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“More of a virtual world.” With Jason Hartman & Jonathan Slain

Personally, I think that technology and software will be strong because the world is learning to behave more virtually at a rapid pace as we’re forced to by the Coronavirus. As a part of my series about “Investing During The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Slain. Jonathan Slain spent the Great Recession […]

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Personally, I think that technology and software will be strong because the world is learning to behave more virtually at a rapid pace as we’re forced to by the Coronavirus.


As a part of my series about “Investing During The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Slain.

Jonathan Slain spent the Great Recession huddled in the fetal position on the floor of his office. He borrowed $250,000 from his mother-in-law to survive. Jonathan paid his mother-in-law back and is now a highly sought-after consultant (and, yes, he’s still married!). Jonathan leverages his experience in investment banking and as an entrepreneur on the keynote speaking circuit because he doesn’t want anyone else to have to borrow money from their mother-in-law in the next recession.


Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance industry?

I am a recovering investment banker! This was my first real job after college doing mergers and acquisitions work at National City Bank in Cleveland.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

I SURVIVED THE GREAT RECESSION BY BORROWING A QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLARS FROM MY MOTHER-IN-LAW! I owned a number of franchises of something called Fitness Together.

These personal training studios did great at first — we grew very fast, opening several new locations. Our studios achieved new franchise records every year. It felt like we couldn’t miss! In 2008, we set a world record for the most personal training sessions ever in the history of the franchise, and later the most locations ever. We just grew and grew and grew…until we ran into the Great Recession.

The only reason we survived at all was that I borrowed over $250,000 from my mother-in-law. Amazingly, I’m still married, and I have paid back what I owed at this point. But it was bad.

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

I’ve been a full-time consultant and speaker since 2017. I sold the gyms and now I’ve published a book, Rock the Recession, aimed at helping others avoid borrowing money from their mothers-in-law to survive the recession that we’re currently in due to Coronavirus!

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?

Close to a decade ago, I was fortunate enough to meet Paul Belair, a friend, business mentor and coach who changed my life forever. I am a member of the Entrepreneur’s Organization (“EO”) and one of the products offered is the opportunity to have a mentor. Paul was randomly assigned to be my mentor in 2012 and I had no idea what an impact it would have on me.

The mentorship program in EO consists of monthly meetings between mentor and mentee. I was excited to get together with Paul because I had heard about his reputation. He built a large HVAC company thru acquisition, then organically grew the company from about $50 million in revenue to approximately $150 million in revenue in 60 months and sold it for 83x his original investment!

I couldn’t wait for our first meeting so he could tell me what I was doing wrong in business and how I could replicate his success. I was going to get an all-access, backstage pass to understand how this incredible business mind read the market, exploited weakness in his competitors, and executed the right strategies and tactics to build his company and maximize shareholder value.

The day of our much-anticipated meeting arrived, and my expectations were not met at all! Paul spent the entire meeting asking questions and listening. After two hours (we met for breakfast), Paul gave me my first assignment: write a life plan. He said the only way for me to grow my business would be to spend some time figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up and how I was going to get there.

Over the next year, Paul and I met for breakfast monthly and by the end of 2012, I had a first draft of my life plan completed. We never once met at my office or his office. And, we hardly talked about Paul’s business or my business, but I was right about one thing, Paul did give me an all-access, backstage pass to something better.

And, ultimately, we wrote and published Rock the Recession together!

Let’s shift a bit to what is happening today in the broader world. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty and loneliness. From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our families and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

I like to remind people of the Kubler Ross model of grief. There are seven phases or stages of grief — shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, acceptance — and we all respond differently to crises, like COVID-19, and need different amounts of time to process and move through these stages. For me, it’s been about reminding my family that these stages are normal, being aware of where each other’s heads are, and trying to show grace as we all work through this stressful time.

Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know the stock market and the economy in general have become extremely volatile and uncertain. Many people “dollar cost average” and put aside a monthly sum into a long-term savings plan for retirement, college, or a home purchase. If a loved one or a client came to you and said, “I have been saving and investing $500 every month in an S&P 500 index fund. Over the next few months until the dust settles, should I be doing something else with my money?”, what would you say to them?

Here is what I am doing personally, so that is what I recommend. I am still investing the same amount each month in my 401K, 457b, 403b, and 529 plans for our kids.

Eventually, the economy will recover and rebound. Certain sectors, like travel and hospitality, might be hurting for a while. But other sectors, like technology and healthcare, might do very well. If someone wanted to prepare today to take advantage of the future recovery, what would you suggest they do?

In our book, Rock the Recession, we have a table of industries that performed well in the Great Recession (e.g., guns and ammo, consumer staples, and veterinary clinics) and industries that did not perform well (e.g., four year colleges and universities, jewelry stores and travel and tourism), think about what industries will do well in a recession (or should I say depression?) and which will not.

Are there sectors that provide exciting and lucrative investment opportunities today, specifically because of the volatility and uncertainty?

Personally, I think that technology and software will be strong because the world is learning to behave more virtually at a rapid pace as we’re forced to by the Coronavirus.

Are there alternative investments that you think more people should look more deeply at?

I’m looking at bitcoin since I don’t understand how our monetary system won’t be deeply stressed by the large size of the CARES Act and what I am anticipating will be large dollar programs that follow.

If a person in their thirties and forties came to you today and said that they have $10,000 that they want to put away today for a long-term investment what would you advise them to do with it?

Bitcoin.

Ok, thank you! Here is a more general finance question. You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive essentials for smart investing what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?

No big moves! If you want to invest in a new stock, buy a little bit at a time over a series of months. And, if you want to sell and take profits or cut losses, follow the same advice. I owned Apple stock a long time ago and it went up 25% and I sold it all. It continued to climb (to this day) and even though I was up 25%, my overarching feeling was remorse!

Believe in compounding! Buy as much as you can as young as you can. The laws of compounding make every dollar you invest at a younger age so important.

Do your own research! Nobody watches your money and takes as good of care of it as you. Make sure you always do your own homework.

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

“If I do a job in 30 minutes it’s because I spent 10 years learning how to do that in 30 minutes. You owe me for the years, not the minutes.”

This quote changed my entire way of pricing my services and counsel as a consultant. I spent years becoming an expert on recessions. If I can tell you the best way to help your company grow and thrive during a downturn in one day, and that counsel will help you earn millions, don’t expect me to charge by the hour.

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

My wife and I are focused on helping abused, impoverished, and neglected kids. On a trip to Tokyo, we saw many young children (maybe 5–7 years old) navigating the complex Tokyo subway system on their own, without their parents. Curious, we asked around about the custom and learned that in Japan, the community takes a special interest in helping children and the elderly even if they’re not their own family. So, parents feel safe letting their kids go to school without supervision because they know that others will help them find their way if they get lost and protect them first if there is a crisis. What does it look like if that idea finds its way to other parts of the world?

Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!

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