We had the good fortune of connecting with Chris Murray and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chris, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I love this question because to answer it well you have to get extremely nuanced. I believe there are different types of risk and that we all have different tolerances to risk. I believe there is a big difference between perceived risk and actual risk.
To me perceived risk is something that may be scary to you but even if what you are trying to avoid ends up happening, the actual fallout is minimal at most e.g., needing to pull a small amount of money from already abundant savings if an investment doesn’t produce returns.
I see actual risk as things that truly could negatively impact your life in a significant way e.g., investing money into a business idea that if you do not get immediate returns could keep you from buying groceries or paying your rent. It could also be in sports, trying to do something that could lead to personal injury.
I feel most things in practice are some balance between both and it is something I had to spend a lot of time working to mitigate actual risks. Starting a business with no business experience and virtually no money (I had around $1,000 to my name when starting) is a big risk and multiple business people I respect told me it would not work. I knew starting a business and trying to make it work was a big risk, but to me, the bigger risk was never having control of my own situation. After all, most of us become entrepreneurs because we want to do things our way and control our own futures. Inherently that is taking on a lot of risk. If it goes great we look like heros but if it fails, that’s on us too.
Starting with very little money meant I needed to find a lot of ways to mitigate risk in case my ideas did not play out like I hoped. First, I got a part time job that subsidized my income as I tried to grow my business to the point it could sustain itself. Second, I had to get creative in how I spent what little money we had as nearly everything in the early days had to prove an almost immediate return. Even a $50 investment that did not provide an immediate return meant that we might be short on paying our rent or buying groceries.
I would help other shops with specialty work that they couldn’t do in exchange for borrowing tools or getting parts at wholesale before distributors would open an account for my shop since we did not have a physical location at the time and we only did mobile service out of the back of our family car to keep costs down.
Chasing short term gains is rarely a smart business move but given our situation, taking that risk was the only real way I could think of to move forward. I just did my best to offset that risk by having a backup income source while I figured out what I was doing. I think starting from that perspective in the long run will be a positive for how we run our businesses as we continue to grow. It has given a true appreciation of any success we may have, it has made us hyper aware of how we invest our profits and it has helped develop a lot of tenacity that helps us power through truly difficult situations.
This is why I like thinking about risk. Everyone has a different tolerance for it. Everyone has different things that scare them. To some the biggest risk is being viewed as a “failure” rather than being concerned about financial loss while others are afraid that their risk taking means not buying groceries that week. To others the biggest risk is the fear of not trying, not reaching your potential and being stuck letting others control your future. To me personally, that fear of not having control of my own future and leaving my success up to others is probably the biggest fear of all.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Our business is always evolving, at its core we are a service focused bicycle shop that specializes in building custom wheels.
We started out by building custom wheels from home and doing mobile repair until we grew enough to be able to afford moving into a retail space. We have since grown quite a bit, recently moving into a building with SRM Power Meters after outgrowing our previous retail space. We still offer mobile service, but branded under Bike COS Mobile. We also have started developing our own specialty tools for bike repair and most recently, created a complimenting business, EWC.Media live streaming events. The streaming business was developed after seeing the powerful and positive effects social media content has provided our bike shop.
Growing to where we are has not been easy and likely would not have happened without the support from everyone in my shoutout. The biggest catalyst for growth in business is most likely my relationship with Andy Sparks. Not only is he a great mentor, he is the kind of person that just being around them makes you want to do better even if things are already going well. Not only have I learned a lot by working with him but he took a big risk initially by offering to share retail space with me without really knowing me that well at the time. I moved my bike tools into a space he was renting to run his own business, Performance United. This was a great partnership that complimented each other well. His business is coaching the best cyclists in the world, prior to COVID, he would regularly have athletes in from all over the world to train with him. I would help his athletes to keep their bikes running smoothly and provide him some content for social media while we helped each other keep operating costs down by “splitting” rent. I use quotes as he absolutely paid far more than his fair share while I worked to grow my business to be able to afford a more even split. He truly lives up to the hashtag he loves to use #empowertheunderdog
I believe what sets us apart, and why we work really well with Andy is we both believe in genuinely trying to be the best at anything we do. Prioritizing quality over quantity is not always the easiest business model but it is the only way either one of us would have it. Being able to surround ourselves with like minded people has really helped make that easier for us. We are fortunate that our friends and employees all go out of their way to try and do truly great work and that has made all the difference.
In regards to overcoming difficulties, I feel perspective and adaptability is everything here. When things get really hard it helps to take a step back and realize that I am super fortunate to own a business I love and be surrounded by people who inspire me every single day. Not many people have that luxury so even if I am extremely stressed or struggling, I am grateful to be in the position I am.
Reid Hoffman once said, “starting a company is like jumping off a cliff and assembling a plane on the way down”. Starting a business is terrifying and filled with uncertainty. Most likely your plans will have to make a drastic shift somewhere during the process of building it. Learning to be OK with that, make those shifts as needed and keep focused on the bigger picture will do you a lot of good as you try to build a business. It’s important to remember that when things are too rigid, they often become brittle and break.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
When I first moved to Colorado, my wife took me to Garden of the Gods and up Pikes Peak as she had lived here prior. They may be touristy but they are still amazing sites and everyone I have taken there always leaves excited.
For food, Kings Chef, Bento Heaven, Wild Ginger, Felipe’s 109 and Yolis Taco Truck are some of my favorites.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
So many deserve a shout out! I could not do what I do without my wife, Jessica for inspiring, supporting and giving new ideas while also keeping things together when I get distracted by a new idea. My family for always encouraging me to try new ideas. Andy Sparks, Geoff Fryer, Robert Mayfield for always being there to act as mentors, combining resources and skills to help us all grow and for encouraging me to always try to improve my standards for how I do everything. Kevin and Nate for keeping things held down at the shop and doing great work to take care of our customers while I am trying out new ideas. SRM Power Meters for welcoming us into your building. Huge thank you to all of our customers who show us support as we continue to grow. I truly appreciate you using our shop over the much larger shops in the area. Your support does not go unnoticed! We truly have the best customers.
Website: elevationwheelcompany.com | ewc.media
Other: TikTok @elevationwheelcompany
Bio picture by Casey Gibson: cbgphoto.com