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October 2017
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To learn about Sam Senev's professional experience, please visit him on LinkedIn.

Born Saman Seneviratne, Sam immigrated to America at age 15. He experienced immediately the cruelty of business when twice from the same customer he received a check with his name purposefully misspelled so that the customer could delay payment. A sympathetic branch manager at Home Savings Bank suggested he shorten his name and take on an American name: Sam Senev, half of his first name and half of his last name. 

Baptized as a young adult at 23, Sam took Saint Francis Assisi as his middle name. He was granted residency in the USA as an individual with extraordinary abilities and on the basis of National Security at age 28. 

Sam currently works on the Immigration Reform Committee advising the US Government. He worked on the International Economic Development Advisory Committee for President Santos of Columbia, was an Foreign Investment Advisor to the Belize government, and participated as an Economic Development Advisor for the EB5 Immigration Program offering residency and citizenship to foreign investors during the Obama Administration. 

Interview with Sam Senev
Published in East West Review, 2013 
Written by Lily Zhou

Steve Jobs, changed the cell phone world. Elon Musk, is changing the zero emission auto industry. Sam Francis Senev, Chairman and CEO of Global Private Funding, a very hands on investor, is changing the world through his unique economic development. 

As an individual, he is a father to a son and daughter, a great friend, brilliant minded leader who still possesses a love for humanity; kind, and generous. I met Dr. Senev through my mentor Wayne Herling who made his fortunes as a pioneering investor in wind energy. Wayne and Sam met while they both were involved in a waste-to-energy company. 

In business, he is very methodical, numbers driver, and determined. That determination translates into an intolerance for mediocrity. To work for him or with him requires adopting his philosophies. “Do everything you do so well that you can put your name to it," he often reminds his team. He is very strict and results driven. I admire his decision to make difficult and unpopular decisions without regard for social consequences. Being hated doesn’t faze him. He navigates to a true north that protects his investors. 

In December, Bloomberg featured news of Dr. Senev buying an island in Belize. In January and February, he travels through Asia considering additional investment options. Traveling through 11 cities in 5 countries in 7 weeks isn’t out of the ordinary. His work schedule is demanding, and he does work with just 4 hours of sleep a night, with late night emails and the occasional call at 2 AM keeping him connected to his team. It’s not uncommon for him to skip meals and work through a night. He works hard and plays harder. 

His primary focus is economic development by investing in projects that create jobs. To support the projects and the jobs, he expands the investment to the surrounding cities and their infrastructure. He visited countries and cities that are primed for investment. He spent time in the Philippines as he is considering investing in a wellness resort in Cagayan. “For the proposed Philippines operations, Global intends to pursue a business model rooted in exceptional hospitality, five (5) star, rather than in purely clinical approaches to therapy. The environed high-end hospital and wellness resort will offer various medical procedures, the core of which will be based on stem cell therapy,” said the local newspaper, The Philippine Star. 

In India, it was a new hospital investment. In Kathmandu, Nepal, city-wide investment in redevelopment. He did take a break to spend time in the Himalayas. In Hong Kong, it was a presentation regarding Chinese investor opportunities in America. He was in Macau to demonstrate the power of investing in gambling to his colleague, and back to the Philippines before returning to America. 

I caught up with him as he was leaving for a project meeting in Palm Springs, where he is financing the building of the most premiere resort in the desert. This project will be flagged a Dolce Hotel and Resort according to the Palm Springs City Council records. I kept my questions brief and few, but was able to capture the spirit of what makes him tick. 

East West: Where were you born? 

Sam: I was born in Sri Lanka, an island that’s 1/8 the size of California. 

East West:  What brought you to America and when? 

Sam: I’ve traveled extensively and experienced 19 countries fully immersed by the time I came to the US in my young teens. We immediately fell in love with the country and stayed in the US. 

East West: You travel so often, where do you feel at home? 

Sam: America is where I grew up. It’s the country that embraced me and nurtured me. America is my home. I am proud to be an American. 

East West:  What makes up who you are? 

Sam: I am very analytical by nature and technical by education. I grew up around world leaders my dad advised. I’ve met Pope John Paul to King Faisal’s family. It is quite extraordinary the people who molded me, continue to be in my life and influence me. I am blessed to have had my dad as a mentor to share my vision and influence my strategies. My mom has been my role model whose incredible work ethic drives me. She taught me that anything is possible if I just put my effort into it. My kids inspire me. 

East West:  You are so successful in what you do. What do you attribute your success to? 

Sam: I attribute my success to several cornerstones of which the first is a basic principle that I learned from my father. I must say that it’s easier said than done. I approach each opportunity and challenge as if it's the first time I am facing it. This allows me to look at all possibilities and not be limited by my past shortcomings or current limitations in perception. 

East West:  Is this approach why you are known to think outside the box? 

Sam: Thought doesn’t know boundaries and doesn’t belong in a box. We tend to limit our capacity for thought due to fear, insecurities, and lack of confidence, and being able to overcome those self-imposed barriers is what others may call thinking outside the box. It's an artificial box. It doesn’t need to exist, yet we create boxes and boundaries that limit ourselves in all that we do. Fluidity of thought can also be viewed as scatter-brained by those who are one track minded. Thoughts create other thoughts. If you let the thoughts develop, one will lead you to another and yet another. The destination often is very profound. The trouble is if one does nothing with those thoughts, then one has the danger of being labeled a dreamer. A visionary is one who can act on the dreams and make them a reality. 

East West:  What’s the simplest application of fluidity of thoughts in your practical life? 

Sam: Most often I don’t know who I am meeting and what it's about. Is knowing who and what really relevant? I move from meeting to meeting only as a resource fueling and following the thoughts of others, but assembling those thoughts to create a strategy. The team directs my attention. We use white-boards and map-out how the thoughts fit. Participating as their resource, I have an open dialogue to explore all aspects of all that’s potential and all possible ways we can can achieve something positive. This approach also leaves room for all parties to align their interests and benefit without one posturing and positioning the other. 

East West: How do you handle difficult situations? 

Sam: It’s only difficult if you look at it as such. If you change the way you look at a situation the situation changes. Think about it. 

East West: How do you know that the objectives of the meeting were met? 

Sam: To be fair to those I meet and to respect their time, at the end of each meeting it's important to the attendees if they achieved what they came to achieve, our meetings tend to run long, because they are free form. I participate in straight dialogues and leave the tactical updates to the staff. We most often achieve more than the objective. 

East West: How do you approach the opportunities? 

Sam: This is the second cornerstone of my business principles. We at first take the most mammoth of projects, opportunities, and challenges and break it down to achievable goals without pinning any party to any commitment. Most often, tasks and responsibilities tend to get tossed around much like playing "hot potato". Our approach allows the progressive development of thought, strategies, and revenue streams without the performance anxiety and liabilities associated with having artificial deadlines and expectations often injected simply for power-play. Though this approach is often slower than molasses, I've come to realize that it's a sure way to not lose money when someone else's poor planning becomes my urgency. Those are the projects where lack of time to properly plan lead to disasters. Priority is to identify the roles, responsibilities, and how we profit together, and not how soon we write a check. 

East West: Any wisdom from your father on this topic? 

Sam: My dad had very simple but deep life lessons for me. The most applicable here is one I use as a litmus test; “One plus one is always two. If anyone tell you one plus one is three they are lying to you. If anyone tells you one plus one is one and a half, they are stealing from you.” 

East West:  How do you maximize your return?
Sam: I’ve found that most people approach deals as if it's the last big deal they do. They don't acknowledge it, but they do. It's viewed as the deal that would solve all their life problems: money, love, pride, and so on. So naturally, they tend to want to squeeze the last ounce of blood out of the deal. This is often referred to as "not leaving money on the table". Most often, they set unrealistic expectations from a timing standpoint and force others to jump through flaming hoops. However, this practice doesn’t align the interest of all parties. Some get more and others get less. Some feel they won while others feel they lost. Alternatively, if the focus is kept on relationship building and common good, clearly outlining roles, responsibilities, and profits, then everyone wins. Look at the deal as leading to other bigger, better deals. It’s an approach that takes longer, has less drama, but builds lasting relationships and businesses that are sustainable. You can also weather the storms and mishaps in a project when the relationships are solid.

East West:  Why do you think deals are approached as if it's the one big chance? 

SAM: 'Last big change' is an attitude toward life. Not knowing what’s next in life scares most people. It's important to understand that positioning and posturing comes from that same fear and a lack of confidence. After awhile, it becomes a superiority complex and that complex is a metal box that one crawls into and can't get out. I've reached a point in my life where I don't have to do business with anyone I don't like. So, I don't deal with those with a superiority complex, an artificial deadline, or lack of regard for team benefit. Let’s build the relationship instead of the last big deal. 

East West: You've shared the principals you attribute to your success. What do you attribute to your peace and confidence? 

Sam: Most importantly, and the rock I build my house on, I live my life with gratitude instead of a sense of entitlement. I am thankful for the opportunities, the relationships, and the good that comes from everything I do. Not just for the doors that open, but most of all for the doors that close, because if those doors weren't closed, it may distract me and derail me from the objectives at hand. We are blessed with relationships, projects, opportunities, and challenges; all teaching us something new. They all serve their useful life and we must learn, evolve, and move on. I wake up to few minutes of focus on being grateful every day, and I end each day with acknowledging the good from that day and my gratitude for the blessings of joy and lessons. The more I am grateful, the more I am blessed with reasons to be grateful. 

East West: Has this attitude of gratefulness towards life served you well? Is it a strength of liability? 

Sam: Yes, it has served me well. Once in a long time, someone may mistake my gentleness as a sign of weakness. That’s when as a company and as individuals, we are forced to correct their attitude; sometimes it's a dialogue and other times it's through legal action against that party. One can’t live in fear of being misunderstood.