Today’s Show Recap

Thanks for listening to Makin’ It. This week we discuss buying fine art with a charge card and building a beauty brand from the ground up. Let us know what you think of the show in the comments section at the bottom of the page!

Let’s start MAKIN’ IT!

We kick off this week’s show with Chinese billionaire Liu Yigian Lui’s recent acquisition of Amedeo Modigliani’s 1917 painting, “Reclining Nude.” A wealthy Chinese businessman buying a valuable work of art is nothing new (with nearly $4 billion, Liu ranks number 569 on Forbes’ Billionaires List). But Liu’s payment method is newsworthy – he put the $170 million plus charge on his American Express Centurion card, also known as the “Black Card.”

Now, before you rush out to get your limit-free Centurion, you should know that this card is exclusive – you don’t apply, American Express extends an invitation. Maybe if you spend $250,000-$400,000 a year on another American Express card, and can swing the $10,000 in first year fees, you could score an invite to carry the ultimate status symbol (read the terms and conditions). Otherwise, you’re going to have to stick with Platinum.

Liu undeniably worked the “system” in his favor. Like most credit cards these days, the Centurion rewards its users with points for every dollar spent. The purchase of the painting alone likely earned him enough points to fly his entire family for free, first class, to any destination, for the rest of their lives. Add in the points for his $30 million purchase of a Ming Dynasty era teacup (also reportedly bought with the card) and he’s in points nirvana.

It would seem that Christie’s, the auction house that sold the masterpiece, is the only potential loser in the deal. They’ll get hit with more than $3 million in merchant fees from American Express. Ouch.

So, is it ridiculous that a billionaire uses credit card points to score free flights? Or is it just smart money management (you likely do the same thing, to a lesser degree, with your rewards credit cards)? Let us know what you think in the comments section below. We’d also love to hear what you’d buy if you had a limitless credit card!

Next up, we talk with legendary stylist and salon owner, Charles Penzone. In 1969, Mr. Penzone opened his first salon in central Ohio with two employees and a $500 loan. He has since turned his powerful brand into six standard setting, award-winning salons and spas with nearly 500 employees. You won’t want to miss Charles’ amazing success story – and how a loss of focus nearly cost him everything.

During his wide-ranging interview with Tommy and Todd, Charles discusses how he’s weathered seven recessions during his nearly 50 years in business. One key? Training, training, and more training. Each Penzone stylist must complete a year of in-house training (regardless of their experience level) before they ever work with a guest. The company also has a robust on-going training program to be sure that there is no drop in quality.

In an industry driven by word-of-mouth, reputation is everything. That means cultivating The Charles Penzone Grand Salons brand as one synonymous with quality and excellence. Tune in to hear how Charles used the power of his brand to save his company from near disaster. You’ll also hear why the company counts guest satisfaction as one of its most important success barometers.


“The worst thing you can say is “that’s the way we’ve always done it.

-Charles Penzone


Charles believes that keeping things fresh and new is another key to his salon’s success. The cornerstone of his philosophy is an embracement of change, even if it requires a shake-up in the senior leadership. That means the company is always planning for the future. Day-to-day operations are now run by his wife and a tight-knit group of professional managers – a change made possible by the sound succession plan he and his team created, years in advance of his retirement.

While he serves primarily as an advisor, you will still see Charles wandering through his six luxurious and trendy salons. He greets each and every guest and asks them the one question that tells him how well his salons are really doing. Tune in to find out what he asks.

What are your keys to creating a brand strong enough to stand the test of time? What tips can you share for creating a succession plan? Join the national conversation by commenting below or on social media.



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Additional Resources for Entrepreneurs:

Order Tommy’s new book, The Way of the Rich at,, and

Tips and strategies for creating a succession plan are here, here and here

Strategies for keeping your business customer focused

Read about Tommy’s Ohio Supreme Court case regarding non-compete clauses

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