We lost a legend in Bill Bartmann: 11 Lessons I Learned From The Greatest Entrepreneur I Knew

The world lost a legend last week. Bill Bartmann who was a 2-time National Entrepreneur of the Year, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, at one point was the 25th wealthiest man in America died from complications of heart surgery.

To me, he was just Bill.

A friend, mentor, client, SANG member. One of the smartest people I have ever met.

He made the complex simple and hands down was one of the nicest people I have ever met.

When I first met him, I told him his life story sounded like a Hollywood Movie. He had 9 lives and wrote a book called “Bouncing Back” http://tinyurl.com/jcqfcjw.

At age 14 he left school to join a traveling carnival. He lived under bridges and ate out of dumpsters. He had been a teenage alcoholic, one who suffered the fate of becoming paralyzed from the waist down after falling down the stairs drunk. Doctors told him he would never walk again.

He become a millionaire three times, bankrupt twice, and a billionaire once ranked as high as the 25th-wealthiest person in America. He created a 3,900-employee company that was only exceeded by Microsoft in its ability to grow faster for a longer period of time, and was national Entrepreneur of the year.

Here are 11 Lessons I learned from Bill:

1) Treat People With Respect and Dignity

He became a self made billionaire from this principle and treating his customers with kindness instead of the way most debt collectors treated people who owed money.

He told his people that debtors are “customers” and must be referred to as such. “They’re not deadbeats, not derelicts, not pond scum,” Bill said “I know it sounds Pollyanna-ish, but I believe that 90% are good people who ran into a bad problem.

2) Give the Gift of Being Present

When you had a meeting or a call with Bill he was extremely present and you felt you were the only person that mattered in his life at that moment.

3) Be Humble

One time I reached out to Bill to congratulate him on being names one of the best CEO’s in Oklahoma. He responded, remember Larry, Oklahoma is a small state, so not much competition.

4) Learn From Failure

He once told me he had failed so much it didn’t even hurt anymore. He always learned a lesson from each failure, and never looked back.

5) Be the Market leader

All you need to do is figure out where the herd is running…and go get out in front of them.

6) Blue Ocean Strategy

He revolutionized the financial services industry a few times.

First time he started buying debt that no one else could collect on.

He treated his prospects and customers with KINDNESS, which was the reverse of how others were doing it.

He was really generous with his employees , he paid his people double the going rate, even if they didn’t ask.

He also implemented unheard-of perks and benefits for his employees, free health care, free on-site daycare, a 250% 401k matching program, and legendary company trips where they took ALL of their employees and their spouses on annual trips to the Bahamas, Las Vegas and on ocean cruises. One year they leased twenty-seven 747 jets so they could fly 6,000 employees and spouses to Disney World.

7) Be Generous

One of my friends found himself in a terrible financial situation after a business setback. Bill offered him 3 times what he thought he would get along with bonuses where he could earn more. After my friend had already accepted, he asked Bill why he had offered so much.

He continued, “look, what would happen if I offered you the minimum amount of what you’d actually accept today? Sure, I’d get you and I’d also save some money out of the gate. The problem is that I wouldn’t be paying you what you are WORTH. You know that and I know that. You’d accept my offer because you had to.

But, on Day 1 you’d start with one eye towards finding your next job, and be just a bit resentful towards me for under-compensating you. By paying you what you’re worth, on Day 1 I know you are going to break through walls for me.”

Bill had thousands of people who would break through walls for him, including me.

8) Appreciate the Simple Things in Life

After Bill scored a big payday after giving a speech at a Harv Eker Peak Potential event (where he made more money in 2 hours then most make in a couple of years), I asked where he wanted to go and celebrate. We went to a non fancy restaurant and grabbed a hamburger and invited a few complete strangers to join us.

9) Patron Saint of the Second Chance

He built a fortune by giving people second chances, and told me people’s life circumstances change and if given enough time normally for the better.

10) Have Your Friends Back

Although Bill was always busy scaling his fast growing companies, Bill always made time for calls with me to dole out advice or to listen to a key challenge I was going through. I know I wasn’t the only one he made time for.

11) Always Add VALUE

Although he was in the debt collection business, he also created so much VALUE for his customers, they wanted to pay back their debt. Most recently, he founded Financial Samaritan, which provides services to consumers for debt-negotiation, job search, social services and financial literacy, at no cost to the consumer. He added so much VALUE to their lives, but he collected twice the industry average.

Heck, when is the last time you heard of a debt collector receiving a Christmas card from their clients?

What Would Bill Do #WWBD

With Bill’s passing I am again reminded that LIFE is SHORT, and am more committed to then ever to build out a network of socially conscious entrepreneurs like Bill Bartmann, who just by how they show up in life make the world a better place.


What are you most excited about in life right now?
What is the most important project(s) you are currently working on in case I or my network can help you with?

Rest In Peace dear Bill.