Dalton Drye Combines Academics with Practical Operations Experience at Searcy’s Oasis

The Waldron Center is fascinated by entrepreneurial journeys. Some people are gifted with a clear vision from the very beginning—a business idea that animates everything they do—but that’s rare.  It’s interesting to hear how the interplay of personality and circumstance drives entrepreneurship. Our previous student entrepreneurs have all been from places far removed from Arkansas. This week, we continue our series by talking with a hometown boy. 

Oasis Wash and Drye is a state-of-the-art car wash located at 700 E. Beebe Capps Expressway

Accounting major Dalton Drye is rooted in Searcy. He’s familiar with the business landscape here, easily identifying who owns various businesses and commenting on where there might be opportunity. And he knows a lot of people. He comes from an entrepreneurial family, and has the enviable advantage of some excellent personal mentoring. One thing is apparent from talking with him: Drye lays it all on the table. There is no hint of pretension; no attempt to artificially impress. He’s getting his education, and he’s got some goals, and he’s working hard and moving forward. 

img_4406-1After graduating from Harding Academy, Drye enrolled in the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. He did Greek life with enthusiasm, but academics a little less so. He joined a fraternity and learned some useful lessons about poise and self-assurance and meeting people, but eventually decided to return to Searcy and enroll at Harding. 

Although he wants to gain broader experience in business, Drye has never envisioned being completely dependent on the corporate world for his future economic security. He once had a dream of opening a quality gun shop and shooting range in Conway. His grandfather, Charlie Adcock, offered an alternative: Adcock was considering opening a new car wash and was agreeable to let Drye help run it to get some experience in business operations. The result was Oasis Car Wash and Drye.

Adcock, a serial entrepreneur, was orphaned at an early age. He joined the Air Force. After retirement, he assembled a commercial career by starting a series of local businesses, building on skills he developed in the military. “He’s just business savvy,” Drye said, with obvious admiration. Adcock saw some of himself in his grandson, and was willing to work with him on the new venture.

Oasis opened last April on a parcel of high-traffic real estate on Beebe-Capps Expressway, a stone’s throw from the Harding Campus. It’s hardly the small town single-bay self wash you might imagine. The new owners did their research. Adcock and Drye were impressed with the Oasis car wash technology they saw on a site visit to the manufacturing plant in Galena, Kansas. They ordered premier touchless equipment for their future location, which also features multiple self-wash stalls and vacuums, as well as a dog wash. Heated bays allow it to remain “open 24/7/365.” They arranged to use the Oasis name and logo for the new facility.

 Drye covers almost full-time hours at Oasis most weeks; combined with his classes, it’s not unusual for him to work 80 hours in a single week. Right now, the staff consists of Adcock; another manager, who has mechanical and maintenance expertise; and Drye, who performs general operations functions and is the technology guy. “If it has electronics, that’s me. The kiosks or the bays go down because of electrical issues and so forth — that’s mine to solve.” He takes all the after-hours calls when something goes wrong. Drye is building equity in the business with every hour he puts in, whether in classes or at Oasis. His current situation is demanding and challenging, but he’s learning important lessons.

Drye always has his eye open for future opportunity. He’s engaged to Kelly Gordon, a student in Harding’s graduate Professional Counseling program. “She wants to eventually have a private practice in mental health. We’ll eventually do that. We’ll have the car wash.  I might be interested in real estate. We’ll see.” He’s always considering  ventures that might someday create a revenue stream. 

How does he evaluate himself these days?  “Well, I can handle myself better in time crunches now, and I know I have to prioritize. I’m not a 4.0 student, but if you have been involved in a number of other valuable things, that gives balance to your GPA on a resume.” He believes his practical experience in problem-solving in a business environment is something that can’t easily be duplicated in a classroom, and we agree. One of his teachers remarked that it was apparent Drye sometimes processed classroom content in a way that would be impossible for a student who hadn’t worked so closely in a business.

He’s also learning some valuable things about himself. “I used be a little hot-tempered, maybe quick to pop off.” He smiles. “But when you own a business, you have to learn to control that. I think I’ve improved. My grandfather once told me, ‘That’s one of those things you are going to have to learn.’ The other day he said, ‘You’ve changed. You’ve handled some situations that I could not have handled as well.’ ” Drye is satisfied that his early experience in small business is shaping him in ways that will make him a better employee and manager in the future, regardless of the venue. “When customers show up, you have to be ready to put a smile on your face and be professional.” 

He can be a self-described stressmonger; he’s taken very few days off since the car wash opened. And he acknowledges that working nonstop can have unintended consequences, a common concern among entrepreneurs. He’s mulling over the realities of the entrepreneurial path and what will be required of him someday as a husband and father.

One thing he knows: He wants to pass along the most valuable part of what he is learning to his children someday. “I want my kids to be able to do cheer, football, whatever activities they want. But regardless of what I may have financially someday, I will want my kids to learn to have a good work ethic. They need to learn to work hard — even when it’s no longer fun — and not to quit when the going gets tough.” Good advice. 

For now, Drye’s working 24/7/365. We wish him luck. 

You can meet Dalton Drye and get a an excellent car wash at Oasis Car Wash and Drye, 700 E. Beebe Capps Expressway.  Follow them on Facebook @oasiscarwashanddrye and on Instagram @oasis_carwash_and_drye.

If you are a Harding student running a business, the Waldron Center would like to hear from you, too.  Email Patti Summers  psummers@harding.edu. 

Entrepreneur spotlight: Tracy Simpson’s Clinicpass app manages Sunshine Law red tape

simpson headshotFayetteville native Tracy Simpson started her journey in founding Clinicpass in 2014, after 16 years in the pharmaceutical industry. The Affordable Care Act included the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, which went into effect in 2013. It was designed to disclose any financial relationship a doctor had with a manufacturer. It required medical product manufacturers to disclose to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) “transfers of value” made to physicians. Such gifts would have occurred frequently and invisibly in the past. Now payments or transfers of value have to be reported to the CMS by the giver, and are available and searchable in the Open Payments database. The American Medical Association now recommends that providers keep their own records of money spent on them to comply with the Sunshine Act.

Such reporting generates bothersome red tape for manufacturers, and Simpson thought there was a solution for the problem that could benefit both manufacturers and physicians. Clinicpass not only facilitates pharmaceutical rep reporting, but also allows medical providers to verify the accuracy of the records and to prepare to respond to possible questions from the public.

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The Clinicpass platform also functions as a scheduling tool for physician meetings with product reps, who in times past simply waited in medical offices until a doctor could make time to see them.  During Simpson’s career, she observed as regulation and reporting requirements for doctors drastically eroded the amount of time physicians had to interact with reps. Clinicpass provides structure and a record of who has called on a practice and when. Simpson believes the platform will ultimately accrue benefit to the patient, as easier scheduling keeps clinic doors open to insure that reliable information and patient assistance programs are conveniently moved into the hands of doctors.

Simpson and business partner Padgett Mangan beta-tested the tool for a year and a half in a Memphis-based medical management group, while four hundred pharmaceutical representatives used the site. Clinicpass was one of five finalists for the Delta Regional Authority Delta Challenge Sept. 13. Simpson will be traveling to New Orleans in November for Entrepreneur Week 2017.

Simpson was the Harding chapter of the Sigma Nu Tau Entrepreneurship Honor Society’s 2016 distinguished honoree. Her best advice for entrepreneurs looking to solve problems with an app-based solution? “The best advice I can give is to test your idea,” Simpson said, “and surround yourself with positive people. My biggest hurdles turned out to be my biggest blessings.”

 

Entrepreneur spotlight: Ice Cube Putters Matt McJunkins and Josh Turner, owners

FullSizeRender (7)Matt McJunkins and Josh Turner are golfers and entrepreneurs. Their lunch info-session sponsored by the COBA Center for Professional Excellence was an ideal case study for entrepreneurship students. The bearded pair were entertaining and engaging as they explained their journey as new owners of what began as a garage-workshop product, and the challenges before them in scaling the company up. By the end of the hour, students were pulling for their success.

The Ice Cube Putter is a 400-gram, clear acrylic putter head with a stepped shaft and Karma Jumbo grips. It was first manufactured in singles out of inventor Wes Mickle’s workshop in Texas. The elderly hobbyist had managed to get five different patents — four for design and one for utility — on the putter head, and had persevered seven long years to obtain USGA approval for it. But he was in his seventies now, and needed a buyer who could take his project to the next level.

Turner, who was already using the putter himself, got a call from someone who thought he might be interested in buying the rights to it. He and McJunkins were interested, and Mickle was willing to provide the structured buyout on which the purchase depended. They did the deal. Mickle and his wife drove from Texas, set up the shop in Searcy, and trained McJunkins and Turner in their production process. Now it was up to them to make it successful.

Now that they owned the product, the critical issue became how to mass-produce it. Turner had an acquaintance traveling to China for personal business, so he sent a putter with him. Two weeks later they had a manufacturer that would reduce their per-item manufacturing costs considerably. The components are still assembled locally. Sales are increasing, but the next big step is how to expand into overseas markets. “Shipping is a big hurdle,” Turner said. “I sold one putter to a buyer in South Korea. I explained that the shipping would make the $149 item cost $400, and it was fine with him.” But they know they still need to find the right channel to facilitate overseas sales in larger numbers. Canada and the UK are the priorities right now.

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Turner owns an oil field company, Environmental Resources, which remediates saltwater and hydrocarbon spills on site. He is also on the Physical Resources staff at Harding University. He is more oriented to the production arm of the company. Turner passed a prototype around the room for students to examine as he spoke. He displayed the original lackluster packaging and poor quality head cover that had been sold with early iterations of the putter, and explained their process for revising the branding. The new logo design includes a stylized polar bear. Turner demonstrated how it was interpreted on shipping boxes, a slick black head cover, and golf bag. “Ice the competition” is the new tagline on the website.

Serial entrepreneur McJunkins in the sales side of the pair. He owns a trucking company and does oil and gas consulting through his company Legacy 7 Surfsol. His relationships in different markets allow him to identify future partnerships that might benefit Ice Cube Putters. The company has been approached by those who want to affiliate, but he and Turner enter those relationships with caution. “We want partners, of course. But from experience I can say that you need to be careful who you choose for those business relationships.”

 They are working to affiliate with businesses interested in promotional items, since the putter head can be customized with laser-engraved logos or other art. Their website features clubs engraved with the autographs of pro golfer John Daly and entertainer Toby Keith. “Licensing is a big deal,” Turner said. They are pursuing sports licensing relationships that ultimately will benefit sales.

One new component of their marketing strategy is the decision to sell through Amazon. The process of being accepted at Amazon took two months. “You have to send all kinds of information to prove you are a legitimate company. We had to provide patent information and so forth,” Turner recalled. Eventually, they partnered with Domazon, a marketing firm providing consulting for sellers who want search optimization for their products on the Amazon platform.

Other challenges? McJunkins said they recently became aware of someone overseas who was knocking off their product. “Patent infringement lawsuits are expensive,” and “you have to decide how important pursuing a particular case is to you.” Ice Cube now manufactures a second USGA-approved putter, the Face-On putter, and sells logo golf hats and head covers as well. In the meanwhile, they are pursuing their expansion strategy while balancing other jobs and projects.

McJunkins had some advice for aspiring entrepreneurs in his audience, “If you have a dream to start a business, don’t be afraid to do it. Get some experience in the corporate world if you need to, but go ahead and do it. You’ll probably make mistakes, but if you have a family later on, it gets much harder. I’m most proud of taking the risks I’ve taken and not just taking that corporate salary.”

 

Younger generations in family business

grantgoodvin

Grant Goodvin, Guest writer

Families who run a business, a foundation or are in a transition stage hesitate sometimes to talk about the future. Non-family businesses struggle with the same dynamic. However, families will have multi-generational questions that impact each generation differently. For younger generations whose families own businesses, there are decisions to be made about pursuing careers.

The first question for this younger generation is: If the family business did not exist, how would you choose a career trajectory? This is a critical question because it forces each individual to think beyond the boundaries of a family business. One of the worst scenarios I’ve encountered is a family member imprisoned in a family business because he has severe doubts that he could succeed in the outside business world. Also the younger generation family member may feel she deserves a position in the family business simply by being a member of the family.

In exploring this question, we are not minimizing or dismissing the family business. We want to explore how the younger generation member strengthens his capabilities for two reasons: 1) In answering the question of capabilities and preparation, the younger generation may discover a passion outside the family business or a passion inside the family business, thereby introducing the context of what makes the family member marketable in the general business world and/or how the family member gains skills that strengthen the family business. 2) Problems arise for the younger generation if the family business is viewed as the sole source of making a living because the family member lacks the confidence to work outside the family business.


How does the younger generation decide whether his plan for the future aligns with the future of the family business? An optimized plan for younger generations is for the senior generations to outline specific skill sets and educational objectives for positions within the family business.


The second reason can be and often is the source of severe family conflicts because if the older generation fails to plan or doesn’t disclose succession plans, the younger member will fight intensely, demanding that the family business meets his/her needs. This approach serves neither the family member nor the business. The family business must be designed to strengthen the family members and the business in a variety of ways.

The other issue for families in business is how the senior generation is handling transition and succession. Many times the plan is either non-existent or hidden because of a reluctance to bring the discussion into full view of the entire family. This reluctance may result from the fact that not all family members are involved in the family business. It may be due to the senior generation’s struggle with how to treat family members fairly. Many times the senior generation does not want to start a discussion that can result in conflict in the family. The flaw in that thinking is that there is a high likelihood of conflict if the senior generation does not take the lead in proactively mentoring the younger generations through the transition process.

However, the issue is: How does the younger generation decide whether his plan for the future aligns with the future of the family business? An optimized plan for younger generations is for the senior generations to outline specific skill sets and educational objectives for positions within the family business. This could be the discussion that allows subsequent conversations about what the senior generation is thinking about succession.

The younger generation should always remember to honor parents, founders or senior generations. Younger generations do not always appreciate how deeply ingrained the family business is in the senior generation, especially if the senior generation is the founding generation. Christian teaching on honoring parents is not a frivolous statement; it is foundational in wholesome family testimony to the world. The Christian distinctive provides avenues to honor family and maintain a business that perpetuates values that are everlasting.

One of the ways the younger generation honors the senior generation is to remove demands about planning for the future, replacing them with an open discussion of what is in the best interest of each family member and the family business. As children become adults, honoring is not defined as absolute obedience to the senior generation in all matters, because if adult children marry they must also honor their spouses. Also, I tell families in business it is useless to prevent spouses from being involved in the family business discussion table. The spouses are involved by virtue of the definition of marriage, which is one flesh. Boundaries may be set on what is discussed based on age and successful operation of the business but as the younger generation matures, the discussions become more comprehensive.

To summarize, if you are a college student considering entering the family business, here are some suggestions:

  • Work for a summer somewhere other than at your family business.  Discover what it is like to work for someone outside your family.
  • Tell the senior generation your ideas about a career and ask to be mentored in your planning.  Ask if there are specific educational objectives which will strengthen the family business.
  • Talk to the Harding Waldron Center for Entrepreneurship and Family Business about resources and advisors that can assist you and your family in this critical discussion.

One of the greatest things about working in a family business is working with family. One of the most challenging things about working in a family business is working with family.

Grant Goodvin is an attorney and friend of the Waldron Center in Wichita, Kansas, where he operates Family Legacy Consultant Group.

Waldron Q & A

Name: Slader Marshall (BBA Finance, ’14)

Type of business: Restaurant

Business name: Slader’s Alaskan Dumpling Co. (SADCo.)

Year started: 2014

Locations:  Searcy/Little Rock, Arkansas

sladerfoodtruck

It all started as a dream. “Not a lofty one, but one of those that you can’t really get out of your head,” according to Slader Marshall. Since the Alaskan entrepreneur was able to return home only once or twice a year after coming to study at Harding, he was determined to bring his home to college by sharing pel’meni, the Alaskan soul food dumplings from his childhood, with his adopted community.

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From their first dumpling in 2014 to today, the startup has expanded from a single restaurant in a modest building on East Center Avenue to a successful food truck business, operating in Searcy and Little Rock.

This week’s Q&A digs a little deeper into Marshall’s thoughts about being a young, hungry, scrappy entrepreneur.

What personality traits do you think served you best as you started your business, and which traits might have been a disadvantage?

Confidence could be answer to both. You have to have unwavering confidence to start a business because, without it, you can’t project to your employees and your customers why they should believe in your product. On the flip side, confidence can humble you quicker than most personality traits. I have said to anyone who asks what it’s like to start a business that you should go into the process like you know nothing at all. Finding a good balance between confidence and humility is a great place to start your business planning.

What advice would you give a college student who wants to become an entrepreneur?

First, ask questions: stupid questions, smart questions — it doesn’t matter. Pick people’s brains who have been there before, and admit you don’t have all the answers. Second, start small, build big. It’s a lot easier to start with a little idea and grow along with your customer base than it is to have all the nicest things and the best space and have nowhere to grow. Finally, find your niche. Whether it is the target market you cater to or the type product you sell, finding your niche is the single biggest predictor of business success or failure. We serve a non-traditional food, so I knew right off the bat that not everyone would like it. I knew in Searcy there was a void of local restaurants and also a void of places that were catering to college students, who I thought would be more willing to try eclectic foods compared to a family of four on a fixed budget. So I found my niche.

Name a company or person in business whom you admire and explain what appeals to you about them.

My two biggest inspirations have been Walt Disney and Elon Musk, men from two different generations and from two different fields, who tried to make the impossible a reality. For Disney, it was not the cartoons or the live-action films or theme parks, but the feeling you had when experiencing all those things; it was the “magic” Disney created out of nothing that no one will ever be able to replicate. Musk inspires the passion to dream. Whether it is electric cars or privatized flights to Mars, he set his sights on the stars and encouraged anyone in this field that you should never let anyone tell you no. Entrepreneurs are dreamers, and those are two of the biggest.

For updates, follow Slader’s Alaskan Dumpling Co. on Facebook.

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