Episode 299 — Undercover Billionaire — Glenn Stearns
Episode 299 — Undercover Billionaire — Glenn Stearns
Glenn Stearns was born to alcoholic parents, diagnosed dyslexic, and failed 4th grade. He fathered a child at the age of 14 and graduated high school in the bottom ten-percent of his class. While some of his friends lost their lives to drugs and alcohol, and others spent time in prison, Glenn’s path intersected with mentors who gave him motivating examples of how to not meet the fate of his friends and instead take control of his destiny. He took that life-changing encouragement and ran with it. Glenn became the first person in his family to attend college and graduated with a degree in economics from Towson University. Inspired by stories of people who took risks and achieved their grandest ambitions, he then moved to California where he slept on the kitchen floor of a one-bedroom apartment that he shared with five other recent grads. While waiting tables, Glenn continued to search for new opportunities to rise above his humble beginnings.
At 25, after working as a loan officer for 10 months, Glenn formed his own mortgage company Stearns Lending. By 2010, Stearns Lending reached nearly $1 billion a month in funding while experiencing record growth. Stearns not only survived the 2007 mortgage-lending crisis, it emerged as one of the top lenders in the country. Glenn attributes his resilience to putting “people before profit” and having transparent integrity in lending standards. Since 2010, Stearns Lending has funded over 150-billion dollars in loans, making the corporation America’s #1 Wholesale Lender in 2013. The company has helped nearly 1,000,000 families achieve home ownership. In 2014, Blackstone purchased the majority share of Stearns Lending for an undisclosed sum.
Glenn is also the founder of Anivive Life Science, Stearns Wholesale, Stearns Holdings, Stearns Ventures, Artemis Holdings, TriVerify, TriMavin, United Housing Services, Inc., and Mortgage Services Providers Holdings. He is an investor in Indi.com and Lender Price and the largest shareholder of California-based Infinity bank.
In 2011, he was inducted into The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. This Award is given to individuals in recognition of personal and professional success despite humble and challenging beginnings, in addition to personal initiatives and accomplishments in giving back to others. In 2013, he became the youngest Member elected to the Horatio Alger Association’s prestigious Board of Directors.
Glenn and his wife Mindy are very active in the community having been honored for their dedication to community service and philanthropy with Muhammad Ali’s Parkinson’s Foundation “Couple of the Year” Award, Starkey Hearing Foundation’s “American Couple of the Year,” Orange County’s “Giving is Living Award” and the Orangewood Children’s Foundation’s “Golden Heart Award”.
In this Podcast, Glenn shares his wisdom about getting out of your comfort zone and leadership, resilience and failure; his thoughts about “overnight success” stories and the boundaries between mentors and friends, as well as his definition of the American Dream.
Glenn Stearns’ Website: https://www.glennstearns.com/about
Undercover Billionaire on Discovery: https://www.discovery.com/profiles/glenn-stearns—undercover-billionaire
Kind Lending Website: https://www.kindlending.com
Glenn Stearns on Twitter: @GlennStearns (https://twitter.com/glennstearns?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor)
Glenn Stearns on IG: @GlennStearns
Glenn Stearns on FB: @GlennBStearns
[07:50] Glenn Stearns Introduces Himself
[08:45] Glenn Talks About Undercover Billionaire
[12:24] Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone
[19:57] Perfection as a Form of Procrastination
[21:15] Failure and Resilience
[29:45] Finding a Team — and the Power of Delegating
[33:46] How to Become a Leader
[41:21] How to Get Other People Invested in Your Vision
[46:43] The American Dream
EPISODE 299 — UNDERCOVER BILLIONAIRE — GLENN STEARNS
This is Allan McKay. Welcome to Episode 299! I’m sitting down with Glenn Stearns from the show Undercover Billionaire. I’m super excited for this Episode.
I started watching this show called Undercover Billionaire on which Glenn Stearns, who is really successful, decided to prove to himself that he could do it all over again. This is a testament that we all have that imposter syndrome. The idea is that he’d have 90 days to build a business that’s valued at a million dollars. But the terms were that he couldn’t have his phone to call up his friends (to ask for investments), and he’d be dropped off in an unknown location with a new idea. It was about the failure that he’d endure all the time, but the perseverance showed how much committed he was.
I always say that failure is part of the process. So many of us stop once we hit that wall. After watching this show, I had to get Glenn on the Podcast. Hearing his story is really inspiring. One of the things I noticed was his outlook on opportunities. He sees opportunity everywhere. That’s really inspiring! Glenn also talks about getting out of your comfort zone and getting past perfectionism; as well as how to build and lead teams.
Next week, I’m releasing Episode 300! Mike Janda interviews me on that Episode, so make sure to tune in!
Finally, I have a new free course available right now on How to Become Profitable as an Artist. Check it out at www.Branding10x.com.
Let’s dive in!
FIRST THINGS FIRST:
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INTERVIEW WITH GLENN STEARNS
[07:50] Allan: Again, Glenn, thanks so much for joining me! Do you want to quickly introduce yourself?
Glenn: I am Glenn Stearns. I am a businessman and a Founder of Kind Lending. I’ve been in that industry for 30+ years. I also do a little show called Undercover Billionaire which came out of another show I did 15 years ago. People kept asking me, “Will you do another show?” I kept saying no. But then I thought, you can drop me off anywhere in the country and I bet I can start over. It was one of those “be careful what you wish for” situations. I ended up doing that and it took me out of what I do everyday. I’ve been able to do a bit of mentoring and business.
[08:45] Allan: I definitely want to talk about the show. I discovered it fairly recently. Your story and your perseverance, dealing with so many setbacks, you never backed down. And so many people believed in your cause. Can you give a quick premise of the show?
Glenn: Sure! The idea was that people were pitching me different ideas, but what I was interested in seeing is if I could ever start over again. I was very fortunate to sell a business in which we did over 26 billion dollars in sales in the mortgage industry. I sold it to a private equity group. Then I was saying, “What’s next?” With the show, I was saying, “What if I could start over again but I had no name, no money, no reputation? Could I do it again?” It’s a wild idea. What if you were able to go back in time with what you already know? We all think that. By the power of tv, they put me back in time: I went into a city where I’ve never been before. They gave me $100 and told me to build a business worth a million dollars over a hundred days. That was the premise. The reality is that why in the world would anyone want to do that? I’ve already made it: I was sitting on my boat. I had my helicopter on the boat. My life was pretty sweet. Why would I start over? And what if I failed? I thought, “Do I really want to risk all that?” Then I thought what better thing would I do? The older and the more successful we get, [the more] we tuck in and we don’t want to risk anymore. I did not want to be that guy. I’ve gone through cancer twice. My kids got to see the sick dad, not the fighter [dad]. I decided I’d go for it. For me, that’s what life is about: It’s about taking chances and being proud of yourself, and doing the best you can.
[12:24] Allan: I love that! I relay everything back to Rocky. In Rocky 3, he’s gotten quite comfortable. A lot of us get comfortable. How important is it, do you think, to get out of your comfort zone?
Glenn: [12:55] Whenever I start to get comfortable, to me it’s a huge warning sign. You don’t grow, you just get fat and happy. When I’ve been around some amazing people who were 95 or a 100 years old and I’d ask them, “What’s the secret?” They’d answer, “Keep moving, keep thinking, keep working!” It’s not [about] working but doing what you love and stretching your ability. When you do that, you’re alive. But when you do get comfortable, you slow down and don’t take chances anymore. I don’t want to be that person. When I got out there in 2008 when the financial crisis happened, I had $100 million in buybacks, I had class action lawsuits, I lost 85% of my business. I thought, “How am I going to get out of this one?” I just wrote down every issue I had, and I told every single person, “Look, I don’t know I’ll dig myself out of this, but I want to know where you stand with me.” When I got through, every single group said they’d work with me. When you address things head on and you decide to look at the issue, you can get things done. I loved digging myself out of the hole. I loved that feeling of being alive. I wanted to try with this series to get myself in the hole again and dig out. I realized, “Maybe I won’t be able to dig myself out. Why in the world would I want to do that with the whole world watching?” It became real. It became about my reputation. I dug myself out and realized this is why I do this. Everytime we’re in a hole, we think, “This is the big one!” That’s just the bad guys in your ear saying, “Give up!” It felt different this time because I had millions of people watching me and I felt the pressure. In the end, I fought through it and I enjoyed the experience. I like the feeling after you’re out!
[16:32] Allan: That’s great! It’s so inspiring! Did you expect it to be easy in the beginning? And did having accountability help you follow through?
Glenn: I didn’t expect it to be easy. But I’ll tell you what (and I don’t know if people will like this or not): I didn’t think about it that much. I didn’t plan the show. The people have done things completely different. I was on my boat [with] John Elway, and in came the Discovery group and said, “Let’s go!” We jumped on the helicopter and the next thing I know, we’re in Pennsylvania and the lake was frozen. They gave me $100 and an old pickup truck. I didn’t think past that and I liked that. It’s probably good to have a roadmap, but I’ve always been the one to be excited about what’s around the corner (instead of being afraid of what’s around the corner). I don’t want to know. [18:30] Sometimes, we plan and plan and we want to make it right. And by that time, the opportunity is long gone. We missed it because we’re afraid to have action. When you have action, you’re going to have an answer and you may not like the answer. What if they say, “No”? But if we don’t ask the question, we live in the world of maybes and it’s comforting to not know. No is a great answer to start with! But guess what, it also may be yes! I went out there not knowing what I was going to do. I found out a couple of days later (which they didn’t show on the show), I ended up couch-surviving on a lot of people’s couches. It was great! I found myself in a free bed every night. So just go for it — and figure it out! Don’t sit and say, “I still have a lot of planning to do because I want it perfect.”
[19:57] Allan: I think planning is always necessary but it can also be a form of procrastination.
Glenn: Amen! It’s a necessary place to be. As you get bigger, you can have people help you plan it. But to me, it’s also about time and timing. It’s about getting out there and bumping up against issues you may not know about. You do want to go at it with some reality of what you’ll be facing. In my life, I wouldn’t have done half the things I’ve done if I knew the pain I was going to go through. They say ignorance is bliss, and I’d rather not know at times. I want to power through it. If you want to get something done, it’s not that necessary to know everything you’re going to go through.
[21:15] Allan: You can get overwhelmed by the big picture. There is a Mike Tyson quote, “Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face.” It’s either adapt or die. For me, the biggest question is how do you interpret failure? People are either afraid of it or they think it’s the end. For me, a negotiation starts with a no. How do you treat failure?
Glenn: I became good friends with Richard Branson and I asked him about failure. And he never mentioned the word or gave me examples of failures. But he gave me examples of learning. He got so much out of it. I’ve thought about, “What have I failed at?” I had a lot of things go wrong, but after a while I realized I needed to pivot out of that. But I never thought, “I failed at that.” And if you take that away, then you are taking the negative. [23:36] You can’t go back and change the past. Then why dwell on it? Just take it and learn from it. Find great mentors — people that have already been beaten up — and learn off of them. Then you won’t stumble as much. That’s a big issue to deal with. If you live in the world of failure, if you think you can or if you think you can’t — you’re right. So it’s important to believe you can and then figure out all the little pitfalls and go, “Ooh, that was a good lesson right there.” And keep going!
The other thing is that when it gets hard, we say, “Wrong industry!” or “Wrong timing!” Wrong whatever! I don’t think that’s right. I’ll give you an example. I was at Camden Yards, the stadium in Baltimore. We walk out of the stadium and there is a bar, and there are a million people there. My buddy says [about the owner], “That guy is a lucky guy!” I said it’s a great example of luck: That bar has been there for a hundred years. It was there when the warehouse district was empty. Then one day, someone parked a stadium across the street. No one was there before. It was about that guy’s staying power. Now all of a sudden, you’re a lucky bastard. You worked for it, you earned it! You went through the pain no one had seen before! That’s the reality of a lot of this overnight success. It’s never overnight. People put in a lot of effort. Sure there are one-offs, but that’s so rare! I’m not thinking I’m going to win the lottery. It’s about thinking about how you’re going to put yourself through your own situation.
[26:33] Allan: I love it! I was just having that conversation yesterday. There is that cheesy metaphor about the iceberg and the massive part of it under the water. On that topic, how does your brain work in terms of looking for opportunity? Successful people look for opportunity everywhere. Other people can walk on by and not see it.
Glenn: I’m not sure how that comes about. I’ve stood in line at a grocery store with a friend, and I’d hear a person ahead of us talking about a home loan, and I’d give them my business card. I’d say to my friend, “Why don’t you [approach them]?” “Oh, well, I don’t want to bother them.” That’s your job! I remember when I was young, I went to a housing development and the office was so crowded. I walk in there and see a hundred home buyers. I don’t know why people can’t see it [when they’re sitting in the middle of a goldmine]. It seems so darn easy to me! There is opportunity everywhere when you look! You can see that, if you open your eyes.
[29:45] Allan: That must be frustrating! One thing you mentioned about finding mentors, knowing that some people have money, they most likely don’t have time. Do you go about getting educated about a topic? Is it about picking up some key books or the right people?
Glenn: I think everyone has time for what they’re interested in. If you really want to get involved in something, you make the time for it. As you get busier, you can build a team around you that can help you get things done. I got a job in 1985 at TGI Friday’s. My first day of the job, it was the busy part of lunch. I had my hot food up, my drinks waiting to go out, I had to cash out another guy and put in another customer’s order. And I froze! This guy comes running up to me, and I couldn’t even speak. So this guy delegates my orders to other people. All of a sudden, I had nothing to do. The art of delegation! After that, it became really easy to be a waiter. We all helped each other.
When you have something that’s important to you, you make the time to figure out how you’re going to spend your time. The things that aren’t that important, you have other people do. Sometimes we think we’re the only ones that know how to do that job. If you really want to grow your company, you have to get out of your own way. People are afraid of that. My friend was always afraid that someone would come in and use his copy machine to make fliers, so he’d guard everything. But he never grew big. And I sleep well at night. I’m not going to worry about that. I need my time off. We began to grow because we trusted people. And we found good people. (And if they weren’t good, we’d have to replace them.) But when you find a good team, you empower them. If you think you’re the only one who can do it, it’s impossible to do it all.
[33:46] Allan: I think a lot of people have that mentality. Selfishly, I want to know when do you find it’s time to take yourself out of your business and make it a self sustained machine?
Glenn: I’ve always, for whatever reason, thought I wanted to replace myself. I was a loan officer and I wanted to find other loan officers to do my job, so I could go to the brokers. Then I got good at taking the brokers’ business. Then I became the largest wholesaler in the country doing that. I’ve always found ways to replace myself. There is another thing that happens: Sometimes people become afraid that someone else might outshine them. I’ve never felt that way. I graduated with something like a 2.16 GPA. I was not the brightest guy in school. But finding other people to gather around me made me look better. So if you can find the best people, you aren’t going to get replaced. You’re going to look great! I’ve seen too many people when people are afraid to hire people that are stronger than them, and they have a really weak division or company. It doesn’t work out well.
[36:13] Allan: Their insecurities are holding them back, as well as everyone else. When watching your show, I found your perseverance so inspiring! What really spoke to me as well is how you got so many people to believe in you, especially since they didn’t know what was at stake. Unlike most people, you’re willing to be transparent and serve other people’s needs before your own. What is your secret sauce for leadership?
Glenn: When you see a big event, we think, “How did that start?” It started with just one person that had an idea. Everything starts with one person with an idea. How in the world did it get that big? [37:59] It’s the people that aren’t afraid to dream big. We all have hopes and dreams, but not everyone is good at articulating that idea. The better you become at articulating that idea, the better you are at making people understand what they’ll share in that joy (be it the profits or the ownership). It’s about being able to articulate that idea and getting them to invest in that idea.
A little backstory: In the mortgage business, we ask realtors if they had sold a home, would they give us the loan? That process of asking all the time is a hard sell. What I used to do is go on local news and talk about loan programs. I would get hundreds of people responding that they’d want to get one of our loans. I’d get their information and give the realtors a sale. They would make the commission. Instead of asking, I was giving. All I wanted was a loan. Now, you’re in for a different reason. It’s similar: You take people and help them see a vision of how you can help them. In my case, in Undercover Billionaire, it’s about how we can help someone. I picked small business owners and they said yes to things. To this day, these people are so proud of being a part of the Underdog BBQ (which is what came out of that).
[41:21] Allan: You’ve talked about mentorship and borrowing people’s experience. Do you have any advice on how to get the attention of busy people and how to get them to get invested?
Glenn: It’s interesting when you’re in [that] position. You may not have enough experience or success yet, so how are you going to get their attention? The older folks have so much experience and they’d love to tell their story. They’d love to help! All it takes is a person saying to take them out for lunch or coffee, just to hear their story. When I came to Orange County, I knew who the people in the society pages were. If ever I could get to a function, I’d introduce myself to them. “I love what you’ve done. If you ever have time, I’d love to have lunch!” Eventually, that worked and I could get in with some people that wanted to tell their story. Then it spreads. You try to get into their circle. I don’t believe that cold calling their offices works. You may need to attend a charity event, or something like that. I’ve never said not to a person who said, “I’d really like to get to know your story”. Afterward, when they say, “Now, I’m ready to ask you for a loan,” they’d crossed the line. If you’re working an angle, you’ve crossed the line.
With my two biggest mentors, George Argyros and Robert Day, it was wonderful to know these guys. When 2007 hit, everything was upside down and I didn’t know how I was going to get out. They came to me wanting to buy half my company. I thought it over, “I am so over the moon and I’m so excited to work with you!” They told me to name my price. I thought about it again and said, “There is not enough money in the world to [compensate] for the change in our dynamic / relationship. I love our friendship and I could use the money. But I could use your mentorship in a stronger way.” I figured a way out of that situation anyway. That’s what has kept us so close to this day. They’re dear, dear friends.
[46:43] Allan: I thank you for this life changing advice! I wish more people understood the importance of healthy relationships. What is your take on this: How would you describe the American Dream, according to Glenn Stearns?
Glenn: I grew up with alcoholic parents, with drugs in their lives. I was in an apartment building that had bars on the windows. It wasn’t a great start! I failed fourth grade. I had a child when I was 14 years old. I got off to a lot of difficult beginnings. And then I went to college. Then I traveled across the country with a friend of mine, and slept on the floor and started to become a waiter. Then I got into mortgage banking and grew my mortgage company. I watched it rising and falling. I grew a business that I was proud of. In this country, there is opportunity especially if you’re willing to work for it and sacrifice; do things most people aren’t willing to do. That doesn’t make someone better than another person. When I’m working until [8:00] or [9:00] at night, other guys are coaching their son’s Little League. Who is doing it right? Later on in life, I get to take my family around the world in a boat, all because of sacrifices I made. Everyone does it differently. We have the opportunity to be as great as we want. That’s the wonderful part of this country: having a choice and deciding where you want to go.
[50:01] Allan: Thank you for all of this! Your advice is really amazing. Where can people go to find out more about you?
Glenn: You can go to my Facebook, IG, and just search my name anywhere else.
[50:44] Allan: Thank you so much, Glenn! I really appreciate it!
Glenn: It was great talking to you!
I hope you enjoyed this Episode. I want to thank Glenn for coming on! I believe we’ll get him back on the Podast later this year.
Next week, I’m sitting down to be interviewed by Mike Janda.
Finally, check out my new free course available right now on How to Become Profitable as an Artist. Check it out at www.Branding10x.com.
Until next week —
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