Entrepreneurship After the Golden Handcuffs with Christian Espinosa
Christian Espinosa, Author, Speaker, and CEO, comes down to the Ranch to talk about the journey of starting, growing, selling, and moving on from the business he created, Alpine Security. From correcting the problems with his high IQ staff to unshackling himself from the golden handcuffs of a business sale, Christian breaks down the specific conflicts he faced on his entrepreneurial journey— and reveals how these experiences have inspired two books about cybersecurity, business ownership, and life itself.
[00:00] Finding business coherency in the one-page strategic plan
[08:39] Selling Alpine security & transitioning from leader to participant
[13:46] Escaping the golden handcuffs & embarking on a new career journey
[17:35] Outlining seven steps to emotional intelligence in cyber with his first book
[20:34] Embarking on appreciation of life’s little moments with book number two
Thank you to our sponsor Axonius for bringing this episode to life!
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What were the challenges in growing the business you started, and how did you overcome those?
Christian’s inspiration for Alpine Security, his first business, was actually the stress of a conflicted relationship with a CEO he worked with. Feeling misaligned with the company he worked for, Christian left and began his journey towards entrepreneurship, thinking that his work ethic and willingness to do it all would lead to his success. Instead, refusing to delegate and lack of focus on leadership created conflicts between himself and his employees.
“I had to get over myself. Initially, I thought I’d do everything. I thought I could brute force this and make this work. I just tried to do it all myself. If my staff was having problems with something, I would jump in and help, but there's only so many hours in the day.”
Was your intention to sell your business from the beginning? What was the process of selling like?
Although he advises every entrepreneur to have an exit strategy, Christian admits he didn’t initially create one with Alpine Security. After agreeing to a deal with Cerberus, Christian learned the hard way that the process of a business sale can be like a pair of golden handcuffs. Struggling with a lack of control and feeling constantly under scrutiny, Alpine Security eventually lost its founder as Christian embarked on a new journey in his career.
“In my company, I was in charge of the culture, the core values, the emotional intelligence, the touchpoints, the clients, all of that. Now that I was part of the larger organization, I wasn't in charge of that. I had to approach things differently.”
Can you tell us about your first book and the seven-step process it outlines in cybersecurity?
Major struggles during Alpine Security’s founding were due to a lack of emotional intelligence and people skills amongst staff, in Christian’s opinion. These conflicts inspired the 7 steps of emotional intelligence for cybersecurity practitioners that Christian outlines in his first book, The Smartest Person in the Room. These steps include: awareness, mindset, acknowledgement, communication, mono-tasking, empathy, and Kaizen (continuous improvement).
“My first book is really about all the challenges I had in the company I started. 99% of the challenges I had were because of my staff, who were super bright, super high IQ penetration testers that didn't have emotional intelligence or people skills.”
What are you going to do with your new book? Is that also cybersecurity related?
In contrast to his first book, which focused solely on cybersecurity professionals and the struggles they face with people skills in the workplace, Christian’s second book dives deeper into mindset. Focusing more on the value of life and the ideas around mono-tasking, Christian inspires his readers to care more about the micro moments. This second book is all about slowing down, seeing what’s happening around you, and seriously absorbing the information we take in every day— from the big moments to the little moments and everything in between.
“I think a lot of us go through this zombie state in life, going from one thing to the next thing, and we're distracted with our phones and everything else. We're missing a lot of things that are right in front of us.”