Wallmart Stock – Frank Song’s Eight-Figure Business Journey
Former Wall Street investment banker and private equity investor Frank Song today runs an eight-figure international business conglomerate and is a confidential strategy advisor to businesses, high-net-worth individuals and politicians. It wasn’t always this way.
Successful entrepreneurs agree: it takes resourcefulness, grit and a creative mind to rise to the top.
After a troubled upbringing left him without a home at the age of 14, Frank Song had to fend for himself. He could have let his hardships dictate his future, but instead, he took matters into his own hands and committed to a lifestyle of learning. With no money or resources, Song was undeterred.
His success was built the hard way: from independence, self-discovery and the pursuit of knowledge. He believes that no one is limited or defined by the circumstances of their past – only by the choices made in the present. From sleeping on the floor of Walmart to becoming the founder of an eight-figure international business conglomerate, this is Song’s story.
A Troubled Upbringing
Song was born in California to an entrepreneur father and a stay-at-home mother. Raised in a middle-class suburban neighborhood, many would expect his childhood to be one of privilege. Yet his reality was very different.
Since Song’s early childhood, his mother had displayed signs of acute mental illness. To cope with decades of stress, arguments and emotional anguish, his father turned to alcohol. Homelife quickly deteriorated after his father lost his tech company when the dot com bubble burst. “I didn’t have a home to go to,” says Song, “so a lot of the time I slept in Walmart.”
It didn’t help that his extended family didn’t believe in mental illness. “I couldn’t rely on support from my relatives as they believed my mother’s psychiatric condition could be solved using alternative homeopathic treatments,” he said. The extended family also had an unwritten rule that each would turn a blind eye to the other’s private lives and problems, even if it involved alcohol or violence. Faced with the realization that not even his extended family would support him, Song began to feel the gravity of his situation.
“Looking back,” he says, “it was the most enlightening experience of my life. It turned me from a child into a man. Generally, as a kid, you’re used to adults saving you when you’re in a bad situation. For countless nights I’d just lay around on a dirty floor, naively waiting for someone to come and help me. Eventually, I realized there was no one else and that I had to take responsibility for my own life and future. That was the moment I really became a man – when I understood clearly that it was my responsibility to help myself, no matter the situation.”
Song made a commitment to finding a way out. And to do that, he had to learn as much as he possibly could.
Learning Through Linear Resourcefulness
Undeterred by his lack of money and experience, Song used his sharp eye for opportunity to develop his skills in other ways. “When I was a teenager,” he says, “I would wait by Bentleys and Rolls Royces and ask the owners how they achieved their level of success. This was my business school. This was how I learned business. I would recommend this to a lot of teenagers. Being young is very powerful because many wealthy people love to help a young person with a desire to learn and make a better life for themselves.”
Many of these wealthy individuals saw promise and believed in Song, later becoming investors in his real estate deals that he put together to fund his university education and early future.
Song approached life from a unique perspective. He realized that doing something with nothing forces you to be resourceful, and resourcefulness is an edge. “This,” Song begins, “is my number one strategic advantage. People used to joke that I was the world’s best poor person – that they’d never seen someone do so much with so little. Well, that’s one of my talents; I’m creative in the ways I stretch a dollar. That’s how you beat larger competitors – if every dollar they make returns two, and every dollar you make returns three or four, you’ll eventually eclipse them.”
He continues: “Being homeless ended up being a huge gift for me. It was helpful because I practiced being resourceful every single day.” Finding shelter and a place to sleep in Walmart was never easy, and to avoid the managers kicking him out into the cold, he had to build relationships, adapt and be creative.
Song spent years pursuing growth and knowledge by any means possible. Before long, he found his feet, enrolled in college, and began living with one of his closest friends from high school. As fate would have it, this seemingly innocuous decision would shape the course of his life. “My roommate was working on his family tree for his Spanish project,” said Song. “Then one day I heard him practice the phrase: ‘My uncle is an investor’. I stopped him and asked, ‘what kind of investor?’”.
“My friend was a very kind guy and knew my situation well because he saw my parents struggling. He would often give me a lift to different places I needed to go and when his parents were out of town, he would let me sleep at his house. But never could I have predicted that his uncle was the managing director at one of the most successful private equity buyout firms in the world. Immediately, I knew that I had to meet him. After a brief phone call he invited me to meet the investment team at his private equity firm,” Song recalls.
While the team recognized that he was driven and motivated to succeed, Song was advised to first prove himself by working as an investment banker before he could be considered for a position at the prestigious private equity firm which today has raised over $10 billion dollars of investor commitments. Armed with a plan and a vision for the future, Song spent the next two years working in investment banking and building experience around finance.
The Time Climb
Song’s experience in investment banking was not easy. “As an analyst for a top 50 investment bank, I was selected to work for one of the best managing directors the bank had. This guy had a reputation for being an intimidating, no BS deal maker who had no qualms about asking you to work all night, with no weekends, 90-to-100 hours a week. The longest I ever worked without sleep was three days. But it never bothered me because I knew how much he cared about the quality of his work and I respected this in him.
In my annual review, he looked at me and said: ‘You know what I like about you Frank? When I scream, you don’t react.’ I remember looking back at him and saying: ‘I’m sitting on the top floor of one of the most expensive skyscrapers in San Francisco with air conditioning while there’s a heatwave going on outside. The firm gives me free dinners and taxis. I fly on private jets with you to close deals. How can your yelling at me compare to sleeping in Walmart?”
Within 12 months, Song was ranked as a top bucket investment banker. And within another year, he had completed over $500 million in mergers and acquisitions, initial public offers, and leveraged buyouts. While many would have struggled, Song’s experience teaches us a valuable lesson on the power of perspective. Equipped with a unique understanding due to his early struggles, very little could match the pain of being homeless. After earning experience and retaining a positive outlook for two years, it was finally time to return to the private equity firm he had originally wanted to join. And nothing could have prepared him for the gauntlet he was about to be thrown.
“I came back at 24 and interviewed all over again,” says Song. “This time, they put me through a 10-month interview process. They grilled me on everything from math problems to my investment theses to building leverage buyout models. I was warned by one of the senior associates that landing this job was harder than getting into Harvard and that they were considering more than 500 applicants. Working there introduced me to some of the smartest people I’d ever met, and I truly enjoyed it.”
Song’s Breaking Point
Song was finally starting to build traction in finance. And then his journey was cut short by an unexpected phone call. “I got a call one day,” Song begins. “They told me that my father was going to die.” His father’s aorta valve had torn and was given a one in five chance of surviving.
Yet survive he did, and so began a long and painful recovery. With his then 16-year-old sister and parents had moved to Thailand over half a decade ago, and being left with few good options for his sister’s well-being, Song took responsibility for his sister, moving her from Bangkok to live with him in California. As the only capable caregiver, he could no longer justify leaving home for days at a time and working long hours. “I went to my firm and told them the situation with my family and my sister. They understood and supported me. I still remember one of the managing directors telling me, ‘Frank, work is something we do after our health and family are taken care of’. Those words have stayed with me, and I started to understand just how truly successful people view the world.”
Building A Business Structured For Success
Song’s original plan was to raise his sister for the next two years until she entered university then return to the world of private equity. However, life had other plans for him. As people discovered he was no longer working in finance, many began to proposition him for partnerships, deals and other opportunities to work together.
Given he could now work on his own time, he accepted many of the best proposals. It’s good that he did. It wasn’t long before he realized there were hundreds of unassuming companies doing business and making millions in spite of their unsophisticated management techniques. This was Song’s stomping ground. He knew that identifying unsexy but profitable markets and then building companies with more sophisticated technological, operational and marketing execution led to vastly superior profit margins and increased market share against less sophisticated competitors.
Song began to build a team. In trademark fashion, he started without resources or investors. It was familiar territory to him, yet the stakes were higher. He took an unconventional approach. Instead of paying for office space, he moved his entire team into his house, and held sales meetings in hotel lobbies. “It definitely raised some eyebrows,” he admits. “I explained to my team that the more dollars we saved, the more money we could spend to steal the sale away from our competitors. If our competitor could only afford to spend $100 to acquire a customer before losing money, we would stretch that to $110 dollars. That way we could actually grow and beat larger companies, even as an underdog.”
Before long, Song was making millions using this playbook and he expanded his operations to other markets that displayed the same characteristics, and then internationally. Song’s resourcefulness throughout his youth paid off in dividends. In making conscious decisions to work with what he had instead of giving up or blaming others, he went on to build a multi-million dollar business completely free from debt and investors.
Song’s efforts were realized, and his unique outlook on business found continued success. By adopting the correct mindset and using linear resourcefulness to grow, Song made it happen.
The moral of the story? Pursue knowledge and work to better yourself. If you do, then you can achieve the success you deserve. Instead of becoming a victim of circumstance, Song teaches us an invaluable lesson: create your own reality and build a life worth living.
Wallmart Stock – Frank Song’s Eight-Figure Business Journey
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