Nothing feels better than surrounding yourself with friends who inspire you and bring out the best in you. Keeping an inner circle is really essential to living a life filled with joy and positivity. Jason Sisneros introduces us to his inner circle – Shawn Hunt, Joe Calo, and Eric Michael Collins. They talk about business, philanthropy, passion, health and fitness, and politics. They share their stories about their adventures, their business success, the lessons learned, their view of charity and philanthropy, and things they’re passionate about. Get absorbed in such an entertaining and inspiring conversation as they pass the ball around, giving us insights and a taste of their wit, brilliance, humor, and fascinating views with friendly banters in between.
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My Inner Circle Part 1
This episode is special to me because I have some good friends. The idea of this show is to give everybody an idea of who I’ve chosen to surround myself with. I don’t know if that’s going to diminish my marketplace value or raise it, it doesn’t matter to me. These are the boys that I hang out with, that I trust to have my back. I traveled the world with these guys for several years. Shawn and Eric, how far do we go back?
Joe is more recent but a few years-ish. I do business with these guys. We’ve traveled the world and had some fun adventures. The idea here is to talk a little bit about that and to give you an idea of our circle. Eric, go ahead and introduce yourself to the people.
My name is Eric Michael Collins. I’ve been friends with all these guys for a long time. We had lots of fun experiences and good times, bad times, some in between. I love business. I love a strategy, systems and going in, helping and supporting as best I can to help other entrepreneurs reduce their stress, overwhelm, their mental, emotional state rather than trying to scale something that’s already driving them crazy.
Shawn Hunt. I like making money, having fun. Business is amazing. Business with friends is fun. I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to help.
Those of you that are hanging out with me know Joe and I work together day-to-day in a company called Anton Jae Global. He runs it. I’ll let you introduce yourself to the people that don’t know you.
Joe Calo, business strategy. The strategy is appealing to me. It works in my head and the way my head works. I love it. It’s been a ride. These fellows are fantastic people. You are who you surround yourself with. I’ve been all over the world with them from the Everglades with Shawn to all over the place. I work with Jason day-to-day. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been a lot of years. We’re taking off in ‘19 so it’s as busy as hell.
A great start to the year and kicking butt and taking names. One of my favorite memories of all of us was in Costa Rica. Eric, tell us a little bit about the first time you broke your neck.
In my younger years, I made terrible life decisions. I was craving significance and I had a big pit in my soul. I figured out some strategies, booze and drugs and women to shove as much in that hole as I could. It didn’t work too well for me because there’s no bottom of it. I kept doing more and more. Variably, I was out on a yacht in South Florida with a bunch of buddies. I was already half a bottle of vodka, half bottle of whiskey in. It was probably 1:00 in the afternoon. I had been doing some coke, smoking some weed, taking some pills. When you need that much, you get the Zen-like clarity and all your decisions become perfect, or at least you think.
Diving off a yacht in shallow Florida had first seemed like a good one. As soon as I did, I hit the bottom and I felt it pop. That hurt a lot. I’ve been in a lot of fights. I’ve had a lot of injuries and that was miserable. I pulled myself out. Rather than going to the hospital, we had some recreational activities with some ladies and then went to a bar and then went home. I licked my wounds for four days, to where my mom finally said, “You idiot. Will you go to the hospital?” I said, “Fine.” She said, “I’ve got an appointment with the chiropractor. Go ahead and go.”
I go to the chiropractor and he put a five-pound plate on my head before he got the X-ray results back and said, “Let’s see your range of motion.” He’s asking me to move my neck side to side, up and down. He took the plate off and I’m like, “That hurts a lot.” He comes back in and he was literally green. I’ve never seen a green human being in my life. He looked like he saw a ghost and he’s like, “I called a medevac. It’s on the way. Do not move an inch.” I took the ambulance. I go to the hospital. Doctors gave me a 50/50 chance of survival if they went and did a fusion or a better chance if they screwed the halo to my head, flipped a coin, and it ended out pretty good. I had some physical therapy, some healing to do.
This is a part of why I’m passionate about what I do now. Immediately after my wedding eleven years later. I thought my life was going great and then I found out that the screws had failed. I had big holes in my spine, and I could die at any minute again so I had to get another fusion. That cemented to me the importance of having a business that does not revolve solely around the owner as the biggest bottleneck and having a business that can survive without you. Not indefinitely, not automated, not four-hour work week but certainly to where people can do their job. That was a good pivotal moment.
You just had surgery and then it was two years later that we ended up in Costa Rica after your second surgery. We do these boys trips all way all around the world. We happened to be in Costa Rica and we’d gotten this house. It had a chef and all this stuff. It was a beautiful house, a great pool. This happened because we moved from the house and then we rented out a hotel. We went to the hotel and it had a nice pool. This pool happened to have a basketball court in it and a basketball hoop. We all decided after a few liquid imbibements that it would be a good idea to play some basketball. We started and as it happens with a group of Alpha males, nobody wanted to lose. Joe, the monkey in the pool, starts throwing elbows.
We were all having fun trying to win. I accidentally caught an elbow to the face, and I heard something pop and I thought I broke my neck again. I quivered because I was like, “I’m going to die in this country.”
Eric didn’t die and the other great thing that we have with Joe is that wherever we go, we have a qualified ER. You have all the medical training and you are a fireman.
I’m a little out of practice but Shawn put all that to the test.
The good thing is we take Joe along as our backstop. We’re in DR and anybody that knows Shawn, he has three drunk positions. One is straight up, the other one is slightly bent backward, and then when he’s bent over and basically dragging his knuckles behind him. That when you got the best Shawn Hunt version you’re going to have. We go to DR and we decide that we’re going to do a ropes course. It was early in the morning. We kept going the night before and woke up drunk. Shawn was in prime form and bent all the way backward, jumping on a trampoline before we even got started and then we decided to get on the ropes course. Those of you that are thinking that this is a ropes course like the rest of the world that has safety rules, this stuff was duct taped together. It was raining. It was teetering and there are all of us that are on it and there was lightning.
[bctt tweet=”A lot of investors make money because they are able to exit before the real bottom falls out.” username=””]
We’re jumping up and down, bouncing, and shock loading the thing. The sticks were swaying back and forth. No country other than the Dominican Republic would have let a drunk on that highline rope course, never less than a harness. He’s upside down on the zip line ready to slide out of the harness.
Between the stops, because it was a long ropes course, one of the things you had to walk across was this wobbly thing that had a rope on each side. It wasn’t even one plank. It was an end to end planks and then you’re hanging on the little ropes and he’s bouncing up and down on it. Joe was right behind him for his emergency services in case they would have been needed. To set the table for everybody, this guy that goes on the trip with us had a traumatic experience at a high rise. He climbed high poles and one of his experiences as he climbed up the pole, literally freaked out and they had to bring the fire department and everybody to pull him off of him. When we got there he’s like, “I’m not going. It’s not happening.”
We respect his opinion and that was it.
Part of our guys’ trips together is empowerment and we’re taking our game to the next level and were coaching each other and we’re supporting each other. Shawn’s coaching is direct. He kept telling the guy, “Stop being a coward,” this was his coaching. I think he said it 5,000 times. That’ll give you a little bit of a flavor of our trips together and all the experiences we have. What we do on the show is we work through four subjects; business, philanthropy, vitality, and politics. Let’s start with business. What is your best advice to people when it comes to business? You’ve all been successful at different levels. The other great thing is besides Joe, I don’t think you’ve had a massive failure in your life. Why don’t we start there? What’s your biggest business failure? Go, Eric.
Probably this was tied to my nervous breakdown back in 2004. It defined the rest of my life. It was tied back to the same symptoms. I was trying to do everything to seek approval and significance. The last year of paying attention to what’s important. I’m not a genius by any stroke of imagination. However, back in 2004 when I was doing real estate investing, I had 30 employees. We’re in a real estate, mortgage, and property management in Southwest Florida. I had crunched the numbers and it was plain as day that our real estate investment system was not working anymore. The writing was on the wall. Home values had gone up disproportionately to rental to income, down payments, and the number of phone calls that were coming in from ads. The data was there. I remember specifically sitting there with my team and having the hubris and arrogance to say that, “We can figure anything out. We can power through it.” The lies that I told myself to take that data and push it off to the side and to think that nothing ever ends is probably my biggest mistake. It cost me dearly. It cost investors.
A lot of investors still made money because they were able to exit before the real bottom fell out. Unfortunately, it cost me because I had a full-blown nervous breakdown. The reasoning I still believe to this day why that happened was if you think about beliefs in your business, in your life, whatever. The best way I can equate it is like spokes on a wheel. If you have all these little spokes on a wheel, you cut one, cut two. It’s not the end of the world, the wheel can keep spinning. All at once, a lot of the lies that I told myself all got shattered at the same time. Too many of those spokes, those beliefs got broken and severed and then the wheel collapsed. We’re meaning-making machines. We create stories. Most of the time it’s for our benefit to make us look better or to hide certain things we don’t want to acknowledge. The consequences of not being truthful with yourself are pretty big in business.
For most people, because they don’t pay attention to their numbers, what happens is one day they wake up and all of a sudden there’s no more money. They can’t live off the goodwill of other people, whether that’s investors, bankers, and their mom’s credit card, whatever it is and they go out of business. Many people tightly tie their identity together with their business that it has a giant psychological effect. That’s where one of the things that if I would have known it earlier in my career, it’s a warning. People should understand. Know your numbers before it blows up in your face because it’s not just shutting doors to a business, it’s literally a piece of you is dying.
Those of you that are business owners that are reading this, it’s a part of your identity. It ties you to the community. It ties you to your romantic relationship. It ties you to your family. It’s paying the bills. It’s all that. Especially for a man, I can’t speak from a woman’s perspective but for a man, that’s messed up. It’s not just, “We’ll close business. I’ll go get a job.” It’s like, “I have to come to grips with the fact of who I am as a person and to get back on the wheel again.” I highly suggest everybody understand their numbers. It’s a great lesson that Eric gave us that we need to know our numbers and you’ve got to be honest with yourself and not pawn it off on the fact that your financials to a CFO or to a bookkeeper or whatever it is. Know now and also be projected into the future. How about you Shawn?
I’d say the biggest in most years would probably be taking on this big Home Depot account that just about put me out of business. It pretty much did the way that we were doing it. I was forced to change my business, which was a blessing at that time. I was running a sales organization, a little over 30 guys. We had 37 guys in the field running four to five appointments a day at our peak. We had a great system and it was working. We were closing a bunch of deals for seven different companies and then I hit the mother lode of all leads with Home Depot saying, “We have 6,000 leads a month and we don’t know what to do with them. How many can you take?” We were like, “We’ll blow this thing up.”
They were doing about $700,000 a month in business. Their goal was to do $1 million a month in business. We did $500,000, $800,000 for them our first week. We did over $2 million the first month, over $3 million the second month. We had massive success. What I normally do when things are working because I take all the resources that I have and we go after that one thing that seems to be working to try to crush it, which is exactly what we did. I pulled all my guys from all seven companies and said sorry to all these companies that we’re doing great business with for years and took all those guys to go smash the Home Depot business out of the ballpark, which we did.
I didn’t expect them to go take all the money and go BK on everybody. There are massive class action lawsuits for that whole deal. At the end of the day, it’s losing for everyone. It pretty much put me out of business. We had twenty girls and guys on the phone in there and about 37 guys in the field closing deals all day long. We went to getting rid of everybody and going down to maybe two or three guys and trying to figure out how we salvage it. Got rid of the 6,000 square foot office and went to an 800 square foot office and started over essentially and had to dig our way out. The biggest mistake I’d say out of that whole storm was taking something that’s working and screwing it up to go after the big fish, instead of slow-growing it and duplicating a model that’s already working.
I remember that time and how enthusiastic you were and how great it was going. I remember that vividly. The cool thing that I like about everybody here is that we learn lessons and we do our best not to make the same mistake twice. I’m not counting that in our personal relationships but when it comes to business, we learn from it. One of the things that I watched you do that impressed me the most was you ask way more questions now. You don’t take people’s word for it. You do your due diligence and you ask questions. That’s something that I admire about the way that you came back from that. It’s because of that you end up with this business model you have now and you’re crushing it. That’s a great lesson for everybody is when something comes along that seems too good to be true, sometimes it’s worth taking a couple of extra minutes to run it through the what don’t I see model.
The thing we all have in common is our enthusiasm, plus we have the history of being able to do big deals in business and to make big stuff happen. When something comes along, it’s like our identity to say, “Don’t care what the pitfalls are because whatever it is, I’m going to make that work.” We’re all shaking our heads now because we’ve all gone through it. I’ve certainly done it. Nowadays, it’s worth stopping and pausing and saying, “Is this person, is this idea, is this business model, and is this thing? The people associated with it, are they checking out? That I don’t put my time, money and energy.” All of us are getting older and that’s what we have. Our currency is time.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned over the years from not just this experience but a load of them, and it’s a bunch of stuff that we’ve all done together. Is the infrastructure strong enough to support what we can do? All four of us tend to have that Midas touch type deal where when we implement what we know into somebody’s business, it blows up. More often than not, it implodes because they don’t have the structure behind them. That’s why I believe we’re all a lot slower at entering into deals. We’re doing a whole lot to find out if they can handle the success that we can help them with.
The common phrase that Joe and I use all the time with our clients over at Anton Jae is, “More companies die of indigestion than they do of starvation.” We all have that tendency when we put our finger on something, when we put our name behind something, the money and the sales come flowing through. Good lessons there. Thanks for that. How about you, Joe?
Many things that I’ve learned since, but I did the day-to-day wrong. I watched my dad and my dad was a serial entrepreneur. He owned restaurants but when he’d get one click, he’d open another one. When he get that one click, he’d open another one. It wasn’t clicking on its own. It was like, “It’s open. Let’s do something else.” He didn’t always manage it. “We got to cover bills somehow. Let’s figure it out.” Not always was that the best choice or whatever. I learned those lessons. I went into business thinking I could work my way through it. If I work and work, it will all work out. That’s what I learned from him. I tried not to do the shady side but work and work. I didn’t know what I was doing. I mixed up activity for productivity and I’d spend time on things that weren’t important. Put things out of sequence.
Everybody thinks it’s as simple as if I sell $10 and it only cost me $5, it’s $5. That’s as far as our business knowledge goes. Often on the finance side when we start, we think, “I’ll sell it for a higher price and then get my profit and that’s the end of it.” That’s not how that works. I didn’t understand finance. I didn’t understand the culture. I didn’t understand how to make my business not about me and not about not dependent upon me. It wasn’t duplicable. I had a job that I owned and I worked. It was always my head above the water, and it was a pain in the butt no matter what level. It was always like, “You can pay yourself a nice salary,” but the business was always right there. Those were my biggest screw-ups.
[bctt tweet=”More companies die of indigestion than they do of starvation.” username=””]
We’ve done this day in, day out for years with other companies. I always tell people that they hire Anton Jae because of my failures, not because of my successes and the lessons that I learned. It’s often that we sit in on some of these meetings. We came from New York and we’ve been to all of these businesses, over hundreds of them now. One of the things that we talk about most is this is what I did, which is what you don’t want to do. Here’s the proper structure afterward. I don’t suggest that approach to people. There’s a lot of finding people that have the right input that has gone through in your business that has gone through the hard stuff.
Those are the people that you want to look up and that you want to learn from because they’ve been there. They can tell you watch out. It’s like a kid playing a video game. They’re like, “Dad, right around this corner there’s going to be three people shooting,” because they go, they fail. They come back and they go and they know that’s there now. It’s that pattern recognition. You want to find somebody that’s got enough pattern recognition that came from experience and experience usually comes from failure. It’s a really good lesson. What’s been one of your biggest business successes? Let’s start with you, Eric.
When I had a construction company, I went to Keith Cunningham who you recommended, Jason. After I broke my neck, I got to the point where I’m like, “I need to make sure that the lights are going to stay on with or without me.” I was literally asking another buddy like, “If I die, could you come in and take over so my wife would have income?” I wait and shifted from the employee, small business owner, business owner, and investor. I fell in love with the idea of going from small business owner to business owner where it can operate without you. Rather than learning how to be the best at starting a new company or being the best entrepreneur, I said, “I want to be the best business owner.” Along with Jason’s help, Shawn, and a great many other mentors, I sat there and said, “What do I need to do to start removing myself?” It was a little bittersweet but I remember I started taking off Fridays. I would go skydiving on Fridays. I’m like, “Most people don’t need me. I might as well not show up on Friday.”
Every time someone would come up, I would build a system, process, automation or whatever around it. I said, “There’s no way I can take off Mondays. Monday is my craziest day. No matter what, I’m taking off Monday morning at least until 11:00 or 12:00 off. I will go scuba diving in the morning on Mondays and I’d come in with a mask imprint and people would laugh at me. One of the nicest parts was we do a modified scrum meeting. You sit there and you’d look at the backlog. You look at everything and you compare it to your outcomes and then you go, “What do we want to build?” I walked in and the team had already done the meeting. They’d already done every step that we normally do. I didn’t lead it. They took over. They figured it out. I walked in them like, “What do you guys need?” They’re like, “Nothing. We’re good.” It’s a little bittersweet.
It’s a messed-up feeling to have a business that doesn’t need you. That’s the growth. If the company the end of your running needs you to be there, then the business owns you. You don’t own the business. It’s a psychological battle that you have to get prepared for. If you want to build your business to be able to run without you, then it’s got to run without you and when it doesn’t need you that shouldn’t impact or affect in any way, shape, or form your ego.
That’s the biggest part. One of the things that I combined was something Tony teaches, six human needs in which you share often. It all came together and I thought, “The reason I’m addicted to my business is that I’m looking to get my personal needs fulfilled from the business.”
One thing about all of us, we’re all adrenaline junkies. When you’re running a company, we get that hit. No matter what, we’re solving problems. We get that hit.
For me, it was coming back to significance. It was coming back to serotonin, oxytocin or whatever. When it finally worked for me was when I separated and I did an inventory and I said, “What are all the needs that get fulfilled from the business? What are those same needs I could fulfill for my personal life?” It dawned on me and I went, “Every time I try and pull away, I’m creating a vacuum.” My personal needs are not being met then it’s pulling back into the business. That’s when I said, “What are all the different ways that I can become happy outside of the business and have all these needs fulfilled?” I meditated. I did a brain dump. I started scheduling it out. I would leave for six to nine days and we’d do $100,000 in business again and again. It felt nice. I’m not going to say the business ran without me but it sure ran a hell of a lot less. I went from running leads seven days a week to working fifteen hours, twenty hours a week.
Your biggest success was when you figured out how to get separated from your business. Thank you. Shawn?
I’d say probably one of the best things that have happened in my current business that I’m in. One of the biggest successes that I’ve had with that is being able to look at things quite a bit differently in a different way than probably everybody else in my industry looks at things at this point. When we started several years ago, our average sale was about $9,800. A few years ago, our average deal got up to be about $12,000. I remember when we were going to some Tony Robbins’ Business Mastery stuff. One of the things Keith Cunningham mentioned was our first goal was going to be to get my business to add 10% to the bottom line. Our average deal at the time was about $15,000. He said, “How do we get it to $16,500?” My first thought was, “That’s impossible.” The reason why is all my competitors’ average sale was at $10,000. We were at $15,000. Everybody in the business was accusing us of price gouging.
What I did to find out where that price was, is I took where everybody in the industry thought things should be priced and where everybody was pricing their stuff competitively to each other. I looked at how do we approach it a different way? How do we add more value? How do we get it to be more affordable on a monthly basis even though that package might be a bigger package? We were selling things at $15,000 and all of the banks that we used for funding were giving me a hard time about price gouging and saying, “If you keep this up, we’re going to have to either remove you out of our program or put limitations because you guys are charging too much.”
I remember getting into these arguments with the finance companies we were using at the time saying, “You’re nothing but the finance company. You’re like Visa. At the end of the day, who are you to dictate to me what I can charge for a steak? When you go to Ruth’s Chris, I buy steaks. When we go to freaking dinner, I don’t go to Sizzler. I’m not buying a $499 steak. If I’m going to go to Ruth’s Chris, it’s up to me to decide if I’m going to spend $65 for a steak or not. You’re the freaking Visa company. Stop trying to tell me how to do my business.” I’m having major battles with them. At the same time, Keith Cunningham’s going, “We’re going to increase it by 10%.”
I remember having a three-day board meeting with Keith. You were there, Jason. We were all in Texas going through the numbers and I was trying to justify we’re doing 30 deals a month, $15,000 on average per deal. Keith said, “We’re only going to go to 33. That’s not even an extra one deal a week.” Can we get to 33 a month and can we go from $15,000 to $16,500? We did that. We shot to $18,996. I got this entire blowback from the banks that we were using at the time. I’d say my biggest success was one of the things I got from that Keith Cunningham weekend was how to look at our business differently than everybody else in our business is looking at it.
How do I take insights from a guy like him who’s a seasoned vet at all kinds of different businesses along with everybody else in our board? Figure out how we take what everybody else knows from their industry and implement it into my business. Our average deal is a little over $100,000 and all my competitors are throwing hissy fits. I’m having the same problems with the banks trying to threaten to kick us out because they don’t understand what we’re doing and I’m giving them zero information. All my so-called competitors are still trying to figure out what we’re doing differently. Their average sales have gone up to about $18,000 and we’re at over $100,000. In the same story, they’re trailing behind by a few years.
There are a couple of great lessons buried in there. Number one is to continually ask the right questions. The quality of our lives is in direct proportion to the quality of the questions we allow ourselves to ask ourselves. Had you capped yourself out? That’s what’s happening in a lot of businesses. We’re comparing ourselves to everybody else who’s doing stupid work and not great at customer service and they’re not thinking through their finance’s problems. They’re not figuring out how they can fall in love with the outcome of their client and so on and so forth. They’re sitting there going, “I’m doing okay compared to the people that are in my industry.” That’s one great lesson.
The other great lesson is that you weren’t a numbers guy and you became a numbers guy. You’ve always been good at numbers from running your deals and all that stuff but running your company by the numbers has been a totally different evolution for you. That led to that awareness and that ability for you to be able to bump that up. If everybody didn’t hear what he said, he started at $9,800 per deal and now he’s over $100,000 per deal. His competitors in his industry are around $18,900, which a couple of years ago I saw Shawn arguing with Keith about this subject about being able to raise the price 10%. A great lesson in there is that if you run the race against yourself and you ask yourself the right questions, then you’re going to have a higher opportunity to be successful. That’s exactly what you’ve done. When you’re running a race against other poorly run companies, then you’re going to remain in their company. Thanks for that, Shawn. That was valuable. How about you, Joe?
[bctt tweet=”Learn from someone who has enough pattern recognition that came from experience of failure.” username=””]
It’s definitely getting from you falling in love with their clients’ outcomes. I’ve had some incredible interactions post doing that. You can make a difference in someone’s life. It’s been emotional, as corny as that sounds, but it can have an impact in people’s lives especially in our case where we’re dealing with business, which to a lot of people is their identity and their baby. They care a lot. Falling in love with their outcomes and delivering on those outcomes has been an incredible emotional success as it relates to business.
You and I had an experience. Come from one of the companies, it’s not that I believe we saved that company and the emotion and the tears and the stuff that was flowing in that when we went in and did that rescue. It was beautiful. I’m with you. It does sound corny but people’s identity, that’s how they pay their bills. They’re scared to death when it’s not working right. They’re afraid of what’s going on in the environment. When you can come in, build a system, solidify and show them a future, it is emotional.
Certain times, depending on the business you have, even Eric and your business and anybody’s business. Sometimes you’re delivering something somebody needs and it’s pretty impactful. That’s on the emotional side. On the financial side, we helped a client in a matter of a few months put an extra $600,000 in cash, not profit, in their pocket in a few months. We hadn’t even figured out December by the time we did that math. When it comes down to that, it’s hard numbers and that was fairly incredible. In the giving backside, we’ve been able to because we still set up charities like businesses. You do the number, you do the math. In 2018, you said our team had done over $3 million in helping at some form or fashion. I don’t know how you got to your numbers or your totals or all that. Years ago, I raised $50,000 for a small brush charity, a group and those kinds of charity pieces when it’s a small group and you make a big impact. When you have more to give, you make a bigger impact. Probably in those areas, those have been the biggest ones for me.
We get to see a lot of that. We’re asking that question of what’s your biggest business success. It’s the next person that hires Anton Jae Global. That’s what it looks like. We do live a blessed life to be able to save jobs and save life savings and homes and all that. We do live a blessed life and change cultures. Let’s move on and move through a couple of other subjects. When we talk about this next subject, what I don’t want is for us to fluff it up. I know all four of us to have different feelings and opinions about philanthropy and charity. I would like to know because there are different attitudes and I’ll summarize what I’ve found being in the philanthropic world when we’re done, but a take on charity and philanthropy and how you view it. How about you Eric?
When I was young, I’d be running around as a kid. A big thing I used to do is take out meals to the homeless. I’d see them on the side of the road. I’d go to McDonald’s, go to whatever. I’d sit there and eat with them. Friends and people that dated my mom noticed me. I got to the point where I was making decent money when I was sixteen. I’d be like, “There’s a haircut place right down the street. I’m sure we could get you some clothes.” I would try and help them get back on their feet. I did that year after year for many years. I’d hand out business cards like, “I’ll help you out.” Not one person ever took me up on it. I got to a point somewhere in the overlap. I said, “I don’t want to help any charities where the people basically made a conscious decision to put themselves in this circumstance.” As rough as that may sound, I’m sure American Cancer Society does good work. A lot of people make poor life decisions and more often than not they need to own it. I’ve owned mine and where I like my focus and attention to be is with kids. They did not make the decision to get diabetes or cancer. I made donations regularly to Smile Train.
I also look at it as ROI. Jason, we’ve sat with different charities and I’ve torn it apart. My thing is like “What’s the ROI behind this?” If somebody gets a cleft palate fixed, the surgery costs $100. They have doctors that volunteer. In developing nations, those children are considered as cursed that they were born under a bad moon. There are all these different things. They cannot go to school. They cannot usually find a spouse. Generally, they rely on other people. They’re not productive members of society. That I like. I also love Make-A-Wish. I started getting involved with Himalayan Cataract, because of the huge difference that it makes. For $25, a surgical procedure can be done to remove the cataract and give somebody their vision and they’re healed in a day.
It’s a thing that happens with age. Nobody made a decision to get cataracts. It takes people when they’re a little bit older, the other end of the spectrum. You hear these videos of people being able to go and they would literally stay inside of their small room and not leave. If you’re in a third world country, what are you going to do? You can’t work. You can’t help bring water from the stream or whatever. For $25, you’re literally giving somebody their vision to be able to see loved ones, family members, to be a productive member of society and the ROI on that is insane. Those are the things that I’m passionate about.
That’s a good lesson to everybody out there reading that has a charity, you’re donating to a charity, you’re participating in a charity, or you’re looking at one. People that are in business are your customer because we’re going to be the ones that are going to be donating the cash and the capital for you to be able to do what you do. You have to be able to measure the success of what you’re doing against the money that you’re bringing in. It’s something for everybody that’s involved. The ones that Joe and I work with on a consistent basis, the first thing we tell them is, “What’s your metric?” Underage sex trade where we do a lot of work, there are two million of them. A metric for that is for us to bring it down to 1.5 million to eventually eradicate it. That’s the outcome and the goal. ROI is a very important part of that. Thanks for that. How about you, Shawn?
Ditto to what Eric said.
It’s a good one. That was the only thing I didn’t point out but what he said was people that choose to put themselves in messed up situations, it’s hard to help them. They haven’t made the decision to understand that when we fail at something, that is an indicator that we need to change something about ourselves.
On a day-to-day basis, I went to lunch and gave this guy an apple. Usually, I have some extra food in my car or my truck. If I’m going somewhere, I’m going to see somebody somewhere. If they’re trying to help themselves, I always look to see what else I can do to help them as well. When they’re standing on a corner with a sign, I got a tough time with that one. Go do something. Unemployment is freaking zero. It doesn’t exist. The bigger problem that we have in the business world is it’s tough to find anybody because everybody who even sucks still has her job. They’re standing on the corner begging and asking for something for nothing, I have a tough time with.
I went to dinner and I see this older lady digging through the trash. What I do a lot of times is I take all my change basically every day out of my pocket and I throw it in this big thing in my closet. At any given time, I got buckets of change at home. I take all those change in Ziploc bags and throw them in the truck. I have a dozen Ziploc bags. I don’t know how much is in each bag, it might be $10, $20 bucks. It depends on how much of them are quarters versus pennies. If I see somebody digging through the trash looking for cans. She’s got her cart. She’s in the back of the grocery store. I get out of the sushi restaurant. I see her walking across the parking lot, it’s raining. I drove across the parking lot and rolled up and said, “Excuse me.” Roll the window down. She’s like, “Yeah?” I’m like, “Come here. I got some cash for you.” She’s like, “What?” and I gave her a handful of bags of money. This lady lit up. I don’t know how much it is, not much $40, $50 or whatever. She’s already trying to do something to benefit herself and better herself, I’m more than happy to help that person out when they’re doing that.
I was driving through a drive-through and there’s a guy at the end of the drive through with a sign that says, “Anything helps.” He’d be staring in my front windshield. It’s already you’re in a messy situation. I’m ordering all this food. I’m like, “Double that order.” The guy’s like, “I’m already getting the food I already paid for. Double that order and give me another one. Here’s another $10. Give me another Rito and chips I ordered.” I pull out of the thing I was like, “Anybody hungry?” He’s like, “No, thanks. All good. Thanks though.” I go, “What?” He goes, “What do you got?” I go, “What do I got? I got a fistful of fries for you. Get out of my driveway before I lose it.” He’s like, “I need cash.” I’m like, “You don’t need cash.” I can’t stand that.
I’ve seen you be generous, especially with your employees. People that work for you and around you. I know that’s true. I’ve been with you at some of the different fundraisers that I’ve been at and you call it as you see it. When people are full of it you say it. There are a lot of people that are full of it in the philanthropic world. Everybody’s got to come up with their own version of what it is to give back because that’s literally what we’re here for anyway. It’s to ease suffering with people. I love that you do that with your employees, and I’ve seen you hand out burritos and do the things that you do. Thanks for that. Joe, how about you?
You asked what my philosophy is on giving back. From a philosophical level, most importantly for as long as I can remember, I always felt giving back was my responsibility. It’s our responsibility. It’s certainly not the governments. They can’t organize a ham and mayonnaise sandwich effectively, never mind do it in under budget. Charities, I look at them often like I look at the government in their inept ability to do the same thing. I find it to be a personal responsibility. It’s something that for me it’s a duty, it feels like to me to do for others. I don’t do much on a day-to-day basis. It’s not so much the bums or this or that as they’re known. These are the people who live on the streets. That’s tough because what’s the circumstances? Is it mental health? Was it out of their control? Did they try and fail? Did they lose everything? I’ve had great conversations with those guys and terrible, like everybody on this interview.
My son, he’s ten, and he’s got the biggest heart in the world. I couldn’t have been prouder of him. He was bothered by a mom and her daughter who had a sign that said, “I can’t get back to Virginia and I need money,” and we live in Maryland, an hour or two away. He says to me, “Dad, can we give her money?” I said, “Yes, we can.” Once we did, it sparked a conversation of what we were grateful for. It sparked a conversation about how sometimes people are sham artists and they’re doing that to make money and it’s not true and they’re not trying to get back to Virginia. What that led to was a conversation of if that’s their job then they’re probably in a worse spot than we are. Why not give them money because who cares? Did we get taken? Did we get the wool pulled over our eyes? We’re wide awake. We don’t particularly care and either way, we’re still helping.
Philosophically, it comes from there for me. I want everybody to pick what resonates with them. Many of us have a good buddy who’s passionate about hunger. I don’t mind working with hunger but it’s not my thing. It’s not the thing that makes me get out of bed in the morning. Even though it’s soul-crushing when you hear the stories and you see the photos and you see the picture, it isn’t my thing. I don’t mind meatloaf, but it’s not my thing. It doesn’t get me excited. For me, what has always resonated deeply and I’m sure it has a lot to do with my background but anybody who are bullied or who can’t take care of themselves. That’s why I work with domestic violence. People who can’t fight for themselves and are getting picked on, that stuff gets me mad.
[bctt tweet=”You become a business owner if you own the business and it’s not the business who owns you.” username=””]
There are certain diseases that resonated with me especially when I worked at Discovery Camp for Tony before that was gone. He used to do that a long time ago. They’d bring kids in there that were like Make-A-Wish kids. They weren’t Make-A-Wish kids but this is their last event. My son walks over to this woman and gives her money and he beams from the contribution, it’s hard to be hard in those moments. If any of it’s my calluses from living through some of the stuff that goes on in the charity world, all it takes is a ten-year-old beaming with joy to go right through all that stuff.
When it comes to charity it’s the same thing with business employees. What we tend to do often is we go into a dark room and we walk around bumping into people and then pulling them into the light and hoping that they’re in the dark room. Sometimes in the dark room, you get lucky, but more often than not you bump into people that are happy being in the dark. What we should be doing is standing in the lightroom at the door and waiting for those people who are walking toward the door going, “I’m ready.” Now we can pull them from the dark room into the lightroom. That encapsulates it the best for me. It still will always be my responsibility but it’s not going to be my responsibility for those people walking around the dark room on their own. That’s their business and that’s their choice. We’ll try to help. If you don’t want help, fine.
We find that out a lot. We support over 80 charities and we teach the infrastructure about how to better run your charity. A lot of people come because I do donate a lot of money and I do donate a lot of time and I spend an inordinate amount of my actual time involved in philanthropy. We put together a group and said, “We’ll teach you all the necessary infrastructure and you have been on every one of those calls.” Some charities they’re literally there for the money and they show themselves. It’s like, “I’m not ready, willing, and able to do the work that’s necessary.” That is something that I admire in for-profit and nonprofit is about this group of guys that no matter how badly we’ve been kicked in the teeth is we get up and we do it. I tell my origin story about going through a bad battle with investors and money and stuff like that. I never one time in that entire scenario did I look to say, “Who’s going to give me my money back? Who’s going to give me my time back?” It never even dawned on me.
There’s this fallback position for everybody in social settings with welfare. Welfare is there. It’s there for a good reason. I’m not disparaging it at all in my entire life, but I went through a scenario where I was homeless for a period of time. Not one time did it enter my head to go down and file for unemployment or for welfare or for any of that. I got through it and I thought to myself, “That was stupid.” I paid into this system for many years but there are two mindsets in this world. It’s somebody’s going to rescue me or I have to participate in my own rescue. Whether you’re in a charity or for-profit or whether you are in a family or a husband, a mother, a wife, a dad, or whatever it is. That self-sufficiency is what made this country great.
Every time we try to go down this path of turning that around, that’s where we start to have problems. I want to get into that. I want to acknowledge about these three guys that are here. I’ve known all of them in some of the worst-case scenarios in their lives and my life. I’ve known them in the best times and their hearts of giving are phenomenal. This philanthropic side of things, it’s easy to make fun of stuff and to get angry at people that are out there that are messing around. This is one of the other areas. The idea is none of us like bullies. I see anybody that’s out there in the philanthropic world that’s taking advantage of other people and lying and say they’re doing one thing and using the money for another. They’re worse than bullies. They’re crooks. They’re criminals. They’re the worst of the worst. We do a lot to protect our charities against those scams that exist out there. It’s both a good side and the bad side of all scenarios. I wanted to say that about you guys before we move into the next subject.
- Eric Michael Collins
- Anton Jae Global
- Business Mastery
- American Cancer Society
- Himalayan Cataract
About Eric Michael Collins
Eric Michael Collins has a track record of helping entrepreneurs realize their vision: Eric Collins helps companies streamline, strengthen and succeed.
Eric is as passionate for business as he is for life. He’s an entrepreneur, inventor, an angel investor, and educator. In the course of his career — and he’s only in his 30s — Eric has owned, partnered with an established joint ventures with dozens of successful businesses in a variety of fields. He knows the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the backward and forwards of building businesses. Eric’s life and professional career have been a spectrum of triumphant pleasures (as well as hellish agonies). Eric is fervent about using his experience to assist entrepreneurs to build success while eliminating the risk factors that all-too-often produce failure. His devotion to the process led Eric Collins to create Compounding Success. Eric Michael Collins provides entrepreneurs, salespeople and corporate executives with practical expert advice to measurably increase profits, revenue and free time while decreasing expenses and eliminating risk.
About Joe Calo
Joe Calo brings his considerable experience as a strategic thinker and facilitator. He has been driven by the need to improve his situation since his underprivileged childhood and has used his tenacity, ingenuity, and creativity to change his economic circumstances.
While in the Army, Joe was recruited as an Intelligence Officer and served during Panama, the fall of the Berlin Wall and Desert Storm, working with the Central Intelligence Agency, the Special Operations Command, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Air Force Intelligence, and the Naval Intelligence Service.
Following his military and intelligence career, and after a period of personal unrest, Joe spent a 20-year career with a large fire and rescue department, was a tactical paramedic assigned to the SWAT team and participated in high-risk warrant service, barricades, and hostage situations.
Separately, Joe participated in negotiations for both labor and management, wrote comprehensive policies and legislation that changed the culture of the department, and ascended to Chief Officer where he successfully managed all organizational legal and human resource matters for the Department including arbitration, mediation, depositions, and federal litigation at the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.