Below is a summary of my interview with serial entrepreneur, corporate leader and sought after thought leader and speaker, Jeff Hoffman. For the full interview, please enjoy the video.
Jeff Hoffman’s a successful entrepreneur. He’s a proven CEO, he’s a worldwide motivational speaker and best selling author. He’s also a Hollywood film producer, a producer of a Grammy winning jazz album, the executive producer of Emmy award winning TV shows. And I’m saying shows because he’s like, we got a secret coming, stay tuned. But before that, Jeff has been part of a number of well known successful startups including priceline.com booking.com Youbid.com, and it goes on. Jeff has served on boards of companies in the US, in Europe, in the Middle East, South America, Africa, Asia, he’s all over the world. He is the chairman of the global entrepreneur network, which works with entrepreneurs in 180 countries.
Jeff is the founding member of the Unreasonable Group. He supports the White House, the State Department and the United Nations and similar organizations on economic growth initiatives and entrepreneurial programs. Jeff’s a frequent keynote speaker and he’s been invited to speak in over 60 countries. He speaks on topics of innovation, entrepreneurship, and business leadership and is the author of the book “Scale”.
JEFF HOFFMAN’S START:
Jeff Hoffman is a self made billionaire — that’s with a “B”, but he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He earned everything, starting the common struggle of paying for college.
He was raised by a single mom with four kids who work multiple jobs to try to make ends meet. He avoided putting additional pressure on her. For a “new pair of shoes”, Jeff made money himself, delivering newspapers, cleaning someone’s garage, mowing a lawn and even going door to door trying to sell garden seeds. His mom was very industrious and entrepreneurial, and a great role model. Jeff took that attitude. Having grown up in the Arizona desert, he had a big education plan to go to Yale. But when he got there he was pretty much informed that he couldn’t really go because he couldn’t pay the bill… even with all the scholarships and aids.
He paid for his college education through the software startup that he ran in the Yale basement under the dorm, in a dark room. That’s what gave Jeff the relationship between big dreams and hard work. When you’ve got a big dream, instead of giving up on the dream, just find the way to double down on it, put in the work, and make it happen.
Jeff thinks mentorship is massively important. To find a mentor, look for a person you want to be like when you grow up, not somebody from the same industry. Because mentorship is holistic, a mentor is somebody that helps you make decisions that guide your whole life. So it’s critically important to have mentors, plural, as many people as you can find.
The recipe for a successful entrepreneur is the people, not the projects. One of Jeff’s heroes is Nolan Bushnell. “He invented a little thing called video games. His company was Atari, and Nolan wrote a book called Finding the Next Steve Jobs, because he’s the guy that found that one, and hired him for Atari.” Focusing on people who are going to do amazing things in their lives is way more important than focusing on business plans and spreadsheets. Successful entrepreneurs have “It.”
“It’s” a mix of some tangible things, but you know it’s not book smarts. It’s raw intelligence and resourcefulness, and one that’s harder to measure but massively important–intellectual curiosity, as well as raw passion and toughness. Entrepreneurship’s hard, you will fail and failures, relatively inevitable, but so what? It’s completely meaningless and if it stops you you’re not an entrepreneur, entrepreneurs fail on a ongoing basis. If you never fail Jeff feels you’re not pushing yourself. And so, it’s all about your ability to get out, not whether you stumbled more than once. So those are, those are those factors that are on the line between tangible and intangible that make you know relatively quickly if someone’s going to be good at entrepreneurships.
There is a famous saying. Being an entrepreneur is like jumping off a cliff and trying to build an airplane on the way down. Oh God, if that thrills you, you should be an entrepreneur if it terrifies you, you should go somewhere else.
Jeff currently heads the Unreasonable Group. It was named after a famous quote from the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, where he said that “a reasonable person adapts to the world around them, an unreasonable person expects the whole world to adapt to them. Therefore all progress is dependent upon the unreasonable.” They find all the people crazy enough to think they can change the world and help them do it. Unreasonable, focused on social entrepreneurship, we’re aligned for example with the United Nations’ 17 goals to make the world a better place to live. They scour the world, we find the world’s best entrepreneurs solving specific of the ones of the world’s biggest problems: getting people food, getting people shelter, getting people education, health care, getting people energy that live off the grid. The fundamental things that make the world a better place.
Unreasonable currently serves customers in 187 countries. They have generated over three and a half billion dollars in real revenue, these companies are doing business. Collectively across the world, Unreasonables companies have collectively raised $4.6 billion in financing, and we’re financing the people that can make the world a better place. And then lastly, we have positively impacted over 350 million lives. We’ve been able to feed, educate, get water to whatever it is along that list.
One of Jeff’s favorite things to do in the world is mentor the entrepreneurs in the Unreasonable group.
“Leaders create other leaders, not followers.” The best leaders, surround themselves with people smarter than them, and then help those people grow to the point where they are the experts.
True leadership is not your ability to give orders, and tell people what to do. It’s your ability to find and nurture people smarter than you. Enable, empower, and trust and empower them to do things you don’t know how to do anyway.
Jeff Hoffman previously didn’t consider himself a speaker, he simply explained things that people asked about. But, he kept winding up on stage and that kind of evolved. He’s been asked to speak in the White House, at the United Nations, in 70 Different countries at some of the world’s biggest events. When asked if he’s a speaker, Jeff responds “honestly no, I just talk about stuff, but I talk about the stuff I’m passionate about.”
His core audience is entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is a mindset, not a job. I’ve given this talk to corporations where it’s intrapreneurship, giving it to students all over the world. I’ve given it to people in entrepreneurial communities, and I’ve given it to places like, for example, some of the country’s biggest real estate conferences would be an example. Because they say we’re not entrepreneurs, we’re real estate agents, actually, you’re the ultimate entrepreneurs I’ve given this in the entertainment industry, sorry I’m an actor or on the singers that actually you’re an entrepreneur and until you realize that you won’t grow, and then to start up organizations all over the planet. So, that talk that I love to give is keys to success for entrepreneurs. It’s like seven things that we’ve learned in being part of companies that became multi billion dollar companies. These are the things you have to do if you want to be a successful entrepreneur and grow your company. That’s one talk and that audience is anybody trying to launch a business or grow one. Another talk that I love giving, though, is innovation. I’ve been made a lifelong study of the world’s most innovative people and what are they doing differently than everybody else. And that talk tends to be much more for large corporations, I’ve that to companies all over the world who have said, we want to either remain or become leaders in our industry worldwide, until we want to be innovators, so that’s a very practical talk on the habits and techniques, tools and techniques… the world’s most innovative people and companies, and I love giving that talk, because people go home the next day with actual things they try and they came back and they say wow we’ve never tried that in our company. The results were amazing. So that’s the innovation and I would say there’s a third one, that’s super big. Lately, which kind of goes on top of all of these that I love giving which is called “leaving your legacy”. I give a talk on what legacy means, and how you, as a individual, a citizen of your community, and a business can leave a legacy behind you. So it’s all about that sort of triple bottom line, run a successful business become profitable, and use your success to change a lot of lives. So, legacy is probably the most. I know this from reviews, the most popular talk and it’s so much fun to give, because it’s very personal, people wind up laughing at one part, crying and another part, but telling me afterwards, they, they left inspired so I think those three talks are my three favorite to give: entrepreneurship, innovation, and legacy.
They sound all wonderful. So I’m going to move on now to what you’re doing, because again it’s always with entrepreneurs, it’s always helping others and growing, and you have a new project that you are just starting, which I think is going to open doors for entrepreneurs, people that are really growing into the IPO level and also for investors, new concept. Tell us about your new show.
Sure, so, you know, a large part of my time outside of Unreasonable, by the way also is I’m the chairman of the Global Entrepreneurship Network, and we serve entrepreneurs in 190 countries now so that’s a busy chunk of time but lately, the biggest thing is, we are launching a brand new television show. It’s called Going Public. It is like Shark Tank, except that the viewers get to decide whether to invest, not the sharks. So, we’re democratizing access to investments by letting anybody anywhere invest in these next big companies before they go public, you get to buy stock, whatever amount want. There’s no minimum on our show, the companies you see I’ll be mentoring the companies on the TV show and teaching them how to grow getting them ready. If you’re as excited about the companies we are, you can just go online and buy stock, like I said any amount you want, and then in the show it’s called Going Public because the companies that are ready and we will take public, or we will do IPOs live from the NASDAQ on the show. So that’s our new show, democratizing investing, we’re also focusing on underrepresented founders, just an unfortunate truth is that companies that go public, the big IPOs in the stock market are massively white male. And so, we are going to try to fix that any way we can. So the first company we picked is women. Two women founders, the next company is two black males, we’re trying to focus on the underserved. The next one after that is two veterans. We’re trying to make, create opportunities for companies that typically just don’t get the same level of opportunity, but that’s the show it’s called Going Public. It’ll be streaming everywhere, later this summer.
I will definitely put up updates about that because just the concept is, is amazing and the fact that you are going for these underserved markets, because if you’re not a white man, there’s your first hurdle. So, looking forward to hearing about that. And although I could talk to you all day long. I’m going to start bringing this to an end, so I have a few questions for you here your rapid fire questions.
JEFF’s FAVORITE THINGS:
LI: What is your favorite word?
JEFF: Oh my gosh, oh, that’s an easy one. Actually, it’s funny that you asked that. Hope, most powerful force the universe.
LI: What is a sound that you love?
JEFF: laughter, especially children’s laughter.
LI: Who is a TV or movie character that you feel you relate to?
JEFF: No one’s ever asked me that I never even thought about it before. Um, it would have to be an adventurer, slash explorer of some time, so maybe it’s a version, way less cool and a way less good looking version of Indiana Jones.
LI: If you could be anything or anyone for a day, what would you be or who would you be?
JEFF: Maybe a bald eagle, I already got the bald part down I just can’t fly. I like the majestic, but but flying was a big piece of that, to be able to see all different places, all in one day. Right, all from a completely new perspective. That’d be pretty cool to be able to soar like I picked an eagle just because they’re cool looking, and they don’t, they’re not they don’t have to be afraid of everybody else. You want to be the king of the sky, man.
LI: Where are you going to be and what are you going to be doing in one year ago, or in one year today?
JEFF: Oh, I here’s a really good guess, probably in Uganda with the orphanage that we fund, opening the brand new buildings that we’re building there now, their homes for more kids, so that we can grow it, that’s a big passion project of mine we built school in Ethiopia, we’re funding an orphanage in Uganda, I work with kids in the inner cities in the United States but that’s a huge project that will be done around a year from now, and we will have built homes for all these kids in Uganda and I will be there for a ribbon cutting.
To get Jeff Hoffman to speak at your event, contact SID@goleeward.com