Who would have thought that someone whose niche lies in the medical industry would be able to pivot successfully into real estate? This is exactly what Chris Larsen of Next-Level Income did when he transitioned from medical device sales to become a professional investor. He joins Samuel Gbadebo to look back on his journey to success, which started from falling in love to the game of investing even from a very young age and upholding the desire to honor his long-lost friend. He also explains how the pharmaceutical field can be connected with investing, and how investors such as himself can make it big in both.
We have a special guest. Before I even get into the guest, I’ve got to get into the topic. Here’s the thing. There are many things to think about as a professional, and I’m not just talking about medical sales. As any professional, whether you’re someone that’s in medical sales or someone that wants to get into medical sales, you’ve got a lot of things to think about outside of your career. You’ve got your family, health, hobbies, activities and interests. One very important thing that you’ve got to think about that can’t be ignored no matter what is your finances. You’ve got to be thinking about your finances. This guest is going to give us an education on how you should be thinking about your finances.
The reason why this interview is so valuable and special is because this is an individual that started in real estate, at a young age, got into investing, found medical device sales, then became a leader in that space and left all of it to go enterprise his real estate investing empire that is thriving now. It’s a fascinating story. It’s such an important topic to talk about because you can find the best position, you can be the best representative or leader, and you can make the most money, but what does it mean if you don’t know what to do with it, and you don’t know how to manage it? How beautiful can life be when you can put yourself in a position to do whatever you like to the point that you can leave a high paying position and start your own business that does even more than you ever could have as an employee?The most important thing in sales is not the revenue but the relationships. Click To Tweet
It’s something to process, evaluate and consider for yourself what you can learn. I’m so happy and I’m excited for this episode. I’m not even going to give his name. That’s how excited I am, I’m just going to start the interview. Before I do, I want to say another thing. It’s 2021. It seems like 2021 has become the year of part twos. If you notice, almost every interview I’ve had this year has had a part two. Here’s the thing. If an interview goes long, then I’m going to break it up because I want to make sure that you get every word. I want to keep it not short but long enough so that you’re getting all the valuable information because our guests have so much value to bring every time they show up. This is an interview that also went long. This is part one. It’s a great interview and I hope you enjoy it. As always, thank you for reading.
Chris, what’s going on? How are we doing?
Samuel, I’m fantastic. It’s great to see you.
Everyone, we have Chris Larsen with us now, and he has an interesting story to tell. This is someone who’s been in the medical device sales industry, spent a lot of time in spine, spent time in leadership, and then has transitioned himself into a different entrepreneurial pursuit to the point that he has firmly established himself as an entrepreneur and Founder. I’m not even going to say anymore. I’m not going to spoil it. Chris, please tell everybody who you are and what it is you do.
Samuel, I appreciate the opportunity. I talk about my story in depth in my book, which anybody can get now. It’s at NextLevelIncome.com, you can click on the book link. I talk about how I’ve come to found Next–Level Income. I’m the Founder. I’m also the current Managing Partner of Next–Level Income. We talk about helping investors achieve financial independence through both education and opportunities. I spent eighteen years in the industry, if you add my two years with Pfizer, first as a pharmaceutical rep on the orthopedic side, and then I was a joint rep. I sold joints, hips, knees, shoulders, as well as trauma. I was working 5, 6, 7 days and nights a week in the OR before transitioning to a Biologic Specialist, and then ultimately a Spine Rep. I spent almost the last five years of that eighteen cumulative years in a leadership role in a management position with NuVasive, which is the leading spine company in the world, but it’s the number 3 spine company. That Q1 was my last quarter in that role.
That’s the fascinating thing. Please tell us a bit more about the company you founded, and why don’t you kick us off with when you were in your career in NuVasive? Was this something that had always been there or was this a spark that happened that you said, “I’m going to start focusing on this direction?” Tell us a bit about that.
I might’ve even said it a bit backwards, Samuel. I was an investor before I was a medical device rep or a pharmaceutical rep. When I was 21, I bought my first property. My goal was to buy enough properties. These were single-family rentals that I could have $10,000 after expenses before debt service. $10,000 a month coming in, I thought, “If I can get these debt-free, $10,000 a month, that’s enough to live on and have a comfortable life.”
You were thinking like this at 21 on your own or was this inspired by someone else?
If you look before that, when I was five years old, I lost my father. He died in a plane crash. That has an impact on you. I talk about in my book how I lost my best friend when I was nineteen, he was only eighteen years old. When I think back, that had an even bigger impact. At that point I was racing my bike. My dream at that point was to be a professional cyclist. It’s neat. If you remember back to the time you were able to hop on your bike and ride to your friend’s house to the store, when I was a kid, we’d ride to the 7/11 and get a pack of gum or a soda, or at Subway and get a sandwich.
I remember that feeling of freedom. That feeling of freedom, I always associate with cycling. When I started racing bicycles as a teenager, I was driving up and down the East Coast racing bicycles. At sixteen, I was driving 2, 3, 4 states away to race my bike. I was flying across the country by myself. I was staying at the Olympic Training Center. I loved the freedom of being able to travel and see new places, but also race my bike. I love the competitive environment. After my friend died, I poured my heart and soul into it. I was doing well. I was winning a lot of races, but I wasn’t happy. I was hollow. When I quit, I still thought, “I want this freedom. How do I get it?” I knew that I had to not only live the best life that I could to have as big of an impact, but also honor my friend, Chris, who wasn’t alive anymore. When I started thinking about how I’m going to do this, I came to investing. I thought if I can become financially independent, I can then have the most impact on this world.
I was trading in the stock market. At that time, I was day trading. After making and losing a lot of money, this was during the ‘90s, now, where you had these crazy valuations with tech stocks, and you had these big swings, and the market was at all-time highs. After going through one of these big swings in my own portfolio, I was lying in bed one morning at 3:00 and thinking, “I don’t want to be doing this in twenty years. I want to feel secure. I want to know that I have steady income coming in.” I read 250 books. I got an MBA in Portfolio Management. This is all during this 2, 3, 4-year period. This was going from age twenty, when I quit cycling, until about age 21, 22, when I solidified my investing thesis.
You were day trading. Let’s get into it. Who raised you?
I’m fortunate I had a mother who was always there for me. She helped me with my schoolwork. She made sure we were in a good neighborhood. I still got to go to good schools even after my father passed away. I was also fortunate to have a stepfather in my life. My mother remarried. He was always there for me. The person that was the biggest influence in my life was a man named Clint Provenza. He was a family friend from church, and he did two things that were impactful in my life. One, he introduced me to cycling and more specifically, racing bicycles. Two, he introduced me to this concept of investing in compound interest. He gave me a Money Magazine that had an article about Roth IRA. I started at Roth and I started investing in index funds. I also started my own brokerage account.If you can provide value in all kinds of relationships, everyone will allow you to do virtually whatever you want. Click To Tweet
This is all at twenty.
I was a junior in college at the time.
You’re day trading. You’re getting well beyond the fundamentals down. You’re making some money and you’re thinking to yourself, “I don’t want to be doing this in twenty years. I want security.” Around 22, you made a transition. Tell us what happened.
I’m still investing in the stock market, but my main focus was going to be real estate. I like two things about real estate. I liked the control. I like the ability to have control. You could buy at a lower valuation and improve it. The other thing was the leverage. For somebody that didn’t have a lot of money, you could take $2,000 or $3,000 as I did. I bought my first investment property. That’s powerful. If you’re thinking, “I’m getting started here, what options do I have out there?” If you want to make a lot of money in this world, there are a couple of different vehicles for it. My favorite is real estate.
You transitioned into real estate. When did the medical device space even come into the equation?
A bit serendipitous but also blended with my direction, I didn’t have a lot of money, but I wanted to invest. I still had some money in the stock market. I bought my first rental property. I bought my second rental property. I was working for State Farm at the time. I’m two properties in. I’m thinking I need more money. I looked at different sales careers out there. Real estate was one of them. I thought I could do real estate sales and I could buy real estate, but the other thing that popped up was pharmaceutical sales. My Engineering degree was in Biomechanical Engineering. I thought, “Pharmaceutical sales, that’s cool.” I had no idea that there was this world within med device space.
I’m working for State Farm. I talked to my agent that I was working with, a young guy named Brandon Semones. He was 27 at the time. He played football. He’s Frank Beamer’s nephew. He played football for Virginia Tech. I’m talking to Brandon one day, we were friends and I helped him get his practice off the ground, helping him with some sales stuff. Initially, I was working for him and he said, “You’ve got to meet my friend Allen. You would get along.” I was like, “That’s cool. What does he do?” He’s like, “He sells implants or something.” I was like, “What?” He goes, “You’ve got to talk to him.” I call Allen. I said, “Allen, can I take you out to lunch?” He said, “Sure.” I take Allen out to lunch. I said, “Brandon says you sell medical implants. That sounds cool because we design those in my junior year of college in one of my classes.” This is a couple of years later. I saw hips and knees. I’m like, “This is so cool.” He tells me all about it. I’m thinking, “This is what I want to do.” I asked him two questions. I said, “Allen, how much do you make?” He said, “I started off my first year. I made about $75,000. I’ve been doing it about five years. I made $350,000 last year.”
My jaw hit the table. My second question was, “How do I do this?” I was trying to find a career I could make six figures. I figured if I could make six figures, I can pay my living expenses and invest a lot of this money. My role has always been to invest 50% of what I make. Allen said, “You can do two things. You can go and be an apprentice for somebody like me, run trays and be someone’s female dog, or you could do pharmaceutical sales and transition back.” I looked at both options. The pharmaceutical sales option was a bit of a sexier route because you got a car and an expense account. It’s harder to do, but here’s the thing that convinced me to go that way, Samuel. Pfizer, who I ended up going and working for, had the best–rated sales training in the world. I thought, “I’m going to get the best sales training that I can do.” The number one thing that I would take from that is go out and get the best sales training that you can get. That’s going to help you be as successful as possible. Two years later, I transitioned into med device. Pharmaceutical sales. Sometimes if you talk to a med device rep, they give pharmaceutical reps a bad rep or they’re like, “They’re not salespeople.” If you can sell pharmaceuticals, you can sell med device well.
That’s what I’m going to ask you about because I know a lot of recruiters. They’ll say, “Samuel, a lot of my clients specifically say, if they’re in pharma, we do not want to talk to them. We want business-to-business sales or something else, but not pharma.”
That’s a mistake.
With that being said, in my program, I’ve helped pharmaceutical reps get a great medical device sales position. There’s a lot of value a pharmaceutical rep has to offer to something like that if that’s what they want to do. This is a common question, “Should I do pharma? Should I go business-to-business sales?” Between the two, you can take in your experience, where would you say someone should put their energy?
I would identify the company that has the best sales training. That’s my advice to young people. Robert Kiyosaki, Rich Dad Poor Dad, I got this from him. He said, “Don’t take a job for what it will pay you, take a job for what it will teach you.” If you come out the other side and you say, “I can do this job for a few years and I’ll be worth twice where I am right now.” That’s because of what they train and teach you. That’s my advice. It might make it a little tougher if you go with a company that is not as well known or isn’t as well known within the med device space or pharmaceutical if that’s your goal, but if you have the best sales training, do it. Make the effort to enter in that because what’ll happen is you’ll ultimately be more successful in the backend. That’s, as an individual, what you want.
Talk to us about that. You got this sales training. How did it play out when you entered the medical device space? From what you can remember, what were you able to say, “I am glad I was trained this way because I’m living my best now in this medical device sales space?”
The training was great, but it was more the feedback I got from the surgeons along the way is what I’m going to share. There are a couple of things. When I ultimately interviewed to go from pharmaceutical in the medical device space, I had my suit on, I had my resume printed out on that nice paper stock, grading nice and crisp. I sat down across from the sales manager and I slide my resume across and I’m all proud and ready to answer questions. He slid it right back across the table. He said, “I don’t need that today.” I looked at him and I was like, “What the hell is going on? Is he going to say this interview is over or what?” He said, “Chris, what’s the most important thing in sales?” I looked at him and I thought about it and I said, “Relationships.” He goes, “Relationships. Chris, we’ve talked to the surgeons you worked with. They all highly recommend you. They say we should hire you. That’s why I don’t need to see your resume because I already know you have the relationships, and you have the ability to do this job.”When you shift the direction of your life, the whole universe starts to change around you. Click To Tweet
When he told me who he spoke to, I thought back to the feedback that those surgeons had given me. In particular, a couple of things stuck out. One, there was a surgeon specifically, because there’s a lot of physicians I called on. I called them, family practice, colon surgeons. He said, “Chris, you know what I like about you? You come in, you don’t waste my time and you always give me something of value. You provide me some value with what you tell me. If it’s a study or a trick to help my patients or something to save me a little time, that’s why I’ll always talk to you.” One of the surgeons, he gave this feedback to his partners. He said, “Do you know what’s great about Chris? He’s been coming into the office. He has been helping the office staff make sure that they’re set up to handle the approval process with the pharmaceuticals that we were dealing with it.” I made it easy for the staff. It goes back to saving time and providing value. If you can provide value with those relationships, that’s going to ultimately allow you to do whatever you want to do.
You’re in the medical device sales space and you were specifically in spine.
My dream job was joints. I thought that’s all I wanted to do. I love working with orthopedic surgeons, but I didn’t know about spine. I get this call. I talked to a recruiter. I was looking for a bigger opportunity to get this call and he tells me about this role. He’s like, “Chris, here’s this role.” He reads it down, and that was what he got. I said nothing. He goes, “Chris talk to me. You gave me this impossible list and I’m giving it to you.” I knew that the President of that division for Medtronic was the brother of the guy I worked for. I said, “I can’t go out for this. I worked for this guy. He’s a great guy.” He goes, “Go for the job. Go for this role.” I ended up interviewing, I ended up in the position. What I found was I fell in love with spine because spine is very challenging. We still don’t know everything that we need to know about spine.
Joints are predictable. You get this 98% success rate. Patients are happy. They leave the operating room and they say, “I wish I had it done sooner.” Spine is a little more nebulous. It’s harder to pin down, but it’s more complex and here’s more opportunity in that. What I found was I enjoyed being in that environment where it was continual learning, continual value creation, and also a lot of innovation. I’m a nerd. I was in math club. I was in the marching band. I went to orchestra camp. All the jokes are true. No crazy stuff with instruments in weird places, but all the other stuff is true. I love all those things about spine. I love working with the individuals. If you’re in this space, you get to work with geniuses, these are geniuses that you get to work with every day. I feel very blessed to have had that opportunity.
Tell us then, you’re doing well, you’re performing, what got you into leadership within the spine?
I had some financial metrics. My goal was to always get to a point financially that I could have options. I thought I’m going to be for a full line rep for ten years. I figured that would get me to the financial point. I did it. It took me eight years. At that time, it’s interesting. This is a real lesson. When your brain shifts and you make this mental shift about what you want to do and where you want to go with your life, the whole universe starts to change around you. Doors open up and opportunities come towards you. When I decided I wanted to go into management because I pushed it off and pushed it off, I went to my regional vice president and I told him, “I’m interested in this opportunity.” He turned to me and he said, “You’re not ready for it.” That was a slap in the face, but what he said to me, he goes, “Chris, I wish I had 100 of you working for me but I don’t. You can’t be like you and be successful. You need to know how to work with all different types of people.” I was like Matt Damon, where he slaps the numbers up like, “Look at them, apples. Look at my numbers. Look how good I am.” What I realized was that wasn’t the best round. He said, “I’m going to help get you the leadership training.”
I went through Medtronic’s Leadership Training. Going back to the training theme, it was so valuable. It taught me a lot of lessons about who I was from a personality perspective, how to work with other people and how to communicate better and help support individuals that either didn’t have the experience or maybe didn’t communicate the same way. That gave me the training. When the opportunity came up, in this case, NuVasive, I was able to raise my hand and bring it to fruition. It was almost five years in that role and that leadership role with NuVasive. What I can tell you is it was such a highlight to get to work with reps to help build teams. I built out a team in an area of Western North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee that had no prior experience or prior business with NuVasive. To be able to build something from scratch and say, “My fingerprints are on that. I did that,” it was fun to do. I still have a lot of affection for the team and love what they’ve gone on to achieve.
Helping investors achieve financial independence, wasn’t that a fascinating story? I can’t say too much because we still have a part two to read. What I want to highlight about this story is how intentional Chris has been. From a very young age, he started investing and thinking about what he can do to give him more options in life. Starting off with that first property of single-family rental, and even choosing to be a cyclist over any other sport because of the longevity of the sport of cycling. It’s great. You know I was young once. We are all. For the readers that aren’t young, we are all young once. It’s valuable to hear these things because if you’re young now, there are many things you can do that in 5 to 10 years, you will be living a completely different life. I’m not talking about career performance. I’m talking about a lot of the decisions you make outside of your career that will give you more flexibility within your career. With that being said, you’ve got to deliver. We all know that. Whatever it is that you are choosing to do, you’ve got to deliver. You have to deliver at all levels.
If you’re not in the industry yet and you’re trying to get in, you better be delivering in your current job because it’s very difficult to get hired when you don’t have the right performance to show for it. If you are in the industry, you’ve to be performing, because how are you going to get into leadership, how are you going to make a different move, how are you going to get in a slightly more advanced space if you’re not performing in your current role? Performance has to happen no matter what. If you’re reading the blog, you can see that if there is a common theme that every single guest shares, it’s performance, and how important that is no matter what.
You’ve got to think about the rest of life and what you want to do within yours, what your priorities are. What is such a big important part of those priorities in allowing you to do what you want to do in life? I’m not saying money is everything and you’ll be money hungry or focus on the money, but to ignore your finances, it goes without saying, it’s not something that anyone has an opportunity to do. It’s important. If not everything, but it’s critical. If you can take advantage of what you can do with your finances at a very young age, you’re going to have that many more options. Even if you’re not, even if you’re middle aged and reading this and you know that you have been doing whatever you’ve been doing with your finances to the best of your ability, you can take advantage of the information you get now and do something about it and still have many years to experience whatever it is that you want to experience. That’s one thing that Chris embodied throughout his life to the point that now he helps people at all levels get to that beautiful place of financial independence.
What else I liked about some of the things that Chris mentioned is training. He says, “Get the best training you can get.” I wholeheartedly agree with that. The beauty though that 2021 provides us is if you’re in a company that has a great training program, more power to you, apply yourself, utilize it, do it well, but now there are many more resources out there that you can look into that can give you that excellent training. If you’re someone that cares about where you’re going and cares about what you want to be doing in however many years from now, then you’re probably someone that looks to develop, and it’s going to look for every resource they can find to get that development to be the best person, professional, and performer they can be. That’s something that Chris brings home. He doesn’t stop there. There’s so much more that he brings in part two and he drops some more pearls.
Another good thing to look forward to is he’s going to get into how this whole real estate investing works and how a lot of people can get involved and get on that road to financial independence. It’s something you want to read. For those of you that are in a role now, you’re in the industry, you’re in pharma and medical device, you’re in molecular and genetic and you want to ramp up your performance, you’re saying, “I’m reading this, and I need to do something.” You already know what I’m going to say. You need to visit EvolveYourSuccess.com and select Improve Sales Performance, or you can email me directly at Samuel@EvolveYourSuccess.com. I’m going to connect you with myself or one of our coaches and we’re going to have a discussion about specifically what you can do to get to where you want to go.
If you don’t know where you want to go but you know you want to advance, then we can help you figure that out as well. There are some things that Chris is going to say in the next episode that I’m not going to spoil, but it speaks to the importance of not just doing what’s right as far as the customers are concerned, not just doing what’s right as far as your own planning around your position is concerned, but also doing what’s right within your company. Being an active player within your company and understanding as a sales professional, especially someone that’s leadership bound, you’re not just servicing the customer, you’re servicing the customer, colleagues and leadership. You are a sales professional and you’re providing value for all of the above. That is an active role. That is not a passive role. That’s an active role that you can get in front of now and start making changes in how you conduct your business.
If you’re interested in that, make sure you visit EvolveYourSuccess.com or go ahead and email me there directly at Samuel@EvolveYourSuccess.com. I love the fact that we get feedback on what people are doing with these episodes, what they’re learning, what is making them think about, the things that they’re starting to consider because of them, and that’s why we’re doing this. We are providing our own level of value to all of you out there that have taken the time to read and understand what we’re doing here at the show. Keep it going. Let’s keep it going. Our membership is growing. Everybody is learning something, and we’re going to continue to have the best guests we can find that are going to continue to drop pearls of wisdom that are going to essentially blow your mind. That’s my whole goal. Make sure you read part two, and we’re going to learn the rest of what Chris has to share with us, how his company works, and maybe even how you can get involved if you’re in a position to take some serious action about reaching financial independence. As always, thank you for reading. We will catch you all next time.
I help medical device professionals, doctors and entrepreneurs build a plan for financial independence through education and investment opportunities.
If you are looking to achieve TRUE freedom my proven strategy can help you achieve financial independence in 7 years or less.
After a career in the medical device industry, first as a sales rep and then as a manager I help others develop a plan and learn from my mistakes to achieve true freedom to live the life of their dreams.
Get a free copy of my book at: www.nextlevelincome.com/book to learn more about how you can achieve financial independence.
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