Building businesses is in Jeremy’s blood, but several experiences poured fuel over the fire in his belly. First, it was the death of his 14-year- old brother when Jeremy was 10. The sudden loss gave him massive anxiety around his mortality. Ultimately, he channeled that fear into a determined drive to live to his fullest potential.
He saw school as a marketplace rather than a place to study. “I was that annoying kid at school always trying to sell you stuff,” Harbour reflects. It wasn’t long before he began running a market- stall on the weekends, selling watches and trinkets, which turned out to be his first trading experience. At 15, Jeremy left school to run his first business.
Listen to the podcast here:
The Only Way to Grow a Business Fast | Jeremy Harbour
We’re going to talk to this guy who is the Founder of The Harbour Club. I love his bio because it says that he was that annoying kid at school that was always trying to sell you stuff. He’s an investor, author, business expert, mentor and speaker. Jeremy Harbour, welcome to the show.
Let’s dive into some fun things because I read in your bio that your older brother was fourteen when he passed away and you were ten. I saw that there was anxiety around that. You became completely aware of your mortality at ten years old. Can you describe that? Because ten years old is a young age to be like, “Death is real.”
It was pretty weird. Growing up, I seem to be around a lot of death. My grandmother was the youngest of fourteen children. I had all these uncles who were dropping off at various stages of my childhood. I had a friend at school who died. I had a guy who I was best man at his wedding, and 1 or 2 years later he died. My brother died when I was ten years old and he was fourteen. You know how young kids are like. They’re fighting all the time. You love your brother but your memories are the fights that you had. It’s horrible. Those regrets of the last moments you spent together, you’re probably fighting.
I was 5 and 6 years older than my brother and sister, but they were only thirteen months apart so they were 10 and 11 when my dad passed. I remember as they were growing up, they were always at each other’s throats. Sometimes like fistfights.
That’s something with siblings. Whenever anybody dies, you sometimes feel a sense of what if or could something be different? What would have happened if X, Y, Z? You have all that crap going on as a ten-year-old and it’s pretty confusing. I used to lie awake in bed every night thinking I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. I’m having these almost panic attack-style, anxiety attacks around my mortality. It would be very real growing up. Everybody goes through that stuff. When I look back at that period, a lot of the drive and the hunger that I ended up with in that period was partly driven by that. It’s almost like this treat every day as your last and one day you’ll be right. It manifested itself in a “work hard, play hard” attitude. I would work my nuts off and on weekends, I’d get hammered and go drinking with my buddies and things like that. You didn’t want any moment where your brain was engaged or thinking about life, the universe and everything. You either want it to be immersed in your work or some nice cocktails. There wasn’t the blank time.
Is it a desire to escape yourself at that moment?
Absolutely. I was a hyperactive kid. I was always bouncing off the walls and I never shut up. I was always talking. Even when you stop talking, your brain is still going like this and you’re going through 1,000 different things all at the same time. I’ve always been like that. I’ve spoken to other people who are not like that. I’ve never been able to quiet the inner voice. Particularly when I was younger and you don’t know how to control that stuff, it gets a little bit out of hand sometimes. It’s escapism completely.
When you’re ten, your emotional intelligence is still growing and forming at that point.
I wasn’t going out getting drunk when I was ten.
I’ve known people who have and it’s not the best way.
I waited until I was twelve.
For sure. You’ve got this whole thing to where you jump into this and going back to this escaping yourself. It’s almost like escaping responsibility at that moment because you realize that, “Everything around me got a hell of a lot more real. It’s not all sunshine, roses, Santa Claus and Easter bunny anymore. I saw my brother and sister go through this because they were 10 and 11 years old when my dad passed. I saw how it affected them. They didn’t know what was going on until that point, but that was their real first brush with death. It was around that time. I had seen my grandmother pass and I felt the same as you. It’s like I was almost around a lot of death where I became desensitized to it. It wasn’t just my dad. It was a lot of family members, aunts, uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers. I remember the first funeral I went to. I was six years old or something like that. I was akin to this from early on but still, when this happens, there’s nothing like that that can shove you into whatever else. I’m sure this drove you because you left school at the age of fifteen.
I didn’t get to the end of the last term of high school. I did my exams and walked out.
That’s incredible. I took a work-release program in my last year. I only went for an hour a day for my final year and I was young, I was seventeen. I skipped the last year but I had enough credits that I stored up in those first several years to complete it at that moment. I still finished and got my diploma at that point. Did you finish high school or whatever it is?
I finished the first bit but not the next bit. There’s a bit in the UK system that finishes when you’re sixteen, and you do the A-levels which finish at eighteen. I left before the sixteen bit. I didn’t do the last bit. The last bit is pretty much the entry to university or college. You do these three years of exams. You do those so you can go to college and I’d already decided I wasn’t going to college or university. I was pretty pissed off waiting until I was sixteen if I’m honest to get started.
I feel you. It’s that hurry up and wait kind of thing.
It’s incredible. I have kids now. Before I had kids, I was like, “I’m never sending my kids to school. I’m going to figure out an education program that’s going to show them real life. I’m going to take them around the world. I’m going to show them all this different stuff. I’m not going to send them to school.” I’ve done a bit of that but they’re in school. I’m an adult and I realized school isn’t education, it’s childcare. I completely missed the point. You think it’s crappy education, why are they taking so long to teach me what I could learn in an hour. It’s because it’s childcare. It gets the kids out of the house so the parents can get stuff done. It’s our relationship with each other.
That’s been the difficulty in the States throughout the whole pandemic. It’s been this complete shift because these parents who were depending on public schools for childcare now had their lives turned upside down. We’ve got parents who are working from home while your kids are also at home doing this remote learning and stuff like that. I say stuff because my kids are involved in online private school and it’s different, but it’s this whole new family dynamic without the child care of the public school. I saw this other meme that I showed my son. This is in the States and it was a joke that was applicable to the US. It‘s me calling, “How do I do my taxes?” The response from public school was, “Shut the fuck up and square dance.” To your point, that’s the whole thing. What does school teach?
You don’t learn anything useful. Here’s a fascinating one. My kids were in school in Singapore learning English and Mandarin. A few months ago, they were in school in Ukraine learning English and Russian and now they’re in school in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates learning English and Arabic. They’re all British school systems so we put them through the British curriculum but in every country, you always have the proposed second language for that country. Our kids have had a crazy year for education mainly driven because of the pandemic. We do travel a lot normally but this was a little less stable than normal but fun. They can speak pidgin Mandarin, pidgin Russian, pidgin Arabic. My daughter is fluent in Russian and my son is 50/50.
Everybody who’s reading is thinking because we’re talking about public school, you and I were both in that and did not like it. I did not like it for my kids either, which is why they haven’t been in it even pre-pandemic. I’ve even done an entire episode on this. From a relatable standpoint, everyone that’s reading is seeing you and I and be like, “I can never do that.” I see that. I would get labeled this a lot because some of my ideas are crazy by family members or whatever else. How are they going to socialize or whatever else? I’m assuming that your kids are pretty well socialized.
Off the charts. The problem is they’re a bit overconfident. My daughter by her first birthday had been on 55 airplane flights. If we go anywhere, they will communicate with all adults. They will go up and talk to anybody. I’ll be with them and say we’re waiting for them to come over and take our order. They want some chicken nuggets or whatever. They’re waiting for us to come in and take our order. My son will go, “Excuse me,” to the waiter.
That’s my youngest son, for sure.
It’s zero shame.
His thing now is he won’t use tap water in the States so it will go around and everybody else is like, “I’m good with the ice water because I’ll still get wine, scotch or whatever else. At ten years old, he goes, “I would spring water, please.” He became this water snob. My other son has held conversations with billionaires. This one dude is a friend of mine walks over to me afterward he goes, “I didn’t know they could be that coherent at that age.” He was only eleven. We underestimate kids and it has to do with the environment. We don’t push them enough.
They are super confident. I’m a little bit worried that they have no idea what goes on in the real world. They think it’s a fantasy life that we live in and it’s normal. There comes a stage where we have to try and normalize them a little bit but we’ll see.
I’m with you. That’s where we start to socialize or whatever because my kids are still involved in sports and all this other stuff. They’re still around everybody else in society and we still have to retain that connection. Even with you and I with what we do, let’s bring it from kids into the adult world now, sometimes it’s a little hard to be relatable. We have to present that we are. Many years ago, I had newborn twins in a condo with only two bedrooms without a job. That’s real life. We’ve been through those things but now everyone sees us on stages. They see us as investors and doing IPOs. It’s like, “It’s taken a long time and hard ass work to get here.” That’s the real world.
I’ve been poor a lot more than I’ve been rich.
We go through cycles with that, don’t we?
Yeah, I try not to anymore.
I know. I get you.
It used to be pretty extreme. It was the usual famine.
I feel you. You were that kid in school. This was one thing that stuck out in your bio to me. It said that you were the one who sold people everything. You sold other kids’ things. I remember kids like that when I was in public school. They’re back now but back then there were Nike Air Jordans and there were lace locks. I don’t know if you remember lace locks or not but you didn’t have to tie your shoes. There were all these kids selling their lace locks. I remember buying some lace locks for myself because I was poor. I grew up poor so I didn’t have them. I had either some cheap Nikes or some ProWings back then. I don’t know if you remember ProWings but they were these generic shoes that you would get made fun of for wearing. I would pop these Jordan lace locks on my ProWings and think that I was cool, but those kids were running around selling everything. What stuff were you selling to other kids?
A lot of it were candies and jewelry that were against the school rules. When I was at school, there was a big craze around gothic jewelry like the big skulls. It’s slightly dark of what you’d call it emo stuff now, back then it was gothic. It was certainly all that because it was against the school rules. Everybody loved to wear stuff they’re not allowed to wear. It was anything that I could buy for $1 and sell for $3.
You started a market stall. What exactly is a market stall? Is that a booth?
These outdoor markets like farmer’s markets. I was selling everything. I had a store that sells watches and jewelry.
Was that at 15 or 16?
It was earlier than like 13 or 14. I left school at fifteen to pursue that business because the stock parcels that I was buying, I’d started buying those and selling them to other market traders. I’d have my market stall but I also wholesale to lots of other market traders. If you bought enough bulk you can get it cheaper and you sell half of it so you’re not overstocked. You then sell the other half in your own store.
You moved up the supply chain a couple of levels.
I figured out that if I wanted a better price, I had to get more of them. If I could lay some of that stuff off to someone else, I got the better price.
That’s phenomenal. You’ve gotten into mergers and acquisitions. How did that come about?
It didn’t come straight from the market trading.
I’m looking at my questions in front of me. It looks like where’s the transition.
It was market trading. I got into buying and selling anything I could lay my hands on. I was buying and selling video games, fruit machines, pinball machines, pool tables and all sorts of things. I ended up buying an amusement arcade when I was about eighteen years old. That went bust when I was nineteen and I started a mobile phone business. Mobile phones were starting to miniaturize. I started selling them to local businesses that opened a little shop.
I did another shop and had three shops that had an office that was focused on business-to-business stuff. We added a fixed line, a phone system and all this stuff. We grew quickly and that market exploded into a million different suppliers and consolidated quickly into a few big ones. When it was going through that rapid consolidation phase, I found that I was having meetings every week with people that were trying to consolidate the market because we were £1 million or $1.5 million in revenue a year or something like that. We were 2 or 3 years old. We wouldn’t be bought by one of these big companies but there were lots of other people that were mopping up lots of guys like us to sell to those bigger companies.
I started having meetings with all these people who were trying to buy me. Up until then, everything I’ve understood about business was making sure that you bought right, getting in for a lower cost as possible, sales and marketing. For me, that was business. I was growing a telecoms company, I started to realize that leadership and management come into it and they’re a bit important. All of the books I read, all of the seminars I went to, everything that I studied was sales, marketing, management and all those areas.
All of a sudden, there’s a guy sitting opposite me saying he’s going to buy my company to create a group to sell to this other company. I’m thinking, “I don’t know anything about this. This is a whole new world.” What was interesting is the deal that he’s putting to me is pretty much I get a share of the action and he sold us a bunch of problems for me now to help me scale quicker. It removes some of the obstacles from a cashflow perspective to help me scale but he’s not going to give me any money upfront. It’s an earn-in earn-out structure. I’m sitting there thinking, “I haven’t got any money either. Maybe I should be the buyer and instead of the seller. Maybe I should be on the other side of this table doing this deal.”
That’s exactly what I did. I went out there working and looking for a mobile phone company I could acquire. I found one that happened to be a bit motivated and some stress in the business. I was able to acquire that company. I didn’t use any cash upfront. In fact, when I bought it, my choice was paying my credit card bill or paying my staff. I didn’t have a third choice to go spend some money on a company. I completed the deal without using any cash and it was an epiphany. I grew by a year’s worth of sales in an afternoon. I hadn’t had to risk any capital or training new marketing technique, hire a sales guy or anything like that. We added a year’s worth of extra sales in a day and I thought, “I’ve got to do that again.”
For sure, and keep that cycle rolling. For everyone reading, when it comes to money down purchases, why in the world would a seller ever go for no money down with nothing upfront? What’s the hook?
There are thousands and thousands of businesses and not many buyers. Particularly when you’re in that sub $5 million revenue area, the buyers are incredibly sparse. No one’s going to give them a check. No one’s going to write a check for the whole amount. Very rarely are they. With this particular one, they have three main challenges. The first one was their buildings were about to be demolished and turned into apartments. They were a retail outlet. The cost of them moving to a new retail outlet, refurbishing it, putting the rent deposit down, all that shit was going to cost them $70,000 to move. He was only making $12,000 a year net from his 1,000 customers. It wasn’t a profitable enterprise.
The second thing was he had another business that was profitable. He was refurbishing terrace houses and turning them into apartments and making big chunks of money doing that, but we’re spending all of his time in his other business. This was liberating him from a business that was holding him back in his mind. The third thing was he was in a massive dispute with his key supplier. This had been going on for a couple of years and it was grinding him down and it made every day hard. He would pitch for a contract, win the contract, and then the supplier would change their mind about fulfilling. He’d end up looking stupid and it was driving him crazy.
I offered to give him slightly more than a year’s worth of earnings but in a shorter space of time than a year by simply transitioning all of his customers over to us and paying him out as we move them over. From his perspective, that got him out of his premises without him having to move into a new expensive premise. It gave him more than a year’s worth of profit so he could focus on the other business full-time and maybe make even more money. He never had to deal with those suppliers ever again. We found his itch and we scratched it. He was running around trying to find the Father Christmas deal, the guy with a check who didn’t care and it wasn’t there so we were the best game in town.
Especially now, this applies a lot because I’m in an acquisition mode also. A lot of these can be done for no money or a little money down, which is earn-out, earn-in as you call it. I’m seeing a lot of this but there are a lot of hurting people now in business. I’ve seen this across the board. A lot of them might be looking for that Father Christmas and have not seen that. It doesn’t exist.
You put your best offer in there. Your offer should be a win-win. It should help them as well so they should get some upside from it, perhaps better than the market rate for the business but you’re paying out the profits of the business or some other piece of upside for them. It’s not like you’re taking advantage of them. You’re giving them a good out. You then say, “Here’s my offer. Go see if you can find one better. If you can’t find one better by this date. Let’s do my deal.” You can pretty much leave it on the table and you’d be surprised how often they come back to that table.
For anyone reading, from your perspective as a buyer, you always have to be ready to walk away from any deal when there’s no emotion.
The best deals you’ll have to deal with are the ones you walk away from.
That’s phenomenal. That’s a mic drop right there. Let’s talk a little bit about The Harbour Club. What is The Harbour Club?
Many years ago, back when I did that telecoms deal, I did a bunch of deals after that and I started to get a reputation for doing these deals without any money down. Particularly when I would buy somebody’s competitor and they find out I didn’t pay anything upfront for it. For example, I bought this seminar company that was doing £3.5 million in revenue. They were up for sale for £300,000. Pretty much everyone else in their industry turned them down.
How much revenue are they doing?
£3.5 million. That’s about $5 million.
They were asking £300,000 for it?
They were asking £300,000 for the business.
That’s razor-thin margins.
The business was a little bit fucked. They owed one of the key speakers $500,000 and he was going to sue them. This was in December 2020 and they sold loads of tickets to an event in February of 2021 where he was the speaker. They’d sold the tickets, they had the money, they spent the money and the guy was saying, “I’m not turning up unless you pay me.” They were running around the industry trying to sell it for £300,000 for somebody that would then pick up the pieces with this guy. Everyone else in the industry said no and I bought it for £1. I went to the guy and said, “I’m not them. Let’s work this out. If we can’t work this out and we don’t turn up in February, the whole thing goes into liquidation tomorrow.” He agreed to turn up and we were back off to the races again.
I was getting that reputation so all of those competitors were like, “How did you do that? Tell us how you did that. I would have bought it for £1. I didn’t buy it for £300,000 but I would have bought it for £1.” Everyone kept offering me consultancy or becoming a non-exec for them or something. I couldn’t think why I would want to do that. It didn’t make any sense to me. It’s selling time for money which is what I always advise people not to do.
That’s horrible. You reach your bandwidth capacity fast.
I kept turning him down. When I bought that seminar company, I realized, “I could do a seminar.” All those people that want me to do consulting, I could say, “Do my program instead.” I’ve done loads of those programs myself. I was always frustrated with the fact that they didn’t do what they promised you. The content was thin and it was all about the upsell. They’re always trying to get you into the mentoring gold, platinum or diamond partner program, run to the back of the room, and all that crap.
I thought, “I’m going to do one of those. I’m going to do a seminar but I’m not going to have any of that shit. I’m going to give them all of the content in one go, even if it’s a firehose of information. They’re relentless and hate me afterward. I give everything to them in one go, and then I’m going to provide all the mentoring, follow-up, masterminds, all that stuff included, and we’ll make a community of people. I honestly did it to get rid of people. I honestly did it to stop people from calling me and asking me how I did stuff. I thought it was a great way to monetize those introductions.
I started in 2009 and I did more deals than I’ve done in any year previously. There was a financial crisis, which helped but I noticed that all of those deals were coming from people that have come through The Harbour Club. In 2010 and 2011, we started to take it a little bit more seriously. Now it’s the largest global community of M&A professionals. We’ve got a great reputation. We’re regularly in the US, the UK and Australia but we cover all the other countries in between. We’ve got loads of delegates in Canada, mainland Europe and Southeast Asia. They’re actively doing deals.
We’re a mergers and acquisitions group and we’re always publishing people who bought companies or deals that were done. In 2020, we published the exits that people did. It was the end of December 2019 and the beginning of January 2020 before the pandemic started, I was sitting on a flight back from Los Angeles and I recorded this video where I said, “My goal next year is to make 50 new millionaires. I want to make 50 people into millionaires.” You don’t make money running businesses, you make money when you sell them so it’s going to come from people in my community, selling businesses for 6 or 7-figure amounts, and the pandemic happened. We’re a buyer’s market, not a seller’s market, but we got the results back and it’s 31 new millionaires that we created. We did pretty well.
We’ve got everybody’s names but if you publish everybody’s names, they’re going to get besieged online by begging letters and everybody else. We’ve got PKF, which is the fourteenth largest audit firm in the whole world, to check all of the sales and purchase agreements, bank statements, documents and everything like that. Give us a letter with their stamp on it saying, “We’ve verified all of these details so we can then block out the names. We’re going to publish that report. It’s awesome that the smallest number is six figures. The highest one is $19 million. It’s everything in between, there’s a whole bunch around the $1 million, $2 million to $3 million mark that have all come from the methodologies used in The Harbour Club. It’s awesome.
That’s incredible. You made 31 new millionaires in 2020. I know it’s around 1,000 members now in The Harbour Club.
I would say about 1,500, active members. More people than that have been through the program. People do it for different reasons. Some people are professionals who want to understand the other side of the table and some people are intellectual on it. They want to learn how it’s done. Some people are looking for credits for their continuous professional development and have no intention of using it. You get a whole bunch of super active people in the community who are sharing ideas, doing deals and working together.
That’s phenomenal. I would assume you’re still growing in size. Is that where you’re at?
We get new joiners every month. The way it works is you get the onboarding, which is this three-day baptism of fire of information. There’s then a twelve-week accountability group that you join, which helps you get up to speed and get stuff moving. I’m available to them all the time. We have an iOS and Android app that they join. Everybody’s active and they’re sharing videos, posts and announcing deals, looking for joint venture partners and stuff like that. It’s got a grinder function as well like, “Find my nearest Harbour Club,” so people can meet up.
Can you give some examples of some bad advice some other entrepreneur gurus give? You and I coach and we’ve also been coached throughout that, but we’ve also had our share of bad advice given us. Can you give examples of some of these other entrepreneur gurus? Because you can go on Instagram and do a quick search and find a lot of them in parking lots taking a photo of themselves in front of somebody else’s Lambo to get the status shot or whatever.
In my industry, this buying and selling companies thing, we had virgin territory in 2009. There wasn’t anybody else doing how to buy companies with no money down. There were a few guys doing the leveraged buyout structure. If you type leverage buyers into Amazon, you find 380 books on the topic, it’s not directly breaking news so it has been easy to learn that. The stuff that we do is a little bit more creative and different. There was nobody else doing it but now, everybody’s jumped into it.
The FTC in the US clamped down on all the dodgy real estate guys. A lot of them jumped into doing business because being a B2B doesn’t come under so much scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission so they’ve jumped into that area. Everybody’s talking similar messages to us. Everybody says that theirs is the only one that works, that’s got this, that and everything else.
The first thing I would say to anybody that’s reading is to look at the person who is delivering the content. Have they got a twenty-year career in buying and selling businesses? They will say they have so you do have to research this. Have they got a twenty-year career of selling seminars? If all of their businesses have been selling seminars in lots of different industries, you can be fairly sure they’re just a dude that sells seminars. If all you can find online about them are deals being announced and stuff that they’ve done and them ringing the stock market bell or whatever, that’s possibly somebody that you should listen to. That would be the first thing I would say.
Advice-wise, I get some shocking stuff and sometimes legal stuff. There’s a guy running around. Unfortunately, years ago he was a student of mine and suddenly became a veteran of the M&A world and launched a seminar. He’s running around telling people to buy a company, borrow a load of money in the company to leverage it and pay themselves a deal fee. Take a chunk of that money out of the company for you personally. If you’re buying a small business, it’s a volatile asset. Leveraging against a small business is not the smartest idea. Taking money out, if that thing goes bust, you’ll be struck off from being a director of a company for probably about fifteen years.
That’s where I want to be.
You have $20,000 but you managed to take out the bank account. He has either looked at a real estate deal where they refinance and take money out of the real estate deal and thought, “That would work for business. I’m a genius,” or he has looked at one of those private equity deals. In private equity, they often pay themselves a deal fee but they’re doing $500 million deals. It’s not the same as buying an air conditioning company in Idaho. It’s a different beast. There is some terrible advice out there.
Another one that those seminars always do is the “anyone can do it” thing. Sure, anyone can do it but they play down how difficult an area this is to learn about. You can do as many seminars and read as many books about it as you like but nothing is going to prepare you for doing it. Any course or anything you do, you’ve got to be prepared to go out and speak to some entrepreneurs and try and close some deals. That’s where all the learning is going to happen. The learning is not going to happen in the course, in the book or chatting to me endlessly. It’s going to come from sitting down with an entrepreneur and trying to get them to sell you their company.
That’s the forever student. I’ve seen this for the longest time because I don’t have a formal coaching program that exists now, but that was one of the things that I saw. It’s all of these coaching program junkies that exist to where they bounce from seminar to seminar and buy up everybody else’s program but never take any action.
This is why we have a high price point and we don’t upsell. Everything is all in one. That gets rid of a lot of the get rich quick guys and seminar junkies because they want to do the $99 program and be sold the $12,500 program. It’s in their DNA. We take all of that away. What those other seminar companies do is you will never feel ready. You’ve got to start before you’re ready. That’s human nature. You’re never ready for anything. You have to go for it. That’s where the normal training companies prey on people’s fear and sell them that next thing, “You don’t feel ready but you’ll be ready after you do our Diamond, Gold, Platinum Program.”
That’s the secret sauce. You will never ever be completely ready for anything that you’re ever going to jump into. You have to suck it up and do it because you’ll figure it out along the way.
Start before you’re ready.
One of the pieces of bad advice that I saw was this one of these entrepreneur gurus of this mastermind that I’m a part of. They brought him on. He’s going through the office and he’s like, “Here’s why we have to do.” This was in April or May and it was doom and gloom. You thought the world was ending man and a lot of people did around that time to be fair but everything was like, “Don’t do deals. Save all your cash. Pull back.” I was like, “This is the most depressing thing I’ve ever watched.” If I didn’t dive in three-fold from what I was doing before, I wouldn’t have an IPO coming up in the next few months. I would have sat and waited, watched and observed. The timing is now. Here’s the real secret and I’m sure you know this, Jeremy. The timing is always now. It’s never to sit back and do nothing.
I have a bit of pandemic guilt because the pandemic broke out, everybody’s locked at home. I was with my family traveling and we were jumping from country to country that didn’t have a lockdown. We’re lucky we have our own airplane. We have disposable money so we could keep moving. We ended up in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and bought a house in the marina in December 2020. We’ve been here since December because it’s open. In the summer, we were in Turkey, Montenegro, Ukraine, Spain and Austria. We kept moving around from place to place. Every time one locked down, we would figure out what was open and go fly there. I’m glad that I was able to do that for my family and myself as well.
The great thing about doing deals is you do it on Zoom. I don’t care if I do them on Zoom in Ukraine, Dubai, Singapore or wherever. That the ultimate freedom of doing deals suddenly gives you. It is fantastic. I feel a bit guilty because I can see that the hiring time some people have been through and particularly businesses. What’s happened to businesses has been so arbitrary. You’ve got some businesses that are wiped out because of it and others that are booming because of that. Everybody was like Thanos snapping his fingers and half of them disappear.
For no apparent reason. It was like this random thing, “This one doesn’t look good so I’ll choose them because I don’t feel like going out to dinner for the next three months” or whatever.
It was the weirdest. I’ve been through a lot of recessions because I’ve been in business since I was crawling. I remember the 1987 crisis, the ‘92 crisis, the debt crisis, the European crash, the dot-com crash, 9/11 and all of those things that had a big impact on business. This is the first time I can think of when we decided to switch off the economy. If you think about it, we had ten years of stagnating growth. It was quite slow growth for the last ten years but it was growth. We were moving forward, and as it looked like it was picking up, they switched the whole thing off. It’s the weirdest thing ever.
In my daily discover from the Wall Street Journal, I was looking at how the analysts are now expecting the economy to grow in the US by about 6.4% in 2021. They said that was the previous target that they were looking at for 3.7%. I’m looking at it like, “What is that relative to? Is that relative to 2020?” It’s exciting.
It’s a low baseline.
That was my thought. It was like looking over the past decades, we were edging up year over year ever since 2007 and 2008 and now we had this huge plummet. Now, they’re saying 6.7%. That’s great. We can keep moving forward again.
I had $1 in my bank account and I’ve now got $1,000. Isn’t that amazing?
No doubt. That’s incredible. I appreciate you. I look up to you and I admire you in what you’re saying now. I see where you’re at and hopefully, that’s where I’m going to be in the next couple of years. This overwhelming thought kept coming into my head because you’ve been at this for a long time at this point. I’ve been at this for maybe about half that period of time. I still have some ways to go before I’m able to have my own jet, but that’s the plan because even with the public company board, I’m like, “This is what I need.” “That’s what you need, Rick, because of time. Anything else that protects your time or if it’s an income-producing asset, go for it. We don’t care what you do.” I’m like, “Great, that’s awesome.” That’s still a couple of years away from me but I see this time span that you’ve had. What I feel everybody forgets when they see us and this is bookending, there have been a lot of losses along both of our paths so far and I know I’m still going to experience more coming up in the future. There are way more lessons in the losses than there are the wins. That’s the only way that we can keep moving up.
It takes a lot longer than you think. Everything you think you can achieve in a year takes ten years. Don’t let that slow you down. Still make one-year plans. It might take ten years to live them. Also, focus on asymmetric risks. The thing I love about buying businesses that are limited in liability is that if you can get in for $0 and you have the potential of upside, the downside is protected and you only have room for upside. Where I made most of my mistakes in the past was taking too much risk. As an entrepreneur, every deal I did, I bet the farm, personal guarantees, borrowing money and all of those things. That’s always where I came on stuck. Now, I always focus on asymmetric risks. What can I do to cover the downsides and only leave room for upside? That’s the game-changer because then you can lose 100 times and win once and still be in front.
What do you believe are the lessons that Generation X, Y and Z have to learn now? There’s this impending depression that we feel is here. We know that the economy is still ticking up. Let’s be real. There’s a greater separation of classes so even though the economy overall is ticking up, I can see anyway that there’s a greater separation of income classes that’s taking place because there are those that are jumping on and can see these things. How do you make that leap for Gen X, Y and Z over to the classic and continue to accelerate?
Salary is like heroin. Everybody used to have a job because that was the secure form of income. It’s no more secure than fending for yourself so take self-responsibility in whatever you do. You’re responsible and it comes down to you whether it’s good or bad. The Italians have the expression, “The fish stinks from the head down.” It does come from you. Taking that self-responsibility is important. You’re not relying on a government, parents or anyone else for handouts. Make sure that you’ve got yourself sorted.
If you’re one of the people that when you came into the pandemic, three weeks in you’ve run out of money or you’re scraping around, you should take that as a positive. That should be a wake-up call. That should be a great lesson for you to make sure that you’re never in that position ever again. Go out and learn the tools that you need to go and make sure that doesn’t happen again. Start a business or buy a business. Get into running your own thing because that’s the only true way to build significant satisfaction with your life as well as that financial independence.
Success is not a destination. It’s a journey. It’s about constant progression. Learning is the key to that constant progression. You’ve got to feel every week you knew something you didn’t know last week. You’ve got to keep moving forward. A lot of that is getting lost and too many people are getting sucked into politics, blame and all sorts of other things. They see somebody get to the top of the tree and they start throwing stones. They should get ladders and figure out how they get up there. Instead of getting envious and bitter about it, it’s trying to figure out what they did and how you can learn to do that.
That’s awesome. Thank you. It’s JeremyHarbour.com where everyone can find you. Jeremy Harbour dropping the mic. Thank you for being on. I appreciate you.
Much appreciated. Thank you for having me.