“It comes from somewhere inside, it starts there. And from there it grows if it’s what you’re meant to do.” – Mitch Russo
Life is fuelled by passion; without it, there is no path, no destination. That’s why, unlike any other living beings, humans have the ability to defy instinct. We go where our passion leads us. But often, we stop doing what we want. Fear, loss, doubt and countless other things stop us from keeping that fire burning inside us. Soon enough, we’d stumble to the darkness of our own shadow. Today’s podcast is not just a story of success; it is a story that teaches how we can rise up as a human being worthy of our purpose.
Listen to the podcast here:
01:09 7 Lessons from the Garage
10:37 An Electronic Nut Opens Shell
16:52 How to Overcome Disappointments
25:28 Clever Use of What Is
34:57 Building and Rebuilding Certification Program
39:33 What to Do with Grief
41:01 Power Tribes
43:25 Let Your Passion Burn
Expectation Therapy: Mastering Your Expectations by Art Costello
The Invisible Organization: How Ingenious CEOs Are Creating Thriving, Virtual Companies by Mitch Russ
Power Tribes: How Certification Can Explode Your Business by Mitch Russo
Burn with passion and burn with a great, consuming fire. It is the only way you can light your way and defeat whatever it is that holds you back. Join @myexpectation and CEO @mitchrusso and learn how to reach your dreams with supreme excellence.… Click To Tweet
“Don’t deliver a substandard product.” –Mitch Russo
“Perfection isn’t really required, but supreme excellence is.” –Mitch Russo
“Recovery process can lead us to a place that was much better than maybe even where we expected to go.” –Mitch Russo
“It comes from somewhere inside, it starts there. And from there it grows if it’s what you’re meant to do.” –Mitch Russo
“Anything is possible. And everything is possible when you believe when you have the belief.” –Art Costello
Mitch Russo is internationally known as a business genius. Success is weaved within his endeavours. His secret? He stays aligned with his passion, with his purpose. Mitch has worked with big names and businesses and was able to accomplish great things. As he emerges from a tragic loss in his life, he carried with him his secret weapon— passion. Today, he stands up as the CEO of Russo Plus, a company that sees the potential of everybody, even with a troubled past. He is also a best-selling author and coach, primarily focused on helping individuals and leaders around useful mindset, strategy and systems that they can employ. Mitch has done incredible things himself and he is the right person to go to, to become the legend of your own story.
Art Costello: Welcome to the Shower Epiphanies Podcast. Today I am honored and blessed to have Mitch Russo. Mitch has started his own software company in his garage and sold it for eight figures and then went on to work with Tony Robbins and Chet Holmes to build $25 million businesses together. Mitch wrote a book called The Invisible Organization: How Ingenious Ceos Are Creating Thriving, Virtual. And he’s here today with his new book called Power Tribes: How Certification Can Explode Your Business. Mitch, welcome to the show.
Mitch Russo: Thank you so much, Art, it’s such a pleasure to be here. I’m in the hour right now, so just, you know, let me get the soap off and we could start.
Art Costello: Okay. There you go. Hey, Mitch, can you tell the audience your life story? How it all started Mitch as a little boy on, wherever you want to go.
Mitch Russo: Yeah, yeah. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and I grew up in a fairly traditional, you know, middle class families, if you might say. And for me, you know, I was always the difficult kid. My sister was the perfect kid, I was the difficult one. And so she got straight A’s in school and I got B’s and C’s, and sometimes an A. So I was an outlier, if you will. And I would say that even though, even so, we had a great life until my bar mitzvah, after my bar mitzvah things changed. My mom and dad got divorced. And around that time I started getting interested in being one of the 60’s kids. So what that means for me is that I wanted to listen to rock and roll and hang out with hippy type people back in that era, right?
Art Costello: I know.
Mitch Russo: And so I just did. And I realized that I was a bit awkward as a kid too, because, you know, I did not play sports. My dad was never into sports, we never watched sports, and I was kind of a small kid compared to the other big kids. So I was never chosen for any of the teams or any of that stuff. But what I did do is I had an avid interest in having dates and meeting girls, and I couldn’t do it on my own, I needed a vehicle to do it. So what I decided to do was, I decided to start a rock band. And you know, I took up guitar, and this was fairly well thought out, I was maybe 12 or so when I started taking guitar lessons. And it wasn’t until I was actually collecting some friends in the basement of mom’s house for some band practice. And so that’s really for me where everything started. And the reason I say that is because, you know, I learned so much about people and about business. There is a point in time where I wrote a blog post on my website called, How being the lead guitar player set the stage for being the CEO. And the reason that you listen, it was so, it’s so true though. I mean, the reason I wrote this post is because I realized later that there were seven lessons I learned building a rock band that actually were the exact lessons I needed to start a business. And I could share those with you if you like.
Art Costello: Oh absolutely.“Perfection isn't really required, but supreme excellence is.” –Mitch Russo Click To Tweet
Mitch Russo: Sure. So you know, one of the things that we did when we got together to start the band is we would, we would all get high, we would smoke some pot before band practice. And while that seemed like a lot of fun and it sure sounded good to us. Turns out we flipped on the tape recorder one day and realized that we actually sounded like crap. And we were disappointed when we played back the recorder because it felt like it was so much fun. So we decided as a group that we would no longer be getting high during band practice, and heaven forbid we should ever get a job playing. We would never get high that during the job as well. So what we had to do then is be disciplined and that was less than one. So as we were being disciplined, we then started to practice a list of songs we had agreed on. And my belief was that we practiced each song over and over again until we got it perfect, or as close to perfect as possible. And we did that week after week. Sometimes it’s a two, three weeks to get one song right. But that became less than number two, which was don’t deliver a substandard product. Now while it said the price of perfection is bankruptcy, I believe you can come very close to perfect and still generate enormous pride in delivering incredible value just by going that little extra mile. So perfection isn’t really required, but supreme excellence is. And so that leads us to the next thing that happened was to figure out how much we should charge. So here we go out and we start telling moms that we could play sweet sixteens, and we didn’t know what to charge. So I made up a number, I said: “$50.” And amazingly someone said yes. So now we had our first gig and we earned $50 for the four of us. But what was interesting is, I had the idea that maybe the next time we would get a gig, I’d raise the price. So we kept raising the price everytime we got a gig until we hit an upper level boundary of about $500. Now our, they got to remind you, I’m not a young guy, so when I’m telling you I did this, it was probably back in 1969, 1970 era. So $500 was quite a bit of money.“Don't deliver a substandard product.” –Mitch Russo Click To Tweet
Art Costello: Yeah, it was.
Mitch Russo: So that became less than number four, honestly, assess your true worth and then begin with pricing experiments to find your ideal price. Okay, so now we were having these great jobs and we go and play these sweet sixteens in a couple of frat parties and I decided one day to bring along the clipboard and a pencil. And I went to the person who booked us after the show, I said: “Hey, how did we do? Did you like it?” And said: “Oh yeah, yeah, you were great.” And so I put the clipboard in the hand and say: “Would you mind writing a quick note? And just about what you thought of us.” So they said: “Oh sure, no problem.” And they’d write something like, Mitch, his band was terrific, we definitely hire him again. So that became lesson number five, which is get a testimonial after every service or product you deliver. And we never violated that rule, by the way. So every single job we got a testimonial. But now that we’re getting testimonials, I figured, you know what we could do, we could photocopy these and post them in the supermarket. And then once we got jobs by posting these in the supermarket, I started to drop notes to the local newspaper and they printed word for word exactly what I sent them. So that to me was the beginning of lesson number six, which is spread the word and do not discount the value of simple acts like publicity. So over and over again, we did gigs, we got testimonials, we posted little notices to the local newspaper, and we got more gigs. And lesson seven is the best of all, is basically fun. And that’s what we did. We had fun growing up in Brooklyn, New York, and being in a band
Art Costello: You and I have so much in common. I don’t know if you know this about me or not.
Mitch Russo: No.
Art Costello: But I managed rock and roll bands after I came home from Vietnam and went to college. My roommate, he actually was an incredible music writer, lyricist. He built harpsichords from scratch.
Mitch Russo: Wow.
Art Costello: Keyboardist, and he came home one day and said: “I am so tired of our band not being able to get gigs. We can’t get a gig anywhere.” And this is again back in the late 60’s, I had just returned from Vietnam and started college, and I said to him jokingly, I said: “I’ll bet I can get you some, some work.” So I was already enrolled in school full time, working a full time job in mental health because I wanted to follow my career path in psychology. So I started going out and getting him jobs, getting their band jobs. The name of the band was the Rudy Kusudi Band, it was a great band. Anyway, I started booking them around San Diego. Then I started going up into, up towards Camp Pendleton, around the Marine Corps Base up there because I knew it well, have been in the Marines. And then into Orange County, and then eventually into LA, into the Troubadour, The Whiskey a Go GO, you know, some of the bigger places and all that. Well, in the meantime, all the local bands in San Diego had heard that I was keeping my guys working almost more than they wanted to. So a bunch of the bands started coming to me, and I built this really good management company. And eventually four years later when I was graduating, actually four and a half years later when I was graduating, we played a concert with Dr. Hook, and Dr. John, and José Feliciano, Jesse Colin Young, I mean a bunch of the old time guys at Jack Murphy Stadium, and Jose’s manager came and said: “How’d you like to come work for us in LA?” I ended up getting, to cut this short. I got the dream job of a life working for Jose, but that, and my father grew up in Brooklyn, so we have a lot in common.
Mitch Russo: I see. That’s fantastic. Great to hear that. Yeah, thanks for sharing that. I mean, for me it was amazing about the whole experience is that, you know, I actually got to meet girls this way, which was fantastic, and now I can get dates and everything, you know, I discovered my calling. But I did have this one huge disappointment about the rock band because it was now my ambition to become a rock star. But the discovery I made about a year into this is that I actually had no talent at all. I love to play, I love to copy music from others, but when it came to being a true musician, it wasn’t, it wasn’t my calling. And I accepted that, I was disappointed, but I said: “Okay, it’s not where I belong. So that was fine.”
Art Costello: And where did it lead you?
Mitch Russo: Well, that’s really where the story goes because you see my core hobby, I had two very, very big hobbies. I was a hobby kid, a lot of kids weren’t, I was. My big hobby was building stuff, and building stuff out of electronics. So I was an electronics nut. I would spend all of my money on switches, and light bulbs, and motors, and wire, and magnets, and I would build servos, and elevator out of plastic, and I would do all these construction things as a kid. And then of course my other, photography, which was a very big passion, when I could afford it was photography. So what I did is I buy a kit from the drug store, a Kodak kit for 50 cents, and it included three little tiny plastic trays. You probably remember this, the solution and a few sheets of paper, and I could buy a roll of film, and literally in the basement with an almost dark basement, I could make my own little EDBD prints about the size of three inches or so. And so for me, the fascination started at a very young age with photography. But where that led me was two places. One is a little bit of a dark place, Art, I have to tell you, in the experience of having a band, I did end up using and becoming a narcotics. And so, I developed, and I was shooting heroin on a very regular basis at that point. So it was pretty serious and I don’t think much of it, I thought, Hey, I’m just having fun. But I realized I was addicted, and I was addicted heavily to narcotics. And the thing about the band was that it was giving me enough money to fuel the addiction. You might’ve thought is not a good thing, and it’s not. So one day my mom discovered my little secret stash and she called some friends, and got a lead to a psychiatrist in New York City. And so I went to visit him and I basically was enrolled in a drug rehab program at the age of 16 while most people who hear this say things like: “Mitch, I just can’t believe that was you.” And I said: “Well, you know, it could’ve been any of us.” At that time, I mean, many of us did start by smoking pot. The good news is that it turned out to be an intense experience, but the absolute best experience of my entire life. Because I went in an immature junkie hoping to live basically, and I came out a strong young man focused and ready to take on life, and that was what I did. At that point, I graduated. I was just 18 when I graduated. I went back and got my high school diploma. I then decided what I wanted to do, and I went and did it, and that’s how my life started. It all started in what might be considered a troubled childhood.
Art Costello: You know, one of the things that comes to mind is having worked with in drug rehab in my early part of my psychology career, the recidivism rate is so high. You overcame that. That is really an amazing feat, and I commend you for it, and I really honor you in doing that because it is not very easy to do that.
Mitch Russo: Thank you very much.
Art Costello: You know, I mean it’s really, really, and I’m glad that you’re able to share that with us because there may be somebody out there listening in the same shape who’s not thinking about going to rehab.
Mitch Russo: Yup.
Art Costello: But rehab can change your life. Mine actually was alcohol. I started drinking at a really early age because I had no parental supervision, and none of that. So the Marine Corps actually, when I went in the Marine Corps at 17, the discipline, the structure, and the fortitude that I needed to break a bad habit that was killing me.
Mitch Russo: Boy, I’m so sorry to hear that. But again, I think the recovery process can lead us to a place that was much better than maybe even where we expect it to go.“Recovery process can lead us to a place that was much better than maybe even where we expected to go.” –Mitch Russo Click To Tweet
Art Costello: Absolutely. That’s hitting the nail on the head because it’s not that we’ve been through it or around that. It’s what we do with what we learned, it’s a learning experience. And once we learn something and really take it to heart, it can change our lives and it can catapult us. And you’re living proof, you’re living proof that it did. Cause I want to hear the rest of your story.
Mitch Russo: Sure. Well, my big disappointment with drug rehab was when I enrolled, I was alone. I didn’t know anybody, and one particular staff member, let’s say his name is Carlos, he took me under his wing and he was quite a guy. He took care of me in the program the entire time. And I will say that if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know if I would’ve made it through the program. And three months after I graduated, I was waiting to call him and tell him where I was at because I had finally gotten myself together to the point where I was able to fill the requirements of a well balanced human being. I had a job, I had a place to live, and I had a very sweet woman who was now spending time with me, so I wanted to call him. So I did, I called him up and I said: “Hi, I’d like to speak to Carlos please.” And they say: “Oh, Carlos? Hold a moment please.” And they connected me to the director of the program and you know: “Hey Mitch, great to hear from you.” You know, it was a casual conversation at first, but then it got really serious. She said: “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but Carlos died of a drug overdose just last week.” And I started to cry, and it was a really hard breaking moment for me. And what I said to myself at that point was: “You know what? I’ve made it this far. I think Carlos would be proud of me if I made sure that I stayed clean and sober even if he couldn’t.” And so I did. And I never went back to any kind of hard drugs ever again, you know? And so, that was the trying part. That was growing up years for me. And I wouldn’t trade a minute of it because every single thing I told you today would help build who I am, it helped build my character. And then as your experiences help build yours.
Art Costello: Exactly, exactly. And it’s sad that we have to have Carloses in our lives. But it’s when we make the choice to honor them and not let it victimize us, you know, that really makes a difference in our lives.
Mitch Russo: Yes, yes. You’re absolutely right.
Art Costello: So I want to hear the rest. I know that there’s good things coming at this.
Mitch Russo: There are, there are. So I would say the next real event in my life is, you know, I went to school, and I did sat down with my mom, and I said: “Mom, I don’t think college is for me, but I want to go on and learn something in the electronics profession cause I feel so motivated to do that kind of work.” And she said: “Well, what is it that you think you’d like to do?” And I said: “I know this is going to sound crazy, but remember Frank that used to come to the house and fix the TV. I think I want to be a TV repairman. I kinda like that life.” You know, you can go travel, and you could go into people’s homes and fix their TV. And she said: “Son, if that’s what you want to do, well let’s get the best television repair school we can find.” So I enrolled at Devry Technical Institute in New Jersey for color television repair. And a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. There was a six term program, two years, six term program by the fifth term, the last term was a mandatory class, which seemed almost silly to take. It was called Digital Electronics. Now we all know there’s no digital electronics in a TV set, it’s all tubes, right? So you know, I figured, okay, well you got to graduate, you gotta take this class. So a couple of days into the program, the instructor said at the end of that class, and it was like third day or fourth day of the class, he said: “Mitch, could you please stay after class? I want to talk to you.” I said: “Okay.” So I walked over after everybody left, and he waited for everybody to go, and then he pulled out a book in his briefcase, and he said: “I want you to study chapter one, and I want you to answer the questions at the back of chapter one and submit them to me when you’re done with them. I said: “Oh, okay.” And I just took the book and left. Well, I went home and I did the test at the end, I studied the book. The book was beyond fascinating. It was thrilling. It was how to build logical maps and using what logic models, which later become integrated circuits, which became digital circuitry. I ate it up, I just loved it. Every day I would come back after and I’d say, you know, and then he would sit with me, and he’d discuss it, and he wanted to see if I really understood it and that was fun. And we did that, until finally around the final month of that class, I had finished the book and I came up and I gave him the last lesson and he said to me: “Do you have any idea what you just did?” I said: “No, I just did what you told me. What do you mean?” He goes: “Well, you just finished years one and two of the Electrical Engineering Program at Western State University, which is where this book comes from and you didn’t even enroll.” And I said: “Wow, I guess that’s pretty good.” If it wasn’t for that one professor, I don’t know what I would have become, where I would have gone.
But I became, I got recruited into a computer company at school and I moved from Brooklyn, New York to Marlborough, Massachusetts, the home of, at the time Data General Corporation. And I went to work there and I hated it. I was on a production line and somebody there recognized that I had more talent than just waiting for a computer to overheat. So they recruited me into another company, which was the leading company in the field at the time called Digital Equipment Corporation. And it was a digital that I really expanded my abilities. The people at digital were wonderful. They took the time to, they were patient with me and taught me a lot, and it was there that they had sponsored me through Northeastern University for my, for a degree in electrical engineering. But I didn’t stay, you know, I found that electrical engineering really at the time, which is in the 1970’s really meant the study of vacuum tubes when I was already doing, you know, fairly sophisticated integrated circuit design during my co-op years. So, bottom line again is that I left school, I stayed working for these different companies and my passion had become the microprocessor. The microprocessor was the dream I had always dreamt of, the ability to create anything I wanted with code in a very small affordable package. And I started using microprocessors in doing these designs for my clients or at this time that my job. My employer, when a man came along, tap me on the shoulder and said: “I want to take you to lunch.” And he brought me to a company called MOSTEC. Funny story about this was that I was making happily thrilled to make $17,000 a year. And I had all I could want at $17,000 a year. I had a car, I had an apartment, I could go have Mexican food once a week. I mean, what else is there to life, you know?
Art Costello: (laughs) That’s good.
Mitch Russo: You know, so this man, Dana Burnham, I’ll never forget him. He came along in his very funny Jaguar with a Chevy engine in it, and a quirky guy but a really smart guy. He said to me: “Look, I’ve already spoke to the boss about you. We want to hire you, and I think you’d like the environment.” I said: “Well, what will I be doing?” He goes: “You’re going to be helping us get the microprocessor, our microprocessor in more designs so that we could sell more chips.” So I said: “Oh, I completely understand. So I would be like the applications engineer.” He goes: “Exactly.” So I asked him, you know, just to be, for due diligence, I should ask, you know, how much does this job pay? You know, and he hemmed and hawed and I said, well, geez, if he offers me 15, I’d still probably take it. He said to me: “Well look, we just had a real crack down on salaries, so I can’t offer you what I’d like to offer you, but we could probably start you at about 55,000.”
Art Costello: (laughs).
Mitch Russo: And I didn’t know what to say. I mean, I said, I somehow got the words out: “Yeah, I think that would be okay.” So, you know, at that point I called up my accountants and said: “What do I do with this money?” Because well, this is going to put you in a much higher tax bracket. “You need to get a tax deduction.” I said: “Okay, what does that mean?” He goes: “Well, you need to buy a condo for yourself so you could deduct the mortgage interest or something.” I said: “Okay.” So I started looking around for condos and I realized after looking for about a month, I said: “You know, I could buy an entire building for the price of the stupid condo.” So that’s what I did. I bought a four apartment building, a four story building in Charlestown, Massachusetts for $72,000. And I lived in one of the buildings, and I charged, rent in the other apartments, which paid my entire mortgage. And then at that point, I had this great deduction, I guess, which is what my accountant wanted. So this was working out pretty well. I was actually making now even more than before because they didn’t have to pay any rent. And the building was a lot of fun, I didn’t have any real problems. I know people do, but I actually, I had some great tenants and I could tell you many stories about what happened there, but what ended up happening is that I was a very ambitious kid. So while I was working for MOSTEC and renting out my three apartments, I also took a job, moonlighting as a programmer. So I would program at night, get up in the morning and then go to my regular job, and then go back to work at night. And I did this for five, and if I could, I do it seven days a week cause I just loved it. But on the weekends what I was doing was stage photography. So I would go over to theater productions and say: “Hey, I would be willing to photograph your people, the people who are performing for free and even give you free prints. All you need to do is let me hang these prints in the lobby of the show.” And you know, everyone said: “Yes.” And I was really making some beautiful prints at the time. I had perfected my chemical process and all.
So I was out there again in Charlestown, Massachusetts at the age of 25, having 26 maybe, really having a great time loving life. But then this thing happened that got me all agitated. What got me agitated was this guy named Bill Gates created this software product called BASIC. And what made me so upset about that, I felt like I was going to miss the boat if I didn’t get involved in the computer industry myself. Instead of being an employee, I wanted to do something on my own, and I couldn’t think of what it was. Well, it turns out that, it was time for me to move out of Charlestown. And the reason I had to move out to Charlestown is because I finally got my first new car at the age of 29 and I didn’t want it to get trashed in the city. So I moved out to the suburbs and my next door neighbor, his name is Neil, and he and I immediately became friends. We started going to breakfast together, and one day we’re talking and I shared a frustration I had over breakfast about the fact that I had just bought this brand new PC for like $5,000, and I couldn’t even deduct it from my taxes because the IRS required contemporaneous record keeping of its use. So I said to him: “You know, I looked all over, I can’t find a program on the computer that would let me do that.” And without even saying a word, six weeks later he called me over to come over to his house and he showed me a prototype of that very program that I was looking for. And that’s when I said to him: “You know, we could sell a bunch of these.” And that’d be in the beginning of the Timeslips Software Corporation, except we had a small problem. We started to meet now every weekend and then in the evenings and we were building the product, and it was really getting to be pretty sophisticated. And I was writing the manual and testing while he was doing the coding and it was just about ready to release. So we quit our jobs, getting ready to start this new life with our new program called Tax Kick. And I got a very bad call from my accountant, it was a very good call actually. He said: “The IRS has released their requirements and you no longer need to keep contemporaneous records of your computer usage.” And I turned to Neil, I said: “We got some bad news. What are we going to do?” And you know, I could have said, Oh well we tried. I could have said, I’ll just go find another job. I could have done all those things, but I didn’t. I said: “What else could we do with this amazing piece of software? Who else in the world needs time tracking?” I mean, it seemed like time tracking was a universal need. So we brainstormed, and we brainstormed, and what we came up with is that, you know what? Everybody needs time tracking. So let’s convert this from a keep track of time on my computer to keep track of my time so I can bill it. And Neil went back to work, spend three more months building a billing module for the software, and we dropped our new product three months later into PC magazine. We spent all of our marketing dollars on two big ads and those were like $6,000 an ad, and we sold the software at the time for $99, and after both ads ran, we ended up with five sales. So we were out over almost $10,000 and pretty bummed. But about two weeks later, the ad salesman came to me and said: “Mitch, I know it didn’t work. I’m really sorry, but you know you’re entitled to these.” And he hands me this big stack of paper. And what those were is they used to be called the Bingo Leads. You may remember this Art?
Art Costello: Ehm.
Mitch Russo: In every magazine many years ago, there was a card, a postcard with a bunch of numbers on it, and if you liked something on a page, all you’d have to do is circle it, or black it out, or whatever and send it in. And the magazine would then forward those to all the people whose ads they had. So I got 500 of these things. And so I said: “Look, we don’t have any money to market. I’m going to call every single one of them. I had nothing better to do in a sense because we were dead in the water.” So I called every single one of those people that I could. And what I discovered was that most of the people that were interested were lawyers. So I said: “Well, what would happen if we start running ads just for lawyers?” And of course we blew all our money. So now we have to run little EDBD classified ads, and we did. And amazingly a 30 or $40 classified ad could bring in four, five, six sales. So then we started expanding that further and further until finally we got to the point where we now needed to hire another person to help us with all the fulfillment and everything that was going on. And we did that. Bottom line is that this became the of learning more about Guerilla marketing, hats off to Jay Conrad Levinson. So what ends up happening now is that by luck, and I use that word loosely sometimes, it turns out that a review copy of our software was picked up by InfoWorld Magazine. Long story short, InfoWorld gave us the highest rating ever in the history of the magazine tied only with WordPerfect. And that score was 9.3, no one had ever gotten a score higher than that. And that put us on the map. We went from selling six to nine copies a week to 600 copies a week. And now that’s how Timeslips got it’s real boost into creation, and that grew. And in the process I had a pesky sales guy constantly bugging me to spend money on ads. His name was Chet Holmes and he just wouldn’t give up until finally I did. I bought some ads from him and they turned out to be great, and we turned out to be incredibly good friends. And it was only later that Chet and I started hanging out together as friends, and he was a great friend, a delightful person. And later, he asked if I could help him with his company, and I said I would. And I ended up doing some work for him and he asked me to join his company, first, as the recruiting guy, and later as the president of the company, which I did.
And it was only in the first three or four months of being president and working with Chet that he got a lucky break. He finally got a return call from a guy named Tony Robbins. So Chet asked me if I would be willing to get on the phone with him and Tony and try and figure out how we were gonna work together. And so that turned into a Thursday night meeting. Every Thursday, Tony, Chet and I, we’d get on the phone and talk about just how we can combine our assets really and create something much bigger than we had already done. And that was the beginning of Business Breakthroughs International. And so for me, I got an incredible chapter of my life, which was the chance to work with Tony and Chet, spend five years building a $30 million company. And this came after my own success, selling Timeslips Corporation. And before I go to the next part of the story, Art, I want to go back to the Timeslip stays for a minute. One of the things I did at Timeslips was a little bit of an act of desperation. We had been growing so fast that we were unable to provide tech support to all the people that had bought our software. So one day, I had this idea that I might call one of our best customers who I know is like a power user and ask her if she could help me with a local client in her area and get them straightened out. Luckily she agreed to do it, and that gave me the idea to create what later became our certification program and that basically takes us right now to the present time. You see, it turns out that what I learned in building that certification program almost destroyed my company until I realized what was going wrong. I fixed it, I rebuilt it from scratch, ended up with 350 certified consultants. And as a result of doing that art, I ended up dropping an extra million and profits to the bottom line. I ended up building our third largest sales force, which was incredible because I had never expected that to happen, and create a 20% drop in our own support needs because the certified consultants were picking up the Slack. So after Chet, and I, and Tony finished up, the reason I say after is because, I only left because at that point Chet died, Chet had gotten sick with leukemia and complications set in and he passed away. And after he passed away, I told Tony, I said: “Tony, I don’t know what to do next here.” And you know, at first we thought we were going to go on and we had a plan, but my heart wasn’t in it. I mean, I just lost my best friend in the world. And so I said to Tony: “I think I need to resign and I apologize if this puts you in a bad position.” He says: “No, I completely understand.” And so I did, I resigned, and I didn’t quite know what I was going to do with myself. So I called an old friend, I called Jay Abraham and I said to Jay: “Hey Jay, what do you think?” And he said something to me. He said: “You know, Mitch, you cannot deprive the world of what you know. You have to find a way to teach what you know to others.” And I said: “What does that mean?” He goes: “I don’t know. You figure it out.”
Art Costello: (laughs).
Mitch Russo: And he hung up. So, okay. So I started to think about, I didn’t quite know what to do, but what ended up coming from that was my first book called the Invisible Organization, which became a basic blueprint for how to take a company virtual. And it brought me a lot of, I would say, a lot of interest. A lot of people got in touch with me, a lot of people bought the book, and I got a couple of consulting coaching gigs out of it, which was good too. But what started to happen was there was a chapter in that book about certification, and people start to ask me about that. And then I started to get clients who wanted me to build their certification program for them. So I had been, since then, this was 2013, I have been building certifications since then, and then last year I finally completed the blueprint on how to do it. So that’s my book Power Tribes, is the ultimate blueprint for how to create certification, and that’s why it’s called Power Tribes.
Art Costello: Wow. Amazing story. I mean, really is of fortitude and insight, and dedication to your passion. One of the things that I was thinking when you were talking about Chet, when he passed away, I lost my wife in 2006 to ovarian cancer. And when we grieve, we all grieve differently.
Mitch Russo: Yes.
Art Costello: And some of us dig in and start, we have to do something. I mean, I know that for me, it took me a while. It took me over two and a half years to really grieve the loss of my wife. But then once I came to the realization that I needed to make her, honor her, and the things that I did came my book Expectations Therapy, and how to use your expectations to better your life and create the life that you really want to live through a very basic principle. And you did it by taking the certification program and planning it out. And I think that we both did the same things. We both did different things, but the same basic driving force behind it.
Mitch Russo: Yes, you’re absolutely right.
Art Costello: That’s just an observation of mine on that. But I’m interested in, you know, being that I wrote this book, Expectations Therapy, and a workbook, and everything, I’ve always wanted to certify people in my methods with Expectations Therapy. Would it work with something like that?
Mitch Russo: It probably would. The thing about topic like that you, like yours is that it’s an evolving topic too, so that makes it even more interesting for certification. So you definitely have an opportunity to do that. And let me adjust the Power Tribes idea here because this is kind of important. You could create a test, and you could sell that test and call people certified, which is what many people do, but that’s not building a Power Tribe of. A Power Tribe is all about engaging people at an emotional level and tapping into their desire to help others and then creating the culture of giving inside of that tribe. And that’s what I do. That’s what, all of my program is designed to do. There’s the technical aspect, which is how to create the tests, how to create the training, how to create the physical organization, etc. But then there’s the soft training, which teaches people how to treat others, and how to create boundaries, and how to create culture. And when I work one on one with clients, I give my clients something that I’ve developed over 20 years called the coaching, Code Of Ethics. And what the Code Of Ethics does is it sets the boundaries so that people can work within those boundaries freely. And that’s what creates a true bonded Power Tribe Program.
Art Costello: Wow. Well, I’m definitely going out and getting a book. I mean, for sure, because I think that it could really, really helped open my eyes to a lot, and I think it could, everybody. Let’s talk about your fantastic God given talent, self-developed, I don’t know, photography, passion.
Mitch Russo: Sure.
Art Costello: And let me preface this for everybody in the audience. I want you to go to mitchrussotravels.com, and I want you to see some of the most fantastic photographs you’re ever gonna see in this world. I mean, I was stunned. I mean, not that, and Mitch could had it in them to do this, but they are literally breathtaking photographs.
Mitch Russo: Thank you so much Art, I really appreciate that.
Art Costello: Well, can you tell us how that all evolved with you?
Mitch Russo: Sure. So I told you that this passion for me started when I was a little boy, probably 9 or 10 years old. But what happened is that for many years it took a back seat to my career, if you will. And finally at the age of, let’s see, I must have been 20, 25, I ended up getting what I would call a good camera, a real camera. And I was so overwhelmed by the process, if you will. I didn’t know how to work the camera at all. So I basically decided to go to school. And so I went to the New England School of Photography for one — while I was going to Northeastern University for my engineering degree, and then the bug hit and I couldn’t stop going until, what was happening is I was going to school during the day. I would take the bus over to New England School of Photography. I would work in the dark room till sometimes two — go home, sleep, get up and go to school again. But my passion had evolved to the point where, although I liked school and cared about it, I didn’t care enough about it, I cared more about the photography.
Art Costello: (laughs).
Mitch Russo: And so, you know, it comes from somewhere inside, it starts there, and you know, from there it grows if it’s what you’re meant to do. So as I started to build my software company, I actually was able to pick back up my interest in photography again. And I started making big prints and putting them all over the company just cause I wanted to, it was my company, I could do what I want. So people in the employees loved them until someone came to me and said: “Mitch, this is a contest we want you to enter.” And then three people entered my office at the same time, and said: “We want you to enter this contest.” And I said: “Ah, okay. I didn’t really like contests.” You know, whatever. Okay. So I picked one small 8 by 10 black and white pictures, which happened to be one of my favorites. And I said: “Here, you can send it in.” And they did. Well, shockingly, I won first prize in the Sierra Club, and got the Image of the Year Award. And what that did is it caused galleries to contact me, and caused galleries to want to show my work. And I was invited to do one man shows in galleries all over the country. And I started to do that. But then something happens, first of all, my wife had a baby, this was my new daughter. And I found that being in the dark room to prepare for these shows was not — time for me spending with my new baby. And so what I decided to do at that point was to drop the photography. And at that point I did, I dropped photography, and I focused on my family. I mean, what I got from that was the ego gratification of having done several shows. But at the same time, I knew I needed to focus on my family, and that’s what I did. But for me, that passion has never gone away. Upto this day, I travel all over the world as you could see on the site, my next chip is to Myanmar, which is used to be called Burma.“It comes from somewhere inside, it starts there. And from there it grows if it's what you're meant to do.” –Mitch Russo Click To Tweet
Art Costello: Yup.
Mitch Russo: Which is North of India and I’ve been throughout that area before. I’ve been to Bhutan in that area as well. So photography brings me places I would never go on my own. And that’s part of why it’s such a passion for me.
Art Costello: Do you think, and this is my, hearing your story and everything. You’re so successful in so many different areas and I think it goes back to your seven tenants with your band.
Mitch Russo: Yup. Exactly.
Art Costello: It does. It just really resonates, and that is truly a testament to you, but it’s a Testament to the philosophy of having those tenants, and I hope people will go back and they’ll write them down off of this so they can use those to better their lives because anything is possible, and everything is possible when you believe, when you have the belief, and Mitch, it’s been great. We’re getting time to wrap up. I wanted to leave you with some five minutes of parting thoughts, promote whatever you like, give us your websites, give us the whole deal and then I’ll take us out of here and let Heather White take us out and we’ll be done.“Anything is possible. And everything is possible when you believe when you have the belief.” –Art Costello Click To Tweet
Mitch Russo: Sure. Now if you have a show page, I’d be happy to share the blog post that contains my seven lessons if you like.
Art Costello: Yes, we’ll put them in the show notes.
Mitch Russo: Okay, good. So I’ll email that over to you and listeners, you just go to the Mitch Russo page on Art Podcast site and you’ll see them there. But Art is very straightforward. I don’t really have a lot to promote, meaning I have private clients. I work usually very experienced, very larger businesses. My passion is helping people and so, if I get a chance to work with a great business, I’ll take it. And I love to build certification programs. So if there’s anyone listening that believes that they have a certification program in their heart somewhere, you can go to mypowertribe.com and there’s three questions on that page. If you can answer all three questions then I should talk, and let’s talk about how to build your power tribe and then of course anyone who just wants to interested in me. You could literally go to Google and just type my name, Mitch Russo, or go to mitchrusso.com and that’s where, there’s a summary of basically all of the things that I do. Art, thank you again for the chance to be on your show. It was a pleasure chatting with you and sharing my story.
Art Costello: No, this is our pleasure. You’ve given insights into how Mitch Russo thinks that is valuable. Very, very valuable.
Mitch Russo: I’m thrilled.
Art Costello: And I hope that we all can use it and better our lives. Again, Mitch, thank you, and for the audience, you know how you can get ahold of me, expectationtherapy.com, Shower Epiphanies Podcast itunes on iTunes, Heather White, you can take us out of here and another great show this week. Thank you.
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