Oscar: I’d like to welcome to the studio today Andrew Weissman, CEO of Prestige Wholesale. Welcome, Andrew.
Andrew: Thank you very much. Thank you for the invite.
Oscar: Of course. On behalf of the Entrepreneur’s Organization, South Florida Chapter, I’d love to congratulate you for earning your rank on the Inc 2014 largest privately held companies in the United States. Congratulations.
Andrew: Thank you sir.
Oscar: Tell us a little bit about what Prestige Wholesale does.
Andrew: We are a distributor/wholesaler of cellular phones. We distribute on a global level. We specialize in what’s called the IDEN technology, which stands for Integrated Digital Enhanced Network. The old Nextel phones, the push-to-talk, basically that’s no longer prevalent in the states, so we’re able to buy up the used or refurbished product for pretty much next to nothing, take it, re-manufacture it and resell it in countries that it’s very prevalent or popular, countries such as … We specialize in Latin America; Columbia, Guatemala, Argentina and Brazil, some countries in the Middle East; Saudi Arabia, Israel, and we deal a little bit in Asia as well. It’s pretty much just a mode of arbitrage, taking the trash here and it’s treasure over there.
Oscar: Interesting. What made you get started?
Andrew: I’ve been doing it since 2005, almost ten years now, and I had a retail cellular phone store in [Margai 01:26], Florida, a little city in Florida and I transitioned from retail into wholesale and one thing led to the next; I worked very, very hard and built the business. That’s pretty much what happened.
Oscar: What is your ultimate vision for your company?
Andrew: To grow even bigger. To hire more people, to promote more jobs, give more people work and increase sales, revenue, the whole nine yards; just grow it even bigger. That’s pretty much it.
Oscar: When you launched your business, did you launch with a business plan?
Andrew: No. No, I actually did it when I was 18 years old in 2005. I’m 27 now and it was actually … I opened the corporation to get into the car business but then I started buying and selling car chargers, anything basically related to cellular, then cellular phones and then, as I said, one thing led to the next and it grew, et cetera. It just … If you really love what you do, it’s going to spiral into something. If you really persevere, because in business you have ups and downs and you have great times, but if you love what you do you get up every … I get to the office at 7:10 in the morning and I make it work and do what I have to do to be successful.
Oscar: Well, let’s talk about that for a minute. When you first started your company, what was your daily work schedule looked like opposed to today?
Andrew: It’s funny, as the company became even more successful and grew bigger, I work harder now than I did ten years ago when I needed the money, or whatever you want to say, more than I do today because the responsibility is just a lot bigger. Just a lot, a lot bigger. In reference to … I would go to the store, get in, the store would open at 10 am, retail hours, 10- am. I’d get there around 9, 9:30 and I’d work until 7, 8 o’clock at night. Now I’m in my office at 7:15 to 7:30 because keep in mind we deal with time zones. When you talk to Israel, they’re obviously way ahead of us. Saudi Arabia, we deal with time zones all over the world. I get there real early in the morning and I leave at 7, 8, 9 o’clock when I’m ready to leave. That’s pretty much it.
Oscar: How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
Andrew: Basically I work a lot harder. I’ll work on the weekends, I’ll do whatever I need to do. Our quality control is phenomenal. A lot of people are very sloppy in business. There’s a saying that I heard from one of my mentors years ago “You always want to pick up the nickles.” Meaning you have to do what no one else is willing to do. That’s what differentiates you. That’s how you become successful because, like you just said, how do you stand out? What’s the incentive to do business with Prestige Wholesale versus XYZ or ABC cellular or whatever the name of the company is. You want to differentiate yourself, so we go that extra mile with the QC. We’re giving extended financing terms or a better warranty or better product, better service overall and that’s why we have repetitive business and hence why the company keeps growing and growing. We’ve made the Inc. 5000 list twice now.
Oscar: That’s fantastic. I’m sure you’ve made a lot of great decisions but I’m guess you’ve made a mistake or two along the way.
Oscar: What was your biggest mistake you’ve made so far in this particular business?
Andrew: Biggest mistake? I don’t know, I’ve made, obviously, a few mistakes. I think that’s part of growing a business. The biggest mistake. Hmm. I think the way I interact, you know, psychology. Interacting with customers or employees maybe I could have done things I could have done now growing as a businessman versus five years ago, handled situations better, maybe not left as much money on the table, meaning I could have gotten more money for certain product, but due to feeling anxious, you let a product go for a little bit cheaper. Stuff like that. There’s, knock on wood, there’s been no catastrophic mistakes. Knock on wood.
Oscar: Excellent. Speaking of money, how did you finance the launch of your business?
Andrew: When I first started, before 2005, I used to put ring tones on kids’ phones. I used to do it in high school, when I was 16, 17 years old. I earned ten, fifteen, twenty thousand dollars I saved up. I bought that retail store for eleven thousand. I sold it eleven months later. I doubled my money on the store. I was working with twenty, twenty-five thousand, whatever I came away with then, plus I had some bar mitzvah money. I just started buying and selling, buying and selling and as the finances grew and became very strong, I became bankable and I went to TD Bank, they gave me a line of credit, Wells Fargo, et cetera, and as you build relationships with any lender and you make right by them and you do what you say you’re going to do, that line of credit gets increased significantly over the years. Now I have a very good banking relationship with TD and other banks, if they want my business, they have to earn it, obviously.
Oscar: Excellent. What is the most creative or unusual sales tactic that you’ve ever used?
Andrew: I sometimes put a lot of … See, in my business, it’s a commoditized industry. There’s only so much product out there of what it is. You can’t go out and … We trade cell phones, obviously. You can’t go out there and manufacture certain types of phones. The manufacturer has to do that. Whatever’s available in the secondary market, they either take or they don’t. A lot of times I’ll put a lot of pressure on the clients to make a move, bring other … Not necessarily their competitors but other customers who will potentially buy or suck up that product so they can’t get it anymore. Nothing unusual, just trying to create a sense of urgency, essentially. That’s what it is, because it’s a commoditized business. It’s not like I’m going out washing a car. Everybody can wash a car. Everybody can sell french fries. My business is very, very commoditized. Either you have it or you don’t. That’s what it comes down to.
Oscar: What are you most proud of?
Andrew: In business?
Oscar: In business.
Andrew: I am proud of my success but I don’t think … I am not content. I am not complacent with it. I know I’m very successful but I view myself as it being ten times bigger than where I am today because I see the growth potential, I know what I’m capable of. I’ve seen what I’ve done at 26, 27 years old, making the list twice, like I mentioned prior. You know, that’s pretty much it.
Oscar: Andrew, you’re a remarkably passionate entrepreneur, hard-working. I’d like to invest in your company. I’d like to give you a check for a million dollars. I want to invest. How will you deploy those funds?
Andrew: In my business, it’s very opportune-based. It’s not always, if you say that I’m going to give you a million dollars, there’s not a necessary spot where I put a million dollars right away. There’s certain opportunities that present itself, and that could be every month, it could be every quarter. The key is that’s why you have to have the relationships with the banks, the open lines of credit revolving, so if you need funds right away you can take advantage of a certain opportunity where a carrier, let’s say, wants to dump overstock and they’re going to lose 200 dollars a phone because they need the cash. They need to take that money and buy new inventory. They want to dump their old product. We can take advantage of their loss as our gain, essentially, and we’ve done that multiple times. There’s no certain spot where I’d put a million dollars right now but when the opportunity comes across, which they do in my industry, then it’s a different scenario.
Oscar: Then you’ll call me. Okay.
Andrew: Exactly. Depending on interest rate.
Oscar: Andrew, if you had magical powers and you can go back to the first day that you launch your business to change any decision you’ve made up to this state, what would you change?
Andrew: Nothing. Nothing, because I wouldn’t be where I am today without the mistakes I made. It’s a learning process in business. You win some, you lose some, but hopefully you win more than you lose. That’s it. As I mentioned before, there’s been no catastrophic mistakes, knock on wood. Nothing. This is what makes you into the businessman you are today. The business decisions that I made when I was 22, 23, versus today, 26, 27, they’re tremendously different because of that knowledge, because of the mistakes, because of whatever; your business experience.
Oscar: I’m going to hand you, now, my magical crystal ball. I want you to look into it and tell me how the business climate will change in the next five years and how it will affect you and your business.
Andrew: Basically what we’re getting involved with now is something called urban recycling. I see it’s a very nice-oriented market. I see obviously a tremendous amount of growth potential with it. We’re basically taking phones and we’re procuring them from different collection and recycling companies and we’re sending them directly to a smelter to extract the precious metals out of them. These are not phones like iPhones, Samsungs; these are phones that are beyond repair. Stuff that no one wants in any secondary market because either they’re defective, the boards don’t work, there’s just no demand for them or the technology is obsolete. We’re simply taking the phones in mass, massive quantities and shipping containers overseas to extract the precious metals out of them; the gold, the copper, the silver, the palladium. That’s what I’m focusing on because there’s always going to be a demand for commodities. There’s always going to be people upgrading phones and phones coming to the market; a consistent supply and consistent demand of that product.
Oscar: Very interesting. What one word describes you as an entrepreneur?
Oscar: What do you mean by that?
Andrew: I think outside the box. I don’t always do everything as other entrepreneurs do in a conventional way. Sometimes I make wild decisions, quick decisions. You’ve got to be quick. Some of those decisions obviously have been very, very successful. Just different. I guess different/crazy.
Oscar: I think they call that meshugganah.
Oscar: In your opinion, are entrepreneurs born or are they made?
Andrew: That’s a very, very good question. I think a negotiator innate. I think negotiators are born. That’s just depending on how you react to certain situations. I think it’s a combination. It’s a combination. I don’t think there’s one definitive … If you’re born an entrepreneur. I think hard work always overpowers any kind of talent. That’s what it comes down to. You work hard, you repetitively repeat your task and you’re destined to do it and you’re determined to do it, you’re going to do it, and obviously that’s a situation where they weren’t born, they were made to do it. They were determined to do it.
Oscar: Who do you go to for guidance or advice? Do you have a mentor?
Andrew: I talk to my dog.
Oscar: What kind of dog is it?
Andrew: No, I’m kidding. My father is an extremely successful physician. Unbelievable what he does, but business-wise doctors are not always the best at business. He’s always given me, showed me a ridiculous work ethic, and that’s where I get my work ethic from. Just do what no one else is willing to do and work your ass off. That’s the bottom line. I’d say my father. I have a close friend that’s actually an attorney and those are good motivational people.
Oscar: Based on your experience, share with me a piece of business wisdom that you would like to share with fellow entrepreneurs.
Andrew: I think to really set yourself apart, you have to really do something different. You have to differentiate yourself. You have to be different from the pack, different from the crowd. You’ve got to stand out. That’s how you’re going to make a name for yourself. That’s how you’re going to promote your business. If you do what everybody’s doing, you’re going to have average results because you’re doing average. You have to find, whatever industry you’re in, something that no one else is doing, whether it’s excelling in customer service, whether it’s giving a better product, whether it’s offering better quality control, better price; there could be a combination of things. That’s my suggestion is that differentiate yourself and, as I mentioned before, pick up that nickel. Do something that no one else is willing to do. That’s what’s going to create that difference in your company.
Oscar: That’s fantastic. Similar question; what piece of wisdom would you like someone to share with you right now?
Andrew: What’s going to happen with this deal I’ve been working on for four months next week. Just any … There’s no specific piece. I’m always in tune. I always love listening to people who are extremely successful because the same reason I’m here, everyone wants to hear what successful people have done to be successful. They want to duplicate their strategies and act on it.
Oscar: How does your company make a mark in your industry?
Andrew: We stand apart because we have unbelievable quality control, we’re able to offer the financing the clients need, warranty, customer service, hence the long work hours, responding to emails immediately. If there’s a problem, it’s taken care of. It doesn’t get put on the back burner. There’s so many people in my industry that put out a horrible product and if they didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be where I am, eating their loss to try to differentiate myself by giving a better product. Their mistake or screw-up is positive for me.
Oscar: What would you say is the boldest move you’ve ever made in your business?
Andrew: I put all my money, and I leveraged the bank’s money as well, in one deal last year and that deal was the biggest success that I’ve ever had in my business career. I did very, very well. Very, very well. That deal put me in a position to make another big deal, the one I just mentioned for about four months now, having the capital, having the liquid, that was pretty much a bold move putting everything on the line because I believed in myself, I believed in my business, I knew that I would succeed.
Oscar: In what ways do you develop trust and respect from your team or your vendors or your customers?
Andrew: Treat people how you want to be treated. Do what you say you’re going to do. Be a man of honesty. Be a man of integrity. Follow through. If I tell you it’s getting done Tuesday, it’s getting done Tuesday. If I tell you the invoice is getting paid Wednesday, it’s getting paid Wednesday. Employees, we give incentives. A big part is having a great team. My employees are wonderful. I like to move quick. I like to be efficient and effective. Time is money. They understand that and they move at my speed as well, but you have to give them incentives. Your normal salary is great, they want, obviously, their job security but if you give incentives, they actually care. They have a piece of the action, essentially.
Oscar: How do you retain great employees in this work environment?
Andrew: Being fair with compensation, being fair with pay, treating them with respect. They want comfort ability. My employees, at least, do. They want to know that they come to a secure job environment, they’re treated fairly and they have a job and they have incentives to do well, obviously.
Oscar: Great. Let’s pretend for a moment that your company tomorrow goes away. You can’t go back in that same business. What is the next venture that you would want to launch?
Andrew: I’d go fishing. I would just go fishing and relax. If it was something like that it’d have to be … I never thought about that because it’s not going to happen but if it did, it’s very difficult for me to give you an answer about that. I’d probably look to procure or buy another business that’s already established to have just immediate cash flow, essentially. That’s what I would do. That’s a difficult question to answer.
Oscar: Okay. How do you define success?
Andrew: If you love what you do. If you love what you do. There’s people that make lots and lots of money and there’s people that make a little bit of money, but if you don’t get up every day with the joy to come to work and love what you do, I don’t think there’s any incentive to really do it. Obviously to make the money, but what catapulted me at such a young age was just that passion; that drive. Getting up every day and being there Saturdays and Sundays not because I had to but because I wanted to. Nobody’s saying to me “You’ve got to be there at seven in the morning.” I do it because I want to do it. I don’t have a boss calling me up mandating a certain time I have to be in. I do it because I want to do it.
Oscar: Andrew, assuming business is equated to a great recipe, what would be the five main ingredients to yield a fantastic business?
Andrew: Passion, perseverance, determination, integrity and honesty.
Oscar: That’s great. Very passionate. On behalf of EO South Florida I am so appreciative that you were able to join us today in studio. Again, congratulations for your ranking on the Inc 2014 list and thank you so much for continuing the entrepreneurial spirit in South Florida. Thank you so much.
Andrew: Thank you sir.
Oscar: It’s been a pleasure.
Andrew: You too.