Amber Bugher is the third-generation owner of Apol's Harley Davidson, located in Alexandria and Raymond, MN. Apol's began in 1972 by Joe Apol in Raymond and later expanded to Alexandria. It is a Harley Davidson dealer of both new and pre-owned motorcycles. It also services bikes, has a parts department, clothing, and offers winter storage. Learn more at Apols.com.
By Tyler Notch, President, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors
My name is Tyler Notch and I’m the 2023 Chamber President for 2023. It’s been an amazing year so far, and I’ve loved seeing all the growth in our community. As mentioned in my original President message in January, just driving down Broadway you can see new projects like our beautiful Creative Touch Boutique building, the enhancements to The Andria Theater, The Edge, Dashery, etc. We truly are a community where anyone can come to live, work, play and prosper.
Recently, I’ve spoken to classes at Alexandria Area High School and Kalon Prep Academy. I walked away from those discussions feeling pride in the future of our community. Our local education system is building strong, educated, and innovative students that will lead our community for years to come. During these conversations with students, I built my talking points around my theme for 2023, which is “Better Than Yesterday.”
This theme is built around my belief of constantly striving to grow, never being satisfied with the status quo, and using your passions to drive your future. My commitment to this theme allows me to easily share how I feel we can all strive to be better than we were yesterday.
Here are three key areas of focus that have helped me build a life around continued growth and innovation:
1. There’s no such thing as failure, only opportunities to learn.
I’ve always struggled with being a perfectionist. I’m confident that’s because of my deep spirit of competition. I work hard to be the best at everything I do. You can probably see how that poses positives and negatives for me. I struggled mightily with anxiety and a fear of failure in the past and would talk a big game about not being afraid to fail. But I would take it extremely hard if failure happened. I’ve grown to embrace failure more over the last five or so years and it’s helped me take mistakes or failures and turn them into opportunities to analyze the situation, find meaning and put action into place to ensure those failures don’t happen again.
An example is my passion for elk hunting. I’ve built my life around this for the past six years. It has introduced many positives into my life, but what many don’t know is that I quit on myself and my hunting partners on the first elk hunt I ever went on.
It was 2016 and I was embarking on my first-ever elk hunt with my dad and his friend. We planned to go for 14 days and live “off the grid.” I didn’t train or prepare in any way and thought it would play out just like all those hunting videos I’d seen. We’d show up, immediately see an elk and be on our way back home after a few days. I got a rude awakening – 12-mile days of hiking up and down steep terrain, not hearing or seeing an elk for most of the time, waking up, hunting, eating, then sleeping again.
Around day 6 thoughts started to creep into my mind about this being too much work. I was getting a little homesick and was looking for an excuse to quit. I hadn’t ever quit anything but here I was in the middle of Montana ready to call the hunt. I’d let my dad down, his friend down and myself down but I didn’t care. I just wanted to leave. On day 10, we called it quits because of me. I sat in the truck on the way home and immediately missed the mountains. I remember saying, “we can stop here and go after some elk in those mountains,” but it was too late. I thought about that feeling for the next year and vowed to change. I hated failure, I hated knowing I quit on myself, and I would never accept that feeling again.
Fast forward to today and I’ll be heading to Colorado for my seventh hunt this fall. I have yet to shoot an elk with a bow! However, I’ve learned every year how to get just a little bit better at every aspect and we’ve had opportunities every year for the last three years. That fear of being in the woods alone is gone. I’m building a lifestyle that will allow me to go elk hunting out west for the whole month of September. I’m planning future trips to hunt by myself in unfamiliar landscapes and I’ve worked extremely hard to build the mental toughness to move off the negative thoughts that creep in from time to time.
The moral of the story – just because you fail doesn’t mean you’re done.
2. Create a vision for yourself and keep it alive every day.
We hear so much about finding your purpose and your “why.” I have taken a ton of time to work through those two thoughts. However, I find value in the vision I created for how I want to live this life. When I think of vision, I think it helps shape your why, your purpose and gives you a common point to come back to every day. It also allows you to adapt as you go, whereas I think your why and even a bit of your purpose can be a little rigid at times. What I mean is, you’ll create your why and feel as though you have that task done and you’ll refer to it when you need it.
Your purpose can change but it’s also deeply rooted in the things you’re passionate about and that passion usually makes you less adaptable as you transition through different stages of life. Your vision, however, is built on the present version of yourself, with an eye toward the future vision of who you want to become. It gives you the ability to live for the now while building toward the future. It’s essentially the best of both worlds in my opinion.
My vision for myself is rooted in my why of striving for constant improvement and growth and sprinkles in daily habits I’ve built to allow me to become a better version of myself based on my purpose. My vision includes the aspects of my life that drive my why and purpose to guide me toward the future me I want to become. My vision statement is: “My vision is to build my life around being a servant leader in my home, workplace and the elk woods to foster a future centered on continued growth, lifelong learning and positive relationships.”
As my leadership skills have grown, I’ve had dreams to work my way into entrepreneurship and opportunities that would allow me to own and operate companies of my own. The thing that intrigued me about this was building work around my passions for leadership, elk hunting and archery. I love building strong teams that are committed to one culture and striving for one goal and an opportunity presented itself a year and a half ago. I joined three others in purchasing the Alexandria Shooting Park.
Throughout that process doubts crept in. Could I do my part to build this into a successful business having not really been an entrepreneur before? Would I have enough confidence in my abilities to help the other owners build a strong and consistent vision? Could we make this business more successful knowing it’s already been very successful?
Many conversations with my amazing wife and endless internal conversations led me to move forward with that purchase. One thing that never wavered, however, was my vision for myself. I knew what I wanted currently, where I wanted to go in the future and had finally built confidence in that I wasn’t afraid to bet on me. What has come since November 2022 has been everything I dreamed of. We’ve been able to work as owners to make a multitude of positive changes. The ownership group has entrusted me with operations and administration duties that allow me to focus on my love for leadership. I’ve been able to work on building an archery range that will give our community a world class archery facility that I will continue to pour my heart and soul into. Lastly, I’ve been able to build other opportunities through relationships that will help open other doors in the future.
Whenever you feel lost, fall back on your vision to help guide your decisions.
3. Lean into feedback. In fact, seek it out!
I did an exercise last year that was extremely difficult in the moment but provided me with a ton of clarity on how I could improve. I chose a handful of leaders within my organization and some friends outside the organization to provide me with the answer to a few questions, such as: What’s one thing I’m doing that is getting in my own way? The answers I received were hard to absorb right away. My ego was telling me one thing, but my self-awareness was telling me another. I was finally able to overcome the ego side and analyze the feedback. Some centered around being better at following up or following through on things, while others encouraged me to be bolder. What came from this was a realization that those I reached out to didn’t need to answer these questions but did because they cared. Many commended me for taking time to seek out this feedback and started doing it themselves.
Since those conversations took place, I’ve been intentional about building systems that allow me to follow up quickly and I’ve developed a confidence in embracing situations or issues that were uncomfortable.
As I always say to my teams, “on the other side of uncomfortable is growth!”
The three items above have been the most influential for me to find the meaning of “Better Than Yesterday.” My hope is I have provided a deeper meaning and understanding on why this theme is so important to me. I’m confident that if all of us can adopt a vision for our community centered on continued growth, positive relationships and values aligned work, this can be the best place in the country to live, work, play and prosper.