Brian Beard, Owner of River City Food Tours

Years in Business:

What did you want to be as a child?
 I definitely wanted to work in sports. I’m sure at some point I probably wanted to be a professional athlete, but I think it was pretty clear early on that wasn’t going to happen. I even started out in the Sports Business program in college before switching to the actual business school – I’m happy with that decision!

What’s the best piece of business advice you received when starting out?
 “Make it as easy as possible for people to give you money,” which is just a catchy way of saying, don’t be difficult to work with. We apply this to all aspects of our business – communicating with customers, optimizing our website, and more.

What’s the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting or running your business?
True vacation days! You care about your own business in a way that you can’t really ever care about a job, and it makes it hard to turn off from work. The scheduling flexibility I’ve found is a huge net positive, but it’s been a long time since I spent a full 24 hours without doing at least some kind of work for the business. No complaints from me though – it’s true what they say about finding something you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life!

When did you realize that your business was going to succeed?
I find that feeling like a success isn’t really binary, where one day you feel like you haven’t made it yet, and the next you feel like you totally did. There have been milestones along the way that are a big deal and worth celebrating (such as when the business’ income could support me financially for the first time, or when I hired my first employee), but I’m not at a point where I can pat myself on the back and say, “You did it! You’re finished!”

What’s the first thing you do every morning to set the tone for your day?
I always knock out a bunch of quick, administrative-type tasks first thing in the morning. I keep to-do lists to stay organized, and crossing things off and keeping my list short is satisfying. And makes it easier to tackle the big projects on the to-do list when it’s not cluttered with small things.

What characteristic do you most admire in other business owners?
Fearlessness and a willingness to take risks. I’m not a risk-taker, and it’s definitely shaped our business; we’ve grown slow and steady over the last 4+ years. I’m not sure how things might be different if I made bolder, riskier decisions. River City Food Tours might be 10x as big, or we might be out of business!

What does the world need more of?
People who can communicate well, and respect others’ time. But mostly being able to communicate clearly (written and verbal) – that’s such an important skill.

Name a fear or professional challenge that keeps you up at night?
Not being able to meet our guests expectations! We work so hard to make sure every guest we host has a great experience, and if I feel like we are falling short on that, it’s hard to go to sleep until I’ve fixed it.

What’s the best thing about being a local business owner?
My favorite thing about being a LOCAL business owner is getting to meet and work with so many other people that contribute to Richmond in really cool ways (restauranteurs, for example). My second favorite thing is feeling like we contribute in some small way to what makes Richmond such an awesome place to live and work.

To learn more about River City Food Tours, visit their website.