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Episode 68: Spirit of America: From Apache Pilot in Command to Commander in Cheese: The Story of Andrew Arbogast

Episode 68: From Apache Pilot in Command to Commander in Cheese: The Story of Andrew Arbogast

Description

Andrew Arbogast, a combat veteran Apache pilot turned CEO of Arbo’s Cheese Dip, reflects on his entrepreneurial journey in this episode of Veteran Led. Listen in as Andrew openly shares the challenges he faces, such as the fear of failure and the pressure of being the sole employee of his company, and how he overcomes these obstacles by recognizing the importance of resilience, learning from failure, and surrounding himself with a supportive network. Andrew emphasizes the importance of seeking help and support from other veteran entrepreneurs and the value of feedback in this candid episode. ​

To learn more about Andrew and his business, visit www.arbosdip.com or check out his social:
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Arbo’s Cheese Dip LinkedIn

Andrew Arbogast Facebook

Arbo’s Cheese Dip Facebook

Arbo’s Cheese Dip Instagram

Arbo’s Cheese Dip X (Twitter)

Transcript

Andrew Arbogast: That fear of failure from events that occurred while on active duty, I eventually came to realize like, it’s okay to fail, but do not quit. Fast forward today we’re in five major retailers Walmart, Publix, Kroger, Harris Teeter, Schnucks, 22 states, thousands of stores. And it’s just me.

John Berry: Welcome to the veteran led podcast, where we talk with leaders who use their military experiences to develop great organizations and continue to serve their communities. Today’s guest is Combat Apache pilot, CEO of Arbo’s Cheese, the commander in cheese, Andrew Arbogast. Thanks so much for coming today on Veteran Led.

Andrew Arbogast: John, I remember you brought up the fact that you had a podcast and I’m like, I didn’t know attorneys had podcasts. So I’m so happy to be here, man. And this is awesome.

John Berry: And this is the guy that was ___ the MREs to get the jalapeno cheese spread. And then he comes back, and he says, I can make something great and sell it. So tell us the story.

Andrew Arbogast: Yeah, it probably did start somewhere with me ____ the MREs and getting the jalapeno cheese spread uh, back in the day. But you know, fast forward, I also did the same thing by stealing my dad’s recipe.

John Berry: The integrity of the military officer.

Andrew Arbogast: I know. This time I did ask for permission, though, and I was granted. So I learned my lesson, um, and did it the right way this time.

John Berry: So let me take you back to the beginning of your military career, because this is the genesis of it. So you are commissioned as a pilot. Everybody wants to go aviation, right? And so you were, I shouldn’t say everybody. A lot of people want to go aviation unless they want to go infantry. But you wanted to go aviation. You got that so you must have done pretty well in your in your accession and selection. So you get into aviation and then how many years were you in?

Andrew Arbogast: And I did ten years and, uh, I joined in 2007. That’s when I went active duty. I was ROTC, so that whole branch selection process was like right around the surge in Iraq. And you think that I did well in accession everything, I think they just needed bodies. So, uh, I requested it and I had this, this little fine print thing that said, we’ll guarantee your branch of choice if you add or commit to an additional three years of active duty. And I signed it, didn’t read it. And what I thought owing, I thought I owed 6 or 7 years. Uh, it ended up being ten years. And I found that out three years into my service, when I had just gotten engaged and broke the news to her in passing in the kitchen. Wasn’t cool.

John Berry: Yeah. That doesn’t that doesn’t go over well. So tell me, how many how many deployments?

Andrew Arbogast: Uh, I had two deployments, Iraq and Afghanistan.

John Berry: And you were a pilot in both.

Andrew Arbogast: Yep. Pilot in both. The first one in Iraq was, uh, me as a platoon leader. So, you know, fresh into that front seat as a co-pilot gunner, that’s the transition of becoming an Apache pilot. You know, we are a tandem seat, what we call nut to butt. Um, you’d appreciate that. You know, the, uh, the.

John Berry: I’d appreciate it because I’m infantry. Let’s not, you know.

Andrew Arbogast: Correct. Yes, yes, yes, for our non-military listeners. But, um, you start in the front seat as the co-pilot gunner, and people think like, man, that sounds like the job that you would have to advance to. That’s where they start you. It’s like get in the fight right away. You’re in the front seat. It’s a dual pilot helicopter, right? I’ve got controls in the front. However, the guy in the back seat, that’s the seasoned pilot usually, the pilot in command, and he’s telling me what to do, how to do it, when to do it. Stop pushing this, stop pressing that. Get off the controls. Give me the controls. A lot of, uh, micromanaging, micromanaging because I needed it, and a lot of new front seaters do. But we were in the sensors. We’re searching for targets, and, uh, once the mission’s over, then the guy in the back seat, he needs to take a piss, so he’ll give me the controls and let me fly back and land. But that that stage in Iraq, me as a platoon leader, learning to fly and really get the experience, it was actually very slow. It was, uh, right around what they called, uh, Operation New Dawn. I was there for Operation Iraqi Freedom for the first six months, and then the campaign name changed, and all of a sudden, we’re no longer in a combat theater, but nothing changed. It was just a slow deployment, which, you know, as a new guy, you like, you want action. And, um, and so after that, you know, I ended up doing the, the traditional career Captain’s Career Course, uh, or I was a Battalion S-4 for a bit, um, then Captain’s Career Course and then going from that experience to Fort Campbell, like, as soon as I got to Fort Campbell, took command 14 days later, left for six weeks for training, was gone for nine months, basically leading up to that deployment where I was gone another nine months. And that’s that was like, if I could combine ten years of experience into those 18 months, like that was it, you know.

John Berry: The culmination. And yeah, and there’s that time compression as you’ve learned as a CEO as well, where you get hot and heavy into the action, things start happening really quick, and the next thing you know, uh, the time is flown by and you’ve achieved your objective, but usually not in the way that you thought you would. So give us that, that parallel of having that compressed learning time.

Andrew Arbogast: Man, so I’ll relate it to Afghanistan and, um, me, how I’m wired is I am a naturally just a very anxious person and very stressed out person. Um, and I think that that comes from my mother, but either way, I was a basket case all the time because I felt so overwhelmed. As a commander, your primary duty is to take care of your soldiers, lead your soldiers, and obviously there’s the family component of all of that as well that ends up like taking up 90% of your time as a commander. And then the other 10%, hey, dude, you got to learn how to fly. Oh, you also have six months to become a pilot in command as a commander. Or if not, you can be relieved of command. Right? So I was under a lot of pressure right off the bat. Flying, It wasn’t the flying that was hard. It was the situational awareness, the task saturation, the management of the whole big picture and still flying the helicopter all at once. So it was a struggle for me. I failed my first two pilot in command checkrides and uh, eventually just we said, hey, wait till we get in theater, then you’ll retest for pilot command in Afghanistan. I’m like, oh, great. How is that going to be any easier? You know, that’s what I told myself.

Andrew Arbogast: But, um, I did it, you know, so we got to Afghanistan and as we’re doing this transition from what we, you know, the RIP, relief in place, with the other unit, um, I progress, become pilot in command, and things are starting to flow more naturally. Um, but there’s still that new feeling of being in combat and there actually being enemy combatants that are shooting us, or high risk missions that we were on constantly, which did not exist in Iraq. And now it’s like I’m in, I’m lead aircraft or I’m air mission commander, or all the decisions essentially flow back to me, and I’m responsible for any munitions that that leave that helicopter. Um, and so huge learning curve, huge learning curve. And, um, I don’t think I, you know, I compared myself to my peers, right? So I’m like, how come this guy is so good? How come it just comes so natural to him? I’m over here like trying to study, trying to do everything else, and I’m doing it all very poorly. And it was kind of like a woe is me type thing, and I just couldn’t get out of that funk. But, um, you know, speaking to, to one of the, the later discussions we’ll have about leadership, I do want to come back to that.

John Berry: But we’re going to take us to the cheese dip because, sure. You know, Andy, I think it was Andy Grove who said only the paranoid survive. And we want that in a commander. I don’t want an overconfident commander.

Andrew Arbogast: My biggest fear was failing, right. And what does that mean as a helicopter pilot? First person would think, well, crashing your helicopter. Mine was shooting the wrong person, shooting a friendly and being so nervous when it came down to where are our friendlies located related to the enemy? How close? Are they danger close? Are they, am I misidentifying my target? That was so much of my anxiety, and I don’t think I’m alone there. But there was a level of like, where does that confidence start to come in? And you and you feel better about using the technology in the helicopter to give you that confidence. And eventually I got there. Right. But it would take a huge failure in order for me to get there. Um, and with cheese dip, man, so I actually, John, am in the am the only employee and I my goal is to hire veterans. Um, I am supporting nonprofits left and right because I love doing that. And they’re all military related, um, Merging Vets & Players co-founded by Nate Boyer and Jay Glazer, and then Folds of Honor. It’s like, I, I love this stuff because it keeps me going and it also fulfills a part of service that I can no longer provide from being in the military. But it’s also filling a void of what I perceive as failure of certain times in the military where I didn’t do the right thing or inadvertently did the wrong thing. So when it comes to cheese dip, it’s just as chaotic.

Andrew Arbogast: I’m not saying bullets are flying, but dang, man, it feels like it, right? And what I don’t have is anyone to lead other than myself. Now, the leadership I rely or fall back on from the military has to transcend through my day to day correspondence or relationships with our customers and with my vendors and so on. And my thing is being transparent. And I think I’ve always tried to be transparent, probably to a fault, right? Where when times are tough in the military, you know, putting on that thick skin and, and, you know, holding your head up and making it appear as if you are not burdened by the weight of leadership and the decisions that have to be made. Um, even though inside you’re absolutely frightened, stressed, overwhelmed, and not sure how you’re going to get through the next day, week, nine months of deployment and with cheese dip, man, I feel the same way. Yes, on the outside, we started this in May. I say, I say we I’ve been trained to say royal we. Yeah, from the military. Right. It’s like you know, it’s, as a leader, as a commander, it was never I did this, it was we. And that’s what I really believe. Like my guys made me successful. Well and cheese dip, I’m like we, there are people that are helping me, but I’m the lone, lone guy on the island, and, um, I have gotten to the point of just relentless determination and breaking down barriers to the point of, hey, I started, came up with this idea in December of 2020, started an LLC, uh, December 31st, and then five months later, I’m selling my first tub of cheese dip in a grocery store, and I mean, this thing had like, ingredient declaration, nutrition facts, it had a UPC or barcodes, it had everything. It looked like it had just arrived to a big grocery store. It didn’t look like it was a farmer’s market, you know, family owned thing.

Andrew Arbogast:. I went all in, and I wanted people to take me seriously. And by having all of this prepared and ready, once I approached the first store, it blew up. It’s like sold out that weekend, ten more stores, fifteen more. I can’t make it anymore. I don’t have enough time because I’m working a full time corporate job. I have a family, two kids and my wife, and she’s pregnant. Oh, and we’re moving houses and, you know, so it’s like all this stuff in 2021 that was absolutely chaotic, but and it was scary. But that fear of failure from events that occurred while on active duty, I eventually became to realize like, it’s okay to fail, but do not quit because I quit at one point and it is not okay to quit. And this is not something that I was going to give up on, and I’m fighting to do this. And so from ten stores, fifteen stores, I found a manufacturer that could make it for me got into distribution, fast forward today we’re in five major retailers Walmart, Publix, Kroger, Harris Teeter, Schnucks, 22 states, thousands of stores, and it’s just me. And I don’t want it to be just me anymore. I’m ready to hire, man.

John Berry: Well, and you know. And you say, you know. Yeah. There’s still that fear of failure. And from my experience, having clients who come to us and say, help me. For us, it’s, uh, whether it’s a veteran who’s been denied their VA disability benefits and their family is suffering or they’re, you know, facing homelessness or it’s someone who’s been seriously injured, the insurance company won’t pay or someone’s been falsely accused of a crime, they say, you know, help me. And I feel that same obligation that we feel towards our soldiers. It’s like someone put their life in your hands because they believe that you, as the commander or you as the person in charge, is going to take care of them, that you’re going to fix it, and they’ve come to you. And I think it’s the greatest honor when someone puts their faith in you to lead them to a better future or a better result, uh, or just to give them hope. Right. It’s such an honor and such a burden. But even with, you know, we can go to something as simple as cheese. And it’s not that simple, but one man show and yet, there’s still the fear of failure. I mean, at the end of the day, you do this wrong, people get food poisoning and it’s probably over. You know, your reputation gets hammered, you’re nailed on social media, right? So there’s got to be the fear of that. And then there’s the fear of what if the ingredients isn’t right and you make 1000 tubs that you’re going to have to throw out because it’s just not to standard.

John Berry: And so there’s all these little things that you don’t get away from the fear of failure. And, you know, I embrace failure. I learn from failure. But you’re right. At times it can be crippling because you realize, like, there’s so much riding on this decision. And if I don’t make the right decision, it could all be over, and every day we have the chance to make a decision that will change our life for the better or make a decision that will change our life for the worse. And I appreciate your honesty on this topic, because I think a lot of us think we come out of the military, you know, especially after a deployment, Hey, I know adversity, I have overcome hardship, I can do hard things. And then you show up in business and it’s like, I want to quit every day.

John Berry: In fact, I quit yesterday for some reason. I just showed up at work today. But it’s one of those things where, you know, it just gets. I keep quitting every day, but I keep showing up at work the next day. Uh, it’s so tough when you want to do something amazing, something great and yet failure is always around the corner and you’re going to fail from time to time and you got to keep picking yourself up. But as you said, you don’t quit. So as you’ve dealt with your fear of failure, how did you continue to grow, though? I mean, you’ve blown this thing up and there’s got to just be every increment you grow, there’s more to lose, right? This isn’t just, you know, this isn’t just Andrew coming back and he started a company, and we got a few grocery stores. This is huge. And it’s just you. And now, hey, point the thumb, not the finger, because you got no one to point the finger at. So as you look to scale and take on new team members, how do you how do you work through that understanding that there is even more to fear at the next level?

Andrew Arbogast: Oh my gosh, there’s so much to unpack there, John. And I think, you know when I started this, I was very naive. Um, I knew that I hated my job in corporate. Four years of doing it after getting out of the military, it wasn’t for me. I love making an impact. And I’m not saying by, you know, these crazy decisions on the battlefield. I love sitting down with one person who came to me for help, even if it means setting aside all of the work that I have and focusing on them and seeing them grow. I’m the last person to ask for help, and I hate it because I feel like, man, maybe I’m, you know, an inconvenience to someone or I’m a burden to someone. And you and I both know in CEO Circle, like, that’s why we’re all we’re all there and I’m still, you know, at the point where I have to get outside of my comfort zone and ask somebody for help. But going back to me thinking, you know, feeling that feeling of invincibility and, and starting this, it was hard. But what I thought was hard at the beginning wasn’t hard. And what I think is hard right now won’t be hard a year from now. And the amount of times I sat in my bed, thoughts just filling my mind. And all of it was doubt, you know. None of it was positive thoughts.

Andrew Arbogast: And I’m an optimistic person, but there has been over a dozen times throughout this, you talk about quality? I had huge issues with quality. You talk about having a product that’s refrigerated and has a shelf life, and if grocery stores don’t sell it, by the time the shelf life it reaches its expiration, you pay for it. They don’t pay you for it. And those things only get bigger as you scale. I know it’s you know, I guess it’s part of scaling, you’re taking on more risk even though your revenue is increasing. But I’m entering into a, I entered into a world where I had zero experience, zero awareness, and I trust that my customers and my vendors have my best interests at heart. And maybe that’s my gullibility, right? I’m like, you know, wait a minute. What do you mean you’re not paying me $55,000? Uh, they’re like, well, yeah, we don’t pay you when you owe us money. What do I owe you money for? A short-dated product. Like we had to throw it away. Are you kidding me? That is devastating to my business.

Andrew Arbogast: That that could end me today. But I’m not going to freak and quit, man. Like I’m going to figure it out. Like you said, you love challenges and embracing these things, and I do too. But why? But why? You know, what did I do wrong? Why is this my fault? You know, and that sort of thing. And it’s trying to figure out, like, how to fall back on those bad times I had in the military, how I overcame them. This is a drop in the bucket. And I’m, you know, I’m an like I said, optimistic. Like, this will work out. I’m going to get that money back in some way. I’m not letting that go. But, you know, it goes from like, hey, one little store not, you know, being late on a payment. You thought that, you know, your world was crashing based on cash flow to multiplying that by tens of thousands, and then that weight is much heavier than the little one. So, um, I’m, I still don’t have all the answers, but what I have, what I have learned is, is leaning like the veteran entrepreneur for me is my savior. And I’ll give an example of CEO Circle last year. Um.

John Berry: Hey, I think let’s let the listeners know what is CEO Circle.

Andrew Arbogast: Good. Yeah. Good point. So CEO circle was created by Bunker Labs. Uh, Bunker Labs is a nonprofit that accelerates veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs that have a vision but don’t have the resources, the financial, um, net or the financial resources or networking or, you know, just circle of people that are there to support veterans, entrepreneurs and MilSpouses. Well, I grew through them through Veterans in Residence, which is their entry level, and then I reached a point in my business where I qualified to participate in CEO Circle, which is sponsored by JPMorgan. And this, this is like the Super Bowl for veteran entrepreneurs. I mean, we meet once a quarter either in New York, Chicago or Dallas, and for two days straight, we just sit there and pour everything out. We are vulnerable. We I mean, it easily blends into family and personal life because we treat our businesses as our kid. Right? And it’s like if you don’t want to pay me $55,000, that’s my money. Like it’s, yeah, it’s my business, but that’s my money. And so we, we get together and we talk about all these things and what our challenges are. And we all are from different industries, but at the, when rubber meets the road, it’s like we are all in this together. We have different challenges, but they’re all the same and it’s talking through them.

Andrew Arbogast: And how do you get to the next level or how do you solve this problem? Because you’re not thinking about things clearly. Your tunnel vision has basically eliminated your ability to adjust, pivot or, or there’s a connection that someone has that you need that you’re unaware of. And so I remember last year I had a big operational problem where I wasn’t managing margins, orders, um, manufacturing the whole gamut. I wasn’t doing any of it well because I was trying to do it all myself. And one of my, um, my small group members, Freddie Kim, basically, you know, shoved me against the wall and, and told me to get my get myself together and he took the onus and he brought, you know, everyone together and created this, this big, um, this meeting where basically I talked through all of my different challenges and operationals and everybody just poured into me. And then, like, I figured it out, you know, it, but someone had to force me into a corner to do this, and that was Freddie. And so it’s like, you know, I can’t thank Freddie enough for that. But that was just one part of CEO Circle. And now I’m at the point where it’s like, I want to do the same thing and give back, because everyone else helped me out so much.

John Berry: Yeah. And Freddie is the CEO of MilSpec Talent. I actually I’ve actually used him to hire a couple of veterans. Great guy. Former special forces officer West Pointer, and I’m glad he gave you that wall to wall counseling that sometimes we need. Because that’s true love, right? And we saw that in the military. If someone really cared about you, you really cared about your soldiers, you got to get tough with them, and you got to give them the feedback they need to hear. And one thing that took me till I was about 40 years old to really accept, and it probably hurt me as a military officer, was that feedback is a gift. Like if someone is giving you feedback, honest feedback, trying to help you, it’s a gift. And what I really love about the veteran community you get outside of the veteran community; people see you as a competitor, they don’t really want you to succeed. In the veteran community, we all want our brothers and sisters to succeed. And this is, you know, apparent at CEO Circle. And in New York, that’s where I got to try the spicy cheese dip. And, you know, for me, like I said, I’m almost 50, so I got to be careful about what I eat. So if I’m going to go gluttonous man, I’m going hard, and it better be good.

You delivered. I didn’t see that in Dallas so I’m kind of wondering what happened, but. But I didn’t know if you brought it. Or maybe I missed the I missed the opportunity, but, uh, one thing you brought up, you were lazy. You didn’t bring the cheese dip all the way down to Texas with you from. Anyway, one thing that you know really stood out that I thought about what you said was, you know, those problems that are huge problems today are not problems tomorrow. And I can tell you that for me, in hiring individuals to solve those problems, it’s made my life easier. So a $10,000 mistake would keep me up at night for a week, you know? Now I make $100,000 mistakes and hopefully soon I’ll be making million dollar mistakes. And then the things that really bother me that I can’t solve, I just hire people smarter than me to solve. So I still have things, as you move up, at least I found, it doesn’t get easier. It gets harder, but it’s more rewarding. You know, the challenges are bigger, but so are the rewards. And so it’s one of those things where you’re never going to escape it. You’re always going to feel the anxiety, always going to feel the fear. The problems just keep getting bigger, but you become more resilient.

It’s almost like PT where you know, you got the guys that can’t run two miles, right? And then by the end of basic training, they can run the two miles. And then if they go to a unit that where the commander is doing their job, they’re going to get even better, right? And now they can run five miles, they can run ten miles. It’s no problem because now a two mile run is a joke to them. Right? But they’re still pushing themselves. And I think that that’s where we get is that we still have to continue to push ourselves. And it never, ever gets easier. And the reality is a Freddie Kim throwing you against the wall about one thing will be maybe somebody else hopefully slamming you against the wall about something else down the road, and that will be a good thing, because when you get smacked in the face by someone who cares, I’d rather get punched in the face by them than get punched in the face by the market.

Andrew Arbogast: Oh my gosh. And you know, it’s funny, fast forward a year. I saw Freddie last, uh, two weeks ago, and, uh, he punched me in the arm easily seven times. He doesn’t know his own strength. Um, but this time it was about hiring and the fact that I’m still in this circle of insanity doing the same thing, expecting a different outcome. And, uh, because of him, man, I’ve got, like, three virtual assistants that I’m currently interviewing, but it’s because he was brutally honest. And, um, even though that’s what he does is recruiting for businesses, you know, looking at that, that veteran pool. Freddie could just as easily have said, hey, I’ve got someone in mind, you know, the salary person. He’s like, no, go to this. This is what you need right now. And so I that’s just I know we’re you know, Freddie’s getting a lot of love today, but that’s just one person out of 50 that have helped me psychologically, just from a friend level and being there when I need someone to, to talk to. Um, and that so that’s, that’s where I am right now is. Yes. I just brought on Walmart, and they have been absolutely incredible to work with. I won their Open Call this past October. And, um, when they say they invest in American based and American owned companies, like through this program I went through, they were rolling out the red carpet. They are allowing me to do things outside of what I guess brands would normally do when it comes to promoting. And, you know, basically I’m promoting a lot for them. Um, but they’ve done so much for me and, uh, are my most our most recent event that we did was, uh, as a title sponsor of a wrestling match in Indianapolis. And the reason we did that is because Florida is like the wrestling capital.

John Berry: Like real wrestling or like WWE?

Andrew Arbogast: WWE, that’s real. That’s real wrestling. John. Come on.

John Berry: Okay.

Andrew Arbogast: And so, uh, Walmart basically put us in almost every store in Florida, and I’m like, okay, wrestling big, Florida, Arbo’s in Walmart, Florida. This is our customer. And we went up to Indianapolis and we sponsored this pro wrestling event where the entire ring was like branded Arbo’s. The turn belt buckles were Arbo’s and then the championship belt, it was called the Big Cheese Championship. They had this like 30 wrestler Rumble Royale. Um, and we got to award them with an Arbo’s cheese dip belt. And it was the most fun thing. But the whole time we were like holding up Walmart signs like, Go to Walmart, you know, get Arbo’s cheese dip, talking about it throughout the event and those sorts of things. And so, um, man, honestly, I know it started with cheese dip, but if I could just do pro wrestling, I think I would be, uh, pretty content.

John Berry: All right, well, let’s talk a little bit about what I like to go to see After Action, Review; the leadership lessons you learned in the military that have helped you become successful, that you either experienced or were something that you did well. And then the three improves of the After Action Review, poor leadership or things that you’ve learned from.

Andrew Arbogast: Man. All right. So this is the biggest one that comes to mind. And it’s one that I’ve talked about um, a few times, but there’s always more that comes out of it depending on how I’m, I’m talking about it and what I’m looking at. And this part, looking at it from a failure point of view. Right. So, um, this is one of mine. And, and I mentioned, you know, the, the rapid learning curve and in Afghanistan it was a different type of fight, the terrain totally different, and we’re fighting an enemy that is not willing to show their face very often. And, um, and we had a scenario where, I want to shorten this just in the interest of time, but essentially it was a green on blue attack. Um, it was a night mission where there were supposed to be two Chinooks full of special ops youth in adjacent to the Tangi Valley, where that occurred a few years prior. And, um, we were doing, and they were doing a capture of a high, uh, high value target. So during like, the cherry ice call, uh, we were the first ones on station and basically what we perceive to be enemy, and we destroy this outpost. You know, 20 plus dudes, um, were Afghan soldiers. They were doing in a shift change, not wearing uniform. There was a heavy machine gun mounted, you know. Right. You know, looking right at the LZ, aimed right at the LZ. And it was just a perfect storm.

Andrew Arbogast: So I was, you know, being the commander and everything on that flight, and we were cleared through every channel; Afghan army, CJSOTF-A, RTOC. Basically everyone was like, that is enemy, engage, engage. And then, um, as the sun starts to rise, you know, the, uh, the medevac birds are going to pick up parts and pieces of the, um, collateral damage that I’d just done. So I went from like, man, this was the best engagement ever to, my command losing faith in me, right? Even though after the investigation I was not at fault, I was. I’m responsible. Right? Um, they pick apart your video and they’re like, no. Didn’t you see the body armor right there or didn’t you? You know, there was, uh, Kevlar there or whatever, but like, no, you don’t see that. You don’t see that stuff in the middle of a fight sometimes. So, um, after all of that, I was three months into rotation or in three months in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, I had six months left and I was like, how am I going to survive? My command probably hates me, not probably, you know, you feel it. You’re like, uh, they don’t trust me. And, um, I have to walk a very fine line. And, you know, some of my pilots were displaced to other, um, other sister companies. Just, you know, they’re looking at it from a whole culture in our company or whatever. But.

So I quit, right? I mentally gave up. I had six more months. I was just and I, I pretty much showed it too. I tried to, I tried to resign my command and I was and I was told like, um, yeah, we would, but there’s no one else here in country to replace you, so I was like, well, damn that that’s a blow. Um, and so I do remember, though, and this is the one part that I feel like saved me is my commander from being a platoon leader back at Fort Riley was the best leader I’ve ever had. And this guy taught me everything about 360 degree leadership. You know, it’s not about just what your superiors think of you. It’s about what your peers and your subordinates think of you. How you lead through that whole 360 degree azimuth. And then it’s not about you. It’s about the mission. It’s about the soldiers, it’s about the families. And so putting everyone else first before yourself. So many other things that he taught me. But anyway, I get a I get a call from him about a month after this occurred, and he was actually a brigade commander, task force commander, brigade commander in country and he had seen the video because it was used as like, hey, look, look at what appears to be a perfect enemy scenario, but actually wasn’t. So it was used as an example. But he called me and, um, he was very blunt, and he said, I saw the video and I’m sorry that that this happened. Um, but if you let this define you and your military career, I won’t allow it.

You know, in some words he just says, do not allow this to define you and who you are and your career. Like you, you did the best that you could, given the situation. And you cannot have any regrets because that’s what happened. So, um, you know that that helped. But it still was there internally for a very long time, and it still is today. You know, fear of failure. Right? So it’s like it’s part of who I am, and I have to overcome it in several different ways. But, um, so that, you know, it’s like, hey, I made a mistake. And I noticed that there was some opportunity for leadership that could have come in and, you know, maybe helped me out a little bit through going through all this. But he just came in and his words were, were what I needed to hear at that time. Now, if I were to, you know, look at it from a, um, an Arbo’s cheese dip point of view, there’s more failures than I can count, right? And, and one of my, I think one of my biggest ones that that still I have to fight with is like just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. And that takes a that has a lot of different, different meanings behind it. But, you know, I’m at the point where, like, I can manufacture enough product to put it in every store in the US and my mentality, because I’ve been doing this for two and a half years and it’s been successful, is go out and get as much business as you possibly can, as fast as you can, and don’t stop until you get it. Until you get that yes. Until you reach that shelf.

Andrew Arbogast: But in this industry, in the retail industry and in distribution, manufacturing, it is brutal. And if you don’t have the financial, the cash flow to support bringing on a new store, you probably need to reconsider how many stores you want to bring on at once, because it all comes with the cost. And what I mean by a cost is slotting fees, low volume, you’re shipping 1 pallet versus 26 in a truck that costs $3,200, regardless if it’s one pallet or 26. And just because you can spread a thousand miles, doesn’t mean that it’s going to sell once it hits the shelf. And that’s the hardest pill to swallow is the local, the grassroots success that we had here in the Mid-South, I thought that would translate no matter where we went. And, you know, I learned recently that, um, one of our retailers decided to discontinue us, and it was due to low volume. And I’m working through it right now. Um, we think that maybe it’s because it was the price point or it’s not in the right section of the store, but these blows come hard, they come fast, they’re unexpected sometimes, and they are a little unfair in a sense that, hey, maybe you, uh, you didn’t give me a long enough, you know, you didn’t give me a good shot.

Andrew Arbogast: You didn’t give me enough time to prove that this can be successful, but this is this is what I signed up for, and I have to deal with it, and I have to pivot. And so I think like the not I don’t want to say failure, but the failing that I’ve been through is, is just trying to grow as quickly as I can, as fast as I can, so that I could sell this and go do something else. And do you realize like mentally when you mentally come to terms that like, hey, that’s not how this is working, right? I’m not going to say it’s not how it works, but generally speaking, that’s not how it works. And when you have to reset and go back and like, oh man, I just, you know, may have just lost 300 stores, how am I going to how am I going to recover those? Or where am I going to shift based on, um, uh, knowledge or Intel that I have in just a short period of time because it’s like it’s that’s, you know, bringing on four retailers in a six month period. That was my problem, you know, trying to do everything perfectly with four businesses that I barely have enough time to do with one retailer. So, um, I hope that kind of gives you some sense of where my head is and what I go through on a regular basis.

John Berry: Embrace the suck, right? I mean, this is this is it. This is the life. And you chose it and you’re in and you know, but there are some positive things about this. I mean, if you look at the amount, the trajectory of your growth and what you’ve done. I mean, with one man. I mean, this is this is this is amazing. I mean, it’s a, it’s a success story, I think, for all veterans to take a look at to say, you know, yeah, I some people say, hey, I want a big team. Other people say, you know, I just want to have a successful mission. And I know you’re getting ready to bring on more, more people, but you’re in thousands of stores right now and you’ve built the capacity to go into thousands more. And so you you’re on this journey, you’ve, we have done it. You and your experience. But as I look at this and, you know, as a veteran, I think this is a humble American hero selling cheese spread and or cheese dip. And I don’t even know where like the cheese dip that I’m buying before I met Andrew Arbogast was that terrorist cheese dip? Communist cheese dip? I don’t know, but I know it wasn’t your brand.

John Berry: And the brand is important, right? It’s what you stand for. I know that this means it’s going to be quality, because you are so scared about not doing the right thing that you’re always going to do the right thing, at least to the best of your ability. And so there’s something deeply profound about the message that you’re sending to veterans. Look, if you want to get started, you don’t need a team. I love having a team. That’s why I’m in business. But you’re doing this without a team, and, well, you’ll have one, but it shows the level of resilience, I think, and the level of commitment that we have in the military. And this is why veterans are so good at business, because we’ve already failed before, long before we came to business. Let me count the failures. So failing in business is nothing new to us. The difference is we don’t quit. And I greatly respect your dedication to your craft. Now, give me that one example of horrible leadership that you experienced, either in the military or from a supplier. No names. But the bad example that we all need to stay away from, we need to learn from.

Andrew Arbogast: I’ll give you a, um. I’ll give. There’s like three I’m thinking of, but, um, I’m gonna. And the three of them all had different financial impacts. They were all, you know, it’s all money I lost. Right? And, um. The one where I lost the least amount of money is the one I am the most sour about. So I get this, I get my first like chain grocery store and uh, meaning they want the product, they tried it and they, they, they basically said, hey, how can you get it to us? And um, I’m like, well, um, you’re a few states away, I could ship direct. They’re like, no, we don’t have a warehouse. You got to use a distributor. And so they gave me a distributor and I looked at this one, I was familiar with it. I’d seen it, you know, I’d seen the trucks before. And in the retail, you know, it may. It’s probably not common to the consumers, but in the retail food grocery industry, they’re, you know, a primary or alternate distributor for major grocery stores. And so I go through the process and, you know, they are so kind. They are great.

They have just basically shown me that, hey, not only are they going to, uh, manage my supply chain and, um, and support the sales to this grocer that we got into, they’re going to grow my product because they have sales reps and other, um, uh, for, for all major retailers, and they can pitch your product and all these, you know, basically sell you the world. And I’m like, great. I get to say I’m in this distributor. All these retailers are just going to come knocking on my door. Well, going through the process and you have to you know, as an attorney, I know you’re going to be really upset with me. But I get the contract right. I read through it, I sign it because I just received an opportunity bigger than I had ever received since starting this business, and I am not going to put it in jeopardy by arguing or redlining certain terms that I don’t think I can accommodate, whether it be payment terms or anything, deductions, those sorts of things. So I sign it and I’m like, they’re going to do right. They’re going to they’re going to be ethical when it comes to doing business with me. And um, so we get started. Right. And so, um, uh, one thing they did pitch me on was like, hey, use our freight program so you don’t have to manage freight.

Andrew Arbogast: I’m like, well, how does that work? Like, well, we will send a truck to come pick up your product versus you spending money on sending a truck direct to us. And I’m like, man, actually, that makes sense because I’m not sending full truckloads. You’re doing LTL whatever. And they, you know, quoted me like $0.50 a pound, which was, you know, pretty standard, um, for refrigerated product. Well, um, three months into this, I start to realize that, you know, not only am I not getting paid on time, but I’m not getting paid in full. And I mean, short paid $14,000 on like a $20,000 PO, right? So it’s like you paid me six, there’s an error here somewhere. What did is there another check coming or what? They’re like, no, these are deductions. And there’s three pages of alphanumerically coded deductions; one’s $27, one’s $6.50 one’s $3.50, two $3.50, one is another $700. And none of this actually translates to anything in English. And you can’t, and so they’re like, oh, you got to go to the portal and, you know, search up each of the deductions and figure out what it is. And so I go in there and it’s like you’re looking at all of it. You’re like, okay, slotting fee. Great. Um, but then I start to notice like late delivery fee of $350 several times.

Andrew Arbogast: And I’m like, how can you bill me for a late delivery when you are the one that’s scheduled to pick up and managed all of it? Right? So it’s these blatant, what I call unethical deductions because they’re not looking at it. They’re just holding your pay hostage, and you have to go in and dispute them to get your you have to fight to get your money back. You have to spend a lot of time, and they make a lot of money on this because they assume or expect, and they know that I don’t have time to do this, or smaller suppliers don’t have to do it. And so it’s like, hey, we’re just not going to pay you. You can try to fight for it. It may take several months. Well, the worst one was when I was getting billed for $4. Uh, okay. I noticed that I received a freight bill from them for like $1,800. Well, my purchase order was $1,200, and I was like, hey, what? What’s going on? Uh, this doesn’t translate to $0.50 a pound. This is $4 a pound for freight. Like, I need to see some documentation. I need to see the invoice from the freight carrier or whatever, and they refuse to give it to me. And so I, I went to the top.

Andrew Arbogast: I was like, I was like, this is a partnership, I want transparency, I want to understand if I’m being billed $4 a pound, why? I want to see the invoice. Well, I keep getting passed around and eventually they just refund me all. And this happened 3 or 4 times. It wasn’t one time. It was like $8,000 in ridiculous freight costs, and eventually they just stop responding and they just refunded me all that money for free. And it did not sit well. I got my money back. I got all of the all of the freight money back. But you just basically showed revealed who you are that you were taking advantage of, of small businesses that are trying to just meet ends. Take care, we’re trying to take care of the customer. Right? We get it to the retailer. We don’t want the price tag to be $12.99. How am I supposed to keep a $5.99 retail when you’re billing me thousands of dollars for, uh, inadequate, you know, unrealistic costs? I know, and so I went to the top, I went to the CEO, blew him up on, uh, LinkedIn, and of course, they were like, oh, we’re you know, this is the first time we’ve ever heard anything like this. And I just, I was like, I know we need to have a call. I want you to see what’s going on and tell me what you’re going to do to make this right.

Andrew Arbogast: And from the top down, you know. Yeah. They have they had a little call with me and they’re like, well, we understand your concern. We’ll look into each of the individual deductions that you had and, and address those. But we want to make sure that, you know, we can continue to support your business. And they never did any of it. Right. And so what happened is me, a hundred other suppliers got on LinkedIn and just started blasting them. At this point, we’re like, we don’t care. And, um, and it was when I say like, you know, looking at it from a leadership failure, I can’t ever imagine running a company where I would stand by this and allow this to occur. And it may happen, but what do you do about it? And they’re okay with it. And that’s and they don’t care that, you know, what I’m bringing to their attention is factual and very unprofessional and unethical. Uh, they don’t care. And so that’s my thing is like, man, as growing a business like you have, we have to do the right thing.

John Berry: I’ll admit, I’m a lawyer and there are some things that I want to be true so bad and I want to move so quickly, I’ve made the same mistake where I’ve signed contracts and then my and like, I have a general counsel, I have a lawyer on staff that’s a sole job is to make sure that we don’t, you know, make those types of mistakes. But it’s like, oh, it’s gonna it’s gonna take two weeks to get this reviewed. It’s gonna get red lined. We’re going to be trading paper for another week. I don’t have time. Like we got to make this happen. And I’ve always been bitten by that, so important lesson there. Read your contracts.

John Berry: And it seems like the bigger the organization, uh, the more you have to be careful. And I’ve, I’ve been through contracts with some startups too, that their lawyers were just not competent or very competent because the terms were outrageous and we redlined everything, rewrote it, and it was kind of funny, I worked with one company and then after we redlined their entire contract and rewrote it, basically we did all the work. One of my friends did business with him, and, uh, I saw the contract. It was the contract that we had used. So we had actually done something good. We had educated this small business on how to write a good contract that is mutually beneficial and not so, I would say predatory in nature, where it’s trying to take advantage of, of the companies. But, uh, all right, all great examples. Andrew, thank you so much for your time today. Uh, where can people find you and how do they get the cheese dip? And can I just order it refrigerated and have it come to me in Nebraska since you guys aren’t here yet? Or how does that work?

Andrew Arbogast: Absolutely. Um, so we our website is arbosdip.com a r b as in boy o s dip dot com and, uh, we do ship cold packed and, uh, but if you go to our website and search the store locator, put in your zip code or address, you’ll find which stores are closest to you. But we’re in major retailers like Walmart, Publix, Kroger, Harris Teeter and Schnucks and, uh, few other independents. But, um, we’re trying to make it into every, every state but strategically. And, uh, once I get some help, we’ll work on that.

John Berry: Great. And thank you so much for your vulnerability today. There are a lot of great takeaways for our veterans and non-veterans getting into business. There’s a lot of caveat emptor. Buyer beware. You got to know what to look for. But when you start off in business you don’t know what you don’t know. Your double dangerous and you learn along the way. And sometimes those lessons are expensive, and sometimes the best lessons are the cheap lessons we can get from each other like listening to this podcast and listening to what Andrew has to say, and learning from your experience so that we don’t make the same mistakes, especially with the contracts that we sign. So thank you so much today and thank you for what you continue to do for our veteran community.

Andrew Arbogast: No, John, I appreciate the opportunity to share my story and give some, uh, valuable lessons learned out there for anyone who’s thinking about doing this, don’t be scared.

John Berry: Thank you for joining us today on Veteran Led, where we pursue our mission of promoting veteran leadership in business, strengthening the veteran community, and getting veterans all of the benefits that they earned. If you know a leader who should be on the Veteran Led podcast, report to our online community by searching @veteranled on your favorite social channels and posting in the comments, we want to hear how your military challenges prepared you to lead your industry or community, and we will let the world know. And of course, hit subscribe and join me next time on Veteran Led.

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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