322 - Owning your F*ck Ups with Stephen Sacks - John Laurito
Episode 322 Owning your Fck Ups with Stephen Sacks Tomorrows Leader Podcast with John Laurito

322 – Owning your F*ck Ups with Stephen Sacks

In today’s episode, host John Laurito talks with Author, Facilitator, Investor, and Founder of Founding Nav, Stephen Sacks. They talk about Stephen’s journey of drastic change from working in the fashion industry, getting into a new and different business altogether, and helping businesses grow and become more successful.

Stephen is passionate about helping businesses grow and become more successful by sourcing the right funding. With over 30 years of business and commerce experience, he can help you unlock the cash available to your business and assist your company in growing at an accelerated rate.

Stephen founded Funding Nav to be the advisor he wished he would have had access to when he ran trading companies for 30 years.

His passion is helping entrepreneurs to realize their ambitions and, of course, his wife, four daughters, and Barry the Pug.

Learn more about Stephen:

[0:00] Intro

[2:09] What’s Stephen’s background like, and how he made the drastic change?

[6:19] On seeing other paths to take other than what he’s on

[9:05] Why is it important for people to take ownership of their failures?

[14:41] How do you find the balance between learning from mistakes and clearing your slate?

[17:34] What are the most critical things he sees in the leaders who run successful businesses?

[21:23] What’s Stephen doing tomorrow?

[25:19] Outro

Get a copy of “Tomorrow’s Leader” on Amazon.

John Over the last two decades, I’ve been on an insatiable quest to learn everything I can about leadership. What makes the best leaders so good? After running companies small and large over the last 20 years, today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name is John Laurito. I’m your host, and I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this very topic and what makes the best leader so good. Welcome to tomorrow’s leader. 

John Hey, they’re tomorrow’s leaders. So today’s guest is a really good example of somebody who knew he was in the wrong spot and decided to do something about it. So many people get stuck in this path because they just they don’t want to detach from the path that they’re on because they don’t know what the other path looks like, so to speak. And sometimes it’s not until you take a step off the path that you actually see where you’re supposed to be and we’re supposed to go. And this this guy is a really good example of it. So Stephen Sacks, an entrepreneur and author, he’s the author of a book called The Intelligent Investor Handbook and Reboot Your Business. Really interesting story. And take a listen at the end to what he did the day after this episode. I like I have not even heard of somebody doing this crazy. And he sent me an email afterwards and let me know how it went. You’re going to get a kick out of this, so I won’t spoil it for you. But here is Stephen Sacks. All right. Welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dove deep on all things leader related related to leading yourself and leading others. I’m John, the writer, your host. I had a great guest, very interesting guest with me today. I’ve got Stephen Sacks, entrepreneur, author, author of most recently The Intelligent Investor Handbook. Stephen, welcome to the show. 

Stephen Thanks very much. I’m really pleased to be here. 

John You got it. You’re all the way in the UK. So we’re dealing with the geography, the time zone changes in here. I feel like I’m in the same room with you. 

Stephen And technology is amazing, isn’t it? 

John I love it. I love it. So I want to dove into your you’ve got a really interesting background and I think it’s always it’s always interesting when someone has success in one industry and then they totally pivot and make a drastic change and they have a success. And another that’s a rare breed of human being. But you started in the fashion industry super successful. You’ve transitioned into the business you’re in now, which we’ll talk about. But take us through that a little bit. Like how did you make that? Why did you make that? What happened? 

Stephen Okay. So what I was doing previously involves a lot of travel and it was very, very immersive. So we were making products in general in Asia and we were selling products in Europe and also in the United States. So I was kind of like traveling 60, 70 times a year internationally and like on average more than once a week, I was on sort of like nodding terms with the guys on customs at the airports. And whilst the novelty was fantastic earlier on offer time, it became a bit of a grind. And what I found was that I was doing the job of going to places, checking production or selling things, but all the social stuff that goes with it. And in fashion there’s a lot of social stuff, right? I really I lost the enthusiasm for that. So I do the business, go up to my room, go online, you know, do do some work. I go to bed, get a flight the following morning, go home. And after a I thought, well, I’m just going through the motions here. This this is not really it’s not really why why so start in this business. So I decided to exit the business, which I did at the end of 2016. And I’ve I thought I’d go into something similar again because I’d had a number of different, quite similar businesses where we were always trading products. And then I thought over Christmas 2017, maybe. Maybe I need to do something a bit different. I was kind of 51 at that time and I thought, Well, and it’s a bit of a mid-life crisis. Well, maybe I should do something entirely different. So then I thought about. What is it about the work that I do that really excites me? And then when I reflect on it, it was it was the deals, it was being the business being of some kind of problem or there’s some kind of opportunity. You need some money that’s got it. You know, there’s a transition you need to manage within the business. And those moments, that’s kind of when I came alive, that’s when I thought, Wow, this is amazing. And and I did things in the business that. That nobody else do in my business. That was where I added all the value. And of course, those are the most valuable moments from a financial perspective. And then when those moments are over and you go back to the all the normal stuff, which is like going, you know, flying around and dealing with the minutiae of management, it’s kind of like I was going to sleep again. And so I thought, I know maybe I could create a business where I just do that, but do that for lots of other different businesses. And that’s how I started in 2017. And then gradually that kind of I kind of created funding that around offering services that people were prepared to pay for. Being successful with that and realizing, Oh, hang on a minute, maybe I’ve got a set of skills that I’ve developed through buying and selling and owning a number of different businesses and growing them over time that I could market it as a service. And that’s what I started doing. So that’s why I started in 2017 are actually books about it. I franchised it, actually. I grew it and I got a number of different suppliers within the business now and I haven’t looked back and now I’m so pleased I made that transition because honestly, the garment industry is not an easy business. If you can succeed in that business, believe me, you can succeed. You can succeed in any business, I’m sure. 

John Well, here’s what I find fascinating about what you said. First of all, you know, there’s so many people that are in a career, in a path that they’re just they’re feeling what you felt, the burnout, the lack of enjoyment, whether it’s travel related, stress related, whatever, they’re just not fulfilled. And you made a decision that, okay, this was not right. This is not the right path. You weren’t in the right place and and left it without quite knowing exactly. We’re going to do, which I think there’s so many people that just say, hey, I don’t know what else or I don’t have the answer yet, so I’m just going to stay in this path and they end up stuck there for life. And I think and I talk to people all the time about the fact that sometimes you’ll start to see the other paths. Once you leave the path you’re on. It’s not like you will see all the answers from your perspective. You’ve got to take a risk and you’ve got to take. So it sounds like that’s exactly what happened. It wasn’t it to you cut free of what was no longer fulfilling you. And then ultimately you started to realize what makes you excited and and now you’ve got this great business. Yeah, I love doing it. 

Stephen Yeah, for sure. It was an iterative process. I didn’t know what it was at the beginning. I kind of had a kind of feeling what it might be like. So what I to what the actual method I followed was and it was all around business networking. So in London, like I guess in many cities in the United States and around the world, there are literally no shortage of networking opportunities. I mean, literally you can network at breakfast, lunch and dinner every day if you want to. And that’s exactly what I started doing. I literally just started turning up to everything. And what I found was the room was full of service providers, accountants, lawyers, business coaches, and it was like no clients. Everybody is. It’s almost like kind of going fishing in a sort of post-nuclear collapse or something where efficient dead and there’s just fishermen. And you’re thinking, Oh, hang on a minute, I don’t want to be like these fishermen. I’m going to be like a different kind of fisherman. And that’s why I kind of worked out what what is not being offered here. And what was not being offered was innovative approaches to finance. There were definitely finance brokers, and I’m definitely accountants and I’m definitely bank managers. But there was nobody kind of dealing with financial issues from an entrepreneur’s perspective. And given the fact that I’d never been in banking or in accountancy myself, I was ideally placed to be able to empathize with business owners about what their issues were and to come up with innovative solutions to whatever their issues were. And that’s kind of how I built the business around that. 

John I love it. I love it. So talk about you and I were talking before the show started about what you’ve kind of come into, which is this realization about people taking ownership for their failures and how how why is that important? How do you branded or label it? Because I love it. Share your perspective on that. 

Stephen Okay. So in business and business owners, we and people, individuals, everybody, actually, we tend to walk around in a sort of psychological armor and that is that, you know, and certainly when you meet somebody for the first time, you don’t want to you don’t want to lower your guard. And so you have an elevator pitch, right? So we will have elevator pitches. My elevator pitch, finding that. That we help businesses that have more ambition than cash. That’s kind of what we say. But. An elevator pitch is kind of a statement of ambition, sometimes a bit of bullshit, and sometimes it can be just a bit meaningless. And it doesn’t tell you much about the person themselves. If you hit it off with somebody and you get to know them and become friends with them over time, they might tell you a lot more about themselves. Yeah, you might really dig down. And the I suppose one of the deepest levels is when they admit to you how they fucked up. And in business, it’s inevitable that you’re going to fuck up. Right? And in fact, I think Winston Churchill said that the definition of success is the speed of which you can move between failure. So it’s kind of inevitable that we’re going to fail. And, you know, if it’s a real failure is when you experience a moment of failure and you say, oh, I say I’m chucking the towel and I’m don’t I’m not going to do that. But if you come back from failure and you fail again and fail again and fail again, in the end, you’ll succeed by then. But by the law of averages, you will succeed even if you’re not that small, you will succeed in the end if you keep coming back. It’s like that. That rookie film, there was a rookie one or something where he gets hit down by Apollo Creed and Rocky. 

John One, two, three, four, five, six. 

Stephen Yeah, they’re all the same, right? And then he then he comes back and he gets hit again, and they hit. And then eventually he goes, Give yourself a brain damage. But it takes Apollo down. And yeah, and business is like that. You know, you can only succeed when you’ve experienced failure. And I can tell you that the in the United States actually, I think that you’re much more honest about this than we are here. I think in the United Kingdom, we are we’re not very forgiving of that. And there’s a general assumption that people just successful and are going to back a success. If you go to a Silicon Valley B.S. with a business plan. One of the questions they’re likely to ask you is tell us about your biggest fuck up and then tell us what you learned from that, because they don’t want your first fuck to be on their check. They want it, you’ve already done it, you’ve learned from it, and now they’re getting the benefit of that. So I’m launching Fuck Up Nights here in London starting next Tuesday, the 11th. And essentially I’ve got four people coming to speak to an audience of people we sell tickets to, and each of them are going to be talking about an enormous fuck up that they had in their lives. One of the guys actually went to prison for a number of years because he got out. Ultimately, he got involved in a Ponzi scheme, which kind of that’s a big fucking not intentional at the outset. And his life changed immeasurably. I mean, you know, from being like literally multimillionaire, I mean, private jets, boats, places in different parts of the world to prison cell divorced like literally the biggest fuck up you can ever imagine. But now he’s learned he hasn’t he hasn’t bounced back. And this is not the narrative we’re looking for. We’re not looking for that normal narrative. It’s like, Yeah, I was great. Then it was shit. And now look at me. I’m so great again. It’s like. It’s like Alcoholics Anonymous, you know, when you go there and even if you get a drink for like ten years, you still say, Hi, I’m Steven. Hmm. I’m an alcoholic because you know that you’re always susceptible to that. Yeah. And as business owners, we’re always susceptible to failure. Even the biggest the biggest business, the biggest business successes can fail. And to fail. Yeah, absolutely. So is drawing is drawing people’s attention to that and getting people to communicate more quickly and more honestly at a much deeper level than you would do normal. 

John Yeah, they are no doubt is so. And I love that because there’s and I love that first question from from from AVC as is, you know, what’s your biggest fuck up? I love that because you’re right, you know, and if somebody can acknowledge that and take ownership and can’t tell you what they learn from that, then they’re not, then they’re absolutely destined to repeat the same thing over and over again. But you brought up an interesting fact, which I think is so true, and this was in our earlier conversation, I think with people’s just intent is so much to put up this this facade of success. And we don’t want to drop our guard. And it’s not only externally, but it is internally. We don’t want to think about the stuff that we’re not good at or that we fail that. I mean, what’s the balance there? I mean, obviously, you don’t want to live in negativity in your head, in the failure, in the setbacks and everything. But you you have to be really good at reflecting back. Why did something happen? What did what would I have done differently next time when I’m in this situation, what will I do differently? I mean, what’s the balance there between, you know, how much of your brain space do you need to be focused on those failures and what you learn from it versus, okay, let me clean the slate. 

Stephen And you know what? As entrepreneurs and business owners, you you’ve got to be optimistic. It’s very difficult to run a business as a pessimist. Right. You get lost is going to be pretty much half full. So. You know, as business owners, we’re kind of I suppose we we’re, you know, you know, they say that progress relies on the unreal, the unreasonable man because, you know, the reasonable guy just accepts things the way they are and just kind of like, you know, does whatever he’s going to do or she’s going to do. Whereas all progress relies on the unreasonable guy because he looks at something, says, I’m going to change this and it doesn’t suit me. I think there’s opportunity here. I’m going to go off and do it and. And normally they’re wrong, actually, you know, and in my latest book, The Intelligent Investor’s Handbook, it’s all about that. I mean, the hit rate of it, business investors, even highly qualified business investors, and that’s an early stage. VCs that have whole research teams, if they get one in ten. Right. That they’re that jumping, they’re really, really pleased with that. And so nine out of ten of their choices fail. And as business owners, we can expect a similar level of failure to that. And unless you keep coming back ten times on average, I guess then you’ll get you’re basically going to fail forever. So I think that, yeah, you’ve got to quickly own the failure, have a quick grieving process, right? Yeah, that sucks up. I really get at these. This is what I’ve learned from it. And now I’m going to go again. And now I don’t see. Why don’t you go in again? Yeah, you you’re more robust. You built it, you own it, and you may fail again. And then you’ve got to keep up and keep going. And in the end, you’ll you’ll you’ll burst through your success rate. It’s inevitable. 

John Yeah. Let me ask you, what I know is going to be a tough question. You work with closely with businesses, lots of them. And you you obviously provide them with that lifeline, so to speak, the cash and helping them fuel their their progress. But at the same point, again, vast majority of them fail, a fraction of them succeed at a really high level. In your opinion, what is the one or two most critical things that you see in those leaders that run the successful versus the failures? 

Stephen I wish I could answer that question. I wish I was bright enough to walk into a business and say, wow, I can. I am positive that this is going to succeed because if I was that clever, I would be a lot wealthier than what I am if I could really do that. You know, sometimes sometimes people some businesses require, I suppose, you know, like a star. Some businesses require a good administrator. You know, there’s been lots of studies about this. I can think of some books actually, which I’ve read that specifically focus on this. I think that they say about leadership, don’t they? You know, you’ve got to be. Looking in the mirror when you’re considering failure and looking through the window when you’re when you’re achieving success. So if if your business is failing, it’s down to you. You’ve made some poor decisions that you’ve put the wrong people in, the wrong systems, the wrong idea. When said, if your business is succeeding, that’s down to everybody else and you need to go. What you should be investing your time in that is going around saying, Hey, John, you’re doing a terrific job there. You know, how can we support you better? How can we help you more? But it’s business failure. I don’t I don’t. Is that probably going kicking your ass? So I need to I need to sort out, you know, my issues. So I think that I think I think the biggest thing maybe is, is that level of maturity and a leader that they can. That it’s all about everybody else when it’s succeeding but all about them when it’s failing, if they’re big enough to accept without, then I think they’re destined to succeed. 

John I love that. That’s fantastic. That’s a that’s a great answer. That’s a really tough question. And I, I appreciate your authenticity. And in saying that, it is tough in that you’re not certain. But that’s a great answer there. I love that. And you’re so you’re so right. You know, I talk to as you do business owners, CEOs all the time. And that’s the whole essence of this podcast is, you know, what do the truly most successful ones do differently, think differently? How are they different? And it’s it’s hard. It’s not you know, you talked to ten people, ten CEOs. They all sound great. They all are very smart. They know their business. They know their industry. It’s the very, very small things that make huge differences in what makes one person do something so far innovative so far for so much further and better than another person is not necessarily what you see on the surface. 

Stephen Yeah, that’s right. And of course, there’s always luck, you know, and I appreciate you can’t get lucky multiple times, but you could get really lucky once. You know, there are lots of stories about people who just appeared in the right place at the right time once and did really well. And that. But you can’t rely on that consistently. 

John Yeah, exactly. So thanks so much for sharing. I know not have a whole lot of time with you. You’re doing something really cool tomorrow. And I thought that’s really amazing because it tells a lot about the type of guy you are and for the people that can’t see you and they’re listening to this because this is on audio and video. I mean, you’re 57. You look like you’re in your mid-forties. And tomorrow, I think, is an example of what your secret to too, looking great and feeling great and success is. What are you doing it tomorrow? Share with the audience. 

Stephen So two weeks ago I cycled from London to Paris and then two and a half days with a group of people and it’s 220 miles the way that we did it. And I’ve got a free pass this week and my wife’s off in the Caribbean at the weekend and I thought, I’ll see if I can do that myself over the weekend. And then I gradually kind of like developed. The idea is actually maybe I could see if I could do that in one day. So I’ve applied myself a 220 mile route around the east of England, which I’m going to sell for 4:00 tomorrow morning on, and basically see if I can cycle 220 miles around that route in one day, probably about 15 hours of sort of pedaling. But the big challenge is calories so that it’s going to burn 8 to 10000 calories. And I need to work out how can ingest all those calories without puking the whole up again. So that’s my challenge tomorrow. How many breakfasts, how many lunches, how many how many snacks I can have in the day and still keep going? 

John Yeah. Have you figure that out? I mean I’m, I’m thinking, I don’t know, do you stop and have like a big, you know, meatball parm sandwich or lunch or would I be eating little things or what? 

Stephen Yeah, I haven’t entirely figured it out. I’m going to go out to my cousin later this evening and I’ve heard that what you eat the night before is really important. So I’m going to stock my face and pizza and pasta and then have an early breakfast tomorrow and a second breakfast and just just keep going and have a bag full of bananas and stuff and just to see how I get on with it. But I think I think the nutrition is absolutely key to this. 

John Yeah, that’s amazing, man. You got it. You’ve got to let me know how that goes and I’ll include it in the show notes. So people who. 

Stephen Will send you a message. 

John Yeah, that’s incredible. Good for you. Well, it says a lot about who you are. And obviously, you know how you lead yourself mentally and physically and and ties into what you’re doing. You’re helping other people do things that they wouldn’t have been able to do without your help. So I know a lot of people listening are going to want to engage with you and find out more about what it is that you do and maybe get your books. What’s the best way for them to do that? Where do they go? 

Stephen So well. The books are available on Amazon. Of course, those books are ones to Rebuild Your Business by Stephen Sacks in the School of the Intelligent Investors Handbook. And then they can contact me through LinkedIn. Just check Stephen Sacks and say See past or by email. Stephen Dos Sachs Act funding dot com or check out the funding of dot com websites, which basically explains what we do and how we do it and have some case studies of what we’ve done with other businesses. 

John Awesome. Terrific, man. Well, this has been great. I’ve loved our conversation. I appreciate your insights. I know it’s been valuable for the audience. I know I learned a few things and keep us up to date with everything, not just your bike ride, but how things go in the future with the business and everything. 

Stephen Thanks, John. I really appreciate it. 

John You got it. And thanks to all for joining us today. We’ve been here with Stephen Sacks, entrepreneur and author of The Intelligent Investor Handbook. We’ll have everything in the show notes. Be sure to check him out for sure and we’ll keep you posted on his progress, of course. And as always, like share, subscribe, go down below. Give a five star review and we’ll see you next time. Thanks. Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions or inquiries about having me at your next event or personal coaching, reach me at John@johnlaurito.com. Thanks, Lead on!

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