Brian Robben is a three-time Amazon bestselling author and the founder of TakeYourSuccess.com. We recently talked with Brian to hear his advice on managing personal finances, starting a business, and achieving your highest potential in life.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Why did you decide to start the Take Your Success blog?
I always knew I wanted to do big things. For the first three years of college, I prepared myself to get accepted to Harvard Law School. I set my eyes on HLS because I knew that’s a tall mountain to climb and it would bring out my best work ethic, competitiveness, and commitment.
In my senior year of college, my feelings about law school changed. Mainly, I discovered that entrepreneurship was a taller mountain to climb, plus it provided a whole lot more freedom than being a lawyer. So I created Take Your Success in my college bedroom at Miami University and haven’t ever looked back.
What are some of the common obstacles that prevent people from reaching their maximum potential?
Largely, I’d say fear plays a major role in roadblocking people’s potential. It’s different for everyone, but it could be fear of what their friends or family think, fear they will fail, or fear they will succeed and not know how to handle it.
And quite honestly, many people want to live life in the comfortable slow lane. By doing so, they never realize that the uncomfortable fast lane is where all the growth and fun happens.
When it comes to saving and investing money, what’s the one thing that most people do incorrectly?
Well, they foolishly don’t save enough and don’t invest enough.
To answer the question fairly, a critical mistake I see is people trying to get too cute with their investments and losing hard-earned money. Don’t waste your money (and time) on your friend’s startup, penny stocks, derivatives, forex, or other unproven investments unless you’re an expert – which disqualifies 99.9% of people.
My philosophy is to stay boring and get rich. Invest in Vanguard index funds, set up automatic monthly contributions, and increase those monthly investments over time. You’ll end up with a boatload of cash at the end of your journey.
For people who are wanting to get rid of their credit card or student loan debt, what kind of advice would you give them?
Get in attack mode. Mentally, you have to own the debt, and then make a plan to pay it down.
That may mean working longer hours, taking on an extra job, saving aggressively, or all three. Do what you need to do to pay it off, because the first step to financial freedom is getting out of debt. And those interest rates on credit card debts are especially deadly, so that should be your first order of business before any investing.
Finish this sentence: “When negotiating a salary for a new job or promotion, the most important thing you should do is…”
Build as much leverage as possible. Leverage mainly comes in the form of other job offers if you’re an applicant, or excellent performance if you’re a current employee.
Here’s why: when you have leverage, you’re the one with the winning poker hand. If you have no other job offers or options, you’ll only be bluffing because you need them more than they need you. To come out on top, you want them to need you more than you need them.
What kinds of financial preparations should someone make so that they are ready to pursue their dream when the opportunity presents itself?
Save as much money as you can while leading up to it. And you don’t need a business loan. Because as long as you have an audience willing to pay for your service or product, that’s all the money you need to get started. And if you don’t have an audience saying they will pay for your product, then you shouldn’t be going into business just on a whim.
It’s nice that if you have sound personal finance intelligence, you can essentially follow the same strategies for your business – at least in the beginning.
What are some practical money-saving tips for those people who are just starting out with a dream and very little money or income?
On a high-level, you just need to be hungry and really want it.
For example, although I could afford a fancy downtown apartment, I decided to live at home for a few years after college. Is it a sacrifice? Of course. But did the extra cash help me build and invest in my business? Yes, and that’s exactly what I mean by wanting it at all costs.
After you commit to wanting it, some practical advice is to:
– Pay yourself first (before paying any bills)
– Live cheaply (don’t waste money trying to impress anyone, i.e. go without the fancy car, clothes, watch)
– Keep track of all expenses, and eliminate waste (I use mint.com)
– Set specific, dated financial goals for yourself and your business
You’ll know you’re saving enough money when it creates discomfort in your life.
Once someone’s business starts producing some profit, what are some prudent financial steps to take in order to maximize the chances of long-term success and survival?
Double down on what’s producing the profit to increase the cash coming in. That could mean creating another similar product or investing more money to market the current offering to get more customers.
Many businesses fail from a lack of cash coming from a lack of sales, which comes from a lack of marketing and brand awareness. People can’t buy from you when they don’t know you or your company.
Losing control of your debt? See if you qualify.