The Business Equation - Establishing the Mindset to Go From Zero to Successful with Shawn Khorrami

Host Nick Bogacz digs deeper into Shawn’s vast store of knowledge regarding what it takes to build a mindset that will carry you from zero to your definition of success.

Establishing the Mindset to Go From Zero to Successful with Shawn Khorrami



You're listening to the business equation podcast with Nick Bogart as the solution to every equation in business and in life can be summed up with one word, mindset. Get ready as Nick takes you deep into the philosophy of mindset mastery, alongside entrepreneurs and professionals who've harnessed the power of clear definitive thinking and leveraged it to build tangible success. And now here's your host, Nick Bogacz.

Nick Bogacz:


Welcome into the show today, my special guest is going to be Sean Karami, I think you're gonna enjoy him as much as I did today. He's a serial entrepreneur, who has a great story as being an immigrant from Iran, and the mindset that that brings on a young child and how he has used it in his youth, and then also into being an entrepreneur. 

And I think it's just a great conversation. And when you hear about how much he learns and reads, and what it takes to be successful, you're gonna appreciate this conversation today. So without further ado, here is Sean. Sean, welcome. How are you?

Shawn Khorrami:


Wonderful. Thank you for having me on.

Nick Bogacz:


Yeah, I'm really happy to have you, would you mind giving our listeners a quick 411 on who you are, and what you bring to the show today.

Shawn Khorrami:


I'm what you would call a serial entrepreneur. I've founded and managed from zero employees up growing up into midsize companies 12, more than 12 different businesses. And I started very early on since I was in high school. And along the way, I've also just because of the way things turned out, I've been involved in a number of mergers and acquisitions, mostly in small companies and medium-sized companies. But those have been situations where I've been the seller or the buyer. 

And unlike most beloved, I believe most people, I've never actually worked for anyone, I've never received a W-2 from anyone except the companies that I've actually owned. And along the way, I've also had huge successes growing the companies to eight, nine-figure revenue businesses, and at the same time, phenomenal failures. And so what's happened over time is people, friends of family, friends, friends of friends have come to me for different things just because of the breadth of different businesses and different sectors that I've been involved in. So in terms of a 411, that says a brief little bio.

Nick Bogacz:


Yeah, I appreciate that. So take us through the early years of our dog got started and how you knew that you are an entrepreneur and wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Shawn Khorrami:


Yeah, you know, these are things. It's funny because you look at some childhood events. And you think that at first, they don't have anything, but they really are things that influenced you and make you who you are. And there are really two people that I point to at my very early age that drove me that helped me become interested in being an entrepreneur, and then how I acted as an entrepreneur. One of them is kind of an obvious one is my father. And this started very early on. I remember, you know, I'll tell you two quick stories about my father that will help. 

My father, when I first went to first grade, I was born in Iran. So I'm going to first grade in Iran. I go in and you had to actually take your notebooks with you. You had a spiral notebook, spiral notebooks for each of the subjects that you had. I went in that day, I some kid, it was an older kid, third grader, fourth grader, took my stuff away. 

At the end of the day, I get in the car, my dad picks me up, my dad asked me how my day was and I said, Hey, you know, we're gonna have to get, we're gonna have to get a new stuff for me, because I'll need it for tomorrow, my dad. So what happened to your stuff, I said, this kid took it away. And literally in the middle of traffic, he pulls over, and he kind of looks over at me, I'm sitting in the backseat. And he says, tomorrow, you're gonna go get your stuff back. And if you don't get your stuff back, you're gonna end up dealing with me. 

That's not the way it works. The next day, I went back and kind of by force, I got my stuff back. Some of it had been ripped up. Some of it wasn't there. But when I got in the car that next day, my dad the first question, he asked me, where's your stuff? And I said here and I explained this afternoon. And right there right in front of school, he turned to me and he said, listen, never forget this. What's yours is yours.

It wasn't so much that he was trying to get me to take things by force. But what he was really saying was, don't let someone bully you out of what you would what belongs to you and where you need to be. And that always stuck with me that first-grade experience. Next time. Next story I'll tell about my father. A few years later, you run out of revolution, we had to move away, we have to, my parents made the decision to immigrate to the US. And most people don't understand what it means because most of us have not been through that experience of having set up a life in one country and having to set it up in a completely different country. But my dad and my mom too at the age of 45, you know, in the thick of his career, at the peak of his career, he had to decide because of our safety, to move over to the US, knowing that his credentials may be mean nothing, his education may mean nothing, and made that sacrifice and moved over. 

But one thing he did, aside from that huge sacrifice was every day, we would come from school, and my dad would sit with us, and translate our textbooks for us, because we didn't know any English. So those textbooks, you know, you might as well, you know, it's like you reading Chinese, if you don't know what Chinese is, right? And so, and my dad said, every single day, with both me and my sister, and had to go through and do that for us. And that taught me something about sacrifice taught me something about the level of dedication, and that kind of stuck with me throughout. And then you know, and I'll take you along the timeline. I'm about 12 years old now. So this when we emigrated, I was about 10, or 12 years old. Now, I know a little bit of English. And this is the next person that really influenced me. So we used to go to the public library every day, under the guise of doing homework, but really what we were doing was getting together and goofing off as school kids do. And so we would walk over to the public library. And we could only stay in the children's section, we can go into the grownups section because that was for people over 13. 

So, obviously, us being kids, the number one thing we did was try to get into the grown-ups section. And the only reason you could go in there was if you were checking out a book that they only had in that section. So one day, me and two of my friends are over there, and this librarian who I regarded as the devil himself, because he was always throwing us out of the library. And I'll tell you, you'll find exactly how I feel about him today. Me and two of my friends were standing there, the librarian starts walking towards us, and one of my friends darted this way the other darts the other way, and I reached for a book, and which was the only thing I could do there. And so the librarian would stand there and watch us because he knew we weren't actually interested in the book. But he was hoping against hope that we'd actually start reading and we do something with these books. 

Well, I never put that book down. And that book was Unsafe at Any Speed by Ralph Nader. And the reason it piqued my interest, so much, wasn't just that this guy, and I know later on his politics or his politics, but this guy was the actual father of consumer advocacy in this country. And one of the guys that came up with this is the reason we have safety precautions in a lot of the vehicles that we have. But what really piqued my interest about this man, was that he got this one Middle Eastern guy, got the US Congress, to have to force GM, this darling, this diamond of US industry, to send its president no less, to the US Congress and apologize to this one guy for what they did to him. And that was just a huge realization in my mind. Because it got me to understand what it means to be in this country, how great it is to be in this country, and what opportunities we have being in this country. 

If that guy could do what he did, if Ralph Nader could do that, then I could do anything in this country, it's a unique opportunity that we have. And by the way, that librarian years later, I did go back to thank him. Because while I regarded him as evil because he kept throwing us out of the library, he changed my life, that one stare he did that forced me to read that book, changed my life. And that's how I got into just doing my own thing. I started when I was in high school with my very first business, and it was always about how I can you know, do something that benefits people because I knew the money would follow. So I didn't worry about the money. My thought, even at that age was if I can bring something that benefits people, then they'll want to pay me for it. So I don't have to worry about that. So the thing I have to worry about is how I benefit people. And that's what I've done ever since.

Nick Bogacz:


And suddenly you get a young age you got the mindset that you can do anything that if someone else can do it you Why not me, basically, Simon like and right. 

Shawn Khorrami:


Yeah, it's just a never fail type of attitude. It’s refusing to accept to failure. And so that's that's the way I've sort of those things instilled in me was to just push forward that way.

Nick Bogacz:


And I think that's a lot of times when you talk about different people, maybe why there are successful compared to someone who, who stays on and just works for somebody's, they can't get around that mindset that they literally can't do anything. It's really that powerful that if you put your mind to it, you really can do whatever you want.

Shawn Khorrami:


And in fact, the funny thing is, years ago, I work a lot with my wife, and I was talking to my wife, I said, you know, I really like this journey of taking something, starting it from zero employees, and taking it and making it into something, I don't so much enjoy some of the stuff afterwards. But I love that journey of going from zero to whatever. And that's where you have all those doubts the most right? When you just first it's, it's nothing, it's just an idea in your head, and it could completely flop. And it could go really phenomenally well, depending on how it goes. And that that doubt that people have a lot of times is the funny thing is, it's seems to be what drives me.

Nick Bogacz:


And having that mentality that you can do everything that I'm not going to fail. How important has that been in the entrepreneurial journey for you?

Shawn Khorrami:


I tell people, everything's a gift and a curse. I think it's hugely important in the sense that I will get going, and I will, I will obviously, I will analyze everything and try to see if it makes sense, and that we have all the pieces that we need to have. But I will go and do things and I don't I don't look at failure that way. At the same time. What's the curse, the curse is I will go at it continuously. And it is very difficult to get me to give up, which at some point, you know, there are some things that you have to say, Okay, well, this isn't going to work at some point, that's the part was kind of a curse for me. The other part that's kind of ends up being a curse is that that what my dad taught me, you don't bully me out of out of this, you're not going to fight me out of this. I understand if my company's not going to work, but I'm not going to get bullied out of it. And then again, that drives you that pushes things forward. But at the same time, you could get you to be very hard and very narrow minded sometimes.

Nick Bogacz:


What was the first business that you owned in high school that you started?

Shawn Khorrami:


Yeah, that's funny that the way I started that was because I noticed my father and some of his friends, they were very, very small. They had these small income properties, you know, small apartments, a few units, or maybe some for plexes, things like that. And they were having so much trouble actually managing them. They were not inclined to hire a professional management company. But the business sometimes did not make sense to hire a management company. But at the same time, they were incapable of doing it. They were they're having, you know, huge issues, managing these things. So that was right about the time when personal computers were getting into into homes, right, this is in the in the mid 80s. So what I did was I looked at exactly what their needs were. And I devised a management system that I could, that they could put together on their computers. So I actually programmed in some software that they could actually use on their home computers in order to not only manage the income on the properties not only manage all the different maintenance that had to be done, but also engaged in a marketing program. That's something I started and then I decided that one I wasn't all that interested in and I had to go to school. So I got rid of that business went to school. And then it went on from there.

Nick Bogacz:


Do you think the being an immigrant to this country, that you had a different mindset when you came here that no matter what you're going to be successful in this country, like, I do feel sometimes old looking at the youth, like you said, Man is not this generation, my generation was better. But when you get get down to actually being an immigrant of this country, in the mindset when you come over here, and even the mindset of your father and your mother of them leaving uprooting their whole family to come here and start over? What's that, like when you're laying there in bed and you're going through, like you're in a new country, and you know, I'm assuming not coming here with knowing what was gonna happen. Like, that's kind of shaped you different than than the normal American 12 year old kid that's laying there that maybe is upset that there's no orange juice in the morning or something like that.

Shawn Khorrami:


You know, you know, and a lot of things you know, they happen by choice and some of it by force, by choice twice, I'll tell you, you know, look, Iran had a revolution. And so what happens typically in a revolution is people, you know, a lot of the entrepreneurs or people that run away, that actually emigrate to other countries because they become the targets. That's just a natural thing of revolution. So, you know, my father was already himself an entrepreneur, so I had that instilled in me. And by choice, he was that coming from from another country, but in other countries, you also don't have the same opportunities, you don't, you're not handed the same things, it's a lot more difficult that there are a lot different barriers to entry. So there's a lot more fighting that goes on to get yourself to a level that where you can sustain yourself and be successful. 

So that that came from my father. And that was the way I was brought up, that you really have to push and really, really work hard to in order in order to even be able to be successful. The part that was by force, I'll tell you is at the time, when I moved over here, things weren't so great. And they had just gotten really bad, a relationship that was a good relationship between the US and Iran, that political climate had had completely soured. And literally, as a child, me going to school, it was not uncommon for me to be spit at, for kids to beat up on me or try to beat up on me, I had zero friends for quite a while. So kind of by force, you're a hoisted into that, and you have to make your own way, even in school, right, you have to you have to figure out how to adapt, and no one's giving you a break. You know, no one's cutting you a break. No, there's no one's giving you a chance, you know, you're you're, you're an outsider. 

And so by force, then you're you learn to become successful inside of that environment. And I think that also put me in a mindset where I have to want to achieve on my own, and to, I have to work as hard as I can, because other people may not be on my side, they may not be my friends, they may not want to have me succeed, that may not be in their interest, or it may be just something that they don't like seeing. So I have to do things in spite of that, which means that I have to do things on my own. And I have to accept that other people may act a certain way. Or maybe the environment may be a certain way. And I have to adapt within that environment and succeed within that environment, all of it from within me. And that's the way I approached it. So it does make a huge difference in how you approach things coming to this country as an immigrant.


And then other lessons from your youth, are you still an avid reader after you snag that first book?

Shawn Khorrami:


Yeah, in fact, for a while, what I would do even, even as as things become became digitized, what I would do is I would just sit there and I would read the book, any book I was reading digitally, I would get a physical copy of it. And it became so large that I stopped collecting the physical copies anymore. So it's all sitting in my, in my Amazon reader, but I stopped collecting because I have no place to keep them. So I kept being an avid reader, and my wife is an avid reader as well. So, you know, our library's quite large.


And have you felt that reading and continuing to learn has been part of your success.

Shawn Khorrami:


With that's frankly, all I do. In fact, every single day, that's that is a portion of my day, where I am sitting there, and I am actually teaching myself learning different things in whatever fashion, either taking courses in or actually reading entire books on a daily basis. And without that I don't think I can survive as a business owner. I mean, it's just, it's just the lifeline that I have, and the lifeline and I have to adapting and the way that I come up with businesses. And because a lot of times I'm running multiple businesses at once, I would have to do that in order to be able to actually come up with the new businesses that I run,


speak on how important it is building your teams out out of matter when you're running these different businesses and building different businesses that you have lawyers, accountants, insurance brokers, you know, this outside team that's really important to you how important has been building that team and then also building the team underneath you.

Shawn Khorrami:


One thing that I noticed and a lot of people are picking up exactly on what you're saying is that they think that they do everything, they're going to have to do everything themselves, and nobody else can do the job. That is the exact wrong approach to use. In my mind. It's incredibly important to actually put together specialists and bring in expert counsel in whatever area you can look. There's going to be resource problems. You're not not going to be able to hire 50,000 people, you're not going to be able to hire every lawyer you need. But to the extent possible, putting together expert counsel, both on the outside and inside is incredibly important. And the way I go about doing it is one, putting together a leadership team that I can actually direct that are also very much self motivated. That is an incredibly important thing to me, on any company that I've founded, that I've run, I've created a team of between five and 10 people, those are the people that I really speak to in terms of how to run and run the business, I will work with them. And I will keep my directives and my planning specific to them, and not actually go outside of that. So those are the people that I speak with, those are the people I plan with. And that's how I approach the leadership team. And then at the same time, I have to look at all kinds of expert counsel on the outside what kind of what kind of things I need, which is typically lawyers, accountants, are very typical on that. And I will also bring in expert consultants in marketing and PR, with regularity.


Do you use the same team each time?

Shawn Khorrami:


No, I do not. There are people that I that I use on in multiple businesses, and they go over from one business to another as long as I'm managing them. But I actually use separate teams, I know there are people that believe in using the same leadership team to run multiple businesses. I believe that a lot of times you require a lot of different expertise. And so what I do is I pick people that are specific to the business, but at the same time, I have a holding company that holds the different businesses holds my shares in the different businesses, and that company has common employees, obviously.


And what are you currently working on?

Shawn Khorrami:


What I'm currently working on. So I have, I think I alluded to this, what happened was, because so many people were coming to me. And again, this was like family, friends, a family and then friends of friends, I decided, okay, I need to set up a personal thing where I can help a limited number of people and I have a small team. And we have basically three ways that we're going about that. One is creating courses for people, where they can actually learn through modules, different things that they need to know, and different things they need to be watchful for. And a lot of that comes from, for example, because of the way I've been involved in my businesses and the way I've managed my businesses in detail, there's rarely a situation that has come up that someone calls me up about that I haven't faced personally. So we wanted to put together modules that where people can actually learn different aspects of running a business, according to what they need. At the same time, we want it to provide them with certain services on a consulting basis, now would be the second part of it. And the third part, which I find very, very interesting is that we want to actually invest with people, we want to actually put our money into, you know, depending on what you know, whether the investment makes sense. But we want to put actually our own resources into it, and work with our clients to run their businesses. One of the things that I think we do that's a little bit unusual, is that I don't believe in just collecting retainers out of people. That's, that's something that I try to avoid. So what we wanted to do was the way I do things is to the extent humanly possible, I want to take the risk with my client. So what we do is create a pricing structure, where we are actually invested in the job we're doing, and we are getting paid when it we actually bring in the results that we're promising. Because to me, that's what the customer is asking for. That's what our clients are asking for, is is a certain result. And if we're able to bring that that's when we should get paid, if we're not we should not be getting paid for that. So we we've created an entire pricing structure around that. And that's, you know, part of the startup that I'm that I'm working on right now.


And when you when you build these businesses, are you thinking about the exit strategy as you're building on

Shawn Khorrami:


it? No, I don't actually, most of the time, what I'm doing is I'm looking at what I'm going to do to grow this business and I have a genuine interest in the business. The only reason I get involved in something is because I say oh, you know, I really have a passion for doing this and I want to make this thing happen and it really will provide a service for you know, a certain segment, you know, certain market and so I enter something with with a passion for it. And you know, I don't think of Getting out of it. I don't think of selling it as Those aren't things that are, you know, top of mind for me. But obviously, there's a lot of that that goes on in my business. I have sold businesses. So you know, it does happen, but I don't enter it with that mindset.


You almost enter just because you like to get in and fix a problem. And you're passionate about what you're doing. It sounds like,

Shawn Khorrami:


Yeah, I mean, if I'm interested in it, I see an opportunity there. I want to get into it and do it. I draw up all the plans. That's what I'm doing. And I never think about what's going to happen. Oh, what, when are we going to recap this thing? When is when is, you know, what are we going to take in this? And the other? No, those things don't even enter my mind?


And have you found yourself like you talked about what I find is interesting that you're an avid reader, you learn every day, do you find as you were talking about when you you're reading and you're learning that other businesses pop up? Do you ever wonder to yourself if you've got too many things going on? Or do you find yourself prioritizing something and then maybe putting something to the back end? Or how do you decide if you're ready to take on a new business?

Shawn Khorrami:


Well, Nick, that that's, that's evolved over time, a number of years ago, I didn't think that there was any limit, that I could work on as many businesses I as I felt like I felt passionate about, that's evolved, you can't do that you can't be all things to everybody, and you can't run, you know, a bunch of different things all at the same time. So now what I do is I absolutely do that I look at exactly what my priorities are, what I what kind of effort something is going to take what kind of resources it's going to take. I mean, just with this new startup that we're that we're doing, we've been sitting there for six months, putting together various aspects of creating, we've seen what the market is exactly looking at what the resources that we would need are all of those things we've put together. And we're just about to launch now. So I absolutely look at what I would the kind of bandwidth I have, both in terms of myself as a person, mentally in terms of resources, both capital and human. And then that's when I even think about launching into another business. I like what


you said there that it definitely evolved over time. Because I think that's really easy for someone to do when they become successful is start to think that anything they touch can turn to gold, and then they just start touching everything. So I like what you said that you really evaluated on now.

Shawn Khorrami:


Yeah, I see, I see a lot of people doing that. They're just sitting there saying, Well, I'm just investing in these different things. And I just don't think that that's the right way to go. It's always important to keep yourself focused, and make sure that you're not putting yourself in a position where you can you're in over your head. And no matter who you are, you can end up in over your head. When that happens. It can result have really disastrous results.


You'd mentioned early on when you were talking about that you've had had failures too, would you mind walking us through, one of the failures that you learn the most from

Shawn Khorrami:


the one I learned the most from was was the one that was the most catastrophic. And it was it was a law firm that I had. And so that fell apart because of the issues I had with my capital. And I had lenders in that situation that were not fit for the business. What I learned was no matter what size your businesses, no matter, you know, whether you're bringing in eight and nine figures in revenues, it doesn't matter. You can have huge collapses that can linger on by the way. And this is these are the stories I share with people that can linger on for years afterwards. You know, where you're dealing with all kinds of issues that had to do with that business. And a lot of times it's because you didn't find the right fit the right partner, the right business partner, the right lender, the right capital source, those things can have catastrophic effects, effects on your, on your livelihood, on your business.


And deserve feeling that you get every time you go to open a new business, a little bit of angst or something in your stomach that you realize, like, Hey, this is a good feeling. Because if I don't have this feeling, it's probably not right.

Shawn Khorrami:


Yeah, you know, I look at every business and I have to have a reason to get into that business. Like an excitement. Yes, it's a sense of kind of insecurity because you don't know what's gonna happen. But at the same time, an excitement because hey, this thing is really a good idea. And if we put it together the right way, and here's the way it would work is this thing is going to be fantastic. And of course my wife brings me a lot of bad things because she's much more conservative than I am. I'm very quick to jump into something and she's very much the voice of reason as she calls it. But you know, but that feeling I have to have, I have to have a reason for being there, I have to have a reason for getting into it. And I have to have a reason for continuing it. And it has to be an important one. It has to give me chills. It has to, you know, produce anxiety almost in me, for me to do it. And if it doesn't, then I know I won't want to do it a month from now even


Sean, if people want to get more of you, where can they get more of you?

Shawn Khorrami:


Well, so what what I did was specific for you know, people that just want to talk to me is, you know, I have connect with Shawn. It's an easy way to connect with shawn.com. Or you can go to Karami consulting, but grimy is hard to hard to spell harder to spell them pronounce. So connect with Shawn. And you can actually look at some of the stuff that I've written. You can ask me any questions, obviously free of charge. And I also have put out with a couple of my colleagues and ebook. We call it how to anything proof it came out of COVID. But it's how to anything proof your business anytime some business interruption happens, and I'm happy to provide people with that. Whoever wants to have a free copy of it.


Shawn, now it's time to solve the equation to your success. This is where I get to ask you seven rapid fire questions. Are you ready?

Shawn Khorrami:


Oh, okay.


Best seminar or teaching that you've ever been to.

Shawn Khorrami:


It's a seminar called Rainmaker. And it was something that was that a friend of mine put together as basically a business coaching an executive coaching type program. That for me was the best coaching program I'd ever been to. And it really changed my life. It's not something that's hugely well known. But Rainmaker. That's that's what it was.


favorite item you bought recently, under 100 bucks.

Shawn Khorrami:


This bouncer I got from my little baby. And only because it's a little plastic thing. But she gets so much joy out of it. And it's so much fun for us to sit just watching her that every day, we you know, we spent some time just watching her, you know, and the joy of brings brings us a lot of joy. So that's my favorite item at our 100 bucks.


NEMA Idol or hero of yours that you've met in person,


it would have to be Ralph Nader, only because of that early experience I had, where he inspired me.


Favorite book to give as a gift.


Napoleon Hill Think and Grow Rich, I think that's something that anybody should have. And also, I'll give a second one Guy Kawasaki, Art of the Start.


Something you do every morning before you brush your teeth.


I used to compare myself to the old army commercials. I don't know if you know if you remember those. But they used to have an army commercial that said, we do more by nine o'clock than most people do every day. I'm not a very good sleeper. So it's not unusual for me to be up between two and four. And I do a ton of my reading between the hours of two and seven in the morning. And that's before I brush my teeth.


Your personal mantra or favorite quote,


I used to have this on my phone years ago. First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you then you win. That's a quote that's attributed to Gandhi. But it really means a lot. For me. It's basically just being relentless. You just keep going until you win.


Please, you go to decompress and reset.


That would have to be the gym, as that's the only time I actually don't talk to anyone.


And Sean, this is usually where we wrap up. But I just wanted to follow up a little bit with thinking grow rich and just get an idea. You know, that is definitely our favorite book of the show. It's one that that we always smile about when when it comes up that someone's that that's the book that they want to give to people. When When did you read the book? When's the first time you read thinking grow rich? And do you remember what you thought when you were reading it for the very first time?


It was only a few. So it was only a few years ago that I read it for the first time. It just it's got so much in there. You know, I know. I know. People read it over and over and time and time again. And I can see why I only I haven't read it that many times as many times over here. So some people do but every time you read it, there's something new it seems for me it really changed around a lot of the way I thought honestly.


Appreciate that. Shawn, thank you so much for being on the show today. You're a great guest. We wish you nothing but success and hope to talk to you soon.


Thank you very much. Thank you for having me. And I'm here anytime you want to talk to me. Thank you.


Thank you for joining us for today's mindset journey on the business equation podcast. To now it's time for you to take what you learn today and put it to work in your life each and every day. Please subscribe to the show wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. So you're the first to know when new episodes go live. We'll see you next time on the business equation where the solution is always in the mindset

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