Renegade Regulars: Darren

 

Brandon:
Well, Darren, what's up, brother?

Darren:
Hey, Brandon. Good to see you, man. It's been too long since I've been able to be over here.

Brandon:
I know, man. I don't get to see Darren like I used to, but Darren and I played tennis together, and we run into each other occasionally in Rockwall. A lot of times we talk about how we met in these, and I think it's really interesting that Darren's story and I is ironic to say the least.

Brandon:
So Darren and I actually used to work together. Darren worked with me when I was in the janitorial business, but after Darren and I worked together, I was a cigar smoker. He was a cigar smoker. We crossed paths at cigar shops in the past. He actually used to manage a cigar shop for a short period of time, right?

Darren:
Yeah, about a year.

Brandon:
It was Jim's shop?

Darren:
Jim Robinson, yeah, Leaf & Bean out in the Strip District in Pittsburgh.

Brandon:
I think Jim's probably better known for the leaf cigar now, but he started as a retailer, and he's still a retailer. And from what I understand, he does a really good job.

Darren:
It's a great shop. I had not only a great training from him, but great exposure just to the cigar industry in general. He's got just really good long deep relationships with manufacturers, and he's just a phenomenal guy.

Brandon:
I tell you, if there is a cigar brand that has just really made an impact in the last five, six, seven years. Not that I would say that I wouldn't expect, but I mean... because I think they're fantastic cigars, but it's... he's just a guy that's not... he's not out doing a ton of events. He's not... he was a retailer. It kind of started as a house project, and the thing just took off. I mean, it's absolutely crazy.

Darren:
I was just going to say Jim's secret if, I mean, it's really no different than a lot of other success stories, but he invests in his people that are close to him and then it just grows from there. And yeah, he became that typical overnight success after 20 years.

Brandon:
20 years of hard work [crosstalk 00:01:55].

Darren:
20 years of really hard work.

Brandon:
I've heard that too many times.

Brandon:
So just briefly, tell me what it was like working in the janitorial business with me. I don't think you were expecting that, but...

Darren:
It was a new industry to me, and I had... when I entered into it. And if you may recall, you called me, and I said, "Done." He goes... or you said, "Well, don't you want to see the contract?" No. I knew you at that point long enough to where I said, "Okay, I just trust whatever it is that you had, whatever process." And I... the funny thing is, I won't tell the long version of the story, but you said, "Do you have any questions?" I just said I had one. I said, "Planning on selling the business." He said, "Well, no plans. But if the right offer comes along," and I'll be damned six months later.

Brandon:
That is true.

Darren:
But I loved it. Two weeks into working for you, I went home and told Jennifer, "I've been re-energized. This guy is great." And if you don't mind me saying, I said, "This kid is great" because you're 20 years my junior, and I was so infused with energy and ready to go that I said, "I can retire working for him."

Brandon:
That's awesome.

Darren:
That's how much I enjoyed working for you.

Brandon:
Gives me chills a little bit. Not that you have gray hair, I've got more gray hair than you do, unfortunately. But I do think that's one thing a lot of people miss. You brought a lot of old school sales mentality. You brought a skill set that was 20, 25 years deep to the company. And at that time, I wanted to sell everything on Google, and Darren was out about building relationships, and I've always been big on building relationships, but I wanted to build deep relationships with our clients. But I didn't want to go out and make those syncs come from nothing. I wasn't one that liked to go knock on doors. I liked to have strong marketing efforts, get the phone to ring, and then nurture the relationship from there.

Brandon:
And I think too many people miss that, right? There was a little bit of a generation gap where a lot of the gray hair that's still in the workforce thinks that the young generation wants to do everything on their phone. And I think a lot of the young guys think the old school cats just don't know what they're doing. And I think this is the most perfect time for those two generations to really work together and rub off on each other a little bit and do something that you're not going to have the opportunity to do 10 years from now because 10 years from now, the tech guys, which I'm not saying is a bad thing, but the young generation with a different value, a different work ethic, they're going to be working with their peers.

Brandon:
The gray hair is going to be off. They're going to be retired. So any of you millennials, or I guess I'm a Gen X or I don't even know how to keep up with that. But I'm 36 years old. Any of you 36-year-olds that are out there in the workforce right now that have the opportunity to work with somebody 20 years older, 30 years older, I say you learn from them what you can, and some of you gray haired guys probably have something to learn from the young guys.

Darren:
The inverse is absolutely true. And one thing that not only did you really foster in our short formal relationship, but in the years since then, is you don't say no to any opportunity of how to grow. And that was one thing that being that older guy and being in that sales system throughout whatever business I was in, I was like, "We've been successful this way. I don't need to do something." And, oh my goodness, you've changed my perspective on some things and then other people. You've introduced me to other people, and I've gotten to know other people, and you're 100%, right. And this whole whacked out situation that we've been in the last six, seven months has really forced a lot of people who are in positions to make decisions about their businesses to look at all kinds of ways to adjust. And then you have to realize, "Wait a second." Somebody... they may have something to value there, and yeah, it's forcing a lot of people... it's actually done really well for our business, so...

Brandon:
And that's another thing that I find interesting. So Darren asked me if I was going to sell my business. And when I hired Darren, I had no intention of selling the business, but about six, eight months after Darren came on, I had an opportunity to sell. It was late 2014. I sold, which is how I ultimately got into this business. But Darren decided that he was going to do his own thing. And he's still in, not in the janitorial space, but you're still in the service business. You do flooring. You do... I know you started with carpet and tile, which we did a lot of that, so that skillset kind of transferred. But now you do a lot of hard floors and commercial flooring, epoxy, and you've built a pretty incredible business.

Darren:
Well, one... so even though we were on the sales side, we went out to jobs, and I was on job sites a lot. And I-

Brandon:
Cleaned toilets when we had to.

Darren:
... We did clean toilets when we had to. Thankfully it didn't happen very often, but one of the things that just intrigued me and excited me was the project side of what we got to do. And so when we got to add in not just the daily, the weekly stuff, but when we got to the projects, I love the process. So after you sold and I played mental ping-pong with myself for trying to figure out what it was, I went into the floor cleaning business because of the project side, and that's led me into some other things. And I don't even know... well, I think I've told you a little bit about it, but that we're actually moving away from that space because the epoxy and the staining and some of the other commercial stuff is just growing so much that it demands my attention.

Brandon:
[crosstalk 00:07:39] And I've seen you on Facebook. See, you're very technical. You're on Facebook. I see all of his pictures, and it's just... it's really interesting to watch him grow his business in a similar space to what we were doing. And it's been a lot of fun. I've enjoyed watching it, and I think, other than the friendship, professionally, it was a good thing we [inaudible 00:07:58].

Darren:
Oh my goodness. Well, it really... meeting you and doing the things that we've done together really helped drive the direction I was... I was going to do something, but you really helped me focus on that. And then plus, if those of you who know Brandon, and you want to start a business, Brandon is generous to a fault with helping people.

Brandon:
I love to tell people what not to do. Everybody asks, "What do you do to make a business work?" I'm like, "Let me tell you all the stuff I screwed up. And that's sometimes more valuable than the stuff you do right." I always joke about that.

Brandon:
But anyway, let's kind of end this thing on cigars. Darren has been a cigar smoker for-

Darren:
About 25 years.

Brandon:
25 years. So about 7, 8, 9, 10 years longer than I have. What do you think about cigars today from 25 years ago?

Darren:
Well, hands down, our options are better. The blends are better. The pricing structure has not increased with inflation compared to other things. So I think it's a value. The social aspect of it has just increased for me because of the lounge experiences and getting to know friends and having a business connection with it. But just cigars in general? I mean, with a few exceptions that have been around that long, we've got so many more options that are just unreal. It's exciting.

Brandon:
I thought you'd go a different direction, that I thought you would talk about how much cigars have gone up in cost. And you really kind of put a different perspective on that when you talk about inflation because everything has gone up in cost, obviously, over 25 years. That goes without saying, but cigars are certainly not the same price point they were. But the value proposition, I think, is still there. A lot of times when somebody comes in, they spend an hour and a half in the lounge. They catch the end of a sports game. They catch up with a friend. They answer a few emails. They're in a comfortable environment. They're really enjoying themselves. Maybe the best hour of their entire day, and they did it for $11.

Darren:
100%.

Brandon:
I'm like, "how can you be mad about that?"

Darren:
I look at it this way. 25 years ago, I know what a car would... a vehicle would cost me and what a vehicle will cost me today. And the differential between the two, even the percentage difference, is still it's a better value with cigars. So when I compare it to the other things in our life that we have to spend money on and then we choose to spend our money on, I look at it as one of the greatest values there are because the relaxation, the social aspect, that's all the same, and it costs me less percentage than it used to.

Brandon:
It's $100 to go to the movies with two people now if you're going to... yeah, it's crazy. But, cigars still, I think, can present a really good value proposition. So I'm glad that you positioned it that way. I didn't expect that, but it kind of plays into my argument a little bit, so I appreciate that.

Brandon:
So we'll end it with this: Favorite cigar you've ever smoked.

Darren:
Well, I happened to be in Morocco, and I was able to land a Cuban parting gift. Couldn't tell you which one it was, but I got to smoke it with my then 16 year old son. And it was his first cigar. That was the single best cigar I've ever smoked, but from a reality standpoint, and it had nothing to do with us sitting down here today. The Winehouse Cigar is my day-to-day favorite. This is what I probably buy the most of. And you've got several other... your number 8, the Renegade 8 is killer. I like the Oliva Melanio, and you can never go wrong with a Padron Anniversary Series.

Brandon:
Oh man, Padron's good, man. And I appreciate support in the Winehouse, really proud of that cigar, and I appreciate it.

Brandon:
And, thanks for spending a few minutes with us, man. And here's to good cigars and more success in the future.






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