By Lynne Beverly Strang, Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs
In March, Steve Fredlund drove from his home in Minnesota to give a talk at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. But this wasn’t just any presentation. It was a TEDx talk, a locally-organized event where speakers share unique ideas that become globally accessible.
Although COVID-19 forced Fredlund to speak in front of an empty auditorium, determination mixed with nervous energy carried him through. “It was the most important talk of my life,” he says.
Fredlund’s talk — “Putting the Right Peeps in Your Jeep” — recounts the exhilarating moment when he and two friends spot a rare black rhino during a jeep safari in the Maasai Mara, a national game reserve in east Africa. His message: Shared passion increases your impact, deepens your relationships and magnifies the things you already care about.
It’s a principle that has helped him transition from a 30-year career as an actuary to the founder of two businesses. One, Steve Fredlund Coaching, offers coaching, consulting, speaking and writing support primarily for small businesses and nonprofits. The other, RecPoker, provides a podcast, coaching, online games and other services for recreational poker players (more on this later).
Fredlund, who turned 50 in April, describes his entrepreneurial journey as “an evolving vision” that’s been years in the making. Along the way, he’s dabbled in various initiatives, such as co-founding a nonprofit that helps communities in northern Rwanda. But it wasn’t until 2018 when he finally made the leap to full-time entrepreneurship.
“The right peeps will be different for each business. For me, the key traits are passion, chemistry, character, self-awareness, humility and a willingness to learn.”— Steve Fredlund
That year, he was working in the human resources department of an insurance company. Each day, he headed off to a cubicle and a vast room crowded with coworkers who clearly weren’t the right peeps. The situation filled him with anxiety.
“One morning before work, I found myself weeping as I sat in my car in the company parking lot,” he recalls. “I decided I couldn’t do this anymore.” At age 48, he left the corporate world to venture out on his own.
Fredlund started with the intent of becoming an actuarial consultant, registering with several freelance sites. One listing caught the eye of a CEO, who called Fredlund to discuss his credentials. “Why not go into business coaching?” the CEO asked.
That suggestion planted a seed and found its way into both of Fredlund’s businesses. RecPoker is an offshoot of his love for recreational poker, a hobby discovered when he and a couple of friends needed a family-friendly activity to do with their kids. He now has a business partner: Jim Reid, a fellow poker aficionado and an established small business owner who lives near Toronto.
“I wanted to work with Jim because he shares my passion for the game of poker,” says Fredlund. “He’s also logical, detail-oriented and experienced in business ownership.”
For entrepreneurs, success becomes more likely when your jeep has the right peeps. But how do you find them?
“It’s important to have clarity of mission,” says Fredlund. “What are you trying to do and how do you want to do it? What is your main goal? If it’s to earn money, you’ll probably want a different set of peeps than if the primary goal is self-fulfillment.”
His other tips to find good people:
Look for the right chemistry. “The people I choose are people I want to hang out with outside of work.”
Don’t expect good partners to materialize overnight. “You have to be discerning and patient.”
Ask “scenario” questions. “When I met with Jim, I started with, ‘What would excite you? What would you be passionate about?” says Fredlund. “I like to ask questions that get to the heart of the issue without asking the question directly.”
Remember that one size doesn’t fit all. “The right peeps will be different for each business. For me, the key traits are passion, chemistry, character, self-awareness, humility and a willingness to learn.”
Like most businesses, RecPoker wants to help its customers endure the pandemic. In March, the site began hosting a “Social Distancing Series” consisting of free, online recreational poker tournaments each night. “It’s tons of fun,” Fredlund says, “And a great way to make new friends and maintain a sense of community when it matters the most.”
He’s also made adjustments to his consulting practice, replacing in-person communication with Zoom to give talks and conduct webinars.
“COVID-19 hasn’t altered my goal – but it has altered the execution of my business and how I am able to accomplish my goal,” says Fredlund. “My vision is still my vision: to help others live their most fulfilling lives.”
And to do it with the right peeps, of course.