Million Dollar Monday

One Uncommon Way to Start or Acquire a Business

December 20, 2021 Greg Muzzillo
Million Dollar Monday
One Uncommon Way to Start or Acquire a Business
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Did you know that there are ways to turn your retirement funds into a more active investment to empower your dreams? Tune in as David Nilssen shares how he has helped 25,000 entrepreneurs to access over $5 billion to start or buy a business. He also discusses with Host Greg Muzzillo the importance about being intentional in your relationships and creating the life you want. 

Key Takeaways

  • There are ways to turn retirement funds into a more active, rather than a passive investment, an active investment, helping empower dreams to own a business or buy a business
  • That was the day where we realized that we could move outside of this localized, regional business opportunity and do something that could be much more impactful across the nation. 
  • Incredible how sometimes just a moment in time can give us an inflection point. That makes a huge difference in the business. 
  • And so I just learned early on to just be open to everything that is happening around me and just be curious, and that, that ended up working out well.
  • For entrepreneurs, being intentional in your relationships is probably one of the most important things you can do. 
  • It can be very lonely because the people that you work with day in day out, don't want to hear about your problems or challenges. And sometimes you need somebody to talk to about those before you could even externalize that with your own team. And so Entrepreneur’s Organization and Young Presidents Organization serve as great places to connect you with like-minded individuals in non-competitive industries who can help you think through some of the challenges and opportunities that inevitably come.
  • What we've started to do is evolve financial guidance, to move away from just financing to not only helping entrepreneurs find capital, but then provide them with important business services that they need.
  • Create the life you want. 

Chapter Summaries 

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Greg Muzzillo:

Hello, and welcome to Million Dollar Monday. I'm your host, Greg Muzzillo bringing you real successful people with real useful advice for people with big dreams. I understand and big dreams. I turned an investment of $200 and a lot of great advice from some really successful people into my big dream Proforma. That today is a half billion dollar company. Well, hello and welcome today. I am joined by an entrepreneur's entrepreneur, somebody who threw a business they co-founded and run today has helped over 25,000 entrepreneurs access over 5 billion to start or buy a business. I'm excited to welcome David Nilssen, David Nilssen. Thanks for joining me.

David Nilssen :

Thanks for having me on today. This is great.

Greg Muzzillo:

All right , so let's start at the beginning, because I love your story about a couple things I want to touch on today. Of course, how you help people access the kind of money you've helped people access. I also want to talk about , I know you're passionate about entrepreneurs, organization and young president's organization, and I know that as we chatted a little bit, they've been very helpful to you and you've been very helpful to them. And I think a lot of us aspiring entrepreneurs need to understand what those organizations are and the difference between them. But let's start at the beginning. Just tell us a little bit at David about, you know, your growing up yours , where did you learn your passion for owning your own business, entrepreneurship and then what led you to starting Guidant Financial?

David Nilssen :

Yeah, so I would say I mean at a very early age, I think I was probably an entrepreneurial minded individual. I think a lot of it probably came from my father who owned his own business. So when I was, you know, growing up, my dad owned one of the largest fresh Christmas tree companies , in the country. And so, you know, I got a chance to sort of watch him lead and grow an organization over the years. And I was always intrigued by , what he did. I think one of the best things he ever did for me was actually take me on a couple of different business trips with him when I was a teenager to see what it was like when he was traveling to Chicago, Orlando, excuse me, and interacting with his partners and his, business associates. And so I think I just, I was really gravitated towards that an early age. And I remember in high school, I actually had a vending business that was sort of running out of my locker where I buy bags of candy from Costco and then take them to the , the school and sell them at a markup , to my friends , at school. And so, enjoyed that. And then as a kid, I also got my first job at subway. I was a sandwich artist back in the d ay and g ot to work with franchisees, managing three different stores while I was in high school. And so I got to see how those things ran, what it did for the entrepreneur in terms of their freedom, their finances. And so I just, i t was something that I had lots of early introductions t o. But ultimately, that l ed me down the path of wanting to have my own business s omeday just happened earlier than I thought.

Greg Muzzillo:

All right . So I know that you had a couple of other involvements prior to Guidant Financial, but talk to us about where did the idea for Guidant come from and what were those first, early few things that went, made it go from an idea to an actual business?

David Nilssen :

Yeah, so it's funny. Guidant financial is actually one of those companies that was literally started on the back of a napkin. You know, at the time I was developing real estate over on the peninsula of Washington, we were buying up raw lots and then , getting builder ready and then selling them off so that they could bring in more infrastructure for the troops that were coming in because of the war on terror. But during that time, I actually sat down with a real estate attorney, my business partner, and I sat down with this real estate attorney and we were talking about doing a much larger deal than we had historically done, and that we might bring investment capital in. And that real estate attorney at suggested to us that we look at self-directed IRAs as a way to fund , these transactions. And at the time I had no idea that you could invest your retirement assets in something outside the stock market. So we learned a little bit about that and ended up helping one individual invest their retirement assets in one of our projects. And , the project only took about three to four months. And when we turned that the individual received a 30% return inside their retirement plan in less than half of a year. And thankfully that person had a really big mouth and they just started telling their friends and family about this great deal that they had done. And these guys that had helped them invest their retirement assets , into these different non-standard assets. And so my phone started ringing and eventually we realized that there was a big business opportunity to take something that actually had been preserved traditionally for high net worth individuals and take that to main street American investors. And so when we first launched the business, it was helping people invest their retirement assets in everything from real estate to tax leads , to private mortgages and small businesses.

Greg Muzzillo:

So it sounds like this is an idea that pursued you rather than you pursuing the idea, but at some point you got enough phone calls , and interest from people that it became a business. So how does it go from people chasing you to like a real business? Talk to us about that first year, forming the business and putting the pieces together , making it a business?

David Nilssen :

Well, it's funny, my business partner was married to a realtor, a high performing realtor. And so at that point we thought, well, shoot, if we're gonna help people invest the retirement assets in real estate, then let's go talk to every realtor under the sun and they'll just send us their clients , and we'll be off and running. Okay. Well, it turns out that for every one high performing real estate professional, you find there's 25 to 50 that are doing it on a part-time basis. And so we kissed a lot of frogs along the way before we realized that, Hey, there may be a better opportunity. What really changed the business for us though is I was suggested by a friend to think about paper , click advertising, just buying keywords on Google , as a way to see if we could find people who were already looking for the things that we did. And back then there was such little competition, because we were really creating a category , uh, that the price per click was less than a dollar. And so I put in a very, very small budget , 10 bucks a day. And the next morning I walked in, I had eight leads sitting in my console and that had never happened historically. And so that was the day where we realized , that we could move outside of this just localized, regional business opportunity and do something that could be much more impactful across the nation. And that was the, that was the starting point.

Greg Muzzillo:

Incredible how sometimes just a moment in time can give us an inflection point. That makes a huge difference in the business. Right?

David Nilssen :

No question. In fact, it's funny. I think one thing that I would just note is I think early on one thing that I heard over and over again is that people don't get lucky. People are either open to the opportunities that prevent themselves or they're closed off from them . And so I just learned early on to just be open to everything that is happening around me and just be curious, and that, ended up working out well.

Greg Muzzillo:

Some people have things happen to them and they just say, isn't that interesting? Or maybe it's something they talk about at dinner or maybe it's something they dismiss out of hand. Other people see business opportunities in it. And I think that's a huge difference for many people is to pay attention. Like you said, pay attention to , things that, come your way. Because there could be a great business in it. All right . So I know you're very involved in the world of franchising and probably lots of other businesses. Tell our, folks a little bit though, like just a few sentences. How can people access their retirement funds to start or buy a business just briefly?

David Nilssen :

Yeah. So most of us are familiar with investing our retirement assets in stocks , bonds and mutual funds. So, you know, we send our money to a broker and then they help to facilitate this investment in a publicly traded company. And that that company takes our dollars to build their business and we get to hold shares as collateral for that investment. We do that exact same process. We just do it in private company . So for instance, Greg, if you wanted to invest your retirement assets in a business, you know, we would help you create a corporation and a 401k you'd roll your existing retirement assets into that 401k. And then it would buy stock in that corporation just like you'd be buying stock in Microsoft. You have to use those dollars to build your business and your retirement plan as a shareholder and gets to benefit from the growth of that business long term .

Greg Muzzillo:

So people listening should understand that there, are ways to turn their retirement funds into a more active, rather than a passive investment, an active investment, helping them empower their dream to own their own business or buy a business.

David Nilssen :

No question. So by doing this investment versus, you know, taking a distribution where you pay taxes or penalty or getting a loan where now you have to pay debt, the investment is simply made in the business. There's no payment, there's no interest, there's no taxes. and to your point it really, really , is something that is attractive to entrepreneurial minded individuals. Because they're already thinking that they're gonna take control of ownership of their life. And so invest in themselves versus investing in something where they have no control over the performance of that asset is really.

Greg Muzzillo:

Intuitive and the returns can be massive , for people that are gonna take massive action and do some pretty exciting things compared to the kind of return you can get in the stock market or spiders or any of that kind of stuff. So

David Nilssen :

Absolutely I mean, businesses are , great tools for generating wealth and it's, you know, like anything else you wanna be going in with eyes wide open and make sure that you're diversified in what you invest in. But in terms of the upside opportunity, you bet there's, there is certainly great upside opportunity for people that are successful in business.

Greg Muzzillo:

Are there any guardrails provided by the government or other agencies , around, what kind of businesses this could apply to what kind of acquisitions it could apply to? Or is it pretty much a buyer beware like investor beware?

David Nilssen :

Yeah, I think, I mean, for the most part there aren't any parameters in terms of the types of businesses that you can invest in. I mean there are, there are great businesses in nearly every industry. Now there are some operational , guardrails, which, you know, simply put it . I mean it needs to be a 401k plan. It needs to be a C corporation, which is a little bit different for most small businesses. On the flip side, they do need to actively work in and, be a part of the business. This is not for passive investments. It's for active investments.

Greg Muzzillo:

Yeah . Yeah . And we'll let our listeners try to discover on their own the differences between a C Corp and S Corp and LLC. But that , but you know, that is interesting. Why does it have to be a C Corp, which is, can be relatively an inefficient business formation?

David Nilssen :

Sometimes it certainly is not the normal, but right . But there are some benefits to , C corporations. I think the main reason why is cuz you have to be buying stock , and S-corps, you have to be human beings buying that stock. And in this case it's a trust that's buying the stock LLCs have member units, so they don't qualify.

Greg Muzzillo:

I got it. All right . So you've built a , a very successful business over approaching 20 years at guidance financial. And if people wanted to learn more, by the way , not that the job of Million Dollar Monday is to advertise, but nonetheless, if people wanted to learn more about investing their retirement assets, is it Guidantfinancial.com. It is.

David Nilssen :

Yeah. Just simply Guidant Financial

Greg Muzzillo:

Yeah. I think it's amazing. And we've had some of our franchise owners, Proforma is a franchise we've had some of our franchise owners invest their retirement funds to fund their business or to fund acquisition. So , it is a great thing and it was something of which I was very relatively unaware for quite some period of time. Anyhow. All right . I know in building your business that you have over time , gotten a lot of inspiration from both entrepreneurs organization, young presidents organization, tell our listeners what are each of those, what are the differences between them and how have they helped you grow your business?

David Nilssen :

Yeah. So EO is the entrepreneurs organization and YPO is the young presidents organization. The main difference between the two, because they are , very similar in terms of the benefits that they can provide to people that are , running or growing businesses. EO is exclusively for the entrepreneur or the founder behind the business, which YPO is for the person who is operating that business. And so it sometimes is hired guns or, you know , so on and so forth. I've gotten, I would say the, super majority of my personal and professional growth of for the last 15 years has come from these organizations. I'm a little bit newer to YPO than EO, but , I think they both serve a great purpose in that when you're running a business, it can be very lonely because the people that you work with day in day out, don't want to hear about your problems or challenges. And sometimes you need somebody to talk to about those before you can even externalize out with your own team. And so they serve as , great places to connect you with like-minded individuals in non-competitive industries who can help you think through some of the challenges and opportunities that inevitably come.

Greg Muzzillo:

Absolutely. I think a struggle also, I'm sure you can relate to this when there are challenges, you surely can't talk to your team about challenges because you don't want to put them on edge about the future of the business. You probably don't want to talk to your spouse o r significant other about it because, no sense involving them in all of the worry. So I remember and all but you remember n ights, y ou j ust stared at the ceiling, like thinking, oh my God, how's this gonna all work out? Would you say that the most valuable part of EO or, and, or YPO is your forum, the forum experience?

David Nilssen :

Yeah, no question. So there's, you know, in both YPO and EO, you have this group of eight to 10 people you meet with on a monthly basis and they're in non-competitive industries . So you can be very open about what's happening in your business. How are you struggling? Both personally and professional. And I actually I wanna make a , a distinction about that. A lot of people say, well, keep business in personal separate. The reality is though for an entrepreneur, there is no such thing. Business is very personal and they're so tightly intertwined, how you feel personally affects professional and how professional it impacts personal. So we, address all these issues in those groups and the forum has been absolutely invaluable.

Greg Muzzillo:

Well, you're dealing with the whole person, not just you can't just slice off the business part. You know, I was a forum officer in YPO and we've had those conversations, but the, the whole person is everything that's having a significant impact on your life. And gosh, in our forum, I think we saw I think seven or seven or eight divorces , which none of us saw that coming during when our first retreat happened and we were all forming this new forum. But over the period of time, I was, I think seven or eight of the folks , went through divorces and clearly they needed the support cuz now where do , where do they have to turn? Right? You don't want to belabor your team about all of that. And, and um , sometimes you just lose friends and everything else through it. So yeah , very

David Nilssen :

I think that's actually a really important point to just share though. And then I know this is off the topic of financing, but for entrepreneurs, I think being intentional in your relationships is probably one of the most important things you can do. I personally , I ended up going through a divorce as we were starting up guiding financial. I had been married as a young kid and unfortunately like a lot of entrepreneurs buried myself in my work and neglected a relationship that was very important. And so even today, like I actually teach family planning workshops for entrepreneurs to think about like how to be intentional with their families, not just their spouse, but their kids, so that the people you love and care about the most , don't end up suffering as a result of the ambition.

Greg Muzzillo:

That's a great point. Thanks for , mentioning it . I know, I don't know much about EO , but I know Y P O has a lot of focus on family, family retreats and , uh , lots of fun for the family , opportunities for children to kind of get involved in forums or other experiences. Yeah . That's good stuff. All right . So by what measure would you say how large is Guidant financial today?

David Nilssen :

Well, so I think, you know, you talked about this early , when you did the introduction, we've helped over 25,000 people in all 50 states and from basically every walk of life , to start by at business. And if you look at those 25 , thousand businesses on average the businesses that we serve employ 12 people. So you can see there's hundreds of thousands of jobs that we created as a result of the work that we're doing. And we also have approximately 200 employees across the us . And so we've got a relatively good sized operation. The thing that makes me most proud though, is when I look at like capital deployed on an annual basis, you'll see at the top of the list every year at the top SBA lender, Wells Fargo and Wells Fargo put a couple billion dollars to work, but they've got hundred thousand employees give or take, we've got 200 employees that help put about , almost a half, a billion dollars to work on any given year. And so the, you know, our small and mighty team is having a tremendous impact on small businesses across the US.

Greg Muzzillo:

And it's, it really is amazing because I think owning your own business is probably one of the top three to five dreams. All Americans have , and maybe all people around the world, right? In addition to maybe their faith and their family, and then owning their own business. And so you're really helping people in the pursuit of some of their most important dreams in their life.

David Nilssen :

No question, our tagline is create the life you want. And the reason we did that is because the , you know, the motivation for going to business is different for every single person. Right ? I think most people, if they're being honest, have sat in whatever job they have and looking at the outside the window, thinking about what am I gonna do when I grow up? And I bet owning a business is one of the few things that are , are certain.

Greg Muzzillo:

Absolutely. All right , David you have really helped hundreds of thousands of people , pursue their dreams or have better opportunities within other people's dreams and businesses. And great for you. And you've built a great business and an organization for yourself and for your family, including your two beautiful daughters and , so what are the big dreams you have for the rest of your life, the rest of your business?

David Nilssen :

Yeah. Thanks for that question. You know, you said it a minute ago, I've got , two young daughters, three and four years old , got this young family and I'm excited about being the best out I can. So right now I am learning on the fly and , and just trying to , lean into that as best as I can, from a professional standpoint, you know, we've helped a ll, you know, over the last 15 to 20 years, we've helped so many people start or b uy a business. And what we've started to do is, evolve Guidant Financial to move away from just financing to now where we can help them, not only find capital, but then, provide them with important business services that they need anyways. But that actually take them away from the things that are most important in buying or excuse me in building their business. And so things like payroll, accounting and tax, 401k administration, and even we're starting to move towards, g lobal talent as an opportunity to give better leverage these entrepreneurs. That's what we're focused o n s upporting our entrepreneurial clients t hrough t he life of their business. And, so I'm excited about going deeper in that as we continue to grow.

Greg Muzzillo:

Yeah, yeah. That is exciting. And then you told me about a new venture , that you're involved with.

David Nilssen :

Yeah. So , uh, in the midst of the pandemic, we made an investment in a global talent firm to help entrepreneurs across the US to access new talent pools , in places like the Philippines or , Vietnam, Kazakhstan, places like that. and the really interesting part about that is that we've been able to create more opportunity domestically because of the work that we're doing o ffshore. And so we w ant t o take that capability and make that available to other entrepreneurs so that they can access, really qualified, great talent who can provide meaningful impact in their business and then create additional opportunity for the people that they h ear have here on shore.

Speaker 2:

You're, you're building a business on top really of the business of the entrepreneurs that come through you through your business , being able to offer more services to them , from those from just providing them with financing. Yeah.

David Nilssen :

And, and in some cases we're actually helping them to access talent directly. So I'll give you an example, Greg, if you had a , you know, let's , a real estate business today, and you've got, you needed an accountant for that business, we can actually help people hire an accountant with the CPA designation , and they can save somewhere between 60 and 70% off of what the US rates would be. Consequently, what that actually does though, is it allows them additional resources to invest. And what we've seen with our clients is they're creating additional opportunities for their existing teams here domestically.

Greg Muzzillo:

Well, as we teach our franchise owners and I'm sure, you know, there's only two ways to sort of grow a business on the sales side and that's either go get new customers or sell more stuff or services to the customers you've got and it's way easier to sell more stuff. And so services to somebody that already knows you likes you and trusts you. So. Yeah. Good on you, David. This has been a textbook kind of session on how to start a business , grow a business, and then build on that success. Thank you so much for taking some time to visit with me today. Thanks

David Nilssen :

For having me really appreciate it.

Introducing David Nilssen
From an Idea to a Business
Building Guidant Financial
Using Retirement Funds to Start a Business
Resources to Grow Your Business
Create the Life you Want
Dreams for the Future