As part of my series about prominent entrepreneurs and executives that overcame adversity to achieve great success”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sean Pour, the co-founder of SellMax. He started working at his family’s company at 14 years old, which led him down the path to becoming co-founder at SellMax.
Jason Crowley: Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
Sean Pour: For me, it all started with family. Since I was a kid, my father owned a used car dealership, and I loved helping him out after school. He was a great businessman, and by the time I was 14, I’d already learned a lot. Initially, I wanted to follow in his footsteps and take over the business, but after the 2008 financial crisis, things changed. As I watched my family’s business start to struggle, I knew they needed my help. One of the most significant problems we saw was a lack of inventory. As a 14-year-old, one advantage I had over my parents was knowing the power of the internet. I created a website that would allow us to buy cars across the United States. It started as a small website, but it grew into something bigger than we could’ve imagined. It was the combination of a collapsing economy and stagnant business that pushed me to this career path.
Crowley: Can you share your story of when you were on the brink of failure? First, take us back to what it was like during the darkest days.
Pour: In 2008, when the economy and my parents’ business started heading south, we weren’t sure we were going to make it. My parents started pinching pennies, more than usual, and I started working extra hours. Running low on funds, my family and I felt destitute. It seemed like no matter how many adjustments we made or hours we worked; we still couldn’t keep up. As a 14-years-old, it was hard to for me to focus on anything else. As my parents’ bills started to pile up, so did my homework. I spent almost all of my time working and brainstorming ways to help my family. While kids were playing basketball and lacrosse, I was picking up extra shifts. I was determined to get my family and our company back on their feet.
Crowley: What was your mindset during such a challenging time? Where did you get the drive to keep going when things were so hard?
Pour: My parents are major contributors to my work ethic. They’re the epitome of the American Dream. My father immigrated to the United States with very little money. He and my mother worked hard to build a life here. They created a business from the ground up. They taught me about hard work and patience, two things I would need when 2008 hit. My family and my work ethic are my driving force. They worked so hard to provide for me, and I wasn’t about to let everything they built get taken away. I was in the mindset of, “I have to make this happen.” I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. I embraced the grind. Working late nights, early morning and studying skillsets that felt way out of my league, I welcomed it all.
Crowley: Tell us how you were able to overcome such adversity and achieve massive success? What did the next chapter look like?
Pour: In 2009, determined to keep my parents’ company afloat, I built my website to bring in a new and steady flow of inventory. Having a “failure isn’t an option” mindset got me through those tough times, as did my naivety. Being so young, with all the confidence in the world, I didn’t understand how big some of the problems I was tackling were. Looking back, I’m surprised at what I was capable of. I taught myself HTML and PHP. I learned about WordPress and how to drive traffic through advertising. These are skills I still use to this day, and I’m glad I learned them when I was so young. As the website became more and more successful, I was obsessed. I read every marketing blog available. The more I learned, the faster we grew, and soon enough I had to hire staff. It started with a couple of assistants and then a call center. Before I knew it, I had to splurge for more office space. My dream of running my dad’s used car dealership transformed into something beyond my wildest imagination. I wasn’t just able to get my family back on their feet; I was able to help our company grow and thrive tremendously.
Crowley: Based on your experience, can you share 3 actionable pieces of advice about how to develop the mindset needed to persevere through adversity?
Surround yourself with adversity. The more you face it, the better you’ll be at overcoming it. I’ve faced adversity since I was a kid between working for my parents and seeing my family almost lose everything, it wasn’t easy growing up. Today, I welcome adversity with open arms because I know it only makes me stronger.
Exercise often. Whether it’s to push yourself to new limits, enjoy the endorphins or boost your confidence, training needs to be part of your daily ritual. I started exercising regularly about five years ago. I hired a trainer and was looking to get into shape. I discovered that after a hard morning workout I felt unbelievable. My mind was clearer and sharper. I was more relaxed and focused. I’ve worked out almost every day since.
Be positive. Adversity hits a lot harder when you’re in a negative state of mind. You start to hone in on the negative chatter that’s reinforcing whatever adversity you’re facing. A couple of years ago I read a book called “The Happiness Advantage.” It changed my life. I’ve always been a positive person but, like anyone, I have bad days. This book gave me the tools to improve my state of mind. The biggest take away from this book is that happiness is a choice, you just have to know how to get there.
Crowley: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Pour: I wouldn’t be where I am today without my parents. They’ve been with me every step of the way. My parents showed me it doesn’t matter what you start with; you can make anything happen if you work hard enough. When I was a kid my mom always told me, “anything can be earned.” It didn’t matter what it was, I had to earn everything growing up, and that is still the mindset I live with today. My mother was a wonderful caregiver and always made sure I was taken care of. My father was just as loving and, to this day, is one of the brightest businessmen I’ve met. I always strived to be as brilliant and sharp as he is. When I would feel tired or like giving up, I talked to my parents.
My father, who’s now one of the co-founders, was always inspirational. I’ll never forget one of the hardest years we had. I was figuring out how to scale our team. I felt like I hit a wall. There weren’t enough hours in the day for that kind of scalability. Or so I thought. My father and I went on a four-mile walk and talked about everything. On that walk, my father helped me find my answer, and I was confident that we were going to be successful. Sometimes you need someone you trust to give you confirmation that everything will work.
Crowley: Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Pour: I’m currently building a SAAS to help small businesses manage their leads. Having an organized inventory of leads is incredibly tedious work without the right tools. This new software will save time and money for small businesses. It will also help them convert their current leads into customers.
Crowley: 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?
Pour: Responsibility. Taking responsibility for yourself and your loved ones are the most powerful things you can do. You’re responsible for your own destiny. So, take responsibility for your life because when you’re leading, it’s a fun ride.
Crowley: Any parting words of wisdom that you would like to share?
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Pour: As my mom used to say, “anything can be earned.” No matter where you came from or what you’re going through right now, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Work hard, and you’ll achieve success beyond your wildest dreams.
You can follow my company on Twitter https://twitter.com/sellmaxusa