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As an example of human innovation, few could surpass Aaron Peterson, the CEO of My Mini Casa, a company that has translated his expertise in logistics to a fast-growing container sales company. In 2018 the company completed nearly 10,000 deliveries to 6,845 customers while deploying 28,911 metric tons of recycled steel and saving 52,039.8 tonnes of CO2 emission. More importantly still, the company accomplished this through the creation of thousands of work-from-home positions for single and stay-at-home parents and individuals who were at risk or otherwise unemployable for reasons ranging from prior incarceration, the need to comply with addiction recovery or parole restrictions that made conventional employment difficult or impossible, or even homelessness.
In his spare time, Peterson led My Mini Casa to become a 2018 World Pillar Award winner for their creation of a social/reward system for people who push beyond their comfort zones, ranging from stay-at-home moms to CEOs. Peterson is also a leading participant in the Leukemia Lymphoma Society’s Campaign for 2019.
Lately I have been mentoring Peterson and his team, which makes me keenly aware that to note he is an innovator is an understatement. His life hasn’t been an easy path, but the fire that drives his entrepreneurial journey has been fueled by his desire to make a difference, particularly in key areas such as making clean water, shelter and food available for all within his reach in the world.
Peterson stands out for other reasons as well. He is seven feet tall—the result of a similar condition to Tony Robbins and others whose growth hormones have produced extraordinary height. He also openly discusses his tendency to ADHD not as a disability, but as a condition of being that he deploys as a gift.
“I know that my highest energy around a project will allow me to run at an idea for about 7-11 months if I’m lucky.” It’s a scenario that causes him to run fast and hard, but to bring partners aboard at the appropriate times. At 35 years of age and a committed husband and father he’s held leadership roles at three organizations and launched six companies so far, all logistics oriented. My Mini Casa is the largest yet, with a goal to grow from 7,000 customers to 100,000 and $100M in revenue within the coming 2-3 years.
So how did Peterson become an entrepreneur, and where do his many ideas come from? As we visited today and on prior occasions, here’s what he had to say:
Talk to everyone. And really listen.
We hear many leaders talk about the importance of hanging with the highest possible people and “being a sum of the five people we talk to the most.” While Peterson spends a great deal of time with accomplished mentors, his circle is wider. And the people he perhaps listens to most include customers, employees, and the people with most difficulty surmounting hard odds or on finding employment.
“I had lunch last week with a fellow I’ll call Jim,” he says. “Jim is a recovering addict who was homeless, off and on, for a period of 15 years. Today he works as a handyman. But I learned huge lessons about on job training from him.”
Programs with good intentions provide on job training for disadvantaged or rehabilitating employees. But in Jim’s case, he’d been arrested and as a condition of his parole had to show up on demand for random drug testing. Upon the third time it happened, the boss who really needed to have him on site let him go.
Sources like Jim have gotten Peterson fully educated and really thinking about what willing but disadvantaged employees really need, such as
- Affordable housing. What if there were rentable villages for the use of those who drive trucks? And used the assembly of the containers as onboard training for people who are disadvantaged and need the work? For example, housing to use during the construction of our own Salt Lake Airport, or during the moving of our regional prison. Think about a project requiring 120 housing containers, all the same color, all labeled, requiring 1,000 labor hours to have them ready to rent. Imagine what this could do for organizations like FEMA, for example, who may need to provide shelter for massive numbers of people in a very short period of time.
- Payroll services for the employees who have no address. Peterson discovered there are many companies who avoid disadvantaged employees altogether or pay them under the table, as it is difficult to provide a 1099 for an employee who has no address. So, Peterson is thinking, why not create a kind of a UPS address that could receive Paypal payments a day at a time? The individual who has no address or is participating as a part of an on-job training could now participate and receive fair pay. Participating companies could provide more training positions without worrying about running afoul of the law.
Learn to Open Source Your Unused Ideas
“I had a customer who was selling solar panels,” Peterson said. “Why don’t you ship North, I asked him?” He pointed out that snow sits on the panels for half of the year, so it didn’t make sense. “So why don’t you add a device to melt the snow?”
The next year, Peterson’s idea made the company $30M. One of Peterson’s biggest routes to success is to share his ideas freely with others that he doesn’t have the personal time or ability to go and do. His willingness to share forges stronger relationships, and again, his willingness to listen more closely to people and to answer their questions more fully has come back to him many times over, he says.
The more people you can get behind an idea or a program the more power you have, Peterson says. As people get on board with his programs, they start to recognize that by sharing their success and educating others about what they’re doing they progress faster.
“At first, we’re all human slaves to the dollar,” he says. “But then, at a certain level, you start to realize that if you teach and help five others, perhaps, you’re now accomplishing five times as much,” he observes. “We all have a single currency: Our time. We’re like a human blockchain that trades pieces of our time for experiences and for money. But by communicating and teaching, we can bring more people aboard, and now you’re mining gold without swinging the pick.”
On another day I’ll share the genesis of Peterson’s inspiration as an entrepreneur and talk some more about his philanthropic endeavors. But in the meantime, we can all increase our reach by following Peterson’s examples of learning to think, sleep and act at every moment like an entrepreneur.
March 7, 2019 at 03:03PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs