An interview with Phil La Duke
Don’t do everything on your own, it is easy to fall into the trap of “I have to do everything myself’” You may need to have people helping you with technology, social media, sales, or maybe with marketing and operations. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, focus on your strengths and see where you can outsource your weaknesses, no one can possibly have all the time and skills needed to run a successful business.
As a part of our series about people who turned their hobbies into careers, I had the pleasure of interviewing Simone Vincenzi. Simone is a multi-award winning serial entrepreneur and author who had helped people to launch more than 500 profitable businesses before he reached the age of 30. He writes for Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, The Huffington Post and regularly features on television and radio talking about entrepreneurship and the current small business landscape. He works with startup entrepreneurs and experts who want to grow their existing business as well as multi-millionaires who want to launch new ventures, bringing ideas to fruition at lightning speed. He speaks at more than 200 events every year, impacting thousands of entrepreneurs, startups, small businesses as well as large corporations. Simone spoke at conferences featuring Les Brown, Tony Robbins, Gary Vee, Simone Sinek, John. C. Maxwell, Dr John Demartini and many more brilliant minds in the entrepreneurial field. In 2016 he was nominated in the House of Parliament as one of the most influential migrant entrepreneurs in the Uk by the Institute of Directors and won the award as Best Speaker in the Uk by the ACPTC. In 2018 he featured in magazines alongside the royal family and won the Maximise Man Of The Year Award. In 2019 he got invited to a private event with the royal family and the 53 presidents of the Commonwealth as an acknowledgement for all his work for entrepreneurs in the Uk. He also was a finalist as Young Entrepreneur Of The Year from the Federation of Small Businesses. He also supports numerous charities in the entrepreneurial space as well as working with young people to help them launch successful social projects. Simone is an incredibly entertaining, practical and unpredictable speaker, bringing music, magic and basketball together during his talks and seminars to teach while making sure everyone has a blast.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up in Italy. Both my parents went out to work, we weren’t really rich, but we weren’t poor either. We got by, and every now and then we had ‘special days’. I was fortunate. I never felt that there was anything missing. However, when I was 14, my parents split up, because my father started drinking and from then on things began to change. I saw that my Mom was struggling every single day to support me and my brother, to pay the rent and pay all the bills.
So, at the age of 14, I started working. I wanted to be able to support myself and also to support my mom. It wasn’t a difficult decision because I didn’t like school at all anyway! Starting work changed me completely, I realised very quickly that I didn’t need an academic education in order to earn good money.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
My “ah ha” moment happened in a seminar room. I was 22 and at the time I was working as a restaurant manager, however, my ambition was to become the manager of a chain of restaurants. I was attending a course on gaining coaching skills because I saw how important good communication skills would be in a management position and responsible for coaching and training members of staff.
Suddenly, something hit me. I was looking at the presenter on stage, I saw how charismatic he was, how knowledgeable he was and how much support he was giving us, (as well as how much money he was making)!
I have always been the kind of person that is the life and soul of the party, I love being the center of attention, and I enjoy helping other people. I thought to myself, “What if I could do that, speak on stage, travel the world and help people?” That would be my dream job, that would be the thing that I would do every single day and it would make me very happy. I had no idea at the time if I could actually start a business around coaching. But in my heart, I knew it was the right thing to do. I just knew that was to be my path. And I started looking about how I could make it happen.
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
Having an idea and running a business are two completely different things. There is a saying in the business world “that ideas are cheap.” It’s true, because anyone can wake up and have a brilliant idea. But business is about execution. Business is about the repetition of little habits that lead to greater success. Also, business requires a very particular mindset. In fact, if you are risk averse, if you hate unpredictability, then business is definitely not for you. Because business is always a combination of the roller coaster of the mundane daily tasks and the unexpected ups and downs.
A lot of the time people struggle because they think that it’s the idea itself that is going to make them the money. Nothing could be further from the truth, it’s the execution of the idea, the consistency and persistence, that is going to make the business a success. The way I overcame this challenge was simply by putting my head down and continuing to work no matter what obstacles I faced. I took it as a challenge to overcome. If there was something I didn’t know, I found people that I could learn from or I read articles and watched videos, to learn specific skills. I spent hours and hours learning marketing skills, sales skills, operational skills, all the things that I needed to run my business and turn my passion into a viable business.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
The advice I would give to someone that has a passion or a hobby, but they are reluctant to do it for a living is, “keep it that way”!
This is a serious answer, to have a successful business you need to be in love with the business model as a whole, not just in love with the idea. The idea will change, the passions will change. And most of the time when you’re running a business, you are not doing the things that you really want to do. Therefore, if your passion is not for running a business, then it’s better that you keep your passion as your hobby, otherwise you will soon lose it.
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
It’s absolutely true, a lot of times, you will start to lose the passion for that very thing that you were in love with, because the business needs take over. So, how do you keep things fresh and new all the time and keep that passion alive? It’s about two things. Number One is your mindset, keep reminding yourself about the importance of what you are doing and what it is that you love about what you are doing? The second is to prioritize and create time to do what you love to do. If you get caught up too much in the business, and you stop doing the things that you actually love, (remember the ones that made you start your business), you will end up resenting it.
Also set some time aside, where no matter what happens, you are working on your passion and learning new skills to take it to the next level. Keep expressing your creativity around it, then you will be able to keep the passion alive. For example, how do I keep my passion for coaching and creating courses alive? I am always thinking about how I can create a better course. Asking “how can I become a better coach, how can I introduce more creativity into my work”? Can I introduce an element of music or could I implement my passion for basketball into the other work that I do? People could consider integrating and adding some of their leisure passions with the one that became the primary business concern. In particular if the business begins to grow and scale
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
What I enjoy the most about running my own business is the opportunity it gives me to grow, to solve problems, and also to make an impact in the lives of the clients that I serve. When I see that my clients and team are happy, benefiting and getting results from our products and services, that’s what I enjoy the most.
The downside of running a business is the long hours that are involved all year round. The fact that you have a limited social life and the fact that every day is unpredictable. As much as it’s a challenge and makes it interesting, it can also be very difficult, because there are problems popping up everywhere all the time. Some of the ways I use to overcome these drawbacks is to remind myself again about what I do and why I do it, and to surround myself with people that I love spending time with. So, when I’m working with them, we are creating something magical and we have a great time together.
I also like to create time to do something completely different aside from the business. For example, sport is great because now I’m totally focusing on sport, and not focusing on the problems that are happening elsewhere, and I can recharge my batteries.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
The most striking difference between what I actually do and how I thought it would be, is the fact that I spend the majority of the time NOT coaching people! When I started my career as a coach, I thought that I would be just travelling the world and speaking on stage. But for the past five years, it has been more about taking the time to generate opportunities, create new processes, create a system and building the team around it, rather than actually coaching and speaking. What people see is just the tip of the iceberg of what goes on behind the scenes.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?
I think about getting a job and quitting my business almost every single day! It is tough. Running a business is challenging. Having a 9–5 job is much easier, it doesn’t require your mind to be involved 24 seven. But then the disadvantages immediately replace those thoughts and I know that I would not change this life for anything else in the world. Having my businesses has allowed me to create incredible opportunities, meet great people and live life on my own terms. I’m the only one that I need to be accountable to and I will not trade this freedom for anything.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I have many stories that I can share. But one of the most interesting is something that happened two years after I started my company. One piece of advice that people often give is quit your job and start your company. Now that works, if you have a lot of savings but If you don’t have much money in the bank it is very difficult to survive while figuring out how to run a new business!
I took that advice and I quit my job, and after two years I no longer had a business! it didn’t work out, my bank account was closed, and I didn’t have any money to pay my taxes. I didn’t have any money to pay my rent either and so I ended up living on the street for six months with my laptop. I was surviving on Costa Coffee and trying to figure how to make my business work.
I was too proud to go back to a job. I looked at going back as if it was a failure, a personal failure. I didn’t want to show people that I had failed. That’s why I chose to be homeless, on my own, and to keep working from my laptop still trying to figure out how to grow my business back again. Then one day, I look at myself in the mirror and I said “Simone, what are you doing? go back, get a job. Get financially secure and then start a business when you have a roof over your head.”
That experience taught me a lot about my ego and my personality. I’m the kind of person that if I there is something in front of me and I want to get it I will do whatever it takes. But I’m so focused on getting it that I will miss a lot of important and obvious things that are happening around me and miss easier solutions just because I’m putting my head down and working hard instead of putting my head up and working smarter.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
My mom inspires me to be a great leader every day. She’s a great example of good leadership. When there is a challenge, she’s the first person fighting for the crew to create a solution and to stand for what she believes in. My mom did so much for me and my brother in a situation where she could have easily given up. I owe where I am right now, to the efforts that she made, to ensure that no matter what was going on around us she created a safe environment for me and my brother to grow up in. Now, every time there is a challenge or every time that I need to be a leader or step up my game, I think about the hard work that my Mom did and the situations that she had to face. That is what gave me the strength and courage to be the leader that I want to be.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I am blessed that I’m working in a sector, where I’m able to help make the world a better place every single day by supporting other business owners. By supporting the creation of other businesses, mentoring other entrepreneurs, and making their life happier, or making their life easier. When their life is better, they will be in a position to make other people’s lives better. We then begin a ripple effect that can eventually impact millions of people in the world. Another example is that we as a company invest a big part of our profits into charity. We are really passionate about supporting young people and because of the experience I had of living on the street we are passionate about supporting the homeless. For the past four years, we have supported a homeless girl named Andrea in South London, with a warm bed and food making sure she does not spend the winter outside. Those are some of the things we things that we have done to try and make the world a better place.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
These are the five things I wish I knew before I started my business.
- It would take 10 times longer, and it will be 10 times more difficult than I expected. When you start a business, you think that everything is going to be all roses and flowers. I said, “I have an idea, I’m going to get great clients, I want to make a lot of money, I’m going to have my Mom retire and I’m going to live an amazing life. I did not expect that it would take eight years of consistent work for 12 to 18 hours every single day. I also didn’t realize, and no one told me, thatit would be so incredibly difficult, that I would have to face new challenges consistently, that I alone would have to find solutions to so many problems and I would need to build a team. And, And, And, And, all the things that are involved in running a business. It was only after the first two years that I realized which game I was actually in, and I realized that this is the life I have always wanted to live, and to grow in so that I would be ready to move forward one hundred percent. Before that I had been living in dreamland of how easy it was going to be!
- Put aside money for taxes from DAY ONE. I made that mistake with my first business, as I shared in my story above, and how my company was shut down because I didn’t know I had to pay taxes. I made the mistake again by not considering that the more the business grows, the more taxes you will have to pay. I remember once we received a letter to pay our annual taxes and we had no money in our business account. We had to call every person we knew that owed us money to avoid getting into trouble with the Inland Revenue and we had to negotiate to spread the payments over time. You must budget carefully, especially with a growing business and keep strict accounting records or as in our case the expenses can quickly overtake the income and there is nothing left to pay essential bills!
- Don’t do everything on your own, it is easy to fall into the trap of “I have to do everything myself’” You may need to have people helping you with technology, social media, sales, or maybe with marketing and operations. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, focus on your strengths and see where you can outsource your weaknesses, no one can possibly have all the time and skills needed to run a successful business.
- People can tend to over complicate everything. It’s great to have a team, however, things can get way more complex. Because when things go wrong, you have to deal with multiple people, multiple personalities, making sure that they’re doing their work and making sure that they are happy with what they do. Avoiding politics that can occur between different team members is challenging. One year we grew our team to14 staff members. It was huge growth for us and for our business, but it almost broke us. We were prepared to handle that many people, but we weren’t experienced enough to handle the changes in the company culture that needed to happen, we didn’t have a suitable operating and processing system. We had to restructure and systemize in a way that all team members could understand and work with.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. 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.
We live in a time in history where there is doubt, there is fear. If I could inspire a movement that will bring the most amount of good for the most amount of people, it will be a movement that will help people to take responsibility for their lives and do what they love to do. Then they will be able to help other people, to help other people to take responsibility for their lives too. This will eventually have a massive ripple effect spreading out into the world, helping to impact people’s financial future, sharing new ideas and ways of working together. When people start focusing on what is in their power to do to make a difference instead of pointing the finger, blaming others and making excuses we can all start to live much happier lives. We will have the peace of mind of knowing we are all contributing to society and helping to make the world a better place to live in.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I don’t remember where I read it, but a life lesson quote that has stuck in my mind is: “Passion will get you moving, Strategy will get you there.”
This is true in business and in life in general, if you are passionate and doing something that you love, you will have the energy you need to get started. However, if you don’t have a strategy, then the passion which fueled your idea into action could burn out quickly. The strategy is the vehicle that allows you to put the fuel to good use. So, if you want to have great relationships in your life, you need passion and a strategy. If you want to be a great sportsman, you need passion, and a strategy, if you want to be a great businessman you need passion and strategy. When you have both Passion and a Strategy in place you will have the stamina you need to succeed.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment 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.
I would love to have a private meal with LeBron James. I am a huge basketball fan and a Laker fan. I respect LeBron James so much, not only because of what he personally has achieved and is currently achieving in his basketball career, but also as a businessman, and as a family man. I would like to hear his opinion on my business and the work that I do for the charity for young people and if he has any ideas on improving them.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
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