Nick Powills of Mainland: “There are no get rich quick schemes”

There are no get rich quick schemes. There are luck moments — like winning the lottery — but most moments in life (unless handed down money) take work. As a part of my series about “Investing During the Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick Powills, CEO of Mainland — the holding company of No Limit Agency, and Powills […]

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There are no get rich quick schemes. There are luck moments — like winning the lottery — but most moments in life (unless handed down money) take work.

As a part of my series about “Investing During the Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick Powills, CEO of Mainland — the holding company of No Limit Agency, and Powills is also the author of Inc. Magazine published Sticks & Stones, as well as a frequent keynote speaker on business and sharing his personal story. His story really began as an intern with Rolling Stone Magazine, starting his own digital magazine and learning there was no money in the music business before pivoting and starting his own agency.

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?

It wasn’t meant to be this way. I thought I was going to be a professional baseball player. Problem was, I wasn’t good enough at baseball. Then, I thought, if I couldn’t be a major leaguer, I would write about them. During the summer of 2000, I covered the Cubs and White Sox as a 19-year-old. The beat reporters hated me being in their space. I was working on a story about reflecting back on your dream, when Will Clark screamed at me. A reporter befriended me. He happened to be an editor at Rolling Stone Magazine. He gave me an internship, which turned into an “Almost Famous”-like moment, where I traveled around the country with Paul Simon and Brian Wilson. After that summer, I started a music magazine. Problem was, there was no money in that industry. So, I pivoted, fell into franchising and business as a public relations pro. The combination of my story gave me a tremendous foundation. I started my own business at 27 (2008), and now, 12 years and a ton of grey hair later, I am an entrepreneur talking finance. I promise you though, there is still a rock star baseball playing dreamer still in me.

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?

Well, take the Will Clark story. I admired the man. He was a baseball god to me. I wanted him to be a part of my story because of this. He had other plans. Sometimes we put people on a pedestal because of what they do, not because of who they are. Hero shouldn’t automatically be given to athletes — they, too, should have to earn that status through being a good person. But, that’s not the lesson. The lesson is that I used that moment as fuel to accomplish more. I can still hear Will the Thrill screaming at me. It still motivates me today. So, change your view on tough moments. Turn them into fuel. You will be amazed at the now positive energy a bad moment can create, and probably are already doing this if you are reading this.

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

It’s interesting to reflect backwards. Each moment of my life and career is playing into what we are doing as a business. We are disrupting news, content, agency and storytelling through technology. We are doing this by entering the publishing/tech world as marketers. You can see some of our energy on the front end of and — but the magic is really in the backend dashboard — where users can control the story, the PR, the distribution and the data of their story.

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?

If you were to read Sticks & Stones, you would see that I have had to really battle for backing. My parents certainly were instrumental in my foundation. My wife, who I met right when we started the business, has been vital. And even some of the early encouragers, like the founders of Wing Zone who told me it was my time and helped build my confidence to quit my job and start our business. Ultimately, though, and this isn’t me dodging the question, every single one of our clients has been valuable to our story even the ones who fired us. That is more motivation. I am motivated by the doubters.

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?

Great question. If the coronavirus hasn’t taught us all that life is short, then I am not sure anything else will. Now, that understanding doesn’t remove anxiety, in fact, it probably increases it initially. But, when you understand that an end will come, it should make you find value in more moments.

Think about a perfect day. A day that made you incredibly happy. As the day went on, somewhere inside, you begged time to freeze. You wanted more. Think about what made that day great. Was it the people? Was it the weather? The reality is, we have the ability to recreate amazing moments by applying those fundamentals back to today. Do what makes you happy.

So, loneliness — text, email, or call someone you haven’t talked with in a while. Bet that will add a smile. And, chances are, they are dealing with this similarly to you. You are not alone.

Anxious. Breathe. Try to find just one happy moment today. Hang on to that. Build momentum from it.

As long as you have a breath left, you are in control. You own the next move.

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 dollars 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?

No. Don’t. Ride the wave.

I think that’s where danger comes from — when people, without expertise, start taking uncalculated risks. If you don’t have a proven next step, pause.

Now, many aren’t saving anything. That’s going to hurt down the line. Try doing a back-casting exercise. Think about the day you retire. What lifestyle do you want? Do you have enough in the bank to accomplish that moment? Start making changes now to get you there.

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 2008, airline stock tanked. 10 years later, it skyrocketed from where it was.

In 2001, after Sept 11, high rise office buildings were done. Pre-pandemic, they were rocking.

In my opinion, both are opportunities where you get to play blackjack with the cards faced up. There is certainly risk, but you are playing with the odds of recovery. I believe those odds continue to trend up, too, as more people show pandemic fatigue. People are flying. People are still going to work. Recovery will happen.

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

Here’s things I like:

  1. Off-premise retail. Holiday shopping will go online. This should create some action.
  2. Sports betting. It’s gaining steam.
  3. Construction/home building

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

Well, I happen to work with a lot of franchise brands. There are many that help you protect your investments. What I love most about franchising is that it allows you to invest in yourself. I bet on myself more than other opportunities. I can grow my money with study and hustle.

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

Safe bet is to look at stocks that have been around for 20 years and have shown safe and steady climb. A little riskier would be something like Apple or Amazon. Or, place it on black or red and invest in a company that you are one-degree separated from.

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?

  1. Invest in yourself. I started my business with 10,000 dollars. It has not been easy at all. But the return has been incredible — not just financially, but in pushing my mind mentally to constantly solve challenges.
  2. A little a day. Whatever you can put away, put away. Keep saving a little each month. A lot of little will equal a great amount someday.
  3. Real estate is hard to win at unless you have a little luck, a little knowledge and a little hustle.
  4. There are no get rich quick schemes. There are luck moments — like winning the lottery — but most moments in life (unless handed down money) take work.
  5. Twice as easy to reduce your expenses versus adding income. Think about ways to cut expenses. That will make you money.

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

“Don’t believe the hype.” There is a reason 15 minutes of fame exists. It’s because hype disappears for 99.9 percent. I start over each day. Each day can be better than the pervious. Think about this. You will never be perfect at this, but be mindful of it.

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. 🙂

Start your next big move with what equals happiness. If we were all to start there, while it would certainly generate a ton of change, it would build better people, more smiles and more kindness. Does your career make you happy? Does your boss make you happy? Does your income make you happy? Does your spouse make you happy? Start there. You will certainly have to keep some things you don’t love, but, try this pathway as much as possible. Find what = happiness.

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

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