Exclusive Interview With Author Brian Collins
Brian Collins has been an entrepreneur since the age of 31, when he quit his job with a large American customs and trucking company where he was C.F.O for the Canadian region. Brian got the fever to be his own boss and has not looked back. He started four businesses, all in very different business sectors, with zero experience in any of those fields.
In Step Off the Porch and Start Your Own Business, he shares the steps he took to create, shape, incorporate, fund, market, and handle all issues, from lawsuits, tax problems to staff concerns, when starting a new business venture. He also discusses his “6 Rules for Success,” which he coined for himself. The book covers 31 years and four projects; each business and its solution offers an example for the reader to learn techniques to structure their own dream business, and what they may encounter along the way to success.
Brian grew up in West Edmonton, Alberta, playing hockey and football before moving to Vancouver where he played up to city league High school football (1 city championship), and two hockey titles by the end of his junior hockey days. Brian is married to Yvette, a lovely person who accepts Brian’s ventures, and he has one son, Michael, also a businessman. Brian spends his time growing his gold mine business in Nevada, he is at the gym four times a week, and is always on the hunt for the next challenge in an arena he has not tackled before.
Tell us about your book, Step off the Porch and Start Your Own Business.
A 6 step rule for a side hustle or new venture!!!
It was a few years coming as my son and brother said I should write a book. They saw me, a one-man-show, start four businesses, plus a few other side projects. One of these was a real estate game, called For Sale, sold exclusively into Century 21 network. 10,000 board games were produced and sold.
My book is not meant to be a text book full of graphs and lines on how to start a business, rather it’s a fast read on how to be your own boss. It tells the story of what I did, and what I ran into each time I created an opportunity. It tells the reader what challenges I ran into from concept to corporate structure; to funding, to legal issues, marketing, sales, staffing and so on. Each venture had its own major challenges to overcome, but using my “6 Rules for Success,” I was successful every time.
I was told on each venture by one or more people, “It will never happen,” “It cannot work,” “Don’t walk away …run away.” To me, this usually meant they were afraid to risk it all, and I should be, too. I am not a person who has a backup gear, I can only move forward. This book is a way for most to view how their dreams can come into focus and roll out. They will not copy my ventures, but each venture has similar challenges; so, I hope you learn from the four I started!
You are a successful entrepreneur, having started four of your own businesses, can you briefly tell us about each business and why you chose them?
I had never done a turnaround or seen the flow of one, but why not try if given the opportunity? I knew zero of what was to be required at the start.
The Takeover – It was my 30th birthday, and I was in L.A trying to lock up my first solo deal for a real estate product I could sell in Canada; but I did not have the money to close the deal. That night at Charlies Browns restaurant in Marina Del Ray, I had one of my flashes or messages I get -- I wanted to be a risk taker over my current and later career as an auditor/accountant. I knew I would have to give up my steady paycheck, leave my friends and have to separate from my first wife as she would not live with my risk-taker personality.
The near-bankrupt real estate companies were presented to me to audit and confirm the trust fund fraud committed by the owner. I did, and in the process, was told when the companies went down many would lose everything, and the parent company in Canada would probable get sued. No person had any idea how to stop the mess from happening; including 4 V.P.’s for parent company.
In my office, I created a picture of two new companies, one with debt and preferred shareholders, and one owned by the debt company that was a pure real estate company that paid out any profits to parent Debt Company but avoided all qualification measures now to stay afloat and operate. My bosses at the time loved the plan and told me to go do all the restructure and negotiate all the changes and agreements from all debtors. This process was very lengthy, but I did it, and then I purchased both companies in the deal. You’ll have to read the book to find out more about this deal.
B) The Real Estate Option: Part A
I had no intention of building a hotel, I knew less than zip about what would be required, let alone the 40 Million needed to do the deal. I said to myself, “Maybe there’s a payday here if I work it correct”
It was the Summer of 1986, I had been retired for a few months from selling out my two real estate companies and had been skiing at Whistler MT, north of Vancouver B.C. I was 33 years old and bored, so I thought to myself what do I want to do next in the business arena I have not done before? I had always loved the mystery of Hong Kong and wanted a way to go there and make some money. One day when playing hockey (senior hockey with other businessmen Sunday morning in West Vancouver at the Hollyburn Club), I happened to be playing with the President of Coast Hotels, Rob. I was passing the puck, and setting him up for easy goals when we got to chatting.
I told Rob I was going to build a hotel on the waterfront in Victoria, and he commented that I couldn’t do that as there were no lots for such a venture. And so again, I presented the deal (my Rule #5), which simply is if you do not ask for the deal you will not get the deal., which was, If I gave him my waterfront lot, he would pay me and they could build a hotel there. Two days later we had a deal signed. I passed over the information I had and approximately one year later I got paid six-figures for my time and making Rob look good on the hockey rink.
The Real Estate Option: Part B
I had never seen nor done a real estate flip. I heard it could be costly!
As I said, I wanted to visit Hong Kong. It was now the Spring of 89’ and about four weeks after I signed up the deal with the Coast Hotel boys, I found a reason to go. I met up with a minor partner of a waterfront steel and concrete condo project, down at Victoria’s waterfront. I liked the completion schedule of a two-year that they had already started digging for underground. Again, I asked for the deal I wanted. If you do not ask you do not get, this is Rule # 5. They gave me a 12-month option, I paid zero dollars, and a fixed price sheet. I took some brochures with me to my contact in Hong Kong and in six weeks had sold two top penthouses through the agent in the Ocean Tower top 8th floor. This deal got better for me over the 20-months to closing of each of the two units. The prices went up the day after I got the option to buy and sell (flip) and so I made money on the flip, plus much more as you will read about in the book.
The Real Estate Option: Part C the Y2K venture:
I knew less than zip about the internet in1995, but knew it had promise!
My reason to start here was pure, I had to make some more money as my son now was now four and my last successes paid for a new smaller home. My wife at the time made enough to feed us from her small insurance company I set up for her, but the larger items were going to be up to me. The internet was a new thing in the 1990s, and still unsettled. I had been lucky for two out of two ventures so far, this third would be my PhD level test compared to the first two, as this one was way off the path less traveled. In fact, much of what I went onto create was brand new and in a business sector in the 90s dominated by a large public USA company called the Telco industry. They had the money, but no one saw my vision, as I was asked a few times at presentations in front of 500 to 800 Telco executives, as well at local airports after the conventions, if I had ever been employed in the Telco industry. Each time I said, “never,” and they all were shocked at the plain simplicity of my three products we had at the end of my time with Phon-Net (my OTCBB fully reported public software company) listed and trading in the U.S.
I was able to make three software products, all three with actual live products that worked in the industry. The book tells the long story and all the twists as well.
I had to sell out to a group who were looking after the company when my wife’s cancer came back in 2001 mid-year. I did not capitalize on the over $450,000,000 worth of stock I held the year before due to restricted stock rules for the director and president. I did, however, feel good as I invented three products and made a penny stock public company a very good success story for a guy who knew zero about any of that before I got started. If times were different, we were ahead of the curve on many fronts and had apps before people knew what an app was. My wife passed away on January 2002 and I moved on.
D - The Gold Rush:
A gold mining venture from scratch…WOW. Now I am really off the path less traveled and again was told by some in my process it would never occur.
At my age, mid-50s, I had some of my son’s needs taken care of – hockey and a car. Then college costs that his hockey scholarship did not cover at a good NCAA school in lower New York State paid and I was ready and set to launch a new venture. I was a hockey and baseball dad until my son went away at the end of 11th grade to play B.C junior hockey inland. I wanted again to do something I had not done before, or knew zero about. I ended up with a choice of the best of two, it was either oil or gold.
Oil had many risks, but gold was also a many tried and failed kind of story. So it was gold. The odds were against me from the start, but as I had learned before, do not count yourself out until the last bell rings. After some years in a mine project I had some co- owned mine interests in, I jumped to my own deal I had found in central Nevada. It took a lot effort and some extra hard work to get the first one permitted and set up to make gold. We did make some gold this summer from initial test runs on site. We have project #2 in gold starting its permit stage now right across the highway from #1.
I can say when I am old and on the porch I started four ventures all in different arenas, and in all I had no experience with each before I started. I learned much and will forever be changed as a person because of the trials and challenges you go through. All of this is laid out in the book, and a fast read for one needing a 6 step process to start a new business.
Why was it important to you to write this book and share your message?
I have to say my main reason I wrote this book was to help others, you can see and create opportunities from your own life experiences that may offer you another way to earn income, another way to enhance your life both monetarily, as well as emotionally. Take the risk. Look at the risk carefully, but take it.
Along with success, come some mistakes. But often the lessons we learn from these are invaluable. Can you share with us an example of this?
Yes, we all make mistakes along the way, and some will stick with us, but it is the mistakes we grind our teeth over for years we want to avoid if we can. I made a few mistakes in my business ventures, but the one that stuck with me most was when I decided to step aside of my software public company (venture # 3), as President and Director, to look after my wife Sue, who then had approximately five- months to live. After all I put into the company I should have hired an executive to do the admin work for a short period of time until I could get my head back into the opportunities. I could have advanced it under my control, but at the time I was so consumed watching my partner suffer daily and succumb to cancer I did not have the energy to think past her time to my life after her. In the end I would still have gone with my choice always for her, family is for a period of time, business can be chanced later.
What is the most important message you want your readers to take away from your book?
Time. Tomorrow all you risk losing is today; you can redo and fix many things but you can never get yesterday back, so don’t waste time, seize the moment. If we are lucky when we are near the end, we all end up thinking about what we did in our life. And yes, stamping the same files each month is necessary to earn a living for many of us, but taking a risk to push or challenge ourselves will carry much more at the end of our life and even during the time we spend trying the venture we create. I saw a program once where seniors were asked what a good life meant, the majority said it was taking some risks and some challenges, otherwise it is just living at the train station waiting for our last train to haul us away. Often you will be judged not by what you succeed at, rather what you attempt to create.
Who are the people that have influenced you most along the way?
I can answer this question this way -- when I was eight years old, at Christmas, my family got a Monopoly game. My brother (6), sister (10) and older brother Tim (12) played one game for four and a half hours. The point that stuck with me, and has never left me even now, is when our Mother came to say dinner was ready and assumed and was shocked to see how well my older brother had done for his first time playing. She saw all the hotels, most houses and lots of cash and she said to us all, “Way to go, Tim,” but he looked at her and said, “No, the person who has about cleaned us all out and owns the most of the board pieces is Brian!” My mom walked away feeling embarrassed, she again got it backwards. So, I can say many times while I was young and when I left for University, my influencer has had to be my own efforts on all counts. The point here is, it is not important what others feel or think you can or should do, but only what you think you can do is relevant!
What are the top three traits you feel every future entrepreneur must have to succeed?
This is easy for me as I have lived this most of my life.
1: Do not live your life afraid to fail; live your life aware that failing only means you did not get it right the first time.
2: When others tell you don’t walk away, RUN, from your idea, then you are on the correct path. Most are more afraid of your success then you are of failing.
3: My six rules for success in my book spell it out well, including rule #4 , do not quit on your dream, you can always retool, repackage, refinance , and re-group , but if you quit your dream is over, so once started never quit until to get to the place you saw on the horizon. Just as the old Japanese proverb goes: fall down seven times, get up eight. This sums it up 100%.
For more information, please visit https://stepofftheporchandstartyourownbusiness.com/ or 6stepbiz.com.