Jay Modi was born in London in the United Kingdom. He attended the Royal Grammar School of Worcester in Worcestershire, England until he was 14 years old. At that point, he moved to Canada and attended Western Canada High School.
Upon graduating, Jay enrolled in the University of Calgary in the Canadian province of Alberta, but after six months, he realized that he wanted to focus on pursuing entrepreneurship, so he left that institution to focus full-time on creating his own real estate business.
As his career evolved, Jay went into asset management for a period of time. He then spent three years in Los Angeles where he started a successful film production company. Jay Modi was involved in producing twelve movies in total, including an acclaimed film titled The Bronx Bull, which is currently streaming on Netflix.
After deciding to take some time away from the film industry, Jay returned to Canada for a year and a half before moving to New York City. There, he worked with some large hedge funds in the asset management and investment sector, and simultaneously tried his hand in the financial technology industry—sometimes referred to as ‘fintech’ for short.
These days, Jay Modi once again lives in Canada where he is the owner and operator of Approval Nation, a company operating primarily in the digital sphere that lends money to people so they can finance the purchase of automobiles and other vehicles.
Can you share a little about the early days of your company?
I realized some time ago that companies advertising on billboards, radio, and newspapers aren’t using a quantitative approach to attract and acquire customers. When I created Approval Nation, I figured that digital lead generation and the online lending space is where the future is. We decided to focus on auto financing. People can apply online and be put directly in touch with a dealership. Customers are pre-approved based on the data that they enter into our website and, once they know how much they’re pre-approved for, they can start shopping for a car. This enables dealerships to lower the amount of money they would normally spend on radio or newspaper advertisements, and it keeps the customer from having to go into dealerships and negotiate without knowing if they’re approved for a loan.
How have you achieved success?
I have achieved success through a smart business approach and by listening to the people around me, knowing I’m not the smartest person in the room. Taking lessons from my previous experiences and failures has also been a huge part of the learning curve. If I try something that I’ve failed at before, I make sure to change it up and not do the same thing again. Another very important element is partnering with the right people, and by extension, learning who not to take on as a partner. Something else that helps a great deal is building long-term relationships with clients through excellent customer service. It’s a basic principle in business that if you give your clients good customer service, they’ll come back.
What obstacles have you overcome in the process?
One obstacle I had to overcome was obtaining the necessary financing to start the company. I remedied that by finding an interested investor. Another obstacle was realizing that I needed a business partner, and finding just the right person to fit that role. If you pick someone with goals that don’t align with yours, that can undermine your business pretty fast. The people around you can make or break you, and that applies not only to business ventures, but to your personal life, too. Additionally, attracting clients was difficult at the beginning because as a new company people can be a little reluctant to trust you. You have to convince clients that you know what you’re doing. You have to have the discipline and tenacity to keep going and know that the results and clients will come as long as you work hard and just don’t quit.
What drives you to succeed?
I have always been focused on achieving a certain level of wealth, and I knew the best way to accomplish that was to have my own company and control my own destiny. I grew up in London in the United Kingdom, which is a very competitive capitalist environment. Growing up around people who were wealthy, as well as people who weren’t, showed me that there are key differences in their mentalities. I think the most positive people that I met were also driven to succeed. So, I decided early in life that I want to be a positive person. I also love helping companies expand and demonstrating my skills and expertise—basically, showing what I can do for them. Another thing that drives me is the desire to prove to other entrepreneurs—both to my peers and to the next generation of business owners—that it’s quite possible to be successful if you just continue to focus on your dreams and work hard.
How has your definition of success changed over the years?
Early on, I think I believed success was just about making money. Today, I know it’s not just about that. Success can be having a family, making sure you’re keeping your health in check, helping others, or whatever makes you happy as a human being. For me, the definition of success now is waking up happy every day and looking forward to what’s ahead, as well as building self-discipline and self-confidence. I think it takes discipline to stay away from the things that don’t make you happy because you may be doing things you don’t like primarily to make other people happy and not yourself.
What has success meant to you?
The ability to help companies succeed and to have and buy leads in order to keep attracting customers through the COVID-19 pandemic has meant a lot to me. I’ve also seen the positive changes it has made for my family. Personally, achieving success has meant that I’m able to prove certain things to myself. Now that I’ve become successful, I can focus on making memories with my friends and family and build a life that I enjoy.
Do you have advice for others on how to be successful?
Make sure the business idea you pursue is viable and needed in the marketplace. Before you mortgage your house and put your family at risk, do a small test. Even if you have to borrow money and bring someone else in as a partner or investor, that’s better than exposing yourself to unreasonable risk. Know when to expand and be aggressive and when to scale back. Don’t give up. Results will come. If you’re doing something that isn’t getting results even though you keep working on it and spending money, you should probably ask yourself if you’re in the right business. Don’t get emotionally attached to anything you do because business is about making a profit and providing a product or service. If you’re not doing either of those things, you have to take a step back and see if what you’re doing is correct. Don’t just tie yourself to one idea.
How do you feel success affects a person’s outlook?
I think it makes people more empathetic. It lowers their stress levels, so they can see what else is important in life and help others. That’s why you see so many philanthropists donating their money and helping people. I think success allows you to be more real in your interactions with others. However, there are also many examples of success not always necessarily transforming someone into a good person. But for those who are already good people, I think that success brings with it an intense desire, as well as the ability, to help others.