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The path to success is often crossed by adversity, but obstacles can be invaluable stepping stones to even greater achievements. In this episode, we talk to Glenn Stearns about his awe-inspiring “rags to riches” story, fueled by hard work, determination, and grit.

As a serial entrepreneur, Glenn has experienced his fair share of ups and downs in his personal and professional life. And yet, it is these challenges that he attributes to being some of the most significant learning opportunities.

He tells us how he overcame his struggles and chose to take control of his destiny and how making sacrifices and taking risks changed his life forever. We also learn about Glenn’s perspective on breaking generational cycles, how relationships and successful business intersect, and what it means to find balance.

—Glenn Stearns

Raw and Real Entrepreneurship with Glenn Stearns

Topics covered in the interview

  • Breaking the cycle
  • Using your past to get to the place you want to be
  • Taking a leap
  • Finding people that can do your job
  • Importance of relationships in business
  • Adapting and shifting in business
  • Sacrifice
  • Balance

About Glenn Stearns

Glenn’s childhood and young adulthood years were fraught with pain and adversity. He was born to alcoholic parents, diagnosed as dyslexic, fathered a child at 14, and graduated high school in the bottom ten percent of his class. Although many of his friends ended up on the fast track to jail or tragic deaths, Glenn was able to build a better future with the encouragement of supportive mentors.

Glenn became the first person in his family to attend college and graduated with a degree in economics from Towson University. Inspired by stories of people who took risks and achieved their grandest ambitions, he then moved to California, where he slept on the kitchen floor of a one-bedroom apartment he shared with five other recent grads. While waiting tables, Glenn searched for new opportunities to rise above his humble beginnings.

At 25, after working as a loan officer for ten months, Glenn formed his own mortgage company, Stearns Lending. By 2010, Stearns Lending reached nearly $1 billion a month in funding while experiencing record growth. Stearns not only survived the 2007 mortgage-lending crisis but also emerged as one of the top lenders in the country.

Glenn attributes his resilience to putting “people before profit” and having transparent integrity in lending standards. Since 2010, Stearns Lending has funded over 150 billion dollars in loans, making them corporate America’s #1 Wholesale Lender in 2013. The company has helped nearly 1,000,000 families achieve home ownership. In 2014, Blackstone purchased the majority share of Stearns Lending for an undisclosed sum.

Mr. Stearns is also the founder of Anivive Life Science, Stearns Wholesale, Stearns Holdings, Stearns Ventures, Artemis Holdings, TriVerify, TriMavin, United Housing Services, Inc., and Mortgage Services Providers Holdings. He is an investor in and Lender Price and the largest shareholder of California-based Infinity bank.

In 2011, Mr. Stearns was inducted into The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. The Award is given to individuals in recognition of personal and professional success despite humble and challenging beginnings, in addition to personal initiatives and accomplishments in giving back to others. In 2013, he became the youngest Member elected to the Horatio Alger Association’s prestigious Board of Directors.

Mr. Stearns and his wife Mindy are very active in the community, having been honored for their dedication to community service and philanthropy with Muhammad Ali’s Parkinson’s Foundation “Couple of the Year” Award, Starkey Hearing Foundation’s “American Couple of the Year,” Orange County’s “Giving is Living Award” and the Orangewood Children’s Foundation’s “Golden Heart Award.”

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Show Notes

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Well, thank you, Susan, really appreciate that. And I am excited to be here. I'll give you a little background about myself. I've been an entrepreneur for over 30 years, I started out, I grew up on the East Coast, grew up in Maryland. And, you know, I had been a son of parents that struggled with addiction. We grew up very, very hard. My dad was a printer, my mom was a grocery checker. And, and, you know, we, I knew only what I knew, right? I mean, you grew up the way you grow up. And so as I kind of developed along the way, when I was in fourth grade, I had been held back, so I failed fourth grade. By the time I made it to eighth grade, I had a child. So I was 14 years old and had a daughter, and, and then kind of moved along in the 9th, 10th, and 11th grade, falling in my dad, mom's footsteps, having my own intervention with alcohol and a lot of other things because I was a lost kid. And I tell you all this for a reason, because I think that when we look at our past, and we see that we are made up of all of our experiences, obviously everybody is. And what happens is, I think the more adversity that we've had in our lives, it builds for us, it gives us this foundation that I think a lot of people don't understand that you can use this as your fuel, you can use this as your kind of your coat of armor, as we get older and as we grow. And so in my case, I ended up being the first to go to college, I went to university, not because I was a smart kid, but I was following my girlfriend to college. Again, I tell you that for a reason. Because sometimes we find ourselves in places, not because we're the brightest guy in the room or gal in the room, but because of luck, we just get there. And we adapt, and we learn. And in my case, you know, my parents again, being pretty humble. They didn't ask me to go to college, they didn't expect me to go to college, no one in my family had ever been to college. So by getting there, I found myself in a situation of kind of breaking the first cycle, so to speak of where my family had been. And I, I learned pretty quickly that, you know, as I was developing and growing in college and getting all my friends and becoming, you know, we started a fraternity and again, it was all about having fun and in growing and learning. But I found that a lot of people were relying on me heckling, you go do this, you go get us out of this trouble, you go you know, with the landlord, whatever it was, but I began to like the fact that other people relied on me. I you know, I didn't have many mentors growing up. I wasn't fortunate enough to have people that said, you should go down this path and do these things. But I did have some people along the way that planted the seeds, that said, you know, there's something about you, you know, you're going to do well, and, and I would always be embarrassed. And I'd say, you know, just thanks. I appreciate it, but it didn't want to hear it. But it was, it was in the back of my mind. And it made me believe that maybe I could be bigger than any dreams I've ever had before. And so, again, I say this because as, as we are young, and as we grow, you know, holding on and having dreams are very important. And having a goal is very important. And in my case, it was very loose. And yet, you know, I didn't want to prove the people wrong that believed in me, I wanted to prove them right. And so I held on to that and started to grow. And I found now that I am in my 50s, being a mentor and being a positive influence for others is so important. To plant those seeds in young people is so important. And so as I grew through college, I you know, I still wasn't a great student. I didn't do very well. Actually graduated with a 2.1 to be

frank. It was a, it was not the greatest grades. But it was more about the lessons I've learned about how to pay for college, how to navigate the waters. And so all of those things, I think help lead us to becoming an entrepreneur. And so for a lot of people out there, I know you guys are either young entrepreneurs, you've been around the block a while and you're still entrepreneur, or maybe you're just getting started. And the reason I think it's important is you don't have to have come from this Ivy League. You don't have to come from a group of parents and people that have just molded you correctly. You can use your past, you can use your, all of your experiences, to help lead you in the right direction and get you to the place you want to be. So when I got finished with college, I figured that I, actually what really happened was I was sitting one night, doing the same thing I'd always done, go out in a bar with my friends. And I was laughing at something very silly, at one o'clock in the morning. And as I did, I remember putting my head back and laughing and I said, Man, I've left at the same dumb stuff last night, and the night before. And I'm like, you know, this is old. I don't want to do it anymore. And so the next morning, I told my, my buddy from, my roommate, I said, Why don't we get in a car and let's drive cross country and go to, go to California? And so off we went, we drove in and we just kind of thought we'd be there for a couple of weeks. And then we'd see where we went. And so I ended up, there was, we knew one person in Southern California. We slept on the floor, there were four other guys, there was five of them in a one bedroom, plus my buddy and myself. I slept on the linoleum floor in the kitchen, did that for about four or five nights. And I knew a girl that was my, my manager when I was a waiter in college. She happened to be in Southern California as well. And she, I got a hold of her. And she said just come over and sleep in a bed. So I did. And the next morning, I woke up and I walked down to the beach. I sat on this beautiful shoreline on a bench. There was beautiful people, beautiful cars, million dollar homes. I sat there, I got inspired. Right, I said, I want this. This is the, I want this life. And so there's a man in his yard and he was sitting there just, you know, pruning the rose bushes and and I walked up to him. I said, what did it take to get this house? Like I know, I can do it. Tell me what it takes to get a house like this. And the man says, senor, I'm sorry, but I'm the gardener. And I think the man's in real estate. And so I laughed and said, Alright, thank you very much, but, but I'm gonna get into real estate. So went back to my friends. My one buddy from college, he said, let's start driving back. And I said, You know what? I think I'm gonna stay. And so I did, I took that first leap, the first kind of jump of, I'm on my own. This is scary, what am I going to do? And as an entrepreneur, you'll find that when you're on your own, when you take that first jump, that's the hardest one, right? Because, you know, we don't have a tether. We don't have anything to hang on to. And failure is scary. You think, you know you're, how you're going to pull yourself out. But what I found by doing that was it was a wonderful feeling to then say, I've got to figure this out. And again, what I find is some people feel that fear, and they run from it. And as I began to make certain decisions in my life that causes anxiety, excuse me, cause anxiety of what am I going to do? How am I going to figure this out? I began to like it, I began to take that feeling and use it to my advantage.

I want to feel that feeling again of anxiety, what am I going to do? How am I going to figure this out? So it can either be something that holds you back or isn't something that excites and and motivates you forward? And so, I stayed, I became a waiter and I started a job as a loan officer. And I didn't know what I was doing. I was pretty lost as far as you know, not having a lot of friends. But I spent the first 10 months learning that business and then I decided I'm gonna go on my own. So they say ignorance is bliss, trust me, I did not know what I did not know, which is nice, because if I did, I wouldn't have done it. And that's okay. It's actually a good place to be. And I don't know, also, now that I look back, there's a lot of people who were planners, right? I gotta have everything right. I get it all right, then I'm gonna go off. And you know what happens? You plan and plan and plan and then you miss the opportunities. And all of a sudden, you know, you, they're gone. I'd rather kind of be building the plane as we're flying. And that's been my way, my whole life, which is just, you know, go out there, start it, put the stake in the ground, say, I'm going to do this, and then hang on for dear life sometimes, because we don't know what we're gonna get ourselves into a lot of times. And if we are full of integrity, and we keep our word, and we surround ourselves with great people, great things can happen. In my case, I started out, like I said, as a loan officer, 10 months later, I opened my own company, and began to fail quickly, right? I did not have a lot of business. I did it with a partner who didn't know much about the mortgage business, he was a real estate agent. But we began to put the pieces together as fast as we could. And what I found was if I surrounded myself with other loan officers, and I brought them in, then they could take some of the job that I was doing, and we could keep growing. So I became a recruiter. I became someone who brought more people in and thought if I keep replacing myself, if I keep finding people that can do my job, I can continue to build and do other things. And so again, not knowing where you are, but that first step, first steps of taking on employees is hard. Because we've, we find we, now, they're relying on us, what happens if we make the wrong decisions?

Do it, move forward, be authentic, communicate, and everything will be okay. And so we did that. And off I went, like I said, I started the mortgage business. It was tough in the beginning. And as we grew and continued to learn, we were very small for years, but prior to the third year, so I thought, there's more to this real estate game than just the loan. There's a bigger pieces of the pie, because you've got escrow and title. You've got audit, credit, appraisal, there's many things that involve a mortgage loan, and a mortgage transaction. So I opened up a Title and Escrow Company. I went out and failed at that very quickly. Did not get any business. I think we had three deals in the first month. And I had six people working there. So that was a big bust. But I thought, wow, there's, the federal government sells a lot of assets, a lot of mortgage, a lot of homes, and that they have acquired through lenders. And so I went to the federal government, and I said, How can I get some of these Title and Escrow work? And they said I needed a contract. You know, what's the contract, right? Again, not having all my homework done. But as I went out and figured it out, they explained to me how that worked. I actually had a very nice lady, the receptionist at HUD, Department of Housing and Urban Development, she would call me and tell me when there were contracts. And it quickly made me realize that you don't have to always think of the president of a company as the person you need to get to. The receptionist, people that work in there every day. They're just as important because you need relationships. That's what's so important in what we do as entrepreneurs , it's all about the relationships. So this woman whose receptionist gave me the phone call about an upcoming contract, and I went out and decided to bid on this contract. I got the contract. Again, just little backstory, it was $150 a transaction. I bid $149.50 because the previous contractor had it at 150. It was about all the research I did. I went and flew to Denver for the bid opening. I was the only one at the bid opening. There were 30 bids but no one else flew out there. I felt like a fool, not realizing that, you know, it's only about the lowest bid. It didn't matter if you were there. But what happened, again through these mistakes is I got to under— I got to meet the contracting officers, I got to start these relationships. And off I went, I won, because I had the lowest bid. And I started to do a lot of business for the federal government. Problem was, every deal I did, it cost about $300 in labor, and I was getting paid $149.50. And so I went back to the government, and I explained to them that I made a mistake. They told me that if I chose to give up the contract, or if they had to pull the contract, that would never work in the, with the federal government again. So I had to figure out how to make it work with $149.50

when it costs $300 a transaction. So as I continued along, I would notice that more than half the transactions, that these lawyers would put these $5,000 fees in there, and that the homeowners association would put 5, $6,000 of back fees from the last 18 months. So there was 10, $12,000 of junk fees that people would put into foreclosures, that I didn't feel it was fair for the federal government and my tax dollars to be paying for. So I went to the government and explained to them that I thought I could save 4, 5, $6,000 on every transaction by negotiating with the lawyers. And I would do that if they would give me an extra $300 per file. And so we agreed to that, they put it in my contract, they paid me on each file, and I've got to negotiate on behalf of the federal government. And actually, all I did is I put a letter in the file saying the government refuses to pay these fees, I saved millions of dollars, of our tax dollars, and I got to make a little tiny piece of it back, which kept me in business. Again, reason I tell you this is that when we get into a business, it's about adapting and shifting, and it's about looking and going we think we know everything, when you really get into something, you realize, there's so much more to learn, always. And if it were easy, everybody be doing it. And in my case, I got to learn, see where I needed to go, adapt, negotiate, thank goodness, I had gone out and I was the only one that ever went out there to the bid opening because I then knew the contracting officers. I got to call them up, I got to fly back down there, sit down with them. And it worked. So as it continued to grow, I had my mortgage business, I had my title and escrow business. And then I said, Well, I'm gonna go out and do audits for the federal government. We also need that. So I became the largest auditor for HUD in the country. I became the largest title and escrow company in the country for HUD. I began to work with the Secretary of Housing, I began to do things that this little kid from Maryland that had, you know, failed fourth grade and had a child in eighth grade, and never dreamed of these kinds of things. And all along, I'm growing this mortgage business on the side now, because I have these other businesses that have, that have taken off. And and as I was doing this, the government decided to change gears and they went from large business contractors, and they want it small contractors. And so I didn't qualify anymore. And so slowly over a period of three or four years, I lost my contracts because they went to small businesses. But what I learned in those years, it was just, it was amazing, because the government were people that just were relentless. Nonstop, we want more and more and more out of you, and they would pound on me. And I would go to my people, and I would say, the government wants you to know how much they appreciate you. They're so happy that you're working hard, thank you. And then I would go to them and they'd say, tell the government to screw off. There's, they're thankless, and they would yell at me. I would turn to the government. I'd say my people are so thankful for job, they care. So I stayed in the middle but got beat up by both sides. But it was the, it was where I need to be as the owner, and it worked, because you've got two sides that have some contention, and yet neither one really knew, because I just wanted them both to know how thankful we were on both ends. Because if it came down to it, we did a very good job and they got a lot of good work out of it. And so now, as I moved on, I continued to evolve and grow my mortgage business, I ended up buying out my partner, and I came sole owner.

I remember one time when I was working, and I had a loan officer working for me. And he got really nervous because he said, There was a borrower that was very, very upset. And the borrower said he was going to sue us. And I, I've never been threatened with a lawsuit. I didn't know what to do. And so I talked to the borrower. And I said, What's the problem? He says, you've sent me to somebody, they're not doing my loan. And now you've ruined my wedding and I won't be able to move. They were very upset. And I said, Well, sir, we sent you to, we brokered out your loan, and they turned you down. He said, No, I put my effort and my thoughts into what you were doing, I wanted you to help me. And now you have chosen that group, and they so this is your fault. And I turned around to go like, Who do I talk to about this, but I was the end, right, I was the owner. And there was nobody to back me. And it was a lonely feeling. It was a feeling of, wow, we're gonna get sued. And I don't have somebody I can flip this to. And it was pretty scary thought. And so again, I don't know where you are in your evolution, but when you realize you're the last stop, you can take that in a couple of different ways, I guess. And you know, what I finally buckled down and realize is I had to step up. So I talked, I called back the gentleman and I said, You know what, I owe you an apology. I do take responsibility on who we chose as your lender. This is before I became a direct lender. And I said, let me see what I can do. And we worked on the file lights, flipped it around, got it to someone else, and they did the deal and everything worked out. But the reality is that as we grow, and as we become our own boss, as we have other people working for us, we have other people depending on us, you know, there's that saying, it's lonely at the top is very, very accurate. And you need to thrive in that environment. I was also very young, as I was making a lot of money, and I went to see a therapist, because I told the woman I said, Look, I've got a big issue. And she said, What is it? And I said, I'm making more money than my father ever made. I'm doing really, really well. My business is booming. And I just think it's all going to blow up. She said, why? I said something tells me I don't deserve this. And something tells me that this is just not going to last. And the lady, probably the best advice I ever got, She said Okay, now that we do me a favor. She said I'd like you to get up and get out of my office. She says you are trying to sabotage yourself. You deserve everything you have, you've worked your a** off, and you deserve it. Big, it's great, you're making more money than your father, it's great that you're so celebrated. Don't think it's going to end, just realize that you deserve it. And that was you know, these little things, again, are so important. Because as we grow and learn, we see that you know, that there are ceilings that we hit, we think of at the top, I can't go any farther, we have to break free of those thoughts. We have to just realize that we have unlimited ability, if we put our minds to it, surround ourselves with the right people. And we continue to have that, just conviction that we will do the best job we can and if we do, we will succeed. And so when that happens, do not sabotage yourself, do not feel that you don't deserve it. Do not allow those little demons in our heads to get in the way. Because all they are is distractions. And the reality is that we deserve everything we get when we work our tails off and we sit there and work when other people are out taking their kids to soccer and they're doing the Little League and they're doing all this stuff that we'd like to do, right? It's all about sacrifice. Where are you going to sacrifice?

I have a lot, my ex wife, I have a lot of friends that are teachers. Guess what? Eight o'clock they quit at about four o'clock they get to go home and do all that, wonderful. That's their sacrifice, they don't get to go and drive the fancy Rolls Royce and all the crazy trips and stuff. They've decided to, to have their own kind of sacrifice, we've decided to have our own sacrifice. And that's just part of the game. You choose what you want to do. And hopefully, as we get a little better at it, as we grow, we find our balance, we find the place to do it all. When asked about balance before in my life, I've always thought I had great balance. It didn't come in daily balance, I didn't get up and like, you know, sit there and meditate and then work out and then go to work. You know, I had balance in maybe weeks or months. I worked my tail off for a couple of months. I coast for a week, I had a balance in maybe a year. I didn't have balance daily. And as I've gotten older, that balance has come closer to, you know, weekly and daily than it was so far out. Would I change it? No, I wouldn't. I have an ex wife, Okay, that's part of the unbalance, right? But the reality is that, you know, I, again, it's just part of what happened. She's today a very close friend of ours, she attended my other wedding, I attended hers, she's the godmother to my children. When I went around the world on a boat with my kids and family, she came along and taught our little girls. So I'm proud of the fact that sometimes things don't work out the way we plan them, but it's what we do with it. Okay, I have a child, like I said, she's going to be 43, the next two months. All right. And I'm great friends with her mother and her stepdad that she's had, since she was really young. You know, life is what it is. And again, what do we do about it when it doesn't go the way we plan it. So. So anyway, as I continue my evolution of where I am, I hope you're getting tiny nuggets out of this, but I began to grow my mortgage business. Now focus 100% on that, because all the contracts had left, so now in the early 2000s, 2001, 2002, 2003 and the world starts catching on fire, the real estate businesses start booming, everything's going on. And we start realizing because if you're in a segment long enough, you're going to get lucky, so to speak, I'll give you my example of luck, okay, for some, for some of you that know the East Coast and know, Baltimore, then you might realize that Camden Yards, the stadium, was built in a warehouse district, pretty recently, in the last 15, 20 years. And I remember walking out and there were 1000s of people at this pub. It's called Pickles Pub. It was right across the street. My friend said, What a lucky person that is to have that bar across the street from the stadium. And I said, That's exactly my definition of luck. Do you know that that puppet been there for 100 years, it lived for about 50 years in a warehouse district that was basically shut down. It had nobody there. So luck, is exactly what it is, you wear out the competition. And eventually, you're going to have opportunity, hopefully land on your feet. In my case, you know, I go back to the fact that I've been doing this mortgage thing now since 1989, have gone through the 90s. And now in the early 2000s. The government has said we want homeownership for as many people as we can. So what did they do? That forced all of the loan companies and other people to say let's loosen the guidelines. So as it continued to loosen and loosen and loosen, more loans are done and more homeownership than ever before. It became wonderful, except for the fact that we were doing really poor, crappy loans as an industry. If you Google my name, Glenn Stearns and google 2005, you'll see I'm out there gone, stop these loans. These are horrible loans. And everybody else was telling me I was out of my mind. What are you talking about? You don't know what you're saying. I said there's going to be a huge correction. And this is going to be very bad for people that are in over their head with loans that they don't qualify for, with loans that they're not putting any money down on. And

as many of us remember, 2007, 2008 the worst financial crisis ever right? Well, where am I? Right in the crosshairs of everything being in the financial institution, I mean, being a financial institution, and now being a pretty large one that that half the people that were on The Big Short, I've dealt with yelled, argued over all of these loans that were going bad. And it was a rough time. I found myself with over $100 million of buybacks of the loans that went bad, class action lawsuits, the Department of corporations suing me for interest issues, all these things hitting me at one time. I lost 85% of my business. I was out, there was nothing left that could do. I could not find a happy place in my life. And as an entrepreneur, again, we ride with the son, we get to tool around in the fancy cars. And then when it sucks, boy does it suck because everybody gets to watch his fault. Everybody gets to see us fail. And especially now I've got my name on all these buildings, and they're all coming down. What am I going to do? I remember I was in a Bible study with Robert Schuller, I don't know if you know him, the Hour of Power, the Crystal Cathedral. I was in a Bible study. And he says, let's all pray, get a hug. Let's pray for Glenn and Mindy. And as we did that, I said, Robert, I said, You know what, I just want you to know one thing, I said, I'm going to be okay. I realized something, I might lose all the fancy buildings, and I might lose this business. I said, every successful business person that I know, when I mean successful, I mean, the ones that were the ultra successful ones that had built Southern California, I said, every one of them faced a hard time like this. They lost it all. And they've had to grow it back and go, this is just my time. So if you can find yourself, when you do in one of those situations, you have to ask yourself, is it your time? And if it is, the answer is then you just know that you're going to go through a hell of a lot. And you've just got to deal with it. You have to figure out how to communicate to people, how to tell them that you're going to be short on the bills, how you're going to tell them that you need to renegotiate the leases. You've got to sit with every single person. And that's what I did. I took a clipboard. This is in, this is September 2007. And I wrote down Bear Stearns, 30 million, Morgan Stanley 20 million. I owed these people all this money, supposedly out of these hundreds of millions of dollars of buyback loans. I had, I had 50,000 square feet of office space, I needed 8,000. I had a class action, I had this, that and I just went down the list. I flew to New York, I sat with each one of those people. And I argued and argued and then got to the point, I said, Look, are you on the side that you'll work with me? Or are you on the side of pounds, and I don't care. And I gotta to be honest, I'm just going down the list. Tell me which side you want to fit on. And then I'm going to add up all my checkmarks. And if I have too many on the pound side, pound sand side, I'm just gonna give back the keys. And I'm done. I said, But if you and others tell me you work with me, I'm gonna work my tail off to get you every penny I can get you. And so by doing that, went through, I walked into the lawyer's office, the people that were suing me at the class action. I said, Tell me, how bad are you going to stick it to me? I don't have money for a lawyer. I just need to know and the guy sits there. He looks at me. He goes, Are you out of your mind? I go, No, I'm just dead broke. And I just tried to figure out whether I'm going to have a business or not. And he just started laughing. He took this card. He says call this other guy, is a different lawyer because we'll reach out a lawsuit. So I began to go through every single person. And what I found is every single person said they work with me, every one of them. And so

by communicating in the hardest of times, because it wasn't just me, every single lender. They have, again, Google this, Google Hundreds and hundreds of lenders were going out of business every single day. And all you got to do is go on there and see the next three or four or five that went out that day. It was very difficult time. So I made sure everyone in my office, nobody can be on that site. It's a negative site. I don't care. It's not good to see other people going out of business. I'm not happy for this, for the competition, having to go out of business. These people, we have to align ourselves. You have to take your competition and use them as part of your support group. Don't think of them as the enemy, think of them as your friends. And so, as we kind of navigated through there in November, well, actually, in September of '07, two of my biggest competitors went out of business. And I decided that day, because I had to go from 50,000 feet to 8,000 and they were knocking down my cubicles. And they were getting rid of them, which by the way, they were $200,000 in cubes, that I was going to sell to some friends for 100,000 that became 50,000, that became 25,000. I had to give the cubes away. One guy, the only guy could find that would do it for free, Okay? Give them just to get them out of there. And as you start to realize, when you have no leverage, that life isn't as fun. And as that guy was putting the cubes that I needed them out, or they were going to charge me rent starting on that Monday, I said, I have to have a mount, my assistant came to me and said, two of our biggest competitors went out today. I told them and I said, Hold those cubicles right there. I have an idea. And I called my competitor. And I said I want to talk to you about your offices, because I don't think you should close them down. And he says, Well, I'm closing and I said, Okay, well, then I'm gonna talk to you about me taking them over. And I said, Can I see you tonight? And he says, I've had a bad day so let me buy you a beer. He says, no. I said, we'll see me tomorrow. And so tomorrow was a Saturday. And he said, Okay. I said, Come to my office. So when I hung up the phone, my CFO and a couple other people said, Why are you having them come here? We've just knocked down all the cubicles, it's the ghost town, he's going to be scared to death when he walks in here. So I said, do me a favor, put like 10 desks over here, put monitors on, computer monitors. And he said, Okay. So as he came in the next morning, the gentleman that had closed his offices, I said, come this way. Now, as I turned him, if he had looked that way, in the middle, he would have seen an empty place. But as he went down through the desks, I brought him to the corner of the building, which was where my office still was, because I still have the 8,000 feet over there. And we sat and we talked about it. And I said, I want to hire your people. And I brought him back out to that area where the the desks are with the computers. And I said, I want you to imagine your people sitting here Monday, because I can have them up and running by Monday. I want so rehire those people, I don't think they deserve to be laid off. And so again, the reason to put those desks up and the monitors and a chair was I wanted him to visualize people sitting there. If it had been empty, it's scary again, but just visualizing his people being comfortable and being in a place. So he called me on Monday, and he says, You can have my offices. So by the way, he then asked me, How much do I pay for his furniture? You know my answer, right? Zero because, obviously, I wasn't getting any money on mine either. I did pay him $1 because, the contract but um, so we ended up I opened up five offices. November is the date they actually got open '07. I got five more offices open in '08. Now the whole world's crumbling and I'm taking the greatest offices and opening them because they had talent. They had people that I never could have gotten before. When people are running out of the fire,

you should always ask yourself, is it my turn to run in the fire? Right? Because there's opportunity and people are just too scared to see it. So we go from this. Okay, mortgage lender to now I have these great businesses. And now I'm off and running. By the way my HUD contracts are running out where I had auditors that have been underwriters before. They were FHA underwriters. So now I've repurposed them back into being FHA underwriters. And the world goes back. There's no more stated income loans of the, what got the whole world in trouble. It's now all full document loans and everybody's kind of forgotten how to do that. Well, I've got my old school auditors and underwriters back in there. And now I'm growing. I become the largest lender in the country, became the largest wholesale lender, the second largest lender in the country. And all from running in the fire when everybody else ran out. And I also didn't do it overnight, which I want a lot of you guys to think about, right? This is now 2008, 2009. I started in 1989. Okay, it takes time, do not think that overnight, you're going to end up being the most successful, biggest player. You've got to learn, you've got to understand all the pitfalls, you've got to have your support team, you've got to get to know your competition, you have to be in a position to be able to grow and be that big. Because if you're not, you can't, we can't handle it. We don't know a lot. By that point I knew a lot about the mortgage business. And so I grew and grew. So now here I am, I become the biggest lender. I am invincible once more. And then I get cancer. Okay, it's like, you know, whenever you think that you are better than someone else, you should get collaborative at the head. And that's where I believe it's, it's a God thing, because he's taught me every time, you're not better than anybody else, that receptionist at HUD is equally as important as the president. And I've always remembered that, but every now and then I get a little cocky, and I'll get hit down this time, bam, hit down cancer. So I ended up taking my business. And I partnered with Blackstone, Blackstone is the largest private equity group in the world, they took 70% of the company, I said, I'm gonna go be with my family for a while, and hopefully not die. And then you handle the company. So off we went. And we ended up, I went around the world with my family on a boat, nice boat, had a helicopter on it, I, not to brag, but hey, and I deserve that by that point. And, and off, we went. Well, the company took a different, you know, kind of a different road, because now it's being run by private equity guys, and it doesn't have the same, you know, kind of thumbprint that I had put on it, it's different. And so eventually, after a few years, they take that thing and drive it straight into the ground. Well, I

couldn't compete. Now I want to get back into it, I want to come back in, I want to try to help them. And they want to find somebody that can take the company public that's already been public. So I realized at that point, I'm out. And again, I tell you guys this for a reason. Your career will not just go like this, it's not, okay? There's going to be lots of ways and reasons and things are going to happen. You're going to screw it up so bad, you're gonna think, why did they do that? And that's part of the process. It's never in even row, you need to understand as you grow and really, and really do that you need to make mistakes. It's okay to make mistakes, just accept them, move on, do not worry about it. In my case, after five years of being in this partnership, they went and reorganize, filed chapter 11, took me out, by the way, they owed me a lot of money, and I had a lot of stock. All gone. Took me literally five seconds to realize, wow, now I can compete. I can go back at it, did not worry about the money, did not worry about the stock. You know, I cared about the people that had worked there. So now here it is, I have an opportunity to go back into it one more time. And so that's what I did. I went out and started a new company called Kind Lending. And yes, that was purposeful because I want it to give back and go help people understand that this is a people business. It's not just a bunch of Wall Street guys with P&Ls just, it's about people. This is about giving someone an opportunity for homeownership, which is probably the biggest investment you'll ever make in their life. So grown this company over the last two years to become a formidable company. We're now nipping at the heels of the big guys that I used to be, but it's coming back and I'm having such a fun time because it's not all about money. This is about other forms of currency. Because once you get over the fact that money is just one lover, and you realize there are other currencies such as happiness, such as health, such as other things that you can put into your formula, you begin to realize that people who work for you for probably more time than they're going to be able to see their families, right, they end up spending 40, 60, 80 hours a week working and devoting it to your business, that they need to feel the love. They need to feel that you care. They need to be inspired, so that they are knowing they're doing something that's more purposeful than just money. And so by focusing on that, I've been into a whole new place in my life of purpose of just being able to really feel that what we do is very important for individuals. And so it's, it's gotten me to that place of significance. And so I'm very thankful for that. So with all this, that's the arc of my business life, I guess you call it. I've had a lot to learn, and lots of growth from a lot of mistakes, a lot of mistakes. And I tell you, because if you think anyone out there is just the most perfect human being that's done it right, you've got to understand that either A, they don't tell you all the the dirty parts, or B, there's something really up and I'd run away from it. Because everybody has blind spots, we all have places. And what we need to do is fill them in, fill the blind spots in with other people that can help us, that can get us to see where we can't see. And so, you know, I've always found surrounding myself with people that are much smarter than me, people that have visions in other directions that I'm not looking at, are what's going to make our company great, right? It's not surrounding yourself with people that are yes people. I love surrounding myself with people that challenged me every day, it's important, because then you know, whether you're doing the right thing, let's figure it out, let's duke it out in a closed door and see what we have. And then we can realize, Wow, you got a good point, or you know what, I'm still going to do it, you know, whatever. But you know, but at least you get to hear all the sides of everything. So I think that's very important. Another little thing that happened in my life that, you know, I don't know if it was brought up earlier or not, but is I was off, like I said for those years after the cancer came, and I was just sailing around the world on my boat. And I realized that

there was more to life. And so what I ended up doing is I went and put a kind of proclamation out there and had a lot of people asking me if I wanted to do a television show. And long story, I'd done one 15 years ago, and I ended up winning this show. And so people for 15 years have been calling, Hey, you want to do a show? And you shouldn't always say no, I always thought I said, You know what I will do one thing. Put me anywhere in the country where I know no one. Take away my name, my contacts, money, I bet you I can rebuild a business. I'd always say that the people thinking, Alright, we're gonna do it. And then I get a call back one day, and it's from the Discovery Group. And Discovery says, Hey, if you're serious, you want to put your money where your mouth is, then let's make a show. And so I said, Okay, let's do it. Well, as we started the show, or right before it, I was in contact with a bunch of my friends. And I was telling them, Hey, I'm going to do this show. And they said, what is it? I said, Well, I'm going to be taken to a place I've never been before. People are going to follow me around for 90 days, I'm going to build a business, hopefully worth a million dollars. And I'm going to do it with no money. I have $100 to start with. And I have friends like Richard Branson that I had owned an island with out in the British Virgin Islands, John Elway who he and I own a ranch and a few other things together. A bunch of people telling me you're out of your mind. Why in the world? What upside is there? You already have done well, Glenn, now you're gonna go out in front of the world, and probably fail. 90 days, build a million dollar business and you're, How are you going, Where are you going to sleep? And I thought, I don't know. I'm just gonna wing it. And what I learned, again, this doesn't have any, it doesn't have to do with being an entrepreneur, but it has to do with, I guess, feeling alive. When we're an entrepreneur, we, we take chances, and we go out, we surround ourselves with people and we say let's march up this hill together. And let me tell you why. And it feels good when we can do something where we collectively, you know, bring people together and do great things. Well, I said, I'm going to try this. And yet I have all my friends telling me, I would never do that. Never. I don't see any upside. I have Richard Branson who I always thought of as the biggest risk taker going, I wouldn't ever want to fail in front of everybody like that. Look, why? I thought you know, it'd be fun. I like digging out of holes. I like when I got out of the 2008 hole. I've liked when I've gotten out of my cancer. Well I liked being deep in and saying how am I going to figure this one out? So I thought I'd do it again. So I ended up, I'm on my boat, and axiom with LA and we're on Jet Skis. And we're having fun. And now here comes this group of people coming up to the boat wonder this is, its Discovery. They say, we're here, they got cameras, time to go. They take me, fly me to Erie, Pennsylvania, where the lake is frozen. It's like, the first march. And it gave me a beat up pickup truck and 100 bucks and say, go out and make a million dollar business. And for those that didn't watch the show, it's called Undercover Billionaire. And I got in my truck, I drove, I got to Erie downtown, and I got out. I turned around, I looked at the cameras, like, where do you want me to go? And they're like, just go. It's kind of like be an entrepreneur, like, there's nobody. Where am I going? What am I going to do? You know, you're on your own. And so I ended up building a business that I failed so many times in that show. And so many times it couldn't even put in because it was too much going on that there was a point where I start to realize, maybe I can blow the show up, maybe if I quit right now no one will ever see it. Because I am not going to succeed. And the world is going to watch me fail. And everybody that I knew, they were right. And that's this little tiny guy right here, right, that we all have that tells you you're gonna fail, you're gonna fail, you're gonna fail. And I remember looking, if I watch the show, I see myself staring at a part during Rib Fest. This is part of the show where I'm failing. And I said,

I've got to pull the plug, somehow, I've got to run and hide. And the end of the story is I pull out, the company succeeds. And I'm very, very proud of what happened in there. I'm very proud. And to this day, Underdog Barbecue is a thriving restaurant in Erie. Very, very proud of it. But what again, I when I look back, and I learned that hole, that deep hole of, and all the demons telling me give up, give up, don't believe that you can do it, all of those things that happen. I love fighting those guys off. I love it. And at the time I don't. I am in pain, it's miserable to sit back thinking, there is no way out this time, this time for real. I'm not getting out. I don't care how I got out all the other times when I said there was no way out. This one, no way out. Every time I figured it out. And so I think as you are an entrepreneur and you're in a way, you're never getting out of this one, right? Don't listen to those voices in your head. What you need to do is surround yourself again, get people mentors, other people around you, talk to them, explain what's going on, talk to your vendors, talk to your suppliers, talk to other people you need and say we're in a little situation here. But I'm going to communicate with you. Here's my cell phone, let's talk it out. So and by the way, and if you're doing great, congratulations. But don't go spending your money foolishly. Put your money away for the rainy day, Okay? There, it will rain again. And the money as far as I'm concerned is not my money, or your money. It's the company's money that you have, hopefully hundreds of 1000s of people that rely on it. So you need to think about the fact that it will rain again, and you need to be prepared. And that's part of why the longevity of companies and businesses. So anyway, my point to all this is that part of being an entrepreneur is about enduring pain. Part of being an entrepreneur is about communication. Being an entrepreneur is about trust. It's about honesty, and it's about making hard decisions. It's about being honest, and it's about just getting real with people. It's about appreciation, gratitude. Being an entrepreneur is not about driving a fancy car and saying, Look at me, I'm the s*** because you know what it is? It's not that easy. It's all the pain. It's everything else you go through. And then when you are able to drive that car, you feel humble, you feel that you feel like you deserve it, but you also are out there flashing it, because you realize all the pain that you went through to get there. So, you know, it's a long road. And I hope you guys are on the journey and on the path that you're in an area that it's not so hard, but guess what? It will be. And if you're in that part, this too shall pass. Okay? And if you're not keep going, congratulations, because the good times, they won't last but neither will the bad times. So anyway, I appreciate this opportunity. This has been amazing, Susan, thank you for allowing me to be here. How exciting. And anyway, thank you for the opportunity.

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Author Susan Sly

Susan Sly is considered a thought leader in AI, award winning entrepreneur, keynote speaker, best-selling author, and tech investor. Susan has been featured on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime, ABC Family, and quoted in Forbes Online, Marketwatch, Yahoo Finance, and more. She is the mother of four and has been working in human potential for over two decades.

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