I have always been enamored by people that are successful. I have been to seminars, meet successful people, and sought out ways to ask questions directly to people that from my vantage were successful. Finding a mentor is key to success at any endeavor in life. Of course, as I found out, you need the correct mentor-ship to follow. With the wrong mentor, things can be a disaster…
Quite a while ago, when I was beginning my side hustle for extra money, I was called by a client referred to me by ServiceMagic. ServiceMagic is a company that I joined to get additional exposure for my business, and for a minimal cost, I actually generated quite a bit of business. Generating business is key, especially when you are starting out. At some point, your business will take off and you have a lot of customers, and word of mouth becomes a large part of generating business.
The client called, looking for someone to cleanup a overgrown wooded area. It was going to be back breaking work, but often those jobs are the best money makers. I had the tools, I needed a mower, axe, chain saw, manual hedge trimmer, a good pair of gloves, and of course my trusty 1988 Ford ranger truck to haul everything in.
In jobs like these, you get a free workout, something that other people pay a membership for. And, you actually get paid to do it. You are money ahead two ways.
I first met the husband on a week day after work. He was well dressed, as he had a professional job as an executive at Fair Isaac, the credit reporting agency. He wore a long sleeve white cotton shirt, and looked like he just removed a tie before he met with me. He was a 31 year old professional, living in a small and modest home that he was renting. There was nothing out of the ordinary. He invited me into his home and we discussed the details of what was needed and a price.
When I showed up to do the work, he met me again. I did most of my side work on evenings and weekends, as I had, and still do, a fulltime job. This time, the guy was a bit more casual. He has on a t-shirt and jeans. He definitely looked different, as he had sleeve tattoos on both arms, and you could not fit a dime on either arm and not touch a tattoo. I mentioned something like “nice ink” (in a good way) to him, and he said his back was the same way. He led a different lifestyle in his younger days, he owned a motorcycle shop. It all made sense at the time.
After that job, I had several other jobs that he hired me to do. He always paid promptly, and never tried to haggle on price. The jobs were pretty standard, nothing too hard or complicated. Just manual labor tasks that required some tools and some back muscle.
After couple of years, he and his wife moved to a different neighborhood, and bought a spectacular model home. It was ~$749K, which is very expensive in this area. The tax records show it has 4,144 finished square feet. In my mind, this was a house that successful people would live in. Since I continued to mow and do small tasks for him, I saw him 2-3 times per summer. I would always ask a few questions on what kind of work he did, etc.
He had moved on from Fair Isaac, and was working as the COO of a startup firm. The firm was a darling of Wall Street, and everyone was looking for the company to go public. If that happened, this guy would be filthy rich.
This guy was living extremely well. After buying the home, he put in a 40K+ landscaping job. The place was immaculate already, but a large stone area with a fire pit was added, along with other enhancements. He bought a fancy new motorcycle, and had it modified. New engine, a paint job on the gas tank that looked 6” deep, by some famous guy that was on TV (I can’t remember r the name…). He joked with me one day, as we looked at the neighbors paying in the pool a house away. He said something like “I could buy four of those pools for the cost of my bike”. It was a spectacular bike, and he won some beauty contests with it at various motor cycle shows.
And the cars came like money was water. He had a Ferrari, a Land Rover, a Bentley, Aston Martin, Rolls Royce and others. He owned several properties. He spent quite a bit of time at his second home in Malibu. He owned a horse farm, and he was on various horse show circuits. Life was grand, and it even spilled over to me. He paid me once $200 for about 45 minutes of work. I felt guilty, but he set the price and I took the money.
Then, one day, the wife called me to discuss cutting back on services. She needed the work done, but wanted to cut costs. She and her husband were good to me, so I reduced my prices by a bit. I knew something was happening, but I was not sure. I assumed a divorce, and wanted to find out. Another friend that referred my name to, and had hired me, said the husband had gotten in over his head in business dealings. He said it was not pretty and did not want to elaborate.
Through my tenant screening ventures, I knew a bit on how to look up ‘dirt’ on people. I have looked up tenants in the past in the Minnesota Court Site, and often find things like judgments, typically in the $3K to $5K range. When I looked up the husband, I saw a $93M judgment. Holy crap, how do you get a $93,125,924.46 judgment against you?
I then Googled his name. There were 1,000’s of articles that showed up. Virtually every medical journal or financial journal had an article on him. He had ‘misappropriated’ the firm’s venture capital and put it in his personal account. He falsified bank statements and KPMG audit reports and presented them as real to Wall Street Venture capitalists as a way to raise money. He stole the company’s customer’s money, from the firms trust accounts. These monies were deposited by people believing that they were depositing money into their own Health Care Savings (HS) account. The Judge said “noted that this case was the most aggravated financial fraud he had seen in his 18 years on the federal bench”. Jeremy Blackburn of Canopy Financial was a thief.
So, I learned it is easy to be successful when you steal other people’s money, at least for a while. I learned that when you get caught, prison is the end game; and prison is probably not fun. This guy was sentenced to 15 years in Federal prison. I learned that death, may even be preferable to prison, as he killed himself the night before he was to report to prison.
It may not be flashy, but slow and steady wins the race. When you have the world by the tail, just hang on, do not get greedy.
So I know a murderer, and a (former) embezzler. So I got that going for me, which is nice. (paraphrasing Bill Murray in Caddy Shack)