Full Transcript - Dal LaMagna - Wild Business Growth Podcast #292

Full Transcript – Robert Forto – Wild Business Growth Podcast #253

This is the full transcript for Episode #253 of the Wild Business Growth Podcast featuring Robert Forto – Dog Musher, Alaska Dog Works and First Paw Media. You can listen to the interview and learn more here. Please note: this transcript is not 100% accurate.

Robert Forto 0:00
I mean you have to be “Las Vegas buffet hungry” in order to make a business grow

Max Branstetter 0:20
It’s time to eat. Welcome back to the Wild Business Growth Podcast. This is your place to hear from a new entrepreneur every single Wednesday morning who’s turning Wild ideas into Wild growth. I’m your host, Max Branstetter, Founder and Podcast Producer at MaxPodcasting, and you can email me at to save time with your high-quality podcast. This is episode 253 and today’s guest is Robert Forto. Robert is quite simply maybe the most fascinating person on the planet. Robert is a dog trainer and dog musher out of the wilderness of Alaska. He has 35 Dogs 35 sled dogs, and he trains dogs and has a kennel called Alaska Dog Works. He has built his business through podcasting and radio through First Paw Media and his flagship show, Dog Works Radio. And in this episode, we talk all things Alaska, using a podcast to build your business sound familiar? Robert’s adventures in the Lower 48 and around the world and even underwater looking upwards at some pretty cool things, and all the thrill rides of a lifetime including roller coasters, rock music, and of course, training for the Iditarod. It is Doctor Robert. Enjoyyyyyyyy the snowwwwwww!

Aaaaaaalrightyyyyy we are here with our latest contestant for most interesting man in the world. Robert Forto coming to us live from New York – no, just coming to us from Alaska. And just one of the most interesting and fascinating inspiring people you hear from really, really excited to dive into your story. Robert, thanks for joining, how’re you doing today?

Robert Forto 2:19
I am well Max, thank you for having me on. It is a pleasure.

Max Branstetter 2:24
Perfect, perfect and that I was fired up just hearing you say that. So I’m ready to run through a brick wall. I’m actually ready to slay dog sled dog through a brick wall, if you will. But we’ll get to that in a little bit. But before that, I had so much trouble figuring out where to start with this because we could start in a particular direction and go for literally seven, eight hours on any one of the areas of your lifetime. But one thing that I kept coming back to was rock and roll and not just rock and roll, but rock and roller. So you you and your wife do this thing called the rock and roller tour where when you come down to the Lower 48 as it’s called, you explore both rock concerts but also roller coasters. Where did this genius idea come from in the first place?

Robert Forto 3:11
Well, you know, here in Alaska, we have to get on a plane for everything. And we might as well make the most of it when you fly down. And I don’t know, I think it was 2015, 2016 or so. We said hey, it’s been a long time since we’ve each been on a roller coaster. Let’s take a tour around America and just see how many roller coasters we can ride at once. So we headed down to Denver where our son lives. We rented an F-150 Ford pickup truck, jumped in the truck and just took off. We drove from Denver all the way to Maine, Maine, all the way down to Texas, and then back up to Denver. So pretty much a triangle of the United States about 7500 miles in this Enterprise rental that we had. And I tell you what, Max, I was scared to death to turn it in. Because we had I think 137 miles or something on it when we picked it up. When we dropped it off. I pretty much handed them keys and ran out the front door.

Max Branstetter 4:13
I don’t blame you. I’m scared just hearing that. But what What an adventure and I mean, you’ve you’ve built a lifetime around adventure. But these trips in particular, that’s just awesome. I get chills thinking about it. Some of the things that you see are rock concerts and roller coasters. Start with rock concerts. If you could only see one band again, play concerts, as many concerts as you want but the same band for the rest of your life until you die. Who would that band be?

Robert Forto 4:40
Oh man, that’s a tough one. We just got back from the Metallica show last weekend down in Phoenix. That’s a that’s a highlight for sure. I’ve been a rock and roller since I was in, you know middle school or something like that. But I don’t know Max, I would probably have to say Foo Fighters. That’s my wife’s favorite band. We’ve put probably seen them 10 or 12 times or maybe even Godsmack. I’m a big Godsmack fan or even TOOL. I’m just naming them off here as we’re going. Those are those are my top picks. But all of those guys put on an excellent show and well worth the money.

Max Branstetter 5:15
You got us into a Lateralus here, but not so so many great vans there. And yeah, though, like those are all on the bucket list to see if some of those have taken hiatuses and then come back and performed over again. So that’s really cool. You’ve gotten to see them. What about on the on the rock and roller coaster side? So what what is a for anybody who has the thrill seeker roller coaster secret gene, which I just made up? What what’s a roller coaster that you got to do? Before you kick the bucket.

Robert Forto 5:48
There’s one at Kings Island in southern Ohio called The Beast. It was my first roller coaster as a kid, I think I was eight or nine years old well before they had those height requirements. And I remember hitting that roller coaster with my dad. And it is just an amazing coaster. And a couple of years ago, we were back down there it was my first time ever riding in the very front car in the dark. And that by far was a bucket list item for sure it is an amazing roller coaster.

Max Branstetter 6:18
Shout out the beast and shout out Ohio you came prepared with your Ohio references from Cleveland originally spent many times much time in Cincinnati and Kings Island and especially Montgomery Inn BBQ. But The Beast, I love the shout out there. On that Ohio note, have you done Cedar Point?

Robert Forto 6:37
I have done Cedar Point, we did that. Our second rock and roller tour across America. And that was a fun one. There are just so many coasters there I think, I don’t know 15 or 20 coasters there. And luckily, every one of them were open when we were there. So it was it was a great time.

Max Branstetter 6:54
I feel like they keep building that like they’re gonna they keep the build them so high at Cedar Point that there’s going to be one that like, takes you up to the moon. And then maybe probably takes you around the world on the way back to but which one gives you the most adrenaline of the Cedar Point coasters?

Robert Forto 7:08
Man, you know, they opened up a new one, I believe it’s called Steel Vengeance or something like that the year after we were there. So we gotta get back to Cedar Point for sure to ride that one. But I believe the one that they opened right before then was called Valravn. And that was a good one. That’s one of those coasters that you go to the top right before the drop, and they hang you there for a few seconds before it drops. So you’re just sort of hanging down there looking at the bottom of the ground, you know, 200 feet or so above ground and I tell you one that drops. Its adrenaline.

Max Branstetter 7:44
Do you have any advice for anybody who not pointing a finger at myself or anyone in particular, but for anyone who is either A. you know, gets dizzy, a little easily on coasters or B. starts to get a little fear of heights when you talk about those super huge coasters. Do you have any advice for for conquering those fears and having the the ride of your life?

Robert Forto 8:07
Oh yeah, my wife is in that boat. She gets carsick boat sick the whole nine yards and she’s a trooper 100% There’s a roller coaster at Kings Dominion in Virginia. It’s called the Intimidator 305. So it’s 305 feet tall, one of the tallest ones in the United States. And Max, I tell you what, that was the first time we ever wrote it when we were there. And both of us passed out on our way down because it’s just going so fast. Like I think it’s 90 miles an hour or something like that. But some advice for you definitely take those motion sick pills. Take them starting the night before. Don’t just take them right before you enter the park. That really helps. We’re also scuba divers. So we learned that trick going in pretty early. Take those pills the night before and to really help.

Max Branstetter 8:58
Just when I thought I knew you i creepy stalked you in preparation for this interview. I had no idea that you were scuba divers as well. So here we are. And we need to extend this for another half hour. Let’s go from scuba to Alaska, which I guess you can scoop in Alaska as well that just got the shivers. But Alaska so you were born in Alaska, but it kind of feels like you spent a lot of time there. What brought you to Alaska in the first place?

Robert Forto 9:30
Well, excellent story to tell here. It was 2010 or so and we were living in Denver we had just started our podcast the year before had a sweet training center – the whole nine yards our business was rockin and rollin and and I always had this crazy I did a rod dream and for folks that don’t know what I did a rod is it’s the longest sled dog race across Alaska 1000 miles by dog team. And I remember walking into the training center one One day and I said to my wife, Michele, hey, I think we should move to Alaska. And she kind of looked at me in a blank stare, thinking, wow, we’ve got things going on pretty good here. Why in the world do you just want to uproot and go, and I thought, you got to do it, you got to chase those dreams, you know. So we pretty much packed up the farm, if you will, and ended up here in August of 2010. And we can get into that much more if you’d like. But here we are. 13 years later, almost have a beautiful property here in the woods have 35 sled dogs, and pretty much dogs and podcasting is my life.

Max Branstetter 10:38
I mean, words to live by same here, and not quite as many dogs or as many podcasts. But what an adventure. I’m stuck in the first part. It’s one thing to pick up your life and move somewhere. But to move to Alaska, even though you’re on you know, I don’t know what Denver is considered Western central US. Even though you’re not like moving from east coast to that point. That’s a huge move. How do you how do you physically and mentally get you and your family ready for such a big life move like that?

Robert Forto 11:11
Well, it was July 4 2010, my daughter at the time was 12 years old, she and I jumped on a plane flew up here and looked at this place that we’re staying in right now this old 1960s log cabin. And as I said, my wife was still back in Denver with our other two kids. So we walked around this property and it was just it was in shambles. It just needed so much work. It was pouring down rain. It was everything you can possibly imagine in terms of just not being a place that you should be moving a family to. And at the time, my daughter, she had had her first cell phone, so she had never, you know, she had never done anything in her life, you know, at 12 years old. So I said, Okay, Nicole, this is what I want you to do. We were standing just about 10 feet from where I’m sitting right now, I said, I want you to text your mom right now. And I want you to let her know if we should move to Alaska or not. So I literally left it in the hands of a 12 year old. And it was a Saturday morning. And she texted her mom and her little flip phone and she said Mom, we’re moving to Alaska. And I didn’t know if she was going to say yes or no. But several hours later, since in the dog training world, Saturdays are by far our busiest days, we had already left the house, we had already left the downpayment on the kitchen table. And we were on our way. And Michelle got the text later on and texted us back. And she was she was crazy. She said what in the world are you guys doing? You bought the house this and that. And we said, Yep, we’re moving to Alaska. So so that was sort of the first part of the story. But Max, it took almost a year and a half for everybody to get up here. I moved up about a month later and started working on the place and, and my wife would come up every three months or so to you know, kind of lend a hand if you will. And then the kids just sort of came up one at a time at Christmas break or summer breaks or whatever. And it took I don’t know, at least a year and a half before everybody was here. But it was worth it. You know, the kids graduated high school here in our little school and Alaska. I think they had 60 students in their graduating class and it’s just been a winner all the way around.

Max Branstetter 13:24
Now, did you or should I should say did the sled dogs take you to Alaska? Is that how you did the move?

Robert Forto 13:31
We had one dog at that point Max.

Max Branstetter 13:34
I had. Oh my god.

Robert Forto 13:36
I had one dog Her name was Reagan. A little Siberian puppy we got right before we moved up so she was the the dog that started it all here in Alaska. I got a her cousin if you will a brother or so from the same litter a couple of months later. Bodie. My buddy Bodie. Is he still with this Regan has passed on but we just started doing what a lot of mushers do. We started acquiring dogs from other sled dog kennels. And before you know it, we had 30 some odd dogs in the yard and we were ready to rock and roll.

Max Branstetter 14:11
And all goes back to rock and roller. At that point in your life. How much of your time was divided between the you know, Alaska dog works and the dog training and obedience. I’m not sure that the official term for that dog training school slash company or the efforts for motion.

Robert Forto 14:35
It was about 5050 I would say it’s still probably 5050 We had to start a brand new business obviously with no clients, no marketing, anything like that. So that took some time. I’ve been a dog trainer since 1994. So I knew I could do what I had to do but on a very limited scale because the population just is not here compared to Denver. So we jumped in that with two feet and literally the sled dog Seth taught me how to be a better dog trainer because I have 30 Scientific cases to look on every time to learn about behavior and and you know body language and all that. So I truly live with a pack of sled dogs and and they have been not only my confidence and you know, sports mates but also my my business partners as well.

Max Branstetter 15:21
It sounds like an idiom or something of like, you know, living with a pack of sled dogs. No, that’s, that’s your life. You mentioned that you had to, I mean, you had the history in dog training, but you’re basically starting a brand new business in a completely different market up there. What were some key decisions you made early on that helped you grow that business and start your dog training empire.

Robert Forto 15:47
By far the podcast has been our biggest driver of business, once we started our podcast in 2009. So about a year or so before we move to Alaska. So we already had quite a bit of that under our belt, we had a decent sized audience at that point. But we knew we had to figure out a way to reach the audience. And when you’re up here, you know, we’re an hour and a half from Anchorage. So we’re an hour and a half from town. So we had to figure out how we could reach people and tell stories without the typical way of doing things like hanging fliers, and passing out business cards and doing all that sort of stuff. So we just kind of jumped in with two feet with our podcast and really started fine tuning our, our avatar, if you will, our ideal client who we wanted to reach. And we just started speaking to those people. And lo and behold, people would call us up and say, Hey, I listened to your podcast, I heard it on the radio and all that and how can we get involved with training and it’s just been a case study on how podcasting can help small businesses.

Max Branstetter 16:49
It has been and I know that you’ve been generous enough to share your wisdom with the awesome people at Podcast Movement and other podcast conferences and podcasts movement shout out, goes back full circle to your you know, hometown of Denver, or your previous town in Denver, where we met in the first place. So it’s really, really cool and inspiring. And it What was it about podcasting? And you know, first pa media slash dog works radio, what is it that convinced you that this would be a good place to dive in and get the word out?

Robert Forto 17:24
Well, in Denver, we were paying about $1,000-$1,500 a month for Yellow Page ads for for folks that do not know what Yellow Pages are. It’s a huge book of phone numbers that used to flip through the call. And we were paying that in Denver every month. And we had to say we had to figure out there had to been a better way. So this was again 2009. So we just cancelled the ad and bought a couple of cheap mics from Guitar Center, hooked him up in our training center there in Denver, and just started podcasting. And it was really just a q&a with our clients, you know, they would come up and say, Hey, why is my dog pulling on the leash or jumping on the counters, or whatever. And that became our podcast. And we’ve sort of refined it since then, over the years and really started telling stories. And as I mentioned, we figured out who we should be speaking to, we’re not speaking to every dog owner in the world, we’re speaking to a very specific client in order to tell those stories to and as you know, Max, podcasting is perfect for telling stories, long form, audio, all of those sorts of things that, that you’re just not going to get from Tik Tok or Instagram or something like that. You have the ability to really, really hone in and and develop your message, if you will.

Max Branstetter 18:41
Yeah, absolutely. And you, you’ve talked about it’s been your business has really been a case study or several different case studies on, you know, trying and air and learning and growing from there. And it’s the same thing in the podcasting world as well. And for me, you’re somebody that’s you and the team and your podcasts are now like into millions of downloads, like you’re in really, really cool. Well, I mean, you already live in really cool, unique territory, but like, you’re literally in really cool, unique podcasting territory as well. Thinking back to just that, that first show. So that first show that was dog works radio, correct? Yes, you’ve since expanded, but what what has been the key, in addition to, you know, kind of just focusing on your audience in the q&a there. What has been the big driver on growing that podcast over time and over so many years?

Robert Forto 19:32
By far consistency? When we headed off to Podcast Movement, we were trying to figure out, have we ever missed a week and all of those weeks since January of 2009, because I didn’t want to get on stage and you know, say hey, yeah, you know, we’re doing this and doing that. And then somebody jumps back and said, No, that’s absolutely not true.

Max Branstetter 19:51
No, no, I was picketing outside your your house back. I was picketing outside your cabin back in August 2014. That was a terrible week the second week of August?

Robert Forto 20:01
Yes, well, we have never missed a week. So I don’t know how many weeks that is since 2009. But I think by far consistency, so many podcasters start out and you know, they’ll release a season or two, then take a six month break or whatever, and then nobody knows who they are. And that’s, that could be set for any type of marketing. If you if you’re consistent, you have a good message and you stick with it, and you’re in it for the long haul, you’re going to win. And winning means different things to different people. But But by far, if you just stick with it, then good things will come.

Max Branstetter 20:35
If you build it, they will come they should put that line in a movie, I believe. But that’s remarkable that consistency and you hear it time and time again how important it is in the podcast world and just content creation world in general. It was huge soccer for alliteration, always. But what has been the difference that has allowed you to be that consistent to the point that you don’t even know if you missed a week like you were so many people struggle to, you know, even go a year or a few months without missing?

Robert Forto 21:07
Well, first off, you got it, you got to make the time for it. You know, we’ve recorded episodes at two o’clock in the morning, we’ve recorded episodes, in hotel rooms underneath a blanket, we’ve done the whole nine yards, you just have to make the time for it. And of course, we do some batching of episodes and whatnot. We were on the road for two and a half weeks here just just a couple of weeks ago when we talked about Podcast Movement and our rock and roller coaster tour. But you have to find the time and it goes for anything. If you’re trying to build a business. And I know this is a build business podcasts, you have to find the time, I don’t care if you’re tired, I don’t care if you if you know you’re late for dinner, or the kids are crying or whatever you have to figure out where in your day, can you fit the time to help your business grow. And if you find that time, it’ll work. And as we said, If we build it, it will come I think more important metaphor is you have to be hungry. I mean, you have to be Las Vegas buffet hungry, in order to make a business grow. And if you’re not, you know, it’s going to remain stagnant. And again, business growth is different to different people. But if you want to be able to support yourself, you got to be hungry.

Max Branstetter 22:20
That’s a new level of hungry. That is an incredible metaphor. It’s so true. It’s also it’s also painful metaphor when you think about that. He said sometimes you have to record while you’re if you’re late for dinner. And sometimes I think that’s the most difficult because it’s oh man kind of wait for food, but no, I, I’m with you. Sometimes it’s even if you’re running late, you just you just gotta knock stuff out. And it might suck in the moment, if you’re, you know, few hours delay for something or you know, late getting something but you’re much better off than if you decide to, you know, start getting used to the habit of letting your listeners down. And that’s not a habit that can bode well for any podcast. So great tips there. Another thing that really, really helps grow that that you’ve done, masterfully. And, you know, this ties back to, you know, not just dog works radio, but first pop media and really like your podcasting empire, if you will, is add more shows into the mix. And what’s really cool as some of the shows that you have have touched, you know, both podcasting and radio. So it’s kind of a cool hybrid here. But what’s kind of like your creative process, you know, you and team, you and family, even for adding more shows to the mix that that like fit within that overall vibe you’re going for, but are also different enough that there’s a purpose for him.

Robert Forto 23:43
You know, of course, we do a lot of dog centric podcasts, of course, first pop media fits right into that. So pretty early on max, we had people reaching out to us and they said, Hey, how can we reach our audience with a podcast and of course, we would help them out in one way or the other, whether it be coaching or hosting or whatever we would help them out. And we’ve worked with several podcasts over the years to do that and reach their message whether it be rescues or sled dog races or whatever, I think that those people were just so generous with allowing us to be their their right hand man if you will, their coach their mentor or whatever. And I’m a firm believer in having mentors and coaches I think if you can afford it as a business, spend your money on good coaching or or finding great mentors, and I think that would help you out along the way. Because then all of a sudden Max, you have other partners on your team that are willing to do the work with you, you know, they’re willing to do the the production or the hosting of their own content and, and you have that to fall back on. I think that really helps us out. And of course, you got to find partners that aligned with your mission or your values or whatever. And once you find that, now all of a sudden you have a team of people that are willing to work with you and for you.

Max Branstetter 24:58
And I think that It ties perfectly into one of the like the big hairy Las Vegas buffet questions that I’ve been wanting to ask you is, how in the world you know, when you’re spending so much time on your podcasts and even podcast production clients, and that whole side of thing, which some people will say it’s marketing, some people say it’s, it’s, you know, it’s a lifestyle got that tattooed on me, I’m just gonna, but when you spend so much time on the focus on podcasting, in addition to finding good coaches and mentors, and mentors, I don’t know I said that word. How are you able to, you know, keep up with the day to day if your actual, you know, your dog training business and your other day to day, you know, service responsibilities?

Robert Forto 25:44
That’s a good question. Because it truly is a 24-hour job, it is a lifestyle, we cut sort of divided up into sections like you would with a real job, you know, some people, you know, commute an hour to work,

Max Branstetter 25:57
hold on, hold on, hold on, you’re you just discredit, you’re saying you don’t have a real job now,

Robert Forto 26:03
you’re not have a real job. I’ve never had a boss in my life. And I think that’s helped that a little bit. But getting back to sort of that schedule, you know, some people, you know, they drive an hour to work, they work from nine to noon, as that sort of first shift, and they take an hour for lunch, and then do it in the afternoon. And of course, do it the drive home at night. And that’s sort of how we do it, we wake up early in the morning and do all of our dog chores for an hour and a half or so then I do most of my behind the scenes work, if you will, the marketing and the advertising and the books and all of that I do that in the morning. And then we meet with clients in the afternoon, we just sort of bang those out as we’re going. And then at night, sometimes we’re able to sit back and watch Netflix other times we’re recording podcasts or working on websites or whatever, and it just sort of goes and I think that’s sort of a blessing and a curse of being self employed is we aren’t able to disconnect we’re not allowed to, you know jump in the car and drive to the office and you know, put on a button up shirt and a tie and you know, checkout at five o’clock in our life. There is no checkout there, you just sort of just go and it when winter rolls around and dog mushing season rolls around. It’s a whole new animal. And that’s that’s, that’s nothing to sneeze at. Because then we’re we’re training for 5, 6, 7 hours a day on the back of a dog sled. And we’re typically doing that in the middle of the night, we dinner and hook up a team at 9pm and get back at 2am. And then started all over again and just sort of just sort of keep the machine oiled if you will.

Max Branstetter 27:37
You said a whole new animal and I think you mean a Siberian Husky or Alaskan Husky or something there. It’s a whole new animal. You’ve probably play on that one. Yeah, it’s it’s so different than you know, a typical corporate job like that. But you’ve done an incredible job of making sure that you you know, in addition to your business, and the things you do on a day to day, which you clearly love, and clearly very passionate about you and your wife, your family, like you make time to do the other areas that you’re super passionate about as well. Like, you know, we talk from the get go about the rock and roller tour, rock and roller coasters. And in you mentioned as well, like you did two and a half week trip right after Podcast Movement. How have you structured the business at least you know, at the time of this recording to the point that you are able to actually get away from your 35 dogs and all your you know, client dogs if that’s a term as well.

Robert Forto 28:37
Well, first off, we have a huge support network. And that’s one person Max, that’s our daughter, Nicole. She came back to work with us after a few year hiatus, you know, she had to find her way if you will, you know how you are when you’re in your early 20s. She came back to work for us a few years ago and she is literally our right hand. Man woman right now she is the one that makes the whole thing go when we’re gone. So she is there when we are not. But it all comes back to we are busting our butts all year long in order to be able to take that time off and and a lot of people say how in the world do you find so much time to travel, like we did a week and a half trip in Belize this spring and we did our two week tour in the summer. And first off, we figure out a way to include work or meeting clients on our trips. So we do that. So we’ll meet with some service dog clients or whatever on our road trips. So that becomes a write off which is really nice. But also, you know, when you’re working 24 hours a day, 300 days a year, it allows you to take those extra two or three weeks off at a time to do what you have to do.

Max Branstetter 29:52
Yeah, that’s exactly how we structured Podcast Movement this year as well like when you we were so glad that We went there not only for the conference, but we got you know, smaller sample size. But the weekend before we got to hang with my cousins shout out Jeff and Emma, and we stayed at their place. And we did you know, like we hiked around Golden and we got to explore more of Denver we went to Rockies game we saw actually, we saw a double rainbow at the Rockies game that was pretty cool. But it was so nice to do that right before progress movement as well. So it’s not just you know, conference in your like, amazing conference, but it’s not just that in, you know, go go go for all those days in a row, you have like the true time to unplug leading up to that as well. And so you’ve kind of done that on steroids. To tie it back to baseball. Now, I couldn’t resist. Not speaking of steroids but speaking of Podcast Movement. As I mentioned earlier, that’s where Robert and I met. And I was just endlessly fascinated from our first conversation at the the speaker party, which is really cool. Robert was kind enough to attend my session in person. And on the fly, I was able to incorporate some references or joke about Robert in the actual session. So that was all a good time. But if you’re interested in grabbing the slides from my Podcast Movement 2023 session, you can do so at MaxPodcasting.com/PM23. That’s MaxPodcasting.com/PM23, you can sign up, get the slides there, it will sign you up for the Podcasting to the Max newsletter as well. Of course, unsubscribe at any time, you’re always welcome to do that. But absolutely love speaking on giving your guests their best-ever show experience. So you can grab that at MaxPodcasting.com/PM23. Now let’s start training for the Iditarod. Speed speaking of traveling around at different places are moving at laser fast speed, Laser and Blazer would love to talk Iditarod, you might not believe it. But you are you’re the first Wild Business Growth podcast guest who’s ever attempted or trained for the Iditarod, at least to my knowledge. Yeah, I’m sure people have done some pretty cool excursions kind of in that sled dog space, but no one’s quite taken it to heart as much as you have are. So at the time of this recording, what’s your goal of Iditarod? Is it you know, do you have a time where you want to knock it out? In your life by? Or is it kind of just like a bucket list thing? Like what’s your perspective for it?

Robert Forto 32:29
Well, as I said, we moved up here in 2010. To chase that Iditarod dream, I’m still chasing it, I’ve had the opportunity to do it several times. And a lot of it comes down to time and money. And you know all of that, thankfully, my daughter, Nicole, the very woman that we just mentioned, she ran Junior I did around twice as a teenager. So that’s sort of a big hat hanger, if you will for our kennel. And I think that that’s helped out a lot. Recently, I started teaching at the universities here, University of Alaska and Alaska Pacific University and teaching dog mushing to students. So currently, that happens right during I did rod time. So I have a three year contract to do that. So I’m thinking max that in the next four or five years or so I will do I didn’t arrive. But there’s a cool fact. And the oldest rookie to ever start identified was 72 years old. And I’m only 52 now. So I still have 20 years to to get to the starting line, if you will. So I think I have plenty of time. And then we’ll just see how business goes and things rock and roll over the next few years. But don’t be too excited to not see me up there in the next five years or so.

Max Branstetter 33:45
And that’s awesome. Well, you got plenty years, you got plenty of dog years as well. So you got plenty of time. But that’s that’s something so cool. You know, it’s like, it feels like training for an Ironman or ultra marathon or something like that, where it’s just such a big famous thing that it’s obviously it takes so much time and energy and cost as well to actually prepare for it. But if you do do it that’s a you know, that’s a that’s a hang your hat moment, if you can actually participate and compete in that as well. But that’s amazing. Shoutout Nicole. That’s really really cool that she’s done the junior one a couple of times. So maybe speaking from your own mushing and training, or maybe it’s from your daughter’s expected with the junior I did arrive as well. For anybody who’s not familiar, just in case there’s somebody in the audience right now that maybe hasn’t trained for I did ROTC before. What does that training regimen that preparation regimen look like for a race of that caliber?

Robert Forto 34:43
Like I said earlier, it is very long hours on the trail in absolutely freezing temperatures. Like I said, we typically will start a training run at eight o’clock eight or nine o’clock at night. So after dinner and everything else when most people are kicking back watching Netflix, we’re out in the, in the wilderness with our dogs. And we’ll hook up a team of 10 or 12 dogs and just take off, we’re lucky enough to have two or 300 miles of trails right off our back door. So we could literally just run for hours and hours. And we’re out there. In the winter here, especially January or February, it’s typically 25-30 below 6, 7, 8 feet of snow on the ground. And we’re just out there, just, you know, just in the middle of the thicket, if you will. And we spend a lot of time with our dogs, you talked about training for Iron Man’s and stuff like that. We’re doing human marathon type runs every night, so 20 3040 miles a night with our dogs. And we’re doing that day in and day out. Throughout the whole winter, our current training schedule is two days on one day off, and that’s seven days a week from pretty much October until whenever the snow melts, whether it be late March, early April. And we’ll do I don’t know 2,000 or 3,000 miles on the back of the dog sled every night for the entire winter.

Max Branstetter 36:09
How much of success in you know, like a quote unquote, running up the I did ride, which you say comes down to the performance of the dogs versus the performance of the musher.

Robert Forto 36:24
It doesn’t matter about the musher at all the dogs don’t care, you could fall off at mile one. And they’ll continue until they fall over. So it’s sort of tongue in cheek because obviously the human has to take care of the dogs. But you know, it’s the dogs are the true athlete. It’s like having a very fine tuned sports car, a heck of a lot easier to drive than then, you know, a rust bucket Ford Escort or something like that. So if you have a Formula One car, it’s a lot easier. But yeah, the dogs are the ones that are doing it. And you’re literally the jockey, you’re the one that’s telling them what to do and, and where to go. But otherwise, it’s the dogs that are doing the job.

Max Branstetter 36:59
I was literally just thinking about horse racing. And you said jockey, so we’re on the same wavelength here, you’re probably a little bit up ahead of me in the idea route. But it makes makes a lot of sense. And these dogs aren’t such incredible athletes. How do you decide when a dog is ready for game time ready to run in a race like that, we could

Robert Forto 37:22
probably break that down on a bunch of different levels. But if you think about it, in business terms, it’s building that perfect cohesive team, you have to have a you know, an excellent HR department, you have to have a good advertising department, you have to have good leadership, you have to have all of that. And that goes right back to a very well or oiled dog team. And I always equate it to football, you have to have your Tom Brady, that’s your lead dog, you have to have somebody that’s going to make the decisions and just be the superstar, you have to have those. Those, you know, those sorts of jocks, you know, the offensive linemen in football, those are your wheel dogs, those are the ones that are there to doing the grunt work. And then you have your up and coming stars, and those are your swing dogs, those are the dogs right behind the leaders, they’re the ones that are going to step up. And if you watch the Monday Night Football game last night, at the time, we’re recording, the superstar Aaron Rodgers of the New York Jets went down in play three or something like that with a torn Achilles. And what happened, the next guy set up and and took over. And that’s that’s how it sort of is with a dog team. Those dogs have to be able to perform and fire on all cylinders at all time. And it just goes back to genetics and, and will and drive and all of that these dogs are born to do this. You know, it’s not taking your golden retriever and hooking them up and saying, Yep, let’s run to know, these guys were born and bred to do this. And, you know, it takes a lot of time and a lot of skill. And of course, if I’ve been dealing with dogs since the 90s, if anything, I know how to pick a good dog over a bad dog. And I’ve been able to do that. And fortunately, we have some pretty high caliber dogs.

Max Branstetter 38:58
I like that analogy of the with the musher is that it’s your kind of a charge of assembling the team. But really it’s you leave it to the your team to to Excel for you. I am curious, though as a musher what would you say is the most challenging part during the actual race or during the actual legs of the race?

Robert Forto 39:20
Probably sleep deprivation is probably high up on the list when you’re out there in those type of temperatures. And racing in particular is very tough on the human side of things because the dogs will just go they are comfortable of doing what they have to do. But as as the coach as the you know, the human side of it, you don’t get a chance to take a break. You have to take care of them when it’s time for them to rest and that’s true leadership. You know, you have to step up if you think about this in business terms. You know, it’s the guy that’s burning the midnight oil. It’s the CEO that’s you know, in the C-suite that’s you know, poring over the numbers when everybody else is out at happy hour or something like that. They’re the ones that are making the decisions. And that sort of the human side of that equation is you just have to be focused and sleep deprivation is tough financing. It is very tough. It’s a very expensive lifestyle. Our dog food bill alone is about $2,500 a month just to feed them. That’s very expensive. So you have to you have to be creative in in all aspects of being that that part of that team and I think that’s what the the most difficult part of it

Max Branstetter 40:28
is. I mean, this applies super well to both when you’re machining as well as when you’re leading a business. How do you find the willpower and I guess mental sanity to keep going when you are sleep deprived when you have financial pressure when you have these big roadblocks like that, but you got to keep going along.

Robert Forto 40:50
Honestly, there is no time to second guess you just got to do it. You got to figure out a way and when you have people depending on you whether it’s in business or in dog mushing or, you know, when you have a pack of sled dogs down there who need fed every day, it’s the same as being on a farm. You can’t say Oh, well, we’ll figure out another way tomorrow. You know, as they say, the baby’s got to eat and that’s true in dog mushing as well, you just can’t take uncalculated chances, you have to be able to figure out a way to do it, you have to be hungry, as we mentioned, and you just have to go for it. You have to have grit. We talked about sleep deprivation, you become a different individual. When you’ve been on the trail at 30 below for three days without any sleep, you’re gonna you’re gonna figure out what your true metal is. And when you figure that out, a lot of things in life become pretty easy, whether it be business decisions, or, you know, little life curveballs or whatever you find out what you’re truly made of when you’re in the middle of nowhere.

Max Branstetter 41:50
Hungry Like the wolf, or as some say, Hungry Like the Husky. That actually should be the original saying. As if you didn’t have enough weird talents or party tricks, let’s get to a segment called the unusual. So pet peeves, quirks weird talents, this again, could be hours and hours. This could actually be a segment as long as the entire idea rot. But we’re gonna we’re gonna start with quirks. What’s something a little bit quirky about your personality that your wife, kid, you know, Team collaborate or somebody calls you out for but it’s just who you are. Oh, god,

Robert Forto 42:28
yeah, you probably already guessed this, but I am probably about as much of as a detail oriented perfectionist as you could possibly get. I way to overanalyze everything. So that’s by far a huge Quirk. And it’s a blessing and a curse. You know, when you’re constantly figuring out the variables at everything, you know, I’m one of those guys max that than to watch a movie and I’ve got the IMDb and the Wikipedia open at the same time trying to figure out where they filmed it and who was in it and what the budget was and all that

Max Branstetter 43:03
is shot up my wife Dana and I because we’re totally the same thing. Like she has the actual IMDb app. I just Google the actors actresses all the time, but I can’t see somebody and go oh, that’s the person from so and so and like, and not look it up to confirm we’re totally the same way but I’m with you.

Robert Forto 43:20
I will stop a movie 15 times and that probably pissed my wife off more than anything is I’m constantly stopping the movie to look something up or whatever. So So yeah, by far that’s that’s that’s my biggest work.

Max Branstetter 43:34
Speaking of pissing your wife on not just for speaking of being pissed off pet peeves. What is something from your perspective that besides the internet being down, you can’t look up something on IMDb or Wikipedia? What is something that just grinds your gears a little bit ticks you off a little bit? It accountability

Robert Forto 43:51
people that are not accountable for their actions. I think that that’s a big pet peeve of mine, especially in today’s world where everybody thinks that you should have a second pass or you know a do over or whatever. live up to your actions do what you have to do be accountable. Show up on time. Be there when you say you’re going to be there and don’t give excuses be there when you’re so you’re supposed to be there.

Max Branstetter 44:14
And that is the word of the day and accountability. We made it you stumbled onto it. So congratulations you when you in this podcast interview. And then we’re talents. What? Well, first of all, what can’t you do? But second of all, what’s something that’s kind of like more of a party trick or like it has no impact on your business but you just have a knack for doing X.

Robert Forto 44:37
Ah you know, I was a musician in college. I thought it was going to be the next coming of Pearl Jam or nirvana or Allison chains or something like that. I started playing guitar when I was a teenager and that led into a pretty decent career on the club and bar scene and college and of course that led into podcasting and everything that we do with it, but I can play a pretty mean guitar if I have to and you know it doesn’t come in handy today, and 2023 but I would love to get the guys together again and jam a little bit if we could.

Max Branstetter 45:12
For Well Let’s jam our way to jamming our radar from Spaceballs. Now let’s jam our radar to Rapid-Fire Q&A. You ready for it?

Robert Forto 45:20
Yes.

Max Branstetter 45:22
All right, let’s get Wild. Let’s jam those radars. What is the most beautiful sight you have ever seen in Alaska?

Robert Forto 45:30
Northern Lights in the middle of nowhere. 35 below zero with my dog team.

Max Branstetter 45:36
Wow, that that was like a poem by Edgar Allan Poe. That was really good. What is the coolest experience that you’ve ever had outside of Alaska?

Robert Forto 45:50
Scuba diving. Yeah. Well, you said outside of Alaska. So let me include Alaska. pretty dang cool. Scene man. Oh, man. Okay. Yeah, I’ll give it to you. I was learning how to scuba dive. Several years ago in Alaska. It was February. It was snowing. We were doing our open water dives. And we were down at about 30 below in a place called Whittier, Alaska. And we looked up and we can see the snow falling on the surface of the water. And I tapped to one of my instructors and he told me later on that that’s called margarita snow. And by far one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen is snow falling on top of the water when you’re down at about 60 feet in the middle of winter.

Max Branstetter 46:35
That was like written by Kurt Vonnegut. I’m just gonna keep going here. That was beautiful. I’m adding things to my bucket list throughout this interview, so thank you for that. I know. Huskies are you know synonymous with sled dogs and I did rod. What is it about Huskies in general that makes them just absolute powerhouses of the sport?

Robert Forto 46:58
Independence they are by far the one of the most independent breeds of dogs that I’ve probably trained every dog breed that is recognized by the American Kennel Club Siberian Huskies in particular just don’t give a crap they will give you the finger and and do what they have to do. They are fiercely loyal, fiercely independent.

Max Branstetter 47:18
And speaking of “Breed,” what is your favorite Nirvana song other than “Smells Like Teen Spirit?”

Robert Forto 47:23
My goodness, I would probably have to say probably Bleach. I like that one. I know there’s one that I can’t think of the name of but there’s a lot of good Nirvana songs but there’s a lot of really bad Nirvana songs as well. You know Kurt gets gets a lot of credit but they put out a lot of crap to

Max Branstetter 47:45
Yeah, hey, that’s a good lesson in content creation. And you sometimes you gotta put out a lot of crap to put some literally, you know, Game Changing songs. So I always like I don’t know if there’s one you’re thinking of, but I for whatever reason, I just love “Drain You.” I think it’s like such a great song. I don’t know why it’s just really really good stuff. But you’re like that’s the crap

Robert Forto 48:06
they’re all They’re all of course, all of their their big ones are hits for a reason. But yeah, there’s there’s some good ones out there. I’m a much bigger Alice in Chains fan than I am nirvana. So we can talk about that forever. But yeah, there’s some good stuff from back in the Grunge era. That’s That’s my jam for sure.

Max Branstetter 48:23
I was just talking to my dad about that. For whatever reason, as each year goes on, I like Alice in Chains more and more. I think it’s something that like when you’re younger, they don’t appeal it to you as much. And then over time, there’s some I don’t know, they just they got that grungy and Layne Staley’s voice just so you know, like, it’s a really good there. That’s a good one. What is the best way to stay warm when it’s 30 below or below?

Robert Forto 48:50
Oh, God, you can never have too much good gear. We were down in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago, and it was 112 degrees in the shade. And I remember telling my wife I said there’s absolutely no way in the world I could live here in Phoenix because there’s just no way to cool off. But in in Alaska, when it is 30 below if you have good gear, it makes all the difference. I have a really fancy down coat that I paid way too much money for. That’ll get me through anything. And it has been a lifesaver.

Max Branstetter 49:21
And speaking of lifesaver. Your wife, I know that you have an incredible story of meeting in the chat room, which I think is like your head of your time because I think now everyone’s meeting on dating apps. So kudos to you for being pioneers in that space as well. But what kind of chat room was it?

Robert Forto 49:41
Oh, that’s a good story. It sort of goes full circle here. Max. It was October of 1999. Unfortunately, my wife’s husband had just passed away in a motorcycle accident. So she had three little kids the same little kids that we’ve talked about this entire time. So She was a single mom at the time. And she was trying to figure out how to get her dog to pull her kids in a wagon, up a hill. They didn’t, they couldn’t quite figure it out. And we were on a AOL or Yahoo chatroom. It was a Saturday morning, and she jumped in and I was there. And she said, Does anybody know how I can teach my dog how to pull my kids in a wagon? And I jumped right in and answered her question, and we hit it off. And I remember saying to my brother, I said, Hey, I’ve met this girl in Colorado. I’m thinking about taking this a step further. And he said, Dude, you need to fly out and make sure that she is a she’s a woman, not a dude, this is back in night. Because you never know about internet stalkers. And that, you know, I was kind of naive back in the day. So I booked a flight to Denver and met her and her family and made sure she was who she was, and not, you know, soccer, if you will. And as they say, the rest is history. So yeah, I think that meeting her in the chat room, and then just flying out a week or two later and meet her here in person sealed the deal.

Max Branstetter 51:11
Wow, well before the time of Manti Te’o. Well, Robert, absolutely incredible. Just all around incredible story from meeting your wife to everything you do to help dogs and dog owners and other dog trainers as well as everything in the podcasting empire space as well. Thank you so much for all you do. Thank you so much for coming on. Where is the the easiest way for people to find out more about what you do and listen to any of your shows or hit you up for business?

Robert Forto 51:43
Best Places just search my name on any social media @RobertForto that’s pretty much my handle on everything. And I post all the time I’m active on Twitter or X or whatever it’s called. And just about everywhere else. If you find me I will definitely answer your emails or questions or whatever.

Max Branstetter 52:04
And I can vouch for that. Robert Forto, also known as Balto and I’m just gonna I actually did research a little fun fact that movie Balto obviously named after the famous dog and I did ride came out 1995 December because I was looking up but I remember it being one of my earliest memories and turns out I was three and a half at that time that movie came out and I still remember being in the theaters and actually the power going out during the movie I guess that’s why I remember it but that might be my earliest memory ever so not quite as hands on as your dog I did ride memories but pretty close as well. But Robert, thank you again. Last thing Final Thoughts, it could be a quote just kind of words to live by send us home here.

Robert Forto 52:50
Never forget your dreams is something I live by. Definitely go after it. Do whatever you can to make it happen

Max Branstetter 53:01
Making it happen all around the world and especially in Alaska, all parts of Alaska. Robert, thank you so much for all you do, for sharing your business tips, sled dog tips, all things travel and inspiration. And thank you, Wild Listeners, for tuning in to another episode. If you want to hear more Wild stories like this one, make sure to follow the Wild Business Growth Podcast on your favorite podcast app and tell a friend about the podcast. And then, go start training for the Iditarod with them. That’d be pretty cool life story when it you can also find us a Goodpods where they’re good good podcasts podcasts. And for any help with podcast production, you can learn more at MaxPodcasting.com and sign up for the Podcasting to the Max newsletter. That’s at MaxPodcasting.com/Newsletter. Until next time, and next Iditarod, let your sled dogs Run Wild…Bring on the Bongos!!