Life is a battlefield. You need to be well-equipped in order to survive, or you will get left behind. In today’s challenging world filled with competition, how do you even stand out from the rest? Do you need to have a great pedigree and education in order to succeed? Or what if someone that has a troubled past and horrible childhood ended up being wealthy? What are the characteristics to make someone really successful? Host Michelle Seiler Tucker interviews Jay Samit, an international best-selling author and entrepreneur, where he unfolds the secrets on how the billionaires are doing it, how you can achieve it, and how you can learn to leverage fear. Plus, Jay also reveals why he thinks you only need two things to become successful.
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How The Billionaires Are Doing It: The Secrets To Future Proofing Success With Jay Samit
Jay, welcome to the show. It’s a pleasure to have you here on the show.
Thanks for having me.
You’re welcome. Thank you so much for giving us a testimonial on my new book that’s coming out called Exit Rich. I greatly appreciate that.
It hits on a topic that a lot of people don’t think about and you cover it in great depth.
Me and Sharon Lechter. You’re familiar with Sharon Lechter, right?
She and I wrote a 325-page book on everything you need to know about exiting. You have a couple of great books under your belt and you have had a lot of amazing accomplishments, which I can’t help to wonder what Jay Samit was as a little boy. How did you get started?
I didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur and start companies that I sell for billions of dollars and have multiple exits. I started not figuring it out. By the time I got out of college, I had two small kids and I wanted my sons to have a great life and that’s what pushed me forward. What I realized after dozens of your friends become self-made billionaires, they didn’t go to the right schools, right families, they didn’t have connections, most don’t come from money and it can be taught. Every 48 hours, there’s a new self-made billionaire. They have the same time as we do. What do they do differently? I wrote Disrupt You! to teach people how to do that. It was the greatest experience of my life, as you’ll find out with your book, because you hear from people all over the world that it’s changed their lives. It’s coming out in Polish, Urdu, Icelandic, and crazy languages.
I didn’t reach everybody. Occasionally, I’d get an email saying, “This is motivational but I can’t do it.” I decided to put my reputation and my life out there and play Pygmalion. I took a young man who grew up on welfare, couch surfing, staying at different friend’s houses. I mentored him for one day a week for a year. I gave him no cash. I didn’t tell him what business to start. I gave him no contacts, a complete fair level playing field. To give away the ending of future-proofing you, he became a self-made millionaire in under a year.
What the mentor sessions went down to is what I call Twelve Truths. If you follow these twelve truths, you will be successful. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying you’ll kickback. I’m not trying to sell masterminds or seminars. I’m not trying to sell anything. I use a publisher because that gets my thoughts out to the most people. It’s doable. This young man, Ben, was willing to work harder than most for a year so he can live the rest of his life the way most can’t. He’s future-proof. Whatever the economy changes, whatever disruption comes from pandemics, or things in the future, he now has the tools within him to be successful.
I always say, “Do what’s hard and life becomes easy. Do what’s easy and life becomes hard.”
It all starts with getting a growth mindset. What was funny is I didn’t let Ben read the book until it was already typeset because he discovered, when he read it, that our relationship started with a lie. I lied to him. There is an effect called the Pygmalion effect. There was a professor who went to school and tested all the kids and told the teachers, “These three kids would be super learners. They learned so much this year and grew.” At the end of the year, they gave a test. Lo and behold, those three kids were amazing, super learners. It turns out the professor lied. He never looked at the first test. He picked three names at random. If you tell people they’re special, they act special and they respond.
Given that I wanted Ben to achieve this in a year, I needed to trick him into having a growth mindset that he never had before. When I first met him, I said, “I interviewed hundreds of people.” Out of all the people, he’s the only one with all the right characteristics to make this happen. He’s like, “If this old wealthy guy believes it, then maybe I have it.” By making him feel that somebody else believes, he learned to believe. In his first 30 days, when he made more than $50,000, he believed.
What are those characteristics? What did he have that somebody else doesn’t have?
I made that up. I never interviewed anybody else.
That’s the part that you lied to him about.
It would have been cheating if I cherry-picked the perfect person. If I’m going to teach anybody who played golf, Tiger Woods, come over here. That’s not fair. I took somebody at random but I made them feel special. Tom Bilyeu wrote the foreword to the book. Tom wrote something powerful in his foreword. He wrote, “I believe in you,” to the reader. He says, “I don’t have to have met you. Humans are amazing. We’re adaptable. We can achieve anything we put our minds to. If no one’s ever told you this, I believe in you.” There’s power with that. Many teachers told you that you can’t or your parents wanted to shield you from failing. Failing is the key to success. You learn what doesn’t work. It’s like playing a video game, you get to the obstacle, you die, you go figure that out, get to the next one, and you fail your way to the top. That’s how Jeff Bezos, who I worked with in the late ‘90s, could lose money year after year and come out the other side as the richest man in the world.
In this book, I also wanted to explain to people where the money comes from. There’s such a misunderstanding. When you and I were in school, we were taught that Jay buys a banana for $1 and I sell it to you for $2 and that’s how I make a $1. That mindset is called a zero-sum game. It means the only way I get money is if I take money from you. If you start with that mindset, then you believe they got the raise so I’m not getting it. I don’t like that person. These people are taking our jobs. That country is taking our jobs. Everybody becomes the enemy. Whereas if I went to you and said, “I’m starting a new company.” I sell you 10% for $10,000, what do I now have? I now have 90% of the company. I have $90,000.
That wasn’t created in equity. That wasn’t created by the federal reserve. I can hire people with that. I can buy things. I can merge companies with it. That’s where wealth is created, out of thin air, like a philosopher’s stone. You could do it the old-fashioned way. Warren Buffett, a brilliant investor worth $80 billion-plus, made 99% of that after he was 50. You can do it the Kylie Jenner way and become a billionaire at 22. You can say, “She had a famous family.” There weren’t any billionaires in that family. What are people doing differently? How can I learn to do this? How can I learn to leverage fear? How can I find mentors? That’s something I didn’t talk about in the first book. You can’t do it on your own. I was guilty of this.
I used to run the world’s record labels, all the artists that you can think of. When you see that artist alone on a stage, you feel that connection from their heart to yours. This one person did it on their own. You don’t see the songwriters, musicians, arrangers, roadies, stylists and makeup, managers, and agents, hundreds of people to make it look like the person is there by themselves. I don’t know a single person that made it to the top on their own. Even Mother Teresa found her mentor while sitting on a bus bench. You can find mentors on LinkedIn. It’s not sending the email that I’m sure you and I get all the time, “Will you be my mentor?”
“Will you be my friend,” like Rogers’ Neighborhood.
It’s about finding people. I’ll tell you how to look through their backgrounds to see what works, starting a dialogue, commenting on things that they write or post, and developing that relationship the same way you would with a real relationship. You’ll be amazed how many people would like the validation of being able to help people and how many people would like to pay it forward. I was able to do that for Ben as a way to then write it down and scale it for everybody. Too many people feel left out, left behind, surviving on leftovers. The bottom 140 million Americans own less than 1% of everything in the country. Life is set up to be hard. You were taught to be a factory worker and factories employ robots. How can I teach people that they have it within them? That’s my mission.
What are the characteristics to make somebody successful? You take two people, somebody successful and somebody that’s not. Maybe somebody went to college, has a great pedigree, great education. The other person has a troubled past, a horrible childhood, and never had any mentors. Why would this person be more successful than this person? What makes somebody more successful than someone else?
One of the myths that I explode in the book is college graduates from top universities don’t end up wealthier than people that don’t go to college. That era disappeared. Having a higher IQ doesn’t make you end up wealthier. You only need two things to be successful, insight and perseverance. I can teach insight. I have my three problems a day for a 30-day technique that will get you more deal flow than the biggest VC and you’ll find that. Persistence can be honed and cultivated. In future-proofing you, I explained how to take what you’re persistent about and turn it into a passion. Passion will get you further. Passion will see you through those obstacles that seem insurmountable at the time.
In the beginning, the first stage is that growth mindset. Some people go, “I failed the real estate test. I’ll never be a realtor. I’m not smart enough.” Other people will take the same test and fail and go, “I didn’t learn these things. If I learn these things, then I will pass.” Every time you fail in business, it’s not that you can’t do it, you learn something that doesn’t work. You don’t end up where you started, that’s the other thing people don’t understand. You either earn or you learn. Each time you try, you learn more skills.
VCs would rather invest in somebody that’s had a failed business than somebody that’s never tried it before. It’s that process of learning what works and what doesn’t work. No one suddenly fully forms and sits there and invents the flux capacitor. It’s not about inventing. It’s not about selling. It’s about solving a problem. Solve for a few people, you have friends. Solve for a million, you become wealthy. Solve for a billion and you change the world. We’re one click away from seven billion people. Think of the impact you can have with your ideas.
You also talk about how to create a digital business without any working capital or whatsoever. Tell us about that.
First off, I have a chapter on this, every business is digital. If you don’t think your business is digital, you’re wrong. I’ll fight you to the death on it. If you go back ten years and I give you $1 million to put and buy the most successful tech stock of the past ten years, what would you buy? Apple? No. Facebook? No. Google? No. Turn over all of the cards. The most successful tech company whose stock has done the best, Domino’s. How’s that a tech company? The second they became app-centric, the majority of their employees work on technology. They can get insights faster from users. They can see trends. They can see taste. They can, more efficiently, do their supply chain. They can get rid of employees. They are a tech-centric business. Making pizza is the easiest part of that business. Customer acquisition and retention. What problem are you going to solve?
In Ben’s case, he came to me and had a skillset that most Millennials feel they have. I know social media. I could do social media marketing for people. Go in line behind the 40 million people that already have a million followers. People know how to do this. What if you take those skillsets instead of marketing some generic thing? You’re not going to get Coca-Cola when you’re a kid with no track record as a client and the only people you know have no money. You’re in that dead end. What if you find a niche that no one else has focused on?
I’m competitive but I hate competition. I know that, on any day, there’s somebody better looking, smarter, better connected, richer. The competition doesn’t sleep. I don’t want to compete. If I’m the only person in the world doing what I’m doing, by definition, I’m the best. I asked him to start looking. A good mentor doesn’t tell you what to see, he points you where to look. Where is there a trend that the press is talking about? Where is something new that everybody’s talking about? Stake your flag in the sand that you are the best social media marketer of that little, teeny niche. In his case, it was the year that Bitcoin went from $1,000 to $20,000. Everybody’s talking about cryptocurrency. The second Bitcoin did that, thousands of entrepreneurs decided they were going to create their own coins and do what’s called an ICO, Initial Coin Offering, where you can make $1 billion out of thin air overnight.
Anybody with brains knows that window was going to close fast. The government was going to get rid of the hucksters and it was going to be small. All of a sudden, all these people that wanted to get their ICO out needed somebody that knew how to market ICOs. Ben created the world’s greatest agencies solely focused on that. He got one client. He would have done it for free to prove it. That client made $58 million in a month from the marketing that he did. Now you have a case study. With that case study, they lined up around the block. The same thing he used to charge $200 for, he can now charge $30,000 for it. It’s the same amount of work, the same amount of hours. That market can come and go but that approach works again and again because there’s always something new.
Did he have any experience? He had no experience in that industry, right?
He learned it as he went.
He lived it because he was a Millennial. He understood things. He had been hired once to do a campaign. He’s from London. I also wanted the fish out of the water but had no support network and no friends. I’m in Los Angeles. There was a pub that was opening. You can imagine, in London, advertising in a major city like that is super expensive and rents are expensive. If your restaurant doesn’t hit on day one, you’re out of business. He got hired to do that.
What he realized was you’re not going to compete for keywords and everything else. There’s always somebody with more money. Go where nobody else is. It’s the same idea. I have a whole chapter on filling voids and future-proofing. What he did is he grabbed some photos of nice-looking women and nice-looking guys, the people you’d want to meet at a bar, because you go to a bar to meet people, and put them on Tinder. When people liked them, he said, “I’m not real but we’re the people that would be at this place.” Everybody liked the joke. It spoke to the moment. It spoke to the truth of that generation and the place was a hit.
It’s not that you don’t have to do the work but it’s as hard to work on something that doesn’t scale as something that could become $1 billion. I’ve sat in an empty room and done the first auction. You wake up and it’s eBay or sat down with Reid Hoffman and LinkedIn. I’ve seen what that is and I’ve run companies where you do hundreds of billions of dollars a year and you have hundreds of thousands of employees and you want to shoot yourself.
Everybody complains about how much CEOs get paid. In reality, most of them get paid little. They have a performance bonus tied to some metric. Their sole job is how to make that metric, which gets back to Exit Rich. When I was a public CEO, I have to make it as profitable as possible. Don’t spend money on future products or R&D. You’re in the sixteen-week hamster wheel of, “What are my quarterly earnings? If I hit those numbers, I get paid millions.” That’s what every CEO is doing. It would be better for them to overpay to acquire a company that’s already doing what they want to do than to develop it themselves. That’s why companies will buy companies that have zero revenue to acquire the team, to get into that market.
I’m chairman of a company and I’m going to do this again. There’s a sector that I know aren’t, none of the people that should be developing stuff. We’re doing the hard, heavy lifting. Get it to a size where it’s worth $1 billion for somebody else to buy it as opposed to doing it. Nobody’s watching TV anymore. Everybody’s skipping through commercials. What do you think that does to people sitting in the C-Suites at television networks? It terrifies them. Their whole business is getting those eyeballs paid for. I was a CEO of a digital ad platform that came up with a new way to reach people and get better engagement.
Is that Deloitte Digital?
No. That was SocialVibe. Eighteen months later, we sold it to News Corp for $200 million and never made a penny in profits. It’s about solving that problem for somebody that needs it.
That’s right, you build with no synergies. It’s the same reason that Facebook pays $19 billion for WhatsApp. WhatsApp was hemorrhaging money.
More importantly, the creator of WhatsApp applied for a job at Facebook. It would have given the idea away for free and was turned down.
They found it and they had over a billion users. That’s why Facebook pays $19 billion.
Only one VC was in there and he did great. There are many times where there’s somebody else that can better monetize what you’ve done but you put the pieces together. It’s speed to market for them to buy you. If they try to copy you and rip you off, their competitor will buy you. Look at Dollar Shave Club. Why didn’t one of the big Unilever, Procter & Gamble ever figure out how to have a direct relationship with their customers so they could sell stuff then not go through the middle person?
Have that reoccurring revenue.
That’s the other thing. You don’t have to invent something new. You have to solve a problem using something that somebody else invented.
That takes insight. You have to be creative. You have to have tremendous insight. You have to pay attention.
The only competitive advantage a company has in the 21st century is getting insight from their data faster than their competition. Even your smallest business has data and they’re not using it. I’ll give you an example, back to how I started. I’m old enough that when I came out of school, the new movie was Star Wars. That was the most amazing movie. I know what I want to do with my life. I want to make computer graphics in Hollywood. That would be so much fun. A couple of problems. I knew nothing about computers and nothing about graphics and I knew no one in Hollywood. Other than that, my plan was flawless. What did I need to get? I needed data. I needed to figure out that business.
Before the internet, there were trade publications. I take out a blind ad pretending I’m a production company describing an entry-level job and I got a bunch of resumes. That resume gave me two key pieces of data to launch my career. One, what will my resume need to look like to get one of these jobs? Two, here’s a whole bunch of people with one foot out the door so all those companies are about to have an opening.
Did you come up with that all on your own?
Yes. Here’s the 21st-century version. A young man out of college wants to be Madmen, wants to go into advertising, how creative, how much fun, gets a job with one of the big five multinationals and he’s now sitting in a cube tabulating numbers. It’s the most boring drudgery. It will take them years to get promoted and get noticed. He hates his life but he notices on Google that the most famous creative directors of the heads of the big agencies no one’s bought their names as keywords. For $9, the equivalent of a Big Mac and fries. He bought their keywords and whenever they google themselves, those famous people would check that nothing bad was written about them, and said, “I want to work for you. Click here to see my portfolio.” Three of the five call them in, all three offered jobs. He made five times his salary and accelerated his career by twenty years for a $9 investment.
Those are those techniques and strategies that you write about in your new book?
Disrupt You! Was that a New York Times bestseller?
I wasn’t a New York Times bestseller but it was a best seller and number one in Australia and Korea. It’s now in a whole bunch of languages and it continues to sell. To get New York Times, it has to be through physical stores in a narrow window of the nonfiction category. 80% to 90% of the books that you see on the New York Times list paid to be there. Their service is you can write a check to all your politicians and you go, “Who buys these stupid books?” No one. It’s a racket and they were even taken to court to prove that it wasn’t real numbers. Do you remember the movie, The Exorcist? That book sold more than any other book hands over for a long time and the movie made it even more, and it never appeared on their list.
It’s also more about than only the numbers. They have all these boxes you have to check. Disrupt You! definitely should have made it to the list.
It made Amazon’s Bestseller List.
There are many businesses. I’m sure you know this. When I wrote my first book in 2013, Sell Your Business for More Than It’s Worth, 95% of all startups will go out of business but when I wrote Exit Rich in 2020, that landscape has changed dramatically. Only 30% will go out of business. However, out of 27.6 million companies, those that have been in business years or longer, 70% of those businesses are going out of business. The business owners are selling for pennies on the dollar, closing their doors or even worse, filing bankruptcy. You hear about the public store, public companies like Toys “R” Us, which has been in business for more than 35 years goes out of business. Kmart, Stein Mart, Pier 1, Godiva, our favorite chocolate, is closing down 1,500 locations. Why do you think that is? I have my own philosophy but I’d love to hear from you.
There are a couple of things. First of all, too many entrepreneurs are buried working in their business instead of on their business. When you start a business, you have to start with the premise of who are you building this business for? Not only for the customer but who are you solving a hole of somebody that would buy it? If you don’t know, before you open your doors, who would buy it and why are you starting it, it’s a ton of work. You’re also talking about how we live in an era of endless innovation where things change quickly. Big companies fall over because they’re dinosaurs and they can’t maneuver as quickly.
The biggest mistake that I see, as far as exiting, is I’ve seen as early as 30 days, I had two young people that I was mentoring. In their first 30 days in business, somebody came out of the blue and offered him $100 million for their company. It is the only time I’ve raised my voice in my professional career when they said, “No, we’re going to be billionaires. We’re not taking it.” I’m like, “You’re in your twenties. $100 million. What can you buy with $1 billion that you couldn’t buy with $100 million?”
As I knew from experience, they’re not the center of attention forever. Within the year, there are 22 competitors, they’ve now had to raise $50 million to $60 million that has been watered down. If they sold for $1 billion now, they’d have less in their pocket and it is years later. Most of the time, your first offer will be your best offer. How to evaluate an offer, how to understand it, how to negotiate, how not to get crushed in the 24 hours before closing, when they suddenly go, “You’ve been thinking about this number in your head.” “I’m getting $50 million.” You tell your spouse and your family, “I’m getting $50 million. I can’t wait to spend my $50 million.”
The night before closing, you will get a call, “The market conditions have changed. We’re going to pay you $32 million.” You’re like, “The paperwork says.” They’re like, “It isn’t signed yet. We’re not closed. Due diligence.” Most people will grab their ankles and get screwed out of millions in the last 48 hours of the deal. I’ve had deals go south for the craziest reasons. We had one company where we each had spent over $20 million on due diligence. It was a month-long process. Without revealing anything that I’m not allowed to, the CEO of one of the companies got in a foul mood with his head of acquisitions that was doing the deal and wanted to punish the guy.
The champagne wasn’t only bought, it was on ice. We already had to notify the SEC because one of the companies is public and all that stuff. We’re talking about one second before launch. You can figure this stuff out and things change. The one that I write about in my chapter on exits is a deal that was shocking. The guy who created StubHub, there were two guys that created it that had a falling out on the direction. One left and he went to Europe.
He took the first flight and created a duplicate thing in Europe. It became huge and then he got big enough to be able to buy StubHub and merge the two together into a multibillion-dollar business. February of 2020, the pandemic comes. There are no Broadway plays, concerts, or sports games. You now have the biggest collection of bankruptcy that you can ever have. The worst deal. Forbes wrote it as the worst deal in the history of deals. For eBay, which sold StubHub, it was the most brilliant deal ever. They have an asset that’s going to turn into zero and they’re getting billions and billions for it.
Timing is everything.
You can’t control timing, but you can mitigate risk.
I’ve done over 1,000 transactions with my company and you’re right, they can fall apart for any reason whatsoever, especially right up to the hour that they’re supposed to sign papers. I always tell my clients, “Don’t count your money. Don’t start spending your money until it’s in the bank.” Tell us about your new book. When is it going to be out?
It’s available on Amazon now. It’s Future Proofing You. I’m writing to pay it forward and to help people. There’s the audiobook, the Kindle, and all the different versions. It’s in English for now. It takes publishers longer overseas but it filled in some of the blanks from Disrupt You! It’s given people step by step. That’s why I switched with Wiley. Wiley is a publisher known for those step-by-step types of things to take somebody anywhere from welfare to making $1 million a year. There’s no secret sauce, there’s no sitting under a pyramid. It’s practical, tried and true, and proven.
This pandemic has been hard on small businesses and most people. The 150 wealthiest people in the world doubled their wealth in 2020. Not double their income, doubled their wealth. The bottom half and the middle are getting squeezed out. The reason I spend whatever time I have left on this planet trying to teach people to be successful is you only have democracy if you have a stable middle class. Governments don’t create jobs. Entrepreneurs create jobs. Unless we teach people how to build businesses, we have a bleak future.
Especially with 70% of businesses going out of business that has been in business for ten years or longer. I always say the reason they’re going out of business is because they stop AIM which is Always Innovate and Market. Many of these business owners keep doing things the same way that they’ve always done them. What’s your prediction over the next five years especially given the pandemic? What do you see business in? One of the things I noticed in your sizzle reel is that you said, “It’s not important to own things, it’s important to have access.”
The virtual company. One of the chapters is that remote workers are now your secret sauce. I’ve run remote companies. I did my first company out of my house when my kids were little. They knew the game that if the phone rang and daddy was on, who could stay quiet the longest got a toy because nobody worked out on the phone like them.
Did they get paid for that? Did they get paid for staying quiet?
Absolutely. They’re part of the team. With remote workers, throughout history, you can only hire the best people to live within 10 or 20 miles of your office and now you can hire the best people on the planet. Not only will people appreciate that, but remote workers will also be willing to work for 15% less in the US. Internationally, there are markets where people get paid a lot less, they have less turnover so you’re not constantly losing people. You get to pull from the best of the best anywhere. If you ever use 99designs to make a logo, this proves the point. I always ask the person, “Where are you from?” They could be from anywhere or moonlighting. That’s a competitive advantage.
I also outline the 22 most powerful free software tools for running businesses remotely because you now can walk around the office and see who’s enough in a funk. There are vibes for keeping your team and managing people at a distance. That’s a huge change. Corporations now will be downsizing. Over the next few years, you’re going to say half of the jobs in the US disappear. Massive unemployment. If you think you have that secure job, and that’s why you didn’t start your business, there are no secure jobs. Hundred-year-old companies disappear and anybody can disappear.
The pandemic showed that anything can happen. You can either believe in fate and destiny and sit back and let what comes to you or you can take control of your future in an uncertain world. That’s what future-proofing is. No matter what gets thrown at you, you have the tools to take that disruption. Disruption is about what happens to you. It’s how you respond to what happens to you. Why did the wealthiest respond in a way that made them even wealthier? You don’t have to have anything other than that persistence and insight.
The wealthy saw the opportunity and took massive action.
We all see opportunity differently but the opportunities are all around and there’s no shortage of capital or ways of getting started.
Do you have mentorship programs? Do you mentor people?
No. I don’t have the time or bandwidth, which is why I write my books because it scales. I’ve heard from people in Pakistan and I’ve heard from people from four quarters of the earth from 140 countries that the books have helped. I’m not doing this to make money. The world’s been kind to me. Here’s how I can pay it forward. This was my first time taking the time with one person and I did it so that I could record it, memorialize it in Future Proofing You, and have that knowledge scale. I also did it for the selfish reason that my life pre-pandemic was flying around the world giving speeches and teaching governments and businesses how to do this. I’ve made a protégé and he can go and go do it.
If people want a workbook to get started right now, go to my website, JaySamit.com. There are free workbooks for each of my books that you can do exercises to get the most out of it. The other big thing that I’m passionate about is, I can’t believe that we figured out as a society that the best way to grow food is to pour tons of poison on it that kills birds, plants, weeds, and insects, but it won’t affect us. We’re finding out and what a shock, it causes cancer and kills us. A young engineer that worked for me years ago when I was running Sony came to me with an idea, “What if instead of poisoning the weeds, think of a Roomba, a little robot that goes up and down the rows of soy, corn or whatever and kills the weeds and cuts them off.”
We now have swarms of these robots with a company called Greenfield Robotics. A) It takes the pesticides out of the food. It’s good for us. B) That means a farmer makes more money per acre. He doesn’t have to spray and do all that. C) Most farms still tilled the soil to chop up the weeds. That releases greenhouse gases. The majority, the single largest source of greenhouse gases warming this planet are from farming not from cars and factories so we can stop that. The chemicals that didn’t get into your system and poison you would go down the Mississippi and kill all the fish in the Gulf of Mexico.
We can have healthier food and a healthier planet so I felt morally obligated to step in as Executive Chairman and get the company to the next level. It solved a problem that no one else is focused on. Our mom and pop farmers and big farmers can make a living. In 2020, no farm in the US made a profit. If it wasn’t for government subsidies, we’d lose our food supply. With the changing climate around the planet, food is going to go up tremendously in costs unless we solve this huge problem. I’m fortunate that the team called me to figure it out. That’s why I love talking about entrepreneurs. There’s always somebody with a new solution to a problem that nobody else took the time to solve.
What about Deloitte Digital? What is that company? What are you doing with that company?
I was on the board. Deloitte is a 250-year-old company and does $45 billion a year. About 7% of that’s accounting, all the rest of this is consulting. They brought me in the same as every big company does. How do you change things? How do you modernize? How do you figure it out? That was a fun couple of years being the Vice Chairman.
Do you have your own company that you also run or are you mostly helping other entrepreneurs grow their businesses?
I am not money motivated. I don’t need anymore. I can’t spend what I have. It’s how can I give back? I didn’t think I’d write another book but that one email so bothered me that somehow I wasn’t getting through. I have a few clients that I can’t say no to. I’ll tell you the funniest call I got. Google, who I’ve worked with many times, called and wanted to hire me as a consultant. I said, “When I want to know something I google it. What could I possibly know that you don’t know? You have floors and buildings filled with the brightest minds from around the world.” It turned out that they had nobody with my unique skillset of how you scale and bring things to market as they start getting into the hardware business. That was fun.
The way I’m able to accurately predict the future is I’m constantly hanging out with those that are coding it. I know what Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and Google are working on. I apply that to what holes they are not addressing that they built all these great tools that anybody can use. Think back years ago when the iPhone came out. You can’t live without a smartphone now. It’s the first thing you see in the morning, you run your business, run your life, and go to bed. Years ago, when it came out, one of the top ten apps was the fart app.
Nobody could figure out, “Let’s do OpenTable.” “Let’s do Robinhood.” “Let’s do tons of businesses.” You can’t go back years ago but in Future Proofing You, I tell everybody about a $1 trillion opportunity that no one has a 1% share of that starts in Christmas 2021. You won’t be using your phone anymore. Your life will completely change. It will be bigger than the internet, smartphones and the PC. Why not solve a problem in that space where you have no competition? The big guys are spending billions.
What is it going to be?
Spatial reality. We’re all going to wear heads-up displays that will give us information so we’re no longer searching for information. Information comes to us based on where we are. If you went to the doctor and the doctor said, “You have high blood pressure. You can’t have food with salt.” You could go through the supermarket and pick up every single box and spend four months in there or you could say, “Show me the products with no salt,” and everything else would disappear off the shelves.
There’s a company doing this right now. You don’t remember where you parked your car, there’s a line to find it. Endless possibilities. These glasses are amazing and remember, people spent $150 or more a pair to buy 80 million pairs of glasses that came with one app. Focus. You’re wearing a pair of them right now. They bought another 50 million pairs that came with a different app called Sun, Sunglasses. People are happy to wear glasses if it solves a problem.
We have to have both. We have to have our regular prescription glasses and then our prescription sunglasses.
You have glasses that will adjust with you and do that and talk to you as well. Augmentation isn’t only visual, it’s also hearing.
One thing that you mentioned in your sizzle reel that I thought was interesting and true is you can be on a plane and everybody pays different amounts for their seats. Even in a grocery store, I can have the same amount of products in my cart that somebody else has in their cart and we’re paying different amounts based upon what information on what data a company has on us. That’s extremely interesting.
Amazon got caught for this a few years ago but if you’re a regular Amazon customer, and you always buy from Prime, you’re charged more per item than a person first time on the site. That would seem counterintuitive. You go, “Why are you penalizing your good customer?” Your best customer isn’t comparison shopping. They’ve got negative backlash for that and dealt with it. Let’s now go to the physical Whole Food stores that Amazon is rolling out.
Facial recognition identifies you when you walk in the store and you push your cart. Whatever goes into your cart gets charged on your account. There’s no cash register, there’s no cashier. You’re putting products in and you’re walking out with them. You have no idea what you’re paying compared to the next person and what brands will give you a discount because of past buying history or want to convert you. Everything becomes dynamic pricing.
With heads-up display, you now shorten the marketing and sales cycle. If I’m in my self-driving car and it knows I haven’t eaten lunch and it’s 2:00 PM, it knows that every day I have eaten by now. Four times a week, I eat at McDonald’s and there’s one 1,600 feet ahead while I’m driving, a big floating free french fry rolled here. If I grab it, then the car will know to drive through and give me my food. If you think this is farfetched, this is reality.
I believe it that’s why I’m laughing.
It’s also serious stuff. Imagine the firefighters, the bravest people in the world, going into a smoke-filled building. Now their glasses can tie into the plans of the building that the city already has. They’ll know where the stairs are, where the walls are, where water is, or whatever. In a construction site, where do you dig in the ground? Now, you can see through the ground like Superman, where there are gas pipes and everything else.
Here’s the thing, just like with the apps on the phone, you have a problem in your life right now that isn’t being addressed. This can solve it but no one else is focused on that. Google could make an app that does that but they want to make sure they own the glasses, or they go out of business if you’re no longer looking at your phone to search. If Apple doesn’t sell you the glasses, they go out of business. The big guys are looking for the big giant chunks of real estate in the future. They’re happy if you make a billion.
This is all going to develop within the next couple of years, right?
Yes. The first versions will come out around Christmas this 2021 that are pretty impressive.
What’s your prediction on office space, parking garages, and all of that?
I wouldn’t want to own a whole lot of high-rise buildings right now because when a company like Nationwide, I say every company is a tech company, they’re an insurance company, but what are they? They’re moving 1s and 0s across computers. In 30 days into the pandemic, they moved 98% of their employees to work from home and they’re not coming back. Goldman Sachs, they’re not coming back. The big edifice where everybody has to commute and give up three hours a day, to go in and go home. Why not spend three hours with your family? That’s one change.
The second change in real estate, “If I don’t need to commute to downtown, I don’t need to commute to this giant place with 5,000 people in one building. I also don’t need to live in this major city that’s costing a fortune to live.” You could make $300,000 a year in Silicon Valley and can’t afford a two-bedroom apartment. Pre-pandemic, this trend happened. Millennials are traveling more than seniors. If you can work remotely, why not work in Thailand this month, and next month in Rio and the month after in Berlin, and travel the world and have a work-life balance that is satisfying? You’ll have less turnover.
It’s interesting. The most sought-after places to work, the Googles and Facebooks, get the best of the best from the top universities. They pay a fortune and they hire the smartest minds and yet, average retention is less than 2.5 years. Something is not working in the system. We saw what happened to malls in real estate. Now we’re seeing what happens to high rises, and now, what’s going to happen with dense urban areas? You’re now free to start your business anywhere. Hire people from anywhere and sell to everywhere. What a great time.
One thing that you mentioned too, that I thought was interesting because I have teams of people in all my companies, any given time on 5 to 10 different businesses that I built to sell. If they don’t make a mistake in a year, you get rid of them. I go to my people and say, “Make mistakes.”
I’ve told that to my director for years because if you’re trying something new, the only way to figure out what works is to not be afraid to try and not be afraid to make mistakes. If you’re afraid to make mistakes, you shouldn’t be working with me.
You’re playing it safe and you’re not growing.
I also tell every employee that they don’t work for me, I work for them. Their job is to tell me what they need to be successful. What do you need to achieve your job? If I get it to you, and you don’t do it then I know it’s your fault. I’m not a mind reader, so you need to tell me what you need to succeed. You can create intrapreneurs. You can create people that create value and start businesses even in the largest of companies, and I’ve seen it.
Any last-minute thoughts or advice that you have about exiting businesses, which we talked about, but any last-minute wisdom that you want to share with entrepreneurs, existing business owners, people that are suffering during this pandemic?
Of the people that become self-made millionaires and billionaires, many have never made a profit. That’s hard for people with small businesses to understand. If you start with the idea of an exit of who needs what you’re doing, and I’ll take the example of Greenfield Robotics. Everybody knows if you could get rid of chemicals in farming and carcinogenic stuff on our food, everybody would do that. If we’re able to do that, who does that impact? The billion-dollar companies that make the chemicals. They don’t want to poison people, that’s not their thing. They’re just trying to stay in business, so they would become the billion-dollar company that has robots.
If you’re the guys that sell those big giant combines and tractors, maybe they should have a robotics division. If you’re a car manufacturer and people aren’t going to be owning cars the way they did in the past. What else could you convert your factories to do? Suddenly, I’ve now identified what I call 800-pound gorillas. Some giant companies, it is inevitable that they have to go where I am. It’s like I own the state of Arizona and the railroad barons are coming from the East Coast to get to California.
I don’t know which one will get there first, but they’re all coming. It’s not about how profitable I can be. It’s how far can I grab and hold on to as much land as possible. What was amazing to me is how open farmers were to this and how it reminds me of the early days of PCs where we all helped each other and talked to each other. It wasn’t a competition. Where every farmer knows every other farmer, and before you know it, the whole country.
We have 300 million acres of land that this could work for. That’s massive. What giant company wouldn’t want to instantly get into that business and not have to say, “I’ve got to hire guys that write software.” It’s why Tesla is valued more than all the auto companies put together. Their software is so far ahead. If you hired the brightest people now to make a self-driving car, it wouldn’t do what my Tesla does. That’s the way I look at it. I start from the exit. Exit rich, but don’t be greedy. That’s what I would add to your title because if you wait for that giant magical number, you may have missed the burden ahead of you.
Many entrepreneurs pass up on their first or second offer because they want more and then 2, 3, 4 years later, they’re out of business. I’ve seen that happen time and time again. What about the one that had the $100 million offer? Did they end up taking it or did they pass on that?
They didn’t take it. I resigned from the board. We haven’t spoken since and they’ve now raised more and more of their business as nothing and I don’t get it. I don’t come from this as, “Here’s some old guy like he knows everything.” When I was in my 20s, I had a company that had 7 of the top 10 selling video games in the world. Along came another company and said, “We would like to buy your company. We’ll give you a third of our company.” I’m like, “That’s stock, it could go down in value. I won’t have control. I don’t know what’s going on.” I turned down Activision, which is an $18 billion company now.
Turning billions down in your twenties educates you not to make that mistake again and to try to prevent others from making that mistake. Mark Cuban had a technology. We’re working with broadcast back then that really didn’t work but he sold it at the right time. He sold it to Yahoo! in a way that protected the stock. When Yahoo! went down, he had cowered his stock and became a billionaire for something that never had any revenue.
Deal structure, I have a whole chapter that explains that Spielberg became a billionaire not from making movies. George Lucas became a billionaire not from being a director or a writer. You see that McDonald’s, Ray Kroc made his money not from making hamburgers, but from real estate. It’s how you structure the deal. The other thing I would say is, just as I say, you need mentors. There are people with the skillsets like you that have been through these steps, that don’t try to have some pride that you can do it on your own because all that you’ll do is you’ll make your first mistakes. Why not benefit from somebody that’s made those mistakes?
You think differently than most people. What is it about you that you think so much different than everybody else? It’s like Jeff Hoffman, founder of the airport kiosk and one of the cofounders of Priceline, but you think very differently than everybody else. What makes you think so differently? If we could just change the way that people think about things.
If I had to give credit to anything, I believe it’s because I’m dyslexic. I don’t think literally. I connect the dots. One out of three entrepreneurs of Fortune 500 companies are dyslexic like Walt Disney. What they told me as a child was a handicap and stupid turns out to be my superpower. In Future Proofing You, I talk about that. Everybody has a superpower if you can identify it. I talked about this one young kid who was in middle school and had ADHD. He couldn’t calm the mind. They wanted to load him up on drugs. He’s walking around in the zone like so many, but when he was in the pool, he could calm himself. He said, “If I agree to swim every day, will you take me off these drugs?” The doctors and his parents said yes. He swam every day. He’s won more Olympic medals than anybody else.
That’s Michael Phelps?
Yes. His superpower isn’t swimming. His superpower was his ADHD. Embrace what makes you unique and you won’t have any competition. I have a friend that’s a super-connector. He meets everybody, talks to everybody, and can put A and B together, he’s never had to have the job. It’s a great skill. Reid Hoffman, the first guy to put money into Facebook, LinkedIn, PayPal, and on and on, he can see the future better than anybody I’ve ever met. It’s as if he’s been there.
He absorbs so much data, information. He’s a voracious reader, emitter, and doer that he saw Airbnb when nobody else did. I’m talking about first checks when it’s a crazy investment. Everybody has some gift. If you want to find your gift, and I talked about it in Future Proofing You, what do your friends come to you for advice on? That’s a key, you’ll start noticing other people recognize what your superpower is, and now, learn to harness that.
Les Brown was told by his teachers that he’s educationally retarded. They called him retarded. It’s terrible.
Richard Branson’s school headmaster said to him, “You’re either going to end up in prison or be very successful.”
I love that, find a superpower. Most successful people have daily rituals and habits, what’s yours?
I want to make sure that I have that positive mindset. I start off each day and I look in the mirror, as crazy as this sounds, and I say, “Today can be better than yesterday.” Positivity and things that can happen. I’ll give you an example because this one shocked me and I don’t shock myself often. Pre-pandemic of January 2020, I was in four continents, twelve countries, that was my typical life. All of a sudden, I’m going to be locked in the house. I didn’t know we’d be incompetent as a nation but I figured maybe we’ll be in the house 60 days, 90 days, or 100 days. I wanted to show people that the pandemic can have a silver lining. There’s something positive. No, if you get the disease, you die. It’s miserable, obviously.
It was also a gift of time. I’m not running around, I’m not doing anything. I want to prove to the world that I can take advantage and have this positive mindset even in the worst of times. Something I’ve always done privately and never shared in the business world is I paint. I’m a watercolorist. I decided I would put up a painting every day on social media. I was doing it to motivate people that they could do something with their time.
Much to my surprise, people liked my art. Art dealers liked my art. Gallery owners liked my art. Fast forward in September 2020, I had a solo show in New York. I can’t believe this. I didn’t get to attend because of COVID. My artworks were being sold. I’m getting commissions from famous people. I’m now an artist. I didn’t set out to make money as an artist. I didn’t set out to launch a business. I just wanted to have a positive mindset.
Are you still selling art?
Yes, it’s crazy.
I have to check out your art.
You’re a man of many talents.
I would rather wear out than rust.
Anything you would do differently if you had to go back and change things? What would you tell your younger self?
Since I have what I consider a perfect life, whatever pain and there was much of it that I’ve gone through that got me my great kids, my great wife, and my happy life, I wouldn’t want to risk changing any of it. If I would whisper in the ear, I would say, “Don’t give up.” I did a commencement speech to university, which sounds fun until you realize there are thousands of people sitting there and you’re the only thing between them and having a party. It’s not like a business conference, they don’t want to learn.
It was my favorite speech that I ever gave and it was about all my friends from college. We were all stubborn, back to persistence. As I unpeeled the onion and tell the story, you, the audience, know every single one of my friends from college because they all became super famous. We didn’t go to a special school. I went to a public state school, UCLA, but they never gave up in the most insane areas that you could think of. That’s the message. Don’t forget, history was created by the stubborn. Be stubborn. Don’t listen to naysayers. You’ll never meet a hater that’s doing better than you are.
I think that’s why I’m so successful. I’m so stubborn.
I don’t raise my kids with the, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” What problem do you want to solve when you grow up? Have that positive mindset. I’m a proud dad. It’s crazy, I can’t believe that these kids are as amazing as they’ve turned out to be as adults. I’m looking to have my influence on my grandkids now.
Do you have grandkids?
Yes. Two little girls.
Congratulations. I have a daughter.
You’re through some challenging years.
Yes, I am. I’m teaching her about entrepreneurship. I’m teaching her about what problems do you see, how do you solve those. Be a problem solver. Be a solution.
When my youngest was 10 or 11, eBay had gotten off the ground. It was well known. Everybody’s using eBay. I went down to New Orleans, we had our annual convention. I’ve got to do meetings and I can’t babysit them. I said, “Walk around. These are people that sell stuff. Figure it out.” He was a self-confident young man. He comes back and goes, “Dad, I know what I want to sell on eBay. I got my eBay business.” “What?” He’s eleven years old, and you know they could do this.
“Do you know what drop shipping is? I don’t even have to touch anything or get anything. There are companies that will send it directly.” “That’s smart. What are you going to do?” “What I realized is any item you sell, somebody could be selling it for less, so don’t sell a single item. Group things together to obfuscate price and make it look like value.” “That makes sense too.” I’m beaming with joy. Now comes the punch line, “What are you going to sell?” “Martial arts weapons.” He was taking Tae Kwon Do at the time. In his first month, he made a $1,200 profit. The sad part of growing up where money isn’t a driving force in the household, he then had proved it to himself so he stopped doing it. There’s no reason to make more money. He doesn’t need any. I was so proud of the thought process that took him to do that. It’s solving a problem, finding a void.
He was able to do that because he has you. He has a good role model.
If you can get young people thinking that way, imagine what this world will be like.
That’s your next book, Jay.
Doing it for kids. A teacher from a poor school district reached out to me after Disrupt You! and said, “I love your book. Can I adopt it to make it a high school curriculum and a high school book so that young people know they have a choice between fast food and prison?” I’m like, “Here’s the rights, do it for free, do whatever you want.” She not only did a great job, but she also won Teacher of the Year. When she did that, I then leaned on HP and said, “You guys are such great printers and do all this. Why don’t you print copies for all the Boys and Girls Club so that everybody can see that they have opportunity?” People need role models that show them it’s possible.
Did HP do that?
You’ve got to get them before high school though. You’ve got to get them when they’re little like 8, 9, 10, and 11. Any last-minute thoughts?
Thank you for being generous with your time. For the readers, I believe that everyone can achieve. What the mind conceives, the body can achieve.
Thank you for supporting Exit Rich. I’m going to buy Future Proofing You. I already have Disrupt You! but you haven’t signed it. I meant to get you to sign it last time when we ran into each other. That was at City Summit. I will support you. Tell our readers where they can find you.
I encourage everyone to go out and of course, get Exit Rich, but more importantly, go get Future Proofing You. I’m looking forward to reading it. Thank you so much, Jay. For all of our readers, thank you for another episode of Exit Rich.
- Exit Rich
- Jay Samit
- Disrupt You!
- Sell Your Business for More Than It’s Worth
- Future Proofing You
- Greenfield Robotics
- Deloitte Digital
- Facebook – Jay Samit
- LinkedIn – Jay Samit
About Jay Samit
International bestselling author Jay Samit is a dynamic entrepreneur and entrepreneur who is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on disruption and innovation.
Described by Wired magazine as “having the coolest job in the industry,” he raises hundreds of millions of dollars for startups, advises Fortune 500 firms, transforms entire industries, revamps government institutions, and for three decades continues to be at the forefront of global trends. An accomplished executive with experience launching new ventures and implementing strategies for global technology and media companies. Innovative team builder who empowers others to achieve their best work while building lasting loyalty.
A reliable partner who develops and maintains long-term relationships with key industry and government leaders. Proven forecaster in financial analysis, project management, and strategic planning. Trusted consultant to leading corporations, NGOs, and governments on the positive impact of Digital Reality.
Honest, a hard-working public and private company Board member who promotes social responsibility in every aspect of corporate life.
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