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World War 1 Marine Veteran Larry Klairmont on Running Successful Businesses After Your Service

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In this Heroic Investing podcast, Gary Pinkerton interviews World War 1 Marine Veteran Larry Klairmont about his time in the service and the businesses he ran afterward. Larry gives business advice to those leaving the service and shares how he’s able to keep long-time employees. He also talks about his passion project, a car museum in Chicago with over 300 cars, some of them one-of-a-kind.

Announcer 0:04
Welcome to the heroic investing show. As first responders we risk our lives every day our financial security is under attack. Our pensions are in a state of emergency. A single on duty incident can alter or erase our earning potential instantly and forever. We are the heroes of society. We are self reliant, and we need to take care of our own financial future. The heroic investing show is our toolkit of business and investing tactics on our mission to financial freedom.

Gary Pinkerton 0:39
Hello, and welcome to Episode 134 of the heroic investing show, the podcast for first responders, members of the military veterans, and really anyone looking to improve their financial future, their financial and personal lives, and gain some freedom back for their time or with their time. We teach America’s heroes how to build passive income, build their startup business, and safely grow wealth through real estate and other alternative investments. We help current and prior first responders put protections and systems in place to enable them to build a life where they can focus on their passion, that service or product that they are uniquely gifted to share with the rest of the world.

My name is Gary Pinkerton. And I’m humbled and extremely proud to co host this show that hopefully you find helpful and inspiring with Jason Hartman, a good friend and someone I consider a mentor on real estate and life in general. So last episode, right leading into discussion, a great discussion that Jason and I had a few months ago, I talked about some great upcoming episodes. And I alluded to one that I wasn’t willing to stick my neck out there and say I was actually going to get, but we did. And I moved him right to the beginning of the list. And that’s who you get to hear from today. I’m incredibly excited to bring to you a 95 Year Old World War Two, multiple decorated veteran Marine who had action in the South Pacific and if you know anything about the slogging that the Marines did island hopping, losing half their people and each battle, it seemed tremendously tremendously scary time for those young individuals. This individual is Mr. Larry Claremont and Larry hails from Chicago, Illinois, where he’s built up an enormous real estate business after selling off starting from scratch and selling off the largest dry cleaning business in Chicago. And at the time, Chicago was one of the largest, I mean, so is one of the larger cities, but was one of the top two or three in the country. And so his dry cleaning business with over 500 non union employees was one of the biggest in the country as well. He sold that off, and he talks on our podcast here a little bit about what led him to start in real estate after that. And he’s also an incredible historic automobile efficient auto. So you know, think about this, we have the ability to hear from an individual who was born in the Great Depression, there just aren’t that many of those on the earth anymore. And Mr. Claremont is not only coherent and has a great conversation with me, I believe the the gentleman could beat me in a 500 yard dash. He is full of us. Well, I won’t use the phrase that we grew up I grew up with on the farm, but he’s full of vinegar.

Gary Pinkerton 3:40
He’s sharp as a tack. And still at the helm of a tremendously large successful multi million dollar real estate business. They runs with his two sons, and actually now a third generation some of their grandkids. His car collection to I can’t wait to get out there and see his museum and his car collection. He’s got cars from people like the late great Jackie Gleason, he’s got Shaquan hills car. He’s got the World War One, Ace, one and only car built for that war veteran. He’s got Oh, gosh, he named so many that were just tremendous. So and if you want to get a really good read on this, there’s a Chicago Tribune article on Larry Claremont. It’s called me read the top here. So meet Larry Claremont, a Chicago collector, as interesting as his 319 cars. So this guy could teach us a tremendous things a tremendous lot about a lot of different topics. And he does that somewhat in our call here. But just keep in perspective, again, that this gentleman was five years old in the Great Depression. And he grew up without a father. And it’s that Moxie that keeps this young man young at heart man at least going strong in his mid 90s. And you know, he is a testament to What we had paradigm life and many of my mentors talk about. And that’s this idea that retirement the concept of retiring and retirement again means to wither away and withdraw from society. It is not good for humans, I personally am a non medical opinion believe that it has a lot to do with the rise of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and other degenerative mental conditions. And it’s about not keeping yourself active, not keeping yourself mentally active. Less I go off on a on a historic tangent, I will stop there. But I don’t think there’s, you know, my gut tells me there’s no coincidence here, between a man who gets up every day to run a company in his 90s, a gentleman that at age 88, decides that he’s going to create one of the largest car museums in the world. And you know, he’s, he’s got a fiance and she’s a wonderful lady who joins us on the podcast for a few moments. People like that with visions of the future, and many, many things they still need to do. Don’t die off, you know, and that’s oversimplification. Sickness gets to all of us. But the human spirit, the thing that cause people like Larry Claremont in as a teenager, to march forward in the face of machine, Japanese machine gunfire beach after beach after beach, and resulted in a gentleman who has two silver stars, a bronze star and two Purple Hearts, to come back to America and create multiple enormous companies have multiple awards for Best operating company company loved by his employees, a company that has people who who worked for him for more than 30 plus years. None of those things are coincidences. he’ll teach us a lot about work ethic, and about caring for others, and about things that make you successful. And I think that I may never have a better episode than this is probably obvious in my tone. And in my just off at having had the opportunity to talk to this great gentleman, that it caused me to do the promo for it right at the very, you know, right after the recording of our conversation, and get it out to all of you as soon as I possibly can. I really hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed talking to this tremendous gentleman. There’s a lot we can learn from our elders, especially those that inspire us to the level that Larry Claremont does. So my hat is off to this tremendous patriot in World War Two hero. And I hope you all really, really enjoy this as I did. Thanks so much. And I’ll be back with the next episode.

Gary Pinkerton 7:42
So everyone, thank you again for joining us for another heroic investing podcast. I have with me a gentleman that it will take me a very long time to beat I’ve mentioned before his biography. It’s just truly incredible. Everyone, please help me in welcoming Mr. Larry Claremont. And Larry, thank you for giving time to my audience.

Larry Klairmont  8:02
My pleasure to do it for you.

Gary Pinkerton 8:04
Yes, sir. So you hail from Chicago, Illinois, grew up in the Great Depression, and participated in World War Two saw a lot of action. Could you explain just a little bit for the audience how long you were in during World War Two and where you participated?

Larry Klairmont  8:20
I yeah. enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of 16. I served in the United States Marine Corps in the South Pacific,

Gary Pinkerton 8:29
South Pacific. tough, tough battles down there. Thank you. for your service. I’ll just say for the audience, we’re fortunate to have an opportunity to talk. So when you got back, you started with your dry cleaning company, but fairly quickly transitioned to real estate. And was that out of necessity, just buying the buildings initially for your for your operating business?

Larry Klairmont  8:53
Well, that’s kind of a long story, how I evolved from the dry cleaning business, to real estate. Very briefly, after about four or five years, I became the largest dry cleaner in the city of Chicago, at over 110 stores. And what I learned from that was what constitutes a good location. I sold my company and was looking around for something nice. My wife and I went to the theater and after the theater, I said, screw on. And ice cream parlor was about two blocks away. And what do you do on a nice summer night? And there is no division and we walked over towards the ice cream store. And what are you doing? You’re looking at windows, and then the window was a real estate office right next to that. And I saw a brochure on the thing. I looked at the occasion and having understood what makes Good location. For my former dry cleaning business. I bought this particular building.

Gary Pinkerton 10:07
So location, extremely important. But there was also a lot of hard work and work ethic that you probably learned as a young guy growing up with a single parent, mom, your fiance, at the time when I was reading an article published in the Chicago Tribune mentioned that, and I think your wife now but mentioned that you’ve always been a hard worker, but you learned at a young age to do some things, you have to do them. Right. You have to do them yourself. Is that still a lesson one of your primary lessons?

Larry Klairmont  10:39
Absolutely. If I make up my mind that I’m going to do something, I think it’s right. When you can talk me out of it. Yeah, don’t judgment. Right. Right. Right. That’s worked out too bad for me. And

Gary Pinkerton 10:51
no, I would say it as not one of my mentors and comments that you know, the quality of a successful individual, a successful business owner and entrepreneur is someone who makes good decisions quickly and is slow to change those decisions, you know, where their gut tells them where the right answer is. And then they stick with it, even though it gets tough at times. What correct what are some of the pieces of advice, maybe you would offer to members of the military that are considering going out on their own in a business, whether it be real estate or otherwise?

Larry Klairmont  11:25
Well as having been a veteran, one of the things that you must do to be successful, in my opinion, is to be frank, and to be honest. And when you sip Your Word, and you shake hands, it doesn’t have to be inviting. And so you should conduct yourself accordingly. The biggest factor in any industry or any investment is fear. And fear itself should not be a conduit of making your decisions.

Gary Pinkerton 11:57
Right. So move forward in spite of it if the if the information and your gut tells you that it’s an appropriate decision. I think if I’m understanding Yes, yes, correct, sir. What about when you had your dry cleaning business? I’m guessing you had quite a few employees? Did you have a lot more in the dry cleaning than in real estate?

Larry Klairmont  12:19
I had over 500 employees? Non union? Yeah. And no partners? Wow.

Gary Pinkerton 12:26
He’s learned a lot about leading people, I would imagine. You’re one of the things that I’ve learned in my companies and on my ship, is that good intentions, and treating people with common decency and respect goes quite a long ways.

Larry Klairmont  12:43
It’s your the insect, in my real estate company. We have employees that have been with us in excess of 30 years. And what constitutes any successful business is the quality nature of your employees. When they start with us, we always tell them, we’re not married to each other. Let’s try it out. If you don’t like us, you can leave but no obligation. And if we don’t like you, there’s no obligation to discharge you also.

Gary Pinkerton 13:13
Right. Sounds like a great appropriate fair agreement.

Larry Klairmont  13:17
Right? And it’s worked out well for us.

Gary Pinkerton 13:19
That’s all and so how many how many people in your real estate company now?

Larry Klairmont  13:23
We got close to 125 to 150 people together? Yeah. So

Gary Pinkerton 13:28
you went you significantly downsized when you sold that other company and you’ve built up along the way with different types of people. But still, managing a company with humans is always a challenge. But it’s also pretty gratifying. I’ve learned correct. You have family I saw both of your sons work hand in hand there with you in the company. That must be I mean, I’m sure that brings challenges as well. But it must be great having people carry on the legacy of your business.

Larry Klairmont  13:53
Well, I have a fortunately I have two boys with me. My oldest son Alfred is in his mid 60s, and has been with me for over 30 years. Nice. Let’s three I think remarkable between the two of us is that we have never had an argument No. Wow. And although that he sometimes feels that he has right and i overrule him, he gets overruled. And that’s the same thing as to what’s happening today. We’re also fortunate and hairy, a couple of grandchildren who have this in the company. It’s worked out quite well for them and quite well for us. The other thing is that I’m in my early 90s now, and I’m not as active as I used to be. And my oldest son Elford, who is a dedicated hard worker and loves the company takes care of all the day to day problems. Yeah, I’m just more testing more, let’s say consultants there than an actual operator, although I have not retired.

Gary Pinkerton 14:59
It’s awesome. Well, I think The reason that you’re still going strong in your 90s and many other people aren’t is physically because you didn’t retire, you haven’t slowed down physically or with your mind, obviously.

Larry Klairmont  15:09
Fortunately, I’m not as active physically as I once was. But I am intensely interested in the day to day operations of a real estate company.

Gary Pinkerton 15:21
Now, I can read that in everything I’ve heard about your company in red. So speaking of somebody who is not ready to slow down too much yet, you I have to ask you about this because I’m a huge fan of automobiles new and old. And so just a couple of years ago, you created an enormous museum with some of the most rare cars in the country, and is still going strong, I

Larry Klairmont  15:46
imagine, right? It’s a hobby, and we are really fortunate. It’s one of the things that I am crazy about is classic and antique cars. Along with my sister’s fiance, Joyce Overlander, who works with me on a day to day basis on the car collection. We currently have four to 500 cars total, and about 300 odd cars in 150,000 square foot building. We kind of ship the cars around, we buy new cars, and we have one of the five outstanding car collections of antique and classic cars, probably in the United States. takes about four hours to really tour the whole place. And it’s really quite facility, which I’m proud of

Gary Pinkerton 16:37
When I read a couple of articles. You know, just to share with the audience Shaco Neil’s car and Jackie Gleason’s car. Those were beautiful automobiles. Those are pretty neat. What other historic cars not necessarily made with scar. May Wes Okay. Do you have any one of a kind cars I mean, those were all custom adjusted.

Larry Klairmont  16:58
I was fortunate enough recently to acquire former President Eisenhower’s personal and we did not restored it’s in the same condition as when he died. And as either as a drinking fountain in the glove box. He likes fresh water. So yeah, that’s our obviously, we have our Kelly’s car. We also have a famous car on by Eddie Rickenbacker, who was the World War One flying airplane. He shot down 20 German airplanes, who is president of Eastern Airlines. And he has a special car for himself when he decided to go into the automobile business. And the car is a magnificent, single passenger car. All the Rickenbacker Fortunately, the company’s folded up in about two years because of the Academy. That’s a famous person. We also have the famous car called the Tucker and Mr. Tucker started out in Chicago. Yeah, it’s one of the reasons that variations to acquire a Tucker because it is now only in the whole year, that whole world only 50 chapters left. And they are really collectible. It was the car of the time. It had a rear engine at four wheel disc brakes in the center of the hood. When you turn the wheel, the headlight turned along with the car. And everybody wanted it Tucker, this whole long story about that I could spend a half an hour we’re just talking about the sucker.

Gary Pinkerton 18:41
Yes, sir. Well, I remember the movie. I remember the movie well about Tucker and his run ins with the Big Three automakers and how it really, really caused the loss of a great company.

Larry Klairmont  18:51
That’s the whole story. But we also have so Aria was nice. I bought bread for over 20 years. And I bought the car brand new and we have many one older cars, see nothing like it in the whole world.

Gary Pinkerton 19:07
Oh my gosh, has Jay Leno been to see your car car collection?

Larry Klairmont  19:10
No, he has not been there but I think would like was very interesting. For us to go in for Yeah, I bought a 19 to production. Harley Davidson motorcycle, real unusual vehicle. And it was did a couple of movies. They called and he said I’d love to have that motorcycle in my show. I said well, I just received it from California. The frake was $300. And if you’d like to put that motorcycle in your show, you can ship it back to California for $300. And then if you want to ship it back to me in Chicago, it’s another $300. So for a total of $600 and no profits of selection. But I’m still waiting to hear from him. Well, Mr. Claremont,

Gary Pinkerton 20:08
I’m certainly sensitive to your time and how busy I’m sure you are. What maybe back on the business or anything else, what have we not asked that you want to share with a bunch of veterans and first responders?

Larry Klairmont  20:21
Well, you know, I’m a former Marine, and it’s my pleasure to open up my Museum, to former Marines. And we have a special room dedicated to possibly having to lagers, leaders, or recruiters from Marine Corps, have a lecture and explained to the Marine Corps and what a wonderful institution it is. One of the greatest honors that I ever had was on my 85th birthday, and seeds from the forced search.of people wishing me happy 85th birthday, and thank you. I didn’t even know the hell he was. After all these years, you know, sure. years. My first day, we had no common four star General, same type of a letter sashimi for my surface. Wow, what matter are the Marines but I

Gary Pinkerton 21:27
those hanging in the Marine museum?

Larry Klairmont  21:29
Yeah. You know, I want to tell you because he’s too modest. But you know, we have two Purple Hearts, two silver stars, and one Bronze Star.

Gary Pinkerton 21:42
Yes, ma’am. He’s amazing.

Larry Klairmont  21:43
Yes. She was only a young kid when all of this took place. Yeah. Out of the surface when he was 20. So it was between the ages of 16 and 20. All this hap. Wow. Wow.

Gary Pinkerton 21:59
Thank you so much for adding had He’s amazing. And for supporting

Larry Klairmont  22:03
focus that, Larry

Gary Pinkerton 22:05
Absolutely. Thank you so much for your time, sir. I will funnel all the Marines I can your way and I’m gonna come there and shake your hand and next time I’m in Chicago. Yes, sir. Bye. Bye. Bye.

Jason Hartman 22:17
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