In the history of business, 10 years may not seem like a long time. But to Scott Dunstan, his business is exactly where he wants it to be.
“Where we are now, is exactly what I envisioned,” says Scott. “A nice office with great people surrounding me, and a viable, sustainable business model helping people build their brands.”
Scott discussed the first 10 years of owning his own business with co-host Brian Young on the Brandbuilders Podcast, anniversary edition.
The Dunstan Group, maker of branded merchandise — apparel and gifts bearing your company logo — turns 10 this year. Scott began the business after 8 years in a similar family business. Scott’s uncle sold that business shortly after Scott left, which meant he didn’t have to compete against his own relatives for customers. That was important to him, because family, ethics, and integrity are all part of his core beliefs.
He also wanted to run his business with a different philosophy than he’d seen in the corporate world.
“I don’t live to work, I work to live,” he says, professing his love of travel and desire to see his co-workers enjoy lives and grow personally outside of the office.
“I truly believe none of us are going to be on our death beds saying we wish we had worked more,” he adds with a laugh.
That subject hits very close to his heart in another way, however. Scott has a strong desire to give back to the community because of how his life changed when he was just 10 years old — when his mother died of cancer. He understands how precious life is, and that every day is a gift. Scott lives that message with commitment to the 24 Foundation, the Charlotte-based cancer support and navigation charity.
“Community involvement is so important,” says Scott, explaining how he felt an immediate connection to the 24 Foundation’s mission and message. He has been fundraising for them and riding in their signature event, the 24 Hours of Booty, since 2009. Dunstan Group has also been providing the branded merchandise for the “24 HOB” since then — much of it at cost or even free.
“It speaks to how important philanthropy and community are to Scott,” says Mallory Walsh, Executive Director of 24 Foundation. Walsh says Scott has personally raised $20,000 for the foundation, and then took the next step to start a fundraising team. That team has raised more than $100,000. That “really speaks to his heart for service,” says Walsh.
Josh Jones, a Dunstan Group client and partner in Jones & Hedges Custom Homes, shares Scott’s vision about serving the community.
“How he does business reflects that,” says Jones. “He’s living that out. He puts so much value into his relationships, that it adds legitimacy to what a great person Scott is.”
“A huge component is giving back,” says Scott. “Everything is not about money. Success is not measured by money.” He explains that he believes true success comes from helping others be successful. “It’s what you do for others is what matters,” he adds.
Setting a solid foundation for his business has allowed the Dunstan Group to grow, too. Scott talks about surrounding himself with “people smarter than me,” who are encouraged to grow professionally, which, in turn, allows the business to grow.
“If you surround yourself with a good team, everybody’s an important part of it, and that’s way more sustainable for happiness in work life,” he says.
Scott also gives good basic advice for entrepreneurs who want to create a strong, sustainable business like his.
“You gotta be willing to take a risk,” he warns. That can mean living for a full year or more without income. Don’t carry a lot of debt. Make good financial choices. And the most important advice if you want to be around for a long time: “Do the right thing every single time no matter what it costs you.” Own up to mistakes and make them right, no matter the cost. People make mistakes, he says — how you handle the corrections is what will keep you in business.
Jones quickly agrees that Scott’s integrity is what drives both his personal and professional relationships. “Scott is someone I look at and think, ‘That is someone who will do the right thing every time.'” Not surprisingly, the two have become good friends.
So what’s next?
“We keep doing what we’ve always done, just do it better,” Scott says with a smile. He’s seen the business of branded merchandise change a lot over the last 18 years, especially with more women in the workplace who want apparel that fit and flatter them. Computer graphics, email, and digital files speed up the process of providing products to customers who need them.
And there are more ways to reach people — through social media and the Brandbuilders podcasts that “let people talk about building their brands, not just in product but in voice.”
Brandbuilders Podcast co-host Brian Young chimes in here, telling Scott, “It’s great to work with you, but also call you a friend.” You can tell he means it.
Scott replies with his best advice: “Stay optimistic,” he says. “Keep hammering, keep getting up every day and be happy about life.”