don't know yet. Learning that skill really has been so invaluable. I'll talk to someone like, “Hey, this has been great. Thanks for your input. Hey, who else should I talk to that might be able to help me?” It's a simple process and I was never taught that until I took that internship, and it was so powerful. Because people want to help, right?

I have people reach out to me and I love to help and make introductions, and help them chase their dream. I also say, Hey, look, all the advice I give you is worth what you paid for it. If I listened to all the advice that I was given, I would have never started this thing. So I'm going to tell you my honest perspective, and you may want to ignore it and just go do it anyways.

Clint Betts

Once you figured out the supply chain stuff, and working with that, and getting that all sorted out. And I'm sure you still have things that you deal with. But you've figured it out at this point. How do you think about marketing? How do you think about branding? How do you think... because that's a huge part of the world that you're in.

Bret Rasmussen

At the end of the day, we are a brand and actually whenever I talked to anyone, I said, I don't care what industry, or business, or service you're providing, you are a brand. You can build an incredible sweet, strong brand, or you can just ignore it and let it just organically do whatever it's going to do. At the end of the day, we're all building brands, and brands matter to people because that's what they rely on. That's who they trust. As individuals, we connect with people who share similar values, who we feel we can trust and believe in. That is obviously an important part of what we are doing at Kuru.

Delivering on that brand promise is critical, and we're not perfect at it. We make mistakes, we fall short, our product doesn't work for everyone. We wish it did. Unfortunately, or I guess I shouldn't say unfortunate. Fortunately, we have incredible customer stories that our customers tell us and share and write. That sets an expectation for new customers. They say, well, geez, if it happened... Look, everyone's having success, and everyone's having these results. I expect the same. So we really try to do a lot to manage the expectations to say, “Hey, this is powerful. Our shoes are doing tremendous things for hundreds of thousands of people. We hope it does the same for you.” We're really generous with how we do our returns policy and things like this because we recognize we're not going to nail it a hundred percent for every customer.

The other thing is we've done a lot of investment in the customer experience side of things. We've got an incredible... Kuru Gurus is what they're called. And our Kuru Gurus, their job is to become experts not only in Kuru's products, but in how to help the customer. We've invested a lot there. We've got some great leaders there that are doing a tremendous job at really transforming our customer's experience and really connecting with them and helping them understand what they need. What's going to work for them.

Then on the marketing front, it's interesting, we kind of joke sometimes we’re the anti-DTC DTC shoe company, and the reason we say that is because the way we're scaling is a little bit different than your traditional DTC consumer brand. They're very heavy on social media. They're very heavy on Instagram and some of these things, and it's very lifestyle focused and we were there too. Don't get me wrong. Social media is a big part of our business and acquisition strategy.

We've also discovered that because our customer has a very real need, we want to get in front of them that way too. So any channel that helps us get in front of them for a real need that they have. They're not seeking a lifestyle, they're seeking a problem that needs solved. Most of them have tried two or three or 10 other solutions. So for us, marketing and brand is really focused in those two areas. How do we really get in front of the right customer who already understands they've got a need, and maybe has tried two or 10 or whatever solutions that have not delivered on the promise. Then how do we manage the expectations to make sure that we deliver on the promise that we're putting out there? That's been a tight rope because you don't want to over promise and under deliver, and then you don't want to under deliver because then they don't have the competency to even give you a shot in the first place. So it's been a really interesting tightrope to walk as we've continued to grow and understand our customer better.

Clint Betts

So what do you do there? Do you go to orthopedic offices and say, “Try this shoe. Maybe it'd be good to recommend to your…” Go deeper on that? How do you do that?

Bret Rasmussen

Yeah. So we've, we've never actually gone in that channel. It's a huge opportunity. What's interesting is there's been a lot of word of mouth that actually has created a lot of the success for Kuru. It's just kind of like when you take care of one customer, they'll refer their friends, and then they'll refer their friends, and then they'll refer their friends.

What's happened is, then they go to their doctor and say... I was customer service, actually. I was overflow for customer service up through like 2015, 2016 at Kuru. Even as recently as that, if all of our gurus were busy on the phones, my phone started to ring and I would take care of the customer if I was available. I've had customers say, “I'm going to go chew out my doctor. He or she should have known about you guys because I've tried so many things. They didn't tell me about this. I discovered you without them. They should know better.” They're just super frustrated.

If we can create that kind of an experience for our customers, where they go and they chew out their doctor and say, “Why didn't you tell me about this brand? This brand has solved my problem and you've done injections or this or that, or sent me to physical therapy. The only thing that worked was a shoe brand. You need to know about this and tell all your other patients.”

That actually has been a big part of our growth is... We hear it all the time now. Now customers say, “Oh my gosh, my doctor so-and-so, who we've never talked to, said you need to go buy this shoe.” In fact, the other day, we have a showroom here in Salt Lake. I was talking to the customer and I was like, “Hey, curious, how did you hear about us?” He goes, "Oh, my doctor told me." That doctor had recommended one brand of shoes that wasn't working for him. And he goes, “Oh, you know what, maybe you should go try this brand Kuru.” So the guy was like, “I'm here to try them, because this other brand just is not working for me and I still got my issues.” This guy was an athlete. I mean, a hardcore athlete. He used to race biking all the time, and actually he had a wide foot and it was his narrow cycling shoes that caused problems.

It's a focus on I'm really taking care of the customer and we've really tried to architect a really powerful customer journey that anticipates the needs of our customer. We want to be one step ahead of the customer at all times, knowing what their next need is going to be, and then delivering on it. It was like whoa, how did you even know that was my next need? We continue to refine and improve that over time. We've come light years ahead of where we were when I was still answering the phones.

So that's actually been a big part of the focus is just, “How are we always one step ahead of that customer?” The way I say it is, we want to know where the customer is, where they're at in their journey. We want to show up and kind of walk right alongside them as they're walking, and say, “Oh my gosh, my feet are starting to hurt.” And they're like, “Whoa, Kuru. Wait, what's going on here?” It's like, yeah we're Kuru. I've never even heard of you. Like, that's kind of creepy. You know, we've all heard about the creepy spine through online marketing. How do we engineer that in a way that it's not so creepy and it completely aligns with where they're at on their journey. And if we can do that, the ROI is much higher. The ROAS gets better. The experience gets better because they say, “Whoa Kuru, how did you know that I needed you? And you were here right when I needed you.” Then of course that builds all kinds of trust and confidence that Kuru really cares.

Clint Betts

How do you think about other verticals? Because so many other... Like Nike is a good example. Adidas, all these kind of major legacy shoe brands eventually go into other verticals, like hoodies, other product lines, that type of thing. How do you think about that?

Bret Rasmussen

We definitely have some product. We have shoe care accessories—that was actually a big request from customers. How do I keep my Kurus in tip top shape? So we offer that. We have some socks, and then we have some branded t-shirts. Our focus largely is around foot pain and what can help solve foot pain. There's definitely opportunities to expand. We've chosen to stay focused at this point. We just feel like there's so much that we can still do for our customer in the footwear space. New styles, new categories. So really, I guess our vertical is not so much expanding beyond footwear. Although we dabble in a few other kinds of product types, our focus really is there's so much we can still do for our customer to help solve their foot pain within footwear. Let's just get better at that over and over again, and more and more.

We continue to reinvest in the footwear product and expanding the offering, the areas that can best help our customers. Our belief is if we can take care of that foundation for them, the rest of their body can do what it needs to. In so doing, we really help them give their life back and they can start pursuing their life's passion, potential, and purpose. The more we can build footwear that does that, the more we can help them pursue their passions and purpose.

Clint Betts

Finally, I wonder if you could leave us with the best leadership advice you've received, or the best leadership advice you would want to impart to those who are listening or watching right now.

Bret Rasmussen

I like that question. Leadership advice. Am I talking to the leaders that are listening, or those who maybe even aspire to become leaders?

Clint Betts

That's exactly right.

Bret Rasmussen

I believe... What's that?

Clint Betts

That's right. Yeah. Those who watch this want to be entrepreneurs. They want to be CEOs. They want to be leaders, and the wide gamut. I think your wisdom here would be super valuable.

Bret Rasmussen

I believe leadership is learned or can be learned, and definitely developed. Sure, some people just naturally are natural born leaders. I wasn't one of them, I feel like I've had to learn a lot of what leadership looks like. I do feel like I have natural skills and strengths that help me as a leader. What I've learned is most people, as they learn leadership skills, they have their own set of strengths. There is no one leader.

For a long time, imposter syndrome, that's talked about a lot. I think just embracing. And I've talked to people who've been promoted into roles that they don't feel confident in. They're like, I don't really know what I'm doing. You probably don't, you're probably right. You probably actually don't know what you're doing, but guess what? You're in that seat that is the job that you accepted and took. You can figure it out and you can work on it. Or you can say, not for me. I don't know what I'm doing. Let me go, demote me or whatever. That's what it is at every level. Especially if you're an entrepreneur.

Guess what? You don't know what you're doing. That's the nature of entrepreneurship. You're blazing a new frontier. If you knew what you're doing, you'd just copy the Nikes of the world or whatever else. Guess what? I don't want to invest in your business. I'm not interested in... I mean, if someone came and said, oh, we're going to knock off Amazon and beat them at their own game. And oh, you know what, when we get big enough, we're going to start leasing out our servers to other people in the cloud. Like, what are you talking about? That has been done for 20 years now. Jeff Bezos didn't know what he was doing. He had a vision, he had a team and together tried to figure it out and they stumbled. I guarantee you they've made billion dollar mistakes in that company. We've made million dollar mistakes in our company.

I think let's just embrace and accept that we don't know what we're doing. We read and we see on the TV and everything, wow, man, that entrepreneur knows what they're doing. No, they don't. They might have a different experience than you, and it might serve them better in that area or whatever. At the end of the day, every single entrepreneur worked their tail off. They did a ton of networking, a ton of reading, a ton of talking, a ton of collaborating with their team and team building and a ton of experimentation. That's what made them successful. It wasn't like they just know what they're doing from the get-go. So I think that's a really important thing to think about as a leader is.

The difference is when you're the leader, you may feel like you don't know what you're doing, or you may feel like you don't have the answer. As a leader, you're being asked to make the decision. That's what the important thing is. Embrace that that's your role. And you need to be able to embrace the decision in light of uncertainty. Can you do that? How do you develop the skills to get enough information, to get enough insight, and then in light of all of the uncertainty and all of the information you don't have, confidently make a decision and tell your team that we're going to go march. We're going to go take that hill.

I've at times said, this may be the wrong decision. This may end up not taking us in the direction we want to go. However, I feel like this is the right decision. There's a lot of times I say, well, someone's got to make a decision. I'm the most senior person in the room, So I'm going to go ahead and make a decision. I'll invite... Hey, does anyone feel like this might risk whatever. And at some... Okay, thanks. We're going to go that path anyways.

Leadership really is about in light of uncertainty, trying to get reasonable information. It's not just a wet finger in the air. Be smart about things, engage your team, challenge them, have them challenge you, and then making a decision and embracing that yeah, you may not know what you're doing. Stay true to your core, follow that intuition and align it with your vision, whatever that vision is, and make sure that the decisions you're making are moving... Are respecting the vision that you have and the direction that you want your company to go.

If you do that, you'll weave back and forth, right? It's not going to be a straight path of success after success. You'll bounce back and forth. It's like bumper bowling. You don't want to go into the gutter, so by having that long-term vision in mind and embracing that, yeah. That ball's going to probably hit the bumpers a few times before it gets to the pins. One thing I say to myself is, I don't have to make every basket. I just need to win the game. So picking your battles is an important thing. Is this a basket I need to drain? No, I can let that bounce off the rim and into the out of bounds, it's fine.

There's shots, I better make that shot because if I don't make that shot, I might compromise my ability to win the game. Once again, that's the vision. Winning the game is the vision, right? That's down the path, that's in the future. As you make decisions as a leader, how do you make decisions that are going to help you win the game? And not all baskets win games. Not all attempts at shots win the game, but there are some shots you better drain that baby or you may not win that game.

Clint Betts

Yeah, that makes sense. Brett, thank you so much for coming on. So impressed with what you built at Kuru, who you are as a leader, as a person. We'll have you back, I'm sure. But Brett Rasmussen, thank you so much.

Bret Rasmussen

Absolutely. Thanks a bunch, Clint. And happy to be part of this and to share my story. Thanks for the chance.

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