You know, it is really hard to stick to your principles when times get tough.
The RNC and the Tea Party movement -- the movement was the community that built itself up, rooted in principles with a -- with a new authentic voice. And when the Tea Party spoke up, the RNC said, "We hear you. We're with you. We're all working towards the same place." And the movement trusted the party, and we joined with them and we accomplished some of our goals and moved the ball a little way down the field. And we got some good guys elected. And we were told we were making progress on tax reform and on Obamacare.
But as things progressed, we start to notice that some of the actions from the RNC didn't match their words. That the RNC was telling us what they thought we wanted to hear, but they were just going forward with their own agenda and doing exactly what they wanted to do. And it was all about money and power. It had nothing to do with the people.
We thought as a community -- we as a community, we wanted -- we wanted something that was important to us and something that had been promised to us. But we wanted it so badly, we began to believe -- and we kept working and kept trusting and volunteered more hours and got even more guys elected. Until finally, it became clear that even some of the new guys were falling into step with the old party line, and none of the things we hoped for or sacrificed were actually happening. It was an illusion. And you can give up or you can pick yourself up.
We see now the reality is that the managers at the RNC were not heading in the same direction that we were. They never intended to go that way. They don't hold our same principles, our same values. And that's why so many people are angry and disillusioned today. We're aware now of what the RNC was really up to. And we can see that they are headed into a different direction and a different goal. In fact, I don't even think we're playing the same game.
So now we have to make decisions. What do you do? You can -- you can say a lot of my work has been for naught. Or you can make hard decisions. Are we going to stick by our principles and continue to be honest with ourselves and stand for what we believe in, or are we going to give in, give up, or give in to the status quo, go along to get along?
I know for me and I think for everybody in this community, we are making the hard choices. We're choosing principles over power. We're staying true to the Constitution, even in the face of hardship and derision. But even when many in our own party are calling us names and trying to pull us down, it gets tough, but we keep going. And when others try to drag you into the mud, that's when you have to stand the strongest, maybe even push back a little.
Remember who you really are and keep working towards your goals. I wanted to start there today because there's a story that maybe you have read that came out yesterday that is talking about how yesterday my company, TheBlaze, laid off 40 people. And my media empire is crumbling. And part of it is because I'm traveling around with Ted Cruz.
Well, I want you to know, yes, I've lost a lot of money traveling around with Ted Cruz. I've lost about half a million dollars. That's my choice. I believe in something.
Did that cause the 40 people to lose their job? No.
I want to talk to you today because we're in a community together, and I trust you. And I tried to be trustworthy. And when I make a mistake, I own up to it. And I'm a trusting guy.
I think anybody on the show will tell you my biggest problem is I trust everybody, until they prove otherwise. And I try to live my life in a transparent way. And I try to surround myself with others that I believe are trustworthy.
And then I went on to build my own company with an authentic voice, a trustworthy company. And one of my main principles -- and you heard me saying Isaiah it a million times: We take on no debt. Root ourselves in principles and people. Live within our own means.
And I trusted the people that ran my company, that they wanted the same things. And in the beginning, maybe they did want the same things. But a couple of years ago, I realized there were problems in my own company, and that even though the managers were all saying the right things to me, those things were never getting done. And you know this to be true. Because I would talk about things that we were going to do on TheBlaze and everything else, and then they never seemed to materialize. And I was losing credibility with you, but behind the scenes, I was a holy terror for about a year because I couldn't find out what was going on.
Without saying anything bad about anybody because we just have different principles, the people I had moved down to Dallas and the rest was in New York and Los Angeles and Washington, DC -- and we were working now towards being, I guess, a normal, status quo kind of media company, a big media company, and I didn't ever want that.
But because our team was split from Dallas, Los Angeles -- I think we had people at one time in Chicago, Washington, and New York -- I didn't know who really got the vision and who didn't, who got it and who didn't.
It was almost two years ago when we had a museum here at the studios in Dallas. And we invited you to come and just see the museum. And I bet there were 10,000 people here that came through -- and I loved it. And everybody kept telling me, go home. Go home. Go home. And I wouldn't go home. None of us did. Nobody on the show went home.
We were there and we spent that whole weekend with you because we love you. We love you.
But I noticed one thing about my company. Not one single person from the management team actually showed up that entire weekend. And I realized, they didn't love the audience like I did. They weren't connecting to the message like you did and I did. I'm not sure they were part of the culture of the principles. And I knew I had to get a hold of my company again, and that would mean making really hard choices.
First one was, are you going to stick to your principles? You going to be honest with yourself? Stand for what you believe in, or are you going to give into the status quo and go along to get along? Because these people were my friends, they were my partners, and I don't know at the time, I thought maybe they were right. But I knew they weren't in my gut.
And my gut and my spirit said, "Stick by what you know, even if it's hard and even in the end if you lose."
I had to start firing people, people that I counted as my friends, best friends, partners. And the process that I began was the hardest process of my life. Yeah, almost as hard as picking myself up off of that carpet when I was facing suicide, that carpet that smelled like soup. But this time I had something I didn't have before: I had you. I knew you existed. I knew that you believed in the same principles I believe and that we -- no, that I had made a promise to you. Our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.
And so I kept going. This has been a really hard five years for me, but the last 18 months have been unbelievable. One thing I had to do was get everyone in my house under one roof so I could look everyone in the eye. Culture matters at a company.
I stopped telling you about the things that were coming on TheBlaze. It's called the Phoenix project. We've been working on it now for about nine months. I haven't talked to you about it, nor will I until we launch it. I'm tired of telling you the things that I think we're going to do. I bet you are too. We're just going to do them. Because I failed you too many times.
The reason the articles like the one that came out yesterday are coming out, part of it is political. Part of it is because Frank Sinatra was right, some people get a kick out of stomping on your dreams. They really do.
Some is, I guess, it's news when somebody loses their job. Unfortunately, my media company isn't the only place in America laying people off. My media company is not the only one that's looking at their balance sheet and saying, "We can't go into debt, or we're going to lose all of the jobs."
They said in this article yesterday -- this has been claimed before that my business is failing. I will tell you, two years ago, it was. It was absolutely on fire. Because when I started to go into the books -- I was a bad steward. And when I started going into the books and see what had been done to my company that didn't ever take on debt, I was first told that we were, I think, $4 million in debt. And then it became $7 million in debt. And then when I got the final accounting, 18 months ago, my company that doesn't take on debt was $13 million in debt.
If I'm going to tell you you shouldn't have debt, how could I have a company that was $13 million in the hole? I made really hard decisions. And in 18 months, my company that is dying and struggling paid our debt down from 13 million to two.
A couple of months ago, we had a great sponsor of ours, about a 7-million-dollar-a-year sponsor go broke. I feel for that company because everybody that worked for that company, much larger than mine, went out of business. And they left us with a lot of debt.
You see, economies, it's -- it's like Jenga. One person pulls one big thing out, and the whole thing could fall. But it definitely weakens. And the more pieces of stress or the more pieces that come out of Jenga, the weaker your house becomes. Somebody -- Delco goes out of business because GM is no longer making their cars in Ohio, and so that hurts Delco. And then that hurts the grocery store down the street and the restaurants in the town.
We're in this together. I'm not going to tell you that I'm not running a fail company because the proof is in the pudding. I will just tell you the old managers got us into $13 million of debt. And in less than 18 months, we've shaved that off by over $10 million. That doesn't seem like a failing business. That seems like a business that is thriving and is doing its best to set its principles right.
But I want you to know, when you read TheBlaze, because I'm not happy with it -- and I've quietly said that recently, over the last year or so. Not happy with it. But it's changing. We just hired one of the guys who put together American Idol, Oreo cookies. We just hired a guy who was one of the main guys at Good Morning America and CNN. We just hired an HR person from Viacom. I'm rebuilding. And it will be a lot better for me honestly -- honestly, it would be a lot better if I would have just filed Chapter 11. But I actually like Harry Truman too much. I don't believe -- Chapter 11, sometimes you have to do. Chapter 7, sometimes you have to do.
But I wanted to pay every single person back because it's not their fault. It was my fault for not watching what people were doing underneath me.
One last thought and then I'll move off: When I first put TheBlaze on the air, it was GBTV. And I won a hammer. It's the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award. It's a disrupter's award. It goes to some of the best disrupters in the world. I couldn't believe I was in the room when I won this award. That year, I earned that award because we broke television and we're the first one to make it an app and put it online.
I haven't earned this hammer a day since. But I will tell you this: Sometimes it takes a hammer to break what is broken so you can rebuild it. And in today's world and economy, if you ever get fat and sassy, if you ever start to put profits over people, if you ever decide, "I really don't need -- I really don't -- I don't care what the people say. Yeah, yeah, they're customers. They'll just keep coming." No, they won't. You have to innovate every day. You have to actually love your customer every day. You have to actually care about them and wonder, "How can I make their life better or easier?" And when you do that and you understand that by doing that you're disrupting the entire system and you'll go places that will scare the living daylights out of you, but you proceed without fear, that's when you will win.
I'm not going to tell you we're going to win. I'm just going to tell you, watch us. Watch us over the next year.
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