Andrew Argue, of Ten Key Heroes, Talks About The Agony Of Failure

Entrepreneurs fail repeatedly. In all honesty, they fail more than they succeed. So are you entering entrepreneurship so you can start a business and have a multi-million dollar exit?

If you are, then you will be epically disappointed. Nine out of every 10 startups will fail. That is the bleak truth behind the, not so glamorous, life of an entrepreneur.

The failure post-mortem pens the many reasons why the entrepreneur failed:

  • No market need for your product
  • You ran out of cash
  • You don’t have the right team
  • You made a bad product

There is no strategy that will guarantee you success. And luck is not a plan of action.

Yes, having a product that the market needs is one ingredient to success but the entrepreneur needs something deeper to continue the fight for success.

These three attributes need to be part of your DNA:

Andrew Argue, the founder of Ten Key Heroes and the host of The Bean Counter, has failed many times before achieving success.

Argue’s journey was not rosy – he was busted for selling drugs, was nearly broke, and in debt. But Andrew refused to give up on his dream.

After hustling for two years and with the help of a business coach Argue’s hustle has paid off.

So Andrew, what's your story?

I’m originally from Oklahoma sadly but lived all over the US (NYC, New Jersey, San Diego, Tampa, and Costa Rica for two years in high school).

When I was about 14, I was sent to a troubled teen program for selling drugs (my first entrepreneurial stint) to kids in my neighborhood.

All small time stuff by my parents freaked!

I spent the next two years in Wilderness Program (Utah) and Boarding School (Costa Rica).

After that, I went to University at The University of Tampa where I got a Masters of Accounting and my CPA License before starting at PwC.

I loved PwC and did extremely well.

In my first year, I got a 1 rating on a 1–5 scale and a 10% raise that was big compared to the 3% I thought most people got.

My second year was even better, a 19% raise and another 1 rating and worked with a Fortune 100 client.

But in that second year I changed offices as my girlfriend (now wife took a job in Miami).

I didn’t like the new office as much as the old and decided to quit.

In the 22 or so months since I quit PwC, I’ve done a lot.

I’ve started 4–5 companies, and all have stopped or failed except for The Bean Counter.

I have failed a lot.

And no I don’t have this glamorous entrepreneurship story of selling my company for millions of dollars.

The truth is; I’ve mostly failed.

But, I have made more money each year than I would have at my job.

My wife and I have been able to pay off $55,000 of student loans in a 14-month period and saved on top of that.

I haven’t let me pride kill me. I’ve started 4–5 companies but I’ve also worked contract accounting jobs, taken writing gigs, and other small freelance gigs to earn extra cash and keep things going.

I’ve learned a TON! It’s like an actual MBA, not that crap most schools are selling.

I now know the basics of:

  • Sales
  • Internet marketing
  • Start-up funding
  • How to buy a company
  • How to sell a company
  • Fundraising
  • How to find/handle investors
  • How to write
  • and much more

While I haven’t made crazy money, I’ve done okay and learned a lot.

I’m excited about my future. It’s been a crazy adventure the last two years and I am only 25 years old!

Who is your role model, and why?

I’d have to say, George Carlin, the comedian.

He did an interview once where he said he didn’t succeed early in his career because he wanted to be a mainstream comedian. Very middle America, a people pleaser, he had in mind a traditional job, a mainstream dream.

But in reality he is more of a rebel.

And once he accepted that he became wildly successful.

I think I have a similar problem that I hope to overcome.

Being too mainstream in terms of the business ideas I think I should start, vs. where my radical rebel brain takes me.

Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career?

When I first started The Bean Counter, a site with career advice and information for young accountants and professionals, I knew I needed some reputable people to make the brand seem legit.

I mean, who was I? A 23-year-old nobody.

At the time, I emailed the #3 partner for PwC US, the largest accounting firm in the world at the time and asked to interview him for my podcast.

He responded and preferred a video interview, and he flew me to New York.

We did a full video interview on a set with a crew, and this launched The Bean Counter from nothing into something very special in the next few weeks!

I guess the reason this was so memorable wasn’t because I got any monetary gain from it. But rather because I learned a simple lesson:

Anyone. And I mean anyone is reachable with a great fucking email.

What has been the biggest let down in your career so far?

There have been some tough times these last two years as an entrepreneur.

When I quit my job, I saved up about $20,000.

But I hadn’t learned how to properly budget (weird for an accountant), and I got married a few months later.

One month after my wife and I got married. And five months after I quit my job I have no income at all, $55,000 in student loans, and only $1,500 cash to my wife and I’s name.

I was scared.

In the depths of that fear though, I find that crazy motivation to dig us out. A little over a year and a half later we are debt free and have lots of savings!

While not directly related to one of the businesses I started, this was a huge part of my experience.

Being broke isn’t a great way to start.

But sometimes that almost life or death fear can help you get crazy and get shit done.

How can entrepreneurs find success in a marketplace that always seems to change?

If things always stayed the same, then there wouldn’t be any opportunity.

The only way we can find opportunity is with the market constantly changing/shifting.

“Chaos is a ladder” - Petyr Baelish, Game of Thrones

That’s true for business.

The execution of a creative idea can be a chaotic experience. So how do you organize, prioritize, and manage your creative ideas?

I was “institutionalized” at the age of 15. I went to boarding school, then college, and then a big public accounting firm.


Institutions tell you what to do. They set everything up for you with rules, expectations, deadlines, etc.

The real world isn’t like that.

You need self-discipline. I didn’t have it, and I found that out after five months of being an entrepreneur. I had no income and no money.

So what did I do?

I hired a coach. A business coach.

She helped my transition from my institutionalized mind into an entrepreneurial, self-organized self. I can’t give one answer for every person, you have to know yourself and find your way.

But, if you know you aren’t organized, can’t prioritize, and manage your ideas. Get a good coach.

The first five months after I quit I made less than $1,000. The 12 months after I got a coach I made over $100K.

It was WELL worth the $4,000 it costed me for the few months we worked together!

Question: Failure is a right of passage for every entrepreneur. It's not what happens to you that shapes the outcome; it's how you react. How do you react to failure? Share your answers on Twitter.

Ramon B. Nuez Jr. writes about how to make ideas happen and interviews some of the most influential CEO’s in the startup-space.

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