To see what self-made entrepreneurs are really made of, all you have to do is take away their money.
On season two of the Discovery reality show Undercover Billionaire, real estate investor and motivational speaker Grant Cardone bet $1 million that he could build a million-dollar company in 90 days, with only $100 and a pickup truck. If that sounds nutty, it's worth noting that Cardone isn't the first entrepreneur to take such a gamble, as California businessman Glenn Stearns, who founded the private mortgage lender Stearns Holdings, made the exact same bet on season one of the show, which chronicled the launch of Stearns's Pennsylvania restaurant, Underdog BBQ.
For season two, which premieres January 6 at 8 p.m. ET on Discovery, Cardone was dropped into a city he'd never so much as visited--Pueblo, Colorado--and challenged to start a new business without the use of his name, business connections, or financial resources. Before his deployment, Cardone didn't even know where in the U.S. he'd be spending the next three months. "I had no way to plan," Cardone says. "Different cities offer different opportunities." Of course, the onset of the pandemic added an extra and unforeseeable challenge.
Now, on the other side of this immersive experiment, Cardone took a moment with Inc. to share what he learned about starting over as an entrepreneur. Here is an edited version of our conversation.
Bottom line up front: What did you learn by starting a business with nothing in a place you didn't know?
The American dream is very hard--way harder than I've been writing about in books and talking about from seminar stages. This was the hardest thing I've ever done in my whole life. It was no food, no water, and no shelter--just $100 and an old truck. I learned that there's so much to be grateful for that we take for granted every day, like bad employees. When you're out there by yourself you're saying, "Man I sure would like to have a couple of bad employees right now." Anything is better than nothing.
What skills ended up being most important during the 90 days?
The biggest takeaway for me is, if you want to build a million-dollar business, you do not need money, but you do need people. I solve all my problems on this show through other people. You can take away my money, my name, and my credit cards, but you can't take away what I know and the ability to go communicate with people. And that's where most people are failing--on communication to others.
What should business owners be focusing on in 2021?
Sixty-four percent of all businesses in America lose money or break even. Two-thirds of those have no employees. The no-employee thing is the dumbest game you can play. You cannot do everything yourself. Do not stay small in 2021. You have to expand. This year, I would try to grow my business as much as possible and get rid of anything that has the business overly encumbered. Give up profits in your company to other people, if there is a profit. Just do whatever you need to do to add people, whether it's employees, 1099s, or collaborating partners. Partnerships don't cost money. Collaboration doesn't cost money. What costs money is staying a one-man or one-woman show.
Do you have any U.S. economic predictions for 2021?
More of the middle class are going to become renters in 2021 and over the next decade. Real assets will prove to be extremely valuable. I wouldn't lock into anything long-term right now unless it provides income and is indestructible. Retail and hotels have to fall. You cannot be dependent on a retail business, which we've all known for years. You've got to adapt to the reality of the situation. Everything in the hospitality space is suspect. Office buildings are probably going to be fine, because I don't think people are going to work from home forever.
Is this a focus of your growth conference in March?
We'll be talking about that and the importance of scaling, and that scaling is not a choice. You have to scale. If you think one person can get it done, hire 10. If it's going to take 10, then you need more revenue. So if you've got 10 customers, get 100. We're going to be showing people how to scale their businesses and how to do that by calling customers (which is old school), knocking on doors, which is very old school, and using digital and social media, which is very new school. Put those three together. People shouldn't be disregarding the old games of knocking on doors and using telephones. Add that to the digital approach and you'll be unstoppable in 2021.