I had very few life changing moments in my existence. This interview was one of them.
I added Ziad Abdelnour on LinkedIn and didn’t know who he was at first. I decided to visit his website and saw a trailer which is 1:14 seconds long and I knew that I had to interview this man- I was immensely inspired by such an outspoken and fierce business titan.
Ziad Abdelnour is not your ordinary businessman- he’s outspoken, fierce, a maverick and a rebel. He is the Founder and CEO of Blackhawk Partners which is a Family Office that is dedicated to generating superior returns on a variety of asset classes through investments, trading and advisory services.
He was also listed as one of the 500 Most Influential CEO’s In The World. Ziad worked on Wall Street for about 20 years in which 6 of those years was spent working for Michael Milken; one of the most iconic Financiers in the 20th century – a man who changed the landscape of Corporate America.
Since 1985, Ziad Abdelnour has been involved in over 125 transactions worth in aggregate over $10 billion in the investment banking, high yield bond and distressed debt markets and has been widely recognized for playing an integral role in those three key market sectors.
He is also the Author of “Economic Warfare- Secrets of Wealth Creation In The Age of Welfare Politics” which you can order on Amazon.
What is your story?
Ziad Abdelnour is a Lebanese American business tycoon who came from a political family in which his father and uncle were successful entrepreneurs. He decided and learned early on that he didn’t want to be constricted in a box and decided to leave the Middle East and immigrated to America- the land of opportunities. Ziad attended the Wharton School of Business- The #1 Business School in which he got his MBA.
His favourite class he took was Speculative Finance in which the Professor assigned the class to trade $1 million of virtual money. At the end of the semester he won the contest and the contest reaffirmed his belief to pursue a career in finance.
After being on Wall Street for 20 years, Ziad decided to leave for 3 main reasons:
- Increased Regulation
- Being forced to participate in deals that he didn’t believe in
- Like any corporate career, you are part of a system and if you are a true entrepreneur- you will eventually get tired of conforming.
He understood early on that having money meant freedom and it was important that he acquires the wealth necessary to be able to be free. The truth is most people are not free and if you truly want to be free- you’re going to need a lot of money.
How do you hire people for your firm?
Ziad doesn’t want followers. He wants people that are willing to challenge authority and he asks this 1 key question to know someone’s attitude:
“What pisses you off?”
If someone answers that in a literal manner, he doesn’t even hire that person and that’s the end of the interview. However, if the candidate challenges the question through comments like:
“Is this stupid” or any comment that will make you question “What kind of question is this?” – These are the people Ziad finds will be an asset to the firm as they are aggressive, don’t follow the status quo and challenge authority.
What is your best advice to network with billionaires or high-profile clients?
Ziad doesn’t network. He never made a cold call. He uses the “Pull Effect” which is through content creation (blogs and other mediums like speaking engagements) to attract his followers like a magnet. The way he has gotten clients was because of his outspoken and so out of the box thoughts and beliefs on different economic and financial matters.
At Freedom Fest in July in Las Vegas for example; his panel was ranked #1 out of 200 because he’s not afraid to speak his mind’ rocks the boat to the extreme, and doesn’t care about being judged.
“I don’t care if people love me or hate me- that means I am relevant in some way. The worst thing is the people who are indifferent and make you irrelevant- Being different is better than irrelevant…always.”
Ziad believes in being financially independent and he doesn’t care whether he loses deals because of his beliefs or being outspoken about subject matters.
What do you look for when investing in an entrepreneur?
Before Ziad left Lebanon, his father told him to remember these 3 traits:
- Balls- You have to have courage and the will to take calculated risks. Be willing to make lots of sacrifices and endure immense amounts of pain if you want to succeed.
- Brains- You have to be wise and intelligent in the decisions you make
“If you have big balls but no brains you’re a loose cannon but if you have brains but no balls- you’re just a plain bureaucrat”
- Heart and Compassion to provide value and help people is essential to succeed.
What is your biggest lesson for a new entrepreneur starting out?
Don’t be a lifestyle entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is not your default option you go to when you can’t find a job and it’s not something that you should try for 3-5 years for the sake of testing the waters to see if it’s a fit.
Being an entrepreneur requires you to endure huge levels of pain, make sacrifices and you have to have the toughness of Navy Seals.
Are you born an entrepreneur or can you train yourself to be one?
You are a product of your environment- your inspiration, desperation, people around you and many other factors make up your thoughts and dictate your actions. We are taught to conform from a young age and the true entrepreneurs rebel against the system. 10-20% of being an entrepreneur maybe your DNA but the rest of it is mostly controlled and developed through your environment.
What is your legacy?
My legacy is plain and simple- I want to create an army of millionaires and billionaires-mavericks, rebels, sharks and game changers and make a real big positive impact on the world. It’s as simple as that.