Real Life Lessons in Trusting Your Gut
Author and entrepreneur Don Martin understands how the American dream is built on taking risks. The risks he has taken throughout his life allowed him to turn a small startup insurance agency into a company with $250 million in annual sales 40 years later. When he and his partner sold their company, they got $64.5 million in cash. Thanks to results like these, Martin’s advice on risk taking has solid proof to back it up.
In The Risk Takers, Martin and his wife, Renee, have compiled stories from a variety of men and women who, like Don, were able to turn risky choices into profitable companies. Throughout their book, they detail the struggles these people endured and the incredible results they got when they took chances that other people might have avoided.
For example, Barbara Corcoran started her real estate business on a borrowed couch with $1,000 from her boyfriend. When she made her first sale, she took the risk of spending her first commission on a glamorous coat so she could look the part of a successful real estate broker when she was at work. Her risk paid off. Thirty-two years later, she sold her business for $66 million.
Rags to Riches
While the authors profile more than a dozen entrepreneurs who were able to turn their risk-taking skills into profitable businesses, the most interesting story among them is the one that focuses on co-author Don Martin’s life. In it, Martin recounts a classic rags-to-riches story about a man raised in poverty who suffered the abuse of an alcoholic stepfather after his real father left the family when Martin was just 3-years-old.
Martin explains how he fought through his lack of money, role models and mentors to find the guts within himself to move from a tiny town in the Ohio Valley to Los Angeles, where he was jobless, friendless and clueless about his future.
Martin’s personal tale of risks taken and dreams realized describes a young man who conquered his limitations by getting a job, going to school and making friends by becoming freshman class president at El Camino College. Through sheer tenacity, enthusiasm and hard work, Martin went from insurance salesman to business partner. His combination of connections and trustworthiness paid off when an acquaintance told him about a local life insurance agent who was looking for a business partner to start his own agency. Together, the two men founded Cal-Surance.
The lessons Martin learned while moving that company from startup to million-dollar business include such staples as: Serve underserved niches, diversify, learn about your industry and find some good advisers to help you along the way. Every experience he relates connects to a sound business principle that is backed up by a personal experience, such as: Buck conventional wisdom, trust your gut, save your money, exploit your competitors’ weaknesses and stay on the lookout for new trends.
Don Martin’s success, especially when combined with the success stories of the other businesspeople he and his wife profile in this book, offers readers a solid foundation of time-tested ideas and strategies that will help to prepare them for the turbulent world of risks and rewards.