At age 19, John Wilson was a nuclear technician in the military. “I can build you a nuclear warhead,” he says pleasantly. While still in the service, he got a side job as a loan officer in the mortgage industry. Today, at age 37, he is president and chief brewer at Swan Neck Winery, a Pensacola, Florida meadery that sells all natural, hand-bottled meads and wines.
This nonstop swirl of activity comes with advice that seems ironic from a man who rises before dawn every day with a full to-do list ahead of him: Do less. “I was raised in a middle-class system, which had the ethos that if you want something done right, do it yourself,” he says. “But you can’t be the best at everything. I run three businesses right now, but obviously I can’t do everything at every one of those businesses.”
His love of delegation came when he moved from a world of military discipline to the mortgage industry. He quickly exceeded his full-time government salary many times over. Within 90 days, he had earned $23,000 in one month. Within four years, his monthly pay was more than 10 times that amount. As his success grew, he kept looking to do less, giving chores to loan processors and others he trusted.
“You need to build a system and understand the jobs of everyone below you,” he says. “At one point, my workday consisted of having 20 meetings a day with 20 different people, who I was delegating things to.”
People would tell him his “pyramid scheme” was flawed, and he needed to take more personal control, but he had a ready answer: “Everything’s a pyramid scheme, from the military to business. You have one person on top and everyone is below them.”
Poker face and delegation skills
His belief in delegating came in tandem with his zealousness for self-improvement and constant reading. He’s perused self-help tomes like Rich Dad, Poor Dad and Napoleon Hill’s The Power of Persuasion a dozen times each. Hill’s belief “It’s an eternal mantra that men receive more money from their ability to get others to perform than they could possibly earn from their own efforts” became his own.
He says those works, as well as books on playing poker, taught him to “read” people and determine their ability and intent. That ability, in turn, has taught him how to decide the best candidates for delegation. He says he is continually on the lookout for smart, ambitious people - because he says the people he most benefits from are those to whom he provides the most benefit. “By having positive energy, you attract the right people around you,” he says. “If you’re always the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”
Wilson takes the same approach for his business. He was able to start his winery only using 5 percent of his own money. The rest of the funding came from other entrepreneurs and other sources. That’s what he saw billionaires, who he dealt with in the mortgage business, doing. In essence, they delegated the money risk. “From crowdfunding to investors to the SBA, there’s always someone to finance your idea,” he says.
The multiplying effect of delegation is part of every aspect of his life. Today, Wilson gets up at 4:30 a.m., eats a banana or other healthy snack, and then heads to the gym. “You can be stuck at 250 pounds on the bench press for months and months,” he says. “But if someone gives you an assist to get over that hump for the last couple of reps, you’ll find yourself doing 275 pounds a couple of days later.” It’s the same in business. With a little help, you can reach your next goal faster.
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