Don MacPherson is an entrepreneur who built a company called Modern Survey, which he successfully sold without laying people off or taking on debt. That’s the American Dream. But Don’s not resting on his laurels. Growing up in a mining community, Don learned the value of work early and isn’t interested in status symbols like cars and clothes. He’s soon launching a new venture called 12 Geniuses focused on fixing the future of work for everybody. He’s here to talk about his journey in tech, how to be ruthlessly pragmatic with your finances, and how you can set yourself up financially for success. Ultimately, it’s about enjoying your work. Don has a unique view of the world that you need to hear, especially if you want to retire early.
- First things first: Don isn’t a Millennial tech bro. He’s close to 50 with a wealth of experience in customer service, technology, healthcare, employee engagement, and even truck driving. Don will tell you he isn’t a natural entrepreneur, but he is a risk taker. So much so he decided to move to Germany and only bought a one-way ticket. Don shares the story of living in an attic.
- When he returned from Germany, he took a job with American Express, and that was when Don met his future business partner, a contractor who was living the dream. Don wanted that dream life, so together, he and his partner founded an online survey company, Modern Survey, in 1999. Their startup money was $1,000 each. He took this company through to a successful exit, the American dream.
- Don could easily rest on his laurels now, but he’s starting another company instead. There’s a driving force that keeps him moving: yes, he’s a risk taker and he loves his work, but deep down, he loves helping people reach their potential. Don believes that EVERYONE can perform at extraordinary levels, and he explains how.
- One of Don’s guiding principles is that he pays himself first. It’s enabled him to do everything that he’s wanted. Interestingly, the thought was planted by a commercial he saw as a teenager. It was a simple commercial and the gist of it was to get started and begin saving early. Don reveals how he applied this to his life from a young age, and what “you pay you first” really means.
- For Don, money is freedom. He doesn’t come from a family of savers, though, and what he understood from his younger years was that you took the job that paid the most money. It was essential to have an incredible work ethic, too. But taking a job that pays the most cash is how you survived. Don realized, though, that work could be so much more. It can be fulfilling, and having money allowed him to experiment and do things he couldn’t have otherwise.
- There came a time when Don’s business almost failed, and he tells the story of how he had to abandon his “you pay you first” philosophy for a time. He and his partners had to each put in a hundred grand to save the company, and it was only because he had been so disciplined in his savings that he was able to do it. And that was how the company pulled through the tough time.
- We’ve hinted at how Don’s success hasn’t encouraged him to be spendy. Quite the opposite, in fact. Don never invested in a brand new car, and the duplex he lived in for 15 years was partly financed by the renters he had living in the second apartment. Don shares some of his other money hacks he used to amass his wealth. He even delayed parenthood until he was nearly 50.
- If you take Don’s advice, he believes you will never have to work at a job you don’t like. And that is powerful, especially in this era of work being broken. He talks about how we can do our best work when we have a sense of security and freedom that being financially responsible brings. You might be wondering if it’s too late for you. The answer is no, and Don explains why.
- Have you heard the concept of being a prisoner in a workplace? You’re stuck in a job you can’t leave because you have so many bills to pay. Don says that as many as 1 in 12 workers are prisoners. They’re financially stuck, and they don’t believe they can make more money elsewhere. Most of us agree that work is broken, so you can imagine what happens with work prisoners and how they contribute to that. Equally as important, their home life is also negatively affected.
- Laurie points out that it’s often more expensive for women in the workplace than men – they have to buy a lot of things men don’t, and as they age, they’re expected to do everything they can to look younger. Clothing, makeup, surgery… and then there’s the issue of maternity and childcare. Given that women don’t make as much as men, can you imagine what it’s like for a single mom? Don shares his thoughts on the workplace for women.
- Don’s new company is called 12 Geniuses (coming soon). He shares exactly what it is and what he does, and you might be surprised by his belief that the world is a better place, despite what the news might have you believe. But did you realize that most people aren’t ready for positive change?
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