How This Master Networker Went From Bouncer to Modern Day Wizard of Oz

How This Master Networker Went From Bouncer to Modern Day Wizard of Oz

access_time Jul/12/2017

From a journey to the International Space Station to partying at the Oscars with Elton John, luxury and adventure concierge service The Bluefish makes dreams come true for VIP clients. We sit down with the modern day Wizard of Oz and founder of The Bluefish, Steve Sims, at the historic Barney’s Beanery in Los Angeles. Sims started his career as a doorman arranging extravagant, bank-sponsored parties for affluent guests. The East London Irishman and master connector began monetizing his networking skills and The Bluefish was born. Before getting swept away in the mouth-watering bliss that is the Barney’s Cali Burger, Duffy, Taylor and Sims discuss raising a family as an entrepreneur, staying authentic to your brand and setting healthy boundaries with clients.

Related: Learning the Secrets to Success With Greg Reid from Millionaire Mentor, Inc.

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A Good Entrepreneur Evolves Over Time

I've been an entrepreneur for most of my life. I started an odd-jobs business in high school, founded a collectible comic-book business in college and launched my first capital-backed startup -- an adventure-travel company -- in my 20s.

My entrepreneurial endeavors continue today. I'm in my late 40s, running Red Rocket, looking for groups to buy and advising hundreds of early-stage businesses. My approach to managing businesses today is very different than when I was younger. The experience I now bring to the table has materially mellowed me as a leader. But I didn't have that background or that perspective when I was younger.

Experience collects wisdom.

I'm no longer a freshly minted CEO trying to figure it all out and making a lot of mistakes in the process. Decades of battle scars have sharpened my business thinking. With that hard-earned experience, I've accumulated years of learning. Not much thrown my way today is new. Chances are, I've already seen some version of it in the past. I simply dust off the old playbook and adjust from there, without having to think about the challenge as a first-time obstacle.

Related: Great Leaders Accumulate Their Wisdom Through Reciprocity, Risk and Respect

Wisdom drives confidence.

Business decisions are like anything in life: The more you've done it, the more comfortable you get. With that comfort comes a sense of confidence that you're headed in the right direction. First-time entrepreneurs often lack that insight and second-guess their paths. Tom Brady didn’t become the greatest Super Bowl-winning quarterback overnight. It took years of practice, memorizing playbooks and logging game-time experience. Those combined effects propelled him to success, and he's now one of the most confident quarterbacks in the game. Entrepreneurship is no different. 

Confidence leads to efficiency. 

The better you know your subject matter, the more efficiently you can execute your plan. I don’t necessarily need to stay up all hours of the night trying to figure out how to do something. I can make decisions faster now, and I know how to best invest my time. I don't get bogged down in the weeds. I've discovered what actions lead to the maximum ROI on my time, research and energy. 

Efficiency thrives on data.

In the old days, I'd get all excited about the features and functionalities of the product or service I was building. Today, the product doesn’t matter so much. I'm more focused on the economics around that product or service. What is my average ticket? Gross margin? Repeat sale rate? Churn rate? Cost of Customer Acquisition? Lifetime revenues? Return on marketing investment

Without solid business economics, the rest is just noise. I've become increasingly data-driven in my decision-making. I'm always looking for the profitable levers that I can pull to help scale a business.

Related: Secrets to Success as an Entrepreneur With Guy Kawasaki

It all adds up to better leverage.

Age has taught me I'm not in this battle by myself. Surrounding myself with the smartest people I know also will make me a more effective leader and executive. I go so far as to say I hope my direct reports are a lot smarter than me -- and no, that doesn't intimidate me. So many young entrepreneurs need to feel as if they're the smartest person in any room. I empower my team members to do their jobs, and then I get out of their way. I don't need to micromanage every one of their decisions as I did when I was younger.

Most important, I no longer panic when things start to go wrong. Many first-timers sound the alarm early and often. That's doubly unfortunate because panic typically creates unnecessary chaos and stress right when an organization needs to be its most focused on solving the problem at hand. Take a breath. It all will work out in the end.

Related: How Dealing With Toddler Tantrums Has Made Me a Better Leader

Here's my message to all the first-timers: Gather up experience (directly or through mentors) to help bolster your confidence and make you a more efficient, data-driven decision-maker who's comfortable leading a team of wicket-smart and empowered executives. And for goodness sake, don’t panic when things start to go wrong. There's always a logical fix. 

If you follow this guidance, you can stop pulling your hair out in the wee hours of the night. Instead, you'll get that time back and can transition to living a well-balanced existence -- all while watching your bank account grow along with your thriving business.

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When Opportunity Presents Itself, Will You Be Ready?

There is no one formula to the successful pursuit of entrepreneurship. But as much as triumphing in the world of business comes down to an unpredictable, alchemical mix of ambition, timing, innovation and an understanding of human nature, there is one element that can truly make all the difference: access.

It’s not just about gaining access to capital, the right mentors or the best advice. It's about access to opportunity.

Name an industry and it won't take long to find the gaps in terms of compensation, representation, perception and even with the best of intentions, in who is given consideration when it comes down to deciding what a strong leader looks like.

So how do you recognize a good idea and then find the confidence in yourself and the support system to make it happen? How do you weather mistakes and setbacks and come out the other side better for them? Once you do find that success, what can you do to create opportunity for others?

Related: VCs Ask Men About the Future and Women About Failure, New Study Finds

To do our best to answer these questions, today we are launching a new column called Open Every Door.

The name comes from a poem by Emily Dickinson, one that she first shared with her mentor, writer and activist Thomas Higginson. Theirs was a 25-year-long friendship which began when Dickinson wrote Higginson a cold letter (and attached four of her poems) after reading his advice for aspiring authors in The Atlantic.

This was in 1862, but Dickinson’s conviction in her ability is something that never goes out of style. And we would all do well to take a page out of her playbook, because without that letter, we wouldn’t know her as a genius today. It was Higginson who edited the posthumous volume of work that ultimately made her a household name.

This column is about identifying opportunity, understanding what you have to offer and navigating the pitfalls and obstacles that will block your path, with advice from the people who have been there.

Related: The Success of 'Wonder Woman' Speaks Volumes About Opportunity

So what kind of stories can you expect from Open Every Door?

Ellevest founder and CEO Sallie Krawcheck talked with us about harnessing your power at the negotiating table. Thirdlove co-founder Heidi Zak gave us her best tips for networking on your own terms. Flywheel CEO Sarah Robb O’Hagan spoke about how she learned not to be afraid of taking risks. And director and first-time founder Alexandra Dean shared the incredible story of inventor and actress Hedy Lamarr and the biggest lesson she learned from Hedy’s life: “being yourself and doing what little you can to try and help the world is sometimes the way we make our biggest mark.”

Check back next Friday for an interview with Cindy Whitehead, the former CEO of Sprout Pharmaceuticals and founder of the Pink Ceiling, where she discusses how to find mentors and partners who will go the distance.  

We want to hear from you. Share with us who inspires you in their ability to be ready for opportunity when it arrives. Maybe you’ll see them profiled in the next installment of Open Every Door.

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Putting People First and Pursuit of Funding Last Propels This Startups Growth

I got the opportunity to sit down with the CEO of Revcontent, a pretty hot topic company right now, to get to know the man behind the brand. John Lemp is an entrepreneur who has built two internet companies from the ground up into multi-million dollar businesses, and all with $0 in funding.

Revcontent is a content recommendation network, similar to its longer-established competitors Outbrain and Taboola. In the last year or so has come into the scene as an industry leader. However, they’ve also faced their fair share of criticism, which is why I was interested to see how this entrepreneur handles the struggles and success of building an Internet company twice.

Related: This Beauty Founder Shares the Secret Leadership Skill to Making a Company Thrive

Establish a durable culture focused on your mission.

Cool office spaces get a lot of hype today, and CEOs want to brag about all the video games and beer and ice cream they have. But what happens if the budget isn’t there for perks like that? And is this the best way to recruit and maintain top talent long-term?

Not necessarily. For Revcontent, Lemp says the company culture goes far past bringing your dog to work and Beer Cart Fridays. “I believe building a strong organization comes from hiring amazing people, being genuine to your mission, and creating an environment where those amazing people aren’t afraid of failure, and as a result, can own their success,” said Lemp.

Truly empowering employees is not an easy job either. It’s tempting to micromanage as a business leader, especially during periods of rapid growth.

It is up to the leaders of a company to foster and emphasize workplace culture. Often times when businesses face rapid growth, they fail to maintain that culture.

Why is company culture so important? It displays your brand’s identity, it makes people feel like they belong to your organization, and it helps identify your company values. Some tips for maintaining company culture include maintaining high standards for hiring, fostering and preserving company traditions, and empowering your employees.

Related: All You Need to Know About Creating a Culture Based on Growth

Put people first in every aspect of your business.

Putting people first is much more than simply treating your employees to lunch, or making sure your customer service is on par. It is something that every aspect of your business should revolve around.

For Lemp, Revcontent has never been about the money. He believes that one of the best strategic decisions he ever made was to focus on people, whether it’s his company’s media partners, consumers, or employees. Lemp's guiding philosophy is “Love people, not things. Use things, not people.”

“For consumers we learn from them and connect with them to build relationships. Our focus will always be on people in every area of our organization and I can confidently say that is our biggest differentiator and the sole reason for our growth,” said Lemp.

Take it from the global hotel brand, Marriott. The company’s philosophy of “putting people first” dates back to 1927, and is just as relevant now as it was 90 years ago. Marriott was onto something back then. This mindset to “take care of employees and they will take care of customers” has led Marriott to become one of the top hospitality companies in the world.

Related: Scale Culture Alongside Growth Through Diversity

Don’t lose sight of your mission.

Your mission statement serves as the foundation of your entire company.

One of the biggest mistakes that business leaders make is failing to foster an environment that aligns with their mission, and forgetting what that mission was in the first place.

Maybe that company made a deal that didn’t align with it’s mission because the focus was on profits. At the time it may not seem like a big deal, but it can make a huge impact on your bottom-line down the road.

Staying true to your company’s purpose is essential to being successful in the long run.

Lemp maintains his original vision for Revcontent, which is to empower an open and free world of media, and ensuring that free speech and independent thought flourishes. Even when big money is on the line, the easiest way to fail as a company is to lose sight of your mission.

Mergers and acquisitions are an exciting part of business growth and strategy, but only if it’s with the right people and the right brands. Revcontent recently acquired machine learning technology company, Rover. A huge influence in this decision was the fact that Rover shared the same values of Revcontent- a vision of a more personalized web, and a web that helps users discover content that is more relevant to them than ever.

Related: 4 Tips for Maintaining Cultural DNA During High Growth

Fail faster.

IBM’s Thomas Watson, Sr., once said, “the fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate.”

Many leaders are quick to celebrate the successes of their employees, but what about failures? What about those failed attempts at creating a major breakthrough that your employees worked endlessly for?

The way Lemp sees it, those failures can serve as milestones as well, and they are putting you one step closer to reaching that breakthrough. In fact, Lemp believes those failures are essential to success.

The fear of failure is something that prevents many young entrepreneurs from reaching their fullest potential. A standard that Lemp lives by is “Don’t fear failure, expect it.”

What does this mean? Many people will tell you that success is ‘the opposite of failure’, but Lemp views success as ‘the result of failure.’ He sees every failure as the greatest opportunities, and believes that you can’t experience a major breakthrough if you aren’t willing to take the risks.

This mindset of embracing fast failures has been the basis of Revcontent’s rapid growth. According to Quantcast, Revcontent is now the largest content recommendation network in the world in terms of reach.

“I make dozens of mistakes every day, and I actually look forward to these learning opportunities,” said Lemp.

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France to Ban All Gas and Diesel Vehicles by 2040

One of French President Emmanuel Macron's more optimistic plans involves making France a carbon neutral country by the year 2050. Achieving that requires some major changes to the way in which energy and transport work in the country.

According to The Independent, France's new environment minister Nicolas Hulot just set out two big pledges with this in mind. The first is for France to stop using coal to produce electricity by 2022, instead replacing the lost production with green alternatives. But the bigger pledge came for the transport sector. France intends to ban all vehicles that run on gasoline or diesel by the year 2040.


Fully-electric car production is only now beginning to ramp up with Tesla leading the way. Under the French government's plans, car manufacturers have just over 22 years left to fully embrace electric or clean burning fuel vehicles such as Toyota's hydrogen cars. And let's not forget the infrastructure these cars will require for recharging/refueling and the investment that will take.

Such a ban does pose other problems, too, such as how to deal with millions of cars that will be illegal come 2040. There's also the cost of buying a new car, which inevitably everyone will be forced to do if they want to continue being able to drive. In that regard, Hulot stated there would be financial help for poorer households.

Getting to 2040 without a single gas/diesel vehicle on the road is certainly possible, but only if it is well planned. The remaining 22 years until the proposed ban comes into force needs to be split and demands made on the car industry every few years. If that happens, then France could have only zero emission vehicles on its roads well before the 2040 deadline.

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Microsoft to Cut Thousands of Sales Jobs

Microsoft has confirmed layoffs that could affect up to 3,000 jobs.

"Microsoft is implementing changes to better serve our customers and partners," Microsoft told PCMag. "Today, we are taking steps to notify some employees that their jobs are under consideration or that their positions will be eliminated. Like all companies, we evaluate our business on a regular basis. This can result in increased investment in some places and, from time-to-time, re-deployment in others."


CNBC reports that cuts will affect "less than 10 percent of the company's total sales force," or up to 3,000 jobs. About 75 percent of the layoffs will take place overseas, meaning the company is planning to cut up to around 1,000 U.S.-based employees.

CNBC says the layoffs are part of a "major reorganization." This isn't necessarily a cost-cutting measure: Microsoft is reportedly looking to change the way it sells its cloud-service product Azure, sales of which grew 93 percent last quarter.

Going forward, Microsoft plans to "use employees who are more knowledgeable about specific verticals so they can sell bigger packages," the report notes.

Microsoft currently has around 121,000 employees worldwide, including 71,594 in the U.S., according to the company's website. Around 18.5 percent of Microsoft employees are in sales roles.

The latest round of cuts comes after Microsoft last July cut 2,850 employees from its smartphone hardware business and global sales division. Before that, Microsoft in May 2016 laid off 1,850 as it scaled down its smartphone hardware business.

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