Chris Niemeyer (Part One)

In part one of this episode of THE COMPANY WE KEEP podcast, host Jason Pearl welcomes entrepreneurial dynamo, business leader, and all-around dynamic guy, Chris Niemeyer. This first episode of a two-part series focuses on Chris' pivot from highly sought-after political analyst to entrepreneur, and how he made another giant career pivot after COVID brought his multi-million dollar travel business to its knees.


All right. All right. Welcome to another episode of The Company We Keep podcast. I'm your host, Jason Pearl, and I couldn't be more excited to share my friend Chris Niemeyer with you all today. Chris is a unique individual. He is a true entrepreneur's entrepreneur, and I think you're going to absolutely love him.

Chris resides in Dunedin, Florida. I's a devoted husband to his wife Alicia is the daddy to four children, two girls, and two boys. He has an amazing story that I can't wait to share with you. He is a business coach. He's a real estate investor. He's a crypto investor and enthusiast. He's created multiple online courses and he's just downright one of the best human beings I know.

He's founded the FREEDOM Business System. He's the co-founder of the Entrepreneurial Family Man, as well as many other collaborations. So Chris welcome. So happy to have you,

CHRIS NIEMEYER: Hey Jason, it is fun to be here, man. This is a long time coming and you're just a great friend and a resource in so many ways. And I know this podcast has served a lot of people. It's an honor to be here..


JASON PEARL: Thanks. Really appreciate that. So I think where we want to start is how you and I came to be. We talk about the company we keep and who you surround yourself with. And so I just kind of want to share that story of how you and I came to know each other.

So back in late 2018, I've shared the story about how I met Michael McGreevy, who was a guest in episode one of season two. And you and you and he, and a few others partnered to start the Entrepreneurial Family Man. So when I met Michael, he introduced me to you and Chris McCluskey and Jamie Slingerland and a few others.

And then we started a mastermind that I, that I joined. It was part of a mastermind with you. And then from there we just kind of developed this friendship right. On the Enneagram, we're both threes. We're both driven individuals, family, faith, and family first guys. It's unique I think, cause as, as adults don't like make fast friends with people, especially those that live across the country from you, but you and I have become fast friends and it's, we kind of call each other accountability, light partners, right?

Like we're, we're doing this life together trying to feed our families and be great husbands, be great dads and all that stuff. So that's how we became friends. And, and just looking forward to, you know, all this chat, but all the things we're going to do together in the future.

CHRIS NIEMEYER: Absolutely man. It's, you know, it's, it's so cool when, when God brings people your way that you're like, man, this is like, this is like a brother from another mother. Like I am just, we're so aligned with like everything you just shared there of, we see business, we see life through our, our faith and our family lens, and like everything we do ask to filter through those priorities now. I just remember like having great conversations with you, getting to know you, and then it's like, it's fast forwarded to, Hey, we're coming down to Florida.

Like let's connect and our families driving down to go where you are. And like, it might sound romantic and cheesy, but like we're taking the long walk on the beach together. Just exploring all these topics that we, that we both hold so dear. So it's great to find a fast run in you man, I consider you a friend for life.

We're just getting started.

JASON PEARL: That I think is, is it's one of the reasons I started this podcast, but it's, it's something that I think is so important to kind of share because there's so many people like us that are, you know, dare I say in the early forties that are 20 years into their career, they've got the stresses of life. They've got the stresses of business they've got, gosh, we just came out of COVID and all those things. It sounds so cheesy when you say who you surround yourself with matters, but, but it really does. And if you look around and you don't necessarily like what you see of the people that are influencing your life on a day-to-day basis, there are other people out there, right?

We live again, you live in Florida. I live in Western New York. We're a thousand miles away from each other, but we have technology. We have the phone and we have all these things that we can do to stay connected. So it's just so important. Find, not just like-minded people, but people that will hold you accountable to live the life and, and to rise up to the level that they know that you can rise up to.

I appreciate that about you. And I think that there's a lot of people listening. That'll appreciate all the insights that you have today.

CHRIS NIEMEYER: Well, thank you man. Yeah, I know. It's true. Like even, even after that Entrepreneurial Family Man, we put that down last year during, during COVID it was like, we, we picked up an organic phone call that we do every two weeks together, just to check in and talk about these exact topics, faith, family, business, like how's it all going to those areas, keeping each other accountable and holding each other to what we're doing.


JASON PEARL: But let's get into it. Let's ask let's. Let's talk about some questions. I'm so excited for the audience to hear about you and really hear your story. It's a story of success, but in a super unique way. And I think that as people have heard from this podcast, success is an individual definition for each person. And you are such a great example of that. And what I'd first like to ask you to do is maybe because you have such an amazing story starting from like post-college and kind of what you decided to do. Can you kind of share a little bit, like post-college what you did briefly for your first career, then how Mission Travel was born and why it was born and how that all shook out?

CHRIS NIEMEYER: Yeah, man, that's a, that's a, a longer story, but I'll try to keep it succinct here. Yeah, I, I got bit by the political bug during my last year of college. You know, there's a social science and poly-sci major. And so got thrust into and got accepted into a job. Actually, my senior year, being a political analyst. A young, young, young guy, trying to figure out how to be a political analyst, but for this big PAC a political action committee in San Diego. It was one of the most influential, you know, biggest donors of all California. Well about a year and a half into that, my boss, who is 20 years older than me had a very Nixon-esque resignation. And so he was out this, this board of 20, you know, 20 old white males that were all deca- millionaires looked around and kinda went well, there's this kid in his twenties we can hire let's, let's try him. So, so here I am like literally 23 years old, you know, running, running this, this very influential group of business owners in Southern California.

And our job was essentially to identify candidates to run for office at every level of government and then get behind them in a big way to fundraise and support them. I'm basically a young guy asking for big checks and, and so we're hosting these fundraisers for congressmen and I've got people on speed dial that people would be like, wow, you've got connections. So from an early age, to your point, like I felt like there was success there. I at this, this season of life where it's like, wow, there's there's power, there's access money, all that kind of stuff. I was the San Diego's youngest ever 40 Under 40 guy that was like the named in. But I realized Jason, that the pace of life was crazy. I'm a newly married guy at the time, thrown into these crazy parties and situations and whatever, and just realize like, man, this is, it's almost like I'm living someone else's dream because it wasn't totally aligned with who I was and how I'd grown up. And so I remember going through this process of like, is this what I want to do for the rest of my life? I don't want to run for office personally, although I could have certainly done that and been in a great position to have people, you know, behind me and mentors that wanted me to, or I was just going to be a political hack or a chief of staff for the rest of my life.

And I, I kind of hit this point and this is like, early 2006, we had been in this just crazy pace of, of election cycles and, and recalls and special elections. So it just felt like it never ended. And the pace was crazy. Personal life was getting crazy because we were at the point of like about five years of marriage, we talked about wanting to start having kids at that time.

And, but my wife was going back to school. So we were like ships passing in the night. I mean, I'm up early before she's out of bed doing my power breakfast. And then it would extend through dinner and cocktail parties and she's doing night classes. And I remember this one particular evening when I'm leaving downtown San Diego late. And I'm in the, in the background and the rear view mirror scene. Light's still on all these buildings thinking about the people working late. And I'm like, man, I'm kind of one of those guys. And I never thought I'd be one of those guys. And just processing the pace of life and the pressures I'm driving up through, if you know San Diego, near the Miramar Air Force Base, this is where they've filmed Top Gun, and it was like the real life, brave dudes that are fighter pilots. And, uh, and I'm going, man, these guys are they've got it together, they're brave. And can I make a brave decision to leave what I'm doing? To, to something that's unknown?

Cause I was really processing all of that. Like this is not what I want to do for the rest of my life. What do I want to do? But that was the night where, and I don't know how God speaks to everybody, but for me it was through the radio that night. Cause I I'm processing all this mentally. I turn on the radio and there's this song by Switchfoot and it's it's called, This Is Your Life. And the song goes, this is your life. Are you who you want to be? This is your life. Is it everything you dreamed that it would be? And I'm going no, no, it's not at all. Like, what am I doing? Like I'm not the man I should be, I'm not the husband. I'm not, certainly not ready to be the father that I'm prepared to be. I've got to make some changes. And literally Jason, I was crying out to God in the car, started weeping and had to pull over because I was like could not see. And that was a big pivotal moment for me to go. All right. I've got to be done with this. And that, that really was the start of the big process to go, ok, I'm sitting on my wife this tonight telling her I've got to leave this, I've got to leave politics. I've gotta do something different. And so anyway, that was kind of a big, a big start to explore what an entrepreneurial journey would look like.


JASON PEARL: I think what's interesting about that. We talk about this a lot individually and personally as friends. But I know I've shared this on my podcast, as well as like, if you believe what we believe in, you have Christian faith, like you do believe God is in control of your life. But one of the interesting things is I think there's, oftentimes he's trying to talk to us and show us your through things.

And we oftentimes turn our head away from it and say, well, no, no, like I know exactly what I should be doing. So I'm just going to continue to do that. Right. And I think that this example that you're sharing stops you in your tracks and it's like, all right, I don't know if I've ever heard him before, but I heard him pretty pretty crystal clear here. So it's time to change something. So, so maybe share with us now, the next part of the story about what you decided and how you pivoted from a super successful career. And, and by the way, we're not talking about just like, I had a job that was a good job. We're talking about a powerful job with powerful people, with significant amount of money. As a 25, 26, 23, 24 year old guy, we're talking six figures, everything you want, the fanciest parties, the fanciest things. This is before Instagram, but if you were living in the Insta life, like this would have been it, and you basically say, Nope, I got to change. So lead us into the next part.

CHRIS NIEMEYER: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it was literally that night when, when my wife came home. I said, hey honey, here's, here's what I've been processing, and I think I've got to make a big course correction here, and we might make some changes. And then she, she was so gracious and that was the start of a lot of conversations and we still have the napkin somewhere, but it was like, well, let's, let's get a napkin and think about some ideas. And it was asking ourselves these questions. What are we interested in? What are we kind of good at? What do we like to do? What have we studied? And so that kind of formed the early ideas of start being a travel company of all things called Mission Travel. And it was focused on helping churches and mission groups and universities and nonprofits arrange all their travel coordination for these amazing trips around the world. That was the start of it. Kind of birth of the idea that, that night and the next week. Well, then I go to two particular mentors of mine at the time. Okay. I've got all these, all these old white guys on my board that I can call on. And literally my last few years, I'm going to the country clubs playing golf once a week. I'm hanging out at their nice little mansions and just talking shop. I learned a lot about business through these guys over the years. And this was part of my whole processing is like, all right, I don't want to be a political hack. I'd rather be one of these guys. And so I sat down with two of them and they gave me basically the same pieces of advice and in a little different ways. But they said, Chris, there's kind of three main ways you make a good living and you make a, make a good life for yourself in this world.

And number one, number one verticals in real estate. Okay, you can go be a developer or open a construction company. Maybe you're do a, be a great realtor and just do really well in that vertical. Secondly, would be the markets. So you go work, go work on Wall Street, work for a hedge fund or be a trader. Be a top financial advisor, whatever. That's, that's a great vertical as well. But then third, and this is where they said for me personally, this is kind of where we think your, your bent for now is to be an entrepreneur. To own and operate your own company. And they said, find it, find out those questions. What are you good at? What are you interested in? And so that was really the birth of it, but here's an important piece. Jason, one guy in particular said, if you choose that route as early and as often as possible, but your profits into those other two, so get invested in real estate early. Be smart about financial markets because that's kind of the three legged stool of wealth creation.

And so I really kind of took that to heart and I didn't start as early as I wanted to, but, but knew that real estate and the markets were two big things I want to be part of. My last day of the job was actually at the white house, Christmas dinner with my wife. And then we launched into a sabbatical for two months. Just kind of say, let's take a break before we jump into this whole entrepreneurial journey. One of the best things we've done for our marriage. And then we went into starting this travel company.


JASON PEARL: You can fast forward a little bit like over a decade, right? You meant ran Mission Travel for a long time, very successfully, and also stepped away from Mission Travel from like an owner operator and had other people operating it for you.

CHRIS NIEMEYER: Yeah. Yeah. So that was definitely a journey to starting out really scrappy with my wife and I. Putting together, like learning, learning and everything back in '06, this is like how to put the website together. What's SEO how to do all my marketing? And really start out really scrappy. And I mean, literally it was, Hey, beans and rice. Cause we wanted to save up for a nice runway for this entrepreneurial unknown. And so we're doing that, then we're going to the, to the library or to Barnes & Noble going okay, I'm going to go to the marketing section, I'm going to the website section, like let's compare notes later. We did that literally for a couple months, putting this whole thing together.

And so once it kind of caught some legs and, and we're, we're starting to hire people, hiring sales agents to, to manage all these booking requests that are coming in, uh, repeats and referrals are happening. I'm going, wow, this is great, but it's also, I'm wearing a lot of hats. As, as the, the founder, the sales guy, the marketing, the HR, like all of that.

And after a few years of hiring sales agents, realize I've got to get myself out of being the bottleneck here, out of having to do everything day to day. And so it was, it was probably 2012, 2013, where we made some key hires of the director of marketing, operations director, director of sales, and that really freed me up as the owner to go, okay, what, where do I need to operate in my strengths? And, and frankly, do I want to be doing everything in this company? And am I passionate about this particular company? A lot of other things were happening and I kind of got exposed to this whole online entrepreneurial world and podcasting and coaching and speakers. I'm going, wow. This is pretty interesting world as well. And so I had a lot more free time to go and explore those. That's kind of what I started meeting guys like you mentioned, Michael McGreevy and Jamie Slingerland, and Dan Miller. And kinda got thrust into this whole online space of, we started this Entrepreneurial Family Man podcast and a mastermind. That's when I met you. So it's been quite a journey to adapt and re-invent.

JASON PEARL: You're being humble. You created an extremely successful business, that basically you and your wife in the last three or four years of operating that business at a very high level are not in, your hands are not in the exact day to day. Like you're not showing up to an office, everything's online. Like you're checking in, but you have the right people in charge of your business. It's generating more than enough income for you to live the lifestyle that you want to live with your family. And COVID hits and travel ends immediately. And your business was the first wave of businesses hit. So over the course of the last 18 months, it's, it's come in waves, but like the travel industry where everyone knew what happened with cruise ships and stuff like that, and you're planning all of these events, so your company goes from succeeding way up here, to zero revenue. And not only zero revenue, but people have given you money, right? As down payments to their trips and all these things. So you have to not only work through, I'm not bringing in any new revenue, the the money I have left is actually money that isn't mine. So you have to figure out ways to like give it back and make it right based on the business. And then you shut it down. And that in and of itself is probably another whole podcast that we could talk about. But the reason that I share that, because I know your story is the fact that you went from top of the mountain, to my business brings in nothing. And now I need to figure out how to support my family. And you've been a very conservative person when it comes to the way you spend and the way you do things.

So you had certain things set up, but you started to, and this is where I kind of want to take the next step of this conversation: is you pivoted very quickly and not only did you pivot quickly, you, as you were running this successful business for a decade, you were consistently learning different skills and learning about different avenues of revenue and, and you were able to pivot. Can you maybe talk about once you knew that travel wasn't necessarily going to bounce back the way you thought, how did you pivot into other areas of what did you do?


CHRIS NIEMEYER: Yeah, man, that was, it felt like the longest couple of months of my life there for awhile, if I'm being honest. And you recapped pretty, pretty well about how our industry works, especially with, with these trips, right? People are, people are, are booking with us and paying us for trips. They're going to happen 3, 6, 9 months down the road.

And so I'm starting to look at the numbers in like early February, going man, things are, things are not looking good in terms of like bookings. This is not normal. And I remember getting a call from one of my sales agents, like late February. She goes, Chris, I didn't talk to all my sales agents that often we had like a once a month team meeting and my other team is really the ones connecting with them. So she called us, Hey, we haven't talked for a while, but I just wanna let you know, like, just about every call I'm getting now is about canceling a trip, not booking a trip. And I just want to let you be aware of that. And I'm going, wow, okay, interesting. So we start monitoring harder and, and by first week of March, it was like, ok, writing is on the wall here. This is before people talking about COVID everyday in the news. And so we had to make some hard decisions. I had a team at team of 12 at that time. And by the end of that month had to make that announcement, hey, we're, we're shutting down. We're gonna have to lay everyone off. And those next couple of months, we're kind of waiting to see how things unfold with all this unknown.

And the writing was on the wall of like, this is, this is not going to just end anytime soon. And so to your point, I mean, we were doing six figures, profit, multiple multiples of that a couple of those years, to the reality that I had to face of, I've got to give back over a hundred grand of profits, back to these people that are paying for these trips that are now canceling. And so when the reality is you're going from multiple six figures to negative six figures, you got to think fast. So you got to act fast and you know that to your point earlier, I mean, fortunately there were some couple of years there where I had started making some other revenue gains through these different, different verticals, the mastermind, and some other things.

Getting into real estate and having it, having a rental property or two, but not really, not really focused on that, knowing that I always wanted to do more in that space. I love the cheetah as an example of a thriving, like we think of a, cheetah's like this amazing, uh, fast animal who's just vicious and, and a cheetah, his ability, his and his, his deadliness is actually the secret is his adaptability. So he's this the fastest on the planet. But did you know that a cheetah can go from 70 miles an hour to within two leaps, stop on a dime and he can, he can switch directions, mid leap. That's what makes him so, so dangerous to his prey is his adaptability. And so I've taken that kind of that animal to heart to say, okay, you've got to, you've got to fail forward fast to try things. And you've gotta be adaptable. By the end of like April when I'm taking care of all my employees and making sure they're all set up on unemployment and we're monitoring all that kind of stuff with all the different states, I'm going, all right, now I've got to figure out my, my big next steps to make up for this loss and to really kind of reinvent myself right.

And so I, I went back to those, those mentor moments and that advice and went, you know, what I've always wanted to do more in real estate. I see this as a great opportunity and really threw myself into that as well as some of the other coaching stuff that I was doing. Because frankly, Jason, I was kind of living on a resting on my laurels, so to speak. This company was going well, I'm not putting a lot of time into it. The income is coming in, whether I'm kind of doing a much there or not. And, uh, it was kind of getting stagnant, frankly.


JASON PEARL: What's interesting about that is what you just said is that you would had your career to a point where I don't want to say autopilot, but you, you had multiple years of success. You're like, this is, this is what life is like. I just run this business and I get to do all these other fun things. Obviously family, faith, travel. Those are really big things that you do as an individual. It's it's ways that you define your success, right? You like to have family time, you like to be able to travel. So that's always important. So it's, what's even more amazing about this story is that you were always moving, you're you're a guy that's always thinking, but. How many of us get in that autopilot zone where it's, hey, this is what life is supposed to be. Like, we just succeed. I've worked hard, I'm smart. Like I do all these things and then boom, a hundred year pandemic comes by and it crushes your, your business, your livelihood and your, your income stream.

Hey everyone. Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Company We Keep podcast with my special guest Chris Niemeyer. Hope you got a ton out of the first episode of a two part series with Chris. There was so much information packed in there, and if there's anything you missed or you want to relisten to it, or you want to check the links or anything, we talked about. Please visit, where you can find all the show notes to this episode. Don't forget to tune in next week to hear the final part series of my conversation with Chris Niemeyer.

Until next time, this is Jason Pearl. I'm out, peace.