Interview with David Reiss, CEO of The Mastery Group

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Interview with David Reiss, CEO of The Mastery Group

There are no limitations to what one can achieve. Just ask David Reiss, a Renaissance man who has built a career as a dynamic entrepreneur, marketing consultant, business owner, writer, and teacher. His resume comprises no less than 100 industries, spanning from entertainment and non-fiction writing to corporate leadership and marketing.

While David Reiss was an undergraduate at SUNY at Stony Brook, he began his professional career as a photographer, which led to a position as the Director of Photographic Curriculum for the university’s continuing education program. In this role, Reiss established the university’s first photo gallery, organizing weekend symposiums hosted by the industry’s leading photographers.

After graduating from Stony Brook with a double bachelor’s degree in psychology and anthropology, Reiss went on to earn two master’s degrees — one in education and a second in Film and TV production at the University of Michigan. His academic journey was topped off with a Ph.D, ABD in TV and Film. During this time, Reiss pivoted to entrepreneurship, jumpstarting a consultation service while managing his own businesses.

With years in academia, David Reiss began an Assistant Professorship at Ohio University. After teaching TV and film courses, Reiss realized he didn’t want to confine himself to concepts in class — and actively pursued them in Hollywood.

Relocating to LA, Reiss worked as an entertainment journalist, writing over 400 magazine articles on film and TV and interviewing high-profile celebrities on production sets. He spent three years on set of the TV series M*A*S*H, later writing M*A*S*H: The Exclusive, Inside Story of TV’s Most Popular Show. The book became an international bestseller in the US, UK and Canada. Next, he became a member of the Writer’s Guild West, dedicating the next several years television writing and creating and producing TV movies.

By his mid-twenties, David Reiss had already established a marketing services company, supporting more than a dozen industries. In the automotive industry, Reiss developed revolutionary marketing campaigns and won multiple awards for his highly renowned brand. For two consecutive years, he won the title of top brand advertiser in the automotive trade.

Speaking at many conferences and symposiums as a notable and passionate figure in the marketing industry, companies in attendance soon hired Reiss to consult, helping them to achieve scale.

Reiss was then approached by over a dozen funds, investment bankers, family offices, and Fortune 1000 companies in need of assistance with troubled portfolios. Working with dozens of companies in several industries, Reiss created attractive targets for acquisition and became known for building companies and generating exceedingly higher returns.
Helping over 100 companies use his expertise, including his own, David Reiss has widespread acclaim in his desire to give back to others. Today, he continues to create companies and advise passionate entrepreneurs to think outside the box and scale their business in impactful ways. He’s living proof that limits don’t have to define your path as long as you have the passion to grow.

Where did the idea for The Mastery Group come from?

David Reiss: Throughout my career, people have always asked for advice when they meet a challenge they cannot overcome. I have always been willing to help; it’s my belief, “The more you offer others, the more you shall receive.” And, every time I help solve someone’s problem, they often suggest that others could benefit from my unique way of looking at things. I have heard from hundreds of people that I should create a group and teach others to see the world as I do.

I took a census and realized I knew dozens and dozens of people who sincerely wanted to be a part of such a group, so I decided to give it a try. I opened the group up to a maximum of 25 and, for two years (up to the COVID-19 Pandemic), I held a Mastery Group to guide the participants to help each other and assist in the growth of each other’s companies. We met four times a year for two days at a time.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

David Reiss: I am a morning person, so I am usually up by 6:00 am. I work out in my gym three times a week, fast until noon and can’t wait to get to my desk. Then, I start off my day by traveling the globe by time zones. First, I start with calls to Asia, work my way through Europe, arrive in US Eastern Time and then move through to Pacific Time and back to Asia.

I make and receive hundreds of texts, calls, emails, etc. I focus on each one as if it is the last message I will ever receive. I action what needs to be done and do not cut corners. I respond to people within the same day and always strive to provide more information and usable data than they might expect. And, I always return calls, texts and emails. Always!

I don’t understand how people have become so lax when it comes to returning calls. If someone takes the time to reach out, you should always acknowledge that and set a great example by getting back to them before the end of the day, even if it is only to leave a voicemail. And, in this time in our lives, I find that I stand out from the crowd by always getting back to people in a timely manner.

How do you bring ideas to life?

David Reiss: First, I look at all aspects of an idea –not just two dimensions, but four. I look at matters first in the three-dimensional world and then in the fourth. I mentally travel through time to live the idea. I see how it relates to the world we live in, interacts with other concepts, reality, fantasy — and yes, I even take fantasy to a whole new level.

I find that the more I can take something to an extreme, the more open my mind becomes to the possibilities, which can be infinite. I have been fortunate enough to have taught this time-traveling process to thousands of people around the world.

What’s one trend that excites you?

David Reiss: Artificial Intelligence. Though, I should say that it both excites me and scares the hell out of me.

On one hand, if the programmers can overcome bias, the possibilities are endless: New medicines and the ability to cure disease, programs that write themselves and become smarter, robotics, extreme automation and personalization, age reversal and so much more. On the other hand, with bias and political agendas considered, it could be the end of freedom as we know it — the total control of all thought, word and deed, the type of society where we become the robots. (I’ll go for the former.)

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

David Reiss: (A lack of) procrastination…I never seem to get around to it.

What advice would you give your younger self?

David Reiss: “Enjoy the ride!”

For the first half of my career, I was so focused on accomplishment that I forgot the part where I was supposed to enjoy myself. It’s all sort of a blur; I raced to the finish line only to immediately start another race. Then, it hit me: Life is short. A friend died and, as one might imagine, it made me look at my own mortality (a word I had never been able to spell).

I decided to take the next few weeks to, “Stop and smell the whiteout.” When I did, it was incredible. Everything was better, easier, more fulfilling, and yes — even food tasted better. (So much for why I gained 20 lbs.) It was my epiphany; I not only would give that advice to my younger self, but I also go out of my way to give it to others I work with now.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

David Reiss: You can start a business in a field you aren’t an expert in. You don’t need to know the ins and outs of the industry to succeed; you just need to know how to ask questions…and keep asking questions until people start looking to you for answers…

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

David Reiss: Talk less. Listen more.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

David Reiss: I never took no for an answer. There is always a way. There is always a back door, a compromise, a give-and-take, a new way of seeing things. Never, never, never give up, because when you do…that’s when you fail.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

David Reiss: I created a specialized marketing program for auto dealers and did not take into consideration the lack of intelligence, tremendous fear and insecurity held by the dealers. For the few who did embrace the program, they broke all records. For the other 99.99% who could not understand it, wouldn’t listen, and didn’t care, it never sold.

What’s a marketing guy to do? I dumbed it down. I took away anything that was not a “shiny object” and brought the instructions down to an eighth grade level. Then, it sold and became a standard within the industry.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

David Reiss: This isn’t necessarily a new business idea so much as a reworking of an old one. I think that WhatsApp has been a game-changer for international business communications, especially post-COVID. I believe an idea for a business is to develop an, “App” that adds the ability to put Notes into WhatsApp, as well as reminders (timers). Think about how many WhatsApp groups one has and how much energy it takes trying to keep them all straight and remember everything about each of the participants. An App that adds notes (for your eyes only) would round out the program. There’s a business for someone. Go get it and please, email me when it’s ready for Prime Time.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

David Reiss: I recently had our guest rooms remodeled, and the electrician has an assistant with the best attitude. He is always happy, has a kind word for everyone, loves my dog (and who wouldn’t?), and works harder than any three people I have ever seen. So, when the job was done — and after clearing it with his boss — I gave him $100 and told him how much I appreciate him and the hard work he has done. (By the way, it was a battle to get him to accept the money. I won.)

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

David Reiss: Interestingly, it used to be a contact management program called, “ACT!” But that was then. Today, if you want to do business at the speed of light, it’s WhatsApp. There is almost nothing you can’t do with this program — although I do have a list of suggestions for improvement. And, when I cross-reference it with a notes program, it keeps me in touch with people worldwide. (Email? What’s that?)

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

David Reiss: People ask me this all the time. It’s a hard question to answer. There are so many incredible people who have written books sharing what they know and how to use their experience to benefit you, the reader.

That said, since business (and all of life) is a series of gives and takes, I look at the art of negotiation as a must for everyone. The better able you are to read a situation (and the people involved therein), the better you will be equipped to emerge with the end-result you desire — or, at the very least, come out of there with as few battle scars as possible.

But which book to read? After all, there are so many — but no, there are not. I have read them and they are, in my opinion, narrow-minded, biased and egotistical. Except for one.

When it comes down to a situation where every word counts, every inflection, tome, definition and inference could be a matter of life or death, hostage negotiators have the inside track. This is the ultimate form of negotiation, and when someone asks me for a recommendation for a book on negotiation, I always suggest they read the books that hostage negotiators read to learn their craft. And, on the populist side (non-textbook-ish), the best of the best is, in my opinion; “Never Split the Difference,” by Chris Voss, former head of Hostage Negotiations for the FBI.

What is your favorite quote?

David Reiss: This is the one question that I have spent the most time to answer. I want so much to tell you my favorite quote but I think I would come off better if I simply choose one of my second or third favorite lines. I love quotes; they are insightful, often humorous and peer into the innermost parts of human nature and psychology to expose the truth about who we are, how we think, act, and perceive the world.

So, to that end, here is one of my favorite quotes: “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” ― Albert Einstein.

Okay, now that I have made my “good impression,” here is my all-time favorite quote, also from Albert Einstein: “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe!”

Key Learnings:

David Reiss:

  • The more you offer others, the more you shall receive.
  • Good communication helps you stand out from the crowd.
  • Enjoy the ride rather than focusing solely on accomplishment.

Originally published on Ideamensch.com

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