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Bill Copeland is an Army veteran, serial entrepreneur, and master of re-invention.
Bill’s current passion? Chocolate.
“Chocolate makes you happy, plain and simple,” Bill said. Bill is currently chief chocolate officer of award-winning Glacier Confection in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
After years of mastering several industries, acquiring skills and following passions, Bill, now 62, has provided what I think is the single best piece of career advice I’ve ever heard.
Bill’s keys to successful self re-invention:
That’s it. Commit, become an expert, and move on to your next interest. Then you commit and become an expert again. Your next career will be a combination of the areas in which you’ve become an expert.
Easier said than done, especially for those of us “entrepreneur” types constantly distracted by a new idea. But Bill did it. And so can we.
Here is Bill’s story.
From Army to Entrepreneurship
Like many “vetpreneurs” I work with and fund through StreetShares, this Vietnam veteran has built his company on a legacy of service, a trait gained from Bill’s time in the Army.
Although the post-Vietnam war climate was inhospitable to many returning service members, Bill found that his Army experience in communications resulted in a competitive advantage over other job candidates. “My military training was intense and detailed and provided skills that you don’t just pick up in school,” Copeland said. “I was easily employable by several companies.”
Upon exiting the service, Bill was hired by a large firm, Eastman Kodak, and gained experience in high-speed networking, business systems, digital printing, professional and commercial photography, motion picture, feature film, and episodic television.
He then built his first business, a digital asset management company based in LA. Bill eventually sold his first venture in order to move to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and raise his four daughters. While there, he and his wife co-owned his second business, a packaging company.
Finding His Next Passion: Chocolate
The couple attended a confection trade show to promote their packaging business, and it marked the moment that Bill came face-to-face with his next passion: the world of chocolate.
He couldn’t help but notice the chocolatiers across the hall. Bill recalls, “Their smiles were natural, not manufactured.” At that moment he turned to his wife and said, “Honey, I need to be in an industry like that, where everyone is having fun. One day I’m going to open a chocolate company.”
Applying the mission-focused tactics inherent in many military veterans-turned-entrepreneurs, Bill spent the next 15 years researching the confectionery industry. In August 2010, he opened Glacier Confection. Named after Glacier National Park, his favorite place in the lower 48, the entrepreneur explains, “It has purity all over it. That’s our tagline — Pure Ingredients, Pure Confection.”
Although opening a business during a recession may sound volatile, Bill was able to calculate risk and recognize the opportunity. His rationale was, “When times get tough, people lean on alcohol, tobacco, and chocolate. It’s a simple indulgence, and with just a dollar or two, you can buy some satisfaction.”
Bill successfully capitalized on his strategy, and Glacier Confection is now recognized as one of the top ten confectioners in North America by Dessert Professional magazine. “We create flavor profiles that are not standard or traditional, and offer the market something they haven’t had before,” Bill says.
Today, Glacier Confection sources the finest ingredients, formulates matchless recipes, and balances classic and progressive production techniques to provide world-class chocolate. Bill’s business proudly serves his community, hotels, resorts, restaurants, resellers, wedding and event planners, and aspiring chocolatiers.
How To Win at Constant Re-invention
Perhaps you can relate to Bill Copeland’s life of entrepreneurial re-invention. I know I can.
“I get bored very easily, and my attention span isn’t the longest,” says Bill. “My wife says, ‘It’s a good thing you like chocolate and you like me,’” Bill describes.
Bill’s life lesson on re-invention is very simple: give 110% to the job you are doing today to master your current craft. Then do it again. In time you spot opportunities to bring all of your experience together in your next adventure.
Bill’s experience matches mine as well. Before starting StreetShares with my co-founder, Mickey Konson, I had a background in law, finance, and the military. Mickey had a background in finance, banking, and the military. In many ways StreetShares, a fintech company that uses technology to more efficiently and accurate serve the funding needs of military veteran business owners, is the perfect blend of our collective professional experience to date. Unknowingly, we did exactly what Bill describes.
Applying Bill’s Advice
When I was in the military, we had a saying: “Bloom where you are planted.” Military service is full of little involuntary opportunities, or “opportunities to excel,” as one of my former bosses would (somewhat annoyingly) remind us. Military members often do not choose our next location or job. Our job is simply to give 110% to the current task. That’s it.
But as entrepreneurs, we do have a choice…eventually. We take it for ourselves. In fact, by following Bill’s advice and mastering the current craft, we over time build a unique bundle of mastered crafts (e.g., digital marketing, finance, sales, etc.). That bundle gives us more choices, and the more crafts we’ve mastered, the more winning combinations of skills we can assemble for our next startup or adventure.
What crafts have you mastered and what’s the next one you’ll tackle? Tell us in the comments.
March 11, 2019 at 02:43PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs