Today’s show features Ramone Ray, founder of Smart Hustle Magazine.
“When I have a decision to make, when I get a call–’Hey Ramone, do you want to join me in this? Do you want to put $20,000 of your money to it and I’ll put $20,000 of my money?’–God is teaching me, ‘Slow down. Slow down.’ And to pray. I often lean on my own strength and say “Oh, ok, a FaceBook ad, $249, I’m sure it’ll be great!” *click* No! Why don’t I pray before I make that click to give God a chance to give input before I use my own carnal understanding?”
Ray: Hello everyone. This is Ray Hilbert, your host here at Bottom Line Faith. And if this is your first time joining our program, welcome to the program where the analogy we use is we like to lift the hood and tinker around in the engine of Christian leadership in the marketplace. And we have had the incredible privilege here at Bottom Line Faith to interview top CEOs from across the country and business owners and leaders, athletes, entertainers, big personalities, but what all of our guests share in common here at Bottom Line Faith is they are followers and lovers of our Lord Jesus Christ. And today we are in for a very, very special treat. coming to us all the way from the Big Apple, New York City, is Ramone Ray. Ramone, welcome to Bottom Line Faith.
Ramone: Hey, Ray, thank you so much. Excited to be here. I’m not sure if I’m an athlete or entertainer because I work out, you know, on a regular basis. But we’ll see. But thank you for having me on your show.
Ray: Well, certainly those things, as well as specifically, we’ll be talking about this whole idea of entrepreneurship. And I know this is really your passion, your area of expertise. And folks, you can find Ramone Ray on LinkedIn. And then Ramone, your website, we’re going to talk a little bit about Smart Hustle Magazine. Would you just real quickly give our listeners the website where they can learn about you and what you’re up to?
Ramone: Absolutely. All things business related, smarthustle.com, and about me in particular, ramoneray.com.
Ray: There you have it, folks. Two sites, to places you can learn about our guest. Well, Ramone, let’s take a moment. You and I met, gosh, several weeks ago at an event where we were both speakers. And I can’t speak for you, but I know the moment that you engaged in a conversation with me, your smile, you light up the room, you’re a bigger than life personality, I just knew this was a real amazing guy with a great story to tell. I was looking forward to developing a friendship with you. Little did I know just a few short weeks later, I’d have this incredible privilege to interview you here. So take a few moments. tell our listeners about you, your background, and what do we need to know about what has shaped Ramone Ray?
Ramone: I appreciate that, Ray. I gotta say that feeling is mutual. It’s great when you shake your hand and smile, and you can tell when you can click with people. So yeah, ditto. And I agree with you. But in a nutshell about me, Ray, you know, as you said, I live in New York City area. I love pancakes, bacon, and eggs, about four or five slices of bacon every Saturday morning or weekend at least. And I have an awesome family, been married over 20 years. And really entrepreneurship is kind of a thriving in my bones, in my blood. I didn’t know it, Ray, for a while. I started four companies, sold a company.
But what some people don’t know until we have conversations like this, I worked for many, many years at the United Nations building; one or two of the companies that I had until I left there after some frustration with corporate America. But really today, Ray, I speak around the world about entrepreneurship and technology, authored a few books, and I love starting companies. I joke with my wife; I love the pain of losing money sometimes and experimenting and seeing things fail. I guess it gives the thrill. So that’s the nutshell of who Ramone Ray is. And I love going to other countries and doing mission work as well. I’ve done puppet shows, and I can speak a little bit of Spanish. Hola Signor Ray. Como esta? So that’s a little bit about me.
Ray: Well, I read that on your LinkedIn profile, doing puppet shows, and on those mission trips and so forth. So that’s a great lead-in. Just give us a framework and a background on your spiritual journey, how you became a follower of Christ. What did that look like?
Ramone: Absolutely. So my journey, I’m over 40, and my journey’s had a lot of ups and downs, I think over the last several years, it’s been more up, thanks to Christ, and his work in my life. I’m a preacher’s kid, a PK. So for those in the audience listening, shout out to all the PKs, so I’m a preacher’s kid. My father did pass away about 20 years ago, but nevertheless, both of my parents have been or are – my mother still alive – in ministry, and had a great living and grew up in a very conservative strict as it were, you know, depends on the words you want to use, home, and accepted Christ several times. I don’t know about your experience, Ray, but some people listening identify with that and all were genuine; all were genuine. You see the movie or the play about hell or whatever it is, and it mainly it’s fear-based, you know. You want to escape hell or etc., etc.
So brought up in the church, have been a follower of Christ in some way or form for years, but over time, I got cold again, maybe different people, different faiths are here. I’m not sure who exactly is listening to us, but backslid is the word that I use and the Bible uses. So I’ll use that word, but backslid away from God for some time and the nutshell, and you can dig into this, Ray, with me as deep as you want. But my son left our home. He rejected Christ a few years ago. And that, Ray, was really the catalyst for me to sit up and take notice and say, “Listen, is this faith that I see my father live and been around all my life, real or not?” And I really sat in the corner, had to think, “Is Jesus for me?” And four years later, now, about three or four years later, I’m a dedicated follower of Christ. I love the Bible. I love prayer, a witness to others. So that’s the summary of my experience of Christ.
Ray: Well I sure appreciate that. And I’ll tell you very candidly, Ramone, what I really appreciate about what you just shared there is your own willingness to be transparent because it really is quite often through our own brokenness and the journey that brings us to an ultimate realization that either Jesus is real, and he’s going to be Lord of our lives, or he’s just going to be a, you know, good luck charm we’re going to put over in the corner. And so really through that brokenness, it sounds like he brought you to a real crisis of faith, which in turn led to that foundation. That’s amazing.
Ray: Very good.
Ramone: Sometimes I wish, Ray, that I say to myself, man, does everybody have to be broken and be like, I think and be dragged through thorn bushes before, you know, besides David Wilkerson. I think he said he was saved when he was four and was preaching ever since I think.
Ray: Yeah, certainly not the norm. Well, folks, we are speaking here at Bottom Line Faith with our guest today, Ramone Ray. Ramone is the founder of Smart Hustle Magazine. You can learn more about Ramone at smarthustle.com as well as ramoneray.com. So Ramone, let’s talk some business. Let’s talk about faith and integration in business. And so as a starting point, what exactly is Smart Hustle? The magazine, the conferences, give us some framework there.
Ramone: Sure, absolutely. So before that, you put the context, I’ve been known as the kind of the technology evangelist, no pun intended, Ray, I’m sure some my father’s in my mother’s pedigree slipped in on that name, but evangelist in the greater sense of one who evangelizes. But the point being one of my companies, a small biz technology had come, so I had run that for years speaking, writing, events, all about technology for small businesses. Fast forwarding a few years, Ray, I really wanted to expand my portfolio as it were, and really talk, write, events, etc., more about the entrepreneurship in general. So hence now is Smart Hustle Magazine, which has been running for few years. So that’s really how that started. And really, my business to date is a few things. One, helping large brands reach small businesses. So my clients are many of the Fortune 500 brands that we all know and use their products and sometimes say words we shouldn’t say to on the computer screen. So all those brands I work with and help them reach small businesses. I also am a global speaker.
So again, many of these brands and others fly me to conferences to speak about entrepreneurship, and sometimes other things. And part of that repertoire is content, Ray, you know, many of these brands, content, content, content, content, so maybe a computer vendor will say “Ramone, can we send you our computer, you do a video about it, you tweet about it, you post about it, etc.” And that’s really what I do, and it really started, I don’t know, Ray, I think as a kid, I’ve always loved technology and to speed the journey quickly, really just using technology, buying my first computer. It was a 286 computer. I don’t know when that was, Ray. But yeah, when one megabyte of Ram was a lot, so whatever time period that is, prodigy of AOL. So really from there, just using computers, blogging about it, somebody saying “We’ll pay you,” somebody finding you, write about it, and it goes from there. That’s kind of my journey if I said that in some cohesive fashion, I hope.
Ray: Absolutely. In fact, in preparation for our interview today, I spent a little time on YouTube, and you’re kind of famous. I mean, you’ve been on some major TV shows, news shows and so forth. Give us just a snapshot of maybe two or three of the opportunities you’ve had to share your expertise on television.
Ramone: Sure, absolutely. I mean one of the biggest opportunities I’ve had on television is interviewing the president. That’d be President Obama, and again, those listening, this is not a political statement, right? He was the president. So I say that, Ray, and it’s ironic. I was at a conference, and his face came up, you know, as part of my bio. Half the room was cheering. I’m like, “Okay guys. Let’s all calm down. I’m proud of it, end of story.” So the point is meeting the president was really nice. And me and five other citizens out of 300,000 Americans who applied, and they picked me.
So then I’ve been on Fox News, which was great. Been on there a few times with Maria Bartiromo, the financial queen, MSNBC, and then of course print as well, Ray. So Wall Street Journal, New York Times, which leads me going back to kind of a hint in business. One of the topics I talk about a lot is PR, publicity, and marketing, because as small business owners, for those who are listening who are of the smaller business owner type, you don’t have to hire a PR firm day one. You can do it yourself. So I kind of have done this on my own. I’ve worked with PR people as well. But much of my career, Ray, is just kind of getting to know the journalists, schmoozing as it were in a good way, the producer and then say, okay, Ramone, come on down to the studio, let’s hear what you have to say for one minute and 45 seconds.
Ray: And what I love is there’s not huge barriers to doing some of those things that you’re describing. I was talking with someone recently, and we were walking through an exercise, and I asked them to put together their dream team of advisors, and if you could put any five people in the world on your team to give you advice, what would that look like? And they wrote them down. And I said, so what’s preventing you from getting to them. And we don’t have time on this program, but there are several very, very famous people that I was amazed how easy it was to get through to them by simply picking up the phone and saying, look, I’d love two minutes of your time because I think you can speak to a certain element and very gracious at times, you know, and not always the case, of course, but that’s what you’re describing here is the ability to just put some intentionality to it, and a skill set and get it done. So I am really, really just dying to ask you some of these questions that I’ve been holding on to here. So you’ve been very blessed, very fortunate, amazing skill set, great success, failures, the things we’ve been talking about, let’s park the boat there just for a second, let’s talk about failure. Because any entrepreneur, any business leader who is listening to this program, obviously either has, is, or about to experience failure. And so what do you have to say to entrepreneurs and leaders about failure?
Ramone: I think two things, Ray. One, I’ll talk personally if we want to go there, and I’ll talk business. Recently, I’ve been married for over 20 years, Ray, and I think my biggest failure, one in my life has been not cherishing my wife as much as I should. Now, you know, she’s a great woman. She loves me; I love her. But by God’s grace rock solid marriage. But I was reading a book called Cherish recently, and I just realized, Ray, I haven’t done that. So I don’t know if that falls in the context, the biggest failure, it’s a journey I’m learning, but as a business owner, Ray, I can sit for however many hours are in a day I can sit there for that time period all day long. And that was I think, failure one.
And then point two, I think in business really, really, and I continue to struggle with this. Thank God that I have other talents and skills that overcome this, but I operate, Ray, very knee-jerk. So Ray, yeah, I started four companies and sold one, but man, I haven’t told you about all the wasted time and wasted money – God’s money – that I’ve put into failed projects, walking up and down Eutycha Avenue which is in Brooklyn. Those who are from Brooklyn, shout out to Brooklyn, you know, Eutycha Avenue, and trying to make your business directory or flying to California and wasting I think it was about 50 Grand. For me, Ray, that’s a lot of money wasting 50 Grand thinking I can do an event in the West Coast because I hadn’t planned properly. So those are two things. If that’s helpful for those listening, those are specific things that happened because of me rushing and probably not praying and then just really over the years need to cherish my wife more. Those are two specific things I can think of.
Ray: Great examples. And so going back, particularly on the business side, maybe making decisions or implementation a little too quickly, or what have you. What has God taught you about that process? Elaborate a little bit on that.
Ramone: Great question. I think what I’m learning from this, Ray, I’m sure there’s a scripture to back this up, you can think of it while I’m talking, about patient but being slow to speak. And I didn’t say slow to think, but for me, it’s slow to think, slow to speak, meaning, Ray, when I have a decision to make, when I get a call, you know, we’re business owners right? So we live in the world where we’re supposed to conduct this development, business, Hey Ramone, you want to join me in this? Can you help with this slide here? You want to put $20,000 of your money to it; I’ll put $20,000 of my money, all these things we go through which are great, God’s teaching me, slow down, and which is my secret weapon I can share with you as a brother in Christ but to pray. I often lean on my own strength and say, oh, okay, Facebook ad, $249, I’m sure it’ll be great, click. So why don’t I pray? Just even bow my head before I make that click, so it may sound corny to some people, I know that won’t sound corny to you. But that’s really what I’m willing to slow down, Ray, and to really pray or least to give God a chance to give input before I do my own carnal understanding.
Ray: I think that’s really, really great advice. I was in a conversation last week with a group of business owners, and we were talking about this, they were Christ followers. And we were talking about the concept of force versus flow. We can force things, right? We can make quick decisions; we can make another phone call; we can cause something to happen. And usually, and that’s the way the world teaches us, go to most business schools, and that’s the worldly way. But this issue of flow, this concept of flow, about being patient, waiting on the Lord to deliver, waiting on the Lord to bring clarity and exactness. I’m finding the older I get, the more I want to live in flow versus force, and I think that’s part of it. And then entrepreneurially, you’ve got a DNA of entrepreneurialism stamped on you. And that’s a gift from God. And yet all of our gifts taken to an extreme can become a weakness, right, or become our stump point. So thank you for your transparency on that. And I am sure that right now, Ramone, there’s probably a business owner or leader right now that they kind of need to think about the same thing. They need to slow down a little bit, they made too many decisions too quickly, the old measure twice and cut once, right, that’s probably better advice than you might realize.
Ramone: In the inverse, you know, we don’t, those who are struggling with not making a decision, which is a whole other topic, that’s important to pray both ways.
Ray: That’s exactly right. And so, Ramone, you talked earlier in the part of this interview about really, in the last, you know, four years or so you’ve really had this solidifying of your Christian faith really becoming more deeply rooted. Although you were brought up in it, you really, really made some decisions to make this thing serious and real. So what kind of biblical principles and guidelines, you just mentioned one about slowing down, you know, quick to listen and slow to speak, which is out of the book of James of many places. But what other biblical principles would you offer up for our audience that you try to live your life or lead your company by?
Ramone: I think the second one would be for me, is let my light shine. Now, this might be, Ray, you know, very broad, and feel free to interject, you know, help me distill this. So, two things one, as a quasi-entertainer, you see what I do as a public speaker, I like to have fun, I’m a joker, I’m the guy who will, you know, set something on fire and say, just kidding, that’s just me. I like having fun. But what I’ve learned to do is Ramone, remember you’re a Christian, you’re a man of God, you’re a Christ follower.
So be careful when you’re in public, at any time, anywhere, but you know, when you’re in public at an event, are you moving in a way you shouldn’t? Did a word slip out that you shouldn’t say? So that’s the second thing I’m learning is that I’m a Christian. I can have fun. I can be, you know, loud, I can be whatever, as you’ve kind of hinted how my DNA is, we’re all different. But man, I’m learning let my light shine. And I say that Ray, because I’m realizing that as my light’s shining more, not everybody, but some people are going to come to me and say, “Ramone, can I talk to you? I’m going through a divorce. Ramone, can I talk to you? This is happening in my life.” Because they’re able to see a difference. So the second principle is really let my light shine and being very cognizant of it, especially for those of us that can easily slip into doing things that might not be so Christlike.
Ray: That’s good stuff because we don’t know who’s watching, right? We really, really don’t know. And it’s amazing. You just never know who’s just around the corner. Recently I was at an airport and had a layover, and I’m on the other side of the country and getting ready to walk into this place where they got food, magazines, snacks, that sort of thing. And somebody walked up to me and tapped me on the shoulder, and they were from my home church back here in Central Indiana. And it’s like, Ah, I’m really glad that I wasn’t doing anything embarrassing at the moment.
Ramone: Yes, Amen.
Ray: You just never know, right? Well, folks, we are talking with Ramone Ray. Ramone is the founder of Smart Hustle Magazine. You can learn more about Ramone, as we’ve mentioned already at smarthustle.com and ramoneray.com. Ramone, let me just ask you this. And we’ve been talking about failures and so forth. Let’s transition. Let’s talk a little bit about something more positive. What’s the best advice that anyone has given you that really, to this day, continues to influence you, your leadership style, your decision making? What’s the best piece of advice you ever were given?
Ramone: I think it’s a two-part piece of advice, Ray. I think one is that sometimes I always look to others and try to be this person and that person. Seth Godin, for example, is a big mentor of mine from a distance. We’re not like golfing buddies, but I really like him. So what the advice has been, Ramone, we like you as you are. Yes, emulate others. Paul says “Follow me as I follow Christ,” but emulate others, but Ramone, just be yourself. So that really has been the best piece of advice because I can be so tempted, oh man, Ray’s doing this, let me do this. Let me go, Oh, wow, why can’t I be like this? But I realized I gotta be me and let Christ work with me. So that’s really the biggest advice that I’ve seen. I’ll add to that, Ray, be me but also, and one the things they said, “Ramone, even though you have these issues, you can’t spell well, math isn’t good with you, you don’t know accounting well, but you connect well with people.” So they were encouraging me, that’s a blessed trait. keep that going. So best advice.
Ray: You know, even as you’re sharing that, I’ve got to believe that even right now somebody’s listening to this program, and just your enthusiasm, just your, I could see you smiling or even though we’re talking over, you know, the phones here I can see your smile, and that that’s a real blessing to others. And so what advice would you then pass along to other Christians who are in business and in leadership? What advice would you pass along to them on how they can to shine their light and be the witness for Christ in the marketplace?
Ramone: I think be very cognizant of being empathetic. Everybody has a need; everybody’s hurting. And I think the person who can be aware of that is going to be a blessing. I can give business advice but in the context of Christians and leaders. I think what’s missing a lot, Ray, is being empathetic, being aware, you know, me going in a room and seeing that person sitting alone. I don’t have to talk to, you know, John and Bob and Sally and Sue. They’re all extroverts doing fine. Let me talk to Melissa, who’s in the corner by herself just sitting. So that’s kind of the what advice is in my playbook? Being empathetic, being watchful, being observant of who I can help because those who quote-unquote don’t need help as overtly, there’s other people who need more help than they do.
Ray: Well, I love that, because that’s really a foundation to success in business anyway, really is, you know, finding a need in the marketplace and finding a way to fill that need with a product or service or an offering. And that’s, in essence, the core of what you’re describing is meeting the needs of folks that are hurting and broken and maybe need some encouragement. Who knows what comes out of that? Would you agree with that?
Ramone: Absolutely, absolutely.
Ray: Wow, this is fun. My producer’s telling me we’ve got just a few minutes left. We always call this the quickest 30 minutes in radio. Can you believe we’re already there?
Ramone: Wow. I’ll talk shorter; I won’t go on.
Ray: No, you’re doing fine. In fact, we just need to have you back for another episode at some point of Bottom Line Faith. So we’ve talked a little bit about your background, we’ve talked a little bit about failures and advice and lessons learned and so forth. Let’s just take a quick moment. And then I’ll come back to one more question. But let’s just take a quick moment, you’re out speaking to companies and leaders about technology and ways to connect with small business, give us just a sampling of maybe one of the hot topics right now, one of the things or issues around this issue of technology connecting and business so forth? Just give us a little bit insight on what you talk about.
Ramone: Sure, I think two things, Ray. Everybody wants to know how to use marketing better in their business, everybody. And it’s amazing to me, Ray, the millions and millions of small business owners that I interact with on a regular basis who just don’t know. You and I, we know podcasting, Facebook marketing, IoT, V-targeting, but I’m just amazed at the gulf of those who don’t know. And so that’s what I feel, Ray, so that’s kind of the big thing that I’m seeing is that those small businesses are listening. Some of you know about Twitter ads and all these things. But those of you who don’t, my advice to you is go on YouTube, just do a search result ,and learn as you can; hire somebody young to help you.
Ray: Somebody young. Yeah, that’s right. I was sitting down with my 13-year-old the other day, and she was showing me some ways that she’s leveraging YouTube and some things. She actually started her own company, making some products and she had commercials online here. I think, you go girl. I was amazing. 13 years old. So I’m just an old man. Well, Ramone, gosh, we’ve got just a few short minutes left. In advance of our interview I shared with you there’s one really, really important question. And that’s what we call our Proverbs 4:23 question. And this is about that one big piece of advice. So I want you to just kind of lay it out like you’re at the end of this side of eternity, and you have a chance to gather your family, your friends and your loved ones. And this is your chance to pass along the most important piece of Godly wisdom and counsel that you would want to pass along. The floor is yours, Ramone. What advice are you going to pass along?
Ramone: Yeah, here’s what I say. I think what I’ve learned in the last four years, especially in my life, is pray continually to have a closer, closer walk and experience with Jesus Christ. That’s my prayer, my devotions even for my son, like, what happened to Paul on the road to Damascus is that as those of us who are Christians, the more and more we draw closer to Jesus Christ, the more stronger, if that’s a proper way to say it, his experiences folds inside of us, Ray, the more we’ll be closer to reaching heaven. So that’s my biggest advice. Get closer and closer to Jesus Christ.
Ray: Spoken from a life experience, journey with experience and brokenness, particularly in the last few years. Well, folks, wow, Russell, can you, I know that you’re not on a microphone, but can you believe how fast this time goes? He’s shaking his head no. And Ramone, I just can’t tell you how grateful I am for the last few moments on the program here together. You’ve given some great words of encouragement, some great advice, shared some brokenness and transparency. Just one more time, how can folks connect with you? How can they learn more about what you’re up to and how you might be able to help them? I just want to pass this along as an opportunity for folks to connect with you. How can we learn more?
Ramone: Sure Ray. I appreciate that. Thank you for the opportunity. It’s been such a blessing; I really appreciate it. But those want to know more about me, ramoneray.com. And if you want to check out a lot of things about entrepreneurship, smarthustle.com, so thank you so much.
Ray: You got it. Well, folks, there you have it. From New York City, the Big Apple, we’ve been speaking with Ramone Ray and check him out online. As we’ve just been talking about there. Listen, if you are a first-time listener here at Bottom Line Faith, thank you for tuning in to the program today. You can subscribe to us on the iTunes Store and Stitcher and of course, Google Play, and find us online as well. And the hosting ministry here at Bottom Line Faith is Truth At Work. Check us out. If you’re a Christ follower in business. Check us out at truthatwork.org, and you can learn more about our roundtable programs of how we connect Christian CEOs and business owners around the country and our roundtable program. This has been an incredible opportunity to speak with Ramone Ray, and until our next episode of Bottom Line Faith, I am your host, Ray Hilbert. I’ll talk to you soon.