Ascent Podcast Ep. 2 – Michael Dermer, Founder @ The Lonely Entrepreneur

Drew Tarvin [00:00:01] All right, well, hello, hello, everyone, to the podcast, a live video conversation where we get to know the human behind some of the top leaders in entrepreneurship and tech today. My name is Amitav and I am your host and emcee for the day. And I’m particularly excited about who were chatting with. Coming up in just a moment, we’ll be talking to Michael Dermer, who is the founder and lonely entrepreneur, dotcom author, speaker, a fantastic human being, extraordinary in general. Before we get to him, just a couple of quick announcements. First, if you are joining us live. We are going to be here in the Remo platform as we’re chatting. Feel free to make comments, comments in the chat and give kind of shout outs or if anything stands out to you, something that you really enjoy or really resonates with. You certainly feel free to share that in the chat as well. It’s a great way for us to get a sense of what people are interested in. There is also a Q&A functionality within the tool that you can use over on the right hand side of your screen if you have some questions for Michael coming up. Once we get into the thick of things, we are also going to be having this as a traditional podcast. So if you’re listening on iTunes, Spotify or the like, well, it’s not actually live. You can answer any questions or ask any questions right now, but maybe you can follow up afterwards. I’m excited for today’s guests. As I mentioned, it’s Michael Germar, who is the founder at Lowney Entrepreneur Dotcom. He is a coach that empowers entrepreneurs and their supporters. He’s an entrepreneur himself who has been in the trenches and understands what it actually means. And he’s one of the nation’s experts on rewards in health care. He is also our guest today. So please welcome to your eyes and ears, Michael Dermer. Michael, join us on the screen, is going to hit camera on and Mike on and we’ll get started. There he is looking ripped in that profile photo of yours, too.

Michael Dermer [00:02:05] It’s all doctored up. Thanks for thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.

Drew Tarvin [00:02:09] Absolutely. No, we’re excited to be chatting with you. And before we jump into the real thick of things, we do want to get to know you a little bit more as the human like we mentioned. And so we’re going have a quick rapid fire round responses, just one or two words, just kind of get a little to know you a little bit more. So your first rapid fire question is morning person or night owl?

Michael Dermer [00:02:29] Both.

Drew Tarvin [00:02:31] I like it all day. Never sleep. Apple or Android.

Michael Dermer [00:02:35] Apple.

Drew Tarvin [00:02:35] introvert or extrovert.

Michael Dermer [00:02:38] Extrovert.

Drew Tarvin [00:02:40] When you were a kid, what did you want to grow up to become?

Michael Dermer [00:02:43] Derek Jeter

Drew Tarvin [00:02:45] Great response. ahh, favorite hobby?

Michael Dermer [00:02:49] Yoga.

Drew Tarvin [00:02:50] OK.TV series, you’re currently watching a recently finished?

Michael Dermer [00:02:55] Oh, I’m not a TV guy, but I used to love on my date myself, very watch taxi old school, Danny DeVito, funny guy.

Drew Tarvin [00:03:06] I have not seen it. I’ll have to check it out. I like it. And a famous person who you admire. Martin Luther King like it, excellent, and let’s get to know you type questions, but you don’t have to answer it in just one word. I’m fascinated by people’s names. And so what’s the story of your name either? Are you named after someone? Is it where was the inspiration? Do you know where the name comes from?

Michael Dermer [00:03:37] I’ve got an amazing first name, Michael, always popular and a terrible middle name, Gerald, which I’m named after my great grandfather. I’m Jewish and like a lot of Jewish folks in the United States, immigrated here from Russia. So I’m named after him who actually had the wherewithal with a partner to buy real estate in New York City back many, many, many years ago, didn’t have any money, put every dollar they had in real estate and ended up being something that was very lucrative over the years. So honored to have such a lousy middle name.

Drew Tarvin [00:04:13] I love it. And had Carol not a not a name that you see a lot of these days. And so I think I would also go by Michael, if those were my two choices. I like it.

Michael Dermer [00:04:24] And, you know, you have the last name, Dermer. Your nickname becomes dermatologist’s when you’re eight years old.

Drew Tarvin [00:04:34] Yeah, well, so was was that ever because there’s there’s at least the studies out there, whatever that does suggest that, like, if your name is Dennis, you’re maybe more likely to become a dentist. So as dermatology, everything that you are curious about?

Michael Dermer [00:04:48] Now didn’t if there wasn’t a ball involved when I was a kid, that wasn’t really interesting.

Drew Tarvin [00:04:53] OK, I like it. do this is you are the founder of the Lonely Entrepreneur or an entrepreneur yourself. Do you remember the first way that you made your own money where you were you like an entrepreneurial spirit, like in in school growing up, or was that later in life?

Michael Dermer [00:05:11] Later in life, I mean, I started a very traditional career, I started as an M&A lawyer at a York law firm, and I was around somewhat of an entrepreneurial family, but I went to very traditional corporate path. But I always knew that I wanted to start a business. My dad’s like this. And if you don’t know what to do, go play corporate lawyer and learn how deals get done and money moves. You’re going to run your own shop one day. But I wasn’t really attracted by entrepreneurship, Persay. I was more attracted by an idea. And if that idea had things that were important to me, like could change society, it had white space. So for me, it wasn’t like a lot of people that are serial entrepreneurs was more about something that was compelling that I found. You know, my dad said, do you want to run a real estate business? I was like, that’s the last thing I want to do. And if if you gave me an entrepreneurial venture where either now or then that said we could be guaranteed to make a billion dollars, if it didn’t, I wouldn’t care if it didn’t have those bigger picture stuff to it. So I definitely I was going to do something I just didn’t know was going to be.

Drew Tarvin [00:06:16] Yeah, that’s fascinating, because I think that there’s a balance. There’s some people that grow up and they’re like, I just want to be an entrepreneur. I love the idea of making something myself and making a lot of money. So I’m just going to find whatever idea, right. Like you said, real estate or whatever. And then there’s other people who are the opposite end of the spectrum. Like, I’m never going to leave. I want the comfort and security and safety of that. And I love this kind of big picture focus. And so what was that first thing that you found? And more importantly, how did you find it? Because I think other people are in that same boat, but they’re never like, do you just sit around and wait for inspiration to happen? Did you try a bunch of stuff? How did that idea come to be?

Michael Dermer [00:06:53] Just drink their banana and it just comes now. I was in a very traditional corporate setting, working really hard as an M&A lawyer in New York City. And back then, which is nineteen ninety nine, two thousand, it’s not like business plans and demo days came across your desk every day. Right before it. I was out to dinner with a group of friends and one of my friend’s wives was pregnant and she said, Do you know that for every ten women in the United States that don’t follow their prenatal care because the health care system, a million dollars, I didn’t know anything about health care or anything like that. And I was like, what do you mean? And she’s like, yeah, there’s a lot of women, especially people from poor socioeconomic status that just don’t like. I feel fine. I don’t need to go for the checkups or whatever. And it ends up in all these events that they don’t detect, detect and costs a million dollars. And I’m like, why would you just pay them? Like if it costs a million dollars for ten women, why wouldn’t you just pay them ten thousand dollars each to do it? And, you know, if you think of the family median family income in America at the time, probably forty five thousand dollars would be like, why don’t you just bribe them? And that was it. And I forgot about it. And I was like, that’s odd. And I just started asking around to people. I was not in or around the medical field. I just knew some people in New York. And I started asking around and they’re like, we know exactly what we want to get people to do for every single condition. We just can’t get them to do it. And that was the beginning of the end for me. I was like, why wouldn’t you just, you know, we would kid around, say, bribe. Why wouldn’t you just reward? And then you and then you start to look kind of around the corner and your look, every consumer behavior hotel buy something on Amazon, flying an airline, every single industry. You used reward programs except health care. And that was that was it.

Drew Tarvin [00:08:38] And which is, I think, fascinating. And what was the what was the duration of that that time for that ideation? For you to be like this is actually something because it sounded like it wasn’t that night at dinner you were like, oh, my God, this is crazy. You went home and on a napkin, like it changed everything, but it wasn’t necessarily. And 20 years later, this happened. What was like that incubation period for this to be something that you like, this is maybe worth exploring more?

Michael Dermer [00:09:02] Yeah, it was it was over the course of a year because we definitely knew we were onto something. And then you started to hear these other anecdotes like, hey, a mom rushes a kid with asthma to the emergency room four times a year and it costs eighteen thousand dollars to the health care system. Or they could get a two hundred dollar inhaler. So you start to talk to people more and more. And then what I would do literally at 11 o’clock at night after my very intense M&A job was over the table, and I would sit around in a conference room with my brother at the time and just kind of brainstorm, what would it be? And that happened over the course of about a year. And, you know, listen, people did not leave my law firm. I happened to work for Willke Farm Gallagher, a very prestigious New York law firm. And you just didn’t leave those places. And I did. So after planning about a year all the normal kind of process of figuring it out, we knew we were going into a big, complicated industry. So it was like lemonade stand stuff. And so it took about a year. And then we made the leap. I made the leap.

Drew Tarvin [00:10:02] And so that’s that, I think is always an interesting moment in an entrepreneurial journey, especially if they come from a more traditional background. Is knowing when to leave. Was it like it was it was it a trigger at work where you’re like, I’m done with this? Was it a success that you had with a new business that you like? I need to focus on this. Was it something in between? How did you know that moment of like this? Is now the time to really put everything into this new thing?

Michael Dermer [00:10:32] It was really the fact that when you go, OK, this is a thing, right? Like you you look at it, look at it, look at it. And you have like a healthy degree of skepticism. OK, what am I missing? What am I missing? This seems big. It’s untapped. Nobody’s doing it. You do your work right. And then you go and you say, OK, I think I understand how we could win this. And I understand we’re big competitors can come from and you just get enough of that to go. It makes sense. I mean, you have a twenty trillion dollar health care spend every year. You wouldn’t have to move the needle very much. And what was really compelling to me about it was that. The incentive you would give somebody, let’s say it’s cash or a gift card or money off your insurance, and you wouldn’t give away that incentive until somebody did what you wanted them to do. Mm hmm. Almost had a built in guaranteed, guaranteed Darlie to it. So it was just kind of momentum. It’s like the up to the top of the roller coaster. And eventually you get there with enough. For me, it’s a combination of kind of intuition and data. Yeah. That that eventually got to a certain point, which meant somebody is going to do this. And it just seemed like a big opportunity that would be go to waste.

Drew Tarvin [00:11:45] And you’re like, yeah, might as well might as well be asked to go and do it. I love that that balance what you say, that balance of intuition and data. I’m an engineer. So in some ways I think of emotions as just data. But that was part of the intuition piece of it is like once you start to feel that that is additional data to say, OK, maybe this is the focus. And that’s what I heard when I left my career at Procter and Gamble for starting when I started, it was a similar thing of people gave me the advice of when the when the main job is getting in the way of the other thing, when the only thing that you can really think about is you’re not thinking of a day job anymore. You’re constantly thinking about this new thing that’s part of that. Like, OK, maybe now is the time to to go and do it, which I think is great. And of course, you know, we would love to imagine that the stories and everything was perfect from then on and amazing and all that kind of stuff. But I know part of the journey is like twenty eight happened and things struggle. So walk me through just a little bit of the listeners of what specifically happened with the crash. And more importantly, I think what was your mindset when that happened? Because it happened in a very short period of time.

Michael Dermer [00:12:57] Yeah. So leave the law firm. Really nice salary, bootstrap first couple of years. And the feedback from the health care industry is not. This is new. It is. We will never, ever do this. We will never, ever reward people for being healthy.

Drew Tarvin [00:13:16] Would immediately like this is amazing. You’ve solved everything. You’re like, why, why are we going to pay people for this?

Michael Dermer [00:13:22] You’re like you’re you’re respectful. You’re wrong because you can’t get people to do the stuff you need to do. It’s costing you money. And we never said that. We knew we had evangelize and educate. But I did say to somebody at some point, with all due respect, you guys have controlled every one out of every six dollars in America for the last fifty years, and you’ve been f ing it up. So why would you keep doing the same thing? So but most of it was very lean. Early years from twenty two. Twenty five, twenty six to twenty eight. We grew like crazy. It caught on. Everybody was doing it, everybody got it, we were out in front and at that point we’re twenty eight, a couple of hundred employees, venture capital backed after some very lean years and we had what every early stage technology company wanted which was big integrated deals with America’s largest companies, General Motors, United Health Care, the biggest companies in America. We had our technology integrated into and then like loyalty programs like just there and growing software margins. And then the very thing that we all hope for is being tethered to these big animals was almost the thing that took us down. Right. So we’ve got these big at the time, SAS license contracts with them. We’re going like gangbusters. And as we like to say in our marketing at Lonely Entrepreneur, now, what we built over ten years got almost got destroyed in ten days because if you remember two thousand eight, it was dramatic and fast. And having a five million dollar software license contract with GM didn’t really matter when GM wasn’t going to be able to pay its employees and they didn’t call us ahead of time. And so there was this massive tsunami coming. We’re basically what we built over ten years, got cut in half in about a week. Our three biggest clients were General Motors, Countrywide Financial and Washington Mutual, Countrywide Financial and Washington Mutual. Two of America’s largest banks didn’t exist two weeks later. Wow. And you spend years building it up. So you you sit there in October 2008 and you go. So the journey of building it to that point was amazing and then writing it for a year or so, it just kind of killing it and leading. And really we created a market.

Drew Tarvin [00:15:46] And then it really like enjoying the fruits of all that labor. And so when that when that happens, when you’re watching an ad on the stock ticker happen, you’re like you’re saying they’re not necessarily it’s not like the first thing on their list is, you know, we need to contact Michael in addition to possibly laying off all these people are not existing tomorrow. So you’re just kind of watching it from afar. Like what? Like, what’s the how do you handle that emotion? How do you go through that, where you like, well, OK, this was it we’re done for I go back into law like what was the thought process then, do you remember?

Michael Dermer [00:16:18] Yeah, I mean, it’s literally like you would I’m not kidding when we said watch mutual country wide financial after Bear Stearns, right. They were front and center right there because they were so mortgage dependent at the time. And so literally, you pick up The Wall Street Journal and would be like, you know, our client fill in the blank, about to file for bankruptcy. So you look at that and you understand that that may not be know what it is you for me. It was all about. It was all about problem solving at that point, you I had asked my family to invest money. I had asked venture capitalists to give me their money. I had asked employees to follow us. So it wasn’t and this is my nature a little bit. It wasn’t about me so much about all the other people who had entrusted me with their idea, their capital, their livelihood. And then you just go to work. I mean, then you just try to figure it out. I think the hard part is that the math just didn’t work. Right. You could you could stare at the numbers all you want, and you needed ten dollars and you had one, whereas a month before you were killing it. So you just try to you start to teach yourself things about staying the course. And you also I remember saying this to our team, don’t kill anybody, don’t break any laws. But we’re going to have to make this up like any like if we follow the rules, we’re not going to make it right. And so it’s like being on the beach reading The Wall Street Journal and tsunami’s coming like you. One hundred five hundred person company is a decent sized company in the grand scheme. What was going on? It was nothing. So we were like, make it up, figure it out. And you literally just tried to put your effort into building a plan, executing on the plan and getting comfortable. And we always say be comfortable getting uncomfortable. And all the kind of the catch phrase is this was like, right. You have to try to figure it out. When I used to say I used to get kick between the legs about 15 times a day, I just stopped noticing.

Drew Tarvin [00:18:26] Yeah, yeah. You build up a little bit, which I think is really interesting. And that’s that, that’s one of the questions that I want to ask was around that idea of resilience, because I would imagine certainly one of the skills that you need as an entrepreneur, as a way to take the the hits and keep on going, to be resilient, particularly in a time. And we cover it and every day that that’s shifting a lot of people’s business as well, that twenty, twenty has been one of those tough years. And so, you know, from from your perspective, not only as an entrepreneur, because there’s some solo entrepreneurs, right. Who are just like, OK, I just got to figure out things for myself. You’re running at this time a business of five hundred people. So it’s like other people like them getting food on the plate type perspective. What what did you what was it with your team? So it sounded like a couple of things. Anything else you already said that we have to say, OK, one is OK, that doesn’t kill anyone or break the rules, break the break any laws. We’ve got to do things a little bit differently. Anything else that you did to encourage either the resilience in yourself or for other people, or was that that but really supporting them to do that?

Michael Dermer [00:19:34] I think it was two things No. One was painting the broader vision, right, Amazon’s people at the time, no one’s ever going to buy a book in a bookstore and whatever, and it’s going to cost us X billion dollars in capital losses. And it ended up costing them much, much more. Right. Than what they originally estimated. But now they are where they are. So you try to paint a vision and you say, listen, do we all understand why we’re here? And eventually is rewarding people for being healthy, going to be Erub and everybody then, of course. Right. And believed in that vision. So you’ve got to paint the end, right. If you don’t get the ends, then why you’re kind of do it and then you literally there it is a nothing succeeds like success. I mean, you’re going to you got to chip away. You’ve got to build a plan. You’ve got to put you can’t spend any time on what if. Right. You’ve got to just put all pen to paper and effort and your best, frankly, under difficult circumstances to chipping away. And, you know, I’m a baseball guy, played college baseball. Like, you don’t get to hit home runs, right? You get you got to do the money ball. You get singles and. Right. And you strike out a lot. So you just really try to get everybody focused on chipping away, because even if you chip away, you’ve got a decent chance of not making it just because all our clients are the biggest companies in America. It’s not like you could call up a new one and say, hey, what do you think they’d be like? We’re talking about we’re going bankrupt. So you just had to build and execute. And very little was you couldn’t get a lot to build on itself. Right. You just kind of chipping away and and taking all of that effort and energy and emotion and tailoring it into or channeling it rather into your plan that gives you the best chance of success then, which are the big boys and girls stuff? And.

Drew Tarvin [00:21:26] Yeah, which is with great perspective. It ends up having in the chat here says, hey, it’s so great to be this close to you, Michael. I’ve read your book. I love it. I really enjoyed it. And so where did where did the the passion or desire to start speaking about the kind of almost kind of what took place from that experience? Where did that come in to create a lonely entrepreneur? Was that all or was that also like sitting at a dinner table and someone mentioned something? Was it just a feeling that a lack of resource that you wish you had had? Was it just like, I just want to do it? Why the transition from, OK, I’m running a company that then ultimately survives this twenty eight difficult moment? Why not just ride the helm of that and then be like, OK, I’m good and brush off and now I can retire peacefully and Boca Raton.

Michael Dermer [00:22:18] Yeah, so I we worked incredibly hard, 20 hours a day for three years, stabilize the build back up and got bought in twenty thirteen and amazing journey of some amazing people that really took something that probably shouldn’t have survived and turned it into a win for everybody. So when that ended, as you can imagine, the day before you sell your business, you’re an idiot. The next day you’re brilliant, right? Everybody wants you to go say things about things they wouldn’t even listen to 10 years all the time. But at that point, it was a very you don’t think of it, build it, save it, sell it for each of which intense experiences. So I like I’m just going to chill for a second in New York. And I wasn’t doing anything other than just helping entrepreneurs for fun. Friends of friends would say, hey, I’m looking to do this. This this would sit down, have coffee, talk them just for fun. And I was struck by the fact that entrepreneurship was so important to our society. But and yet all these people in front of you that had like passion and great ideas and talent. And I was like, wow, there’s just so much they don’t know. Not that not Andrew that I was smarter than the average guy. It’s just like entrepreneurism implicates a lot of things. Oh yeah, I. What about it. I just I didn’t have any brain space for anything interesting or new. I just come off this experience and I had money and everything was good and I didn’t think anything about it. And then somebody said to me, being entrepreneur, really lonely. And I was like, hmm, that’s interesting. Kind of forgot about it. And then send it to a friend of mine when I was walking down the street in Union Square in the city with him and I said that to him, I said only answer. He said, would you say? And I said only that. And he goes, that’s it. I go, What? Because that’s what we all share is the struggle. It’s brilliant. And I was like, What do you mean? And he goes, and he literally half dragged me into a Starbucks in Union Square. And he screams, Who here is a lonely entrepreneur? And everybody goes like this. And I was like, OK, you don’t have to bludgeon me. And it really just what it reminded me of was, was Desperate Housewives. Desperate Housewives. You had women all over America that were frustrated with their lives. The man was not created by the TV show. The TV show just captured the demand and became the number one. And Andrew, what clicked in me was was two things. Number one, it had all those check the box things. For me, it was important, essential to society. What better way than to wake up then to try to give people a better chance of success? The other thing that was really interesting to me was the fact that corporate America and really corporate world really was caring about the entrepreneur at that point. So if you went to a startup conference in Dubai, the three main sponsors would be Uber, Visa and Pepsi, and none and none of them sell anything to entrepreneurs. So that was it. And two things happened. Somebody said write a book about and it’s like, I want to write a book. Like, my whole thing is I wanted to help people across the dinner tables of America, not 20 people in a room that listens to Dahmer. Tell them how to write a business plan. Right. That I wanted to help them at scale on an ongoing basis. And I was a technology guy. So two things happened. We wrote the book. I didn’t really want to write it. And literally when I sat down to write it, it just came out of me. It just the things that were torturous at the time were just hilarious. Ridiculous, right. Stories that now we’re fun to reflect back on about what it’s really like to be an entrepreneur friend. If you were entrepreneurs out there, how many times did somebody say to you, are you working on Columbus Day and you just laugh at them, right. And you just don’t do it. And the second thing was I was just really struck by the fact that entrepreneurship was so important and yet it was all disorganized. And we said, figure it out on your own. So we saw the really opportunity to take technology and build a platform that tried to bring that together in one place and that’s built the product that we use it on. The entrepreneur called the learning community, and that was it started in twenty fifteen and felt really good about the fact that if you get to wake up every day and do anything, what better way than to give people a better chance of success?

Drew Tarvin [00:26:29] Certainly. Well, in investing, because it is a similar story of the idea for the rewarding and health care is like someone mentioning it, you thinking a lot of it, a little bit more, realizing that there’s a need, that there’s a passion for it. Right. So I think that’s a great takeaway for some people is like, yeah. Where some of these ideas come from. And you’re exactly right. Like, it’s amazing how much you don’t know that you don’t know when you become an entrepreneur, ranging from you know, I remember leaving and it was like, oh, wait. Like if if we need to make a priority call, I’m the one that makes it instead of instead of going up the line at my management level or and there’s no one checking on if I’m actually doing any work today and I don’t have a paycheck unless I actually do something differently instead of that and. Then even from the L.L.C. or EZCORP or how do you actually get a tax ID number and what state to be in and all like there’s so many questions at every level of this and it can certainly feel very lonely. I love that story of going into a Starbucks and kind of like here’s a quick beta test. Our quick focus group is here, the Starbucks and New York City. So fascinating.

Michael Dermer [00:27:42] You, somebody like you at Procter and Gamble is so much more well equipped than ninety five percent of the people out there because of what you’re exposed to doing. So imagine everybody that has passion and great ideas. We I really feel like we did a disservice to the entrepreneurs of the world because we said to them, as long as you have passion and grit and a good idea, you’re good. Right? So as long as you kind of slam your head into the wall harder than the next guy or gal, you’ll make it. And maybe that was true when I started my business. But it’s not true now. And so we believe that entrepreneurism is a series of many skills. You happen to rattle off a bunch of them and that we have to teach ourselves to get better at it. No different than if you have any moms in your audience. How many moms woke up the day after they had their first child and said, I’m great at this mom thing? Not they’re all like, oh my God, I could kill this little person. But they’re committed to it and they are committed to getting better at it and they develop a whole series of skills to do it. And I just think that with entrepreneurs, we didn’t say that. We said as long as you have and you’re good. And so we really believe entrepreneurism is a series of skills that you develop across, not just the business stuff, which includes some of the stuff you mentioned, the personal stuff, ego, communication, dot, dot, dot, dot, dot. It’s a big, complicated soup that you got to learn a lot of stuff.

Drew Tarvin [00:29:06] Well, and I love that articulation that it is a skill that’s a big way that we frame with Mikami humor that works. We teach people, organizations how to use humor as a skill because a lot of people think of it as, oh well you’re either born funny or not or you’re born with an entrepreneurial spirit or you’re not, or you had to be born where you like have someone in your family who’s an entrepreneur and you just learn from them. And then hopefully you’re lucky that I love this idea that it’s a series of skills, because that means those are things that can be learned. And like you said, it starts maybe with an initial idea, but you have to have that drive enough to want to learn these things. And wonderful people with what you’re doing is putting together those resources so that it can be learned.

Michael Dermer [00:29:49] And a lot of a lot of people will say to you, oh, the key is just X and it’s not just one X, right. It’s just all is the right co-founder and the keys, the right go to market. But it’s not just it’s it’s a whole complicated soup that if you took one spark plug out of the car, the car doesn’t work. Right. And unfortunately, it implicates I don’t know if there’s anything else other than probably maybe motherhood or parenthood that implicates personal, financial, emotional capability, relationships. It’s a big stew that there’s a lot to know.

Drew Tarvin [00:30:26] Yeah, absolutely. And maybe mathematically you could say, oh, it’s only X because X is typically a variable, which you could replace a lot of number, lot of things to it. Maybe the only way that that actually works in that context. And one of those X is at least one of the things that I know you have a passion and mission for is unlocking the genius of others, saying that each person has a kind of their own genius in their own way and you even kind of frame it as like it or not, you are able to find the genius and everyone and bring that to life. So I’m curious, the phrasing of, like it or not, do you meet people who have a certain type of genius, but they’re they’re resistant to it or they don’t know about it or they’re like, what’s the like it or not component of that?

Michael Dermer [00:31:14] I think that one of the biggest challenges of entrepreneurs is, is they don’t understand what it’s supposed to look like, what a business is supposed to look like in its hole. Right. When you and I got up today, we knew we had to put on a shirt and pants and shoes. Right. You kind of know what it looks like, right? You know what a car has. And many entrepreneurs just see a piece of it. Right. And when you just see a piece of it right, you can be a chef that cooks great food. You can be a technologist that makes great tech. Right. Dot, dot, dot, dot doesn’t make makes for great businesses. So people have genius within that. If they don’t see how it fits in the higher picture, you can have an operator, you can have a creative person, you can have people that count beans. You have people that make beans. Right. There’s always people that can add value to it. The problem is when it when you don’t know what the whole thing’s supposed to look like, it becomes very difficult for that genius to come to life.

Drew Tarvin [00:32:11] OK, that makes sense and. But the concept of like ingenius is also the other things around, it can’t just be a good idea, can just be a smart person, right. Of all of those kind of additional components, I do want to talk a little bit about the the stuff around this stuff, I guess, as it were, around things like routines, habits, et cetera. So one of the questions that we do like to ask a lot of people is, what’s your what’s your morning routine in 60 seconds or less? Laughs You said you’re both a morning person and a night owl. How does your day typically start?

Michael Dermer [00:32:47] Get up, sweat, beat the crap out of yourself in the gym, probably hour and a half of hardcore cardio and a little bit of yoga, yoga stuff and and lifting. I just that’s back in the days of yore when my company was collapsing. I used to get there at 5:00 in the morning and do it. And to me that was I was an athlete. So it was kind of always a part of what I was doing. But to me, that’s the same routine every day, every once in a while. But I can’t remember the last I didn’t do that.

Drew Tarvin [00:33:19] And what what what does that do for you?

[00:33:22] I mean, aside from obviously like good health, longevity and stuff like that, does it give you a chance to think? Does it give you like do do you think about stuff during the time to give you a chance to kind of like put other stuff away and just focus? Like, what’s that? Aside from the sheer physical benefits of it, what does it provide you?

Michael Dermer [00:33:40] You know, I was always taught to do it hard enough to inflict enough pain that you can’t think right. You can’t you can’t do it, but it’s definitely it definitely clears the decks. Right. It definitely kind of brings great clarity. You’re not thinking about all the stuff you’re thinking about during the day. You’re really focusing on, you know, I’m in a little bit of a battle right now and I’m going to get into it and whatever it is. So to me, it really kind of opens up the day. We have to kind of relieve stress, kind of gets you going, get your blood going and kind of set you up for a good day.

Drew Tarvin [00:34:12] OKAnd what about the what about the opposite side? Do you have a kind of closing or ending the day routine?

Michael Dermer [00:34:23] Not really, I try to at the end of the day, always try to read a little bit because, you know, we we never do enough of that and focus time. But I don’t not so much, really. At the end of the day, I love what we do. It’s very much a passion project. We’re involved in so many interesting things, again, helping people. We kind of realize their passion, especially with what’s going on right now. That’s something we take very seriously. So the end of the day, it always feels like we’re we’re helping. But there isn’t anything specifically I do at the end. And then, you know, I learned in two thousand and eight sleep is a skill you have to master, because if you’re if I stood if I thought to myself in early 2009 when you went to bed and let me think this through, the math never worked. Right. And so you start to realize that that sleeping well is actually no different than product development right now. It’s one of those things that, like when I was working 20 hours a day, somebody said to me, you need to get more sleep. And I said what every other entrepreneur would say, which is I don’t have time to sleep. And by really by accident, I fell asleep on a couch in my office for 30 minutes at like four o’clock in the afternoon one day. And I felt so much better and start to realize that it’s not, well, I’m going to go to sleep because that’s a.. Entrepreneurism. It’s actually empowering you to be at your best. And there’s some of those things that are very counterintuitive that you learn along the way. So once I hit it, I hit it and I’m done. But you try to get a little bit of reading and other stuff in before you do that.

Drew Tarvin [00:36:05] Now, when you you raise a great point, it’s kind of what we frame is the difference between efficiency versus effectiveness. Because if you were to say like, hey, you need to drive from New York to L.A. as fast as possible, you want to be like, oh, OK, I’m going to drive without stopping for gas because you immediately you’re like, oh, I’m going to get a certain distance and then I’m going to break down on the side of the road. And that’s going to make it much slower than if I were to stop at gas and get gas periodically. And it’s the same thing with sleep. In fact, the studies show that if you go 19 hours without sleep, then it’s like a blood alcohol level of like point zero five percent where you’re basically tipsy. And if it’s you go to twenty one hours, I think you’re basically over the limit legal limit of what you would be if you were driving drunk of the equivalency of it or whatever. It increases a bunch of different things. I’m happy that you mention that that sleep because I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like entrepreneurs try to want to wear that as a badge, right. That it’s like, oh, I’m so into this thing that I don’t sleep at all or that my schedule is terrible. And it’s like, well, is that really the best for everyone? But one of the things that you mentioned was it was talking about passion. And I know one of the newer things that you’re working on that I’d love to learn a little bit more about is the Black Entrepreneur Initiative that you are focused on. So tell us a little bit about that and why that that that became a thing that you’re like this needs to happen.

Michael Dermer [00:37:28] Yeah, so as I mentioned before, Andrew, the core product of the lonely entrepreneur and our fiber, Wannsee three, is this learning community. It’s a platform that puts a lot of knowledge, tools and ongoing support in a piece of technology that is easily accessible. Right. With a smartphone or like a lot of SaaS platforms and going into twenty, eighteen and twenty nineteen, we’re like, OK, how do we not only help entrepreneurs in general, but those that are quote unquote underserved. Right. Or face systemic challenges like women and people of color. And so we started to expand our platform to serve those audiences and partnering with some great partners in those communities. Now, fast forward to 2019 and into 2020. And you have kind of the tragic events that happen with George Floyd and the precursors to that. And when you’re a white kid like me that grows up in suburbia and goes to Bucknell and Northwestern and you say, oh my God, it’s hard until you really spend time and understand what the black community has to deal with. You don’t understand hard. And I had the opportunity to partner with people that really showed me what it was like and what people had to face. A lot of times people think about systemic racism. And I think that and this definitely happens. Somebody walks down the street and because you see somebody that’s black, they are treated differently. There’s no question that happens. But a lot of the systemic racism is actually in our systems. Right. Our capital system, you and I might have had are much more likely to have access to friends and family capital than the black. And there’s a whole bunch of things that once you peel back the onion and actually talk. And so I’ve talked with these 50 or so black partners of ours. But what we said was, while we wrestle with social and economic justice, we can do something now. We can put these tools in the hands of black men and women. So it’s worth wrestling with those things. But those things we all know are going to take a long time. But today we can put a platform in the hands of somebody and give them a better chance of success. Whether or not Andrew, they even call themselves much, and especially with what’s going on with covid. Right. You have over 40 percent of black businesses are not surviving because of this and it disproportionately affects them. So we just happen to have a delivery mechanism that can put them in the hands today. So we created with a bunch of these amazing black partners, the Black Entrepreneur Initiative, where our goal is put our platform in the hands of one hundred thousand black men and women. We do this all through our five Wannsee three. We do that by virtue of corporations and philanthropies basically sponsoring entrepreneurs into our platform. And we do it in our five Wannsee three basically at cost. So they sponsor and people get in and into the entrepreneurs, to the black men and women, it’s free. So that’s what we’re that’s we’re trying to do.

Drew Tarvin [00:40:15] Well, that’s a it’s a fantastic initiative. And like you said, see you as an individual person may not be able to solve the massive systemic things that ultimately need to be solved as well. But, you know, one, it’s a great initiative, too, for other people to be aware of. But I think for the other people listening, another thing to take away is to say, OK, how can I take this skill set or this platform or this thing that I know how to do and help serve those who are in need. We had a chance to to listen to a conversation with a great leader. I’m humbling on the name. And he said, you know, if you’re in that position to be able to do something in the way that he was raised is that is in some ways your duty to help that person. And so I love this kind of approach to say, hey, I’ve got the track record and the experience from what happened with the business that I started, you know, now, let alone the entrepreneur in the book and everything that he has written, have that information, OK, how can we take even that that next step to really help those who disproportionately have been either underserved in the past or don’t have the access to these means? I think it’s a fantastic initiative that you’re working on.

Michael Dermer [00:41:27] And, you know, and with what’s going on in the economy, a lot of the the local resources community centers YMCA is like they don’t even have access to that anymore. Right where they would go. And we always think that not having access to consistent support is why we built the learning community. Right. So so that always exists. But now even the places that that people in our inner cities. Right. Could go to, they can go to. And so like the woman that that runs my nonprofit, Ebony Young, ran the YMCA at New York City. It’s you can’t go there. So it’s been exacerbated not only by social and economic justice issues, but by covid. And at the end of the day, you know, if you’re a black man or woman, how do we help those talents come to life without having a dependance on the systems that ultimately have been failing for some time now?

Drew Tarvin [00:42:17] And fantastic. And so as we as we start to wrap up, one of the things that we like to share is, is from perspectives from other people. So I was taking a look at some of the reviews on your. Book. And so I want to share a review that kind of stood out to me and then just get 10 of your take, because I don’t know, for me as an author, as always, sometimes a little bit weird to read these things, but this this person said this book had me hooked from the very beginning struggle of entrepreneurs, real might will take you on the rollercoaster ride, evoking the emotion to keep you captivated. But maybe take me back to my first experience. Right. Laughed, cried both joy and happiness. His insight on perspective in the way you look at things is dependent upon success or failure is very poignant and thought provoking. I recommend this book to everyone. And so I guess my first take is do you read these types of reviews? Do you like how do you feel when you’re when you’re when it’s clear you’re having an impact on on people?

Michael Dermer [00:43:15] You know, what’s really interesting about about our stuff in our name is that you can go anywhere, you can walk in any Starbucks, right? We’ve been at book signings where people have come up to us with tears in their eyes before they ever turn to page. Right. The only entrepreneur in the same way that it struck my friend. It is it is real. I mean, is it is the struggle is worth it, but it’s real. And so, you know, you’re having an impact because you’re connecting with them. I know people come to us and they will share with them their deepest, darkest secrets after knowing us for five minutes because they know ours. Right. And if you read even the first page of the book where I was at the gym and there was no hot water and the shower went to freezing, freezing, freezing cold, and I said to myself, I wonder how much of this I can take, because that’s what it’s like every day right now. And I sat there and every day I would add like 30 seconds to the point where I was standing there for five minutes every day under freezing cold. And now that might have been a little dramatic and unnecessary, but everybody out there is experience, different parts of this, the highs and the lows. And so I think that that we really honor the soul of the entrepreneur and what it’s really like. And I think people identify with that and share and hopefully we are having an impact.

Drew Tarvin [00:44:50] Well, and I think that it’s fascinating that your vulnerability gives people the permission and space to also be vulnerable and also to recognize that it’s not just me. Right. It’s giving them that that recognition like. Right. Exactly. To the whole mission that you’re talking about. And so I think it’s a fantastic initiative that you are working on. We very much appreciate the time that you’ve taken it to chat with us today. And so if people are curious about learning a little bit more, if they want to learn more about the Black Initiative that you’re a black entrepreneur initiative or online entrepreneur, pick up the book or connected, what’s the best way for people to take that next step?

Michael Dermer [00:45:29] Yeah, the best thing is just lonely entrepreneur Dotcom. You’ll see a link on there for the Black Initiative, which is this lonely entrepreneur, Dotcom, B.I. And then we’re all over the the social channels with Everything’s the lonely entrepreneur and the books on the books on Amazon. So all lonely entrepreneur.

Drew Tarvin [00:45:49] Excellent. Yeah, that makes it easy. Easy to remember all lonely entrepreneur. Well, Michael, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today, sharing some of your insight, wisdom and a little bit of information about that, that journey as well. We really appreciate it.

Michael Dermer [00:46:03] Terrific. Always a pleasure to be with you. Happy to be here.

Drew Tarvin [00:46:06] And thank you. Thank you very much. So we are excited. There’s been another episode of the podcast brought to you by the Ascent Conference and Humor that works my company, where we teach organizations how to use humor to be more effective. To learn more about a Senate, visit a dot dotcom, to learn more about what we do. You can go to humor that works. Dotcom, we’ve got some fantastic additional podcasts lined up coming for you soon to be sure to be on the lookout for those. You have been great. I’m Andrew Tarvin. Until next time.

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