“Be Persistent” With Jason Hartman & Alex Miller

Being able to spend time around others who are in very similar positions — especially those who fought their way through and grew themselves both personally and professionally — has been a game-changer for me. It’s important to surround yourself with like-minded people and watch the growth happen! As a part of our series called […]

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Being able to spend time around others who are in very similar positions — especially those who fought their way through and grew themselves both personally and professionally — has been a game-changer for me. It’s important to surround yourself with like-minded people and watch the growth happen!

As a part of our series called “My Life as a TwentySomething Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alex Miller, CEO of UpgradedPoints.com.

Alex Miller is the founder and CEO of UpgradedPoints.com, the go-to online resource for travelers looking to maximize their credit card points and airline miles. Miller founded Upgraded Points in 2016 to provide travelers with free, in-depth educational content to assist them in making informed travel decisions. Miller has grown Upgraded Points year over year by 250%, averaging 2.5MM+ monthly readers and 25,000 newsletter subscribers and continues to provide highly researched, timely content to travelers worldwide.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I grew up in England, mostly in Buckinghamshire and Berkshire county. My parents travelled a lot when I was a kid and I was lucky enough to join them (and my two brothers!) for many of those trips. We travelled to a lot of places in Europe with my favorites being Spain, Greece, France, Cyprus and Switzerland.

My Dad is an incredible entrepreneur and was a commercial property developer for 25 years. Watching him build companies, do the unprecedented and never, ever give up, had a huge influence on me. I’ve always wanted to run my own business, so combining my passion for travel with business was a natural fit.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company? What lessons or takeaways did you take out of that story?

Last summer, we conducted a big data study that looked at the average TSA security wait-times in the U.S. To do this, we mined public data from the TSA app which gives you a max of about 60 days of data. The study went viral, with major publishers such as The Washington Post, Forbes, and USA Today writing about it.

During the height of the buzz, I received a phone call from the head of public relations at the TSA who wanted to see our data analysis to confirm that what was being reported was indeed accurate. Even though we had all of the data, my mind raced at a hundred miles per hour at the thought that if the data wasn’t correct, we would have to ask for the news outlets to change the details or worse — pull down the story! However, in the end — the data did indeed turn out to be completely accurate and there were no problems caused. In fact, we ended up building a great new relationship with the TSA contact.

This taught me that before you share content with the world — be prepared and take your time to double and triple check facts, especially before publishing content that contains a lot of data and analysis.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The ability to offer free, highly researched in-depth content to travelers sets us apart from competitors. A number of competitors compete with each other on who can post the most articles in a day. Many of these competitors have more than 20 articles that simply cover the same topic.

At Upgraded Points, we are committed to updating content and keeping all of our information across 1,000+ articles as current and accurate as possible. We’ve recently implemented a new schedule so that every piece is thoroughly updated at least once per year, but many articles are refreshed every 1–3 months. By updating our content on a regular basis, we provide consumers with the most accurate information to help them avoid any confusion or frustration they may have when planning their next trip or researching their next credit card.

My wife and I flew 28,000+ miles in First Class and Business Class, flying to Singapore, Australia, Dubai and more for just over $1,000 each. We experienced Singapore Suites, Emirates First Class and the famous Etihad Apartments. The whole trip had a retail price of over $55,000 but we paid 2% of that.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My Dad has been a major role model for me with his experience as an entrepreneur. Both of my parents taught me resilience, bravery and determination to do whatever it is you want to do and to never give up. I’ve also had several business partners over the years that were role models and people that I looked up to (and still do) for 15 years now. They were successful a long time ago and I wanted that too.

Being able to spend time around others who are in very similar positions — especially those who fought their way through and grew themselves both personally and professionally — has been a game-changer for me. It’s important to surround yourself with like-minded people and watch the growth happen!

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

With the start of 2020, we are looking to build our own passionate community of travelers. In-depth and updated content is great, but the real value comes in having conversations with our readers to help them as much as possible. We are also going to be releasing video content to supplement the content on the site. Our videos will help show our audience how to find flight and hotel award space, make bookings, earn points and a lot more. We also have future plans for an exciting tool for those who want to stay at high-end hotels, but don’t want to pay full price.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I am extremely passionate about helping fight against mistreated, abused and helpless dogs. I donate regularly to a number of dog shelters and charities fighting against unimaginable cruelty to dogs in both the US, and abroad in China. But I want to do more than just donate — so a big goal for this year is to work closely with shelters here in Austin, TX where I can get more directly involved.

Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?

Tim Ferris’ book, 4-Hour Workweek, had a large impact on my life. I read this book back in 2008 when I started working online and was trying to figure out what business I would create — it was the perfect way to adjust my mindset for the long-haul. The best takeaway for me was understanding that you can’t do everything yourself. In order to grow my business, I learned it is critical to outsource certain tasks I wasn’t good at and to focus my time on my business strengths and on what I love to do.

Can you share 5 of the most difficult and most rewarding parts of being a “TwentySomething founder”. Please share an example or story for each.

Starting A Business Alone — Unless you’re in a partnership with someone else, you’re largely on this journey alone, especially from the outset. At times it was certainly scary to build this business in a market I had never gone into before, but I’ve been fortunate to build an incredible team and the rewards have really started to pay off.

Taking A Risk — I had a lot of experience building websites and getting traffic, but not in travel. In 2015, I decided to NOT buy our own home in Austin, Texas and continued to rent so that I could build this business. That was a considerable risk, but after over 3 years of working every single day on the business, the rewards have really started to pay off. But the fear will always be there in some measure as you work to protect what you’ve built, but also continue to grow.

Don’t Doubt Yourself — When I started building my first business in 2008, I saw most of my friends walk into good paying jobs; they were getting promoted and had a good financial foundation. Don’t fear doubt as it will definitely creep into your mind (and regularly!) if you decide to take a risk by taking a different path.

Be Persistent — It took several years until my first business started to generate profits and there were many, many sleepless nights. But, I’m so glad that I persisted and fought through the many battles, issues and doubts that arise during a startup.

Be Your Own Boss — There are only a few things that are better than creating your own success (however you define it) and independence. Most importantly, being able to live life on your OWN terms by putting in the necessary work over the course of 5, 10, 15+ years has been so worth it.

What are the main takeaways that you would advise a twenty-year-old who is looking to found a business?

Money vs Hard work — Don’t think that you MUST have money to make money; that couldn’t be further from the truth. Money can certainly help to move things further along, but the faster you realize that working hard, ideally every day in some capacity, on your business to succeed, the better. I’d always take a crazy work ethic over money for business any day of the week. There is NO shortcut to hard work, so make sure you love what you’re doing and are passionate about it.

Take Risks — You’re so young when you’re in your twenties that you can afford to fail over and over again and still come out on top in the end. And truthfully, failure is inevitable, and you should welcome it because that’s where you learn. But, avoid getting into a large amount of debt — this is where you focus on hard work instead. You’ll end up learning so much without burying yourself into serious financial issues.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help — It’s important to realize that you absolutely cannot do this all on your own. You’ll need to ask for help and you’ll need to figure out where your weaknesses are so that those areas can be filled (in-time) by business partners, contractors or employees. That’ll free up your time to dedicate to your strengths.

Surround yourself by like-minded people — Take a good look at who you spend the most time with. I’m not saying that you should only be with people who share the same beliefs and have the desire to want to achieve big things, but they should be a big part of your life. It’s hard to be motivated to lose weight and work out every day if you’re always with people who eat junk food, have no desire to exercise and drink 5 beers every night!

Be patient — It’s going to take a long time to achieve your goals, but the fun is in the journey. Enjoy the fact that it takes a long time to build something meaningful, profitable and impactful — that motivates me because so many others drop off during that process because it is harder than they imagined.

We are very blessed that many leaders 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?

I would love to have a meeting withentrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. He is one of the sharpest minds out there in my opinion and I’ve always enjoyed his content and unique style/approach. I would love to see what ideas he’d have in this space, mostly because he’s outside of the travel industry, which would make it even more interesting to me. I would be interested in the valuable insights and ideas he could offer given his obsession with providing value first.

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