Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Rich Christiansen – Parallel Entrepreneur Interview

Recently, I was introduced to another prolific entrepreneur, Richard Christiansen, this time from the Salt Lake City, UT, area. Rich just published his first book, co-authored with his partner Ron E. Porter, titled Bootstrap Business: A Step-by-Step Business Survival Guide, which details an excellent set of learning principles for every entrepreneur. Here is some feedback from Rich:

Marty: Hey Rich, welcome to Startup Professionals interviews. Tell us what you do.

Rich: I consider myself a parallel entrepreneur rather than a serial entrepreneur. My true passion and talent is in the startup and launch of technology oriented companies. I have founded or co-founded 28 businesses – 10 outright failures, 7 moderately successful, 3 in process, and 8 have become million dollar businesses. A year ago we created
CastleWave, LLC as part of proving the principles of “Bootstrap Business”. From $5,000, it has grown to be a $1.2M business with over 50% margins in one year.

Marty: When and why did you decide to be an entrepreneur rather than an employee?

Rich: I call myself a perfectly good executive gone bad. I spent the first half of my career as an executive in the technology industry: General Manager of Mitsubishi Electric’s PC division, General Manager of, and Product Line Manager at Novell. At some point in my career I realized the demands of the corporate world were not in alignment with my true potential and desires. I wanted to see the market forces more intimately, so I became a full time entrepreneur.

Marty: Was your first business venture a positive and learning experience?

Rich: My first entrepreneurial ventures were miserable, awful failures. I wish so badly that I would have had the contents of this book when I started. It would have saved me from many mistakes. However, the cool thing about bootstrapping is if you do it smart and carefully, you can have as many attempts as you want. Many people view failure and success as a permanent condition. At some point when you realize that multiple failures actually lead to your success, it becomes exhilarating, liberating, and empowering.

Marty: What’s the most challenging aspect of being an entrepreneur from your perspective?

Rich: It's the balance. It's having the mindset of die, never die, never die coupled with the nimbleness to say, “That didn't work!” and jump to the next opportunity. One of the things many people struggle with is being eyeball to eyeball with the market forces; not having a buffer layer. Being very intimate with the realities of what's going on in your business and the potential failure points is crucial.

Marty: How has the business world changed since you first started?

Rich: With the onslaught of social media and advancement of technology, it has made the ability to accelerate the growth of a business crazy - in a good kind of way! When I first started creating companies I could not have imagined being able to accelerate a business and have the type of margins that we presently create. There's never been a better and easier time to compete and win as an entrepreneur.

Marty: What is a key personal attribute you see in successful entrepreneurs?

Rich: Tenacity and unalterable determination. One of the most frequent asked questions that I get is, “What do I have to do to succeed?” I have a really hard time boiling that down to just one thing. However, I have come up with 3 must-haves. The first is a willingness to keep trying. The second is a really strong, good support system. And third, a purpose or vision that carries you through the hard times. Money is a very poor motivator - you must have a greater purpose that drives you.
Marty: Any advice you would like to give to someone contemplating a startup?

Rich: It's worth it. Surround yourself with honest, supportive individuals. You don't want ‘yes’ men, but you don't want naysayers – the trick is a good balance. The prize seldom goes to the most beautiful, the fastest, or the strongest, but he who refuses to die. However don't risk what you can't afford to lose. If you end up losing financial security, family, friends, trust relationships - you have wagered too much.

Marty Zwilling

P.S. Rich’s book has inspired me to publish a “Lessons Learned” story from the field occasionally, written by one of you. This should relate a particularly positive or negative personal startup experience (max 500 words). As an incentive, I’ll ship a free copy of “Bootstrap Business” to the author of every “Lesson Learned” story I publish here.



  1. Great interview!
    I'm in the process of starting up my own company, but don't want to lose the security and steady income my day job provides me with. I'm blogging about my experiences, check it out if you're in the same situation.

  2. @roachking, thanks for the positive feedback. Good luck in your startup endeavors!

  3. Wow 28 businesses, sounds like Rich definitely has a willingness to keep trying, among tons of experience. I started on my own with a PT partner just 3-4 months ago and I have learned many lessons. One is to realize that I am an expert and experts charge expert fees (Brendon Burchard said it well).
    Initially my partner said in these tough economic times we need to charge less and I think that was a mistake because it attracted the wrong type of clients.
    I will have to check out the book.

  4. Jessica PowerprolinesApril 22, 2010 at 12:39 AM

    I love reading about peoples experiences, and this is just the right place to do so.
    Very interesting interview, and I have to say that Richard Christiansen has really made a name for himself in this field, and a true inspiration to many entrepreneurs out there, thanks you for sharing this.
    I have to say that he has inspired me a little in maybe looking into what I want to do somewhat more, that I have always put on hold, and been to scared to actually do.

  5. I purchased and started a franchised restuarant publication: The Free Jive Weekly. I worked it for two years. The bottom fell out, I went into debt. Wife got cancer and survived. I nearly went crazy trying to keep things afloat, but sinking was inevitable.
    Still I am planning on my next venture. Information marketing: selling, branding, marketing.

  6. From your blog, I can learn some new knowladge, I like the valuable information you provide in your articles.