Entrepreneurs take risks. Perhaps the biggest risk of all is stepping away from the safety of a “comfortable” job and striking out on their own. Hear stories of business owners who took the leap and then asked, “Where’s my parachute?” LaMure hopes to share bits and pieces from his and his guest’s entrepreneurial journeys to help anyone starting or in a business.
Sapio, a self-made man, talks about the keys to being a successful entrepreneur despite a rough start. Hear why it’s better to say no than to say yes, and what locking yourself away in a cabin can do for your decision-making skills. Rick even shares his secret for structuring a bit of spontaneity into his life.
LaMure began by asking Sapio to contextualize his entrepreneurial journey with his background, which he explained:
“Valentine’s Day 1963. My mother Marie got two pieces of news on that day. The first piece of news was that she was pregnant with her seventh of ten babies and I was number 7 and the second piece of news that my three-year-old brother had incurable cancer and was given six months to live.
So through the entire pregnancy with me, my mother was in and out of mental institutions, depression, chemotherapy, doctors, and all that. I say that because all of that has been imprinted on my life, but fast forward a little bit, I was born on October 26, 1963. In those days, a baby would stay with the mom in the hospital for three weeks after the Cesarean [section], and my brother was in the same hospital room and died when I was 11 days old.
Every time I got in trouble or did something bad, what do you think my mother said? She said, ‘why did God take Frankie and not you?’ I remember as a little kid saying, ‘but mom, I’m going to prove it to you,’ and through a lot of psychotherapy, I found out that the reason I am so driven is because I’ve got to prove it to my mother that I’m worth it.
Fast forward from there [to] when I was 11. My dad came home and said, ‘I had back trouble for two years. I finally went to the doctor and turns out that I’ve got cancer throughout my whole body. He ended up living for two and a half more years, and for those two and a half years, he taught us resourcefulness, business, and I always say that entrepreneurship saved my life because, after the death of my dad, the only thing I had was my work ethic and what he taught me. If it wasn’t for that, I don’t think I’d be on the show right now talking to you guys.”
LaMure then invited Sapio to tell the audience about his current business, the story of which resuming after the death of his father:
“Right after I found out the news about my dad, this guy came forward and said, ‘maybe I can help you.’ I had one conversation with this guy; his name is James O’Donnell. He was the father of my brother’s girlfriend, and he took me out to lunch and said, ‘hey, I heard you’re really good at math. Listen, I want to take you to my office and show you what I built. I’m an engineer.’ He took me to his office and said, ‘listen to me. If you study engineering and get an engineering degree, you could become a doctor, a lawyer, you could work on Wall Street, you could be a business person; it trains your brain to think in a different way.
Rutgers University gave a scholarship to the top 10 highest [SAT] math scores if you would go into the engineering school. My first year was brutally hard [with] courses I had never seen in my life, but I got through it. From that point forward in my life, I was able to think about business and everything through the lens of engineering.
All I saw w[ere] patterns in business. I’ve actually come up with 48 modules that I teach on how to grow a business which we incorporate into our holding company. I started a holding company 24 years ago; we’ve looked at thousands of companies [but] invested in 120. We look for these patterns and teach these patterns to the companies that we invest in.”
It was never a profitable business until someone approached him and questioned why he hadn’t created a program to teach these modules. That’s when Sapio went behind a camera and created the “Business Finishing School” program. The “Business Finishing School” offers boot camps twice a year, through which Sapio has taught thousands these principles over the past nine years.
LaMure then asked Sapio to show the audience his cell phone. Put in the words of LaMure, “that is not an engineer’s phone.” His comment spawned a discussion of Sapio’s search for simplicity in life:
“Every single thing I do in my life I put through the lens of simplicity. How can I make my life as simple as possible? How can I make my business as simple as possible? How can I make my relationships as simple as possible? When I look around and see people spending four hours a day on their smartphones, [it] wasn’t simple to me.
I would say I’ve taken it a step further. Going back to the patterns, when I met my wife 14 years ago, I said, ‘honey, do you mind, so we don’t have to think about it, that we go out to dinner at 7:30 every Monday night?’ Everything falls into place when you have those rhythms and habits, and I do that across my day, my week, my month, my year. It simplifies everything. I would add one more quote that I love from Bill Gates; he said, ‘good businesses are nothing more than a series of rhythms and habits. Bad businesses are nothing more than no series or habits.”
Regarding how Sapio makes decisions in his business and personal lives, he explained his principle of only making decisions that align with his values:
“I went to a log cabin, figured out my values about 15 years ago, and said, ‘these are the values for the rest of my life.’ Every minute that you spend in your life in which you’re not clear what your purpose is and you’re not clear what your values are is a minute that you’re ripping off the world because the world wants to know a fulled expressed human being, but very few people have taken the time to figure out, ‘here’s my purpose.’ My purpose is to inspire entrepreneurship.
After all that was figured out, I was completely energized because every decision after that is an easy decision. I will assert that very few people are clear on their purpose, their values, and their objectives, so how the hell can you tell the difference between an opportunity and a distraction?”
Sapio later went on to describe his experience interviewing 40 billionaires:
“In 2008, when everything went to hell in a handbasket, I got really nervous and said to my wife, ‘I want to interview 10 billionaires that have been through tough times.’ [I] ended up interviewing 40 billionaires, and what I realized is every single one of them, including Warren Buffet, was really good at saying no, I didn’t see cell phones, I saw people that were completely committed to their purpose and values, and nothing got in the way of that.
I love Warren Buffett’s quote, ‘the difference between successful people and extremely successful people is extremely successful people say no to almost everything, and they don’t say yes until it completely aligns with their values, their purpose, and their objectives.”
Finally, Sapio spoke to the “Where’s My Parachute” aspect of the show, the moment where he turned around without a parachute and delved into entrepreneurship:
“I busted my butt my first job on Wall Street and built up a lot of wealth with clients but wasn’t making as much money as I thought I deserved. I was making a decent living, but I’ll never forget [when] I went to my boss and said, ‘I want a bigger piece of the company.’ He said, ‘sorry, you’ve got to wait.’
So then and there, I was 29 [and] decided to leave behind 2.5 million dollars in equity and start my own business. This was 1993, and I created a business plan to raise 15 million dollars. The idea was to create a holding company, which has been my job since that day. But I put all my savings into the business, I started hiring people, and six months later, the company had no money, I ran out of money, and my partners were basically laughing at me because the market was scaling like crazy. My $2.5 million was worth multiples give years later, and here’s the point to everyone: I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I was free. It only took me 20 years to be an overnight success.”
Ken Adams, M.D.
Paper for Water
Steve LaMure with Dominus Commercial spends a half hour with Ken Adams, M.D. (member of the board of directors of Paper For Water) talking about how Paper For Water got its start and the struggles and joys of being on the board of a non profit run by two Co-CEO’s who are not yet through high-school.
Paper for Water is a non-profit organization bringing water and the Word to the thirsty, one piece of paper at a time. They’ve funded over 170 water projects in 17 different countries around the world.
Peticolas Brewing Company
Revtech founder David Matthews talks about his journey, venture capital, and other ups and downs of his ride.
I can certainly tell you I would have never dreamed I would be where I am today from where I started. I grew up on a farm and ranch in South Eastern New Mexico. Life was tougher but slower and much more relaxed. I learned how to put in a long hard day of work but I didn’t learn anything about business, finances or life in the big city. I landed in Dallas by way of the University of Dallas, a small gem in Irving Texas, being a highly rated and competitive liberal arts college which if it doesn’t lead to your Ph.D. and publications, it does teach you to think. Realizing that I wasn’t going to be a great writer and Ph.D. was a future bar I would frequent, I did what every college kid would do after graduation, I went to a bar and played pool. That is where I met my future boss whom I bothered so many times over the following thirty days that he hired me just to get me off his back, and away I went as a salesman at a beverage distributor. Quickly climbing to the top of that pay scale, I ended up working for my brother in law selling life insurance.
While I have a ton of respect for insurance salesmen and know that we cannot live without the product, I jumped ship after 3 years when a then client asked me if I was happy in my job or if I would like to explore the world of commercial real estate. I didn’t then know what commercial real estate was, but I knew that life insurance was not my purpose in life.
I worked at a few different real estate firms before landing my big gig at Trammell Crow Company, a Dallas institution and one which most young brokers aspired to work at. After a very short lived life in the institutional world of Crow, it was time to branch out on my own. So fearless and stupid, I started my own firm knowing that in a matter of years I would own more of New Mexico than Ted Turner.