The Entrepreneur: Lessons From Building Companies

Roger Bryan learns more from failure than from success
June 20, 2014 Updated: June 20, 2014

Epoch Times: Mr. Bryan, you have created several million-dollar companies, what are the secrets of your success?

Roger Bryan: The first “success” that actually turned out to be a pretty big failure was I helped to start the world’s largest online public auto auction company.

But I did it as an employee. It was definitely a learning experience but there was nothing in that equation that I couldn’t have done myself—technology, licensing standpoint, inventory, sales fulfillment.

That company generated about $2.3 million in its first year in revenues of which I had about a $65,000 share as a salary. My pay was a fraction of the money earned, but I wasn’t an owner.

I was just a cog like most people out there. I was in my early 20s, so I didn’t know any better; I didn’t have a mentor or coach. I was just going at it on my own and that was exciting, but I quickly learned I needed to do it on my own, so I did.

Epoch Times: The first real success?

Mr. Bryan: I started National Charity Services on the side in 2006, which hit $100,000 in sales in the first three months. It was a for-profit marketing company that worked directly with nonprofits doing digital fundraising.

NCS had about 20 employees when I sold it in 2012. In 2006, I borrowed $6,500 and I turned that into $3.6 million six years later. It wasn’t an overnight thing though, it was a blood, sweat, and tears thing, a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck.

Epoch Times: What’s the most important element when growing a company?  

Mr. Bryan: You have to have the right team. It all starts with the people in your business. You need to hire people that are smarter than you into the specific areas of the business.

Epoch Times: How do you generate ideas for businesses?

Mr. Bryan: I find them through conflict and debate. They say more millionaires are made in bad economic times because there are more problems solved. You need a bunch of smart people in a room and they are all talking about their individual businesses, the individual problems that they face, the problems their clients face.

Partnerships are formed; ideas are bread. All successful business is bred out of solving a unique problem or a problem that has not been solved by somebody else. If you look at it like that there is an unlimited amount of business you can do.

Roger Bryan has created and sold multiple million-dollar companies including a marketing agency, online auction company, and an online bookstore.  His firms made the INC 5000 list of fastest growing U.S. companies in 2011, 2012, and 2013.

The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.