Entrepreneur Creates Global, Vitamin Supplement and Skincare Business
As entrepreneurs, we all know the road to business success is full of challenges. No one knows this better than Warren Matthews, the founder and chairman of Xtend-Life Natural Products, Intl., Ltd., www.xtend-life.com.
I recently caught up with Warren to get his success tips. Here’s what he had to say…
Tell us your entrepreneurial story and how Xtend-Life Natural Products began.
Since the age of 18, I have been setting up various businesses including tree felling, commercial shark-fishing, property development, and international investments. In the process, I took many risks and went broke twice. But when I was 45 years old, I was financially free to pursue some long-time interests. This is when I decided to explore the world by building a boat that would achieve a maximum speed of 30 knots and have a range of 4,000 nautical miles at 20 knots.
Two million dollars later, a boat was finished, but it didn’t quite meet my objectives. With this in mind, I modified the design and set up a factory to build another modified one myself in Christchurch, New Zealand where I live. Well, this ended up costing much more than expected and used up my “retirement funds.”
To remedy the situation, I decided to start manufacturing the boats with the objective of turning the investment I had made in the development of the boats into a viable business. After many trials and tribulations with around 80 staff members, I decided to shift the operation to a facility in San Diego that specialized in high-quality, luxury boats. This is because in those days, before NZ won the America’s Cup, we were a nation of practical boat builders, mainly commercial. And there were minimal people trained in the finishing-off work for high-class, mini-mega yachts. That situation has changed, and New Zealand now produces some of the highest quality, super yachts in the world.
I sold all my property interests in Australia and New Zealand, which were quite extensive, and put all the proceeds into the development of the business. I also sold everything I owned that was worth anything, fully mortgaged the family home and found a little place south of the border in Mexico to rent from, where I commuted to the boat yard in San Diego on a daily basis (I also went back to New Zealand to see my family, regularly). After a few months, one of my sons, Lance, came and joined me.
But then everything changed. I entered into an agreement with some New York financiers not knowing that they were working with the boat builders in San Diego to take over my business. To make a long story short, I was stuck in a situation with some unethical people and all my money tied up in the business. To remedy the situation, I ensured my customers received their boats and walked away from the business, and about $9 million dollars, rather than concede to their demands.
At that point, Lance and I were stuck in Mexico, and we had to scrub the bottom of boats to raise money for our food. However, it turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. It was then that I realized that money was not as important as health, and if I wanted to pursue all of the things I wanted to do in life, I’d better start taking care of myself to have lots of energy and a sharp mind. After all, I was 51 years old at the time and figured that I needed to live an extra 20 years, given that I had to start all over again from nothing. That’s when the idea came to both Lance and me to start promoting health supplements.
Fortunately, I had some friends who had confidence in my ability to recover and were able to lend me the money with interest so we were able to get started. Then, we spent years conducting research, visiting manufacturers throughout the world and finding out what we needed to do to make world-class supplements ourselves. Two years later, we created Xtend-Life, and I was able to pay back all of the people who helped us start the business.
If you had to start over again, what would you do differently?
I wouldn’t change anything. I would even thank the people who took my boat business from me in San Diego. Because of them, I changed my lifestyle and this probably added another 20 years to my life. Incidentally, they never managed to sell another boat. And because of what they did, they also lost millions of dollars.
What marketing techniques have you used to grow Xtend-Life into an international company serving over 40 countries?
The Internet was key to our promotion when we first started the business because it was free. We also sold directly to customers. We didn’t have the money to do advertising, but we had an affiliate program. And because customers loved our products, the business grew worldwide mainly due to positive word-of-mouth. Today, we use all forms of marketing to reach our customers, but word-of-mouth is still are best tool for bringing in new customers.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs just starting out?
Everything that happens to you is a result of the decisions you make. If something bad happens, you can trace it back to decisions you’ve made. Never go against your instincts, and always take the position that you get back what you put out.
You’ve got to be responsible for everything that happens to you, and you shouldn’t blame anyone else. If you happen to have a problem and blame other people, you’ll never recover. But if you accept it, learn from it and realize that you set the stage for it, then, you can recover.
Also, don’t develop a business with the sole objective of making money. You do it from the standpoint of what is the best thing you can do for your customers. Produce a quality product, and the money will take care of itself. A business doesn’t work if it’s just for the money. You need to love what you are doing, and the money will take care of itself.
Thanks for the great insights, Warren! For more information on Xtend-Life’s numerous vitamin supplements and skincare products, visit www.xtend-life.com.
And if you need help with your BtoB content strategy, please write to me here or at www.rembrandtwrites.com.