Dustin Gardner, the founder of Reality Capture Experts, was the fourth generation in his family to join the military but joining up had not really been on his radar until a school friend asked him if he wanted to go to the Army recruiter’s office. 90 days later he was at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). He became an MP (Military Police), transitioning into a SWAT officer role (referred to as Special Reaction Team) and spent time near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in South Korea, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and was stationed near the Pentagon in Virginia. Eventually being away from his newborn son took its toll and he decided it was time to transition out.
Following his time in the military, Dustin was a corporate executive at Chase Bank where he managed a team of mortgage officers. Then came the crash of 2008 and Dustin felt it was time to reinvent himself. He created Columbus Car Connection with a colleague, exporting Lexus products to clients in Dubai, but this was not financially stable enough for two partners so he went back into banking out of necessity. He eventually found himself at a crossroad where life was less about money, and more about fulfillment – owning a business and doing something fun.
Using 3D Technology in the Real Estate Industry
Reality Capture Experts started in late 2016 as a result of a conversation Dustin had with a high school friend living in Silicon Valley who introduced him to Matterport 3D technology. Before that, he hadn’t seen or heard of this specific 3D technology before but once Dustin was introduced to the technology he could instantly see the practical application of this tech to help business owners (of any size) showcase their physical space.
Having spent 12 years in the mortgage industry, residential real estate was an industry Dustin knew well. Knowing how realtors think, gave him an understanding of their need to be thrifty and corresponding unwillingness to spend money on marketing. According to Dustin, “the top 20% of realtors make 80% of the money since these folks are willing to spend dollars on marketing.”
“What Reality Capture Experts does well is help create an emotional connection with a customer or prospect viewing a business owner’s space in 3D virtual reality. Our digital marketing is immersive, interactive and emerging.” The term in the industry for this is “virtual storytelling” – telling the story of what’s inside that building you drive by every day, but have never ventured into. The goal of using this virtual storytelling is to help their clients “crush it on SEO.”As Dustin says, “our product catapults them on [search engines] to help them get found faster on Google.”
Today, Reality Capture Experts is the only organized network of Digital Scanning Specialists operating on any continent. To date, the company has been self-funded. Currently they are faced with opportunities which could require Reality Capture Experts to scale more quickly than they are comfortable with. “As we continue to experience growth, external sources of funds may move up on the list of priorities. Hindsight always plays a helpful role in identifying what we may have done differently, but we forge forward with few regrets,” says Dustin.
Tackling The Challenges of Small Business
“As a small business, you are forced to do most things yourself – chief, cook, and dishwasher.” This is Dustin’s biggest challenge – getting work done work and interacting with prospects takes a lot of effort, but the backend work is far more time-consuming and difficult. Weeding through emails does not pay bills and can quickly evaporate an entire day. Dealing with accounting has been the most challenging aspect of the business to date because it takes a tremendous amount of time that pulls Dustin away from money making business activities and family time.
His advice for new entrepreneurs is to look for diversity in skills among potential business partners. He also recommends starting slow. Start while you have a stream of income from a W2 job, this gives you a place of relative financial security as you start out. Use that time to validate your business concept before going all in. Also, be wise about how you start. Take advantage of the social capital you’ve built up. You may be in a position to help someone else. Always be ready to help others when interacting with other people. “People remember what you’ve done for them – there is no more loyal partner than one that you’ve helped first,” say Dustin. “Be genuine and know how you can be a good referral partner for them first. Embrace this-this is the difference between success and failure in many scenarios.” The thing to keep in mind is “who someone knows may be the differentiator, not necessarily your immediate connections. Invest time in and nurture your connections – don’t focus on people that can help you the most, but rather the people that you are drawn to and you work well with. Mutual respect and trust are essential. Less important is the title and resources. Focus on a smaller number that you can truly connect with and nurture those relationships.”