INTERVIEW: Laurie Sluser on business success, happiness & meditation
December 4, 2015
Laurie Sluser does not fit the stereotypical image of a meditator. He has run many successful business ventures in Canada and the United States, and his idea of a relaxing time involves founding bizHUMM, an Internet startup. Recently, Laurie co-authored a free guide on The Steps to Start a Business.
Yet Laurie has always balanced his dynamic activity with the practice of Transcendental Meditation. So when we talked with Laurie, the discussion got deep very quickly.
Learning and teaching Transcendental Meditation
Laurie Sluser: “Even as a kid, I knew that there had to be more to life than what presented itself.
While I was studying at McGill University, I saw a little ad in the student daily newspaper on Transcendental Meditation. Immediately I knew that I had to learn how to do it.
After the introductory lecture, however, I began to have some doubts. It was as if my little ego was starting to feel threatened. Luckily, a close friend of mine had also gone to an intro lecture, and so, with his encouragement, I did end up learning TM.
I had a wonderful experience right away. I knew that in hesitating I had almost made the biggest error in my life.
Ever since then the TM technique has been the foundation of my life. A year later I decided to become a TM teacher, and I taught TM full time for seven years. It was an extraordinary time.”
Starting off as an entrepreneur
Laurie Sluser: “In 1979, I set up a national marketing company along with two dear friends. I was not thrilled to stop teaching TM, but I was ready for a new adventure and this seemed like the next step to take.
Within a year, we had over 100 people working for us in offices all over Canada. The Manager of the Bank of Montreal actually called us in one day, closed the door behind us and said, “What are you guys doing?” I realized after a moment that he thought we were selling drugs or something because the business had been growing so fast.
Five years later we heard of the community in Fairfield and decided to move there.
For the past 30 plus years I’ve either run my own business or run other entrepreneurial ventures. Some have been very successful, and others have been great challenges.
In the later part of my life I had the fortune to be general manager of Donatech, a national software engineering firm. We placed engineers with major avionics companies around America. I ran Donatech for 16 years and we built it from about $3–4 million to more than a $25 million company.”
Meditation and ambition – can these two get along?
Laurie Sluser: “It’s been a lifetime struggle to make peace with these labels.
My life has not been dedicated to the pursuit of ambition for its own sake. That’s vanity.
But when ambition comes from a place where you want to benefit your environment, your customers, support your family, create a good life for those who work for you and with you, then it’s all fine.
In fact, I have discovered that really there is just one thing worthwhile in life: the development of love and consciousness.
Sometimes you remember that vividly, and other times you lose that attention and that focal point. But I have been aware of that enough that nowadays I lose the perspective less and less and less.”
What is freedom?
Laurie Sluser: “In America, we hear the word freedom a lot. Freedom to speak out, freedom to do what you want.
Yet that is a type of small freedom. Of course, I never take that small freedom for granted. It’s important. If you cannot enjoy freedom on that very basic level, it makes it more difficult to discover what real freedom is.
Yet real freedom is the freedom of the Self, consciousness. Freedom not to identify with the outside but to know that your reality is the Self. If one is to identify with anything, one should identify with one’s own Self, one’s own consciousness, and realize that everything is but one’s own Self and one’s own consciousness.
That’s real freedom. It allows you to always be at home. If you are at home within yourself, you never feel out of place. You never feel that you should be somewhere else, doing something else.
Obviously, there are things that you feel are more natural for you, and I do feel we have tendencies to do something one way or another.
Some of us are naturally comfortable running our own businesses, and others need perhaps more structure and leadership from others. One is not better or worse than the other, but I have always been happier ultimately working for myself.”
Back in business
Laurie Sluser: “When I left Donatech, I woke up the very next morning and told my wife Renee that I felt relaxed. It sounded funny because I had always thought of myself as a really relaxed person. But I realized that my body had not been completely relaxed, and it kind of shocked me.
That’s when I knew I had to be on my own, had to be relaxed.
I took a few months off, but after the first few days I had this thought one time after my morning meditation. It lasted perhaps just five seconds, but details of a plan of helping small businesses to start and grow just flooded me.
Soon enough, after some travel and time spent just meditating, I felt I was getting a little itchy. At first a friend of mine and I played around with a few other ideas, but eventually we returned to the same idea I had gotten a few months back: doing something great for small businesses.”
Laurie Sluser: “In the broader sense, bizHUMM is targeted for companies with 1–50 employees, but really our core users have 1–10, 1–20 employees — so these are small, small businesses.
We want to help them think through the issues before starting, and then help them to launch and to grow.
The seeds for this idea were really planted during my time at Donatech. When you have a $5 million or even a $20 million company you are still small, and as a manager you are still wearing multiple hats and have to consider whether we can afford this or that, whether we can do this project or that. And what I would do is spend a lot of time googling things for key resources and solutions.
There are now dozens of companies that do different flavors of content supporting for small businesses, and they do it really well. But I still believe there is a gap that bizHUMM is filling: to be a one-stop shop for solutions for entrepreneurs to start and grow their business, where they can learn how to do things affordably, how to grow their business, how to write a business plan, how to more effectively manage payroll, create great reports and so forth.
It is still going to take another 3–5 years to do it all. In 2016, we’re adding consultation services and webinars, and we will be building our video library, creating training courses and tutorials.”
Laurie Sluser: “Obviously, since we have invested a lot of money into developing great content, there have to be revenue streams like consulting services and webinars. Yet we plan to make the webinars very specific and highly affordable, such as $5–10 tutorials on building a landing page, doing basic SEO, branding a name and so forth.
Also, our team is dedicated to always providing great value on bizHUMM while maintaining free services for our members.
Our central focus is helping a worldwide community of entrepreneurs to succeed. What drives us to be an entrepreneur is the desire to achieve something and hopefully to solve a problem, help others to gain a measure of independence. One also cannot forget that when you hire others, you should totally 100% respect their happiness, their independence.
This means you have to be a leader. You may have to demand excellence from your team, but never at the expense of balance in their lives, their happiness or independence.”
Our true nature
Laurie Sluser: ” I think we are born in ignorance and the adventure in our lives is to shed that ignorance of the Self, to grow in Self-Awareness by transcending, by meditating.
Maharishi once told us a powerful short story.
There’s a man sentenced to many years in jail and he has been there for perhaps ten years already. One day as he is walking around his tiny cell, he leans against the door of the cell and it pops open. His first reflex is to jump in joy because he is free. Then, very quickly, he feels embarrassed, because he realizes that he has always been free.
And when Maharishi said, “But then he feels embarrassed,” the room erupted in laughter!
What is there to be excited about in recognizing one’s own true nature? It’s your nature!
The light is there; it is just that the light is not yet able to be appreciated.
The beautiful gift Maharishi has given to all of us is the technique for transcending. Maharishi talked about rest, clarity, more energy, growing in fulfillment. And that is good enough because if you transcend twice a day you will march toward enlightenment.”
Paths to enlightenment
Laurie Sluser: “When Maharishi started using the word appreciation, I had to think about it a lot. Because people would talk about their experiences, and I would think, “Oh, I don’t have that experience. What is this unboundedness? What are they talking about?”
Then I realized: there are a thousand words for the same thing! The reason why there are a thousand words is because we each appreciate pure consciousness in the flavor that resonates with our own physiology.
So one person thinks “unboundedness,” and they immediately get it. Someone else thinks “silence” and they get it; someone else thinks “I appreciate my environment,” or “deep peace,” or something as simple as “my body stops breathing” – the physical correlate of transcending. We appreciate the same thing in different ways.
Seeds for war, seeds for peace.
Laurie Sluser: “Fear is what terrorism is all about. It is extreme fear being expressed. Is it evil? We can give it that name. I have no doubt that if that kind of fear visited me I would scream out.
But the truth is it’s just the same fear. Becoming so unloved, so unaccepted, so desperate to be loved, lashing out at humanity saying: ‘I also count!’
In so doing, they do unspeakable horrors. It’s never an excuse. But it comes from the same place of fear.
When I was little I had a baby blanket, a comfort blanket. And when we finally have to let go, most of us cry and scream! ‘That’s my blanket!’ Yet once we have let go of it, we are free from it.
I really hope it is that cry that we are hearing today. I pray that in a few years, not fifty, we will be free from that.
As light, clarity and freedom are rising in the world, quite naturally those polar opposites rise to battle it. They might recognize they have already lost, but they just won’t let go. I’d like to think that’s what’s happening today, and only time will tell.
The only thing I know is that war never solves anything; all it does is lay seeds for more fear, terrorism, and ignorance. All we can do is meditate, transcend and lay the seeds of peace throughout the world.”
Laurie Sluser’s biography
Laurie Sluser was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. He graduated from McGill University with a Bachelor of Science degree. He became a teacher of the Transcendental Meditation technique in 1973 and taught TM to hundreds of people, including many high-level business leaders.
In 1978 he married his beautiful and talented wife, Renee. They began their family in 1981, with the birth of their son, Zachary, who is a filmmaker residing in Los Angeles.
Mr. Sluser has managed either his own companies or other small businesses for the past 35 years. Laurie co-founded a marketing company in 1979. They had immediate success growing it to over $3 million in revenue within three years. They sold the company in 1984, and he moved with Renee and Zac to the United States, where he now resides in Fairfield, Iowa. That year he accepted a position with a software development startup and served as executive vice president, helping the company to realize significant growth.
For the past 15 years (until summer 2013) he served as general manager of Donatech Corporation, a software engineering staffing firm, which he led to tenfold growth in revenue with over $25 million in gross sales.
Today Laurie is CEO of bizHUMM, an online content provider helping entrepreneurs to launch and grow their businesses.