Welcome to the third edition of Better Know a Young Millionaire Investor. This week I’ll be chatting with Pejman Ghadimi, a self-made millionaire and now a consultant and entrepreneur.
Pejman is the founder of Secret Entourage, a platform focused on providing support, motivation, and inspiration to Generation Y entrepreneurs. He is also the author of The Third Circle System, which is a course of books designed around leadership fundamentals and entrepreneurship training. It is based on Pejman’s 10 years of observations in business and interactions with other entrepreneurs.
Pejman’s story is interesting because before making the jump to self-employment, he had a 6 figure job in finance and banking.
Let’s get to better know Pejman Ghadimi…
Tell us about yourself?
Pejman: I was actually born in Tehran, Iran in 1982, but only spend a very small amount of time there. I moved to Paris, France with my mom where I spent the next 11 years. After countless attempts to get a visa for the United States, we were finally granted one and moved to Los Angeles. We moved around a lot until we finally settled in Northern Virginia, where I finally stuck around for a while.
Where did you end up going to school?
Pejman: My education actually ended with my high school diploma. I always believed that you can only learn from those that have been there, rather than textbooks. If I had an opportunity today, I still wouldn’t go back to school or get a degree. All I can say is that if you plan to skip college, make sure you have a plan and are willing to work harder to get there. The only difference is that you’ll have a head start from those going to college and you won’t have any debt!
How did you get started in business?
Pejman: I started in sales at 14. I worked all through high school at random jobs. I spent the biggest part of my corporate career working for a major bank, which I worked up to a Vice President title before leaving.
In 2005, I founded VIP Motoring, a luxury lifestyle concierge service. I grew my first offline venture to a six figure revenue company with no partners or support. I did it on the merit that I was passionate about the luxury lifestyle, was part of it, and knew how important customer service was. I treated my clients like family, and in return, they always trusted me.
In 2006, I launched Secret Consulting, a business dedicated to teaching others how to be successful. I focused on teaching executives and business owners how to succeed through leadership training, support, and private mentorship. This same year I also launched Secret Entourage, which was geared at providing free support, motivation, and inspiration to Generation Y entrepreneurs. The idea evolved into a full-blown platform that combines lifestyle with business to bring a new level of innovation.
Making and Investing Money
How did you make your first million?
Pejman: My first million was not from one particular thing, but rather a combination. Many people believe that millionaires make it by having a one-time hit. While some do, I think the majority combine a lot of hard work and multiple ventures to get there. For me, it was investing in real estate, the stock market, and owning two businesses that allowed me to make it there by 25. Another key strategy was diversifying my income streams. This allowed me to make sure that I didn’t lose big if something unexpected happened, like the bursting of the real estate bubble.
Where do you currently invest your money and why?
Pejman: For short term investments, I stick to the stock market. Right now its too easy to make 20% returns. Today’s stock market is very different than the old days. The market right now is driven by fear and greed, and the old rules don’t apply. If you know where to invest, you can make great returns.
For longer term investments, I like real estate. Real estate provides both long term residual income and builds equity. I invest in states most hurt by the recession, so I will see a greater return in 5-10 years. Florida is currently my largest footprint where I own properties.
Finally, I love startups. I love investing in other people’s innovative ideas. It’s highly risky, but it is my belief that if someone has a strong belief and passion for innovating the world, money should not stop them from doing so. Good people need support and help growing at times, and it can yield big returns in terms of equity/shares if you pick the right companies.
Has your investing strategy changed over time?
Pejman: Yes, partly because I used to care more about making money than I do now. Now, my desire has shifted more to leaving behind a legacy than making more money. I created Secret Entourage for that reason. When I was younger, my core focus was always looking for money-making opportunities. Now, I look for opportunities in general, even if they yield no returns.
Many millionaires, including yourself, have made money through real estate. Why?
Pejman: Real estate is one of the best and safest investments in today’s climate. What’s even easier about real estate is that you don’t even have to use your own money, and therefore it makes it a very attractive investment for many. Think about the fact that an average person can buy a home, live it in and use it for 3 years, enjoy significant tax breaks during that time, then sell it and pocket a huge sum of money tax free. Most people miss this because they buy their first home for comfort rather than its potential upside. Being a millionaire means you have to look at each and every action you take as a potential investment: your home, your car, watches and accessories, and more.
Is there another way to be a young millionaire without starting your own business or being an entrepreneur?
Pejman: Making money does not come from owning a business, but from assuming risk. You cannot expect to be ordinary in your thinking and safe in your approach and expect results that are way out of the norm. Being an entrepreneur is about risk – it’s about putting yourself out there and pushing the envelope until you get there, with no guarantee of success. Investing is almost the same because you assume a risk and are rewarded based on the risk level. High risk, high reward. Low risk, low reward.
You can become a millionaire by creating innovative businesses or investing money. You can also become one through a normal corporate career, but don’t expect that to happen before you’re 40. Even though it’s possible, it’s unlikely.
Risk vs. Reward
What’s the biggest risk you ever took? Do you regret it?
Pejman: The biggest risk I ever took was quitting my six-figure job at the peak of my corporate career. Nobody understood why I gave up a great VP-Level job and a huge salary. It was difficult. I wrote this to inspire others who are in a similar situation:
There comes a time in your life where you realize that no matter how much money you make, the work you are doing simply holds no value anymore. You take a moment to look around you and see others performing the same job only to realize you no longer fit in and the people that once believed in similar things and in similar ways have all been replaced by people who look like blind robots. Its that time that you realize that those are the same people you started with and that it is you that has changed your perspective and views on what you do and where you work. We have all been there and have all felt that way, which is why we often go seek an alternative job elsewhere and only find ourselves in the same predicament 5 years later. It s a never ending cycle for those of us above the roles we currently hold in other people’s organizations.
A point comes in your life where you have to make a choice as to where you want to be going and the way you want to get there. While many of us have had that honest conversation with ourselves, it is often letting go of the fear of uncertainty and insecurity that we need to get over. This can be quite difficult if you have not had a strong influence of entrepreneurs in your surrounding.
For me that road came recently when I made a choice that I was far more superior than those I worked for and therefore the path I was taking was simply too easy, and the rewards in the long term way to small. It was a difficult journey letting go of the monetary rewards associated with just sitting there but certainly a necessary move in order to expand my reach to a new level of experience and certainly to attain a reward above and beyond that of the average person reaches for. The idea of letting go of that security and taking a chance on yourself is something that makes you significantly superior to those around you and a validation that you were right thinking you were superior. Your ability to overcome the fear and put yourself in a do or die situation makes you an exceptional individual and you should never forget that.
Change certainly is not easy, and entrepreneurship certainly is much harder than most believe it to be. The rewards are greater but very few reach the end, and while the rewards usually motivate the majority to start, it is the journey that creates some of today’s brightest and most innovative entrepreneurs. It is those that are in the game to prove their ability to have an impact on society greater than the one their past boss believed them to be capable of, that become the legends we talk about in our day to day lives. Most of those that start for the rewards usually miss the mark or simply fall short. Often due to the fact that they never anticipate the rewards to take so long to come and often underestimate the difficulties behind the execution of their idea. This often leads to giving up and letting go only to seek alternative means to be rewarded faster.
When I chose to let go of my job, I did so understanding that there is a chance I might fail but also a chance I might lose more than I started with. I also left with the understanding that we only have one chance at making the impact we want in the world, and even though many of you are waiting for you chance to come, I decided to create my own by taking a leap of faith, and believing in my own ability to bring forward the change I seek.
I quit my job because I believed in myself more than I believed in the organization or people I worked for, and that was a pretty good reason to do so. Despite many of you thinking that you would never let go of a 6 figure job without having alternatives waiting for you, I urge you to rethink your position on life in general. If it holds true that most of us want to matter in the world and have an impact on those around us in a positive and memorable way, then why help build someone else dream only to find yourself one day faced with termination or retirement. Despite one looking better than the other, they certainly are both very poor choices and should not be a part of your plan, but rather only a stepping stone into attaining the skills needed to use in the real world and to bring your very own vision to life.
One can argue that dropping a six figure job can be risky but I could argue that if you are not wiling to take risk, there can be no reward; and certainly not the reward I seek in my life. You get one life to truly live as you want, and that life is the one you have now. Regardless of what your past circumstance entails, it certainly doesn’t come with a disclosure that you cannot change your very own outcome at any time through you very own actions. On that note I will leave you with a saying I use quite often when coaching people and tell you that regardless of what your goals are, everyday you are dreaming of them, someone else is acting to reach them.
The bottom line is: Live the life you want so that life doesn’t create the person it wants. (<- Click to Tweet This)
If you could make one change, what would it be?
Pejman: I live with no regrets. All decisions or choices I’ve made have been backed by actions to make them count.
What drove you to start out on your own versus just going the corporate route?
Pejman: I didn’t want an ordinary life and therefore I knew I couldn’t work an ordinary job.
What advice do you have for young adults and college students when it comes to entrepreneurship and money?
Pejman: If there are three things I learned in my life early on that helped shape me, they are:
- Most value people by how much money they have made. I have always valued myself and others by how much of our fears we have conquered. The more you recognize your fears and are able to control them, the more you feel limitless.
- If you died tomorrow, what would you be remembered for? What would people who don’t know you say about you? What stories would they tell about you and what would they say you stood for? Whatever the answer is….is that what you WANT to be remembered for? If the answers are not the same, you are not living. You are only existing.
- Value time, not money. It’s easy to get lost wanting to make money, but then do you want that to be the answer to #2?
What I Learned From Pejman Ghadimi
Thank you Pejman for sharing your amazing story with us! I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions and share your insights with The College Investor readers. I always love hearing about individuals who left their “cushy” high level jobs and made the jump to self employment. When you talk about conquering fears, I can tell you that is one of my biggest.
Once again, I really found it interesting that Pejman only went to high school and not college. However, I strongly agree with his thoughts – “All I can say is that if you plan to skip college, make sure you have a plan and are willing to work harder to get there.” I think that hard work is key and hard work isn’t taught in schools. It’s an accumen acquired in life.
I’m also a huge believer in what Pejman said about risk and making money. I love how he said that owning a business doesn’t make you rich. In fact, I know a lot of business owners that struggle all the time to make ends meet. Pejman instead claims that risk is what make you rich. Going back to the business example, I would agree that the businesses that engage in smart risk taking are the ones who end up being successful. I’m also glad that Pejman pointed out that you can be a millionaire by staying the corporate world, but it will just come slower than other paths. This wasn’t a thought shared by others in the Better Know a Young Millionaire Series.
Finally, I love Pejman’s advice to college students. Live how you want to be remembered, and does your vision match that of others around you? I think that too many people have a distorted image of themselves, and it is sad. I think this exercise is valuable to make sure that what you are doing aligns with your personal goals and values.
What are your thoughts on risk vs. reward? What about valuing yourself on the fears you’ve conquered?