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Creating from Nothing: Used Tires Become Roofing in AmeriSlate

Robert Cummins is a participant in Landmark Education’s Team, Management and Leadership Program. Robert is in his first quarter in the program and says he is “loving every minute of it.”

Kimchi Chow interviewed Robert, discovering how he got started on the project, what lights him up about the business, and how being on Team is supporting his success so far.

How long ago did you start with this business, what is your role in the business and what is the product?

I  got  started with the business idea a little over two years ago; the original idea came from my partner. I am essentially “productizing” it—putting the components in place to make it viable to sell, and creating a business plan. My titles are CEO and President. The charter of the company is to take stuff that is typically put into landfills, inert materials that don’t break down, and use them as building materials.

The current product is called AmeriSlate. It is a roofing material that,  in its first incarnation,  is  being  made recycled tires. Tires are ideal as a roofing material; they are engineered for longevity, provide excellent insulation, don’t allow UV light to pass through and are strong. I actually drove a railroad spike through our product, and it didn’t leak, it’s self-sealing! AmeriSlate is not damaged by hail, even the big stuff. Hundreds of millions of dollars in damage is caused annually by hailstorms in Texas alone. Insurance companies often offer rate reductions for this type of roofing. It also looks good; we can create a product that has nice depth and texture to it.

What inspired you to start working on this business with your partner?

It’s an awesome product. It aligns with things that are important to me and provides a solution to a number of problems: we are making something from “nothing” so it helps with a huge environmental problem. We are actually removing carbon from the environment so we  have  a negative carbon footprint.t A portion of the product goes to providing building materials for housing projects for people without homes—to organizations like Beautiful Day and similar groups.

Over 350 million tires are disposed of annually in the US alone. Tires don’t break down  so we are helping solve a big problem by making a useful product from them. We are also partnering with a company in Australia that produces roof coatings that have up to 91% thermal reflectivity, even on a dark material. In Australia, four out of five people develop skin cancer of some kind, due to the depletion of the ozone layer over their country that is letting in way too much UV light. When applied to AmeriSlate they have the added benefit of reducing heating and air conditioning needs, and lowering the associated electrical bills. One guy in Sacramento reduced his electrical bill by $200 per month in the summer.

Do   you  see  it   becoming  more popular than traditional materials?

Yes. It is much lighter than actual slate, at a fraction of the cost, it has better thermal properties, it is likely to last the better part of a century on a roof, it is a green product and it looks good!

What do you plan to accomplish with this project by the end of your first quarter in the Team, Management and Leadership Program?

I intend to have 1.3 million dollars in funding in place for the product. I currently have three investors I’m talking to. One is Erin, who I was referred to through another participant on Team in connection with a different project we started discussing our own projects as a sideline. It turns out that she had started Team some time back with the goal of raising half a million dollars by the end of her first year. Part way through  her   third  quarter,   she  had raised 1.4 million dollars and decided to leave the program to start her business. She then grew it into a 20 million dollar company and sold it. She has rejoined Team and her project this time is to help others starting companies to put the infrastructure in place to do that successfully.

The power of being on Team is this: in working with your Team, being related to the people on your Team, having the Team surrounding you—there is a light shining on your blind spots, on the areas where you “don’t know what you don’t know”. There is also a team of people there to support you in transforming those areas. Each person on the team has their own unique strengths, and you get to see those, and as part of the team structure you can try out those aspects yourself, and that’s what really empowers you in your project.

What would you recommend to others with a similar project, if they are stuck getting funds or investors?

Get involved in the Team, Management and Leadership Program! Share. Put your project out there. Talk about it.

We inspire other people when we share what we’re up to, and that makes them a part of your team!

You have had challenges building this business. What are some examples?

My biggest challenge is myself and me getting in the way of the things I’m doing. One example of this is I’ve always had to have everything figured out before I would take the first step into something new. That really limited what I could do. When I was taking the Landmark Forum I saw that clearly. I was able to start to let that go and get moving in the world.

Now, I take the steps without needing to have it figured out. By talking and taking action, things start happening around you to support what you’re doing. No one has to have it all figured out. Move in the direction you want to be going and watch things come around to support it.

How did you move yourself out of the way, so that this project could move forward?

I recognize my tendency to need to have everything figured out first, and when I see myself going that way, remember that I can get out of it and start taking actions. What’s really empowering is trusting in the relationships with my Team. Reaching out to the Team, using my Team members, remembering I have that resource, rather than getting stuck in having to figure it all out. When I talk with them about where I’m stuck, it gets me back into action.

What do you see as the value of the Team, Management and Leadership Program?

I remember when I decided to do the program; it was Todd [Beauchamp] who had me see the value that was available. I’m only in my first quarter, and I can say I had no idea what this program really is. It is an awesome experience and the way I see myself has changed. I thought I was OK the way I managed my time before, but now I see how much time I used to waste. [note that Todd is profiled in this newsletter]

Now when I have a block of time available, I think, “How do I want to use this time effectively?” Maybe that’s to do nothing, so I say, “OK, I’m not going to do anything”, but I’ve made that conscious decision. Usually, I’m thinking, “I could do this… or I could do that…I could slip this in here…” That mindset is very powerful, it has caused me to move more powerfully in my life and my projects.

Do you have everything you need right now to succeed at your project?

Had you asked before I did any courses with Landmark Education, I’d have said, “No. I don’t have what I need.” Now, having done the Landmark Forum, and the Communication Courses, I realize that I do have everything I need. I may not see it all right now, but I trust that by stepping out powerfully and speaking about what I’m creating, the things I need will be there when I need them.

What is the one thing you recommend people do to find their passion, as you have found yours?

Ask yourself what it is in your life that creates excitement, love and affinity. What is it that gets the juices flowing, that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning? What allows you to find meaning in what you’re doing? What is that thing? Then talk to people about it, get it clear, make it real; refine it, clarify it in talking with others. There is something there in the core of our being that wants to come out!

Interview by Kimchi Chow, Team San Jose
Written by Valri Castleman, San Jose Alumna
Edited by James Marchand, NY and Laura Miller, Seattle