Andrew: Hey, everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.
And I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur since I was a kid. In fact, my parents didn’t have cable, but somehow we ended up getting junkie shows like “The Jeffersons.” And I loved it because George Jefferson was an entrepreneur who built himself up, lived in the penthouse apartment and wasn’t afraid to speak his mind, including slamming the door in the faces of people who he disagreed with or he didn’t want to waste his time with. To me, that kind of attitude was what led to success.
That’s what I learned, not just from “The Jeffersons,” which is a silly little TV show, but from movies, from often a lot of times from books, biographies of my heroes. They would always reveal like the negative side of business and I would think, “All right, that’s the truth. You have to be that kind of aggressive person.” And I tried it. And it didn’t work for me.
And then I realized, you know what? It’s not the people who have a subtler, softer touch are wimps. It’s that it actually works to stop and care. And the other side just makes for good drama on television and it’s easy to be that kind of a jerk. And I was until I had to learn the harder part of being a leader, of being an entrepreneur, of being a person, of being an adult.
And I say all this because I’m not the only one who’s gone through it. In fact, today’s guest says that at one point in his life, he was a real ass. And he was the kind of person who was pushy, insistent on his approach and it seemed to work for a little bit until it didn’t, and then he discovered a better way. And I invited him on here to talk about his business. I had no idea that he was willing to talk about that and his issue with his cofounder. But to me, this emotional intelligence part of the story is what’s most interesting and I’d like us to get into it.
His name is R. Michael Anderson. He is the cofounder of–excuse me, the founder of Radiant Technologies. They were an ERP reseller. That means that they sold really large software for doing a company’s financials in manufacturing. Think of what they sold as like the next level up from QuickBooks.
He is also the author of an upcoming book called “Soul-Centered Leadership.” And if everything you’re hearing about how he went from being this pushy jerk to leading with authenticity and emotional intelligence resonates with you, then you’re going to want to read his book, “Soul-Centered Leadership.”
And this whole interview, complete with the jerky part of business and the life-changing impact of doing work on yourself, is sponsored by two great companies. The first will help you hire great developers who I hope you will not be a jerk to. They are called Toptal. The second is the company that will actually close you sales, help you close sales. It’s called Pipedrive. I’ll tell you about that software later. First, I’ve got to welcome you on here, Michael. Good to have you here.
R. Michael: That’s a lot to live up to.
Andrew: No, the jerky part, I didn’t even tell them about the drugs that you did. We’re going to talk about all of that. But you know what? I liked George Jefferson. I also grew up listening to and watching Michael J. Fox, who I think was a better role model. You also watched him. Remember that TV show?
R. Michael: Yeah, “Family Ties?”
Andrew: Yeah. What was it about Michael J. Fox–excuse me, Alex P. Keaton, of “Family Ties” that drew you to that show?
R. Michael: Well, it’s funny you bring that up because people say, “Did you know you were going to be an entrepreneur?” And we would watch “Family Ties.” My family would joke that I was like an Alex P. Keaton. For some reason, actually one year during like late middle school or early high school, I actually brought a briefcase to school for like a year, got teased mercilessly, but I thought I was pretty badass at that time for that.
Andrew: Yeah. And you know what, frankly Alex P. Keaton got teased for wearing ties to school and carrying briefcases, but he did it anyway. To me that was the understanding that the world was not going to accept who you are, but you’re going to power through it and become one of these superstar successful entrepreneurs. But also it wasn’t just about that, it was also that that’s who I was. I was driven and this was the way I thought you could express your drive. You actually did it more than just carrying the briefcase. You actually had a business too growing up, something to do with the cigar box? Can you talk about that?
R. Michael: Yeah. So I was pretty, I guess, entrepreneurial and opportunistic. So I’m 46. This is probably almost 40 years ago. I probably was 10 years old. All the girls liked the little sparkly erasers and then we used to have pencil fights and the cool different pencils. So I would go and I bought a cigar box and I would buy pencils for I don’t know, $0.02 each in the big box, the big 8 or 10 things, and then I would unwrap them and have a bunch of single pencils and single erasers.
I’d bring them into school and I’d sell them for $0.25 each. I would make like a $0.20-$0.22 profit on each pencil and sell the sparkly erasers to the girls. It was causing such a disruption, the principal made me stop. So I got stopped by the man way back when I was a kid.
Andrew: You know what? The reason that I bring these kinds of stories up is that there’s something inside us that makes us feel entrepreneurial, that leads us to being entrepreneurs later in life. And I want to expose that because I think if we look back at our childhood unfiltered by the fears of what if I start a company and the thing fails, we discover this entrepreneur who was just waiting to get out. A lot of us have it and I think it’s important to talk about and to remind ourselves of it so that hopefully someone in the audience will be reminded of their stories. I always think of mine selling candy growing up.
But then you got a little bit older. You ended up looking for work. And again, you took an entrepreneurial approach to it. You moved from Pittsburgh to San Diego and what did you do to get a job there?
R. Michael: I knew I wanted to work in software. This is pre-internet. So I took at the Yellow Pages. I went to the computer software section of the Yellow Pages, faxed my resume to all the software companies, computer software companies in San Diego, called them up and said, “Hey, did you get my resume? Can I get a job?” One guy finally said, “Hey, anybody with enough balls to do this I’m going to give a shot to.” And he ended up being my mentor.
I joined him when he was a really small company and helped him grow it. Later, it got acquired by a larger software company. Then I moved to London and then Copenhagen, which was really awesome in my early to mid-30s. I was a director in the international division. Then I moved over to Singapore and I ran Southeast Asia for a larger software company.
Andrew: Wow. So what did you learn by working with this guy who you called your mentor?
R. Michael: You know, it was really cool. To me it was like a boot camp for running my own business. When I joined him, we were only two people. I was his first employee. He shut down another company. So he was a seasoned businessperson and then started this one. I was his right hand guy. So, as we grew, I did sales, marketing, our internal accounting, I did our billing. I liked doing all that stuff. So it was really helpful.
And then I felt like I was outgrowing it after two or three years, but then this other company bought us and then they moved me to the corporate headquarters in Europe. But then I would travel around to all of our branch offices, and then I would see how all these different local managing directors are managing their business. So it was an awesome business.
We were selling business applications. So each month I would go into two or three large growing companies and their CEOs would tell me how they would want to grow, their strategy, and I would help them figure out what software they needed to support that growth. So, it was an amazing, amazing learning opportunity.
Andrew: As you said that, in light of what we’re talking about later about your management style, it just reminds me that I want to be like that mentor/boss, the person who people want to work for to learn about business, to learn about how to do things right and beyond not being a jerk because it doesn’t work, I also want to not be a jerk so I can create that environment so someone can, years from now, look back and say, “Well, I worked for Andrew, he was my mentor and because of that here are all the things I learned and here’s the person I became.”
You came back to the U.S. You went to San Diego and I totally get it. It’s a beautiful city. How did you start your business in San Diego? How’d that lead to you starting this company?
R. Michael: Well, it really worked out well. When I was in San Diego the first time, seven years before that or so, I was a technical person. I told you I was doing everything. A lot of the customers knew me, a lot of the big companies that spend a lot of money on this software knew me and then when we got acquired, they weren’t getting good service from the larger company that acquired us.
So, when I moved back to the states, I ran into an old customer and they said, “Hey, can you come and take care of my system? I said yeah, sure. And they said, “Okay, how much do you charge?” The old company would charge me out as a technical person at $200 an hour. So I’m like, “$200 an hour?” They’re like, “Yeah, fine.” I’m like, “Okay.” That’s a lot of money. You extrapolate that, that’s $400,000 a year working solid–
Andrew: Would you actually work that many hours a year?
R. Michael: I was a worker. I am a worker. So I could actually build more than that.
Andrew: And they had the appetite, the need for $400,000 a year worth of service?
R. Michael: Well, what would happen is I would get one of our old big clients. These clients, some of them are doing $50 million, $100 million, $200 million a year. So these were enterprises. They spend hundreds of thousands on this. I would come and maybe shore up their system. So maybe they had a lot of problems and they wanted to implement something else.
I would come in and do $20,000, $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 with them and then somebody else would have a project and I’d move to them. But actually I had too much work and so I started bringing my buddies on board. We grew in about two and a half years, we made it to a run rate of about $2.5 million per year.
Andrew: That’s it, just bootstrapping, bringing your friends on board and going after I imagine clients who were if not the exact clients that worked for you before, but people who are similar.
R. Michael: Yeah, maybe a competitor sold it around our area and yeah, it was amazing. We really didn’t look a lot for clients because there was such poor service in the area that it would came to us right away. So I was cash flow positive. I never borrowed any–I had a little bit of a line of credit, but I never borrowed any money. I’m on my fourth business. Three were software companies and I’ve done them all bootstrapped.
Andrew: When you have to go in and do–it sounds like it’s support, is that what it is? What kind of work do you do for them?
R. Michael: So, when you order let’s say something off Amazon. Amazon is ultra-huge, but if you order something off an ecommerce company, when you go on the website and it has all the pricing in there, it has the quantities on hand, there’s a software that’s managing all that, once you would say like, “Okay, I want to buy this,” it would send something to the warehouse that says, “Hey, warehouse guys, go put this in this box.”
It would send something to the accounting system that says, “Hey, this is the cost of this item. This is the thing. You’ve got to order more of these from the vendor.” So it keeps track of all the accounting, but it also takes track of all the shipping, all the warehousing. So, when I talk about more work, maybe they got like a larger warehouse, but they needed somebody to put in the system for the larger warehouse. They needed the HR module.
Andrew: I see. So the person that they have on staff in their company wouldn’t be able to do this. They need somebody to just get them up and running and then their people would continue?
R. Michael: Right. Then we would train their people. It’s a whole different thing setting it up than just actually running it day to day.
Andrew: How systemized were you in the way you offered service to ensure that you really were delivering better results and better service than the competition?
R. Michael: Well, that’s one thing. Companies like ours in this ERP reseller space, they haven’t really scaled well. It’s one of the things–it’s sort of like maybe a restaurant. To me, the best restaurants I’ve been are where the owner is the cook or the old lady who’s been there for 30 years has been cooking. And Chili’s is not a bad chain, but that’s not where I want to go for a good meal.
R. Michael: This software takes so much effort. It’s really, really complex. You have to know accounting, manufacturing, programming, data conversion, training. So it really takes a lot of love to get these things in.
Andrew: I see. Just the fact that the owner was there and the team was small made you guys better?
R. Michael: Yeah. I was a technical person. So the technical person, it was like we were a group of really strong technical people that had respect for each other in that way.
R. Michael: And then my buddies knew I would treat them well, that the large companies would not pay them on time, would mess around with their compensation. So I got them. I understood them from that point of view.
Andrew: There was a partner too. I keep saying you, but how did this partner come about?
R. Michael: Well, so here I am, I’m early to mid-30s, I’m starting this business and all of a sudden I’ve got all these customers, all this stress and there was a guy who was working in L.A. We did a little bit of work together. Actually, there was a previous guy. I wanted a partner for companionship to go through this process with. It was out of, to be honest, Andrew, after reflecting, it was out of insecurity. I had all the skills. I had the vision. I had the customers. I had it all. I worked for these larger companies. I knew how to do it. I was just scared. I wanted somebody to really walk down this road with me.
So there’s a guy who, let’s say, was rough around the edges. He was working on some things with me, and I just offered him so equity. I offered him–I don’t want to talk about exact percentages, but I offered him a percentage of the business, a relatively small percent and he said yes.
Andrew: Are we talking less than a third?
R. Michael: A little less than a third.
Andrew: Okay. So it wasn’t like a 50/50 partnership. Okay. And you gave him equity in exchange for what?
R. Michael: Nothing.
Andrew: Wow. Okay.
R. Michael: Yeah.
Andrew: And when you say you wanted someone to do this with you, companionship almost, what did you envision you would get, ideally?
R. Michael: Well, two things. One thing, I had an idea for a next business, so I told him, “Look, I want you to run this business and I’m going to phase out of it and start this next business.” And it was a complementary business. Basically it was making add-ons to this software. It was making like aftermarket third party add-ons.
Andrew: Makes sense.
R. Michael: Yeah. But also there was like a pressure that I never felt before. It’s like my sister bought a small company and she called me one time and she was like, “Michael, nobody gets it. Nobody gets the pressure.” I’ve got to do payroll. I’ve got to get it done tonight. And my friends are like, “Don’t worry about it. Just do it next week.” It’s like there’s no, “Don’t worry about it.”
At one time we had like a $100,000 a month payroll. It’s like oh my god. It’s a lot of money. If we don’t keep stuff coming in–all of a sudden people with families started joining our payroll. They’ve got to feed their kids and their wives and their husbands.
Andrew: For me it’s also some of the little weird things that come up, like the IRS sends me a weird letter. I say, “I’m an entrepreneur. I’ve got an accounting firm that can handle this. I’m just going to do the smart thing. I’ll pass it onto them.” I pass it on to them. They inevitably come back to me and ask me a question that then I have to go and figure out the answer to. Those little things you can’t put off until next month or next week. You just have to do them right there. That’s a lot of pressure, a lot of buildup.
R. Michael: Especially when you get something unknown from the IRS or what if you do go to your accounting firm and they’re like, “This is going to be about $30,000.” You’re like, “What?” Then you’ve got to call all your friends, then you don’t know.
Andrew: For one little thing that comes out of nowhere.
R. Michael: And all the stuff, in all the stuff it’s like I did it for a large company. We had like, “Okay, I’ve got to start paying people so I need a payroll provider. What if I choose the wrong payroll provider and they’re asking me about 401(k)s and what about taxes?” It’s like oh my god. Then I’ve got to work 50 hours a week for the client. I’m doing my billings on the weekend.
Andrew: You were still doing that too?
R. Michael: I was billing hours for sure, up to a point. And clients, they spent $100,000 with us in the last couple months. They’re pretty demanding. So, it was a lot. It was a lot.
Andrew: So, you got him on. Did he do that? Did he start to be the COO, transition to COO person who could run things? Did that actually work out well in the beginning?
R. Michael: Yeah. He was a smart guy. He worked hard. But he came back and then he asked for more equity. I’m like, “We already had an agreement.” He’s like, “Yeah, but I’m doing more.” He asked for more equity. I gave it to him. He asked for more equity again. They were small bumps.
And then I started my other company. I’m starting to spend a little bit of time over there and he sees me doing that and he’s like, “I don’t think this is fair. I want more equity.” I’m like, “The reason I brought you in is to do this and we had an agreement and I changed it twice. I’m not going to give you more equity.” So, at that time we had employees. We had an office. We were paying a couple grand a month for an office. So, we were entrenched. And there was a lot of tension.
So, both him and I were substance abusers. I drank a lot. I’ve always done–well, not always–but for a lot of years I did mostly party drugs on the weekends. But it’s like the more the pressure came, the more I think drugs and alcohol for both of us were an outlet.
Andrew: When you say that you drank a lot, before we get into the drugs, what’s a lot? How much were you drinking and what was the–like when would you drink?
R. Michael: Never before work, never during work. It was in the evening I’d have a couple drinks. I’d binge drink on the weekends.
Andrew: What’s a binge drinking session like or what was it like?
R. Michael: I would go out and drink a lot of drinks and get really drunk. It would be sometimes maybe I’d be after a long day at work, I’d go to a bar and have a bunch of drinks. Me and some friends would go out. I would drink–how would I say. . . intentionally to get drunk. We’d do some drinks, do some shots. Maybe if people were willing to do shots, sometimes I’d have a shot or two of the hard liquor.
Andrew: I ask because I drink. I wonder at what point it’s too much. I don’t drink to the point of getting drunk, though sometimes it might–no, I don’t get to that point, but I can see how I want to do it for more for the same reason I might want to run more, like I want to see how far I can push the night. I can’t just have a relaxed night. I want to go and do more.
R. Michael: That’s probably a good trigger to look at, to be honest with you.
Andrew: That’s a good point. I just find that going out can be boring unless we do something extreme. I have to maybe learn to just be and not have to do something extreme all the time. Do you find that that was true for you or where did it come from for you?
R. Michael: Well, you actually articulated it in a good way because I would always be the guy to like, “All right, what are we going to do next? What are we going to do crazy? Let’s find these girls, let’s do a bunch of shots.” I would push it. I’ve noticed that I have an addictive personality. I’d get addicted to–before it was drugs and alcohol, I’ve got to watch my chocolate, I’ve got to watch my coffee because it will start creeping up on me. I didn’t know that about me and I’ve done a lot of work so that less has a hold of me and I’m very aware of that. So, it’s something that I have to realize.
I think that with a lot of us entrepreneurs, we have this–I have this one guy, he’s really brilliant. He says, “You’ve got to watch our superpower because my superpower is being really driven and really focused and putting my energy into one thing.” But he said, “Your superpower can also be your kryptonite.” So, I think that I have to watch that drive because that drive can overtake me. It’s almost like an addiction, if that makes sense.
Andrew: Yeah. It is. Like a regular night–I can’t even, for example, just watch basketball. If I’m not doing something, it’s not a night for me. Where my saving grace is that I do enjoy really deep conversations–so, where I might channel my energy to going to the next bar or drinking more, if I’m out with someone who’s a little interesting, I push the conversation until we’re in like very personal territory, where we’re just getting to know each other on an insanely close like therapy level fast.
That’s why I hate vanilla people. I cannot handle like if my wife has a good friend whose husband is a vanilla person, I can’t deal with it. If he’s a jerk, if he’s like outrageous on the political spectrum on the right or the left, I love him. They could hate anybody, I love them because then we get into deep conversations where they’ll finally get like super racist with me without knowing it. Then I’ve got something to drive my attention towards.
R. Michael: I think this must be an entrepreneurial profile because I think a lot of us have this. But yeah, it is about regulating. It’s about self-regulation. That’s what I learned from myself. It sounds like you’re learning that as well. I think everybody has the little things.
Andrew: One of the best lessons I learned was from this instructor when I taught Dale Carnegie, the “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” the teacher was so good. He was so good. So, I took him out to dinner to just get to know him better. He said, “Sorry, Andrew, I have to sit there.” I said, “Why does it matter?”
He said, “I always have to sit with my back to the rest of the restaurant or else I can’t focus on you because I keep looking all around. I said you know what? Maybe you don’t have to fix all of your vices, you can just find ways to work around them. Like he could have spent years trying to figure out how to focus on the person. Instead he could just say, “I’m going to sit in the right place.”
Let me take a quick moment here to tell people about one of my sponsors. Speaking of being so freaking driven, I’m really driven to close for us deals, which means guests on Mixergy. One of the reasons why I love Pipedrive, this piece of software that we use to close deals which most people use to close sales, is it really channels our determination as sales people, as business people. Do you know Pipedrive, by the way?
R. Michael: I don’t know Pipedrive.
Andrew: Michael, I think you’d love it. I think you might love it a little too much because this goes with the way our brains think. Even when I was dating, I had like a Pipedrive in my head. It was like this set of steps. You have to go out. Then you talk to five women at least. Then you keep moving the conversation until you get to like one group of these women, someone is going to give you their phone number. The whole sequence was in my head. It was laid out.
For sales, I think it’s important to have it laid out really in software where you can see it every day. What Pipedrive does is it says you have to sit down, write out every step of your sales process. What’s the first step? Finding people. What’s the next step? Finding their contact info. What’s the next step after that? Sending them an email. Whatever it is for whoever is using it. Lay every step out until you get to the final step, which is to closing the deal.
And then it says every time you have a new person, add a card for them and put them into column one. Column one is the first step. Then you take the next action, move them to column two. What’s cool about Pipedrive is you don’t have to do everything yourself. If you’re a software person like many people in my audience, you use like Zapier to have it automatically add people to column number one.
For me, as soon as we’re done here with this interview, I move you to the done column and automatically an email goes out to Joe that says, “Joe, it’s time to edit this interview.” It’s a really good elegant piece of software that holds you accountable because one of the things that I love about it is I get to see statistics. How many people did we put into Pipedrive this week? How many people did we move off? Where are we dropping people? We found that we were dropping people, they were doing the pre-interview, and then they wouldn’t follow up and do the interview. All the hard work was done.
So, we realized, “You know what? We have to send them a follow up email.” So, we did that. And then that didn’t work. You did the pre-interview with Ari, right?
R. Michael: Yes.
Andrew: So, one of the things Ari does now is she gives the guest the link in the conversation as part of the doc so it makes it easier. I don’t know if she gave it to you. Did she give it to you to book the interview? She did.
R. Michael: I’ll tell you, Andrew, your process was so seamless and I think that shows in the quality of your show. I wish we had something like that when I was running a sales force because that’s how you get predictable, repeatable sales. We were all over the place and that would have really helped us out.
Andrew: And you could bring people in. I brought in this virtual assistant. She did a great job of adding people to the sequence. They were moving along, but they never booked interviews. I realized, “You know what? I can see that in the stats in black and white very clearly on the screen.” I said, “You know what, Stephanie? It’s actually not a good fit for you to add more people to this process. Let’s do other work together.”
Anyway, if you are out there listening to me and you do any kind of sales or your team does any kind of sales, you owe it to yourself to go check out Pipedrive. I’ve been talking about them for years and now because they’re a sponsor, I get to not just talk about them, but give you two months free.
Here’s how I do that. Go to Pipedrive.com/Mixergy where you’ll get two free months to experiment with this, try it out, use it on your team and to see if it really works the way that I say it will. If it doesn’t, cancel, no obligation. If it does, you’re going to send me a thank you note, I know it, because you’ll love it.
R. Michael: I hope I’m eligible. I wrote it down.
Andrew: You are. I’m telling you, it’s so good. I’d be up for showing you or anyone else what my Pipedrive looks like, how we organize our sales process with it. It’s really good.
You did that. You did drugs. I get it. He did it too. This thing came to a head when what happened?
R. Michael: So, on April 1st, 2008, it was Wednesday, 10:00 a.m. I’m sitting at my desk. It’s just the middle of the workday, middle of the workweek. He pops in my doorway and asks me a question. It was just an operational question. I didn’t give him the answer he wanted and so we started having a back and forth.
Tensions were already high. He started getting really angry at me. I’m pretty laid back. But he was getting so angry. He was like red and shaking and started yelling at me at the top of his lungs. I’m like, “Go back to your office. There are employees around. Let’s talk about this after everybody’s left.”
So, I thought he was going to leave my office. He pops back in and he goes, “I’m going wipe that smile off your face.” I was like, “What?” So, he comes in, he walks around my desk, he leans back and with all his might, Andrew, he slugs me. I get hit, April 1st, 2008, Wednesday, 10:00 a.m. in my own office.
Andrew: And you didn’t know the punch was coming so you couldn’t brace yourself for it even? Who expects a punch in the middle of the day?
R. Michael: I was sitting down. I saw, I just glanced. It didn’t really hurt. He was just so angry. I don’t think he really wanted to fight. I think it just happened. So, But then he left, he was just so angry. He just left my office. I shut the door. It’s funny. People ask me like, “Were you angry?” I think I was in shock. I kept asking myself, “Did this really just happen? Did this really just happen?”
R. Michael: “Did I just really get hit by the guy I’ve known that’s my business partner?” I called one or two of my buddies and I’m like, “What do I do?” It was like all this anxiety. My brain was moving like a million miles an hour. I couldn’t even sort stuff out. I call like two people I know and they’re like, “Dude, this happened one time. This is going to happen again. You’ve got to do something about it. Don’t blow this off. You’ve got to pull out the big guns.” And part of me also, Andrew, I was thinking, “This guy, I don’t think he was right for me anyway, but how do we decouple?” I’m like, “Look, this is the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
He was older than me. He wasn’t handle the stress well. He was having problems with his son. He was upside down on his house. Then he goes and buys a new Porsche. We’re worried about money as a company and he has all this pressure at home. So, I think he just hit his capacity for stress and that’s how it came out in that one little thing.
But I went down to the police station and registered that it happened. I still owned a majority of the company. I terminated him within the company. I filed a lawsuit and a restraining order. The next workday when he came in, I had an armed guard giving him the restraining order and the termination letter. My employees are coming into work and they’re like, “What’s the armed guard? Where’s so and so? We report to him. Where is he at?” I’m like, “Well, he sort of just assaulted me and so I had to terminate him.” They’re like, “But he was your business partner.”
Andrew, I’ll tell you, man, I was going through a divorce at the time too. I forgot to throw that in. I was like, “What the f is going on with my life?” I remember that evening, I was going to smoke some weed, do some cocaine and drink some Johnnie Walker because at that time, that’s how I dealt with problems.
Andrew: Cocaine and weed?
R. Michael: Yeah. I smoked weed almost every day for about 19 years straight.
Andrew: I’ve known people who have done that and functioned well. It’s like your release at the end of the day.
R. Michael: I didn’t do it before work. For me, looking back on it, I have ADD. I didn’t know how to manage it. I didn’t have the tools. For me, the weed slowed me down, if that makes sense. It slowed the world down. And now that I think we’ll talk a little bit to get over that later, but it’s just ADD is tough and this pressure is tough without the tools. Dude, we’re risk takers. This is what we do. We take on things that we don’t know how to do and we’ve got to act like we know what we’re doing, otherwise people might lose faith in us.
Andrew: Was there a point when he hit you where you just said, “You know what? I need him too much now to let him go? I need him too much to make a big thing out of this. Let’s just deal with it and keep on going?”
R. Michael: I was thinking that before he hit me. It’s like I was thinking, “Man, I really don’t want to be in business with this guy.” He had some problems with customers and some employees. I’m like, “We’re going to grow bigger and I don’t know how to get rid of him because I’m so entrenched. I don’t know how to. . . He probably wouldn’t take a buyout.” And then when he hit me, I’m like, “Look, I’ve got to rally around this. This is a turning point.”
Andrew: And you have to now get over all the hesitation you had before. It’s just pushing you to do it.
R. Michael: Yes. In a way, it gave me a reason to do it.
Andrew: And did he then–how do you actually unwind that? How do you unwind his ownership? How do you keep him from coming into the office?
R. Michael: Well, I filed a restraining order. So, he’s not allowed in the office. I terminated him because I was the majority. Of course we didn’t have an operating agreement. So, there was no fallback.
Andrew: Which if we were just anal, if this was an anal interview, I’d just say you have to have it, but the reality of the world is a lot of people don’t have that. Yes, you should have that, but there are 20 billion different things you have to do and should do as an entrepreneur. You’re naturally not going to get them all done and if one of them comes back and bites you, it’s very easy to say, “Shame on me. I screwed up as an entrepreneur,” instead of saying you just can’t get everything right.
You have to sometimes move fast and make mistakes. Yeah, this is a big lesson. This is a big one to do and it would be better if you would have had that operating agreement and not given him shares but maybe let him earn the shares over time and so on. But it is what it is.
R. Michael: Yeah. He sort of went off the deep end. He actually started a competitor and started poaching clients and employees. We had a really nasty lawsuit. It’s funny because we went into a mediator and if people don’t know what a mediator is, listeners and viewers don’t know what a mediator is, it’s like an attorney and they help us negotiate because he didn’t want to negotiate at all.
But the judge–no business trial like this ever goes to trial. You work it out before that. So, a mediator is an attorney that basically gets us talking to each other. But he came into the mediation session and everybody is in nice suits. He came in looking like he–my attorney was like, “Has he been on a bender for the last couple days?” His hair was messed up. He looked like he hadn’t showered for a couple days. Everybody else is wearing like nice suits. He was just yelling at me.
Andrew: Knowing him, was there a chance that he was?
R. Michael: Totally.
Andrew: Totally. Okay.
R. Michael: He had a glazed look in his eye. It was crazy.
Andrew: And so that’s how you separated, a mediator forced you guys to come to some decision and just move on?
R. Michael: The mediator said, “I’ve been doing this like 20 years. I never have seen anything like this.” He said that to me in private. He’s like, “I can’t. He’s not rational.” I think what happened is each of spent over $100,000 on attorney fees. He ran out of money. So, he had to settle. Basically I bought him out and I probably only paid for his attorney fees. If he would have settled, he would have got decent cash, but he probably just made it out with what he came in with.
Andrew: Wow. Okay. So, you’re finally done with him but you also had this other company and you need to run this company at the same time. How did you work that out?
R. Michael: Yeah. Actually I had two companies in the states, one in Singapore. I started one in Singapore. I had a guy running that one. He was actually a business partner that actually worked out well. The other company I started, it’s actually still going, I still have it, it provides a little bit of income to me. One guy runs it out of Florida. We do some offshore, maybe two guys in India. It’s sort of a self-running company that just provides a little bit of cash.
Andrew: Okay. So, were there any issues now that you had more work on your plate?
R. Michael: Well, you know, going through a business lawsuit, the business lawsuit took more freaking energy out of me than any other thing in my life because like you mentioned, I’m an entrepreneur and I get this letter in from the IRS. It’s like something would come in from my attorney about this lawsuit.
So, all of a sudden I would just get like angry and depressed and just tired. I’d just read it and I’m like, “Oh my god, what is this?” I’m trying to keep this business going and my employees are getting calls from this guy and my customers were getting calls from this guy. My world was like imploding around me. It was absolutely the hardest thing I ever went through in my life. Absolutely. God, it was tough.
Andrew: Wow. And then the divorce and everything–how’d the company do?
R. Michael: The company made it through. It made it through. I lost some big customers, some of my customers were like, “Why is this crazy guy calling me?” So, for a couple years it really–time heals all.
Andrew: It’s kind of interesting. So, basically you’re saying, “We lost some business but it wasn’t that bad.” Revenues were what? What were they at their height, $2 million?
R. Michael: $2.75 million, almost $3 million.
Andrew: $2.75 million? So, as a result of this, where would you say they were?
R. Michael: Well, actually what happened shortly after is I acquired a company. There was a CPA firm that didn’t want their–there was a CPA firm that did a lot of different things. They had one division that did what we did and they didn’t want it anymore. So, I had some good relationships. I’m well known in the industry. The people that worked there trusted me. So, the long story short is I got to take over their customers and their employees for $10,000 upfront and a commission off their customers. That doubled our revenue to around $2.75 million.
Andrew: So, here’s the thing then. You told Ari in the pre-interview that no matter what you did, you couldn’t get the revenues to really go up. We should go into what that was, like beyond a certain level. It’s interesting that you couldn’t even get them to go down. With all this work, you still didn’t end up with like $100,000 a year where you nearly went bankrupt and then turned it around.
It’s interesting to me because there are companies like that where no matter what you do, nothing seems to work. I’ve had parts of my businesses that are like that. No matter what you do, nothing gets it above a certain level. And it reminds me of this interview that I did with a guy who ran a company, I can’t think of his name right now, ran a company that did consulting for supermarkets. He said every supermarket has this one aisle that no matter what we do, we paint arrows on the floor, we can’t get people to go to that aisle.
Inevitably, the supermarket will spend a lot of time trying to turn that one aisle around or that one section around. He says, “After years I’ve just learned to tell them to drop it. You’re wasting a lot of time on that one thing. It’s not going to work out. Focus on the other aisles, the ones that actually could grow with your attention. That works best.” You found that. What are some of the things that you did to try to grow your business beyond where it was?
R. Michael: I hired marketing consultants. I hired sales consultants. I hired sales people. I did all the things you “should” do and I never broke that $2.75 million barrier. We’d be up or down a quarter-million dollars per year here and there. I never broke that.
Looking back, it’s like if I would have just made that what they call a lifestyle company, I would have spent 10 or 20 hours a week running it, had my great technical people in there, coming with my great clients, I would be making $400,000, $500,000 a year income, great environment for everybody but my ego was like–once we hit that fast thing, I said, “I’m going to be the biggest company like this in the world. So, I’m going to invest in the sales people and sales this and sales that and marketing this.”
It just never caught on. So much money out the door. I made an okay living, but I didn’t make great money because I spent all of it in sales and marketing and it didn’t pay off.
Andrew: Did you learn anything from any of those consultants in that whole process that helped you as an entrepreneur as a business person?
R. Michael: You know, I did. I learned about how to implement a sales team. I brought in bright people. Part of the problem was that we were a little boutique shop. It’s really hard for companies like ours to really scale and grow, especially going from 10 to 20 and 50 and 100 because we didn’t really have a niche. We were still pretty general. So, we didn’t have like IP, like we weren’t like ERP for food distributors or this. We weren’t really niche. So, we had to rely on my personality, to be honest with you, to get these clients.
Andrew: I see. It was largely coming in from people who knew you and trusted you.
R. Michael: And I’m the only one who really ever closed a sale in our business because I sold like an entrepreneur. I sell with personality and guts and I lay it all out there and I really understand them. But I could really never duplicate that. I could really never bring in anybody that had that whatever I brought to the table.
Andrew: We’ve got to get into your management style and this thing that happened that changed you, that led you to write this book, that led you to be the person who others are now seeking for advice and guidance. I also want to talk a little bit about “Soul-Centered Leadership,” the book.
First, I should tell people if you’re listening to me and you need to hire a developer, you’ve got to think about Toptal. I worked with Toptal–super easy, I’ve got to tell you, Michael. I went to their website. I filled out–actually, I didn’t even fill out a long form, it was just basically my name and I think I might have even told them what I was looking for. The next step in the process was actually talking to a human being. I picked whatever time was convenient for me, which I think was like five minutes from when I filled out the form. It was that fast that I needed to talk to them.
I get on the phone with them and I say, “Here’s how we work.” We’re kind of an organization that doesn’t use Slack or anything to talk. I still like to talk to my people using email, which is what was true at the time. Today I’ll take some text messages when things are important. I don’t even want to be a part of the process. I’ve got a developer who I work with. I trust him. Then I put them on the phone with my developer and I said, “Have him tell you what our structure is like because I don’t even want to get into it.”
And now that they understood how I like to work, that I need someone who’s very independent, who doesn’t need a lot of guidance from me, who just needs to hear what the finished product looks like and figure it out, they went back and they found someone for us. It happened to be a WordPress developer. It wasn’t a great fit. Then we asked for someone else.
They found someone else for us. They were a great fit. We were off and running. We wanted a WordPress developer and we told him what we wanted done and we also told him the problem, which was search stunk on Mixergy. What’s interesting is that he didn’t so much take exactly what we wanted done as his guidance, but he said, “I see the problem. I see what solution their customers want. I’ll just go develop that.” And he did, faster than we expected. It cost us much less money than we expected because he didn’t need as many hours as we thought. And the thing was up and running. It was on our site.
The only problem was our design was really crappy. So, we hired a designer to redesign search. Today, if someone looks at our site, it’s miles ahead of where it was before. You can actually say, “I want a collection of interviews that have to do with management,” and create a collection of interviews with management styles and then pass that on to someone on your team, if you want. You can say, “I want to find any interview that has to do with copywriting,” and find that.
All those little things only happen because we got a great developer. We did it by going to Toptal. Toptal prides themselves on getting the best developers possible in their network. If you want to work with the best of the best, the kinds of people who Google would hire, I’m going to give everyone in my audience a special URL. Go to Toptal.com/Mixergy. When you do, you’re going to get 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours and that’s in addition to a no-risk trial period of up to two weeks.
I should say also that we hired a designer from Toptal too. They really are looking to create this network of the best talent out there. Top as in top of the mountain, tal as in talent–Toptal.com/Mixergy.
R. Michael: My buddy is a world class BI guy and he does some freelance and he’s a Toptal developer. He said they treat him so well, he only works with Toptal now.
Andrew: What’s a BI?
R. Michael: Business intelligence.
Andrew: Right because now they do business intelligence, not just development, not just design. What does business intelligence mean?
R. Michael: So, basically if you have–it’s basically that high-level dashboard-type reporting. If you have 1,000 sales people and you want to get it all in one little graph to get thousands and millions of transactions, to get real trends in proactive decision making. That’s business intelligence, taking a whole bunch of little data and making it decision worthy.
Andrew: I’m actually going to go out for dinner, early dinner or a coffee or something at 4:00 with someone from Toptal because they’re going to tell me about all these other freelancers that they’ve just added on. They acquired a company that was doing the business side of business and hiring talent out like that the way that Toptal focused on developers.
Anyway, they want to tell me about how now they have like M&A experts, fundraising experts, price analytics experts, like all this stuff that you need for business, Excel experts. And they want to talk about how to let the world know about that. So, I’m going to go to dinner with them and talk about that. Yeah. That’s one of the things they do. They really want the best talent and they want them to love the experience so much that they never want to go anywhere else.
All right. Let’s talk about you as a manager. Do you have a specific example of where you were, as you told Ari, a dick?
R. Michael: A specific example. . . I was a bully. I was not good with–I’m an entrepreneur. I’m direct. Even though I was a technical guy, I’m not–
Andrew: What do you mean? I’ll be honest with you. I’m looking at you now. You’re wearing a conservative blue shirt, buttoned one-button below the top. You’ve got an undershirt underneath. Your hair is parted perfectly to the side. Alex P. Keaton would love to hang out with you. The only thing you’re missing is the jacket and tie. But frankly, I even see you in a jacket and tie at your TEDx speech or some speech that I saw you give. You don’t come across as a jerk. You come across as maybe a little bit of a pushover. When you were a jerk, what were you like?
R. Michael: I was a bully. I was very, very, “Look, this is what we’re going to do,” and I wasn’t going to listen to other people. This is how we’re going to do it. I would make our developers cry.
Andrew: You would? What did you tell your developers to do that made them cry?
R. Michael: I was a real–we’ll say I had a lot of masculine energy, like, “This is what we’re going to do. Suck it up. What do you mean you don’t know how to do this? I’ve seen you do this.” Some of our developers are really introverted and they don’t like confrontation. I would just bully them into doing things.
Andrew: But shouldn’t you do that? Shouldn’t you be the guy that’s pushing them to do more than they would do otherwise? If it means being more of a pushy boss or pushy coach, that’s fine, isn’t it?
R. Michael: You can. That’s absolutely a choice you can do.
Andrew: Why didn’t it work then?
R. Michael: Because they would quit, because they would burn out, because they heard about it. To me, to grow a long-term business, it’s about relationships. It’s about trust. To me, when I was that focused on the goals, it’s funny because I would reach a lot of goals but I wouldn’t be happy. There would be no fulfillment. I won a bunch of awards in San Diego for fasted growing company, most admired CEO, social entrepreneur of the year.
Andrew: Even though you were a bully, you were most admired CEO?
R. Michael: Actually, that was after. Good catch. I didn’t have fulfillment. It’s not the way I want to go through life. I would have these goals. I was reaching these goals, but I was like, “Where is my fulfillment?” In fact, when the business partner hit me, that night was a real reflective time. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a place where all this crap is happening and you’re like, “What is going on with my life?”
Andrew: Not when things are going well, I’ll be honest with you. When things are going well, I’m okay. When things are going well financially, I feel like I can handle everything else. Isn’t that true?
R. Michael: Well, that is. That’s why when I went into reflection when my business partner hit me and all of a sudden all these things are coming down–divorce, my business partner hit me, it’s like I’ve got to deal with all this stuff with my customers, my employees. It was embarrassing.
Andrew: Forced to reexamine it and decide who you want to be instead of just getting dragged into the person that you’d become.
R. Michael: Yes. I’m like, “My life is not working out. It’s like I’m doing what I want to. . .” I was achieving the goals I was setting out to do. It was like, “Where’s my pay off?” Then I was like angry, like, “Am I not doing enough but I’m doing enough?” Then I was like, “Am I broken?” I saw other people like, “Why is it other people and not me?”
Then that evening I made two life-changing decisions. Instead of self-medicating, I went for a jog. So, I didn’t do what didn’t work for me. I’m like, “Hey, I’m going to do something healthy.” I would say, “Look, I’m a good achiever. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get happy. What I’m doing now is not working.” I never had any emotional intelligence, psychology or spirituality in my life.
Again, long story short is I found a couple other entrepreneurs that just had really kind, warm energies about them and they went through this very unique Master’s degree in spiritual psychology at the University of Santa Monica. Based off of my short interactions with them, I signed up for this Master’s in spiritual psychology. I’ll tell you, Andrew, my life changed literally 180 degrees.
Andrew: What did you learn there?
R. Michael: I learned self-compassion. I learned to realize that I have inherent self-worth, that I’m worthy. I don’t have to earn this amount of money to be lovable and to be worthy. I don’t have to do these different things to be lovable and worthy. I’m worthy as a person just as I am. I don’t have to keep trying to earn that.
Andrew: I’m writing it down so I can ask you some follow up questions on that. That’s why you’re hearing typing.
R. Michael: Okay. I’m giving you a lot of profound stuff into like one or two sentences. We learned psychology from–when I say spiritual psychology, we learned the same psychoanalysis techniques you would learn in any other psychology degree. We learned six different–psychosynthesis, Gestalt, NLP, rational emotive, Rogerian–but we take the assumption we’re all loving beings and that we use psychology to clear out all the crap, all the unresolved issues between us and our soul, the love that we are.
Andrew: I wonder about this, “I don’t have to do things to be worthy.” If you feel, “I don’t have to do things to be worthy,” then why do things? If you, on the other hand, feel like, “I have to accomplish in order to be worthy,” then you push yourself to accomplish more, to achieve more and by doing that, you build a better company for your customers, for your employees. So, this feeling that I’m not worthy, that I’m not enough, isn’t it helpful?
R. Michael: Well, it’s interesting because I had that concern and a lot of people do have that concern. “If I do this development, if I change this way as a person, am I going to not be driven?” I was driven from negativity. I was driven because I wanted to show people I was the best.
R. Michael: I was driven because I was screw everybody else.
Andrew: To prove them wrong to some degree.
R. Michael: Right. What I realized now is that I’m actually, in a way, more driven because I see all the good that I can create in the world. That beauty actually drives me and I have so much more energy and life is fulfilling. It’s finally fulfilling. I’m not as attached to how much money I have. I’m a competitor. I like to make money. I like to drive nice cars. I’m not saying that’s bad. But that being my driver, I found out that I would never, ever be fulfilled because there’s always–I work with people that run $2 billion a year companies. I’ve done some YPO retreats, people that run billions and billions, they have the same issues that I had. I realized that I’m never going to make enough money to finally be cool and finally love myself.
Andrew: But maybe that’s okay because I’m never going to run enough to feel like I finally have run enough, right? I’m always going to want to do more run. Isn’t that what drives me to keep running? Isn’t that what makes life productive?
R. Michael: Well, what if you just run because you love running? Wouldn’t that make running more fun? If you don’t love running, don’t run.
Andrew: Ah, I think I see it. So, I actually agree with you. Here’s what I’m seeing from this. I do always want to run more, but not because I feel like I’m not a good enough runner, so I have to go prove it. I just run because I love running and I run more because I love running more. If you take away you–and tell me if I’m reading too much into your story–but if you were, Michael, to take away this feeling of, “I have to work and achieve more to be worthy,” you don’t become nothing, you still become this kid who loved watching Michael J. Fox play Alex P. Keaton and dress up in ties and work hard.
You still become this person who even at age eight had a cigar box full of pencils and pens and erasers and were selling it. So, it’s not this feeling of, “I have to do more to be worthy,” that fired you up and got you to be a CEO and got you to work hard. It’s this person who you are. The more you get rid of this junk of, “I don’t have to be worthy,” the more you become who you are, which is productive, which does allow you build businesses, which does allow you to make money and grow as a person and as a bonus, feel fulfilled.
R. Michael: Yes and have fun doing it. How many people do you know making a lot of money and hate their job? That sucks. There are so many things we’ve loved to do. I believe we’re natural creators. I believe our essence is a creator out here and to me, it’s a beautiful thing to create and that’s how we learn to grow. Why not do that from a place of love and fun and joy?
Andrew: Are you more productive working from a place of love and fun and joy?
R. Michael: Totally. Totally. It’s like I have more energy because I look forward to it. When I’m driven by that negativity, it’s like it’s a downer. It draws so much energy from me. When I’m so attached to things happening, all this control that I used to have, I’ve really worked to let go of a lot of this control. It’s like I feel so much more free in my life.
Andrew: So, here’s an example of when you were more of a jerk and when you were not happy. You used to complain about things like Microsoft. Microsoft was a big part of your business. What did Microsoft, what was their connection to your business and what did you complain about?
R. Michael: We were resellers. The way our company worked, we were like BMW of San Diego. We weren’t geographically, but like when you buy a BMW in San Diego, you don’t buy it from BMW. You buy it from a local sales and support office, in a way. So, we were like a Microsoft reseller. So, I would always complain about Microsoft. “Microsoft sucks. Microsoft is stupid. Their product sucks. We got bad support. Their partner channel sucks.”
Actually I had a business coach and she’s like, “All you do is complain about Microsoft. Are they that bad?” I’m like, “Not really because we get all their revenue from them. They’re the market leader. I guess not.” So, she’s like, “Everybody else complains about them too.” I’m like, “Huh. . .”
So, our next quarterly meeting, I said, “Look, everybody, I full own it. It’s my bad. I want to fully own what I’ve been doing and that’s complaining about Microsoft. I know a lot of us have and it’s up to me, it starts with me. But Microsoft at the end of the day, they put out a good product. If you look at everything overall, they’re a good support network for us. I’m going to start appreciating them and not complaining about them. It doesn’t mean they’re going to do everything perfectly, but let’s keep everything in context here. I want everybody else to do the same thing. Do I get agreement?” I got agreement from everybody.
It took us a couple weeks. There were a couple weeks where we would, “Damn Microsoft.” “You’re the one who said it.” “Good catch.” We made it sort of like a fun thing. But it’s cool, Andrew, because it’s like our relationship with Microsoft improved. So, we started getting more leads. They gave us better support. Maybe they picked up on the conversations. They’re under a lot of crap too from their partners. But that’s just the thing. I was bringing negativity into my life that I didn’t need to bring in into my business. That’s just a small shift that we did.
Andrew: What about management? When you were more of the manager you wanted to be, what were you like? Do you have an example of what you would add to the company, how you would treat people?
R. Michael: Simple things like listening. I realized that I never really listened to people. I was always waiting to talk or telling them what I had to do. I would always act like I knew it all and then what I actually would do is this little thing. I have this independent streak where I think I’ve got to do everything myself and then I realize that this is sort of a self-limiting belief. It helps me some places, but I do it too much. I would actually ask for help with something I knew how to do already. I would just practice getting helped.
R. Michael: Giving my employees the gift of helping me. They’d be so excited because they’re helping the boss do something.
Andrew: And because you did it not when you needed help but when you were thoughtful about working on yourself, you could practice being still and letting them guide you in a way you wouldn’t necessarily pick yourself.
R. Michael: Yes. It was hard. I wanted to say, “Ah, I know that.” But I was like, “I’m going to let them be the expert on something.”
Andrew: So, when you and I talked about doing this interview, I had a hard time saying, “I don’t think it’s a good fit.” But I have to own that, that as much as it stinks to say to someone, “I don’t think it’s a good fit,” I have to or else the whole interview site just goes away. One of the reasons why I said it is because I went to your website to try to find this business that we were talking about, Radiant Technologies and I couldn’t. I told you honestly and then you explained. What happened to it? Let’s talk to the audience about why if they went to the website they couldn’t see your business.
R. Michael: I got to the point–ERP treated me really, really great. But I was sitting here in my Master’s and I’m like, “I wasn’t put on this earth to sell accounting software.” I loved my journey, but it’s like I’ve been doing it for 15 years at that point. I thought, “What do I love to do?” It’s similar what you’ve brought up–love having deep conversations. This is my favorite thing to do in the world is actually connect with people through conversations.
R. Michael: I’ve always loved speaking and I’ve loved training and teaching and I love giving back that way. Entrepreneurs are my tribe. I joke to say we’re the only people that can say, “F you,” and, “I love you,” in the same sentence.
R. Michael: And you’re like, “That’s cool.” So, we’re risk takers. We’re intelligent. We’re get to the point. So, I thought, “How can I create a life that I love?” I thought, “Why don’t I teach entrepreneurs the same thing that I went through that had such a big change in my life?” So, I sold my companies and now I wrote “Soul-Centered Leadership” and basically I teach people some of the things that worked out so well for me.
Andrew: What did you sell your company for, how much?
R. Michael: I can’t even remember because I sold it for maybe $50,000 up front plus–we’re a service company, so I sell it off a couple of years of annuities.
Andrew: Were you able to leave the company and get a share of the revenue or did you still have to be there?
R. Michael: No. I sold it to my operations lady. She was the COO.
Andrew: I see. The operations lady took over.
R. Michael: Yeah, a new lady.
Andrew: And then she gave you a piece of the revenue as it came in?
R. Michael: Which is normal in companies like ours.
Andrew: Which stinks because service companies are so hard to sell and so hard to continue to grow. So, you didn’t end up even with $1 million from this sale?
R. Michael: No, I didn’t.
Andrew: This big business that you worked on that you wanted to be giant, maybe half a million came to you?
R. Michael: Yeah, a little more than that.
Andrew: Did you become a millionaire at all?
R. Michael: No.
Andrew: Do you feel at all like a fraud as a man teaching business without having hit like that milestone?
R. Michael: Well, I teach leadership. I’m really proud of my leadership. We won Best Places to Work, Social Entrepreneur of the Year. I was President of the Board of Directors for Conscious Capitalism San Diego. So, I was on the board of Entrepreneurs Organization. To me I have a good leadership resume.
Andrew: I forget who it was. It was Chris Sacca, that’s who it was, who said that people listen to him more because he has more money, that in an argument with like Mark Cuban, people don’t pay attention to him because they say, “Mark Cuban’s got more money than you, so he knows more,” and they just write him off. So, he’s seen both sides of that conversation, both sides of that interaction.
I’m wondering do you ever feel that at all? Does that hungry entrepreneur who needed to put points up on the board now accept the points that you have or do you feel still like you don’t have enough and you feel less worthy because of that?
R. Michael: Well, I get caught up in–I really have worked to come from what we call a place of service, that I am living my life of service. I do so much mentoring and volunteering. Sometimes, Andrew, I will get into this thing where I have to get x-number of followers. I catch myself. I’m like, “That’s my ego talking.”
So, it’s not that I’m ego-less. It’s that I have the awareness of when I’m getting driven by my ego. I’m not saying there’s any problem with having a lot of followers, but I’m a) not going to judge my worth based on Facebook likes or even income because I also just–I’ve basically devoted my life just to spreading my message.
Andrew: And that message is?
R. Michael: Soul-centered leadership to just really connect to yourself and to lead with love and compassion and really how do you bring love and compassion to the workplace? It’s funny because I think it takes true courage to lead with love and compassion, to be vulnerable. I think it takes much more courage than to not do that.
Andrew: It does, especially when there aren’t role models of people who have done that and have gotten big and have bragged about doing it. So, you feel like you’re doing something different and not winning at a system that everyone acknowledges is the system.
R. Michael: You can be ego-based and make a lot of money. Larry Ellison from Oracle, he’s a well-known jerk and he made a lot of money and that’s okay. I guess the people that I work with or come to me or have an interest in soul-centered leadership, maybe they’re younger and they get this and they want to build their foundation and move up using these types of things.
Or it’s the people who maybe have made some money or they are a couple million dollars or where I was and they’re like, “Look, I’m successful. I’m making money, but I’m not enjoying life. What’s up?” like I was or maybe they are doing substances and it’s like, “What’s the missing ingredient?” That’s what I’m trying to provide.
Andrew: What about this–I’m asking you this because I think about this for myself a lot. You and I both watched “Family Ties” and shows like that. We want to do something big. We might have even seen shows where there was someone who wanted to do something big but gave up on it and found some spirituality instead and they seemed happy.
I remember when I used to see that. I’d say they couldn’t, actually. This person couldn’t achieve something big. So, the spirituality and the self-understanding and fulfillment is a way of coming to terms and a way of replacing the need to be rich and successful and powerful. So, now when we go to that, when you go to that, do you feel like, “I’m giving up, I’m becoming the person who’s not trying to achieve as much?”
R. Michael: Well, I believe I’m trying to achieve more. I’m just not attached to how much, for example, money that’s going to bring me. My purpose and mission is to raise the consciousness of the world by elevating leaders.
Andrew: Would you still want to do that if you were making more money, if you were doing $10 million this year with a goal of doing $20 million next year, would you still care about this? Is this a way of saying, “I’m not there and this is something else I could achieve?”
R. Michael: No way. I would do this–if I had $1 billion in the bank, I would still do this.
Andrew: This would be it.
R. Michael: Totally. I’ve had a couple other opportunities to get back in the industry and make a lot of money. Actually some company wanted to acquire us before I sold to–actually, before I sold to my COO, right before I sold, this almost broke her heart, a large European company wanted to come and purchase my company for a lot of money, I think probably $1 million. I’d have to look back at the terms. We were negotiating.
They wanted to put me as the global CEO. I mean, talk about–this is interesting. I haven’t thought about this in a while. Yeah. Absolutely, it happened. They were based in Europe and they wanted to acquire me and put me as the global CEO, which ten years ago would have been my dream. It’s funny because–this is crazy–I would have been potentially the largest company in the world in this industry.
Andrew: Yes. And you turned it down?
R. Michael: I did. I played with it a little bit and I’m like, “My life is going to suck, man. I’m going to spend all the time on planes dealing with software people. Everyone is going to be pissed.” I’ve seen acquisitions in my company. They wanted to do a roll up. They wanted to buy literally 100 different companies and make them one company. I’ve seen that and it’s so difficult. The CEO just gets crap. There was no winning in that. It’s like a referee in a brawl or something.
Andrew: I see. So, you had the opportunity to go in the other direction. You chose not to. This is the life you picked for yourself.
R. Michael: Yes.
Andrew: And you feel fulfilled and happy.
R. Michael: I love my life. My life is awesome. My life is awesome.
Andrew: And today you’re in Zagreb, which is a city that I love because you’re speaking where?
R. Michael: Well, like I mentioned to you real quick before we started, a year ago I sold all my stuff and I just travelled around wherever I wanted to travel around. I just spoke at the EBAN Conference, which European Angel Business Network conference, 1,200 people. I did Startup Istanbul before that. That was 4,000 people, just these kids that are starting these companies nowadays want to change the world. When I started my business 10-15 years ago, there was no startup help. There’s so much stuff out there. There’s no better time in the world to start a business.
R. Michael: Technology, angel investors, support, Mixergy, all this stuff.
Andrew: The website for anyone who wants to go see it is on one of my tabs. What is the URL?
R. Michael: Soul-Centered-Leadership.com.
Andrew: Ah, that’s for the book. But you also have another one for yourself, which is where I have was a moment ago. Where is that?
R. Michael: I have ExecutiveJoy.com.
Andrew: That’s what it was Executive Joy. I think of you with that phrase, Executive Joy.
R. Michael: It’s cool.
Andrew: All right. So, you guys can check out either one of those URLs. Is there a way for people to contact you if they want to get in touch or to see where you’ll be speaking?
R. Michael: Yeah. Twitter, I’m @RMAElevates. You can just even send me an email, Michael@ExecutiveJoy.com. Just bring it all on Michael@ExecutiveJoy.com. I answer. If you send me an email, I will answer it personally at Michael@ExecutiveJoy.com.
Andrew: Sounds like a lot of work, but I’m excited that you’ll do that for the audience. Thanks so much for doing this.
R. Michael: Awesome. The book comes out first week in January. I’m doing a pre-release sale, so check out my website so you can get on the pre-release list. Andrew, thank you so much. I know that you give so much to your audience and I really am honored to be here and I appreciate what you do for the community.
Andrew: Thank you, Michael. Thank you all for being a part of this. Of course, my two sponsors–the company that will help you hire great developers, Toptal, and the company that will organize your sales process beautifully, it’s called Pipedrive. I’m grateful to them for sponsoring. Thank you, Michael. Thank you all for being a part of it. Bye, everyone.