Imagine going bankrupt and your house burning down. Anyone would be down in the dumps if they faced significant adversities like these. But our guest unlocked the secret to overcoming adversity and went on to build a million-dollar business.
In today’s episode, we hear from the co-founder and president of LIFEAID Beverage Co, Aaron Hinde. Aaron chose not to be a victim of circumstances. He did not let his situation get him down but instead found the tools he needed to succeed. Aaron shares his tips on standing out from the crowd and discarding toxic mindsets. Finally, he shares some lessons about competence and how to ensure that your business’ caliber does not dull over time.
Life can be hard sometimes, knowing how to handle it is what sets you apart. Tune in to this episode to learn how to overcome adversity, and regain the life you want.
Click here to read transcript
[04:33] So for the folks who, maybe, aren’t familiar with who you are, let’s begin with that. Who are you? What’s the company you’re running? What do you guys sell?
- Well, in general, a very curious person. Now, this is who I am. My name is Aaron Hinde. I’m president and co-founder here at LIFEAID Beverage Co. We’re a very clean, functional beverage company. We make beverages you’ll actually… You’ll enjoy drinking vitamins. You’ll enjoy drinking. So we started in the fitness space, CrossFit specifically, built out that book of businesses, created a number one and cleanest recovery drink in CrossFit. And that was about 10 years ago. We’re doing direct-to-consumer long before it was kind of the cool thing to do. And fast forward 10 years, we’ve run 30,000 accounts, all the major retailers across the US. And we’re getting people off all the soda and garbage, and on to some clean recovery drinks.
[05:27] And let me guess; it’s been completely clear sailing, no glitches, no potholes, just directly up into the right?
- Straight arrow up and to the right, actually, not one hitch along the way, no. There’s bumps in the road continually, as you know, over a 10 year period, yes. Up into the right, we have had short periods of down into the left, and sideways, and all different directions. So it’s a very squiggly line, but we’re playing a long game around here.
[06:00] Alright, so we’re gonna talk a lot more about the squiggles in the line. Before we do that, just so people know what it is that you’ve built, give us an idea of where the company is at these days.
- We will do around $16 million in revenue this year. We continue to grow about 25–30% clip year-over-year and have been for years. We are in 30,000 retail accounts in the US including Whole Foods, Sprouts, Walmart, Vitamin Shoppe, Safeway, Kroger, EGB, Publix. We have a robust direct-to-consumer business structure, gym business, about 80 employees, sold in 20 countries.
[06:42] Alright, so you’ve been moderately successful so far. And congratulations on that success. Now, what I really want to dive into is, you mentioned to me in our pre-interview that the squiggles have been pretty dramatic over the decade that you’ve been doing this. And I really want to, in this episode, I want to help other entrepreneurs to understand how to deal with adversity. And you’ve had a lot of it. I know there was a bankruptcy. I know your home at one point a week after you built it or something, I think, burned completely to the ground. And I’m sure there’s a whole bunch of stuff that we didn’t even get to in the pre-interview. So let’s talk about the… Now, was the bankruptcy during the 10-year window that you were running this business, or was that before this happened?
- Just prior.
[07:39] Okay. So let’s start there. Because I think that’s… Bankruptcy… My dad went bankrupt not once, but twice. And I know it was emotionally devastating for him. And I think it really took away a lot of his confidence to ever really go and try hard. Because he was never particularly successful in his career after that or in business. So, talk to me a bit about how the bankruptcy happened is not too terribly important. If you want to share, that’s great. But that’s not really what I want to get into. What did you do in your head? And then, how did you dig yourself out of that hole and then go on to start your company and ultimately become successful?
- Yeah. And I am an open book so I don’t mind talking about it at all. So in 2007, I was a very successful sports chiropractor, made great income, referral-based, practice was rocking and rolling, pretty low stress. And thinking the grass is always greener, looking around, seeing a lot of my friends were paper millionaires from real estate. And so, I decided that it would be a good idea to get in deeply into the real estate game at that time, and bought several spec homes, all under construction.
[08:56] And what year was this?
- 2007. Yeah. So we all know what happened, starting basically in late 2007 and then 2009, and the market fell apart. And it was a challenging time, I had months where I had $50,000 coming in in a month with 70 going out. And you can only sustain that for so long. So I did make the very challenging decision to file for bankruptcy. And it was the lowest point in my life. I’m here; I’m in my mid-30s. I’ve got nine years of college education, a quarter-million dollars in debt from school, but I’ve got a successful practice. I got a lot of things going for me. And to be in that position where I did what I did, and then I’m waking up looking in the mirror, like, “How did you screw this up?” It was just beyond me. And I can see what your dad went through. It’s a huge, major, major, major blow to the ego, but it was exactly what I needed. I know that in retrospect. It’s what I needed to get to where I’m at today. And what changed during that period of time?
Well, I’m big on this cycle that I believe, really starts out around like seven or eight years old because the first seven years of our life, we know now that we’re basically in download mode and just getting whatever our worldview is. We’re downloading it typically from our parents, and we don’t really start making rational decisions ‘til about eight years old. Well, whatever belief system we have at our foundation, that starts to form how we think about things. Our thoughts dictate our words, our words, our actions, and our actions over time equal results. And those results reinforce a belief system, so around and around we go. That’s why when people get stuck in a scarcity mindset, or negativity, or the sky is always falling, it’s the law of attraction and it’s that cycle that’s creating a spiral.
So I was very much in a negative spiral in that period of time. And I realized that I had approached things a certain way. And I was always a little bit more of a risk-taker, but I had approached it in a certain way up to that point in my life, and certain areas were doing really well, and other areas were not doing well, especially financially. And so, I started thinking about this cycle and how can I break the cycle? A lot of self-help people say, “Oh, you need to think differently.” And that I just don’t find that it’s possible to think, just think differently without having anything to lean back on, any experience that helps you make those types of changes.
So what I did start doing is that I controlled this part of the cycle that I could control, which was my words and my actions, right? So I started talking differently. I started realizing that I was using, in my communication style, a lot of negations, a lot of soft talk, a lot of scarcity talk, and really catching myself around that. I started to act differently. So that was the first time I started developing a morning routine: getting up even earlier, doing Wim Hof breathing, keeping my body in ketosis, doing yoga, going for a morning walk, doing my morning prayers, some self-affirmations, filling out the five-minute journal, your appreciation journal, three things you’re grateful for, three things that helped make today great, one self-affirmation. And so, realizing that my morning trajectory would dictate my daily trajectory, my daily, my weekly, my monthly, and then throughout the year, that things over time would change.
Because we always overestimate what we can do in the short term, and underestimate what we can do in the long term. So I knew consistency over time was the key, and staying consistent with that routine, and really starting to see the results through the law of attraction, those results had an impact on my beliefs. And I realized this isn’t just this “woo-woo” crazy stuff. This stuff actually works if you practice it long enough. And that’s where most people fail. They’re just not giving things enough time, right, enough time to play out. Any of us could be richer than Jeff Bezos if we’re given enough time, if we live 1000 years. Our investment will be richer than Bezos, right?
So that’s basically how I turned it around. Not that it was easy; it was not a straight line. But that was the process.
[13:34] Okay. So the takeaway there for anyone who’s listening, who is maybe experiencing some severe or even minor, but we’ll call it medium to severe adversity in their lives right now, is to start, first of all, changing the language that they’re using. Is that where they would start?
- Okay, so the very, very beginning… That’s a good question because let me back up one step. The very beginning is you have to answer a fundamental question. And this is anywhere you’re hitting a glass ceiling in any aspect of your life, you’re answering this question wrong. And the question is: am I a victim? Am I a victim? Because as soon as you answer yes to that question, you put on the cuffs. It’s a new form of slavery. And we see it playing out all around us during COVID and beyond, right? Am I a victim? And if it’s yes, then it’s out of my control. There’s nothing I can do about it. I am passive, cause and effect, which is total BS. It’s not cause and effect. It never has been, not for human beings. It’s cause plus reaction equals effect, right? We have the ability to choose.
So first, you got to really get into your own psychology and say, “Okay, recognize that I’m being a victim in this particular area of my life. And it is creating beliefs, thoughts, words, actions that are ending in a result that I’m not happy with.” So recognizing, deconstructing it, and then work on your language and your actions. I was just talking with a friend of mine who’s a personal trainer for 20 years. And once in a while he’ll get these clients. And they’re coming in, they’re paying the money and everything, but they’re just always bitching, “I’m not getting the results. I’m not getting results.” I told him, “John, you tell these people, ‘Get your butt out of bed every morning at 5 am. Go for a walk. Modify that diet like you tell them to, and never miss a workout.’ Guess what’s gonna happen after 12 months, their bad genetics or whatever excuse, whatever victim excuse they’re using doesn’t matter. Because they will get results.” It’s calories in minus calories out. It’s a simple formula. They’re the people that miss the workouts, and cheat on the diet, and hit the snooze bar five times. So until we break that victim cycle, we will never make progress in any aspect of our lives.
[15:57] This same piece of advice was given to me many, many years ago by my first mentor and investor in my first company, a fella by the name of John Block. And I don’t think John regularly listens to my podcast. But if he is, a shout-out to John. He said to me, “I live by one–” And he’s a very, very wealthy, successful man. And he said, “Trent, I live by one rule more than anything. And that is this: no matter what happens in my life, I’m responsible.” And if people will take a moment and break that down, they can say, “Well, I got a really crappy boss.” Yeah, but you chose to work there. Sure. “I got a really crappy spouse.” Yeah, but you chose to marry them. “I’m not making enough money,” or, “I’m not having my career yet.” But you chose that career or your lack of choice of a career put you into the job.
- Or you’re choosing to stay there.
[16:50] Yeah. And you’re choosing to stay there. and that is, It’s so hard for people who are so far down in that victim space to ever get their head out of it to realize that they’re causing most of their own problems because it’s so much easier to just blame somebody else.
- So much easier. And at every level of the game that we’re in, every level, it’s peeking its head around the corner and trying to suck you in. I found myself just the other day talking about my house burned down in the fires in August, 17 years we’ve been working on this property, and putting literally every spare penny that I had saved up and everything, all my spare time into this property, developing an off-the-grid solar, had my parents live in their multi-generational compound, fruit trees, chickens, the whole works, right? And the whole thing burned down and it was easy to catch myself into the like, “Why? Why me? This isn’t fair,” and all. But even thinking that it’s like, “Oh, wait a second. If I truly believe the dogma, the dog food that I’ve been feeding myself, then this is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for growth. It’s what you needed. You may not understand why you need it right now. But that’s okay.”
Less than 12 months later, I now understand why I needed that. I was assigning permanence to material things, which by definition, is a fallacy. But all material things, by definition, have a beginning and an end. They don’t last forever. And the very things that, sometimes, I would discount are the things that do last forever: our thoughts, our words, our actions. You could never unthink something once you think it. You can never unsay something or undo something once you’ve done it. So, I feel like, where society is going and where the mindset is going, it flips those two. Well, you can say whatever you want on the internet, and you can think whatever you want. You can do whatever you want as long as you don’t get caught. But put all your money into this stuff because this is stuff that’s important, and it’s the exact opposite. It’s the exact opposite.
[19:15] So prior to starting your current business, LIFEAID, you had this bankruptcy. What were you doing just before LIFEAID? Was it the chiropractor business? And I think you sold that? And then some other bad things happened?
- Yeah. So… Oh man, it was a challenging time. So I went BK. My credit was shot, lost all my assets with the exception of the property, but still had my student loans to a quarter-million bucks there. They don’t write those off.
Fortunately, the practice was still doing great. It didn’t skip a beat. So I was still able to hop right back in, generated income, and that type of thing. But I didn’t have the credit to actually build a house. See, we were living in a 400-square-foot RV with two children at the time. And it was supposed to be just a very short-term solution because I was gonna take the money from some of the spec homes and build our dream house on the top of the hill. Well, that didn’t work out. So now we’re in this 400-square-foot RV for your 2, 3, 4. And year 3, you know, solid practice, which again, was thriving, to go all-in with LifeAID. Beginning in 2009, this is 2011.
[20:50] Okay, so LIFEAID started as a side hustle?
- Yes, with Orion and I. He was a Certified Financial Planner in Santa Cruz. We met in a CrossFit gym. And so, we started it as a side hustle. We both still have our full-time job. After about six months or so we realized that, “Hey, to make this thing successful, you can’t serve two masters. We’re going to burn the ships at the shores.” It’s really stupid thing, necessary, but stupid thing to do at the time because we didn’t have near enough traction to take this kind of risk. But ignorance is bliss, as they say. So we both sell our practices. The guy I sell it to is just not the right guy. Not at all. He doesn’t have the skill set. He doesn’t have a personality. I knew it. But I was also desperate because I was like, “Hey, we need to both get out of that by X date and go all-in.” And so, I sold it to him. And within six months he goes under. The referrals stop coming in. People start scattering. They’re going to other places. He’s just not doing a good job. He literally ran it into the ground.
[21:54] And I’m assuming he’s paying you out of earnings or something. Like you’re carrying the paper?
- Correct. This is what I’m surviving on, literally surviving on because LIFEAID can’t afford to pay me. And yeah, this was it. It was like 35— It wasn’t that much. It was like 3500 bucks a month. But 3500 is a lot better than zero. And so, we were already living very frugally. Fortunately, I had the property paid pretty far down. So I didn’t have a heavy mortgage. And I was able to defer more student loans. So he stops that. And so literally no income coming in, living in an RV. Now, I’m two years even older than I was. We’re eating macaroni and cheese and tuna multiple nights a week, which is $1.50-meal if you’re really broke up. And yeah, it was really, really thin, really, really tight.
Now, I started to really learn marketing and getting some traction with the business. And then we’re able to put ourselves on $1,000 a month salary, and then 3000, slowly grow from there. But for a good year, It was like, I didn’t know what I was gonna do. I was gonna figure something out. I’ll do any job that I have to, to provide. I was gonna go out and dig ditches. But fortunately, it was just a lesson that I needed in humility, a nice lesson in humility, which we all need from time to time, and I needed it more than others.
[23:36] How long did it take to get LIFEAID to a million dollars in annual revenue? Where were you at–and obviously, being a beverage company, a million dollars in annual revenue I don’t know what your margins are. You got cost of goods sold. You got to make the stuff, so it’s not like there’s a million bucks worth of profit.
- Right. Yeah, no. To get to a million, we were between years two and three.
[24:03] Okay, so not an overnight success by any stretch of anyone’s imagination?
- No, no. We were grinding. We were burning a lot of cash. It took us a year and a half to figure it out. Yeah, took us a year and a half to figure it out. We were dog paddling, burning money, raising money constantly, and fundraising. We ran through our money that we put in to start the business real quick. It’s an expensive business, the beverage business. And thankfully, I was big on marketing at the time. And a good friend of mine, a mentor, and investor, and advisor LIFEAID now, but just a friend and mentor at the time, Ben Altadonna. He loaned me 25 grand to join this high-level marketing group. He’s like, “Look, I think you guys will get a lot out of it. You’d learn a lot. There’s a lot of connections there.” He’s like, “I’ll pay for it. Pay me back when you can.”
[25:07] Is that Joe Polish’s group?
- Yeah, exactly. “Pay me back when you can and no paperwork, no interest, nothing.” So I was desperate because things… We were lean and Ben’s a successful guy. So I was like, “Alright, man. If you think it’s worth it, let me do it.” And just joining that, being around the people that were making big shit happen, and there was a piece of advice that actually a great, one of my favorite marketers, Dean Jackson, gave me in the group. And he said, “It was really simple.” Because we had three products at the time: we had FITAID in CrossFit, we had GOLFERAID we’re selling to golf courses, and we had PARTYAID, which was a festival-burner–type drink. And they had three different websites. They had three different audiences. They had three different social media accounts.
So basically, we’re running three different businesses because none of them are synergizing off each other at all, totally on their own islands. And Dean said in one of his profit activators, but I didn’t know the profit activators at the time, he said, “You need to choose a single target market,” is what he said at one of the meetings after I told him the situation. And we looked at the business and even though GOLFERAID was bringing in the majority of revenue at the time, the trajectory of FITAID in the CrossFit space, and we were very, really to CrossFit it. I joined a CrossFit gym in 2007. So we’re right at the beginning. And it was growing like Gangbusters. We looked at that trajectory and went all-in like, “Okay, not doing anything except for Crossfit and FITAID, that’s it.” And that was the key. That was the key. That’s when we started ringing the bell, not once a day, sometimes twice, three times, four times a day when we’re bringing on new accounts. And we got up to 250 new gyms a month. We were opening one at a time through old-school direct response marketing and snail-mail.
[27:12] So that was the initial focus for distribution back then was to just get gyms to sell your product in their stores?
- Yeah, initially golf courses, but we pivoted to gyms.
[27:26] Yeah. Okay. Alright. And what year was that?
- It’s about 2013.
[27:35] ’13. Okay, yeah. And when did online sales start?
- Right at that time. So the nice thing about getting cans and hands at the gym is those people want to have it at home, too. And so, we started building out a direct-to-consumer business. Our whole business was only direct-to-consumer, direct-to-gym for five years. We didn’t have any retail accounts, which is hilarious because everybody we knew in the beverage industry said, “There’s no way you can sell drinks online.” We heard that piece of advice 10 times from very well-known people. “You can’t sell drinks online. People need to put liquid to lips. You can’t sell drinks online. Nobody wants to buy 24.” And we did it. We did it in a pretty big way. So it’s a lesson in that coming with fresh eyes to an industry and killing the sacred cows and doing the opposite of what everyone’s doing. That’s usually your best shot, especially when you’re in an industry with really big established players like we have in beverage.
[28:40] Yeah, no kidding. You’re not competing against the mom-and-pop shops, you’ve got Red Bull and you’ve got every other energy drink. Now, do you consider yourself to be an energy drink? Are those your competitors? Or do you categorize yourself differently?
- A little differently. We’re in what’s considered, healthy energy or performance energy are the two kinds of categories where we really overlap those two. Whereas in a traditional energy drink, you’re just getting jacked up on sugar or artificial sweeteners, caffeine, taurine, right? That’s the base formula for every energy drink out there. So nobody’s drinking energy drinks for health reasons. What we’ve done was, say our FOCUSAID drink behind me, we’ve given you a moderate hit of natural caffeine with green tea, but then we load it with nootropics, alpha-GPC, GABA. We put a full B complex in there.
So we’re really looking like how can we stimulate the brain and nervous system versus just jack your adrenals up with hammering you with caffeine. So it’s a much cleaner approach. It’s more sustainable. You don’t get the ups and downs. We basically reversed engineer each one of these drinks. IMMUNITYAID, if you’re looking to boost your immune system, what are you going to take: echinacea, vitamin C, vitamin B3, astragalus, zinc—all in efficacious doses.
So another thing we did different: every “healthy drink” before us was all about sprinkling pixie dust and really relying on marketing like vitaminwater, right? There’s no vitamins in vitaminwater. It’s more sugar than anything. But we were like, “Okay, let’s actually create an efficacious drink. Yes, our costs are going to be higher and everything, but it’s different than what anyone else is doing. One that we can give to a nutritionist or a doctor, and they’re gonna give it the stamp of approval. And that was another big driver because the CrossFitters early on, they were so conscious of everything they put in their body and label-reading and looking a certain way. That product really resonated. FITAID really resonated with that community.
[30:47] So let’s go down the rabbit hole of product creation just for a minute or two or three. So neither one of you guys are chemists; you’re chiropractors. And was your co-founder a chiropractor as well?
- Certified Financial Planner.
[31:01] Oh, sorry. That’s right, financial planner. So neither one of you knows jack diddly-squat, I’m assuming about formulating a drink?
[31:10] So how do you get that? First of all, let’s talk about the mindset. “Hey, we’re going to create a product that we know absolutely nothing about how to create.” What gave you the confidence to think that you could actually make something that people would want?
- Well, it wasn’t my first entrepreneurial go-around. I had several companies before that, most of which didn’t do much; one of which did okay. And so, I had been building confidence because each one of those was a massive learning block. Like, “Oh, you needed to figure out supply chain. You need to figure out accurate thinking. You need to figure out marketing.” And it’s just each one gave me more and more confidence. I had some background, obviously, in nutrition. Being in the profession that I was in, I had seen, firsthand, the highest-level athletes who I was treating. And all major sports were coming in to see me, and these guys are Ferraris. They’re the equivalent of a human Ferrari. And yet, they were drinking plenty of water, but also drinking the energy drinks, primarily, and the sports drinks.
Well, they were looking for the effect. They wanted to pick me up. They like the flavor profile or the perception on the sports drinks. Well, this is just what we do, right? And I started educating them on like, “Look at these ingredients here. You don’t want that. Are you gonna go put 81 gas in a Ferrari? That’s what you’re doing.” And it really resonated with them. And they said, “Well, what else… Water is boring, what else should I drink?” And I would give them my home concoctions to make. I’m like, “Here, mix this and this. And if you want a Gatorade replacement, let’s get some Himalayan sea salt. And let’s get a little dab of honey, and we’ll mix it in some mineral water. And there you go, we’ll do that instead.” We’re doing stuff like that.
So there was that confidence there that I knew there was something missing in the marketplace. And then, when we had the concept of LIFEAID as a master brand, and being function-forward versus flavor-forward. Any beverage company, not now, but back, then they were all 10, 15, 20 flavor variations of the same base formula. We took it totally different where we’re going to have a unique flavor for each function, and be function-forward. So each one’s totally different. It’s not the same thing just rebranded for a different audience. And so, that “Aha.” And then when we went online and started searching for domains, and find FITAID and FOCUSAID and lifeaid.com available for $12. We even got boneraid.com for $12. Whoever thought all the good domains were already taken was mistaken. We registered 80 domain names over one night. It was on his birthday in January 2011. We registered 80 domain names and we’re like, “Alright, it’s meant to be. Stars are aligning. We’re off to the races.”
[34:13] Alright. So to make the product, did you just go find a contract manufacturer who had chemists and such on staff? Or did you have to go find a formulator? And then did you have to go find a manufacturer?
- I did the initial formulation myself. It wasn’t that hard. It’s not rocket science. Anyone has access to Medline or PubMed, right, which is the government index of every published article by any reputable PhD-driven, PhD-written publication. So, that’s all there. And then I can go to anybody in a niche audience we’re looking to serve and say, or my patients, “What do you take for immunity and why?” Or go to athletes. “What are you taking for recovery and why?” Right? We already knew these audiences already had a really good idea. You go to the burner community, like, “What do you take in when you’re out on the playa for four or five days straight?” Like, “Oh, well. We take 5-HTP. We take B vitamins. We take electrolytes.”
Okay. You’re basically writing down what everybody’s concoction is, what they’re doing already. And then you go on Medline and reverse engineer with the efficacious dose and the best factor form that is that for those various ingredients. And then I write it down in an Excel spreadsheet and hand it to the food scientist and say, “This is what’s got to be in it.” And she said, “You’re smoking crack. There’s no way you can make a drink with all this in and make it taste good and not use ours…” And we also had all the parameters: no sucralose, no aspartame, so no artificial sweeteners, no sodium, and low to no sugar. They were the parameters. And she said that you can’t do it. And I took my sheet out of her hand, turned around, and said, “Okay, well. I’ll go somewhere else.” They say, “Well, wait. We already booked the time. We walked into the lab, and we kept working and working.”
And I’ll tell you what, we got GOLFERAID. It tasted pretty good. But FITAID was horrible. It took us a while to get that one right. Fortunately, now it tastes great. But at first, oh gosh, I literally wouldn’t even drink our own product. But the CrossFit community loved it. Because it was like for us, by us. It was made by CrossFitters for CrossFitters. It was the CrossFit drink. And it didn’t taste that great. But it had all the right stuff in it. So, fortunately, they were tolerant. The early adopters were tolerant to a bad-tasting product. Now, after 6, 12 months of hammering on it, we finally got it right. And then we’re like, “Oh, yes.” Then I felt good about handing it to my friends.
[37:06] Yeah, my wife is hardcore into CrossFit. And she does the ropes, and she’ll come back with…. Even though she wears the socks, her shin is burned and scabbed up from doing the ropes. And it’s like a frickin badge of honor. “Put on the bigger socks.” “Oh, yeah. I know.”
- No, badge of honor.
[37:25] Yeah. All right. So once you hit a million in revenue, so that was 2011, 2012, 2013? 2013. You’ve got distribution through gyms, CrossFit gyms. You’re doing some direct-to-consumer. So you’re getting some traction. And you’re thinking at that point, “Well, all we got to do now is just grow. And how hard can this be?” What were some of the challenges on your journey from, say, one to five million? Because pre-interview, you nearly went broke a couple of times. Just pick one. At the time, you’re sitting at your desk, and you’re like, “Oh, holy shit. How the hell am I ever going to survive this?” What was that?
- Yeah, a lot of those were pre-one, because you’re still, you don’t have any traction and still trying to figure things out. But between one and five, I think that what happens to most people is they’re hitting a level of scale where they can’t do everything themselves anymore. Between Orion and I, we handle a lot. He had some finance background. So he was pretty good or good enough with the finance, accounting, investor stuff, operations. And I was more sales, customer service, product, marketing. And then we’d both take out the trash and do all that stuff, right?
But then things start to just burst at the seams. As soon as the ball starts getting dropped in areas, or you have major deficiency, you’re like, “Okay, we need to hire for this ASAP. We needed to hire for this a month ago.” And that’s where I think all entrepreneurs get in a trap because you’re hiring out of desperation. So the first resume that looks decent that comes across your desk, you’re like, “Perfect. Interview. Hire.” Instead of really vetting them, and making them jump through all the hoops, and make sure that they’re a right cultural fit. And so, getting a few of the wrong people on the ship early on, it’s tough because those are really challenging to unwind too, and usually cost a lot more down the line than they even cost to get into in the first place. So I’d say that’s a major one. Never hire out of desperation is the takeaway.
[39:45] Did you have enough profitability or cash flow in the business that you could afford the caliber of people that you needed at that point in time? Or did you have to go back to the investors and raise yet more capital?
- Well, we’re in pretty continuous fundraising mode for a while. We did turn a profit a couple years, but we were consistently raising. At the time when we realized, “Okay, we really need high-caliber people,” some people were working more just off equity. We had a couple high-quality caliber people that were primarily equity without much cash at all, which we could afford. Because equity is cheap in the early days, of course. But each stage of growth, there has been a natural turn, if you will, where some people realize they’re not contributing to the level. But they’re not contributing the level that we require anymore. Some people are just, like, start up to 1 or a 1 to 10. And that’s where they excel. And as soon as you get out of that, it’s not their wheelhouse, and that’s okay. You got to surrender that, okay, things happen for a reason. And when one door closes, another opens. And so we’ve been able to, at each stage of growth, really up-level the human capital.
[41:05] So it’s also reasonably common for the leaders of an organization to be really good from 1 to 10, but then have no idea how to go from 10 to 20, or 20 to 40, or what have you. And then so the Michael Dells of the world who go from founder to multi-billionaire are like unicorns of human beings. What are some of the things, Aaron, that you did to make sure that the company didn’t outgrow your capabilities?
- Well, as Steven Covey would say is he’d constantly sharpen the saw. So I used to be when I first started, a complete content junkie. Literally, every… And this is 10 years ago, so there wasn’t… You couldn’t even imagine doing this today. But literally, every business podcast that there was, I listened to, every marketing podcast, every sales podcast. I read, I think, 42 books or something in 1 year. I was just in the zone getting to a base level of competency. And I already had quite a bit of competency because I was a small business owner, which you’d be surprised how much of that translates over.
Talk about the customer experience and building a referral-based practice like that. Those are invaluable skills and tools to bring to a scaling business. But as we progressed, getting very specific on my focus, and not just consuming all content, but content that’s directly relevant to the next level, or the next evolution, or where we need to go. And so, really focusing. The other part is just the recognition that there is no work-life and personal life; it’s just life. If you have a shitty day at work, it affects home. And you get in a fight with your spouse, it’s gonna affect work. And really looking at things from that perspective. And from building out our team’s perspective. So started bringing a lot to the organization in terms of—I don’t want to call it personal or professional—just human development, right? Things like vocabulary courses, making people very conscious of the words that come out of their mouth, and eliminating negations, and soft talk from how we communicate to books that we would read together to our weekly all-hands meeting and the kind of training, and, sometimes, outside speakers. And so, I’m absorbing and learning. And then anything that I find value in, I’m immediately passing it off to the team. And we’re all up-leveling our game at the same time. Right?
And so, that’s been key. Key is like, “Okay, where do I want to go next? Who should I emulate? Who’s at that level? What are they doing differently than I’m doing?” Because remember, if we go back to what we started out with, the fundamental question is: are you a victim or not? Well, what’s that all about? It’s that everything in life is a choice. Everything is a choice. And as soon as we accept that, if we’re getting a result that we’re not happy with, then we need to choose differently or choose better. And so, looking at, where is the delta? Where’s the gap between where I am now and where I want to be? Who is where I want to be? And study that individual, read about that individual. And see what I can start doing differently and making better decisions.
[44:41] Alright, we are very near the end. Before we finish up our time together today, which I’ve greatly enjoyed. So thank you for being here. Talk to me a little bit about processes in your business. Obviously, everyone, who knows, listens to my show, knows that I’m a major process junkie. I founded a process software company because I’m such a process junkie. I believe strongly in the value of processes in an organization. So do you have a lot of them? And when I say processes, basically, documented processes or processes that live in software to make sure that execution is consistent, regardless of who’s doing it. So do you have a lot of processes in your business now? When did you start to develop them? And in hindsight, do you think you would have been better off if you’d started to develop them sooner or later?
- Yeah, sooner the better. Absolutely. We really started to focus on, I’m going to say four years ago, when we hired a consultant named Raj who came in and help set up what we call “Our Game,” which is a quarterly vision statement that we do with OKRs for each individual, each department. And basically, reverse engineering where we see ourselves in the future on a quarterly basis. And part of that process was creating processes for each department and what we do and how we do it. And it’s an ongoing process because right when you finish, it’s almost time to revisit it and update it and upgrade it again. So yes, it’s a constant work in progress. I’m sure continual process integration and documentation is on several individual and departmental OKRs for this quarter.
[46:34] Okay. I want to thank you very much for making some time to come and be on the show and share some of the ups and downs of your journey. For folks who might be interested in trying your product, I’m assuming they just go to lifeaid.com
- lifeaidbevco.com or any of your local grocery stores.
[46:54] All right. It’s been a pleasure to have you here. Thank you so much for making the time.
- Thanks, Trent.
[46:49] Hey, thank you so much for listening to today’s episode. If you’d like to get to the show notes for today’s episode, you can just go to brightideas.co/372. And if you’re listening to this, or you’re a repeat listener, I should say, and you’ve enjoyed this episode, or even if you’re a first-time listener, and you’ve enjoyed this episode, I’d be super grateful if you would take a moment on your favorite podcast-listening app to go ahead and give us a review and a rating. Hopefully, it’s a five-star rating. But if it’s four-star rating, that’s okay, too. We can live with that. But the more ratings that our audience gives us, it really does just a huge amount in helping us to get more exposure for the show and attract more people to listen to the show. So if you wouldn’t mind doing that, I would be extremely grateful. So thank you so much for doing that. Take care, and we’ll see you in the next episode soon. Take care. Bye bye.
??Thanks very much for listening to the Bright Ideas podcast. Check us out on the web at brightideas.co.
Alright. Show’s over. I’m tired.
Aaron Hinde’s Bright Ideas
- Mind Your Words and Actions
- When Overcoming Adversity, Don’t Be a Victim
- Choose a Target Market
- Offer Something New
- Sharpen the Saw
Mind Your Words and Actions
Aaron shares how he defeated the adversities he faced and built a $60 million beverage business.
Trying his hand at real estate in 2007, Aaron suffered financially when the market took a hit. It was a tough time, but he managed to overcome it by changing his mindset.
From ages 7 to 8, we begin to form the foundations of our mindset and how we perceive the world. This process affects our thoughts, translates into our words, influences our actions, and generates results based on the law of attraction.
Getting stuck in negativity creates a negative spiral. To break free from it, Aaron made a conscious effort to control his words and actions. He created a morning routine, which would then affect his long-term trajectory.
On being consistent, he shares:
“… this stuff actually works if you practice it long enough. And that’s where most people fail. They’re just not giving things enough time.”
The process of changing your mindset and breaking out of the cycle of overcoming adversity won’t be easy, and it won’t be in a straight line. But consistency is key.
When Overcoming Adversity, Don’t Be a Victim
When adversity comes your way, Aaron says it’s important to ask yourself this fundamental question: Am I a victim?
A victim mindset puts you in a place where you are not in control and creates a sense of helplessness — as if there’s nothing you can do to turn your situation around. It makes you a mere product of cause and effect.
But Aaron resists this, saying:
“Cause plus reaction equals effect, right? We have the ability to choose.”
If you want to make progress, getting rid of the victim cycle is an important step. Recognize that you’re making yourself a victim, creating beliefs, thoughts, words, actions that make you unhappy. Deconstruct your thoughts. Then, work on your language and actions — these are the things that hold weight. This is how you can go about overcoming adversity.
Choose a Target Market
Aaron joined a high-level marketing group where he got helpful advice from Dean Jackson:
“You need to choose a single target market.”
At the time, they had three different products targeted towards three different audiences. When they noticed that CrossFit’s trajectory was booming compared to the other two, they decided to go all-in on it. Choosing that one target market became the key to generating more revenue.
Offer Something New
When starting LIFEAID, Aaron received lots of advice from well-known people in the industry. They believed that LIFEAID couldn’t sell drinks online. But Aaron and his partner, Orion, did it anyway, and it turned out to be successful.
It’s vital to have something new to offer, especially in an industry with well-established players. Aaron states:
“You’re coming with fresh eyes to an industry and killing the sacred cows and doing the opposite of what everyone’s doing.”
LIFEAID offers a cleaner and more sustainable alternative to the energy drinks in the market. Their products focus more on stimulating the brain and nervous system rather than hammering you with caffeine. It might cost a bit more, but they offer something cleaner and more sustainable to the communities they serve.
Sharpen the Saw
Aaron shares two critical things in making sure that your company doesn’t outgrow your capabilities:
- Focus on improving and honing your skills.
- Recognize that there is no work-life and personal life — there’s just life.
It’s essential to make sure that the quality of the business and production does not drop. Aside from what Aaron knew from owning a small business, he actively studied, listened to podcasts, and read books to improve his skills.
He also emphasized building the team’s perspective and encouraging holistic development. Aaron was constantly passing on the things he learned to them so that they’re all leveling up in terms of skill and competence.
On improving himself, and the business, Aaron constantly asks himself:
“Where do I want to go next? Who should I emulate? Who’s at that level? What are they doing differently than I’m doing?”
From these questions, you can choose what to do and how to get to where you want to be. Everything in life is a choice. If you’re not satisfied with the results, then it’s a sign for you to reassess your goals and choose better.
What Did We Learn from This Episode?
- We learned the importance of mindset in overcoming adversity.
- You are in control of the decisions you make and the situation you’re in.
- Choose a single target market and hone in on what they need.
- Offer fresh ideas.
- Aim for holistic growth for yourself, your business, and your team.
[04:43] — Aaron introduces LIFEAID
- LIFEAID Beverage Co. started by making products for the CrossFit community.
- They aim to make beverages that are healthy and enjoyable.
- With 3,000 retail accounts, LifeAID earned $16 million revenue this year and continues to grow by 25-30% every year.
[08:22] — Control your choices and mindset
- When the real estate market crashed, Aaron had to file for bankruptcy. His finances and ego both took a hit.
- Our perceptions form our thoughts, words, and actions. These directly affect our choices and the results that they create.
- By controlling his words and actions, Aaron found that he started to progress — slowly but surely.
- Overcoming adversity requires that you change your language.
[13:54] — Breaking free from the victim cycle
- Being a victim means you are not in control.
- Discard the “cause and effect” mindset. Adopt the mindset that “cause plus reaction equals effect.”
- We have the ability to choose.
[17:06] — Ditching materialism
- When the house he had worked on for 17 years burned down, Aaron took this experience as an opportunity for growth.
- Don’t assign permanence to material things.
- Words, thoughts, and actions are what last forever and hold the most weight.
[19:31] — Dealing with bankruptcy
- After going bankrupt, Aaron and his family lived in a 400-square foot RV.
- LIFEAID started as a side hustle with a fellow CrossFit enthusiast, Orion.
- Eventually, they decided to devote their time entirely to LIFEAID because they couldn’t serve two masters if they wanted their business to succeed.
- Their finances were tight during this period. This experience served as a lesson in humility for Aaron.
[23:36] — Choosing your target market and offering them something new
- Looking for tips that they can apply to their business, Aaron joined a high-level marketing group.
- There, Dean Jackson advised him to choose a single target market. By doing so, you can focus your time and resources on putting together a great product.
- Aaron emphasizes that you should bring something new to the market and not follow the usual path to compete in the market.
[28:55] — How is LIFEAID different from other energy drinks?
- Rather than an energy drink, LIFEAID belongs to the healthy energy or performance energy space.
- Their ingredients consist of moderate hits of natural caffeine with green tea, nootropics Alpha-GPC, GABA, and B complex.
- It’s a cleaner and more sustainable approach that aims to stimulate the brain and nervous system.
- LIFEAID costs more, but it’s different and healthier than other energy drinks in the market.
[31:26] — Creating their products
- Because of his background in nutrition, Aaron is well-versed in the right ingredients to use.
- Aaron researched the best ingredients to use and worked with a food scientist to make LIFEAID’s first products.
[38:12] — Hiring the right people
- Don’t hire people out of desperation.
- If you do, it might cost you more in the long run.
- Instead, make sure that your prospects are a good cultural fit and can keep up with your company’s progress.
[41:35] — Increasing business capabilities
- Focus on learning new things.
- Encourage holistic growth for the business. Pass on what you learn to the team so that you are all growing.
- Assess your goals. If you are not satisfied with the results, choose better.
[44:41] — Developing the business process
- It’s better to develop your business process sooner rather than later.
- Aaron hired a consultant who helped them set up a quarterly vision statement.
- Creating the systems and processes for your business is a constant work in progress that you revisit and upgrade over time.
In 2011, Dr. Aaron Hinde left his lucrative sports chiropractic practice to push the chips “all in” with business partner and fellow Santa Cruz native Orion Melehan to enter an industry with a failure rate of 99%…the beverage industry. With zero beverage experience and high hopes of creating the next Billion dollar beverage brand, he moved his family off the grid…literally. With two kids he downsized his life to live in a 400 sq. foot home with no power and no income.
Obsessed with producing high quality, efficacious, and niche functional lifestyle drinks to replace the high sugar, high caffeine and artificially laden energy and “sports” drinks, LIFEAID garnered tremendous traction with CrossFitters and Spartan Racers concerned about clean recovery with their FITAID sku. Today, the entire LIFEAID line of FITAID, FOCUSAID, PARTYAID, LIFEAID Turmeric, IMMUNITYAID, LIFEAID Hemp, GOLFERAID, and powder sticks continue to dominate niche markets as well as garnering significant traction in conventional channels such as Whole Foods, Sprouts, Safeway, Kroger, Walmart, CVS, HEB, Vitamin Shoppe and GNC among many others. LIFEAID products are currently sold in tens of thousands of accounts, have 550,000+ active engaged followers on social media, and was ranked in the Inc 500 fastest growing companies in the US three years in a row.
Aaron obtained his BA in Economics from Saint Vincent College with a minor in international business and his Doctor of Chiropractic from Palmer College of Chiropractic. He practiced in Santa Cruz, CA for 10 years. In 2008, Aaron was elected to serve as a trustee on the Santa Cruz County Board of Education. He was re-elected in 2010. He has since sold his practice and given up politics to focus on making LIFEAID a household name. Aaron is married to his beautiful wife Ramah of 17 years and has two children, 16 y.o. Trinity and 14 y.o. Bronson who are the company’s biggest advocates.