Larry Weidel: I am with successful entrepreneur and one of the most well-known and well-liked people in Aspen, Galen Bright. Galen has weathered many storms in several businesses and has mastered the art of problem-solving and keeping his momentum going.
Galen, at one time you created and ran Aspen Luggage. It was your business so you had to take the initiative in solving your supply and manufacturing problem. Where did you get your ideas for that? Was that part of your schooling, or did you look around and see what other companies were doing? How did you figure that out?
Galen Bright: A lot of it was really just trial and error. Learning as you go, and certainly some mistakes happened along the way. I remember learning that just-in-time inventory was very important.
You didn’t want to have too much inventory, but you also didn’t want to run out of product. So that applied to the raw materials side of it for manufacturing our brand, but also to the retail side for the product that we purchased from other manufacturers and resold.
You’ve got to take care of your customer. They come back and they tell their friends.
LW: You started out as the first one in your family to go to college and then you ended up in a ski town with your own business. You are not only meeting and selling to celebrities, but you’re developing friendships with some really high-profile people.
You’re finding that your influence and network of friends are rapidly expanding just by doing a great job and offering a great product.
Talk about the effect this had on you. These relationships and these interactions had to have had a transformative effect on you in terms of realizing what you’re capable of.
CEOs, business owners, senators, and a lot of famous politicians—they’re all real people coming into your store and just talking. It’s amazing how normal they are in real life.
GB: Being in Aspen, you would definitely see your fair share of celebrities and CEOs. I mean it was on a regular basis where somebody would come in, and I didn’t recognize them. My employees would be telling me that’s so and so.
Of course, the really big names I knew, but there were some sports celebrities that I had the honor to get to know pretty well, as well as senators. They’re all real people coming in just talking. They’re normal people.
LW: Don’t let anybody tell you there are no secrets. There’s not just one. There are millions of secrets in every area of life. But if there’s one main one, it is the more time you can listen to people who are already at the top, the more likely you’re going to pick up the pieces of the puzzle that you’re still missing because greatness is caught and not taught.
You were in a perfect situation where you could pick this up because you were seeing these people not on stage, not performing, but interacting in their daily life. And what did you catch from those interactions?
GB: I actually don’t think I took as much advantage as I should have. That business was so consuming overall that I learn more now with my real estate business because I think I get a lot closer to my clientele. Having 50 or 100 people a day coming into a store, you get time with them but it’s a transaction that’s short and they’re not spending extended periods of time with you like they are with a real estate transaction.
I did see a glimpse of people starting companies from nothing. I even remember doing a case study in college on a particular person. Then I ended up meeting them in the store or on a flight back and forth from Denver to Aspen and thinking what a great opportunity that was.
I’ve read about these people and here they are. They’re real. They’ve worked hard, and they appreciate what they have.
One of the biggest things I noticed is that they never take anything for granted. It wasn’t something that they felt they deserved and that’s why they had it. I never got that from anybody I met in that position.
LW: It’s interesting that it’s universal across the board, regardless of what industry they’re in. Most of them had to work for it and probably made a million mistakes along the way.
You told me about one celebrity who has just been on ESPN with a 10-part series and the most famous athlete in the world, Michael Jordan. You said, “Yeah, one night I came out of the store, and I literally bumped into him.”
GB: I did. Amazing guy. He’s huge. He had a big cigar in his mouth.
LW.: Let’s talk about your payoff from all of this dream life because you are your own boss. You weren’t consistent. I’m going to get you back on here. We’re going to talk about phase two, which is the transition to another industry, but let’s just talk about the payoff.
In fact, one of the things Jordan would say in the huddle before playoff games was, “Okay, it starts with hard work. It ends with a championship. Let’s go!” Galen, in your case, it would really be hard to deny that your hard work has paid off and is giving you the lifestyle.
GB: It’s true. I’m very blessed and fortunate. I have a lifestyle that I have that I used to just dream about and visualize. I still work extremely hard, but the fact that we’re here with this in our backyard and then the ability to do travel around the world when we’re not in quarantine is a blessing. It’s been wonderful.
LW : Absolutely. Well, thanks so much for giving us this overview of how you launched out and put yourself in a position for even bigger and better things.