Bob “Sully” Sullivan began day-trading at the age of 22 and has become one of the premiere on-air personalities nationwide when it comes to picking individual stocks. He is also the creator/host of The Big Biz Show, a nationally syndicated radio program that is heard on CBS Radio Group, Salem, American Forces Radio in 175 countries and simulcast on network television to over 28 million broadcast homes daily. The show is also heard on Yahoo Radio and seen on wazillomedia.com.
Sully has been a newspaper publisher in the San Diego and Los Angeles area, and active as an intermediary in the venture community, where he assisted more than 200 companies obtain investment capital while raising over $250 million.
Opportunist: How did you get into radio?
Sully: I raised a bunch of money as a venture capitalist and a magazine called me to do an interview. Then a small radio station asked me to come and be a venture capital expert, so I went into the studio a couple times a week for about three months. The Big Ass Biz Show was pretty edgy stuff, but I came from a venture capital background and didn’t have any real experience in radio. Cliff Albert, program director for one of the biggest radio stations in Southern California, had a next-door neighbor who happened to hear my show and told him “You’ve got to hear this guy.” So Cliff listened, liked what he heard and asked me to come into the office. After about six months, I took over afternoon drive on the second largest station in San Diego. On-air gigs usually require 10 years of overnights in some small town before getting drive time, but I got an opportunity and kind of ran with it.
Opportunist: What do you enjoy most about your work?
Sully: It’s not the same every day. And I learn as much every day as I’m able to impart.
Sully: The best thing about The Big Biz Show is we break it down so Joe Six-Pack understands the market and what business is. He cannot get that from watching a couple of suits on MSNBC. [Laughs] Any sort of business news in these economic times scares Joe Six-Pack to death. What’s interesting is that most people don’t realize the news is there to sell papers and they’re going to say—with big, bold headlines—whatever sells papers. We have successfully taught our audience for years that the market runs on fear and greed. If you can control those two emotions, you’re going to go farther than you ever anticipated with respect to your business, your investments and even your personal life.
We are also about the business of sports and the business of Hollywood. We are as much a lifestyle show as a business show.
Opportunist: You are the “Money Guy” and Russ T. Nailz is the “Funny Guy.” How did you two become a team?
Sully: A couple of years after I was on the show, Russ called up my boss. He was a standup comedian and we said sure, come on in and we worked him into the program as a man on the street.
Our philosophy is that if I’m teaching you what it means to short a stock Russ is making you laugh along the way. It cannot be forced. We have had other guest hosts when Russ goes on standup comedy tours or headlines acts in Las Vegas, but it’s not the same. I have yet to see it duplicated.
Opportunist: What’s it like to be on live TV?
Sully: We are patched into the radio networks but also live on TV. It’s all-live, on-the-fly radio and TV. Nobody does live TV anymore but the morning and evening news. It’s a very unique media. Nothing is edited. They have to switch cameras based on me and Russ T’s speech patterns. Our director knows our speech patterns so well he knows when to switch. [Laughs]
Opportunist: Have you found yourself in any embarrassing situations, live on the air?
Sully: Too many to tell! [Laughs] Everything normally does go wrong with live radio and TV—from stuff falling over to Russ choking on a bag of sunflower seeds to having a guest drop the F-bomb. We’ve even had Russ T. so fired up at the TSA that he’s dropped an F-bomb on live TV.
Sully: My favorite interviews are fledgling companies—small privately owned businesses that have a cool gadget or idea. It never ceases to amaze me when I get a company in front of me doing something I’ve never seen before. Tax Resolution Services is a good example. To peel back the sheets and read the inside story on the IRS is fascinating. A company that creates a new brand of tequila is really interesting. There’s a certain amount of passion because I’m such an entrepreneur. I have always negotiated my own contracts and I have always run this as a business not as a TV guy. It makes my job really fun because I’ve been there and I know the questions to ask and the tough spots these guys have been in.
When people see a small company succeed by bringing themselves up by their own bootstraps it sends a great message to the unemployed or underemployed—especially in lean economic times. We have never seen a time when more people are reinventing themselves and starting new businesses. It’s such a compelling story.
Opportunist: Who are some of the most awe-inspiring people you have interviewed?
Sully: Steve Forbes. Newt Gingrich. Jack Black the actor. Bill Gates was interesting. One of my favorites is Wayne Allyn Root. He was the 2008 Libertarian Party vice-presidential nominee and he has written several books.
Opportunist: Who was your toughest interview?
Sully: Entrepreneurs are the most difficult because they aren’t built for interviews. But those are fun interviews. I believe I’ve become a really good interviewer over the years because of the tough ones. The difficult ones are also my favorite.
Opportunist: Have you ever hung up on a guest?
Sully: I’ve been known to hang up on a guest here or there, especially when I get a guy who’s a blow hard who never takes a break from talking and contradicts himself. You call him on it and he doesn’t even hear you because he’s always on transmit. [Laughs]
Opportunist: How do you determine your guest lineup?
Sully: News obviously dictates what we’re going to do. Lots of folks want to come on the air with us. We are usually booked out a month ahead, but we do leave room for breaking news and whatnot.
Opportunist: What are some of your most memorable moments?
Sully: One of the greatest moments was when Amilya Antonetti completely lost it while talking about how she completely lost it with the Obama Administration on national TV. She is on Fox Business as the defender of small business and she has been on our show a number of times.
Years ago, I interviewed Ely Callaway, founder of Callaway Vineyard & Winery. Callaway is a huge, successful publicly traded company. Basically what came out of that interview was I asked him a question that I ask every major celebrity at the end of my interviews.
Opportunist: What did you ask him?
Sully: How much money do you have in your pocket right now?
Opportunist: How much did he have?
Sully: He pulled out a cashier’s check for a million and a half bucks. He had just received a dividend check. [Laughs]
Opportunist: If you could have anyone on your show, who would it be?
Sully: Man, that’s a tough one. I would love to interview Barack Obama and ask him direct questions that no one else will ask. I would also love to interview Mark Zuckerberg and the Google guys—and the guys who make the Super Bowl amateur commercials.
Sully: Every morning I am either up surfing or working out at 4:30. By 8 o’clock I am back at my desk for roughly two hours doing day trading and my investment banking and scouring the news. At quarter ‘til noon I’m in my studio because my show is on the air at noon. After the show, I head back to my desk and begin prepping the next day’s show. My evening show [coalitionradio.net] is on the air at 6 pm and off at 8 pm. The I head home and touch base with my two teenage daughters. Then I prepare to do it all over again the next day. [Laughs]
Opportunist: Who or what inspired you to achieve what you have accomplished?
Sully: I don’t think it’s one thing. A lot of folks, including my parents, taught me to be driven. I think when we saw that we were moving the needle with respect to the format we were doing, the desire and motivation built on itself. I’ve interviewed some of the biggest names in Hollywood, the largest captains of industry and sports figures. When you interview Larry Ellison or Bill Gates or Steve Forbes, you’re changed. When you’ve interviewed Ted Nugent you’re affected. I’ve been doing it for the better part of 15 years—that, as much as anything, will drive you to succeed.
My work with the Challenged Athletes Foundation [challengedathletes.org] inspires me. I rode 620 miles on my bike down the Pacific coast with 100 other athletes in support of the foundation. I interviewed a ton of those athletes. Some are wounded warriors who came back with legs. Co-founder Bob Babbitt is also a founder of Competitor magazine. That was a great interview. One guy had a grenade shot through him and he was riddled with machine gun bullets. He was placed in a body bag until a nurse saw a bloody snot bubble and realized he was still alive. The big names are always fun to interview but all those one-legged people make you look at your life and realize you have a lot to be grateful for.
Opportunist: You are billed as one “helluva stock picker.” What are some of your successes?
Sully: I was up 61% last year with my stock picks. I have 25,000 followers on twitter @bigbizshow. Stock picks are out every Sunday night. We talk about them on Monday, review them on Wednesday and keep things accountable on Friday. I am up 19% so far in January. I don’t do newsletters and I don’t have an agenda. I do it for free for my viewers and listeners. There is money to be made even in a down market.
Opportunist: How do you handle the fame aspect of your career?
Sully: We do a lot of local TV spots and Fox Business appearances, but we’re not Elvis or anything like that. [Laughs] One time I got off a plane in Hawaii and somebody came up to us with the whole family and that was kind of weird. It’s nice though, and people are usually very respectful.
Opportunist: What do you hope to accomplish in 2012?
Sully: I think this year I will probably start doing some public speaking. My partner at Ether Media, Troy Hazard [Author of “Future Proofing Your Business,” has been urging me to go on the speaking circuit.
I will continue doing investment banking consulting work—companies still call and have me negotiate for them—and I also own a personal training facility in San Diego. We are producing some really cool programming that I cannot talk about for a couple of months. Three shows are in production right now.
Opportunist: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Sully: Once we get Internet radio into cars like AM/FM and satellite, I believe we’re all going to be working for Internet radio stations at some point. The Big Biz Show tends to get bigger every year, so I believe it will have a larger national stage in the next five years. I can see more of the same but easing up my schedule a bit to do public speaking and to have less 25-hour days. [Laughs]
Opportunist: Are you bullish on America?
Sully: Well, I’m really bullish on America if the government will get the hell out of the way. [Laughs] We need real change in this country.
Opportunist: What kind of change?
Sully: The biggest thing we need right now is a new tax code. The current tax code is 69,000 pages long and it’s impossible. We need to start manufacturing again, but nobody’s going to do it until we can change the tax code.
I’m a moderate but fiscal conservative. We have an administration that never created a job in their entire career. Remember Herman Cain, the pizza magnate? Here’s a plain speaking guy who wanted to run the country like a CEO. I think he was onto something.
This is the first time that, quarter-by-quarter, there is more money in the coffers of corporate America than at any other time in the history of this country. In fact, they had more money in their bank accounts inside the recession. So why aren’t they hiring people? For the same reason that people don’t go out and spend a lot of money after a catastrophic event. Nobody is going to make a change in times of uncertainty, volatility and confusion.
As bad as things are here in this country, we are the least dirty shirt in the hamper. [Laughs] We are still the greatest country in the world.
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Leslie Stone is an award-winning writer/editor with more than two decades of experience covering business, finance and lifestyle issues for newspapers, magazines and online publications. Originally from Virginia, she currently resides in the Orlando area.