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Lessons From An Immigrant Entrepreneur

You may have heard of Gary Vaynerchuk. He was born in the Soviet Union in 1975, and his parents immigrated to the United States in 1978. Gary’s nine-member family started out in a studio apartment in New York and later moved to New Jersey. After arriving in New Jersey, Vaynerchuk’s father, Sasha, purchased a local liquor store.

As a boy, Vaynerchuk set up a lemonade stand and quickly turned it into a franchise that ended up generating thousands of dollars in revenue. He also bought, sold, and traded baseball cards. He quickly figured out a way to corner the market for baseball cards in the area where he lived, which resulted in several thousand dollars of profit.

At the age of 14, Vaynerchuk was forced to end his entrepreneurial endeavors and begin working for the family business. He pleaded with his father to let him continue operating his own businesses, but failed to convince his father that he was better off on his own.

While being paid an hourly wage that was much less than what he earned on his own, Vaynerchuk learned the family business from the ground up. After graduating from college in 1999, he took over the day-to-day operations of the business. He renamed the store from Shopper’s Discount Liquors to Wine Library and began advertising online and building relationships with his customers through weekly emails. He grew annual sales from 4 million to 45 million in five years.

Today, Vaynerchuk is worth more than $160 million. His marketing agency, VaynerMedia, employs 700 people and grosses more than $100 million a year. He has written four New York Times bestsellers and was an early investor in Uber, Birchbox, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

A recent article in Entrepreneur magazine described a typical day for Vaynerchuk. Among the numerous things he does to manage his time and grow his business, I picked out three that I believe are critical to his success.

  1. Immediately Get Started. Vaynerchuk arrives at his Manhattan office promptly at 8 a.m. every morning and immediately gets down to business. There is “no sipping coffee while scrolling through emails, and no idle chit chat to forestall the onslaught of responsibility.” Instead, he quickly huddles with two of his top employees: his personal assistant and his personal videographer. Between the three of them, they review the day’s schedule and their game plan for the day. They’re done with their initial meeting in 10 minutes.
  2. Scheduled Blocks of Time. Vaynerchuk’s days are scheduled in blocks of time that vary from five minutes up to 60 minutes. Each block of time is carefully scripted so he can maximize his productivity. The blocks of time include meetings with clients, interviews with potential clients, discussions with young entrepreneurs that he can learn and benefit from, and meals with people who want to hire him. Almost everything that he does during any given day is filmed by his videographer. His team then edits the video content into segments that can be released the next day as part of his show, DailyVee on YouTube (to his 645,000 subscribers) or in his quick hits on Twitter (1.4 million followers) and Instagram (1.7 million followers).
  3. Ignore the Critics. Vaynerchuk gets his share of criticism from the business media and the old-school business people who think that he’s a huckster whose greatest talent is squeezing money out of other people. The criticism has absolutely no effect on him. In fact, it motivates him to achieve higher levels of success. He tells anyone who will listen that he loves it when his critics underestimate him because when that happens, they let their guard down and he can crush them if they’re competing against him.

If you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you know that I believe that there is a lot that we can learn from the habits and behavior of highly successful business people.

Last week I wrote about the importance of taking personal responsibility for managing our own medical care. I also wrote that we must be willing to also take personal responsibility for proactively managing our own spiritual development.

The word “proactive” is defined as “creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.” How can we proactively manage our spiritual development to the extent that we will become saints in the eyes of God? What did the great modern-day saints — Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Mother Teresa, and Pope John Paul II — do to proactively manage their spiritual development?

They adopted some of the same habits and behaviors that Vaynerchuk has adopted.

I’m not saying that Vaynerchuk is a saint. Instead of using the gifts God gave him to help build the Kingdom of God on Earth, he has used them to become rich. But you and I can use the gifts God gave us to become living saints. So what does it take to become a saint?

We have to be willing to work every day at developing a deeper relationship with God. In order to do that, we must develop the discipline, habits, and behavior that are necessary to schedule blocks of time each day for prayer and to then immediately get started and follow through at the designated times that we have scheduled.

My daily spiritual development includes the scheduling of blocks of time for attending Mass, praying the rosary, visiting with our Lord in the adoration chapel, spiritual reading, following through on other prayers and devotions, and engaging in spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

In addition to scheduling blocks of time for prayer and spiritual activity, and immediately getting started and following through on our planned activities, we have to be willing to completely ignore our critics. The holier we become, the more subtle and not-so-subtle criticism we have to endure from our colleagues, friends, family members, and loved ones. Our Lord warned us that if we follow Him, we will be despised and hated by others.

We have to be willing to adopt the belief that the criticism we receive because of the work we do for God is a confirmation that we are succeeding in following His plan for us. Our Lord’s critics tortured and killed him. Our critics don’t have the power to physically torture and kill us, but they will attempt to mentally and emotionally torture us.

Are you willing to think through and follow the game plan that God has laid out for you? Be careful how you answer that question.

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One Response to “Lessons From An Immigrant Entrepreneur”

  1. Sister Roberta Houlihan, CSJ Says:

    Dear Georgette and Harry –
    I love the way you relate “ordinary everyday living” – the business end of life – to our RELATIONSHIP with GOD. This I am STILL learning – this “deeper relationship” is difficult to describe, but it’s wonderful to experience! God listens to us! God responds to us! I have a portrait of Jesus, framed, on my wall; His Eyes are on each one who is looking at this picture, which is in a frame, about 18″ X 24″. Several of my visitors have asked to take a picture of the portrait. I relate to Jesus in His humanity and as my God. Thank you for your write -up! Love and prayers – Sister Roberta

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