You probably know Robert Irvine as the take-charge chef who is equally skilled at whipping up meals as he is at kicking some butt on shows like Dinner: Impossible. But did you know that he’s also a massively successful business owner? Irvine owns the protein snack company FitCrunch, has two restaurants, owns Robert Irvine Foods and Irvine Spirits, is the author of Overcoming Impossible, and created the Robert Irvine Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to helping military veterans and first responders.
To say he is a busy guy is an understatement. Luckily for Entrepreneur+ subscribers, he recently made time for an intimate discussion about his life, his passion and his advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. (Click here to watch now.) To no one’s surprise, Irvine left the crowd fired up and ready to do great things.
Entrepreneur: You’ve had such an incredible career. What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Robert Irvine: Hands down, my work with and on behalf of military veterans and first responders through the Robert Irvine Foundation. The freedoms we enjoy in this country — including everything I’ve been able to do in my career — are not possible without our veterans. And I’m not just proud of the opportunity to give back; it has become the driving force for everything I do. It is the main goal that gets me out of bed each morning.
What new projects are you most excited about?
Every corner of Team Irvine has some new element that’s incredibly exciting. On the foundation side, our increased reach allows us to have a bigger impact for veterans. On the business side, FitCrunch protein bars and snacks and Irvine Spirits are always diversifying our offerings and expanding. Just this year, I released my book on business leadership, Overcoming Impossible, and I’m very proud of how that turned out and how fans have received it. On the TV front, I have some very exciting news I’ll be able to share soon.
What drives you to continue to start new businesses and projects? What do you personally get out of it?
For me, I would define the very nature of success as the ability to chase what excites you, to take an idea, give it energy and attention, and then manifest it into the physical world to share with other people. I’m not the slightest bit ashamed of how corny it might sound, but that process doesn’t feel like work and never gets old. That’s true love right there.
What was your biggest career challenge?
Pitching and selling a TV show when you’ve never done a TV show — that’s a steep hill to climb. At this point, having hosted and produced so many hours of television, so much of it can become routine and feel old hat. So, now and then, I think it’s important to look back and tip my cap to the young Robert Irvine, who was able to crash the gates of Food Network and start his TV career with such a bang.
Can you give us an example of a great near-disaster work story?
In the kitchen, the near-disasters are frequent. Commercial kitchens are not cozy, comfortable places like the one you have at home. They’re hot, noisy places with too many people for you to move freely without your head on a swivel. And there are sharp blades and boiling oil everywhere. So I’ve had my cuts and burns and things like that, but no chef worth their salt hasn’t experienced the same.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs with a business idea who don’t know where to start?
If I were a lesser man, I would shamelessly plug my book, Overcoming Impossible, which is chock full of advice to address this very concern. But I’ll do no such thing here — even though that book would answer all your questions on this front! In all seriousness, I would say that a good first step is to find people who have walked the path you intend to walk and learn as much as you can from them. If you’re past that stage and stuck between feasibility, financing, planning, etc., you probably have analysis paralysis. The only way to beat that is with action. So, take a concrete step each day. I don’t care what the step is, but you’ve got to take a step. You can’t merely think your way into entrepreneurship. You’ve got to move swiftly and with purpose.
What is the best advice you ever got?
Calculate less. You have no idea how the thing you are working on will be received, the next things it might lead to, how it will affect your life, the type of people in your orbit, and so on. And when people think about their careers and what moves to make, they can get caught up in those questions, which are ultimately out of their control. You are only in control of the work. Do it with love and integrity, and I promise you’ll be happy with how the rest of it plays out. Letting go of trying to control the uncontrollable is its own liberating experience.
What is your secret to keeping cool under stressful conditions?
Regular exposure, I suppose. I think I have a strong, competitive, driven personality that thrives under pressure, but I also think regular exposure to stress can cultivate tolerance for anyone. If I have to cook a huge dinner for a charity function, as is often the case, and I have to choose between hiring a sous chef who was a brilliant home cook or a merely competent commercial chef, I’m taking the commercial chef, because I can train them to follow my lead and do what I do. We can get the quality there. I will have a harder time getting the brilliant home chef to respond well to the pressure-packed environment.
How do you approach working with people who are difficult to collaborate with?
Run roughshod over them and dominate! No, I’m kidding. I would say I have the luxury where it’s rarely the case I’m collaborating with difficult people these days because my vetting process is so extensive. Earlier in my career, I did have to collaborate with some difficult people, and there’s no magic bullet for this situation. You have to advocate for your vision as clearly as you can. And might I add: Don’t interpret everyone who isn’t on board with your idea as a difficult person. They might have a point! So, whenever possible, use that outside resistance to examine your viewpoint and be honest with yourself. Ask yourself if your ideas are as strong as they can be. I’m willing to wager even the most difficult person can add value to the conversation and help strengthen your idea.
What is the best way for fans to keep up with what you’re up to?
I’m on Twitter. And no, I’m not calling it the other thing. For better or for worse, I’m in there until it finally comes crashing down. Come find me and ask me something! I travel a ton and spend a lot of time in airports, and my go-to when I have to wait somewhere is getting on Twitter and chatting with the fans.