This is the second in a series of posts in which I’ll be sharing what the entrepreneurial millionaires I interviewed did to create success. The first post can be found here, and you can check out the full stories in my book, 21 Questions for 21 Millionaires: How Ordinary People Create Extraordinary Success.
These 21 millionaires are some of my favorite people because of how real, how authentic, they are. I hope you enjoy learning from their experiences and formulating your own conclusions on what success is and how to achieve it in your life.
Note. The bolded text are my questions and their answers follow in regular text.
Millionaire 5 Heidi Ganahl
Did you do all kinds of demographic studies and surveys or did you just say, “You want a franchise, let’s go”?
I did everything you shouldn’t do when you franchise a business, but I was just so tenacious and so starry eyed about, “I’m sticking to it, this is what’s going to happen.”
A lot of it was luck.
Did you practice a formalized version of visualization of where you wanted things to be, or did you just have this general concept?
I am the poster child for The Secret, but I didn’t know about The Secret. I didn’t have any formalized education on visualization but my dad and my grandfather taught me that. My grandfather was a chemical engineer; he was involved in the Manhattan project, brilliant man.
He taught me that you have to have passion for what you do and vision, but you have to step it out; you have to have a plan and work your plan. He was all about having an idea of how you’re going to get there, but knowing what the steps are to get there. In my head I had it, I just never put it down on paper necessarily.
I always knew I wanted to make Camp Bow Wow a household name and I wanted to change the way people took care of dogs in this country. I realized that the Camps were the business, once I got away from the retail idea of selling sportswear.
How would you say you got where you are, if you had to distill it?
I’d say my lack of fear, my vision and my sheer, stubborn tenacity. I’m not going to fail. Failure is not an option for me.
Yeah, I piddled around with these other companies doing these other things, but this is what I’m supposed to do and I’m going to be a big success. You just have to believe that in your head.
Millionaire 6 Steve Rosdal
Did you build the business step by step or did you have a master plan in mind?
I had no master plan. I was playing volleyball.
Did you just take the next logical step at each turn?
I think you make mistakes.
When the department stores hit...we were selling truckloads of Indian jewelry. However, we were ending the fad. The department stores wound up buying stuff made in Hong Kong and Mexico, and selling it for Indian.
We chose not do that. We wanted to be our pure selves – right answer and wrong answer. We couldn’t compete.
But we found scrimshaw. We went back to all of our department store customers and said, “This is the next thing.”
How did you know this was going to be the next big thing?
We didn’t. [It ended up not being].
Did it work out like you ever thought it would?
I never thought of the future much. It was the 70s.
A lot of the literature out there says you need to have a firm goal in mind, you need to plan your steps, and you need to know step by step what you’re doing.
The people that I’ve talked to so far are more geared toward flying by the seat of their pants.
But wouldn’t you say that most of the people you’ve talked to, if they were giving advice, would say, “plan.”
Yes. Why is that? Because you do now?
One reason could be most of the people you’re talking to are probably a little bit older and like me they might not think the outcome would be the same for them today. I guess I’ve been saying I think it was easier back then, in the 1970s. There were openings; there were spaces you could fit into.
The other reason is...the entrepreneurial story is different than other people that are successful. The entrepreneurial story happens where people are floating around in life and something presents itself and they just go for it. I don’t think you can plan that.
In somebody’s life there have got to be maybe two or three, maybe five or six, major opportunities that they stare at right in front of them. It depends on if they take the step...
Millionaire 7 Vance Andrus
Did you have written down goals along this journey?
I never did. I always just stayed awake and alive.
Here’s an example:
I was walking across campus and I ran into my acquaintance Edwin Price.
Vance: “Hey, Edwin, what’s going on?”
Edwin: “Nothing much, Vance. Are you getting ready to graduate?”
Vance: “Yep, I am. Did you get a draft number?”
Now what is that? Being aware, asking questions.
Edwin: “Yeah, I’m number 22.”
Vance: “Oh, man, what are you going to do?”
Edwin: “Well, Coach knows the coach at LSU and they talked to the Colonel over there and they have this deal. They can get me in the Army and I can then go to law school.”
Vance: “Really? Do you think there’s a spot left open?”
Edwin: “I don’t know. Do you want me to call?”
Edwin did. The next day I was talking to the Colonel.
Vance: “I’m Edwin’s best friend.”
Colonel: “Coach Blanco wants us to do it, we’re going to do it, son.”
There was no plan. I didn’t sit there and say, “I’ve got to plan how to get to law school and try not to get killed.” I stayed awake, I stayed aware, I asked questions, and an opportunity presented itself.
Instead of making goals and trying to fill them, I just went through life finding opportunities and taking them.
Millionaire 8 Barry Hamilton
When did you get into real estate?
I tried to buy a place when I lived in San Francisco, but I couldn’t even afford a one-bedroom condo anywhere in the whole Bay Area. I had even looked into multi-unit buildings because the mortgage company would count the income that the building was generating to help me qualify for a bigger loan.
When I moved back to Denver, I caught up with one of my friends from CU, a real estate broker, who taught me the ropes. I bought a four-unit building and lived in one of the units while renting out the others, mostly to buddies. I fixed them all myself because I couldn’t afford to pay someone else to do it.
It was great because I had my mortgage paid plus some [extra money]. I refinanced the mortgage in 1997, got some cash out, and bought a three-unit complex around the corner from the building in which I was living. I fixed that up on the weekends and then rented it out.
I kept borrowing money because during the 1990s interest rates went down and real estate values went up. I could buy something and it would be worth more six months to a year later. Then I could refinance it, lower my payment because of the lower interest rate, and get money out to buy something else. I kept leveraging and got really lucky.
I bought duplexes, legally split them into townhomes, and then sold them. I remember my first $20,000 check from a sale in 1998. I thought, “This is amazing!”
I joined up with a few partners and we combined resources to buy units, fix them up, and sell them. That’s how I started building up some capital in real estate.
It’s been a good thing because I’m not totally dependent on just one business. And because each of my businesses is so different, they complement each other well. I don’t have to worry about having a single income source.
How would you say you got where you are today?
I’m open to opportunity; I’m able to receive it. And my networking skills help a tremendous amount.
Also, good people are important. Once you find the opportunity, the actual building of it is a result of getting great people, smarter people than yourself, to help you.
Millionaire 9 Theresa Szczurek
What was your goal in high school? Where did you want to end up?
I liked math so I thought I was going to be an actuary working for insurance companies.
I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago in a large Polish Catholic family: five kids, two parents, and every pet imaginable. They were really humble beginnings, but I had a strong ethical foundation. I learned to work hard and that “if it’s to be, it’s up to me.”
You left AT&T and then you got this crazy idea, “I’ll start a company”?
After I left, I went on a trip around the world.
When I came back to Colorado, I had lined up a job working for another technology company, but that fell through. This was a life opportunity for me to do something else so I started my consulting firm, Technology and Management Solutions, and I started the Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado.
I also started working on the “Man Plan”–attracting the right man into my life–which would ultimately lead to the “Baby Plan” and the “Family Plan.” I call these different phases of my life “plans.”
It was impossible to do all of those at the same time so really I started working on the Ph.D.
In 1989, I turned in my Ph.D. dissertation and then Dick, my business partner and friend, and I jumped into his Porsche. We drove it cross-country to sell it to his friend to use the money as seed money to start the company. We knew at that point we wanted to do something entrepreneurial.
But you didn’t know what at that point, right? You just knew you wanted to do something.
So we searched for the idea. We were open, set a big intention of finding it, and then we started thinking about it using our head, feeling passionately about how it would be when this technology was there, and took action.
We didn’t find the idea on that trip, but we did when we had come back.
We used initially what I call the “Attraction Strategy”: Set a broad intention and then work with your head, heart, and hands to attract to you that which you want while being open to the possibilities. The idea came.
Then we worked to build the right team of people. We used what I call the “Connections Strategy,” another part of the six strategies that help you pursue your dreams and be able to successfully attain them.
Did you have the success strategies consciously in mind as you were pursuing it?
I was using it; however, I hadn’t articulated it as such. After we had sold Radish, I had this calling to distill the approach that had helped me so it could help others. Then I looked back at what it took and discerned the success formula.
You had a plan for the business, you had a plan for the book, you had a husband plan. How concrete were all of these plans?
They were concrete and yet things keep evolving, too...you have to be open to the opportunities and be flexible. Have clarity on where you want to go, but allow the way you get there to evolve.
Stay tuned for the next installment, How Millionaires Succeed: Part 3, featuring more of the millionaires. And if you have questions in the meantime, drop me a note.