Secrets of Success: Max Borges

There are some “rules” of business success most entrepreneurs abide by. But many also have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that helped them achieve success. In “Secrets of Success,” a weekly interview series here at’s Small Business Forum, I ask some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners to share their insights and success secrets with you.

Meet: Max Borges, the president of the Max Borges Agency, a top public relations firm specializing in consumer electronics. The Max Borges Agency has been included in the Inc. 5000, the publication’s list of fastest-growing companies, for seven consecutive years. Before starting the agency in 2002, Max was the director of marketing for a chain of musical instrument superstores.

In an interview posted on Business Insider, Max said he started his company when he was “flat broke, looking for a job and couldn’t get anyone to hire” him.

You can find him on Twitter @MaxBorgesAgency.

Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Max Borges: Seriously? I wanted to be a pop singer. I did actually become a rock singer in a band from age 15 to 21 but I wasn’t very good. Fortunately, I wasn’t surrounded by people who told me I was good, so I got out before it was too late and I could embarrass myself on American Idol auditions.

Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?

Borges: My father was an entrepreneur. He was exiled from Cuba at age 17 and after a short stay in Miami, he moved to Brooklyn to take a job at Sears selling appliances. He was an amazing salesperson and moved into real estate. At age 29 he somehow convinced a guy to partner with him and buy enough land in St. Petersburg, Florida, to build about 50 homes. He had no qualifications or experience but it did not occur to him you needed any. So we moved to St. Pete, and over the next few years, he built and sold more than 50 homes. He then bought a larger development in [nearby] Clearwater and built another 120 homes.

During that time he also opened a restaurant, promoted a concert and even got President Reagan to come to the National Hispanic Convention, which he was on the board of in Tampa. He had no concept of his limitations and so he had none. He also enjoyed everything he did, so the often negative concept of “work” or a “job” did not exist in our house. That was the environment in which I grew up, so I was always trying to figure out creative ways to make money. I tried a dozen different businesses, from DJ’ing parties to recording church choirs to promoting concerts and events.

Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?

Borges: There were many pivotal moments. Two that stand out are when at 19 I read Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude by W. Clement Stone and Napoleon Hill. It was like an instructional manual for how my father’s brain worked. That changed the trajectory of my life. The next one was not quite as instantaneous, but when I started my agency at age 34 I finally figured out what my real strengths were and how to work around my weaknesses. This made all the difference.

Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?

Borges: The most important advice I can give is to figure out what you can be the best at. Once you have that focus, you can spend more of your time on the activities that will drive your ultimate success. To take it a step further, if you can figure out what you love to do, what you can be the best at and for what there is a market, almost nothing else matters. You can screw up everything else.

Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?

Borges: Personal and business strategy are similar in that you have to figure out what you can do better than anyone and who you can do it better than anyone for. That, at its core, is strategy—when you can provide a product or service for a certain customer better than anyone else, you win.

Lesonsky: Do you have a prediction for small business?

Borges: It’s not much of a prediction but I think small businesses owners are becoming the new rock stars. Shows like Shark Tank and The Profit are making it cool to be an entrepreneur. There are so many tools and so many resources that help people start businesses now. It’s never been easier. That said, it’s also very competitive. In the past just starting a business was hard but that was enough. Today you have to have a real business strategy. You can’t just open up a store or an agency and expect it to thrive. You have to be the best at something for someone.

Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?

Borges: I read more than 25 books a year. I never went to college but I have learned more from the 500+ books I have read than anything I could have ever learned in college. It’s hard to pick one, so let me give you two: first, Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude by Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone. In order to succeed your mind must be in the right place. The second is Good to Great by Jim Collins. I love all of his books and have read every one but Good to Great is the one that put Jim on the map as one of the greatest business advisors ever.

Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?

Borges: I have this pinned to my wall and I read it often: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” –Theodore Roosevelt

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Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and, and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.