The Fundamentals of Scaling a Business: Q&A w/ BiggerPockets CEO Josh Dorkin
Josh Dorkin knows a thing or two about growing a business. Not only is he the CEO of BiggerPockets, which boasts more than 825,000 members and landed at #400 on the Inc. 5000, but he also produces the top-rated real estate podcast on iTunes, which raked in $7 million in ad revenue last year, and founded a publishing firm.
Read on for Josh’s advice on growing a company, his Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever, his morning routine, and more.
Is there one person that sticks out in your memory as having been helped by BiggerPockets in all the work that you have done?
The one person that sticks out, the instant answer to that is Brandon Turner. Those of you who are unfamiliar, Brandon Turner is co-host of The BiggerPockets Podcast. He works for us, and initially, when I came to know Brandon years and years ago, he was a user on our platform; he was trying to find financial freedom and used the BiggerPockets platform to get there.
He was the pure representation of who we were and what we strived for. He was this guy living in the Pacific North-West who had been kind of floundering around in his life. He was trying to figure it out, like the rest of us. He came across BiggerPockets and the idea of real estate, and used BiggerPockets to help him build this passive portfolio of real estate.
Of course, living in the area that he lived in, he was at a point where he no longer needed a job. He had created that freedom for himself. He was writing for BiggerPockets, and at that time I was in need of help. I needed to hire somebody to come and join me as my first employee, and we got to know each other and I brought him on.
Brandon really just is that pure representation of who we are, but there’s countless stories. Not a day goes by where we don’t hear from somebody who’s like “You guys are transforming my life. You guys are helping me out. You guys have helped me quit my job” or “Helped me retire” or “Helped me build income for my family”, or whatever it is. That’s why we do it. We’re here to help people succeed.
What are the 3-5 most important things in your experience to growing and scaling a company?
One, having a good idea that’s scalable – start there.
Two, having some kind of plan, whether or not it’s written… I don’t think you need necessarily a written plan from zero (I didn’t).
Three, your business has to solve some kind of need for the customer that somebody else is not serving. I say that out loud and I think about McDonald’s versus Burger King. Burger King is solving a need, McDonald’s is solving the same need, but now it’s flavor choices, right? So, do you like A or B better? But having a USD (unique selling proposition), something that is unique or that you believe to be unique about what it is that you’re doing – you’re building, you’re offering service, products, you name it.
Four, being passionate, or having a team of people that are absolutely passionate about that idea. It’s pretty rare to see successful companies get to a point of success where the founders or creators or people running the show that don’t have some kind of passion for it, it’s too hard; it’s too much work, it’s too difficult to struggle through that without having that passion. Also, having a dedication to people and to your own people. You can’t build a scaling company without taking care of people, and I’m saying that and I can think of examples of companies where they have a really crappy culture and I’m like “Hmm, maybe not…”, but at the end of the day I think what goes around, comes around.
Five, I think something that we didn’t do in the past – and by “we” I mean businesses in general – is becoming very data-oriented. Metrics and data and understanding your business from a data perspective. I think you often see small businesses where they don’t get it struggling a lot. Knowing your numbers — let’s take real estate investors. If you’re a real estate investor and you market by mail, if you don’t know your send and open rates and your cost per send and your funnels, you’re just throwing money out the window. You don’t know what you’re doing, you have no way to measure whether or not what you’re doing is successful or not.
What feature of the BiggerPockets platform do you think is most underutilized?
I would have to say the member notes. Here’s what member notes are – you can go to anybody’s profile and take a note on them. I can go to your profile, Joe, and make a note and say “Yeah, Joe and I had a conversation about X, Y and Z.” Only I can see it, nobody else can see it on the platform. It’s almost like a mini CRM, right? The next time I come back and the next time I interact with you I can be like, “Hey, Joe… Remember we talked about X, Y and Z the last time we connected?”
I think partially that’s due to people not knowing what it is. We have not updated that in a very long time; we are working on some really nice and sexy redesigns of certain parts of the site, including user profiles and our onboarding, and as part of that, I think we’re going to be creating a little more clarity in that tool. I think it’s extremely useful, I use it all the time. I talk to you about whatever I talk to you about, I put it on there, and the next time I come back and I’m ready to talk to you again, I know exactly what we chatted about.
When you were considering starting BiggerPockets, what was a number one fear holding you back from starting?
There was no fear that held me back from starting. I didn’t start BiggerPockets to create a business. I started BiggerPockets to help me stop screwing up in real estate. So, my biggest fear was continuing to screw up in real estate.
There was nothing that was kind of “Alright, if I create this thing and nobody shows up, then nobody shows up. I’ll figure something else out, I’ll find my answers in some other way.”
How has podcasting enhanced your business and opened up doors and connections that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?
I think by having a big show that has a big audience, it gives you the ability to talk to and reach out to people who you may not have had the opportunity to do that with. So, it builds your name, it builds your brand, and especially if you do a good job and stay true to who you are and what you’re doing, then ideally that continues.
I’ve gotten to talk to authors that I may have not otherwise met. There’s not a show that we have where I don’t learn something. So, for me as a person not affiliated with BiggerPockets, it’s so powerful. And as the CEO of BiggerPockets, obviously having those people and those stories inspire other people is also so powerful.
What are your morning routines or daily practices that you do on a regular basis?
I go back and forth with a miracle morning – or non-miracle morning – routine; it depends how spent or burnt out I am. I don’t ever get up and then go to my phone, or go to my internet or anything like that. I like to get up, I like to stretch. On the good mornings, I like to exercise. This is all before anyone else in the house is awake.
Then get up, get dressed, do my thing, take care of my kids, get them ready for school, driving to school, and then at that point I will look at work. I don’t do work before my kids are off to school; I’m there, I’m present… I’m not playing on my phone, stressing about e-mails, dealing with any of that stuff. The morning is for me, followed by family, and then I head to work, and then work begins. After work, when I get home – four, five, six o’clock, whenever it is, I’m present again; phone’s away, not working. I may jump on social media from time to time, because it’s a hobby, but I’m not doing work per se until my kids are asleep. Family time is family time, and then when the kids go to bed, I usually like to thaw for a little bit, and then maybe I’ll do some work, as needed.
It’s very different than had you asked that question four years ago, which would have been “I get up, I work, I take a shower, I work some more while my kids are getting fat (or whatever) and then I leave to work, and then I come home and I work, and then I work through dinner, and then after dinner I continue to work, and even though I’m with my family, I’m not there.” I came to the realization that I was doing that, and hated myself for it, and said “This is just not who I want to be. I am a father first and foremost, and my family is the most important thing to me and my life, so I’m not going to let anything, especially my company, get in between that.”.
On those good mornings, when I’m fully miracle-morning-ing, I don’t actually do the full miracle morning, which refers to a book called The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, for those of you who don’t know… But I’ll stretch, I’ll do some meditation, I’ll do some exercise, and I’ll do some reading. Those tend to be the four things that I do.
What’s your Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever?
Figure out your why. Why is it that you’re getting into this for? If you don’t have a strong why, then you’re not ready to begin. If you’re already an investor and you’re thinking about scaling your business or growing your business, what’s the why? What’s driving you? What’s motivating you? Because if you don’t have it, do you know who’s not going to have it? Your partner, your spouse, your family. So, you’d better have a solid why that everybody can buy into, because otherwise there’s going to be opposition at every step from those people who should be supporting you.
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