Male Standard sat down with Wayde King and Brett Raymer, the guys behind Animal Planet’s hit show Tanked. As two of the country’s most successful aquarium builders, these brothers-in-laws are used to tackling challenging project.
This season, which returns on September 19, they build tanks for Shaq, Mario Lopez, Theresa Caputo, Wilmer Valderrama and Pete Rose.
As always, our goal was to learn about the men behind the show. What drives them? What challenges do they face on a day-to-day basis?
Read as Wayde and Brett share their failures, successes and lessons learned along the way. See what it took to build the top business in their industry and a hit reality show.
Q. How did you get into the luxury aquarium business?
I grew up with aquariums in my basement my whole life. We were poor and didn’t have much. It was me and my 5 sisters. It was a lot of work, constant work. Any time I got upset about something, I would work harder and work more. I always knew that if I had more money it would make things better, not health wise, but I’d have a car, the insurance would be paid. I wouldn’t have stresses in the areas I did growing up.
My mom remarried and the gentlemen she married kept me off the streets by cleaning aquariums. He had the first commercial service company in NYC. We would go from the city to the island to different restaurants and hotels cleaning aquariums.
Growing up, I went to school to become a diamond cutter. I went to machinist school- American Institute for Tooling. I learned how to use machines and my hands. It was tough. I went to California over 20 years ago where the manufacturers were for my mom’s tanks. I became friends with them then a month later they moved to Las Vegas. I met Brett’s mom and dad who wanted an aquarium in their retirement house. I met his sister, got married, then started the whole company. Within 5 years we were number one in building custom aquariums.
Next year will be our 20 year anniversary. It’s not like we started the company and got the show. We were in business 15 years before the show came about. So, like Wayne said, we’ve had our ups and downs. The economy took a toll on us since aquariums are luxury items. We went from the peak of the economy in 2004 with 50 employees, to 12-13 employees by 2006-2007 when the economy went down. We were close to closing but we survived.
I think at the time we brought in more family and everybody had to work harder. We owed bills and taxes, but we kept working. My wife says I’m a workaholic. When you start a business the first 5 years, you don’t have a life, fun our going out. You’ve got to put that 5 years in. If the business isn’t going in 5 years, then you aren’t working hard enough or doing the right thing. It was tough, I worked 15-20 hours a day.
Right now I work more than I’ve ever. We film 40-60hours for 44minutes of tv. We travel 18 days out of the month, 11 months out of the year, still with a business to run. If you can build infrastructure in your company and it can run when you’re away, you will be successful. The hardest thing is to build it and not give up.
Q. What about that special ingredient of having family in the mix? How do you make it work?
There are workers and non workers, there are smart ones and not so smart ones, some people are great at sales, sweeping or just working hard. People can’t realize that, but you have to accept that.
When you’re working with family, hopefully you can trust them 99% of the time. So when you put them into the right positions to make sure things go well with the company, everyone will have their issues, it is how you handle those issues.
Q. Are entrepreneurs born or made?
Sometimes it is both. Some are born with it, some catch on and do it.
Some are born into it and get taught it, some don’t have family in it at all but they go and do it.
Don’t be afraid to go out there and go for it.
Q. How do you stay hungry? People say you have made it, do you think you have?
We’ve created something that is successful, but I’m not satisfied with what we’ve accomplished yet. After the season we will be at 68 episodes. We’d like to be at 100. We want to break records.
Q. What failure have you learned from?
Business and personal failures play a roll in how you want to get better.
You’ve got to budget yourself with life, family time, and your own time. When you are young, start saving your money, don’t blow it all away. That’s a mistake I made growing up.
Q. How did you learn to delegate?
That was one of my biggest problems. I couldn’t let go. Now with filming, I delegate 90% of my workload.
Q. Who’s idea was it for the show?
I had an idea for the show. Everyone thought I was crazy. It took a year to get a production company, then another year goes by after shooting and nothing happens. 4 years later it was picked up by Animal Planet.
Q. Was it hard to shift the personalities on screen?
When we are together we have fun. When the cameras are rolling its a little bit more. We play to the cameras. If you’re not playing with the camera how’s the show going to work?
Q. How are you balancing family?
When I am in town on the weekends, we have family time. After traveling. The first night is always family dinner night at home, we don’t go out to eat.
Q. Do you guys have any personal favorite tanks you’ve done?
Shaq was great and a lot of fun. He cleared his whole schedule to be with us.
Any client who clears the schedule to hangout while shooting are great.
Q. How many employees are you at now?
58, with 90% of them in Vegas
Q. What can we see from the show and the business in the future?
More celebrities, unique tanks, and more creativity. We hope to grow our business with our chemical line coming out.
Q. What is your male standard or creed you live by?
You can do anything you put your mind to and make it happen.
Thank you Wayde and Brett for chatting with us. We had a blast.
Catch the season premier of Tanked this Friday, September 19, on Animal Planet.