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Adam Mendler: The Renaissance Man, Jumping Ship & Family Businesses

Our guest is Adam Mendler. If you're just getting to know Adam, you should know that he is the CEO of The Veloz Group. He co-founded an overseas venture across a wide variety of industries such as Beverly Hills Chairs, a leading office furniture retailer, Custom Tobacco, a one of a kind cigar customization eCommerce platform and Veloz Solutions, a technology consulting and software development practice. He is a serial entrepreneur but it didn't start out that way. In fact, you're going to get to meet who I called the renaissance man. He has such a diverse background for such a relatively young guy. I do not know how he's accomplished it all. That's why you’ve got to check out this show.

To give you a little glimpse, you're going to discover what it was like working for the largest hedge fund in the world and how you make that jump from Corporate America or having a job into entrepreneurship. For those of you that have a family business who ever thought, “It would be nice to start a business with a family,” you're going to get the skinny on what that is like and how to set yourself up for success. You're going to get some insights on when to start a new venture and how to vet or capitalize on the opportunity.

Dustin
I'm super excited because we have a true renaissance man, entrepreneur and entertainment guy. I am excited. I’m here with Adam Mendler. Thank you for coming to the show.
Adam
Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here. I'm more excited than you.
Dustin
I want to start off by this. Your life resume is absolute insanity to me by your mid-30s.
Adam
What's your definition of insanity?
Dustin
There are all these different careers and things that you've done including education and movies. To give people a little glimpse, you had six careers by the time you were in your 30s. You were in sports, you are in finance, package goods, tech, marketing and entertainment. Is there any on your bucket list that you haven't done yet?
Adam
I haven't done podcasting yet. That's going to be in the cards so stay tuned.
Dustin
What's it going to take to get you into podcasting?
Adam
Not a whole lot. If this goes well, I'll join you.
Dustin
Looking at your background, some people would say, “This guy must get bored easily.” Do you see it that way?
Adam
No, not at all. I never get bored. I'm one of those few people who can spend an entire weekend and just sit around by myself and have the time of my life. I could also spend the entire weekend and hang out with a thousand people. I never ever get bored because I find a lot of different things interesting. When I find something interesting, I enjoy doing it. I enjoy getting engaged. It's more by-product of that than anything else.
Dustin
A lot of times our parents have such an impact on us when we're growing up. Was your mother or your father a renaissance man? Were they in a lot of different fields growing up? Why do you feel that you want to get into so many different things and create stems from it?
Adam
My mom was not a renaissance man, but I would say that I take after my parents in certain ways. Neither of them is an entrepreneur. My dad is an attorney and a very successful one at that. My mom is a retired teacher and she was a very good teacher. I take a little bit from my mom and a little bit from my dad. I favor my mom more than I favor my dad. That entrepreneurial gene and that entrepreneurial bug that I have is what I call accidental. I don't think that I was born an entrepreneur. My brother who I've partnered with on a number of businesses, he's the real entrepreneur in the family. He and I started The Veloz Group together and he's the one who I think was the born entrepreneur. I had been working for a big bank at the time I was 28. I had worked for two large companies in the financial services space.
I’ve been an intern for two big companies in the entertainment industry and felt that I was at a point in my career where I had experienced what life was like at the big companies. I was ready to try something different so I went down this entrepreneurial path. I don't want to say that it was to try it out because I felt that if there was ever going to be a moment in my life to do something entrepreneurial, that was the time to do it. My expenses were never going to be lower. My interview was never going to be higher. This was the right time. I went, I did it and I embraced it. Once you become an entrepreneur and you take to it, it's hard to go back. People look at me and think that I was born to do this just like people might look at other people in any industry and think that they were born to do what they're doing. We all get to where we are in different ways.
Dustin
I saw that you took a law class in school. Was there any expectation from dad to follow in the footsteps or did mom put that on you?
Adam
No, it’s quite the opposite. My dad was clear to us not to become lawyers. We've got many messages from our dad, but the big message we got from our dad was to try to become the client rather than to try to become the service provider. As much as my dad loves his job, and he truly does, I don't think I know anyone that loves their job as much as my dad loves his work. My grandmother would be an example. My dad's mom, she loved her work the same way my dad loves his work. The message that I got from him growing up wasn't, “Do what I do and become a lawyer. Help people with their trusts and estates.” On the contrary, it was, “Try to find something that will give you more freedom, give you more independence and not force you to be tethered to billing by the hour.”
Dustin
I'm always curious because I had always fancied me taking law classes, especially getting into the business. I wish I had an understanding of the law because some people come at you and it's like, “That's not a big deal.” You took that class and then you never took one again. Did you do have to take that class to graduate or were you dabbling where you're like, “Maybe I will be an attorney?”
Adam
No. When I was in college, I took a couple of constitutional law classes and I love those. I had a great professor, Professor Cormier. He’s one of my favorite professors in college. He had amazing courses. I took four of his classes and two of them were these constitutional law classes and I loved them. One of the nice things about getting an MBA from UCLA is that you have the flexibility to take classes across the university. I thought, “While I'm here getting my business degree, why don't I take a class or two or more from the law school?” I rolled in an entertainment law class at UCLA law school and I was your typical college basketball player. I was one and done and that was it. I had enough. I didn't enjoy it as much as I enjoyed my constitutional law classes. I'd rather talk constitutional law than talk entertainment law.
Dustin
I want to go back to when you were a kid. When you were a kid, you had big dreams. You're a huge Angel's fan. You always thought you would own a baseball team. When you had this internship opportunity come up, you took it. I'm curious what you learned in the first sports world venture that you had. What did you take away from that experience?
Adam
That was truly one of the best experiences that I've had personally and professionally. I interned for an extremely successful sports agent. That internship taught me so much, not only about professional sports, not only about sports business, not only about business in general but how to conduct yourself as a professional. Here are a couple of takeaways. The agent who I worked for is one of the top agents in all of baseball. The sports agency business is not known to be the particularly clean business to sit at least, but Paul, the agent who I work for, is an extremely ethical person. He runs his business the right way and he conducts himself the right way. One of the ways that he stands out in an industry that is known for being dirty is by conducting himself in a truly upstanding manner. An early lesson that I learned in that internship directly was that you don't need to sell out your values and you don't need to sell out your morals. On the contrary, being an ethical person, being a moral person, having strong beliefs and standing by them, making them the core part of the way you live your life, the way you conduct your business is an asset and not a liability.
Dustin
I am more fascinated by this sports guy. You love baseball, you have this amazing internship, you deviate and you go into the finance world. What was going through your head? If you had stayed that course, who knows? Why did you deviate and go into the finance world?
Adam
I was a senior in college. I had done a number of different internships. I interned for Paul, the sports agent. I interned for the NBA Summer League. I geared up to do something in sports. It was at that time that I realized that I might have a passion for sports. I might have the knowledge for sports, but, even back then, it requires a certain level of connectivity to get into the door that I didn't have. I applied for jobs that I didn't get. I sent in my resume and I was turned away or didn't even get calls back. What I realized was that a lot of it is what you know and a lot of it is also who you know. It's a combination of the two that I've learned as I've gotten older and as I've advanced in my career. It's a combination of the two that helps you succeed.
At that point, I thought to myself, “Let me take the best job I can that will position me for long-term success.” I don't know where that will take me. It might take me somewhere completely different or it could take me back to my passion for sports. I took a job working on Wall Street for a company called D. E. Shaw. They were at the time the largest hedge fund in the world. My thinking was getting a job there would open doors for me. It would open doors for me professionally, it would help me get into business school if I wanted to go down that road, which I ultimately did. If I want to go into sports, going to business school was a good thing. Working on Wall Street is a good thing. It was with that in mind that I decided to go down that path.
Dustin
Do you consider yourself a number guy? Are you good with numbers?
Adam
Everything is relative. I thought I was a numbers guy. When I took the SAT, I thought I was a numbers guy. When I was a kid, I did well on standardized tests in math. When I got to college, I started taking advanced math classes and saw how smart people were in math. My mom was a math teacher and my mom would always tell me, “You're great at math.” When I got to college and saw how smart and how advanced some of the people were at math, I realized that being a numbers guy is relative. Then I went onto Wall Street where you have advanced numbers guys, particularly at the D. E. Shaw, which was quantified. The answer is kind of.
Dustin
Working for the largest hedge fund at the time, what did you walk away with from there? What did you learn? What experiences did you have there?
Adam
I learned a lot. Among the things that I took away from D. E. Shaw, number one was D. E. Shaw focused on hiring the absolute best people. They didn't care what kind of training you had in finance. In fact, they hired people who had no background in finance and no background in business. They would go into PhD programs at Stanford, Caltech, MIT, Harvard and they would hire the smartest kids. They would go to these kids and say, “How are you going to make more money? Will you make money as a starving graduate student or as a quant on Wall Street?” They would take a wad of cash and put it in front or wave it in front of them. That's how they build their team. I remember working there and I've always been a healthy eater and I like the fitness theme of the show. I've always been into health and fitness and nutrition. I remember going and I would get some fruit every day from the receptionist and I would chit-chat with whoever was there.
I was always good at cultivating relationships with everyone regardless of who they were in the company. I remember this guy in particular. He had two master’s degrees from Columbia and he was the receptionist. The guy who was the recruiter, who was my point of contact, had a degree from Harvard. The guy who was in charge of doing the packaging and boxing had a degree from Columbia. They would hire these super smart people who were overqualified. The idea was to get as much brain power as possible and throw all these super smart people into a room and good things will happen.
Dustin
Did you feel intimidated at all?
Adam
I wouldn't use the word intimidated. I didn't feel intimidated, but I understood where I stood on the food chain. That in itself was an extremely valuable lesson because when I was in college, I felt that I was the man. Who in college doesn't feel like they're at the top? We all do. I was a senior at USC and felt that I was this big guy. I then go to New York and take a job on Wall Street. Very shortly, you realize you're literally at the bottom of the totem pole. I wasn't delivering coffee, but I was delivering the financial equivalent of coffee. I was doing very menial grunt work and it doesn't take very long to realize that that's who you are. That's what you are, that's your role and that's your job. You either accept it or you don't but you don't have much choice.
Dustin
You would leave and you would get your MBA. I'm always curious because I got a college degree and I always thought about either I should get a law degree or go get an MBA and I haven't done it. Did you map out this career up to a certain point and say, “I'm going to get Wall Street and then I'm going to get my MBA?” How did you come to that decision to go do it?
Adam
Growing up, I always thought that getting a graduate degree was a prerequisite for life. It was something that I had to do. Generations ago, you'd had to graduate from high school. In my parent’s generation, you had to graduate from college, although they both got graduate degrees. Going to college was given and I assumed I would get a graduate degree, whether it was law school or business school. I did well on the GMAT and applied to business schools. It was given that I would get my MBA. It wasn't until I started my own company and started hiring people and started building businesses that my thinking changed. It forced me to question the value of a graduate degree. Not to say that it isn't valuable, but I don't think it's for everyone and it clearly is not a prerequisite in life. That mindset that I had was a faulty one. I'm a very big believer that the decision to go to graduate school is a very personal one and what may be right for me may be wrong for you. While for me it was given and it was probably the right decision, for most people, there is no clear-cut answer. It’s something that requires thinking through the pros, the cons, the opportunity cost, the benefits and a lot of different components.
Dustin
You're getting your MBA, you're doing internships, you go work with William Morris Endeavor from Universal Pictures. Yet, you end up back in finance again. This is almost as if there are glimmers. I'm curious as to what was going on in your world because there's a sports world again and then there's Hollywood. You're there but yet you go back into finance.
Adam
The decision to go back into finance was not driven by passion. It was not driven by the right reasons. We probably don't have enough time to do a deep dive as to why I decided to take that job. There's a whole long story behind it but long story short, I didn't follow my passion. I wind up taking a job working for another big financial institution and it was a good experience. I learned a lot. I met some good people, but it wasn't long before I moved on to an opportunity and other opportunities that were better aligned for what my skill set is and what I'm truly passionate about.
Dustin
Are you the type of guy that looks back and says like, “I'm grateful, maybe I didn't follow my passion in that step?” That's what people are thinking like, “Maybe the message I'm getting is to follow your passion.” Are you the type of guy that says, “I'm grateful to have done it because it's led me here?” Do you say, “I wish I had taken another step or a different step?” Which one are you?
Adam
I don't think that they're mutually exclusive options. I say both regularly. I did an interview and in the interview I said that there are tons of people who say all the time, “I have no regrets. I live life with no regrets.” Those people are either aligned or are intellectually dishonest. I don't know how anyone could live life with no regrets. I have plenty of regrets. I regret things every day. I regret not being here early and having to hustle over to the studio. There are plenty of things that I regret. With that said, I think it's important to learn from things that you wish you would have done differently instead of dwelling in the past. You can't change the past. All you can do is learn from previous experiences and use them to control your destiny and to have better experiences going forward.
Dustin
You're making good money and you're in the finance arena. However, you get this opportunity to jump ship and get behind your entrepreneurial endeavor, which is selling chairs out of your partner's apartment. Tell us a little of the story and then I would love to get some advice for people that tracked as you did. They went through the corporate world, they degreed up but they've always wanted to be an entrepreneur or start something on the side. Take us that story and then give us your advice there.
Adam
I always tell people that contrary to what you might think, I wasn't born with a passion to sell. That wasn't what I wanted to do as a kid. I always wanted to run a baseball team. It makes a lot more sense than wanting to sell office chairs. I was in the late twenties. I already had all this corporate experience and I knew that if I was ever going to do something entrepreneurial, this was the time for me to do it. A big reason why was because of the stage I was at in my life. I have no kids and no wife. The money that I was making was good money, but I wasn't making such incredible money that I couldn't walk away from it. I wasn't so advanced in my career that I had handcuffs. I felt that I just had to do it.
At the same time, my brother who I partnered with was pushing me because he had started buying and selling office chairs out of his apartment and he needed help turning it into a real business. He had a bunch of other ideas that we thought we could turn into real companies and I felt that it was the right thing for me to do at that moment in my life. My advice for people who are thinking about leaving their jobs and becoming entrepreneurs is thinking long and hard before you do it. It's very glamorous from the outside looking in. It's very exciting from the outside looking in, but there are a lot of things that you might not necessarily realize or consider or truly understand until you do it.
Here are a few things that are worth bringing up. Being an entrepreneur is exponentially harder than anything I've ever had to do in my life. It's exponentially harder than any job I've ever had. You're always working, you're always thinking about work, you're always on call, and you're always on call to yourself. There are nice things about being an entrepreneur. One of them is that you can call me and say, “Do you want to come to San Diego and be on my show?” I said, “Sure.” I drove down here and here we are ready to hang out. I get to go to Angel’s game and no one says, “Adam, you can't go to San Diego and you can't go to the Angel game tonight.” With that said, the pressures involved in running your own business are so different than the pressures of having a job.
When you have a job, the things that you worry about are, “Am I happy? Am I fulfilled? Am I making the most out of my time? Am I making the most out of my life? Do I like the people that I'm working with?” You worry about things like that, which are important. Don't get me wrong, they're truly important things. As an entrepreneur, the things that you worry about, the things that you care about, the things that keep you up at night are, “Am I going to be able to pay my bills? Am I going to be able to pay a salary? Can I pay for rent? Can I compete?” We'll call it a different level of struggles and different level stresses. I caution and I advise a lot of businesses and advise a lot of entrepreneurs.
I've had a lot of conversations with friends who thought about taking the entrepreneurial journey and I'm always the guy who provides caution. I never tell someone, “Go do it or no, don't do it.” I try to portray a very real picture of what life as an entrepreneur is like. What I've found is that most of the people who I’ve had these conversations with wind up doing it and they wind up going forward. Hopefully, the ability to at least hear real talk gives them a better understanding of what life as an entrepreneur is like.
Dustin
It’s not easy to do in today's social media world where it's glamified to be an entrepreneur. Kudos to you. I want to deviate here. Your partner was your brother. Most entrepreneurs have to start a couple of things before they get the right business. That wasn't your brother’s first venture, I would take.
Adam
My brother started a couple of things as a kid. He started small buy and sell type of things but this is the first real business.
Dustin
Was there any hesitation because sometimes you see that family member’s
Adam
This has nothing to do with my brother. I didn't understand the kind of risks that I was taking to become an entrepreneur. I put all the chips in and bet it on myself and I had supreme confidence in myself and still do. I did that. One of the reasons why I try to give the advice that I do is because it's the advice that I wish I would have had. It’s not that other people didn't give it to me, but it's hard to listen to that kind of advice when you're so excited and enthusiastic about the journey that you're about to embark upon. For me, it had nothing to do with my brother. It was about the kind of mindset that you're describing. I had that and I was super passionate. I was extremely fired up and I went all in. It was great. It was awesome and it was a fun year and a half. While I was super excited to fire up, it blew through all of my savings. That makes it a lot less exciting but then you learn how to run a business.
Dustin
That’s not your only business. Someone comes up with this idea in your family doing private label cigars. How did this come to be? What's the story here and how do you go from chairs to now jumping ship and starting another venture?
Adam
When my brother and I started The Veloz Group, we had tons of ideas and we spent the first year and a half pushing on all these different ideas we had. One of them was this chair business-ish. It wasn't truly a business. My brother was buying and selling chairs. He had this idea behind Custom Tobacco. We had tons of other ideas that we were pushing on. After about a year and a half, we blew through all of our money. We had this come to Jesus moment where we realized because we had no choice but to realize it, that we either had to become laser focused on the businesses that were closest to monetization. In our case, it’s the office furniture business and the cigar business, Custom Tobacco. These were our two idea companies that were closest to making a steady income that we're going to be able to keep the lights on for us. We had to focus on those two and shed the rest.
Custom Tobacco was my brother’s idea. He is a cigar enthusiast. The idea behind Custom Tobacco initially was that cigar enthusiasts would love nothing more than to have their own fully customized private label cigars with their name on it. You can go to Custom Tobacco and you can create your own fully customized private label cigar. Everything is customized including shapes, size, blend, wrapper, filler, flavor, you can design your own cigar band and you can do it all in real time. That was the idea behind the business. The very early lesson we learned was that that customer doesn't exist. That cigar enthusiast doesn't want this product. Very quickly we pivoted because we realized that the customer that does want this product is completely different. We're the only cigar company in America that sells primarily to women and sells primarily to customers that don't smoke cigars. They buy for gifts and they buy for events. Women tend to be more thoughtful gift givers than men, although we do have a lot of men who we sell cigars too. Some customers buy to consume, but the majority of our customers are buying to give cigars as gifts or to use for events.
Dustin
How did you come to that? Did you pull the customers? How did you figure that out?
Adam
The nice thing about not having a ton of business early on is you can see who's ordering for you when you're selling thousands and thousands of products a day. It's a lot harder to figure out who's buying from you, what the orders are, and what the intent behind the orders are. When you're not doing a whole lot of volume, you can understand who your customers are. We got to understand who our customers were. With Custom Tobacco, we saw what they were designed for and we spoke to them. We have very good customer service and we got a very clear picture as to why these orders were coming in. They weren't coming from guys who hang out at cigar shops.
Dustin
Is your sister in that business?
Adam
Yes, my sister handles the day-to-day operations for the business.
Dustin
What's your advice for the family business? Some families can pull it off and some ended up not talking to each other. What's your advice there?
Adam
Running a family business has its challenges. One thing that is unavoidable is that there's very little separation between family and business. When you're hanging out inside of work, you're with your family and inevitably, family drama comes up because someone brings it up. When you're outside of work, business always comes up. My advice is that it's important inside the professional setting to try to keep as little family drama out of the workplace as possible because that doesn't have productive value to your team, to your employees, and to your company. Outside of work, there isn't going to be much separation between business and family. If you're going to get into business with a family member, accept that you're going to be in for a tight relationship.
Dustin
I'm an only child and my parents don't have a desire to get into the business. I'm sure there could be aunts or uncles I could go after but by default, I don't have that. I’ve got three kids and I would love for them to be entrepreneurs so this advice is very good. I'll pass this along. You've got these businesses now. Part of it requires custom technology and custom tech software that you built for those businesses. You realize, “We've got this expertise here. Let's do a software company.” Is that right?
Adam
It was a combination of that. It was a combination of understanding that we have this knowledge and expertise. It was a combination of being in the entrepreneurial community and seeing this gap in the market, seeing that a lot of small to medium size businesses need strong software development talent from top to bottom, whether it's an entry-level programmer or a CTO. If you're a Google or Facebook or Snapchat, you can source talent. You can throw a check at the top kid who graduates or you throw a check at the top employee from a competitor and you get who you want. If you're a small company that no one has ever heard of, it becomes a lot harder. We were talking about challenges around recruiting that all kinds of businesses face. It's a common problem.
Our solution to the problem was creating a business around custom software development and not a dev shop where you're throwing bodies at a problem. We're able to source high-end technological talent like software developers who are strong enough to work at out of Google or out of Facebook but are based in a different country. They might be based in Ukraine instead of being based in Los Angeles or San Diego. The model that we had and still have enabled us to help lots and lots of businesses and lots and lots of industries is marrying good talent from overseas with good senior talent locally. We'll get CTOs based in the US managing software developers based in primarily Eastern Europe, but we've sourced talent from all over the world.
Dustin
How do you come to that decision? For the entrepreneurs reading this that maybe have one or two things running, this is now essentially the third thing. Some people might say, “Why don't you double down your strengths and efforts into cigars or into chair business?” How do you come to that decision to capitalize on this expertise?
Adam
I would advise most people to double down and to do that. The model that we have is very different than the model that most companies have. A lot of people over the years will look at The Veloz Group and say, “That's cool. You have an office furniture business and you have a cigar business. You're doing software consulting. Adam, you're doing speaking and this leadership stuff and that's cool.” It is cool, but I'm envious of companies that have this one big idea that they're able to go all in on and turn into a multibillion-dollar company. None of our businesses are ever going to be multibillion-dollar companies. Because they're not going to be multibillion-dollar companies, we've been focused on building out companies that can be the best that they're going to be within their avenues.
Our office furniture business, Beverly Hills Chairs, it's the leading seller of refurbished Herman Miller Aeron Chairs on the country. We found a niche. The niche is someone wants to buy a Herman Miller Aeron Chair. That's the chair everyone wants. It’s the best-selling office chair ever made. You want that chair. It costs roughly $1,200 brand new. We come in and sell it for $500 to $600 at half price. That's the niche. We do well in that specific niche. We own that niche. Custom Tobacco is a niche selling specialized gift to people who want to gift for the man in their life or who want to take their event to the next level. That's the idea. We haven't figured out how to create water that everyone who's going to drink or we haven't come up with a bottle to bottle the water that everyone drinks. If we did, I wasn't going to say that I wouldn't be here because I still would be here. This is fun for me. This is what I love doing. This is where I would be no matter what. Maybe I would be a couple of shades tanner, but I would still be here.
Dustin
You've made that transition from daily operator to chairman a couple of times. What does that structure look like and how did you extract yourself from the day-to-day?
Adam
The best tip is to hire good people. The second best tip is you need to be in the weeds and you need to be able to run the business yourself before you're able to hire good people. In the case of my business, we have good people who run the day-to-day operations. They're outstanding and without them, the businesses wouldn't run. It took time for us to build the businesses up to a point where we were able to get those people in to run them. Early on in our companies, we tried to slide people in before we were at that stage and it didn't work out very well for us. Get your hands dirty. Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty. Once you're at a stage where you can get good people to do the day-to-day operations, don't be afraid to empower them and give them the keys.
Dustin
Is this a numbers thing? You're looking at the P&L, you're looking at the financials and you're saying, “We can afford to do this now.” Is this like, “I'm bored with doing it?” Maybe you're operating and you understand the business and you're like, “I'm bored of doing this.” For us to grow, we need to stick someone in there. How do you come to decide when the right time to hire because a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with that? They wait way too long to do it and that inhibits growth. How does the family and you, in particular, come to that decision to bring talent in?
Adam
It's going to be different than for a different entrepreneur. I never wanted to be the CEO of Beverly Hills Chairs. That was never my ambition. I wasn't a kid dreaming of selling office furniture. With that said, I enjoy that business and I enjoy selling office furniture. I love the fact that we sell chairs to so many cool companies all over the country. We sold chairs to the US Senate, which is awesome. We sell our cigars to one of the intelligence agencies. I won't say which one, but one of the intelligence agencies buys from Custom Tobacco. I never aspire to be the CEO of Beverly Hills Chairs. For me, as soon as the business was able to afford someone who could run the day-to-day operations, we brought that person in. For a different business, it's a completely different calculation. If your goal in life is to build the biggest and baddest social media company of all time, you could be Mark Zuckerberg and still be the CEO now. It's hard to generalize. It depends on what the business is, what your skill set is and what your interests are. It's the alignment of all those variables.
Dustin
As if you don't have enough going on, you write for multiple well-known publications. Why do you do that?
Adam
I stumbled into it. I had the opportunity to write a couple of articles. They got picked up and I realized that I enjoy doing it. It was something that I liked doing. It was something that I found fun. It was something that enabled me to tap into a part of myself that I hadn't been tapping into since my college days. It's something that I've enjoyed doing. I enjoy being able to share my thoughts on subjects that I'm passionate about with a broad audience of people in a way that I think will help them in some way. As a CEO and as an entrepreneur, I'm able to make an impact on my team. I'm able to make an impact on my customers but when I'm writing these pieces, I'm able to make an impact on anyone who reads them, which is potentially a much broader audience.
Dustin
Where do you find the time?
Adam
I'm single. I don't have a wife and I don't have kids. I have a niece and nephew, which means that I can hang out with them and then after an hour of playing with them, I can get back. If I had the family situation that you had, I don’t know if I'd be able to balance everything. Find time to do things that you're passionate about.
Dustin
You have interviewed some prominent thought leaders, New York Times bestselling authors and athletes. They’re titans in a lot of different genres. What sticks out to you in interviewing so many different people? Maybe something that has surprised you from first getting started.
Adam
A few things have been interesting to me. One thing is just how applicable the advice that everyone I've interviewed gives no matter who the person is. I've interviewed generals, I've interviewed New York Times bestselling authors, I've interviewed hall of fame athletes, founders of some of the most famous companies in the country, Fortune 50 CEOs. The advice that they give is universally applicable. I have conversations with military leaders and they talk about what they think is critical for a successful member of the marines or member of the navy and what it takes to become a successful leader in the military. You can take that exactly and apply it to running a small business or succeeding in sports. That’s been interesting to me.
Something else that's been interesting to me is how humble so many of the people who I've spoken to are. Everyone enjoys telling their story less because it's an opportunity to talk about me and I. It’s a way to give back, to share knowledge, to share ideas and to contribute to the conversation. Along those lines, a theme that's been interesting to me that's emerged across all the interviews I've done is mentorship. It's something that comes up all the time. It’s mentorship in both directions, “I’ve got to where I’m now because someone helped me get here. I didn't get here alone. I didn't get here by myself. There was someone who helped me get to the top.” Along the same lines, it’s the importance of giving back and mentoring others. It's been interesting and been fun.
Dustin
You mentioned speaking on leadership. What's your flavor of leadership? When you go and you speak and you move an audience and you give them information, what is your angle on leadership? How do you get the crowd or the audience to adapt to what you're communicating?
Adam
I talk about a lot of different things, but among the messages that I try to convey is we're all different. I strongly believe that we're all bad at most things. There are plenty of things that I'm bad at that the list goes on and on. It would have been so hard for you to prepare because the list is so exhaustive. I believe that's the case with most people, but we are good at some things. We each have a few things that we're good at and I believe that there was that one thing that makes each of us special. To be a great leader, it's extremely important to understand what it is about you that makes you special, what it is about you that makes you unique, and that makes you different. Once you uncover that, once you unlock that, once you figure out what is your superpower, once you understand how to lead your own life, you're then able to start thinking about how to lead others.
That's how I tried to start the conversation and get people to start thinking about leadership. This conversation can go on and on because leadership today is so different than leadership yesterday. The kind of leadership that worked in previous generations isn't effective today. Leading through fear and intimidation doesn't drive today's workforce. Millennials, Generation Z, the modern worker doesn't respond to the same kind of tactics that leaders used in generations past.
Dustin
Thank you for navigating us through the story. I still find it fascinating how you've come to arrive at decisions and I'm excited to see what the future holds for you. With that said, what does the future hold? What are you working on? What are you most excited about?
Adam
I'm working on a number of different projects right now. I've been pushing on my businesses, office furniture business, cigar business, and software business. On the personal side, I’ve been doing a lot of writing, a lot of speaking, and been building the interview series up. I've been working on a book on leadership, which has been exciting to me. Those have been the things that I've been focusing on beyond my eCommerce businesses. Hopefully, we have some exciting things to announce around the interview series, around some media things and around my book.
Dustin
Has your brother hit you up with another business idea?
Adam
My brother hits me up with another business idea every day.
Dustin
How do you maintain composure?
Adam
Every single day, I get different business to think about.
Dustin
I'm sure you appreciate it. Me being an only child, I don't have that and I think it would be funny and I get that it could be annoying at times, but it’s something to be grateful for.
Adam
I'm very grateful for my siblings. I meet only children like you all the time. I have dated some only children and I've walked away from each experience thinking that we can't control our surroundings. You can't control whether you have a brother or sister, but I'm extremely thankful that I do. I love my brother and I love my sister. My brother and I don't look anything like each other. My sister and I do. We look very similar. We can't control what we look like. We can't control what we sound like. All we can control is how we act and what we do with our lives.
Dustin
I got the million-dollar question. If I would like to sit in one of the chairs that you described, using your software to run my business and at the same time having a video of you up on leadership, what's the best way for people to keep tabs with what you're up to? Where can they go with all the different things that we discussed?
Adam
You could just punch in my name anywhere you are, on your phone, on your laptop, on your desktop, on your iPad. Go to AdamMendler.com or on social media, @AdamMendler on Instagram and Twitter. I'm bombarding the internet with my name. That's how you find me.
Dustin
Thank you for being on the show and sharing your wisdom with us. You’ve been a great all-around guy adding value back by writing. It takes something to write and to get up on the stage is not an easy thing for a lot of people. The fact that you've been successful and help the economy, you’re writing, you’re giving people the opportunity to take your wisdom and put it into play and be in the contrarian sometimes and giving that advice. Slowing people down a little bit is refreshing. Thanks for all of that and thanks for being on the show.
Adam
Thanks for having me. This was a ton of fun.

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