Inspirational leader and successful serial entrepreneur Tyler Copenhaver-Heath has made a career of understanding the unique needs of small businesses and their owners. With his charismatic and client-centered nature, along with his extensive background in sales, promotion, and marketing, he now enjoys mentoring other would-be business owners.
From a young age, Tyler learned to depend on himself to find success. His interest in rebuilding classic cars led to his first start-up, Apex Customs, which is now a multi-million dollar company with a nationally recognized brand. Tyler who was raised a welfare kid dared to take a risk by bootstrapping his first business. He lived in a trailer with no electricity or water and a $50 a week food budget giving everything to Apex Customs. It paid off as Apex boosted its client list of super companies including Facebook, The Rolling Stones, The NFL, and many more.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Tyler Copenhaver-Heath: Hi all! I am Tyler Copenhaver-Heath. Its not always easy to talk about yourself so I will start with some of my favorite compliments. Tyler is annoyingly motivated. Tyler makes motivated people feel lazy. Animals love you don’t they Tyler? The kids think your super cool Tyler so they listen.
While seeking a degree in biochemistry a run-in with the city lead me to my first business. The city apparently frowns upon stripping classic cars down in your driveway. Scared to death and $4000 in savings I moved into a shop space in downtown phoenix. When I say move I don’t just mean the business I mean live. I lived in a rat infested building off $50 a week. When the business took this space I would move to the back lot and a trailer. We were in an industry bullied by multimillionaire competitors but somehow we grew. Our reputation brought huge companies to our door seeking small-run manufacturing or custom work. We soon gained national notoriety and became a multimillion-dollar company seemingly overnight.
No longer fearing the business world it lead to co-founding several other companies. As of this day, I have sold all my business ventures and I am working on a brand new set of projects. I am very passionate about helping the small business entrepreneurs of the world. Especially those who come from merger backgrounds and have a hard time believing they can succeed. I believe business to be the great equalizer in the world and the true cure to many complex issues.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your viewpoint, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Tyler Copenhaver-Heath: Both. I think some people are brought up in wonderful environments leading themselves to believe they can do anything. They have successful relatives who are very real and normal to them. They see their uncle who is successful in business and thinks he no superhuman I am pretty sure I can do that. Raised by means most people expect you to be successful and you see success possible. This can almost be harder.
The other side of the coin. Growing up of no means. It can be a bit harder to develop a mindset of I can do anything. But the good news is no one expects you to either. I think it takes a push for this type of person. At the end of the day no matter how you’re raised if you have a work ethic and undying stubbornness towards a dream you can be an entrepreneur.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Tyler Copenhaver-Heath: Grit, integrity, no quitting.
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Tyler Copenhaver-Heath: My most well known company changed immensely over the years. The growth was exponential and I was new to a business trying to learn on the fly. We also experienced every disaster a company can have. Robberies, a location burning down, lawsuits, and employee issues. I think being intuitive is enough at first but when things get bigger you really have to earn your business chops. Growing also from a one-man band to 40 employees can be a dramatic change.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Tyler Copenhaver-Heath: There is a lot of propaganda around business these days. People need to be prepared.
You need to look at yourself in the mirror and ask many questions before you consider becoming an entrepreneur, and there are a couple of things you need to know before you do it. No, not the entrepreneur glassy-eyed stuff. The real stuff. Stuff = swear here.
It’s a job you cannot quit. How many jobs have you had in your life where you were miserable, you hated your boss, or you weren’t well paid? Guess what? At any moment, you could quit that job, take a new position and move on. Two weeks’ notice and you’re done. In business, no such luck. If you had a crappy run and hate what you’re doing, you have leases and maybe debts. Even worse is the potential that you have employees who count on you for their livelihoods. You’re trapped—and not quick trapped, either. Like really trapped. Even if you try to sell your business, it will be months before you’re released, even if it sold the day you list it. If you close down, even if you don’t have employees or debts to be paid, you’ll still have tons of paperwork and accounts and suppliers with which you’ll need to deal.
I get to work my own schedule. For a guy who used to work 40 hours a week and also attend a biochemistry undergrad full time, I longed for the day I could work my own schedule. I figured I could piece together the time I needed and on my own, it would be so much easier. Guess what? I was dead wrong. I used to work my 40 hours and punch the clock and I was done. In business, there’s no punching the clock. There’s always something to do. In the eight years, I ran my primary business, I worked more hours weekly than I’d ever done even as a full-time student and worker. Anytime I was away from my business, I felt anxiety, which they say is the sign of a poorly run business. I see it as the sign of a man who has put their entire life on the line for something and wants to keep an eye on it every waking moment. Even taking vacations will have you guilt-ridden over the things you needed to get done that week or the extra weight you’ve placed on your staff.
I will make money hand over fist. If you’re self-funded, which is what many of you first-time entrepreneurs will be, every dime you make will go back into the business. The more you put back in, the more it grows. You’ll start to feel guilty for taking a paycheck because you know that money would have meant more growth in your business. Your employees will most likely all be paid better than you, and even so, they’ll still want more and think they’re not paid enough.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Tyler Copenhaver-Heath: I paid at every step along the way. Every single step had a hard lesson. If I could go back and talk to the 29-year-old me we would save millions of dollars, a lot of stress, and years of life. But you need to go through this to learn.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain
Tyler Copenhaver-Heath: Make sure you are working on the right dream. Business is no easy out. Make sure you are creating something of value and something that builds you towards where you need to go. If you have a small dream you’ll create a small business. Or you’ll force a big business into a small business box. Access your life goals and choose a business that fits with those.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Tyler Copenhaver-Heath: Give your people the support and tools they need and see them flourish. I come from a minimum wage background and consider myself equal to my people in every way. Some call it a servant leader but I call it a great teammate and someone who loves people.
Make sure the people you are supporting are the right ones. I can’t count the number of failed efforts I had investing in the wrong people. Love and invest in people but make sure you choose the ones that care about you and the company as well.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Tyler Copenhaver-Heath: Covid-19 gives a real emphasis on change in business and how dramatically it can impact your life. Being adapting and agile in business no matter how big you are makes a difference. Companies on any level need to be seeking innovation and improvement. These are companies that can also adapt to changes quickly.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Tyler Copenhaver-Heath: I think I may have unloaded a bit of this already. They need to know that anyone is capable of building a business. I believe it. But how many are willing to give up the things it takes to do it? How much are you willing to suffer to make your dream come true?
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Tyler Copenhaver-Heath: One above all. Never, ever give up. Fight and fight some more. If your business fails, get back up and start another one. Rocky had some of the best advice on this.
Rocky Balboa:” Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.”
This is truly how I feel about business. Your business will become your child. When it takes hits so do you. It’s very personal, your business is a direct extension of you.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Tyler Copenhaver-Heath: There are so many great people and stories to learn from. I personally love unsung heroes and people who accomplished things despite everything in life being thrown in their way.
But I will say this. Grab things from everyone. Don’t try to exactly emulate anyone as they are not you. Take the good stuff and discard the bad. If you are a laid-back boss you’re never going to fit into the leadership style of Steve Jobs, therefore you have to take the good of Steve jobs and leave the bad. You also need to find people to look up to to emulate a style like yours. Trying to drastically change who you are will never work. Read inspiring things in moments of despair. Practice things that make you a good human. At the moment some of my favorites
- Documentary Virunga- The gorilla caretaker is an amazing man and unsung hero. “you gotta be about something in life and I’m about the gorilla”
- Documentary Bills Brain- Bill can make you feel like any small impact you are making is paled in the comparison of what is accomplishing. But this is what’s so amazing about business. You can make success and you can then change the world.
- Book – “How to measure your life”- As business people, we can completely obsess about our business. You won’t regret building a business but make sure it’s not at the cost of everything else.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Tyler Copenhaver-Heath: Biochemistry research. Or perhaps Indiana Jones discovering the not yet discovered.
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Tyler Copenhaver-Heath: The unmarked human. The person out there right now doing amazing work yet takes no credit for it. We won’t know them but they deserve this and more.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Tyler Copenhaver-Heath for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Tyler Copenhaver-Heath or his company, you can do it through his – Instagram
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