Ryan Stobie - CEO & Founder, Adventure Bucket List

Episode 38: Ryan Stobie: Why Choose The More Passionate Employee Rather Than The Better Skilled Worker

Who is Ryan Stobie and the key takeaways in this episode?

Can your love for the outdoors and adventures make you money? For many of us who love the outdoors and traveling, it’s probably the other way around. We spend a lot on travel and vacations, but how many times have you experienced the feeling that you could probably have done more? This is the problem that triggered the entrepreneurial bug in Ryan Stobie. A passionate traveler and adventurer himself, he then began a business fueled by his passion for the outdoors and adventure so that others can really maximize those good times for the adventurer while at the same time, providing a boost for tourist and travel destinations providers.

There is so much more to learn in this interview, including

  • The story behind Adventure Bucket List
  • Ryan’s personal thoughts on culture
  • Why Ryan thinks passion is better than skills
  • His advice for those who are building a team
  • and many more…

The Questions

[2:10] Did you grow up in an entrepreneurial environment with your parents? Is that how you came to leave the academic setting and say, “I want to build a business?”
Answer: Not so much. I’m trying to think about entrepreneurs in our family. In the past, my brother started his own company and [inaudible 00:02:17]. Neither of my parents were doing entrepreneurial stuff. My mother worked for the government. My father is in sales, in a kind of plastics manufacturing industry. So, I’m taking my entrepreneurial spark from – I don’t know.

I always was just a very curious person, very intrigued, and always just looking into new, cool, neat industries, ideas, businesses, that kind of stuff, and just kind of growing up in that generation where the internet was just starting to be put in our fingertips. We could just check out anything we wanted to in our free time. I think you just kind of naturally start gravitating towards what’s new and cool and the possibilities and maybe dream a little bigger than typically people would in the past.

[7:55] Can you share with our listeners a story on how culture has helped accelerate your business?
Answer: We’ve built a company with a culture of everyone who is extremely passionate in what we’re doing. They live for it. If we ever take a day off, people are either out skiing, mountain biking, hiking, surfing et cetera. It just means we can relate with our clients. We can really resonate with the problem we’re solving. So, it accelerates it in the sense that, sure at 6 o’clock at night, we all hang our hats up and go home but a lot of us are still extremely driven. They just keep working because regardless whether you’re in our out of work hours, this is just a problem that we’re super passionate to solve and it’s exciting and we love it. The culture we’ve created, it doesn’t really feel like a job.

[16:06] Ryan, please give our listeners a tip as they try to build their brands, build their cultures, build their companies. What insight can you give them? What tip can you share with them that would make their journey easier?
Answer: I’d say when you’re building their team, if there’s someone who’s extremely passionate about what you’re doing and there’s another person competing for the job who’s a little more qualified but just doesn’t seem to quite get your drive or what you’re striving for, I’d always go for the person who’s more passionate about it because you can learn to grow in your skill sets and you can fill those shoes but you can never really learn the passion or the belief behind the actual business model. If you want to cultivate that amazing culture, it’s so important to keep it in place and really believe in what you believe in.

Culture According to Ryan Stobie:

I think company culture is just the overall vibe and atmosphere that resonates throughout an entire team and it’s collectively the traits that all come together from all the members of the team and I think you feed off each other. Sometimes it may be more on one person than others, but I firmly believe that the culture, it shapes itself and it kind of grows month after month and eventually dictates where the company heads overall. Whether it is from a technological standpoint, from a sales standpoint, or a hiring standpoint, everything that kind of happens as a company, you can kind of feel it and embed it with the culture.

Go To Quote for Inspiration

Book Recommendations:

  • Saltwater Buddha

What Ryan Stobie Wants His Company to BE:

  • BE Determined
  • BE Brave
  • BE Spontaneous

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Interview:

Where to Find Ryan Stobie:

Connect with John on

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

John: Ryan, welcome to BE Culture Radio Show. We’re so glad to have you.

Ryan: Thank you very much. Glad to be here.

John: I’m super excited that you’re joining us today. We’ve got a lot to talk to you about. But before we start in, can you tell us about the Adventure Bucket List? We want to know about you. My listeners want to know about Ryan and we want to know where he came from and what made you the person you are today, and, really, everything about your background. As I like to say, tell us about your tribe.

Ryan: Sure, sure. I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. I spent a lot of my time growing up on the ski hills in the winter canoeing, camping, fishing, doing all sorts of outdoorsy stuff in the summer. I managed to go out West, to British Columbia, a few times to ski, as well as to Alberta and immediately kind of fell in love with the outdoors, the scenery, just everything that was available at your fingertips to do out West.

So, immediately, I kind of made it a goal to get accepted into a university out there. I picked the one that was closest to a ski hill and off I went there. I had an amazing university experience at University of British Columbia, met a lot of amazing friends from all over the world, did all sorts of cool things and that was kind of it. I never really lived at home as soon as I moved away to move out West for school. I always found summer jobs over in [inaudible 00:01:21] or in [inaudible 00:01:21]. I was always close to the surf or close to the rivers, the mountains, all that kind of stuff. I got entrenched in this culture and lifestyle that I lived. It was counterintuitive to what I was getting a degree in, which was Business. I kind of, over the years, was always lured by the idea that I wanted to, somehow, integrate this passion and love for the outdoors and the amazing things that you can do with your leisure time, free time; to somehow integrate that with the degree and career path that I was shooting for.

John: Did you grow up in an entrepreneurial environment with your parents? Is that how you came to leave the academic setting and say, “I want to build a business?”

Ryan: Not so much. I’m trying to think about entrepreneurs in our family. In the past, my brother started his own company and [inaudible 00:02:17]. Neither of my parents were doing entrepreneurial stuff. My mother worked for the government. My father is in sales, in a kind of plastics manufacturing industry. So, I’m taking my entrepreneurial spark from – I don’t know.

I always was just a very curious person, very intrigued, and always just looking into new, cool, neat industries, ideas, businesses, that kind of stuff, and just kind of growing up in that generation where the internet was just starting to be put in our fingertips. We could just check out anything we wanted to in our free time. I think you just kind of naturally start gravitating towards what’s new and cool and the possibilities and maybe dream a little bigger than typically people would in the past.

John: Tell us a little bit about the Adventure Bucket List; and how did you come to that? Where did the idea come from? Take us through that journey a little bit if you would.

Ryan: Sure. So, I’m kind of closing the circle back to what I was saying previously about just loving the outdoors, doing all sorts of leisure activities, living in fun places, cool places, traveling to all these amazing places. That’s something that’s a big part of my life and something that I have been focusing on for years.

When I have some family or friends move out west, or not move out west but just kind of go on vacation out there, they come from say, Toronto or New York and they’d come out to British Columbia and I’d be maybe busy at the time and I’d follow up with them and ask them about the trip. “Hey. What did you do? How did it go?” A lot of the times, it sounded like they didn’t really capitalize on what was out there, on what was offered. They maybe skied for two days, checked out a cool restaurant and then maybe shopped for a bit.

It would just blow my mind how much I’d get that message relayed to me again and again regardless of who the person was, and so I asked them, “Hey. Why aren’t you doing more? You know you can do this. You can do that. There’s white water rafting here. Then, you can go sky diving there. There’s whale watching here. There’s all sorts of this and that. The list is endless.”

And it seems like everyone just settled. It wasn’t really readily available. It wasn’t super easy to access all these types of information. I guess the majority of people, when they travel, they pick a location that seems very cool and then maybe don’t necessarily do the ample research or it’s just not all right there and readily accessible.

With Adventure Bucket List, after hearing all these reviews of friends’ and families’ trips, we kind of decided, myself and some friends like, “You know what? This is a problem that can be solved.” We’ve worked for surf schools, canoe-guided trips, all these kinds of stuff. We recognized that they have a small marketing budget and we recognized that a lot of people out there want to do a lot of this fun stuff. If we can somehow increase the exposure and make it bookable online for everyone, I think people will have more fun when they travel.

John: Was there a tipping point for you when you were starting your company, an “Aha” moment, where the lights went on and you were like, “Hey, we’ve got it. I see it.” Was there a moment or a series of events that led you?

Ryan: Yes. I’d say there were a couple. First would be after I kind of came to this conclusion that I wanted to maybe create something that will kind of help travelers as well as help these activity providers and tour operators. I just had a look on the internet on a few separate occasions, spent a few hours a couple of different times; the fact is that I didn’t dig that deep to kind of find anything that was adding that type of value. I kind of said, “Okay, that’s it. If no one’s currently building it, I think we might as well build it.” That was a good first tipping point but at that point I did end up putting it on hold after a few months.

After that, I participated in a pitch competition and kind of dusted off the business brand and it was one that was sponsored by a startup accelerator down here in Silicon Valley, Plug and Play. After winning that competition, they really encouraged us to pursue it and look forward and potentially move down here to the Valley and make it a reality. So, that was a huge tipping point. They hold a lot of clout in this space and in their industry and in their tech start up world, so having one of them, encouraging us to just follow it and go for it, it seemed like a no-brainer. I couldn’t say know to that.

John: I want to shift gears a little bit because our entire show is about culture and I always like to have our guests share with us their definition of company culture.

Ryan: Sure. I think company culture is just the overall vibe and atmosphere that resonates throughout an entire team and it’s collectively the traits that all come together from all the members of the team and I think you feed off each other. Sometimes it may be more on one person than others but I firmly believe that the culture, it shapes itself and it kind of grows month after month and eventually dictates where the company heads overall. Whether it is from a technological standpoint, from a sales standpoint, or a hiring standpoint, everything that kind of happens as a company, you can kind of feel it and embed it with the culture.

John: Can you share with our listeners a story on how culture has helped accelerate your business?

Ryan: We’ve built a company with a culture of everyone who is extremely passionate in what we’re doing. They live for it. If we ever take a day off, people are either out skiing, mountain biking, hiking, surfing et cetera. It just means we can relate with our clients. We can really resonate with the problem we’re solving. So, it accelerates it in the sense that, sure at 6 o’clock at night, we all hang our hats up and go home but a lot of us are still extremely driven. They just keep working because regardless whether you’re in our out of work hours, this is just a problem that we’re super passionate to solve and it’s exciting and we love it. The culture we’ve created, it doesn’t really feel like a job.

John: I have the opportunity to talk to a lot of founders of emerging businesses and we’ve talked a lot about the psyche of culture and the emotion of culture and then we go to the physical side of it and we talk about the office side of it and what the office looks like, what the office feels like and we talk about the design of the office. Can you share with our listeners how the design of your office matches your culture and in doing that, how does it help you maintain the culture you’re building and attract the new talent? Because we all know the millennials that are coming into the marketplace, that come into work, they’re not going to really settle for this status quo, the old fashioned type of cubicle forms. They’re just not doing it.

Ryan: For sure. We may be the perfect example of not settling for the cubicle. You’re probably not going to believe it until I take some pictures and videos and send them in to you but we managed to find a house up in the hills just closer to the coast. We’re not right in the city anymore or kind of the farmland in La Janda. We’re up in the mountains, up in the redwood forest, and we had a big house that we’ve also made an office there so myself and a lot of my co-founders and workers, we live together, we work together right out of that house; and just being on that side of the mountain, it’s about an acre of property. There’s a zip line, a rock climbing wall, a high ropes course. There are mountain biking trails all around there. As hard as we work, as soon as you’re ready to take a breather, the office that you’re in is literally nature’s playground.

John: Google’s got nothing on you. It actually sounds very cool. You’ve got to – I’ve got to see this. You’ve got to send it to us.

Let me ask you something. You just received an amazing round of funding. Can you take us through that because some of my listeners are emerging entrepreneurs and they are about to embark upon their own journeys and they are going to go down the funding trail and they’ve never experienced it before. So, can you us what that looks like? How that feels? What are the ups, the downs, the ins and the outs?

Ryan: It’s exciting. I really enjoy it. It’s also a challenge. There’s nothing easy about it but we like to describe it as the toughest interview you’ve ever had. You’re not interviewing for a job. You’re interviewing for someone to shell out all their money to you. At this early stage, there are not too many metrics that indicate that you’re going to be multi, multi-million. They’re investing in you.

So, if you can convince them that you’re the person that has the drive, the motivation, the talent and the culture to absolutely push through everything to make this concept and this business work then that’s what I find is kind of the deciding factor. You can have an amazing working pitch tech. You can have a really good business model, maybe an awesome strategy, but at the end of the day, they invest in someone that can execute. I’ve personally found from talking to dozens and dozens and dozens of investors that they’ll invest in a very high caliber entrepreneur with a mediocre idea over a mediocre entrepreneur with an amazing idea.

John:  How much does culture play into it? The culture you’re building.

Ryan:  I think culture is absolutely huge and they can read it on you. A hundred ten percent, consciously or subconsciously, that can dictate the growth curve and how fast things can happen. If you have an amazing culture just by clicking the motivation and ingenuity, it’s running on all cylinders. I’ve had it in the past where sometimes you hit those slumps and those down times, maybe you lose faith, lose focus. You’ve got to quickly correct it because you see that resonate in the culture and you see everything start to take a halt or you hit a slump. It’s important for everyone everyday to stay positive and that positivity can trickle through your entire stretch for the company.

John: Ryan, how important is it for the founder and leader to be able to articulate the culture at a moment’s notice? We talk about it almost like it’s the elevator speech but it’s what you live. It’s got to be authentic. It’s got to come form your heart, right? So, how important is that to that investor?

Ryan: I think you’ve got to be extremely fast. You’ve literally got 30 seconds. In those first 30 seconds, I think they can kind of feel, or at least make a biased opinion or an educated opinion, a gut feeling, on what the heck your company is about. And a lot of the time, they’re pretty darn good at it. So, you’ve got about 30 seconds to let them know how excited you are about this idea, how confident you are and how amazing your team is and how you’re working on it. They can feel that maybe out of the first three sentences that come out of your mouth. They can make some assumptions about what the heck is going on there.

John: It’s almost as bad as asking somebody out for a first date.

Ryan: That’s exactly what it is.

John:  It’s got to be that nerve wracking like, “Oh my god. Somebody help me.”

Ryan: 100%. And the big thing is that people that are listening here are about to go to a fundraising. The thing to remember is that 90% of the investors out there probably don’t invest in your space. It doesn’t mean that none of them will. You’ll get those random ones that are inspired and get it and just want to invest in you but just be ready to hear a lot of No’s because that’s just the fact of the mater. When you’re in early stage, it’s not like you’re coming up to these investors and say, “Hey. You want to buy some Apple stock?” No, you’re going up to them and unless they really resonate with your market and your idea and your team, you’re going to hear “No” and as long as you’re ready for that, it’s okay. You have to be ready for that.

John: Okay. So here you are. You got your amazing round of funding. 12 months from now, what do you look like? Tell me what Adventure Bucket List looks like. What do you do with this capital investment?

Ryan: The big thing that we’re trying to do is to make sure that we’re as versatile as possible in terms of who we can partner with. Having certain booking software, cloud-based software that can accommodate all types of companies and address all their needs and almost make it a little more customized, but on top of that, in terms of sales partners and even travelers alike, the funding at the end of the day is just to refine the product and cater to our audiences.

So, 12 months from now, it’s just going to be polished and at the end of the day, I think that we’re going to have people in Canada, the States, South America. It will be a little more painless when they are booking their trips, booking their experiences, having more fun and these companies will be making a lot more money.

John: Cool, Ryan. Please give our listeners a tip as they try to build their brands, build their cultures, build their companies. What insight can you give them? What tip can you share with them that would make their journey easier?

Ryan: I’d say when you’re building their team, if there’s someone who’s extremely passionate about what you’re doing and there’s another person competing for the job who’s a little more qualified but just doesn’t seem to quite get your drive or what you’re striving for, I’d always go for the person who’s more passionate about it because you can learn to grow in your skill sets and you can fill those shoes but you can never really learn the passion or the belief behind the actual business model. If you want to cultivate that amazing culture, it’s so important to keep it in place and really believe in what you believe in.

John: You’ve traveled. You’ve seen a lot of businesses. It’s not your first rodeo. So, what advice would you give our listeners if you said, “Guys, I’ve seen this a number of times. I’ve watched entrepreneurs. I’ve watched start ups. Don’t do this.” What would that be?

Ryan: You have to be patient and lower your expectations because with myself and other start ups alike, I’ve watched it where everyone just assumes that these milestones will be hit and it will be hit fast and the funding is going to come fast and the traction’s going to come fast, but it’s funny, one of my favorite quotes is that, “It’s crazy how many nights it takes to get an overnight success.” Honestly, you got to under-promise and over-perform to your clients, to your investors, to your team, to everyone. Rome was not built in a day.

John: It’s safe to say you’ve climbed that mountain one step at a time.

Ryan: Correct.

John: That’s pretty good advice because I think a lot of our listeners need to hear that. We have a lot of businesses in the United States that are startups and people emerging but our emerging – 12 years ago I started the business; I’m still emerging.

Ryan: Yes, exactly.

John: And all of a sudden, look what you’re doing. You know where I’ve been for the last 30 years in doing this? It’s one of those things people say, “Tell me about your failures.” And I said, “I don’t really look at them as failures. Had I not had that experience and as I like to say it, some experiences are more expensive than others, I couldn’t be where I am today. There’s a lot of emergence that happens because of the experience you’ve had and the things that they give you, and I think your advice about patience is so critical because you can’t really do something until it’s time to do it and we can’t force that. We see so many people force it because they want it. It’s not that the market wants it. They want it.

Ryan: Yes. I’ve seen companies fold because they tried to force it and they set this unrealistic timeline that this is going to happen by this month and it doesn’t. They assume that it was a bad idea which I think is kind of counterintuitive to the core entrepreneurs and it’s all about pursuing it regardless of obstacles that get put in your way and regardless of this kind of blood and sweat that has to go into it.

John:  Absolutely. Ryan, I want to take you into the lightning round. Okay?

Ryan: Sure.

John:  Is there a book that’s changed your life?

Ryan: Yes. It’s Saltwater Buddha. I read it recently. Read it over Christmas; awesome. I highly recommend it to anyone.

John: Cool. Do you have a quote you go to for inspiration?

Ryan: I do. Bruce Lee, “If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus and you must not stay there. You must go beyond them.”

John: Yes, I like that. What company do you admire the most as it relates to culture and why?

Ryan: Honestly, this is going to be a little bit uneducated here because I’ve probably gone too deeply into it. But just from face value, I think Google. Also, Airbnb. The reasons for this are that you hear about employees loving what they do and there’s huge customer attention and lots of people are seeking out those jobs. To me, that’s a huge compliment to a company’s culture when the entire world reveres your company as a sought after spot to work in because of how fun it is. I don’t know in depth much about company culture but I do know that those companies got thousands of thousands of thousands of resumes a day.

John:Why would a person want to work for Adventure Bucket List?

Ryan: A person would want to work with us if they like fast-paced, challenging environments, solving a problem that at the end of the day, at its core, makes people happier, elevates the quality of life You would work with a crew of people that like to live life to the fullest when we give it a chance. Everything about our culture, we sleep and breathe just living life to the fullest.

John: Sounds like a lot of fun. Alright, Ryan. Big finish, here we go. If you had to describe your culture of Adventure Bucket List in three words, what would it be?

Ryan: I’d say you’d have to BE Determined, BE Brave and BE Spontaneous.

John: BE Determined, BE Brave and BE Spontaneous. Those are three pretty good attributes that I think any entrepreneur could embrace and take themselves to the next level. Ryan, how can my listeners connect with you?

Ryan: They can reach me via email, Ryan@AdventureBucketList.com. Feel free to give me a call anytime. My cell number is 408-368-2850. Love to chat with anyone.

John: Any roll outs you want to tell us about that are coming in the near future?

Ryan: We’ve just been kind of doing a soft launch in certain specific areas over the past couple of months. Just getting our technology dialed. Keep your eye out. It’ll be fully live, I’d say, in the next two months in a number of locations around North America. You will have app out: that’s a little bit further down the road but in the meantime, you might be booking activities through us without even knowing it through a number of various different sales channels.

John: I never end an episode without sharing with my guest my favorite quote from Maya Angelou which is: “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” And we hope we made you feel welcome and part of our tribe today. We certainly enjoyed having you. I would like to invite you back in six months so you can tell us about how far you’ve progressed and all the great things you’re doing. And the other thing is, as you travel and you meet other entrepreneurs that you think would enjoy this platform to tell this story, would you send them my way, Ryan?

Ryan: Absolutely. I work in an open office space sometimes where we’re in startup accelerators so, I’ll pass the word on to a ton of companies there.

John: Perfect. Man, I really enjoyed talking with you , getting to know you a little bit. I’m psyched that you’re going to come back and see us. Because all my listeners, hear this: all my culture creatures, listen. This guy has a cool product and you should check it out because it truly is an Adventure Bucket List.

Ryan: Yes.

John: I can’t thank you enough for spending time with us. Come back and see me again soon, would you please?

Ryan: Absolutely. It was my pleasure. I appreciate it, John.

John: You bet. Be well, my friend.

Ryan: Okay. You too. Take care.

John: Bye.