How to Problem Solve Your Business Challenges with R.T. Custer

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How many people do you know who had an excellent idea for a business, started to get it off the ground, and folded at the first challenge they experienced?

It happens all the time, and that’s why entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s going to come with challenges, and you’re going to have moments that seem overwhelming. But you can use those difficult moments as times to get creative and grow exponentially! Don’t give up on your journey! 

At Carter & Custer, we want to help you unlock your potential and build a brand that makes an impact. We firmly believe that one of the best ways to grow is by learning from other people’s experiences. Hearing someone else’s story allows you to empathize with their experience and learn new ways to solve problems.

Recently, our co-founder and CRO, R.T. Custer, made a guest appearance on The Chris Harder Show, a podcast led by 7-fig entrepreneur and mentor Chris Harder. While on the show, he shared the obstacles he’s faced developing his brands — spoiler alert: one hurdle just happened to be a lawsuit from a $10 billion watch manufacturer — and how he overcame those obstacles to reach a place of influence.

Before we dive into the story of his company Vortic Watch Company, let’s get to know R.T. a little better.

Who Is R.T. Custer?

There are two things you notice about R.T. right away when you have a conversation with him. He loves meeting new people, and he has a true passion for helping others grow their businesses. According to him, R.T.’s passion and entrepreneurial spirit came built-in.

R.T.’s love for business really started during his childhood. He was raised on a Christmas tree farm in Pennsylvania, and from a young age, R.T. would help around the farm. While other kids got an allowance for doing household chores for money, he was helping out around the farm to earn money for what he wanted.

As he continued his journey, the entrepreneurial opportunities kept coming. When he was a freshman in college, R.T. became a part of College Works Painting — a multi-level marketing company that provides leadership development experience for college students — and he saw wild success. In his first year, R.T. became the #1 ranked seller in the state and #3 in the nation.

What really motivates R.T. is the ability to meet new people, and that drive to develop new connections continues to fuel his passion for making an impact by growing businesses. Since his time in college, R.T. has contributed to building multiple companies, including the Vortic Watch Company and the Fortitude Agency — now Carter & Custer.

Now that you know R.T. Let’s talk about his story of overcoming overwhelming odds at Vortic.

Hamilton Vs. Vortic

The thought behind Vortic Watches began on the golf course

R.T. and his co-founder, Tyler Wolfe, decided to play a round one afternoon, and R.T. noticed that Tyler took his watch off to golf. This sparked a discussion about different types of watches and what makes a well-made watch unique. So, for a university design project, they chose to create a 3D printed watch prototype together. 

After noticing their prototype had a uniquely vintage look and recognizing that many vintage pocket watches were orphaned from their original cases, they pondered an idea. What if we repurpose antique pocket watches to create something truly unique and totally American-made? From that idea, the Vortic Watch Co. was born. 

“We would take these old pocket watches and turn them into wristwatches. I think one of the best examples of American pocket watches is a brand called Hamilton. They started in Lancaster, PA, … back in the late 1800s. And they made some of the best pocket watches that were ever made right there in Pennsylvania for around 100 years.” 

– R.T. Custer

But the process wouldn’t be smooth sailing for R.T. and Tyler. They would soon run into an immense obstacle in the form of the $10 billion watchmakers, Swatch.

“I think it was in the 1970s that the original Hamilton watch company went out of business, … and the Swatch group purchased the brand and held onto it. … The problem became the pocket watches that we turn into wristwatches. They still say Hamilton on the front because it’s the original face, … and [Swatch] sued us for trademark infringement and counterfeiting.”

– R.T. Custer

In the eyes of Swatch, R.T. and Tyler were using the Hamilton name to make money. Before Vortic’s first Kickstarter campaign, they had received their first cease and desist letter. The impending lawsuit left them with a big decision to make. They could either fight the suit in court, claim bankruptcy, or find a new way to make the watches.

Determined to preserve their vision from the beginning, R.T. and Tyler chose to defend their brand in court. However, R.T. soon found out that he was up against what seemed like insurmountable odds.

“It crossed my mind [that I may not have the resources to fight this] when the first attorney I hired told me I couldn’t afford to keep fighting. That I should file for bankruptcy and give up. I Googled, best Colorado bankruptcy attorney.”

– R.T. Custer

Even though Googling a bankruptcy attorney seemed like the beginning of a path toward defeat, R.T.’s call with Rob just happened to be the moment of support he needed to stay focused on his fighting to protect his brand.

“And [I just happened to] call my new friend, Rob Lance. He said, ‘Hey, I technically work in bankruptcy. But I actually go after corporations when they falsely file for bankruptcy, and I save the small companies that are the victims of falls lawsuits. And my business partner just happens to be an expert trademark attorney.’”

– R.T. Custer

The new partnership with Rob Lance gave Vortic the chance they needed to keep going in their legal battle. Rob offered payment terms to prevent the financial burden from becoming overwhelming all at once, and the journey continued.

Fast forward six years later. R.T. sat in front of a federal judge to defend Vortic’s case against Swatch to continue producing bespoke timepieces. After winning the first lawsuit and a further appeal, Vortic came out on top.

Three Things That Help You Can Overcome Long Odds

Sometimes business challenges seem overwhelming, but you can beat long odds

R.T.’s decision to fight a multi-billion dollar watch company to protect his brand came from a place of passion and determination. He knew he was doing the right thing, and he wanted to defend his brand. But he also knew the odds were stacked against him from the beginning.

“The first attorney I hired told me I couldn’t afford to keep fighting and that I should file for bankruptcy and give up.”

– R.T. Custer

In the face of bankruptcy, R.T. continued the fight and found three things that pushed him toward his legal win: keep moving forward, don’t give up, and ask for help.

1. Keep Moving Forward

Find ways to stay focused on your goal.

In R.T.’s case, he could have let himself lose focus of his final goal, but he kept pushing forward until he won freedom for his brand. One thing that gave him the confidence to keep going was remaining focused on the lawsuit while his business partner kept the company going.

“My business partner, Tyler, and I had this agreement that was the backbone of us surviving. I was going to face the giant and figure out all the lawsuit stuff. … [And he] would just keep making and selling enough watches to financially survive.”

– R.T. Custer

When you meet challenges that seem too great for you, you don’t need to give in to the pressure of quitting! Instead, find ways to stay focused on your goal. That could be letting your business partner take the reins so you can dedicate yourself to overcoming the obstacle. Or it could be something smaller, like outsourcing tasks that would distract you from reaching your destination.

2. Don’t Give Up 

You can accomplish extraordinary things if you don’t give up on your dream.

In the early stages of R.T.’s legal battle with Swatch, there was one point where he thought of caving in. During a conversation with his first attorney, they told him to file for bankruptcy and give up — there was no way he could afford it financially. But his determination kept him from giving up on his dream.

“Basically, my previous attorney said, ‘You’re screwed. You should give up.’ That was a huge inflection point where I started asking for help. That’s when I found our new attorney that took us all the way through and saved us.”

– R.T. Custer

It probably won’t come in the form of legal assistance in a years-long legal battle — fingers crossed — but there will be times when reinforcements come from unexpected places.

It could come in the form of someone offering their expertise, finding a new community of entrepreneurs, or the right advice from a book you’re reading or podcast you’re listening to. 

Reinforcements can look different for everyone, so keep your eyes and mind open to the idea of help and flexibility.

Remember — good things come to those who don’t give up.

3. Ask for Help

Build a community that has your back during business challenges.

As R.T.’s legal proceedings grew, Vortic received little positive exposure in the media about the lawsuit because of Swatch’s influence. Even though it was difficult for him to ask for help, R.T. leaned on his community of friends and customers to share his side of the story. And the response he received was overwhelming.

“I asked for help from the greater audience, and I sent an email to our email list that said, ‘Hey customers, do you know anyone that would write a story [for us], or can you help us figure this out?’ And [the passion from our customers] kept me going. … I got hundreds of responses to the emails saying, ‘I’m going to send it to my friends. Or I’m going to buy three more watches. … Keep fighting.’” 

– R.T. Custer

When you foster a loyal community around your brand, the support you receive from customers can be just what you need to keep going in the low times. It may take swallowing your pride to ask for help, but your people will have your back when you reach out.

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