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From Gangster to Guru for Ryan Blair


Ryan Blair Shares Secrets of Entrepreneurship

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Ryan Blair represents a good example of a life that made a 180-degree turn for the better. After his father had abandoned 13-year-old Blair and his mother, the boy turned to crime and gang life to get by. A special mentor, his stepfather, helped him change his life. Blair wrote of his journey in Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: How I went from Gang Member to Multimillionaire Entrepreneur. Home Business Magazine® recently spoke with Blair about entrepreneurship.

Home Business Magazine (HBM): What turned your life around?

Ryan Blair (RB): My mom started dating a guy who was exceptionally wealthy and worked from his own home as a real estate agent. I got to model after a guy who worked hard, play hard, and had integrity. He taught me a new way of life. I knew I’d never go back to the way I was. I did odds and ends for him. He was a self-made multi-millionaire. I spent my business career trying to “beat” him.

HBM: What is the key to finding a good mentor?

RB: I’ve had a number of mentors in life. Some have been short-term and others long-term. Some had traits I liked and some had ones I didn’t. They key is to understand the things you want from a mentor. You have to look at what you’re weak at. Find a model that you want to be like. If you want to be like Oprah and have a magazine, TV show and all the things she embodies, then she would be a good mentor to you. If you can’t provide her enough value, find the next best thing. There are guys I’d love to learn from, but they wouldn’t be a good fit for me, so I read their blogs and books. Steve Jobs is someone I’ve studied inside and out, and I’ve applied so many of his techniques and philosophies to my businesses. It’s a remote mentorship because I’ve never met him.

Secondly, offer value to that mentor. I get thousands of requests for mentorship, but they don’t offer anything in return, like filing, cleaning my house, or something. All too often, it’s “please mentor me; I need my shot.” But they don’t offer anything in return. All I want is mutual respect and appreciation. I want the same amount of time, value, and energy. Most fail to say what they’ll give to me as a mentor.

HBM: What was the most important lesson you learned from your stepfather?

RB: Honor your deals, even if you disagree or change your mind. I’ve watched him cut friendships off if someone else was not honoring his deal.

HBM: One of the chapters of your book addresses cons of a home-based business. What is an example of one, and how can one avoid it?

RB: You don’t have a large place for camaraderie. I have a fairly large home, so at any given time, I have six to seven employees around my home. A lot of time [home business entrepreneurs] lack that energy from other people. They feel lonely at home. I remember thinking to myself that I missed the fun and excitement after leaving the corporate world to work at home. Seek camaraderie through networking. Schedule time for it; if you don’t, you’ll never make it.

HBM: You also discuss risks and sacrifices. What are a few that home business entrepreneurs should be willing to make?

RB: Until you have enough money accumulated, sacrifice luxury. Sacrifice TV, time out, and even time with your family and friends. I love my friends dearly but to have this book become a best seller, I have to sacrifice time with them. You have to sacrifice your ego and especially your comfort zone.

HBM: What are some of the big mistakes home business entrepreneurs make?

RB: They try to follow the rules in corporate America, like work from 8 to 5, and work Monday through Friday. But it may not allow you to schedule your down time. I rarely work before 10 a.m. I wake up at six, but I plan what I want to do and get in the gym. Then I can take action. Entrepreneurship is an addiction to being successful, not a job or career. You have to feed the addiction and recharge from it or you’ll burn out. HBM

(Ryan Blair has founded and sold several companies. His third, ViSalus Sciences, took a nosedive during the recession of 2008, but he turned it around within a year and the firm grew by several thousand percent. He serves as CEO for ViSalus Sciences. Blair lives in Hollywood with his son, Reagan.)

Deborah Jeanne Sergeant writes magazine and newspaper articles, marketing materials and Web copy from her home in Wolcott, N.Y. Visit her online at www.skilledquill.net.

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