Momentum Podcast: 396
No Career Is Perfect
by Alex Charfen
I have not had a perfect career. No coach should claim to have the perfect career. We learn from the mistakes we make and the challenges that we have had to overcome in our lives. I am a better coach because I've had to work through the tough times myself. From being a young successful consultant to entering early retirement, from an explosive property portfolio to bankruptcy, and climbing my back to the top again. I want to share with you my career background, right from the beginning, with all the bumps in the road along the way. You don't need to be perfect, just try to make progress.
Full Audio Transcript
I often joke around that if you meet a consultant or a coach or a thought leader who's had a perfect career, you should run because there is no such thing as a perfect career, and if anyone has ever had one, they are about to go down and when they do, you don't want to be anywhere near them. Let me share with you a little bit about how imperfect my career has been.
I'm Alex Charfen, and this is the Momentum Podcast made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers and creators of all kinds. Those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to, we challenged complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum, so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure, we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny. We define it. We don't understand defeat because you only lose if you stop and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few who are willing to hallucinate. There could be a better future and instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we enter the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly, the most important people in the world because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive human evolution, and we always will be.
Last year, I spoke at a mastermind where I did a Q and A and people were asking about how do you create progress, how do you build your career, how do you build your business. Someone asked a question in an interesting way. They said, "Alex, how did you always find a way to keep your career moving forward so fast? None of us have a perfect career like you have." I remember laughing because I have not had a perfect career. In fact, no coach, no consultant, no thought leader should ever claim to have a perfect career. We win from the challenges we have. We win from the mistakes we make. We learn from both of those things.
We actually learn how to overcome adversity by going through it. We know how to coach people through the challenges because we've had them ourselves. When this person told me that I had had this perfect career, I gave the entire group detail on the history of my career going all the way back to when I was in college.
Let me share it with you so you can see just how ridiculously imperfect my career is. In fact, when I was just making notes for this podcast, I think my career looks a lot more like Mr. Magoo was stumbling through it or it has a Forrest Gump type quality to it more than someone who made perfect decisions.
See, this is where my real career started. In college, I met one of my close ... Well, I met my closest friend in the world today, Price. Price and I started a business called FFC, Fraternal Finance Consultants. It was a billing and collection service for fraternities and sororities. See. We were young and we didn't understand that in order to have a viable company, the first step is to find a viable market. We picked a really limited market that we understood. We were in college. We understood fraternities. We understood sororities, and we went and did automated billing and collections from them.
Well, we did billing and collections so well for fraternities and sororities. We never really made a lot of money. We built the business. We started billing for a lot of the national fraternities, a lot of the national sororities. We had a lot of their different chapters and locations. We were doing reporting for them, and we just couldn't make the company big enough because we were billing in a tiny little market called fraternities and sororities. We hadn't been around a long time, and we didn't think to like look up and say, "Hey, why don't we go build for utilities or something bigger?"
What happened was Price and I had an offer from a company in Orlando called Envirocheck to buy the software from us because they were doing billing, collections, and water retrofits in the apartment community business. They bought the software. As part of that deal, I moved out to Orlando and became an executive vice president of sales at Envirocheck. I had a one-year contract with them to work as part of the software purchase, to work through it. Price was coming out making the software transfer.
In that one-year contract where I was going to get a pretty big payment at the end, I was actually earning commissions along the way, I quit at eight months with massive commissions owed to me because I was working with an entrepreneur named Cameron Kuhn, K-U-H-N. If you ever wanted to do a search on Cameron Kuhn in Orlando, you can go see. He's now legendary on the East Coast. He ended up buying a ton of downtown Orlando and a ton of downtown Jacksonville and absolutely imploded and took apart, like the downtown of Orlando was permanently affected by what Cameron did.
When I was working with him and Envirocheck, I was selling contracts that were bigger than anything Envirocheck had ever sold. Instead of just delivering them on timeframes that were reasonable, he was trying to do everything overnight. He was a huge like Tony Robbins' fan, only he applied Tony Robbins' information the wrong way. He thought that what Tony Robbins said was everybody should do everything as fast as they possibly can, and what Tony Robbins really says is to do things in the right way at the right time.
Cameron was always pushing everyone in his business to overclock, to do more. As a result, it was a constant nightmare. I quit. I was sitting in Orlando. I was born in Mexico, raised in California. My family, my network, everyone I knew was in California. I had been in Orlando for eight months. I had absolutely nothing going on. I had been talking to a friend of a friend who was a consultant, and he owned a business in New York where he was representing major manufacturers, and he had a bunch of them already. He was considering opening an office in Florida .
He had an interview with Fuji Media and said, "You know, Florida's available. New York's available. Let's go on this interview and see if we can get both." Really, it was a lark. It was like a long shot. We didn't think it would work out. We didn't think it would even happen. We went on this interview. Instead of getting New York where he was already established and had done business for years, we ended up signing Florida. That's how I became a consultant to Fuji.
It was almost a stroke of luck. It was almost just one of those things that happened. I started my business. I actually partnered with his business so my business partnered with his, but I was young. I was 21 years old. I had no idea what I was doing. We signed through his business, Fuji. Then, we signed SanDisk. Then, we signed Fuji digital cameras. Then, we signed Targus computer carrying cases. We just kept going and signing bigger and bigger contracts.
But the problem was I didn't realize he controlled everything. After a few years, he started messing around with how well he was paying me. He wanted to change the percentages my company got. I had to leave that partnership. I went out on my own. I lasted about six months. Then, I took on a partner who came in with some money. We started going out and signing new contracts.
We actually were able to go and get Logitech and we got Targus and we got a few of the contracts that we had had before. We ended up working with Belkin. Eventually, we worked with Monster Cable, but then, my partner and I made a massive mistake. We merged our company with another company that was in the same business we were. We almost tripled our company size overnight, but what we didn't realize and what we didn't know enough to know was that the company we were merging with was actually losing money.
We were profitable. They were bigger than we were, but they were losing money. While we thought we were going into this merger which was going to be a huge win for us, it actually created a massive overnight liability. It was brutal. We spent years working our way out of that liability. It was like a year and a half before we actually started making money. I remember I took a huge pay cut during that time.
We worked at it, and we worked at it, and we worked at it. The company that we merged with, the owner of the other company actually owned more than we did. At one point, he finally decided that my partner who was originally in the business had to go. He didn't want him there anymore. I was there. I didn't have my partner. I was left with the other owner. It was the two of us.
He was the majority shareholder. I remember the day that he told me he was hiring Brad and Geoff Smart, the guys who wrote Topgrading. My partner was in entrepreneurs organization. He went to a bunch of seminars. I didn't go to any of them. I didn't even know they existed.
Now, in retrospect, I do know. He decided that the way that we were going to fix the company, the way that we were going to grow the business was to bring in someone who was going to replace me. I would report to them. Then, that person would grow our consultancy. The challenges, I was growing the consultancy all along. We ended up recruiting a VP, an executive vice president from Microsoft who came into our business and took over.
Just to show you how imperfect my career is, I started fighting with that VP for Microsoft day one. I couldn't stand the guy. He was arrogant. He didn't understand our business. He didn't understand me. I didn't want to work for anybody. He was a hired gun. I didn't respect him as an entrepreneur. He bugged me like crazy. It was incredibly frustrating. Frustrating right up to the point where as a team, we were at the biggest event we had ever done. We had an event business in Latin America.
We had an event in Los Angeles. It was the biggest event we had ever created. I quit the business at that event. In fact, I got so fed up with this new person who was running our company. I went to my partner into him and I sat down with them. I said, "I'm going to leave the business." I told them a small part of the business I wanted to take with me that they didn't see as important.
We had a company that was operating in Latin America and the United States and our United States business was not as big as a Latin American business. I talked them into giving me the United States business. I took no buyout. I didn't get any cash out of the deal at all. I just got the United States business. That is when I finally had my own consultancy. Over the course of in the next four or five years, I'd built it into a massive organization where eventually.
Remember, my biggest day in that company was a $22 million day. We did about $250,000 in a year. Then, then I met my wife, Cadey. I had been a consultant that had gone through a lot like I just told you, partnerships and events companies and tons of different team members and traveling sometimes 60, 70, 80, occasionally even 90% of the time. I was exhausted. When I met, Cadey, my company was that the biggest it had ever been. I decided to sell it and get out of the consultancy business. I didn't want to do it anymore. I was overwhelmed. I wanted to have an exit. I wanted to have some cash in the bank. I didn't want to have to travel anymore. I was ready to do something else.
I spent about a year figured out how to sell the company, ended up selling it. I experienced the most massive reduction and momentum I've ever had in my life. It was like I felt like the wheels had fallen off. It was like here's what happened literally. I went from being an important business owner that gave advice all the time that was significant in so many different ways whose phone was ringing all day who was answering emails constantly and then the next day nothing was happening, and nobody cared.
It felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I thought I was going to "retire" and it was the longest six weeks of my life. I was going crazy. I thought I was literally going to lose it. Cadey and I, I took some of the money that we got from the business, and as a way to like stop being frustrated and feel like I was doing something, I started buying houses.
I remember buying our first, well, I had always owned property. I'd always owned rental properties from when I was in my early 20s. It was one of the first things that I did with the money that I made. When I retired "retired" and had some cash, I started buying properties and rehabbing them.
I remember doing our first property. It took us like 45 or 60 days to get it ready. It took us another few months to sell it. There was this rush of being able to sell a property. I did it again and again and like anything else I've done in my life, I started creating systems around it and processes around it. Soon, Cadey and I were some of the biggest home buyers in South Florida. We probably bought more single-family homes than any individuals and probably any other company in South Florida did collectively.
We did over 1000 deals. We were doing hundreds of deals. Some weeks, I was closing five or six deals a week on house and we built a massive real estate portfolio. It was incredible. We were making six figures a month and sometimes multiple six figures a month. We were buying houses. We were adding them to our portfolio. We had all of our time, effort, energy, everything we did was in real estate. We were blowing up.
Everyone knew who we were. Things were going incredibly well. We had a really nice house, huge cars. We could do just about anything we wanted and then 2007 hit. In the course of that year, we lost so much equity. We went from having millions of dollars in equity and well over a million dollars in the bank and between the hurricanes Katrina and Wilma that damaged almost all of our properties, we had like 40 insurance claims and one and 30 and seven insurance claims in another. We had double claims. It was crushing us. We lost all of our money.
Then, we lost all of our equity. We got to the point where we couldn't make the payment, and we went bankrupt. There I was 2007, just 11 years ago. I was 34 years old or 35 years old and publicly declaring to the world that I was a complete and total verifiable failure. It was horrible. I remember how frustrating it was for Cadey and I. I mean we didn't know what we were going to do.
But then we got started getting served with foreclosure notices, and I started reading them, and I realized there was a major issue in how those notices were being laid out. We looked at it and I started working on a book called Mastering Short Sales for real estate agents. In fact, Wiley offered us $50,000 for the book at a time where $50,000 was like $500 to us.
We were bankrupt. We had no money. We didn't know how we were going to buy groceries. We had trouble buying gas, and we got this offer that was absolutely incredible but just had too much control in it and too much we were giving up. Cadey and I took Mastering Short Sales For Real Estate Agents, and we took a flying leap, and we turned it into the Certified Distressed Property Expert Designation.
On January 23rd and 24th, 2008 in Boca Raton, Florida at the Holiday Inn on Glades Road that had been a Hampton Inn, so it was a distressed hotel with a distressed property class, I taught our first class to 60 students, 62 to be exact. We charged $249 a person and that is where the CDP was born. From that point forward, we taught about 1500 students in that first year. Then, the next year, we taught about 5000. The next year, we taught over 10,000 total. We sold just shy of 49,000 and change of the Certified Distressed Property Expert Designation and we had an average sales price of about $450.
That business with the continuity products we introduced at $99 a month did over $70 million online. It completely changed mine and Cadey's life. From bankruptcy, from the data bankruptcy was discharged to being liquid millionaires, it was less than a year. I ended up in that business. In my consulting business, I met incredible people. In that business, it was the same thing.
We ended up working with the US Treasury, with the FHFA, with all of the major brokerages in the United States with most of the major lenders in the United States directly with the Obama administration. In fact, at one point in 2013, Laurie Maggiano, one of the directors at the US Treasury, came into our office for a broadcast and she said on the broadcast, "Alex, we've realized through our research that your organization with the CDP has pulled forward the market recovery five to seven years. We have that on video."
I remember sitting there and thinking this is fantastic. Then, immediately panicking while we were live on air because we had a product that only sold in a distressed market. We had a product that only made sense in a distressed market. When she said we had pulled forward the recovery, I realized that also meant we had completely trashed our market. In fact, we needed a distressed market to keep selling. Now, understand, in no way, shape, or form did I want the market to remain distressed so that we could do okay.
But at that time in 2013, Cadey and I had over 90 employees and well over 150 with contractors. From 2013 up until 2016 or '17, we made cuts. It was brutal and depressing and frustrating. There were days where we had to lay off 25 people at once because our product went from selling thousands a month to half that, then half that again, then half that again, then half that again because the market demand just wasn't there. There was nothing we could do to sell our way out of it.
We tried to pivot. We started coaching real estate agents. We had a coaching organization at one point that was a $4 or $5 million a year business. Then, Cadey and I decided we just didn't want to do it. It wasn't the right type of coaching. It wasn't the right avatar. We didn't want to work with just real estate agents anymore. We didn't want to coach tactics. It was just too much.
We ended up shutting down the coaching company laying off more of our team. In 2017, last year in July, we went down from what had been over 90 people down to three; me, Cadey and one of our team members just in light. That was it. We started over.
In 2017, I joined Russell Brunson's inner circle. I got some advice from him. He helped me figure out what type of coaching program we should put together. He also helped me launch this ... Not help me. He suggested I launch this podcast, pushed me, encouraged me. When I say push, push really hard over and over. I'm so grateful that he did because at this point, we've had over 1.2 million downloads and last year in our first year in this business, we did about $250,000.
When compared with our first year in CDP, we did about a $27,000. In our second year of CDP, we did about a half-million dollars which was huge to us. In our second year this year, it looks like we're going to end it around 2.25 million in collections and way over $2 million a year in recurring revenue. Who knows what we'll do next year?
My career has been anything but perfect. My career has been a series of challenges that have been overcome, but there is no such thing as a perfect career. I share this with you because I want you to understand that entrepreneurship never looks shiny and squeaky clean. In fact, entrepreneurship is one of the hardest paths you could ever choose in your lifetime to do what we do to create a business, to go out and make something happen on your own is one of the hardest things you can possibly do.
But I want you to know something. I wouldn't have it any other way. This is exactly where I want to be. Take my warning seriously. If you encounter a coach or a consultant or a thought leader whose career has been perfect, you should be scared of them because one of two things is happening. They're either making things up, and they're not telling you transparently what reality is or if they are the person that happens to so far have had a perfect career, I don't think you want to be around them when they finally fall down.
If you're ready to start growing your business faster and you want to benefit from all of the mistakes I've made which is one of the things I tell my clients all the time, I will always share with you my mistakes so that you don't have to make them in the same way. If you want to benefit from a career that's been anything but perfect but had a ton of ups, a ton of downs but a lot of successes, I'd love to help you.
Go to billionaireco.com/apply and fill out some simple questions for my team, and get on the call with someone from my team or with me and we will explain how we can help you. Don’t try to be perfect. Try to make progress, and that's how you really win as an entrepreneur.