Momentum Podcast: 626
Where We Stand
by Alex Charfen
There is a lot happening in the world right now.
I want to take this opportunity to make it unequivocally and abundantly clear where I stand personally and where we stand as a company. Entrepreneurs are some of the most unique and dynamic individuals on the planet, and we need every voice, every heart, and every spirit to stand united as we work to defeat racism and discrimination.
We hear you. We see you. We love you.
Black lives matter.
Full Audio Transcript
This is The Momentum Podcast.
There's a lot happening in the world today, and this episode of the momentum podcast was recorded specifically for Alex to be able to share and make it unequivocally clear where he stands as a person, but also where we stand as a company. I hope you enjoy this very special episode of The Momentum Podcast.
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 challenge 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 endure 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.
There is a lot going on in the world, and I think it's crucially important that we all clarify where we stand and what we stand for. I want to do that today, but first I want to share a story, a story about somebody who used to work with us. So about ... Probably 10 years ago, 10 or ... Nine or 10 years ago, we hired this programmer, amazing human being. His name was Lou, Lucius, and we called him Big Lou and Lou was one of the most extraordinary, Lucius was one of the most extraordinary people I ever worked with. He was a programmer, a great personality, super funny. He had this infectious loud, deep laugh. In the time that Lucius and I worked together, we became friends and hung out together and I ended up like really loving this guy as just an amazing, incredible human being.
I remember the day that Lucius came to me and told me that he had gotten another job offer. I can't remember what we were paying him, but the job offer that he was offered was about 30 or 40% higher than what we were paying him, and more than we could afford, and I remember him saying something like "Alex, I'm struggling. I don't know if I want to take this job or I think I want to take it or something like that." I was like, "Lucius, come on, you've got to take this. This is such a huge opportunity for you. I'm so excited for you. This is amazing."
I remember him leaving company and I would check in on him every once in a while. I thought he was doing pretty well, and then I heard from him probably two or three, no three or four years after that, and he sent me a text message out of the blue one day, and it said, "Alex, I want you to know that the only company I've ever felt safe working in was yours. It's really rough out there." I immediately called him and I was like, "Lucius, what are you talking about? You only felt safe." Here's why. I didn't share this at the beginning. So Lucius was an ex I think Dartmouth or Penn State football player. I'm not good at football, don't really follow sports, but he was a former football player. He was about 6'6" maybe and huge, like massive shoulders, just a mountain of a guy. One time we were kidding around in the office and I saw him pick up another full-grown man and pick him up off the ground. So for Lucius to say, the only place I ever felt safe working was with you shocked me because how can somebody with that stature, with that strength, with that power feel unsafe.
Lucius is black and he told me that in the company, he went to directly after ours, he ended up in HR conversations. Everybody in the office was allowed to have a dog. For some reason, he couldn't have a dog. There was all kinds of challenging things that happened to him. Then as a partner in a business, he gave me details on how he experienced bias and prejudice and feelings of being looked down on because he's black and it blew me away. The fact that he said that the only company he ever felt safe in was ours made me double down and recommit to what we do.
See in our organization, we have always had two policies that every single person hears coming in. They hear our anti-discrimination policy, which means it doesn't matter what race, what gender expression you are, what sexuality, or who you choose to date or marry or have a relationship with. For us, we want the human being that's going to perform on our team and we want diversity. We want different viewpoints. We want people to come from all angles. I know that that's how problems are solved, and we have always shared our no gossip policy because as a person who has had gossip about me, I know how destructive it is and how terrible it is and you really have to have both those policies because you have to first talk about not discriminating against people and then not talking about behind their backs, and that's how you create an emotionally safe place.
I remember after that conversation with Lucius coming back and telling Cadey, like, "We've got to do more of this, we've got to commit to this. We're going to recommit to this," and we have, but maybe not as much as we could. I still think there's so much more than we could do and hearing that story from Lucius really severely affected me. See, I've always created businesses where it's a meritocracy, the better you do, and the better you show up and the more you contribute to the team, the more we're going to love you and appreciate you and accept you and if you don't do those things then we'll probably redeploy you and ask you to work somewhere else, but that's what I care most about.
Here's what I can tell you about being a business owner for over 25, 26, 27 years now, I'm 47 years old, and in my early twenties, I ran a consultancy out of South Florida that was in Latin America and this is just one example of how, when you don't have diversity, it's a massive challenge. In that business, and this was in my early understanding of business, I was just trying to stay alive. I hired the people who I could get in touch with in Latin America. I assembled a team for my consultancy and this was over 20 years ago, and in Latin America, every consultant I had working with me was male. My entire team was male, except for one person who worked in the United States on the books, but everybody who was in Latin America in territory working was male.
When we got together to solve problems, it was challenging for me to be in the room. There was so much challenge and frustration and so limited perspective that it made it so that we did not solve problems well as a team. So way back then, I remember thinking I need to change things, and so I hired two women onto our team in positions that normally 20 something years ago in Latin America, they wouldn't have been in. I actually had customers question me and say like, "Why did you hire women into these positions? What's their background? Are they qualified? Can they handle it? This is really hard work," and I answered all of those questions and then we persisted and moved forward, and here's what happened. Just the addition, just changing from an all male team to having some gender diversity actually made problem solving that much better, that much more effective.
In the business, in that business, I ended up selling out of it in my early thirties. It almost killed me, it was completely overwhelming, a very challenging experience. I mean I also did very well, I made millions of dollars and then we grew to about $250 million in sales and so there was a financial success there, but it wasn't the business that I wanted to run for the rest of my life.
In the businesses that I had after that, I have looked for diversity. I made sure that it was there because I realized in that lesson, that when you have limited viewpoints, limited perspective, it's hard to solve problems. It's hard to see your own blind spots. It's hard to see how you're affecting the people around you, and the more diversity you create, the more inclusion you create, the better you are at problem solving on your team, and it doesn't just stop there. See what I also realized was the more inclusion we create, the more we try and bring people in, the more we make our business, our materials available to everyone, the more we include everyone, the better our business actually gets. It's an easy example, but we put transcripts of my podcast on our website so that people who are deaf can read the podcast rather than have to listen to it. We also know that people who can hear perfectly well read the transcripts, so it actually makes it better for everyone. Our podcast pages got a ton more traffic after they add transcripts, actually putting the transcript on our website for people who can't hear made it so that our SEO went through the roof. So not only did it make it better for anybody who's visiting the site, but it actually improved the functionality of this site.
That's what happens so often. See, there's this fear in the world that when you create diversity, you're going to make it worse for somebody else. There's this fear in the world, when you create equality and equity, you're going to take something away from somebody else. The reality is, and what I've learned in business, is that when you create equity and equality, and when you have a diverse team, when there's different viewpoints in the room, it actually gives to everybody, to a hundred percent of the people. It actually makes the business better, it makes problem solving better. The individuals in the company learn more, personally they learn more, professionally they learn more. The more inclusive we are in business, the better we do.
So the events of the past few weeks have caused me to re-examine and to think about who we are as a company and what we're doing, and when Lucius called me years ago, I doubled down on diversity and inclusion and making sure that we weren't just creating equality, but equity in our businesses and we understood the different types of members we have, the team members we have, where are they coming from, what are their perspectives, how do we support everyone in a system that includes everybody?
I'm back to doubling down again. Cadey and I have been talking about this for the past couple of weeks, and we're actually in the process of interviewing diversity and inclusion specialists that can help us create a business that is about equity and equality and justice, and including everyone to make it better for all of us. Here's my goal, here's who I am, here's what I want to do. I help entrepreneurs build and grow and scale companies so that they can build empires, and here's what I know about entrepreneurs. When we build companies, when we build wealth, when we build notoriety, when we build organizations and empires, those things help us create the platform we need, the energy we need, the finances we need, the power we need to actually change the world.
So for me, in this current climate, I want to make it absolutely unequivocally clear that as a company and as a human being, Black Lives Matter and the appropriate answer to that is never All Lives Matter. That is am invalidation of the very statement and not only do Black Lives Matter, but today I stand with the protests and I stand with the protestors, and when you look at what's happened in just the past week with the NFL reversing course, with statues coming down across the country, with police departments, having part of their funds pulled, with laws being rewritten, with the Confederate flag, being kicked out of the military.
It's incredible, what's happened in just the past week. It actually feels different this time. It feels like we're creating momentum. It feels like this is a true movement. It feels like we are going to actually change things, and it's so time. Systematic racism and inequity in the United States and really globally should be a thing of the past, and I think that sometimes, we forget that in the United States, it's only been 56 years since we had segregation. I'm 47 years old. It was only a few years before I was born that there was still separate black and white bathrooms. Are you kidding me? That is how recent this is. That is how much work we have to do, and so I want you to know, as someone who is a part of our community and someone who listens to my podcast and someone who is following me and giving me the energy and attention that you are, that we are recommitted and fully committed to helping entrepreneurs rise up, identify the opportunity, grab onto it, create momentum, move forward, and go out and change the world.
I'm excited to increase the diversity in our memberships, to make sure that we're helping all people, that we are being inclusive, that we're helping as many as we possibly can, because I have this belief that entrepreneurs are the most consistent source of positive human evolution and we always will be. When I say entrepreneurs, I mean the people who get up every day, go into the future, create a new reality, come back to the present and demand it becomes real. Some of the most incredible entrepreneurs I've ever read about, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Rosa parks, Harriet Tubman, titans who demanded different, who said, we must change, who said, we are going to make things better, who put together the systems, the strategies, the processes before we had computers, before we had fax machines before we ... We don't even have fax machines anymore, but they put together systems and structures to eliminate the challenges that people around them had, and they stood up to the oppression where it was. If more of us lean in that direction and more of us realize what an opportunity this is. If more of us commit to inclusion and diversity, we don't just help ourselves. We actually help everyone. Making it better for everyone takes nothing away from anyone, and don't let anyone ever tell you different.
As we move forward on this journey, as we understand more, as we improve on it as a company, I will help you, or I will share it with you and I will let you know how it's going. Because as a minority myself, and for those who don't know, I was actually born in Mexico. My father is Latin American and Arab. My mother was born in Ohio. So as far as minorities go in any room, I'm usually the only person with that background, and when I was younger, I felt it. I felt being Latin American, I felt having an accent. I was given a hard time for it and so for me, this has been a lifelong pursuit to create equality, to create equity, to have opportunities be available for everyone.
So that's where we stand and I had somebody on Facebook after I had made a post about Black Lives Matter, say something like, "I'm so impressed that you do this because so many people are afraid of hurting their businesses." For me, it's the absolute opposite. Here's the business I want to run. I want to run a business where we help the people who want to go out and change the world to change it. I want to run a business where we help as many people as possible to create a plan, go out and affect the world with that plan, and I want to run a business where anyone, regardless of their background or the color of their skin or their gender expression, or who they choose to be in love with, can grow a business and succeed and go out and evolve and change the world, and for anyone who's not with me, for anyone who thinks, "Man, I'm not going to follow that guy anymore." Or for anyone who disagrees with my opinions, I'm absolutely okay with that because here's what I believe.
I'm the best at what I do. I'm better than anyone on the planet at showing visionary entrepreneurs how to build a team, build a business around it, grow an empire and go out and make the change they want to see in the world, and for anyone who's not with me, for anyone who wants to go somewhere else, well, here's my belief. I'm better than your coach., and if you don't want to work with me, that's totally okay, but I'm going to help the people who line up with these belief systems to go out and grow businesses without asking for permission, turn those businesses into empires and take those businesses and go out and change the world.
Because a business is not just a way to make money. A business is a community. A business is an environment that you create as a human being, where you can infuse it with your values and who you are and your belief systems, and you can line up the people who want to work with those values, those beliefs, and go out and change the world together, and so for anyone who doesn't want to do that with me, I am absolutely okay, because I know we are going to help thousands of entrepreneurs grow businesses, build empires, make the change they want to see in the world, and we are going to help evolve this planet and improve things for everyone.
Thanks for being here and listening and if you relate to what I've said, I've written a book called The Entrepreneurial Personality Type, and it's about people like you and me that are different. It's about people who take that journey into the future, come back to the present and demand that what they created becomes real, and I think it could help you understand yourself better and understand how we can create momentum on demand and keep it going. So go to FreeMomentumBook.com. All you have to do is pay for shipping and you'll get a copy of The Entrepreneurial Personality Type book. It's FreeMomentumBook.com. Thanks for being here, and I appreciate you listening.