Lewis Schiff | Internet Pioneer, Birthing of Giants, Moonshots and Moneymakers

Lewis Schiff is the Chairman of Birthing of Giants, a highly regarded fellowship program held a couple of times a year at MIT and Oxford University. It brings together thought leaders and business owners to help them create a powerful and successful year ahead for their businesses. He is also the author of a number of books including Business Brilliant, The Middle Class Millionaire, and The First Habit.

Lewis Schiff was the Executive Producer of Worth Magazine in the early 90’s where he was involved in the early stages of content marketing as the magazine transitioned from a great personal finance magazine into web property. In 2010, he founded Inc. Magazine’s Business Owners Council, a membership organization for top entrepreneurs and owners of closely-held family businesses. Lewis is currently a contributor on Forbes.com.

John Corcoran talks with Lewis Schiff in this week’s episode of Smart Business Revolution where they discuss the Birthing of Giants fellowship program, the importance of technology in business, and what makes their new Moonshots and Moonmakers program interesting for businesses.

Available_Black copy
Available_Black copy
Available_Black copy

Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Learn:

  • Lewis Schiff shares what the early stages of working on the web for an online magazine was like and how it evolved over the years
  • Why Lewis wrote the book ‘The Armchair Millionaire’ and how it led to another associated web property
  • Lewis’ tips for creating content marketing websites and why the need for editors has diminished
  • Lewis talks about the idea behind his book ‘The First Habit’ and how people who know what they’re best and built a business around it found success
  • What the Birthing of Giants fellowship program does and its target audience
  • Lewis’ thoughts on virtual education and characteristics of the business people in the Birthing of Giants fellowship program
  • Lewis explains what a moneymaker refers to and what his new program, Moonshots and Moneymakers, involves
  • How Clayton Christensen’s death led to the idea of Moonshots and Moneymakers, and why it only consists a of a small group of 25 business owners
  • The people Lewis Schiff acknowledges for his accomplishments
  • Where to learn more about Lewis Schiff

Resources Mentioned:

Sponsor: Rise25

Today’s episode is sponsored by Rise25 Media, where our mission is to connect you with your best referral partners, clients, and strategic partners. We do this through our done for you podcast solution and content marketing. 

Along with my business partner Dr. Jeremy Weisz, we have over 18 years of experience with B2B podcasting, which is one of the best things you can do for your business and you personally. 

If you do it right, a podcast is like a “Swiss Army Knife” – it is a tool that accomplishes many things at once. It can and will lead to great ROI, great clients, referrals, strategic partnerships, and more. It is networking and business development; and it is personal and professional development which doubles as content marketing

A podcast is the highest and best use of your time and will save you time by connecting you to higher caliber people to uplevel your network. 

To learn more, go to Rise25.com or email us at [email protected]

To learn more, book a call with us here

Check out Rise25 to learn more about our done-for-you lead generation and done-for-you podcast services. 

Right Click here to download the MP3

Click here to subscribe via iTunes

Advertise on the Smart Business Revolution Podcast

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:14  

Welcome to the Revolution, the Smart Business Revolution podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution. John Corcoran.

John Corcoran  0:40  

All right. Welcome everyone. John Corcoran here, and host of the Smart Business Revolution podcast where I get to talk with really smart CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs, all kinds of companies like YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, Lending tree, Open Table, x software, and many more. I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help to connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects and referral partners.

And I’m excited today I’ve got a great guest. His name is Lewis Schiff. We recently connected. He’s the chairman of Birthing of Giants, which is a highly regarded Fellowship Program held a couple times a year through MIT and Oxford University. They bring together thought leaders and engage business owners, and they help them to create a really powerful successful year ahead. He’s also the author of a number of different books, including Business Brilliant, The Middle Class Millionaire, and The First Habit. And we’re gonna dive into his background, his history and some of his thoughts on what’s happening in the world. We’re recording this and end of May of 2020 and we’ve got the whole Coronavirus pandemic still unfolding. So that’s still to be figured out. 

But first before we get into that interview, this episode is brought to you by Rise25 Media. At our company Rise25, we help b2b businesses get clients, referrals and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing. You’re listening to this podcast so I know you like podcasts, but if you’ve ever thought about doing a podcast, I say yes, you should do it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life over the last 10 years of doing it. That’s why I keep doing it. Even though I have young kids, and they keep me plenty busy, because I get to talk to really smart people like you, Lewis. And so if you want to learn more, you can go to rise25media.com or email [email protected]

All right, Lewis I’m excited to talk to you and dive a little bit into your background. But let’s start here. An interesting thing about your background is as far back as 1994. Now, 26 years ago, you were involved in one of the early content based websites really ultimately, you know, when you talk about content marketing, you were really in the early stages of content marketing with one of the web properties that was essentially a personal finance-based website providing information on a website in 1994, which was really early stages. I think I had my first email address in 1994. I remember I can remember, I was in college at the time I can remember with my buddy west from across the hall and like doing dial up and I’m dating myself, but you No, I remember those early stages going on Yahoo, all that kind of stuff. What was that, like in the early days working on a web property?

Lewis Schiff  3:07  

Well, you know, you just mentioned Yahoo. I mean, talk about the monster of all monsters like Yahoo owned the world back then. Sure. Did. You know you get AOL and Yahoo, they own the universe. And so

John Corcoran  3:22  

the world was their oyster in 1994. I know.

Lewis Schiff  3:25  

Whenever anyone says, you know, no one will ever defeat Amazon or Facebook will be King forever. I say just wait around. It’s, there are four seasons in a year. Right. But yeah, I mean, it was early. I don’t think of it really in those terms. I do it absolutely in the time of dial up. So I do remember that, you know, infamous sound that started every session. The number of times things failed when you were uploading or downloading and, wow, I remember so many of the difficulties we went through. But yeah, we were figuring stuff out and, you know, we were playing to a small audience and making mistakes in real-time. We learned tons and tons.

John Corcoran  4:02  

Yeah. What were you doing? You were an executive, we’re an executive executive

Lewis Schiff  4:06  

producer, to the title we made up. I’m not sure what it meant, then I’m not sure what it means now. But worth magazine was a personal finance magazine, kind of a high end, personal finance magazine. So that means how do you invest? And how do you, you know, live well. And our website was trying to interpret a monthly magazine. This is where it gets interesting, but only again that you remember that era. magazines have a particular purpose, they kind of review the last several months of whatever, and they kind of put some perspective on it. So we were faced with a challenge that has happened only in an accelerated way, which is you take something monthly and turn it into something that’s 24 hours a day, and that’s only accelerated so now you know, you’ve got constant content. This is the time of Corona. You’ve mentioned that you know, print magazines, literary magazines that still print and paper who all have Have companion websites now just like I started the companion website, you know, it’s questionable about whether print will come back at all because there are some economic realities that’ll make it difficult. So to kind of close the circle, we started the website for a monthly print magazine, I fear 26 years later, it might be the end of print power, like, you know, monthly print, the monthly magazine print category.

John Corcoran  5:25  

It’s interesting because here we are in late May, and just now I’m starting to get some of these monthly magazines that were laid out probably in beginning of April and now they’re starting to address Coronavirus are sheltering in place or, you know, two months later, you know, so you’re right there on this really long cycle where they plan their content way in advance. And for two months, it just seemed like completely tone deaf, not their fault. It’s just because they planned out

Lewis Schiff  5:51  

the Bs, right? I can tell you about what we took. There’s a great documentary of a product called Magic. It was made with Sony was a little. It was like an early smartphone. And I remember going to a congressional testimony from the Small Business Administration and live blogging, using my Motorola envoy, which was the tool using the magic operating system, live blogging at a small business administration testimony in front of Congress on worth.com. They swear that was the first thing I don’t know what that was. But, you know, it was very tricky.

John Corcoran  6:25  

What was it? What did you feel like at that time? Imagine if you told someone in the room there that you were live blogging, they probably didn’t like, what the heck is that?

Lewis Schiff  6:33  

Well, I certainly didn’t call it blogging because that word didn’t exist. You know, I think and also now that the little black box with a weird antenna sticking up would have probably got me kicked out of Congress. Okay. So we were making it up as we went along.

John Corcoran  6:46  

I mean, now people are tweeting in the back of those, you know, hearing rooms.

Lewis Schiff  6:50  

Oh, yeah. The revolution and I don’t want to say it’s complete, but I mean, given what we started with, and worse.com in 1994, and what we are today is, you know, it’s coming It’s the as I said, the print magazine, which we were the offspring of print magazines. And now of course the biggest websites in the world have nothing to do with any traditional media title. You know, Facebook has nothing to do with television or print or anything like that.

John Corcoran  7:15  

Tell us about another media property that you developed the armchair millionaire.

Lewis Schiff  7:22  

Right. So out of the worthmagazine.com, we ended up meeting some of the most amazing investors in the world. And it was very clear in private conversations that the way that you know, quote unquote, Wall Street invested and the way that they told their customers to invest were entirely different. And so I wrote a book about how the smart guys on Wall Street invest. I mean, to this day, you know, Warren Buffett has very explicit instructions when I am done, follow the arm term millionaire method. I don’t mean he calls it that I just mean it’s the methodology we laid out in this book, but Before I wrote the book, I had a wonderful meeting with a very famous venture capital company called Kleiner Perkins behind Google and Apple and so many other great companies. And they connected me with AI village, which was a nascent community. They connected me with Intuit, which was the maker of Quicken. And we all got together and made something called armchairmillionaire.com where I essentially use the techniques of the smartest investors in the world. This is also 25 years ago, when index fund investing was relatively new and a tiny piece of the market back then. And that’s the basis for the investing method. Today index fund investing is the monster, it’s the biggest thing you know, in terms of the biggest thing out there in terms of assets. So we were early then, but I started this property and I got the backing of Intuit, Kleiner Perkins and I village and I launched a little website called Archer millionaire, but I sold to I village which subsequently got sold to NBC. Yeah,

John Corcoran  8:57  

and, and so looking back on it now, what’s that? What? What is content marketing? Like for you today to see some of the, you know, all the proliferation of all the websites out there. If you were starting over and you were creating a content-based website today, what would you advise someone to do?

Lewis Schiff  9:18  

Well, you know, I think the the, the time has never been better in terms of the audience, obviously, the audience is totally global, the ability to monetize your pageviews and everything else is instantaneous, whereas for us, it was much harder back then the audience was small, and the ability to monetize was very tricky. So the challenge, of course, is that as all these barriers have come down, you know, it took months to get a credit card account back 10 months, you know, and you have to know somebody, and now, you can get every credit card by the end of this podcast. Yeah, credit card accounts. So the barriers have all come down, the ability to monetize has gone up, the global nature of the audience has gone up, but so Has the amount of noise. And so this is really the trick of it all is we’ve come to this time and I understand it, where you have to have some unique connection with your audience some authentic and unique connection with your audience in order to get their attention and then they kind of vote with their with their, you know, ears and eyes. And obviously, there are some giant podcasts out there some giant content marketing businesses that do a really good job of it. So I don’t think you need venture capital money to do this. I think you need to know, to take a shot at it on your own and see if you can build an audience on your own. And the downside of all that is the idea of being a great idea. Sitting around with people and saying let’s come up with a good idea is not really the point. It’s Can you find people who like your idea, that’s really all that matters? And there was a Kevin

John Corcoran  10:46  

Kelley, the Kevin Kelly, thousand true fans principle.

Lewis Schiff  10:51  

Yeah, yeah. I mean, even to this day, I’m from New York and I worked in magazines for years. And you know, there’s a person called an editor and this person is almost extinct at this point, but just take like the New York Times, you know, front page, there are really smart people who say these are the six stories we think to belong in the front page today. They’re not asking the audience they’re judging, they’re assessing it for themselves. And that’s kind of a lost art. And now it’s if people don’t click if people don’t listen to people who don’t watch. It doesn’t really mean you don’t have to have good ideas. You just have to get people to watch and click with us.

John Corcoran  11:24  

So what’s the role today? If we can, if we have all these metrics to tell us what people want? What role does an editor play in saying that this is what I think people would like? Would we even need that role anymore?

Lewis Schiff  11:39  

Pretty Little pretty small. I mean, the Amazon revolution is that, you know, it doesn’t really matter what smart people think. Just throw a gazillion people at a webpage and track what they do, and then do more of it. And so the role of a smart person, whether it’s user interface, people, whether it’s editors, whether it’s graphic designers, saying I think this is The best way to do it, it’s been lost, it’s going to be lost. You can throw enough people at it. And you can do real time split ad testing of everything everywhere. You know, when you don’t really need editors anymore.

John Corcoran  12:11  

Right, right. I want to ask you about Birthing of Giants and what you’re doing with that right now, especially in light of Coronavirus. You’ve written a number of different books. One of them stands out to me because I love interviewing smart people. But the first habit I learned while interviewing over 1000 success stories. So what did you learn? I’ll just leave it.

Lewis Schiff  12:33  

Yeah, it’s really, really tight and short and simple. It’s that and it’s sort of what I call entrepreneurship today. And so if that means anything to you, the idea is that this most successful and by this, I mean, financially successful people I know, are people who have figured out what they’re best at and built their business around it. That sounds very simple, but what I mean is, you know, there are people who are really good at negotiating So if you look at how they built their business, it’s because they negotiated their way through to success. There are people who are really good at building teams of creative people, or teams of engineers, I use Steve Jobs as an example. I mean, he was really good at understanding the needs of a creative class and explaining that to the engineer class. And that was when he was great at it. And so, you know, he built Apple out of that. So I think you have to figure out, and this is the beauty of our journey, the beauty of our journey as we figure out what we’re good at by figuring out what we’re not good at, you know, I fail, I fail, I fail, I succeed. Okay, let me focus on that success, then what’s the business you build around it and that business could be a business that makes a million dollars, and maybe you have to break it down to its parts and rebuild it now it’s worth and now it makes $10 million. Then you break it down, rebuild it, and maybe it’s worth 100 million dollars, but you’re still building on that thing that you’re best at. You know, to use Apple as an example, I thought the most perfect era of Apple was that they had 30 products, and they did $30 billion in revenue. So that means, you know, if you do the math, it’s not quite today, but it’s predicted a billion. And the point is, each product really was really important. Each one added up to the whole. And that was because Steve Jobs sat in the middle there. He didn’t talk to Wall Street analysts. He didn’t care about that stuff. He didn’t. He didn’t motivate his team. He wasn’t a leader in that sense. He just sat there all the time and said, What’s the best way to solve this problem? How can I get my engineers to do what my artists and creative class customers want? So he ever thought about anything welding that

John Corcoran  14:34  

was dope. That must have been some time after he came back. It wasn’t famous for when he came back to Apple in 97. He immediately said we’re doing too many things and he eliminated a lot right product

Lewis Schiff  14:44  

is his second run. But so the first habit the book is really is a million stories of it. It’s when people figure out what they’re best at and they build a business around it. That’s, that’s the opportunity of entrepreneurship, you know, figure out what you’re best at That’s hard to figure out what you’re best at, and then figure out how to build how to monetize it.

John Corcoran  15:05  

Yeah. And what about that piece for how to figure out what you’re best at?

Lewis Schiff  15:10  

Well, I have a little trick in the book that I swear even as recently as a month ago, I spoke to a guy who has what I now called the most perfect business model ever. And he said, I figured out how to do it by doing your little trick. And his little trick was that my little trick is to send an email to 10 people, you’ve worked with all sorts of people, people who you work for, people who work for you, customers, acquaintances, peers, and ask them what they think you’re good at. And let them tell you because you’d be surprised what people will tell you and that you don’t see about yourself. So there are a lot of stories of people who have used that trick who said to me, I never knew I was really good at this. I always thought I was good at sales. But it turns out I was good at you know, building creative teams. They just didn’t understand what they were good at. So it’s what I did when I ran the Birthing of Giants Fellowship Program. I know we’ll talk about this minute one of day one, they all send those 10 emails out. They haven’t even introduced themselves to each other yet. I haven’t even introduced myself to them yet. And the reason I make it the very first thing we do on minute one of day one is because everyone hates doing it. They think that they think that no one’s going to answer or they don’t know what they’re gonna hear back. So suck it up, write 10 emails. I have a text in there, but it basically says, I’m curious about what you think I’m good at. It has to do with how I make money or how my business makes money.