John Assaraf will tell you that achieving your goals and dreams is just a matter of believing you can and will do it. That’s how this New York Times best-selling author of The Answer took himself from the streets of Tel Aviv to the world stage of business and industry.
“Despite an early upbringing in war-ravaged Israel, where his childhood games were punctuated by gunshots and even bomb blasts, John turned away from the violence and ultimately created a life of incredible strength, contribution and love,” writes The Secret author Bob Proctor, in his foreword for Assaraf’s Having It All: Achieving Your Life’s Goals and Dreams.
When he was 8, Assaraf’s family fled the war-torn country for Montreal, where the outgoing boy went to work helping to support his family. While his friends were in class, Assaraf was often truant, delivering newspapers, picking up orders from the pharmacy or pressing clothes at the dry cleaner.
However, roaming the streets, Assaraf fell into a rough crowd of petty criminals, and found companionship and belonging in this small group of kids. “That’s where I got the nickname The Street Kid,” Assaraf says.
To help keep him out of trouble, his parents sent him to work at a Jewish community center across the street from their apartment. Assaraf grew to love the job, where he spent his evenings listening to rich and established gentlemen tell tales of their success. “They would talk about losing and making money, ill health, marital problems and infidelity, God, and a host of other things about which I could never hear enough,” Assaraf writes in Having It All: Achieving Your Life’s Goals and Dreams. “I learned that it was normal to have challenges, and that other families went through similar crises.”
This experience proved formative for Assaraf, who learned from these successful men and a string of other powerful mentors to develop his own strength and intuition.
Building Himself, Building a Fortune
Today a best-selling author, international speaker and featured expert on the critically acclaimed self-help film The Secret, Assaraf is no stranger to entrepreneurial success. With nothing but enthusiasm under his belt, he dove into a real estate career in the early 1980s—better known as a recession.
“Interest rates in the real estate market were 21 percent,” says Assaraf, who at age 19, made an impressive $30,000 in his first year selling real estate. The next year, he made $150,000. “I was young and naive and nobody told us that was not normal. I did well despite what was happening around me.”
Applying what he had learned in his early real estate career, Assaraf helped take RE/MAX of Indiana to more than 1,500 sales associates who generate more than $5 billion a year in sales.
Then, during the Internet boom, Assaraf developed the marketing and sales strategy that generated more than $30 million in revenue within 12 months for Bamboo.com. Bamboo then merged with IPEX and went on to become the world’s leading provider of imaging infrastructure for the Internet.
More recently, Assaraf founded OneCoach, a company that helps small-business owners and entrepreneurs grow their business revenues.
Assaraf, who’s built four multimillion-dollar companies in the last 20 years, says recessions like the one he experienced in the ’80s offer entrepreneurs opportunities to fix what’s broken and then promote the unique benefits of what they have to offer.
Starting June 28, John Assaraf will team with SUCCESS magazine for the six-week Entrepreneur Challenge to help would-be business owners take the next step and guide existing entrepreneurs in finding renewed inspiration. Based on the principles in his successful books, Having It All and The Answer, Assaraf will write twice-weekly blog posts to share the secrets of success as a business owner.
The Street Kid’s Tips for Success
Assaraf says business owners who enter entrepreneurial ventures with the right tools have what it takes to innovate, communicate and achieve business success in any economy.
1. Start with the right mindset. Assaraf says, when it comes to our mindsets, we’re often victims of conditioning and genetics. “The latest research suggests that 96 to 98 percent of all our thought patterns and behaviors are based on our conditioning,” he says.
When faced with negative circumstances, some people are conditioned to move forward despite them. They can go through turmoil and emerge successful. They see the world differently than those who allow outside circumstances to control their thinking. It’s important to realize you have no control over bad things happening, he says: “The only things we can control are our own thoughts and actions.”
2. Think of circumstances differently. Having the right mindset requires that entrepreneurs, in particular, not look at the recession as a reason for failure or lack of opportunity, but rather as a reason for innovation. The entrepreneur should ask the important question, Why is a particular business failing and how can I take a different approach to make it work?
“Whenever there is a recession, which I prefer to call a reorganization, innovation starts to happen. When innovation starts to happen, we start to think about different ways to serve the consumer’s needs,” Assaraf says. “That’s when you start to develop a brand around resolving the problem and creating products and services that people need during those tough times. Times that are challenging will actually bring out the weaknesses of the masses.”
3. Next step: Fill a need. Before launching any kind of marketing campaign for a new (or existing) business, ask this question first: Is there really a need in the marketplace for your product or service?
The adage, Build it and they will come, is 1970s and ’80s thinking, Assaraf says. Today, it’s, Find out what they want; then build it.
Once you build it, make people want it because of the experience, Assaraf adds. When filling a need, realize that the client experience is even more important than the product. A great example is Starbucks. Starbucks doesn’t sell coffee; Starbucks sells an experience. “That’s why they’re able to charge $4 for a $.10 cup of coffee,” he says.
4. Ask yourself, what makes you different? One of the most important elements of developing a successful marketing strategy is to understand what it is about your product or service that makes it unique. You can compete on quality, price or experience. Assaraf warns, however, that competing on price is often a losing battle. Rather, most business owners should look at how they can create a positive and memorable experience for their customers.
Entrepreneurs who do not find and promote a special niche will get lost in a crowded marketplace. “[If] they don’t know how to differentiate themselves from their competition, they become a commodity versus an experience. When you become a commodity, you will always be fighting on price. When you become an experience for people… they don’t compare your product or service to everybody else’s because the experience is so much greater than the product or service itself,” Assaraf says.
5. Clear the clutter. In this media-saturated world, your charge, says Assaraf, is to create a lasting impression on the consumer’s mind that differentiates you from everybody else.
One of Assaraf’s clients, a dentist, partnered with a local limousine company to provide transportation for teenage patients. The dentist absorbs the $25 it costs to pick up and bring home teenagers for their dental appointments. Marketing the time-saver to parents was a big hit, and students quickly spread the word about riding to the dentist’s office in a limo. A good marketing concept built on creating a memorable and positive experience, successful promotion and word-of-mouth led, in this case, to an explosion of business during the next 12 months.
“In today’s world, when we’re getting 50,000 messages a day, from… billboards, television, radio, e-mail, print, calls, etc., we have to differentiate ourselves. We have to do something that’s unique and different so that we stand out from everybody else who is yelling and screaming, ‘Pick me! Pick me!’ ” Assaraf says.
For the next steps toward achieving your business goals, read Assaraf’s top six tips for developing a marketing strategy.
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Journalist, podcaster and southpaw Shelby Skrhak is the former director of digital content and social media for SUCCESS.com. Before joining SUCCESS magazine, Shelby launched the weekly suburban newspaper Plano Insider, and covered topics ranging from cops and courts to transportation and fashion. Her handwriting should be a font.