Holing Out Every Business Opportunity with Alan BarkerJul 19, 2022
Joining us today is Alan Barker to talk about how sometimes being in the right place at the right time is not the only thing required to start a successful business; vision, commitment, and making the right choices are also a massive part of it.
Alan is the Founder and Owner of Infinite Discs, one of the top disc golf retailers in the world. He is a loving husband, father of four boys, and a two-year-old princess, and has been a visionary entrepreneur since 2002.
In this episode, we delve into Alan's extraordinary journey as the founder of several successful businesses. We explore Alan's brilliancy in detecting business opportunities, his fearless approach to new business ideas, and how frugality and adequate spending allowed him to create Infinite Discs.
We also talk about the possibilities COVID opened for Infinite Discs and the importance of creating a business that provides us freedom. In addition, Alan shared his thoughts on how to start being our future selves today.
In This Episode, You Will Learn:
- Alan talks about his first steps as a web developer when the internet was crawling (3:52)
- Alan describes how he started his first business selling satellite dishes door to door (5:29)
- Alan talks about his experiences as a realtor and how he exploited the opportunities he saw the internet could provide (8:04)
- Alan explains how he got into the disc golf world and the opportunities he saw in that huge, small market (10:59)
- Alan talks about the challenges and the new opportunities the pandemic brought (15:04)
- Infinite Discs website
- Infinite Discs Instagram
- Infinite Discs Twitter
- Infinite Discs Facebook
- Book: Benjamin Hardy - Be Your Future Self Now: The Science of Intentional Transformation
Connect with Alan:
Clint Hoopes: We talk about getting clear on your future self – who you want to be in the future and get clarity on that. And very often, when we think about that, we're thinking about these big financial goals. Often as business owners and high achievers, we think, “Okay, we want to accomplish these amazing things.” We think about who our future self is, who we want to be. And it's always more money, more this, more that. But the reality is deciding who you want to be, and then beginning to be that person now makes all the difference in the world.
Clint Hoopes: Welcome to the Unrivaled Man podcast. Thanks for joining me once again today. I am very excited to introduce my guest for today: Alan Barker. Alan has a passion for finding opportunities and developing ways to profit from them. He has accidentally created four different successful businesses and has created jobs for hundreds along the way. In 2012, he started Infinite Discs, which is now the largest disc golf retailer in the world. His chief priority is his family, and he is happily married residing in Smithfield, Utah with his four boys and his two-year-old princess. Alan, welcome to the show.
Alan Barker: Thanks. It's good to be here.
Clint Hoopes: Alan and I have known each other for quite a few years before we started here. I was just thinking about how long, I believe it's back in 2009 or 2010 maybe. I'm trying to remember.
Alan Barker: Yeah, probably 2009 to 2011.
Clint Hoopes: Well, there's been a lot that has happened in those years, I know with your business specifically here.
Alan Barker: Yeah, we both have a few more grey hairs since we saw in person.
Clint Hoopes: Definitely. If you look at the YouTube version of this podcast, you can see that we definitely do. I love it. Well, it's fun. There have been so many fun things. And I caught up a little bit with Alan recently on the phone, and we were talking about all the things he was doing. I've been following him and following his company for a number of years, and I just thought, “Man, it is time to have Alan on the show.” So, I appreciate you coming on.
Alan Barker: All right. Well, let's see if anybody else appreciates what I have to say.
Clint Hoopes: Well, as we get started here, I really would love for people to hear a little about your story; where you came from, how you came to start what's now the largest disc golf retailer in the world. How did this all happen?
Alan Barker: We're going to go way back. We're going to go back to the year 1995 and 1996, which was when I was in high school. And the reason that was so significant is that's when the internet was brand new. As a high school little bit of a geek, I made websites just for fun, just as jokes. But I learned to make websites, and that was was pretty significant. Then I went off to college to Rick's College in 1997 planning on majoring in Computer Information Systems. So, I'm in my HTML class in 1997. I was just been doing stuff on the internet for a couple of years, and most of the other people in my class were newly returned missionaries; basically, it was their first exposure to the internet. So, I was really ahead of everybody, I was so smart because I knew how to make websites and all these things that they had missed out on for a couple of years. So, I went there for school for a year, served a two-year mission in Canada, came back, and then the world had drastically changed between 1998 and 2000. And the internet had gone to new levels, and I realized I wasn't a computer geek, I couldn't keep up. So, I switched my major to Business Management just because I had some classes that applied and it seemed it could be relevant. But I never had any intention of starting businesses or forming businesses because I didn't consider myself a risk-taker, and that's what we learned about; “You’ve got to be willing to take a risk to start a business.” So, meanwhile, while I'm at college for summer jobs, there was the opportunity to do door-to-door sales selling pest control. So, I did that one summer and it worked pretty well, made some pretty good money. And then the following year, there was an opportunity to sell DISH Network Systems. This is when satellite technology was pretty new – the little at-home satellite dishes. So, I did that for a summer. And then that's right when I was graduating from college and I had no idea what to do, I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life. So, I actually started my first business as a DISH Network door-to-door sales company. Basically, just got a bunch of my friends and we went places that we wanted to go. And we would go and we would live in Tucson, Arizona, or Reno, Nevada, Lubbock, Texas, wherever we thought an opportunity presented. And then after we'd get tired of it, we'd move on to somewhere else. And it was fun as a single guy, really enjoyed it. It was a lot of hard work, a lot of rejection – definitely not anything I wanted to do forever.
Clint Hoopes: But good upside probably, right? Kind of fun.
Alan Barker: Oh, it was fun with friends. But then I met my wife while I was in Reno, Nevada. And as a married person, it was a little different. My priorities had already shifted a little bit instead of just work all day and have fun with the guys to getting ready to actually start a family. So, what really significantly turned things is while there in Lubbock, Texas with my wife, she'd been with me for a couple of months as newlyweds, and I injured my knee playing basketball. Meanwhile, my wife who was from Reno, her family moved to Cache Valley.
Clint Hoopes: So, Northern Utah, for anybody not from around these parts.
Alan Barker: Yeah, farthest north part of Utah.
Clint Hoopes: The most beautiful valleys in the world.
Alan Barker: Oh, it's gorgeous, especially this time of year. It’s starting to get a little brown, but I love spring, and that's just one of the things I live for. Just so fun, just being out on bike rides, on walks with my family, and it's just a great place to live. For no reason particular but my wife was actually helping her family move to Cache Valley and I'm like, “Well, I injured my knee, so I pretty much can't do door-to-door sales anymore.” And I was ready to shut down the business anyway, so we moved here to the Logan area while I was recovering from my knee injury, which turned out to be a major ACL injury. And I never went and saw a doctor or anything, which was a mistake, but you can't change things that happen in the past now. So, that's something you can learn: if you have a major knee injury, get it taken care of. So, we were up here and I really didn't know what I wanted to do. Fortunately, I had earned good money and I had lived frugally; I had very healthy savings. One of my original intentions: when you're a kid, it's really hard to know what you want to be when you grow up because you don't experience anything other than school. I had experienced school, I'd gone to school, so I'm like, “Yeah, I think I could be a pretty good teacher.” So, my thought was, “I want to be a teacher,” but I didn't want a teacher's pay. So, my thought was, “Well, here's what I could do. I can have enough money to buy a house free and clear so that I don't have a mortgage payment, then I could probably afford to be a teacher.” Was the rationale in my mind. So, I decided here's what I'll do, I'll get my real estate licence. I have a good deal of money saved up in the bank, so I was planning on buying, initially, it was just a house for myself. But then I learned about investment properties and how that could be a good way. So, I ended up buying a duplex that we lived in for a year, and then I bought a house in the neighborhood where we live together. That was the plan. So, while doing real estate, we go back to my internet, my Clark Stringfellow classic Bountiful High School, and I made my own website. This is 2005 by then, and the internet was still very unknown by most real estate agents. So, at the time, very few agents had websites. I built my website and I learned Search Engine Optimization; how to make it so anybody looking for a real estate agent in Logan, Utah would find me. Before long, even though I was brand new to the area, I knew no people, I had more business than I can handle. I had too many clients. And it was really fun. It was really exciting at first, as it always is when you're growing something. But it got to the point where I was overwhelmed and tired of never having weekends or evenings and always being on demand. That's what happens when you're a real estate agent. So, I had all these leads more than I could handle, so I shifted my business and I worked with a local real estate company called Cornerstone Real Estate where instead of me working with all the people, I essentially sold the leads to them.
Alan Barker: That was essentially my second business. Then from there, it was like, “Well, if I can do this in one market in the US, why can't I take this same model and expand it everywhere?” Which was my next business. So, I started a company called Boomerang Leads in 2010 and I got a partner and we tried to grow really fast. And we had tonnes of employees, lots of people working, and we were building these websites for these real estate agents, and we were doing really well. It was a little bit harder to manage than locally because we didn't have personal contact. And our business model relied a lot on honesty because we'd make our money when the real estate agent would actually sell a house, and then we would count on them paying us a referral commission. It wasn't working quite as well. Meanwhile, during this time, in 2011, I just started playing disc golf. And this was just for fun. I had these skills, making websites and Search Engine Optimization, and one of my employees also played disc golf. So, we decided, just for fun, let's start a blog where we review discs. The intent was, “Hey, this is something we do anyways, maybe we can make a little money off of it.” Well, the online disc golf market was far less competitive than real estate and we were able to get those number one Google rankings really easy. So, we started to change the attitude to “We can actually make some money off of this. This is not just a hobby.”
Clint Hoopes: You get people that want this gear and don't have an easy way to find it, right?
Alan Barker: Exactly. And the thing I really didn't understand is because at the time I was a recreational player for the most part. And I didn't realize that for a lot of people disc golf is a lifestyle. This is what they live for. It's their hobby. It's so much more than “Oh, I need a set of discs that I'll use once and for years and years.” It's “No, I need every new disc released by every new brand because I need to try it. I need that next thing that will help me to throw farther or something might be collectible.” Once I realized that I saw how big this small industry really is. So, that's how Infinite Discs started. It actually started that there was another company in Utah, it was called Altitude Disc Golf. So, I'm like, “Hey, let's partner with these guys to see if we can work with them.” Well, just as I reached out to them, they were actually going out of business.
Clint Hoopes: Oh goodness, that's giving you a lot of confidence for your new business, right?
Alan Barker: Great confidence. It was actually a very motivating factor because I'm like, “Hey, can I just buy this business from you?” And the guys were like, “No, we have our own exit strategy.” And it kind of ticked me off, I'm like, “Okay, fine. I'm just gonna make my own business that will show you that we can do it.” And we did. So, Infinite Discs officially started almost 10 years ago in November of 2012. I’ve been talking a lot. Do you have any follow-up questions for me?
Clint Hoopes: Well, the crazy thing is, right during that time, that was just a month or two after we left the valley actually, right as you started, so we missed this just barely. But man, that is exciting. So, let's get a little background. You have went from a few different types of businesses, all honestly using some of your unique skills, once again, learning to work hard in the sales side of things, using your internet skills and SEO. And then you're at this point in your life. So, what is your life look like at this point? You're married?
Alan Barker: So, at that time, when Infinite Discs started, I had three boys. My oldest boy would have been five years old, a two-year-old, and a newborn. My third child is autistic, and he was the most difficult baby ever. My wife also experienced, during this time, some postpartum depression. And it was a really unusual, hectic time to be starting a new business, a few family issues. I'm sure you have some members of the church of our denomination listeners and I was called as elders quorum president, which was ironic because one of the reasons I wanted to leave Logan was because I was trying to avoid getting a big church calling, but then I got it anyways when I moved to Smithville. So, it was a very busy time. One of the big keys is that in my previous businesses, I had been frugal and I had adequate savings. And if it weren't for those, I wouldn't have been able to step back to start something new. It was a good two years before I ever took any salary, any income for myself from Infinite Discs. So, willing to sacrifice and having my wife as like, “Hey, we're gonna have a household recession while we kind of sacrificed a little bit to get these things going.” So, that's where the family was out. Initially, it was just me and a business partner. And then we ended up hiring one person and the business kept growing in lots of different ways. And we would nearly double our business each year. And then once the pandemic hit in 2020, it increased to whole new levels and we had all kinds of supply shortages. So, we had to be really creative in the ways we get products.
Clint Hoopes: So, increased demand because you have people that want to get outside, but also supply challenges. Oh, man. Tell us about that. How did you get through that?
Alan Barker: Yeah, we had to be really creative. Fortunately, for us, because we were already the number one retailer for most of these manufacturers, they would still put priority on us. They only had a limited number of products that they could sell, and it's a lot easier for them to send us a good portion of it than distribute it among 20 other guys. So, that was one thing that helped. But also, it still wasn't enough. We had limits and allocations of what we could receive that couldn't meet the demand that we had. So, we reached out to all these international companies that just weren't popular here in the US but would get big shipments from overseas. And then that led us to “Well, now we have an opportunity, we’re getting all these foreign discs for less expensive, let's start distributing these in the US because we know these other little disc golf retailers don't have enough product.” It was another opportunity based on this circumstance to expand into a new line. This whole selling aspect of our businesses is something new within the last year, which presents its own new challenges. And now we're seeing the market shift where the supply has caught up and the demand is still very high, much higher than before the pandemic but it is slowing down a little bit. But now that the big names, the big players in disc golf have enough product, we have to do marketing again. So, always new challenges, which is one of the really fun things about being a business owner. The nice thing was right before the pandemic, I was at a state of business where I didn't have to do everything anymore. I figured out a way to delegate, so I had a lot of freedom, which was really my ultimate goal with my business. It was actually when we were getting wedding photographs that the guy doing our wedding photograph said he had a goal to be retired by the time he was 40, that planted some seeds in my mind saying, “Yeah, that would be really nice.” So, I didn't really have the goal to be retired because that's not as productive. But I wanted the goal to be I want to be so that I can always be there for my family; that I can go on vacations when I want to go; that when there's something important or when there's a service that needs to be done or people that need to be helped, I'm in a position where I can leave, which has always been the motivation factor of owning my own business so that I could have that freedom and flexibility.
Clint Hoopes: That's awesome. Like you said, though, so often people want that end result but don't want to go through the first part, which is the struggle and the uncertainty and some of those things that you have to go through on the front end to get that.
Alan Barker: One thing, too, recommendation for family is when I was very first married, and before I had kids, and when my oldest was very tiny, I would work ridiculous hours because I knew I wanted to get ahead now. And that has opened up the doors where the reality is most weeks, I don't work a 40-hour workweek. I am able to take the time to go to every cross country meet and I coach my kids soccer and ultimate frisbee teams. But only because I did put in that work early when I did have the time that it now gives me the flexibility I want.
Clint Hoopes: Oh, such a wonderful thing. That's such an exciting thing in a way, once again, in your family. It's just such an important thing to be able to spend the time that they need. And as everybody's growing up, it’s just a wonderful thing.
Alan Barker: Yeah, I guess we'll get into another family aspect. So, we had our fourth child, it was another boy, four boys. My wife won't admit this, but from the beginning, we were sure our first was going to be a girl. She had three younger sisters. She really wanted it to be a little girl but we only have boys. But we decided, after that fourth pregnancy was really hard, she had postpartum depression, we were done with our family for a while. And then certain things happened where she felt that we needed to adopt a child. So, after four years of having our youngest child big enough that do things himself that they're not difficult, we were able to adopt a little girl. And that was such a blessing and a neat experience; lots of little miracles that led that to happen. And she was the best baby ever, which when you're over 40, it's a lot harder to have a little child that can't sleep, but she slept so well. Now that she's a toddler, she's definitely had some challenges, but definitely need to have an additional family member added through adoption. And once again, that was possible – adoption is not cheap – because of work ethic and things I've done in the past that made that opportunity an option.
Clint Hoopes: Oh, what a blessing. That's actually just like my family growing up. I have three other brothers. So, my family has four boys growing up, and my youngest is a sister. So, it's exactly the same: four boys and then the youngest is a girl. So, I think it's a pretty good way to grow up. I love it. Well, that's so good. Oh, so many exciting things. What else is getting you excited right now in business or life?
Alan Barker: So, one kind of really fun thing is, obviously, when you're working and creating a business, that's the priority. When you get it to a state where other people do a lot of the work, you can focus more on yourself. And a couple of years ago, I made that decision, I wanted to work more on my own health. So, rather than going straight into work, I do my exercise each morning, and part of that is playing disc golf almost every day, which I'm excited because even though now I'm older and technically shouldn't be as good, I'm now playing the best disc golf I've ever done, which is fun and exciting. Another thing I'm really looking forward to is my oldest son is now 16, and this summer he signed up to do a humanitarian trip. He's going to Cape Verde, Africa to help build a school. And they needed some parent volunteers, and I'm going to go with him. And it's really fun because I haven't been this excited for any kind of trip for a really long time. So, bringing back the youthful side, so I'm going to be heading to Cape Verde in a couple of weeks here. That are a couple of things I'm excited about
Clint Hoopes: That is so fun. We've talked a lot about missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints today. And I served my mission in Mozambique, southeastern Africa, which is a Portuguese-speaking country. So, I knew several people from Cape Verde, so lots of fun.
Alan Barker: And that's the reason we chose there. My children are in a Portuguese Immersion Program. I don't speak Portuguese, but I'm excited to go there.
Clint Hoopes: And my kids are in a Portuguese Immersion Program here in our area as well. Isn't that funny?
Alan Barker: Yeah.
Clint Hoopes: Another thing, we need to get together and have our kids speak here, that's fun. I love it. It's amazing how these kids have such an ability to learn something. Honestly, it's very difficult – learning a language is not easy. And these kids, it's amazing. I mean, I learned later in life. My kids, when they go to half their day in Portuguese, just like your kids, I'm sure. Their teachers are from Brazil, so they speak a little different Portuguese than I do – a little different accent and things. But it is amazing. They're always correcting me with my African Portuguese. And they're like, “That's not how you say it.” I’m like, “It's just an accent. I'm not wrong.” But it's fun. They're so smart. And it’s an amazing thing and something they're so proud of; being able to accomplish something so big at such a young age. It's pretty cool.
Alan Barker: Yes, it is.
Clint Hoopes: Well, as we get closer to the end of the show here today, one thing I always love to ask is what top actions you would have for my listeners? What would you say? What would help them most in their life?
Alan Barker: One thing that really helped me is I had goals. I had goals from the beginning, and a lot of these were financial goals. The goal is once I reach this level, then I want to step back to ensure I can spend that time with my family. But I kept finding that once I would hit that goal, it'd be like, “Well, let's just keep going. I’ve got to really make sure I'm financially secure.” And I think that that's a mistake because, obviously, money is what it is and it does allow us to do things. But make sure once you have that goal and accomplish it, what is your real motive? Make sure you step back and do that. So, for me, it's spending time with my family and making sure that I'm in good shape and have good health so that I can be there for them. So, that would be an action and obviously set goals. But make sure we keep that perspective in mind of what our true intent, what our ultimate goal really is.
Clint Hoopes: I love that insight. There's so much wisdom there. One thing I think about that we talk about occasionally on the show. We talk about getting clear on your future self – who you want to be in the future and get clarity on that. And very often, when we think about that, we're thinking about these big financial goals. Often as business owners and high achievers, we think, “Okay, we want to accomplish these amazing things.” We think about who our future self is, who we want to be. And it's always more money, more this, more that. But the reality is deciding who you want to be, and then beginning to be that person now makes all the difference in the world. Dr. Benjamin Hardy just came out with a book called “Be Your Future Self Now.” I love the book, highly recommend it, I'll put it in the show notes for people to take a look if you'd like. He talks a lot about this and getting clear on the things in life that matter and begin doing those things now. So, I love what you said. And you can see it by your example and what you're doing. And some of the stories you give is you can be extremely motivated and do well financially, but taking the time for your family and deciding what you want that to look like and then doing it and holding yourself to that, that's an amazing thing, and it's a rare thing. Most people don't do that. Most people often just go blindly and just keep their head down and grind. So, good job.
Alan Barker: Yes. Easy to get caught up in grinding more because there's always more work and things you can do that you don't necessarily need to do, or at least do yourself.
Clint Hoopes: So many wonderful things. Let's say the people want to follow you. They want to connect with you or want to begin disc golf, what's the best way for people to get in touch with you?
Alan Barker: If people want to follow me personally, they're kind of out a lot. I don't do much of that. But my business – if you want to learn about disc golf, it's infinitedisc.com, Infinite Discs on all social media. I have an Instagram account “infiniteab8” that I rarely ever post on but I'll try to post some stuff when I go to Cape Verde. That's one of my jobs as the parent builder is to post for their Instagram accounts. So, in my business, building a personal brand for myself is not anything that I've ever focused on or tried to do, but it's all been the names of the businesses.
Clint Hoopes: That's amazing, that's a great thing. I'll actually put all of the links to those in the show notes so people can check out the company. This is good stuff. I love it. Well, Alan, it's been so good catching up with you. And it's been so good to have you on the show and hear some of your insights and some of the wisdom that you have from your years and business and with your family. So, thank you so much for being here.
Alan Barker: Thanks for inviting me. It's something I was looking forward to for a while now.
Clint Hoopes: Well, thank you. And thank you all that are listening here today. Now, you can go be the unrivaled man in your life.