How to Make Freedom Your Currency with Ronnie Teja
[Make] freedom as your currency. If you decide to start a business, remember that you are the one at the end of the day who has the freedom to live, work and do anything anywhere.” —Ronnie Teja
Freedom is the currency of the entrepreneur. The best entrepreneurs know how to find freedom within their businesses while still being aware of what they need in order to succeed in their ventures. They know that true freedom isn’t just about doing whatever you want whenever you want; it’s about understanding your place in the world and finding ways to leverage that knowledge for your benefit and others.
When Branzio Watches Founder, Ronnie Teja first started his entrepreneurial journey, it was all about making money to survive and take care of his family. It wasn’t until later on that he realized that money can be used in order to achieve more than just making more money. Today, his focus is on creating opportunities for others to attain the freedom that allows them to live their lives on their terms.
Listen in as JP and Ronnie reveal the secret to creating more freedom as you build your business. They also discuss how to leverage AI to make your processes more efficient, why we should be mindful of our close cicle, the two qualities that an entrepreneur must have no matter what, hiring tips, the importance of having a management system in place, and Ronnie’s tips when you are planning to buy a watch.
02:11 Doing Something For Yourself
06:47 Blockchain, Crypto, and NFTs
10:52 Choosing Your Circle
15:26 3 Things You Need as an Entrepreneur
18:57 Before You Buy a Watch
23:19 Who to Surround Yourself With
- 04:09 “When you’re building a business, you have to think about not just one channel. You have to think about 20 different channels.” —Ronnie Teja
- 11:59 “Giving people advice is quite a lot different than sharing your experience. Giving people advice is telling them what to do at the end of the day. And advice doesn’t necessarily work out from that perspective. Experience is something that has no substitute.” —Ronnie Teja
- 14:49 “Perseverance and consistency are two qualities that entrepreneurs need to have no matter what.” —Ronnie Teja
- 15:28 “[Make] freedom as your currency. If you decide to start a business, remember that you are the one at the end of the day who has the freedom to live, work, and do anything anywhere.” —Ronnie Teja
- 23:22 “Surround yourself with people who are always smarter than you.” —Ronnie Teja
A Little Bit About Ronnie:
Ronnie Teja is a businessman, mentor, and entrepreneur.
Having left his home country of India at just 22, Ronnie built multiple businesses from the ground up before hitting 30. He is now a sought-after international figure in the world of eCommerce, as well as a public speaker, and startup advisor based in Vancouver, Canada, and occasionally Bangkok.
With a team of remote employees, fifteen websites to manage, and countless orders to fulfill, Ronnie lives a busy life of eCommerce and international travel. He now also provides advice to up-and-coming entrepreneurs through podcasts and public appearances.
JP McAvoy: Hi, and thanks for joining us. On today’s show. We’ve got Ronnie Teja who’s a Canadian entrepreneur and the Founder of Branzio Watches. He built a number of businesses, and he is an expert on digital marketing and E-commerce. Here’s my conversation with Ronnie.
Ronnie, hello there. Thanks for joining us today, I guess, from sunny Thailand, right?
Ronnie Teja: Yes, sir. Thanks, JP. I appreciate you.
JP McAvoy: Good to see you, and appreciate you as well. A little envious as we’re in the midst of winter here in North America. What is the weather in Thailand right now?
Ronnie Teja: Quiet one. It’s a very tropical place. So usually an afternoon pull up, pull up rain, and then of course, sunny all day.
JP McAvoy: There you go. Sounds pretty nice. I guess you enjoy that. You’ve also been accustomed to the rains of Vancouver, right? How long did you spend in Vancouver?
Ronnie Teja: We lived in Vancouver, and emigrated in 2008. I became a fully grown adult when I was about 21, and then moved to Vancouver. When you move as an adult immigrant, it’s quite a bit harder when you move to a new country. So my first job in Canada was essentially picking blueberries. So I used to go and pick blueberries at farms. So that was my first gig. And from there, I taught myself online marketing, and then started running my own businesses.
JP McAvoy: Wow, that’s transitioning from blueberries, maybe even doing some of your first work on your blackberry to the point where you’re now running e-commerce businesses. E-commerce has exploded, and it’s so grand. There’s such a grander array of businesses that are now doing it. What specifically are you doing? Or how are you empowering other companies?
Ronnie Teja: Yeah. Core businesses center in what is the brand that I run. And we have a couple of other portfolio companies. The way we usually go about this whole business, the way the business started was quite simple. But coming from the background, coming from a family living in somebody’s basement, people usually asked me, “Hey, what drove you? Are you passionate about watches? Or what exactly do we do in this business? For me, it was a nest egg, so to say. Essentially, which was focused around keeping my family safe at the end of the day. And from there on, we sort of grew up to the next level. I went to Shenzhen and I went to Hong Kong to learn and research more about watches, it kind of turned out to be a lot more interesting. So that’s when I dove into the world of watches as well. So for me, primarily, business has been a means of lending income and everything else. I mean, I’d like to give you some tech talk and some very motivational things here. But for me, it was more driven by a necessity to be able to do something for myself.
JP McAvoy: Yeah, fair enough. That’s a great answer, let’s not kid ourselves. I mean, we’re passionate about our business, but it’s called work. We’re here to earn a living at the same time. What have you found has been the most lucrative in terms of business as you build business? So where are the best areas to be? Where are the most lucrative places to be for someone looking at earning that income?
Ronnie Teja: Yeah. Oh, for sure. At the end of the day, if somebody is looking to start, do you think about time and space that people need to talk about. And for me, I think I believe that the time in place for me was 10 to 11 years ago, because Facebook CPMs were pretty cheap. Google ads were much cheaper, there was less competition. Not everybody was shutting down businesses, Amazon businesses were much easier to start. There was less compliance and all these other headaches that they have today. Today, if you were to start an online store, also keep in mind the social media that we have today was extremely different. Because back then, there was only Facebook. Right along came WhatsApp, along came Instagram, along came TikTok, along came Pinterest, along came Twitter. So now when you’re building a business, you have to think about not just one channel. You have to think about 20 different channels essentially. And it’s kind of like a customer journey at the same time, which is essentially that a customer touch point. Before they end up buying from your brand essentially, they have to touch your brand about 20 different times in order to complete a purchase from you.
JP McAvoy: What are different times and then those as you say these touch points, they’re all the things you just described, they’ll check through Instagram, they’ll check through, yeah.
Ronnie Teja: They’ll look at TikTok, then they’ll look at your reviews online, then they’ll say, oh, is this person who they say they are legit and then probably they’ll ask a friend about it. And be like, hey, do you want to have a look with it? And then after like the six, seven steps, they probably are then thinking about, should I pull the trigger? Then they’ll again go through that same gamut of being reminded of who the brand is. I guess, the expiratory phase that you’re in, then they’ll end up purchasing from you. The purchase happens only on the website or it happens on Amazon. So you want to be in front of the customer when they’re ready to make the decision at the end of the day. And that happens through ads.
JP McAvoy: That’s right. So get in front of the customer. So it’s interesting, you say that the turning point for you is 10, 11 years ago. Somebody’s listening now, they’re saying, okay, I would want to build a business over the next 10 years, what would be the right place to position themselves? What are things gonna look like from now going forward?
Ronnie Teja: At the end of the day, everybody has a lot of things to say about AI. And everybody’s like, look, how’s everything? I can outsource everything to you. I don’t need to hire anything more. So it’s funny that when I look at it from the grand scheme of things, AI essentially isn’t going to do your job for you. It’s still a machine learning model. You need to tell this particular model to do the things that you need to do at the end of the day be, whatever it is. You’re a lawyer, you will know that you can generate a contract, simple employment contract or whatever it is. But you need to train it to be able to read it in that sense. So maybe what you will see is the workforce is going to shrink to what it takes to make a million dollars. You could probably be a single person running one company, running it by yourself with all these other tools that you have to be able to make a million dollars versus what it was in the 90’s, and the 80’s. You needed a certain threshold, which was like the, I believe in the late 90’s, you still needed 150 to 100 (inaudible) $1 million business.
JP McAvoy: Leveraging technology gets more torque. AI is obviously a space that is developing. So one of those areas that presents an opportunity, how much you come across, either professionally or personally, like crypto and blockchain.
Ronnie Teja: That’s an interesting question. Crypto, I don’t know. I’m not educated enough to talk about it. But what I think there is an opportunity for is like NFT’s. So when I think about NFT’s, essentially integral part is you get to own a piece of the main company or a piece of the pie, right? So as an example, I can give you watches. So when you buy a Rolex today, which is probably the world’s most well known brand, people will want to know if it’s authentic. It’s not something that has a long moment, or whatever else it is. They want to know the history of these watches, and who the previous owner was. So first thing is to get into the authenticity, to get a piece of the pie. Rolex, and the NFT model fit really well because it gives that sort of type of ascendancy. And then there’s also the gray market watch for dealers. Rolex Submariner is about $7,500 watch, which people are selling for about 18 to 20,000. That’s mainly because Rolex wants to construct these biopolitics watches. Now, if you were to look at it from a different perspective and say, hey, Rolex will cut you in on 5% whenever I resell this watch, and you transfer the ownership papers to the next person, then that NFT makes sense. So the brand makes the money, you make the money as a, I guess a reseller, and then everybody’s happy. It’s a happy day for everybody. So from that perspective, I think NFts have E-commerce specifically speaking in this case. They have a very good fit, but it depends on each industry.
JP McAvoy: So NFT’s are here to stay, I think I hear you saying?
Ronnie Teja: They will stick around, but it depends on who implements some best. People are putting in NFT’s as very limited supply, like the bathing ape. So they’re like, okay, we will supply you with NFT’s, and you buy these, and you get to own a piece of the company, etcetera, etcetera. So it’s like we’re giving a stock, which doesn’t make as much sense for me personally as saying something that guarantees authenticity. So when I talk about wines, whiskies, cigars, etcetera, I think that from that perspective, it would make a lot more sense.
JP McAvoy: Interesting. More from a collectibles are looking at the rarity and being able to track the transfer of–
Ronnie Teja: NFT’s people want the rarity of the NFT and the collectability of it. But now you apply it into a real world model where you’re looking at things like your watches, your seven year old MacAllan (inaudible), same principle, but the product is physical and you can feel it at the end of the day. This is authentic up to 200 years.
JP McAvoy: That’s right. That’s right. And we know that’s where it’s going. So interesting to watch the space evolve. I have people on the show, obviously, predicting what things will look like. It’s always just interesting to get anecdotally where people think business will be on a go forward. Where do you think you’ll be personally? Are you planning to stay in Thailand? If we’re having this conversation in five years, where are you living?
Ronnie Teja: Probably back in Mexico. I’m not here full time. It’s sort of like a nice winter escape. But at the end, you go to where the cluster is. And the cluster for me is an AI industry of all the three classes for E-commerce man One of course is Hong Kong because Shenzhen is right across the road. And number two is going to be Austin, Texas where a lot of the Econ guys are moving out. And number three is going to be New York City. So those are three places where by default I’ll end up within the next six months.
JP McAvoy: And you do so much of your work remotely as well, right? So even as your site is locations, why would you need to be in any of those locations if you’re doing all of your work remotely?
Ronnie Teja: Correct. I mean, it’s the cost of that you weren’t the type of person you want to surround yourself with at the end of the day. I think you’re a product of your company at the end of the year as smart as the next best guy in the room. So in this case, if I can find minded people in those places, I’m hoping. I’m hoping some of the experience and the brilliance probably rubs off on me.
JP McAvoy: What type of people you’d like to, I think you just answered that question. But what type of people do you like to surround yourself with?
Ronnie Teja: People who are much smarter than me at the end of the day, people that are more successful, the people who like to give at the end of the day. It’s not a dictatorship, I think my mentality changed when I started giving more to people. So when I started giving more to people, that’s the time that I said, okay, I don’t want anything from somebody. You give freely, and then you leave it at that. I think that’s the kind of people I enjoy hanging out with. But as you know in some cases, you’re sitting across from somebody with a coffee for coffee, and when the ask is coming. And then when that task is coming or something else happens, it kind of just ruins the experience of you trying to meet somebody without any sort of them asking for something at the end of the day.
JP McAvoy: Yeah. So suddenly without an agenda, it’s so interesting you say that, Ronnie, because some of the most fascinating people I know as well are the ones that they just give willingly. And I think they’ll be the first people to tell you that they feel as though they were rewarded 10 times for all that gift giving. What is the best way to give?
Ronnie Teja: Oh, well, it depends. Expenditure experiences are the best ones, if you would, but not necessarily giving people advice. I think there’s two things they’re giving people. Giving people advice is quite a lot different than sharing your experience. Giving people versus me telling you what to do at the end of the day, and if something ever went wrong, then I’m going to blame at the end of the day. And advice doesn’t necessarily work out from that perspective. Experiences to share is something that has no, I don’t think there’s any substitute for it. So at the end of the day, if you go in and say, hey, tell me about the time you did an LBO. And then at the end of the day, if a person comes and says, hey, look, I went through an LBO for four or five companies, this is what I did. And then you take from it, you need to absorb it like a sponge. And maybe we’ll find one small thing that you focus on, and on, and on. And they can ask them over, that experience? Or the best part is, hey, I was really interested in you know, this, the ratchet clauses and LBOs, can you please tell me more what I can read up on it? Or when I can go down a rabbit hole reading about it? I interviewed a lot, you will know all about project processes and LBOs.
JP McAvoy: Absolutely. I love the way you described it, just say tell me about it. People love to share the experience as well. They’re a little more reluctant to give advice or to extend themselves. But certainly, they like to share their experiences. And we can gain a lot, we can learn a lot from others’ experiences. And those that are prepared to share them will oftentimes give us something in addition in return where they will talk about a lesson they’ve learned along the way, something that they’ve learned through that experience. What are some of the shortcut so you don’t necessarily have to feel their pain or go through the same painful, they may have injured. What’s an example of a tough situation or a painful lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Ronnie Teja: Well, there’s a few. I think the first time would probably be when my account got banned by one of our payment processes. So this was about three months into our business. I think they had about 60 or $70,000 of cash lying with them, and I was freaking out. I was like, I only have 10k left in the bank account, where the hell am I gonna get my next product from? So it turned out to be in the long run, a good thing back then, the US Dollar was at par with the Canadian dollar, if you remember those days, and then it ended up being like 1.3 or 1.4. So I did get paid back with 40% interest, a good deal. But at the time, you’re freaking out. You’re freaking out and you’re like, what is it that I can do? Or what is it that’s happening around me? So you kind of decide, okay, woe is me. Number one, I’m going to shut down a business, and that’s it. Or number two, the other option that you have is you continue to persevere. So my lesson from that was perseverance. And it wasn’t the first time that that lesson came in an entrepreneur’s life. It happens 10 times a year, it could happen once a year. But perseverance and consistency are two qualities that entrepreneurs need to have no matter what.
JP McAvoy: Absolutely right. That’s the one thing that we hear consistently is the person, perseverance, the will to succeed. It’s not forever. People aren’t actually capable of driving through a lot of businesses fail because the entrepreneur doesn’t drive through, a lot of people just aren’t capable. But you see that the people that do succeed, they have persevered, and most of them have a painful lesson to share. That’s certainly one that would have been a painful one for you. Now tell me, what are some of the good things you’ve seen and done that work and make sense to share with others?
Ronnie Teja: Yeah. Number one would probably be freedom as your currency. If you decide to start a business, remember that you are the one at the end of the day who has the freedom to live, work and do anything anywhere. Some people are happy making $100,000, some people are making a million dollars, some people happy making $10 million a year, whatever that asset is. Contentment is different for different people. But freedom and the freedom to make your own choice, live where you want, work where you want, have a team wherever you want, I think a speech word is a different one. The second mistake that I made, which I think you guys can learn from is, if you were to hire, hire fast. Hire your first employee. I waited six months because I thought I could do it all by myself. And by the end of months, I’m pretty burnt out. So make a decision to hire your first employee when you start a business. And what they would be doing, I essentially would trust people a lot and not give them objectives and say, look, what am I measuring based on your performance. And that was something that I would say to you that you will probably learn for. Another thing was putting management systems in place, something called EOS, Entrepreneur Operating System. There’s a book written by Gino Whickman called, Get A Grip. I highly recommend people to read it. It talks about how to actually build a small business from a small business or medium scale business and have a management team in place. When I put this into place. I think I stopped working 80 hours a week and started working 40 hours a week. I wasn’t always running around with my head cut off.
JP McAvoy: What are some of the principles from that then, as you say, to prevent yourself from running around, obviously hiring well, but what are some of the obstacles?
Ronnie Teja: Well, the thing is when you start hiring, it basically goes through the hiring strategy and how you want to structure your organization. When you’re hiring people, you have to look at it like it has the capacity to take on more. These three things are important. The other one is what are your mission, vision and values? A lot of people, including myself, take a long time for us to come up with a mission, vision and values. And today, I had a call earlier with a mentor. We were talking about values and what our values are for the organization. And he’s like, this sounds pretty flattering. So now, I have to go back and do my values again. It’s a good challenge for me to have, like, put them very broad. It’s like trustable (inaudible) or something else like that. And it’s like, okay, well, what does it mean? What does it mean for employees? Like, what is it? What is it essentially? It’s a very soft touch. You can’t really go with that. You need something that is a yardstick or not stuff that people use on a day to day, day in and day out basis.
JP McAvoy: I love it, Ronnie. So what are your mission, vision and values?
Ronnie Teja: Mission vision? I just told you the values. The mission is to be the number one watch reseller and watch site. That’s my vision. And the way we intend to come to this vision is we are giving our customers the best customer service that any person who’s bangle watch will ever get. And everyone thinks we live up to that value, I think we’d have a long way to go. Because if I need to have that, I need to be hiring people who are watching to this.
JP McAvoy: Then you have to persevere. You got to drive through that, as we described before. So what is the best way to buy a watch? I’ve been through you obviously, but what are you looking for? What are you saying to people who are watch enthusiasts, what are they saying?
Ronnie Teja: I think Quartz watches at the end of the day, right? Quartz watches are cheap. They cost you less than 100 bucks. Good watches can cost up to a million dollars. They can cost you $2 million. I mean, for the right watch, it can cost you, the protective NewBlue, $6 million. So you have to think about what you want. I mean, if you’re just getting started in the watch business, my suggestion is always get a quartz watch, see how it looks. And then once you feel okay, hey, I’m interested in watches. Because remember, this is the one true piece of jewelry men get to wear. Then you start buying watches for occasions, graduations, bar mitzvahs, whatever it is. If you still like them, then you buy them when you close a business deal. When you close a big business deal. A lot of the folks that I know buy watches for a special occasion to remind them when they closed a big business deal. So it just depends on the gamut of what you want. I mean, ideally, it’s going to be like 10,000 people buying a quartz watch because it’s cheap. I understand how in 1000 people, 2000 people will get into the automatic watch movements, which are about $500 to $1,500. And then from that, there’s going to be 500 people who are going to get into the mechanical watch business, which is called Max T. So Rolex is a (inaudible).
JP McAvoy: And those types of watches, if they’re bought, what you’re doing will hold their value, won’t they?
Ronnie Teja: Yeah. If you look at the watch market, we can talk about Kevin O’Leary. There’s a nice video from where he’s talking because he likes his watches. So he’s talking about his watches, particularly.. So if you were to buy a watch at retail, the important thing that I want to say is at retail, you need to buy these watches at retail. If you have them at retail, then you keep them with you for the rest of your life. I usually buy watches second hand via retail. I will never overpay on a watch. It’s just not enough bones.
JP McAvoy: Because you know it’s out there. How do you ensure that you’re not overpaying for a watch?
Ronnie Teja: Well, there’s a few websites or you do a price comparison. There’s a website called Watch Charts which will tell you what it is. Ask a friend of yours who’s a watch collector. They’ll usually tell you what the retail prices are. For example, this is an interesting one. A Rolex Daytona costs you, the steel version will cost you about $17,000 at retail. However, on the gray market, that same watch sells for about 35 to 40k, which is unheard of. So watch out for something I usually look at this Chrono 24, like second hand as well. I would usually be looking at which one should I buy? And what’s the retail price of it? It’s passion. At the end of the day, remember, this is passion collected. Passion collecting is not an investment. If it goes up, well then good. If it goes down, you know what? It happens. It’s like buying a case of wine.
JP McAvoy: As you say, a passion. Something that you enjoy, you get the benefit, the enjoyment of having it and wearing it. It’s a piece of jewelry for men. No, I certainly liked them. And I recall hearing John Mayer describe how he was spending a fortune on collecting watches.
Ronnie Teja: He’s got the Rolex, green and gold. That’s John Mayer Rolex. So there’s a good example of a Daytona. That version of the Daytona last year in the market was growing at 130,000 US. This year, that same model, you’d be hard pressed to find it. People were hard pressed to sell it for 65. So see what happens. The watch market, they are in a freefall. So that’s what I said in retail.
JP McAvoy: So interesting to hear you say that. I love it. Obviously, you’ve got a wealth of knowledge through the businesses. You’ve traveled through the businesses that evolved through the years and your travels. If somebody is interested in learning more or wants to find out some of the things you described today, what’s the best way to reach you?
Ronnie Teja: Yeah. You can just find me on LinkedIn, Ronnie Teja, R-O-N-N-I-E, and my last name is Teja. Just reach out to me on LinkedIn, happy to entertain anybody.
JP McAvoy: Happy to entertain as you continue to fulfill the mission, the vision and values. Appreciate having you here today. Ronnie, I’d like to leave the show with one thing that somebody can take with them for the rest of the day, through the rest of the week after they’ve listened to the show. What’s one thing that really worked for you, something that resonated with you, something you can pass on to the listeners?
Ronnie Teja: Oh, yeah. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Surround yourself with people who are always smarter than you. I’ve stood by that since I was probably 10 years old. Sounds weird. I was an adult when I was a kid. But that’s what I want to say.
JP McAvoy: Well, thank you for sharing your wisdom with us here today. Appreciate having you on. We’ll see you next time on The Millionaire’s Lawyer.