In the latest episode, we spoke to The Home Depot CEO about his secrets to success.
Men’s Journal’s Everyday Warrior With Mike Sarraille is a podcast that inspires individuals to live more fulfilling lives by having conversations with disrupters and high performers from all walks of life. In episode 50, we welcome businessman, philanthropist, and co-founder of The Home Depot, Bernie Marcus.
Marcus revolutionized the home improvement industry, building an empire that’s grown to include more than 2,200 stores worldwide. He shares his insights on success, business, and making a difference.
Listen to the full episode above (scroll down for the transcript) and see more from this series below.
This interview has not been edited for length or clarity.
Michael Sarraille 00:11
And guys, it’s been a while. Welcome back to the Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior Podcast. I’m your host, Michael Sarraille. I’m back from the Triple Seven Expedition, which we completed about a week ago. So I’ve been catching up on sleep. And I’m proud to say that my first podcast out of the gate is with Bernie Marcus. Now, if you don’t know who Bernie Marcus is, you’ve been living under a rock. Bernie Marcus is a warrior, within his respective profession. He came and we’re going to talk about his life—came from very little, and built one of the most recognizable brands, one of the most successful companies in America. He’s seen a lot. And so Bernie, I can’t thank you enough for joining us. I think you have a lot of advice for us men in our 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. So thank you for joining us. How you doing today?
Bernie Marcus 00:59
I’m doing great. And I want to thank you for putting that on the podcast. And if this isn’t the structural one, I think it’ll be very helpful for the audience that you have.
Michael Sarraille 01:12
Yeah, I think you’ve got a lot to give us. And additionally, for those that don’t know, Bernie has been dedicated to helping veterans post war with PTSD, brain trauma, and he’s dedicated a lot of his money, which we’re gonna get into that you are a very giving person but Bernie, it’s probably safe to say and not not to take light of it, but you did not grow up with, with much. And at one point, you sought out the protection of joining a gang I believe, at the age of 11. Give us your your your your early beginnings. Because it is a far cry from where you’re, you’re ending up today.
Bernie Marcus 01:49
Well, my parents are Russian, they were immigrants. They came from Russia, and they spoke no English. How they got here is one of the great stories of courage. They did it honestly. They waited until they could apply and they came in legally. And we live in a fourth storey tenement in Newark, New Jersey, in a black and white community. It was a very tough area, and were terribly poor. My father was a car a carpenter, very good carpenter, but not a good businessman. He barely made a living. And then he had, besides myself, three other children. And they were forced to go to work to support the family. But we were we were happy. We didn’t know. We thought everybody was like that. And the people around us were all like that. They’re all put in in that tournament. They were all poor. Nobody had any, any money. And we also managed to survive. And, you know, my case, it was a case of, I just didn’t want to ever be in a situation where my parents were, were in many nights, you know, we ate spaghetti, or we ate beans. And there was, you know, no food on the table. But I didn’t know it was a kid. And but I never wanted to see that again. And I was determined that wouldn’t happen to me that I’d always make enough money to support my family and myself and have enough so that I could take care of my parents as well. So that was my desire. Lived in a rough neighborhood. It was tough. I got the crap beat out of me every day, went to a school with a black gang, which very prominent, ended up in a fight every single day in my life, until the leader of that gang finally said, I have no time with you anymore. You gotta join the gang. Because you just you’re wearing me out. And it was true. Every day, I would fight him. He kicked the hell out of me. And I come back the next day to the same thing. So I joined a black gang for a while. And a lot of things came out of it. It was very interesting. We actually, from that point, we beat up the white kids. What can I tell you? But there were no guns and there were no knives. You know, it was just fist and tough kids. And but boy, you learn life and you learn how to survive. And I learned how to survive in those years. You either made it or you didn’t make it. And it taught me a lot of lessons in my life, my business career and everything else that I did. I originally wanted to be a doctor. And I was very interested in medicine. As a kid, I knew more about the body than most people, I studied the anatomy. And I made up my mind, I was going to be a doctor. And of course, being judged Jewish, you either want to be your parents say, either be a lawyer, or you’re going to be a doctor. And so I chose being a doctor. And I actually went for two years of pre med at Rutgers. And, unfortunately, I apply for medical school, and only all the background for it and had the marks were pretty good. And when they asked me for a $10,000 contribution at Harvard, you know, I just looked at him like they were crazy. My entire family, my aunts, uncles, cousins, if we put us all together and shift us upside down, we couldn’t raise $10,000. So my dream of ever being a doctor was gone. And the reason I couldn’t get into medical school was that they had a 10% quota on Jews. Now, every single medical school, at that time, had a 10% quota on Jews. So if you didn’t have money, you’re not going to get into a medical school. You just had to buy your way in. And, you know, unfortunately, we see a lot of this surfacing today as well. It’s they say, history repeats itself. And I think history does repeat itself. So I quit school. I went out on a road, I hitchhiked down to Florida. And I lived in Florida for almost a year, and just did nothing with my life. Until my mother convinced me that had that education. And she gave me an ultimatum and come back, or else in my mother when she said or else it meant something. So I came back and I applied to dental school, and pharmacy school. And, you know, whatever school was out there that was close to medicine. And I got accepted to dental school and pharmacy school. And I chose pharmacy because I could live at home and not have the overhead expense. And that’s how I became a pharmacist. So I might I was into drugs a long time
Michael Sarraille 08:01
in the professional sets, so I’ve got to step back. You know, to say a turd in the Punchbowl. So here’s a white, scrawny Jewish kid amongst eight black gang. Did did you grow to like fighting? Did you like boxing?
Bernie Marcus 08:20
Yeah, I fought the ring once in junior thing. I was a swimmer in high school. But I didn’t like but I was tough. I would say that boxing was not a something I was interested in. Really. I did try it. And I got knocked on my ass. And I didn’t like it. And I was a Street Fighter. You’re here you’re fighting. You know, you have rules and regulations. You know, I didn’t I didn’t know about those things. I knew about you know, tackling guy beating the crap out of him. And that was it. But so I chose not to do that. I did swimming while I was in high school. And I was pretty good. Not that great. But pretty good. But we were too poor. And I you know, my parents never K by the way. At the high school. We were too poor. The whole high school was for all the schools that NorCal poor. We didn’t have swimming trunks. We swam naked. So all of our, our meats were done with everybody naked the room. There was nobody with a swimming suit on because we’re all poor kids. All the kids that grew up in Newark are poor, and all the schools were poor, and they didn’t have enough money for trunks. So we did went to state and we went we went through were, we were in a state contest, and we got to the semi finals, and they were knocked out. But it was that was never never a thought of where I was gonna go. I always knew I was going to be a businessman, I love to walk through good neighborhoods, and I will see these houses with porches. And a porch to me, meant that you really stable, and I would try to figure how did they get here? How did they get here, somebody made it. And somebody, you know, had their roots somewhere like my parents, and they manage to get out of the gutter. And, and, and lift themselves up. And my desire was to have a house with a porch. That was it. I was started with small things. And to make $25,000 a year, that was like the biggest dream I had. So I went from there and worked my way up.
Michael Sarraille 11:07
perspective is, is an amazing thing. You know, Bernie, I grew up nowhere close to poverty. But you know, in a warzone, I gotta be honest, it was simple living. But it was, it was some of the most enjoyable any living I’ve ever had, I had my twin bed, I had my small little space. So I understand I understand the need to achieve more, especially to put food on the table for your family. You said you learned some things from being in a gang and living in poverty as a as a as a young man. I’m interested. And I know you’re a critic of the narrative out there right now that people are entitled to things, especially if they’re they don’t start on, let’s say, an even starting block as other people. What did you learn in poverty in from the gangs that segwayed to let’s say, your your success later on?
Bernie Marcus 12:05
Well, number one, there was no entitlement. None of us were able to really support it. If you didn’t, if you didn’t earn it, you didn’t eat it. If you didn’t make it, you just didn’t make it. And there was no safety net. You know, these kids today, they are in Keitel, they think that everything is fine, nothing. They have food stamps, nobody goes hungry. You know, hits like myself. In those days, if you didn’t have it gives nowhere way to get it. But today, you have so many places out there. And plus the fact that you got people today, that is cheaper for them, it’s better for them to not work than work. And we didn’t know that. We I worked my ass off at a time I was 11 years old. And I bought my own clothes. I bought my own shoes, my two older brothers. And until I was 11. I wore their shoes there. And then shoes never fit. And by the way, to this day, I have a problem with my feet because of those days. But, you know, if I didn’t buy shoes myself, or close to myself, I wasn’t going to have anything. So I learned early on, you better take care of yourself. Don’t ask your parents for anything because they couldn’t give it to you. And you had to earn it yourself. So I swept floors, I cleaned toilets. I did deliveries I did stocking in grocery stores and and other kinds of stores. And I just I just constantly worked. I didn’t know what it was like to be that free time. You know, between school and between, you know, playing around at night. I had to fill with something I was a soda jerker. There was there was nothing I didn’t do. I did pins at bowling alleys. I Kiki, I can’t think today of a job that I didn’t do.
Michael Sarraille 14:26
Bernie Marcus 14:29
I hustled and I was successful at it. And I was good at whatever I did people want to be because I was a hard worker. I never shirt. I never you know, I showed up I was dependable. And I knew that. You know this is my mother taught me. You know, you do that everything you do you do it at the best way you can. And so I did everything the best way I could and I worked hard, and I never looked for a freebie. I never looked for somebody to bail me out. And I didn’t think about the fact that it was putting in the hours that I put it. Imagine me going to school and being a soda jerker, and then, you know, ending up at the bowling alleys at night. And, but I had time for fun, I will tell you, I enjoyed my those years, my adolescent years, they were fun. They were really fun. And in high school, I went to public school, I actually cried. When I graduated. It was the best experience I ever had in my life. Teachers were phenomenal. And I learned a lot going to school in New York. It was called Southside High School. It’s now called Shivas. High School, and it was a great place. But it was full action every day. There was always some kind of action. And I was the class comedian. And I was the president, you buy last year, and I loved high school, I really did. But High School in those days, they taught you how to read and how to write, how to do math. Today, it’s all diversity. That’s all a teacher’s diversity. You know, which is doesn’t help you, as a human being doesn’t help you earn a living. It doesn’t help you take care of your family. It’s also troubleshoot.
Michael Sarraille 16:45
At least at least you set it at the risk of it, you know, somebody would say at the risk of making this a political discussion. It’s not we’re talking about hard work. Hard work has nothing to do with politics. But it seems like there’s a narrative now that wants to make everything political. I’m sure you get criticism for being a billionaire, a self made billionaire. First off, and let’s substantiate that, for being out of touch. When you when you make such comments, do you get criticism? And how do you respond to critics who know nothing about your background and the fact that you came from pretty much the lowest levels of poverty? Well,
Bernie Marcus 17:21
you know, whenever the human article on me, it’s always Bernie, Marcus, the billionaire. It’s not Bernie Marcus, the guy who built aquariums, the guy who built hospitals, the guy who really invented taking care of autistic kids, they never, they never say that. It’s always Bernie Marcus, you know, and you got that title, the billionaire, and they throw all billionaires into the same pot. And it’s always the pot as though you didn’t earn it. You did it on other people’s backs. And of course, I don’t feel that way. I think that Home Depot, you know, I started home depot was 49 years old. And we were broke on the capitalize have very little money. A great partners Arthur Blank, Pat and Pat Farah and, and Ken Langone. And we were able to build this into one of the America’s Great companies. And we only did it by living the life that we live. We’re all poor kids. We’re all guys who did come with silver spoons in our mouths. And we knew we had to work our backs off. And we did we worked 80 hour weeks. And we happen to go through a lot of misfortune that a lot of people maybe wouldn’t have survived. We always went broke several times, ran out of money constantly. And I contend to those years with tough years, they will formative years. Becoming a billionaire, you know, is not like inventing a, you know, an app, you know, all of a sudden overnight. You’re a dumb, stupid 25 year old kid, and you’re a multi billionaire, like that jerk from the FS X. The
Michael Sarraille 19:22
ft x Yeah, Sam,
Bernie Marcus 19:24
you know, real got real pots, who all of a sudden became a multi millionaire didn’t know anything about life. You know, it was a moron to start with. And it didn’t have didn’t go through these formative years. The formative years away, you develop and become the person that you are. It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens through trial and error, failure and success. good times and bad times. All become part of your character, and are really why you wind up who you are. So I don’t miss those bad years, I consider them all very good years for me. And now, you know, MAVEN will do the things I want to do at the age of 93, would, you know, they call me something I don’t, doesn’t mean, you know, me, they can’t hurt me. They can’t hurt me. They can’t take anything away from me. And I do get a lot of comments. I say, my mind. I’m not ashamed of who I am. And I believe I have strong beliefs about a lot of things. And I am certainly not woke. Whoa, am I not? Well.
Michael Sarraille 20:48
So I’d love it. You know, first off, I don’t get invited to the parties where people have to be next to their name. So I’ve got to ask you, you know, quite a few billionaires. If you had a pursuit, put a percentage on it. How many of them started in similar backgrounds? Or close to you, and really had to fight through life to grow their companies have become billionaires? Is it? Is it a pretty high percentage?
Bernie Marcus 21:16
Yeah, I think in my day, yeah. It was very high. In my day, almost all the guys I knew sorted out the way I did. They’re all you know, somebody that never had anything, worked themselves up to something. Today, they, you know, they go to Harvard, Yale, they’re entitled, they come out, they went in stupid, they come out stupid, you know, and they they learn from these professors, you know, the pitfalls of capitalism. And these professors who are have their jobs, because stupid people keep giving giving money to universities. And they keep trashing, the very thing that keeps you into jobs. And they teach these, these young people at Harvard and Yale, and all these Ivy League schools, to hate capitalism. And of course, if it was the capitalism, I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t have the position I am. If it wasn’t for being able to raise money in a capital market. Home Depot would never been a success. We opened four stores, we had an opportunity owner vobu. For more, we’re totally undercapitalized, we had to go out to the market and sell stock. And that’s how the success of Home Depot started. Every time we wanted to open more stores, we sold more stock, we got shareholders, we got our associates to own stock in the company. And the success of Home Depot is capitalism, and the success of almost every company out there that that I know is successful started that way. But the day, you know, the they come in with their their great background. And their background is you know, you know, HBO a thing from Harvard University and MBA and PhD and, you know, but they don’t know, their ask them a hole in the ground, frankly, they learned from professors who don’t teach him that you have to really work hard, and believe in what you’re doing. And that you’re really working for shareholders, and you’re working for your associates. But if you don’t have a good company, if you don’t make money, you can supply money. It just, you know, to me doesn’t make any sense
Michael Sarraille 24:01
market economics. Yeah. Brittany, let me ask you this, because I want to get to education, because I’m even, I’m even twisted on what to tell my 18 year old daughter, my 14 year old son about going to college. But, you know, before we get to that your parents escaped communism. They escaped socialism, I’m sure for a reason they came to the United States because it was the land of opportunity, especially back in those days. Did they ever impart their wisdom on you of how lucky you guys were even living in poverty, not to live under the the the blanket of socialism? I mean, today educate you guys that as your children, they educate you when you’re young?
Bernie Marcus 24:41
Yeah, my mother, my mother was one. She’s my my role model. She taught me everything. And she taught me Be thankful for what you have. We didn’t have much, but what we had was a love of a family. and a family was very important. I have a, you know, my brothers and sisters and my mother and father, we all love each other. And we never, we tried to help each other. And my mother along the way, had rules. You know, work hard, do the very best you can. There’s no limit on what you can become. If you if you follow your dreams. And in America, you can become anything, you can become the president United States. My mother loved this country. When my mother or father got their citizenship. She turned to my father and she said, Joe, from this day forward, we only speak English in the house, up with a nighttime, he spoke Yiddish. And she said, we are now citizens, we will speak English. From now on my mother. My father said no, no, not. He said. So my mother said you don’t eat. I’m not going to cook food for you either going to eat, you’re going to eat speak English, or your life is not going to be worthwhile. And she believes that this was the golden land. And she believed that you could be anything you wanted to be. I would hope that the all these people pouring across the border, that that’s what they want to do, that they want to be citizens of this country. And that citizens that where they came from, remain segregated. She wanted to be a citizen of this country, and take advantage and know that she was safe. You know, they they were they were tormented by the pogroms in Russia. You know, on pat on on Easter, Easter was the worst holiday of all, because the Cossacks used to come through town and deal with the swords just cut the heads off, for no reason, just do it. And Jews was struggling in in Europe. And anti semitism was really bad, especially in Europe, as in Russia, and Poland. And it was it was hard. And she never talked much about it. But she talked about the fact that when we made it, we had to give back. That was very important for our school. siddhappa It’s a Jewish word. And it means if you make it, you give back to the community. And even at the poorest we were she had something called a Pisco. And she would take away our ice cream money. And she would put it into Pisco and that pyscho was for charities to build Israel trees in Israel, or to help out orphans, or something like that. And she kind of instilled that in us that you had to do it. It wasn’t a question, do you want to do it? It’s a question you’re obligated to do of being a Jew. This is what you do, you give back to society. And so I learned that early on. And I was very happy that I found a partner other blank, who believed the same thing. And so it and Home Depot, we started to give back through Home Depot. And we did things for our customers that nobody else did. If there was a, you know, a tornado arc er, people would go out and cut the trees to get these people driveways free. If there was a hurricane, they jumped to it and put their own lives on the line to help our customers. And it became part and parcel of what the Home Depot does. So it became a humanity. And by the way, Home Depot has stopped doing that. I left the company in 2020 and is still doing it today. They’re better than ever. And of course, we’re very much involved with with our ex military. And Home Depot is a tremendous backer of the military. We always were I remember during the Iraqi war early on that author and I would do breakfast and we’d have you know, some of our people were at one point we had, you know 15 20,000 People on on the on out on the battle lines. And we we paid them whatever they we Qs their money, whatever they made less by being in the military We gave them money, and we help them on the housing. If their wife had a problem with plumbing, we would send somebody out to help them. And we just supported our military. Because we love this country, we think, listen, I think America is the greatest place in the world, I think there’s no greater place. That’s why people are pouring across the border, is they know, it’s the greatest place. The only problem is our kids who are born here, don’t believe that sewerage this place. I don’t know where they think it’s better in China, or in Venezuela, or in Russia. But we believe that, and I believe it today, I still love this country. And when I sing this song spangled banner, I still get tears in my eyes. And I just feel like, I have to do everything in my power to help us survive in this environment that we live in today, which is a bad environment.
Michael Sarraille 31:05
You know, in my, my opinion, it is perspective. And if you talk to anyone, you get in a taxi cab, and I remember this guy, we were I was I was on the East Coast got in a taxi cab guy was a Nigerian citizen, you know, very, very broken English, but so proud to be here, compared to where he had come from. And I had been to Nigeria before, that is poverty on a on a different level, or you talk to, you know, a doctor, I know she was from the USSR. Back in the day, she actually created a very interesting device, cosmetic device. And you hear her talk about communism, and how it put a, a ceiling on people’s ability, their capacity to achieve in life that stunted their drive. I think a lot of people today just lacked that perspective, they’re grown into a very comfortable setting known as the United States. They don’t understand that capitalism and free enterprise is the greatest strength this nation has. It’s not our military. And I’ve always said that. It’s our free enterprise in our capitalism that make our military so strong to affect change in good in the world. Education has definitely taken a turn. And again, we I talked about this narrative that I think is very dangerous. Do you think education can be saved? Do you think it’s gone?
Bernie Marcus 32:26
Well, I think there are a lot of people are waking up, a lot of things have happened under the very noses. They didn’t understand that many of these school boards have taken over them. They’re they’re teaching their kids, and some of the things that they teach these kids, you know, I mean, it’s, it’s shameful, it just shameful taking a seven year old kid, and allowing the seven year old kid to determine whether or not he wants to change his sex. Well, he doesn’t have the brains to do that. And we think about when you were seven years old, did you have a chance that you have enough brains to make a decision like that. And it’s irreversible, once you do it many cases, and the school boards are actually supporting that, and paying for it, and not allowing the parents to be involved with the decision making. But there are a lot of people waking up to it. And understanding that this is not what they want. And they’re knocking these school boards out all over the country. They’re fighting their organizations, like mom for justice, an organization that came out of two women in Florida, that are fighting this and now have something like 100,000 parents that are a part of it, and fighting school boards, every time they have a chance and knocking these people out of power. These people came into power, because it’s a it’s a it’s an overall plan that they have for taking over this country and turning it into a socialist country. Why would you want to do that? Why would you want to do that when when free enterprise and capitalism has made this the greatest country in the world both economically, democratically? Freedom, and they just, they don’t they don’t learn the lessons. They watch. You take people I have friends in my live in Canada, they have socialism, socialized medicine. It’s crap. It’s the worse when I speak to my friends up there, this are the ones who are successful. They talk about socialized medicine, he raised the in the world. And then when he gets sick, guess what they do? My they’re right back in the United States getting taken care of. They don’t get up there, they don’t stay there. They come to the States, and they get taken care of because they have the money for it. But the hell the hell, you know, we don’t care about the rest of the people. socialized medicine doesn’t work, socialized, anything doesn’t work. It takes away the incentive of people to work. And all people are not created equal. We aren’t, some are better than others. Some work harder than others, some have more strength of character, and those other guys that rose and became the successful ones. In today’s society, that’s, that’s looked at as negative. If they tried to paint the picture, that people myself, were all evil that we, we got there by working on the backs of other people that broke their backs. Listen, we have 500,000 people working at Home Depot today. I love every one of them, did a hardest working people. They really give a damn. They care about customers. They care about their jobs. They care about their careers and their families. And they work hard every day. And I like to say it’s 100%. But I would say it’s absolutely the vast majority. And the success of Home Depot even today, after all these years, is very prominent. You go in our stores, you see people who have been here 25 years, 30 years, I gave a speech to somebody had a 40 years, they were there 40 years when I was there and started a started with me when I started and is still there, they love their jobs. And they love working every day and they love working with people. And that is the American dream. They made enough money, they own stock in the company, we made it available that each one of them had stock in the company. And they feel like they’re working for themselves. They paid off their houses, they paid off their mortgages, they took care of their families. And, you know, now they’re capitalists in the small way. And they love this country. And they love this. They love the their fellow workers. And they don’t want to change. They don’t want socialism. They they want to have their own medical plans. They want to be able to divide the side their own futures. And they don’t want anybody telling them, this is good for you, and will make good decisions for you. They like to make their own decisions. They’re Real Americans.
Michael Sarraille 38:13
I think there’s two fundamental opposing beliefs that and again, it goes back to socialism, that government is the solution to, to to all problems. But Bernie, I’m with you, you know, what it was a Ronald Reagan said, what are the nine most dangerous words in the English language and from the government, and I’m here to help the private sector, and capitalism will always move more effectively, efficiently than the government will and having served 20 years in the military and seeing that, that stands to be true. And I think there is more philanthropic nature, when you allow the private sector to attack public problems. Well, I think you’re a living example of that.
Bernie Marcus 38:57
Yeah. Let’s give an example. I’ll give you an example. About five years ago, we became aware of the fact that veterans were committing suicide a very high rate, anywhere from 20 to 30. A day, imagine that 20 of therapy every single day, seven days a week, we lose 20 to 30 is still going on. And most of it was because of traumatic brain injury, where they’ve been involved with IEDs. And they’re not able to function there. So they came back. The VA is not able to help them. They’re not equipped for it. They can’t keep jobs, they can’t keep their families and they become part of the homeless. Eventually, eventually they break their families up and they end up homeless, and they ended up being a ward of the state. We we discovered that there’s a way to treat them traumatic brain injury, which there’s no way right now, by the way, if you have a concussion, Mike today get into automobile accident, you have nowhere to go. There is no treatment of traumatic brain injury, which is a concussion. And we came up with a process and a protocol that works. And we’re slowly but surely started something called the Avalon Action Network. And Avalon natural action network is those places and there are right now we have two lane, we have Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Jefferson operations share that comes out of Atlanta, we have is there’s actually eight or nine, we just had a new one come aboard in new in Wisconsin, last week. And my goal, and by the way, the protocol is so good, that we can show the data, the actual data, that people that are treated here, that 85 to 95% are able to go back and read start living your life. Again, these are people that are on the street that weren’t nonfunctioning that now could do it. In addition to that, we have something called boulder crest, which is a shorter program, which is like it like a camp for seven or eight days. And that’s what posttraumatic stress. And by the way, it’s a very big deal today, not only for ex military, but for first responders policemen. I spoke to a policeman the other day, he was involved with a there was a shooting. And the guy died in his arms. But he said that affected him from that day on. And he needed something like bold aggress. And we have all these places, I would take care about 2000 a year now. We think that eventually we’re going to be able to take care of 20,000 people. That’s my goal building hospitals all over the United States. Arthur Blank is my partner in this. So we’re partners again. And we’re very much committed to we have a fine group of people, wonderful board of directors, and we’re really gonna make it happen. And every doctor in America understands there is no treatment for traumatic brain injury. You know, you see this young quarterback for Florida, for the university, not university, but the the the football team in Florida and tagged Yeah, and he’s got he’s got a concussion. And he has traumatic brain injury, and they’re not treating him. We’re trying to get him into one of our hospitals. Because we think we you treat them and get and get him along in life, and let him live a life again. I don’t know if we’ll ever play football again, but certainly should never live a life again. He’s a vibrant young man. And he deserves better than what he’s getting. But I don’t care what it is Harvard, you know, it can be the finest organization in America today. We speak to the neurologists. I give you an example. I spoke to a neurologist at in Houston at one of the great facilities of all time. And I said to him, If I have a concussion, and I come in here, how do you treat me. And he basically looked at me with blank faces said, we really don’t have a treatment. We send you to psychiatrists, they give you some drugs to calm you down. But that doesn’t do it. It doesn’t help the ring in the years. It doesn’t help the dizziness. It doesn’t have the headaches. It doesn’t have help the fact that they can’t sleep. It doesn’t happen. The fact that they can’t function that light hurts them and noise hurts them and justice. It’s just a nightmare for them. So we have this treatment, and we’re working at it now. government can’t do it. For Christ’s sakes, the VA has not been able to handle it. You know, when you have heard,
Michael Sarraille 45:07
don’t get me started on the VA. Well, when you’re being somebody who’s who’s inside the system, again, I have no doubt that the VA is filled with good people that that do care about what they’re doing. But when the system, hamstrings innovation, and stepping outside the lines to get things done, that, again, I’m a proponent, and this is coming from a retiree who’s 100%, disabled, total and permanent, is get rid of the VA or minimize them down to educational benefits, and privatize the medicine to get the best treatment. Bottom line. But again, it is big government, who will not cut that that head off, and probably save billions in the process? Because he would it would they would lose so many jobs that the VA currently employs?
Bernie Marcus 45:55
Well, because it’s a it’s a social network. And it’s all political. You figure out how many people are working there? Well, the voters, that’s the key keep many jobs, half of these people are not qualified to work anywhere. And but they’re not solving the problem. So when 20 or 30, people are committing suicide every day, that’s a failure. If I had a business that was losing X number of dollars a year, I would go bankrupt. The VA doesn’t go bankrupt. They keep giving him more money. But but that’s a perfect example of socialism. It doesn’t work when a government operates it, because the government doesn’t know how to do anything. Anything to get the right kind of answer. Listen, years ago, I paid for I pay for the after 911, the head of the CDC, the CDC came to me and said that they had no emergency network that, in fact, they set up a an auditorium and they put tables in. And they tried to operate from that. We built he asked us to help them. We volunteered, we help build. And we said it doesn’t have to go before Congress. And we don’t follow rules. Government rules will build you an emergency set in which we did the Marcus Emergency Center, which we built in something like seven months. And we got people from all over to donate, you know, materials and computers. And in other words, government could do it. The government started do it. It will take eight years and cost a billion dollars. We did have a something like three and a half billion dollars. And we did it in a short period of time. And today’s very functional in everything that they you have today. You had this Coronavirus, the CDC was operating and had had the ability to communicate with the rest of the world. Because government didn’t do it. We did it. And so, you know, my belief is that, and I think this kid this book that I wrote, which is kick EPS of Deus, which I think, you know, that’s that’s, that’s what we’re trying to sell today is the book, that there are many people out there. Like me, a lot of people don’t know how to give money. A lot of people have made a lot of money, and don’t know what to do with it. And we’re trying to get them involved in giving back to society and putting their brains behind it, not just writing a check. In other words, just don’t write a check. And for Christ’s sakes, don’t give it to a university, whatever you do, don’t give any money to university. That’s like taking it and throw it in the toilet. As far as I’m concerned.
Michael Sarraille 49:13
It burns you see juicy recently that there was a audit on the DOD and they couldn’t account for $600 million.
Bernie Marcus 49:19
Yeah, I believe that.
Michael Sarraille 49:22
If you were the CEO of that company, would you fire the Secretary of Defense on the spot?
Bernie Marcus 49:29
You would fire another secretary who says you would go back and fire the president. You know, everybody because they’re all involved. They’re all part of the the hands in the cookie jar. And one party is not better than the other party. Except, no, they’re all bad. They’re all bad once and once they get involved. They are a disaster. I think of all things I’ve done in my life that the government could not do I built an aquarium in Atlanta, the world’s Yes. It’s, it’s a place you have to go. I will tell you, Mike, you’ve never been there. You gotta go. And if you have kids, they would love it. But you have to love it yourself. It’s a full day. It’s the biggest in the world. It’s got more things that you can imagine. And the government couldn’t have done that. They could have done it. And we did it in 27 months, we opened it up, it would have taken the government 10 years and costs 50 times, what will we spend, and they still would have the same product. But the same thing. With every hospital, we get involved with the market Stroke Center, a Grady Hospital, the mark is the emergency room at Grady Hospital, Piedmont hospital, their cardiac Vascular Center, government can’t do that. And so we’re trying to convince this book, kickin some dust is a is a book, trying to convince people who have money, who are not spending it, you know, they go out and they buy a big boat, you know, a yacht, or they buy houses, you know, in 10 different countries around the world. But they don’t help anybody. And they really want to. And so we have instructions here on how to do it on and also, you know, I got involved with with charity. When I was broke, I didn’t have money, I joined a city of hope. And I work at the City of Hope. I couldn’t give them much money. But I gave my time and effort. So entrepreneurs out there who have built businesses could have a lot to do with helping people. And this book will tell you a lot about how to do that. By the way. You mentioned that you a lot of entrepreneurs want to learn how to do things. I can tell you this book is a is a book of my life. And it talks about how to deal with adversity. And I think that one of the biggest things, Mike, that happens is that everybody in running a business runs across something that almost knocks them out. And it’s how you react? How you how you manage to survive. Because everybody I know you asked me a question before. And I can tell you that most of the successful people that I admire in my life, have had a moment where they came very close to losing it. I mean, I mean losing everything
Michael Sarraille 53:03
in Bernie, you said when you got fired as CEO of was the Hindi Dan Chang. Oh, it was one of the lowest points of your life.
Bernie Marcus 53:12
Oh, listen, at that point. I could have spent the rest of my life blaming Sandy Segal for being the rap that he was. But that wouldn’t have helped me Would it?
Michael Sarraille 53:24
And how old were you when you got laid off? I was 49. And you started back over basically,
Bernie Marcus 53:30
I started back No, it wasn’t easy. By the way. I had a lot of help. Ken Langone was very helpful. He supported me. He knew my talents. He knew what I knew. And he, he believed in my dream patio. Arthur Blank, who was guru. Terrific. That worked for me it handy. Dan also was fired. But he became a great partner. And we learn from each other from that experience. And we, we turned it around. And we didn’t really live that life. Now eventually, I could tell you that we put Seagull off out of business, the guy who fired me Yeah, we eventually put them out of business.
Michael Sarraille 54:18
But that was that had to feel pretty good.
Bernie Marcus 54:21
That was like, you know, we’re gonna that was a side a side benefit of being able to do that. But, you know, getting over these, these traumatic things. Here at Home Depot. We had a point where we almost went broke. We bought a chain of stores. It was a bad decision. And we didn’t really do our homework. And we were very young. And it came close to taking this very successful shooting star. I just bring it down and we just dealt with it. And we learned one thing, when you make a mistake, recognize the mistake, fix it and don’t do it again. By the way. That’s theory.
Michael Sarraille 55:13
Let me ask you this. Have you ever heard of a business case example? Where today’s highly successful companies didn’t have that crossing the Rubicon sort of moment? Where there was no point of return? They’re close to bank. I mean, oh, yeah, there’s risk in every venture. But I’ve never heard of just smooth sailing for any organization. Is that just a failure
Bernie Marcus 55:35
of the ANP. With that disappeared off the face of the earth? Kmart, Sears Roebuck companies that I know. Because they had what they did, they made a mistake, and a rat of fixing the mistake. They covered their asses. The key was, no one gets the blame for it. And we teach our people at Home Depot or associates, if you make a mistake, recognize it, fix it, and move on. Don’t do it again. That’s always say, if you make a mistake is honest mistake. They’ll cover your ass, the military. Have you ever heard a politician admit that he made a mistake? You’ll never hear that because they don’t ever make mistakes. And because they don’t admit it, and they don’t fix it. They continue doing the same stupid things over again. And when you start covering up, the cover up, becomes more difficult than the thing itself.
Michael Sarraille 56:46
Fixing why would they stop doing it? Bernie when it’s almost the voters incentivize the behavior by reelect him. So it’s almost become a culture. It’s a culture of lying, and cover ups,
Bernie Marcus 56:57
because they they feel that it shows a weakness, but it doesn’t show weakness, it shows the strength. And I think people will appreciate it. If a politician got up and said, I shouldn’t have done. This was a mistake. I think that people would have more confidence in him or her than they had before. But they don’t do that. They just keep covering their ass. And looking for somebody to blame is always somebody to blame. It’s not you, when in fact, it’s you. You know, we talk about, you know, the VA, all of Congress, you know, when a minute they hear about, you know, they hear about 20 to 30 people in VA being killed. The first thing they do is what? Give them more money. Yeah. Does it make sense? Does it make sense? So look at businesses in business, when you run a business. And you operate and you don’t, you have to understand something. I’ll give you an example. Somebody came to me recently, and said, when you really, really live your life, when you wrote the book, you realize how many mistakes you made? And I thought about in a second, I said, No, I just never think about it. I guess I made a ton of mistakes. But, you know, I tried to fix them out. I moved on. And they said well, do you remember a real big mistake you made? Well, I made a lot i There were a lot. I mean, every day, you know, we had, you know, decisions, maybe 100 decisions a day. And I can’t say they’re all brilliant decisions and bid that we did the right thing on each one. I can’t say that. But I can tell you this. When we recognize it was a mistake. We just fixed it. And that was it. didn’t blame anybody. Just moved on. And that’s the key. And that’s what happened to me it handed and handy. Then I had a dear friend of mine saw price. Who taught me that lesson one night. I was suing them and they owed me a lot of money for my contract and everything else. And he said, he said you’re going to spend the rest of your life in litigation. And if I were you, he said you’re a good merchant. You know what you’re doing? Why don’t you move on with your life? And I remember driving back from San Diego that night to LA and I thought about it. And I said saw Christ was right. And the next day I fired my attorneys and I moved on with my life. Have a look what came out of it Home Depot. So it was a win win. And for all these people, and if you look at what so Home Depot has done for the economy, we have, I don’t know, I get millions of people, I’ve worked at Home Depot, millions, I run across them. Everywhere I go, I go to a restaurant, somebody buys me a meal. And they say, I don’t work for you anymore. But I used to work for you. And if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have started my own business. And it’s very successful, because, like the buy you dinner. And, you know, it’s a great feeling to know that you’ve done this for the economy. While we you went home depot started, all these companies were small companies. I can tell you, almost every company we did business with was a small company that we built, they grew with us. They built factories. When we were well, I remember going to first show I went to, and I asked the paint manufacturer, and I said he was busy. He said, great. And I said, well, we’d like you to sell to us. And he said, Sure. And I said, you know, we want to have a delivery every week, because we expect to sell so he said no, it’s seven months. We do great. We have a seven month backlog. I said seven months are you out of your mind. And that company now delivers overnight. We taught that company how to do business. And they grew with us. And they became a multi millionaire company. And the owners became millionaires also, and are in the same boat that I’m in. And, and, you know, that’s how success works.
Michael Sarraille 1:02:03
You know, Saul was a very smart man. And I read that quote about when he said, You guys are smart, you’ve got this walkaway. Easier said than done. Somebody comes at you, I think that’s just human instinct that I’m gonna come for your eye, you took my eye for an eye. But I do want to move to the book, kick up some dust, you know. So in Bernie, I would have you back on for five podcasts, teaching us young, young bucks how to, to live life the way you have. So your ability to get back with you, you brought up the Jewish concept of sadaqa. If I’m saying that, right. But I love this, it’s the key, you said this in the book, the key is not just writing a check, but writing a check, following the check, making sure that it’s being used properly. And using entrepreneurial entrepreneurial skills that you’ve had all your life. So you’ve given back. And in fact, I think it was at one of your birthday parties, you raised 170 million for some of your favorite nonprofits. It’s in your blood. And even your mom gave back when she she had very little to, to give. But you also believe in accountability for writing those checks. You know, I know in business, they call it dumb money or smart money out. It sounds like accountability is one of the sort of attributes you hold dear. And if you’re going to write a check, you’re going to make sure that the people are are keeping the word on that.
Bernie Marcus 1:03:32
Well, if you built the business, and you’re not and you’re very successful businessman, why would you just write a check? Why would you just follow the check and help that company or that charity get better? And I find that when they do they help it? They put their entrepreneurship back into the charity, because charities are really lacking leadership and that in that vein, you know, a lot of charities just collect a lot of money and don’t do much with it. And they piss away a lot of money. And you look at the overhead. You take a lot of these charities. By the way, a very good friend of mine today is doing an audit on all charities for bet for military. And he said you’ll be shocked. He says hundreds of millions of dollars a year have been collected for the military. And the overheads are 4050 60% which means most of the money doesn’t go where it’s supposed should be going. There are some good ones out there Gary Sinise is one the other one is Yeah, Folds of Honor, by the way is a really good 190 91
Michael Sarraille 1:04:53
cents on the dollar 91 cents on the dollar good go to educational scholarships. Whatever, wearing the shirt, sorry,
Bernie Marcus 1:05:02
the tower is another one that’s very, very good. I can’t, I can’t vow for him anyway, any others, I can tell you that the Avalon fund is going to have a very small percentage of overhead. Because we know we’re going to be more effective. I mean, right now, our overhead is, I don’t know, let’s say 10%. And we’re taking care of 2000 2000 veterans a year. That’s a lot with it with that kind of overhead. So business people have to get involved. And your expertise in how to run a business, and how not to run a business is very critical, very important. And we teach you some of these things in the book. I think there are a lot of lessons in the book, I just how to conduct yourself in life, how to handle difficult situations that happen. And I do it by telling the stories of my own life. Not to say I’m a genius, I’m not a genius. But I happen to be smart enough to be successful. I may be I always made more right decisions, and I may wrong decisions. But they came out right. And more people will help before because of it. I know that we’re very much involved with so many things today. the autism world, we now have a device that could determine autism, at the age of two to three months, think about that, if we can get them a two to three months, we could change your life. And how many millions of kids are going to be helped by that is that’s amazing. We have a blood test that through Johns Hopkins, that we’re now supporting the research on that’s in front of the FDA, where a simple blood tests can tell you about certain cancers in further stage, like pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, which right now doesn’t show up at first stage. Typically, it shows up in fourth stage, and it’s too late to save your life. So we’re talking about saving people. And, look, I’m a businessman, I’m not a doctor. And yet I’m involved with all of these things. Because, you know, we get the right people. We have the right expertise. We give them the skills that they lack. They may be geniuses, when it comes to medical research. But they’re running a business, they are not geniuses. So we give them that background. And we come out with a winning formula. An Avalon I gotta tell you is a weenie is a winning formula. By the way, this Avalon network that we’re talking about, maybe the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It is you think about the concussions that people are having all over the country, football players, hockey players, soccer players, they have nowhere to go. This one will tell a help them. And of course, the veterans, which are the ones that we care about, we have to figure out how to do it so that the civilians pay for it. In other words, the hockey players, the schools, or the teams pay for it. And therefore we’re able to give services to the military people at no costs.
Michael Sarraille 1:08:52
You will hear no complaint from me on that one. Now. We’re working with veterans in a different way on the emotional spiritual side to give them the gift of flight, as we say to teach them how to paraglide and in skydive I just went on something called the triple seven expedition with none of my brothers and arms. And we just got dived into all seven continents in seven days, it would set three world records. But I’ll tell you what, it just gave me a taste of what I had before the Brotherhood, the esprit de corps, the homecoming and belonging. You know, it is a holistic approach to helping these vets and athletes get back to some some normality or some semblance of normalcy. And for that I can’t thank you enough. Bernie, I want to close this out. And again, you are welcome to come back on. Because one, I assume, you know, with the remainder of your life, and I know you’ve got years to come. What What’s your primary goals? I know you signed the giving pledge. You’ve given away so much money. I know you’ve got a problem with greed. What over the next decade Do you want achieve?
Bernie Marcus 1:10:02
Well, I would like to help other people. First of all, I would like to, I’d like to get a lot of people a, if this book is successful by having people join in the game of giving back. And I don’t care whether you have money or don’t have money. If you don’t have money today, you will tomorrow. And if you conduct your life, right, you’ll be successful. And then if you learn that you have to give back, I’ll be successful, if we can convince some people who have a lot of money to get into the game, and not spend it frivolously, but give it selectively in the right places, and follow the money and help those organizations thrive, then I’ll feel that we’ve done something successful. As far as ourselves, we hope that Home Depot continues to be successful, because everything that we have is tied up at Home Depot. And as Home Depot is successful, we become successful, the more they make, the more they do, the more money I end up with. And the more money we’re gonna give away. Oh, in our case, we’re not giving away 50% We’re giving away 90%. Well, am I my wife and I die, we’re both gonna leave that 90% is going into our charities. So that’s, those are my short term girl goals. We want to 93 I’m working every day on some other project, and trying to make these projects better. And adding not only my money, but my skill sets. And my, you know, all the things I learned in this book, I try to pass on. And I think it’s successful, and I keep listening, I hope I live a long life more people, I’m 93 I like to be able to be functioning the way I am. When I’m 100 years old, I hope my brain still operates because that’s the key. The body, you know, doesn’t these doesn’t keep up with the brain. Because the body keeps deteriorating as you get older. But as long as my brain stays strong, I’m going to keep doing all the things I do. And try to do them in spades. And try to teach people along the way. If I teach, you know, 10 people with this book, who are who do the things that I’m doing, this book will be successful, that my life will be successful. That’s why I wrote the book.
Michael Sarraille 1:12:54
We will spread kick up some dust to the winds in we will cover that at length in in Men’s Journal with a very good article as we will this this podcast. But Bernie, we usually ask people, you know, the way we close out our podcasts is a few standard questions. First one is, and I know this is this is so hard, it may not be that hard for you. If you had to choose three tenants three key success in your life that you would pass to me in my generation, what would those three rules be that have led to the majority of your success, either impact or fulfillment?
Bernie Marcus 1:13:30
Number one role is that everybody is born with common sense. You use it. Use your common sense. Number two, work hard. Don’t stop. And number three would be recognize mistakes and fix them. Listen carefully. Don’t keep shooting your mouth off. You know, I keep saying when a mouth is going, the mouth is going to yours stop working. So use your ears and learn and listen, and an act you know intelligently and use your common sense. I mean, people don’t understand how we’re born. And we’re so lucky that we do have common sense. And ever people go through life and don’t touch that. They don’t ever use their common sense. They make all the wrong decisions. And my mother taught me if you’re going to strengthen any part of your area, do it in the common sense area. So all history goes into it. And all experiences go into it. And then when you have to make a decision, it’s based on experiences
Michael Sarraille 1:14:59
that’s That’s, that’s impactful. And it sounds like common sense, in your view is tied to critical thinking as well, which seems to be at a deficit deficit these these days, especially some of the narratives we discussed. Hey, Bernie, last question, and I can’t thank you enough for your time. When all is said and done, what is it that you want your legacy to be?
Bernie Marcus 1:15:24
You know, you only live on this earth for a very short period of time is a blip. I would like my life to be better than a blip. I’d like people to remember me as having done some good things, and not just fade into history as nothing. So, you know, yeah, we need to get gone. 1020 years, people look back and say, there was a guy that he really did things he really helped people. And more than that, you can ask?
Michael Sarraille 1:16:04
Well, Bernie, I don’t think you’re gonna have that problem. Having created one amazing company that fueled the economy even fueled independent contractors and created a whole stronger industry line for America, a brand that is as recognizable as Nike or coke. And I know that your foundation will live on well beyond you and impact lives. So, sir, I don’t think you’ll have that problem. I can’t thank you enough. This has been, you know, my manager George Silva. could sense the excitement in having you on once I heard that, you know, he connected with your people. So for everyone listening, go pick up this book by Bernie Marcus, kick up some dust. Like you said, you’ll learn life lessons, you’ll learn about the power of giving in impacting lives. I will read it the only thing I’m going to hold you to Bernie is I want a signed copy. So I will find a way I will hunt you down. I’ve got a track record for doing that. Sure. I get your, your signature. If there’s anything we can ever do for you. Please don’t hesitate to ask. And to all the listeners I hope to gain some valuable lessons from a man who’s who’s who’s a man of his word and proven his worth. Again, thank you for joining the Men’s Journal every day warrior podcast. And until next time, this is Mike smelly and Bernie make off mark. Go ahead, Bernie. Thank you. Bye bye.