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Adrianna Smith and Lana Hout: “Be aware”

The movement I would inspire is a movement of awareness. Awareness is not a novel idea of my own. Since the beginning of time there have been many thought leaders who speak and teach awareness of the self and others. I truly feel that much of the unhappiness, negativity, and injustice in our world engenders […]

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The movement I would inspire is a movement of awareness. Awareness is not a novel idea of my own. Since the beginning of time there have been many thought leaders who speak and teach awareness of the self and others. I truly feel that much of the unhappiness, negativity, and injustice in our world engenders from a profound misery in most people, and this is due to a lack of awareness and connection with their true selves. It’s this connection that saves people from a life of anxiety, fear, and insecurity. In order to have a more peaceful world, it must start with the peace within individuals.


As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adrianna Smith and Lana Hout. Adrianna Smith and Lana Hout are disrupting the business brokerage industry. They are successful and dynamic business partners and top performers in evaluating businesses. They bring a fresh and modern approach to business development, transaction advisory, and mergers & acquisitions. Adrianna and Lana own First Choice Business Brokers in Los Angeles and have worked with 250+ small businesses in every field — such as the service industry, manufacturing, and e-commerce. With 20+ combined years of global business experience (including working at Deloitte, Duff & Phelps and NBCUniversal), Adrianna and Lana are passionate about helping entrepreneurs realize their dreams. That inspiration is what gave rise to their latest creation, The Biz Hotlist, a one-stop shop for all the latest business tips, tools, and advice!


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

LH] We have been best friends since college, meeting in a finance class at USC’s Marshall School of Business. We would partner on group projects, study together in the library, and help each other prepare for our grueling finance job interviews. We both started our careers in corporate transaction advisory for large professional services firms, such as Deloitte and Duff & Phelps.

[AS] After working in corporate for several years, we were both interested in starting our own business working with entrepreneurs. At the time, we felt like we were already running all of our own projects and maintaining all of the client relationships. So, we knew we could do it on our own. That led to the opportunity to open the Los Angeles office of First Choice Business Brokers, a leading business sales organization, six years ago.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

[LH] Our presence in our industry alone is disruptive. We are challenging the construct that the business of selling companies and putting business transactions together are an old man’s game. Only 10% of businesses brokers in the U.S. are women, and even less than that are under 40 yrs. old. As a young, female-owned business brokerage, we stand out! Further, we consider our firm the next generation of business brokers. With our background in corporate transaction advisory and business valuation, we bring a higher level of professional service and financial analysis to our clients. Our extensive corporate experience alone sets us apart from our competitors. In addition, we use technology, automation, and social media to better serve our clients. Most of the business brokerage industry is far behind on these strategies.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

[AS] Brokerage is in my blood! I am a third-generation broker. My father has been my primary mentor since I was a little girl, sitting at the kitchen table, talking deals and taking lessons. At every point in my career, he’s been there to guide me and empower me. I remember when we first opened our office, and it came time to try to secure our first clients. I was very nervous about all the potential objections I would receive, and if people would think I was too young to be doing this. My father looked me square in the eyes and said “It’s ok to be nervous, but you never move from fear. You’ve got something to say, and those people will see that once you open your mouth and start talking.” He was right. That’s how we built the business one client at a time.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

[LH] Some of the best words of advice that I have received along the way are:

  1. Don’t Count Yourself Out — This is so important for women especially because we tend to think we need to be experts at something before we’re ready to take on a higher role, run an operation, or go for a promotion, etc. I’ve learned that you should always go for it and let them tell you “No.” We won one of our top clients this way. Early on in our career, we had an opportunity to pitch a very large client, and we were competing against established brokers for the business. We could have looked at that situation as we’re not experienced enough to take on such a large client and already counted ourselves out. Conversely, we went for it and won. The client liked that we were smart and ambitious women and had vibrant energy to bring to the sale.
  2. Don’t Ask For Permission — When you’re building a business, you really cannot afford to ask for permission. Asking for permission puts you in the subordinate role, and as a business leader you need to be in the driver’s seat and those around you need to know that. I learned this principal earlier in my career when I would attend business meetings and initially remain quiet unless it was clearly my turn to speak or if someone asked my opinion. I soon realized that I had some of the best ideas and solutions in these meetings, and I was not being recognized for that. I learned that I did not need permission to voice my opinions and ideas; in fact, the more I just jumped in with my thoughts, the more respect I commanded from my clients and peers.
  3. Remove or distance yourself from the negative people in your life — This is such an important lesson to learn and one of the hardest to apply at times. When you are highly motivated to achieve any goal, it’s imperative that your positive mindset be preserved. When you find that there are people in your circle that doubt your ability to succeed in your goal, it drains your positive energy and plants toxic seeds of fear in your mind. This negative energy will undoubtedly prevent you from reaching your goals. I felt this vividly when I first began to tell people that I was going to quit my corporate job and open up a commission only business brokerage. There were many doubters, and I had to tune them out and stay away from their fear-driven energy. Remember, when greatness is calling, leave the haters on hold.

How are you going to shake things up next?

[LH] Our next phase is making our knowledge accessible to the everyday small business owner. The small business owner is the truest entrepreneur, risk-taker, and hard worker in the trenches most of the time. The competitive landscape has changed so much from when most owners started their businesses, and they have a real need for knowledge, tools, and advice on how to take their businesses to the next level. This is why we created The Biz Hotlist. The Biz Hotlist provides business owners the latest tips, tools, and advice to grow their businesses and can be found on social media channels like YouTube and Instagram. We further plan to provide this knowledge through speaking engagements, online courses, books and eventually a podcast.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

[AS] The book that truly made me realize that my prior beliefs about myself and how success works needed to change was Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. This book blew my mind when I first read it. The book showed me how my perception of myself and my capabilities was holding me back in the workplace. I’ve always considered myself to be a smart, independent, and driven person. I couldn’t believe how much of what Sheryl spoke about in her book applied to me too. The most pivotal experience I had with this is a time in my former corporate career, I almost missed out on a promotion just because I didn’t voice that I wanted to be considered. The reason I didn’t apply for the promotion is because I thought there were other candidates that had more experience, tenure, and that there was no way they could promote all of us. After a conversation with one of my superiors, I found out that he actually thought I deserved to get promoted more than the other candidates. He thought I was the best at my level, and that I should move up. Thank goodness for my supervisor because I then went for the promotion and got it. However, I had to take time to really analyze why I didn’t think I deserved the promotion in the first place. That’s what Lean In is all about.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

[AS] The movement I would inspire is a movement of awareness. Awareness is not a novel idea of my own. Since the beginning of time there have been many thought leaders who speak and teach awareness of the self and others. I truly feel that much of the unhappiness, negativity, and injustice in our world engenders from a profound misery in most people, and this is due to a lack of awareness and connection with their true selves. It’s this connection that saves people from a life of anxiety, fear, and insecurity. In order to have a more peaceful world, it must start with the peace within individuals.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

[AS] A quote that always resonates with me is “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” — Eleanor Roosevelt. So much of our lives, beliefs, and circumstances are dictated by fear. Only when you tackle fear head-on do you change your life to how you want it to be. I find this quote to be consistently relevant in my life. When we started our brokerage as two young women in a heavily older-male dominated industry, it’s not that we were not scared. This was a huge risk for us, and we knew it was going to be hard. However, every day I would garner up the nerve to tell those doubtful voices in my head, “You’re not going to get me today.” After you repeatedly do what you thought was hard, it no longer becomes hard. You actually become good at it, and that’s what builds the confidence.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

[LH] They can follow us on @TheBizHotlist on all social media channels (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter) and on our website TheBizHotlist.com.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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