We had the good fortune of connecting with Darwin Duncan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Darwin, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Risk is a requirement to get anything out of life and it is in every decision you make, regardless of if you know it or not. When you wake up in the morning and decide to do nothing for the day, you assume little to no risk. In turn, you get nothing out of that decision besides some rest, well needed or not. When you decide to clock in at your day to day job, you assume a small amount of risk in the sense that you will receive compensation for the work that you are doing, oftentimes at a lower value than the work is actually worth. If you decide to start your own business, chase a dream or even go after a lofty goal, you are assuming the maximum amount of risk.
There isn’t a beaten path on this path to success. There isn’t a tried and true method that will ensure that you can pay your bills, take care of your family or even yourself. You can put in countless hours of work, blood, sweat and tears and get nothing out of it other than a pat on the back and a story to tell. Understanding that the greatest joys and pleasures in life are gated behind the largest risk and that there isn’t a shortcut is the first thing people need to grasp and fully understand.
I was never the type to take a risk. I always stuck to my strengths and would usually choose the safest option when given a choice. I had full ride scholarships across the nation when I was 17, but flunked out my Freshman year when I couldn’t decide on what degree I should go after, The risk of making the “wrong” choice paralyzed me and I chose to do nothing. I ended up working a minimum wage job at Chick-fil-a in my early 20s because I needed to make some money and they were the first job application I put in. My life decisions were constantly made for me because I was afraid of failure. I was afraid of taking responsibility for my own actions. I always wanted to be able to say “I could have done it if I tried”. Eventually, I got fired from my job after five or so years and had to face this fear head on. I took the least amount of risk and still lost. I was devastated.
I decided from that point that if taking little to no risk could still result in failing, I was going to take the maximum amount of risk because if I, by some chance, was able to succeed in my goal, my life would never be the same. I could talk for days about this, but the idea of running from risk just doesn’t make sense to me anymore. I no longer allow for the fear to stop me from moving forward. I was able to go from a beat-up 2003 Trailblazer with my logo slapped on the door to several vans and a small team of detailers that love their job and want to grow as I do. I had to take chances. I had to take a few gambles here and there. With proper planning, dedication and consistency, even the riskiest endeavors can be overcome.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I own a mobile detailing company that services the Greater Houston area and are in the midst of expanding to other cities across the nation. For anyone who isn’t aware, mobile detailing is the concept of bringing the car wash experience to your home or place of work. Of course, since everything is done by hand, the quality of the service far surpasses that of your local car wash. That’s the simplest way to put it.
The thing that sets us apart from others in this business is our presentation and business philosophy. Before I hired anyone to work with me, I did everything alone. I remembered my days as a fast food employee and how the systems in place made the job much more stressful than it had to be, regardless of how much I was paid. I focused solely on creating a car detailing system that would provide the highest overall quality with the least amount of stress for the employee. I have an employee first, customer second mindset. A happy worker means a happier customer. It’s a pretty simple concept that isn’t applied as much as it should be in the business world. I am nothing without my employees. The business doesn’t exist if there isn’t anyone happily doing the work.
I got to where I am today by being consistent and listening to the feedback of the consumers and my employees. One thing that is detrimental to a growing business is the inability to change based on data gathered. One of my biggest strength is to be able to analyze at a fast rate and extrapolate concepts from incomplete data. This sounds complex, but all of that was a fancy way of saying that I know how to look at information and use it. For example, my fist business concept was to offer a subscription based service, but after doing a little bit of research and noticing that very few people were purchasing, I was able to deduce that this wasn’t the way we should go about doing business. I made some surveys, looked at local and nationwide competitor pricing, ran several different test and was able to land on a select group of services at a very attractive price point. I constantly adapted my business to fit the needs of the consumer and would make sweeping, internal changes to satisfy those needs. Being hard headed and stubborn is the death of most businesses be them new or old.
I mentioned it earlier, but consistency is also the most important thing that the average individual lacks when attempting to start their own business or do anything in life. I continued to advertise, provide my service and be available 24/7 in case a possible customer would call my phone. I continued to perfect my craft and showed up everyday. I never took a day off in five years. I took nearly every job I could get my hands on, setup my online presence so that people could leave real and honest reviews, and I leveraged this consistency and transparency into being able to land several business contracts that are now the lifeblood of myself and my company. If you were ever in the market for getting your car cleaned, I guarantee you came across my company once or twice regardless of if you used me or not. I didn’t truly get to see the fruits of my labor until 4 years in. It’s a grind and everyday you don’t show up sets you back several.
Now, getting to this point was easier for me than it would be for most, and I truly think that this level of transparency is necessary to give a better scope of what it takes to make it in business. I do not come from a wealthy household and I had to work at and earn everything that I have now, but my family did play a major role in allowing for me to take on this risk. I do not have any children or outside responsibilities. I currently stay with my grandparents to limit my bills so I can focus solely on growing my business. I planned for several years before spending a penny. II spent countless years working on my charisma to make it easier to get what I wanted. I sought out multiple investors and constantly revamped my business plan to be more enticing. I could talk for days about all of the decisions I made to make this path easier to walk, but understand that not everyone has the surroundings to even be able to make my decisions. I am a very fortunate individual and used my situation as leverage to take on a massive risk. Regardless of my situation, I put in a lot of prep work before starting this venture. Business is won by that one who thinks. Plan for failure and accept the success. Be decisive and trust in your instincts and data. It isn’t a joke when I say that I was built for this so while it was a challenge, it wasn’t something that I thought impossible.
The major lessons I learned so far is that you have to do something or nothing happens. I didn’t ever see myself washing cars, but the opportunity presented itself and I ran with it. I could have battled with the idea. I could have been negative and saw all of the hardships and pitfalls that come with pursing this business. I could have chosen to do nothing, but I wouldn’t be where I am today. You can’t beat the game if you don’t even try to play it. You won’t know what’s impossible if you never try. You can have all the preparations in the world, but if you lack the follow through and consistency, you will always fail. Just get up and do the thing. The thing will thing.
There isn’t anything specific I want the world to know about me. I am doing what I do because I wanted to do it. It would be nice if people could take some form of inspiration from my words, but other than that people just need to get up and do things and stop just thinking and talking about doing things. Also, as far as my brand goes, when your car is dirty and you need it cleaned, schedule online at mercurydetailing.com (Yeah, I put a shameless plug in at the end).
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, first thing’s first. We going to Shipley’s Donuts. They are going to eat these donuts. Outside of that, I honestly do more traveling outside of the city than anything else so I don’t have a list of go to spots. I would take them to the museum district and check out the Museum of Natural Science specifically. I am a huge fan of BBQ, so Killen’s would be the go to spot. We would fill in the random days with some indoor sky diving, go karting and ace throwing and probably just go to Washington Avenue/Midtown for some bar hopping to end it all.
I believe the most exciting thing to do is travel with a purpose in mind. Sight seeing and just interacting with different cultures (Once international travel is back to being a consistent thing). As far as the best people to meet, it would be the more spontaneous types. I am not the best at planning adventures and trips so those who are have a special place in my circle. I am a simple guy, so the simplest things are oftentimes the most enjoyable.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My best friend, Autumn Wyborny, played a major role in my success in being my support system, investor and for allowing me to make my own decisions that ultimately got the business growing and going on the right track after several years. I truly do believe that my current and future success wouldn’t be possible without her.
I am not much of a reader in the traditional sense, but I did take a lot of inspiration from “The Art of War” and “The 48 Laws of Power”. It seems pretty cliché, I know, but when you truly are able to extrapolate the concepts of each book and apply them to your everyday life and decision making, you are able to see things more clearly and act accordingly.
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Dustin McClinton C.J Johnson