Investor & Entrepreneur
James Ruesch is the first of 5 children. He grew up in Oregon and later graduated in Nevada. He served a two year mission in Johannesburg, South Africa where he gained a love for travel and people of different cultures and nationalities. Upon returning home, James started his first company at the admonition of one of his missionary companions while serving together in Africa.
Without any formal education in business, the road was riddled with challenges and obstacles that made for a real life education that he is thankful for today. Through starting in construction and working his way up in the fast growing city of Las Vegas, James learned that through innovative ideas, hard work and a willingness to take risks, success was possible. This realization did not come without a long list of failures. The key, as he read in many books on the subject, was to learn from his mistakes and continue.
Eventually by 1990, James had established one of the largest commercial landscape companies in the state of Nevada. Regularly being awarded million dollar contracts from developers like Howard Hughes, Del Webb and the DOT, James' last year in construction culminated in contracts for two golf courses, 14 schools and over 27 miles of highway development. The company had grown from 5 workers to over 150 employees. At age 28, Mr. Ruesch, after enjoying economic prosperity and growth for more than a decade, was blindsided by his first real-estate collapse and economic downturn. Nevada had enjoyed years of prosperity primarily fueled by the steady stream of new home owners from California and Arizona. Home owners would sell their homes outside the state for 300,000.00 and buy a newer and larger home in Vegas for nearly half. These were glorious times where opportunity abounded for anyone that was ambitious and un-afraid of hard work.
When real-estate crashed in California it sent a slew of very hungry companies with intentions of doing little more than bid work to cover their equipment payments. James Ruesch felt like the sky was falling, but he also recognized an opportunity to sell like never before. Big companies were looking for exactly what he had and that was an established company with a good reputation with government, architects and developers. They also wanted his seasoned management and workforce. 6 months later the company was sold and James was headed to California to partner with an earlier mentor in opening a chain of bankruptcy law offices.
James knew nothing about bankruptcies but his longtime friend and mentor introduced him to their next big business adventure. During the same time as the construction and real-estate collapse in California, the government was shutting down military bases throughout the state. Though most companies across California were struggling, the economy lended itself to new opportunities. This was a great learning experience for James which has helped him better understand how to find opportunity in any economy.
James's role in the law office chain was to discover the best areas for new offices based on bankruptcy filing records, negotiate leases, manage the TI, and hire attorneys and staff for each office, train the management team and start all over 3 months later in a new city. The marketing was simple. They would buy TV spots during times of the day when most people were working to find those who weren't. After 12 months they refined their media message and consistently discovered that 100K in advertising would result in about 3,000 calls, 2,000 appointments and 1,000 contracts. The model was in place for tremendous profits providing the company could manage the growth.
The venture was not to last however. Every time the firm signed a new contract some law firm down the road was going without. The media campaign was everywhere and the new firm's success didn't go without recognition.
Eventually long standing law firms began to meet privately to discuss how to address the new company's success. The secret behind the success was the firm's ability to sell bankruptcies for no money down. The last thing anyone has that is in need of bankruptcy is the $1,000.00 filing fee. The firms that Ruesch and partners established were the only ones offering no money down bankruptcies and it was paying off.
This is where James learned about factored contracts and paper. It was fast paced and fascinating. Originally, James and his partners financed the bankruptcy notes from their own pockets but eventually the company was producing more contracts than what they could carry on their own. The company began factoring their contracts and selling to private investors but as the company grew there was an increasing demand for finance capital. As they reached out to banks and larger funds of money, there was a reluctance at first but once these institutions realized that the paper was A-Grade, they stood in line for it. Towards the end they were even pre-buying the paper. Essentially the law firm would sell a contract for 1000.00 and then factor the note to investors for 700.00. The firm was liquid and investors received a guaranteed 30% return on a 12 month note. It was the note however that brought everything down.
Local firms kept looking for a way to take down a firm that when starting in a new area would sign 9 of every 10 bankruptcies within a month of advertising. What they finally came up with was the legality of the note. They claimed that by not informing bankruptcy clients that they could include their unsecured note in their filing that the company was frauding their customers. This was a ludicrous complaint. The company's position was that it is a person's constitutional right to file for creditor protection in America through bankruptcy but in fact this right only existed if a person had enough money to afford the right, and the reality was that no other law firm would assist in this right unless they were paid in advance.
At this same time, James and his partners were beginning to receive threats of harm if they didn't leave the state. Although the threats were unnerving, there was little doubt in their mind that they would lose to the DA's suit. Everyone recognized it as an action which was brought on by the pressure of disgruntled competition, but when a district judge sided against them in a case that had no legal merit everyone sat up and took notice. The firm was ordered to stop collections on millions of dollars of notes that were owed the company for legal service.
A year later after hundreds of thousands were wasted to legal fees the partners read the writing on the wall. Decisions were being made by long standing attorneys and judges over a round of golf and lunch that were not ethical or legal but good ole boys wanted them out and they made it clear they were not going to stop at anything to see them gone.
The final straw was an encounter by a stranger in a dark parking lot one night where they were essentially told that if they shut down their offices, the suit would go away and they could keep what they had but if they didn't leave people were going to be hurt and the partners were going to lose everything.
The decision was made and each partner went their separate way.
At this time James returned to his home in Vegas and began working on his time with his family. Business had generally come first but having suffered great losses due to the two year suit with the state of California James felt broken and depressed. It was during this time that he began to appreciate the need to be more devoted to his family. He recommitted himself to put family first. He was beginning to see that money will come and go throughout a person's life but no amount of success will ever compensate for an unsuccessful family.
It was during this time of deep reflection about what's truly important that the Ruesch's discovered their next great business opportunity. At first James was opposed to the idea because it wasn't manly. James was used to high powered meetings with suits and power ties so when he first discovered the money to be made in memory books it didn't quite suit him. Wearing an apron and discussing what goes good with pastel pink wasn't his cup of tea but as he began to appreciate the importance of scrapbooking, he eventually was all in.