JT McCormick: Rise Against All Odds | E30
#30: Rise Against All Odds with JT McCormick
Started from the bottom, now he’s here! JT McCormick had an insanely tough upbringing. He grew up dirt poor, raised by a single mother and was the son of a pimp. He started out becoming a product of his environment, barely finishing high school and landing in juvie multiple times. But after high school JT turned things around. Through relentless hard work JT beat the odds and applied his knowledge and hustling mentality from the streets to become a millionaire and super effective CEO. He currently runs the publishing company, Scribe Media, which is routinely voted as one of the best places to work in Texas. In this episode, Hala digs into JT’s childhood and career journey, uncovering the life lessons he acquired on the way.
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#30: Rise Against All Odds with JT McCormick
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[00:00:54] You're listening to YAP, Young And Profiting Podcast, a place where you can listen, [00:01:00] learn and profit. I'm your host, Hala Taha. And today we're speaking with JT McCormick. JT has had a tough upbringing. He grew up poor raised by a single mother and was a son of a black pimp. JT started out on the wrong path, barely finishing high school and landing in juvie multiple times.
[00:01:17] But through relentless hard work, JT beat yachts and applied his knowledge and hustling mentality from the streets to become a millionaire and super effective CEO. He currently runs a publishing company, Scribe Media, which is routinely voted as one of the best places to work in Texas. Today, we're going to dig into JTs childhood, career journey and uncover the life lessons he acquired on the way.
[00:01:40] Hey, JT welcomes to Young And Profiting Podcast.
[00:01:43] JT McCormick: Excellent.
[00:01:44] How are you ma'am? I appreciate it.
[00:01:46] Hala Taha: I'm doing well. Thank you. We can't wait to uncover all the great things you have to share with our listeners. And just a note for my listeners. I know I sound totally different recovering from a cold, but the show goes on.
[00:01:58] So here we are. Okay. [00:02:00] So let's calibrate on you as a person. JT, you are an incredibly accomplished man. For those who don't know, he is the CEO and president of Scribe Media. It's a multimillion dollar publishing company. That's created an entire new way to write a book. JT is the definition of starting from the bottom.
[00:02:17] And now let me tell you, he is here. JT grew up on the incredibly tough streets of Dayton, Ohio. He was born a mixed race son of a drug dealing pimp in the 1970s and an orphan single mother on welfare. He was also one of 23 children on his father's side. And now he's a millionaire, despite insane hardships, like sexual abuse, homelessness and stints in juvenile detention.
[00:02:42] So I think you've had one of the hardest lives growing up compared to anyone else we've interviewed. We've researched your story. And I think we could learn a lot just by bringing up and talking about your father. So let's start with that first. What was your father like?
[00:02:56] JT McCormick: Surprisingly enough, given his background of what you just went through, you nailed it.
[00:02:59] My father [00:03:00] was a pimp and drug dealer. He put women on the street corner, they sold their bodies and he took every dollar. That said everyone loved my father when he would pick me up on the weekends on those rare occasions. I remember wherever we were going our destination. It may only take 10 minutes to get there, but it would take us 45 minutes because everyone would want to stop and talk to him.
[00:03:25] He would stop and talk to everyone. He said, hello to everyone. Everyone loved my father. So he was a great communicator. He was always open, spoke with everyone. That's the father that I remember on top of the fact that I also remembered, the times that he was supposed to come pick me up and he never showed up.
[00:03:45] So there were times where he would call and tell my mother, get them ready, get them dressed. I'm going to come pick him up and he'd never show and I'd stand in that window four or five hours loyal, but he never showed up. So those are the things that really come to [00:04:00] top of mind when I think of my father.
[00:04:02] And I'll share this with you recently, it's not in the book. I have not spoken on it and it's really come up over the last 60 days, that I've opened up in publicly. So I got asked this question the other day, someone said JT, how did you learn this work ethic? Where did it come from when you stood in front of those toilets?
[00:04:22] And that was your job, what made you commit to making sure you have the cleanest toilets in San Antonio and in Texas? And I never own this or set it out loud. It's all shared with you. My father, when I was a kid and I don't know why he was saying it, but he had mentioned to me and my brothers one time, he said, whatever you do in life, be the very best at it.
[00:04:50] He said, if you're going to be a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper in the world. For whatever reason that stuck in my head and [00:05:00] it was itched in my mind. And when I found myself standing at my first job in front of those toilets to, cleaning the toilets, that phrase came up and from that day forward, everything that I've done in life, I've attempted to be the very best that I can be. The best husband, the best father, CEO, president, whatever I was doing at the time.
[00:05:22] I've always wanted to be the best.
[00:05:24] Hala Taha: That's a great approach. And I think anybody who falls at advice will end up doing well. How did your mother meet your father?
[00:05:31] JT McCormick: Unfortunately for my mother, when she left the orphanage, my mother was an orphan. She grew up in the orphanage, institutional kids prison was really what it was.
[00:05:42] When she turned 17 years old, they gave her $20 her suitcase, and they said, good luck to you. There's the world. She had never been outside of those four walls. So she had no clue how to navigate society. Unfortunately, for my mother, one of the very first people she met was my well dressed, fast [00:06:00] talking quite a bit older father.
[00:06:02] And when I say quite a bit older, let me put this in perspective. I have a half sister five years younger than my mother. So my dad was quite a bit older and my mother didn't know anything. She was naive. She didn't understand the world. And here she was this at the time. Nice pimp speaking with her. And that's how they meet.
[00:06:25] Hala Taha: And was your mom a prostitute?
[00:06:28] JT McCormick: It's interesting. I have asked my mother that very question in it's a bit of an unspoken conversation and my mother has answered and said this to me, and I know what it means, but she used to say this when I was a child as well, sometimes in life necessity has an ugly face.
[00:06:51] And I know what that means. And at times she did what she had to do to try to feed me, to try to provide for me to take care of me [00:07:00] or to try to take care and provide for herself. It's the unspoken conversation. That's never just been said out loud and she's always answered the question.
[00:07:09] Sometimes the life necessity has another face.
[00:07:13] Hala Taha: And so can you give some color to how poor you actually were growing up and what it was like growing up for you being that poor and being mixed race?
[00:07:22] JT McCormick: So I'll start with poor. So I want to be very clear. I was US poor United state poor because in other countries that's a whole different definition of poor.
[00:07:32] I was United States poor. And because even on our worst day here in the United States, as we define poor, it's nothing compared to some of the slums in India and maybe different third world countries. So I was US poor. Yeah, I'll give you a couple of stories. My mother and I would joke that we were so poor.
[00:07:53] We couldn't afford the O and the R we were just PO I remember on many occasions when winter [00:08:00] would come around in Dayton, Ohio. It was cold and our windows had huge cracks in them. So when it got down to, in the twenties, the air would come through and sometimes the heat would be turned off. So my mom and I would go to the local, dry cleaner, and my mother would ask for handouts.
[00:08:18] She would beg for the dry cleaning bags and ask if they would give them to us for free. And my mother would take the dry cleaning bags to the window in order to try to keep some of the air out. And I still to this day, Just etched in my mind that sound of the wind whipping through and shaking the plastic.
[00:08:37] So yeah, it was pretty poor. I pulled trash out of trash cans as a kid during school when everyone else went out to recess, I held back and waited and I pulled out a burger that wasn't eating all the way or whatever, because I knew when I got home there wasn't anything to eat. Yeah, we grew up pretty poor wore bread bags on our feet because we had holes in our shoes in the winter.
[00:08:57] So we wanted our feet to stay dry. [00:09:00] My mother didn't learn how to drive until she was 35. So we always rode the bus everywhere. Didn't always have bus fare, so we had to walk many places. So yeah, it was tough. It was hard there. I remember going to bed on a Friday evening in knowing I would not eat again until Monday when I went back to school and got my free lunch at school again.
[00:09:21] So I knew there was going to be a 48 hour time period where I would not have food.
[00:09:26] Hala Taha: That's crazy. One of the things that stood out in your book for me was that you learn the months based on the fact that food stamps would have to stretch like in February was great. Whereas, May was terrible.
[00:09:38] JT McCormick: That's how I learned my months of the year. I realized that if the month had 30. That was a pretty good month because the welfare would be coming in. But if it had 31, oh, that was a rough month. And then, like you said February hell, even in a leap year, February was good.
[00:09:53] Hala Taha: Yeah. How about being mixed race in Dayton, Ohio?
[00:09:56] What was that?
[00:09:57] JT McCormick: The best way I can sum this up for people. [00:10:00] When someone wants to have a race conversation or they use it as a crutch or an excuse, or they want to pretty up the word excuse and say reasons. I'm not a fan because racism I'm willing to have that conversation. Black people didn't like me because I was half white and white people didn't like me because I was half black.
[00:10:23] So in many ways I did not have a group of people to fit in with, in, in Dayton, Ohio, you were black or you were white or you were mixed race. And so it was very looked down upon you. I was called half-breed. I was called Oreo cookie mixed race, zebra color, confused. And as rough as it was for me being mixed race, it was horrific for my mother.
[00:10:47] What she experienced, having a mixed race child. I don't know if you all will edit this out, but I constantly heard my mother referred to as a nigger lover and that's what they would call her. So on many
[00:11:00] occasions, I remember watching my mother get an older white lady spitting up. Then called her a nigger lover when we were standing in line waiting for our food stamps, waiting for our allotment of handout to this day.
[00:11:10] I remember I was eight years old. This lady spit in my mother's face and called her a nigger lover. And why I laugh about it is when I think about it, now that lady was in the same broke ass handheld free welfare line is us. And to this day, I can't figure out what in her mind made her feel that she was better than us.
[00:11:31] Just because my mother had a mixed race child. We were both in the same line for free handout, but it was worse for my mother. I believe that it was me. Yeah. It was hard. And I was a kid and, I pushed through, but here was my mother having to endure the ridicule, the shame of having a mixed race child.
[00:11:51] Hala Taha: Wow. That's so tough. It's clear that your upbringing was so challenging, but hopefully these challenges helped you to become the leader in [00:12:00] person that you are today. Speaking of that, what are some of the lessons that your father taught you that you later apply to business and in life in general?
[00:12:09] JT McCormick: The number one I shared with you earlier was, whatever you're going to do, be the best.
[00:12:13] Put in a hundred percent of your effort. I would also say my father taught me communication skills. Like I said, he spoke to everyone. One of the greatest lessons of my life came from my father. And I'll give you the story of how it came to be. One weekend, my father picked me up. I don't know I was eight or nine years old and we were in the grocery store for whatever reason.
[00:12:36] And we were walking through the frozen food section and a little girl walk next to me. And she said, hi Javan. My actual name is Javan. And I looked down, I was shy. I didn't say anything. And I feel this massive blow to the back of my head. And my father had smacked me. My face hit the ground. My nose started bleeding.
[00:12:55] He snatches me up, pins me up against the frozen food door with [00:13:00] his forum under my neck and he's inches from my face. And he says, I don't care who it is. You show respect and say hello to everyone. And that lesson stuck with me my entire life. And I'll say hello to everyone, the housekeeping at a hotel, the person who takes your ticket at the movie theater, that person checking you out at the grocery store.
[00:13:27] I say hello to everyone. And in fact, I'm probably nicer. I am nicer to service industry individuals than I am c-suite executives, founders, CEOs. Okay. They got enough people kissing up to them. I am far nicer kind and respectful to service industry people, but that was the greatest lesson. My father ever.
[00:13:50] Hala Taha: Yeah. And I know in your book, you mentioned like you could even take it further by making sure you ask people how they are and waiting for a response.
[00:13:57] JT McCormick: Yes. So how are you doing today and have [00:14:00] a genuine interest? When I ask people, I say this, how are you today? And I'm not just asking because it's the polite thing to do.
[00:14:08] And when you follow it up with that, people then really will attempt to connect with you. They'll tell you how they're doing. They'll say what's going on. So on and so forth now be prepared. You may hear some things you don't want to hear, but I really look to ask the question with purpose and I'm asking with sincerity, or don't ask the question.
[00:14:27] Hala Taha: So what did your father teach you about money?
[00:14:31] JT McCormick: I don't know that my father. Specifically taught me about money. It was my circumstances that taught me about money. I realized the power, that money had to change my life. I realized that when you did not have money, there are times where you did not have electricity.
[00:14:52] When you did not have money. There were times where you did not eat. So money became a deep [00:15:00] love affair for me. Or should I say the lack of money became a deep love affair. And in fact, I've always just cringed at that phrase and I may mess it up here. So work with me. Money is the root of all evil shit.
[00:15:14] Bullshit. I've never met a poor person who felt that way. So not having that. Is the root of all evil, because the last time, I checked someone who's got $50,000 in their bank account has never gone in and Rob seven 11. And so for me not having money became the root of all evil because of the things, you're willing to do in order to obtain money.
[00:15:38] So I don't know that my father necessarily taught me a lot about money. It was my circumstances and he just happened to be a part of that.
[00:15:46] Hala Taha: Got it.
[00:15:47] So last question on your father in your book, you talk about a great analogy that he gives between the CEO of Budweiser and a drug dealer. And what that taught you.
[00:15:56] Could you go into that?
[00:15:58] JT McCormick: Yes. In fact, I [00:16:00] love this, my father, when I was a child, he would always say the only difference between me and the CEO of Budweiser is the CEO of Budweiser. Our government chose to make his drug legal, and he would go into this whole explanation about, how alcohol back during prohibition alcohol used to be illegal.
[00:16:19] And he would go into this whole explanation about how alcohol is responsible for killing many people, drunk driving, so on and so forth and creating problems. But he would say the only differences, the CEO, Budweiser, our government chose to make his drug legal and chose not to make my drug legal. And it's interesting because never did I believe that I would see the day that here we are in our country, where now we're making weed legal through throughout the country.
[00:16:49] And so I sit back and I was like, wow, he was onto something. And the other piece of this too, and I've caught a lot of heat for this. When you look at. [00:17:00] Pharmaceutical reps. They are legalized drug dealers. And literally there's a hate for me for saying this, but the first rule of a drug dealer, we all know this is the money is in the comeback.
[00:17:14] So we're going to give you the first sample for free, because the goal is you're going to love the drug. You're going to get hooked and you're going to keep going. Every drug dealer knows that's the first rule of drug dealing. What do pharmaceutical reps do? They go to the doctor's office. They give out free samples.
[00:17:29] Then the doctor gives free samples to the patient. The patient then takes the drug calls the doctor back. Can I have a prescription for this doctor calls in the prescription? Walgreens fills the prescription. Now you have the patient who is now hooked on the drug. I've come out and said, if you look at that system, it's flawed.
[00:17:50] You've got too many middlemen in between there because drug dealers on the street, they're about three transactions involved. Where you have pharmaceutical reps, you've got a [00:18:00] pharmaceutical rep. You've got the doctor, you've got Walgreens, you've got big pharma, whatever name you want to put on that. So there's a lot of people in between there that are getting a piece of the pie versus the same deal.
[00:18:13] That's going down on the street. Now, people don't like, I use that analogy, but it is what it is.
[00:18:20] Hala Taha: Yeah. And it just goes to show how you can have connections between what goes on into the street versus, what happens in business. Oh, very cool. Your mom was a shining light in your life, and she's really the only parent that you had.
[00:18:34] What was your relationship like with her and what are some of the big lessons that she taught you to help you succeed? As much as you've had later on in life?
[00:18:41] JT McCormick: Regardless of how many times we came up short and didn't have enough money or didn't have food to eat. My mother always tried and I have said time and time again, the greatest example that my mother gave me, was [00:19:00] she had a son.
[00:19:01] And she had no business having me. I have no problem saying this. My mother had no business having a child, and I know that and I'm fine in saying it. But the greatest example she ever showed me was she didn't go off and have six more and knowing she couldn't afford that first one. So she had one. She shouldn't have had.
[00:19:21] And she didn't continue to repeat having more children, when she couldn't take care of them. That was a great lesson for me. And in fact, maybe more than you want to know, I'm only here by way of a horrific abortion that my mother had. The first time she got pregnant. My mother had an abortion, and this is back in 1970, when abortion was illegal.
[00:19:46] And so my mother had an illegal abortion that was so horrific as she described it to me, that she decided the next time she got pregnant, that she would take her chances and trying to raise a child than to go and have an abortion [00:20:00] again. So that's the only reason I'm here. And again, she did not repeat. I kindly refer to myself as a mistake because she shouldn't have had me, but she always tried, she would sweep out the stairs in the apartments.
[00:20:12] We live in to try to get $10 off of our rent. In fact, there's a rent receipt. I keep on my desk at work that shows our rent was $145 and she only had $10 to pay on the rent. And the whole transaction is there on the receipt. And I keep that receipt framed on my desk to remind me where I come from, what I went through and everything that I've done to get here.
[00:20:35] But she always tried. She may have come up short, but she always tried.
[00:20:40] Hala Taha: It's amazing. She must be so proud of you.
[00:20:42] JT McCormick: She is, she tells me quite often, and I'm very happy of that. Although I had a very chaotic childhood, she was the one piece of stability. I always felt that I could depend on even in the five years where she and I weren't together.
[00:20:57] And I was off with my father. [00:21:00] The memories of my mother are in many ways what kept me going, because I just remember how much I loved.
[00:21:07] Hala Taha: Yeah. So you got into some trouble as a kid, you landed into juvie three times. Can you talk to us about how much trouble you really got into and perhaps how you transferred some of your hustling qualities into the corporate world?
[00:21:21] JT McCormick: I went to juvenile more as anger as a kid. I get it from so many children, how they end up there. The first time I went to juvenile is because one of my father's girlfriends had beat me. And then I ended up being taken to another one of my father's girlfriend's house. And then she ended up beating me why I got tired of being beat.
[00:21:43] And so I fought back and she called the police and I went to juvenile. What was sad about that situation was. I was in Dayton, Ohio. My mother had gone, moved to Texas because I was there for a bit, but my father was in England. So no [00:22:00] one knew I was in juvenile. So I was there for about two and a half months.
[00:22:03] And finally I got out, I was staying with one of my aunts that picked me up. And she couldn't afford to take care of me. So I kept my suitcase and I left and I slept on the bus stop. So I was homeless at 13, had nowhere to go, but I would go to school each day. Cause I knew I could get a free meal, a little boy there, middle school, we all know this kids are brutal in middle school.
[00:22:26] He would make fun of me. And I got in a fight with him. He ended up going into the hospital and I went back to juvenile. And I was in juvenile. Again. You said it, I was in juvenile three different times. What really stands out the most for me from juvenile is the last time I was there. I was leaving in a corrections officer, pulls me to the side and he goes, let me tell you something, son, you come back here again.
[00:22:52] You're going to man prison. Now I'm 47 years old and I don't know what it is about the term man prison. That just doesn't sound right. [00:23:00] But I made it a goal that I was never going to find out what man prison was about. So I'd like to thank that gentleman because he kept me out of man prison for whatever it may in prison is.
[00:23:11] I didn't want to go, to the second point of your question. What have I taken into corporate America? My childhood as a whole was very chaotic. It was challenging. I was sexually molested by one of my father's prostitutes from the ages of six, seven, and eight years old. I took. Every bit of my childhood and I found the positives within it.
[00:23:36] I never let myself be a victim. A victim, in my opinion, is a victim of a drive by shooting. No one asks for that victim of a hit and run. No one asked for that. My childhood was my childhood. So what I had is what I was born into. Okay, great. So I think. Lean on it. I look at what are the things that I went through that can help me succeed in life.
[00:23:58] And I try [00:24:00] my best to find the positives in every negative situation. So I'll be specific here. So in growing a company, you're talking about scale, payroll, growth, operational metrics, visibility, all the things that you need to be able to scale and grow well. A lot of times those things do get stressful for some people.
[00:24:22] For me, I find peace in all of that because. In the most stressful moment, I dip back to one situation in particular as a child. And it was when I was left for three weeks with my three half brothers and sisters, I was 12 and they were four, three and two. And we got left in Dayton, Ohio in February for three weeks in a house.
[00:24:48] And I remember I used to have to leave my four year old sister. In the house, why went down to the store and would steal food for us to eat? And I would come back. Why this is significant to [00:25:00] this day is the stress, that I felt as a 12 year old kid. This is what I felt day in, day out. I was scared as hell that someone would come and turn off the electricity because the bill wasn't paid in that the four of us, my brothers and sisters, and I, we would freeze because it was February in Ohio.
[00:25:21] I was scared to death that the water would be shut off and we wouldn't have any water to drink or be able to take a bath or anything like that. I lived with that stress every day for three weeks. So when I look at. Balance sheets, income statements, EBITDA capital expenditures, operational expenditures. I don't find it too stressful.
[00:25:45] So because I did back to that and I remember that's what real stressful.
[00:25:50] Hala Taha: Wow. That is so incredible. I can't believe you went through all of that as a child and all the pressure that must have been on your shoulders. No wonder, like you're so strong and [00:26:00] can handle anything. Now, what was the turning point in your life where you started to, transition on the straight path and how did you end up landing your first job and getting on the path to success?
[00:26:13] JT McCormick: So my first job, I never graduated high school. I had to go to summer school, take some remedial courses. And the janitor gave me my high school diploma. I never walked the stage. Never got to do the graduation celebration. I just academic. I was not in still, am, not the most gifted person in the world. So I got my high school diploma, went home and my mother said, great, you've got two weeks to get a job where you got to get out.
[00:26:40] And so my first job, I can't make this up was at a restaurant called PO folks. So my job was cleaning toilets. And like I said, I looked at those toilets and I made it. If this is my job, I will make sure I'm the best toilet cleaner in the country. [00:27:00] What benefited me. And I believe this, you don't do things just because people are looking, who you are when no one is looking is who you are when everyone is looking.
[00:27:14] So what I developed is I was a busboy as well when I would clean my table. I would wipe out the table. I would wipe out the salt and pepper shaker. I would wipe off the chair. We all have been to a restaurant where you go to sit down and there's crumbs in the chair. I took pride in the fact of attention to detail.
[00:27:32] So I made sure there were no crumbs in the chair. There was a couple that came into the restaurant every day for lunch and they saw. How I took pride in that. And they asked me if I would come work at their candle shop in the mall. Now this is back in the nineties mall was still the hot place to be. I was 18 years old and I'm like, hell yeah, I'll go work in the mall.
[00:27:53] So he taught me how to make candles in the mall in front of this window. I'm like, oh yeah, girls can [00:28:00] see me. I'm a candle maker. They're paying me more money and I'm not clean 12. This is great. But from there. I ended up getting the job at an insurance company. My mother was working at the insurance company.
[00:28:11] And I got a job as a filer. I would file papers and I would deliver the mail. I was the cart mill guy, and that was my first introduction to corporate America. And I just paid attention watched how everyone would interact, watch how things were done in corporate America. How to speak, how to shake hands, how to conduct myself.
[00:28:33] And I just paid attention. And then from there, I went from payday loans to mortgages. To being the president of a software company and now CEO of a publishing company.
[00:28:45] Hala Taha: That's amazing. So let's take it back to Headspring system, which is where you started off at the lowest paid position. But within a handful of years, he became the president of the company.
[00:28:55] So what was that experience like and how did you climb the corporate ladder so [00:29:00] quickly?
[00:29:00] JT McCormick: So what was phenomenal there is. I was offered the opportunity to be the sales guy at Headspring. And they had never had a huge internal sales team to grow sales. And the company had been around for about 10 years.
[00:29:17] So I was the lowest paid person and I would make my sales calls off of a fold out metal chair in a storage closet. And I would sit there and I would call big companies and truth, be told, I didn't know what I was selling. I was selling enterprise software. I had no clue what I was selling. I don't write code.
[00:29:36] And so then I turned around and I called my competitors and I wanted to find, listen to their sales pitch. And listen. Okay, how are they doing this? What are they saying? And so I would listen to their sales pitch. I'd pay attention. I would take it, come back, tailor it to my delivery, and then it was just all out.
[00:29:55] I would, come in at six in the morning, I'd stay till six in the evening. [00:30:00] Long story short. I had some great success in cells. We were 13 people. I was making my calls out of a storage closet, and we went from 13 people to having offices in Austin, Houston, Dallas in Monterey, Mexico. And we ended up with over a hundred people and that all transpired within about four and a half years.
[00:30:22] And I went from, as you said, The lowest paid person to president of the company, much of it was grind hardwork, effort and willing to do what other people won't do. So I greatly appreciate you asking me this, because this is the non-sexy, part of this that most people don't want to hear about in the five years that I was with that company.
[00:30:47] I only ever took 11 days vacation. You and I both know we live in a world right now where people take 11 days vacation and Cuba. I only took 11 days and five years. And [00:31:00] so out of those 11 days, I can even break them down. Three were for my wedding. Two were for the birth of my first born. And one was for the birth of my second born in.
[00:31:11] Then there's a bunch of little sporadic days in between there, but only 11 days in five years. And in fact, I shared this with people. There is a picture of me in the delivery room with my wife and my daughter being born. And you can see my laptop opened in the back where I was working in the delivery room. Now a lot of people would say that's insane that stupid.
[00:31:31] I would never do anything like that. Okay, great. I don't knock you for not wanting to do that, but if you're asking me how I did it, that's how I did it. I've always been willing to do everything that someone else isn't willing to do to this day. If I go into the office, I'll take out the trash storage calls.
[00:31:48] It needs cleaned. I'll clean the storage closet. I do not believe in low level tasks. There are no low-level tasks. There are only tasks, duties and responsible.
[00:31:59] Hala Taha: Wow. [00:32:00] And I bet you, that kind of mentality really earns the respects of your employees, because it's not like you're telling them to do something that you wouldn't go ahead and do yourself.
[00:32:08] You roll up your sleeves and get
[00:32:09] JT McCormick: dirty. Totally. I will never ask someone to do something that I'm not, willing to do. And in fact that usually won't even come in by way of an ask. You'll just see me doing it. Trashes overflowing. Okay. We're the bags let's get the trash taken care of. So I'm very blessed and fortunate and happy.
[00:32:28] My first role was cleaning toilets because in many ways that's the ultimate entry-level job that you can have. And it taught me, okay, there is no job, no responsibility, no task. That's beneath me. I'm willing to do it.
[00:32:45] Hala Taha: That's amazing. It really is probably why you are such a humble person. Your background has made you into such an incredible leader.
[00:32:52] So that's great. So now you are the CEO of Scribe Media. From my understanding you didn't found that [00:33:00] company, which usually somebody who doesn't have a college degree. They're like,
entrepreneur, founder of a company, you actually got selected by Tucker Max to be the CEO of Scribe Media. How did you end up getting hand picked for this job?
[00:33:14] And I'm sure the other people he was looking at were like Ivy school graduates and things like that. What were the qualities he saw in you.
[00:33:21] JT McCormick: He himself went to the university of Chicago and duke law school. So yes, he had all the credentials, but I'll give you the story of how this came to be. So I was at the software company, president, blah, blah, blah.
[00:33:33] And I was traveling one day. I don't like to fly. I hate turbulence and I hit a lot of turbulence. And I thought to myself, it hit me. Wow. Something happened to me. My children would not know where I come from. They would not know that we don't even know where our last name comes from. My mother was given the last name McCormick in the orphanage, but she has no clue where that last name comes from.
[00:33:59] So I had this [00:34:00] last name. I don't know where it comes from. So it hit me. My children wouldn't know these things. They wouldn't know that their biological grandfather was a pimp. And so I said, okay, when I get off this plane, I got to find a way to document my background for my children. So they have a legacy piece.
[00:34:17] So they at least know that. Where we have a starting point because I don't have, 5, 6, 7 generations that I can track. Hell I can't track 30 minutes. And so I wanted that for my children. So I got off the plane. I reached out to my LinkedIn connections and I said, Hey, does anyone know of anyone that can help?
[00:34:37] Write a book or a document. My story. So I got introduced to Tucker Max, by way of an email. And here's how the email went. We've all seen this. It's your typical introduction? Tucker meet JT met Tucker. I didn't know who Tucker was in a separate email. Jason Dorsey who introduced us. Jason says, Hey JT, [00:35:00] that's the real Tucker Max again, I didn't know who Tucker was.
[00:35:03] So I emailed Jason back and I go, Hey, I'm the real JT McCormick what's up? And so I go online. I look only to find out, oh, wow, Tucker's background but what jumped out to me the most is when I read that he is one of three people in the history of the world, who have had three New York times bestselling books on the list simultaneously, I thought, oh, that's an accomplishment.
[00:35:31] He, Michael Lewis and Malcolm Gladwell, only three people who've ever done it. Tucker comes over to my office. It Headspring. And we're sitting in the conference room is massive conference room, conference, table sitting there. And we wrap up and I tell Tucker, look, I want to do this book. I don't ever want it to be public.
[00:35:48] I just need five copies for my children. And Tucker goes, man, I've sold a lot of books. I've never heard anyone say they don't care if they sell any copies. I go, look, I'm doing it for a legacy piece. We're wrapping up [00:36:00] then Tucker says, man, you've built a hell of a company here. And I stopped him in his tracks.
[00:36:03] I go whoa, wait a minute. I go, I didn't build this company. I go, it took a lot of people to pull this off. I said, building a company is never one person. I said, it takes a great amount of people in town. To build a great company. And then he says, Hey, when you're going through our process, will you give me feedback as you go through long story short, I kept going through the process.
[00:36:28] I'd call Tucker. Do you want feedback? Yes. Yes. I tell them what they were doing, right? What they were doing wrong. Keep doing this change that he asked me to sit on their advisory board. Unbeknown to Tucker. I was actually looking to transition out of the software company anyway, and long story short Tucker and Zach, the two co-founders they approached me and they said, Hey man.
[00:36:49] You want to be the CEO. And so we sat down, hammered out details and I became the CEO.
[00:36:56] Hala Taha: That's incredible. I know that previously we [00:37:00] mentioned that, you barely finished high school. You're running a company. That's probably has top talent there with folks that have PhDs and multiple degrees.
[00:37:10] And then. You've mentioned that you felt this imposter syndrome. And for those who don't know, imposter syndrome is a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior, where people doubt their accomplishments and they have a persistent often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud. Can you help us understand how you overcame this common feeling that many of us often have?
[00:37:33] JT McCormick: First and foremost, I would say I suffered from imposter syndrome and intimidation is what I used to call it. For everyone who had a degree in the more degrees you had, the more intimidated I was. If you had a, master's a MBA, a PhD, oh God, they've got all these credentials. I don't have these. And so I struggled with that because I felt that these [00:38:00] individuals knew something that I didn't know.
[00:38:02] It actually wasn't until. I was paired with Tucker and Zack. The two co-founders. Tucker pulled me aside one day and he said this, and it was like, the clouds opened up. He goes, let me explain something to you. He goes part of why you're so good at what you do is because you weren't clouded by the things that come with the degree.
[00:38:23] He goes, you don't know the typical things that are taught in school. So everything that you do comes from a different position. He said, I'm telling you. From me going to university of Chicago, me going to duke law school, you are actually in a very fortunate position that you actually didn't go to college.
[00:38:44] And that really changed the game for me because I realized, oh, okay. I do know some things I may not have academic credentials. I may not be able to tell you when some of the wars took place, or I may not be able to write a dissertation. But I can damn sure. Tell you how to scale a [00:39:00] company, what to do, how to do it, anticipate skill, grow in visibility.
[00:39:04] I'm good at those things. And even now, if you look at this, I don't do any of the writing. I can't tell you an advert from an adjective and thank God cause you guys don't want me writing books, but I can tell you from the business aspect, what needs to be done, I make this joke all the time. One of the top five people, I would love to meet in my life right now is the man or woman who had been at spellcheck because you've been greatly influential in my career.
[00:39:32] But to your point, yes, I suffered deeply for 45 years with imposter syndrome and being intimidated because I didn't have that academic background.
[00:39:42] Hala Taha: Awesome.
[00:39:43] So let's switch gears a little bit. Let's pretend the market crashed tomorrow and you've lost everything.
[00:39:52] JT McCormick: I did that before, right?
[00:39:54] Hala Taha: That's saying it happened again.
[00:39:57] What would you do to earn it all back a third time?
[00:39:59] JT McCormick: I go back [00:40:00] into the market again, that's where I made my first million dollars in the stock market. I was able to turn a hundred dollars into eight figures and do it again in the market. And I love the market. I love business. I love growth scale.
[00:40:14] So it'd be anything around starting another company. Growing a company investing in the stock market. I would probably do both even right now. My life boils down to five areas, God, health, family, business, and investing. If it does not fall in those five areas, I don't do it. I love golf. I love golf, but I've got four small children and I much rather spend that four hours, that it takes to play around a golf.
[00:40:40] I'm not sure there's been that four hours with my family. So for me, I would just straight focus. On what I needed to focus on, even if I had to start over at McDonald's, whatever it is, I will get back to the top and make a million dollars a year. This is America. This is literally the land of opportunity.
[00:40:58] We all have [00:41:00] read that story of a person who comes to this country for the first time with 45 cents in their pocket. They don't speak the language only years later to hear that they've become a multimillionaire. Dammit. I was born here, so I've already got a leg up on you. And my attitude is I have a responsibility. That being born here, being blessed and fortunate to have been born in this country.
[00:41:23] Oh, there's no reason why I shouldn't be successful
[00:41:27] Hala Taha: I think that's such great advice. Let's move on to some of your philosophies. You talk about the three S's of success, which are sacrificed, sleep and success. Can you unpack these for us?
[00:41:39] JT McCormick: So sacrifice. I, Personally believe that you will have to make some sacrifices in life in order to achieve success.
[00:41:50] And I use LeBron James go to the highest level here. Everyone sees LeBron James, a hundred million dollars a year. He's making all the [00:42:00] endorsements, the championships, one could argue as the greatest basketball player, that's in the game. What we don't look at and what we don't celebrate in our country is the fact that, when LeBron's playing during the season, And he has to go on an 11 game road trip.
[00:42:17] He's missing his daughter's activities. He's missing, his son's basketball games. He's not there for bath time, bedtime, dinner time with the family he's gone. He's sacrificing. In order to have that success that he has when he's in the gym shooting a thousand free throws, a thousand jump shots, he's sacrificing, we live in a country where we always want to talk about the success, but we don't want to talk about what it takes to sacrifice.
[00:42:46] No one wants to come out and say, Damn it, you can't binge watch, which is just a disgusting term in itself. You can't binge watch from Friday to Sunday, game of Thrones and expect that you're going to be
[00:43:00] successful. And if that's what you want to do great. I don't knock it, just don't bitch on Monday that you haven't achieved your dreams and goals.
[00:43:08] When you just spend all weekend binge-watching game of Thrones, that did absolutely nothing for you. In life, you will have to sacrifice. Now I'll go to sleep. I struggled with this for a while. It wasn't until probably the last two years that I finally said, okay, everyone else is right. I'm wrong.
[00:43:29] Achieved success on three to four hours of sleep each day. So I had convinced myself that sleep wasn't important. And what I will say now is yes, sleep definitely helps. Go next level. It helps you think more clearly it helps with your health. So you have to sleep in. I'm telling you from someone who used to constantly three, four hours, three, four hours.
[00:43:56] It was all I was doing. I used to even make the comment. I can sleep when [00:44:00] I die, but sleep has definitely helped me. Now. I'm not an 8, 9, 10 hour sleeper. And that's good for me, but I do believe that sleep very much helps you in achieving success. Yeah, you've got to make some sacrifices. You got to sleep in order to achieve success.
[00:44:17] Hala Taha: Amazing. I think all of those are great gems for our listeners. And I actually had a whole entire episode on the power of sleep. So if you guys are interested to learn more it's episode 12, you also talk about the three P's of business that's people, profits, and process. Can you share these tips with our listeners?
[00:44:37] JT McCormick: Matter of fact, let me back up there. Let me put them in the correct order. It's people, process in profits. And why that's important is you've got a lot of companies out there that mix these three P's up. Some companies will put process first people second, and then profits. My argument is this. If you give [00:45:00] me great people, we can build great processes in equal great profits.
[00:45:06] But if you attempt first to put a flawless process in place. And then you put bad people in that process, they will wreck your process. So I'm looking great people. I always believe you should put people first at everything. Process second will equal profits. Now the ultimate breakdown I personally believe is in publicly traded companies because the profits are actually put first.
[00:45:35] And let me explain that, when you have a publicly traded company, People are not number one, shareholders are number one. And in my opinion, if more publicly traded CEOs came out and admitted this openly, it would be a great thing. But the way the system works, if you're a publicly traded stock company is shareholders are [00:46:00] first.
[00:46:00] Your customers are actually second because they got to buy the product or service your employees are. And I challenge any publicly traded CEO to say otherwise, because that's the order of operation. If you're a publicly traded company, I love the fact that. We at scribe have no outside capital, no VC money, no private equity money and we're profitable.
[00:46:26] So there's no pictures of us in a magazine or the local business journal smiling because we just raised series C and gave away more equity in the company. You're not going to find that it's owned by three individuals, Tucker, Zack, and myself, and it's private. And we can serve our people first.
[00:46:45] Hala Taha: Awesome.
[00:46:46] And I know that Scribe is known for their company culture. You guys have actually received many awards for being best places to work, having an exceptional company culture. So what's your philosophy on fostering a good company culture and [00:47:00] retaining talent to keep them happy?
[00:47:02] JT McCormick: The leadership perspective, this is an overused term, but I truly believe it.
[00:47:06] Many people use this term to have no business using it. Leadership you are only a leader. If you serve, if you have the three letters, CEO or you're in some type of leadership role, your responsibility is to serve those people you work with. I do not believe anyone works for me. People work with me. I cringe when they say, oh yeah, my boss JT, or I worked for JT.
[00:47:33] You work with me. I'm no more important to the organization, than everyone else here in the office. So I'm a big believer that you are only a leader, if you are serving. So my role 99.9999% of the decisions that I make are not for me. Therefore, the individuals that I serve in our culture operates that way results are first.
[00:47:59] [00:48:00] And then so on and so forth, we go to the learning service to our authors, our people, our community. So we've been fortunate last year, Entrepreneur Magazine named us the number one culture in America. And that was awesome. And as you said, we've won many other awards, but from a leadership perspective, it's all about service of those people that you work with.
[00:48:21] Hala Taha: Amazing.
[00:48:22] Congratulations on all your success. As we mentioned previously, you have an incredible work ethic. You just said that you were on three, four hours of sleep a day. When you were first starting out your career, you only took 11 days off when you were at your software company, that you ended up becoming the president of.
[00:48:39] So I know that everybody loves a good morning routine. I know that you have a great one. Can you just go over that with our listeners and give your tips on how to have a great start to your.
[00:48:49] JT McCormick: Yes. And as I was listening to you talk about that. Let's if I can let me pause there for a second as well, because I was listening to you.
[00:48:55] So let's keep that morning routine thing there for a second. What I want to be very fair with here [00:49:00] as well. We're sitting here and we're talking about the accomplishment where I came from, things I've done overcome success, blah, blah, blah. I want to be very clear. I have made a ton. Of mistakes throughout my life and career a ton.
[00:49:13] I couldn't hold a relationship to save my life. I was a monster in relationships could not hold one. As a first time, president of a software company. I made a ton of mistakes, but I truly believe this in my heart of heart. You only fell, if you stop trying. So I felt it a lot of past relationships cause we broke up.
[00:49:34] We're not together anymore, but as far as the mistakes I've made as a president of a software company or mistakes that I've made in life, even mistakes I make as a parent with my children, you only fail if you stop trying. So I made them a lot of mistakes in life. But I don't fell because I will never stop trying.
[00:49:52] So with all of the success, with everything that I've overcome, I just want to be real clear, oh God, I have [00:50:00] made a ton of mistakes in my life. So that's going to happen. The key is don't repeat those mistakes and to learn from your mistakes.
[00:50:08] Hala Taha: Totally failing is just a stepping stone on your path to success.
[00:50:12] That's what I always think.
[00:50:13] JT McCormick: So to your point about morning routine, I get up every day between somewhere 3 45, 4 o'clock in the morning. And the first thing that, I do is I will pray is the very first thing. Then I will study all things, leadership, growth, scale business markets. Then I'll go to the gym.
[00:50:34] Once I get back from the gym. It's chaos at my house. I got a five-year-old, a four year old, a two year old and a seven month old at the house. It's have breakfast with them. Try to get things in order, get dressed off to the office. But that is my routine every day. In fact, on Saturdays and Sundays, I can't tell you the last time I've slept past six am.
[00:50:56] Hala Taha: That's amazing.
[00:50:57] So the last question, I'm going [00:51:00] to leave you with before we ask you, where everybody can learn more about you is really about you giving back. So one of the things that really stood out to me is the fact that, you're not only the successful guy who came from the bottom and now super successful.
[00:51:15] You also take time to give back to your community and you talk to kids at juvenile detention centers. Give us. Color to how you give back to your community.
[00:51:26] JT McCormick: So for me, it became very important. This actually hit me back, when I was at the software company, when I became president, I realized, oh, wow, okay.
[00:51:33] I've achieved a little bit of success. And I look back in my life. I'm like, wow, okay, I've done a few things. I would have liked to have known this and this. So it hit me. I got to start reaching back out to those kids, who come from where I come from. The just don't know, that's the biggest challenge, in my opinion, with our society, you don't know what you don't know.
[00:51:59] And in fact, [00:52:00] if I was standing in a group of 50 people right now, and I said, okay, how many people in here can perform brain surgery? Very few people are going to raise their hand if any, because they don't know if I said how many people can launch a rocket in this. Very few people. If any, are going to raise their hand, you don't know what you don't know.
[00:52:18] Unfortunately, from the communities in which I come from, there's a lot. That's unknown. So for me, I wanted to go back and mentor, teach coach the youth. Show them how they can get their first job, how to interact in society, give them a leg up, even a chance to try to go and succeed. So I go back and we run a class where I teach children how to shake hands it's.
[00:52:46] It's a travesty. That we know 40% of every kid that graduates high school in this country. I don't care where you are on the economic ladder. 40% of all students who graduate high school in this country will never go to [00:53:00] college, but we don't even teach you how to shake your hand. Where do you learn attention to detail?
[00:53:04] I've talked to people who have gone to Harvard with master's degrees and. No nowhere has anyone ever taught me attention to detail? Where do you learn that lesson? That lesson has served me far greater in life than maybe a bachelor's. So I teach these kids how to shake a hand, look me in the eye, say nice to meet you.
[00:53:26] I teach them how to walk in. Burger king for their first job and say, excuse me, sir. Do you have any employment opportunities, just to give them that added advantage of things that other people aren't doing? Lessons that have served me in life manners? Yes, sir. Thank you. Yes ma'am. No, thank you. Can I please?
[00:53:46] All of the little things that for somewhere in this country have escaped us. I do my best to go back and teach the youth and give them these tools, that benefited me through my.
[00:53:58] Hala Taha: That is so sweet. You are such a [00:54:00] great guy. And I know you mentioned you focus your life on God, health, family, business, and investing, but I really think you ought to add a sixth one called philanthrophy after all that you've done for your community and for the younger generation,
[00:54:14] JT McCormick: I may have to look at that.
[00:54:15] I like odd numbers. So then I'm going to have to find seven because
[00:54:20] I appreciate that.
[00:54:24] Hala Taha: All right, Stacy, it was such a pleasure to speak with you. Where can our listeners go to learn more about you and everything that you do?
[00:54:30] JT McCormick: There would be three places you can go to scribemedia.com that tells you all about our company. You can go to LinkedIn is probably the best place. If you're looking for things from me personally.
[00:54:41] Every week, I will share different mistakes, lessons, things that I do in business, things that haven't worked for me, things that have worked for me in business, I'll share those on LinkedIn. So that's probably the best place. And then you could go to JTmccormick.com and that's my personal.
[00:54:57] Hala Taha: Yep. And he has also got a book that I've read.
[00:54:59] That's [00:55:00] actually really a great read. I really enjoyed it. It's called. I Got There. So check that out.
[00:55:06] JT McCormick: They are how I overcame racism, poverty, and abuse to achieve the American dream.
[00:55:11] Hala Taha: Awesome. Thank you so much for joining the show.
[00:55:12] JT McCormick: I appreciate it. Very humbled and flattered that you would have me on.
[00:55:15] Thank you. Ma'am.
[00:55:17] Thanks for listening to Young And Profiting Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, don't forget to write us a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to the show. Follow YAP on Instagram @youngandprofiting and check us out at youngandprofiting.com and you can chat live with us every single day on YAP Society on Slack.
[00:55:34] Check out our show notes are youngandprofiting.com for the registration link, you can find me on Instagram @yapwithhala or LinkedIn, just search for my name, Hala Taha. Big, thanks to the YAP team for another successful episode. This week, I'd like to give a special shout out to Tim.
[00:55:49] Timothy Tim has been by my side since episode three, he handles all business development matters for the podcast and is currently focused on ramping up our referral program and helping to build up our
[00:56:00] YAP Society community. Tim is my right-hand man. He helps me make all major decisions and I wouldn't have it any other way.
[00:56:06] Thanks Tim. You're the best. This is Hala signing off.
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