Deidre Woollard: Hello Fools. As I mentioned, my guest today is Glenn Stearns from Undercover Billionaire. He's going to be on in just a second. I'm really excited about this because I watch this show on Discovery. I was actually talking to a fellow Fool about it earlier about how much we liked the show. Just to let people know a little bit about you, because I think your story is so fantastic. You became a mortgage lender at the age of 25. But you had interesting upbringing. You were dyslexic, you fathered a child while you were still in high school. How did mortgage lending change your life?
Glenn Stearns: Well, let's start with the high school thing. I was actually in eighth grade when I had a child. What it did was it really setup for my life to see that sometimes these obstacles in your way and these things that can cause you this great grief from where you think your life is over, actually can be wonderful lessons and things that can turn your life around in ways you never ever expected. Growing up rough being dyslexic and having some issues with learning, it was all wonderful where I didn't realize it, but just a setup for the future because little things like in business, they are just actual little problems that all we have to do is just put our minds to it and fix these issues. It's not that big of a deal. It's just collaborating, getting people together and say how we're going to fix this one? When you look at it that way and think, "Oh it's not the end of the world," life becomes a little easier.
Deidre Woollard: I love that. Is that part of why you wanted to do Undercover Billionaire? Was that idea of showing people that it's really possible to start from anywhere and build something?
Glenn Stearns: Yeah, I really did. I was in a place that I had it all. I had sold my business and I was not in need of to prove anything at that point. I was going around the world in a boat. I had my family and life was great. People kept asking me about what don't you want to do this show. I had a lot of people asking me about shows and I'd always turn them down. I said, I will do one show. That has start me out again from ground zero with no contacts, no money. I bet I could do it over again. I would say that over and over again to these producers that would come in. I know most people don't get producers coming to them every day and that's weird. But 15 years earlier, I did a show and I had won. That's why people kept coming back to me asking, "You want to do another show?" But I always said no. What really happened was I got cancer about seven years ago. When that happened, it really changed my perspective again. Life is about living. Life is about solving problems. It's about feeling alive, and making a difference in the world. When we sit back, we get older, we get comfortable, we start to tuck-in. We don't want to risk anymore. Why don't we want to risk? It doesn't make any sense to me. I changed my perspective. I thought why not? There's risk. By the way, I'm not risking money. I'm risking my reputation. I'm risking everything that I've built for 30 years. To me that was worth a lot more than money. The outcome was wonderful because it showed hard work. It showed what it takes to have integrity and get along with other people and build teams and do the things that you do in life and is all compressed in these 90 days.
Deidre Woollard: What I've really loved about that too, was this idea that the way that you've built wealth was also partly community, was that the way that you created on Undercover Billionaire, you started talking to people. Why is that so important when you're thinking about trying to level up in the world at all?
Glenn Stearns: Well, I think that, to much is given much is required. When you look at life, it's not about getting as much money as you can. A lot of people think that's the goal. Man, when I have a lot of money, I'm going to be able to do anything. I think money is a great magnifier. If you're a miserable human being, get a lot of money, guess what? You're even more miserable. If you are a healthy human being and you get money, you can do things. You can help by going out and being much more philanthropic. You can grow, you can create dreams. When you look at people and what it takes, it's the ultimate goal, I hope we all realize this, is at the end of the day and that last breath, you are satisfied with the person you are, you have done and created a lot of happiness in the world and you feel fulfilled and that's important. It doesn't mean you have the most money. Money is one form of currency. It's not the best or the biggest form of currency. Happiness, health, my goodness. These are the things that are important in life. If you have that and you create other people who believe that then yeah, money will follow if you do it correctly. But it's not all about that. When you stop chasing the dollar, and I see a lot of these guys out here, these raw rod guys, and it's all about the money. Well, I think it's a good stick if you would like that but it's all about the happiness. It's all about fulfillment and yes, money can get you a lot of those things, but it can also magnify your life in a lot of ways that maybe you don't want. You got to be able to be prepared for the good and the bad.
Deidre Woollard: One of the things that I'd love so much about the show is that you showed other people how to believe in themselves. I loved it when you were flipping the house, if that was part of it. But also as real estate investor, I'm curious why flipping a house? Why was that something that you thought about in terms of, "I have to make some money here?"
Glenn Stearns: Well, again it was a slow climb. How do you go from $100 up to a million dollars. What are the ways to leverage things? If you think about it, anything we have, if we take something and we can create value, other people, hopefully we will see that and they're willing to pay for it. In the fact of if you take an old beat up car and you shine it up a little bit, so people can understand and see the dream, then they'll pay a little more for it. If you do the same thing by going to a beat up house and you fix it, someone can walk in, you've done a lot of the dirty work, so to speak. You've done the hard work of getting it so that they can see the dream, they can realize it. They're going to pay a little more than what you paid hopefully. Flipping to me is not just taking something and trying to say, "Let's see if we can buy it from somebody a little under market and sell it to somebody else a little above market." That's not flipping. You have to create value. You have to get something and make it worth more to other people. That house in the show, that was the idea. It turned out to be a little more than I wanted. There was mold and there's all things in there. I didn't have a lot of time, so it's harder than I thought. That's also a great reality of life, is you'd be careful what you wish for and also be prepared for things not to go your way and it didn't.
Deidre Woollard: [laughs] Which is what made it interesting. [laughs]
Glenn Stearns: Yeah, absolutely.
Deidre Woollard: You live in LA, you've traveled all over the world, and then you're in that town in the Midwest. I think you fell in love with it a little bit. Do you feel like people should go out and explore some of the towns in this country that get a bad rap, that are considered to be in the Rust Belt or something like that?
Glenn Stearns: Absolutely. When we took the year-and-a-half off, when I did, I took my family and we went around the world. We went on a boat and when the boat would go through places like Suez Canal or somewhere that we didn't want to be on, we'd go and get in a car and drive Africa, South Africa, or we drive in India or everywhere Europe and we'd spend a month at a time, just being out and sitting and, visiting a city and saying, let's stay and get to know people and do those things and then you really get to see it from a different perspective. Again, when we drive through anywhere we don't get to feel the heartbeat and so I get to really understand what area was about and it's surprising because it's really entrepreneurial. There's a lot of people in their that are small business people trying to just get a break and trying to really grow something and they have a dream. By being able to see that when I first drove through, it looked like these abandoned buildings everywhere that have been thriving in the '50s and you could see the potential that the city ones had and then when you get in there you're thinking, wow dilapidation, this is what a terrible story. But the real story was inside those buildings where little entrepreneurs are growing their own businesses and I got to understand it a lot better and appreciate it.
Deidre Woollard: I love that so much. Your life has been such an interesting journey. You've built well. What do you wish you had known when you were young and what do you try to teach your children or other people that are starting out? What lessons do you give them?
Glenn Stearns: I probably wouldn't sweat the small stuff so much. When things don't go right again and that is constant. That's the one thing is they don't go the way we plan them. You don't need to beat up people. Again, when I grew up, the movie Wall Street was out and it was popular and it was Gordon Gekko and it was you're young and and the killer be killed. It was a big macho world and what I realized is the world can use more kindness and you don't have to be this business guy that rules through fear. That you can really bring people together and make people feel good and they will move mountains for you. What I learned and it took a while was just to really bring people together and explain and help them see their own potential that maybe they don't even realize they have and once you empower them, anything is possible.
Deidre Woollard: Yeah. I think that we saw that in the show that you've really learned what people wanted and tried to help them get closer to that goal.
Glenn Stearns: Felt good. Here was an interior designer, and here was a guy that worked from a trash man to his own t-shirt shop and was a small entrepreneur and all these guys that were in their own scrap yard working and they didn't know their own potential and so by going in there and saying, "I believe in you, I know that you can do this," and they say, "I've never done this before." I'd say, "But you can do it. You've got the talent and you are a hard worker," and just planting that seed is all it takes and then people want to prove you're right. People want to show themselves that they can do something that has been mostly outside of the scope of what they ever thought they can do and so when you have that, I think you end up in a place where people will outperform anything that they ever expected in their own lives, anything that they ever thought they could ever do.
Deidre Woollard: Absolutely. You already mentioned that you had cancer and I think it's really important that you've been out and public with that journey. I think that it really helps people that may be going through that to see someone else got through it. What do they teach you and what do you thinking about some of the breakthroughs that we see right now, obviously there's a lot of money going toward different innovations, are you optimistic?
Glenn Stearns: Yeah. Again, we're all dying, there's no getting out of that. It's like how, and how long, and what can we do to help maybe keep the journey going a little longer. By getting a glimpse of the fact that I am a mere mortal, I'm not immortal, it changed my perspective because when you face it and when you think this could be it, I can be gone in a month or six months or whatever and it gets you into that place that I was telling you, don't sweat the small stuff. It doesn't really matter. When you get into a place where perspective is all about, am I going to put my energy into this? There's only so many seconds that I have and why am I going to waste a bunch of them on something that I can't change or it won't make a difference anyway, regardless. It begins to give you a place and so I found that having it, forget about the pain and all the problems you go through, but when you step out of it and you realize that the perspective of life being short and people are innately good and that they try and that they mask their pain through different ways. When you get to a realization than it's all about love and it's all about care, and it's all about these things, these emotions, that can help us in business, it can help us in family, that can help us in a lot of other ways. When you sit down and negotiate with people, when you start to understand the other side more. When you get that you will achieve your goals faster because you'll be able to really live in someone else's shoes and see things from another side.
Deidre Woollard: I love that because I feel like a lot of times people try to separate business from people and business is people. Emotion is absolutely part of entrepreneurship and business and investing; it's all connected.
Glenn Stearns: That's right. Absolutely.
Deidre Woollard: You mentioned kindness earlier and I noticed that you have a new business called Kind Lending, so I had to ask about that and why entrepreneurship again and why lending again for you?
Glenn Stearns: It really came back from the show. I had sold my business and I had a non-compete, so I wasn't able to get back in. I was out enjoying the world. But then by building back that business on the show, it made me realize how much I missed it. Then when I read about that time, the company that bought my company right about when I did the show, they went through a reorganization which wiped out everything that I owned and it wiped out my non-compete. So I thought this is a perfect time; I have the opportunity now to go back into the business so I did. But what I realized was that our industry, and I think the world almost, had gone through the shift where people were a little more quick to judge and quick to maybe forget about other people's feelings. Maybe that has to do with the Internet, maybe that's to do with you got your keyboard warriors and all these people. I thought, "I don't just want to company, I want something that's going to change lives. I want something that has a bigger purpose." After thinking about it, Kind Lending sound pretty good because I want it to be about kindness. Again, our number 1 currency is not money here. By the way, in the first eight months of our business we have become the 23rd largest lender.
Deidre Woollard: Wow.
Glenn Stearns: Not too bad, out of, whatever, 400 and something lenders. We grew pretty quickly. What took me 15 years last time, took us a very short time to get here and under a year. All of that has come from, I think, attracting the right people. We know who the right people are because I have been in this business for a long time. But also, I wanted to put together the people that weren't in the old Gordon Gekko days, but that were in today's world of that we got to care about our own people. If you care about your employee and you make sure they feel joy and happiness, fulfillment that they know that they matter then they will do anything. They will stay late, they will do whatever they need to do to help the customer, and then everybody benefits. But if you just think that money is going to help that misery; the higher the misery index, the more money you pay people that will keep them to stay, the more you do that, "Hey, I'm here, it's five o'clock I got to go I put my time in," versus somebody that really feels pride. What are they going to do? "You know what, I'm going to help the customers," or "Maybe I need to log in after work," or "Maybe I need to come in on a Saturday." I'm not asking these people to do that. They want to help so that we show this place matters, it's different. When you get that its magic.
Deidre Woollard: Why is it that lending drew you back? You'd already had a successful business with lending and then you wanted to come back to it. What is it about that particular business that draws you, that keeps it exciting for you?
Glenn Stearns: It's a million stories. It's the million different people that have their first home they've ever had, they've got their children, they've worked their tails off, and now they get to reach this goal that they never thought they'd reach. It's about having and living lives with people and being able to celebrate and to laugh and to cry. The other day I was in a meeting, sitting in this office with four people and in walk two cops and everyone in the company is on nervous. They want to see. Glenn, what's going on? The cop comes in my door here and I'm going, "Rudy Mayorca." I did loans for all seven of his brothers. I did loans for his mom and his grandad since 1988. It's about family, it's not about transactional. It's about personal, it's about making a difference. I have been in that family life, I've been to weddings and funerals, they've been to my wedding. That's what this is about; it's very personal. I enjoy this type of business where you really can get that deep with people. Again, it's a people business, so why not? I mean, again, it fit very well with our lifestyle and why we'd like to feel fulfilled in our lives.
Deidre Woollard: What is your end goal with this business? Do you want to build it as big as your previous business? Is it a legacy for your family? What are you hoping for?
Glenn Stearns: I could say it's a legacy. I don't have an exit strategy. I don't want to go public. I'm not here to try to see if I can make more money than the guy across the street. I like what we do a lot, I love what we do, and so I want to keep it growing. Yeah, it'd fun to go from number 23 to number 10, to number 4, to number 2, that's fun, it's a game. It's, "Can we keep going to the next spot?" But if we can keep growing and learning and building, that's what it's about to feel you're moving down the track the right direction. But just having people feel valued and having homeowners feel appreciated, that works. I think it works for a lot of people that are in this industry that really care. When it becomes transactional and we forget about that stuff, that's just a job, you can get that anywhere.
Deidre Woollard: That is fantastic There's a second season of Undercover Billionaire, and I've been watching a little bit of that. You've got some other successful entrepreneurs. They're trying to replicate what you did, they're having various levels of success. Not so much success; certainly COVID played a role there with Grant Cardone. What did you learn from their journeys? Are you enjoying watching that process?
Glenn Stearns: I've enjoyed it. I actually ended up being an Executive Producer on that show. Then we did another show called Undercover Billionaire Comeback City, which is on Discovery Plus right now. By watching Monique and Grant and Elaine, there's different ways to skin the cat. You don't have to go at it the way I do it. Grant, 180 degrees different than the way I do things. Some people are very attracted to that style, other people aren't. That works with me as well and works with Elaine and Monique, everybody's different. What you get, I hope, if you're an entrepreneur and you want to see, you don't have to follow what I do, follow what fits closer to your personality. By seeing now four different people all go for a goal of building a business from nothing, you can say, "Well, that's more of my style." Whatever one it is. You hopefully can gain something and learn something from it. I find it fascinating to see, "I wouldn't have thought of that." I think it's funny. By the way, I have ribbed Grant a few times by saying, "Grant, you already saw what I did and you saw what you wouldn't do." I said I was thrown out there going, "Where do I go?" I had no clue. We joke, but it's fun to watch other people do it.
Deidre Woollard: I think everybody thought it was going to be a lot easier than it was. I think maybe you made it look a little too easy.
Glenn Stearns: [laughs] It was a lot of pain, trust me; a lot of pain. Also not only that, but there's a few times when in the middle of it, I realize it was a bad idea. I had Richard Branson and John Elway and a few other people telling me, "Glenn, don't do it. All you're going to do, what upside is there?" When I was sitting in the middle, especially if you saw the show, at the rib fest, I remember, I would see a stare on the show and it's me going, "This is the worst mistake of my life. I need to run, maybe they won't make the show if I quit right now." That's life where we have that devil on our show saying, "Give up. Give up. Give up." It's when you say, "No. I'm going to keep going and keep going," that you've become proud of yourself on what you do in life. That was just a true tiny microcosm of reality. I'm real proud of the fact that when you don't give up, when you are in a hole, that's when you shine or you don't. If you're going to tuck your head in, then you're not going to ever get anywhere. That's when you have to realize it's your turn. It's your turn to show how strong you can be. I enjoyed being tested like that. I think it's important for people to realize their tests about who you are as a person. Don't think it's the end of your life just because you're in a hole; just dig it yourself out of it.
Deidre Woollard: I love that so much. I think that's the perfect place for us to end things. Thank you so much for your time. Just a reminder to everybody who is listing, go check out Undercover Billionaire. These shows, I think, really have some great lessons for people, for investors. It's a good show to watch with your kids. I really love what you did. Thank you.
Glenn Stearns: I appreciate it, thank you. Thanks for having me on the show, I enjoyed it.