June 27, 2007

Winning Advice with Jennifer Openshaw (’98)

Openshaw authored "The Millionaire Zone: Seven Winning Steps to a Seven-Figure Fortune"

By Paul Feinberg

Jennifer OpenshawJennifer Openshaw ('98) is the voice behind "Winning Advice with Jennifer Openshaw," heard nationwide on ABC Radio, and founder of TheMillionaireZone.com, a social networking site for the financially motivated. She has appeared on a host of TV and radio shows, including programs on CNN and CNBC, and Oprah Winfrey's show.

Openshaw’s newest book, "The Millionaire Zone: Seven Winning Steps to a Seven-Figure Fortune," was released in April. Its theme is straightforward: “Millionaires turn their address books into burgeoning checkbooks more than non-millionaires.” And while she does not make a direct reference, the core of the lessons offered seem culled straight from the UCLA Anderson experience - that is, be entrepreneurial, start with your passions and see every rejection as an opportunity to get to where you want to go.

Recently, she spoke about the new book and her Anderson years.

UCLA Anderson: Where did you get the idea for the new book?

Openshaw: After business school, I started my first company in Silicon Valley and sold it during the dot-com days. I was doing a lot of financial commentary and so I’d have people e-mail me after a TV appearance or approach me wondering how to get ahead financially. And so, as I found myself around more and more financially successful people, I started wondering, "What makes millionaires more successful than everyone else? What is it about the way they act, behave and operate that differentiates them? Doesn’t everyone want to know that?"

So, I started watching them more closely. I talked to them, watched them in action, and even sailed on the boats of a few big guys like Paul Allen and the founder of the 10-10-10 calling card. And my theory began to develop: While most Americans are afraid to venture out on their own, partly because they are truly alone in the process, successful people overcome those fears by tapping into the people, places and resources right at their fingertips. I call this your "LifeNet" and it's a powerful concept.

UCLA Anderson: So, the book is based on that theory?

Openshaw: Yes, and a lot of hard research.

I commissioned two national surveys of 3,000 Americans and found that millionaires use their networks smarter than non-millionaires. And there's a way in which they operate that makes people want to help them, want them to succeed. Imagine how much easier your life would be if people wanted to help you. In the book, I talk about how you can get people to do that by changing your mindset; you’ll be a whole lot successful and happier if you do.

UCLA Anderson: In what ways do they leverage that network?

Openshaw: The research showed that true millionaires actually benefit from their networks more than those even in the $500,000 to $1 million net worth range. They get ideas, information, advice, money, emotional support and practical support. And by truly leveraging their "LifeNet," they are able to get to who they don't know. I like to say, "It's not who you know; it's who you don’t know that matters." Those who are still in the "wanna-be" millionaire category said (in the research) that they regretted not using their LifeNet more.

There are some great examples in the book of real people but also some big-name billionaires like Oprah Winfrey, who relies on her best friend Gayle to run her publishing business and provide emotional support through those late-night phone calls we've all heard about. Or, Phil Knight, who turned to his track and field coach for feedback on his idea for shoes and ultimately found his business partner. I remember leaving a big bank to start my current business and having a key client for my first software product. So, truly leveraging not just the people but the other resources and ideas right in front of us - and doing it effectively - can take us to the millionaire zone.

UCLA Anderson: What is the number-one obstacle your readers and listeners must overcome if they want to achieve financial success?

Openshaw: Fear. It's risky to start a business or venture into real estate. People don't necessarily want to leave their comfort zone. But if you take a look at successful people, whether it's the founders of YouTube or Bill Gates and Paul Allen, you'll find some key themes: they start with their passions, something they know well, something "close to home." As a result they are never actually leaving their comfort zones, but in fact are redefining it. They're tapping into who and what they already know, and as a result, are operating on familiar ground. It's a different mindset.

UCLA Anderson: What's the number-one requirement - what quality is essential for real success?

Openshaw: You asked the question I asked millionaires: what was the single key to your financial success? The answer: persistence. It was even ahead of education.

We all face rejection but people who operate in the millionaire zone understand objection is part of the game and they even use it to their advantage. I share the story of a business school colleague, Kevin DiCerbo ('98), who was on his third venture, a skin treatment company. Kevin approached some 50 bankers for a business loan and everyone kept turning him down because he didn't own a home as collateral (he actually preferred to put his money into his business rather than into mortgage payments). Every time Kevin got a "no," he asked: "So, you can't, but do you know someone who can?" By asking that question, he ultimately got his loan from a banker who had room for non-collateralized loans and now Kevin has a business grossing about $5 million a year.

I share some other great tips on turning a "no" into a "yes." One of my best pieces of advice is what I call "Yes Conditioning." You can use it on your boss and even your kids or spouse. The trick to getting a "yes" is to lead in with questions you know they'll say "yes" to. In other words, you condition them, which will make it easier for them to say yes to the question you really want to ask. Let's say I ask you: "Can I help you save some money? Would you like to go on an all- expense-paid-trip to Hawaii? Do you want to make a million dollars? So, how about that raise?" I’m having a little fun there but you get the idea, and it works. I use it all the time.

I also share the story of another Los Angeles friend, Bob Lorsch, who asked his client if he could run with a business concept he had developed after they turned it down. They said yes, and he ultimately made millions off a pre-paid calling card business that was later sold to AT&T. Talk about turning rejection into opportunity.

UCLA Anderson: How has your UCLA Anderson experience influenced your work?

Openshaw: Well, I got bitten by the entrepreneurial bug during my Anderson days. I felt a little intimidated in business school because I wasn't an analyst or something like that, but the whole experience completely changed my thinking. I remember sitting in (Adjunct Professor) Bill Cockrum's class watching my peers trade stocks online, just as the Internet was coming to life. They were using their student loan money. I was thinking, "they better get a higher return than the rate on their loan." At about that time, partly from my work in my full-time job at Bank of America and my work as a commentator at KCBS-TV Channel 2, I got this idea for my first company, a brokerage firm targeting the growing women's market, and one of the people I turned to for advice was Professor Cockrum.

I also remember taking a class called "Creative Thinking." I walked into that first day of class shaking my head, thinking, "This is the dumbest class. What a waste of money." But now, some of the lessons I learned in that class are lessons I still apply today. Dealing with rejection and becoming successful is all about thinking outside the box.

About UCLA Anderson School of Management
UCLA Anderson School of Management, established in 1935, is regarded among the very best business schools in the world.  UCLA Anderson faculty are ranked #1 in "intellectual capital" by BusinessWeek and are renowned for their teaching excellence and research in advancing management thinking.  Each year, UCLA Anderson provides management education to more than 1,600 students enrolled in MBA, Executive MBA, Fully-Employed MBA and doctoral programs, and to more than 2,000 professional managers through executive education programs.  Combining highly selective admissions, varied and innovative learning programs, and a world-wide network of 35,000 alumni, UCLA Anderson develops and prepares global leaders.

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