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September 27, 2021 22 min

Listen as Tony Nash talks to US Marine Corps veteran and entrepreneur Brendan Aronson on the value of networking and consistency.

Brendan Aronson is the co-founder of Paintru, an online platform that lets people order high-quality custom art.

An advocate of veterans as entrepreneurs, he says they are a perfect fit as they are uniquely ambiguous. After all, veterans are trained to find a way to win every single day – one of the military lessons he carries with him today, courtesy of A Message to Garcia.

“To run a business requires a broad array of skills. There’s no tactical advice. There’s a lot of trial and error, looking online, and asking for help along the way. Having that Message to Garcia mentality that I don’t know how to do this, I’m gonna figure it out, I’m gonna get it work is the most critical part of being an entrepreneur.”

Another habit that he still implements from his time in the military is taking ownership of every single task, seeing it all the way through completion.

The Power of Luck, Networking

A book that had impacted him is Jerry Colonna’s Reboot: The Leadership and Art of Growing Up (2019). It made him realize that life is mostly composed of luck, timing, and serendipity – so take chances to meet people that can change your life.

There is no shortcut to success, he says, but you can increase your likelihood of getting there by reaching out to people who can help you.

Many people, he says, are finding ways to succeed faster by following the “normal” or tried and tested path of success. But life is too short to live another person’s life.

He has been through different careers and lifestyles – from being an Infantry Officer to Wharton MBA graduate to having interned at Goldman Sachs. Through all this, he realized what will truly make him happy – having autonomy over his time and energy. He declined an offer to work fulltime for Goldman Sachs to build a life around this set of priorities.

“You have no idea how long you’re gonna live. If you’re not happy now, you need to find a way to be happy. Second of all, you might be marching in the wrong direction.”

Shortly after, he joined Paintru knowing all the risks associated with a startup. He says all the lessons he learned and connections he made along the way made him a better entrepreneur. Never missing the chance to connect with others, Brendan has found people who vouched for him, saw his capability, and who will help him should he fail.

He recalls one of his recent failures, Paintru’s nursery painting products which did not sell. But with setbacks come crucial lessons and reflections. Brendan says they have since learned to acknowledge their expertise and its limitations. They have hired designers to help them identify and predict art designs that will be a hit. Connecting with people is a skill he is continuously working on, as he seeks to improve the company’s position.

“You have to be able to reach out, be told no a hundred times, and be just ruthless about your follow up.”


Actionable Advice

One of his key actionable advice is to be organized – a must, he says, if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur. At present, he is using the software Airtable to manage his schedule, tasks, and sub-tasks, such as email follow-ups to ensure he does not miss anything crucial.

“If you’re not organized, you have no chance of being able to follow through on long-term projects.”

Recognizing the value of awareness around one’s mental health, he urges transitioning veterans to do the same by being generous with themselves.

At the end of the day, he says you only define your success. He firmly believes that slow, steady progress is better than a shortcut to success.

“It’s tough to see how far you’ve come, unless you zoom back out, but as long as you’re moving the ball forward, moving a little bit every single day, that progress ends up being more significant over time.”

Paintru and Steel Hearts are partnering for a memorial campaign, a first-of-its-kind effort to paint every US service academy graduate killed In action while serving during the global War on Terror. Over the next year, Paintru will paint every fallen service academy graduate and gift the paintings to their families, high schools, and museums around the country.  For donations and more information, you may visit their GoFundme page.

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Use the code Heroes15 to get a 15% discount when you buy a Paintru painting.

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