By Matthew Lesko
Information is the currency of today's world. Those who
control information are the most powerful people on the planet --
and the ones with the most bulging bank accounts.
The timely delivery of vital information is one of the most
lucrative businesses you can have in this new millennium. I
should know. I started one of the most successful information
brokerage businesses in the country. I'm also perhaps the
world's most well known information broker, and I've made
millions of dollars from doing it, and I'm going to show you how
to easily do the same.Let me backtrack a little bit.
All my life I wanted to start my own business. I didn't care
what it was -- I just wanted to learn how to feed myself and not
work for someone else. I even considered selling hot dogs on
the mall near the Washington Monument. I just wanted to be my
own boss. Sound familiar?
I had a string of failed businesses before I hit the big time.
It was while working as a computer administrator of a travel
company that I learned something that changed my whole life.
The hot shots that ran the company fascinated me. They were
powerful individuals who discussed, negotiated and executed big
deals all the time. In order to get in on some of that wheeling
and dealing, I'd hang around late at night when they had their
meetings, and volunteer to get coffee and doughnuts, do the
Xeroxing -- do anything to try to learn how to be like them.
One day, they came into my office and asked me -- not to get
coffee -- but to get information on how good or bad the rental
car business was. It seems they were considering making a bid
to acquire Avis Rent-A-Car, and needed some good market
information to go along with the financial statements they were
poring over. I, of course, said "Yes, yes, yes!" I was their
"yes man," even though I knew nothing about the rental car
business and had no idea where I was going to get this
Well, I wanted to do this so badly I could almost taste it.
This was one giant step up from coffee and Xeroxing that lucky
people are offered once in a lifetime, and I didn't want to blow
it. I saw myself as a young turk on the way up the ladder of
success. But I didn't have a clue where to go for the
I sat in my little office wondering if I could make the grade.
I sat there staring at my desk hoping something would pop into
my head and give me the magic answer. I stared at the telephone
and then picked it up thinking:
"Here I am in Washington D.C. needing to know about the rental
car business. Who can I call? Why not the government? I pass
all those big buildings everyday on the way to work. Maybe
someone there can help me."
Well, it worked! By starting with the government information
operator, I was able to work my way through a dozen more calls
and referrals until I finally found an expert in the rental car
business. It turned out to be a man who used to be the
president of Hertz and was now in Washington -- and bored out of
his mind with his government job. He actually invited me to
lunch so he could tell me everything he knew.I was shocked!
I couldn't believe that in 45 minutes on the telephone, I could
locate a real expert who was willing to tell me everything I
needed to know about the rental car business. And, he even
wanted to take me to lunch!
Afterwards, I was so excited about the information I had just
received that I burst into a meeting my boss was having with his
hotshot merger and acquisition buddies. He was eager to hear
everything I learned from my lunch right then and there.
They were blown away. They couldn't believe that a young turk
like me, who didn't know anyone, could get such information that
we had all assumed was privileged and confidential.
I got more excited about the information I dug up on the rental
car business than with any program I ever wrote for the company.
I knew then that information was power. I also knew then that
there was immense value in delivering timely information on
I was hooked. I started a new business obtaining information
for people on anything they needed. I became a consultant to
people in the merger and acquisition business, and I got all the
information they needed to make their business a success --
information they were unable to find themselves.
This time, success finally happened. The business grew from
just me, a telephone, and a desk in my one-bedroom apartment to
over 30 employees and a million and a half dollars in sales in a
little more than 3 years. Even after a string of failing
businesses, I finally realized my first success, and I'll show
how you can do it, too.How to Create Money Out of Thin Air
What I learned early on is that you can literally take
information that is free to obtain, but oftentimes hard for the
average person to find -- turn around and sell it for big bucks.
All it requires is a little resourcefulness, and the knowledge
of where to find the information that is sellable.
There's nothing to it. These are the only things you need:1)
Believe the notion that we live in an information society,
and if you're willing to make a few necessary calls (or
e-mails), you can gather information on almost anything -- and
make that information sellable.2)
You need to know where to look for the information.
Although there are countless sources of information, if you do
nothing else but tap into the world's largest source of free
information, you can find virtually everything that you need.
That source is the U.S. Government. [I've spent 25 years of my
life as an information broker, and I have yet to find a source
of information more comprehensive than the U.S. Government.]Do you want to get an idea of just how vast the government's
information reserve is?
If you took all the major commercial publishers in the United
States, they collectively produce 50,000 new titles in all the
libraries and bookstores around the country in a single year.
In contrast, one single publisher in the government (the
National Technical Information Service) publishes over 100,000
titles a year. Multiply that by the number of government
agencies that produce information, and the amount of information
becomes absolutely staggering!
The range of subjects on which you can find information is also
mind-boggling: The government not only counts people, the
number of jelly beans manufactured in the country, toilets
installed, and how many potatoes grown; but also gives
investment trends and opportunities likely to show up in the
Wall Street Journal in weeks; it also answers any legal question
better than the highest paid lawyer. There are 700,000
government experts in any field you can imagine, who will give
you free information simply because you asked.How to Use the Information You Gather:
Find customers who need, and are willing to pay for,
specialized information. Position yourself as someone who knows
how to find information on practically everything, but do narrow
down the types of information you can get for your customers'
specific needs. That way, you zero in with the precision of a
sharpshooter, instead of just firing a shotgun that goes in all
As an information broker, always remember what Willy Sutton said
when asked why he robbed banks. He said, "Because that's where
the money is." You need to live by the same slogan if you want
to stay in business. Choose the path of least resistance.
Choose a customer base that consists of rich people or big
companies that have money to spend on finding out how they can
get richer -- and are willing and able to spend it.2)
Gather specialized information that would be of great
interest to a specific business sector (example: Internet
marketers). Position yourself as an expert on a particular
subject, then write in-depth special reports that feature the
specialized information you found, package them in an e-book,
and make them available to Internet marketers for a fee. As an
alternative, you may also create a newsletter that regularly
updates the specialized information -- and make money on the paid
More and more businesses are realizing the value of having good
information for good decision-making. Whether big or small, a
business can't succeed today unless it keeps up on the latest
What kind of information do businesses need? They need
information on their markets, their competition, technology,
money sources and regulations, for starters. Develop a
sensitivity to the needs of your prospects by asking them
directly what they need. From that, you can determine the kind
of information that would best satisfy their needs.
Here's a useful tip: You'd do well to develop a "hook." A
"hook" is a marketing term that makes it easier for people to
purchase your services. It's taking the situation I mentioned
earlier about "knowing how to find information about practically
anything" and refining it down to a specialty. If you
specialize is some interesting aspect of the information
brokerage industry, it's easier to attract your prospects'
Define your niche by identifying the customer group that you
specialize in helping: small businesses, or non-profit
organizations. Or, you can define it by the area of information
you want to deal with, such as health information, company
information, or international information. Another way you can
describe your business is by the medium of the information you
want to provide, such as: only database searches, only document
retrieval, or only interviewing industry experts.
I was fortunate enough to have started in Washington D.C., where
I developed the hook of government information. It gave me an
instant edge over my competitors, even though I had no more
experience gathering information then they did. To make a long
story short, the government information I've amassed over the
years have earned me a coveted position of being a New York
Times syndicated columnist, and I've even authored two New York
Times best-sellers featuring information that I've obtained for
free. I have also been privileged to be regularly featured as
the nation's top expert on government information on TV programs
such as Larry King, Oprah, David Letterman, Jay Leno, the Today
Show and Good Morning America.
The key to becoming a successful information broker is be the
first to find the information, and deliver it on a timely basis
to those who want it. Then sit back and watch the money appear
out of thin air!Matthew Lesko
is a New York times syndicated columnist, and
author of 2 New York Times best-sellers. He is regularly
featured as the nation's top expert on government information on
TV programs such as Larry King, Oprah, David Letterman, Jay
Leno, the Today Show and Good Morning America. His latest book,
"Free Money for Entrepreneurs on the Internet" identifies
hundreds of little-known sources of free government money for
"net-repreneurs" and reveals the secret formula for easily
obtaining the money for your business.