Mentors’ Monday: Chris Lutz
Today’s Mentors’ Monday features Chris Lutz! Besides being the owner of Athens Roofing, Chris owns a farm as well as his own e-commerce business. Read on to learn more!
RC: What field do you work in?
CL: My main job is owning Athens Roofing. I just celebrated my tenth anniversary running that business. I also own an organic farm called Roots Farm outside of town where I live with my wife and our baby. Our farm sells fruits and vegetables year-round. My more technologically related business is called Roofing Intelligence. It is an ecommerce business where I sell how-to videos on installing metal roofing. That business led me to Four Athens.
RC: What do you enjoy most about your field?
CL: Through owning Athens Roofing, I have embraced being an entrepreneur. My degree is in philosophy so I don’t have a background in business. It wasn’t my goal to be an entrepreneur necessarily, but I decided to make the most of the opportunities set before me. The farming is my passion which in part encouraged me to buy Athens Roofing. I had always wanted to buy a farm, and I knew I needed a job to make money for that to happen. Reaching out and meeting people, like what Four Athens encourages me to do, has been integral to my success. There were a lot of things I knew how to do for my business, but for many things it was beneficial to have a network of people to help me succeed.
RC: What is the most valuable lesson you have learned from your experience?
CL: There is this stereotype of a hard-edged, deal-making business person who is often unethical, and I don’t think that is true at all. I think my success has come by doing right by people, doing the best job I can, and being honest. Putting customers’ interests before mine may sometimes mean less money, but in the end, especially in a small town like Athens, it helps the business.
RC: How do you think starting founders could benefit from your experience?
CL: People who are involved with Four Athens have a big step forward in terms of being able to tap into the expertise of other people. My business, Athens Roofing, is very small so I have had to a hire someone from out-of-state to help me with my marketing. There are a lot of little relationships that I have developed that have worked out well.
RC: What is the first piece of advice you would give someone founding their own company?
CL: I bought my farm in 2005. I was there, I had the vision, I knew what needed to be done, but I waited two years before we started the business side of the farm. I took a more calculated approach instead of just jumping into it. Basically our goal was to determine how little money was needed to make it through our first year. We wanted to do the best we could do for our first customers. After the first year, we grew. It is important for people starting businesses to start small, do well, and grow from there. Most entrepreneurs are confident in their idea, but a lot of the time you need a maturity to recognize that it might not be successful at first.
RC: Have you mentored people in the FourAthens space?
CL: I was involved with a couple companies through the Mentors Gauntlet and enjoyed meeting the wide range of expertise there.
RC: What interested you in becoming a mentor?
CL: I think the mission of Four Athens is incredible. I have lived in Athens for a long time, and I want to see it flourish and succeed. My life has been transformed by my successes in business, and I think I’ve learned a few things that I would like to share.
RC: What is the most important part of a mentor’s role?
CL: Being honest with people. A lot of entrepreneurs can tend to have tunnel vision and need advice at times. Through my different businesses, I have worked with a wide range of people. Working with roofers who were illiterate as well as customers from all walks of life, I’ve had to learn what motivates different people. Some people need encouragement while others, like me, often don’t.
RC: What makes for a good mentee?
CL: If you are reaching out for help, you have to be willing to take advice and make changes. Changes are easy to envision but hard implementing especially for businesses that are up and running. I’ve realized you have to have confidence in possible changes in order to invest in them because they are what will help you improve.