Todd “TJ” Johnson has created and collaborated to establish companies in the areas of information technology, commercial construction, hospitality, retail publishing, and information marketing, guiding these companies through the startup turnaround, turnaround, and growth models. He is also a keen real property investor with properties across the globe. While he’s well-known as a local celebrity in Los Angeles for his collection of exotic cars as well as lively Tequila tastings, family is his priority. I spoke to him after he delighted his daughters with an air balloon ride and requested that he break down his business venture.
“I’m from Cayce, SC, which is a suburb of Columbia. I grew up in low-income housing to a single mom. My family moved to San Francisco, Calif., when I was 11, after my mom remarried, and we lived there for one-and-a-half years before moving back to SC. My first job was doing yard work — I would cut grass and rake yards. That work taught me to hustle and be resourceful. If I wanted to make money, I simply had to go find customers. Some days I didn’t find work, but most days I would if I kept knocking on doors. I always had money, which gave me a sense of independence, and working made me feel like I was in control of my destiny. That feeling has never gone away.”
He bought his first automobile … when he was the age of 14 years old.
“I’ve been fascinated by automobiles since you can recall. When I was a child, I would put together models of cars, especially the tiny scale models with nearly 1,000 pieces. My fingers would get numb from all the model glue. It took a while to get focused, organized, and detailed enough to construct cars that looked amazing, and they were very difficult to create perfectly. Today, I’m able to buy them, and I have found out that hand-built vehicles will have flaws regardless of how much you spend on them.
“When I was younger, I would go to car dealerships just to look at the special cars, until eventually I put a Mercury Cougar Rx7 on lay-away. By then, I worked in the kitchen at an Italian restaurant and every week, I would give them my entire paycheck. I was 14 years old and couldn’t even drive the car off the lot! I’d cut school to go listen to the engine and the radio. My mom eventually found out, got all of my money back, and made me buy a Datsun B210 hatchback.”
The first sign of the success
“I became a part of in the Air Force at 17 and went to college in the evenings to learn about computer science. While serving in the army, I was creating computers and selling them. At the time, IBM-compatible computers were in fashion because you could buy a PC that did everything that an IBM PC did at less than the cost.
“I constructed computer systems and offered them to the largest number of families possible. It was laborious and required much more support after sales than I was able to provide. At the same time, companies such as Dell and Gateway started offering cheaper PCs, which included a plethora of programs. My small business did not develop or grow fast enough to be current. I was so obsessed with my focus on the “now” and earning money that I couldn’t realize how short-lived my company would end up being.
“I quit the military to take an opportunity to work at the telecommunications service desk. I was working the third shift between 3 p.m. and 11 p.m., performing operations and support. I found it not very difficult or up-and-coming, and I tried everything I could to get a better understanding of technology through working with other departments. Because I didn’t get started working until 3 pm, I would get up early and work in different departments. I was part of the app development, network, and system operations teams and gained experience that I would have otherwise never had. At some point, I began working on improvements to our main system.
“I designed a user-friendly interface that was integrated into our call system and began making useful reports. Then, I was tasked with the responsibility for the system and began working with users who were not part of my own company. I was eventually enlisted to work with a government contractor and began to make a name for myself within the industry with this system.
“This was the catalyst that led me to create my first company that I could sustain, Intact Technology, Inc.. This was a total of $50 million and 25 years ago.”
Achieving fulfillment through mentoring others
“I am aware of what is possible when you have the right combination of vision and focus, with performance and determination. I’ve also observed the reasons why things don’t go as planned. This is the reason why each of my ventures has more profit and achieves success faster than my previous ventures. My coaching services under the umbrella of hot pursuit are focused on helping entrepreneurs speed up the progress of their businesses.
“The goal is to help tens of thousands start and grow businesses that allow them to achieve greater financial security, a more flexible lifestyle and better quality of life. If I spend the rest of my professional life in hot pursuit of this goal, my spirit will be full of joy and I will have done something very special with my life.”
“Are you chasing your potential, or is your potential chasing you?”
“Ultimately, everyone would like to be able to perform in the best way possible to reach their capacity as is possible. That’s where the magic lies! There is a feeling of satisfaction when we are pursuing our potential. The joy is in knowing that we are actually ‘going for it, doing our best, doing our best with a sense of urgency, pushing, and being rewarded by the results we have achieved.
“On the other hand, there’s frustration when you know that you are able to give, succeed and do more. It’s frustrating to witness evidence of the possibilities and yet feel like you’re not doing enough to take the risk, or being courageous enough to realize your potential. In this moment you’re chasing your potential your dreams … but this is often a source of guilt and often feels unpleasant. The real issue is “Are your eyes chasing your dreams with all you have, or are you frustrated and enthralled by your potential because you know that you could or should do far more?