Matthew Lesko is the crazy guy in the question mark suit jumping around on late night TV. He’s published around 100 books, promising millions of people free money from the government. But now, he’s keeping up with the times, and moving everything online into more of a directory format. This sounds like a good idea, but can he deliver?
Many people have claimed that Lesko is nothing but a fraud. And he may be, I don’t know, I haven’t tried his products. I do know that he speaks like a sailor, every other word is a four-letter one (but this interview has been sanitized) and I am guessing that it is most likely not easy to get free money (he admits as much) so, take this for what it is: entertainment.
If nothing else, Lesko is a good example of how to brand yourself and your business. We are not trying to push his products, just offer another example of an entrepreneur.
YOUNG MONEY: Why the change in format? You’ve done books for so long, why are you moving everything to the Internet?
MATTHEW LESKO: Being online makes more sense and its training getting people to use the system – it’s a lot easier to train people with video. I started this by helping fat cat fortune 500 companies. And I had to do a lot of hand-holding, so when I went to the consumer market, books was a natural way to do it. I could provide the same type of service for $20, and now with video it’s even easier to keep people up to date.
We know how to spend money in this country, but we don’t know how to get the free stuff. Try the free stuff first; if someone messes you over just call the state attorney. They investigate for free. If someone gets a letter from the state Attorney General they pay more attention. For example, if you are in a car accident you should call the state insurance agency– suddenly it becomes cheaper just to pay you off.
YM: Honestly, how easy is it to get the money you talk about?
ML: Most of the time it’s not. It takes effort and that’s the key. Like getting a date and getting a job. Ask one person for a date and they say “no” and they go away. It’s a numbers game, like getting a job, the system is complicated, like finding a date can be, it’s learning the system.
YM: Why is the election such a good time for getting free money?
ML: The election is important. $700 billion of new money that we’re giving to help rich people in our country. $1.6 trillion is set aside in other programs, and that is set aside to help average people – it’s actually given out, they have to make quota.
Elections are a chance for people to get educated about the importance of what’s going on and the importance of government. We have a mentality of ‘I don’t care as long as you stay away from me.’ The government represents 35% of the country. Thee only welfare program we have is the lottery, that’s government money, every other program is for you to start a business, better your education, get a job. For example, in Maryland you can get up to $8000 to train for a job.
Every program is different. Some are for minorities or poor people, but there are tens and tens of thousands out there so it’s important to educate everyone about them all.
YM: How did you start this business?
ML: No job is secure now, and you need to invest in yourself, whether by becoming educated or being an entrepreneur. Eighty% of millionaires are people who started a business. There are two ways to be successful – one as an entrepreneur, two getting as much education as possible. When you choose a business everything is a pain, there is always bad stuff involved, but if you find a job that you really believe in, all that little stuff goes away and doesn’t bother you. Life is a struggle but to get through all of that you have to love what you do. It takes 20 to 30 years to figure out how to do anything in life.
The biggest problem is our loved ones: They want to protect us but it takes a lot of failure to get through life. You’ll find 15 reasons why you shouldn’t do something. When you learned to walk your parents watched you fall. If your parents stopped you, then you would never have learned to walk.
Nobody knows the future, so go on and fail. I’ve written about 100 some books but only about 10 have done anything. This is what my mentoring program is about: how to do things real cheap because you’re going to be wrong 90% of the time
YM: How did you start your business?
ML: It was a phone, and a desk, and me. I did it that way after I failed at everything else. I got the power furniture, power drapes, and everything, and I went out of business. Plus, I didn’t have fun the first couple of times. The third time I was so afraid of failure I thought I’d walk around with a big “F” on my forehead, and then I realized that no one cares if you fail, everyone is so involved with their own life. The third business I told myself that I was at least going to have fun. I didn’t get the accountants or lawyers or anything. I only worried about the most important thing: the costumers.
If you’re a small entrepreneur you have to be careful what you do with your time so you should forget everything besides costumers.
YM: How big is your company now?
ML: Twelve people. And now that we are publishing online, we don’t need a big warehouse.
YM: Do you recommend infomercials as a way to market? Why?
ML: I don’t recommend anything that costs a lot of money. You need to take baby steps to learn, there are a thousand things you can do, and everything sounds good, but you have to figure out what works for you. For example, you can get on a talk show as a guest. I was a professional guest for many years, it’s free. The easiest thing to do is spend money. But before you waste money on an infomercial, get on a talk show for free and see if you can do it.
YM: Why do you think your infomercials work so well?
ML: I have done about fifty and only three have worked – the bottom line is that it has to be needed – in my mind it’s my enthusiasm, I have to believe in it and it has to be a good idea that people need. If you’re providing a good service or product you have to feel it.
One thing about life is going out and failing, you have to go out and fail instead of getting another pointless job. Nothing is safe. The worst that can happen is that you have to go get another job, but if you find what most fulfills you then you have more in your personal life. If you’re miserable you’re hard to love. Your heart is smarter than your mind. Use your mind but trust your heart.
YM: How many different question mark suits do you have?
I’ve been doing this for 10 years. I’m a clothes horse. My closet is twice as big as my wives. I always wanted something very distinctive. Harvard called me up to talk about branding—about the suits. It has nothing to do with my business. My cars have question marks on them. Now I’m addicted to them.
It makes people smile. I get free upgrades on the airlines and free coffee. I could go in the toughest biker bar and it just disarms people, it took me until my 50s to do it. But now I am living inside out. Taking what’s on the inside and putting it on the outside, it’s a filter for me—it attracts people I know I’ll like.
Interested in ways to make fast cash? We’ve put together a whole page of scholarships, grants, sweepstakes, and other fast cash options.