Momentum Series: MikedUp Blog – Family Business, Finances & Fitness
This marks feature #4 in the Momentum Series – an interview series to share the stories of bloggers from across the personal finance community.
The goal is to showcase their story, the wins, the losses and the actionable advice and tips that others can take value from. Whether that be conquering debt, maximizing their career earnings, their own road to financial independence or health & wellness strategies that keep them on the right path.
Today’s Momentum Series interview is with Mike, the blogger behind the keyboard at MikedUp Blog.
This was a great interview! Major kudos to Mike for taking the time to share his story, financial journey, family business plans and goals and so much more. This is jam-packed with tons of actionable advice and value.
If you want to connect with Mike:
Well let’s get the interview going, grab a drink and kick back to read this. Here is Momentum Series: MikedUp Blog – Family Business, Finances & Fitness.
Hello all! I’m Mike, a 32-year-old married (Monica) dad (Clara) that currently runs our family business, works as a Forensic Scientist for my day job, and blogs when I make the time. We live in Columbus, Ohio where it’s frequent that you’ll find us at a nearby park or sand volleyball court.
One day – long, long ago (2.5 years ago) – before owning a business had been in our minds and shortly after our daughter was born, I got bored at work. And as a means for creative output and mental stimulation, I started writing for fun.
I had always been a personal finance nerd, I work out 4-7 days per week, and I have a ton of (what I think are) hilarious family stories to share, so MikedUp Blog started from there. Fitness, Finance, and Family were my original topics, but as I’ve tried to listen to my readers and help solve their problems better, I’ve added a bit of my own story into the mix.
Whether it’s an entrepreneur trying to solve business problems, stay in shape, navigate intimate personal relationships, or slash the grocery bill – it’s all on the table at MikedUp Blog. 4 out of every 5 posts are aimed at adding some value to the readers life, while good ‘ole #5 is a meaningless attempt at humor…based on true events.
As I stated above, my day job deals in forensics – a Forensic DNA analyst to be precise, so my degrees are in that realm.
- B.S. – Molecular/Cellular Biology
- M.S. – Tropical Ecology/Conservation
I started on the pre-med track and fell off the wagon from there. I enjoy the sciences and wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything, but if I had college to do over again – Finance, Business, or something in that area would be much more appealing to me. As it took me 30 years to figure that out, though, it’s all on me.
Now that Monica and I are working hard to grow our business, I’ve never been professionally happier. This blog has been a ton of fun to do, too. And once the business gets a little further along, I can’t wait to see where I can take MikedUp Blog!
As I deal with ongoing legal cases, I cannot discuss many aspects of my day job. In addition to that, I’ve been asked by the head of HR to remove the “Forensic” portion of my title from my Twitter bio. I have written a post recently that discusses many of the jobs I’ve been fortunate to hold. In the post, I pick out my 2 favorites and 2 most despised, and tell you the main lesson I’ve learned from each.
It is my honest opinion that all those 15 or so positions on my resume (since 14 years-old) have helped prepare me for this role as CEO of our family business. Getting to work alongside my best friend in pursuit of our collective dream just may be the thing I’ve been put on this earth to do (professionally, at least).
And to be able to write that sentence above, after 30 years of not knowing my true passion, is an exhilarating feeling.
You had the entrepreneurial spirit at an early age in life, can you share that initial side hustle story and how that has progressed to shaped your money mindset in present day?
Looking back, I think it was indirectly experiencing my mom start her own business (twice) that planted the seed in my brain. My first entrepreneurial story takes place around age 12/13 and I remember it like it was yesterday.
This was back in ‘98 or so, and that’s when color printed flyers in mailboxes actually got looked at. I used that fact to my advantage when I “created” The Neighborhood Lawn Care Co. and sent out a mailer to every house in my neighborhood. “We” offered regular maintenance of yards, help with one-time projects (mulching, planting trees, and the like), and help with odd-jobs.
My first lead was from Mr. Chalker. A phenomenally got 70-ish-year-old that called up the “business line” first. Although my parents had received their appropriate coaching for how to answer our home phone line as if it were exclusively for the business, mom slipped up with her, “Hello?”. Not cool mom…she did recover after Mr. Chalker asked to talk with Mike about a job. “…Please hold for Mike.”
Mr. Chalker and I worked out the details of the full day mulching job and as I hung up the phone I knew there was another call I had to make. This job – to edge and mulch his .75 acre lot – was more than just a 1-man job, so I called up my buddy business partner to help with labor for the day. I will never forget the look on Mr. Chalker’s face that morning when my buddy and I came walking up to the Chalker residence pushing wheelbarrows full of tools. He was equal parts confused, embarrassed, impressed, and concerned.
That wasn’t the best part of the day, though. That happened near sundown.
When Mr. Chalker handed us our pay with a giant smile on his face, thanking us profusely, I had never been prouder of myself. That joy that comes from turning work into profit is one of the best feelings in the world and it started right there for me.
Well $220,000 in debt is a daunting number for any family, can you explain the source of that debt? What are the most effective strategies you’ve implemented to continue conquering that debt?
At the peak, actually much closer to $1-million than the $220k number. I refer to our debt in terms of mortgages. We have 1 for our house, 1 for our student loans, 1 to purchase our business, and the final 1 to build our new office location. It’s demoralizing to think about but the fact that we are through taking out debt to pursue our dreams is a great thing. Now all that’s left is to get to work and:
“Break free from the chains!!”
…I know that there is pain,
but cha, hold on for 1 more day…”
I’ll stop now. But sometimes you need a little Wilson Phillips in yo’ life.
This is not a situation that we have more debt that could possibly be paid for. Each of these “mortgages” are financed on 10-year fixed term loans with good interest rates, except for the actual house mortgage. And that will be refinanced in a year or two.
In 2017 we were able to pay off over $100,000 in debt, and if we can keep going at that rate, the surface isn’t too far away. All totaled up, you can imagine what the minimum payments on that amount of debt would look like. We pay about $750-$1,000 per month over the minimum amounts. All in an effort to reduce our financial exposure.
Discipline, hard work, and more discipline are our tools, and I recommend them without hesitation.
With that dentistry path in mind, June 2017 was a major milestone for the family. You and your wife bought a dental practice! For those of us who have never purchased or started a business to this degree, what were some of the most stressful and/or surprising discoveries during that process?
This question is a great one, but it deserves a book. I wrote about one such story here, and there are so many others to come.
But the most stressful part about our business purchase was the financial component, and that was influenced by so many variables: production, lease terms, utilities, supplies, payroll, taxes, debt service and the list goes on and on.
We fought so hard to get our loan approved, and we did that because it put our family’s financial situation into a “danger close” area. If the incomes of both my day job and the practice could handle the 4 mortgages above without question, the bank would have provided us the loan without much hesitation (dental offices are considered a great bet for bankers).
However, because we are paying so aggressively on our student loans and because the business loan must be financed on a 10-year fixed term, our cash-flow analysis didn’t look the rosiest. But, I put my head down and did everything I had to do (within the law) so that we could get the loan. We are betting BIG on ourselves.
After the dust settled, though. We realize that we now need to make good on that bet because the financial future of our family depends on it. Those stories that describe failure and bankruptcy are much less exciting to read about, but they are definitely out there. We working our tails off to not be one of those stories.
If you had one piece of advice to share with someone about to go down a similar route of starting/purchasing a business, what would that be?
I actually just finished an article that highlights 5 of my most learned lessons from the process of buying a business. That should post in the first week of May. I’d like to save that surprise for the MikedUp Blog readers, for now.
What are your short-term financial and business goals? Are you doing anything specific or making any changes to achieve these?
Wow. This is another big one. And probably could be another book.
Our goals are controlled growth and to state it in the simplest way possible, we care more about our patients, staff, and relationships than our competitors. I don’t care if we lose marginal cash by making a decision that improves either the patient experience, our Team’s work environment, or the mental health of Monica and I. If it’s good for the people, it’ll be good for business in the long term.
We are a relatively new business, but to this point we have 79 total online reviews. All 79 are 5-star. We’re incredibly proud of that.
- 1 Year – Have grown enough to support my salary and benefits so that we would have the option for me to work in the business full time .
- 3 Years – Have saved 33% of our business loan in cash.
- 5 Years – This is a mark we have shared with every member of our Team: To be a household name in our neighborhood. So that if someone asks a friend to recommend a dental office – we’re the first that comes to mind. AND – to have increased our production number by 2.5X from day 1.
There is more than wishing that we’re doing to get there, but I’ll have much more to come on that in the short term.
What are your long-term financial goals? How are you going to achieve these goals?
In 10 years, I want to be debt free (excluding the house), have saved $100k, and I want to have more than 1 main income stream.
- Step 1 – Get the business off the ground and established
- Step 2 – Start pursuing additional passions (I see you blogging/consulting/who knows what else-ing)
What was your biggest “financial win” or moment of clarity in the early stages of your money journey?
Mr. Chalker was a big one (above), but in addition to that I spent 2 summers in Maui working at the Hard Rock Cafe. During the second summer (2007) I had earned $10k to bring back home with me plus a few awesome memories.
If I’m being honest, though. My biggest “financial win” was the process of losing ~$17k during the market crash (basically 66% of my net worth). That panic, research, and experience got me into finance and probably was the reason I started writing about financial topics on the blog.
Have you made any major financial mistakes? If so, what was the outcome and what did you learn from these mistakes?
Oh, have I…!?!? Most certainly, yes.
I leased a BMW 128i in 2008 while I was in grad school. Annual salary $15,000. Monthly payment $427. You do the math. I learned that I can be a short-sighted idiot at times so I put processes in place to stop that from happening.
Now, Monica and I have a “sleep on it” policy that mandates we sleep on any purchase/life decision of significance for at least 1 night. In doing this, we’ve saved ourselves a ton of time, cash, and embarrassment. The best feeling, though, is waking up in the morning even more excited about the idea and having Monica feel the same way.
As you’ve progressed in your financial life, what have you changed or implemented to set yourself and family up for success?
After construction had completed on our new office location, we vowed to not take out additional debt for any reason short of an incredible emergency. We will save and pay down debt at the same time so that if we go on a vacation, buy new equipment for the office, or need to fix our roof, it’ll all be paid for in cash (via credit cards so we get our points…I mean, c’mon).
If you could give one or two pieces of advice to someone at the start of their financial path, what would it be?
I have actually been thinking about this a lot these days. As our daughter grows and we start talking about some of these issues, there isn’t much more important an issue for us (as parents) to consider how we’ll help influence our daughter’s mindset.
I’d say that don’t make your decisions based on the mathematical answer. There is an emotional/human component that doesn’t compute in those calculations. Determine what your morals are early in your life, what you value. And shape your decisions, financial and otherwise to fit those morals.
To counteract the completely free spirit that does whatever they want because that’s what they “value.” My second point would be: Discipline Equals Freedom. I stole this from Jocko Willink but I’ve never come across a truer statement.
If you exercise discipline in your life to eat healthy, you’ll likely have better health.
If you spend less than you make, you’ll have more wealth
If you are disciplined to get up early and work hard, your days, evenings, and lives will be less stressful because you are making more progress toward your goals.
So, my life advice in conclusion:
Find the middle ground in this dichotomy: Stay disciplined toward your goals/morals and design your journey so that it will be enjoyable to you.
What are some of the most influential resources that have shaped your money mindset or financial situation?
This is a difficult one for me to answer as my financial philosophy is continually updated as new information comes in. I’d say that my practice or set of core beliefs have been shaped by the combination of many people, books, podcasts, and relationships.
I learned hard work ethic from my parents at a young age. After the market crash, research led me to Warren Buffett and his comments on index funds (e.g. after factoring in expense ratios, most actively managed funds don’t beat the market). I’ve been invested in S&P index funds ever since.
I do have concerns about index funds in the long-term, however. I’ve heard the analyses and know that they go up no matter what’s going on (as long as you look over a 10-year – or similar – period). The market hasn’t been around forever, though, and the 7-8% average return seems too good to be true indefinitely. For this reason, I intend to diversify my investments to many areas (business, market, real estate, etc.).
Past that, I’ve learned a lot about personal outlook and drive from Jocko Willink’s podcast. There isn’t a better podcast out there in my opinion.
You played NCAA Division 1 Football at Kent State University, I don’t think many Personal Finance & Lifestyle Bloggers can stay that! Although it didn’t go as planned, can you explain what happened and perhaps how that changed your life?
I ended up developing this chronic back issue during my 2nd year with the team. I remember not being able to sit down into my car’s driver seat because the pain was too unbearable. But there I was at practice, doing what I could.
It wasn’t much and the fact that I practiced like that and looked like garbage on the field couldn’t have helped my case with the coaches in that incredibly competitive environment. We had a few NFL players on those teams: Josh Cribbs, Usama Young, Danny Muir and a few more after that, including Julian Edelman. We had 4 teammates that went on to win a Superbowl ring at one point.
Back to the back issue. It got so bad and the medical staff cared so little that I ended up going to my own orthopedic surgeon for a second opinion. Got the MRI, X-Ray, and all the tests done, and as it turns out I was 1 wrong hit away from paralysis.
That news rocked me hard. It ended my football career and that was bittersweet. Now I was finally able to move on to the next phase in my life, but I felt good about my chances contributing in the coming years. I was doing well in practice and had some of those talented guys above encouraging me to keep fighting and that my good play was shining through.
Paralysis and the rest of my life wasn’t worth the risk for me, so I hung up the cleats.
I decided to go to grad school after that string of events, and just a couple short months later I ended up meeting Monica. I wouldn’t change anything even though it appeared like I didn’t reach my athletic goals at the time. My life was destined to head in a different path and I’m loving the journey.
Did you ever hit “rock bottom” with that weight gain or what caused you to turnaround your lifestyle?
After I quit playing football…this happened:
I hate and love pictures like this one. Hate because I can’t believe I let myself go that far. Love because I know that there is no way I’ll ever go back.
The cause for my weight gain was a lack of imposed discipline (strength coaches/football team) and a series of terrible nutrition/health choices. I had to start from scratch and teach myself what proper nutrition and fitness is. Looking at this picture makes me sick, but without that version of myself, I’m not me today.
Now, I work toward improving each and every day. Here’s a recent picture to let you know I’m not 100% full of it (and that we workout as a family).
Did you have some “easy wins” or strategies to keep that health and fitness momentum going?
There’s nothing “easy” about losing 60 pounds. It’s like learning a new language. You need to practice it, every day. Until eventually one day you’re talking to someone entirely in Spanish without realizing the switch in language.
I counted calories and used my God-given athletic ability to out eat and out train my fatness. It didn’t seem like progress at the time, but one day I looked in the mirror and started recognizing myself again. After that, it was Game On!
Getting healthy is simple, not easy. Eat less, workout more. I know you can say it, but can you do it?
What is your current health & wellness routine or program?
I exercise (formally) 4 days a week minimum with the occasional jog/push-ups/kettlebell swings/abs thrown in on days 5-7. Right now I’m getting back to my barbell roots with squats, cleans, presses, deadlifts, and good ‘ole push-ups and pull-ups.
I fit some cardio and ab work into every workout, and I superset everything. This is when you do multiple exercises back-to-back without rest (similar to a circuit). I’ve found that the limited rest helps boost aerobic response in my routines.
If I wasn’t working both jobs and blogging, I’d work out every day. I love it, it makes me healthy, I’m less stressed afterward, and I’m more calm/peaceful throughout the day. People say they don’t have time to workout. I ask myself how could I afford to not make time? I want to be there and able-bodied for my family for quite a long time.
I could do better here.
We cook our own meals 90% of the time and I eat lean meats, fruits, and veggies, but damn I do love Doritos. And cookies. And cake.
I try to limit the bad stuff to moderate occasional intake and if I notice myself getting out of hand, it’s push-ups on the spot and a crawl out of the gym workout the next day (because I’m too tired to walk).
I should’ve added this disclaimer higher in the post, I’m a bit fanatical when it comes to diet and exercise. I’m a little crazy and although that may be different for you, my wife deals with it only because she’s a saint. I’m over toward the radical end of the fitness spectrum but I fight daily to not let that balance slip too far over on the scale. If my body is calling for rest, I work out that day and then rest the next.
With everything going on in my professional life lately, I’ve done much discovery in this realm. I have most everything chronicled in this post. Mental health is no joke and I’ve learned recently that this part of my body needs trained too.
What advice would you give somewhere who knows they need to start taking their fitness more seriously? What’s that first step?
When getting started with exercise, anything is better than nothing.
Step 1: Never miss a Monday. This was one of the first articles I wrote for the blog and the message holds true up to now. My advice is to:
- Plan less – do more
- Just move
- Take action
Or whatever other motivation you need to hear to get out there and take a walk, ride a bike, or just stop right now and do 10 push-ups…
…go ahead, we’ll wait…
Congratulations, you just took step 1. Now that your active, you need to define your goals (i.e. weight loss, muscle tone, cardiovascular fitness, etc.). Once you know what your target is, now it’s time to put the Google machine to work and find yourself a plan. Or feel free to email me ([email protected]) and I’d love to help get you started.
Then, once you have a goal and a defined plan on how to get there write it down and post it on your social media, tell your friends and worst enemies, and make a bet with your closest friend/family member. Now all that’s left is to get back to work… 10 more push-ups. GO!
What are some of the most influential resources that have shaped your health & wellness mindset and situation?
I’ve tried a ton of routines, at home plans, half marathons, and books to reach my goals. These are my all-time favorites in chronological order as they came into my life:
- LL Cool J’s Platinum Workouts
- P90X – The Original
- I trained for a ran 4 half marathons over the course of 16 months while I was losing 60lbs
- Jocko Willink’s Discipline Equals Freedom. Field Manual (his workouts are included as an appendix)
If there’s a better plan out there, I haven’t tried it yet. These have done more for my fitness than any comparable product. I swear by each of them.
If you could do it all over, what would you change or do differently to live a happier and healthier life?
I’m not changing a thing. I’m not me today without my past. What do I want to change moving forward? I want to improve in some aspect of my fitness every day. Whether that’s good nutrition choices, getting back to the gym, or taking needed rest. There are a lot of things I can do better in life but one thing’s for certain, I won’t stop improving until I’m in the ground…
What role does MikedUp Blog play in supporting the different financial, business and lifestyle strategies and practices you’ve outlined above?
At this point in beginning Year 3 of MikedUp Blog, it serves as my creative outlet. I have earned a whopping $24 and change since adding display ads to the site (about a year ago), and although that’s something, I’m not lighting the world on fire quite yet.
With the business purchase and move behind us, I plan to put much more effort into the Blog throughout 2018. What I want that blog growth to look like is increase in traffic, sure.
But more than that I want to see more engagement out of the site. I started it to share my story and to help others through my experiences and research. It’s my hope that by helping others, I can grow the site to some form of an income supplement by the end of 2018.
Until then, I’m loving the process.
What are your goals with MikedUp Blog?
My 2018 goals are outlined in the post I link to above but here’s a summary:
- I want to double my blog traffic in 2018 as compared with 2017. The metrics I list in the post include subscribers, page views, and Twitter followers. If I had the post to re-do, I’d add comments on articles to my tracked metrics.
- As far as a 5-year plan, I’ve got big and highly improbable dreams. But like I said above, I enjoy running my site and if $24 is what my annual income will look like, then my goodness that’ll be a great night at Chipotle for me and the fam!
What 3 blog posts on MikedUp Blog would you recommend Making Momentum readers check out?
This is a tough one. Picking 3 posts out of 2 years worth but here it goes.
- When you accidently pay the mortgage twice in December
- These two are on track to pay of $89,000 in student loans in 15 months – and they didn’t win the lottery
- Do what you love (Financial Pillar #1)
Bonus post that should help anyone is 67 great frugal tips to make you wealthier today.
Any final pieces of advice or recommendations?
Us bloggers aren’t perfect. We’re just like everyone else. Don’t try and compare yourself to our highlight reels, or to anyone else for that matter. Like I said in the fitness category:
Define YOUR goals, make a plan, then make progress. As long as you’re moving forward and worrying about yourself (and your family), the rest will take care of itself.
Any special shoutouts?
THANK YOU for this opportunity, Scott. I appreciate the platform, yes. But in answering these questions, I’ve had to think a lot about myself and my goals. Thanks again!
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