Podcast (EB&Flow)

Dumpster Fire Medals and Finding the Finish Line – Growth and Creativity in Business

June 28, 2021

How does a mass-gathering business stay afloat during a pandemic hallmarked by social distancing? And how does that type of organization stay engaged in the community during a trying time? If you’re Michael Zimmerman of RipRoar Events in Des Moines, Iowa, you create and sell “dumpster fire” medals to honor people just for making it through the year 2020.

Michael joins the EB & Flow podcast, along with Eide Bailly Partner Blake Crow, to talk about:

  • How he turned his passion into a business
  • Strategies he’s utilized to make it through last year
  • How he’s navigating being a small business on the cusp of deciding how to scale it


The impact of accounting on your organization is critical, especially during times of disruption.

Clinton LarsonHOST

Clinton Laron
Corporate Communications Manager             

Blake CrowCO-HOST


Blake Crow, CPA


Michael ZimmermanGUEST

Michael Zimmerman
RipRoar Events


Show Notes and Resources

The Transcript

Clinton Larson: Hello and welcome to EB & Flow, I'm your host, Clinton Larson, and joining me today on the podcast as my co-host is Blake Crow, partner in charge of Eide Bailly's Des Moines office. Welcome to the podcast, Blake.

Blake Crow, CPA: Hey thanks Clinton.

Clinton Larson: And joining us as our guest today is Michael Zimmerman, director at RipRoar Events. Thanks for being on the podcast today, Michael.

Michael Zimmerman: Thanks for having me, Clinton.

Clinton Larson: And just so we can give some context for our listeners, do you want to give us a little bit of some background on RipRoar and what you guys do?

Michael Zimmerman: Yes. So RipRoar Events is a company that I started in 2015. We are in the mass gatherings business, so we put on large scale endurance events, whether it's running events, triathlons, festivals, like yoga festivals. Usually they have some sort of endurance athletic tie to them. But we put on a handful of events here in Des Moines. We own a number of them and then we also manage events for clients around the country.

Clinton Larson: And on the podcast, the last few episodes, we've talked a lot about how businesses are adapting to the pandemic and coming out of the pandemic. So it sounds like when you say mass gathering business. So obviously that means the pandemic must have hit pretty hard last year.

Michael Zimmerman: Yeah, I've kind of prior to 2020, I don't think I'd ever call our business a mass gathering business. But it seems to be the unfortunate keyword that we've assumed. 2020 was an interesting year for us. Certainly.

Clinton Larson: What are some of the things you're finding that are different, from having to plan an event last year or the years before? What's changed after 2020?

Michael Zimmerman: So much has changed. Right. And specifically, the biggest changes that we've seen are we used to refer to our events, kind of a service industry business, right. Where we are doing you the service of closing down roads and putting out water for you. In the most basic terms, that was a service. And what we've really found is between the evolution of events in general and then specifically when events had to go virtual in 2020, we started looking at our company more as a product company when there's just innumerable virtual events happening, whether it's running events or anything else that's vying for your attention in this virtual platform, what's going to differentiate you between you and someone else?

And for us, we just started saying, like, OK, well, maybe our product could be better. And specifically what we meant by that was like with one of our big events last year, we kind of took on this subscription box model. So we ended up getting these really, really high end boxes made. We upgraded a few of our swag pieces. We stuffed them so that they were just like something that you would get that was like a very high end subscription box, except for in theory, there was a run that you were supposed to do as part of it.

So now coming out of the pandemic, we're at the point where we really have to overcommunicate to our athletes. There's been so many changes that one of the biggest changes is we just constantly having to communicate. Here's what it looks like. Here's what it's going to look like. Maybe tempering expectations. No longer can we get three thousand people together on a start line shoot and say go.

Clinton Larson: Going back to that sort of that switch from what you consider to be like a service organization more to a product organization and trying to keep that engagement level with athletes last year. You know, one of the things that I know I found really fascinating about how you adapted is actually something I heard about through Blake, which was your dumpster, your dumpster fire medals. And Blake, I was curious, like, how did you come across those? Where did you find those?

Blake Crow, CPA: It's a little embarrassing to admit, to be perfectly honest, but I think in full disclosure, so the social media, like selling algorithms, have me pegged like they know probably what I'm a sucker for. And so it was really kind of funny because it came through as a targeted ad, I think probably on Facebook, it came through as a targeted ad. And this is like right in the middle of being locked down. So, you know, everybody sort of had that kicking rocks feeling about the middle or late 2020 about just that not being a great year.

And so it popped up and I was like, oh, you know, that's sort of funny. And so I clicked on it. And I think, like, it took you to the Web page and the first thing that you see on the Web page is that they're designed in Iowa. And I was like, oh, that's really, really cool. So that probably increased my interest initially, even a little bit more just because I think that the other part of the pandemic is small businesses were hurting. Right. And so I think that being in the industry that we're in and just as sort of my own kind of personal philosophy, in order to support small businesses, especially local ones, probably increased my interest in those dumpster fire medals even further.

And so I reached out, you know, it's just kind of the general info email address was all that was on there. So I reached out and come to find out, like, not only was it located in Iowa, but I don't know. Michael, you've been to our office and I haven't been to years yet, but I don't know what we're probably separated by miles. So it was kind of funny that the algorithm found me and ended up being like literally down the road designing and making those.

Michael Zimmerman: So it's so much fun to hear your side of it. Honestly, because on our side, and I don't remember exactly where in the algorithm change, you might have come into the fold. But on our side, for those that don't know and I'm going to assume almost everybody doesn't know what we're referencing is a physical medal. It was a it was a metal that we made. It started like a lot of things as a joke that we started saying sometime in September of last year, talking about, you know, everybody was talking about what a dumpster fire of a year had been. And I kind of just started saying this joke to friends that, like, I'm going to give them for Christmas, the dumpster fire medal, for finishing the year, for making it through the year.

And the more people that I said it to, they started laughing at it. And then eventually we ordered a few of them and we gave them to like some partners, some clients, some people that we work with. And everyone's reaction was so like they thought it was so hysterical that we were like, maybe there's something here. And so I remember going in and my the girl that works with us is a brilliant graphic designer. I said to her, like, we're going to make a dumpster fire medal. And I think it's the least enthused about anything she's ever done, certainly for us.

And her big question always when we come to things is like, what is the why behind this project? What is the why behind this race? We're really big into knowing what our why is for each thing that we do. And we really struggled to be quite honest with, like, what is the why except for it's funny and it's a good idea. But what we found over time is that, like, these things were really great, that people were.

So the reason I bring up I don't know where you were in the evolution of our algorithm. When I first made them, we ordered a batch of six hundred of them from the company that we ordered medals from. It was probably November 20th. And we put a couple of hundred dollars into Facebook ads over the course of a weekend. And I targeted like people who were just always after medals right. So I went after people who were like the inflatable 5ks, the color runs. Because I thought the people who are going to buy this are the people who do like anything for medal. Right. And like, I just totally had our market wrong.

And what we found is that by targeting people that were managers, people that were in a higher income demographic, we ended up queuing in keywords like Lululemon. Like if you were in the Lululemon, you probably have a desire for this. And when we started doing that, the algorithm returns were just through the roof. And so I would say that by the end of November, we had ordered another thousand of these and then it just became this logistics supply and demand game of like trying to predict how long this wave of supply of demand would last and then meet it two weeks, two and a half weeks later with the actual product in hand. And so we went back and forth.

We ended up ordering and selling about thirty six hundred of them. And I think that we probably could have sold tens and tens of thousands had we had the courage to go all in early and had like a little bit more lead time. But the truth is we didn't decide to do it until right around Thanksgiving. But long story short, we get this email in our info account from Blake. And it was like, hey, these are hilarious. I see that you're based in Iowa. I would love to get some for our staff. I thought it was really great that somebody in Iowa had seen it. The only reason I even put Iowa on our algorithms was because we thought it would be cheap shipping.

Like if somebody bought it in Iowa, then it's going to cost us less money to ship it to him. But really, we were selling the majority of them in like Colorado and California. And so I think that Blake was probably one of like three sales we made in all of Des Moines. We had a few in Iowa City, but he wrote us, we end up getting introduced to him. I think that he wrote back a little later and was like, we should work together. Here we are two months later. And I often say that, like, probably the best thing that came out of dumpster fire, the why behind it, that we didn't know it was because it was going to connect us to you guys.

Blake Crow, CPA: Yeah, the whole thing was just is this almost unfathomable to think you could probably even make up a funnier story, but I think just to the medals themselves. So, you know, to Michael's point, we ended up, we bought them for the whole office. We gave them to everybody. People thought they were great. We had everybody take pictures with their dumpster fire medals. We put them on social media, like to celebrate the end of what was just kind of a generally crappy year. And it did really, really great on social media for us, too. So I don't know is a great idea. It was funny. Yeah. Like Michael said, we've kind of had, it ended up being, oh, I'll never forget to write the email to that as we were kind of progressing to that. I remember I, I emailed Michael to his point about, oh, we should work together and I'll never. His response was I literally just about fell off my chair because we were having discussions about the need to do something in that realm recently.

And so it was just sort of pretty serendipitous how it all worked out. It's just been at least for me, maybe a lot of it, probably, I don't know how fun Michael would describe having to deal with the accounting side of things. He's been fun for us, like for a partner, the high energy guy, really, really high visibility event that I think has a really, really strong reputation and as a super well known throughout our markets, so to be able to partner and work together and for us to be able to become a sponsor of that race of Dam to DSM has just been a really, really cool thing that's come out in the last few months when there was a number of things that were much less so.

Michael Zimmerman: I don't know if a lot of clients are this way, but I think that knowing your financial situation is pretty fun, maybe there's better words. But I keep thinking of it, like when you go to the optometrist and you sit down in the machine and you're like, my visibility right now is my vision is great. And then they put the thing in front of you and they start clicking through. And you realize that when you thought you've been seeing 20 20 on everything, you just you're blind. Right?

And so every time we get another document from you guys or from Tony who's our account manager, and it gives us a little bit the one or the two of the of the optometrist, like we're getting this clearer and clearer picture to the point that probably three or four weeks ago now we've got our first true real kind of here's your here's your profits and losses. Here is your balance sheet. Like we've never had a balance sheet in the six years of running the company. And one of the lines on it was like net assets. And I remember just like for an entire weekend, just like pulling it up and looking at it over and over, thinking I haven't known. I haven't known until this moment where we were at like. Again, maybe fun's not the right word, but it's a pretty great feeling, that's for sure.

Clinton Larson: Now that you have this footing in terms of the visibility in your financials and now that we're coming out of the pandemic, there's a chance for you to get started again with in-person events and those kind of things, like what do you see as the taking off point there? Like where do you think now you can maybe head with some of the ideas that you've had for your business?

Michael Zimmerman: Yeah. So for our business, one of the broken records that I'm always on is that I feel like for the last 18 months or so, we've been at a crossroads as a company of whether we're going to remain the lifestyle business kind of sole proprietor, pretty small mom and pop operation that I you know, I always envisioned. We probably would be forever to OK, we've got all of these opportunities. We've become very successful within our industry very quickly. And there is an opportunity for us to grow at a very fast rate.

And so I've sat at that T intersection for quite a while. And I you know, there's a lot more than just do you want it or not. There's a lot of things for me to consider lifestyle wise. And, you know, the whole reason I started this company in some ways was to have freedom, whether that's financial freedom or freedom from having to answer to somebody or freedom to travel, whatever it might be. And so the decision that I've kind of made is that you don't often as a business owner, maybe you get this opportunity to see your potential and to realize that potential.

And so when I kind of made the internal decision of, OK, well, let's spend a few years at least seeing how big this thing can get. And maybe big isn't the right term, but seeing if we can realize the potential that others have seen in us, you know, that's a great thing to discover. But you kind of need to have a bit more footing. And as a sole proprietor business, up until 2018 or so, I've often joked and I've even joked with Blake that I ran the business on my intuition. I didn't need to look at the bank account. I could feel whether we were doing well or not. And that's a terrible metric when you're like, OK, now we're in the growth phase. How do I feel about it?

I think that I personally hated and maybe other people can relate to this that started a business. I hated the bank account for years because I knew that if I spent too much time really digging into the financials, I was a sensible enough person to realize this was a terrible idea. And so I had to just go on blind faith for quite a while. Now we're at the point where maybe we can start to leverage some of the assets that we've grown. Maybe we can start to leverage some of our talents and actually see this growth phase through to what it could be.

You know, having visibility into our financials, having something in kind of black and white that says, here's where you stand. I think it's going to be one of the secret sources if we actually do grow to what I hope that we could be. I think that we're going to look at that turning point as kind of like the crux of the operation, because you don't know what you're playing with. You don't know what you can risk. You don't know what your tolerance for risk is, all these things until you kind of have that picture.

So Blake and I have yet to have the conversation, but we have a subject line that's like I don't know if it's like the big chat or what, but it's something to that end of like now that you guys have seen our financials, can we talk about how we can do this going forward? And I think that that conversation's coming.

So and I want to elaborate on one of the thing which is and maybe this is helpful and maybe this isn't. But as somebody who started this business, because I wanted to be a part of this industry, I didn't just go out and say, like, oh, I really want to start a business. If the business was a side effect of the fact that I just really wanted to do these things and the only way to do that was to by consequence start the business. I didn't have this whole vision until like even an ROI and exactly where we should be and what a good business even looks like from those standards.

And so as we've returned each year and said, OK, well, here's what our tax returns say that we've made and here's what our revenues were. Again, we're going back to intuition. We're saying if this feels like a really good number. This feels like a really good return. But no one was ever been there to say, like, you're doing great or you're doing terrible or this is where you could grow from. And so one conversation that I have happened to have so far is finally after we got the balance sheet and the P & L all worked out, I talked to Tony and I said just thirty five thousand foot view. Is this a good company? You know, and literally that's what I said. Like, is this a good company? I like doing it. And his answer, read into this what you want was, I've never seen anything like it, whatever that means. Like, it's very unique. I'll give him that. So I don't know. That's where we're at.

Clinton Larson: Not to put you on the spot here, Blake. But I think that brings up an interesting question. Like, how would you know if you, have you worked with similar businesses that have gone through that growth phase? And what are some of the things that we, you know, that you would trying to kind of like talk to about businesses who are juggling those are should not juggling, but who are looking at those questions and looking at what where they should go next, what they should do.

Blake Crow, CPA: Yeah. So I think that to the specific, like, have I ever had worked directly with like an event and races company before Michael, the reality is I haven't. But I worked with a lot of businesses that are just going through that growing up phase, if you will. Exactly to Michael's point, like, there's just there's a maturation process that really in the first five to seven, eight years of a company that they go through. And so for me, that's always been a phase that I've enjoyed working with companies in because there is the ability to learn and teach and provide, you know, a lot of insight.

Like I feel like I have the ability to provide insight and assistance to a lot of businesses, but especially the newest businesses they're like learning at such like a exponential curve. That is really sort of fun to be in our position to do that. And so I think like what Michael is talking about. Right? Like it's sort of funny, right? Like when he talks about like, oh, well, we made it six or seven years before we had a balance sheet, like, I'm an accountant. I can't like I can't even fathom what that actually means. But how do you what does that mean? How do you how do you what it doesn't even compute. So it's sort of funny to see like the colliding of our worlds where we take like and I think that's what's really fun. Right.

As he talked about, he didn't get into it to start a business and the business was an after effect. And like especially that part, like nobody starts a small business because they like accounting or they like finance in the back room stuff. I mean, I think that most people that's a necessary evil. And if anything, it's if, you know, whatever time or commitment or priority it does get is taking them away from A what they're really good at. And B, their passion with the forward-facing part of the business. And so sometimes it does get set off to the side or kind of figure out like, you know, the minimum viable product in those terms to get through it while the business is running, essentially.

And so to be able to really take that next step, I mean, it is all about visibility into where you're at and then having those conversations of, like Michael talked about, like we're kind of going through that exact process. We've got on paper where we're at. We figured out where the company is. We figured out largely where Michael and his family are personally. Then the next step is to sit down and, you know, is as crazy as it sounds for an accountant. I mean, it's almost like a counseling session, right?

It's like, where do you want to go? We know we've established A we're going to talk through and decide what you want Z to be and then we're going to work backwards and build a plan to get from A to Z. And so that's sort of where we're at. And honestly, like from my job, I always tell people like if I think there's an outside perception that my role in the business world is to take numbers off of one form and put them on another form and send them to the government. And that's what we do.

And like similar to how Michael didn't start what he's doing for the sake of starting a company like that's definitely not why I do it. I do like moving numbers around on papers and forms and stuff is not it. Right. That's again, that's probably a means to an end of the bigger thing of hopefully being able to provide assistance, provide insight and help people realize the goals and that they are kind of going after, I guess.

Michael Zimmerman: Well said.

Clinton Larson: Let's talk some more about that passion and like you said, you got into this, you got into the business because you wanted to get into the industry. So walk me through. Like, when did you kind of start the idea of RipRoar and when how did you kind of get started in the industry?

Michael Zimmerman: I mean, if we go all the way back, honestly, I was five years old, if I'm perfectly honest. I went to a triathlon when I was five. My uncle was competing. My mom took us to go watch him. We spent the whole weekend at grandma's house near where the race was happening and, you know, through the mind of a five year old, but also just by consequence of what the races are. There was like a cannon start. And so there was the smell of like gunpowder in the air. There was disc wheels. And so there was this low humming drum of like a disc wheel moving.

There was just excitement everywhere. And I remember just being enamored by it. And so much so that that Christmas, my aunt made me like a puffy paint sweatshirt that said triathlete in training. So I got that when I was six at the time and I wanted to be a triathlete and there was no triathlons for kids. So triathlon, you had to be 14 to compete in Iowa at least. There was triathlons for kids come to find out in other parts of the country, but not here. And so I spent a lot of my childhood like training for these endurance events without ever actually getting to compete, like just burning off energy, quite frankly.

And when I went to college, I took an entrepreneurship course. And as part of the course you're supposed to come up with a business plan. I tried to start a few products. They didn't sound good. And so I had this kind of guru of a teacher who said, what would you do for free? What would you do if you won the lottery? Like what would you do to make an impact type of thing? And so I came up with a business plan for youth triathlon and how to get kids engaged in triathlon in schools, get them trained through local YMCAs and then get them competing through starting races.

And I graduated I tried to start that program a number of times. I tried to do it in 2008. I tried to do it in 2010. And each time it kind of came up against a natural disaster. In 2008, eastern Iowa flooded historically. In 2010, there was a mishandling of some paperwork between the school district and the YMCA. And so all the high schoolers that I had training these kids were getting unexcused absences. That didn't work out very well. Yeah.

And so, you know, in 2012 my passion was there. I had started working races. I had started working on adult races. I found that there was this industry of contractors. And to be quite honest, like the event industry, we call ourselves carnies. Right. Like there's not a huge difference between somebody who's putting on a concert, somebody who's putting on a running event. We're getting on planes and going to some city and taking a parking lot and turning it into a finish line or a transition or a staging area and putting on this event and tearing it all down and going home. And it was a great nomadic life for a number of years.

But I think that, like the entrepreneur in me started at that time really questioning, like, could I do this better, that common thing. And then a little bit later on, I got involved in Hy-Vee, a company based in Des Moines, had started putting on kids triathlons and gave me a microphone to express my passion at the races. And the races started getting really popular and I started thinking, am I the X Factor at this event, is what I'm doing the thing that's making this event special? And if so, could I do that for myself?

And so in December of 2014, Hy-Vee, again, a grocery store chain that had been supporting triathlon, decided that they were going to put their marketing dollars somewhere else. And so they quit the kids triathlon, they quit the adult triathlon. And a few days later, I quit my job and I started RipRoar. So originally RipRoar was meant to be like something to continue youth triathlon. And then I figured I better diversify my offerings a little bit.

So that year I did like a Thanksgiving Day run. Thanksgiving is the largest running day of the year. Des Moines downtown didn't have like a big running event on Thanksgiving Day. So I felt like it was low hanging fruit. It's come to be one of my absolute favorite events because everyone's happy on Thanksgiving morning. You don't get a lot of people who are showing up like grumpy or angry about the course is marked wrong or something. Like people just want to be together with their family and feel better about all the calories they're about to eat.

And then, you know, we ended up starting a women's half marathon again, like it was almost by like consequence of something else. Like I had heard that there was a running event that was thinking about coming to Des Moines that was called like the Divas running series. And I actually know the people who started that. I had worked with them, but I just it was like everyone gets a tutu in a tiara and you're a princess and a diva. And I just felt like we weren't at that moment and Des Moines wasn't in that moment. And so I thought to start something that was kind of the antithesis of that. So it's like you're fierce, you're powerful, you're unstoppable type of thing, the Beyoncé of women's running events, as I like to call it.

And so we started that and we announced it in like October of 2016. And then in November of 2016, like the women's marches started happening and our event got wildly successful overnight. And that was great. And so now we had a few pillars in the ground here in Des Moines. We had the turkey trot, we had the women's race. And at that point then we learned this like that if you get opportunities, you should also learn that the power of your yes means nothing unless you say no occasionally like we said yes to everything. And that really hurt us for a while, like we were putting on events that were not part of our why not part of our mission.

And so coming full circle, the community had this event called Dam to Dam. It was thirty nine years old. It was put on by a nonprofit. It's one of the staple events in the state of Iowa, and it was run by a nonprofit board and a long story condensed they decided that they were done doing it and it went into this kind of free for all for who's going to put it on and RipRoar had quickly, kind of gained some footing here in town. And we ended up getting the contract to produce it. And that was really the turning point. So now we have that event, which is the one that Eide Bailly is involved in.

And yeah, it's suddenly it went from being like, let's put on some kids triathlons to we're the largest endurance event production company in the state. And we have the most athletes and the most races and I don't know how it happened. Again, it just kind of feels like you keep following your passion. You keep doing things for the reason of because they sound cool or because you want to see what two thousand five hundred Santa Clauses running through downtown Des Moines would look like. And so maybe you're going to start a Santa run this year, right? That's I just have this idea that I think it would be really fun to see what that looks like and nobody else is going to do it. So why shouldn't we?

Blake Crow, CPA: I will just add, Clinton. So a quick side note. So when Michael talks about Eide Bailly being involved in Dam to DSM, that's more so than, you know, maybe just initially indicated. Because what I was trying to get Michael's accounting work initially I told there was three of us on the first proposal call and I said, look, if we get your work, all three of us, I guarantee we'll run the 20K. And so everybody and the other two on the call didn't know that. That was just freestyling. So I committed the three of us. And then since then, actually. So as part of our relationship, we actually have 12 people in the office signed up to run the 20K in August. So it's pretty awesome, actually. I think that's one of the things like especially for us, like during the pandemic, looking for things, just like Michael was talking about earlier. Right. People are looking for things to look forward to and plan on, a return to normalcy. And so even for us as Eide Bailly Des Moines office, like, Dam to DSM has become one of those things for us. And so like getting 12 out of 50 people have agreed to train throughout the summer and run the 20K this summer. So pretty cool that way.

Michael Zimmerman: That's awesome. And I mean, this event is one of the things that makes it so legendary is the course. So it runs from the Saylorville Dam, the dam of Dam to DSM to downtown Des Moines. And Saylorville Dam is for all intents and purposes, 20 kilometers north of town. And there's no, like, sag wagon, like we don't, we're not going to invest in that. So it's literally we'll bus you up there and one way or another, you're going to make it to the finish line. So Blake has signed up his staff for this like this just there's like pilgrimage that if you didn't train or if it happens to be this crazy hot August day, like, OK, like this is what my company's having me do I guess. It's awesome. Like, that's one of the things I love about it. It's not like all the other events where you kind of like you're in the heart of town. If you're not feeling it those first few miles, I mean, the soybeans aren't very sympathetic.

Clinton Larson: I'd like to go back, Michael, to what you were talking about in terms of like balancing the wanting to do as much as possible for as a business, like saying yes to things just because you're trying to build this business. But then also, you know, going back to the why you're doing this, you know, like that passion we were talking about. How did you learn how to balance that and how did you get comfortable with deciding that, you know, the why and the passion. And that was going to be your guiding force for this. And not just, you know, like we talked about numbers on a page or anything like that.

Michael Zimmerman: Yeah. I think that probably some of it was built in previously and just life experience, I'm sure. But I've always kind of looked at the different buckets of what RipRoar and what work in general was trying to fill for me in my life. There's the financial bucket. There's the business bucket. That's definitely one of them. And so the numbers are important. I think that for me, legacy is a big thing that I think about, like do something that has an impact on somebody, do something that makes an impact. And I think that that's something that I've always found to be really intriguing. And I've wanted that for my life for a long time. I think a lot of people want that. They want their work to have consequence.

And I know how much of a privilege it is to be in a position, at least in this exact moment, where I get to have that through some of these events. Again, especially the kids’ triathlons. We get Christmas cards like. Probably one hundred Christmas cards from kids each year. I saw it not in 2020, but the year before that, one of the kids who does like our whole series of races, his mom had posted on social media, his birthday cake, and it was a RipRoar birthday cake. Like it said, RipRoar on it, had swim, bike, run icons.

Like people have always kind of joked, like when do you know you've made it in the world. And up until that point, I had said, like wooden hangers, like if you can afford wooden hangers, you're probably doing fine in life. But when somebody makes a birthday cake of your business, like, I don't know how I get beyond that, honestly. And so for me, like legacy having a platform to do good. And then also the numbers like I won't lie. I'm very motivated by the bottom line.

As much as I joke about like intuition and stuff, I had a pretty clear sense with each race how they were doing. I probably learned the hard way, the whole lesson of saying yes too often. We got overinvolved. We found that, you know, we weren't able to give as much attention to the things that probably needed it because we were stretching ourselves too thin. And that's fine. That's a lesson that a lot of people learn, I think. And so we've learned to say no quite a bit more.

And then I think that, you know, credit to Cassidy, like my coworker coming back to our lives quite often, like we have slide's that whenever we have a new intern class, whenever we have a new contractor class coming in, like here's the why of this event. We are doing this event because of these reasons. And I think that's an important thing for us to always kind of have in our mind, because it is a direction to set your sail, if nothing else. And it's our core values, if you will.

Clinton Larson: If another entrepreneur was listening to this and wanted to, you know, had that passion, had that idea for something and wanted to get it off the ground, you know, what sort of advice would you give someone?

Michael Zimmerman: So when I think about what advice I would give to somebody, I realized that my perspective on it is not the same as a lot of other entrepreneurs. For me, and I say this to people a lot like. Our business model is a passion first one, and that's come out and all the things that we've talked about, like do what you love and continue to do it for a long period of time. Ten thousand hours Malcolm Gladwell says. If you can do something really well for ten thousand hours, then you'll theoretically become the best at what you do or in the top percent of a percent.

And I think that that's been true of my experience with the events world so far. I got a lot of experience through my montage phase of life and working for all these other companies and working contracts. And it led me to this point of, OK, well, I'd like to try it myself. And I think that whenever there was like a crossroads, I just kept thinking about where I wanted our impact to be and what I was fortunate to have kept my life expenses and my life overhead low enough that I didn't go beyond making sure that there was money in the bank account. I really didn't check the bank account. It wasn't the main driver for me, like I.

This will make Blake really happy. But when I finally got to the point where I decided that we needed to get help with the accounting, I called my sister because she was good at personal finance, like she had done personal finance. And so I said, hey, I need help. People are calling me saying that I have bills that I haven't paid them and I don't even know where the bills are. So she came to my house. I was living in an apartment at the time, and for months, my wife and I would clean our counters by just putting the mail into a laundry basket and putting it into our closet.

And so in this laundry basket were countless unpaid bills, but also countless checks, enough of which had expired, that we had to get them reissued. And my sister, who again knows where every cent is spent in her life and her family's life, was just flabbergasted by it. She was so upset that I think she took it took me on as a project because of that. And she joked that they like because we just kept finding these checks, she was like, maybe we should check the couch cushions. And lo and behold, I'm not joking. There was a four hundred dollar check in our couch cushions.

And so it was like and she couldn't believe it, but the point of me telling that is a little self-deprecating. But also I just that wasn't what I was in it for. I just kept thinking that, like, that part would come. And so my advice is, to the extent that you're able, if the reason you're getting into a business is because of passion, then lead with that. And like maybe that's terrible advice. Maybe the accountant on the call would say, like, add the counterpoint to that. But that's how I feel.

Blake Crow, CPA: Yeah, I guess. Yeah. I mean, I don't actually I don't disagree with that. I mean, I always, I think that either I work, I'm very fortunate that I get to work with a lot of really successful entrepreneurs. And if you were going to ask me, like what the one common thread among them is that that is probably the indicator presumably of that success. If they all have that common trait, would be that passion. Right?

I mean, if you took Michael and I and put us in reverse and you said, well, Blake, you can make a balance sheet today, so why don't you go out and create a successful endurance event company like it doesn't work. It doesn't work. And so I think and that's where the fun for me comes in. Right. Because I think that that leads that kind of lends itself to that to that growth process of when a passion project becomes a business and when you when you mature into needing to add those functions into a back room operations.

And that's where I get to come in and that's where I get to be involved and that's where my passions lie. And so there's good overlap there. But yeah, I mean, I don't disagree at all. Me being an accountant, knowing numbers really well, probably it would be terrible in taking most ideas and making them successful. That wouldn't be my passion. You know.

Clinton Larson: This has been a really cool conversation. I'm really glad we got to talk about a lot of the stuff that I think a lot of entrepreneurs and a lot of small business owners are thinking about when they're working through those growth phases and working through, you know, what comes next for their business. So thanks so much for being here, Michael. Really appreciate it.

Michael Zimmerman: Absolutely. Thanks again for having me.

Clinton Larson: And Blake, thanks so much for being my co-host.

Blake Crow, CPA: Thanks. Appreciate it.