London-native Steve Sims is a massively successful serial entrepreneur and author who tells it just like it is… with a dash of compassion. As CEO of the exclusive personal concierge service, Bluefish, Steve has become to many a real-life “fairy god-father,” but in Harley attire.
On my “Now to Next” podcast, Steve and I talk about the real and positive meaning of being a “hustler,” and how it led him to success today. Steve also shares some of the pivotal insights that paved the way for him to become an entrepreneur, author, and coach. Plus, we discuss his secret weapon to granting wishes (and how anyone can use it), which is getting to a person’s real “why?”
‘Just’ a Hustler?
Steve Sims grew up in the UK and started as a bricklayer. His family owned a construction firm where he worked summers. This is how Steve thought he’d spend his entire life.
As a kid, he assumed he’d get a job, stay with it, and then retire. College was never even on the table. Instead, he finished school at 15, got one day off, and then woke up at dawn the following day to head to work with his father on the build site. However, there were some early signs that he was made for more.
During Steve’s time in school, the headmaster disciplined him by smacking his hand with a ruler while saying, “You’re just a hustler, Sims.”
The words struck him like they hadn’t before. “Why is ‘hustler’ a bad term?” he wondered. In a moment of clarity, he understood the headmaster for the small-minded person he was. The realization so overpowered Steve he was numb to the next couple of smacks… and the term “hustler” stayed with him.
At the time, being an entrepreneurial hustler wasn’t understood as it is now. People assumed it meant cheating or being dishonest. Today, we know entrepreneurial hustlers work hard, creatively, and with determination. Steve is no exception.
Most Limits Are Self-Imposed
For a long time, I’ve said that if you comb through the five to 10 most positive and negative events in your life, you’ll find essential pieces of your subconscious story. The mere fact that you remember these moments means they influenced you. Steve’s teacher calling him a hustler was certainly one of those moments.
Another happened during a Saturday afternoon with his mother. She would take him window-shopping in the expensive part of town. One day he saw her looking across the street at a Gucci bag in the window. She was practically craning her neck to see it. He had grabbed her hand and was pulling her toward the road to get them closer when she yanked him back.
“I thought you wanted to go in and see it,” he said.
Her response was, “We don’t go in there. That is for other people.”
Steve couldn’t fathom her answer. It made no sense at all to him. Wasn’t it just a bag with a price tag? Anyone with the money should be welcome to buy it.
At that moment, he could see the box she’d built around herself and that what she could and couldn’t have existed entirely in her head. He decided then that he was not going to let fear stop him from pursuing more.
Growing up working-class, Steve wasn’t exposed to a lot. As illustrated by the story above, his family wasn’t accustomed to the “finer” things in life. In fact, he never even had takeout food until he was 18 years old. However, this lack of exposure created a “secret sauce” within Steve: fearlessness.
He wasn’t scared of jumping at opportunities, after all, he had nothing to lose. He was comfortable talking to the rich and powerful and asking them how they did it. He didn’t fear how these people would perceive him, he just wanted to learn.
I see it all the time too, especially in coaching, nine times out of 10 mindset is a person’s largest block. We often give people who are insignificant to our lives and what we are trying to accomplish (and their comments and criticisms) far too much power over us, and it is time to evict them from our thought process. Steve agrees, you can’t let mindset hold you back. You have to go after what you want with no holds barred.
From London to Hong Kong
During his days laying bricks, a friend turned Steve onto a financial internship opportunity. The bank was hiring 80 people to open a new office in Hong Kong and selected Steve as one of them. He hopped on a flight hopeful for this new opportunity.
It was by far his shortest career.
He met his team in Hong Kong and drank with them Saturday and Sunday, worked on Monday, and by Tuesday he was fired.
Steve found his way to a dive club to drink away his sorrow and was just wondering what he would say to his fiancée back in England when one of the managers came up to him and said some of “his people” were causing a problem. She offered him free drinks for the night if he could get them to leave.
The commotion turned out to be three white guys. He sat down and let them know he’d been asked to tell them to quiet down and be on their way. However, instead of insulting their pride and kicking them out, he offered them an alternative. He said if they left now, they could come back tomorrow and get a free beer. Then, he pointed at a curtain and said they did not want to see the security with sticks waiting behind it (side note: there was no one behind the curtain).
The three guys walked out, thanking him as they left.
The manager walked up and said, “You be the doorman now. I’ll pay you, and you drink what you want.” And just like that Steve’s new career was born.
As entrepreneurs, we aren’t following someone else’s instructions. We have to recognize the reality and potential of a situation for ourselves. Steve approached his new duties strategically.
He was a great bouncer. Instead of pushing unruly people into a corner they’d have to fight their way out of, he would offer them a face-saving way out. He says he developed his negotiation skills in nightclubs…which allowed him to secure better and better positions for himself.
As he moved up to highly affluent nightclubs, he noticed different types of wealthy people. Some were insecure, rude, and snobbish, while others were grounded, real, and authentic. He also learned what those people were looking for during a night out.
Steve became a source for the influential to access all the best nightclubs and parties. He even started throwing his own parties — a business that grew to serve events like the Kentucky Derby, the Grammy after-party, and Sir Elton John’s Oscar party.
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Bluefish!
What made Steve’s parties different? Every door had a password… which also applies to life. You can get into any party if you’re willing to learn the password. However, in a less metaphorical sense, Steve and his partners inadvertently created a buzz, and their company name, with a party password.
Planning events, they didn’t want to overbook the venue. They would announce the party for the following Friday, saying ticket holders would get a location and password Friday afternoon. That way, they would know in advance how many tickets they’d sold.
The Friday announcement made the event sound exclusive and secretive, but they would make the passwords silly to create a smile at the door. Passwords included:
- Name two of the Teletubbies
- Finish this sentence: One fish, two fish, red fish …
It attracted friendly people who didn’t mind a giggle and set the stage for a fun and conflict-free atmosphere. If people weren’t willing to be silly and call out passwords like “Tinky Winky and Po,” well they weren’t coming in.
Steve and his partners named their company Trianon and as word spread about their parties, they started getting calls from people asking, “Are you the blue fishing company?”
They kept saying “no” and turning people away.
Finally, an assistant turned and said, “You know you ARE the bluefish company…” and connected the calls to one of their party passwords.
Recognizing what they’d accidentally created, they changed the company to Bluefish and never looked back. Steve tells this and other stories in his book, Bluefishing, The Art of Making Things Happen. Including how Bluefish grew from throwing killer parties to making some of the wildest dreams of their clients come true. Performing on stage with Journey, being serenaded by Andrea Bocelli, and connecting with powerful business moguls like Elon Musk are just a few of the many projects they’ve worked on.
Ask Why at Least Three Times
Steve shares some of the lessons he’s learned in the book, Bluefishing, too. For example, when a client makes a request, ask why at least three times.
As an entrepreneur who strives to cut through the noise and give your clients the best experiences possible, you don’t want to give people what they first request. You want to give them what they lust for, need, and desire. It usually takes a little digging to get there.
One of his client’s requests was to meet the rock band Journey and shake their hand.
After asking a few times, “Why is that important to you?” Steve got to the truth.
In college, this client made money in a Journey cover band. Since then, he had celebrated the ups and endured the downs of life with Journey tunes. They helped him out of the pit in his darkest hour. Steve realized this music was the theme of the client’s “life movie” and asked him if simply shaking the band’s hand was a fitting ending… spoiler alert, it was not.
Steve contacted Journey and explained about the client. It turned out that both the drummer and the client’s brother had sons with Autism. They put together a concert to raise awareness for Autism Speaks and Steve’s client not only got to shake the band’s hand, but he also sang four songs live with the band on stage. After the show, he spent time with the band backstage. That was an experience fitting the significance of their music in his life.
To be irreplaceable, you need to ask why until you get down to something meaningful. You want to make an impact and show your value to someone, which means taking the time and finding out what is truly meaningful to them.
The Chug Test
Speaking of value, you not only want to be valuable to others, but you want to have people you value in your life as well. If you’re struggling to determine who those people are in your life… you can always take the Chug Test. This may be one of my favorite tips from Steve during our interview. It is a simple but powerful way to see which people in your life belong in your inner circle, and which ones don’t.
One night, Steve dreamed he was on a crowded city street. He saw a client across the street and realized he had two possible responses. There were people he would turn and hide his face from until they passed, while for others, he’d leap into traffic to say hello and ask to grab a pint with them.
At the office the next day, he and his team went through the client list and pared it down to the ones he would leap into traffic to say hello to, and of course….grab a pint. This became the Chug Test, which he still uses to this day. If he wouldn’t want to sit down and enjoy a beer with a person, he doesn’t want them as a client.
Surround yourself with people whose company you enjoy.
Don’t Let Fear Stop You
One of the things I’ve learned from interviewing outstanding entrepreneurs like Steve Sims, is there are as many success stories as there are people. And there is not a single avenue to success. Your path can take many twists and turns. Remember, Steve thought he’d be laying bricks forever. The most essential thing you can do is trust yourself and be fearless in your pursuit of whatever it is that fuels you. Steve certainly did, and look where it has led him.
To learn more about Steve Sims you can check out his website, or join him on Facebook at An Entrepreneurs Advantage. And to watch or listen to my full interview with Steve, you can check out the video on YouTube or your favorite podcasting platform!