This week I got a chance to ask Ryan Blair, CEO and Co- Founder of ViSalus some questions. Coincidentally enough I actually read his book, Nothing to Lose Everything to Gain: How I Went from Gang Member to Multimillionaire Entrepreneur, before launching my first corporation several years back. Ryan has launched several businesses and inspired many individuals to invest in their dreams through his writing and his social media posts. Over the course of the article we will cover mentorship, entrepreneurship, direct selling, and what the future holds for him.
Growing up who were some of the most impactful people in your life? What are the 3 biggest lessons you learned?
Long before I was an entrepreneur and a New York Times best selling author, I was a gang member with a juvenile criminal record. Luckily, before it was too late, a mentor came into my life, my stepfather Robert Hunt, who was a successful real estate entrepreneur. With much patience, Bob challenged me to be a better man and opened my eyes to the world of legal business enterprise. My first job was working for his firm and as a result he would correct me when I made mistakes. If I was late, he would explain to me that my behavior was unacceptable. If I asked for a raise, he would be honest with me about my performance and what he felt I needed to work on. He insisted I get my GED and go to a community college as one of his conditions of my employment. Most importantly he would ask me my goals, personally, professionally and financially. He knew what I wanted and presented the work he asked me to do as a gateway for me to achieve.
I would not be where I am today if it were not for his mentorship. By watching an entrepreneur in action, I learned how to be one myself. I applied the lessons he taught me almost daily.
The three biggest lessons I learned have been:
- Invest in yourself and you’ll reap the rewards for a lifetime
- Work ethic is what separates one business person from another, not IQ or education.
- A deals a deal, honor them and when someone in you life breaches your personal or business ethics, cut them out
In today’s economy you have millennials with mountains of student debt. What advice can you give to those wanting to be an entrepreneur and make it on their own when they have so much debt and stress on their mind?
When I was growing up I had a mentor who taught me about positive belief systems regarding money. He would correct me when I would say, “it takes money to make money.” He would tell me it takes traits such as ambition, creativity, work ethic and intelligence to make money. And then he would ask me which traits I could embody and help me to do so.
After reading your book I’m thinking direct selling has been a huge part of yours and Visalus’ success. How do you see this model of distribution and sales evolving by 2020? Do you think technology will have an impact?
Direct Selling is radically changing how products are sold and consumed as a result of the value provided by the sellers and the fact that the model cuts out the “middleman.” The industry around the world is doing over 160B in sales now. It will continue to grow as a result of the benefit it provides to its participants. I see ViSalus becoming a multi-billion dollar company by the year 2020 and our investments in various technologies and companies (such a FragMob) will be very important to our growth and the industry’s for that matter.
Now more than ever, young people are taking risks and starting new and innovative business. But, everyone needs a little push, inspiration, or motivation. How do you advise young CEO’s looking out for opportunities, funding, and, most importantly, mentorship?
It’s important to use collaborative team spirit to earn the trust of others, and it’s important to trust your team in return. Be authentic and transparent in your communications. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be afraid to give advice. In order to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to know your customer, know who you are working with, push yourself, invest in yourself and listen to your instincts. Life can be overwhelming, and when you know someone who’s been through it, sometimes their simple advice will help you make the right decisions. A good mentor is simply a good teacher, they should believe in you more than you believe in yourself, they should share wisdom gained from relevant experience they are teaching you. To find a mentor, search for them in your existing network. If one doesn’t exist within your network, find them through books, articles or interviews.
Once you find an ideal mentor, read everything you can on your target, then write to them asking strategically for the help you are seeking. Last and most importantly, consider what “value” you are willing to add in exchange for their mentorship when reaching out and tell them upfront.
After launching six companies and being awarded EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year award, what does the future hold for you?
I plan to make a few billion dollars and have a lot of fun doing it.