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“I wish someone would have told me never to work for the money”, With Douglas Brown and David Reiss of The Mastery Group

I wish someone would have told me never to work for the money. It took many years to learn that working for, “The money” is not the answer. Work for success. Work for goals and accomplishments. Strive to do the best possible job and, rest assured, the money will come. Ultimately, taking my focus off the financial […]

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I wish someone would have told me never to work for the money.

It took many years to learn that working for, “The money” is not the answer. Work for success. Work for goals and accomplishments. Strive to do the best possible job and, rest assured, the money will come.

Ultimately, taking my focus off the financial and shifting it to the work itself, brought in more assignments and, of course, more compensation. Everything changes when you shift away from the money. Your psychology, energy, intensity and flow all get better. You fit better and the work comes easier. When you focus on the money, your existence revolves around a calculator and keeps you from opening other, more creative doors.

When you work for results, the money seems to always follow and, generally more than you would have seen had you been attached to a calculator.


As a part of my series called “Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started My Consulting Business ”, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Reiss.

David Reiss cycles through a veritable closet of professional hats. He’s a dynamic entrepreneur, marketing consultant, business owner, writer, and teacher; his resume spans no less than 100 industries and lists an abundance of roles in marketing, corporate leadership, academia, and entertainment — just to name a few. With a reputation for “Always Finding a Way,” Reiss is best known for applying his out-of-the-box thinking and often disruptive solutions to help countless businesses scale to success.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I look for solutions, answers, new ways to accomplish things. I never take, “No” for an answer and believe there are always backdoors and pathways unseen by others.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

My story, unlike most who might describe an interesting event or epiphany, is about backing myself into a corner and challenging myself. It is about using all of my abilities to succeed and not accepting failure as an option. It is about having no concept of fear and believing completely in my ability to succeed.

When I was very young and just starting out, I needed an edge. I needed a way to be noticed and gain attention in the marketing world. I had no long-established reputation, I had built a few companies of my own by this point and had just under a dozen experiences consulting for other companies. What I did have was an understanding of how my mind worked and the strengths I could draw upon.

I was (and hope I still am) someone who can, “Think on his feet.” (That is, when they are not firmly planted in my mouth.) It’s not that I shoot from the hip (that only hits the target in the movies and if your name is Will Rogers) but I do think fast and take careful aim at the issue with a strong need to hit the target.

Back to my youth: I was fortunate enough to score a speaking engagement at a National Marketing Conference. My topic was billed as, “Unconventional Marketing Solutions — The ones that always seem to get away.” (Okay, titles were not my thing back then and it was a long, long time ago in a Galaxy far, far away.)

I stood before a room of just under 200 marketing professionals and opened with the statement: Good morning ladies and gentlemen. First, I would like to inform you that I have no speech, no slides and I have no idea what I will be saying to provide you with the answers you are expecting. But let me ask you this…”Who among you has an insurmountable marketing challenge? Not a marketing problem, but an insurmountable marketing problem? A make it or break it problem that, if solved, can and will make your project a success. (And make you look pretty good as well.)

A few dozen hands went up. I chose six. Now, I said, can the six of you present this challenge in 2 minutes giving me all the information one would need to understand the problem and what resources exist to solve it? They all agreed.

I ask the first person to stand. The screen showed a 2 minute timer. I asked them to begin and the times began to count down. I jumped in a few times with questions as the clock started to run out and a bead of sweat formed on my temple.

The timer went to zero and the person ended their description. (Two beads of sweat) I took a minute or two to make a few jokes about my foolishness in trying to do this and why didn’t I stay in bed and so on. All the while, I am still working out the answers, as I was doing during the two minute description.

The screen now showed a 5 minute timer. I explained to the audience that I now had 5 minutes to solve the marketing challenge. The timer began to count down and I actually think I might have shrunk an inch or three. (Forehead a little damp.)

At a full clip, barely pausing to take a breath, I started to explain how I saw the problem and what I would do to solve it. I never did get to take a breath and, before I knew it, the time buzzed at the zero mark. — I did it! I challenged myself and never accepted failure as an option.

The audience applauded and I repeated this five more times. A wrap up at the end and what could have been the longest and most painful hour, was the shortest and most fun. (It was also the greatest weight loss program as I was sweating bullets under my jacket.)

The result: More than 50 people approached me giving me their cards (requesting mine) and asking how they could hire me to consult for their companies.

The following year, I repeated this exercise in perspiration and perseverance to just under 500 people with about 100 enquiries at the end.

The third year I declined since I had accomplished my goal, had more business than I could ever accomplish and a word-of-mouth that was second to none. I was launched and thought I better quit while I was very much ahead. (I also had no more weight to lose.)

I tell this story not to prove that I am smarter than anyone else (my wife can easily and willingly confirm that), but as an example of believing in your own abilities and recognizing what you are capable of achieving. That is the significance of this story for me. I had my own marketing challenge; to stand out and launch a career and, thankfully, I recognized within me the abilities to accomplish the task.

How about you? Can you really take stock of your strengths and abilities and put them to use? Can you challenge yourself and kick failure to the curb? Can you stand above the noise and be noticed and create a demand for your products and services? Of course you can!

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 about that?

When I was younger, I wrote and produced TV in Hollywood. An award winning writer showed me how to use, “Lenses,” as he called them. “When writing dialogue for a character, don’t put their name in the script,” he said. “Put a one-word adjective that describes them and write for that attribute and you will never write something that takes them out of their character. If the protagonist is Vain, then in place of her character’s name, put, “Vain” so whatever she says, it comes from a position of vanity.” This gave me a new perspective on people, negotiations, positioning and so much more.

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

“Actions speak louder than words.” Words are cheap. They project an image without substance. And, by “Substance,” I mean who you are. Your actions define you. How you act, react and respond make up the essence of who you are. Others will see the actions you take and define you based on those actions. One cannot lead without being fully responsible for their actions. How you treat others and, most important, how you treat yourself says far more than words could ever hope to convey. And, while words may set the stage, it is our actions that define who we are on that stage.

The first thing I learned to do to put this into play is to put myself in, “Others’ shoes.” If I look at myself through someone else’s eyes, how would I see my words and the actions that follow them? What picture of myself would I form by evaluating the actions I take? This has been a gift…a gift of vision and perspective. It has become a moral, ethical and professional compass and one for which I am grateful.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?

Vision; that is what we try to accomplish for corporations and the people who work for them. So often the cubicle comes equipped with, “Blinders.” From the front line to the C Suite, people live within their own small environment and never get the, “Vision,” the perspective that helps them breakout and excel. We provide them with the tools to see the world (their world and the world of their companies) in a whole new way.

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

We are able to use our experience in so many industries and the successes we have had, and apply that knowledge and success to new client challenges. We see the value in areas of client companies that speak directly to greater valuation.

Here’s one example:

When you first started the business, what drove you, what was your primary motivation?

To be honest, my very first motivation was the money. I charged high fees and made out very well. But, thankfully, that changed very quickly. I did some Pro Bono work and enjoyed the experience. It led to some of the highest paying and most creatively challenging work I had done at that time. Then, I realized it was all about the work, the successes, the record breaking. This became my focus. And yes, I still charged high fees and percentages, but as long as I focused on breaking some record, increasing valuation, efficiency, productivity and so on, my company would always succeed and prosper.

What drives you now? Is it the same? Did it change? Can you explain what you mean?

Please forgive the cliche, but what drives me now is, “Making a difference.” And, of course, philanthropy is a big part of that but so is mentoring: Giving the next generation the benefit of the experience gained over three decades. Is that ego? Perhaps a little (again, there’s that, “Honesty thing”), but even as ego gratifying as it may be, it changes lives and those lives change other lives and make a greater difference. Other than George Bailey, no one ever really gets to see the total effect they have by helping others…you take a leap of faith that it happens.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Before the pandemic, I was working on a project that would create jobs for Veterans. And, not just create jobs, but well-paying jobs where Veterans could work together in teams and support each other; something lacking when a company hires a single Vet who can’t relate to anyone else in the company. This is a project that is near and dear to me and one I intend to resume when the world gets back to some form of, “Normal.”

In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?

As a consultant working with CEO’s I learned early on that if I take credit for the successes and make it all about me, it would be an on-going effort of promotion, advertising and marketing to acquire customers. As a result, I chose to stay in the shadows. Instead of my company taking credit for a turnaround or a record breaker, I chose to put the CEO’s in the spotlight and remain in the shadows. The result was word-of-mouth one only dreams of. CEO’s would talk to other CEO’s and tell them that not only could my company accomplish their desired outcomes, but that I took no credit and gave the spotlight to them. I never spent a penny on advertising of any kind. No client acquisition costs. No sales team. No promotion.

Based on your experience, can you share a few strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?

Make the customer part of the experience; and the solution.

You don’t need to always be the one with the answers. Instead, plant the seeds and let the great ideas belong to your customers. (Not all of them, of course, or why would they need you?) Guide customers to discover the answers they seek and the solutions they need as an on-going process. In this way, they feel a part of the solution, the process and take ownership of the results.

Follow-Up and Follow-Through

If you make a promise…keep it! If you say you are going to do something…do it! And, most important, always follow-up. Keep everyone, “In-the-loop,” so to speak and make sure that no one is waiting for you and using this as a way to justify inaction or, even worse, the lack of need for your services. You can do a great job but if you do not follow-through on your plans, it won’t do anyone much good.

All projects never really end…or, no project should ever end.

If you are trusted enough to be hired, do a good job with measurable results, then you should care enough to check in on a regular basis even after the project has been completed. Will they continue to progress using the input you provided or, will they fall off the productivity wagon? By checking in, you can offer tweaks and suggestions to keep them on track. And, it is interesting to note the impact this will have on the customer, they view of you and your dedication to their company and your own sense of professional pride. (THe positive word-of-mouth won’t hurt either.)

Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started My Consulting Business”. Please share a story or an example for each.

1 . I wish someone would have told me to pay the most attention to detail on the small, seemingly insignificant things that you believe are beneath your abilities and experience. There are times when you are put in a position where you must complete a task (or tasks) that are far beneath your ability. This, my friends, is a recipe for disaster and can be an opportunity for success.

As a rule, when someone does a task they feel is beneath them, they do it poorly. They resent the work and don’t pay attention to details just wanting it to be over. The result; a job not well-done. And, to make matters worse, everyone else who knows the task was beneath your abilities sees the poor work and naturally questions your abilities all over again. “If they’re such an expert, why can’t they complete the simplest of tasks,” they wonder. And, rightfully so.

When you are faced with the tasks you feel are beneath your abilities, put in twice as much effort and create a, “Work-of-art.” This will impress others and, most important, it will strengthen your self-image.

2 . I wish someone would have told me to sit down and have a face-to-face with ego. When I started my consulting practice, after each assignment, I promoted my success. Was this ego or simply good business practice? After all, if I wanted to be a success, of course, I had to promote my company and its success scorecard. The more successes my company achieved, the more work we would receive…or not.

What I did not consider (and how could I have since I had no one to tell me) is the ego of the client. The CEO’s who hired me to make them and their company look good did not take kindly to seeing my company take credit for the, “Win.” In fact, they wanted their cake and they wanted to eat it too. They lived in the spotlight and by promoting the work I did for them, they were forced to share the spotlight with my company and this did not work for them. I failed to consider how this sel-promotion would appear to them…to their corporate ego.

The lesson I quickly learned was to stand in the shadows and give the credit to them. Let the CEO’s take full spotlight for the, “Win” showing the world (and the shareholders) what “They” had accomplished. I had to let their egos win.

The result? Even more business for my consulting practice. Word-of-mouth spread quickly: One CEO told another that by hiring our company, they would get the credit for the success and our company would remain in the shadows. And, it worked. In a short time, we had more requests than we could ever fulfill.

Our consulting practice quickly became known as the, “Best Kept Secret” adding to the cache whereby one CEO could whisper this, “Top Secret” to another CEO. The mystique was contagious as the offers flooded in.

Now, I make sure to tell others who are starting out what I wish someone had told me: You don’t need the credit to rack up the successes.

3. I wish someone would have told me to bring laughter to the table.

Laughter? Really? Absolutely. When I started out, I was intense. I was serious. I was focused and even my focus was focused. And yet, that was not who I was or am presently.

I grew up in a household where laughter was a part of every day. Both my parents had a way of seeing things that could make anyone laugh and I inherited that gene. (I also inherited the Guilt gene and would gladly donate it if I could find someone willing to take it.)

Offline (usually at a dinner or reception), I would relax and inject some fun into the conversation. And, it seemed that I began to have more of an impact with humor injected than the intensity I brought to the conference table.

I began to relax. I injected some self-deprecation, situational fun and a sense of enjoyment. This further gave everyone more of the sense that I was confident, relaxed, comfortable in any situation and secure in my ability to perform.

So, to this day, I laugh all the time and bring others along with me. The only issue is to keep a light foot on the, “Pun Pedal.”

4 . I wish someone would have told me that I did not need to have all the good ideas…that making the ideas appear to be from others is the best way to win.

In the beginning, I provided all the input, all the ideas and all the suggestions. Others took notes and implemented the process. I would speak and they would write and so it went.

Over time, I learned to more than share the ideas, I learned to make it appear as if some of the ideas came from the group. I led them through a process that would bring them to the concepts and then credited them with the input. I also learned that when someone did proffer an idea on their own, to turn on a powerful spotlight and feature them in all its warmth and glow.

As you might imagine, the response was incredible. The camaraderie improved, production increased and the relationships between the staff and my company could not have been better. (The word-of-mouth, as well as feedback to upper management didn’t hurt either.)

5 . I wish someone would have told me never to work for the money.

It took many years to learn that working for, “The money” is not the answer. Work for success. Work for goals and accomplishments. Strive to do the best possible job and, rest assured, the money will come.

Ultimately, taking my focus off the financial and shifting it to the work itself, brought in more assignments and, of course, more compensation. Everything changes when you shift away from the money. Your psychology, energy, intensity and flow all get better. You fit better and the work comes easier. When you focus on the money, your existence revolves around a calculator and keeps you from opening other, more creative doors.

When you work for results, the money seems to always follow and, generally more than you would have seen had you been attached to a calculator.

Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂

I would find a way to motivate people to take an hour each month to help someone less fortunate than themselves. An hour a month. Maybe you leave larger tips at restaurants, donate those old clothes instead of throwing them in the garbage, volunteer at a Senior Center of children’s hospital, give your employees the afternoon off one Friday each month if they spend a few hours volunteering.

Imagine, if even 10% of the US population spent just one hour each month helping others, we would generate 36 million hours each month helping those with a greater need than ourselves. 36 million hours. That’s the equivalent of 900,000 people working a full-time 40 hour week helping others…EVERY MONTH! In just one year, that 900,000 workforce will generate 432,000,000 hours of benefit to others.

Can you imagine 20% of the population, or if every employer in the US adopted this program and even had alliances with charities to assign specific, “Helping” tasks to their employees? Think about that for a moment: Your company works with local non-profits and creates a list of things their employees can choose from to help their community. Then, every Friday, 25% of the employees are given the afternoon off in exchange for TWO hours of helping others. (We increase to two hours since they get the entire afternoon off with pay.)

Now let’s do the math: If we assume only 100 million working American each give two hours , that’s 200 million hours each month, or 2.4 billion hours each year. That’s the equivalent of 60 million people working 40 hours every week, all year long, helping others.

How about this? Since 20% of the workforce is employed by the government (local, state and federal), how about making this volunteer a mandatory part of their employment? (You can do the math.)

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

John Stewart. His ability to take the world around us, see it with incredible clarity, draw analogies and wrap it all in comedy (the hardest yet most effective form of communication) is unique to say the least. His ability to think fast, draw on tremendous reserves and use language to make a point and generate a laugh at the same time goes way beyond talent.

As far as breakfast or lunch is concerned, I would opt for Sunday Brunch. Lot’s of time and no weekday pressures.

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!

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