Choosing the Hardest Right Over the Easiest Wrong
Meet the American Soul Brothers. Two gritty and purpose driven entrepreneurs who want to take control of their story and give back.
Our connection started at a speaking engagement I had at an NMSDC event in Seattle. Months later I ran into them at a tasting demonstration of their sauce at a grocery store in my neighborhood in Portland, Oregon (see pic below!). The world works in mysterious ways!
Since then, we’ve developed a friendship and connection as entrepreneurs driven by a desire to give back and open doors for kids on the other side of the opportunity divide. They became students of struggle after a story gave them permission to make the choice to always choose the hardest right over the easiest wrong.
Kevin and Omar have figured out that the long way really is the shortcut.
Thanks for your inspiration American Soul Brothers!
BH: As Business Leader, you’re making choices all the time. What does your decision making-process look like?
When it comes to making a decision, we try to decide what’s best for American Soul Brothers. Is it a shared opportunity for both parties. We ask: does it fit our purpose and vision of where we are trying to go as a company? We pray and collaborate, then move forward.
My decision making-process consist of prayer first, then council and/or feedback from mentors. Next I consider: is this the right move or worth the risk? What are the consequences? What do I have to lose? Am I prepared to sacrifice more of my time/life?
BH: Have you ever faced a difficult decision that called into question how you were going to proceed as a business? Can you tell us about that story, and how you made your choice?
Kevin and I were partners in another BBQ sauce and food business before American Soul Brothers. We shared ownership with two other partners. The other partners wanted to take the company in a different direction/leadership and reallocate the percentage amount of ownership. Looking back, it was a dark time of mistrust and disagreements.
The other partners didn’t make us feel that they appreciated our sacrifices: money, time, withdrawing from 401(k)’s, the investments we raised, Kevin was even living with friends to save capital, and on top of that, he also left a well-paying job at a family business. As any entrepreneur can appreciate, when the stakes are high, and the sacrifices are great, it’s so important to feel you’re on a trusted team and your contributions are seen and valued. The lack of trust and appreciation only magnified the tension.
It got to the point that is was clear the current situation wasn’t working. So, I went to the Oregon Coast, sat on the beach for some hours and prayed to God. I was angry, disappointed. What should we do? While I was praying, God showed me, I had to let it go and trust Him. I was given this analogy: what is in your hand, you are trying to hold on to everything. Open your hand and let it go, now you can receive God’s blessings. Immediately, after receiving that revelation I called Kevin and told him what happened. We decided right then and there to start our own veteran/minority owned company.
That day July 1, 2015 American Soul Brothers was born. God connected us with a great team of mentors: lawyers, marketing, accountants, distributors, store accounts and others to help launch and grow American Soul Brothers.
So, the struggles and disappointments were a blessing in disguise.
The difficult decision called into question how we were going to proceed as a business was when we had to break away from some old business partners.
We took some time to pray and to individually ask God for direction. The answer was to simply let go. Don’t hold on to the old, and embrace the new. Nothing can enter closed hands, but open hands can receive. After this revelation sitting in a longtime friend’s Honda Pilot, we parted ways with our old partners and American Soul Brothers, Minority Owned, Veteran Owned Company was born.
BH: Even if what happened after wasn’t easy, how did it feel? How did you continue to move forward?
We felt disappointed, betrayed, and that we had wasted our time, money and resources. Also, I couldn’t understand how a friend for almost 20 years can betray you that way after so much was sacrificed and shared.
We moved forwarded by trusting God and sticking to our game plan. We realized that we must stick to our purpose and why we are doing this business.
After the separation, it was very difficult the first few months filled with perceived regret, anger, self-pity, time wasted and slight embarrassment for not seeing red flags sooner. You start to question yourself. Is this worth it? What have I done?
Once we had time to heal physically, mentally and emotionally we forged ahead with the new adventure. This time out of the gate we set up parameters and/or requirements in meeting or partnering with new people/individuals. For example, we immediately look for character and competence, and does this person care about our motto:
Relationships over Transactions
Lastly, we use the 3C’s method in Confidants (your closest allies), Constituents (only cares about the mission/cause not me) and Comrades (only cares about what you are fighting for / against). This has been of great service to us as we meet more individuals.
BH: How do you differentiate between a good challenge or a bad challenge?
We differentiate between a good challenge or bad challenge by running it through our core values:
- Follow the Golden Rule
- Relationships our transactions
- Provide a Service of Excellence
A good challenge to me is trying to achieve or face the challenge doing things the right way. Such as not taking the easy short-cuts in regards to building on our relationships and growing new business accounts. A bad challenge to me is taking an ill-advised risk without council and ignoring all of our character based decision making to achieve a goal.
BH: Is it ever tempting to choose an easy answer over a difficult one?
It is very tempting when it comes supplying you customers with products. Especially, when your products are on back-order, your customers want the products right away, and you don’t have the capital to manufacture it.
YES. It is very tempting to choose and easy answer when you’re under enormous pressure. For example, when you have order requests from retail and food service markets and not enough capital to pay the manufacturer to produce the order. Do you tell the requester that you don’t have the funds to produce the product / back-ordered or say it’s on the way. Very tempting to respond with the latter.
BH: What guidance do you have for fellow entrepreneurs and business leaders when it comes to facing those fork-in-the-road decisions?
When you have to make tough decision, you must stick to your core values. Those very hard decision will come, run them through your core values and you can live with the results.
Everybody deals with circumstances differently and reacts in different ways. For us in our company, prayer and seeking council from our mentors was very beneficial for our fork-in-the-road decisions. Find and/or seek out mentorships in your field for advice, direction and encouragement. This will go a long way in assisting you with your decision making.
BH: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from a struggle on your journey so far?
Be patient, trust God, and when you receive a No, a better Yes is coming.
GOD is with me and my steps are ordered. Everything I’ve been through to get to this point has been worth it, as far as building a legacy and opportunity for others. This struggle has produced some wonderful lifelong relationships.
BH: What was your biggest take-away from The Gift of Struggle and how do you think this book can help other entrepreneurs on their leadership journey?
My biggest takeaway from The Gift of Struggle is the value of relationships or ordained encounters and just how powerful your life story can be. All the struggles, disappointments, pain and identity crises I’ve had in life have made me stronger and more resilient. Much needed qualities to endure struggle in business / entrepreneurship!
This book can definitely help other entrepreneurs on their journey. First, you’ll learn to start with how you became entrepreneurs – your story. Secondly, How you struggled to get to that place and why it was beneficial (as I look back on it now).
Most of all, choosing the hardest right over the easiest wrong is by far where the rubber meets the road – extremely helpful.
Bobby Herrera, who we have met at the right time in our journey, is the gift of the struggle. He has the same heart as we do for people, and a true amigo mi amigo!!
Don’t be afraid to tell your story, no matter how difficult it may have been or insignificant you think it is- it’s your Testimony! You don’t know who you will inspire or encourage along their journey.
Learn More About The American Soul Brothers: Heart and Soul in Every Bottle!
Gourmet Sauces with a Purpose
American Soul Brothers is a veteran/minority-owned business selling finger-licking gourmet BBQ sauces and spreads. We use ingredients you can easily pronounce and creating a price point you can afford. And we give back to others—in time, in profits, in spirit. Our Moms brought us up right.
Meet Omar and Kevin. Back in the day, Sunday night meant family BBQ.- including mouth-watering, napkin-wiping, stick-to-your-face sauces. Neighbors were welcome and anyone in need never went hungry. The generosity of their families inspired The Brothers to build a business that supports itself and gives back to their community.
We have created healthy gourmet sauces that are gluten-free, sodium-free/low sodium, fat-free/low-fat, and contain no high-fructose corn syrup, and soon to be Non-GMO. Burgers, ribs, and brisket shouldn’t have all the fun, so we create sauces to elevate vegetarian dishes, too, giving our sauces a broad demographic appeal. To feed our diverse fans—and show them new possibilities—we offer recipes that use our sauces on foods from tofu to pig, and everything in-between.
We give back through our Social Entrepreneur program, encouraging business minded teens. We teach doing business the American Soul Brothers’ way—to value relationships over transactions in everyday and every way—and to treat others as we want to be treated ourselves. We also partner with Forward Edge, to sponsor at-risk children in Haiti. Our ultimate goal is to have a 501c3 so that we may further benefit our community from children to veterans.