Hello everybody, Recently I started this thing where I interview and feature groups, individuals and entrepreneurs with motivational stories and intriguing ideas on my blog, I try to share their background and history with hopes that you might pick up a thing or two from their experiences. This time I focused on Samuel Bruni. Sam is a clear definition of a fighter, he is a cancer survivor, and at some point in his life he was faced with a severe back injury that warranted his disc removal and his spine re-fused all in the same year, to crown it all, he lost his memory. Rather too much agony for one man huh? Here’s a little insight on how he tackled his situation and resurfaced the successful entrepreneur and urbane leader that he is today. For easy distinction, my words/questions are written in bold and his italics .
Sam Bruni, Husband and father of 5 kids. I had my first kid when I was 22, so I had to grow up quick and figure out how to provide for my family. I was always entrepreneurial my wholeI life, but once I had a baby coming I needed benefits and a steady pay check. I took on a daytime job working in call centers, doing sales and service jobs. I found out very quickly that I was a natural leader and was excelling quicker at my day time job than any of my startup ideas, I spent the next several years building businesses and teams for fortune 500 companies such as AT&T, Sprint, Dish Network, Direct TV, Bank of New York, Pennsylvania Power & Light etc. I became very employee-centric from those early years in my career which spanned almost 13 years. In the end, by the time I was 30, I estimate that I probably interviewed and hired almost 3,000 people.
The second half of my career, I became much more customer-centric moving away from operations and focusing more on marketing, and what we call the “customer experience” which is the front-end interactions customers have with an application. That change happened in 2008 when a friend of mine told me to read “the Innovators Dilemma”. He happened to be friends with Clay Christensen the author of the book. He challenged me to build a business following the principles in Clay’s book. I broke off a part of the startup I was building (Backcountry.com), and built a business within a business that we grew to almost 100 million in revenue over the course of five years. Since 2008, I’ve been a GM, CMO, CEO and have done countless startups throughout my career.
This was the most anticipated part of the interview for me, Remember I told you earlier that Samuel was a cancer patient? Turns out that wasn’t his only setback at the time, here’s what actually happened and how it dealt him.
It wasn’t just the cancer I got in 2014, it was everything. I had actually broken my back and needed to get my discs removed, and my spine fused in January of 2014. At the time, I was the CEO of a very fast growing business (40% growth YOY), that the board had asked me to take to market for an acquisition. Then in August I was diagnosed with cancer. It was just a lot to deal with in one year. The surgery wasn’t bad, but the chemo afterwards was, it wrecked me, I had very little energy and I lost my memory. My memory hasn’t come back all the way, but it has improved. It really wasn’t until this year (2016) that I started to noticeably feel better physically and mentally.
After downing all that, you bet my follow up question was “how did you survive all that” and remained focused? Because personally I still find myself pushing a door that clearly says pull, and never want to show my face in public again because of the embarrassment. So what was your turning point, I mean where did you find the right attitude to tackle your severe situation?
I have a strong support system at home, and I’m by nature a very optimistic and upbeat person. It was never an option to let my five kids see that I had any doubts. I maintained a positive attitude the whole time. I had my family, and 55 employees counting on me.
Just to be clear, Being an “upbeat” person means to never give up or stay down no matter what the world throws at you, it means to keep on striving and going hard, a popular quote is “fall down seven times and get up eight”. Another aspect that should not be eluded or taking for granted is your family, you might not have five kids like Mr. Sam or 55 employees, but you have family, it could be your close friends or anybody that motivates you to keep going and never back down, it could be your gardener or janitor, that’s how God works you see, in mysterious ways. Most importantly, you must have the right attitude, I guarantee you, you could have all the motivation in the world but ultimately how positive your attitude is’ is what determines everything, you might be face to face with hell right now but I guarantee you it’s just a phase, it’ll pass, just stay positive and you will triumph.
what captivated me about Mr. Sam was his motivational spirit, he is one of those people that can pep talk a d-league basketball team to win an NBA championship, so, I asked for a brief motivational talk for people like us, having difficulties right now, trying to find our way in the world, putting in effort to make a change but going unnoticed, falling face flat every time you give it your all but it don’t work out and you consider giving up, maybe you should take a pause and listen to this first!
I’ve had obstacles in my life since the day I was born, literally. I was born almost two months premature, my Dad had severe cancer when I was a teenager, my Mom struggled with depression off and on most time of my life, I was diagnosed with ADHD in the 80’s (before it was popular), and Dyslexia later in my life. Like many, the many people who might read this, I can go on and on about the obstacles. The most important thing to remember is, somebody else has it worse off than you. So every time you make excuses about your circumstances or your lack of success and want to give yourself a pity party, you are just wasting your own time. Stay mentally strong, surround yourself with a strong support network (this might mean eliminating friends and family), and put the time in. If you think you can blame others for your lack of success, then you need to start there, and realize you can only blame yourself.
Everybody probably thinking “easier said than done” I know, I think that too. I hear a lot of people talk about how you should quit complaining and start working, how you should go out and get working like there’s a job outside waiting for you to grab it, How you should start small and utilize the little you have meanwhile you know you don’t even have as little as a mustard seed. And the most popular quote all over the internet is “if you fail, try, try, try again” but I always think to myself, “I’m not a robot”, I’m human, I get tired and downcast whenever I fail, I end up just wanting to give up anytime I fail to succeed at something, How do you go about that??
I don’t actually believe most people are failing. I think most people have set backs or probably things didn’t go the way they had planned. Failure to me is when you lose everything and you are literally without e.g. money, job, home etc. And perhaps never recover, that to me is a failure. By that definition, I have not failed in my life. I think people are too hard on themselves, and should stop using the word “failure” sadly it has become a popular cool thing to say online. You have to be willing to make mistakes, risk losing time and money to get something to work. However, all the things that didn’t work don’t make you a failure, it is just part of the refining process. Here’s some of what I’ve learned mentoring and consulting people. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but I hope it resonates.
I find a lot of people start off conversations with this idea that they want to do something great for life and humanity, but by the end of the call, I know they really just want to make money. If you are one of these people, you need to come to terms with it. You’re lying to yourself, and wasting time trying to be and do something that isn’t real. If you want to do something for humanity, there are lots of ways to do that without bringing it into your day to day work life and goals. Just say you want to make money, you can be charitable in other ways.
You have to teach yourself. Technology is moving so quickly, you don’t learn it in school, you have to teach yourself to stay relevant. I did not wake up an expert in e-commerce or digital marketing. I teach myself constantly. Example, anyone who has done Facebook advertising since the beginning, has had to go through some crazy times as they tried to figure out their ad platform. They changed it several times, and each time we had to re-teach ourselves how to use it. What was one day was not the next. So people ask me how I learned to do marketing, and it was through hard work and constantly learning.
I believe almost everyone who wants to be an entrepreneur in this day and age, needs to learn how to do marketing. You can start by marketing yourself.
Don’t over invest in ideas. Get your ideas out their quickly, push them out to friends and family, go to a mall and talk to people or whatever you need to do, and get the necessary feedback to iterate on your ideas.
Don’t guard your ideas. This was something I learned early on, you think you have this amazing idea that you need to guard, and so you don’t share it. Ultimately it goes nowhere and you watch somebody else do it.
Surround yourself with people who like your idea and build it together. It is hard to do it alone and move quickly or have the money to succeed.
If you’re doing something in tech, don’t over invest. I use wordpress for almost all my proofs of concept nowadays. There is not much you can’t do on that platform for testing, and for the most part you can teach yourself how to do it if you are not super tech savvy.
Find a mentor. I think this is crucial. I’ve had the luck of getting to work with some great people in my career, many of which I learned from by watching them, not by asking them lots of questions. You can find mentors all over, some of which will communicate back to you.
There is so much BS online about how to build a business, market a business, launch a website etc. These guys make their money by selling you their products. Don’t buy them. There are no shortcuts to success, you have to put the time in to learn. If you’re not willing to do that, then you will fail no matter whose program you take. Buy a book, read a blog, but don’t pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to people that will bring you no real value.
Now I will contradict the above. Sometimes people succeed when they invest in overpriced programs because they put money on the line. Their wife is watching, family, brother, sister etc. to see what they do with that program and so they bust their ass not to fail. If this is what you need to succeed, then by all means do it. Publicize your purchase, and put your ass on the line. I would say though, you’re better off taking that money and marketing your concept or paying for real help you need.
You’ve heard it all, preferably you’ve seen it all, it is very necessary that we don’t look down on ourselves or believe that our situation is unique or worse off than others, always remember “there are people who have it worse than you do” and they are still achieving, I love to make reference to Nick Vujicic the author of “Life Without Limits” who was born with no limbs, yes! Absolutely no limbs but he’s now living an exemplified life, spreading positivity round the world. I think it’s high time we start to see our disadvantages as our advantage, see it as the necessary lesson or course you have to take to prepare you mentally and physically for the mission God has set ahead of you. Most of us if faced with setbacks of this sort will probably spend the whole day on bed, accept defeat and say I just can’t do it, maybe it’s not for me, I’ll try tomorrow, get rid of procrastination, never accept defeat and as Sam said and “have an unbeat attitude”.
Thank you so much for reading this episode of the interview! feel free to drop your comments, suggestions, ideas and or inquiries, and don’t forget to subscribe to get frequent updates and email notifications on new posts and promotional offers. Thank you again, Now go excel!:D