First... who am I? I am Neal Lachman, CEO of Angie Communications. However, I'm writing this on personal title.
I am 44 years young, have 26 years of business experience, 15 years of which I spent on getting our company, Angie Communications, to where it is now. Well, we were ready in 2007, but then the crisis hit, and it took us until last year (2014) to finally “go for it” – that also explains the few “false starts” we got.
I’ll save myself some time by copying some text I previously posted (on linkedin) – updated the first sentence.
In April 2015, I celebrated twenty-six years in business. It wasn't a smooth ride. In fact, the proverbial "roller coaster ride" is more appropriate to categorize my quarter of a century as an entrepreneur/ businessman. I left school at age 18, started my business career as the young owner of an eatery at 19, got my major break at 22. I became a Next Generation communication specialist later in life, at 29. In between, I went bankrupt twice and went broke at least a dozen times.
When I was in my twenties, I used to think I knew everything. I wouldn't listen to anyone, I didn't want to waste time reading books, and I didn't value education. I always masked my insecurities with an air of self-confidence, but after my second bankruptcy (in 1998), I "grew up" and started listening to more experienced people. I am glad I did.
Two major "personal statements" have marked my career since the year 2000. The first was a personal goal: I wanted to be the world's richest man by 2020. The second was a business goal: investing in and running the world's largest startup. These two goals were interrelated because of the nature and scale of the business I had founded/started. Today, I don't care about either goals anymore. Not because I feel I can't succeed or because I gave up on my ambitions. On the contrary: my team and I have just launched a string of huge telecom infrastructures projects in five major markets, with a combined Total Lifetime Cost of more than €135 billion in just five years. My team and I work on a daily basis on making this massive effort a success. It's just that I don't care about wealth and status anymore. As simple as it is. I don't care about materialistic things anymore. After I lost my father in 2010, I realized that we, human beings, will not be judged by future generations for our ambitions or goals. We will be judged by what we did to -and for- the world that they inherit from us. I had a kind of sabbatical year, took up one of my major interests (psychology) and wrote approximately 50 articles on the psychology of (political) hatred.
Now, please… let’s get the violins out while I tell you about my sacrifices to get “here”.
I have no wife (because “no money, no love” as they say - I guess), no children, no car, no mansion, and I have no savings. In the past 15 years, 99 % of my life’s waking hours have been at the service of my company. A reporter recently asked us to list what my credentials as Next-Generation communications specialist is. Lazy bugger!
Anyway, chasing a dream is cute, but it takes a toll on your life. Especially your social life. I had fun and "been there, done that", no doubt about it, but on a daily basis it is a huge task. If you aren't married or otherwise committed in a relationship, you may find it hard to find both of best worlds. If you are, most likely your partner will be often annoyed at you. The threat of separation or divorce may always linger. The risk of going broke is something you may be able to take, but your partner may hate it.
I don’t give interviews anymore. Every so often I get requests (around 50 in the last month or so), but in the last 5 years I have only given three or four interviews. One will appear in a UK broadsheet one of these days, and I am giving an interview to a great friend of mine who writes about leadership. Would my company and I benefit from “free” publicity? I guess so, but it is very time-consuming and creates lots of expectations. I rather focused on building the business than talking about it. The people I want to reach are within reach anyway. It is only 2 weeks ago that we sent out our first international press release. So, you too… you should think before you send out a press release. Is it important to get the message out? Or should you just present yourself through a website and social media.
Anyway, coming back to the question, “Who the F* wants to be a billionaire?”. I guess the answer is “almost everybody”. But almost everyone wants to go to space too. And almost everyone wants to live forever.
Am I, Neal Lachman, a billionaire? Yes… on paper. Am I a billionaire with money in the bank? Would be cool, but no. It doesn’t work like that. I will explain my position another time about how and what. But to see what I built, and to review the present €3B valuation of just one of our companies, you can visit our Data Room. I am on a mission... to make my investors billions and at the same time make my team mates billionaires too. That would be an extraordinairy feat.
As stated before, I had billionaire dreams since I was very young. I had the luck to meet a mentor (at age 22) who encouraged me to dream big. He told me that I could flip burgers anytime; it would be the same hour to get paid a few bucks or to make substantially more. (And then he sent me out to work for him on commission, the smartass).
Do you want to become a billionaire?
Your biggest chance at billionairedom is –most likely- to be/become your own boss, start your own business. But what are you going to do? “Learn how to code” as many advice starters to do? Right. How many are doing that now? My advice is to become the best or among the top few, in what you do - be it coding, be it a next-generation cleaning firm, or try building a space-elevator or become the universe's first space-miner. Learn from the best who do or come closest to what you want to do. Listen to those who are willing to invest time and efforts in advising you.
Don’t listen to haters, but always listen to critics who pinpoint shortcomings in your story. Change, pivot, morph. If it is just a dream that you keep on dreaming, you’ll have a rude awakening one day. But if it is something that is worth your while, and if you are great at it, do it. Chase it. The litmus test, in my opinion, would be to get more than three people in the same field or with a proven track record in business to believe you. You'll be on the right track if they dare and are willing to commit their name and time to your startup.
Unless you are very lucky, it will take you lots of sacrifices in order to reach major success. My best friend, with whom I grew up and whom I know since 37+ years, has a family… married, three kids. He tells me that I wouldn’t get where I am if I had a family and kids. True. I completely agree. I have had long relationships, of course, but women who demand attention make me cringe. I don’t understand why I couldn’t work on my laptop on the sofa or stay at home and work while she has gone shopping for the Nth time. Maybe I am strange, but I'm just saying. I often joke to my team that they have me slaving for them. (Maybe it's not even a joke!)
Over the years, I had many supporters, and many angels who trusted their money to me. I have some big names involved with my companies (Rutger Hauer and Rick Barry). But it started years ago with one simple calculation. I figured that if I were lucky enough to make a fortune of $1 billion over 10 years, it would mean that I made $100 million per year, more than $8 million per month, two million per week, almost $300K per day, more than $10K per hour. If that is not worth working for, what is?
I think the wisest thing we did is something we didn't at all. We didn't accept VC money. Initially we were chasing after it, but then we figured we could very well survive from angel investments. This is something I'll write about soon.
So, do you want to be a billionaire? What is so special about what you are trying to do? Are you (among) the best in what you do? If so, invest time. Don’t be afraid to sacrifice. Just don’t be an asshole to the ones who loves and continues to support you, and you may become a billionaire indeed. Albeit a paper billionaire for the time being.
When working in a team, and when everything is a team effort, you have to have thick skin. With so many team members (more than 20 active ones), not everything is done in consensus or at unanimous vote. In fact, some of my team members may even advice against the title because it has the word F* in it. Which takes me to the following disclaimer:
This is my personal opinion. What I write is not necessarily shared or advised by Angie Communications or NSL & Co.
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