Have you thought about starting your own business? Entrepreneur and author Michael Sonnenfeldt had some encouraging advice for you on today’s show.
The economy is still upside-down with more businesses shuttering than new businesses starting, but every entrepreneur with a bright idea who is willing to put in the work can change that.
Founder and chair of the learning network TIGER 21, Sonnenfeldt recently published the book “Think Bigger: And 39 Other Winning Strategies from Successful Entrepreneurs.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article provided courtesy of TheBlaze.
This is a rush transcript and may contain errors.
DOC: Hi there. It’s Doc Thompson in for Glenn. Regularly heard on TheBlaze Radio network. More information on me by going to TheBlazeRadio.com. Throughout my morning broadcast, we have a couple running themes, and things we like to do. And one of them is to promote America and the idea of entrepreneurship, day in and day out. It’s been one of the keys to America’s success. And I think it’s also one of the keys to returning America to some of the past glory we’ve had. Some of the economic success. If you’ve paid attention and looked at studies over the last 20, 30 years, our level of freedom has dropped. Our economic power has dropped.
Our educational standards have dropped. And they continue to. Now, we had built up so much steam in the previous couple of hundred years, that we had a long way to drop. And some of these categories, we still are competitive.
But it’s going to keep dropping, unless we do something.
Dance with the one that brung you. And what brought us to where we are is freedom. Free markets. Entrepreneurship.
Something that we have boiled down to the entrepreneurial spirit, dreaming and doing.
Lots of people dream. You probably dream every day. You drive down the street and you’re like, you know, I’ve always wanted to open that hot dog stand. I’ve always wanted to go and do this. I’ve always wanted to start that company that does this. And you don’t do it.
But for some, they’re actually driven, obsessed, passionate about something, where that idea grows and grows. That they just have to act on it. And they do.
Many times, failing. You know the stories of people like Milton Hershey, who start company after company after company, before they started. You know the story, Edison and the lightbulb, trying 5,000 times before he found the right filament for the incandescent lightbulb, or whatever the reason, they’re just driven to do.
We need to teach that. We need to grow that. We need to understand it. So how can I help you? Well, one of the biggest challenges we face when starting a company, even if it’s just a side business to supplement your business for your family, is marketing. Is promotion.
How do you get attention without having millions of dollars to advertise and cut through? Well, once you get some attention, a little bit of the word out there, you know, it can grow. Word of mouth. It’s such a good idea, product, or idea or service, that it can grow.
Well, how do you start? Well, social media, great. There’s a million other people trying as well.
Well, on our morning broadcast, we offer people some free airtime. Free. Just to promote their products. We call it Building America.
In fact, if you go on Twitter and look up the #buildingAmerica, you can go back and find great products and services.
Sometimes, those people have such success, they end up becoming advertisers on our program. Sometimes they don’t. But we try to help them.
And along the way, our listeners get some good content. They get to hear about good products and services. They hopefully get to hear about companies and a good story about how they started.
I mean, how many movies have been made about people who started companies and — and musicians and actors, and how they made it, and their climb and rise to fame. Well, you get a good story along the way and hopefully some inspiration.
We are just days away from Black Friday, one of the biggest capitalist days of the year in America, where everybody runs out, their retailers and start buying things. And then cyber Monday, a little under a week from now. We’re at the time of year where a lot of people in the retail world make their money. It sets them up for the next year, or don’t.
So this Friday, as I fill in on the Glenn Beck Program, as I’ve done in the last couple of years, I’m going to extend my Building America idea for my morning broadcast, and I’m going to offer you free airtime on Glenn Beck’s program, as long as he doesn’t stop me.
And as far as I know, he’s held up in a bunker somewhere right now, roasting a turkey. As long as he doesn’t stop me, I’m going to give away free commercials on this program, and all you have to do is call up Friday morning, and I’ll give you 60 seconds to promote your business.
Now, if you don’t get through, still use the #buildingAmerica, and tell us about your business, products, or services. And if you hear good stuff and you don’t remember, look it up, #buildingAmerica. That’s my commitment to you. How can I help you promote your business? How can we together grow America and again become leaders in the world of development, entrepreneurs, and just fostering good ideas?
Joining me now is Michael Sonnenfeldt, author of Think Bigger and Thirty-Nine Other Winning Strategies From Successful Entrepreneurs. He’s also the founder of TIGER 21 Investment Group.
Hi, Michael, how are you, sir?
MICHAEL: Great. Thanks for having me, Doc.
DOC: I enjoyed having you so much on my morning broadcast a few months back. I’m like, I’ve got to get you on this week as we start talking about entrepreneurs. I don’t know if you could hear me discussing just now before I — before I went to you, the idea of entrepreneurship. And it’s just so lost in America now.
MICHAEL: Yeah. You know, there’s an interesting study of all-time low rates of formation between 25 and 30-year-olds of entrepreneurship. And in the last five years, we had three years where business deaths exceeded business births. And the one that’s most interesting is the average new company today employs 25 percent fewer people than a new company did a decade ago. That may be because of technology, but it all leads to the crisis that we’re having in creating working and middle class jobs that we so desperately want.
DOC: You know, it’s funny too, we look around and see all the other problems, whether it’s crime or shiplessness, or whatever it is. You know, one of the things that gets you out of that is when you have something you can feel passionate about. When you have a reason to get up in the morning. So you have this idea, and you start that cookie company or whatever it is. If you’re young, I don’t even think they get the joy that can come out of creating something.
MICHAEL: Yeah, it’s so interesting. Because, you know, we’re facing a crisis that’s unique in human history. Some people believe that technology is now advancing so that for the first time, 20 percent of everybody might be able to build everything that’s needed for 100 percent. What are we going to do with the other 80 percent of people?
And we have this middle class and working class problem. We have low unemployment. But we have even low rates of participation. So the low unemployment masks it. And the problem isn’t China or India or Mexico. It’s computerization. Automation. Artificial intelligence.
And these are really where the job stresses are. Take Amazon. Fantastic company. Puts a shopping center on everybody’s desk. But 46 percent of retail jobs have disappeared in the last decade. And we have automation coming with cars and autonomous driving. And with all of these changes, the only thing that’s going to save us is entrepreneurs creating new and exciting companies that employ the next generation of working and middle class folks.
DOC: Yeah. And it’s not just the company. It’s creating, you know — from ideas, products or, you know, that eventually may be gobbled up by the big guys or done more efficiently. But it is about ideas.
That’s one of the things that makes us human is thinking and then dreaming and then sharing.
MICHAEL: Yeah. In fact, one of the things that’s most concerning for me is there’s a proposal called universal income. The idea is if technology is taking all the jobs, maybe we should pay people just to do nothing. And I can’t think of a worse program, precisely because of what you’re talking about. People want to work. They want to be productive. And they want to have a society in which they can be productive. The last thing I want to do is give people money not to work. Use all those dollars, if they’re going to be spent on creating great jobs and infrastructure in our country. But don’t pay people not to work.
DOC: No, it doesn’t work. Trust me, I have members of my family and some of my producers I pay, and they do nothing, and it’s a failed process.
KRIS: Excuse me.
DOC: Look, they do very little.
So, Michael, how do we, first of all, inspire? I think telling stories helps. But how do we inspire? What would some of these successful entrepreneurs say?
MICHAEL: You know, first of all, successful entrepreneurs — the title of the book Think Bigger — comes because the great entrepreneurs just naturally constantly think bigger. They go from one falling ladder to the next. They have this grit that keeps them going.
So part of it is personality. And one of the things I just want to stress is not everybody is cut out to be an entrepreneur. You have to have a certain kind of fortitude. And if your career anchor is security, you probably shouldn’t be an entrepreneur, because there’s a lot of risks.
But most entrepreneurs start a business because they have an idea for a product our a service. It’s not just to make money. They’re passionate about making a difference, about delivering something. Doing something better.
So I think coming up with these ideas, look around, everywhere you turn, you can do something better if you think about it and envision it. And sometimes we get confused. Because you mentioned Edison, but you could have said Apple.
MICHAEL: These are the inventory entrepreneurs, but not all businesses are inventor entrepreneurs. Take Five Guys hamburgers, 2500 franchises.
DOC: It’s incredible.
MICHAEL: They just felt that they could make a better hamburger, that was the best quality. And they didn’t want to focus on anything, but the food. So the stores are red and white tile. They spent the least amount of money possible, and put everything into making the best food and the best hamburger. And in poll after poll, they’re voted, you know, best hamburger in the community.
DOC: They do great, yeah, they’re good.
MICHAEL: So that’s just one of thousands of stories of people who have these ideas. One of the stories I like is, in the book, I feature, Robert Oranger (phonetic), who is fascinated by diabetes and helping people with diabetes do better in their lives and lead normal lives. And lo and behold, in the weird irony of life, he has two kids who end up having diabetes, and now he’s able to provide a life for his kids with better products and new innovations that give them a completely normal life. And they’re doing great.
DOC: It’s funny because I extend the entrepreneurial spirit even to things that aren’t, you know, traditionally entrepreneurs. You think entrepreneurs meaning capital, free markets, you know, for profit. Even people that have ideas for nonprofits, it’s — you know, it still takes that passion, number one, or an idea, and then number two, that you actually step off a safe ground at some point and try it.
MICHAEL: You know, you’re so write. One of the pleasures of having written Think Bigger, is that a lot of social entrepreneurs, that’s who you’re talking about, are reading it. And we found that it exhibits many of the same challenges when you’re a social entrepreneur. You’re starting with nothing. One way or another, you have to raise the capital.
You have to have an idea, and you have to throw it out into the competitive landscape. And you have to have people get by.
And whether you’re, you know, running a community center or you have an idea to help people make — get healthier or running a hospital or a for-profit business, you need many of the same skills that it takes to be successful.
DOC: And you’ve certainly had your share of businesses as well. Tell us about TIGER 21. What is that?
MICHAEL: Sure. TIGER 21 is the premier network, I think in the world today of first-generation wealth creators that have been enormously successful. So today we have 580 of the top entrepreneurs from across North America. We just opened in London. And our first meeting in Hong Kong is coming up this month. And these members join together in groups of 12 to 15, totally confidential settings. And these are people who are so successful, they’re about one in 10,000, by — by level of success.
And the group as a whole manages tens of billions of dollars of assets. We’re not a manager. Each member manages their own assets. But when you sell your business and you now become a wealth preserver, that’s a completely new challenge. An entrepreneur is totally different than an investor. Entrepreneurs milk one opportunity for everything it has. It’s like their child. They don’t want to give it up. An investor is dispassionate and has a price for everything they want to sell. And you could be a great investor and a lousy entrepreneur, or a great entrepreneur and a mediocre investor. And this is the place where we have a personal board of directors. And each member looks around the table to peers whose only objective is to help one another. It’s totally confidential. People are totally vetted. We don’t want any skunks in the room.
DOC: It’s a great idea.
MICHAEL: And it’s just magic what people can do when they’re learning from one another and teaching what they know to one another.
DOC: It’s a fantastic idea. I’ll tweet out a link to it. It’s TIGER21.com. And that’s the number 21. Not spelled out. TIGER21.com. And I’ll also tweet out a link to your Twitter account. It’s MWSonnenfeldt, is that right?
DOC: All right. Michael, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.
MICHAEL: Thanks for having me. Have a great day.
DOC: Michael Sonnenfeldt, author of Thinker Bigger and Thirty-Nine Other Winning Strategies From Successful Entrepreneurs and also founder of TIGER 21.