“Nothing is Secret Anymore!” – The Confessions of a Millionaire Information Broker
By Matthew Lesko
Information is the currency of today’s world. Those who control information are the most powerful people on the planet – and the ones with the most bulging bank accounts.
The timely delivery of vital information is one of the most lucrative businesses you can have in this new millennium. I should know. I started one of the most successful information brokerage businesses in the country. I’m also perhaps the world’s most well known information broker, and I’ve made millions of dollars from doing it, and I’m going to show you how to easily do the same.
Let me backtrack a little bit.
All my life I wanted to start my own business. I didn’t care what it was – I just wanted to learn how to feed myself and not work for someone else. I even considered selling hot dogs on the mall near the Washington Monument. I just wanted to be my own boss. Sound familiar?
I had a string of failed businesses before I hit the big time. It was while working as a computer administrator of a travel company that I learned something that changed my whole life.
The hot shots that ran the company fascinated me. They were powerful individuals who discussed, negotiated and executed big deals all the time. In order to get in on some of that wheeling and dealing, I’d hang around late at night when they had their meetings, and volunteer to get coffee and doughnuts, do the Xeroxing -- do anything to try to learn how to be like them.
One day, they came into my office and asked me – not to get coffee – but to get information on how good or bad the rental car business was. It seems they were considering making a bid to acquire Avis Rent-A-Car, and needed some good market information to go along with the financial statements they were poring over. I, of course, said “Yes, yes, yes!” I was their “yes man,” even though I knew nothing about the rental car business and had no idea where I was going to get this information.
Well, I wanted to do this so badly I could almost taste it. This was one giant step up from coffee and Xeroxing that lucky people are offered once in a lifetime, and I didn’t want to blow it. I saw myself as a young turk on the way up the ladder of success. But I didn’t have a clue where to go for the information.
I sat in my little office wondering if I could make the grade. I sat there staring at my desk hoping something would pop into my head and give me the magic answer. I stared at the telephone and then picked it up thinking:
“Here I am in Washington D.C. needing to know about the rental car business. Who can I call? Why not the government? I pass all those big buildings everyday on the way to work. Maybe someone there can help me.”
Well, it worked! By starting with the government information operator, I was able to work my way through a dozen more calls and referrals until I finally found an expert in the rental car business. It turned out to be a man who used to be the president of Hertz and was now in Washington – and bored out of his mind with his government job. He actually invited me to lunch so he could tell me everything he knew.
I was shocked!
I couldn’t believe that in 45 minutes on the telephone, I could locate a real expert who was willing to tell me everything I needed to know about the rental car business. And, he even wanted to take me to lunch!
Afterwards, I was so excited about the information I had just received that I burst into a meeting my boss was having with his hotshot merger and acquisition buddies. He was eager to hear everything I learned from my lunch right then and there.
They were blown away.
They couldn’t believe that a young turk like me, who didn’t know anyone, could get such information that we had all assumed was privileged and confidential.
I got more excited about the information I dug up on the rental car business than with any program I ever wrote for the company. I knew then that information was power. I also knew then that there was immense value in delivering timely information on demand.
I was hooked. I started a new business obtaining information for people on anything they needed. I became a consultant to people in the merger and acquisition business, and I got all the information they needed to make their business a success – information they were unable to find themselves.
This time, success finally happened. The business grew from just me, a telephone, and a desk in my one-bedroom apartment to over 30 employees and a million and a half dollars in sales in a little more than 3 years. Even after a string of failing businesses, I finally realized my first success, and I’ll show how you can do it, too.
How to Create Money Out of Thin Air
What I learned early on is that you can literally take information that is free to obtain, but oftentimes hard for the average person to find – turn around and sell it for big bucks. All it requires is a little resourcefulness, and the knowledge of where to find the information that is sellable.
There’s nothing to it. These are the only things you need:
1) Believe the notion that we live in an information society, and if you’re willing to make a few necessary calls (or e-mails), you can gather information on almost anything – and make that information sellable.
2) You need to know where to look for the information. Although there are countless sources of information, if you do nothing else but tap into the world’s largest source of free information, you can find virtually everything that you need. That source is the U.S. Government. [I’ve spent 25 years of my life as an information broker, and I have yet to find a source of information more comprehensive than the U.S. Government.]
Do you want to get an idea of just how vast the government’s information reserve is?
If you took all the major commercial publishers in the United States, they collectively produce 50,000 new titles in all the libraries and bookstores around the country in a single year. In contrast, one single publisher in the government (the National Technical Information Service) publishes over 100,000 titles a year. Multiply that by the number of government agencies that produce information, and the amount of information becomes absolutely staggering!
The range of subjects on which you can find information is also mind-boggling: The government not only counts people, the number of jelly beans manufactured in the country, toilets installed, and how many potatoes grown; but also gives investment trends and opportunities likely to show up in the Wall Street Journal in weeks; it also answers any legal question better than the highest paid lawyer. There are 700,000 government experts in any field you can imagine, who will give you free information simply because you asked.
How to Use the Information You Gather:
1) Find customers who need, and are willing to pay for, specialized information. Position yourself as someone who knows how to find information on practically everything, but do narrow down the types of information you can get for your customers’ specific needs. That way, you zero in with the precision of a sharpshooter, instead of just firing a shotgun that goes in all directions.
As an information broker, always remember what Willy Sutton said when asked why he robbed banks. He said, “Because that’s where the money is.” You need to live by the same slogan if you want to stay in business. Choose the path of least resistance. Choose a customer base that consists of rich people or big companies that have money to spend on finding out how they can get richer -- and are willing and able to spend it.
2) Gather specialized information that would be of great interest to a specific business sector (example: Internet marketers). Position yourself as an expert on a particular subject, then write in-depth special reports that feature the specialized information you found, package them in an e-book, and make them available to Internet marketers for a fee. As an alternative, you may also create a newsletter that regularly updates the specialized information – and make money on the paid subscriptions.
More and more businesses are realizing the value of having good information for good decision-making. Whether big or small, a business can’t succeed today unless it keeps up on the latest information.
What kind of information do businesses need? They need information on their markets, their competition, technology, money sources and regulations, for starters. Develop a sensitivity to the needs of your prospects by asking them directly what they need. From that, you can determine the kind of information that would best satisfy their needs.
Here’s a useful tip: You’d do well to develop a ‘hook.” A “hook” is a marketing term that makes it easier for people to purchase your services. It’s taking the situation I mentioned earlier about “knowing how to find information about practically anything” and refining it down to a specialty. If you specialize in some interesting aspect of the information brokerage industry, it’s easier to attract your prospects’ attention.
Define your niche by identifying the customer group that you specialize in helping: small businesses, or non-profit organizations. Or, you can define it by the area of information you want to deal with, such as health information, company information, or international information. Another way you can describe your business is by the medium of the information you want to provide, such as: only database searches, only document retrieval, or only interviewing industry experts.
I was fortunate enough to have started in Washington D.C., where I developed the hook of government information. It gave me an instant edge over my competitors, even though I had no more experience gathering information then they did. To make a long story short, the government information I’ve amassed over the years have earned me the title of the nation’s top expert on government information, and I've been privileged to be featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and several national TV programs.
The key to becoming a successful information broker is to be the first to find the information, and deliver it on a timely basis to those who want it. Then sit back and watch the money appear out of thin air!
About The Author:
Matthew Lesko is a New York times syndicated columnist, and author of 2 New York Times best-sellers. He is regularly featured as the nation’s top expert on government information on TV programs such as Larry King, Oprah, David Letterman, Jay Leno, the Today Show and Good Morning America. His latest book, “Free Money for Entrepreneurs on the Internet” identifies hundreds of little-known sources of free government money for “net-repreneurs” and reveals the secret formula for easily obtaining the money for your business.
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