Any work is good work. Don’t be ashamed of the job you have, because some people don’t even have that. That’s part of the mindset of an immigrant. Once that is set straight, the rest is easy. You won’t become a millionaire overnight and there are no quick get rich schemes. You gotta work for everything and there is no such thing as “passive income”. Put in the work and be patient. Always have multiple streams of income.
Is the American Dream still alive? If you speak to many of the immigrants we spoke to, who came to this country with nothing but grit, resilience, and a dream, they will tell you that it certainly is still alive.
As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pavel Stepanov.
Pavel was born in Siberia. In Ulan-Ude, Russia. He emigrated to the United States in 1997. Moving to America was the logical step because of the desire for a better life and better opportunities. America seemed to be the land of entrepreneurship, free enterprise and where if you really want it, you can make it. The only thing that is needed is your desire to succeed and work hard.
After Pavel came to America, in order to go to college, he wasn’t quite sure on what he wanted to study. He first picked journalism, because he thought it would be interesting. After completing his major, he realized that journalism was not something he wanted to pursue. The next interest he always had was law. He had also always dreamed of becoming a lawyer and even went to law school, and got his law degree. While in Law school he took some real estate classes and was fascinated with the concept of property ownership and the opportunities it could unlock.
After graduating law school and passing the bar exam, he discovered that real estate was more in tune with his entrepreneurial mode and DNA, so he became a real estate broker.
For 3 years, Pavel practiced real estate at a 100% commission brokerage. At the time, he was working 12–16 hour days with no real break. Pavel was doing everything from marketing, setting appointments, outbound calling, meeting with clients, going to showings, and more. He finally decided to hire his first virtual assistant in order to help him set more appointments and lighten his workload. The results were dramatic. His virtual assistant was responsible for doing outbound calling and setting up appointments for him. Pavel was stunned with her performance. After hiring her, Pavel spent a lot of his time going to appointments. His sales that year tripled! Pavel started to realize the value of virtual assistants and the power of delegation. After those 3 years, he started his own brokerage Nexus Realty in 2015. As he brought on more brokers, Pavel realized they had the same problem — time. Pavel discovered they needed virtual assistants as much as he did, and they started asking him about it. That’s when the idea of Virtudesk came on. Pavel realized most of the agents around him desperately needed help, so he started Virtudesk to assist Nexus, and saw how he could expand past his brokerage due to this common pain point that all agents and entrepreneurs face.
Now, Virtudesk is 5 years old and a multi-million-dollar company. Pavel is determined to make Virtudesk a leader in the real estate and virtual assistant industries. He is passionate about maximizing your time and productivity by working smarter rather than harder. He teaches others how to delegate properly so entrepreneurs can have more time back to grow their business and spend enjoying life.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in Siberia, Russia and lived there until the age of 20. The city where I lived had 6 months of freezing temperatures and I hated it. During the 90s there were no opportunities for growth and development. The country was in a deep economic, political and criminal crisis. Actually, many of my friends did not survive the 90s.
I grew up with my mother. My dad wasn’t as huge of a figure in my life at the time. However, he was very entrepreneurial, and I believe that’s where I get my strong drive to build businesses and be my own boss. When I was a kid, I would find things to sell, such as cards or trinkets. Plus, I recognize that I was a kid that didn’t take authority very well — I liked to do things on my own terms.
As I got older, that entrepreneurial spirit manifested into a drive to make a better change in my life, which made me move to the U.S.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?
There was never an exact moment or trigger point that made me decide to emigrate. Rather, it was a dream of mine that started when I was very young. I had a childhood dream of moving to America and becoming a millionaire. Also I knew that the US was the country of law and order and I really liked the fact that everyone is equal under the law and everyone has the same opportunity. Regardless of ethnicity or national background, everyone can achieve their dreams if they work hard and execute their plan of action. This was very attractive and inspiring to me.
Growing up in the 90s made it especially difficult, and made me realize that Russia was going to hold me back and present many barriers to my dreams, potential success, and overall happiness. So, when I became older, in my teenage years, that drive and fire inside of me just increased, to the point where I wanted to make that final move of emigrating.
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
In January of 1997 I boarded the plane and came to America to study at the University. I did not have any friends, relatives and only had about 250 dollars in my pocket. However, I was full of optimism that I would find a job and would make it!
I was blessed with meeting great people on all levels of life who helped me with school scholarship programs, coached me how to get a job, and more. Also, I observed how small business owners run their businesses. I noticed many of them worked really hard. That inspired me and gave me a tremendous amount of confidence that anything is possible. I liked the fact that, unlike in Russia, a business owner can legally pay taxes and operate a business. No need to pay criminals for “protection” and no need to bribe government officials. Honest work and integrity is respected. As long as you operate with a long-term plan in mind, you will succeed.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
Unfortunately, I didn’t have anyone in particular who I could look to for guidance, or who made the move more manageable. Of course, there were people who helped me by giving me advice on how to find a job and get scholarships. However, I didn’t come to the United States already knowing someone, nor did I bring anyone with me. It was a difficult transition where I had to figure a lot of things out. However, having a positive mindset, networking with others, asking questions wherever I could, and working really hard helped me to make the transition more manageable. This is because mindset is everything in life. No matter what kind of hardship you are going through, if you have the right attitude, it will help you stay focused, problem solve, and get through the painful situation. Plus, thinking long-term of what I wanted and making a plan to achieve it really helped me. When you think long-term and you identify what you want out of a situation, the steps to get there become more clear, and it stops being a quick fix solution or endeavor. When I came to the U.S., I was thinking long-term and what I could achieve here.
Then, with years of working hard, I can now say that I have amazing people, friends and family, in my life that make it all worth it.
So how are things going today?
Things are going great! I have a family, my kids who were born here are first generation Americans. I have an 11 year old son and 14 year old daughter. My mother lives here as well, and I have an amazing group of friends. Many of my friends are actually partnering with me on my businesses, and I love working with them and bouncing ideas off of them.
Besides my personal life, the businesses are doing really well. Virtudesk is growing fast, and we are now a multi-million dollar company and serving hundreds of clients every year. Tymbl is getting off the ground, and we are starting to serve a solid client-base there as well. Nexus is also outperforming. Ever since I promoted one of the agents to designated broker, the sales we have been able to achieve have gone through the roof. Now, the brokerage runs with 80 agents, and is growing.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have built productive companies that provide jobs to Americans and I am using my story to inspire others to achieve success. America is a country of opportunities and anyone can achieve success here if they work hard, smart and honestly. As one of the people who I admire said: “For an immigrant, the streets are paved with gold here.” I completely agree and I want other immigrants and especially people who were born here, to see it and appreciate where we live.
To dive deeper into the goodness and value my companies are doing — Virtudesk, Tymbl, and Nexus Realty are providing a lot of value to our customer-base. I have seen that these products and services have really helped people transform their businesses and that’s inspiring. For example, some of our clients who have hired 5+ virtual assistants from Virtudesk are now bringing their company to a multi-million dollar real estate business. By running a virtual assistant company where the virtual assistants are from the Philippines, it’s been rewarding to build relationships with all of the corporate staff and many of the virtual assistants that work for our clients. They work really hard for us, and their hard work and eagerness to learn is inspiring.
You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you suggest to improve the system?
I support legal immigration and for it to be merit based. There are many talented people in the world who can be great assets for the United States, and be productive members of American society. So, three things that I would suggest to improve the system:
- Attract talented individuals with work visas and make it easier for legal immigrants to arrive in the U.S.
- Limit or eliminate illegal immigration and enforce border protection.
- Incentivize foreign investors to invest in the U.S. to create jobs and build companies, and make it easier and less time consuming.
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
- Any work is good work. Don’t be ashamed of the job you have, because some people don’t even have that. That’s part of the mindset of an immigrant. Once that is set straight, the rest is easy. You won’t become a millionaire overnight and there are no quick get rich schemes. You gotta work for everything and there is no such thing as “passive income”. Put in the work and be patient. Always have multiple streams of income.
- Always keep learning and growing. Don’t waste time on things that don’t matter (binge watching Netflix). Use the time smartly to improve your skills or learn something new that will help you take your business to the next level. If you have a full time job, start a side hustle after your working hours, like driving an Uber. Use the time wisely. We all have only 24 hours in the day and nobody gets more of it.
- Meet new people and surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are. If someone is richer than you, smarter than you, rub shoulders with these people and learn from them. Don’t be ashamed to ask for advice. Sometimes advice from such people can help you earn millions. Always remember that and make connections. I was blessed to have met many great people who inspired me and also gave me guidance in business and in life.
- Make a plan and execute. You will make mistakes and that’s okay. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes because that’s how you will grow. Stick to the plan, but at the same time, be flexible enough to adjust and pivot. For example, when my partners and I started Tymbl, the business model was totally different than what it is now. How we pivoted is again by listening to people who are smarter and richer than we are. (look at number 3).
- Don’t spend money you don’t have. Debt is good if you know how to use it and leverage it. Debt for buying real estate and renting it out for cash flow is good. However, credit card debt is bad. Learn how the American financial system works. Pay your taxes on time so that you will sleep better. Pay your bills on time, because your credit score is very important.
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
- People. Americans are good hearted, hard working people despite their differences of opinions. They love our country. That thought gives me confidence that despite the current political climate, the future of the US is bright.
- America has the biggest economy in the world. Even with the pandemic setback, we are recovering faster than other countries. I am betting on America and I know that we will return to normalcy faster than anybody else.
- We are a giving country. Many organizations have many initiatives to help people in our own country and other countries to improve access to resources, improve the quality of life and economic structure.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Tony Robbins or Gary Vaynerchuk. I pick these individuals because they resemble the American Dream to me. They both had hard and humble beginnings but rose to success through extreme hard work, dedication, and persistence. They work hard to help others, share their message, and make people in their sphere of influence better. Plus, Gary is Russian, so we have something in common. I remember I met him once and tested his Russian. It was a little broken, but it wasn’t bad. I would like to sit down with him again and get to know him more.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
You can follow me and my companies on our social media channels, which are listed below!
You can follow Virtudesk’s social media accounts as well as my own social media.
My social media:
My personal website:http://www.pavelstepanov.com/
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!