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Ep66 Transcript: Interview with Justin Breen
Andrea Vahl: What would you do if you were suddenly laid off from a long career in journalism and weren’t sure where to turn? Well, if you were Justin Breen, you would create your own global company connecting entrepreneurs and visionaries from all over the world. Tune in to today’s episode as we explore how Justin approaches life and learn more about his BrEpic company.
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Hey Late Starters, it’s your host, Andrea Vahl. And I am here with Justin Breen, who I have found, we have a lot of things in common, which is really fun.
But he is the founder of BrEpic which he launched just a few days after turning 40. So we are going to dive into what it takes to launch a company and discover some of the pitfalls and some of the lessons learned in this interview.
So welcome Justin.
Justin Breen: Yes, it’s great to connect. Age is just a number, but mindset is a limit.
Andrea Vahl: For sure. So tell us a little bit about BrEpic and how that came about. You had a big career change with this s o give us a little backstory on how this happened.
Justin Breen: I was a journalist for 20 years. I created my entire first company based on how PR firms annoyed me. Solve problem, create solution, problem solved, successful global company. But, entrepreneurs are the most damaged people with the best coping skills.
They have the most anxiety, most depression. most potential for bankruptcy, most traumatic experiences as a child or young adult, but the best coping skills, highest IQ, highest EQ, most guts, all of that. Most people with zero business background can’t start a company after their job salary was cut in half.
So that was February 10th, 2017. I was a journalist, had my job salary cut in half, tried to find a full-time job but couldn’t find one. I incorporated in April 16th, 2017 with zero business background six days after I turned 40. Over the next six weeks, I reached out to 5,000 people to find my first five clients.
So one out of a thousand said yes. That’s entrepreneur life. I got my fifth client and resigned on June 2nd. He’s now retired, but at the time, Robert Feeder was the top media columnist in the Midwest and he did a story that I had started my own firm. So that was the the first company, now I run and have founded two global companies that only partner with top visionaries on the planet.
So it’s been an interesting journey since my job salary was cut in half.
Andrea Vahl: And that’s what starts a lot of entrepreneur’s journey is ,this necessity. It is a challenge sometimes, companies don’t necessarily want to hire someone in midlife, it’s harder to find the right fit, the right salary. So you just make your own luck. And that is something that happened to me as well. I was laid off and you just make it happen.
Tell us a little bit about what BrEpic does. Let’s dive into more. You said you were frustrated with how PR hand companies handled things. Tell us why you started the company and what it does.
Justin Breen: Most of my day is talking to the world’s top entrepreneurs.
So not humans, not consultants, not business owners, just top people changing the world. And these are endless ideators, futurists. They’re all over the place, but they’re the ones changing the world. And then what my brain does with that, it just takes all of that and turns it into patterns. I don’t know why my brain does that, but that’s what it does.
So it can keep up with the visionaries and then actually do something about it. So that’s the background. And so the formula for creating a successful global company is surprisingly simple. It’s four things. So you see a problem, create solution, problem solved, successful global company.
So see a problem as a journalist for 20 years, annoyed by PR firms that sent useless press releases that nobody cares about. As a journalist, you get hundreds of those every day from people you don’t know. That’s a problem. I created a solution, the company’s entire processes on the website.
We write actual stories, they become links on our partners’ websites under news or blog. So it looks like a story you see in Chicago Tribune We take that link and pitch it to media all over the world. The media’s immediately interested. Problem solved. So it works for any location, any company size, any vertical.
The only vertical we ignore is politics because it’s the opposite of visionary abundance of best mindset. And we only partner with visionaries. So there’s no one cost or charge so it eliminates competition, it eliminates nickel and dime thinking. It’s a lot of fun.
So it’s just connecting people to visionaries who are changing the world.
Andrea Vahl: That’s awesome. That’s a great mission to get behind.
Justin Breen: I appreciate you saying that. My wife, who’s a pediatrician who also went to Washington University, she’s full empathy and love and so she taught me how to say thank you.
But visionaries are usually aliens within their own family, community, and verticals. Nobody understands us except top entrepreneurs on the planet. So I’ve spent most of my life talking to people who had no idea what I was talking about. And since starting entrepreneur life, I’ve just figured out the only people that understand what I’m talking about are people changing the world and who will actually do it.
They’ll just write the check, make the investment to do it. And that’s fun because they’re a little hard to find at first, but once you find them, they just introduce you to more people like that. I was listening to your podcast with Mark Schaffer, and he says, if you have community, you don’t need marketing.
You just create value for the highest level people. They create value for you. My community is the top performing entrepreneurs on the planet, so it eliminates most of society.
Andrea Vahl: We originally got a connection through Dennis Yu, who is amazing.
So, what has been the biggest takeaway as you have developed this? Obviously it’s incredibly hard, like you said, to be successful as an entrepreneur.
There’s a lot that goes into it. What has been a takeaway for you with starting this new thing?
Justin Breen: So many things, and again, my brain simplifies everything into patterns.
My two favorite ones… one is if you have the right mindset, it attracts the right network, which creates the right opportunities.
So we only partner with visionaries who live in abundance and who look at things as investments, not cost. So that’s maybe one out of a thousand people overall. So most people who live in scarcity think that’s a small number. But if there are 8 billion people on the planet, , one out of a thousand of that is 8 million.
So there’s 8 million Dennis Yu’s out there. They introduce you to the other Dennis Yu’s’ out there. Mindset attracts the right, network, creates the right opportunities.
The second is, I just keep writing bigger checks to be in smaller rooms where the people in those rooms are making bigger impacts.
That allows me to spend the biggest check, biggest investment in my family, wife, and two children where I can make the most impact. So it’s the same pattern.
Andrea Vahl: Yes. And how do you assess that risk?
Justin Breen: Nope. That’s what separates entrepreneurs from humans. So, there are 34 strength finders in Gallup Clifton, I’m dead last in empathy second to last in includer. For top visionaries, endless empathy, endless inclusion.
All I do is talk to top entrepreneurs. I have not met one of those people, that hasn’t overcome at least one of the following four things. Most are two or three. And the most successful ones, not silver spoon ones, the most successful ones are usually threes and fours.
So this is what separates those people from humans. The four things are bankruptcy or potential bankruptcy, depression, the highest level of anxiety that you can imagine and possible traumatic experiences as a child or young adult.
So humans, business owners, consultants think those are risks.
Entrepreneurs think, “Figure it out.” So most people can’t do that. That’s why they’re not the top performing entrepreneur on the planet.
Andrea Vahl: Interesting. Have you felt overwhelmed in this journey at all?
Like starting something new? .
Justin Breen: You’re kidding. So, I’m three of those four. The only one I’ve never had to worry about is bankruptcy or potential bankruptcy. I found the most successful ones are almost always all four .
A gain, that’s why most people can’t do it. They don’t have the coping skills to be able to overcome that. So what I’ve seen, and this is why I wrote the second book, is many times the entrepreneurs use those coping skills to create massive wealth, a massive company, whatever that is, but many times at the expense of anything meaningful… no family, torched family, multiple divorces. So the book is about how to build collaborative global companies while putting your loved ones first.
So I’m a dad who happens to be an entrepreneur, there’s a fundamental difference, but overwhelm that’s entrepreneurship, that’s what it is. That’s why most people can’t, that’s why they stay small business or consultant. Because they can’t handle it. They can’t do it.
Andrea Vahl: So tell us about your book. Because it is about building a life, right? Building a lifestyle. So talk about that a little bit and share what went into that book.
Justin Breen: So with the pattern recognition, I talked to one to two visionaries every single week that have an entrepreneur life destroy their family life or preventing them from doing anything meaningful.
I’m like, that’s a bad idea. You don’t have to do that, and you can actually make it collaborative. So before Covid, our sons are 8 and 10 now, but before Covid I saw them more than any dad I’ve ever met, and I’d like to spent more time with them and it’s just chapter after chapter of how not to destroy your family life or not to destroy anything meaningful for this life.
Because again, entrepreneurs, are the most damaged people with the best coping skills. They want to put family first. They want to have something meaningful. They just don’t know how to do it. So that’s why I wrote it.
Andrea Vahl: Are there any tips you can share with us on how to achieve that?
I know a lot of entrepreneurs obviously are workaholics…
Justin Breen: Most damaged people with the best coping skills. Addicts. There’s a great book called Dopamine Nation about addiction and entrepreneurship is just an addiction, but again, if they take that trauma and they turn it into addiction for entrepreneurship and overworking that’s what entrepreneur life is, right?
And then again, the family gets sacrificed. The first step is that you actually talk about it, acknowledge there’s an issue, but chapter three is about winning the wrong game. One of my friends, genius entrepreneur, Jesse Elder, I was talking to him about this, for those who don’t know Jesse Elder, look him up, he’s a full genius and has hundreds of thousands, if not millions of followers, of other geniuses. So I was talking to him and say, “What’s the deal with all these entrepreneurs talking about their cars or homes or whatever, showing this on social media?” And he says, “Oh, they’re just winning the wrong game.”
So it’s about asking, if you are one of those people, what game are you actually winning? And just even thinking about it is the first step to actually doing something about it.
Andrea Vahl: Yes. But then how do you actually then take that next step? What’s that next step of letting go of some of the workaholic tendencies that you might have?
Justin Breen: So entrepreneurs, once they’re aware of the problem, they’ll actually do something about it. That’s where a team comes in. Or a therapist. I was talking to an entrepreneur, they have a podcast for mental health for entrepreneurs and they were asking me, is there a recipe for this?
Honestly, a good start is usually people like me, not always, but usually people like me are married to stabilizing humans. So my wife’s a pediatrician; love warmth, empathy, rules, order, caring. And so again, with that pattern recognition, a good start is mirroring or dating or partnering with a stabilizing human.
Literally, my wife taught me how to say thank you and said, “Hey, don’t forget to pick up your children.” Certainly, someone like me can marry someone like me. That can create a really interesting life. More often than not, complete disaster because there’s no stabilization.
Andrea Vahl: Who have been some of your greatest teachers and influencers as you have built this business from the ground up?
Justin Breen: The greatest is my dad. Chapter one of the book is, The Cream Rises to the Top. Most sons, I’m guessing, have good relationships with their father. Mine’s different and I’ll explain.
My dad was 61 when I was born. He’d be a hundred now. So he was a World War II hero who was shot down multiple times in combat, many times without a parachute but got back in the plane.
You’re either someone who can do that or you’re not. That’s an entrepreneur. So he became an attorney in the Nuremberg Trials and President of an insurance company. So from age five to when I had a brain till age 13 when he died, he would say every day, “The cream rises to the top.” You’re either someone that will do that or someone who makes an excuse.
It’s been interesting to see that play out as an entrepreneur. First, as a journalist, it took 15 years to get to the Chicago market and then in a five-minute meeting, had my job salary cut in half. So figure it out. Get back in the plane without a parachute.
Again, talking to top visionaries, all day, every day, except the weekends, those people are the cream that rises to the top, they’ll do whatever it takes to do that. So we just partner only with the cream that rises to the top, the ones that will do whatever it takes. So my dad is still my number one teacher, him and my sons.
I’m in two of the top entrepreneur groups in the world. I’m very grateful for that one strategic coach, he invests 25k a year with us. He easily would invest 50k. Dan Sullivan is the co-founder of that. I’m very confident saying he’s one of the top entrepreneurial coaches that ever lived. I was just in a room with him earlier today. When you’re in a room with someone like that, you become someone like that.
And then two, I would say Peter Diamandis, very grateful. He wrote the Forward for Epic life. Dr. Peters is the top Futurist maybe on the planet. So, being in a room with people like that, abundance 360, it eliminates what do you cost/charge nonsense. So I’m very grateful to be in those rooms all the time.
Andrea Vahl: Definitely. Teachers and influencers right there, including your dad. As you’ve built your company, have there been any pivotal moments that you’ve had or unexpected obstacles that you want to share as a teaching point with some of our listeners?
Justin Breen: Many. I was thinking because the worst day of my journalism career was also the best day. That’s the day my job salary was cut in half, so that was the worst day and the best day. So that’s not even a top 50, probably top a hundred days now as an entrepreneur, it’s got tough again, that’s what entrepreneur life is. The main thing I learned was that at the end of 2018, about two years into the journey I had made more money in one year than I’d ever thought possible… because you don’t get into journalism to make a lot of money.
So at the end of 2018, I had more money than I ever thought possible but I’ve never been more miserable in my life. More money doesn’t equal more happiness. And it was wonderful but very painful. But a wonderful learning experience to go through.
And even though companies make a lot more money now, that has nothing to do with happiness. What really makes me happy is spending time with my family and growing a network with visionaries.
Andrea Vahl: And why was that? Why was that first year so painful?
Justin Breen: I guess the work world is corporate, but as an employee, you get a paycheck every two weeks. And then as an entrepreneur, I was making 30, 40, 50k a month.
The most I’d ever made as a journalist was 80k in one year. And so I was making 50k a month, in that year, I think 60k was the highest and then you go from that to maybe making zero the next month. And it was a paralyzing feeling because you don’t know where you next paycheck is coming from.
I hadn’t been in the world long enough to understand that’s how it works. I’m glad I went through that.
Andrea Vahl: It’s a scary time and now I’ve been an entrepreneur for 13 years and it smooths out. You realize later that it’s going to come.
You can make it happen but that rollercoaster is scary for sure.
Justin Breen: I applaud you 13 years. That’s wonderful. Most people can’t, they just can’t handle it. That’s why they give up or go get a job.
I have endless respect for that. And your intelligence and EQ have to be very high. So either you can do that or you make an excuse or give up, and when you have a dad like that and then my wife, our first date was before she started medical school.
Andrea Vahl: That’s a huge ride in itself. I have lots of friends from WashU and medical school’s a tough, tough road.
Justin Breen: The human, biological equivalent of entrepreneur life, I would say.
Andrea Vahl: Do you have a favorite quote or inspirational saying, what, can you share with our listeners that inspires you and keeps you going? I love the, , the cream rises to the top with your dad.
Justin Breen: Yes, that’s always the answer. But, my other favorite one, Howard Cosell always used to say, “I tell it like it is.”
Most people don’t appreciate my directness and bluntness, but the people who do are the top visionaries on the planet.
They love it.
Andrea Vahl: One of the things that I was hearing was the directness is kindness. It’s basically just getting to the point and being super clear, and that’s the kindest thing to do a lot of times. Maybe it’s hard for some people to hear it, but I think it’s good.
Justin Breen: You said it in a more empathetic way. I always say that directness weeds out nonsense and attracts greatness. But maybe you said it in a kinder way, literally. And that’s how I learn in real-time. So thank you for saying that.
Andrea Vahl: That’s awesome. Well, Justin, thank you so much for being a guest on the show.
I wish you all the success with BrEpic and your future endeavors to connect visionaries. I think that’s a great mission in life.
And for those of you listening, we’ll have show notes where you can find out more and get connected and find out about Justin’s books.
So thank you, Justin.
Justin Breen: Thank you. And, soon after this, I’ll be introducing you to one of my partners who started her latest company at age 68.
Andrea Vahl: Oh, that’s awesome.
Justin Breen: A whole visionary.
Andrea Vahl: That’s great. So thanks, everyone. Talk to you again soon.
Hope that was helpful, and make sure you grab the free guide Top Tools for Late Starters on the website at latestartersclub.com and let’s turn dreaming into doing.
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