Do you struggle with greed? Hear how greed can cloud your vision and destroy your business, and learn how you can avoid the same pitfalls.
Bill Manassero is the founder of the Old Dawgs REI Network, a blog and podcast for people 50 and older who are using real estate investing to fund retirement. Bill’s goal is to own and control 1,000 apartment units in less than six years. Prior to owning the Old Dawgs REI Network, Bill and his family served as missionaries in Haiti. Before he was a missionary, he spent twenty years in financial/business services, in both the entrepreneurial and corporate sectors. A few highlights of Bill’s career include meeting Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Stewart, being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, and having CNN make a documentary about his work in Haiti.
Green Flag: Success Is Addictive
During the late 70’s I was going to school and working in financial services, advertising, savings & loans, etc. At one point the particular savings and loan that I was with was bought out and I became jobless. I decided that I would apply the expertise I had gained and try my hand at consulting. I started my own small consulting firm and as it began to grow, I was able to move into my specialty which was advertising and public relations. The next thing I knew I was making a lot of money, hiring staff, expanding office space and loving it all!
From there I began to go into different arenas such as large law firms, the medical industry, financial consulting, etc. Basically I would work with anybody that needed my services and who could pay for what I had to offer.
Red Flag: The Dream Client
I was building a good clientele but was never quite satisfied with how fast the firm was growing. I wanted to grow faster. I began to focus on getting bigger clients and better paying accounts. Somewhere along the way greed had become my strategy. I was taking any clients that would give us a boost and lowering my standards; not vetting clients as well as I should have.
Around this time, I took on a very lucrative client that I didn’t vet well in spite of having some questions and concerns about them. They were a new IPO and we were doing financial PR for them. In the process of serving them I collected information about their business through various avenues such as managing/creating their mailing lists. I noticed that some of the people that were signed up on their mailing lists were in different prisons. But I rationalized that maybe these were people in prison for things like tax violations, evasion or something like that. I just decided to ignore it in spite of an odd gut feeling I had.
What happens with IPOs is that the SEC (Securities Exchange Commission) is all over whatever you release: press releases or any kind of financial information that goes out is under scrutiny. I was seeing a red flag at this point but sort of let it go because they were paying us ridiculous amounts of money. They had a lot of funding and were just throwing cash at me. Because it was such a lucrative account I was not being that picky about things I should have been questioning.
Black Flag: Collapsing House
It was when I got a phone call from the SEC that I began to realize we had a serious problem. They started out asking questions, which later turned into an investigation about this company’s releases and areas of large growth. I was really getting concerned at this point and had to put most of my time into dealing with these issues. I had to take my eyes off the rest of the business and other people we were working for in order to be able to handle this. The more effort I put into it, the more the company and our other clients suffered.
We had built a house of cards and it was beginning to collapse. Our big $ client started getting behind on their invoices, which were stacking up. I had told them about the SEC, and that they were going to have to provide proper information and prove their position. They keep assuring me it was all a misunderstanding and I believed them because I wanted the money to start flowing again.
But the money never started flowing again and in fact they stopped paying us altogether. On the other end of things I was losing valuable clients that I didn’t have time to invest in. The amount of the debt we ended up having because of this one case completely destroyed the rest of my business. In the space of one year I went from riding high to rock bottom….and it all happened because in my greed, I ignored the red flags and unwisely took on this one client.
White Flag: Rock Bottom
It had become personal at that point and I was having trouble dealing with all of it. I had a lot of other stuff going on in my life at the same time which complicated things. I had some drug problems. I was single and working at the office from 3am. till 10pm. I had all these issues with my business that I could never catch up with. I was feeling pretty hopeless, like this was the end of the line for me. I was seriously thinking of taking my own life.
I didn’t feel I could talk to anyone about what was happening. I had given so much to building up this company and in my pride I did not want to admit to being a failure. I was so uptight that I was seeing my chiropractor regularly. He was seeing constant stress and extreme tension in my muscles and finally he asked as a friend what was going on with me. He was the first one I shared the whole story with. He invited me to come and visit a men’s business meeting he attended up in Palos Verdes. He thought perhaps someone there might be able to help me.
At that point I was so far down that I could barely look up. I felt like there was no way out but since I had nothing to lose I finally decided to go to the men’s meeting. It was held at a gorgeous country club and there were a lot of people there who had great expertise and experience. As I later found out, it was actually a Christian Businessmen’s meeting. At my very first meeting I connected with a very successful CEO Coach who had an incredible track record. We met for lunch the next week and I explained everything that had been going on. Even though he normally charged a lot of money for these sessions, he offered to meet with me once a week at no cost with one caveat: that I agree to a short Bible study along with the session. I agreed.
Checkered Flag: Divine Intervention
The meetings with the CEO Coach started off with 45 minutes of business and 15 minutes of Bible study until I became increasingly interested in what I was reading and wanted to talk more about the Bible than the business! I went through a huge personal transformation during this time. I surrendered to Jesus Christ. All of a sudden I had peace about this whole thing. I was ready to go to jail if necessary and I was even okay with that!
Shortly after this the CEO Coach introduced me to a guy who was interested in buying my business! He said he would take on the business and the complicated legal issues as well! On top of that he offered me a job as one of his Vice Presidents! I was completely blown away! All the financial issues would be dealt with; I was not indicted; I would have a job and I would not go down with the ship!
This scenario allowed me to start all over. I was very fortunate in having these things happen, which made that transition a lot easier than it could have been. I ended up making great money. I moved to another PR firm afterwards and things have gone really really great.
Today I have several goals: My wife Susette and I founded an organization called ‘Child Hope International’ that helps orphaned, abandoned and at-risk children in Haiti. I also operate a blog and podcast that focuses on helping people 50 and older to use investing to fund their retirement. And I am involved in Real Estate investing with an emphasis on buying multi-family properties to create a passive income that will help support my wife and I in our retirement years, help fund our mission in Haiti, and have something to leave our children after we are gone.
In each episode of How to Lose Money, we ask our guests to answer a few questions about failure. Here’s what came out of this episode:
- Why did this failure experience happen to you?
I think it was God’s hand to bring me to Him. I believe it was something I had to do: to look up and acknowledge His existence and my need for Him. I also think it was a good lesson to teach me about the importance of having integrity in everything you do, and to be aware of this sneaky thing called greed that can so easily become part of anyone’s life and business.
- What’s the single most important lesson you’ve learned from this?
There are two parts to that lesson: First, always keep my eyes fixed on the Lord. Second, have a clear plan. In that plan you need to discuss who you are as a business. Commit to integrity, to good clear communication, high standards, etc. Know the plan going in and do not compromise….stick to it.
- How do you protect yourself from failing in this way again?
Stay focused! Know your goals and the plan; stay on point; set standards for yourself and your business and stick to them.
- Who do you turn to when you need help?
I turn to the Lord; I turn to His Word. Almost everything I have ever faced in business I can find a solution for in God’s Word.
I also think everyone should have a mentor! This should be someone you can work with, run things by and bounce ideas off of. It is very important that this person should be someone who has the same values and standards that you do!
- What advice would you give to someone in a similar position to yours?
I would say to know your focal point. What’s the most important thing to you? To me it is my God, it’s pleasing Him, obeying His Word. Those are the top priorities for me. In my business it is knowing what I am doing, my niche, staying with the standards I have set for myself.
This episode is based on an interview with Bill Manassero. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to How to Lose Money. If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.