The Marine Corps instilled in me the endurance and tenacity to – as the motto of 2nd Marine Regiment at Tarawa goes – “KEEP MOVING!”
My first business loss was a heart-breaker. The founder of Domino’s staked me into starting a restaurant with him. The former Marine wanted to give back to a veteran and he gave me my shot to build something incredible together – a delivery hamburger joint.
I was a young, passionate and on-fire entrepreneur. I had the support of a billionaire business Titan. I had the drive, and I was going to take over the world.
When we opened, I knew we were sure to be a success! People loved us! Tom was excited. The media had me on TV. It was so awesome.
A year into the hardest grind of my life though, I thought, “What have I done?”
Our sales were strong and reviews even stronger, but we couldn’t get the thing to make money! It was maddening. I spent late nights up to my elbows in dirty dishwater and overdue bills. I had walked away from my Marine retirement early and it looked like all my nay-sayers were right.
I was a fool.
I have never put so much into something. Literally every piece of my being went into Gyrene Burger Company until the day I locked the door for the last time.
Like a malfunctioning rocket, my dream lifted off with so much promise then crashed hard on Cumberland Ave., in Knoxville, TN – before I ever got my chance to be the face of an emerging franchise brand. Before I ever got to tour the country opening new stores. I was crushed. Defeated.
My life felt in shambles. My relationships were strained to the breaking point. I had sacrificed it all for the eventual payoff – to be a successful entrepreneur with the big house and cars and travel… none of that came to fruition.
Only an entrepreneur who has felt the gut-wrenching pain of business failure can understand the deep seeded pain and self-doubt that comes from losing someone else’s money. This included the difficulty of facing your friends when you know you lost some of their money too.
All I can say is that during the hard times I drew on those Marine Corps moments… those moments in training where you want to quit, and your body says you should. I kept moving – toward the goal.
I’m once again an entrepreneur. I’m a little more grounded these days, but I’m all the more optimistic. I use the word “failure” when I describe my Gyrene Burger start-up experience, but I believe there were hundreds of lessons I learned while cleaning grease traps at 2 in the morning. From learning how to read P&L statements to helping my employee stay clean off drugs and purchase her first car, I know those days will reap dividends in my future endeavors. I pray Patriot grows into a company equally as “alive” as my crew was at Gyrene. Sometimes as Marines, we get jaded over the years. We take for granted what the Corps has given us. Mine is endurance and the will to keep moving.
What’s your most valued #MarineCorpsLeadership trait?
Rob Wynkoop is the owner of Patriot Enterprises, LLC – a small IT / Cyber Solutions provider in Nashville, TN. Patriot is a service-disabled veteran owned small business that specializes in IT Hardware Refresh Project Management, Cloud Migration projects and Cyber Security governance consulting. He still makes a dang good burger too!