JF2254: Serial Entrepreneur Advice From Vahan Yepremyan
Vahan Yepremyan is a business attorney, speaker, author, serial entrepreneur, and children’s rights activist. Vahan has spoken around the world on topics like achieving entrepreneurial success by removing the beliefs that block us, business fundamentals, and other entrepreneur topics. He was the winner of the Business Freedom Speaking Academy Idol held in Calgary, Canada, where he competed with speakers from around the world.
Vahan Yepremyan Real Estate Background:
- Vahan is a serial entrepreneur with businesses in law firms, film production, distribution company, & real estate investments
- Has been a entrepreneur for over 22 years
- His real estate developing company focuses on buy/hold, flipping, and hard money loans
- Based in Los Angeles, CA
- Say hi to him at: www.vylawfirm.com
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Best Ever Tweet:
“Getting rid of beliefs will not ensure that you will be a successful investor, what it does is it gives you the freedom to choose” – Vahan Yepremyan
Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners and welcome to the Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever show. I’m Theo Hicks and today, we’ll be speaking with Vahan Yepremyan.
Vahan, how are you doing today?
Vahan Yepremyan: Good morning, Theo, I am great. How are you doing?
Theo Hicks: I’m doing great. Thanks for asking and thank you for joining us today. So before we start, a little bit about Vahan. So he is a serial entrepreneur with businesses in law firms, film production, distribution company and real estate investments. He has been an entrepreneur for over 22 years, and his real estate development company focuses on buy and hold, flipping, and hard money loans. He is based in Los Angeles and his website is https://www.vylawfirm.com/.
So Vahan, do you mind telling us a little bit more about your background and what you’re focused on today?
Vahan Yepremyan: Of course. I don’t know how far you want me to go back, but I was born and I grew up in the former Soviet Union, in a place where entrepreneurship was illegal. So when I moved to the US, I was 17 years old. That was one of my fascinations with this beautiful country – entrepreneurship, the ability to set up and build your own enterprise, your own company. Where I grew up, everything was government-owned, everyone worked for the government, everyone got paid from the government, and everything entrepreneurial, was discouraged; thinking outside the box, questioning authority… Because of that, the whole system collapsed. There was no innovation, there is no competition, there is no incentive. So coming here and seeing how not only is it free, and it’s also encouraged to do.
I started studying it and ended up finding my way into law. And I had a little bit of time in politics, which was another fascinating thing for me; the whole concept of democracy. And I clicked for a White House think tank doing the US-Russia trade relations, since I spoke Russian as well. And then ended up in Los Angeles where I set up my law firm about 23 years ago, focusing on representing entrepreneurs and startups from pre-launch to pre-IPO, pretty much kind of taking care of setting up companies’ contracts, negotiating deals and helping them scale.
I went back to business school. Initially, I did a program at Harvard Business School and then I got my postgraduate on entrepreneurship in Cambridge out of the UK Business School. So not only do I represent entrepreneurs and have probably represented over 3000 entrepreneurs over the years and ventures, I myself am an entrepreneur. I speak the language, know the struggle and I know the journey of it. I’ve, over the years, had more than dozen ventures; some of them failed, some of them did okay and some of them are doing well.
As you mentioned, I have a law firm. That’s one of my main focuses. I also have a film production distribution company. We’re likely to win an Emmy and an Oscar nomination. And one of the other ones that I have with three other partners is a real estate investment and development company, for the last about 12 years or 13 years. I’m focusing on that and on the law firm. I speak a lot and teach at different universities and conferences. I have a book coming out about entrepreneurship and mindset.
Through this journey, I’ve learned the way I thought and my mindset and my beliefs affected my businesses and my entrepreneurship ventures. I was pre-programmed based on where I grew up on what does money or success or an entrepreneurship mean, and I had to reprogram myself. And as I did that, I noticed the difference in my businesses, and I continue to work through some of the stuff. I see a stark contrast in my businesses. I believe that your business is a reflection of you, who you are, what you believe, your story, your thoughts, your mindset. And as you grow, your businesses grow.
Interesting enough, as I really dove into this several years ago, while nothing else changed in my business except just me and my mindset, I saw my business really take off. In the last three years, we’ve made it into and we’re named Inc magazine’s fastest-growing companies in America, for three years in a row. It’s a big deal. And then for a company that’s 20 years old is as well named on the list of the Greatest Entrepreneurs of the Year for the three years. The Entrepreneur Magazine put us in as top 100, and first company in America last year.
Anyway, all this stuff that started happening without really much change in the business, rather than changing me, that started reflecting in my business. I speak a lot on that in the book that’s coming out. It is about kind of bringing that personal awareness, personal growth, mindset beliefs, into the world of entrepreneurship.
Theo Hicks: Let’s focus on that then, because as you mentioned, you grew up in the Soviet Union, and you kind of mentioned how the approach to money and entrepreneurship is essentially the opposite of here. So most people, when they talk about mindset blocks and having limiting beliefs about money, that’s one thing, whereas yours is an extreme version of that, because most people that are saying that they had limiting beliefs about money, at least grew up here. So it’s [unintelligible [00:08:04].07] whereas for you, it’s just everywhere.
Vahan Yepremyan: Yes.
Theo Hicks: So you probably have a good insight into how to focus on, like you said, reprogramming your mind, getting rid of those beliefs and kind of reorienting yourself and creating an entrepreneur mindset, and you wrote a book on it. So walk us through top two or three things people can start doing right now to adjust their mindset, whether they’re just starting off, or as you mentioned already have an established business and want to take it to the next level.
Vahan Yepremyan: Sure. And I want to also just give credit to my co-author. I’m co-authoring this book with Shelly Lefkoe of Lefkoe Institute. And her and her late husband have been studying these limiting beliefs and patterns and how to get rid of them for the last 30 years. So she did part of the book bringing in her background and experience in this.
You’re absolutely right, the place I grew up, and we form a lot of our beliefs in childhood. And spending 17 years of my life growing up and forming these beliefs in a place where not only is it part of school curriculum, it’s part of the media. Everything was censored and everything was filtered to teach you the socialist or communist mentality. And coming out here and realizing that those were not true.
When you have a belief, you believe that whatever that believe you hold, you believe that’s the truth. And as you come out and you see an alternative version of interpretation of things, you start questioning them. And then all of a sudden, that reality starts crumbling. You will notice if someone has certain beliefs that’s holding them back — and beliefs are not good or bad. It’s just they’re either limiting and holding you back or they’re empowering you. So one belief could hold me back and not hold you back. This is a very personal journey where you have to really become self-aware and pay attention to patterns that are happening in your life; are they things that keep happening and then you look at, what do I have to believe for me to experience these things and look at it this way?
And as you look at it and identify that belief, you look at alternative explanations. It’s amazing how a belief not only influences the way you think, but it also influences the way you act and the way you filter the world. They’re kind of like glasses through which you see the world. So whatever color those glasses are, that’s the world you see. And if those glasses are not clean and they have these limiting beliefs, that’s how you’re going to see the world. So essentially, getting rid of limiting beliefs is kind of like cleaning that filter.
I’ll give you an example – you and I walk into a room where there is a big dog. And I grew up with a belief that dogs are dangerous because I saw some dogs attack someone or I was attacked by a dog. And I’ve been told to stay away, don’t play with the dogs, that they can bite you and they’re dangerous. You grew up with a bunch of dogs in your household and had an amazing relationship and friendship with dogs. And two of us walk into the same room, see the same dog; because of our beliefs, we’re going to have a completely different experience in that room.
I’m going to tense up, I’m going to become anxious, I’m going to stay away from the dog and probably if I can, I’m going to turn around and leave the room. You on the other hand are going to get excited, walk over to the dog and you’re going to start petting him or playing with him, and have a completely different experience.
And the external is exactly the same, but our behavior, our emotion in every case is influenced by what beliefs we have inside. And I see this in clients. I see this as clients come in and they have certain beliefs. For example, you mentioned money. So I had a client who had this amazing intellectual property that she developed in her business over about 15 years… And was running a successful business, but had an identity of, “I’m a sole business owner, one location,” and she had a bunch of celebrity clientele and was making a good living.
But she also had a belief that money doesn’t grow on trees, you have to sacrifice and struggle in order to earn money. And she was certainly creating that struggle and sacrifice in order to get the money, because that was the belief. If you believe that’s the only way to do it, you’ll find how to sacrifice so that you can get that money.
An opportunity came to her where someone wanted to license her IP and take it to overseas, and open up a bunch of businesses similar to hers; over there where she had no intention of doing business. And her natural reaction was, “What do you mean, they’re just going to give me money for doing nothing?” And I said, “No, you’ve been doing this for 15 years. You’ve developed your sweat and tears and everything’s gone into this business. And now, they’re the ones who are getting something for very little effort. They’re just giving you money. You’ve given your 15 years of your life into this.” She goes, “Yeah, but people don’t just give your money, money doesn’t just appear.”
And she fought me on this for two weeks, as these investors were trying—eventually they were wanting to leave, and I did due diligence and they were serious. They had done this before they had the funds. They did a really great licensing deal for her, where she was secure in. They were not even licensing her brand, because she was concerned “Oh, they’re going to take the brand”, but it was just the IP.
And eventually, as they were ready to walk away, I asked them to give her a check and promised not to cash it; in fact, I had to sign something, taking personal responsibility for it. So I called her in and I gave her the check. It was on Friday. And I said, “Hold on to this check.” This was the initial licensing fee, which is a big chunk of money. I said, “Hold on to this for the weekend and then come in on Monday either to sign the contract and go straight to the bank and deposit the check, or just come in on Monday and bring the check back and we’ll void it and give it back to them.” And she’s like, “Just keep it and I’ll think about and I’ll let you know.” I said, “No, I want the check with you. I don’t want it in the office. I don’t want it with me. Just come get it.” I wanted her to have physical check and just start kind of thinking that she can have this and it’s in her hands, all she has to do is just sign and go to the bank.
Long story short, something shifted over the weekend and she called me Sunday and she said, “Okay, I’m going to do this.” And she came in and she signed, and about three years now has passed. She’s in about four or five countries, she’s got over a dozen licensed locations, she’s making more money from that than her own business. In fact, she’s thinking about selling her business and just kind of focusing on her health, which is not so great because of all the sacrifice and everything else, and just continuing to license. And all really happened there is because she had these offers before I got involved with her and stuff, and people wanted to open locations and joint-venture with her and do all kinds of stuff – her belief stopped her each time. And in this case, just shifting one belief, that money has to come with certain conditions and certain things have to happen and it doesn’t come in easy, it has to be really hard – her whole life changed, her whole business changed.
I see this in so many of my clients and so many people that I interact with. It’s amazing. So looking at your beliefs and your patterns and sometimes things happen that has nothing to do with your belief. That’s fine. But things sometimes happen because you have certain beliefs and you look at things a certain way, or interpreting things. So a self-awareness of this is a big thing.
As a CEO of your company or an entrepreneur who runs your company, you have to be really aware of what’s the culture you’re creating in your business and in your company. And what’s the emotional intelligence that you bringing in. You come in and you’re the Chief Emotional Officer, not only the Chief Executive Officer. And a lot of times your enterprise reflects you and your emotional intelligence, how you deal with challenges, how do you take responsibility, do you blame others, do you take responsibility? So all this stuff, a lot of it is formed in our childhood and in other experiences.
As entrepreneurs and in real estate as well, it’s not just about your next investment, it’s not about next house or next apartment building… This is a journey. The market goes up and down, you go with it up and down, your cash flow goes up and down. So you have to look at it as more of a journey and a long term thing. Especially in real estate, one of the things you must have is patience. And going in, you have to analyze things, just like you would do due diligence on the property. What are the comps? What’s the neighborhood? Where’s the market going?
I invite your listeners to do the same due diligence on themselves, because some of their decisions have nothing to do with the market, have nothing to do with the prices and opportunities. It’s more of, “Is there anything that’s holding me back from being the best version of myself?” And again, just to clarify, get rid of beliefs that will not ensure that you’re a successful investor or real estate developer. What it does is gives you freedom to choose, that you’re not stuck in a certain way just because that’s your belief, but now you have an opportunity of, “Hey–” You know, just like in that room, I said we walked into the room – if I didn’t have that belief, I could still turn around and walk out the room, or I could stay and pet the dog, or I could stay and not pet the dog. So I have options at that point. And then I could make that business decision based on the due diligence, for example, on the property that I’m looking at, without having my personal issues come into that.
So looking at yourself and looking at what triggers you, and how do you look at the fear of failure in real estate or in entrepreneurship – people can experience failure, whether it’s on a smaller scale or a bigger scale. Looking at why are you doing this and what is your driving force and what are the things that are holding you back will really empower you and open up a whole world of choices to you.
Theo Hicks: So one of my follow-up questions – I get all this, 100%, and you gave your example of the woman who had that limiting belief about money. But in that example, she had you, she had a Vahan to help her. You gave her that check and that’s what helped her kind of reprogram herself. So for people out there who don’t have a Vahan, who don’t necessarily have a mentor, maybe tell us tactically speaking, specifically, what am I doing in order to accomplish this goal? Am I writing it down? Am I meditating? Am I talking to myself in the mirror? What’s the actual tactic that I need to do in order to act on the advice you just gave?
Vahan Yepremyan: Sure. Having somebody help you through it is always a great idea. And sometimes some of the insights I’ve gotten from my close friends who I invite and I’m open to constructive criticism, they’ll come in and say, “I have noticed you say this thing or you behave certain way”, just look at it. And you kind of sit with it and say, “Ah, I do do this. And I have done this over the years. And why do I do this? And what do I believe that makes me act a certain way?” And sometimes that perspective helps. Having somebody who’s professionally done it, like Shelly Lefkoe, obviously, helps a lot.
But what I would say is one, just being aware that what you believe and that your thoughts really influence how you act in your decisions is already a big step. Because then you’re now aware of this thing that’s going on in your head, that a lot of us if we’re not paying attention, it just happens automatically. You just see the world and you assume that’s the belief you hold. So first thing is just become aware of this.
The second thing is look at patterns. What happens? I had a client who refused to work—he had a really bad experience with a partner who was a relative of his, and he came to me… And he was afraid of conflict. He had a belief that confrontation or conflict are really bad. He grew up in a household where his parents constantly fought and it just created a whole dynamic for him.
So in this scenario, his partner was stealing from him, and he would not confront him. And I offered me getting involved and bringing this up. And he’s like, “No, no, no, no,” you know. And so what he did after spending, I think, three or four years building this company with a partner, he just gave all his shares away and he walked away, just because he thought confrontation was bad. And later on, he would set up another business with him. Something happens with his employees, and again, he doesn’t know what to do with it and he doesn’t know how to fire them and he’s like, you know, “Should I be—,” and there’s a pattern here of being afraid to speak up or bring up things that are on your mind or confront someone. And it doesn’t have to be in a negative way, it just there has to be a conversation. If you have a partner, you have an employee, you owe it to them, this conversation, because maybe that employee wasn’t doing anything wrong. Maybe it was in his head. And by giving a chance for them to explain themselves, why they did this, why they acted this way, could change the whole thing. So there is a pattern.
So if you pay attention “Why do people always take advantage of me?” how are you showing up? And why are you giving them that room? Or there’s this thing where people get to a certain level and then that’s it, because they think that they don’t deserve more, or imposter syndrome, where they’re going to be found out because they don’t deserve all the praise or they don’t deserve the accomplishment they have, or the trust that their clients put in them, so they start playing small. So look at are you playing small? Can you step up? And what’s holding you back from playing small? Is it your self image?
It’s one thing if you don’t have the skill set and knowledge and ability, that’s fine. And if you still have the desire, then you go acquire those skills and get educated and get a mentor or somebody else to help you with that. That’s one thing. But if you do have the skill set, but you hold yourself back… And I’ve had this when I first started my law firm, a very sizable startup that was very prominent in the media news approached me. One of my employees, who was working with me, got hired away to work with them. And then as they were looking for legal representation, he said, “Look, you guys have got to go with this guy. I’ve worked with him. I know how he does, what he does, and how he handles his clients.”
So they approached me and said, “Usually we deal with bigger firms. And this is the representation we have”, and they handled some big, big names. “But because of your employee, and what he’s described how you work, we’d like to consider you.” And the first thing that went through my mind is, “I don’t line up with those firms. I’m going to be found out if they hire me and then I fail.” All these things come up. So paying attention to—it’s one thing if I don’t have the skill set to help them. That’s a good reason for me to say, “Hey, I’d love to help you. But no.” But if it’s me, if it’s me stopping me, that’s a whole different thing.
So what I would do, the first thing is just pay attention and be aware and then look for a pattern. And then as you determine a pattern, see if there’s an alternative explanation to this. If you can explain the same thing different ways, there’s a second version to this explanation, then maybe your belief is not the truth. It’s just one version. Somebody says, “Hey, I’ll call you tomorrow,” and then they don’t call you. Now you form a belief that they didn’t like me, because I’m not tall enough, I’m not whatever enough, I’m not handsome enough, or whatever; they don’t call you. And that becomes your truth. “Hey, she said, she’s going to call and she didn’t call.”
Now, if you sit there and say, could there be any other explanation? She got busy, she lost my number, there were complications, something happened to her, whatever. All of a sudden, that one explanation that you’re focusing on that’s making you feel terrible is not the truth. It could be, but it’s not. So why focus on something that makes you feel bad and disempowers you, rather than focus on “Hey, maybe she’ll call. Maybe she got busy,” or whatever. And then just leave it like that, rather than kind of projecting it back to yourself and making yourself feel bad.
So look at an alternative explanation of an event, because events by themselves don’t have any meaning. Things just happen. Just because you’re venture fell doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person, terrible entrepreneur. Maybe you make some bad decisions or maybe you didn’t. What do you take out of that that’s going to empower you for the next, “Hey, I’ve learned this from this.” And you know, you take the lessons, but you have to be careful what meaning you give to things. Because as soon as you attach a meaning to an event that happened, that meaning will make you react to it and you’ll have an emotional reaction to it.
Some time ago—I don’t know how we’re doing at time, but some time ago—
Theo Hicks: We actually have to wrap up here.
Vahan Yepremyan: Okay. That’s fine.
Theo Hicks: I can definitely talk to you for a long time. You gave a lot of powerful advice in this episode. I wish we did had more time.
So Best Ever listeners, make sure you listen to this again, because he gave a lot of practical advice, as well as specific examples of how this has helped people, including himself, scale and grow to the next level. And I liked what you said that you’re the CEO, you’re the Chief Executive Officer of your business, but you’re also the Chief Emotional Officer of your business, both for yourself and for your employees.
Vahan, I really appreciate it.
Vahan Yepremyan: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Theo Hicks: Absolutely. His website is https://www.vylawfirm.com/. Best Ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening. Have a best ever day and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.
Vahan Yepremyan: Thanks, Theo.
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