Benjamin Yeh is a business and transformation coach and host of the Boom Vision Podcast, as well as a dad, husband, and real estate investor—and a member of our private membership community for entrepreneurs, SPI Pro.
I spoke with Ben about his own transformation and transition into a career that fulfills him and helps other high-performers find their “why.”
Ray Sylvester: Can you give me a little background on your path to becoming an entrepreneur? What you were doing before you started a business, and what guided you to take the leap?
Benjamin Yeh: I’m in what I would consider the third chapter of my career. I started off as a real estate hospitality consultant. I essentially lived out of a suitcase for four years. It was a great learning and training ground, because I actually went to a graduate school to get a real estate master’s. I primarily worked with hotel owners/developers, hotel management companies, food & beverage and gaming industry.
It’s funny because one of Pat’s stories resonates with me—I also went to CAL, and the day before Christmas, I got laid off in the 2008 financial crisis.
I remember that morning as I drove to work, I had the gut feeling, “I think they’re gonna lay me off,” and sure enough, that’s what happened. But I’ve learned in life, usually when a door closes, another one opens when you’re looking in the right areas. And luckily for me, I had this amazing opportunity that came up in the midst of being laid off where, given my skill set and experience, I could add value to their organization as an investment officer for a family office. A family office is just a fancy term for an investment team. And the people that I worked for were the founders of Panda Express, which is a family-owned business.
The initial focus of the family office was to grow their real estate portfolio, so we purchased retail centers, office buildings, apartments, etc. Within a span of 7 years, my team and I invested over $1 billion.
During my time there, I also met my wife. When we got married and when we had our first kid, I had this really interesting vision. It was two weeks after my son was born. I was lying in bed looking up at the ceiling, and I had this flash vision of my two kids in the front yard of a house running around, having fun. It seemed very happy. And my wife and I were there, but I knew it was a vision of the future because at the time my wife and I were living in an apartment, and we’d just had our first child. But what was very odd and confusing for me was it seemed like on the exterior everyone was happy, but on the inside I was not. I was feeling empty. I was not feeling the same level of happiness, and there was this huge disconnect.
I was like, why do I have this disconnect? And so when I really sat with it, what I came to realize was wow, the path that I was on was really designed by others. It wasn’t a path that my soul really wanted to be on or wanted to create.
And that was a hard pill to swallow because I felt like I was living the American dream and building a career that I’m really proud of. But when I’d really reflect, as an investment officer, I didn’t want my life to just be measured by just one number, which is IRR, right? Internal rate of return. I wanted my life to be more meaningful than that. My soul was yearning to find and create more meaning.
And so a few years later, after having that vision I decided, okay, I think it’s time for me to take that leap of faith and dive into the world of entrepreneurship. What do I really want to do? Because in the time that I was there, not only did we invest in real estate, but I grew their alternative investments portfolio where we invested in companies (venture, private equity, funds, etc.) across many different asset classes and industries. We looked at almost everything under the sun.
And so when you invest in all these different companies, and I’m working with the CEOs, I have a natural tendency, not just only talking about KPIs and scorecards and numbers, but coming from a more holistic perspective. At Panda they are very big on self-development, self-improvement. So my wife and I have taken Landmark Education and Tony Robbins workshops. I also started my spiritual journey when I met my wife, experiencing thetahealing, Reiki healing, the whole world of energy work.
So after that vision, I started my third chapter with my entrepreneurship journey. It was almost like the intersection where the three roads intertwined: my personal growth, my professional growth, and my spiritual growth.
I left Panda in 2016. Since then, I’ve had different businesses because of my unique background, not just in finance, but investing, seeing so many different business models, seeing so many people on the side of the table when they’re pitching their idea or raising capital, but also now being on the other side as an entrepreneur and raising capital. I’ve had a blessed opportunity to be able to sit in almost all seats around the table. This gave me a multi-perspective way to look at and identify problems, and find the right solutions.
But the intersection of my personal, professional, and spiritual growth got me into this place where now when I want to coach people, it’s really seeing it from a more multidimensional perspective.
There are times when I listen to really successful entrepreneurs who’ve built a successful business, went IPO, whatever it may be, but if their home life and their life’s in shambles personally, then like, what did you do it all for? Or when you have that a-ha moment where it’s like, “Okay, maybe this is a path I really don’t want to be on, where I’ve lost that spark, that inner joy. How do I reclaim that spark, that inner happiness?” I went through that myself, so I really understand that pain point
My wife is very intuitive, and she’s told me that through the last 10-plus years of knowing me, she knows my soul feels most alive when I’m coaching people.
It’s almost like time goes away when you’re in that zone of genius. When you’re in that flow, when time just dissipates, it’s usually an indication that’s something your soul’s meant to do. And when she made that observation, it was like, okay, what does that mean? And how do I get on that path?
And so that’s when I left Panda, and I really started listening to Smart Passive Income with Pat, with his podcast and everything. I was just trying to consume as much information because my world back then in real estate/investing was very different versus a new path of my entrepreneurship journey.
My initial iteration was to take the world of Warren Buffett and Tony Robbins and find some intersection. Because I knew numbers and investing, but then it evolved to being more of a holistic perspective, like, how do we build a strong foundation of body and soul, and then build success and business on top of that? Because once you have a general idea of direction, that’s when you really get in alignment with what your soul wants to create. That’s when things start falling into place.
I’ve noticed on my journey in entrepreneurship, there’s times where you take six steps forward, but you keep getting knocked back five steps, and it’s so tiring, right? When you’re still trying to find that MVP, minimum viable product, you’re trying to find market adoption. The struggle of entrepreneurship is real. There’s times when it feels like jamming a square peg into a round hole. And when I really zoom out, what I found is, well, is what I’m pursuing in alignment with what I really want to do, or is it really just to generate income? What’s my why? When there is alignment, there is magic!
Something that gave me clarity on the type of coaching I do now was wishing there was a language out there that existed for my thirty-year-old self to understand when I had that vision: What do I do when I feel stuck? How do I process that? Because I was very left-brained; I was a hundred percent logic based. I could give you a whole SWOT analysis, cost-benefit analysis. I’d be very detailed in the nuances of things, but it was so entrenched in the tactics and strategies of life that I didn’t zoom out to really understand what’s the right direction?
Ben explains why your intuition is important and how to unlock it in a Teaching Friday episode of the SPI Podcast:
Ray: That moment you had the vision, when you saw a picture of outward happiness but didn’t feel it reflected inside you—you said it was a few years afterward that you actually started to make changes. What was that period like? Did the vision return? Did you think about making changes in your life and your work?
Benjamin: Great question. So when I first had the vision, it took me a few months to really digest what I was feeling. But at the same time too, being a first-time dad, it’s like, there’s no real book on <laughs>—what do you do with this? Sure, there are books on parenting or whatnot. But when you’re a first-time dad, it’s like, you know what, we’re gonna throw you in the deep end and you’re just gonna figure it out. I was still kind of recalibrating a new life, which was being a father.
Part of my job at the time as an investment officer that was very fulfilling was working with a team and seeing something from beginning to end. There’s a part of my fulfillment there, but in terms of what my soul was yearning for, I knew long term it was just a number.
It wasn’t until my son was a couple years older, it dawned on me: When it comes to timing in entrepreneurship —you can always try to wait for the right timing. But sometimes you just have to jump out and fly and try to create your parachute on the way down. It’s like, well, once my kids are a little bit older, I’m gonna feel as if my opportunity cost is gonna be greater to make a move than it is now.
And that’s when I had that second a-ha. I was like, I know it doesn’t make any sense. But I’m going with my gut here. So I sat down with both principals and said, “I think my time here has evolved.” And I gave them six months’ notice so they could get the right team in place for a smooth transition.
I needed to give myself the space to sort things out because it was almost like I was drinking out of two fire hoses at the same time.
Being a father, there are certain life events that make you pause and reprioritize. A question I asked myself was, what do I want my kids to see and model? If you really know something is not the path you’re on, are you willing to take the courage to fix it and change it? Even though you might not know what’s on the other end of the side, but to have that courage to do so. Or is safety the best way to go?
And when I asked myself that question, it was like, you know what? I need to break that cycle. I gotta show my kids what’s possible. I gotta do it.
Ray: What was the first day like, after you left your full-time job? What did you do that day?
Benjamin: You know, for the first few months I was just decompressing. It was like, you know what, I’m just going to be with the family. I’m just gonna Netflix and chill. Have you ever heard that analogy where the frog’s in a boiling pot? It doesn’t know it’s boiling until it jumps out. And once I jumped out, I realized, oh my God, that water was really hot. My body and my mind just needed time to recalibrate. I didn’t realize I was sprinting a marathon almost every day, and I just needed to decompress.
Once I felt a bit more at equilibrium, then ideas started coming in. And I started creating, and that’s when I started consuming more of SPI. It was also like, what’s out there? I’ve seen practically every single business model. But starting one from scratch is a completely different muscle to train and create. And so for me, it was almost like a game. It was like, okay, what’s a problem or void where a solution is really needed?
And then I’d talk it over with my wife, like, “Hey, what do you think of this idea?” And we went through different ideas. Some of them, we knew right away, “Nope. There’s no market adoption. Okay. Next.”
I remember initially we had this idea of creating—we were big on healthy food. If we look at what kids are eating now at school, it’s still hot dogs, hamburgers, and sloppy joes. And it’s like, wait, there’s gotta be a better alternative. And because I used to work for a restaurant group, even though I’m not an operator, it’s like, wait a minute. What if there’s a need to fulfill healthy, organic food for kids?
And so we did our market research; we were going down that rabbit hole. We did a whole business plan, pro forma, did a first tasting, got a team in place. So it felt exciting to be in that startup mode.
But after the first tasting, we had an a-ha moment because everyone loved the food we created. But then the price point everyone was used to paying for lunch—we’re talking about elementary school—is about $6.50 to $7. If you really want an organic offering, it’s gotta be at least $8.50 to $9. And if you’re not gonna buy it more than twice a week, if it’s just more of a novelty, then I was telling my team, “That dollar and a half to $2, that’s a big gap in the food industry. We don’t really have a sustainable business.”
Ray: This was selling to schools directly?
Benjamin: Initially, it was to sell to families of private schools, so we’d be working with schools. Yeah. So, whether they have a cafeteria or not, some private schools typically outsource that kind of operation. But then once we did that first tasting and feedback, it’s like, “We have a gap.” And it was a hard pill to swallow, telling my team, “Okay, we don’t really have a business, as much as I want this.” My team agreed with this conclusion so we decided to disband but keep close in contact.
That’s one of many paths of being an entrepreneur. You just gotta test out and see what clicks, what doesn’t. But at the time, I wasn’t asking an important question: what’s really in alignment with my soul? That part for me, which my wife helped guide me, is what led to the coaching that I do now.
Ray: I’d love to hear more about how you got into your coaching business. And were there other business ideas you tested first, like the school food one?
Benjamin: Yeah. [My current coaching business] was almost like a 2.0 version. So the first 1.0 version was after the school idea and we realized we didn’t have a business. And my wife was saying, “Hey, there’s this whole blogging world and everything.” That’s when I binged on consuming Pat’s podcast and blogs. And it was like, oh, wow, this world of blogging, this world of affiliate marketing. That’s when the idea percolated on doing a hybrid between Warren Buffett and Tony Robbins.
I remember buying Divi themes for WordPress and creating a website. I had like 10 blog posts up. I was literally about to publish and go live until I got a phone call from an old friend saying, “Hey, Ben, my friend is a startup founder. He’s trying to create this real estate startup. Do you mind meeting with him? I think you guys will hit it off.” I was like, sure. Why not? So I took this meeting. We got to know each other, he told me about his idea, and the next thing I know, he’s trying to enroll me to be the CEO of this real estate startup.
And I got shiny object syndrome. The idea of being a CEO startup was very appealing. In hindsight, it might not have been for the right reasons, but it’s like, okay, why don’t I do this? Because I have the experience, and I know how to put this team and put this vision together. So I didn’t publish my website. And I went down this side track of being in a real estate startup and raising VC money and the whole works.
But toward the tail end of doing that for a full year, even though it’s something I knew how to do, I’ll be honest—I was miserable towards the end. Because the stress level of doing a startup, it’s always a race against the clock. And I realized that how I showed up at home, was not really someone I wanted to be. I was very short with my kids. I became short-tempered. And I was like, you know what? This is not a healthy balance. And when I sat with it, I was like, I think I did this for not necessarily for the right reasons.
And so I had a really honest talk with my co-founder and team. I said, “Hey, let me just be an advisor, because I’m not gonna show up as the best person you need to lead this charge.”
When I exited, my network started asking, because they knew me as a real estate person, “Hey, do you want to start this real estate team?” And again, it pulled me back into my old second chapter. And because that was a world I knew well, I kind of went with the flow.
Then I was up one night doing Excel pro forma spreadsheets as due diligence on a potential acquisition. I’ve been doing that all my life. But it was like, I don’t want to do another pro forma again. As much as I know how to do it, it brings me no joy. And it gave me a flashback of that vision I’d had with my kids. Like, wait, what brings me joy? I have not answered that question. I’ve been exploring, but I really haven’t been heart centered with what that means to me.
So I looked back at the old website that I was about to publish 2 years ago. And I read through all the blogs I’d written, and it was very numbers and data driven. It was not very heart-centered. And where I was in life and how I’d evolved made me realize, wow, that was my old self. I’ve really evolved from that. So I can’t just publish that. It doesn’t really speak to where I am in life.
During that period of self-realization, my uncle passed away. He was like the cool uncle you could just be yourself with, some very dear to me. And it was one of those major life events that made me rethink my priorities. It’s like, wait, life is so short, and I wanna do something meaningful that’s gonna make my heart sing. Yes, I have all these other businesses with partnerships, but the one that brings me the most joy is coaching—but coaching in a way that I define it.
And that’s when I created my website, and when I realized I wanted to create my own podcast, I enrolled in Power-Up Podcasting, and I started that journey.
And it was funny, because I went through it. I recorded my first episode. I listened to it, and I was like, that’s how my voice sounds? <laughs> Who the hell is gonna wanna listen to me? I was like, no one’s gonna listen to me like that. My voice sounds so weird. And I literally hit pause for six months.
Then my wife was taking a nutrition class, and one of her instructors said something that resonated with her, that she said to me, and it was exactly what I needed to hear: “When you’re nervous, focus on service.”
And what dawned on me when I heard that quote was that thinking my voice sounds weird makes it all about me. It’s not about me. That’s not my intention for why I wanna create this podcast. It’s about serving others. If my message, no matter how silly I might sound, can serve people, it’s the right thing to do.
So that’s when I went back, and within a weekend I’d recorded my second and third episodes. I remember one of the tactics Pat shared in the class was banking a few episodes for when you launch. So I got four episodes in the bank, then I launched the Boom Vision Podcast at the beginning of September 2021.
And that’s when it set me down a really different path, in conjunction with launching my coaching website.
I’d been coaching people ad hoc over the past decade, but it’s like, no, I wanna be more heartfelt in growing my practice. My coaching is more heart centered. And it’s helping people find their purpose, their true north. Once you have the direction, then we can go into the strategies and tactics on how you’re gonna implement the vision and execute. But if someone just comes to me saying, “I need a framework to get me from six to seven figures, 7 figures to 8 figures,” it’s like, I’m not the right person for you.
Business isn’t just ones and zeros. You’ve got to really authentically understand what path your soul wants to create because when you do, things just start aligning. You’re not going to be in this recursive loop of taking six steps forward and five steps back, because you’ll know exactly what your soul wants. And you’re gonna bring the right opportunities and resources into your life when you’re in alignment and know how to attract them.
Ray: How is the coaching business going? Are you full time with it right now, or do you still have other things on the side?
Benjamin: I still have other things I’m working on. Being in the investment world, I still also invest in deals. I’ve also syndicated deals. So I understand that world well, and I’m still doing that. However, my passion is in business and transformation coaching and really being able to empower people for positive change. I want to empower CEOs and leaders that truly want to be wavemakers and lead with passion and heart.
Since I was new to podcasting, I knew I really needed to meet with like-minded folks that were podcasters, that have built digital courses and communities. Those are not things that I knew how to build ground-up.
I was listening to one SPI episode and Pat was talking about SPI Pro. I was like, that’s a no-brainer.
And the clarity I’ve gotten within these past couple of months is, who I really serve best are people that know how to survive, but don’t know how to thrive. They’ve built a million-dollar business. They don’t know how to grow their revenue from one to two million, two to five, five to 10, 10 to 25 million, etc. I’ve invested and worked with a lot of entrepreneurs and people in various stages of their business life cycle, so I understand their pain points and growth pains.
The real question is, what life do they truly want to create? Let’s first redefine and rebuild your foundation of mind, body and soul. Get crystal clear with what life you truly want, and how you truly define the word “thrive.” Then build your business on top of that strong foundation.
But early on, when it’s zero to one, when you’re still trying to understand, what’s a drip campaign, right? What’s your lead magnet? These things are new to me. So being part of an SPI Pro has helped me understand how you build from the ground up? That was helpful for me to just being part of that community environment, but who I really serve are the ones where it’s like, “I’ve created success, at least $1 million business and have a small team. I just don’t know how to take it to the next level.” Or, “I know how to build massive success in my career, but I’ve just lost that spark, that joy, that inner happiness.”
One current case study is one of my old high school friends. We graduated high school in 1997, and I hadn’t spoken to him for over two decades. So we were not in each other’s lives, but because I took Power-Up Podcasting, I created the Boom Vision Podcast, and he listened to it the first month it launched, he saw a post on FB. He’s based in Taiwan. It was one am, and he’d listened to like three of my episodes straight. He couldn’t stop listening to it because he felt stuck in his life and what I shared really resonated with him. He’s built multiple businesses, bootstrapped several million-dollar businesses and had successful exits. So he’s a proven entrepreneur, but that sense of spark and direction was missing in his life.
So after listening to the first few episodes, he reached out and wanted to connect. I hadn’t talked to him in decades, and we just caught up. And I didn’t realize, wow, our values and inner compass are quite similar. I was like, Mickey, I think I can help you. So I took him on as a client, and now we talk on a weekly basis.
And his transformation was night and day. He realized he’d gotten pulled in all these different directions, but he wasn’t doing things that fulfilled his heart. Once he prioritized that “true north” as a major component of his decision making, now how he hires, how he thinks of strategy, how he builds his team and empowers them, in terms of saying yes or no to opportunities, he’s asking, is this in alignment with my true north?
He’s a creative artist. He went to art school. He’s a true creative, but being an entrepreneur, where it’s all about processes and execution, now it’s like, okay, let’s recalibrate you somewhere in the middle. Because if you lose that creativity, that juice to help you get in your flow, then it’s just gonna feel like you’re always in the hamster wheel.
And now with my coaching, it’s really managing both. How do I bring out what I call the three core pillars: your imagination, your voice, your intuition. What you see, what you hear, what you feel—that creates the vehicle you’re in, that creates your inner world, that amplifies your outer reality. You start going, working your mental gym to exercise because you need to create clarity in the direction you want to go. Now, when you execute and think about how you’re gonna get there, it’s with purpose and it’s with a certain energy that, okay, this is in alignment with your true self.
After working with Mickey for over 6 months, he has transformed as a leader, his mindset on how he approaches his business, family and life has changed quite dramatically, and we’ve laid down the roadmap on how to grow his business 10x-plus for the next two to three years. And this all started because I got over my mental hump of thinking my voice sounded weird, but to focus on service and launch my podcast!
Ray: Did you already know the avatar, the target client that would be a good fit before you joined Pro? Or was that something that became clearer for you?
Benjamin: I’ll be honest, it’s been a journey within the last six months, so my avatar, my target client became clearer after joining SPI Pro.
One of the things I share on my podcast is the external things you can control: your soil, water, sun. Your soil’s your environment, what you’re rooted in. Is it nurturing you, or is it depleting your energy? You’ve heard the saying, “You are the sum of the five people you hang out with the most,” right? Same concept. It’s your environment, it’s your soil. And I knew prior to SPI Pro I needed a new soil. I needed to be in a fresh-thinking environment with other entrepreneurs.
And when I joined SPI Pro and started to really grow my podcast, that gave me the clarity of knowing who I want to serve. But how do I do it in a way that is most applicable given my most relevant experience? And meeting entrepreneurs like Mickey, getting a feedback loop of who my podcast resonated with.
I think Pat also mentioned that usually the test is the seventh episode, right? There’s this thing called podfading, and it’s a real thing. What am I doing this for? Because you don’t get that immediate reaction of knowing it’s gonna bear fruit. And what helped push me through was doing it biweekly, because I knew that was a pace that I wouldn’t feel like I would be burnt out.
But there were still times when, looking at numbers and downloads, I was like, is this really resonating with people? I have no idea because when you’re recording into a mic, you don’t get that immediate feedback.
So there are times when I’m doubting myself. But any time I have those doubts, it’s almost like the universe will send a signal so I know I’m on the right path. I’ll give an example.
One of my old college buddies is an attorney who works for a nonprofit. He’d been doing it for quite a while, but he’d started feeling stuck. And usually when I hear someone feels stuck, my ears perk up. How do I help? And when I heard what he was going through, I was like, “Hey, you might wanna listen to episode two of Boom Vision. It talks about inner voice. I think there’s something in there that might benefit you.” This was back in October, a month after I launched my podcast. I didn’t hear back from him, and we usually talk almost every quarter. After a couple months passed, my intuition was telling me to see how he was doing. So I texted him.
And he replied saying, “Man, you beat me to the punch. It’s not official yet, but guess what? I’m still waiting for paperwork, but I got a verbal acceptance to be a judge.”
He told me after listening to my episode, he realized the rhetoric, the internal dialogue he’d always had. Because he thought he felt stuck and was just gonna find another job as an attorney, but he really wants to serve and make a bigger impact. And he happened to see a posting for a judge position. And normally he would probably just pass on even throwing his name in the hat, but something propelled him to do it. Fast forward, now he’s gonna be a judge in the court. And it’s like, holy cow. He said he wouldn’t have considered applying if he hadn’t listened to that episode.
And then when I heard that, I was floored! How could I stop now?! <laughs> That’s just one person. Imagine who else I can impact?
And it reminded me of that story that Pat shared, of the person who was injured and started consuming SPI [Michal Szafranski]. And then he ran this marathon. So this for me was in a similar vein where I’m like, how do I stop now if this is really making a positive impact for people? I’ve just gotta continue and see where this journey goes.
SPI Pro: Your Safe Place to Learn and Grow as an Entrepreneur
Inside SPI Pro, entrepreneurs like you come together to meet and support one another, get answers to burning questions, learn from experts, and more. Consider joining us!
Online Business Ideas for a New Year
CBD Business Ideas: Powerful Strategies For Beginners
How Can Brainstorming Be Used To Generate New Business Ideas