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It’s been a decade since Donald Trump uttered those two glorious words—“You’re hired”—to Bill Rancic, season one winner of “The Apprentice.” Since then, the Chicago born-and-bred real estate entrepreneur has successfully run a multi-million dollar company, become a best-selling author, hosted and produced television shows, opened his own restaurant and expanded his philanthropic efforts worldwide. Why not add “2014 NAA Education Conference & Exposition Thought Leader” to the list?
units Magazine recently spoke to Rancic—who interviewed Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson at the 2013 NAA Education Conference & Exposition—to get a preview of his June 20 session in Denver.
units: One of your first business endeavors was starting a boat wash and wax business in college. What did you learn from that experience that has served as a foundation for your long-term entrepreneurial goals?
Rancic: I learned some of the most important lessons of my life during that time. My parents were teachers and I grew up around those kinds of people, so I’d never been around businessmen and entrepreneurs before. I was taking care of these 60-, 70-, 80-foot boats for these people who were cruising around Lake Michigan. I wasn’t making much, but I was surrounded by entrepreneurs and I thought, “I’m no different than these guys.” It gave me the confidence to go out and do it. Just because you tell me I’m worth minimum wage doesn’t make it true.
My grandma was somewhat of an entrepreneur. She had a little store she used to run. There was just something about that world that I loved. I loved being able to create something and to be independent. I always colored outside of the lines in school and that’s been the theme of my life.
units: You seem to have your hands in everything, from your restaurant to your books, television shows and volunteer work. How can companies who are branching out in various directions avoid spreading themselves too thin or forgetting about the core of their original business?
Rancic: That’s where a lot of people get in trouble: They try to be all things to all people. You have to understand who you are and find side endeavors that complement that. I have a friend who owned several apartment buildings and he wanted to take on some new challenges so he started his own apartment finder business. That’s a great example—all of his businesses worked together and his ancillary businesses fed into his main business.
units: Can you explain the notion of thinking long term in a short-term world with regard to real estate?
Rancic: As we’ve all seen during the past eight years, you have to be agile. You can’t be afraid to take the blinders off. The people who got in trouble were the ones who stayed the course. You have to adjust and adapt and react to be successful.
I’m going to talk about this more in Denver, but …
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