Michael Dermer, Founder of The Lonely Entrepreneur | Entrepreneurial Lessons From A Category Creator

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Michael is an entrepreneur, speaker, lawyer and founder/author of The Lonely Entrepreneur. Michael is considered the founder of not only a company, but an industry — rewarding individuals for healthy behavior. Michael left a promising law career to start IncentOne, the first company to provide rewards for healthy behavior. At the time, rewards in healthcare were not only non-existent — they were offensive. He was told over and over “we will never reward people for things they should be doing to be healthy.”

After bootstrapping for a decade, his company received a large private equity investment on October 15, 2008. Then the financial crisis hit. Ten years were gone in ten days. Bankrupt customers. Investment gone. Credit dead. Family dollars at risk. Angry investors. Family relationships on the brink. It would take two years of working 24 hours a day to save what took ten years to build. The perfect storm.

It was doomed. Or was it? Today, health rewards are everywhere, he sold IncentOne to industry innovator Welltok and his company is credited with creating the health rewards industry. What resulted was not only a business success, but the discovery of a unique method on how to thrive under the pressure, chaos and burden of being the entrepreneur. The Lonely Entrepreneur was born.

Show Links

https://twitter.com/michaelgdermer

https://lonelyentrepreneur.com/

Book Links (Aff)

The Lonely Entrepreneur — https://amzn.to/39vlpfg

Show Sponsor (25% Off Code: SUCCESS)

https://getmr.com/

Talking Points

00:00 — Michael Dermer, Founder of The Lonely Entrepreneur

00:55 — Career pivot, from law to founder.

04:27 — Early retirement… what’s next?

06:18 — Early entrepreneurial lessons.

12:13 — Thinking like an entrepreneur.

15:35 — How to get your first few customers.

19:27 — Four traits of successful entrepreneurs.

Read The Transcript

Scott: thanks again for joining me today. I am sitting down with Michael Dermer, who is the founder and CEO of the lonely entrepreneur. He is considered the pioneer of the industry to reward people for being healthy. I’m very excited to understand his story, what that means, what he’s done, what he’s doing now.

Michael, thanks so much for sitting down. I appreciate it.

Michael: Thanks for your time. I really appreciate you having me.

Scott: No, it’s my pleasure. So you have a really interesting story. And I want, I want you to tell it because I think that’s. That’s when I look up your name, when I look up your past and the company that you had and the struggles and the issues that you, that you went through, building it and scaling it.

And then, well, tell, tell me, tell me what, what your origin story is and how you got to where you are today.

Michael: Sure. You know, I started my career as you know, as a corporate lawyer in New York city, I was doing M and a, for a large New York law firm after graduating from Northwestern law school. But I was itching to start a business, you know, but back then in the early two thousands, it’s not like today where people threw business plans on your desk all day long.

And I was just looking for something to start. Even though it was in a big corporate law firm and I literally stumbled upon. And started what got to be known as the first company in the United States to reward people for being healthy. I was literally out to dinner with some friends and one of my friend’s wives was pregnant and she said, Hey, do you realize that for every 10 people, 10 women that don’t follow their prenatal care, the cost of health care system, a million dollars.

And I was like, wait a minute, why wouldn’t you just pay these women to get their prenatal care? And that was it, the beginning of the end. And that was the idea and worked, you know, at one o’clock in the morning writing business plans after my M and a job and, and then left and started again like that, to be known as the first company to reward people for being healthy.

So I went from this very prestigious law firm into a basement, like a lot of us do. And, you know, in the early days of that business, you know, not only was that concept new, it was offensive. You know the house during this said, we are never going to reward people for being healthy. And we’re like, wait a minute.

And every other consumer industry does that. And so for the first five years, plus, you know, we battled and scrapped and clawed and bootstrapped and and then from, you know, 2006 to 2008, we really grew a lot after for some very lean early years, venture capital backed at that point. And so by 2008, you know, we had built it up to, you know, a 500 person company.

And we had, you know, quote unquote made it and basically define this new concept. And as you know literally almost got destroyed overnight by the financial crisis of 2008. All of our clients were what, every young entrepreneur dreams of right. Large corporate America. Right. And you know, as those companies got decimated, we almost got decimated with them or was it healthcare technology, you know, SAS licensed business.

And you know, our three biggest customers were Washington mutual. Countrywide financial and general motors, and only one of them still exist today. And nobody called me to tell me and so we S we spent the better part of three years, you know, working 20 hours a day to basically save this thing had spent 10 years building and was fortunate enough, you know, on the other end of the financial crisis, there was everybody had this interest in healthcare, and we bounced back and got approached by a bunch of investment bankers and got bought.

So, and so. Great story in the end, but as you can imagine, an incredibly wild ride made only for big boys and girls.

Scott: Yeah. That’s a, that’s a lot of, a lot of stress. It’s funny, you had the, you had the highest highs and the lowest lows as an entrepreneur. You like, you had the whole range, right? So thanks.

And I’m actually on your site, it said you got destroyed in 10 days by, by the financial crisis of 2008, nearly destroyed in 10 days. So I can only imagine the toll that took on your, on your mental health and wellbeing that stopped.

Michael: That’s true because, you know, if you remember October, 2008, when bear Stearns went down, it literally unraveled the financial markets quickly.

And because we had a lot of financial institutions, those customers, they literally, you know, Washington mutual that we probably had a. Six or $7 million, very high unprofitable software license contract with literally we filed for bankruptcy a week later because you know, their whole mortgage back securities on Laos and stuff like that.

But that was not in the brochure. I can tell you that much.

Scott: So, so what do you do? What, what is the lonely entrepreneur? So you sold your company. You still want to work. What’s a, what are you doing now?

Michael: Well, you know, after that experience, we right from saving the company to M and a and selling it.

And I was literally just chilling out in New York where I’m from. And, and all I was doing was helping entrepreneurs for fun. You know, just having cups of coffee with friends and friends or friends. And I wasn’t really looking to do anything else. I’m only really attracted to bigger things that have an impact on society.

So, you know, things like rewarding people for being healthy was very attractive to me. And when I was sitting with somebody, they said being an entrepreneur is really lonely. And I was like, huh, that’s interesting. And kind of forgot about it. And then I was walking down the street with a friend of mine in union square in New York.

And I told him that, and he’s like, what did you just say? And I’m like the only entrepreneur he’s like, you realize that’s what we all share is the struggle. And I go, yeah, yeah. And he goes, watch this. And we walked into drag me into Starbucks and he yelled who here is a lonely entrepreneur and everybody raised their hand.

And I was like, okay, I got it. But my goal was. There were so many people out there with passion and great ideas that literally had so many gaps. There’s so much you need to know as an entrepreneur to be successful. And I didn’t have a desire to kind of just write a book and stand in front of 20 people and give a lecture.

I wanted to try to help people all over the place. You were talking about this over dinner, or thinking about leaving their job or, you know, dealing with having to become one in COVID. And so we started lonely entrepreneur. We wrote a book about our journey. And then launched, what you probably know is, is this kind of one-stop shop platform, which was really designed to give a people a lot of the knowledge, tools and support.

They need to have a better, better chance of success. So what we call it at lonely entrepreneur is turning your passion into success by actually learning a lot of the different things you need to know to be a more successful entrepreneur.

Scott: And what is, and what is that? That, well, first of all, I’m curious, how did you figure it out?

Because you know, you were that lonely entrepreneur. So what resources did you lean on and, and, and growing your company via the first time?

Michael: What was really interesting and I had a pretty good background to start. So I had a finance and MNA background. So the financing stuff and the corporate stuff was pretty easy.

The hardest part that you learn along the way is that you, you have to build this organism, you know, at first your company looks like a solar system with your head in the middle, right. And then as you grow. You’ve got to, you’ve got to start to look like an org chart. Right. And you have to learn that. And I just remember a lot of people saying, you know, the people that started early stage companies were not the people that should be ones running them longer term.

Right. Because there are different skillsets. And so I just really embraced. The journey of trying to get better at it. No different than you. I played college baseball, you know, the number of hours you spend in a batting cage, trying to get better at, you know, I looked at it the same way and I just, I just learned and read and talked to people and what you realized that it was a pretty, it was a hard to execute, but it was a pretty standard formula.

Right. Of, of what does a good company look like? Didn’t always get it right by any means. But I just kind of embraced it, made mistakes and just tried to stay. Very treated to what I think is the most important thing, which is the thing that makes you different, you know, your vision, but then how do you translate that into it?

Like an operating organism that actually can make that work. And you know what I just described, people have written hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of books about to try to try to

Scott: solve. Yeah. Yeah. But, but you know, you’re not, you’re not wrong with the tagline is. The difference between success and failure is your perspective.

Which sounds nice, but then there’s obviously operationalizing it and actually bringing that and working with, with it in your specific you know, industry niche environment, vertical saying that there can be some sort of methodology for an entrepreneur to understand that perspective and then apply to everything they do as they’re growing and learning and scaling a business.

Yeah. A hundred percent. What is it?

Michael: Sorry if you think about it. No, no, you’re exactly right. When you think about it is once you kind of put the entrepreneur on your chest and you’re this entrepreneur for superhero, we all think that the normal operating metrics for businesses don’t apply. Right. And, and like, like setting our goal and priorities and, and operating metrics and process like all this really unsexy stuff that is actually what makes them vision come to life in something right.

And the ability to connect those dots was really the key, especially, you know, during the financial crisis, when things are moving all over the place on, you literally need to say, Hey, my goal is this, my, my priorities are this and the strategies I’m going to use. And then I need, you know, basic, boring stuff like people and process and metrics to make it happen.

But I still think the most important thing. And I know your audience is very attuned to kind of sales and marketing. We still think the most important thing was what we say is finding a playground where nobody else was playing. You can do all this stuff that I just said and execute the best way. But if you don’t have something that really defines that playground for you, I mean, if you think about my business rewarding people for being healthy, all we did was take the same exact concept that we’re used being used everywhere and, you know, credit card programs and airline programs and, and retailer loyalty programs and apply it to healthcare.

But once we did. You know, we found our playground and we started to own it. And then hopefully if you’re smart enough to either by yourself or with your colleagues to put that into place with those kinds of operating foundations, that’s I think the combination for success,

Scott: I, I appreciate that. And I think that that’s, that’s a smart way to look at it now as.

As people sort of understand more about the lonely entrepreneur, because you did, you know, you did create a community for, for entrepreneurs. What type of entrepreneur, what are people looking for when they go and see you? What do you offer them? What’s, what’s the value add for lonely entrepreneur, for example, as opposed to you’re in Y Combinator, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of these types of programs.

I want to differentiate what you do.

Michael: Yeah. So the product that I mentioned with the subscription-based product is called the learning community. And what we’re really trying to do is guide you every day. You know, there’s great programs out there like Y Combinator and, and incubators and accelerators and workspace programs.

We just feel like there’s so many things that you need to know as an entrepreneur. You can almost define entrepreneurism, not by. The way it’s been defined maybe historically like passion, like you have passion and grit, right. And that’s an entrepreneur, as opposed to an entrepreneur is the amalgamation of a hundred skills.

Right. And so what we’re trying to do with our platform is to say, here’s all these skills that you lead need to learn. You need to be able to manage yourself. You need to be able to do great sales presentations. You need to be able to manage your team. You need to be able to like, there’s all this stuff that goes into it, not to mention the personal stuff.

And so I think that that there’s so many kind of early stage entrepreneurs that have passion, have grit and have a great idea. But having had the opportunity or the wherewithal to develop those skills. And as you know, because we were talking about before, everyone’s at different stages, right? Someone’s in corporate America thinking about leaving somebody, else’s just got an idea and somebody else has got a six person company.

Right. And they’re raising money for the first time. So for us, it’s about how do you get to be a better entering every day and through this online platform and the support we provide. We’re there. We’re trying to be their sidekick at every step of their journey where they have online learning. But at the same time, they have access to a community and coaching that guides them at every step of their journey.

Scott: And one thing that you mentioned, and, and you, you sort of highlighted on your site and I like it a lot. There’s people that are in all walks of life, all stages in their journey, trying to do a thing you know, the side hustle is more popular than ever now. And one of the pieces that you actually mentioned was entrepreneur entrepreneurism is not a nice to have.

It’s a skill that must be unlocked in every company. So speak to me about what that means for somebody who’s in a company that doesn’t understand how they can associate with the word entrepreneur.

Michael: Yeah, that’s a great point. So there’s, there’s two kind of lens of this one lens is okay. You’re in a company and you’re thinking about leaving and doing your own thing.

And that applies to some of the things that we’ve just been talking about, but companies to compete has to think like entrepreneurs, right? I mean, I mean, Amazon to not exist, right. Walmart should have created Amazon and. Blockbusters should creative, Netflix and Sony should have created Spotify. Like these organizations had all the way with all the duties of the things.

And today, if you don’t think we call it, think like an entrepreneur, if you don’t think like an entrepreneur within a larger company you’re just going to become kind of the next, you know, company that just doesn’t stay up with the times. And that’s a difficult thing to do, right? Because large companies don’t operate that way.

They think about quarterly numbers. And it’s really hard for them to innovate. So we have a program called think like an entrepreneur, which is a training program, which helps large organizations take what you learn from entrepreneurs and employ it within a corporate environment to try to create some of these methodologies and the thought processes that entrepreneurs have all day long, but just don’t regularly get deployed in a, in a corporate environment.

Scott: Do you feel like do you have advice for people that feel like they’re being I guess held down or, or, or just like, just like their ideas are being choked out in, in the organization? Like how do they, how do they actually thrive in a company that is by the quarterly numbers with all the red tape.

I’m curious as to how to do that.

Michael: So there are people, the people that rise, the men and women that rise to senior levels within organizations are the ones that are able to deliver results. Right? There are ones that if you ask them, what do you do with your job? The first thing they’re going to do is give you a number, right?

I deliver X, I deliver this to sales or this expense savings or whatever it may be. And this shareholder value and those people are always interested in innovations that work. Right. So if you’re a stapled and you’re in an organization, I mean, I think about, we were talking about before we sold the health plans, health plans did the same thing for 50 years.

And the people that you were selling to were the very same people that put in place, the things that you were trying to get rid of. Right. So, and the same thing exists within an organization. What I would say is I would respectfully whether it’s the innovation people or the senior leaders in your group and say, listen, No, do your homework, like come up with a business plan, come up with a business case.

Don’t just walk into somebody who’s the executive VP of blah, blah, and say, I have an idea. Do your work and put it in a package, but say this. I believe that this can deliver us revenue, competitive differentiation, significant cost savings. And I’d like to have the opportunity to present it to you. And I can tell you that the people that are in those roles certainly you and me, we would always want to have that conversation if it was something that was that was credible, even if you’re stifled at different levels of your organism.

Scott: Yeah. Yeah. Not a good, very good point. Very well said. I think that that’s something to take note of. Like you don’t, even, if you feel like the organization doesn’t support or perhaps you don’t see the peers, your peers working on things like this take that initiative. And, and I think the, the takeaway message to the lesson is to, you know, you’d be surprised at what you can accomplish.

If you start going out there. And like you said, acting like an entrepreneur within a company and pushing these ideas in front of the right people or presenting them in front of the right people. It could really take that career to the next level within an organization. Yep.

Michael: I can tell you, I can tell you what I did when I started my company and our clients were health plans and we’re an early stage company.

I used to literally sit down at eight o’clock at night and leave voicemails for the CEOs of our nation’s largest healthcare companies, United healthcare, Cigna, Aetna, and I got seven out of 10 calls back. And, and that wasn’t because of my bubbly personality. I basically said, listen, So there’s going to be a health plan here in the United States.

That’s going to have a reward program just like Marriott and Citibank. And the one that does is going to win the consumer and the one that doesn’t is going to fall behind, this is what we’re doing. Give us a call back. Right? So the CEO would not normally say, I can never get to the CEO. If you go to somebody and say, this is how you really win, or this is how you really lose, right.

They will break all the rules for you. Obviously you have to be concise and on point and really talk to something that really makes a difference. But the people that arise to senior levels rise to senior levels because they, they cut through things and ultimately deliver some kind of financial performance.

Scott: One point that I wanted to highlight, because you list off a whole bunch of problems with mentors that align themselves with entrepreneurs people that oversell themselves, people that are only looking for winners, so on and so on, and it keeps going, going. So as an entrepreneur, it’s scary out there to align with someone.

How do you look for the right person?

Michael: There are a lot of mentors that are doing all the right things, but then there’s also a bunch of mentors, mentors that are trying to sell you things, trying to bring in their own financial partners, trying to bring in their own, you know, marketing partners and things like that.

Here’s what I would say a lot of times mentors that maybe don’t always have your best interests at heart. Like I said, there’s many that do a lot of times they, they prey on the risks that entrepreneurs are feeling. When you’re talking to somebody and you have a mentor and somebody you really like, and you’re connecting with.

Go ask a colleague of yours, not somebody that has the last same last name and you or somebody you’re dating or your brother, just somebody whose business judgment. You respect. And say to them, Hey, listen, I’m thinking about getting involved in this mentor. Can you talk to them for a half hour an hour?

Because you know, they’re completely objective view, right? And they will come in and say, well, I think this person’s a little to this, a little to that. And that can really help you, especially when you’re talking about the book and just this whole idea of perspective, we all know this we’re in the middle of it.

We have a really tough time seeing things. What other people can see really clearly that also works a lot when you’re hiring employees. Right. When you’re working 24 hours a day, the person in front of them, you might just hire them just because they can speak. Right. Because you’re so busy. If you go to, like, if I went to you and said, Hey, listen, could you interview this person for me?

You would give me a a reason thoughtful, you know, objective view. And I’d be able to make the right type of decision, just like I would with with a mentor.

Scott: Yeah. Good advice. That’s very good advice. I’ve never heard of frame like that. I’ve never heard that suggestion before. I really liked that a lot.

Especially when you’re, you know, as an entrepreneur, you, right. You’re, you’re just overtired. Absolutely exhausted. None of the decisions you’re making are probably the right ones. So given that you’re trying to look for all these little tricks and tips to, to make it easier on yourself. I liked that a

Michael: lot.

And that’s what we said before about like being a series of skills, right. It’s not, yes. The big things matter, but it’s also, you know, how you hire the wrong partner. You get person, you get the wrong mentor, you know, you’re already kind of behind the eight ball.

Scott: Yeah. Yeah. One other, the last thing not to inundate with lessons from the book, but I thought there was a few really, really good ones.

And then I wanted to ask just some like some personal insights from your career. But the four P’s you mentioned that perspective can be influenced by pressure, passion, and pleasure pain, or a flawed, flawed perspective. Can you speak a little bit more on that and extrapolate just what that means exactly.

And how to sort of watch for that as an entrepreneur? I think we sort of touched on it a little bit, but just to make it clear and succinct. Yeah. It

Michael: was really interesting when you take a step back after I sold my company and you’re like, what is it? What do we all really go through? Like when we were writing the book, we were saying, what do we really go through?

And this whole idea of a four piece came up. We started saying, well, you have passion, right? And you’re like, well, I’m going to make meatballs. Right. And somebody will go, well, the world has plenty of meatballs and you’d be like, well, not Miami balls. Right. So which we all have that kind of thing. But then you also have, you know, pressure, right?

There’s a lot on you. Sometimes financial pressure. Sometimes you leave a job, you know, you have the pleasure of, you know, the first time you, you print your business card and you get your first customer, it’s like your first kiss. Right. And then the pain, you know, when the first time an investor tells you that they don’t like your business, it’s like somebody calling your baby ugly and, and we’re really invested.

And when you’re, we’re always under the influence of these poor PS, That make us do the wrong thing when we’re under pressure, right. We hire the wrong person, right. When we’re feeling all passionate about our meatballs, sometimes we’re not listening to the feedback in the market saying, Hey, it doesn’t work this way, but it might work that way.

So we just always have to be really cognizant of the fact that we’re kind of under the influence of these things. So we can employ some of the techniques we were talking about before.

Scott: Smart smart. I wanted to, to ask a couple of like life lesson professional lesson questions just from your past, but before I move off the topic of lonely entrepreneur, what you’re working on now, was there anything that I didn’t ask that I should have about what you’re working on?

Michael: No, I think, you know, all this stuff is available only on for.com. The only thing that we’re doing, which we’re super excited about is we’re launching a. Black entrepreneur initiative, where we’re taking our platform and with the help of corporate and philanthropic and government sponsors throughout the country to try to have our little place in the world on, on the social and economic justice issues, trying to empower a hundred thousand black entrepreneurs across the country.

So super excited about, you know, obviously the institutional issues are wide and deep. And while those are getting fixed, you know, we think what better way to try to have an impact into. Put the tools in the hands of black entrepreneurs. So that’s,

Scott: that’s all. Is that, is that launches or like a place people can go and check that out or is that still in the works?

Michael: Next week launching next week? Yeah.

Scott: Okay. So by the time this comes out, it’s going to be two weeks from now when this comes out. It’ll be, it’ll be live. So I guess still same domain. Okay. Yeah, very good. Okay. So now just a few life insight questions that I like to ask. Given your past and experience, what was the biggest challenge in your mind of being an entrepreneur?

How did you overcome it?

Michael: I would say that when. When everything was kind of crumbling in 2008 you know, up until that point, it was hard, but we very much believed in our vision. I would say the balance of ego and humility, you know, I was a guy who was a college athlete and M and a lawyer, you know, you’re so hard charging about your vision and what you want to do.

And what you realize is great leaders combined that humor, that ego, if you will listen. And we were telling the healthcare industry that. You had to do things you would never do. I mean, that takes ego, right? You’re going to tell you how to help there. They’re going to do something that they said they would never do.

And sometimes, and I would say I was included in this, the humility that has to go with that because you have to learn, like you have to get better at being an entrepreneur. You know, I remember saying to my board one time, you know, there’s not one book about being a CEO. Like, if there was one book, you just go on Amazon and say, give me the CEO book and you’d follow it.

So I think the one thing that I really learned is you have to be able to have this very delicate balance between your ego to push forward and get your home’s humility to understand that you’ve actually got to get a group of people to follow you. Right. And that’s when you do that, then you kind of got the great, the great combination of the passion along with the execution that goes with that.

It’s one of the learned lessons that I think I. I probably learned the hard

Scott: way. Well, yeah, but still it’s the fact that you did learn it. Right. That’s what that, that’s the, that’s the takeaway. That’s the hardest part, right. You know, it. It, I think every entrepreneur is going to struggle with Perth personal and identity issues and, and ego issues and, and self-awareness issues.

But it’s like the success, the key is to overcome those eventually. That’s really, that’s what will take you to the point where you can have a, I think he said a 500 person company that can eventually exit, right. Cause I don’t think you can ever get to that point without overcoming those types of issues.

You know,

Michael: when you’re, if you, if you if you ask a mother right the day after she had her first child, Were you great at this mom thing? Right? Most moms that would be honest with you would say, no, I’m just trying to make sure that I don’t kill this little person the next day. Right. And, and they embrace the journey because this is their child of doing whatever they can, however they can to make it happen.

And that ends up being a series of skills, right. That they get better out that they’re committed to. And I wish somebody had said that to me when I was 20. Right that you’re just going to get, you got to get better at all these different skills to have a better chance of success in some of these or these perspectives.

Like we’re talking about that are not just income statements and balance sheets.

Scott: What is the, the biggest area related to entrepreneurship or startups that you’re curious about you’re investigating and that you’re interested in right now.

Michael: I think more so than anything. Is how do we move the needle on some of our less fortunate parts of society that were either less fortunate before or now have been forced because of COVID to turn to entrepreneurs, or as we would say, they’re entrepreneurs either by choice or necessity.

So the, there are so many more people, right. That are going to have to do their own thing. So what I’m really trying to have the biggest impact on is don’t get me wrong. I was a wall street, a guy, and that’s all sexy. And that’s what gains gets people’s name in the paper. But I had all this education, like we talked about before, what happens when you’re the, you know, the kid that graduates high school in Queensbridge, in New York, right.

Who’s going to have to do their own thing. Right. And the educational system is not necessarily empowering them. How do we teach them skills? They may not create the next Facebook, but they sure as hell could go and create a little graphic design business. Right. And make, so that to me is the part of entrepreneurism that I’m most interested in is how can we empower the people before that, that faced challenges.

But now that has become whatever it is, 10, 20, 30% of the population. Now that has to figure out a way. To create a better life for themselves and can’t rely on, you know, what’s going to happen in the next five years.

Scott: I liked that a lot. Do you have any suggestions? That’s a tough, that’s a tough one to figure out.

Cause it’s, it’s, it’s a huge amount of people now that are suffering from from unemployment.

Michael: Yeah. I think, I think the foundation of it is really, you know, as I said, both finding that playground, that playground does enough to be big. Right. It can be really small. Like if you, if you want to create a pizza store in your local neighborhood, you get a really good pizza store in your local neighborhood.

Right? It’s those things on a smaller level are very doable, but you have to really find your playground that makes you different, right? Not just something that everybody else doing. If you think about take a yoga studio, right? Every single yoga studio is now online. Right? In fact, if you got dropped here from Saturn and you start a yoga studio, You wouldn’t even think you could have a physical, physical, yoga studio.

You’d be like, Oh, of course it’s all online. We’ve gotta be able to compete against that and compete against that when everybody’s charging less and less just to get customers. So finding that unique niche, like I said before, rewarding people for being healthy was not that different. It was right next to these reward programs that were run by really, really big company.

So taking the time to really find your special sauce where you have special know-how. You know, when you go running by your apartment or your home, and you know, when you turn right, there’s a pothole right there. Right. You possess every one of us. Cause that’s the, some kind of know how that can be turned into a business that is actually unique.

And to me, you know, we call it finding this playground, but that to me is the most important thing, because then you can turn that into a business. So if you don’t find that when you’re obviously competing about a lot with a lot of people with oftentimes more money and resources with a lot of. A lot of people doing the same thing these days.

Scott: Okay. How do you continue to learn and grow? What are your resources or your go-to sources?

Michael: The one thing that I think the lonely entrepreneur knows is we know what an organization is supposed to look like. What’s great for us is we interact with so many entrepreneurs of every way, shape or form stage industry, gender, ethnicity.

And we just learn so much from the language we hear about. We hear from them. And probably the biggest learning that we have is a lot of times the question that they’re asking is not really the answer they need. Right. So somebody says, you know, what kind of legal entity should I form? Or when should I launch my website?

And I think the biggest learning for us is, I mean, think about it. It’s almost like if a retailer could be in the minds of every single one of their customers and hearing exactly what was going on, we get that type of learning from the people that we’re interacting every day. So for us to learning is how do we, how do we make the journey simpler?

Right. And take these really complex things and turn them into really simple steps. Here’s the five things you’ve got to start with. Here’s how to do number one, even if you don’t know how to do it that, you know, really, you know, I say, great leaders are great simplifiers and, and that’s what we’re really focused on.

How do we make it easy for people that maybe don’t always have the foundational skills and that’s, that’s the learning that we’re really embracing.

Scott: Do you have, do you have personal resources that you, that you rely on that you like like books, podcasts, audibles, that you think people should go check out that are great entrepreneurial resources?

Michael: Check me. I love there’s a book called the art of war. And obviously it’s a big, big, big, long book. But. Some of the tactics in there you know, about, you know, how do you, when, when you’re disadvantaged, which is a gross oversimplification of that,

Scott: but the message rings true. I get it. I get it

Michael: right.

If your, if your opponent is fast, don’t try to outrun them and that type of stuff. That’s the, that is the stuff that I, I really you know, embrace more than anything. I don’t think that I think that with respect to other resources, I mean, we’re always that I’m always exposing myself to different things, but I’m trying to take it and put it into kind of a method because how many times do we all interact with these things?

And we take a piece from here and pieces from here, a piece from here, it doesn’t all fit together nicely,

Scott: or we just pick any pieces and then it’s just a waste of time. Yeah, I agree. Yeah.

Michael: And so I’m kind of in everything that I listened to, I tried to take the snippets and fit it into a framework. But I love there’s the art of war.

I mean, it’s a long book that they have little reader’s digest version.

Scott: That’s a heavy book for for a light light entrepreneurial rain. But like, I appreciate that, that, listen, I love, I love some history lessons too. I think that, I think that you can always find some some insight if you, if you read history.

Cause I don’t think anything has, I think, I don’t think anything we’re trying to solve for now. Hasn’t already been solved for in the past. So.

Michael: There’s a baby version too. There’s like a hundred person, a hundred page, little short version to that. I encourage you to pick up.

Scott: No, that’s good. That’s good.

You mentioned this before and let me know if it still rings true, but the, the lesson you tell your younger self, you mentioned one last thing you tell your younger self, is that the, the lesson you would tell your younger self?

Michael: That’s a great question. I would just, I would just say go slower. I think that after I sold my company, like about a week later after the contract air came out of the balloon, if you will, I really felt like I hadn’t used my brain for 10 years.

Right. And we have this thing in the Elantra book about being a deliberate, thoughtful and unemotional leader. And I was trying to think back about, you know, how many days was I actually that and. Going, you know, going slower and, and the things that you pick, right. You do well and you do with intensity.

But a lot of times in your early days, with all the passionate energy you have about your baby you just don’t stick to certain things, do them, do them well, you can do them with intensity. That’s fine. But if you decided you’re going to sell 10 bananas because that’s the, and go sell the hell out of 10 bananas, but don’t.

Go orange has been on as an apples and, and all that. So I think just go going slower would have been probably the biggest piece of advice.

Scott: And the last question before I get some, some socials and websites from you, what does success mean for you?

Michael: That to me was really easy because it was never about money for me.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a nice family. My family is real estate and. For me. When I was looking for a business, if we said we could, you know, take the jacket you’re wearing and we could guaranteed make a billion dollars, I wouldn’t have any interest in doing it. To me it had to have an impact on society and it had to be new and different.

Right. And I felt incredibly fortunate to stumble upon that with rewarding people, for being healthy. And I frankly, wasn’t looking to do. Something else. Yeah. And then when somebody said the lonely entrepreneur to be able to, to, you know, say to anybody lonely entrepreneur, and you’re tapping into that same thing, somebody that actually can help society cause it’s helped people, you know, have a better chance of being fulfilled.

That to me is success. Success is just when you hear about an entrepreneur that said I closed the sale, I raised money. I hired this great employee and You know, the next day they get to wake up before the alarm rings. Not because they were worried, but because they’re excited. That to me is what success is and there’s money that goes with that and all that fun stuff.

But that’s what it’s all about for us.

Scott: I like that a lot. And most important question. Where can people get the book, go check out the website, your socials, all of that.

Michael: First of all, thank you so much for such a thoughtful conversation. I really appreciate it.

Scott: Pleasure. I really enjoyed that. You, you know your stuff and, and there’s a lot of value here, so thank you for a good, really good answers.

Michael: Thank you. Lonelyentrepreneur.com is our website. There’s also all the social stuff, which is you’ll find lonely entrepreneur on Instagram. The lonely. He is Twitter, a lonely entrepreneur on Facebook. And the book can be found both on our website and on Amazon all called the lonely entrepreneur.

SUCCESS STORY PODCAST

Stories worth telling.

On the Success Story podcast, Scott has candid interviews with execs, celebrities, notable figures and politicians. All who have achieved success through both wins and losses, to learn more about their life, their ideas and insights.

He sits down with leaders and mentors and unpacks their story to help pass those lessons onto others through both experiences and tactical strategy for business professionals, entrepreneurs and everyone in between.

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