Dec 13, 2021
On episode 42 of Fire Code Tech we are speaking with Zach Green. An entrepreneur in the fire and life safety space who cut his teeth in the military and fire service. Zachary is the founder and former CEO of MN8 LumAware/Foxfire. These companies sell photoluminescence products of all different kinds including egress components, firefighter gear and signage. Tune in for great advice for professionals for all backgrounds and to learn more about Zach’s book Warrior Entrepreneur.
Hello, all welcome to the show. I'm Gus Gagliardi, and this is fire code tech on fire code tech. We interview fire protection professionals from all different careers and backgrounds in order to provide insight and a resource for those in the field. My goal is to help you become a more informed fire protection.
Professional fire code tech has interviews with engineers and researchers, fire marshals, and insurance professionals, and highlights topics like codes and standards, engineering systems, professional development, and trending topics in the industry. So if you're someone who wants to know more about fire protection or the fascinating stories of those who are in the field, you're in the right place.
Hello, all welcome to episode 42 of fire code tech. On this episode, we're talking to Zach green. Zachary is an entrepreneur in the fire and life safety space. Speaking with Zach, we get into his origin story, which centers around his time in the fire service. And in the military, we dive into Zach's book, the warrior entrepreneur.
In the episode, we talk about some of the key takeaways and tips for those who want to take on the warrior mindset that is needed to be successful as somebody who is in business for themselves. Join us for key takeaways, like how to cultivate the mental steadfastness. That's required to endure some of the hardships of entrepreneurship and the mindset and strengths of those who have been successful in entrepreneurial and professional endeavors.
Don't forget to subscribe. So you never miss an episode and follow us on social. Oh, and if you could do me a huge favor, go and give us a five star rate and review on apple podcasts. Hello, Zach. Good morning. Welcome to the podcast. Welcome to fire code tech. thank you so much. I'm excited to be on with you today.
Awesome. Awesome. Well, I always enjoy starting the podcast episodes with giving the listeners a little bit about your background and how you found fine life safety, but, um, for you, you could, if you could give some exposition about, um, your origin story of your career. Certainly. So, um, I served at the United States Marine Corps, uh, back in the early nineties, uh, got out in about 99.
And, um, about two years later, September 11th happened, you know, a day that affect all of us very deeply. But for me, um, I, I really had a lot of survivor guilt. I felt bad that I, you know, was in the, the Marine Corps infantry and did all that work. And I never got a chance to, you know, take the fight to the enemy if you will.
So I joined our local volunteer fire. And, uh, it was a great way to give back to the community and still kind of stay in the fight. Cuz the new front lines of the battlefields are no longer in a far off distant land. They're here in our backyard. And uh, during that time in the fire service, I developed a, uh, photo luminescent technology for firefighters to see each other in the dark and over about a 10 year time period, uh, literally, uh, turned the company from the truck of my car into about a 30 million operat.
Wow. That's awesome. Excellent. Well, um, I'd like to, you know, uh, dive a little bit deeper into your time in the fire service. Um, would you just, uh, talk to me a little bit about, um, your time in the fire service and kind of how that, and, uh, also maybe a little bit more about your time in the military and how that's kind of shaped you and your pursuits.
Certainly. So, you know, in the, in the Marine Corps, I was originally trained for artillery, a fire direction. Controlman my job was to do all the mathematical, uh, and scientific calculations to get what we call rounds on target. Um, I spent three months going to various different schools from survey school to meteorology school, to learning about.
Different types of muzzle philosophies and all this really amazing trigonometry. You know, I never thought I'd use my, uh, math stuff, uh, in high school. And in typical Marine Corps wisdom, they then assigned me to a, uh, infantry unit and had me do the same job for mortars, which I pretty much could teach you how to do on the back of a napkin in about 10 minutes.
Um, I was assigned to a cold weather infantry, uh, unit our job, again, keep in mind. This was before September. Was, if the Russians were to roll through the Northern flank of Norway, we would kind of be for lack of better words, the road bumps. Um, so when I got outta the Marine Corps, I, I did both enlisted, um, Paris island.
And then I went through the officer candidate program, as I was getting close to getting my commission. I realized, you know, I just didn't wanna do this anymore. Um, the. Marine Corps was in a nutrition mode as all the, uh, uh, branches were under Clinton's, uh, leadership. And also, uh, there was no combat deployment.
So I, I got out now, what can I use of those skills out in the real world? Obviously it, you know, setting up artillery, firing tables and doing infantry operations is probably gonna get me arrested if I do those things out in the civilian world, but it was those intangibles. Teamwork confidence, mission accomplishment.
Those were all the things that really prepared me as I got into, um, my job as a volunteer firefighter and ultimately working through climbing the corporate ladder, um, at my full-time job, which was with Eli Lilly. Awesome. Well, you know, I've always, uh, kind of sensed a similar, um, disposition from firefighters and military personnel.
This kind of. Um, This kind of stoic, um, unflappable, just like, uh, look in the eyes of an individual who's been in the either kind of paramilitary structure of the fire service or, you know, the mil, the military structure of, uh, you know, serving. Um, yeah, I don't know. I just always thought that was interesting.
Do you have any thoughts on, um, why these two were so similar? Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, they definitely attract the same individuals. I, I say in the Marine Corps, we have a really great ability of taking things that are really fun and making 'em as miserable as possible. And in the fire service, we have a great job of taking things that are miserable and making it as fun as possible.
I think the common thread with all these are these warrior attributes and those are service above. The team above the individual and mission accomplishment above everything. You know, we always say in the fire service, we can't dial 9 1 2 after you dial 9 1 1. When we show up, we have to solve the mission.
And the same thing goes with that mindset in the, uh, The military also. And that's why I think you see a lot of that, um, transferable skills. And in my recent book, the warrior entrepreneur, I really dive deeply into that. And what is it that makes a warrior warrior? You don't have to be a, a Marine or a firefighter.
You could literally be a, uh, a, a single mom. That's trying to raise two or three kids and working two or three jobs. And it's that undying. Thirst and, um, dedication to accomplishing your mission no matter what it is. And also a very unique attribute and that is using conflict, resistance and adversity to help shape you, to prepare you for your ultimate crucible, which always ends up happening at some point in time in your life.
Sometimes you can have multiple crucibles and that is usually the crisis in your life. When everything kind of falls apart, it could be. Divorce. It could be death of a family member. It could be a drug alcohol or addiction. In my case, it was thinking my business was gonna go bankrupt. We were running outta money.
And when you're in that crucible, you have two options. One option is to succumb to the abyss. If you, uh, spend too much time near that abyss, which stands for failure. Death suicide destruction, giving up. Um, eventually that abyss will consume you. Uh, the philosopher meets you once said, if you stare long enough into the abyss, eventually the abyss will stare back.
And that's basically what that means. But the warrior again, has to have that resistance has to have those intangible skills. We just talked about to not get through their crucible, but to conquer their crucible. And the only way they can do that is to transform and change. Because if you don't change.
After you conquer your crucible, you're gonna get right back into that area. And we can certainly talk later on about some of the changes that I made and some of the changes that I've witnessed during the research for my book about how warriors are able to conquer those different crucibles that they end up having in their life.
Yeah, definitely. I love all that. That's great stuff. I have heard this sentiment a couple of times from firefighters, you know, about on, um, people's worst day that they are, um, have the fire service, um, has to show up and give their all because, um, people don't have a choice of who shows up. So that was always very, um, impactful, impactful for me.
Yeah. And we always say that we've gotta be on our best when you're at your worst. Yeah. Yeah. That's incredible. Yeah. I mean, um, we could talk about the book now, but, um, let's, I mean, I, you answered kind of one of my first thoughts, but maybe you could speak a little bit more about it. Um, which is. You know, who is the book for?
You know, I think it obviously applies to people who have been in the military and people who have, um, you know, been in the fire service, but maybe speak more broadly to the appeal of the book that you've written the warrior entrepreneur and who can, you know, take value from. So, yeah. Thank you for asking.
I mean, the, the book is really for anybody that wants to conquer their crucibles in their life. Now I will tell you when I originally wrote the book, it was designed just for entrepreneurs. And the reason I did that is I saw so many. I saw so many similarities between my warrior journey in the military at fire service and as an entrepreneur and those journeys were number one.
Um, it's tough. You know, you gotta have a lot of grit. Number two, you have to be able to accomplish the mission. The only way an entrepreneur can fail is to give. Now, now quitting is the easy thing to do. It's sticking it out and making it through all those tough challenging times is where the real rubber meets the road, so to speak.
So as the book started to develop, and as I started doing research on the fight or flight systems, sympathetic, parasympathetic, uh, systems within your, your body. I started to research, um, several things about the difference between college athletes and non-college athletes between the stressors that come in the military and, and, uh, the first responder world.
Um, and I realized they all had that common thread that goes all that theme that goes all the way back to Homer and the ID and the Odyssey. And that is. As the hero starts to develop and they have to get tested. They have to be tried in that trial. And testing is really what develops you. Iron sharpens.
Iron is another way of looking at that and then prepare you for that battle you're crucible, and then that transformation and change to get through that crucible. And when you look at it in that. The reality is, is it could be the, the, again, the mom that's working two jobs, just try to get their kid through school.
It could be that kid. That's the first person in his family to go to college, but they gotta work two jobs and do all this extra stuff while the other kids are out partying on the weekends. It could be that. Navy seal. It's trying to get the inspiration to make it through buds. It could be, um, the entrepreneur that has just failed time and time again, but continue to get, come out there and, and give it their all and try to figure out how to solve that problem.
So I guess the, the short answer to your short question is it's for anybody that wants to accomplish, uh, greatness in their life and, and overcome obstacle. Yeah, that's great. I love that. I mean, I was drawn to, um, you and your book, you know, um, you reached out to me, but you know, I was looking into your book and your profile and I was really drawn because I think that, you know, whether you are somebody who owns their own business or not the entrepreneurial.
Set is the mindset that helps people be successful in business and successful in life. This kind of, um, non-acceptance of the status quo and to be, um, a bit, uh, riskier and have that grit and determination is something that serves anybody with the professional career. So, um, that's one of the main through lines of this podcast.
Um, kind of, uh, self betterment, usually in regards to a little bit more fire and life safety, but, um, self betterment and kind of what are the tools and tactics to, um, have some of that self-improvement. So I think that's a great line of, um, you know, discussion about how the, the book is versatile and those who could gain benefit out of it.
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So I wanted to talk a little bit more. I love this idea of, and I think, um, you touched on a little bit, this, this grit, this determination, this, um, kind of, um, ability to push through difficult tasks. Uh, I think that. It's hard as an entrepreneur. Sometimes you don't know there's, there's uncertainty, there's risk.
Um, it's, it's sometimes hard to know if you're doing the right thing. And then as a professional, too, you know, especially for people early on, um, to have that confidence, to have that ability, to know that you're putting in the work and you're going in the right direction, but it seems like that's a theme in the book.
I'd love to hear, uh, a bit more about that from you. If you. Certainly. So yeah, you, you definitely bring up some really, really great points there. I think the first thing that you look at, if you decide you do want to take that entrepreneurial journey is what is the problem you're solving. I think when you look at the fire code, every single thing in the fire code is solving a problem.
A lot of them were the result of accidents that happened or tragedies or something along those lines. Um, you know, I grew up in the Cincinnati area in the Beverly Hills supper club fire, which was one of the most lethal fires in our country's. Developed a lot of different codes that came out of that. Um, those were lots of problems that were solved in my case.
The problem that I solved was I got lost in a fire and I wanted to create a product that was gonna help reduce disorientation and increase accountability in the fire service. So when you look at, you know, those, those traits, the intangibles, and I guess I could sum 'em up in one word grit. Being an entrepreneur is exceptionally difficult when you're a firefighter.
When you're in the military, there's a handbook there's literally decades. If not centuries of doctrine and lessons that we've learned on how to fight that enemy, whatever that enemy could be. Um, there is a team. There is equipment. There are tools. They're all paid for by the government. So you don't really have to spend money outta your own pocket.
When you get to the entrepreneur world, it's completely different. You have, first of all, you usually don't have any money. Second of all, there is no handbook. Third of all, you don't usually have a team. It usually starts with one, maybe two people out of the truck or the car or garage or some area like that.
And then the challenges just start to become absolutely overwhelming. So it's those intangibles that we need to, to conquer those cat challenges now, specifically, what do you need to be an entrepreneur? What are the things? And I kind of boil it down to three things. One is you solve a problem in a unique and elegant way.
Two, you have to have an unfair, competitive business advantage. I didn't say illegal. I didn't say unethical. I said unfair because we are small in a startup. You don't have the resources and the manpower to compete against some of these larger companies that are out there. So you have to have an angle.
What is that unfair advantage? In my case, my unfair advantage was I decided if I'm gonna be selling to my brother and sister firefighter, I don't wanna outsource my sales team to, to some big sales distribution company that hasn't felt the heat of a fire and gone through the disorientation that occurs when you're, when you're, uh, crawling down a dark smokey hallway.
I wanted someone that had been there and done that. So my competitive advantages, I hired only fellow firefighters on my sales team that I built up to about 400 across the country. And, um, as the other companies would come in and try to sell product. They weren't, uh, they didn't have that brotherhood and, and we all know in the fire service, it's, it's, you're either a firefighter or you're not real simple.
It's very binary. Um, another advantage you could have is maybe you develop some type of coffee cup and you're able to negotiate a special deal with. Starbucks where they're gonna only use your special coffee cup and nobody else's, that's a great competitive advantage. And then the third one, which always screws up entrepreneurs and especially with the entrepreneurs that I've met in the fire service, I've really yet to meet one.
That's figured out this, this third one, and that is sales, marketing distribution, going to a trade show here and there. Somehow the trunk, your hair. That's fine. That's great. I did that early on. But to really get to that next level, you need great sales, marketing, distribu. If you've got the greatest product in the world and nobody knows about it and they don't know how to buy it.
And there's no system in place to manage those orders. You're not gonna be very successful. So really focus on how people get it and how they buy it and how they distribute it. Because at the end of the day, you can have a really bad product, but if you've got good sales and marketing distribution behind it, you're gonna do pretty.
Conversely, you can have a, uh, a pretty, uh, um, great product, not have good sales and marketing distribution, and you're not gonna do well. So it's, um, you know, it's one of those things where it all comes down to how people find it and how they can buy it. wow. That's some great tips there. I love the point about sales, marketing, and distribution, because, uh, as somebody who runs a podcast, it's literally a hundred percent, um, marketing and distribution.
Um, you know, I would tell people if they wanted to get into the podcasting business, I'd say, um, how do you feel about, you know, posting on social media? Because if you don't have. You know, determination to post on every social media you can every week. Um, and then you're not into that sort of thing then you're probably, um, not gonna make it cuz uh, that distribution piece.
Um, I think in probably many businesses is huge, huge for, uh, You know, it appears to me that any kind of startup or, um, young company, that ability to build a distribution network and kind of facilitate their ideas and their, um, their value, um, is a huge, huge challenge. We're living in the absolute best time on planet Earth's history to be an entrepreneur, the ability to build those social media connect.
We never had that opportunity, not even two years ago before the pandemic, since the pandemic it's got even better, but you know, my kid has already an amazing social network because he doesn't go outside and play, kick the can and, and, uh, stick ball like I used to do when I was growing up because the kids are playing online now.
So it starts with that community, build that community up and then start to distribute your content out there. Well, if you just have the content and no community, I would tell you to pause on getting your content out there until you really started to build up a following the community and then do it.
Yeah. Yeah. That's so true. Um, it is a hard thing to do to build that community, but the, the community kind of has its own momentum. It's really, um, uh, uh, kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, you know, if you, if you build that distribution stream, um, whether it's for a podcast or for a business, kind of that, um, churning incoming and outcoming of content or sales items, um, then, um, you'll I don't know.
Absolutely. I just think that's kind of builds off of itself. Absolutely. Another theme. It seems like in the book, uh, where your entrepreneurship is, um, some of these mental health items, um, I'd like to hear a little bit more about that. Cause I think it's so important in today's day and age for people to, um, have as many tools as they can around the subject.
Certainly. So the, the mind and the body are connected. You know, we spend a lot of time in the military training, our body honing our body. But if you neglect your mind, the, the body really doesn't do anything. I mean, the body is basically the output of what the mind tells you to do. Um, One thing that we have done a great job in the last couple years is recognizing the horrible problem we have in the military.
And even in the fire service with, with suicide and PTSD and those issues and how to identify them and how to make sure we have a space that people feel comfortable to share that vulnerability. Cuz we know that in the military and in the, in the, uh, police and fire service, sometimes when. Raise your hand and say, I need help.
It can be career limiting. Uh, so we we've done a great job of at least addressing those because we weren't almost doing anything, you know, 20 years ago. However, we got a long way to go. Um, in the military, there was a study done where they asked people if they felt stressed, uh, and if they felt emotionally, you know, challenges, when it came around PTSD and those type of issues, the numbers came back, I think were, were artificially low.
They came back at 17%. I do think that number's gotta be larger. Let's say that number's twice that amount who know. but it's interesting cuz that same questionnaire was asked of entrepreneurs and it was over 70% yet. Nobody talks about the suicide rate and entrepreneurship. Nobody talks about the depression.
Nobody talks about the unbelievable stress. It is when you have to go bankrupt or restructure your business or go through those type of things. So there's quite a few things we can do to help address that. The first one is getting a good night's sleep. That's very difficult as an entrepreneur, because the reality is, is nobody is an entrepreneur gets an opportunity to sleep eight hours.
You know, you, sometimes I, I had times where I spent, you know, literally 20 hours in a day in the office or on the air. In the airplane and, and traveling around next one is your physical and your emotional are connected exercise. Get out there and move the body has an amazing way of releasing endorphins and ways to help reduce stress by that exercise.
Another thing that's becoming more and more popular now it's mindfulness. It could be something as simple as just taking. A walk in a beautiful park or on the beach or some area, and just being, you know, not focusing on business, not focusing, turning your phone off, which I always have a really hard time doing and just being present.
Um, there's a lot of other great mindfulness around meditation. I actually did transcendental meditation for a couple years and it literally was a game changer. It was just five, 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes in the. Just get a chance to kind of clear your mind out. The other thing is we are naturally people that like to be around other people, especially when you're an entrepreneur, because you've got that outgoing personality be around other people take times to, to, to disconnect from work and especially other entrepreneurs where you can share stories and you can realize that you're not alone and develop that network.
And that com uh, community like you. And I just talked about around distribu. Build that entrepreneur community. So if you do are struggling and you're having a bad day and you call someone up and say, Hey man, let's go grab a drink. Or, you know, let's just have a chat on the phone or let's go for a walk or something along those lines.
Um, because as we talk about in the framework of the Warrior's journey, when you're in that crucible, it is the biggest crisis of your life. It is very difficult at the bottom of that. Crucible is the abyss. And if you spend too much time in that abyss, it will consume. We saw the horrible example of what happened with Kate spade.
Arguably one of our nation's great entrepreneurs, amazing fashion icon, but didn't go through what she needed to go through to address that depression and all that stress to come along with it. She ultimately, um, uh, succumbed to, uh, suicide. Then we look at someone else. Elon Musk, Elon Musk has battled a tremendous amount of depression and challenges with emotional mental health.
But. He worked on tools and things to help get through that and to be able to fight through those demons and get past that cruc. Yeah, that's incredible. I love that. Uh, throughout your, you know, interview so far, you've had concrete examples of how to deal with some of these challenges and that it's not just fluff or, uh, this kind of, sometimes you can run into a.
The self-help space of people who don't want to offer real solutions. They just wanna talk about the problem. So I love that she talked about, um, meditation and, you know, just kind of mental and emotional health. I think that's all so important. Um, I think, uh, you know, Interestingly enough, the, the mental hurdles that you go through as a professional are the biggest ones.
If you can't convince yourself to send an email, because you're worried about the response, then, you know, you're never, you're never gonna be able to progress as a professional. So, um, I think that how this ties back to, you know, um, being effective is, uh, it's kind of all encompassing and being successful is being able to conquer that mental.
Absolutely all BA the battle, start with the battle of the mind before you can battle the, the opponent or the environment around you. Yeah, that's great. Well, you've given some awesome advice so far for people who want to be an entrepreneur. And, you know, even more specifically for people who are in fire and life safety and want to be an entrepreneur, but I wanted to pick your brain for any other piece of advice for somebody who maybe, um, can't.
Get themselves off the edge of wanting to start their business idea or, um, maybe in that vein of advice. So the first advice I give and I do a cha I I'm really privileged to speak at a lot of different universities and there's been a really large increase in entrepreneurial programs, which I I've got mixed feelings on.
I don't know if that's a good thing or not a good thing. And the reason I say that is you're too young. You don't have enough experience. If you start this, when you're in your twenties period, I don't care what anyone says. Um, you need life experiences. In my case, you know, having experiences as a firefighter, having experiences spending close to 20 years in corporate America, before I start my own business, soak up every single bit of information you can.
If you're on the fire service, attend every single leadership training event, you can. Try to get extra type of, um, involvements because you're doing it on their dime. You know, when I worked at Eli Lilly, I, I got certified to be lean six Sigma. That would've been tens of thousands of dollars. If not more than that, if I had to pay for that on my own pocket, I went through John Maxwell's different leadership programs, tremendous opportunity.
And as I went through all that, not only was I able to give a lot of that benefit back to Eli Lilly when I was working there, but I also was able to carry that with. Forward as I, um, started my own ventures. Um, the other thing is, and then this is probably the top advice for firefighters is when you come up with a great idea, the natural response is to protect it and make sure nobody finds out about it.
So what ends up happening? You either get a patent, which is tremendously expensive, and by the way, patents aren't even worth the paper they're written on. If, unless you have about a million dollars assigned to that patent, because patents only work if you defend them. And if you're not willing to defend them, uh, why would you even have one.
With exception of one area. And that is, if you you're creating a product, you want to get a patent and then you wanna sell that patent to a larger company to have them potentially, uh, defend it. Then. Yes, I, I agree with it. That's on one area, but this is what happens. You get some firefighter develops a great idea.
He starts thinking about it and he's so scared of tell anybody else, cuz they're gonna copy it. And as a result, nobody finds out. Now, um, as much as firefighters are, are brothers and, and we love them. Um, a firefighter will, will steal your idea in the, in the New York minute. I remember this story sitting down at my firehouse, where this guy's talking about how he started his own lawn care company.
And he bought this, uh, lawnmower and how much he's making. And within like a week or two, the two other firefighters listened to him. They bought a lawn mower and they started going after his clients and trying to find everything else that's out there. I. When I started my company FOXFIRE and the fire service, two.
Literally ripped off every single thing I'm doing to the point where they're even copying my logo and my colors and everything else. Um, I used to get really upset about that, but the reality is don't. Um, first of all, it's flattering. Second of all, it tells you there is a business. There, but third of all is I'm gonna spend my time energy on developing new product in innovative products and focusing on that distribution and not trying to fight somebody else.
Um, because, um, again, if you can stay one step ahead of them, if you can be okay with the fact that, uh, yes, somebody may steal your idea, but the benefit of you getting that idea out there and distributing it and talking to people far outweighs the risk that you would have of somebody stealing your.
Spend the money you would've spent on that patent on Facebook targeted ads. I guarantee you you'll make your money back 10. Yeah, I think that's a great point. I think there's a, you know, a scarcity mindset and then like a growth mindset and people who are worried about, you know, oh, there's only so much space.
And I know that that competitive advantage is important. Um, that you talked about earlier, but, um, so, so many times I think people get so tied up in worrying about, um, getting outpaced or somebody else being in the space and they never really give it a chance. They, they don't, you know, in reality, I think there's a lot more bandwidth than, than people are aware of usually, um, especially I can speak for, uh, you know, podcasts is really what I'm kind of, um, drawing my experience from, but, uh, yeah, I think that's, that's great.
Great tips for people who want to get into, um, creating a business. So I wanna circle back to, you know, we've hinted a couple times at LumAware, but I want to talk, um, more about the arc of your story with LumAware. Um, so you get this idea to, uh, create, um, I don't know what the, what the technical word is for, um, lighting from the absorption of, uh, you know, light from.
Um, ceiling lights, ENT technology vote, luminescence technology. Yeah. I was trying to talk to somebody the other day about it and I kept saying interes and I was like, I know that's not right. That's for fire separations, but, um, yeah. Would talk to me more about like the incipient stages of this idea to this boots on the ground.
Um, trying to sell, um, I think that's fascinating. Yeah. So, you know, it's a common problem we've had literally back. Caveman time. And that is what happens when it gets dark out. You get disoriented, you can't find your way around and I wanted to solve that. And so I remember. After I got lost in a fire very early on in my career, uh, a week or two later, I was watching a special on nine 11 and they were talking about how they had this incredible photo lumins and technology in the stairwells, um, of the world trade tower.
So it was actually installed after the 93 truck bombing, uh, where buil, uh, New York fire and building code officials got together and said, Hey, we need to create something else in the code. That's gonna help people in case the power goes out in case. The generators and the, and the backup plans fail because we all know there's a guy named Murphy, he's got a law of physics and it's pretty accurate.
And that is anything that can go wrong, will go wrong at the worst time. Um, so they started to put that in the code building code 26, New York city, September 11th occurs. We talk a lot about the people that died that day, but. Over 17,000 people that got out of those towers before they ultimately came down six different times during the nine 11 commission report, they specifically talked about this photo luminescent technology, helping people find their way out of the world trade towers.
So as a result of that, it started to infiltrate into the NFPA, the I B C the IFFC codes that are out there. So I took that same technology, and I knew that I wanted. Player in that space, but I had to have that competitive advantage, which I didn't have early on. And so I just focused exclusively on.
Firefighter protective products, helmet bands, wraps, paints, resins, uh, shirts, all these different types of things. And the goal there was, was to build my brand, build my community. And as I started to sell these products outta the trunk of my car, I literally made 5,000 bucks over about a six month time period.
Uh, but then I ended up going to F D I C as we all know one of the, the largest firefighter trades show in the United States. Um, in three days we sold close to a hundred thousand dollars of. Now the problem is, is I didn't have any, um, money to, uh, buy the raw materials. I had no way to fill those orders. I had no distribution to, to get those out.
I had no way to set up a collection system to get paid on all those type of things. And people are like, Zach, you gotta stop taking these orders. I'm like, no, I'm a Marine. We overcome, we adapt. We figure things out. We improvise. And that's what I did. So I ended up rating my 401k. I pulled out money out of.
Um, uh, savings. I maxed out credit cards. I was able to get most of those orders out. Um, but then I'm starting to run outta money again. So I did the next thing, which was, went to venture capital and start and raised a couple million dollars in venture capital financing. However, when they, when you raised venture capital financing, they wanna look at what's the total available market.
What's the maximum that's out there and the maximum, total available market and the fire service really isn't that big, you know, there's about 1.2 million firefighters in the. About 31,000 different departments. So I needed something else there to help sweeten the pot, to get these investors to invest.
And what I looked at was something we see every day and we don't even realize it. And it's, uh, exit signs. There's a hundred million exit signs in the United States. They all need batteries. They need light bulbs, they need electricity. And there's a section in the code there that says you don't necessarily have to have an electrified.
Exit sign. What you do need to require though, is that it's visible for at least 90 minutes when the power goes off. And that's what I focused on. I was able to get our glow to glow bright enough and long enough that it met that standard. And before, you know, we started, um, we landed a pretty big opportunity with Krogers.
We then, uh, landed a monster opportunity with home Depot, uh, started to get some other really, really large, uh, companies, both as customers. And then eventually home Depot started to carry it themselves and sell the, um, exit signs and safety products. We also have a total portfolio products to help you get into code compliance with the stairwells ranging from a liquid stair nosing product that goes on the leading edge of the step to, um, tapes on the handrail.
And really kind of building that out. So that that's kind of what the, the arch in that journey has been, is now really focusing with what LumAware is focused on. We still do a ton of business on our Fox fire brand, which is our firefighter brand, but because we do so much on the LumAware side, um, Over 25 million close, you know, close to 30 million.
Um, and we're over 30 million. If you include the sales that we've done in, in the firefighter products, that that really has been the, um, you know, main focus of the company. But for me will always be a company of firefighters for firefighters in those we protect. That's awesome, man. It's incredible to hear about your effectively shark take moment, looking at the, the market size and what the, what the market would bear for the product that you're thinking of.
I think that's, uh, pretty fascinating to hear about. Thank you. Yeah. Um, I wanted to, you know, discuss a little bit about the perspective and it's something that we've talked about a little bit off air. You know, what was it like going from somebody who was an individual contributor to the CEO of a business that was making millions of dollars?
Um, I think that that is quite a transformation and I'd love to hear more about that. It was quite a transformation. It's a transformation. I don't think I did a really great job at to be perfectly honest. I think, um, being a founder and entrepreneur is a very different set of skills than being a CEO or president of a small to mid-size company.
I did an exceptionally good job of being a CEO of a startup company, where my focus was more on vision. Wasn't really focused on profit. It was just simply about getting the name out there and being the cheerleader and the evangelist for this technology. , but what you see with a lot of small businesses as they transfer from a startup to a small business, is that the CEO and founder usually holds the company back from, uh, maximizing its potential.
And the reason why is based off of this incredible concept that genome Wickman came up with in his book, rocket fuel, and it talks about you need an integrator and a visionary, and it's rare that those people are in those same categor. If you're a fan of psychology, Carl Young talks about people are thinkers or feelers.
People are, you know, some people are finan or, um, number motivated. Some people are visually motivated. Um, it's hard to have both of those. Be the same, actually, he says, you can't be the same. You can't be a thinker and a feeler. You can have little bits of each, but you can't have equal amounts of each. And so as the visionary, my job is to constantly be innovating, is to, um, you know, be the cheerleader for my company, the spokesman for the company to get out there and talk to people and come up with new ideas.
And as a result of that, I was neglecting those finances. I was getting to the point where I was so paranoid with my emails, cuz there were so many bad emails. I just figured, Hey, I'll just stop checking the emails. Uh, not really a good thing to do. And importantly, not very courageous. You know, one of those warrior attributes is courage.
You have to have that courage is not the absence of. It's being scared and then pushing through that. So when I got to my crucible where we thought we were running outta money and, and we were, I mean, we were ready to, to, you know, have to reorganize the company in bankruptcy. I was probably gonna lose my house and foreclosure.
It was a bad, bad situation. And that was my crucible. And my transformation that I made was stepping down as CEO and bringing in a new CEO. And that's when the company really, really flourished. So that that's something I think it's really important for people to know is starting. The company is very, very different than running a company requires a completely different set of skills.
Yeah, that's remarkable. I think that this kind of forest for the trees, um, Mentality, or this is, is common in entrepreneurs, this ability in this creativity to see, um, what the market needs or the broad picture of, you know, uh, an idea and how it's gonna be fulfilled is like a common theme for an entrepreneur.
But it seems like. You know, from what you're saying, like the technical details and the minutiae of, um, looking at financials and, you know, kind of really grilling down and executing on, um, some of those details is I could see how that would be a challenge, uh, challenge for me, for sure. Uh, it sounds, sounds really hard.
it is, but, you know, that's the, the hallmark of being a, a warrior. You take those challenges. You, you, you break 'em down to the small parts, you figure out what you need to do and, and you conquer 'em. And, and for me, it wa it was tough, but, but I did it. I brought in and expanded the team. That's awesome.
That's really interesting to hear about, um, Yeah. So I wanted to get into, uh, just, uh, a couple topics on the, I know this whole conversation's been about professional development, but usually we, towards the end of the interview, we kind of hit on, um, More recommendations for professionals. So all that to preface, uh, the question, um, you know, what do you see as, as somebody who is, uh, um, a serial entrepreneur, what do you see as meaningful, uh, trends in, in business you could speak to fire and life safety or just, uh, business more broadly.
What do you see as, as kind of trends for, for people to be aware of? Right. Yeah. I mean, I think the, the, the first trend is, is, is happening as we speak. And it's evolving and changing. That is what is pre COVID COVID and then post COVID look like, um, you know, I, I imagine when you have changes, like you take everything it's in perfect order.
You put it in a box and you shake it up. Sometimes the stuff on top drops to the bottom, sometimes the stuff on the bottom goes to the top. Sometimes things move around. So take advantage of what the. COVID and post COVID world looks like and look for opportunities there. The second thing is the beauty now of what we're doing, which is being able to talk to each other and not be in front of each other.
Uh, that is tremendous. Um, we've never experienced anything like that in the history of our, our country and, and really our economy for that matter. Um, it used to cost me thousands of dollars in two to three days. To have a meeting over in the, um, west coast. Now I can do it just by clicking a button and going on the zoom call.
So look at the opportunities that are created there. Uh, the shopping, the way that we consume data and the consume product has changed now and move more towards online, which really opens up, um, the opportunities and lowers the barrier of entry because you don't have to go out and. Buy a, uh, a building and lease a space to, to do business.
You can literally just open up your iPhone and create a Amazon, uh, account or an eBay store and just start selling stuff. It's incredible. So lots of opportunities out there be creative stuff that maybe you look at. A couple years ago and it just wasn't ready. Maybe now's the time to revisit it and to look at 'em and to try to find that out.
The other thing that I'd like to offer for your listeners is we're putting together a warrior framework training. This is gonna be a 90 day course where we're gonna take you through the warrior attributes step by step, by step and teach you how to apply those to business. It's gonna be really designed for people that.
We're starting a business. Maybe they have a small business. They want to scale it. They could be somebody in corporate America, or somebody in the fire service that wants to kind of move up to that next rank. But we're gonna really dive deep into how to handle adversity, tackle adversity, hold you accountable.
Through a series of coursework and also one-on-one calls with me where we're gonna be going over, uh, the warrior and, and that can be found on my website, warrior entrepreneur, book.com. You know, all you gotta do is just fill out the, uh, contact us, uh, section there with your information and, and we can get you information on taking the preassessment for the warrior F.
Awesome. Yeah, that's a, sounds like an interesting opportunity for somebody who, uh, is having trouble getting, going and needs a little bit of, uh, uh, tutorial on, uh, the right mentality for getting the job done. Um, yeah, the last question, Zach, uh, what kind of, it sounds like that one last one was pretty good, but, um, what other kind of resources would you recommend to professional?
You know, where do you like to go and do research and get information about, um, business or professional development? So obviously what we're doing right now is, is a tremendous new resource and that's just podcast. There's some great podcasts that are out there, listen to them, uh, digest them, share them, share those with other people.
Um, the other thing is, um, there's a lot of really great tools that are out there, um, that can help you. Two of my absolute favorite tools. One is a, um, website called fiber F I V E R. What makes five or so incredible is that you can get really agency quality, uh, material from website dev design, to whiteboard, uh, videos to, um, infographics at a really, really inexpensive cost.
It's, it's a pretty tremendous, uh, platform where people can, can bid off of that. The other one is a company called, got print G O T print. Um, Tremendous tool for, um, printing that is, uh, significantly cheaper than virtually anything else that I've found out there for printing, because that can really, uh, those prices add up, not just from a business card, but to putting together flyers, to banners, to.
To whatever else is out there.
Awesome. Well, I think that we have run the gambit here, Zach. Um, where can people find out about the book or, uh, follow you on social media? Yeah. So LinkedIn is usually the best way for, uh, social media, uh, Zachary L. Green. You can always email email@example.com. Again, I encourage everyone to, to go onto the website warrior entrepreneur book.com.
Uh, I am offering a specialist for your podcast listeners that if, uh, they type in the coupon code podcast, 2 0 2 1 again, podcast 2021, they can get the book for 50% off. And also, um, there, they can sign up to see if they are eligible. For the warrior, um, framework take the assessment intake tool that we have, uh, which is a amazing 20 question, uh, questionnaire that was put together by a special forces intelligence officer to assess, uh, your warrior traits.
Um, we you'll get a free report as a result of that. And if you score high enough, you'll be eligible to attend that warrior framework training. Awesome. Well, thank you again so much for your time, Zach. And, uh, yeah. Thanks for coming on the show. Have a great day. Thank you so much for the opportunity.
Thanks for listening, everybody. Be sure to share the episode with a friend, if you enjoyed it, don't forget that fire protection and life safety is serious business. The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are by no means a professional consultation or a codes code gen standards interpretation.
Be sure to contact a licensed professional. If you are getting involved with fire protection and or life. Thanks again, and we'll see you next time.