Street Smarts for Entrepreneurs
It’s a bit unusual to read a book on entrepreneurship by someone who considers hip hop artist Eminem one of his "heroes." But then again, Ryan Blair, the author of Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain, is not your ordinary multimillionaire serial entrepreneur. A heavily tattooed, former Los Angeles gang member arrested 10 times for a variety of offenses, Blair recalls that his first introduction to computer technology occurred when he borrowed a friend's computer to carefully recreate his report card, turning bad grades into passable ones. The task was an important one, since bad grades meant a severe beating from his viciously violent, drug-addicted father. After discovering a passion for computers during a stint in jail, Blair was soon breaking into computer stores and stealing books on how to repair and program computers.
Despite his strong technology interests, there is little doubt that Blair would have ended up in prison or dead if not for the arrival of Robert Hunt, a successful real estate entrepreneur who fell in love with Blair's mother and moved both of them out of the rough, gang-ridden neighborhood in which they lived. Hunt not only offered Blair a new home, but also a job as a gopher with his company (Blair also had to return to high school — that was part of the deal). Eventually, Blair got a job as a $6-an-hour customer service representative at a company called Logix. But it was the Logix computer data center that interested him and Blair soon moved over to the data center as a technician. Within two years, using the hustle and nothing-to-lose attitude that had served him so well on the streets, Blair was made a vice president of the company, earning $100,000 per year. He was all of 20 years old. But by that time, the former gang member had other ambitions: to start a 24-hour-a-day technical support service that he would call 24/7 Tech — his first company. Since then, Blair has created or invested in a variety of companies, eventually selling them for hundreds of millions of dollars.
Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain is part autobiography and part how-to entrepreneurship book. As a serial entrepreneur, Blair has numerous stories of mistakes, risks, setbacks and great wins to tell, drawing powerful lessons for entrepreneurs from each story. When he started his first company, for example, Blair called himself vice-president. He didn't want clients to know that it was the CEO/founder in their offices making a pitch for their business. He lost control of another company he had financed after having a one-night stand with one of the company's 10 employees (both were single). The moral of the story: "Don't do your business where you do business." When the company failed under the new leadership, Blair started another company with the same business model.
Blair is an opinionated man with an attitude, but he is not afraid to express his appreciation for the people who have supported, mentored or inspired him to success — from his stepfather to such luminaries as legendary UCLA Coach John Wooden.
Filled with great, hard-earned advice, Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain is a fascinating book — at once entertaining, informational and inspirational — written by one of America's most unique entrepreneurs.