Hi, I’m Glen Dakan, the guy who had the initial spark for Pure Pursuit and I wanted to present here a bit of the “behind the scenes” look at where we’ve come from, as this last 1+ year in getting this company off the ground has been incredible and worth sharing. Part 1 is here, where we’ve been and, for those who might care to actually care, Part 2 will be released soon to see where we’re going! Is there anyone out there that might? Comment below on what you want to learn more about!
Here, in Seth Godin (Marketing and Blogging guru) bite-sized style, is the abridged history of Pure Pursuit Automotive, so far, at least some of the things that I see worth writing down 🙂
Am I just stupid?
I started this company in mid-2013 as a guy, a business plan (some investors say these “plans” are about as valuable as the paper they’re printed on), and lessons that I learned in my time in the Navy while moving around the country and trying to buy cars. That’s about it. Like most entrepreneurs, I had a vision, a plan, and not much else to get it going, though I had a strong incentive to do something besides sleep in, as my active duty paycheck had an expiration date. Although I have been a lifelong car guy, here I was, this former military pilot with some business school…that had no automotive experience, no family auto ties, and very little business experience. In fact, my first real business lunch was only about 4 months prior to starting this company! Yes, I think it’s safe to say that I am just stupid at this point. Some would say nothing’s changed.
Although I was used to moving in the military and new adventures, the following ridiculousness was the icing on the cake
that completed my 15 moves in 15 years of Navy: I planned to transition from active duty and move from Florida to Missouri by way of several months of what Navy pilots call “geo-baching” in Virginia: living away from my family. Pure Pursuit’s business plan began in my spare time in Pensacola, FL in our rented house, then Army barracks and my car for a month in Columbia, SC, then continued off and on in Tampa, FL in 2012, while I was working at US Central Command, in a rented condo. It continued to be written while living in a friend’s basement (Thanks Brian and Jess!) in Virginia Beach, and another friend’s couch in Norfolk (Thanks Eric and Paige!). This was all while starting another side-business with Tony Perone, Pure Pursuit’s now Chief Marketing Officer. In that company we somehow earned revenue in India of all places, cutting our teeth in digital (internet) marketing, which would be an important part of Pure Pursuit.
Lean and Mean:
Fast forward spring 2013,
where I was reunited with my family after almost 3 months geo-baching in Virginia, and I moved into yet ANOTHER basement with family (Thanks Pat!) in Kansas and finished the business plan. Through networking I started with a quick internship at Allen Automotive in KC Summer 2013 to learn something…anything…about automotive and selling, and finally got to move into a house in Missouri in the late summer. All said and done, after 2.5 years, 5 states and 7 locations (damned basements!?), we finally got our furniture back from the Navy and were settled! I was ready to begin this Pure Pursuit thing as a one-man band.
Ready for Build:
The old saying, “it’s not what you know but who you know” has stuck around for generations for a reason. I can never understate the value of networking in business and in life. I needed to find some people crazy enough to invest in me and a business plan I’d written fresh out of my MBA program! Venture capitalists call these people Friends, Family, and Fools. I was very lucky, through networking and my wonderful family and friend connections, to find and pitch all three of these groups successfully and stay away from banks and auto-lenders. You can see these fellow owners as the executives of Pure Pursuit here: http://purepursuitauto.com/meet-the-team/
Fresh out of business school, Tony and I learned of two very important things that are needed to start a modern business. These concepts are so new that they haven’t made it into the b-school curriculum fully: The Lean Startup and digital marketing. Without boring you with the details, lean startup influenced the plan and the execution of early Pure Pursuit: I chose to only build a professional photo and video booth, then started working out of a basement without building any offices, buying furniture, or anything else that the rest of retail businesses require.
I equate it to starting a gourmet restaurant but only building a kitchen and not building a fancy dining room.
Our Buildout (above)
What we built first was like take-out only, and the clients had to get their food delivered to them in the kitchen. The quality of the food is the same, it is just a different experience… Here was the test: using the magic of the internet, could I convince people to buy expensive pre-owned luxury sport vehicles over the internet with no “googleable” reputation? Could we compete while selling luxury sports sub-exotic cars out of a warehouse facing competitors with $20 million buildings and some with over 100 years of auto experience? Did I mention it was dumb to even think that?
Entrepreneurs have to learn many crazy things, but a love of continued learning is the most important thing I have taken away from this experience so far. I invested heavily in web design and presence, and I even taught myself to build our first web-site; thank God we don’t still have that! Self-Taught digital marketing, inventing HR practices having never worked outside the military, and the list and the mistakes go on and on! However, the thing I did do right was to seek out and learn from the best automotive conferences: I went to them all and scoured a dealer forum online, taking notes on all the strange acronyms and vendors that I didn’t recognize so I could build the basics needed to list our first fleet online.
Ready for business:
The first car (and thing) I ever sold professionally was my old car.
As chance would have it, this same car was the reason I started Pure Pursuit in the first place! (Read more about that story here: http://purepursuitauto.com/about-us/ ) It was a BMW M5 and my fist client was a “fly-in” to Kansas City, MO from Madison, WI, justifying our marketing plan for selling rare cars to mostly out of state customers (Thanks Corey!) Many of the things we are doing today or what we were doing back when we started are only possible given the latest technology.
On our website I wrote that Pure Pursuit would not be able to exist even 2 years ago. Our investment into technology was the only reason we were able to sell these first couple of cars. We were admittedly not a retail location nor looked like a traditional dealer, even though we’re a retail B2C business market. It helps to remember that retail automotive has been operating very similarly for over 100 years! Only through the power of the internet were we able to find clients who would actually buy from me, and I was surprised when they came from all over the country! The rules are changing.
A lil’ help?
I quickly realized that even with a lot of leadership experience (nobody trains young men and women like the military in leadership and management, Go Navy!)
and an amazing business education (Go Kelley!), we all have flaws and strengths. Entrepreneurship will highlight these like nothing else. You have to pair up with people that can complement your flaws. My investors who complement my thinking or, more importantly, directly opposed my risk-tolerant mindset, were and continue to be much needed sounding boards. Hiring an all-star team is key. I knew while sitting in my basement, selling my first couple of cars, that, while my business partner part-time help was appreciated, it was mostly a one-man show. I certainly needed more help. And I needed it quickly. The paperwork, title tracking, listing, selling, follow-ups, and everything else I was doing while continuing to build, took their toll in 16+ hour days. Hell, I thought I got out of the military to stop being very good at calculating 18 hour work days without hardly doing the mental math!
So, I took my business school notes and continued further research and networking for hiring advice (Thanks Bryce!) and went and hired my first employee: Grant. He just celebrated his first anniversary of the much coveted title of “Pure Pursuit Employee #1”. Being Marissa Mayer isn’t even as cool. From there, we’ve built an impressive team. In fact, they are such professionals that I am able to write this blog from Buenos Aires, Argentina and recently they ran the show while I was in Thailand with the Navy Reserves…and from Las Vegas before that, and Japan before that, and Mexico…ok you get my point. I would pit our team against anyone.
All about that (Client) Base. 5 star service:
We realized that as a startup, since we didn’t have the awareness, client base, reputation, or fancy retail location as an established dealership, we had to blow it out of the water for client service and strived to earn nothing but 5 star reviews through concierge level service, a tradition that certainly continues today and is much easier with a dedicated team!
Stay tuned for part 2!
About Pure Pursuit:
Pure Pursuit is Kansas City’s premier Luxury Sports Car Dealer. We Specialize in Mercedes- Benz AMG’s, BMW M’s, Audi S/RS, Porsche Turbo/S, and more. We ship Worldwide, and deliver concierge-level service that customers are raving about. See For Yourself Here!
About the Interviewee: Glen Dakan, is Founder / CEO of Pure Pursuit Automotive. Glen served for a decade as a Naval Aviator and now as a Lieutenant Commander in the reserves, is following his passion to launch his second career as a tech startup entrepreneur. He values nothing more than finding smart people and technology to improve the automotive buying experience and simply get people what they want.…Learn more about Glen here: http://purepursuitauto.com/project/glen-dakan-founder-and-ceo/