Steve Sims is the founder of the luxury concierge company, Bluefish.
Ever wanted a private underwater submersible tour of the Titanic? Or maybe a private dinner in the Sistine Chapel with a performance by Andrea Bocelli? Or maybe you just wanted to be married in the Vatican by the pope?
Steve is known for being able to make the impossible, absolutely possible for his clients. There’s nothing Steve Sims can’t get, including his own book. Steve’s new book is titled Bluefishing: The Art Of Making Things Happen.
In this episode, we’ll be discussing how Steve got his start in entrepreneurship by taking on an impossible challenge while working as a doorman in Hong Kong. We’ll also go in to Steve’s “ah-ha” moment after a yacht party in Monaco. We’ll find out the biggest fear that drives Steve forward every single day to take on new challenges and why he continues to create one of a kind experiences for his clients, and himself.
Key Points From This Episode:
- Discover how Blue Fish was born outside a bar in Hong Kong.
- Why defying how one “should” act with rich people gave Steve the leg up.
- The client who wanted to get married in the Vatican by the pope.
- Steve’s ugly “aha” moment that forced him back to being himself.
- Why entrepreneurs don’t need to become “unique” individuals.
- Why Steve sold his office, his assets and fired all his staff.
- The biggest struggle in Steve’s business today.
- The importance of being able to reset yourself.
- Find out more about the Blue Fish business model.
- Learn about Blue Fish’s smaller, more scalable model.
- Why remaining stagnant is Steve’s biggest fear.
- Why Microsoft has their own fail-safe garage.
- And much more!
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
Blue Fishing: The Art of Making Things Happen on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Bluefishing-Art-Making-Things-Happen/dp/1501152513
Steve Sims on Twitter – https://twitter.com/stevedsims1
Steve Sims Website – https://www.stevedsims.com/
Steve Sims on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/SteveDSims/
Blue Fish Website – https://www.thebluefish.com/
“SS: But I had wanted, desired and lusted for growth. I hated being stagnant, I hated – I would hate if as we’re doing this podcast now on Friday, I would hate if I had done nothing from last Friday any different. That terrifies the shit out of me, to know that a month from now, I’m going to have done stuff that’s made me broaden my horizons, spoken to different people and experienced a different experience, had my eyes opened to a new perspective, tried a new meal, tried a new sandwich, whatever. Walked a different path.
If I know a month from now, I haven’t gained any of that and I’m in exactly the same spot and even if you fail, even if I take on 10 new projects and every single one of those fail that I’ve learned a million things to do, so that those don’t happen again.”
[0:01:03.9] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Fail on Podcast where we explore the hardships and obstacles today’s industry leaders face on their journey to the top of their fields, through careful insight and thoughtful conversation. By embracing failure, we’ll show you how to build momentum without being consumed by the result.
Now please welcome your host, Rob Nunnery.
[0:01:29.4] RN: Hey there and welcome to the show that believes leveraging failure is not only the fastest way to learn but is also the fastest way to grow your business and live a life of absolute freedom. In a world that only likes to share successes, we dissect the struggle by talking to honest and vulnerable entrepreneurs.
This is a platform for their stories and today’s story is of my buddy Steve Sims. Steve is the founder of the luxury concierge company Blue Fish. He is known for being able to make the impossible, absolutely possible for his clients. From getting a private underwater submersible tour of the titanic to private dinners in the Academia at the feet of Michael Angelo’s David in Florence.
To having a private, romantic dinner in the Sistine chapel with a performance by Andrea Bochelli. There’s nothing Steve Sims can’t get and he also just published his book Blue Fishing: The Art Of Making Things Happen. We’ll be discussing how Steve got his start in entrepreneurship by taking on an impossible challenge, while working as a doorman in Hong Kong.
We’ll go in to Steve’s aha moment after a yacht party in Monaco that he uses to remind himself of his true value proposition for his business even today and we’ll go into the biggest fear that drives Steve forward every single day to take on new challenges and continue to create one of a kind experiences for his clients and himself.
But first, luckily all I travel with now is a backpack and I’m actually packing right now for Peru, going to Machu Pichu but the only reason I only need a backpack is for a simple reason. It’s clothing from an innovative Toronto apparel company called Unbound Marino, they have clothes made out of marino wool that you can wear for months on end without ever needing to have it washed.
This means I can travel with less clothes since they clean themselves. They really do clean themselves as long as you hang them up after even if you’re drenched in sweat and you just hang them up, hang there overnight, you can wakeup in the morning, smell that sucker and it will smell brand spanking new.
Give it a try, check out the show notes page for an exclusive fail on discount that you won’t be able to get anywhere else and if you’d like to stay up to date on all the fail on podcast interviews and key takeaways from each guest, simply go to failon.com and sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of the page. That’s failon.com.
[0:04:01.6] RN: Take me back to the first time where you kind of entered entrepreneurship. The first time that somebody actually gave you money in exchange for a product or service that you created?
[0:04:11.3] SS: Yeah, I think that’s two different questions. As an Irish lad in London, I was always questioning things so without realizing, that’s what a mentality of an entrepreneur is. You know, they see something square and they got something round and they got found out how it fits or they don’t.
It’s those that kind of question how it can happen of entrepreneurs. I think before I knew it was a cool thing to be, I always had that kind of inquisitive questionable nature. The first time I actually had that challenge and I remember this very specifically, I was doing parties in Hong Kong and someone said to me, “You’re super connected, I want to go to Monaco.”
He said, “You know, can you hook me up?” It was the Formula One Grand Prix in Monaco and I was like, “Absolutely, no problem.” I went back home and tried – well not Google, we didn’t have Google in the 80’s. I went back and tried to work out where the bloody hell Monaco was.
I’d accepted the challenge and that was I think another sign that I was an entrepreneur. We jump in and go “Yeah, we can do that!” And “Shit, fuck, how do we do that?”
I went back and then tried to work out how to do it and of course, the more I did, the more I was capable of and the more I realized how I was capable and competent in uncomfortable situations.
Joe Polish says, you know, get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I always found myself uncomfortable. In fact, I get scared when things are going smoothly, I get scared when things are running on track and I think I purposefully try to interrupt that, you know? I’m not one of these guys that can operate on Zen.
I want the challenge, you know, I love fast motorcycles, I love race tracks, I love motocross, I like boxing, I like MMA. I like to get into a scenario where I actually don’t know anything.
[0:05:58.4] RN: What were you doing – you said you’re doing parties in Hong Kong, what does that even mean?
[0:06:03.7] SS: Yeah, I got the job and there be other places you can find the story so I keep it short. I managed to get a job in Hong Kong as a stock broker and I landed on the Saturday and I was fired on a Tuesday.
They realized that I was just full of shit, didn’t know what I was doing. Being big and ugly, I got the only job that I was competent to do. I ended up being a doorman on nightclubs in Hong Kong and then I just started throwing some of these parties myself to get more bar money out of it, a cut off the door.
Then I started selling the parties sponsored by the banks and the jet shark companies. Because I actually thought of myself, you know, if you’ve got two people, both of them are going to give you 10% commission then work with someone who is spending a million dollars and not someone who is selling 10 bucks.
I always went for rich clients because they didn’t need to spend more for it, minimal. That’s what I was doing, I was just trying to get really affluent clients and my delusion was that once I had all those rich clients, I could go back to the bank and get a job.
Because as a brick layer from London, I wanted the complete polar opposite of how I’ve been brought up, which was riding the shitty motorcycle, wearing a black T shirt and getting into fights. I wanted to be the complete polar opposite to that.
Fast forward now, I’m 51 years old and I’m rolling around in my shitty motorcycles and don’t get into so many fights now but you know, back in the T shirts and stuff like that. I’ve done a full circle.
[0:07:28.0] RN: Got it, was that kind of your entry into what is now Blue Fish?
[0:07:33.2] SS: Yeah, it was.
[0:07:35.0] RN: Not technically Blue Fish, right? Because you were just kind of tussling at that point.
[0:07:39.5] SS: I’ve never changed as of yesterday and I don’t think by naming it Blue Fish, I‘d change anything. I tell a lie, I did try to change it in the early 2000’s, screwed it up and then was able to just hit pause and go back.
Without realizing it, a lot of people have this misconception of when you’re dealing with someone affluent that they’re incredibly smart. Now, the truth of the fact is, Rich people aren’t necessarily smart just because they’re rich. It means that they’re smart, one thing that got them to that – it could be anything, it could be the best maneuver, it could be shoes, it could be absolutely anything.
But for the rest of their life and knowledge, they don’t know. But you get a lot of people that speak to people with money, like “Good afternoon sir.” It’s like the shit don’t stink kind of thing, you know? I didn’t have that.
[0:08:30.4] RN: You were able to connect with them.
[0:08:32.0] SS: I don’t know if I was – I was able to connect because I didn’t shield who I was and I was very ignorant to the fact that other people were given these fake personas.
I was just like, “Yeah, I could do that” and I wasn’t trying to be anything other than me because being me was remarkably easy, you know? Then I suddenly – you know, the whole thing, you know, five years become an overnight success.
After like five years and I’m kind of doing this stuff throughout Asia and in Monaco and I’m now living in Switzerland. I’m flying around the world and I’m doing it and I suddenly started looking, seeing – “What, that person looks weird, who is that?” “He sells jets.” “Why is he looking so stand offish, why is he not getting plastered with us in the corner or the rich people are,” you know?
Because you didn’t know how to communicate by being him in that scenario. Man, I would just go balls to the wall and I didn’t care and if he resonated with you, great. If you didn’t –
[0:09:27.3] RN: Take care.
[0:09:28.2] SS: I’m not your person, you know? I think the stupidity factor and the ignorance to how I “should” in air quotes are half acted in that circle, gave me the leg up and as the years went on, I’ve just refused to call –
If I introduced a client to another client, I’ll introduce them as Mr. and Mr. Okay? But if I’m speaking to any client, it’s Bob, Bill with Sally, you know, first name terms, every single time. I’m not going to jump on your business card title, I don’t care how many people work for you, if your joke’s not funny, I’m not going to laugh at it, you know.
It’s that kind of stuff, it’s very easy just keeping that basic.
[0:10:06.0] RN: Got it. What is – what were the biggest struggles getting started? Because it seems like the Monaco thing, you had to go figure it out, right? Was that the case at the beginning? For everything pretty much? They would give you request and you would just, “Okay, I got to figure out how to do this?”
[0:10:22.9] SS: Yeah, it’s still the case.
[0:10:24.3] RN: Okay.
[0:10:25.4] SS: I kind of like it.
[0:10:26.6] RN: Much better connected now.
[0:10:27.8] SS: I’m much better connected now. It’s a little easier but I do search out those that kind of like make me scratch my head a bit. I had a client that wanted to get married in the Vatican by the pope, you know, that one was kind of – “Well, okay!” You know?
[0:10:40.2] RN: You didn’t know the pope at the time?
[0:10:41.3] SS: No, I didn’t, I didn’t. I just knew it was a guy in a big white dress but apart from that, it was – were I am now, I’m able to go out to people in certain circles and have them guide me or maybe make a phone call, or something like that. Yes, being connected makes things a lot easier now but in the old days, yes, it was kind of “How the hell do I do it?” And of course every time you’d go and ask someone.
They don’t want to help people because it sounds crazy, it sounds stupid but when you’ve got those credentials behind you you’ve already achieved those things and Forbes is writing a seven-page article on you and you’re being seen with everyone.
That makes things a lot easier but in the old days, it was a case of, “Well how do I do that?” I just remember my dad, big thick Irish guy, you just say, you know, “How do you eat an elephant?” You know? “Inch by inch,” and that’s how I kind of took it, you know.
This guy wants to go to Monaco, alright, first thing’s first, where the fuck’s Monaco? You know? Just working from there, what you want to do there and we would then develop form there.
We just really took the big amazing, impossible idea, kind of down into a million easily achievable ones.
[0:11:54.8] RN: What’s been the biggest struggle from looking back from where you started? Any major setbacks or failures or things you couldn’t achieve that you’re like, “Why am I doing this?”
[0:12:06.2] SS: Yeah, again, you got about three questions in there. There wasn’t anything that I couldn’t achieve because if I tell you it’s going to be done, it’s going to be done. Now, in my early stages, I would look at it and go, “Well that’s going to cost 50 grand,” and then it would end up costing 60.
I can’t go back to the client and tell him it’s going to cost him an extra 10 grand. Not only have I not made any commission, I’ve just bloody paid for this event but hey, I told you it was going to cost 50 grand and I told you it was going to get done.
Luckily, that did me well by sticking to my guns there. The problem I had was like, most entrepreneurs, I accepted everything, you know? I was the yes man, I could do that, yes, I’d do that.
I took on a ton of stuff which I shouldn’t have taken on. I got involved with clients that I shouldn’t have had as clients. I accepted the – again, being the – I did a video awhile back called the Chug Test and there’s a picture that I have in my office and it’s a very – everyone talks about that aha moment. I was working for Ferrari in 96, 7 and 8. Great contract. Living in Geneva, I bought because again, I wanted to appear to be good.
Now, I’ve always have motorcycle so I had a motorcycle then but I had this little old Ferrari Dino, okay? I was wearing tailor made suits and taking out my earrings and trying to pronounce words properly.
I went down to Monaco and I drove down there in a Dino, which was a great drive. You know, one of my greatest experience driving down there and I went to a yacht party and I came off this yacht and my Dino was there. The yacht next to us was bigger than the yacht party that was on.
Now, again, not to label on it, I’m on a Ferrari yacht party in Monaco with a Ferrari parked outside. That’s pretty good.
[0:13:51.9] RN: Life’s not bad, yeah.
[0:13:53.7] SS: In my head, they yacht next to me was prettier than the one that I was on. I literally reversed my Ferrari so that the Ferrari could be in front of that yacht and I got a picture of myself taken in front of that yacht.
Now, of course, this was back in the days where you got your roll of film out, you put it into post and like four years later, you got your photograph. I remember sitting in my office, I was in Switzerland and I was drinking whiskey.
Funny enough, I would always go home, put my T-shirts back on and stuff like that because I didn’t – I didn’t like that uniform but I felt I had to have it. I got these photographs and I got this picture and my wife said, “That wasn’t the yacht we were on,” and then she went, “Was the other one not good enough?”
It just suddenly hit me that I was conforming and I didn’t like this. Bottom line of it is, I hid in a corner, I cried like a baby and I just sat there. I just drank the entire bottle of Chivas, myself, felt like shit and just suddenly thought I’d become the person I didn’t want to become.
I woke up in the morning, felt like crap, as I’ve said, I’ve gone through this entire bottle of whiskey, head hurts, stomach hurts, photograph was still there, my office was a bloody mess. I don’t know what time I crawled in to bed so I’m stinking.
I just woke up and I want, “Fuck it, that’s not me. I’m not being that guy again.” Sold the Dino, stopped wearing the suits and was able to reset. That was my “aha” ugly moment. So that was one of my stumbling blocks so when I do meet entrepreneurs.
I tell them, “Stay you, because it’s you that people like and if you change and adapt, you may not take those people with you, okay? Choose – just try and be you.” It’s amazing how many entrepreneurs want to create a unique company, they want to be individual.
When they were already individuals. What do they do? Try to become individual by looking like every other bloke with a hoodie, or the other bloke with a Ferrari, or every other bloke with the same suit.
They end up looking the same. You know it’s year 19, they look like that or in bank and they look like that. It’s amazing, they try to be unique and end up looking like the rest of the pack.
[0:15:58.8] RN: Right.
[0:15:59.7] SS: It seems like you never really had the issue of going through this phase that a lot of people go through where it’s “Okay, what business am I going to start?” It seems like you kind of fell into it through being the door guy and you’re like, “Okay, there’s opportunity here.”
[0:16:14.4] RN: Yeah, to a point. I was going after the banks to try and sponsor it because I wanted to keep the relationships going with the bank because again, I wanted to be a banker.
It was about six years into it and I’m now in Switzerland because there were more banks there. I was doing a lot of the European stuff, the Wimbledon, the Shard, all that kind of stuff. It was my wife that walked in one day and she said, “Look. You get up three days a week to go into the banks and you put on a suit, you take your earrings out.”
“They don’t pay you, you know? But you’re still in there, trying to network.” Which I’m really crap on, terrible and networking, really I am bad at it. “You then come home and throw a party once or twice a month, your events, your cars are paid for, your bike’s paid for, your Whiskey’s paid for, you know?”
“Just imagine, if you stop doing the banking thing.” And it was my wife who came up with that. “Well, let’s try it. You know, let’s give it a go for a couple of years.” And we did and you know, 20 odd years later, I was still doing it. People are still paying us to do it. I’m going to keep doing it.
[0:17:16.3] SS: How big is the team now?
[0:17:16.7] RN: Eight. I laugh at that because about 2004, I think we had something like about 40, this was like pre-recession. I bought a building and I had the top floor of this building, it was a three-story building up all the entire building. This was a time where assets and possessions were everything. I had a bloody great building, I had loads of staff, we had loads of stuff going on and I never used to go in the office.
I used to work from home and then before the recession, I remember thinking it was the worst time in the world. Before the recession came, I looked at the figures and I realized that you know, the 80/20% rule, you know, that would have been great. I was on like, you know, 90/10 and there were only a few people in the bloody office that were doing everything and I paid the rest just to turn up.
I just thought, “Screw it.” I fired everyone and I asked everyone to reapply for that job. Of course a lot of them went you know, “Screw you” and walked away. A couple of the ones that were good didn’t want to reapply, a couple of the others did. Then I came over to LA and as I came over to LA, of course I didn’t have the rent, I didn’t have the mortgage, I didn’t have the payroll. I had sold everything and I thought, “That was a really stupid thing to do,” you know?
Because we had just come off of being the official concierge at the Grammys, the Kentucky Derby, New York Fashion Week, we were press every bloody week, you know, TV, radio, we were it.
I thought, “I’ve just sold it, I’m bloody gone across country to LA, you don’t want a trap.” I remember sitting in the Tea Leaf, at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on Sunset Boulevard and opening up a magazine, where there was this newspaper article about the impending doom and the crash is coming. Not a case of if, it’s a case of when are you ready?
That looks bloody funny, you know, the whole world’s going to end and like three months later, we’re looking around for office space and as everyone knows, like ’07 or ‘08, it was like a switch wasn’t it?
It just went bing! I was like, I owed nothing. You know, I sold everything on like a fire sale and I remember losing a bit of money not on my building. I actually – that was a time then when you thought your building was worth four times as much. I sold it for only three times as much and I’m kicking myself thinking, I lost all that money.
I remember watching then, it was up for sale for 25% of what I paid for it. I was like, “Damn,” you know? It was one of those things that someone up top was looking out for me.
[0:19:44.6] SS: What’s the biggest struggle now in the business? I think still being careful about what you accept, you know, we were talking about this just before. Whenever I – the first two months of every year have been busy for me because it’s all the award season, everything in the world kicks off the first two months, every award show, every fashion week, whether it’s Milan, London, Paris, New York, all the big events, you know, Super Bowl.
All the biggest music events, Grammys, the Oscars, the first two months of every year is the nuts. You know, I literally sit there in November and go, brace yourself, you know? Then it comes to the people’s choice awards to the beginning of January and bang, it’s gone, okay?
Then afterwards into March, I relax, we don’t do a lot with the Kentucky Derby and Formula One kicks off and all those kinds of things but I get to relax in March. In March, I was in three different countries and then I was in Israel and Tel A Viv in Jerusalem and then I’m back here again and I was up at Tesla.
I never got the chance to relax because I was taking on too much.
[0:20:52.5] RN: That wasn’t in two different countries on vacation, that was work?
[0:20:56.1] SS: No. The good thing about my lifestyle is I get to see different places or you always try to chirp out a couple of days for that little vacation, you know. Like all entrepreneurs, we can’t go to the beach and sit there for a week because we go cold turkey by third hour after landing.
My life is pretty cool in any case but no, there was no planned vacations, it was just going. I think I took too much on. I had to just pull the plug and again, having a good partner in my wife, to be able to say, “Force me.”
Just being able to lean over and it doesn’t have to be your wife, your girlfriend, it can be someone on Facebook, LinkedIn, whatever, your next-door neighbor. But just being able to walk up to someone and look them in the eye and say, “Don’t let me work on a Tuesday.”
Now, we know as entrepreneurs, we’re powerhouses and we’ll bulldoze over you if we want to do this. But our word as entrepreneurs is gospel. If we tell you, don’t allow us to do on Tuesday, all we’re really doing is echoing it to ourselves and reconfirm in that we’re not going to do it on a Tuesday.
I’m now not going to make myself look stupid in front of you by trying to do something on Tuesday when I’ve already told you I’m not. I did use my partner as that and I had to just go, right, stop, done, reset and I do – a reset is tough. You were talking about – you potentially being able to move, being able to reset yourself and then create a recharge and I remember Cameron Harold.
Was an incredibly intelligent guy. He actually was saying that you know, every night, you think nothing of plugging your phone in, think nothing of making sure your cars fueled up but you don’t pay attention to yourself. When was the last time you fueled yourself up? When was the last time you recharged yourself?
He puts it a lot more eloquently than me because he can say long words. It did cause me to think when I heard him say that and so now I actually plan different things. I will literally plan a meeting that’s like an hour and a half away from my home.
I know that sound stupid, just so I have to ride my motorcycle for an hour and a half down and an hour and a half back. That gives me three hours where you can’t call me, I can’t have a coffee. I don’t have to look at Facebook. I don’t have to do any of this shit.
For three hours I’m done and I’m in my Zen. I do force myself to do those things now.
[0:23:15.4] RN: That’s good, that’s interesting because there’s not – I was talking to Miles about this, there’s not too many times nowadays where you can be in that kind of situation where you’re totally unplugged from having a phone in your pocket or having it on or being able to look at it. Or having email go off or a TV going on in that other room. I think it’s really important to find, like you said your little Zen space where you’re forced to focus on the road and be in your own head.
[0:23:42.2] SS: Yeah, I know a lot of people think Zen is kind of like sitting there cross legged singing kumbaya and that again like a lot of entrepreneurs, I fold up and I sit there for longer than 30 seconds and everything’s coming through my head. So for me to find my Zen, I need to be in a middle of a boxing match.
I need to be like skiing, I need to be riding a motocross bike. So that you’re out of your head space. That’s what I need to do. I need to get all the other stuff out of the way because as we all know, you know, if you stop thinking for a second when you’re in a middle of a boxing match, you get a punch in the head.
If you go into a corner on a motocross bike and you think, “Did I send that email?” Bang, you’re floored, you’re flat. You have to focus all your energy on that and then what happens – and this is something really beautiful is when you then step back into normality.
Everything falls back into your head in priority. The stuff that you were really worrying about, gets in order and maybe doesn’t even come back in, you go, “What was I worrying about that for?”
I got this bloody apple watch, fucking A those things. Because now, not only dos my phone actually chirp and chip and vibrate and try to grab my attention in which I can throw it on the seat or in a jack horse or something like that.
Knock on my bloody hand vibrating and buzzing telling me to stand up, telling me a text is coming, telling me that McKernan’s tweeted, you know I don’t care. So I got rid of that. I absolutely dumped that thing.
[0:25:13.5] RN: One thing you mentioned that I’m curious about is it seems like so you need to take a break because you are overextending yourself it seems. So are you the magic for the business? Are you able to say, “Okay I am going to take out these new products and I’m going to scale my team.” Maybe not the 40 that you had but build my team out a little bit more so we can take on more work, so we can increase revenue.
So are you thinking that way or you’re just thinking, “I’m happy with where my business is at, I want time for myself, we had a good life.” Where are you at?
[0:25:44.5] SS: All of those. Like a good tailor, a good hairdresser, a good tradesman, most people come to you because of you and trying to replicate you is pretty hard because we have already talked about how individual you are. So when I am dealing with clients, I’ve got a lot of clients that I may have one of the team to work with and they’ll be like, “Yeah, I want to do it. Tell Steve to call me,” or “I love Steve” and then I’ll say to one of my team, “Oh we need that backstage access.”
Or “we need this from out from Elton John or this from Sting or this done with Angelina Jolie, call this person.” And they will call that person and they’ll go, “Yeah we can do it. Get Steve to call me.” So there’s a lot of connections that I have which won’t allow me to do that and that’s okay but I have the team to really help me and we have a lot of team that are on call as and when are necessary. So when we did this Vatican thing, we had about 30 people over there that were working on it.
So I get people in around the world that I need ask them when I need them but the eight of my core team, but we are actually building now a version of Blue Fish and I don’t want to say an entry level but a different level because there’s a of people that don’t need a Bespoke concierge with the connections we have. You may not want to go for a midnight tour of the Vatican. You may never want to have to dinner with the famed Michelangelo’s David.
You may not want that but you may want a good ticket option. You may want a great perk at a hotel. You may want to get into a restaurant where it’s sold out. So we’re actually building another scalable model now and that’s one of the things on my plate now. So I am really looking forward to that coming out. So it is a different chapter but I really just jump into the stuff that excites me. So if someone comes up with a – or if one of the teams come over and say:
“Hey I got this client blah-blah… I was looking at doing this.” I may go, “Ooh I want to play with that,” and then that’s where I could be my worst enemy and jump in.
[0:27:44.4] RN: Yeah, got it. So on the current business model not talking about the new project that you’re looking at, kind of the lower tiered service, what’s the actual business model? How do you guys actually make money? Obviously put people on cool situations but how do you actually make money? Are those just flat fees they give you or what’s the model?
[0:28:04.6] SS: So model we have now with Blue Fish is it’s a paid membership program. So it starts at $5,000 membership a year and we need your commitment to be committed to you. So it’s five grand a year, it starts there. It goes up and then what we do is there are certain experiences or certain day to day stuff like hotels, transfers, flights that we get anywhere between six to 10% commission on, okay? Because of our volume, you may be travelling 365 days a year.
We are booking 400 rooms per week, so we get better volume discounts, okay? So we can turn around and give you like a $350 room. We may give it to you for $350 but we may have upgraded you by two levels or we may have given it two for 290 and off that 290 we got 29 bucks, okay? So we will generate some commissions from there and we are open to our clients on the transparency of what we do but it’s the planning stuff that really comes in.
So it’s, “I want to go to Leonardo DiCaprio’s party at Cane Film Festival. I want to go to the pits of Ferrari for a Formula One in Monaco.” So those kinds of things that take a bit more connections and a lot of those times, those things may not even have a purchasable ticket.
[0:29:21.1] RN: That was what I was going to ask, yeah.
[0:29:21.8] SS: So we turn around and go, “Well I need you to do this.” So they may turn around again, “Well I need you to do this,” I go, “Okay, I’m fast to do that” make us five grand and then we go, “Well okay put and add 10% on it. It’s now $5,500” so we go back to the client and go, “Look with commissions and fees and what we got to do to make it happen, it is going to cost you five and a half grand. Is this something you want to proceed with?”
And then they can go, “Can I get it for four?” “Let me ask, let me check” you know? You pay for what you get as far as I’m concerned. So I may go back to the person and they go, “Could we do a pair on that?” and they go, “I don’t want to burn the bridge. I don’t want to argue” but I go to the client and they go, “No it can’t be done.” “You wanted five and a half, you have it. You don’t want it five a half, well fine.” You know? So we’ll charge you, we will be very transparent but they pay – there will be a commission predominantly in everything else we do, that we provide to the client.
[0:30:08.1] RN: What is the model you are looking at for the new service?
[0:30:10.7] SS: For starters it’s all app based. So it’s a response sensor that we’ve created so it’ll say Blue Fish at the palm of your hand, smaller scalable model where you can interact with an AI platform.
[0:30:25.4] RN: How do you define failure?
[0:30:27.1] SS: I never failed in my life. I have never failed in my life. I just learn.
[0:30:30.5] RN: I don’t know if McKernan would agree but.
[0:30:32.4] SS: You know no one listens to him. Nobody is going to understand what he is bloody saying. I’ve never failed, I just learned how not to do it. I think that is probably again, I am an Irish lad from east London. So I didn’t grow up with intelligence. Now I believe and what I would say proudly, I am an educated man but school had nothing to do with that. I learned that when you fell over, you go back up and it was as simple as that.
So I don’t believe of failing. I think failure is a bad word and people hang onto it but I just learned a million ways of not to do stuff. So you know I am quite happy to get on with that and I tried to teach my kids that. I don’t like the word failure.
[0:31:14.4] RN: How do you approach the fear of going into a new project, or for somebody that maybe would come to you that’s early stage entrepreneur that wants to get into business but they’re scared of getting started, what’s the advice that you would give to them?
[0:31:28.8] SS: I was fortunate, I spend many years and I will try and answer this accurately. I have spent many years – this is a dark moment now so we should get the Kleenex out, I’ve spent many years not liking my family and thinking that I had a poor existence as a child in a construction firm in London, thinking that I never had money then and I didn’t have money. I remember getting a new car once when I was a kid and I was 15 years old and the family was able to move because it was a new car.
And I am sitting there, I was a little kid like eight years old going, “It’s not new, it’s 15 years old.” But to my family it was a new car and I couldn’t work it out. A new car was the one that got built yesterday, you know it smells like a new car. You know this one, had four owners and 15 dogs but I remember resenting that. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized that the core values I have been taught as a child were more beneficial to me than anything I could have learned anywhere else.
But I had wanted, desired and lusted for growth. I hated being stagnant. I would hate if as we are doing this podcast now on Friday, I would hate if I had done nothing from last Friday any different and that terrifies the shit out of me, to know that a month from now, I could have done stuff that’s made me broaden my horizons, spoken to different people and experience different experiences, had my eyes open to a new perspective.
Tried a new meal, tried a new sandwich, whatever, walked a different path – if I know a month from now I haven’t gained any of that and I am in the exactly the same spot and even if you fail, even if I take on 10 new projects and every single one of those failed then I’ve learned a million things to do, so that those don’t happen again. I very rarely create the same mistake twice because I was educated the first time. So, it’s not a fear of starting a new business, it’s the fear of being in the exact same position you were last week. That’s what gets me going.
[0:33:45.3] RN: That’s a good perspective because like when I think about failure, like you said you don’t even like that word. I don’t either even though my podcast is called Fail On but in my eyes, I think the only failure is like you said, not going, not growing but in my eyes, it’s just not trying.
[0:34:04.6] SS: Oh yeah.
[0:34:05.3] RN: Not even putting yourself out there.
[0:34:06.5] SS: I don’t know if you’re aware of it but did you know that we did that big trip up to Silicon Valley for a bunch of clients? I don’t know if you follow me on Facebook and all this stuff. So we had a bunch of clients from Australia that we look after and they do two or three trips a year. This year they wanted to do a Silicon Valley trip. So I took them to Facebook, Instagram, Microsoft, Apple and the Tesla Factory oh and Impossible Burger, okay?
And the first day was Microsoft and we walk into Microsoft and there’s this funny little shed thing that didn’t look that it should have been there and written on the side of it like this big marker said, “Garage” and when you walked in there, the rest of Microsoft is really sharp. You couldn’t see any cables, everything was beautiful, the lighting, the carpet, everything was perfectly meticulous. This was like a shed, so you literary had this old wire shelves with the top of the range 3D printers.
VR glasses, absolutely in there but it was decked out like it was a garage and it was called “The Garage.” And when we went around Silicon Valley they had them in Instagram, they had them in Facebook, they had them in all these different areas that we went to and so I remember speaking to current people and I said, “I keep seeing this garages,” and in the ones in Microsoft they had a door. The ones in Facebook they literary had it up and over like a garage door.
And I said to them, “You know why did you have these?” And they said, “We know where we came from so just to go back into the garage gets you back into your safe zone, where…” And this is the bit I like, “You can fail comfortably,” and they add, “Once you do something, go in there and fail as many times as you like.” They actually use that terminology and I went, “That’s great.” They said, “There’s all the machines in there for you to be able to fail as far as you can dream and then when you get it right, just let us know,” and that was it.
It was that little place to just go in to screw up and I really like that. So they had the garage there. So I actually encourage people to find their own little place where they can fail comfortably.
[0:36:12.6] RN: Give yourself permission to just go at it.
[0:36:14.6] SS: Go for it, dare to dream, dare to try something different and if it doesn’t work you just learn how not to do it.
[0:36:20.8] RN: Who’s had the single most profound impact on your life? If you had to pinpoint one person, it could be from your current, from your past just across your life?
[0:36:28.2] SS: Well it’s got to be my wife. My wife, she calls herself five foot five. She’s five foot four, she’s just this tiny little framed powerhouse and this is the girl that every now and then will just give me a little look and go, “You got to stop sobbing and get on with it,” you know? She’s just that person that just knows you so well, that when all of a sudden a bit of bravado comes up, she’s the one that just gets through that little armor and just tweaks and says, “Alright, stop puffing your chest. Now get on with it.”
[0:37:00.7] RN: How long have you been married?
[0:37:01.8] SS: God, forever. I met her when she was 17. I was 18, 17 so we’ve been together for absolutely ever. Three kids, three different countries, half a dozen passports so yeah, we’ve been through it all.
[0:37:18.5] RN: Each kid was born in a different country? Oh wow.
[0:37:19.3] SS: Each child, yeah. Many people pick up fridge magnets or souvenirs. We just pick up passports and kids. So yeah, each child was born in different country.
[0:37:27.5] RN: Which countries if you don’t mind me asking?
[0:37:29.3] SS: Well one was in the UK but lived with us in Hong Kong but you know it’s been – at the time, Switzerland and Palm Beach.
[0:37:36.8] RN: Got it.
[0:37:37.3] SS: So we got an American, a Swiss and a Brit.
[0:37:39.8] RN: Quite the lot.
[0:37:41.1] SS: Yeah.
[0:37:42.1] RN: So if you had to think about the last time that you really got outside of your comfort zone, what was that? Whether you consciously did it on purpose or whether it was?
[0:37:52.2] SS: Well I do it on purpose. Again, I don’t want to be stagnant, I want to grow. The last time that I got out of my comfort zone was this morning. So we’re trying to produce this new membership program that I told you about and there is a lot of API’s and feeds that are coming into air and flows and conversation flowcharts. Two weeks ago you could have mentioned those words to me and I would have thought they were characters of Battle Star Galactica.
But now, I am trying to understand the parameters of the appropriate feeds. I am trying to make sure the conversation flow and an AI program works and I don’t know what I’m talking about and I am looking at it and I’ve got my developers doing them and I’m going, “Well why does that go there” and they go, “Because it does,” oh okay but “Why?” You know? And I’m the kid with the lollipop. “I want a lollipop, why? Why?” Until they give me a lollipop.
I want to know why is that? And then when they tell me, “Why can’t we go down that way?” because it doesn’t work, “Okay fine.” I knew I wasted his time for half an hour and they’re very happy once we’re off for our daily call but I’m sure as hell there’s some kind of a picture up there where that’s endowed to me or something. But I am really enjoying the growth of understanding what a feed is and understanding where they benefit, where they don’t. How to overcomplicate it, what not to import. I am really enjoying that un-comfort zone that as of today or a month later, I am smarter than I was and I’m into new stuff, you know?
[0:39:25.7] RN: I think that’s an awesome interesting point. When you talk about growth and doing new stuff each week, it doesn’t have to be business related. It could just be learning any new skill really. I think when you go through the process of like we were in the Bahamas with your favorite person, Phil McKernan and a bunch of people from Mastermind Talks and I have never gone on a standup paddle board and it was in this very calm water most days.
But the paddle board was most are I think foam, this was actually a blow up one which was really tight but I guess it is a bit harder to do than a typical paddle board.
[0:40:00.8] SS: Was it? Okay because they are not easy to start with.
[0:40:02.9] RN: Right and this is the only one I have been on so I don’t really have a frame of reference but it took me three days to actually get up there and be able to stand up and actually row but it was just going through that process like, “Man!” It’s just fun failing.” Like falling, getting back on and just like, “How do I do this better? How do I stay up? Why is it not working?” Just that processes, a lot of fun there. I think people lose touch with that because they just go to the business of their lives and they don’t look for those opportunities.
[0:40:32.8] SS: Well it hasn’t got to be as dramatic as learning API’s or hasn’t got to be as exotic as learning paddle boarding. If you are walking your dog, go down a different road. You literary go a different route. If you’ve got your favorite sandwich bar, that sandwich bar became your favorite sandwich bar because you found it. Try a different one and if you found out that that sandwich sucks, you just told yourself that that sandwich is shit.
So I like that and we do that a lot. So it doesn’t have to big and exotic. I remember my dad, he would come out with these sayings and like all kids you look at him and you go, “What the bloody hell are you talking about?” And then 20 years later it come out and rings true in your head and I remember he turned around and he said, “There, the fight is not over when I go down son. It is over when I stop getting up.” And of course, like he was a big Irish boy who just loved to fight.
He tussled so I just thought he was being brave but then I realized, “Yeah, I get your point now” so I can go down many times but it’s when I stop getting up is the problem.
[0:41:39.1] RN: I like that. So outside of the new project that you’re doing to software, what else is on the horizon for you that you’re most excited about whether it’s business or personal?
[0:41:48.7] SS: Everything reflects to my personal life. You know I won’t do anything that deteriorates that at all. Something very exciting came up about a year ago, where I was approached about doing a book and I spoke to Tucker. Tucker was actually very integral in helping me with that. I spoke to Jason and I spoke to McKernan and my book comes out in October and I was like, “Damn!” And that was again another interesting project.
How do you do a book? How is a book constructed? How is it designed? How is it marketed? How is it positioned? You know I was learning about shelf space, shelf life. “Oh no, we can’t be in a certain kind of range of self-help because that has got a short term shelf life but if we tweak the book to be more business entrepreneur then it can sit there longer.” So it is all these kinds of things and Scott Hoffman and Frank got me with Folio, got me with Simon Schuster.
So my first ever book came out with the largest publishing house in the planet and that comes out in October. So in June, I’m in New York and I am up at CNBC and we are doing a lot of footage and stuff like that, getting ready to start promoting it.
[0:43:04.0] RN: What’s the book on?
[0:43:04.5] SS: It’s called Blue Fishing: The Art of Making Things Happen. So it’s just the stupid simple little things that I have learned and I have invited you to get into my headspace. It’s a bit complicated up there sometimes but it is very simple. I try to keep things simple because if it is not simple, I can’t do it. So there’s some lessons in there I hope that people will be able to take and whether you’re trying to send someone to the international space station or stick them on the stage with Lady Gaga.
You can use these. Or if you’re trying to grow a relationship or build a rapport or try and identify what it is that is your passion, your passion project. Hopefully this is going to be able to help.
[0:43:46.6] RN: Did you use Tucker’s company?
[0:43:48.3] SS: No, Tucker introduced me to Scott. I spoke to Tucker and Tucker did a one pager and send it over to them. So I don’t think I did the full project with those guys. I know other people have and I’ve understood and heard nothing but brilliant things from them.
[0:44:05.0] RN: I think McKernan is doing one with them right now.
[0:44:06.6] SS: Is it?
[0:44:07.5] RN: He’s doing a book, yeah.
[0:44:08.4] SS: Yeah, is it a pop up? Probably.
[0:44:11.3] RN: Probably.
[0:44:12.3] SS: Yeah, the middle page, a big Guinness bulb just shoots up.
[0:44:17.1] RN: Alright, cool. Well I don’t want to take too much more of your time. So thanks for joining me Steve. I appreciate it man.
[0:44:21.4] SS: It’s been great, thanks.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:44:25.5] RN: Alright, so you can find Steve at Steve D. Sims on Twitter. That’s @stevedsims and of course that spelling along with all the links and resources Steve and I discussed including more information on his company, Blue Fish as well as his latest book can be found at the page that we’ve created especially for this episode. That will be at failon.com/035 and next week, we are sitting down with my friend, Rob Kosberg.
Rob is a marketing and brand building expert, a bestselling author, a syndicated radio show host and a stud real estate broker with over $250 million in negotiated transactions. Rob now specializes in helping his clients become the go-to experts in their respective fields through his company, Bestseller Publishing. We’ll be discussing how Rob got his start in business, how he had to totally rebuild himself in 2008 after the financial crisis and his toughest challenges along the journey to get to the top of his field where he’s at now.
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[0:46:10.1] ANNOUNCER: That’s all for this episode of The Fail On Podcast. For more resources, show notes and action items to help you find success in your failures, sign up for our mailing list at failon.com. For more actionable inspiration, we’ll catch you next time right here on The Fail On Podcast.