A lot of young people run from something, but when Steve Sims was still working as brick layer for his dad’s construction company, he was already running toward something. He learned that connecting to affluent people was his path and that it was going to take a lot of effort and trusting his gut. When he founded Bluefish, he was able to show up crystal clear. He developed a filtering system that tells him which people to talk to so he can resonate with them and do tons of great things. For him, it’s not about looking good and smart but rather being valuable to people.
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Steve Sims on Being Valuable to People, Make an Effort and Resonate
Welcome back to the Business Building Rockstars show, Steve Sims. It's so awesome to have you here.
It's a pleasure to be here.
I gave everyone your high-level overview. Anybody who was with us for the Business Building Rockstars Summit 2017 got to know you there. For those folks who have not had the pleasure yet, can you bring us up to speed first on what is it that you're doing day-to-day right now in your business?
I'm doing a lot with SteveDSims, which is consulting and helping people brand, market, and communicate. I'm also doing a lot of speaking gigs through there and I'm also running what arrogantly is the world's leading concierge firm, Bluefish. I'm doing everything from sending people down to the Titanic to getting them to run their business better.
You gave so much value during the Business Building Rockstars Summit 2017. Within that session, there were so many actionable takeaways. We talked about the how of what you do for people to have a step-by-step playbook, which is Bluefishing, the book. What I'd love to do is dig into who Steve D. Sims is and how you got to where you are. Can you take us back as far back as you can remember? What did you want to be when you were really young? When you grew up, what did you want to be before you were told what you had to be?
I don't think I was told. It was a period where we just knew. We've seen a lot of changes over the last years and they happen at a massive rate. The speed of evolution, the speed of dissection, the speed of change quadruples every three seconds now. It’s just ridiculous. I grew up in the ‘70s and the ‘80s.Basically, the war wasn't too far away from my grandparents. I was in a situation where my dad owned a small construction firm. It was never spoken, it was never confirmed, but it was very well-known that I would finish school and then I would work on the building site. It was the era that you've got an apprenticeship or you went into a company, and you worked your way up the ranks. Part of the reason for that is because I was ignorant to any other opportunities. I was ignorant to any other choice. Now we're in a situation we’re in a planet where we've got too much choice, we're overloaded. Me and my wife were talking about it. We only knew about how the other half lives if we read it in a magazine in a hair dresser’s or in a bottle or something like that. We only knew about it because we'd seen it on a glossy magazine. Nowadays, you think, “I wonder what was,” and bang, you're on your tablet, your iPhone and you've got all the information. We went from a period of having no information and I was ignorant to that style of life to actually being overloaded by it. It was a period where I ignorantly just did what I was told instinctively was going to happen.
Did you ever have bedtime stories as a child? Did you have any like, “I want to be,” not in a realistic way, not as you were getting older and realized like this is the next step, but before that. When you were just really little and playful and you could be anything, like you could fly if you wanted to.
I was irritated. Like most entrepreneurs, we get aggravated and irritated. I remember Joe Polish saying to me that he is aggravated always just to make pills. I didn't know anything over that period. We watched some movies, we had bedtime stories, we heard about different things, but I didn't know what a Ferrari bloody looked like. I didn’t certainly live in an area where they were running down our street. We had no way of even searching them unless you gave me a car magazine. The one thing I was aware of was not fitting. I remember how something would happen and I would look at it and I would go, “That's not finished,” and all the other kids will be like, “It is.” I'll be like, “No, it's not. There's so much more we can do with this.” I just remember being feared. I remember when we’d make a little camp at the back of the garages and you deal with these boxes and these crates and you'd make a little fort, and I'll be like, “Hang on a minute. We could do that,” and they're like, “No. That’s good enough.” I'll be like, “No, we can do this.” I was constantly aware that from an early stage looking back, my standards were different.
What I was willing to settle on was far of a higher standard than all the rest. I couldn't understand and I was irritated because this would obviously lose me friends as well. I notice a lot of entrepreneurs, we talk about it, we’re mingling around friends and then you can't tolerate someone because they’re not doing it. The other people can settle and therefore they've got twenty friends. You can't settle, so you've got two. I constantly was aware as I was growing up that my mind works differently. I wasn't able to settle. I quite often have to dumb down and I'm talking about big life from East London. For me to dumb down, but it was that mentality that I had to learn how to settle to survive, but then this would aggravate me, pissed me off, and nine times out of ten, I'll get in trouble with it. Like all entrepreneurs, we were bouncing through fireballs until we found out where we were supposed to be.
You then wound up working for your father. You were a bricklayer. How did you get inspired to shift that? Like at what point did you say, “There is something else on the other side and I'm going to go explore it.”
No. I never had it. I had the invitation. A lot of people run to something or they run from something. I found I ran from things a lot now. Never from responsibility but always from something that wasn't right. I remember working on my dad's building sign going, “Hang on a minute. This is my life. I've got to get up at [5:00] every morning. I've got to travel. I basically get spat on. I'm going to get dirt on me. I'm going to get smashed up by the bricks. Bricklaying in London was a tough gig. I remember one day clear as a bell the code of laborer, you've got the brick layers on the scaffolding laying bricks and then you've got the laborers that we're bringing the bricks and the cement up to these brick layers. One of these days, the laborer hadn't turned up so my dad said, “You're doing it,” so I was doing it. I went downstairs, I've got a pile of bricks, came up the ladder. As I stepped onto the scaffolding, I saw down the scaffold and there was my dad, my cousin, my uncle, my granddad. The only one missing was my mom. Everyone in my family tree from my cousin who was a little bit older than me to my granddad who was in his 70s was on this bloody building. I saw my family tree as clear as day. I saw my lifeline in front of me. I remember standing there and getting yelled at because I just stood still because I've been hit with a pile of bricks, pardon the pun.
I remember going into the trailer for tea time when I had at my break, and saying to my granddad, “Is this what you wanted to do with your life?”Pardon my French, but he turned around and he was like, “Fuck, no,” a big old Irish guy. I say, “I'm just not sure this is what I want to do with my life.” He said, “You need to quit today.” I was like, “But I'm not going to have any money and stuff all day.” He said, “If you don’t quit today, tomorrow this is this is you,” and pointing to himself, so I quit. My father had motivated me. My mom had motivated me and I'm like, “Hang on a minute. What do I do now? I've got to find something else.” I tried loads of different things, driving trucks, delivering cakes, cake sales, showman, salesman, call centers. I've tried so many different things trying to find out where this page could fit knowing that one said was in there, I would know. That's what I counted on doing and it got me from London to Hong Kong. I just bounced around like a pinball trying to find out where I could slide into. It wasn't through intelligence, it was through the knowledge that I didn't fit where I was. No one could half jump in the water. It was the case of if this doesn't fit, I'm gone. I had that kind of effect.
I love that your grandfather was the one who was the catalyst or the mirror to you to say, “Don't become me.”
I've learned most of my things in my life through quotes. I remember one that said, “Experience is something you get just shortly after you needed it most.” The good thing about speaking to people that have been in business and the less we face that, the good thing about speaking with people is you can benefit from their experience. I often thought, if I had been sat with my cousin at that tea break or my dad, I'd had never got that nugget. That nugget cleared me out at that job that afternoon.
For those who don't know your story, I highly recommend you pickup Bluefishing because you've got quite the journey. Let's go from Hong Kong to LA where you went next, or how did you land after Hong Kong?
I went to Hong Kong, Thailand, Geneva, Palm Beach, and now I live in Los Angeles.
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In Los Angeles, was Bluefish the start of it? What did you do when you got to LA?
It was Bluefish all along. I started Bluefish in Hong Kong. What I wanted to do was I made a very conscious decision. When I realized that I am a very basic, ignorant, Irish brick layer and that's never changed, but now I'm working with Elon Musk, Richard Branson and the Pope so it's gotten me places. It's quite a line I've had to be using it. That would be a hell of a cocktail party. What I did was I remember being in Hong Kong with no job and realizing that my life wants to be and of course, now the grass is greener. I remember looking at all these affluent guys you were like in their smart suits and their watches. I was addicted to expensive watches at the time and they looked great. I was working on the door of a nightclub. I thought the only way to be able to get into that world is to know people in that world. There’s no point in associating with poor people because they can't afford you. For me to be able to connect with these affluent people, I needed to be of value.
As I was a door on a nightclub, I knew about all the nightclubs. I started telling these people the best clubs were each night. I became an article. I became of value. That value grew, and people are like, “You know about nightclubs in Hong Kong but do you know anything about Monaco? Do you anything about London? Do you know about New York?” My experience and my Rolodex of contacts grew. While I was doing Bluefish in Hong Kong, it just grew and grew. Then I was in Switzerland doing it, and started doing in Monaco and London, then in Palm Beach. I was working for Michael Milken and Donald Trump from Mar-a-Lago. I was doing all these and it just grew. Bluefish started in the late ‘90s and it has now gotten to me quite satisfactorily sitting here in LA and I recently, I was walking the white carpet with Sir Elton John into his Oscar parties. It's gotten me around a bit. It's been a long journey to be an overnight success.
Let's talk about how the name came up. This was in Hong Kong because people think, they probably have ideas. This is interesting when people go, “I bet the story about this name is this or this must mean this Buefishing.” “What's that?” How did you come up with the name Bluefish?
I apply filters on everything I do. One of the biggest problems in the planet is people. I wanted to filter the people that got into my clubs, into my parties. What I would do is I would first of all invite only affluent people, because again, if you invite poor into a bar, they can't afford the drinks. I would only invite affluent people in. Then my filter was to give them a silly term and it would be a silly little password that they would have to say to get into the party. We had things like, “This is where the party is, this is what time it is, this is the password.” The password would be things like name two of the Teletubbies and this one got a lot of people name the lion out of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or the final one was finished this sentence, one fish, two fish, red fish. People would come to us and would be standing in the door of this club or this yacht or this penthouse or something like this. They would lean in and we brought the captains of industry walking up and they’d be like Tinky, Winky, Po and we’d be like, “In you go.” We felt that if someone of that stature can still have a giggle with something, those are the people we want to have a laugh with. The pretentious are those who would come up and go, “I can't recall.” We'd be like, “There's no party for you, mate. I don't know what you're talking about. Can you please move along,” and we'll let the next person in. Of course, a lot of people used to come up and they used to go Bluefish because one fish, two fish, red fish.
The funny thing was once we start building up a community and we started to get well-known, we still didn't have a company name. We actually set up this company name because we needed a company bank account because we were getting sponsorship, we were getting ticket sales, we were getting partnerships and affiliates. When we set up this company and put a phone number at it, people would call us and go, “Is that that the Bluefish company?”By that time, we’d already set up a company called Trianon. We were like, “No, this is Trianon.” They'd be like, “Sorry.” It took about six days before we realized that people wanted to call us Bluefish so we gave the people what they wanted.
Can we talk a little bit about and this might be just who you are, but the way that you are and the way that you show up is so unique to the way other people show up. Something that I personally have contemplated and been challenged with, my own personal challenging myself and I know that many of my listeners can relate to this. I was just having a conversation with a friend about this that sometimes we create things or we have an idea or an inspiration to do something. Then we start collaborating with other people or we open it up for other people to give us feedback. It winds up that at the end of the day, we settle sometimes for things that aren't actually what we wanted in the first place. What I love so much about you, but one of the things I love about you is how you seem to bring it back to, “No. These are the rules. This is the exclusivity. This is what I'm doing, and anybody else gets turned away.” Was that something that always came naturally to you or did you have to suss things out to figure out how to stand your ground on that? Part two is what would you recommend other people do if they're looking to emulate you in that way?
I don’t mind people emulating. I don't want anyone replicating. I want you to always think about this. I was an ignorant lay-low Irish boy in England. I class myself an educated man now, but school, I have nothing to do with that. I was an uneducated lump, as simple as that. Everything I ever did was primitive. I've discovered that there's nothing clearer than being primitive. I've continued that way all the way up for 51 years now. I've found that for me to be of value in a relationship, it took effort. I didn't want to waste or I didn't recognize wasting any of that effort on making sure that my head cover is okay or my tattoos weren't showing or I took out my piercings. Anytime you spend any effort on you being someone who you want the other person to think you are, that's a math question that Elon couldn't bloody answer. I don't understand why someone does it. We are all unique. We are all different. If you turn up as you, you're now left with 100% effort to do what you do. If you look at f the great people out there, the Elons, the Steve Jobs, the Richard Bransons, they don't look like anybody else but there are loads of people that look like them. No one did anything great that did it by following others. They became the person to follow.
I've had periods in my life where I have second guessed and double doubted and tried to change my image a little bit to conform, but I noticed one thing and this I hope will be strong to everyone out there, my stomach is smarter than my head. When you look at your head, you go, “What shoes, car, wallet?” You calculate all these things. Your stomach doesn't do that. It gives you tingles if it's not very primitive as they were. Trust your gut. Whenever I would talk to someone, if I found that person was a little bit funny and maybe the suit was wearing them rather than vice versa, I've got a funny little feeling in my stomach that there was something a little bit off here, I'd walk away. My whole point about showing up as me as crystal clear as I can be, it allows my stomach to be a better filter and I can talk to someone and I could know very quickly can I resonate with them. If I can resonate with them, I can lock and load and we could do a ton of stuff. If I'm trying to be someone, smarter, better looking, more intelligent then there's too much effort going in and I'm going to just basically disrupt my stomach's gauge. I hope that makes sense.
For me it made so much sense and I think it made sense for everyone as well. I'm going to take you one step further if you will. Steve D. Sims has come a long way, overnight success that was decades in the making. I think at this point, when we get to the other side of whatever it is, it's easy for us to talk about this is how it is and this is how I got here, but sometimes we forget or we gloss over those parts where we really had to think about it. Going back to those times where you did try to accommodate other people more than expecting them to accommodate you and where you had the gut feeling like, “Eh?”Did you ever go and do it anyways? If so, do you have a takeaway other than that high level of trust your gut because that's just the smart thing to do, but the actual, you're in a situation that doesn't feel good. How do you get out of it? Do you literally walk away, ignore the person and close the door, or are there some steps professionally, I'm talking about to ease out of something that you've started getting into and go, “This isn't the right fit for me.”
There are a lot of questions in there. Let’s try and break them down. For a start, you're saying about the overnight success. I never take it for granted because the second you take it for granted, you stop enjoying what you've become. I was walking down the white carpet with Elton John. I was doing exactly that. Elton John every year has a big, A-List celebrity Oscar party and this shift for the first time ever, I was asked to turn up. I've got photographs with him on the white carpet at the beginning because I become a part of the staple attendees of this event and I couldn't believe it. I'm like, “Oh my God.” I'm like a giggly little kid. I'm walking down that there were people in that event because I am enabled in the gain to this event. Now, that's great. People look at it and they see the Instagram postings, but I told everyone that just because there's a quite Instagram picture of me will come down to ten-foot carpet don't forget the miles that I crawled to get to walk down that carpet. I had to pay my phone bill. Every time I pay my phone bill, every time I pay a bill, I'll go, “I remember the days where I had a phone up and asked if I could just pay $10 towards that because I’ll wait until it got to the red. I even got my water shut off because I never had enough cash.
I remember those every time and you should. I'm a great believer that if you haven't been screwed over, broke, peed on, had your coffee stolen, had people rip you off saying, “Everything that you’ve done was not worth it. If you haven't had all of that trauma in your life, wait. It's coming. That's what entrepreneurs get. We get cracked on, we get laughed on, and it’s stupid until he is genius. Elon musk publicly was laughed at by NASA until NASA was his largest client. Every single personality, every single successful entrepreneur, whether it be Walt Disney, Ford, they’ve been broke, screwed over, ripped off, sued on a regular basis. It’s the strong that survive. It’s that moment that you realize that the failures, the mistakes, the trouble that you are in at my moment doesn't define you, but if it refines you. I remember many times in my life, the reason I can stood here now, comfortable with who I am, crystal clear and transparent about what I do, who I am, and what you’re getting is because I've made a ton of mistakes over my life in getting to here.
There was a very, very dark period in my life which is going to sound absolutely stupid, but I was actually working with a phenomenal London jeweler that was part of the Ferrari Formula 1 team. I remember going to one of these parties in Monaco, I bought a Ferrari because, “Successful people buy for Ferraris.” I bought a Ferrari, I had a suit on, I had all my earrings out and there was a picture of me leaning up against his little Ferrari that I had at the time when I was living in Switzerland. I remember getting that picture and not being the kind of like, “I've made it. I got a Ferrari and I'm in Monaco.” It was a case of, “Who's that?” I suddenly realized that there was a picture in front of me that wasn't me. I was not in that event and openly say, “I went to Monaco twice. The first time, I wasn't there.” This shell, this persona of this person was and I didn't get to relax. I didn't get to interact with people as Steve Sims. I was never some other who played trying to be all big and fancy. I've learned all those lessons through dark periods in my life and thankfully looked to it and I said, “Hang on. Does that make me happy?” “No.” “Then stop doing it.” I'm a great believer and you should remember all those times you fell over because you pay for college. You pay for private school. When you fall over and it costs you $10,000, you just paid for that education. Don't go, “I've got some times in my life that I don't want to talk about it.” I go, “I am where I am now because I fucked up along the way and I know what went wrong, and you very rarely make the same mistake twice.” I hope that answered the questions.
It was fabulous. For those folks who are listening on iTunes or iHeartRadio or Stitcher, wherever you guys are tuning in from, you are not looking at our video, which you can find in the listener's lounge. It's free to subscribe. You can go to BBRShow.com and you'll get access to this and all the other video interviews that I've done and you get to get to actually sneak peek. These video interviews that I do, come out generally months before the audio interviews and this is one you want to see. Steve, can you tell us where you are currently coming to us from what's behind you?
When I was I London, I was this big thick-headed guy in a black t-shirt who used to ride around on a motorcycle. I'm 51 years old now. I'm still a big thick-headed in a black t-shirt who stood in a garage full of motorcycles. I don't have a car. I ride around in two wheels all the time. I'm doing this for my garage in Los Angeles with a bunch of motorcycles in the back.
Yes. Maybe I'm wrong here, but I feel like those motorcycles each mean something to you. They're not just tools for transportation or am I wrong?
No. For me, each motorcycle, what I've got in here at the moment, six, each bike represents a different experience. I can go at 160 mile an hour on my race bike and it’s exciting. I can go 75 mile an hour on my Norton Commando and it’s exhilarating. Each one is a different temperature, a different feeling, a different exposure, different experience. For me, motorcycle is an experience from all senses. Everything's going. You don't get it in a car. I'm fully engaged in what I'm doing when I'm on one of these bikes and they do. My eldest one is 1975, my newest one is 2018. I like all different range of bikes. In addition to working then because you've got these three companies that are keeping you busy plus the book, tour plus the press and everything, how do you enjoy your downtime? Obviously you've got your bikes, they each have a different experience, a different story, but what else are you doing these days to just really keep it real and be you and enjoy your life outside of work?
I don’t know if I have an outside of work. Like all entrepreneurs, we don’t work 9 to 5, we work until when the job is done. I'm a great believer, I hate things that are stale. I hate things that are stagnant. For me, I need to challenge myself. I need to go to a restaurant and try something I haven't tried before. Try a drink, try an appetizer. When I'm here at home, I'll try different radio station. I'll be working on some things and the sun would come out and I'll be like, “Let's jump on a bike.” I rotate my bike. When I go out for light, I leave the bike outside the garbage. I take one from the back and I pull it forward and I replace it. The next time I go out it's a different position. It’s a different sound, it’s a different feel, it’s a different vibe. I'm all about trying new things whether I'm challenged because a client wants to go and shut down a museum in Florence or I'm challenged because I got a client that's got a new widget coming out and he doesn't know how to brand it. I like to be challenged and that's what excites me. Once I can do that, then I could also be with my family as me and I can barbecue and we can drink coffee on a Sunday morning. I'm quite a home buddy. I've got stunning wife, partner, friend, everything. I'm a very lucky born individual in that side. I need to be challenged and that's my life. I don't think any entrepreneur has a divide between that personal life and their business life. If you do, maybe you shouldn't be doing it.
I want to talk about one more thing and that is business number three, SteveDSims. You've been for a long time exclusively working with the wealthy and maybe not famous, but want to be hanging out with famous people. You've been doing seemingly miraculous things, making people's dreams come true. Since you've become more public, more people are knowing about you and wanting to work with you in different capacities. How has that evolved and what are you doing these days for the everyday man or now, the gamut of who you work with, who is that and how are you supporting them in this new way?
In the old days, I used to do a lot of consulting for luxury brands and major events. Since the book came out, my consulting has also spread out now and I'm speaking into more entrepreneurial markets. I'm getting to people. I own a car leasing company. I'm not trying to release my own line of earrings. I'm now trying to agree to consult in business. I'm now coming in and going, “How do you attract a client? How is your communication with the client?” I believe that if everyone’s got a super strength or superpower, mine is communication solely because most people have become bad at it. The worse they get, the better I look. I'm trying to get them into how to build up relationships, how do I understand and know the why on relationships, how to have continuity in a message. I've gone from working with some of the biggest jewelry brands, events, airlines, and car manufacturers to working with print presses, jewelries, solopreneurs, consultants and motivational speakers. Again, same challenges, different platform.
If people want to learn more about that, what's the best way for them to do so?
It's very easy. If you go to SteveDSims.com, they can see my stunningly attractive good looks. If that doesn't scare them, they can peruse through what I've been up to and read some of the media, subscribe to my Instagram, Facebook, all the usual social stuff. On there is even my consult page where they get a chance to book a 30-minute call with me.
Also Bluefishing is available on Amazon and everywhere?
Absolutely everywhere. It just got picked up to be distributed and translated it into Japanese, Korean, and Mandarin. Those are going to be really interested in audio books, which I doubt I’ll be doing.
Congratulations. I'm glad you mentioned the audio book because that's how I first consumed the book was audio because I just love your voice. I love your accent. That’s great. It’s like our personal coaching session with Steve D. Sims on audio. Do you have any final words of wisdom? Anything you want people to take away?
My Dad was a bigger, thicker version of me. I remember him walking down the road one day and we weren't talking to each other. We weren’t looking at each other. We weren't holding hands. We were doing nothing of that. I remember him just putting his hand on my shoulder as we were walking, still looking ahead and he said to me, “Son, no one ever drowned by falling in the water. They drown by staying there.” Then he took his hand off my shoulder and carried on walking. I remember as a little sixteen-year-old looking up and going, “What the hell was that?” Then years later, I realize that it is not what defines you, it’s what will find you that matters. Anyone that's seen some shit, get up, dust yourself down, and just learn something.
Thank you so much for being here, Steve.
It's a pleasure. Thanks.
- Steve Sims
About Steve Sims
As the founder of Bluefish, one of the top personal concierge services, and an expert marketer within the luxury industry, Steve has been quoted in various publications including the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, London’s Sunday Times, South China Morning Post and many more. He has been on TV and has been a speaker at a variety of networks, groups and associations as well as the Pentagon and Harvard – twice!
Want to sing with your favorite rock star, be serenaded by Andre Boceli, walk the red carpet at A List Oscar parties, get married in the Vatican, Dive to the wreck of the Titanic – these are just a few highlights of what Steve provides for his clients. He makes the impossible, possible.
An entrepreneur in the truest sense of the word, Steve is well regarded within the luxury world for his innovation and down-to-earth personality. Known for his honesty, integrity and doing things “his way,” Steve creates experiences for his clients that they could never have imagined being possible.