Building and Selling an Empire with Brian Booker


There’s no question – retirement frees up a lot of time to spend on your family and hobbies. But after years of building a company, business becomes part of your identity.

Whether you realize it or not, many business owners tie their self-worth to their business. And exiting your business young can set you up for years of uncertainty… and even depression.

Unless you plan ahead.

Today’s guest Brian Booker built Explore USA RV into a Texas wide chain. Despite identity struggles after a sudden sale of the business, he’s thriving in retirement.

In this episode you’ll discover how to pivot into retirement without losing your identity along the way.

Listen now.

Show Highlights Include:

  • The old-school “envelope” system which helps you stay on top of finances (even in the 21st century) ([3:00])
  • How a US-wide family trip could build you a state-wide empire by retirement ([5:24])
  • The recruiting secret that lets you profit in any market (whether you sell RVs or snow cones) ([6:55])
  • Why business owners have an “identity crisis” after retirement (and how to prevent it happening to you) ([7:51])


DLP035 - Building and Selling an Empire with Brian Booker



Do you want a wealthy retirement without worrying about money. Welcome to retire in Texas, where you will discover how to enjoy your faith, your family, and your freedom in the state of Texas. And now here’s your host financial advisor, author, and all around good Texan Darryl Lyons. 


([00:29]): Hey, welcome to retire in Texas. This is Darryl Lyons. I’m your host. I’m the co-founder and CEO of PAX’s financial group. PAX’s financial group is the sponsor of this program. So be sure to visit them at PAXfinancialgroup.com. And then also I have to provide the legal disclosure. All this information is general in nature. None of it is intended to provide specific tax investment or legal advice. Visit PAX financial group.com. All right. I’m so excited about this show, cause it’s a long time frame, I guess I’ve probably known me since I was negative nine months. <laugh> I mean, you probably didn’t even know me my whole life. Brian Booker’s here. Thank you for being here. Yeah. Thank you for inviting me. This is fun. Yeah, it is. So there’s a lot to talk about and this is cool, cuz I actually know a lot about you. Sometimes I have people in the seat and I know nothing, but here this is actually kind of fun cuz I feel like, um, there’s a lot of directions we can go. The content of this show is rich. I mean we could go several hours and I have to compress it in 20 minutes, but first off, let’s start. Where are you from? Originally? Born in Houston and raised in San Antonio. Okay. And what is happening in San Antonio? Lackland air force base? Yeah, the west side. The west side. So were you closer to Kelly or Lackland? Lackland. Lin? Yeah. I’d play on Lackland air force base as a kid. You played on it. I played on the base. Were your parents military? My dad retired, uh, air force and civil service, uh, retired as well. What about your mom? Homemaker. Okay. And so your dad, was he like full 20 years or do you know, how long did he serve? 27 years active in 20 years. Civil, no kidding. I didn’t know that. And so did you find that, that generation, did he have this sense of discipline that was kind of almost extreme or was he kind of level headed in that way? 


([02:20]): Well, I mean there’s a discipline, like, okay, you’ve gotta tuck your bed a certain way. Right. Was it that approach to parenting? Yeah, I think that he spent so many years in the military that he threw a lot of that out the window. By the time we were at those formative ages, he got married late, so he was in his forties when I was born. Okay. So he was, uh, I think he’d already kind of walked away from the military discipline mentality and it was you and how many brothers and sisters? Four, four total. So a total of five. And you’re where you are, in those middle oh middle. Okay. And so did they like growing up near valley high drive areas? Right? Correct. And so did they ever sit down and say Brian, here’s how money works or was there any conversation about money? Our lessons about money were more about watching them and back in those days. And, and it sounds, makes me sound old to say that back in those days, back in those days, they literally had a box with envelopes in it where it would write, uh, mortgage, power, groceries, and payday would come and they would actually convert it to cash and they would put cash in those envelopes. Okay. And that box would sit in a cabinet. And so when payments were due for rent, they would grab the envelope. And that’s how they budgeted. Yeah. That was the envelopes. Dave Ramsey actually created, uh, you marketed the envelope system. Yeah. But your parents were all over it. So we got to see that and it was really fascinating for a four year old or a five year old to watch them have this. It seemed to me so sophisticated at the time that I admired that people could be that smart and you know, put this many dollar bills and this many fives and this many nickels, this many pennies in an envelope and it was exactly the right amount. 


([04:07]): So we don’t get kicked outta the house. You know, when I was starting, well actually there were two iterations of this when I was pretty broke. First of all, starting out in the career and then starting the packs. I, I had to do the envelopes <laugh> because I had to make sure that there was money for it really worked well for Christmas, actually, cuz I could squirrel away a little bit of money and know that presents were taken care of. Now I’m gonna jump far ahead, but I’m actually gonna, I’ll come back to some of those formidable years. Can you tell the audience where you retired from officially? So I built a company called explore S a RV, uh, and built it into a Texas wide chain. And about close to four years ago, I had a group buy me out. They bought the company lock stock and barrel and, and I walked away from the industry and basically my family who were our 400 employees. So it was kind of a forced retirement, but okay. I agreed to the number and took their money. So it was age wise. I was probably close to the right age for retiring. So the timing was pretty good. So I’m gonna keep kind of going to different places here. And I want to, I want the audience to know a little bit more about that, but it’s also important for them to know how you got into this business. So how did you even get into the RV business? That part is pretty simple. I bought an RV and the kids were, I think three and six when I bought the RV and we put about 75,000 miles on the road over the next seven years. And I went through about seven RVs during that time. So during those purchases and service calls to different RV dealers, I realized there’s low hanging fruit in the industry that I thought I could compete and actually do better than the people that were out there selling RVs and fixing RVs. 


([06:04]): So I wrote the business plan and opened the company. I mean, how did you have that expertise and the confidence to be able to create the distribution of that type of product? That’s a unique product. I mean, it obviously has a lot of factors, one of which is a lot of people just can’t stroke a check. So there has to be an element of financing, right? I mean, I don’t know the majority did, they did a lot of people finance the RVs. What did you see there? Is it 50 50? Yeah. Financing. Yeah. Financing is probably 70% of our clients. So we had to arrange the financing. But my background before that had been in the housing industry, so I knew about financing and I knew about hiring a sales team. Okay. And I knew about fixing things. And so I knew that any business, whether it was RVs or, or having a snow cone stand, it was about people. And I felt like I could recruit people that would be receptive to our customer’s needs. Was that one of the key elements of your confidence of starting into this RV business was your ability to motivate, inspire, and also find the right people. Is that, do you think that’s your skillset? There was really what was needed. That was a hundred percent of the motivation. As I looked at the industry, I actually knew people in the business and I, I, uh, subscribed to magazines and read information from, uh, analysts, uh, about the industry and the number one complaint that everybody had was hiring and keeping good people. And so that was what I felt was my forte was hiring and keeping people. So I thought, okay, well I got that part down, so now I know I can compete. And so then it was just more understanding the nuances from the housing industry, the RV industry, and some of those intricacies. 


([07:46]): Right. Just kind of studying up on that stuff. And so when you ended up, I mean, this became the largest RV dealership in Texas. Correct. And you were leading this. And so it seems to me that there’d be, it’d be impossible to not have your identity in that business. So was it difficult to actually transition out? I mean like how did you feel like as a person, as a man did, like, was it shocking? Like now what do I do with the rest of my life? It was completely that because it was very sudden and you know, I, I know there’s people listening that have sold their companies before and you don’t realize how big of a line that is between your new life and the, the old life you’re basically on your own again. Yeah. That seems like that would be, and we’d talk a little bit about what we call it pivoting, like pivoting into the next chapter and how you have to reframe what’s important to you. What’s a priority? And some of it is, I imagine that we don’t get a chance to really think introspectively on the journey of just trying to grow something. And then when it hits us, we’re like, okay, who are we as a person on your journey? I mean, really a successful journey was there, let me actually go to the beginning of the journey. I know it’s going different places here, but in the beginning of the journey, was there ever a time that you doubted yourself in the first 18 months? I opened the company in 2000. Okay. So there was a contraction in the economy and then there were nine 11. Yeah. That was a good time. Yeah. So that really put a ski into me cuz they, we, you know, I didn’t know what was gonna happen to really the world and people’s ability to travel. 


([09:26]): And so luckily we were very small. So had that basically ended our business. My losses would’ve been minimal, but we were able to weather that contraction and uh, come out stronger as a company. Yeah. And so in the meantime I would imagine if you’re like me, you’re like, am I the right guy for this? I mean, I don’t know. I would be a little concerned and probably doubt myself a little bit. But you alluded to that, but you still had the confidence to push through. Yeah. I always felt like, and I, I think it was ever since I was, I don’t know how old, maybe five that I was built to run a company. So by the time I’m basically 17, I’m leading a team and then I’m part owner of a company and then I’m starting my own company and I never knew anything other than that. So, uh, for those that have just tuned in, you’re listening to retire in Texas. And if you do need a 15 minute consultation with a financial advisor, it doesn’t cost you things complimentary. And it’s nonthreatening just text the, the word Texas to the number 7 48, 68. That’s Texas 7 48 68. And so here with Brian Booker kind of unpacking this journey and starting in the, it sounds like probably based on your family’s history and the demographic profile almost maybe middle class or lower middle class, what would you lower military pay was? I don’t know about today, but at that time it was pretty low. Yeah. Not a lot of single house. Single income. Yeah. Single income. And then after, so John Jay high school, correct? Yeah. And after that, did you, after that? Uh, tow truck university. So let me get this straight. Okay. You are running one of the most successful RV businesses in Texas and you didn’t just jump to SMU or TCU or Trinity <laugh> no, I, uh, essentially, dropped outta high school to ninth grade and went to work. 


([11:24]): That’s unbelievable. I don’t know if a lot of people know that most don’t know they do now they do <laugh> yeah. The message. Well, you know, I gotta tell you, because we had a mutual friend the other day that didn’t have this college pedigree and to a certain degree intimidated by your experience and success. But when he learned about your education in the world of hard knocks, he became endear to you and, and actually said, yeah, that’s somebody that I can relate to. Yeah. You know, you say that and I can share a story that happened to me about 25 years ago, I was presenting my story to a board of directors, uh, for a company that I was involved with. And I’d known them for a long time and it was the husbands and wives of the board. And so like three quarters of the way through my story, some of the wives started crying. And then after I was through with my story and talking about business, they, as we were mingling, came over to me and apologized because they had judged me as a, um, I Ivy league, silver spoon, you know? Oh, wow person. And they just felt so bad that they were literally crying. Wow. That they thought that about me. Now I wanna go to that for just a second. I know that you’re not married anymore, but have a good relationship with Donna that’s. Right. Which is really, I think that’s very respectful. But when you were making these transitions in life, let’s talk about both of them with the transition, from the housing business, into the RV business. Was she concerned about that? Did she support you? What was the dialogue like getting into that business? She was scared. Yeah. She totally trusts faith support. Yeah. Never a doubt that I was doing the right thing. 


([13:10]): I mean, we talked and I keep teasing this out. Did you doubt yourself? And, and sometimes her support was enough to keep you going. I think I hid my doubt from her. I was wondering, I didn’t want her to get scared about our ability to support our family. Yeah. You know, my wife’s like, I guess I wear my doubt on my sleeve. I’m like, man, I don’t know if I’m ready for this. She’s like, you do get your butt out there, but I could see you just say, now we’re gonna pile through this together. Now the second transition was y’all married when you retired. Yes. Yeah. So how was that? Was she like, okay. Yeah. Now’s the time. Um, what did that dialogue look like? Very ready. She, um, supported a hundred percent and was involved in the acquisition, saw every email, every number she was involved in the negotiations from just on our family side of it, talking about the offer and what it would look like. That’s pretty cool. I didn’t know that, you know, a lot of business owners that the spouse will just kind of totally disconnect and to see that she was engaged in that. And maybe even probably uncovering some details is probably a little refreshing. Yeah. And also it, you know, it is a partnership when you’re married and I looked at it like I’m right in the middle of the fire and maybe I’m not seeing clearly. And so if I had another set of eyes looking at it or ears hearing about it, it could make me feel more comfortable. Yeah. I do know that feeling and now, okay. So we’re down to the last minute or two, but what’s the next chapter look like for you? I guess anybody that retires, uh, at a young age, uh, looks at like I did, I’m not ready to retire, but I don’t wanna work. 


([14:42]): Okay. So I get that. Yeah. It’s, it’s kinda like a, um, I’m gonna look at it like an investment. So I started up a new company it’s called Hawks design Hawks, like that bird Hawks, like the bird, but with an E. Okay. Uh, in the, before the S so it’s a upfiting company that builds vehicles. There are for, uh, outdoorsmen Overlander bikers, bikers, surfers. And my intent was to invest in it, to come up with a business concept and to hire a CEO, to run it and to be involved as a consultant and on a board, but not day to day. Yeah. That makes sense. So that is that’s happening now. Wow. So this is kind of the third iteration of Brian Booker. It is. It’s cool. Yeah. I’m with a lot more experience behind you. Yeah. I felt like this is, uh, kind of the easiest one. I’ll do. Yeah. I might be proven wrong, but I’m feeling good about it. Good. Yeah. It seems to be coming together for this new venture. So I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out. And it’s really a niche play. It’s a little narrower than your previous things. It’s niche, but very solid demographics. And, uh, I think timing wise it’s perfect timing. Yeah, it is. So I knew this would go by fast. I knew there was a lot of questions I wanted to ask, but the most important question I have to ask before you leave is what is your favorite salsa LA Fonda on Maine. Oh, so good. I haven’t been there in a while, but they do have good salsa. If you haven’t tried it, you have to it’s. Uh, it, it doesn’t overwhelm the taste with heat. It’s very, very good. Now for those that aren’t in San Antonio, we’ve got a lot of listeners all across Texas. 


([16:15]): When you come to San Antonio main street, it’s not what you would think. Like downtown main street, it’s off downtown kind of north. And, um, it’s a little gym and it’s a very, very quaint place with good food too. Not just the salsa, but food in General’s. Good. Totally a good call. Well, thank you Brian, for being here. I really appreciate it, it’s been joy for me. A pleasure and honor. So thank you. Thank you. I enjoyed building with you. Yeah. So, uh, thanks for listening to retire in Texas. Appreciate you guys listening. Remember if you need to talk with an advisor text Texas 2 7 4 8 6 8. That’s Texas to 7 48 68. And I wanna remind you guys to think long term, have a great day. 


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