Young Guns, a Milwaukee entrepreneur leadership group, has always leaned hard into the concept of disruption. According to founder Paul Neuberger, "I've always been a hard charging guy, alpha male with an exclamation mark.”
With a background in fundraising, higher eduction, financial planning and more, the author and keynote speaker created “The Cold Call Coach” in 2015 and “C-suite for Christ” in 2018.
Neuberger talks a lot about his faith, but he says that Young Guns, which he created in 2019, is a secular organization, and it’s holding its Summer Summit on Aug. 19 at the Brookfield Conference Center in-person and virtually, with several local entrepreneurs as speakers and on panels.
Young Guns’ mission statement is Ignite your influence. “We are a movement of free-thinking, action-oriented entrepreneurs who don't wait for permission to break the rules of business in an effort to achieve more than we ever dreamed possible.”
We caught up with Neuberger in advance of Thursday’s event to get an idea of what makes him tick.
OnMilwaukee: What’s the origin story of Young Guns?
Paul Neuberger: As I like to say, sometimes we take hold of an idea, but other times an idea takes hold of us. And honestly, this idea had me, it was mid-2019, and I've always looked at myself as a guy that does life a little bit differently. I'm very open about my faith. I don't say that others have to believe what I believe, but God is number one in my life. And I talk about that a lot. I'm very authentic. I'm very genuine. I've battled anxiety, depression. I was even suicidal in college. And one of the best therapies for me is just to be who God created me to be. So I've always done life a little bit differently, personally and professionally. And I've noticed over the years that others have also taken this approach, maybe not for the same reasons, but they mark it differently. They talk differently. They position differently. And I noticed that one of the things of the people that I had in mind, one of the commonalities that we had is that we were all somewhat local in the State of Wisconsin. And we were all somewhat younger in age.
And I just thought, well, what if, what if I put on an event where I showcased these innovative disruptors in the state of Wisconsin. Just think about what we could do. We could educate people. We could inspire people. We could motivate people. We can get people to, because I know there's a lot of people out there like us that just don't want to do necessarily what society, whoever that is, whatever that means, tells them to do. They want to be liberated from some of those shackles and some of those ceilings that are placed on them.
But I knew, again, I already had a couple of businesses at the time. I knew I couldn't do this by myself. So I recruited two of those innovative disrupters, David Bellman and Andy Weins. Thankfully they both said yes. Had either one of them said no, I don't think this thing ever would have come to fruition. And we got to work. And over the course of several months, we planned an event. It was held in February of 2020, just a few weeks before the world shut down. And it was a day-long event at the Italian Community Center. It was a smash hit. We had almost 400 people. We had five keynote speakers, a really powerful success panel. And I'll end on by saying this. A lot of people ask, "Well, what are you going to do next?" I say, "Well, I'm going to take a nap, man. I'm tired. This was a heavy lift."
And so now you're onto something here. You just can't let this die. So we decided, well, we're going to do Young Guns events all across the state. Well then COVID hit. And that was no longer a viable option. Well, being the good entrepreneurs that we were, we decided to pivot, we decided TV was recession-proof or COVID-proof. So we launched Young Guns Television, or YGTV for short. We've doing that now for well over a year. It's our biggest monetization opportunity. It's gets us in front of the largest audience possible. And we've resumed events over the past couple of months. I guess that's a little bit about the birth of the movement and how we ended up in this time and place.
What’s your background?
From a disruptor side, again, it's basically anybody that's going against "societal norms." And one of the things that we like to say with respect to Young Guns is we pride ourselves on breaking the rules of business. And again, I'll talk about myself first and foremost. You're not supposed to talk about faith and religion at the workplace. Well, why? Not because people are really passionate about those things, because somebody might be on the other side that could be a non-harmonious atmosphere. Well, you hear a lot about diversity. And I think there's some truth to this, but I don't just believe diversity is the color of somebody's skin or whether they're born a male or a female, or whether they're young or old. I think that certainly counts for sure, but I think the ultimate measure of an organization's diversity is do they create a culture that allows people to be their true, authentic self and love them anyway and support them anyway?
And I think you could have a very diverse organization. You can have 50, 60 year old white men and be incredibly diverse, if they're all comfortable sharing their experiences, they may be not all aligned, but we've created this culture for diversity of thought, diversity of philosophy, diversity of experience. And we believe that's important to the Young Guns. So for us, a disruptor is somebody who talks in a certain way, somebody who shares their ideas in a certain way, somebody who inspires the masses in a certain way, and we can't bring them to the stage fast enough. So at the first event, we had Andy Weins. Andy walks around in camo pants all day; that’s his brand. He's a veteran. God bless him for that. But his style is extremely different.
We brought Michaela Alexis in from Canada. She was part of this Amazon reality show that featured these social media influencers. She's had a lot of struggles in life. She's been very open about them and empowering other people to really overcome some of their challenges on their side. So for us, again, if you can't be your true, authentic self, what's the point? So how to do that in your branding, how to do that in your business, how to create a corporate culture in the workplace. And if you look at any of our television shows on YGTV, especially mine, YG One-on-One, I sit down with CEOs and top business luminaries, and that's all they talk about is how they've gone against the grain, how they've stepped outside of their comfort zone, how they've fostered this collective atmosphere where they allow people to be their true, authentic selves and what that's done for their respective businesses. That's the message we're trying to get out. And I think it's really starting to resonate.
Does the event have a religious theme, or is it totally secular?
It's a secular event for sure. It just so happens that the guy that founded the movement is an unapologetic Christian. So I mention that from time to time, but it's not like you go to church. It's not like there's a Christian theme at all. But one of the things that you'll notice by watching YG One-on-One in particular is, again, people associate with certain people and some of my best friends in business happen to be Christian. And they'll talk about that. They'll talk about what faith in the workplace means to them. They'll talk about how their faith maybe guides some of their decisions. And those aren't the only people I have, those aren't the only conversations we have, but let's face it. There's a lot of Christians out there that like the content. So we give that to them once in a while, but Young Guns is not a Christian-based movement. It is not a Christian-based event, but again, based on what my experience has been and some of the things that I believe in, you do hear that from time to time.
Why do you do this?
I want to create a business model. I want to create a movement where people just get out of bed every day to make the impossible possible.
Just imagine the kind of life we would have and our kids would inherit if that was our modus operandi. You can probably hear it in my voice. I just get excited talking about it. That's what I'm about. That's what Young Guns is about. Anything that I'm associated has some overlap in that and I'm ridiculously passionate about it.