In this week’s episode, we’re chatting with speaker, author, futurist, and money business insider, Joel Block.
Joel’s a long-time venture capitalist and hedge fund manager (gobbledygook for professional investor) who lives in a Shark Tank world like on TV. Since selling his publishing company to a Fortune 500, Joel keynotes conferences worldwide, sharing Wall Street insights that enhance stakeholder value by delivering growth strategies and the inside track on ways to “Disrupt Your Competitors’ Future” to business executives and their teams.
In today’s show, we’re chatting about how money and business really work. Doesn’t matter what type of thought-leader or business owner you are, this is an episode you don’t want to miss.
Let’s dive in!
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Taylorr: Welcome to another episode of technically speaking. We are very excited about today’s guest speaker, author, futurist, and money business insider Mr. Joel Block. Joel, welcome to the show my friend.
Joel: Guys, how are ya?
Taylorr: Doing good. Doing good. It’s always a pleasure. Thanks for being here.
Joel: Hey, well always appreciate talking to you guys as you’re some sharp guys. So, thank you for having me.
Taylorr: Oh yeah, you got it. And thanks for saying that. It’s an honor. All right, guys. So, for those of you listening, who don’t know, Joel. Joel is a futurist and money business insider. He’s a long-time Venture Capitalist and Hedge Fund Manager, just gobbledygook for a professional investor who lives in a shark tank world like on TV. Since selling his publishing company to a Fortune 500 Joel, keynotes conferences, worldwide sharing wall street insights that enhance stakeholder value by delivering growth strategies and the inside track on ways to disrupt your competitor’s future to business executives and their team. Really excited to poke your brain about that today Joel, thanks again for being here.
Joel: Hey, happy to help and I hope we can share insider tips that works for some, some of your listeners.
Taylorr: Yeah, definitely. Tell us about your journey. How did you end up as a VC, a hedge fund manager, and then on top of that, what led you down the path of the professional speaking world? What stood out to you about that?
Joel: I started in business as soon as I graduated college in the CPA world. I was at Pricewaterhouse and the last account that I worked on a Pricewaterhouse was a giant real estate syndicator. And a syndicator is a company that puts together investors into groups and I was assigned to do their tax work or do some of their tax work with an army of other guys. And I love reading the partnership agreements, I hated doing the tax returns, I was really kind of poor at doing the tax returns and I just didn’t really enjoy my experience at Pricewaterhouse. Although I learned a great amount, I knew that the syndication business was a business that I wanted to go to. And I might not have left Pricewaterhouse to go into it voluntarily, but I also knew that if I didn’t quit, I’d been fired for sure, because I really just, wasn’t very good at it. I had a confrontation with the two-year guy who bosses the one-year guy. And the two-year guy, I was about one and a half years was telling me that I wasn’t working hard enough. And I said, listen, this work is boring. It’s boring, give me better work, I’ll stay all night. But anyways he just wanted to take me off the job. And I said, if you take me off the job, I’m quitting the firm and two weeks later I didn’t work there. And that really gave me the impetus to really go do what I wanted and what I wanted to do was do deals. I wanted to be in the deal business.
And I met another guy and he and I tied up a little apartment building, we cold-called a bunch of doctors which we you know, probably shouldn’t have done knowing what I know now about the rules, but we did what we had to do at that time, and we got a bunch of doctors to give us some money to go buy these buildings. And then we did another building and another building and after a while we’d built up a whole bunch of buildings and that was great. And then in 1990, I fell into a Venture Capital transaction, but by then I knew how to raise money and once you can raise money, you can raise money for anything. I raised $10 million. I built this publishing company, which I ended up selling to a Fortune 500 and then since then I’ve just bought and sold other companies and I’ve been involved in lots of different kinds of deals and I’ve done a lot of things and about 10 years ago, or eight or 10 years ago, set up a Real Estate Hedge Fund and I run that now.
Austin: Wow, that’s quite the journey that you’ve been on and in a lot of different areas.
Joel: No, I’ve been successful doing what a lot of entrepreneurs want to do and I advise a lot of these people on how to do some of the things they want to do. The truth is you really have to question, do they really want to do it, or do they just say that they want to do it? And I would ask speakers the same thing you really want to do it? Are you willing to do the things you got to do to be successful as a speaker? Or are you just saying that it seems like it’d be a cool thing for people to clap and cheer when you come out on a stage? And some people just don’t have what it takes to really do it. Other people you tell them what to do and they do it. Step one, two, three, four, and on and on, and they’ll just do it. And in the entrepreneur business, that’s kind of how it works is you got to do the work.
Austin: Yeah. It sounds like through your eyes, at least that it’s about a willingness to do what needs to be done more than about the specific actions that you follow to accomplish, whatever you’re going after. That’s what it [cross-talk 05:19].
Joel: This business, it’s an easy business. You go onstage and you tell your story, but that’s not the business. That’s the delivery. The business is getting the accounts is getting the stages and that’s the hard part, and everybody who’s in this business knows that’s the hard part. Some people are a lot better at it than other people at getting those stages and getting them for a substantial number of dollars. There’s a formula, there’s a secret formula that the people that they figure it out and they figure out the secret to each person, not like a magic formula for everyone, but everybody figures out what it is, they got their own pitch, their own deliverable, their own style and then they develop relationships and they call on people and it sort of works.
Taylorr: Definitely. It’s finding that middle ground too you know, like you said, it’s about building the relationships and finding your own magi sauce, but you don’t have enough of that bats, enough failures, enough iteration, it’s kind of hard to even figure out what your secret recipe is.
Joel: Life is about getting at bats. That’s what life is about. And you have to work hard to get at bats because there are other people that are also working hard to get at bats and you have to work harder than them and that’s just the way it works. [Cross-talk 06:36] giving it away.
Austin: I just heard this the other day and I’d be curious to hear whether or not you agree with it, but they’re talking about the idea of working smarter, not harder. And they said although that is certainly true, you can try to work smart and efficiently and effectively, there’s always going to be somebody out there that’s not only willing to work smarter, but is also willing to work a lot harder. And those are the people that tend to come out on top because it’s not an [cross-talk 07:02].
Joel: Unless you’re smarter is better than they’re harder.
Austin: I like that. Good spin.
Joel: If you’re a little bit smarter than they’re harder is going to make up the difference, but if you’re a lot smarter and I don’t mean intelligent, but if there’s something more creative or better about your approach, then that makes a big difference.
Taylorr: Definitely. I’m curious, Joel. Obviously, you’ve done a lot from your Hedge Fund Management to your VC work. I’m curious of what you’ve learned in those roles that entrepreneurial journey how you’ve applied what you’ve learned there to your speaking business. Do you feel like you’re doing anything different that allows you to excel further? Or do you think you’ve just figured out your magic sauce like we talked about a little bit earlier? Do you find yourself doing something maybe more than other speakers around you?
Joel: I think that the great speakers, money follows expertise. And the better you are at something, whether it’s comedy entertainment for me, it’s money and finance, or looking forward in time, for some people had sales, for some people it’s marketing, customer service, you have to be frigging great at it. And you have to be able to say something that people want to hear. And those speakers tend to be the better speakers. They have something very significant from their experience in their life to say to audiences. You’ve done something and other people want to learn from you because one of the things about human beings is that we learn from each other. And if you can stand up and tell an audience of people your experience, and they can learn from your experience then that saves time.
My son, when he was little, he would always say do crazy things. And I said well you can either learn the easy way, which is when I tell you what to do, or you can learn the hard way, which is you figure out what to do. For example, don’t put your finger in the light socket, and then he would probably put his fingers in the light socket. And adults are no different than that. We’re no different. We’re just like large children. And truthfully there are some people who do a better job of watching other people and learning from their experience than other people who have to just figure everything out on their own. And there came a point in my son’s life where I said, listen, it’s not cute anymore.
It’s not funny that every single thing that somebody says to you, including his new employer, when he was an intern in college, I said, at some point in time, it’s not funny. They’ve spent a lot of energy doing things a certain way, and they want you to do them that way, not reinvent their wheel. And when they want your opinion, they’ll give it to you. And that’s not true for your whole career, but when you’re an intern in college, they just want you to be quiet and do some things and they don’t really want you to do a lot of other stuff. But for those of us that are 20- and 30-year veterans in whatever it is that we’ve done, we’ve been down the path, we’ve really kind of come to understand the world, we have a lot of wisdom and other people around us want that wisdom so they can shave days, weeks, months, years, or decades off of their learning curve. And that’s why money follows expertise. You’re an expert, and you bring something to the table, it gives you the opportunity to really educate people in a great way.
Taylorr: We talk about this all the time but there’s so many people, especially in the speaking space, who’s quick to define themselves as a speaker. That’s what I do, I speak. Well, I would argue that with, okay, well, you probably have some expertise and speaking is just a way that you deliver that expertise. You’re an expert first and a speaker second, a lot of the time. And it’s pulling from that expertise [cross-talk 11:00].
Joel: I never introduced myself as a speaker. When somebody says, what do I do? I say Hedge Fund Manager and here’s why. Number one, people don’t know what a speaker is. They’re like, a stereo speaker, like, what are you talking about this? So, they don’t know, number one. The other thing is if you ever go to a cocktail party and you’re networking and you say, hi, I’m Joel, I’m a speaker. Oh, oh, that’s nice. I’m going to Milwaukee next week; do you know what the weather’s going to be? They don’t know what else to do, except change the subject because it’s confusing. When I say that I run Hedge Fund. They’ll say, oh, that’s interesting. What does that mean? What is that? How does that work? It kind of creates some curiosity and it engages them into some discussion. And that’s what you want to do when you meet people when you talk and no matter what it is you do unless the only thing you do is speak and that’s only just a tiny fraction of us. Most of us do something in the area of expertise that we operate in addition to talking about it.
Taylorr: Let’s hope at least.
Joel: It might be training, whatever it is, we all do something kind of around that area and to the extent that you can lead with that, that in a big way, it makes a big difference.
Austin: Yeah. I can see how that would make sense. Do you have any thoughts on how somebody could better define their expertise? I know a lot of the people that we work with may have a rough idea of their value proposition, but at times can have a hard time distilling down what they do into something that people understand. I know that this…
Joel: I have this concept, I call it 10-1-10. You have exactly 10 seconds to get somebody’s attention and to blurt something out that is so interesting because they’ll give you 10 seconds, but they won’t give you more. So, you got 10 seconds to blurt something out that’s so interesting that they agree to give you one to 10 minutes more of their time. You say whatever your thing is in 10 seconds and the person says that’s quite interesting. I’d like to hear more about that. Tell me more. Or, oh really, that’s quite fascinating. And now you’ve got their attention. If you just start rambling, rambling, rambling they’re going to zone out and unless they give you specific permission to keep going, they’re going to zone out on you. They may not hang up the phone, they may not walk away from you, but they’re not paying attention. If they didn’t ask you for some information, they’re not paying attention.
Taylorr: It’s funny how similar we say that dating and sales is, but it’s kind of that way. If you were interested in somebody and wanted to get their number, you don’t start by giving them the soliloquy of everything that you do. You use a pickup line; you use something that’s going to catch somebody’s attention that helps you get further into the conversation.
Joel: You express interest in learning about them. How often have we had conversations with people that talk about themselves and then when it’s your turn, they leave? It’s the most unfulfilling kind of conversation you could ever have. What I try to do is number one, I like to have other people go first and then when it’s my turn, I’d try to say something very brief and then they’ll say, hmm, interesting, or I don’t get it, or I’m not interested in hearing anymore or whatever they say. If they say I’m not interested in here in anymore, that’s okay too, by the way, because that gives me more time to go find people who would be interested in talking with me. So, no matter what the answer is, it works out pretty well.
Taylorr: Yeah, definitely. Oh man, just [inaudible 14:41] Joel. It’s why we had you on today. I want to pick your brain. This is about today is title. How the world of money and business really works is part of your bio. I’m curious what do mean by that? And what realizations have you come to about money and business with all of this?
Joel: Let me just tell you that money is extremely complicated, it’s a topic that very few people understand. And people will say to me Joel, what do you mean by that? Money is just like some green paper in your pocket, how complicated could it be? But it is exceedingly complicated. And there’s a business around money. If you’re in the fruit business and you sell strawberries, you make money from growing strawberries. If you’re in the vegetable business, you make money from selling vegetables. And if you’re in the money business, you make money from selling the money. And there’s a whole business around selling money and that’s what wall street is. People on wall street raise money, sell money, organized money, they slice it up, slice, dice. It’s something that very few people really ever think about.
I studied interest rates in college for more than a year. Just interest rates. How complicated could that be? But it is incredibly complicated, there’s a lot to it. That just a little backdrop, but I have come to realize one very important thing. And that is that when it comes to money, everything’s rigged, everything. Everything is rigged when it comes to money. Now, rigged doesn’t mean illegal or bad. It just means that whoever the person is, whoever’s business it is, is organizing business rules that favor them. And every business owner has an absolute right to write business rules that favor themselves. Large companies tend to get so abusive that consumers get upset, and now consumers have the ability to push back on social media.
But I’ll give you some examples here. When you go to the Las Vegas and the wheel is tilted in their favor, the card games are tilted in their favor, that’s an example of the game is rigged, but it’s so obvious we never call it rig, we just call it the house advantage. It’s so obvious, but it’s not obvious in our regular life. It’s not obvious at all. And people think that everything is fair and even, even, and even Steven and all that kind of stuff, but it’s not. And there are so many things going on that you don’t even know that it’s happening. For example, let’s say an insurance company writes a policy and they’ve got millions of millions of claims, hundreds of millions of data points from all different kinds of things that have ever happened in their history of their business. So, they’ve got giant computers and they’ve got armies of people. They’re studying these things and they write these policies to be very specific.
So, you are on a homeowner’s policy and you’re thinking, oh, now I have insurance. I’m good. No, you don’t have insurance, you have some insurance on some things that they’ve agreed to give you insurance for. Let’s say for example where I live in Los Angeles you buy insurance, well, you don’t get everything. We get fire insurance and maybe we get some interior property stuff, but we don’t get flood insurance, we don’t get earthquake insurance. There are other kinds of insurances that we just don’t get and people don’t always realize this. By the way, that’s the way insurance companies do upsells. They sell riders and additional policies and if you want more stuff, you can buy more stuff but a lot of people don’t really realize the limitations of these policies.
They know exactly how often floods happen, they will know exactly how often earthquakes happen, they know exactly what things break, they know. So, they have this advantage and they write their policies in a way that gives them an edge. And that edge is what I’m referring to as, when it comes to money everything’s rigged is that they write the policy to favor themselves. Here’s the lesson though, is that every business owner has to write a policy for their own company that works for them. For example, when I speak, I get paid my money this way. You don’t just say, hey, listen, when you get a chance, send me the money, whatever, doesn’t matter when. Whenever you feel like it, just send me over some money. That’s not a success formula. You have to have very clear rules and they have to work for you. Here’s how our deposits work, here’s how our refunds work, here’s how our cancellation works. And the stricter you are, the better it works for you and that’s really what you have to work on. Every company organizes their business rules in a way that works for them and you need to organize your business rules in a way that works for you.
Austin: That makes perfect sense, as you’re explaining it at least. Conceptually, I’m buzzing a little bit as you say this, but for somebody like me, probably that hears what you’re saying, but finds it daunting to take that first step towards getting organized as you’re suggesting, would you have any advice for that type of person so that they can start to feel maybe more in control of their future as it relates to their finances?
Joel: Accountants are pretty good at this, call other colleagues that have similar businesses and find out what kind of business rules they have, finding out how they work through their affairs and how they’ve made some of their decisions. Because if you just leave it to your client, they will walk all over you in. A certain way, the taller you stand and the tougher you are, the more respect people will treat you with. If you slumped over and have really simple or overly forgiving rules and a lot of people in this business, they want to be extra nice. It matters to them to be extra nice. Well, I’m very nice but not at the expense of my family. I just know that by having very specific kinds of guidelines, they are fair, that work for me and if they didn’t work for other people, they wouldn’t sign the agreements. That that really makes a big difference and then that contributes to me being treated with respect. I would say that a lot of people misunderstand, respect and being nice. You can have both at the same time and they’re not mutually exclusive, and they’re not even related in a funny way.
Taylorr: I’m really glad you said that. I was talking with one of our clients recently and she ran into an issue where a contract basically wasn’t signed an invoice was paid right away and ended up doing months and months of work before even getting that first payment and the client is taking advantage of her and now, she has to go back and be hard on the client trying to get the money. It just doesn’t work out for anybody. The client loses respect for the person who’s delivering and the speaker has to feel like they have to go the extra mile or the consultant, what have you, in order to provide for them. It just generally doesn’t work out. But when you’re exclusive [cross-talk 21:58]
Joel: Even worse in a corporate environment what happens is that you’re working with Mary or Fred and your friends for a long time and handshake and you go look, when you get around to it, send me the money. And then Mary gets transferred to another department.
Austin: Oh goodness.
Joel: And so, some new person comes in and they’re trying to be the best they can and save the boss money or whatever it is and they go look, I’m really sorry that this didn’t get taken care of, but we have to reorganize or whatever happens and you start from scratch. Corporate environments are very difficult and if you don’t have your ducks in a row before you start working, you really put yourself at risk.
Taylorr: Yeah, definitely. It doesn’t check out for anybody so I’m glad you mentioned that. Now there’s another topic that piques my curiosity that you speak on specifically Joel it’s about being disruption proof. How to get ahead, stay ahead of the competition. I’m curious, what’s involved with being disruption proof and more importantly as companies, but also as speakers, how can we remain disruption proof? We were just terribly disrupted over the last year. How can we try and prevent that from happening in the future?
Joel: One thing for speakers certainly is that speakers are subject to concentration and concentration means that you have too many eggs in one basket. Speaking is kind of by its nature eggs in one basket kind of business. Maybe you don’t have only one client, although a lot of people, many more people than admit, have very, very few clients that they do several engagements for. So, it’s not like they’re going to a hundred of the Fortune 500 every year, bouncing around. They may have one or that really like them that hire him 10 times and that’s kind of a lot of their business, so there’s a lot of concentration here. Their concentration points or things like travel. So, travel gets choked off for any reason like it did, if companies have a hard time in certain industries, certain segments, then that concentration comes back.
One of the things that you can do to help protect yourself is make sure that you’re not subject to concentration, that you you’re building out your clients across different industries. That you’re not just providing keynotes, maybe you’re also providing advisory services or other kinds of things, because to me the more diversified you are, the better. Now, some people don’t like that, some people don’t want that. Totally up to you, as long as it’s a conscious decision then you’re responsible for what happens but you have to be well aware of it. The other thing is that you have to stay abreast of technologies that are kind of coming down the pike and whatever’s happening, very important to pay attention to those kinds of things. As new technologies come down and I’m not just talking about things like zoom, but there’s other kinds of technologies you have to partner with technology type companies like you kind of guys, where you’re expert in that kind of area. The more of those kinds of things you can do, the better. You don’t want to take financial interests in companies that could be disruptive to you. There are lots of different ways that people can protect themselves, but just thinking about protecting yourself as the first step to protecting yourself. That alone is a really good place to start.
Taylorr: Yeah. You’ve got to build a moat around yourself.
Joel: It’s hard to build a moat in the speaking business because there are other people that kind of bump into you, like I’m a futurist and there’s other kinds of futurists. Now I’m a little different kind of futurists than other people. I’m not a technology futurist, most people are kind of technology oriented. I really look at the big picture of economics and where money’s going and through this pandemic, I’m looking at where cities are going and where taxes are going and most of these cities and governments haven’t even thought twice about the fact that their revenue streams are evaporating all around them. And I don’t know what they’re going to do to replace them because they’re not really thinking a lot about this, but industries are massively changing. Real estate is changing, we have this tremendous built-up infrastructure that we don’t entirely need any more as a result of what we’ve learned from COVID. There’re just all sorts of things are happening around us. And those are the things that I look at.
I look at ways to be disruptive, ways to make investments and in my history as a Venture Capitalist, I am not an academic person. Futurism is sort of an academic discipline where people talk about what’s going to happen and they keep talking and they keep talking and they keep talking, but they never take any risk. They may tell other people what to do, but they themselves never taking any risks. For me, I’ve always said, I think this is going to happen and I’m going to bet on that. And that’s what Venture Capital is. It’s betting and so, I make bets with my own money on things that are about to happen, and if I get it right, I make a lot, if not so much. I’ve always done this and that’s one of the big differences between other people and me. I bet my own money on what I think is going to happen and that means that I have to be a little bit more thorough.
Taylorr: That’s right.
Austin: For sure. Education predictions.
Taylorr: That’s right.
Taylorr: And there’s extra weight to it too, when you practice what you preach, so to speak, you’re actually taking the risk. You’re immersed, it’s an immersive experience for you. [Cross-talk 27:49].
Joel: One of the things that a lot of well-known people, for example, Mark Cuban, he says never, never take advice from somebody who doesn’t have a stake in the game. And that’s the truth. That’s the problem with consultants that’s not knocking consultants because I do a lot of advisory work myself. And you can’t always have a stake in the game, but you have to have a stake in some game and you have to be able to prove that you’re worth your salt.
Taylorr: Absolutely. Especially in a world full of noise, anybody can have an opinion these days, which means [cross-talk 28:24]
Joel: Everybody knows and they’re quick to tell it to you.
Austin: Isn’t that the truth? I like that you’re a practitioner as much as you are an expert too. There’s nothing that you’re saying that you haven’t personally lived through and experienced to back it up so way to not just contribute to the noise Joel. Way to actually be a shining light.
Joel: For sure. Thank you.
Taylorr: Definitely. This has been an awesome episode Joel. This is exactly why we brought you on. You have a very straightforward way of talking about complex things and distilling them down into a way lots of us can understand and take action on. As you know, that’s why you’re here, we’re all about creating value for our audience. I’m curious, what are some of the things you’re working on right now that our listeners can benefit from?
Joel: I don’t sell anything to speakers, so I don’t per se how anything for speakers but one of the things that we do is we produce trend reports and over the last many months, I’ve kind of noticed new trends. We produced 20 trends for 2020, and they’ve really been remarkably accurate. We of course didn’t know about COVID, but we were remarkably accurate in many of the things that we had talked about happening and these are all business types of trends that we circulate to our corporate clients. There’s a new trend on the horizon and the new trend is, I think that we can expect a significant social media rebellion not long from now. Not so much at the individual level, people are going to keep using the social media platforms, but I think that companies are getting really tired of the model.
And here’s what the model is. These companies, these Facebooks and LinkedIn, these companies are very, very smart, incredibly smart people but what they’ve done is they’ve gotten all of us to invite our friends, they’ve gotten companies to organize like pages and get tens of thousands of people, they organize them and then what the social media company does is that it charges you to be in touch with the people who you’ve organized to be on your page. And so, you have to buy advertising to talk to your own people that you’ve organized and then if a competitor comes along, they can advertise to the people that you’ve organized. By the way, you don’t know who the people are that you even organize because they don’t let you have their names, email addresses or information. So, the social media companies have really put these large companies in a pickle because these big companies have built these giant networks on real estate that they do not own. Who would build a big house on rented real estate on a month to month kind of deal, nobody would ever do it, but everybody did it on Facebook, LinkedIn and all these other different places because they got so excited and it just became the thing to do.
So, I think that a rebellion is on the horizon. And here’s what I do when I talk about making a bet. First, we look at the trend and then I said, how does this show up? Well, how it shows up is that companies are going to start looking for alternatives. So, the action that I took as I right away, start thinking about this, I hired an engineering firm and we started building a digital broadcasting network that would allow our corporate clients to bypass the social media networks and go straight to the mobile devices of the most important people in their world who then will open those messages 90% of the time. Basically, it’s a private network that they can deliver all kinds of rich content and it’s rolling out here pretty quick. We built a whole platform for this and it’s being very well received. So, there you go.
Taylorr: I love that trend. Thank you for sharing that with our audience and we can honestly, personally relate to this. Social media has been our weakest point of effort across our organization, mainly because of that exact problem that you outlined, Joel. Being a marketing professional, I’ve seen this time and time again, you organized audiences for the social network, you can’t get access, you have to pay for advertising and rinse and repeat so we built our own social network, which was Speaker Flow and is Speaker Flow University. As a business owner, I could personally support that trend and I’m going to need a look at that platform you’ve built so keep those in mind for that.
Joel: It might work for you guys.
Taylorr: Yeah, right. It might. Joel, thank you so much for being on the show today and for you listeners, if you found this valuable consider rating, subscribing, and if you want more awesome resources like this, go to speakerflow.com/resources.
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