Did you know Natina Solutions was once a one-person operation, which Brian Hardin, Natina’s CEO and Founder, ran from his garage?
Just how did Natina turn into the established brand and business it is today? Go from occupying a small garage to operating out of an almost 20-acre (and growing!) facility? Upgrade from the use of Brian’s truck and a small spray rig to a fleet of vehicles? Expand from offering one product at a competitive rate to specializing in a service and solutions unlike any out there? If you ask Brian, the answer comes down to a few key factors:
Whether you have a business idea you want to turn into a reality or you simply enjoy a little look back at Brian’s journey, we hope you’ll appreciate these business basics and other insights to get you started.
Getting an idea off the ground, while often wonderful, isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes backbone, risk and a little blind faith.
“If you have an idea you want to pursue, the short answer is just to do it,” Brian said. “You’ll never figure out if it will be a success if you don’t. If your idea meets a need, find that courage and dive in.”
Brian speaks from personal experience. When he started what would become Natina, he was in a great career at a top-tier golf course, doing work he enjoyed with people he liked, including his own father! Such a position didn’t happen overnight. On top of years of work experience, Brian also went to California State Polytechnic University – Pomona and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Horticulture to get him where he was.
Even with this level of investment, Brian sacrificed it all anyway.
“Even my dad said I was crazy to walk away,” Brian laughed. “I’m not a big risk-taker, but I couldn’t shake the idea that I had to do this. I didn’t want to look at myself in the mirror 20 years down the road and wonder, what if? I found this never-say-die attitude and put everything into making my business dreams a reality. Never let anything get in your way. I learned you must believe in yourself and press on.”
The word “hustle” gets a lot of play right now, but that’s truly what it’s all about — hustle, grit, long hours and sacrifice.
“I started Natina from the ground up,” Brian recalled. “Your mindset has to be right and getting business off the ground takes passion. It takes long hours and 100% commitment. Every day was a grind—even weekends. For the first couple of years, I was really unhappy with the weekends. They meant I had to take a break from reaching out to contacts, a luxury I didn’t have. To this day, Mondays are still my favorite day of the week. Everybody is back to work and the day is full of potential.”
For many with a unique idea, this can seem counterintuitive. It can feel safer to keep original ideas close to the vest for fear of being ripped off. Of course, you want to be careful about saying too much to just anybody, but sharing with the right people can make all the difference in catapulting you forward. Of course, patents are beneficial, but they can be cost-prohibitive in the early stages of development.
“Beat down doors,” Brian recommends. “Get in front of people who can benefit from your product or idea. Get in front of people who can help you develop your idea. Don’t lift the gas pedal at all!”
Brian comes back to this factor more than any other. Much of success is about recognizing where your strengths are and where you’re better off relying on the strengths of others.
“Getting very, VERY talented people to come on board and work for this company has been the biggest game-changer,” Brian emphasized. “I feel so lucky to work with the people I do—our managers and executive team. I am good at things but not everything. In the early days, I’d hire an employee as I could afford one, but it’s when I could bring on full-time support in year two and I hired Ryan Morey, now Vice President of Business Development, that things really started to change. He was my righthand man then and still is today. He and the many other brilliant team members we now have are what keep this company succeeding and growing. Typically, if an idea is going to thrive, it will become bigger than one person. Surround yourself with supportive people and let them do what you’ve hired them to do.”
Attitude really is everything, and optimism matters. Yes, there are going to be hard days. By focusing on the good, you’re better equipped to withstand the challenge.
“It starts the moment I wake up in the morning,” Brian shared. “I realize I’ve made it another day, and I pause to appreciate that fact. Because I live my life with a glass-half-full mentality, I’ve found it easier to feel that way about my business. Yes, there are challenges. That’s just business. More than that, there is joy. The joy that something we’ve created is now a successful and thriving company. If you can ground yourself in optimism, you’re better prepared to face inevitable pitfalls and challenges as they come along.”
Believe it or not, you might not want to shoot for the stars. Not at first, anyway.
“As you get your business off the ground, set obtainable goals,” Brian stressed. “Specific goals are important, but they should also be realistic. Otherwise, it’s easy to lose enthusiasm if loftier goals aren’t met. On the other hand, when you reach or even exceed a realistic goal, you’re fueled to set and meet new goals. I’m not a money-driven person, but I do set a monetary number I want to make in a year. While my early number was pretty low, we met and exceeded it. Seeing Natina exceed our goal was motivating. Keep goals realistic and watch as it keeps that fire burning.”
Don’t sacrifice what you want the most. Stay the course and do the time. It pays to be patient.
“Seeing our milestones and how far we’ve come is rewarding,” Brian added. “Of course, that didn’t happen overnight. Having hobbies and time to myself outside of the office was far from immediate. For years, work was my number one hobby and I didn’t bat an eye. Enjoy the moment and be patient. Soon enough, it will all start to pay off, and you’ll be left with an even greater appreciation for what you have and how far you’ve come.”
One of Brian’s favorite books on life lessons is an oldie but a goodie — “Psycho-Cybernetics” by Maxell Maltz.
“It was written in the ‘60s,” Brian shared, “but it’s timeless, and it still resonates with me. It’s a great read when you want to make sense of your start-up journey while staying focused and visualizing your outcome. It’s about more than just identifying and reaching goals. It’s about the peace of mind you can achieve along the way. I highly recommend you read or listen to this one!”
Thanks for joining us on this look back with Brian at some of what went into building the Natina brand you know today. While no two success stories are the same, there are always takeaways to be had and lessons to learn along the way. We can’t wait to see what the next 14 years hold. In the meantime, we hope you leave here feeling inspired and ready to go after what you want in life.