A successful business owner knows where they want their business to go. They have a great image of what the outcome is. Unfortunately, not many plan with the end in mind and just drive their business according to what others think. Aaron Young, the Chairman/CEO of Laughlin Associates,discusses why you should never abdicate your own power in your business to others or they will represent you right into poverty. As someone with years of extensive experience building companies, Aaron has become very well-versed with creating a business that works harder for the business owner than the reverse. Aaron shares great insights and imparts the kind of mindset – as well as mentors – to have so you can achieve success in the future.
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Aaron Young on Why You Should Never Abdicate Your Power In Business
I wanted to welcome you again to another great day. In life, we have mentors and coaches. It’s important to know the simple differences of coaching someone who kicks you behind and gets you moving in a direction you need to go. They don’t even need to know about your business. Just make sure you stay on track. A mentor is someone who is already where you want to be. It could be in your business, it could be in another business, but they understand the mechanism to get you there. They also might have the lifestyle that you want. It might be a mentor around lifestyle and it might be a mentor around health. It’s important to have mentors and that’s why you’re here. We have both. We do have mentors and coaches.
The next gentleman I’m about to bring on is one of my mentors. He’s somebody that I greatly respect in what he’s created and built, but makes it simple. It’s not so much easy in business to get going, especially for those of you in entertainment or you’re creating your own business, it’s network marketing or in whatever field you’re in. Whatever it might be for you, it’s still creating that business side, so you’re protected. You also have a flow and you understand where you’re going next. This next gentleman has done tremendously well in this field. He talks all around the world and he’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever known. I’d like to introduce to everyone the most amazing, Aaron Young. Aaron, how are you?
It’s great to be here. It’s great to be part of this.
It’s awesome to have you part of it. For the audience that doesn’t know who you are yet, you will get to know him, especially for those of you who join us at the studio. Aaron is going to be one of our faculty members. You’re going to learn from him over the years to come, which is amazing. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I started my first company before my nineteenth birthday. I was one of the first guys in the recycling business up in Portland, Oregon. It’s a very green city and we ended up in short order about 5,000 monthly clients. I then sold that business. I was one of the first guys in the cellular phone industry back in 1986 and we ended up with multiple stores all around the greater Portland area. I then progressed through a number of businesses. I started and occasionally bought companies, built them up, sold them or merged them into other things I was doing. I’ve been doing that for a long time. It must be about 36 years. I did have one job during that time, Michael. For three years, I was the vice president of sales for a relatively large publicly traded multinational company in the financial services industry.
I was one of the three vice presidents. It has 350 locations around the world. That was my only job. Otherwise, I’ve always been writing my own checks and we’ve had a lot of fun. The thing that’s been great though is that not only have we had financial success in our business work, but I’ve learned over the years how to build companies that can operate even if I’m not there. In other words, a business that works harder for me than I have to work for the business. That has made it possible for me to be super involved with our kids. We have four great kids. Two of them are married now. We have three grandkids. I’ve got my wife of now 31 years and we get to go and do and have fun and do things like this. It’s been wonderful to be entrepreneurial but not just be a slave to the company. I build businesses that support me and my goals and the charitable work that we want to do and so on. I’ve learned that if somebody will pay attention to the fundamentals, get out of startup mode and get into owner mode, they can build successful companies and have a fun and big life. That’s what I’ve spent my time doing.
You brought up a great piece too because it’s about lifestyle, in a way. It’s the lifestyle that you’re creating. For those of you who are in any business, especially if you’re on entertainment and you’re starting out as an actor, the goal in mind is to not only do what you do but to create the passive and residual incomes around you so you can do the thing that you love and you don’t have to think about, “Where’s my next job?”
Then you’re always working in the business instead of working on the business. In the entertainment field, massage therapist or whatever you are in the world, you always look at what’s that residual piece and creating a strategy. That’s the other thing. Aaron is brilliant in creating this strategy. Aaron, sometimes when we build businesses, what happens is people just look at today. We find it’s much better to look at the end result or what do you want to create or the end in mind. Starting with the end in mind, what is your approach or what is something that you learned that keeps you going no matter what?A mentor is someone who is already where you want to be. Click To Tweet
My primary business, Laughlin Associates, have tens of thousands of business owner clients. We’ve helped over 200,000 companies grow and turn into something. The biggest problem that I see business owners making is that they treat their business as a glorified job. In other words, they’re thinking about, “How can I sell something? How can I deliver on what I sold? How can I make enough money to pay my bills? How can I make a little bit more money so I can go on a little bit better vacation or buy a better car?” Instead of looking at it as, “What can I do with this thing that I’ve hung up my sign and said I’m in my own business? What can we turn it into?” Most of them are acting as if they’re self-employed and not like they’re business owners.
If you’re a business owner, then you’re naturally going to be saying, “We’re going somewhere with this business.” Anybody that’s ever done anything with outside investor money knows that your investors and your board of directors expects you to have an outcome in mind. Most closely-held businesses don’t ever do that. They’re just working to work. They’re on the hamster wheel running and going nowhere. What keeps me going is that we always have fairly lofty and sometimes slightly scary goals that we’re working on. They’re the kind of goals that you have to become a slightly different person in order to achieve them, which means I’m growing, I’m learning, I’m meeting with new kinds of partners, new kinds of affiliates, new kinds of customers, putting in new technology and growing towards a specific outcome.
You get focused on the outcome, which is the finish line. You can explain what the finish line is instead of saying, “We’re a plumbing company.” You mentioned multilevel marketing and you mentioned actors. One of the problems with the people in those kinds of fields have is that they don’t ever build a team that’s their team. They might hire people to be a manager or a booking agent, but they give up their will to that person and they let that person drive their career. You should never abdicate your own power in your business. Never give up the reigns because they will manage you and represent you right into poverty. You have to get some sense of where you are going and then ask those people that you’ve engaged to that are skilled in ways you’re not. Ask them, “How is what I’m doing moving me towards the outcome that I want?” That’s how you’ll end up building a business and a brand and not just get some work and make some money and hope that people still care about you in eighteen months.
Become the captain of your own ship. Augment your strengths with the strengths of other people. If you’re great at artistic stuff, you better get a good numbers person around you. If you’re great at numbers, you better get somebody who’s creative around you. Never abdicate the vision of that outcome that you want because how you’ll get wealthy is if you keep moving toward a specific result that you want. That’s a long answer, but that’s what keeps me going. I get excited about hitting milestones and growing companies. If it was just about the money, the money is a good indicator but what’s more fun is accomplishing stuff. I promise you there’s a lot of stuff I do that I make money at that’s getting boring to do. I’m always looking for some new thing to make my life more interesting. Happily, I’m in a position I get to pick and choose what I do.
That’s a great point because there’s that tendency that you get these blinders on. There is a point that it’s going to become monotonous. Even if you love your craft or your art or whatever that is, it’s still creating the people around you because you’re shooting for that lifestyle. Make sure you know where you’re going because it’s so easy to get bumped off the road. That’s one of the most important points in any business. I want everybody to realize that whatever you’re doing, you’re in business. Isn’t that the hardest part of getting that mindset clicked over?
I’ll speak to real estate investors and they’re still working a W2 job, but they’ve got an IRA or a self-directed 401(k) and they’re in real estate investment. They don’t think of themselves as business owners. I said, “Are you engaging with the public? Are you collecting money? Do you have obligations to meet? Do you have a responsibility to other people besides yourself?” They’re like, “Yeah.” I said, “You’re in business. You’d better start acting that you’re in business.” If somebody is an actor, they’re getting roles, they’re showing up, they’re doing their thing and they’re getting paid whatever they’re getting paid to do it, that’s just a tiny part of what could be their income. The more notoriety they have, the more likely they have opportunities to do things to leverage their image, leverage their voice on social media and make advertising money for that. The more likely to endorse other things or to go and give a talk and get paid to give a talk.
If you think about your career as leveraging a brand and not doing the work, then you have the chance to get wealthy. That’s why we see some people that have made gigantic fortunes in entertainment who are not people that you think of as being that big of a deal. Judge Judy is a good example of somebody who’s wildly successful. She’s one of the wealthiest people in entertainment, but she’s got this like, “Come in and talk about your little claim and let’s have some drama in my fake courtroom.” Yet, she’s a juggernaut. Figure out how to leverage. If you make great cupcakes or great landscape design or you’re a plumbing company or an actor or you’re selling things in direct sales, it doesn’t matter. Figure out, “How are we building a brand? How am I building a team so I’m not the most important person in the company?”
Those of us who are A-type personalities or those of us who have been successful, we’ve learned a long time ago to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.Never give up the reigns of your business to others because they will manage you and represent you right into poverty. Click To Tweet
Henry Ford was the ninth wealthiest person ever to live on the planet. He had seven failed businesses before Ford Motor Company and he was so successful. The government brought him in to say, “There’s no way you could be this rich because you’re so dumb.” After days of grilling, he slammed his hand down on the witness stand and he said, “I’m not the smartest, but I surround myself with competent people.” I thought, “What a brilliant statement.” You don’t have to be the smartest, you just have to be the leader amongst a bunch of very competent people, and you can do magic.
I use his quotes in some of the stage work I do. What happens is people get into failure or challenges or obstacles. Things come up for them. We always say there’s no failure. It’s only feedback. Sometimes when you’re in that moment, it feels like crud, which is why you surround yourself with that brilliance, those people and those coaches. People kick you out of it sometimes. It’s not all, “It’s great all the time.” Let’s be honest. It’s not about that. It’s about getting through. Sometimes when you feel that way, go help somebody else. Go make a difference for somebody else. That brings you out. Are there any challenges and failures in your own life? Is there something you’ve gone through and how you got over it?
If I go to give a talk or if people want to work with me or have me on their board or whatever, my resume looks so beautiful. I look like I’ve lived this charmed life. The reality is that in my twenties, after building a very successful business in cellular phones, the carrier that we worked with changed all the rules one day. With one meeting effective this minute, everything is changed. I was so young and so stupid and so inexperienced that I thought because I was one of the bigger players that I could outsmart this big company, which was called GT Mobile and now called Sprint. I put up all my resources against these guys trying to keep business as usual. I ended up losing everything and sitting in bankruptcy court at the age of 28. I have hundreds of thousands upside down, my wife is nine months pregnant with our second child, and we’re turning in the cars to the bank and all that stuff.
That was a time when I was down and I never felt poor, but I felt broke. I had to figure out how to take care of my family. I knew that I wasn’t beaten, but I was down. One way to overcome those things is to keep your eye on the long-term goal. I’ve had health challenges in my life, I’ve had that business failure, but I also had a big battle with the federal government, which ended in me giving up and going to prison. I went to federal prison and spent fourteen months and one week in federal prison not for something I’d done specifically. They said I should have known what one of our vendors was doing. I didn’t know you could get in trouble for that, but you can. The good news about that was as hard as that was and as demoralizing and dehumanizing and as much as a horrible situation as it was, the systems that we built before that bad fight worked the whole time I was gone.
The year that I was in prison, my family take-home pay was almost $1 million. Knowing that you have the right team in place and the right systems in place, the system will keep working while you deal with that parent who has Alzheimer’s, or you deal with that child who’s in ICU or the Ronald McDonald House, or you deal with that broken back that you got because you were skiing, whatever it is. You’ve built a safety net around you even when you can’t be there. That’s another thing that gets me through challenging times. It’s knowing that no matter what happens, we’re not going to be ruined. That peace of mind only comes from doing very intentional work to organize yourself and prepare every needful thing so that you’ve got your life in order.
It makes a big difference because we’re doing it for the lifestyle. For those of us who have families, we’re doing it for our family or those around us. It does take a big burden off, but we’ve all lived on the other side. That was great. Thank you for that. Take to heart what Aaron said and see if you have those things set up. If not, that’s why you’re here. Even when you have them set up, you always need mentors. Aaron and I always have our own mentors and that will never stop because there’s always something else to learn.
Surround yourself with competent people. No matter how much success you’ve achieved in your life, successful people are always looking to the horizon. They’re saying, “I’ve gotten here, what else could I do? How much more could I stretch? That means I need to find a new guide to get up this new mountain phase.” You’ll find that the wealthiest and most successful people have people that they’re plugged into to help guide them up to the mountain top.
Aaron, thank you so much. What is one last thing you could leave the audience, maybe even give them the assignment to do? Give them one thing they could do that will help start them moving down the path before they get to know us better.You don't have to be the smartest. You just have to be the leader among a bunch of very competent people and you can do magic. Click To Tweet
Let me tell you first what I ask people when I go into them. I say, “What are you great at and what do you suck at? Let’s be honest.” Once we know what you’re great at, that’s your superpower. I’ll say, “Let’s evaluate who you’re bringing around you to augment that.” That’s step one. If you could look three years into the future and describe your business working perfectly, the way you’ve always dreamed and you don’t get hung up on how you got from where you are to where you’re going to go, don’t worry about the path. Just say, “What would it look like if it was perfect?” I encourage you to write that down. No more than one. If you need to go two pages handwritten, that’s fine, but one page is better.
Write it as if you’re reading a great novel that explains in beautiful detail what it’s like. You get up in the morning, your feet hit the floor and here’s what happens in your day. Get clear on the outcome that you want to achieve. I guarantee you, if you write that down and you read it before you go to bed every night, your subconscious will work on it. You’ll get to it much faster than you could’ve ever imagined. You’ll be amazed at things that seem impossible right now how fast they come to you when you get clear on the specific result you want. Write it down and read it every night.
Aaron, thank you so much. This was great. I took notes. It was great because of the way you explain things very clear and very succinct. For our audience, just get it done. You’re going to hear a lot more from Aaron. Hopefully you’ll join us and be part of the team. We are going to bring all the greatest to you and access to people you normally wouldn’t be able to talk to even just a Q&A session. I wanted to thank you, Aaron, for being on the show. For those of you reading this, wherever you are in the world, thank you again for the greatness that you bring to us. We treat everybody as a team because we’re all working this together to create a lifestyle on this planet. Aaron, thank you very much.
Wherever you are in the world, have a great day. This is Michael Silvers from The Mentor Studio. Aaron, have a great day.
About Aaron Young
Aaron Young, is a lifelong entrepreneur, trusted advisor to CEOs and business owners and creator of The Unshackled Owner a program for entrepreneurs looking to build a business and not just a glorified job.
Aaron is Chairman/CEO of Laughlin Associates, a 44-year-old company that has helped over 100,000 entrepreneurs start, grow and profit from their business. This has given Aaron an ideal vantage point to observe common mistakes and successes in businesses from Main Street to America’s largest yacht broker from medical professionals to manufacturers to investors. For over 34 years, his experience founding, acquiring and directing multi-million dollar businesses as well as working as an officer for a publicly traded, multi-national, sets him apart from the crowd as a voice of real-world knowledge and authority.