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

John Corcoran  16:32  

And this guy Lewis here is forcing me to send this email.

Lewis Schiff  16:35  

Yeah, definitely has a gun to my head. And so you know, then then we check it back. Check back in and on Wednesday, so we do that on Monday then happens on Wednesday. And I by Thursday, and Friday, you’ve got people I’m not kidding in tears, seasoned business owners, you know, who’ve been on lock who say I never thought about that about me.

John Corcoran  16:55  

I want to emphasize one thing. You’ve got business owners, CEOs, founders. grizzled entrepreneurs who are in the room with you $200 million businesses. And and you’re standing up there saying you have to send these emails, and they’re doing it. Yeah, I just want to emphasize that point, because I know that there are others who will listen to this. And they’ll say, Ah, I’m not gonna do that.

Lewis Schiff  17:19  

But they have to do it. They have to do it. Yeah. And I said, I mean, they don’t even I haven’t even introduced myself yet to them. When I meet men, this happens. Very first thing we do.

John Corcoran  17:29  

I love that you just blaze into the room. They’re like, Who is this guy and send this email, dear 10.

Lewis Schiff  17:34  

Well, it’s classic sales, your credibility is highest after you’ve closed the deal, but before you’ve delivered the product,

they’ve already paid for it. So they might as well do what I tell them to do. Right, right.

John Corcoran  17:45  

All right. So Birthing of Giants. Now. It has an interesting varied background. So ink magazine was involved in founding it. eo also had a role in founding it. That’s how I first heard about it. I’ve been involved in Neo and I had heard about it a bunch of years. times, but now its own Earth. It’s its own separate, independent fellowship program. So explain to us what Birthing of Giants is now in 2020.

Lewis Schiff  18:12  

Right? So Birthing of Giants, first of all is part of the larger category of you know, what I call co development. I mean, every CEO, whether you’re starting out or you have a monster company has to keep getting better and better and better. And we serve a very specific niche. It’s for owners of companies, they have to own at least 10% of the business owners of companies that have revenues between 5,000,250 million dollars. So somebody with a company with less than 5 million might hear that and say, Oh, that’s not fair. I wish I knew those guys. But we don’t let people in below 5 million and we don’t let people in above 250 million, and we’ve had companies of multi-billion dollars try to get in and the answer is no. And the reason is, companies between 5,000,250 million are very particular. They are companies that almost always have a strong leadership, but sort of a middling management team, and middling access to capital. And their grasp on their marketplace is also middling. And so the only way they go from where they are to 10 times bigger is by solving a few of those problems. So, personal times fellowship takes between 20 to 30 business owners twice a year for a one week program. And we hunkered down and we go through, you know, the sales aspect of their business, the financial model of their business, that capital market aspect of their business, the management team aspect of their business. And for five days, we basically make them work towards something called one year from today, a 12 month strategic plan. And on day five, they present their one year from today plan to an incredible array of experts and entrepreneurship, incredibly accomplished people. And then we have this kind of scrappy, you know, state about you know, what you what you’re thinking right what you’re thinking wrong about your business. And at the end of the week, we pour them into a taxi and they go back home and they implement, and we follow up with them. But Birthing of Giants is a one week boot camp for CEOs, but again for 5 million to $250 million businesses. And the seeds of success are, you know, there I mean, we’ve, we’ve had a quarter of a billion dollar exits in the past year from some of our folks, you know, we’ve had every spectacular outcome people came in with $5 million businesses that are doing $50 million, three years later. We’ve had people who have, you know, gone from 200 million to 400 million in sales. Yeah, because the secrets to doing this are not secrets. They’re there. They’re in the data. And so the whole curriculum is data driven.

John Corcoran  20:38  

And how has the transition been going for you switching it over and having to do these things more virtually?

Lewis Schiff  20:47  

Well, entrepreneurs do not love Virtual Education. You know, everyone said, Oh, switch pivot to virtual This is the moment they don’t like it because every really good entrepreneur knows that if you have 20 other entrepreneurs In the room, there is gold in them there hills, you know, you have to buttonhole all 19 of the other folks. And you have to ask them what they know that you don’t know. So we have done, we’ve done, I don’t know, 20 webinars in the past couple of months. And we’ve done a lot of great private sessions with really good content, but entrepreneurs need to be around each other. So, you know, we are one of those businesses that looks at everything happening now and says, We need things to get back to normal. I say that with humility, because a lot of businesses are learning how to do things in a new way right now. And they’ll never go back to doing the old way. And that’s right. But this thing called co development has a lot to do with people being in a room with each other and building personal networks. And we can’t do that. Right. So we’re just educating for free, all of our, you know, students and graduates and just keeping the lights going.

John Corcoran  21:48  

Yeah, I want to ask you in light of what you said about the number one insight that you got from your book, The first habit, that you should find the thing that you’re the best in the world at. It sounds like Birthing of Giants is a lot of different things. It’s networking, its content, it’s bringing people together. Which element of all those Do you feel like you’re the best in the world at? Or is it all of them? Or is there one in particular?

Lewis Schiff  22:13  

Well, no. So the thing I’m the best in the world, that is in asking questions, even though the roles are reversed, I’m being asked questions right now. But you, John, but my thing that I’m really good at is asking questions. And so the curriculum for Birthing of Giants is based on me and some others having asked thousands of questions up to thousands of entrepreneurs over the years. The thing that everybody should know is that Birthing of Giants, everybody in that room already knows a lot about what they’re good at. I mean, we refine it, we refine it. So when they come in the room, they know what they’re good at, that allows them to build a $10 million business, I need to help them figure out if we know what they’re good at, let’s figure out how to turn that into a 100 million dollar business. And so that’s the exercise. So these folks are well on their journeys. their skins are thick, you know, they can take anything. If you gave an entrepreneur at the beginning of his journey or her journey, you find out that they’re much less open to criticism than these guys are. They’re much less aware of where their strengths lie and their weaknesses are not only in the first habit that I learned that you have to know what you’re good at, you also have to be intimate with what you’re bad at, so that you avoid it like the plague. So you always hire other people to do those things. A lot of people start out with many hats, and they try to do all these things and they don’t really know what they’re good at. And that’s normal for an entrepreneur. But over the years, the folks in my program men and women, my program Birthing of Giants, they know a lot about themselves. We just need to amp it all up. And what happens is we need to tie what they’re good at with a better business model. You know, that’s really what it comes down to. So it gets very in the weeds of business models, economic models, capital sources, tied to what you’re good at.

John Corcoran  23:58  

Is it hard to sell? All CEOs have a 10 or hundred million dollar business, it’s hard to sell them on coming to an event based on the promise of we’re going to ask you good questions. Is that hard as hell? You know, like, thinking like, Oh, I’m gonna get content, I’m gonna get training you to give me mentorship, that kind of thing. No, no, you guys are gonna come, we’re gonna ask you a good question.

Lewis Schiff  24:18  

Right? You know, it’s funny. Sometimes our enrollment team says, Oh, we spoke to this person who was nominated to be in the program, but they actually think they should be a teacher in the program, which I always jokingly say, I bet their businesses like 5 million or less, and it’s always true. So it seems like people who have smaller businesses, they should all be featured and things who have people are bigger businesses think they should be students.

John Corcoran  24:43  

Yeah, that’s true. That’s totally true. My business for a while we used to do a lot of events, similar, but different types of events would bring together a group and the ones with the much larger businesses were always the ones that were the best students that were learning the most. The most. Humble in terms of their education, all that kind of stuff. That’s great. And you also have something really interesting you’re working on. Now, you look like you were going to add something right there before I get to Moonshot and moneymaker,

Lewis Schiff  25:12  

I was just gonna say that, you know, that really Birthing of Giants for me, because I’ve built two businesses, I sold those businesses to publicly traded companies, I could keep doing that. I’m not the richest guy in the world. But I don’t. I’m not quite that money hungry. What I wanted to do is spend all my time with people I like, and so that person who’s that lifelong learner, and that, you know, sort of curious soul is who I want to spend time with. And so really Birthing of Giants is kind of a fancy way of me saying, Come hang out with me and pay me to hang out with you.

John Corcoran  25:44  

Yeah, yeah, I used it when we did these events. I used to joke sometimes with my business partner, Jeremy, he would come up to me and be like, this is so cool. This is so much fun. Are you having a lot of fun? I was like, I’m gonna start charging you to come to this thing. You’re enjoying it too much. I think you’re probably kind of the same thing. Now, you said The current incarnation of Birthing of Giants had an interesting incubation. So I think you said you approached Inc magazine. How did that come about? It seemed like you kind of like put the deal together?

Lewis Schiff  26:11  

Well, there are a few things that made Birthing of Giants. So one thing is the faculty, okay, there were these incredible entrepreneurs who were at the beginning of Birthing of Giants. There were a lot of them that came from a magazine. So I’m talking about guys like Norm Brodsky, who is, you know, sort of the best known Inc 5000 entrepreneur out there. Bo Burlingham, who was the founding editor of the creator of the small giants program at birth. Think magazine, George Gendron who created the Inc 5000 list, and these are the original teachers. And they went to teach this thing called the Birthing of Giants because he told them to say, Go help these people out. And he and he, oh, we’re working together to create this program. So eo contributed some teachers and contributors and teachers. What happened over time? It’s not that interesting to anybody really is that in kineo went their separate ways, the original Faculty of Birthing of Giants that include people like Norm Brodsky, George Gendron , Bo Burlingham, you know, went on to do other things. And then when I had a chance to acquire the Birthing of Giants trademark, and apply it to the curriculum I had been building through the research I had done over the years. I had done a lot of projects and big magazines and stuff. I asked that original faculty to come back. So you know, it’s sort of like when it isn’t when it is a horse? I would say, if you’ve got the original faculty, and I guess if you have the original trademark, then that’s 13 channels. Yeah, but there is another really great program, wonderful program that eo has that kind of came out of all that, that is lives to this day and does great work. And, and I think, you know, entrepreneurs are all the better for having all these choices.

John Corcoran  27:57  

Yeah, yeah. Moonshots and money makers is a newer program you’ve created, which has an interesting focus to tell us about that one.

Lewis Schiff  28:05  

So, you know, one of the great things about spending a lot of time with one small group of people, these are these business owners, you start to see the patterns. And the patterns became clear that the whole world was saying, you know, add tech to your business. I mean, in the 10 years ago, it was, you know, put your business in the cloud and get a CRM system and all this kind of stuff. But over the years, it’s been, you know, turn your testify your business one way or another. And, of course, there’s a whole Silicon Valley world dedicated to that very thing. What I saw was that a lot of smaller businesses, I’ll call them, you know, $25 million businesses that were really doing well, that had a niche, they were doing their thing, usually a b2b business. were figuring out how to bring tech into their business and all of a sudden those $25 million businesses were worth we’re doing a lot more revenue and they were also worth a lot more money to a buyer because they had sort of unlimited potential at that point. And it occurred to me that there’s a whole very well developed world, we’ll call it Silicon Valley for lack of a better way of describing it, that takes really smart money combines it with really smart people and lets them start something from scratch. We’ve got minimally viable products, we’ve got alphas and betas. But a moneymaker is a company that’s been around for a long time and figured out its market. But it hasn’t really injected tech into its business yet. And the real reason to inject tech is not it’s not tech, for tech sake, it’s that almost every technology of a business yields a higher gross margin business, which is like the lifeblood of every business, it’s high gross margins, and increases the size of the audience. And so really what every business owner has to do $10 million to $25 million business is figuring out how to transition their product or service so that they have higher gross margins and a bigger audience, period. But you’re gonna find that it’s almost always tech that helps you do that. So we created this conference called moonshots and moneymakers, with the Oxford arm of the Innovation Group at Oxford, to basically start helping these 1025 $50 million businesses see how they can go from being a moneymaker to a solid business with a great reputation and profit. And they could transform their businesses into moonshots businesses that would be valued at many, many multiples of its current valuation because they had figured out how to either increase their gross margins or increase the size of their audience, or both. So if you put these two things together, done, first habit is to figure out what you’re good at and build a business around it. The second is figuring out how technology can help you increase the gross margins and the size of the audience. And if I were to look at the biggest and worst entrepreneur success stories out there, you know, with you and we took it apart, I would show you how they always figured out what they were good at. They built a business around it. And then they figured out how to use tech to increase gross margins and expand the audience. It’s the exact same pattern every time. It just wasn’t talked about like that. So moonshots, and moneymakers are inviting the business owners of the world to figure out how to take that deconstructed roadmap and apply it to their business. And how do you know if at all, how is the pandemic affecting this program? And how is it affecting the companies that are part of it? So our August 2020 launch of moonshots money makers actually it’s really the second year we did it, but we didn’t call it moonshot moneymakers. The first time. August 2020 has been postponed to August 2021. We only accepted 25 businesses, business owners to attend and really what’s going to happen there is they’re gonna learn how to turn. So imagine you’ve got a $10 million business that has a $1 million profit every year pretty simple, right at 10% EBITDA. And someone comes along and says, Oh, this business is probably worth seven times EBIT. It’s helping you $7 million for your $10 million business. That’s a pretty normal thing. I just, if somebody would really buy it. What we’re going to do To move to money makers that show them how that business that’s really valued at $7 million can be allocated 100 million dollars if they just use this deconstructed roadmap. And so for one week, we’re going to introduce them to the innovators that are going to help them do it. Interesting. And so I did want to ask you before we wrap things up, since your superpower is being able to ask good questions, I’ll turn the tables on me. What one question that I did not ask you that I should have asked you that would have elicited a better or an uncaptured response from you. Well, this is inside you shouldn’t have thought of this question maybe but, but I guess you could say Where did all this come from? I have this. Where did this moonshots and moneymakers thing come from where did this combination of you know entrepreneurial strains plus business model realities come from? And, you know, this is a weird story, but we lost a really great thinker in January this year, Clayton Christensen. And who was sometimes called the father of Silicon Valley in a way not so much that he lived there, but that his ideas led to it. He was a Harvard Business School professor, he wrote the Innovator’s Dilemma. And I feel like I swear to God, when he died, sadly, in January, he had had a very difficult life with his health. I feel like his soul left him and some of his soul’s best ideas came to me. And so that sounds weird

Unknown Speaker  33:26  

and ugly knowing

Lewis Schiff  33:28  

I did not know him. I just felt like I had read some of it and so much of his stuff and watched him on YouTube a lot. And I realized that the thing that was incredible about his work, which led to the concept that small companies would disrupt large companies was missing some pieces that allowed it to be predictive. by that. I mean, for all of his incredible work. He could only tell you when a company was successfully disrupted after it happened. And I think about what happened in that weird moment, I remember reading About his loss and thinking about him. I said, Wait for a second, there’s a way to do this where you can figure out which companies are going to innovate and disrupt before it happens. And that’s what moonshots moneymakers has become this roadmap for how you do that. And I think that’s just the one thing that’s my genuinely original thought is, you know, now I can tell you which companies will and which companies won’t be able to thrive going transitioning from a really good, profitable company, to a total moonshot. And, and that moment was a really weird moment. I just read about him, I swear, it just felt like it. My soul is just like, you know, invaded by these ideas from his spiritual person.

John Corcoran  34:43  

That was a great question. So I wish I’d asked it, but I’m glad you asked. I think I’m not that asked that question every time I have a guest. Like what question Should I have asked you that I should? That’s a great question. It is. I do want to ask so you know, you’ve written books you’ve had web-based property is kind of the theme of a lot of these are bigger impact. But this program is small, are you aiming to have 25 people and not until a year, year and a half from now? Why so small? Or is there? Are there plans to make it larger after the fact?

Lewis Schiff  35:15  

Well, basically, you know, a business owner who’s got 100 employees, you know, and maybe

John Corcoran  35:22  

I shouldn’t minimize how challenging it is to get the right group of 25 qualified business owners in Oxford, England for a week. Not easy to do. But yeah, I just met the number 25 people.

Lewis Schiff  35:35  

Yeah. And so we think of scale, as you know, you certainly say the number of employees that have those employees have families, they’ve got customers, they’ve got vendors and supply chains. So what we’ve always thought is the best way to have an impact on that entire ecosystem that let’s say one company represents is to work with the Birthing of Giants to work with the giant that runs that company. And if we can get that giant to go from a moneymaker, a really incredible accomplishment to build any kind of moneymaker is just a huge accomplishment. And to have turned it into the moonshot that comes with a company that becomes worth 100 times more, we know that they can’t do it alone, they can’t. So we know we’re impacting all the employees, all the vendors and all the supply chain, so all the Capital Partners around them by working with that one person. So for efficiency’s sake, you know, 25 people is the biggest way to affect 50,000 people.

John Corcoran  36:28  

Yeah, I see it. That’s great. Well, I want to wrap things up. The last question I always ask is, let’s pretend we’re at an awards banquet, much like the Oscars and the Emmys, and you, Lewis, are receiving an award for lifetime achievement for everything you’ve done up until this point. And what we want to know is in addition to family and friends, who else do you acknowledge in your remarks?

Lewis Schiff  36:46  

So that’s a great question. And I will say that the faculty that joins me Birthing of Giants are I can’t believe they said yes to do this for us. And for me, guys, like norm Brodsky, who have built multiple businesses, all of them moneymakers, all of them, you know, humanistic in their approach to how they treated people. Guys like Bo Burlingham, who can look at an entrepreneur and say, here’s what’s really remarkable about you. He just has this ability to see the best, most amazing stories and entrepreneurs. Guys like George Gendron who, you know, basically created an ink magazine. He was the founding editor of ink magazine. Doug Tatum is an amazing guy, who, if you tell him your business, he’ll tell you statistics and perspective and aspects of your business that you thought this guy must work in my sector. There’s no way you can know this much about my business. But you can do that for anybody’s business because he had 1100 CFOs reporting to him for over a decade. So Jim McCann from one 800 flowers he’s a who’s really the smartest commerce person. He’s an e-commerce guy, but he’s really, you know, he’s a merchant. In his bones, he’s a merchant and, and merchants really do matter. And so the board of experts that have joined me for the ride for Birthing of Giants are like my favorite, incredible entrepreneurs I’ve ever had a chance to hang out with.

John Corcoran  38:13  

Yeah, that’s great. That’s great. Well, thanks so much for that. So Birthing of Giants is the name of the company moonshots. And moonshot sorry moonshots. Sorry. It’s a mouthful. Moonshots, and moneymakers. Where can people go to learn more about what you Lewis?

Lewis Schiff 38:30  

birthingofgiants.com That’s it.

John Corcoran  38:33  

Excellent. All right. Thanks so much.

Unknown Speaker  38:35  

Thanks, John.

Outro  38:36  

Thank you for listening to the Smart Business Revolution podcast with John Corcoran. Find out more at smartbusinessrevolution.com and while you’re there, sign up for our email list and join the Revolution. And be listening for the next episode of the Smart Business Revolution podcast.