Rich Russakoff | From Entrepreneurship to Business Brokerage and Why Some Inc. 500 Companies Go Out of Business in Two Years
Smart Business Revolution

Rich Russakoff is a business coach, speaker, author, and serial entrepreneur. He brings more than 45 years of experience successfully starting and developing businesses, working with CEOs and other entrepreneurs, training, consulting, and business brokering. He is the Author of Make Banks Compete To Lend You Money: The Complete Guide to Business Loans, which is known as the Bible of bank financing. He also authored the chapter “Mastering the Art of Bank Financing” in the book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish. His newest book is The Art of Managing People Time & Money: Inspiration and Wisdom for Every Entrepreneur. 

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Rich Russakoff, a business coach, speaker, author, and serial entrepreneur, about his journey from entrepreneurship to business brokerage. Rich talks about selling his business, discusses some common barriers to success, and explains why some Inc. 500 companies go out of business in two years.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Rich Russakoff talks about his first business and the lessons he learned while running it
  • How Rich’s entrepreneurial background influenced his jewelry business
  • Rich talks about selling his business and how that led him into the brokerage world 
  • Rich’s advice to owners who are tired of running their business
  • How Rich became a coach for Inc. Magazine’s coaching division — and how it impacted his career
  • Why do some companies that make the Inc. 500 go out of business in two years?
  • How Rich helped a company scale from $6 million to $50 million
  • Rich’s inspiration for writing the book, The Art of Managing People Time & Money: Inspiration and Wisdom for Every Entrepreneur
  • The peers Rich acknowledges and how to get in touch with him

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90xAtariEinstein BagelsMattelRx BarsYPO, EO, Lending Tree, Freshdesk,  and many more.  

The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:06

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

Hey everyone, John Corcoran here, I am the host of this show. And if you are new to this show, go subscribe and check out some of the other episodes we’ve got great past episodes and interviews with smart CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs breaking down the relationships that helped them get where they are today. Check out Netflix, Kinkos’, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, Lending Tree, they’re all in the archives for you for free. I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And my guest today is Rich Russakoff. He is a business coach, a speaker, an author and a serial entrepreneur bringing 45 years of experience successfully starting and developing businesses, working with CEOs and other entrepreneurs, training, consulting and business brokering. He is the author of the book Make Banks Compete To Lend You Money: The Complete Guide to Business Loans, which is known as the Bible of bank financing. He also authored the chapter Mastering the Art of Bank Financing in the book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish, which is a book that I keep on my desk every day to make sure it’s within arm’s reach. That is literally my Bible. His newest book is The Art of Managing People Time & Money: Inspiration and Wisdom for Every Entrepreneur

And of course, before we get started, this episode is brought to you by Rise25, where we help b2b businesses to get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing. You can go check us out at to learn more about what we do. And Rich, it’s such a pleasure to have you here today. And you know, you are legendary within the EO community which I belong to, to great community. You’ve spoken you’ve participated in various different training programs. But I want to start at the beginning of your journey. You very first business was you started a business in the 1970s on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. And it was a jewelry and gift business. How did that end up happening? It sounds like you’re like the young guy starting a jewelry business, which, to me sounds really intimidating.

Rich Russakoff 2:41

Well, I involved into the jewelry business of ironically, my first wife and I moved to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, and she had a teaching job. And we love the Outer Banks in the 70s. We wanted to stay but we didn’t want to stay in teaching. And I thought it would be a great place to start a business. So there was this little cottage we rented. And we sold three things there. We sold recycled clothes, which came from my parents dry cleaning operation in Philadelphia, we sold health foods that came on consignment from a health food store that went out of business. And we started selling jewelry and crafts. Within about a month. All the clothes that were worth any value were cherry picked. So we were out of that business. And the natural foods business was okay. But we loved selling crafts and jewelry and working with local artists. And the business was growing in this little tiny shop. And there was a shop that opened up a location right down the block terrific with a parking lot. We went in there and we brought in a jewelry a jeweler, a potter, a leather craftsman, and we started selling jewelry and gifts. And that involved into a destination resort location. And we ran that for nine years. And I learned so much about running a business. And the first thing I would tell anybody that starting is understand the numbers of your business. I thought you bought for five you sold for 10. And by magic you made money took me a while to learn how you made your money in the buying and how to really understand the balance sheet. And which was very helpful to us with being able to get bank financing to get an SBA loan to get started. And I went to a local bank, and I said this is what we want to do. He said my wife shops, she knows your business. It sounds great. What do you have for collateral. And I said, What’s collateral? And what’s your tangible assets? And I said, I have $3,000 in inventory. So he said, Well, that’s not going to get us anywhere. He says, there’s just new program called SBA. And maybe we can make that happen. I said, What do we have to do? You said, You need to be turned down by three banks. Prices, does this count as one? I walked across the street. And the banker got two more. I had a beard and long hair, and the banker was a retired Air Force Colonel. He said to me, are you dealing drugs? Mr. Green, if I was stealing drugs on the Outer Banks, I could be loaning you money. He said, some nobody’s going to loan you money. I said, it’s just harmless. And no, he said, Yes. And then I went to a third bank, got my third town down and turned down. Now I was ready to go back to the first bank, get the loan, get started and grow the business. It was a very exciting time in my life.

John Corcoran 6:15

Now, there are lots of little craft seed businesses that that oftentimes struggle, or maybe they last for a few years. What were a couple of the lessons that you learned from that business, maybe about systematizing or growing and how did you distinguish it in a touristy area, like the Outer Banks?

Rich Russakoff 6:35

Well, first of all, it was since the 70s. And we were, we were considered pioneers in what we do. And because we had live crap people in the shop, and actually a kiln outside, and we could announce on our billboard killing opening at a certain time, it attracted people. Also, over the years, we learned how to buy and what to buy. And we bought jewelry from Nepal, that was from Tibetan refugees, Mexico, jewelry from all over the world, a state jewelry, antique jewelry. And jewelry is a marvelous thing, because you can pass it down from generation to generation. And we became a destination shop, we even had a bead counter where people would come in and we’d have about 50 Different kinds of beads, and they make their own necklaces there. And the art of retail, for example, we sold cards, and one of the reasons we sold cards was if you buy a card, you slow down. And if we get you to slow down and you buy a card, you’re gonna buy other things in our card selection,

John Corcoran 7:56

like postcards. Yes, like postcards. Yeah. Well, not postcards.

Rich Russakoff 8:01

cards that you sign a greeting card. We spent two days in New York just buying cards. Yeah, that brought

John Corcoran 8:11

people in? Yes, yeah. Now you had a bag, you had a degree, a bachelor’s degree from Temple. You had a done radio in college communication, a degree in Business Communication. You also mentioned that you came from a family that had done a dry cleaning business. So would you consider yourself from a family of entrepreneurs? Did you did you learn? Yeah.

Rich Russakoff 8:36

I’m a third generation entrepreneur. And I was very fortunate I grew up, the first place we lived was upstairs from the our first dry cleaning store. Then I live behind the second one. And every saturday and every summer. And every holiday, I worked for my parents, and I learned a work ethic. I learned values. I learned how to treat customers, and how to take pride in what you do. And that probably was an increase that was worth far more than college.

John Corcoran 9:16

And so then was that what you brought to the jewelry business more so than the business training that you got in college education, you got into college?

Rich Russakoff 9:27

Well, I really didn’t get any business training in college, but I got I made get a degree in it. I majored in communications. And we were able to do some very unusual marketing things. We published something called the junction journal, which we put into hotels and restaurants. We promoted business that were arc frenemies, or competitors and nobody could figure out how are these guys doing this? What are they doing? So it was Great opportunity to bring out all the the creative side in what I was doing and I loved, I love selling, I loved buying, I love working with people and the marketing side of the business,

John Corcoran 10:20

and you end up selling that business. And then that’s what brought you to your next interests, which was brokering business. So buying and selling businesses, helping others to buy and sell businesses talk a little bit about how you develop that interest in and that next stage in your career.

Rich Russakoff 10:36

Well, first of all, after I sold my business, I became fascinated with the dynamics of how business has changed hands. And if I had had me as a broker, then I would have done much better with the sale,

John Corcoran 10:51

did you sell it with a broker or sell it on your own,

Rich Russakoff 10:54

I pretty much had somebody walk in the door and say they wanted to buy it. And I had a lawyer help me that didn’t know what he was doing. And basically, I wanted to learn more about it. So I relocated to Richmond, Virginia and joined a brokerage franchise called V our business brokers. And pretty much we did Mom and Pop deals. And will

John Corcoran 11:23

tell me a little bit about kind of some of those different transactions and kind of the role that that play that you played with people buying and selling businesses, because that’s for many business owners, many entrepreneurs that’s, you know, one of the biggest transaction, if not the biggest transaction of their lifetimes, there’s a lot of emotion that goes