June 8, 2021

036 with Larry Gast

Veteran Wealth Secrets 36 with Larry Gast - Be Easy To Talk With

"Be easy to talk with, stay calm, pay attention to details, be firm but polite, have a plan, and be good at networking!"- Larry Gast, a 85’ USAF Academy grad with an MBA, student/athlete, AF veteran 85-90, entrepreneur and investor for 35+ years, father, outgoing, and loves to bring people together for social/business purposes. 

Episode Highlights:

02:34- Larry's incredible military life journey

05:55- What happened to Larry after the transition?

09:38- The precursor of going off and starting a venture

10:41- The key to a successful business 

12:30- The best business pieces of advice of Larry

15:17- The strengths and weaknesses of veterans 

18:25- Larry's ventures

25:30- The key takeaways from Larry 

28:38- Where to find Larry 


Key Points:

  1. The key to a successful business is, be genuine, ask the right questions, pay attention to details, and follow up with people. 
  2. Know your products and services, as well as your strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Make sure you are talking to the right people. Make sure you deal only with the decision-makers.

Quotes:

  • “Go and get at your people skills and sales skills because if you're not good with either of those,  you won't be in business for very long. ”- Larry Gast 
  • “You can't predict the weather, and you can't predict what will happen in your business all the time. Also, you can't predict what people are going to do. So, be polite and firm with people, try to be helpful, honest, and not over-promising more than you deliver.”-Lary Gast 
  • “Veterans have a lot of good things. We are tough, quick learners, goal-oriented, but sometimes we don't have the best people skills, we won't listen as well as we should, and sometimes we don't ask for help when we should.”- Larry Gast
  • “Everything starts with knowing what you have to offer. Make sure you are talking to the right people. Make sure you deal only with the decision-makers.“-Larry Gast 
  • “We are real people, in business we make mistakes, it's a journey,  but never make the same mistake again. “- Larry Gast 

Transcript of Episode 036 with Larry Gast - Be Easy To Talk With

Scott Tucker:  All right, everyone. Welcome back again to another episode of Veteran Wealth Secrets. I'm Scott Tucker. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving given the circumstances. But I know we, we did here where I'm at and and we're just really excited to get back into finishing off the year. And getting a lot of veteran voices out there because it's all about communication.

We talk about this so much, how do we know how to speak as a veteran, as we're entering this civilian workforce and really excited to bring on a, I'm guessing a serial entrepreneur, someone, an air force academy grad. Got out in the nineties, but I know there's more to the story getting out of the military and getting into entrepreneurship, especially you haven't gotten on before as the internet age was coming on and how things have changed.

So definitely a lot of things to talk about, but as I just found out. Fellow former paper, boy Larry ghast thank you for joining us. You are the CEO of a leg ventures and thanks for coming on, Larry. Really appreciate it. 

Larry Gast: Happy to be here, Scott. And you'll see one of my passions and what I love doing is networking and supporting and encouraging and sharing my experiences.

If they're helpful at all, and advice, suggestions to other. Other bats and veteran entrepreneurs. 

Scott Tucker: I know I could use some of it myself. It's hard to find good mentors, but w the one thing I think we're, we luck out on in the veteran entrepreneur community is, we are a subset of a subset niche.

And we, Hey, if we find some like a little tip or trick that we know we can share with others, we want to do that. We feel compelled to do it. Because especially more and more these days, it's almost imperative that veterans understand the opportunities of some version of entrepreneurship. You don't have to go out and start a crazy big business all the time but to create other sources of incomes that you can control.

So you don't. Get at risk of getting laid off or whole industry disappearing either because of a virus or because the new technology is stuff like that. So I'm sure you've seen it all. Why don't you introduce us with a little bit of your story, how you got into the military and got out of it then to what you're doing now.


Larry Gast: Sure. Let me start off first with, I have some military former military in my family. My dad is 85. Your old Navy CB that used his Navy years to help him finish college and I could get a civil engineering degree. And then my cousin, Steve is a 71, also air force grad like me grew up on the east coast of Florida right by the space center.

And I was the student athlete, like a lot of kids. And I didn't know what, at that point in time when I was 18, if I wanted to still keep trying to play baseball and basketball in college, or if I wanted to go to engineering school, like my dad and don't think I knew for sure was I wanted to try something different than Florida at growing up my whole 18 years there.

And I decided to apply to the academies and also Purdue and Georgia tech, because they're known for. For engineering and all three academies wanted me to play baseball there. And the funny story is I only visited Navy and I chose to go to air force without even looking at it because my cousin, Steve said, they'll have the best lifestyle.

And and I knew that if I was able to go there, I'd be able to serve my country. See if I like the military enough to make it a shorter long-term career. And I knew that if I ever got hurt enough or if my grades were suffering too much that I would have the choice of continuing to play baseball or not, and still keep my scholarship.

So that was part of my reason. And doing that. That's how I started in the military is going through the academy and then serving my initial five-year obligation. 

Scott Tucker: Yeah, it's funny. I, I went to west point. I applied to Navy. I didn't get in there. Never thought to apply to the air force academy for some reason.

But I ended up having a job as liaison officer to the 52nd fighter wing and made all these buddies air force academy buddies. And I was like, man, I chose the wrong account. These guys said it at a lot better. So the lifestyle thing. 

Larry Gast: They're all tough. Don't get me wrong. But I know you guys probably think the air force guys gonna wear the weak ones.

But that's not, 

Scott Tucker: no, I think legitimately they were the smart ones. The one I learned working with I was in an Intel shop. But it was all, it was just amazing to watch the air force, do what they do. As a, as an army guy, obviously with close air support, being an important thing in recent years.

But just to see the professionalism, it's Hey, we're the idiots who chose to run around in the mud. We know better, but I like to know that I think that, army guys tend to be army Navy, there's the joke there, but legitimately I've run into a lot more.

Army guys in the entrepreneurship realm, I think that has to do with small unit leadership. And I dunno, that's just my theory, but tell us how you got in, after you got out. W what were you planning on doing and what happened? 

Larry Gast: Like I mentioned to you a little bit before I was actually somewhat of an entrepreneur in high school.

I was playing ball and everything, baseball, basketball, and, but I was also on the side. Had a little landscaping, the yard cutting business, and I also was your plain old fashioned paper boy. So back then, I. Was already dealing with, dealing with difficult customers at times and deliveries that are late, which causes me to be late and having to collect from people and dealing with the uncertainties of the weather and stuff.

So anyway, so I had it in me before I went to the academy. And then when I was active duty out in California in my last assignment, I started doing my master's degree at night while I was still active duty. And I really enjoyed the entrepreneur type courses that I took there. And I started thinking about when I do decide to get out, that's what I really think I want to do.

And and that kinda got me started on it. And then when I decided to get out for several reasons, one was I didn't want to have to move around. And as much as an I realized I knew I was going to have to when I immediately got out I went to work like the safe route, which is like what a lot of people do.

And I went and worked for a. Northrup defense contractor, and doing the same thing just on a different side of the fence. But I happened to be in LA at the time when that recession was hitting. And I said to myself that I don't think this is the most stable industry. And if I want to really go into my own car company and start a business or whatever, probably the best thing to do is cut my teeth for a while.

And. No, go get in sales where I can improve my people skills and networking and listening and all of that. And the, one of the benefits of being in sales is you get to feel like you're in business for yourself, but you're not taking the risk that you would. And and so I have to admit during my five years that I worked at in that life out in California I was a sales rep and then also an assistant manager, recruiting, training other people.

And that was some of the best experience you could get at being in business for your, as close to, as being in business for yourself, because, being a business is tough and next to that as being in sales. And it was good experience for me and I would have highly encouraged before any.

That decided to start any type of a business or buy one or whatever, if they can, is go get good at your people skills and your sales skills, because guess what, if you're not good with either of those, you won't be in business for very long, right? Sales and networking and people skills and being polite, but firm with people, and asking questions and trying to be helpful and honest and not over promising more than you can deliver. And it just you can't predict the weather and it can't predict what's going to happen in your business all the time. You also can't predict what people are going to do.

Yeah. And what they're not going to do. And they'll say, they'll do this. And then they actually do something different or decide they want to hold still. Yeah. That was so the precursor of going off and starting. My own ventures was my entrepreneurial step. Before I went to the academy, what I learned in grad school and my five years in sales before I started my first venture.

Scott Tucker: Wow. Now, that's, I love all that because there's a part of that story that I forgot for even myself. Before I even got in the military as a kid, I was taking my dad's firewood and trying to sell it to the neighbors. I was, I had my own paper out mowing yards, those are entrepreneurial things that many of us have done in a way.

And we forget that we've we started those skills sets. But that really at the end of the day, you said it, Hey, those sales and market bargaining skills are really. What, what allows you to go get what you want in, and it's about communication sales, unfortunately has got a bad connotation to it.

It's like, all it is persuasion. It's communication. It's something we do every day. 

Larry Gast: It's a little, it's a little bit of that but I said that the key is, is, be genuine ask questions that you need to know. Expect the fact that people aren't always going to be honest with you.

Okay. And hold your ground. Some people will try to talk down to you. Okay. And anyway, but the biggest thing is ask the right questions, pay attention to the details, follow up with people like, they expect you to be whatever, that's some of the biggest differences between successful business people and successful sales salespeople is they pay attention.

They follow it enough. Follow 'em and take notes and remember things and pay attention to that, to it's so important and so rare. And the reason why a lot of salespeople will get bad raps is because they aren't necessarily as caring and then pay attention and listen to as much as they should.

That's why they get the wrap. They do in many cases. 

Scott Tucker: Yeah. There's I've run into some veterans who claim to be like, I'm a good salesman. Cause I was a good recruiter and it's, there's more about, manipulation in a way, or just being, strong arm and people. And it's what you're trying to do is be helpful.

I have a thing that might help you. I do not know, if I don't tell you about it how am I doing my job? Yeah. Larry, talk a little bit more about how do we do that? Communication you said, Hey, be firm, but be polite, but a lot of times, Hey, it's an eat what you kill world in any form of business and a lot of nerves and stuff.

And so that, how do we stay calm in, in that type of environment? Because you gotta be patient, you gotta. Wait, you gotta learn and you can't learn it overnight because they don't teach this stuff in school. They don't teach this stuff in the military typically right now. 

Larry Gast: No but I guess I would just have to say that everything starts first with no, what you have to offer, no, your products and services.

What, what your strengths and weaknesses are, right. You're not going to be the solution for everybody. And and also just as important as making sure you're talking to the right people, the what's, if you're in business if you're in sales, you make sure you deal only with the decision makers.

Okay. And the decision makers know that's, what you're talking to. And so the people there's going to be people in between, they're gonna make it difficult for you. But you have to be persistent, but not annoying. And like I said, ask good questions, take good notes, have confidence in what you're doing.

That you actually have something that or a combination of things that you're trying to be helpful. And you can't do a good job if you, if they're not honest with you and if they don't let you talk to them and ask them the questions that you need to know, and I think a lot of sales people and business people sometimes give up too much.

You get discouraged. Because the thing is you're, I'm not of talking to the right people at the right time. And how prospects are in business and in, individual we're going to retail type customers. A lot of times people do things only when they have to. Okay. And sometimes when they have to it's too late. And and sometimes also people tend to avoid difficult decisions when it's so easy to do nothing. Okay. Yeah. I can't hear you, Scott you're muted there. Oh, okay. 

Scott Tucker: I said it was, which is a decision in itself, a decision to do nothing and 

Larry Gast: Your job and business and your job and sales, whatever is not to coerce people, to pressure people, to try to win arguments with them.

Your job is to spend your time with the people that want to do something and the need your help to make an intelligent decision, to know what their options are. That's what your job is. 

Scott Tucker: Absolutely. No, thanks. Thank you for sharing that wisdom. It's a skillset that goes back. It's available to anyone.

Have you found, have you run into a lot of veterans in your career? In sales, do you have any insight from what you've seen about what they're doing right or wrong? Our veteran assumption might be veterans are great for entrepreneurs. 

Larry Gast: I could speak generally. The veterans, it's funny.

Some of the things that are strengths are also some of our weaknesses on the one hand we're, we're used to dealing with the curve ball and how do we adjust now? And. And we still have a job to perform, even though it's unpleasant and difficult. The we're tough and persistent.

But sometimes we don't know when to give up, and move on to the next thing. Also, the funny thing is we're all part of a team when the military, we're all supposed to be thinking of, if I do this, or if I don't do this, what's the, how's it impact my team and what everybody's roles are and everything.

And we realize we can't. Necessarily in the military, do the mission if we try to do it all ourselves. And, but yet when people get out of the military and go into business, they think they're a Superman that can do everything themselves. And they don't want to, it's you know how men were guilty of.

When we get lost in the car, we don't want to stop and ask for directions, okay. It's cause we're, we don't like to show that we don't have the answers or we're we might've crumped come across as weak. You can't be successful in business because doing it all yourself, there's a lot of people in a lot of things.

That determine your ability to be successful in business. And you'd have to be aware of that and use the right advisors and school yourself, and think about things legally, if you do something and is it, sometimes what happens in business as well as you have prospects and customers that want something, but they're not willing to pay enough to make it worthwhile to you, right?

We're not in business to do things for free. That's what we call a hobby. And we're not in business to break even then. That's what we call it. Okay. And I can and make no money is sitting at home doing nothing. Okay. Why take risk, okay. Yeah. So it goes back to again we have a lot of good things.

We're tough. We can quit, generally quick learners we're goal-oriented but sometimes we don't have the best people skills. We don't listen as well as we should. And sometimes we don't ask for help when we should. Pluses and minuses of being the better. 

Scott Tucker: Yeah. I can relate myself. I was expecting there to be orders.

There's someone to show me how to do it, but I had to, really go figure it out for myself, find various education, resources, mentors. And so I know that's what you're doing now. You help, you're helping in real estate and business, businesses get off the ground. How did you how'd you decide to start that and what are exactly are you doing?

Larry Gast: I'll give you a little bit about what I do. So I obviously took that uniform off 30 years ago. I'm not an old veteran, relatively. But I knew the struggles I went through after I got out to try to figure out, what I wanted to do and how to do it the right way.

And. And and I never had any resources available to me at that time that I knew of. And I said to myself, several years ago, I said, maybe I can do something to share some of my experiences or encourage other people to do things and maybe along the way. And so what I decided to do were two things primarily at the time, several, a few years ago, Was I said, if I can do something to help other veterans, including those that are business owners to help with their networking skills or help them be more comfortable talking with people then I'll do that.

And for years I've hosted an after hours, social type business mixer thing. And I always invited veterans to it. And I'm, it's my pleasure to introduce them to people and share that and get them more comfortable talking around people. Cause I love doing that. And then also fairly recently I started a lunchtime group where I bring together veteran entrepreneurs in our area and now somewhat out of our area to get them around each other and say, look, what are you doing?

What's your background? How's it going for you? Type thing, and be a source of encouragement and share information. Maybe we can help each other in our, in generate ideas to help each other in our businesses and do it in a safe manner. And I tell them that when we get together I don't care at all, put your, oh, I always say, put your ego to the thing.

We're not in the military anymore and you don't outrank me and I don't know, break you. Okay. And the fact that I'm air force or your army or your west point, and I'm not, or whatever, That means nothing. We're all brothers and sisters, if we can help each other and then just as important as that is laughing together, and, we all got many cases, Scott, you can't make them up, and and I think so much of life is. Is expecting that not much of anything that you plan is going to happen the way you hope it's going to go. Okay. Is the key is how you react to that and how quickly you react to that? 

Scott Tucker: When I think 

Larry Gast: back when I was a 22 year old second Lieutenant in one of my first commanding officers was a Colonel for full bird Colonel.

And he told me something that stuck with me, the rest of my life and has continued. And he said, this is Lieutenant gasses says, I'm never going to yell at you for making a mistake. Especially a one that's not a big one. He says, it felt, he says, if you're not making mistakes and you're not taking any chances.

Okay. And he said, when I'm going to yell at you about is if you keep making the same mistakes. 

Scott Tucker: No 

Larry Gast: problem. And it's the same thing in the business world. We make mistakes. Things don't work out the way we hope, whatever, what can we do next time to not make that same mistake again?

Scott Tucker: Yeah, absolutely. We have to fail forward. And, we had talk often about on this show, the, that the military transition itself, that individual who was used to, the expectations are well. If I stay in the military this long, if I go to this school, I will get promoted. It can you can plan out a military career.

Pretty closely cause it's a lot of, it's done for you. If you're this branch of service, you have to do certain things if you want to move forward. And that's just completely out the window w when you're in the business world and you just got to learn from the mistakes there, you can go to as many entrepreneurship courses and classes as you want, but there is no cutting cut and true ways.

Larry Gast: And I just, the, one of the things that is my another one of my passions is I started in this past may. Now I'm running a national network. It's new, we're all air force academy grants around the country. Oh cool. And I thought to myself, okay, there's an estimated, we've got 60 years of graduates now.

And if you figure the average class has graduated about a thousand, I know mine did. And I don't know, obviously not all of them are alive anymore and obviously not all of them care anymore about doing something different, but I am trying to pull together those graduates in a variety of age ranges and experience levels and say, some of us are business people.

What can we do to get right. And all of us. I have a desire to to make money for our families and our retirement and all that. And my thought was, why wait until you're after you're out of the military to start planning for that transition, you can start learning things while you're still in.

Once again, I was in my early twenties or late twenties when I got out, I didn't know anything. And so nowadays vets and veteran entrepreneurs, there are so many resources out there available. If you want to take advantage of them, there's no excuse. If you just ask around where there's all kinds of programs and people around to help you, we didn't have that when I was.

Because I didn't know of that, so there's no excuses. You don't want to be a part of it. And anyway, so I like I said, I enjoy the comradery, the laughter and anybody who knows me knows that I don't start her in the meeting without saying something that makes everybody laugh.

If they say something, then I will, life's too short. And and like veterans we make, like I said, we. Like people in general, we make mistakes. We make stupid choices, that happens. And, but we're real people and and anybody that's been in business for awhile, including me, I'd be the first to tell you I've made mistakes.

I've trusted people too much. I've had things happen that didn't work out as planned. I've been through two failed startups that I was working with and, along the way. And it's a journey that just try not to make the same mistakes. That's the key. 

Scott Tucker: Never give up any mistakes.

Larry. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing so much wisdom and in a short period of time, my big takeaways are the, the networking aspect, the communication get past the gatekeeper, get to the decision maker. So if you're just looking for a job. Just handing out resumes.

That's not the decision maker 

Larry Gast: ultimately. Yeah. Again, when I was in my twenties and whatever, there was no LinkedIn to help people, that's a wonderful tool, what as good a tool as it is, there's still no substitute for that personal interaction. Yeah. That's what matters the most.

And And, and now obviously with this COVID going on, you can't feel comfortable meeting up with people and certainly in crowds of people, but you can talk to people, and I just find that when you're dealing with another veteran, generally speaking your chances of having a nice discussion and the door being open as much better than the average person public much, we understand each other.

We've been through similar things, and. And let me just wrap since I know we're wrapped for time is I know we just finished Thanksgiving, but I certainly want for all the vets that listening in on this, thank you for your service out there. And I hope you have a. I hope you had somewhat of a safe and normal Thanksgiving.

I know that's very difficult and it's going to be very hard, Christmas coming up, but we'll get through this. We're going to be fine. Yeah. Take this time to retool and plan ahead for next year. And no matter how much you plan. I can guarantee it's not going to go according to plan. Yup. 

Scott Tucker: Nobody saw this coming a year ago.

That's for sure. 

Larry Gast: And if somebody ran around predicting it they'd think you were crazy, 

Scott Tucker: yeah, exactly. Yeah. So planning, planning for the worst. The only thing to do is. Full responsibility and find your own opportunities where you're best fit. Guess what ends up happening is smile and laugh a lot more.

And you network with more of the right people. You should be hanging around versus the ones maybe you thought you're supposed to 

Larry Gast: let me wrap with this is that, that me personally, the opportunity to meet new people and hear their stories and laugh together and share ideas. That's exhilarating and exciting to me.

Other people that's draining and scary to them. Okay. Somewhere in between is where you'd probably need to be. If you want to be successful in business. 

Scott Tucker: Yep. I'm a complete introvert and I do this as a way. This fills me up. I know it's I'm having fun. I get to talk. I know I have people say I have a radio voice and all that kind of stuff.

It's I might as well dry it out and learn the skill set and get better at talking to people. One of the as you said, Hey, learn to listen. I was, I'm an idea guy. I wanted to do this, to learn to actively listen better, and guess what? Anybody can do this for free and what does it hurt to interview another veteran?

Allow them to put their message out, more people find out about you so on and so forth. So on that note who should be contacting you, Larry, and how do they get ahold of you? 

Larry Gast: Ah, okay. Certainly the best way to get ahold of me is through my LinkedIn thing. All my contact info is there. Like I said, my.

I'm a very diverse individual and I have a lot of different interests in a lot of different things, but the big, certainly a big portion of that is revolving around veterans. And, I wish I could say to you, Scott, that every vet that I know is a first-class individual and I. But I'd be lying to you if I did 

Scott Tucker: well, we are a subset of the human population. 

Larry Gast: You have some bad apples and every profession and every community, whatever, but generally speaking, good, hard working people and a good family people. And it's my pleasure to know a bunch of them and share our stories and and I think that I'm lucky to have that.

And if you remember, I think less than 1% of the people ever wear the uniform. Okay. And less than probably five to 10% of them were ever going to try to start or buy a business. And probably 80% of those that try to start and buy one are not going to last five years. Be realistic with people that.

That if you're going to try to start something, if you're married or something, make sure your spouse is totally behind you. And and not all of them it's easier to just go get a job somewhere. There's nothing wrong with that. But I just find that, I don't know how you'd be successful yeah.

In life, at all, with then and in business without good people around you that are encouraging you and supportive environment. And that. That's motivating you to keep doing what you're doing. It's for them as well. Yeah, very important to me. And it's very important. And you're taking a risk, you're paying a price just like you did in the military.

It's just a different risk, different risks different things. So anyway, pleasure to talk with you and you can but anybody that's interested in and or maybe that I can be as some value to I've yet to meet A business owner that was complaining, they were making too much money. Never had any headaches as well.

Capitalized. Everything's going, according to plan, life is good. I've never met that at all, at least. And if I did it, didn't last forever. That things change. 

Scott Tucker: Yeah. Yeah. More money means bigger problems sometimes. 

Larry Gast: Thanks 

Scott Tucker: for having me pleasure to be here. Honestly, I felt like that second Lieutenant, you were the Colonel in the entrepreneur world during this conversation.

So I know many others haven't and will feel that as they come across this video on the internet, but a stick around when I log off here. Cause I do have someone I want to introduce you to in Charlotte and talk about it a little bit, but awesome. Thanks again for coming on and for everybody else, we'll see on the next episode.

Thank you. All right, bye. Bye 

Larry Gast: now.


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