Recently, Andrew Cooper was interviewed by Olivia Meyers, a junior at Westwood High School, as part of a class project. Her insightful questions and curiosity about what it takes to run a successful business allowed him to look back and reflect on his last 25 years of business. From TyRex’s Jurassic beginnings to its current Bright Ideas program helping shape the future, Cooper has enjoyed every step of the ride. We pulled a few of our favorite questions for some insight into the mind of an entrepreneur.
Q: How did you come up with the name TyRex?
Andrew Cooper: “A lot of it came from the movie Jurassic Park, which came out about the time we were creating our company. We kind of came up with a brand around dinosaurs – we wanted something that would be big and bad and that we could build a whole brand around.”
Q: How did you come together with your partner, John Bosch?
AC: “It’s been one of the greatest parts of this experience for me, to have a partner as great as John. He’s been an amazing partner for 25 years, and we have a couple of fundamental rules that we try to follow – one of them is that we can’t both be mad at the same time! But before I met John, I was really interested in creating a company that was built to last – I’d written the initial part of a business plan for the company, and what it really showed me was what I didn’t know. I needed to find somebody who could complement my strengths and my weaknesses – someone who understood the financial components, who had the strategic business acumen, and who really had an understanding of the importance of the financial levers that you have to have with timely information that allow you to drive a company forward. I didn’t have any of that. I knew how to make money – I knew how to sell and market and all of those things. But I really didn’t understand the financial levers that I had to have at my controls. That’s when I met John Bosch, who complimented my strengths and weaknesses really well. And finding that perfect business partner is a challenge, but once you find it that just makes life a whole lot easier.”
Q: What’s been the key to your success?
AC: “When I started this business with John, everybody said to focus on one thing, and we focused on many things. I’m a dyslexic learner, so I learned very differently – and a professional entrepreneur will surround themselves with like-minded individuals and has to be willing to take their constructive criticism and go forward as opposed to the traditional entrepreneur who says, ‘This is my company, and you’re not going to tell me how to run it.’ I think you have a higher probability of success in learning from others. And the one constant over 25 years has been change. We’ve walked away from millions of dollars of business, because of our evolution over the years. But we’re still here, and a lot of those companies that were giving us advice when we started are no longer around. Because they just did one thing and refused to change, expand and grow.”
Q: What’s been the biggest reward of owning your own company?
AC: “Well, for one I think of it being all of our business, not just mine, because I don’t think one person can run a company today. But I’ll tell you, I still pinch myself. Every day I walk in here and I see where we’re at, and I know where we came from. I feel incredibly lucky to be part of what we’re doing. It’s really cool! I mean, every day I walk in here, and I’m just living my dream – I love this place like you can’t even imagine. But it’s very scary. It’s like when you were in grade school, and you’d lean back in your chair too far and say “Whoa!” thinking you were going to fall over backward – that’s kind of what it’s like running a business every day.”
Q: What makes you different than large corporations?
AC: “I think there are many differences. The main difference is that we’re not beholden to shareholders. We are beholden to our employees and to our community and to our customers. That means we can make decisions far faster – we can pivot in an instant if we need to. With large corporations, I saw so many companies go out of business because they refused to invest in the company and in the people – it was more important how much money they could jam in their pockets then what they could really build long-term. There’s a lot to learn from big corporations too – processes and all kinds of stuff – but I think that speed and flexibility at this point in time are very important.”
Q: What keeps you motivated to continue your business?
AC: “I am passionate about what I do. I love seeing the complexity of the challenges that come our way, and the possible solutions that you can create. I love working with people and I think that part of what keeps me excited is that I like to meet a new person every day of my life. The people that I work with are like my family. And they’ll tell you that we’re just like family – we sometimes laugh like family, sometimes we cry like family, and sometimes we bicker like family. But I know that what we do here provides not only for my family here at work, but for their children as well, and for our community. So that means there is a lot of weight on your shoulders. Before I go to bed at night I think about all the decisions we make, and I ask all our managers to do the same because other people’s livelihoods depend on it. But in the end, my motto is that if you love what you do, you’re never going to work a day in your life – and I still feel like I’m 25 most of the time.”
Q: What’s it like to be an entrepreneur?
AC: “It can be scary. You have to make tough decisions. And it can be intimidating! But over 25 years, I’ve finally gotten to a point where I can sit in front of a really big customer and make a really big ask. I used to wonder if we were good enough to ask for more business – was I good enough? But I would say that I’m at a point where I’m comfortable that yes, we are. And as an entrepreneur you’re always reassessing and reevaluating – and maybe that’s the key. To always try and get comfortable with getting outside your comfort zone. I’ve been living there for a long time!”
We thank Olivia for her time with Andrew, and we’re excited to have this interview as a lasting memory of the first 25 years at TyRex – here’s to the next 25!