Most new businesses crash and burn soon after they’re launched — which is why Boston’s Spartan founder and CEO Joe De Sena has a thriving business challenging owners with physical and mental tasks to revive and save their companies. Beginning Tuesday he now hosts the CNBC weekly series “No Retreat: Business Bootcamp.”
The premiere episode profiles a couple who spent millions, everything they had, to buy a decades-old commercial office cleaning business. After a few years, the company was desperate for help to stay afloat.
De Sena’s solution? Take them to an intensive three-day physical course at The Farm, his 700-acre New Hampshire estate.
“Companies have been reaching out to us for 20-plus years to come up to The Farm,” De Sena, 53, said. “When CNBC decided to do the show with us, a lot of people were reaching out, and we chose the ones that seemed interesting. I’ve been in business for a long time, and when you say, ‘They look like they have no clue,’ you’d be surprised.”
“Business is tough. But it’s just not easy, right? I mean, so many businesses go out of business in the first five years, that if it was easy that wouldn’t be the case,” he added. “So although shocking, and good entertainment when somebody says, ‘We have no procedures for the two years we’ve been running the company’ and ‘We don’t know how to do payroll,’ it’s more common than you think.
“I believe people do more homework and more research on their vacations than they do on starting their business. Typically, it’s a dream for new owners that turns into a nightmare.
“So I believe the world needs a dose of reality. And that’s exactly what we do. I’m not good at a lot of things. But I’m really good at giving people a kick in the butt, motivating them and shining a light on the stuff they need to do.
“Up on The Farm, I probably come across as too intense. I know I come across too hard on people. But really, I’m just trying to help them avoid that disaster. That mistake that costs you your livelihood, your savings and your reputation,” De Sena said.
The Farm’s intensive course — “A world of pain” — means getting in the mud, hiking, brutal weather. Has anyone needed an ambulance? Completely flipped and said, “I’m not going in the mud?”
“We have had, especially over the years, people who have not wanted to do the work or it was a little over their head. No doubt about it,” he said.