Easy Money

You've tried the lottery. You've even tried selling your Schwinn. Ever wonder why you can't get to the "M" word? Here's millionaire advice straight from the horses' mouths.
Magazine Contributor
12 min read

This story appears in the April 2000 issue of . Subscribe »

Gum chewing? Child's play. Blinking? Easy. Becoming a millionaire? Piece of cake. In your grandparents' grandparents' time, it was harder to make a million. The law of averages says most people worked on a farm. Others laid railroad track for 10 cents a day, while still others froze in the mountains because their wagon wheels broke. Some people's ancestors wated their lives in a saloon as the town drunk or local prostitute. Whatever they were, in all likelihood, they were not rich. Today, it's different. The American Dream is finally accessible to every-one. Being a millionaire has never been easier.

OK, maybe the process isn't as simple as blinking, but it rivals gum chewing. (You have to go to the store and wait in line to buy the darn stuff, and then there's all that unwrapping.) This roving reporter was recently dispatched to talk to a handful of "millionaire experts" and see what advice they had for making an easy million or two . . . or 20.

If these suggestions don't work for you, please don't return this magazine asking for your money back. Hey, I'd like to be a millionaire someday, too.

Geoff Williams (gwilli2181@aol.com), a frequent contributor to Business Start-Ups, says he's excited when he finds a quarter under his sofa cushions.

Start your own business: Steps 1-5

1. Start your own business. Before you glance at the cover of Business Start-Ups and say "Duh," consider the insight of author Robert Kiyosaki, a multimillionaire who penned Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not (Techpress, $15.95, 800-308-3585). Among other books with similar themes, he states: "The IRS has no interest in your business failing . . . the tax codes are set up for entrepreneurs, not their employees. The government rewards those who risk their own money."

After all, observes Kiyosaki, the government wants your business to become filthy rich. If your company brings in $500 million a year, the government's tax pot will be a lot sweeter than if you're bringing in a measley $50,000. So if you've already started your own business, you're well on your way to being a millionaire. If you haven't begun your business and are hesitating, then . . . well, I hear Gap is hiring.

2. Have a millionaire mind-set. Think goal-setting. If you want to be a millionaire, you have to decide it's your destiny. "I'd say one of the key components to becoming a millionaire is to have a laser-like focus on your goals," says Brian Koslow, who is a management/marketing consultant and a personal development coach to doctors and business owners in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He's also the author of 365 Ways to Become a Millionaire (Without Being Born One) (Penguin/Putnam, $10.95, 212-366-2000).

"Millionaires are not easily distracted," observed Koslow when we chatted over the phone a few months ago. "For instance, if a bomb went off during this interview, I doubt I would even notice."

Luckily, that didn't happen (either that, or we just didn't notice). He adds, however, "Having a millionaire mindset means [you're] always listening--always have your ear tuned for opportunities. For example, when I buy a company, I always look at how the company can be rather than what it's like now."

3. Surround yourself with experts. As attorney Ron Goldie says: "The sign of a successful entrepreneur is that he or she is the decision-maker, but I think it's imperative that entrepreneurs have at least one professional who knows everything there is to know--one who can give them an independent assessment of the obstacles ahead.

"Every highly successful person I know of has at least one person they can turn to who knows the difference between the hype and the reality of what's actually going on," finishes Goldie, a senior partner at the Los Angeles law firm of Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp. Goldie would think that, of course. He gets paid to dispense financial legal advice to millionaires and vividly remembers one colleague who didn't listen to him--and lost $40 million on a business deal.

Several others interviewed also stressed the importance of having trusted colleagues to consult. "Hire a team of people who are smarter than you," stresses Kiyosaki, echoing the sentiments spoken by almost everyone interviewed here. Kiyosaki says that team would likely include an ace accountant, an attorney, brokers and public relations personnel.

Even if you can't initially afford all those people, you still have options. Bounce your ideas off a trusted friend or relative--someone who has your best interests at heart. And you can always offer a bit of ownership in your company to some of your employees, says Michele McGeoy, a Berkeley, California, entrepreneur who recently became a millionaire when she sold her second company for a little over $2 million. Her third and current company, R.H. Solutions (http://www.rhsolutions.com), develops database computer software and tools to help organizations manage business relationships.

"Get people who have the expertise--and give them a piece of the pie," says McGeoy. "There's ownership at stake: The bigger the pie [grows], the bigger each piece [gets]." It's a good deal for you and your key employees: After all, if you want to hire smart people, remember that smart people won't work for beans.

If your company is so strapped that a piece of your pie doesn't look appetizing to brilliant experts, solicit free advice from people you admire, suggests Larry Waschka, who wrote The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Rich (Alpha Books, $18.95, 800-428-5331). "Find the people who are the best at what they do, call them, compliment them, and ask if you can pick their brain. Obviously, if they're the competition, that may not work. But if you compliment an expert and marvel at what they do, nine times out of 10, they'll invite you over."

4. "Have an unshaken belief in yourself," says Koslow, adding: "If you don't believe in yourself, nobody else will." Ack, gag me with a Mary Poppins DVD.

Sure, we've all heard this sugary-sweet-saccharine pep talk before, and it seems awfully predictable at first: Oooh! Look, Ma, I feel good about myself. Presto. I'm a millionaire! But Koslow lays out an example of how feeling good can lead you to the good life: "[Self-confidence is] going to be reflected in the fees you're charging. For instance, if you're a consultant, it might be the difference between charging $75 an hour and asking the client to pay $200 or $300. Often, the only difference between the services is that the one who charges the higher fee has an enormous amount of self-esteem." And feeling like a loser can cause you to lose money in other ways, asserts Koslow. "If you don't believe in yourself, the person on the other side of the table will notice." Question yourself, and watch your million-dollar deals disappear faster than a David Copperfield trick.

5. Bargain-hunt. Yes, even millionaires save money. How do you think they got to be millionaires in the first place? As Rusty White says, "There are two steps to making money: First, you generate it, and more importantly, [inexpensively] buy the product that you're reselling, so you've got a large margin of profit." White would probably know what he's talking about. He's more than the founder and former publisher of The Robb Report; he's the publisher of Millionaire magazine, both being publications for the rich and affluent, which White is. Located in Hilton Head, South Carolina, he's worth $40 million. So while you're figuring out how to get White to adopt you, consider saving money wherever you can--and spending it wisely. Which brings us to Step 6.

Steps 6-10

6. Be a judicious risk-taker. This doesn't mean taking stupid chances, just daring ones, with potentially incredible outcomes. For example, several decades ago, before he started publishing The Robb Report, White was a college student with some extra money. Instead of investing it in stocks or having a beer bash, White, a Rolls-Royce enthusiast, bought two "junkers." He cleaned them up, sold them and bought more Rolls--and sold those. At one point, he traded his house for a Rolls "because the car was worth more than the house. And then I drove off into the sunset, without a place to sleep."

Although White took risks (he didn't know if he could sell his junkers, but he had ideas of how he would), he always had a plan. "You never fire a gun without a target," says White. And while we don't suggest you'll necessarily have the resources to do exactly what White did, there's still a lesson here: "Spend time on your plan. You have to make sure that plan is going to work."

7. Stay on the cutting edge of technology. This advice comes from Waschka, who is thinking beyond having a talking, singing and dancing Web page. He's referring to using technology to replace an extra employee, or simply to appear to the public like you know what you're doing.

White agrees, going a little further: "Don't only stay on it--but a step ahead of it." Most of you already know where he's coming from, but for the slow ones out there, we'll let White give an example. "So many high-tech, high-speed things are happening internationally, to me, the cutting edge is to be able to market in a split second to China or Japan or any place in the world," says White. "We're working on our site so it can be read in 47 different languages. And, of course, when you're selling something, you really don't care where the money's coming from. The truth is, we're probably expanding more rapidly overseas than we are in this country."

But McGeoy, ever the pragmatist, has a warning: "Be on the leading edge--not the bleeding edge." Cute, but what does it mean? "Sometimes, people are pushing so hard to become the latest and greatest, [the push] becomes more important than focusing on your core. There are hundreds and hundreds of failures to every success. How do you know that the leading edge you're attaching yourself to will succeed?"

Staying with the times is important, McGeoy agrees, "but you need to think carefully, ask yourself, `What is this tool, really, and how is this helping my business to get better?' "

8. Become a brand name. This suggestion comes from Jason Hartman, a 34-year-old millionaire from Southern California who has conveniently written Become the Brand of Choice: How to Earn Millions Through Relationship Marketing (Lifestyles Press, $16.95, http://www.brandofchoice.com).

"When you're a brand, it enables business to chase you, instead of you always having to chase after business," says Hartman. Keep in mind, becoming a brand name doesn't mean you have to have a company on the scale or popularity of a Pizza Hut or Home Depot.

Hartman, for instance, isn't known at all in Peoria or Pakistan, but homeowners in Orange County are likely familiar with the real estate tycoon. That's because Hartman built what he calls a "perceived relationship." In other words, customers like him and feel comfortable with him, like they know and understand him.

You, too, can build a perceived relationship. Offer to write business-related articles for your local paper, suggests Hartman, who himself appears in real estate columns in the Orange County Business Journal. Talk about your business with local Kiwanis, Jaycees, Lions and other service-oriented clubs. Give the public free seminars that relate to your business. That'll help you get your name out there. Try all that--or change your last name to Burger King and hope for the best.

9. Be passionate in what you do. "Since there's so much competition out there, you've got to set yourself up to be excellent at what you do. It's almost impossible to be excellent if you're not passionate about it," says Waschka. "Otherwise, you'll just get your butt kicked. There's always going to be somebody out there who's going to be passionate about what they do. Passion creates a level of tenacity, a stick-to-itiveness . . . it's almost like a magical force."

But there's another type of useful passion: hatred--that is, getting so frustrated with a certain kind of situation that you must solve the problem. Kiyosaki explores this concept in his book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. For instance, you love your travel agency but hate how airports treat travelers. How can you change that?

10. Never give up. In case you don't get it, look to Ron Goldie. "Whether they know it or not, my clients, who are worth between $10 million and $1 billion each, follow Winston Churchill's advice: "Never give up, never give up, never give up." All my clients have, at one time or another, been separated from a major portion of their wealth, but they all had the tenacity and sheer strength of entrepreneurial will to make more at the end of the game than what they went in with."

Contact Sources

Brian Koslow, http2.com/millionaire.com

Millionaire.com Inc., (843) 757-6600, http://www.millionaire.com

Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp, (310) 312-2000, http://www.msk.com


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