Serial entrepreneur Steve Teare's core mistake led him to embezzle computer parts and plunged him into homelessness before he could pick up the pieces.
You can find this and other episodes of the Professional Confessional podcast at PC-Podcast.com, or on your preferred podcasting platform of choice.
Do you want to come on and share your biggest professional mistake? Head to PC-Podcast.com/BeOurGuest to schedule your professional confessional.
In the meantime, please share this episode with someone you think needs to hear this today. That's all for this Professional Confessional. I'm Ashley Stryker. Thanks again for tuning in, and I hope you'll join us next time. Talk soon!
[00:00:00] Ashley Stryker: Welcome to the Professional Confessional: How the biggest mistakes we've ever made fundamentally changed our work, our careers, and our approach forever. Gain wisdom and perspective through these audio absolutions.
[00:00:20] Ashley Stryker: Today's guest is Steve Teare: A serial entrepreneur whose core mistake killed his career momentum, corrupted his personal morals, and plunged him into homelessness before he could pick up the pieces... but I'll let him tell you more about it.
[00:00:35] Steve Teare: When I'm asked to guest lecture at Washington State University, this is what they want me to talk about, usually: About how knowing who you are is very important to how you're going to interact with other people and the business decisions you make and how to compensate for your weaknesses, that sort of thing.
[00:00:52] Ashley Stryker: Okay. So what happened before you knew who you were?
[00:00:56] Steve Teare: Oh my gosh. Disaster!
[00:00:58] Steve Teare: In the early days, I didn't realize why I was so angry all the time.
[00:01:04] Steve Teare: And obviously a lot of guys who are entrepreneurs, the reason they're doing it is-- their motivation frequently is to prove the old man wrong. They want to prove to their dad that all the things that he said about them wasn't true, and that was my case. My father had said that I would never amount to anything and that, " You think you're so smart, you don't know anything and life is going to chew you up and spit you out." so that's was a fire in the belly and it's that way for a lot of entrepreneurs.
[00:01:32] Steve Teare: I was so into dominion. I wanted to be the best at whatever, and so I was as I became obsessive compulsive, a workaholic, to try and prove that I had worth.
[00:01:42] Steve Teare: And of course that's where knowing who we are comes into play. I probably would have been a better person, a better businessman. I still had success at that time, but I was too willing to do anything to succeed. And that would include crimes, at that point.
[00:01:59] Ashley Stryker: Talk about that. What was the worst example of... the most extreme example of the willingness to do anything because you didn't realize that part of your personality?
[00:02:07] Steve Teare: Oh my gosh. The worst thing, for me, was I actually embezzled money from a company that the three of us who started business. I kept track of it and I paid back. But what a compromise in my morality or my value system-- that I was willing to go there to succeed, to do that!
[00:02:26] Steve Teare: First of all, we were bootstrapping. And I found a way to get the parts we needed without them knowing. They had given me basically that control over inventory. What it was-- at the time, memory chips were extremely rare and expensive. You'd, we'd have to buy them on the black market.
[00:02:43] Steve Teare: I had written a contract so that if we rejected any part, they had to replace it, the vendors. In other words, it wasn't built on the manufacturer spec, but on our spec. If it didn't meet our specifications, we could reject it and they would replace it. Those replacement parts, when they'd come back, I'd just pocket them, and that built up over time.
[00:03:01] Steve Teare: So it wasn't a lot of money, but it was enough that I had guilt about it. And I kept track of it. It was probably maybe $10,000 in parts, total. But the thing was, I was willing to compromise myself because I was so driven for success.
[00:03:16] Steve Teare: I wouldn't do that today. No way.
[00:03:18] Steve Teare: I intended to pay back. And so, I eventually did to the president of that company at that time. But at that time we were very successful, and what he actually took in trade for the money was an instrument that we built, because they had a customer that wanted our instrument. And so he just took a piece of our gear -- he didn't even take cash. It was weird.
[00:03:37] Steve Teare: But yeah, a lot of compromises were done there in the name of success.
[00:03:41] Steve Teare: I was very successful at this manufacturing business. This would be in a long time ago, in the early eighties. And we were making money hand over fist, and I had worked really hard. I had worked myself to the bone, essentially. And I cashed out for cash value in the company, which was fine, but afterwards I didn't have anywhere really to go.
[00:04:03] Steve Teare: And I just collapsed. I was just exhausted. So it was a breakdown. I didn't know who I was at that time. I was in real conflict. So my life went to pieces after that. I ended up divorced. I tried to start another business. It didn't work. I think I was under too much stress --[that] was part of the problem. Before long, I was pretty much broke and homeless, so that's how far down I went.
[00:04:27] Steve Teare: So how do you then, how do you come back? Fortunately, I was able to get some work, but you have to you start with a self examination.
[00:04:35] Steve Teare: I was in Utah at the time. I went to the state unemployment people, and I asked if I could get some kind of retraining or something. And so they said, "let's do testing on you and find out-- a vocational test and see what your aptitudes and interests." And so part of that test was a Myers Briggs test, which is the 16 personalities essentially. I found out that I was really not a killer executive, but I was more of an artist or a poet, that some of the jobs that I would have been good at were like flower arranging, so it wasn't very reassuring!
[00:05:11] Ashley Stryker: Getting, finding out that you should be teaching the underwater basket weaving class!
[00:05:15] Steve Teare: Yeah, that's right. So it was I was like, holy cow, what a wake up call. I did learn though that my personality type did make for a good entrepreneur. And that because they have a big imagination and good intuition-- that had benefits, especially in marketing.
[00:05:30] Steve Teare: So I learned that, but another part of the test also was an IQ test. They gave me the test and I had a great, I had a lot of fun with that part of the test and I didn't even know it until I went into the office there.
[00:05:42] Steve Teare: They said, "we got your results."
[00:05:44] Steve Teare: I said, "Okay, what.... What does it tell you?"
[00:05:45] Steve Teare: He says, "You can do anything you want."
[00:05:47] Steve Teare: I said, "What? That's not very helpful. I came in there to figure out... where ...' You can do anything you want'-- what do you mean by that?"
[00:05:53] Steve Teare: They said we've never had anybody come in here with an IQ as high as yours, I said, oh, what was it? And he said it was 138. It means you're in the 98 percentile."
[00:06:03] Steve Teare: And I was like, " What? I'm not special. My dad told me I would never amount to anything." -- It's all, all of those tapes in our heads that we play from our childhood; they were all wrong.
[00:06:13] Steve Teare: And so then, I started studying about intelligent people and I, they explained so many things. Oh my gosh! Then I was finally able to get some bearing of where I ought to go, where you go.
[00:06:24] Steve Teare: There's two things that intelligent people need to work on: It's either a problem that's huge, would it take three lifetimes, like cancer or disease or hunger or more, or something like that, to try and resolve those kinds of big issues. Or, have very specialized complex job where you have, you use all of your talents, it's a multifaceted type of thing.
[00:06:47] Steve Teare: So you never get bored in either of those situations. You'll never get bored and generally intelligent people are going to get bored. In fact, I had even gotten bored at the company that I built because I had everything running so smoothly. I just sat in my office. I didn't have anything to do. Mostly the problems were people problems and cashflow-- those are not creative for me.
[00:07:09] Steve Teare: They weren't creative and I wanted to be creative.
[00:07:11] Steve Teare: So I realized those things at that time, because of the crisis that had come upon me, I had to go through that failure to really learn who I was and my potential.
[00:07:20] Steve Teare: Your personality may drift a little bit, but, and values can change obviously with circumstance. Like for example, I compromised my values at one point, but and that changes over your lifetime. So it's like fun to take every now and again, to see where you're at. What am I not is really high, was creativity for, ever.
[00:07:39] Ashley Stryker: The idea that your values can change is really relevant, I think, especially because my sister right now is trying to decide what she wants to do with her life after she gets married. She's decided to put her job search on hold, but she's been wrestling. She's good at several different things, but should she try for something where she has fun doing what she's doing, but she doesn't really care about the company? Or, does she want to work for the company and do what she's good at and might not find fulfillment in that?
[00:08:05] Steve Teare: But rather -- I have an answer for that. The thing is, once you know who you are and what your gifts are, what you do is you find a company that has the values and maybe the stability or whatever it is you're looking for. Maybe it's adventure, I don't know. And then you say, "How do I apply my gifts to solve their problems so that I can be happy there?"
[00:08:23] Steve Teare: You can't go out and just say, "Here's my gifts. Anybody want to buy?" No, nobody wants to buy that.
[00:08:28] Steve Teare: But if you go to a company and you see their problems and you say, "I can apply my gifts in a way to solve their problem," they'll probably make a job for you.
[00:08:37] Steve Teare: In fact, I never had a job interview in my life and a lot of people are blown away when I tell them that. But what happens is I would go into a company and I would see problems. And I'd say, "I can solve that for you."
[00:08:48] Steve Teare: [And they say,] "Like, can you? Wow, great. Come on." And they say, "Right now, we don't have any money to pay you, so we'll give you equity or we'll put you on hourly or whatever," and then I ended up being the vice president of marketing.
[00:08:58] Steve Teare: That sounds like braggadocio, but my point is that I found the secret to find work, is you go in and you say, " I can solve that problem."
[00:09:08] Steve Teare: And it worked in that, it satisfied my needs, too, for what I wanted, as far as creativity and that--
[00:09:14] Ashley Stryker: -- you were able to form your own solution to a problem, rather than trying to fulfill someone else's solution. Or--
[00:09:19] Steve Teare: Yeah!
[00:09:19] Ashley Stryker: That makes sense.
[00:09:20] Steve Teare: I had a friend in high school. He was on the football team and we both played in the orchestra together and we played string bass.
[00:09:28] Steve Teare: And I said, "What position do you play on the football team?"
[00:09:30] Steve Teare: This guy has solid muscle. And he says, "I'm the monster man."
[00:09:33] Steve Teare: " Monster man? What's a monster man?
[00:09:36] Steve Teare: He says, "I'm the guy on the field. I have permission to do whatever is necessary to make things work."
[00:09:42] Steve Teare: And said, "Seriously?"
[00:09:44] Steve Teare: He said, "Yeah, I can go anywhere I need to go, intercept to pass or block somebody or do whatever."
[00:09:49] Steve Teare: In other words, everybody else had assigned roles, but he could do whatever. And I thought to myself, "That's a great concept, a monster man." It's: We have a problem. You, what do you, you solve it, you go, do you do it the way you want.
[00:10:01] Steve Teare: And so if you can know what those are, you can play to your strengths. And you can look at what your weaknesses are and try and compensate with, hopefully by surrounding yourself with people who are actually the opposite of you, who don't think like you or have values that compensate for your weaknesses.
[00:10:17] Steve Teare: So you can have kind of your board of advisors, who are your friends, and there are people who are. You need people who are mentors. You need people who are rivals and you need people who are peers. Right now, we're talking peer to peer, but we need those rivals, too. They push us, a competitor or somebody that pushes us that thinks, doesn't think like we do, wants to argue with us. We need them. We need them to make things better.
[00:10:43] Ashley Stryker: So, Steve's big mistake was his lack of awareness of his own personality, and how it could compromise his values to the point where he embezzled computer parts from his company suppliers. Even after repaying the theft, Steve had to hit rock-bottom homelessness before he lucked into a greater understanding of his innate personality traits and how they could influence his professional behaviors and personal values.
[00:11:06] Ashley Stryker: To compensate, Steve suggests several strategies: The first of which is to actively study your own personality type and valued priorities. Then you should, if possible, pursue work which aligns with your own values while balancing out your personality's weaknesses.
[00:11:21] Ashley Stryker: For example, Steve proactively surrounds himself with colleagues and friends whose strengths compensate his weaknesses of egotism and ruthlessness, while aligning on core values to keep to the straight and narrow. He also pursues work where he can solve complex issues with free reign and creativity as a company's "monster man," rather than maintenance issues like ongoing responsibilities and repetitive projects, or even just plain people problems.
[00:11:47] Ashley Stryker: Today, Steve owns or contributes towards several companies and different projects, including a killer website page speed consultancy, which is, oddly enough, how he and I met. He also pursues his own passion projects off the clock-- including an audio murder mystery in 10 parts which I still need to listen to, and I swear I will! You can find out more about his work at PC-Podcast.com/SteveT. That's S T E V E T
[00:12:15] Ashley Stryker: And you can find this and other episodes of the Professional Confessional podcast at pc-podcast.com, or on your preferred podcasting platform of choice.
Do you want to come on and share your biggest professional mistake? Head to pc-podcast.com/BeOurGuest to schedule your professional confessional. Again, that's pc-podcast.com/BeOurGuest.
[00:12:42] Ashley Stryker: In the meantime, please share this episode with someone you think needs to hear this today. That's all for this Professional Confessional. I'm Ashley Stryker. Thanks again for tuning in, and I hope you'll join us next time. Talk soon!