JF1356: Being A Better Leader In Your Business #SkillSetSunday with Nathan Brooks
Nathan is on track to more than double his business this year and can track that growth down to a couple of big things. The first being knowing where the problems are, and addressing them with his team. In order to do that, a lot of smaller steps are involved, including listening to your team. Hear more about what it takes to lead an efficient team everyday in this #SkillSetSunday episode! If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!
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Nathan Brooks Real Estate Background:
-Owner of Bridge Turn Key Investments
–Flips about 150 properties a year, providing exceptionally high quality turn key properties
-Recently started their own retail real estate team
-Based in Kansas City, Kansas
-Say hi to him at https://www.bridgeturnkey.com/
-Listen to his Best Ever Advice here: https://joefairless.com/podcast/jf475-his-first-purchase-was-2-homes/
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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff.
First off, I hope you’re having a best ever weekend. Because today is Sunday, we’ve got a special segment for you called Skillset Sunday. The skill we’re gonna be talking about today is how to be a better leader in your business. With us to talk about that – Nathan Brooks. How are you doing, Nathan?
Nathan Brooks: I’m great, Joe. How are you today?
Joe Fairless: I’m doing great, and nice to have you back on the show. Best Ever listeners, if you wanna hear Nathan’s best ever advice, check out episode #475. It’s been so long ago I had to double-check that… Almost like a thousand days ago. #475, titled “His first purchase was two homes.” Today we’re gonna focus more on how to be a leader.
A little bit about Nathan to refresh your memory, in case you can’t remember one thousand days ago – he is the owner of Bridge Turnkey Investments. Him and his team flip more than 150 properties a year. They are based in Kansas City, Kansas, and recently started their own retail real estate team.
With that being said, Nathan, do you wanna catch us up to speed with your business now and your leadership role within it? Then that will frame the conversation for what we’re gonna be talking about.
Nathan Brooks: Absolutely. Thank you again for having me; however many days you mentioned had too many zeroes, so we shouldn’t [unintelligible [00:02:33].09] I can’t count that high. So yeah, our team at Bridge Turnkey Investments – over the last couple of years basically we’ve doubled in size every year; I don’t remember the exact date of that show, but knowing that last year we had well under 100 and this year in the first quarter [unintelligible [00:02:50].11] nearly the number we did last year, which is pretty crazy…
So for me, it has been understanding where the problems lie within that business, whether it’s our business we do – mainly turnkey – but we also flip and put stuff on MLS as well… And it’s about understanding where the problems lie and having the willingness to listen to your team and people you put in place, but also then suss out the information, understand that problem, and tear it apart, look at it, suss it out, understand what the answers are, but then also put those pieces into a process, so that you don’t have to try to rethink, relearn, re-educate your team and yourself on those problems.
Joe Fairless: Okay, those are the components of it, it sounds like, what you’ve just laid out – understanding the problem, listening to the team, dissecting the information to determine what information is relevant, and then putting a solution in place, as well as a process, so you don’t have to come across this multiple times. Can you give a specific example just to color this in a little bit?
Nathan Brooks: I’d love to. So one of the challenges that we’ve had — one of the things we talk about in our business is having our projects on time, quality and budget… So hitting all three of those components, meaning we start and stop the project on time, and we have scope of work, and a budget, and we’re within acceptable parameters of that within, say, 90% of our expected cost of that project. And then the quality piece too, where visually it’s appealing, we’ve got the landscape right, we’ve got the exterior right, we’ve got the color selections right, and then inside the same kind of concept.
So we have dug in on a number of things. One was inspection reports – we started dissecting every single inspection report over, say, 2-4 months, and looking at things that were repeatedly missed, whether it was a downspout, or insulation in an attic, or something like that… And based around those items, we took that lesson and we started incorporating that into our actual scope document. So when we went through it, we said “Hey, let’s look at the attic. What does it need? Let’s look at all the downspouts. How many are there?” We get hit on this every single time – what is it, and let’s nail it on the front-end, so we’re not trying to chase it on the back-end.
Joe Fairless: That makes sense, and that can be something that anyone does who’s buying properties, not just someone who’s rehabbing property… I’m thinking about with my business, buying apartment communities – if we don’t do the proper due diligence on the way the seller is screening the residence, and then we buy a property and lo and behold there’s a bunch of criminals and some bad actors in there, then we write that down and then on the front-end for future stuff we put that into the due diligence; we basically make due diligence a living, breathing document.
Nathan Brooks: Yes, exactly. And the key piece of that, which you mentioned, not only applies to a single-family house or a small multi, or an apartment deal, or whatever, but whatever that lesson is, whatever that learning was, you actually learned a lesson, and you didn’t just have that moment that you were in that deal and maybe you missed something… Don’t keep missing it; take time to look at it and learn the lesson.
Joe Fairless: Yeah, that’s a struggle I have with Ashcroft – not my apartment business, but with my other business, like the podcast and the consulting stuff… Putting pieces in place so that there’s a process, so we don’t have to continually address the same stuff over and over again. What are some tips that you have for that aspect?
Nathan Brooks: This is a great question… Are you familiar with the book Traction by Gino Wickman?
Joe Fairless: Traction – I have heard of it, I have not read it.
Nathan Brooks: Okay – great book, well worth the read, and if I had to guess with just having that same struggle in that area… It’s something I struggle with too, and what I realized was I was trying to do stuff that a) I didn’t like, and b) I wasn’t very good at, and therefore it did get dropped a lot and those lessons weren’t getting put in their place, because I didn’t have a great system to deal with them… And then even more importantly, I hated doing it, so I was naturally picking those pieces up, putting them in the proper folder, giving them a title, blah-blah-blah.
My business partner and I read the book Traction, and they use language which we didn’t have yet, which was really helpful – they talked about an integrator and a visionary relationship… And I squarely sat in their little test in the visionary seat, and my business partner, although he has some visionary qualities, absolutely sat in that integrator seat. And all that to say, you have to have people on your team who can do that. Part of being in the CEO seat, the visionary seat, is being able to say “This is what we have, this is who we are, this is the type of product we wanna be”, and then you put yourself in the position — and it might be just you, right? So you need to find somebody to help you administratively or otherwise… But if you already have multiple people on your team – it might not be your business partner, it might be a key admin or someone like that, but you have to find the people who will help you do that, and hold you accountable personally, as well as the actual information accountable.
So once we started processing this — we do all of our stuff in Podio, so we would build these systems around, say, just the one thing… So for instance, we have selection sheets on the color tile, and the wall color and all that kind of stuff – we have it built out in Podio, and that links to every property that we flipped. So when you go back, although for me trying to remember any of that stuff is crazy, but I know that because we built a process to say “Hey, if we’re rehabbing a house, it’s gonna have all these selections built out, and someone on my team goes in and looks before we start that rehab, and says hey, Selection 123 Main Street is not filled out. What’s going on?” Boom, she pings our team and we check it.
Joe Fairless: When we started out our conversation we said we’d be talking about what it means to be a leader of a business and how to be a better leader, and you started out the conversation by talking about “You’ve gotta understand where the problems are, listen to the team, suss out what information is important, and then put the pieces in place and a process for not having that reoccur.” How come you started out talking about understanding problems, versus any other area that you could have addressed, as it relates to being a better leader?
Nathan Brooks: I think it all starts with the problems, and not even just problems, but the right problems. I think a lot of times people think of problems in the negative; I think of them in the positive. As a CEO of my business and as a visionary of my business, my responsibility is to see things that other people can’t see. It’s to be able to talk about, explain, suss out the things that people on my team – that’s their day-to-day operation of writing contracts, or running construction sites, or picking selections… So they have day-to-day minutiae that I don’t know, but I can ask great questions and understand where the roadblocks are… And one of the things that I discovered was the more I pulled out of that day-to-day minutiae and helped my team figure out, whether it was language in the way that they communicated to clients, or owners, or whatever that would be – that was a process problem, and that was a language problem, so we could help solve it.
So although I am not the one having that conversation, the problem was “What do I do when X happens?” So by taking that time upfront, we wrote it down, we talked about it, it’s now in my voice… Not that they don’t communicate in their own voices, because that’d be crazy to say that they don’t, but I got to have influence in the way that we approach, because as a business, Nathan Brooks, or as a business, Bridge Turnkey Investments, this is how we approach a client when this happens.
So by approaching it from the problem, we could say “Okay, cool. Well, when this happens, this is what we do.” And then, guess what? …because anything that you don’t know how to do is a disruptor to the negative in your business. So when you come to something like that and your people on your team don’t know how to do it, you didn’t prepare them. So that’s your problem, you need to address it, and then by you addressing it, putting it in play — and then, by the way, you have to practice it with your team and make sure they got it… And now you’ve set them up to do that; they’re doing it exactly the way you want it done, and they’re probably gonna do it better than what you could do anyway.
Joe Fairless: I love that. Anytime someone on your team doesn’t know how to do something, it’s your fault, and it’s a problem that you’ve gotta solve for.
Nathan Brooks: Absolutely, yeah. Then you took ownership on it, rather than saying “Gosh, my team doesn’t know how to do blah-blah-blah.” That’s crazy. It’s not their fault.
Joe Fairless: True. So true. That is a great distinction. I’m glad we continued down that path. Anything else as it relates to being a better leader for our business, that we haven’t talked about, that we should?
Nathan Brooks: You know, I think the other piece of it is a lot of times – and I have the distinction of having CEO behind my name, and I don’t remember who it was, but I remember distinctly hearing somebody that I looked up to talk about the fact that the letter behind your name don’t mean anything. It’s all the actions behind it, and it’s the way you operate, and there are plenty of people out there – and I’m sure people will connect to – that it says “Administrative assistant”, or “Assistant to blah-blah-blah”, and those people do a ton of work, and they keep all those little nuts and bolts together… And it’s so easy as a leader to stop listening, because we feel like we have some authority based on the title that we have or we gave ourselves… And I have found the more I stop talking and the better questions that I ask, and then I close my mouth and I listen, the better off my team does, and then the better off they are, because they have autonomy in their workplace, they have autonomy in their job, and they had influence in what they did.
When you think about that, what does that build? It’s building a culture within your organization that says “Hey, if somebody’s talking, I’m gonna listen”, and that goes from the top down. I don’t care if it’s the landscape cleanup guys, all the way up to my VP of construction on my team; it doesn’t matter. If you’ve got something to say, I wanna hear what it is, and I’m gonna sit there and listen, I’m gonna understand, even if — hey, I put this in play years ago; well, it might be wrong now. Let’s find out.
Joe Fairless: Any tips for listening well?
Nathan Brooks: Yeah, I think the concept of listening is to me characterized with — you and I, Joe, we’re having a conversation, and you’re listening to me, I’m listening to you, I’m understanding the kind of questions you’re asking, and we’re talking to each other… And in order to listen, that means you have to be actively engaged as to what that person is saying to you, and first, we’re not formulating a response, first we’re actually formulating the ability to rephrase the question back, so that we understand a) that we listen to them, that person that you’re talking with knows that you know what they asked, because you’re gonna rephrase it to him…
And it doesn’t have to be a whole long question; you could just say “Hey, let me make sure I understand what this is. You said blah-blah-blah-blah, and I just wanna make sure I got your question right.” Holy cow! I might say your name, “Joe, let me make sure I got your question right.” Because I’ve now said your name, you’ve heard me say it, I’ve now stated your question back to you, which means you understand that I heard it, or maybe I didn’t hear it correctly – now you can correct it… And then you, as the person who are asking the question, has that feeling of worth, that you were being engaged with and you’re being heard, which is huge just to start from that place.
Joe Fairless: I love this stuff, and I am appreciative of you sharing this with us, and I know a lot of the Best Ever listeners are as well. How can the Best Ever listeners get a hold of you?
Nathan Brooks: A couple places… My team, you can check us out on BridgeTurnkey.com. We also have the Facebook page, Bridge Turnkey. It’s at facebook.com/fixfliprentkc, so you can connect with us there as well.
Joe Fairless: Nathan, thank you for being on the show again and talking about the different characteristics of a leader, and helping to provide value to help others be better leaders, myself included. Some tactical things – well, from a high level it’s to listen to the team (that’s been a theme throughout) and to listen well, and put the pieces in place to have a process implemented, so that things don’t reoccur.
Also, if any team member does not know how to do something, that is not a team member’s fault, unless you’ve told them multiple times; that is not the team member’s fault, that is your fault, and there needs to be a way to address that. Also, taking a look at and evaluating past projects that we’ve been a part of – anyone can do this who’s listening… Just evaluate the past projects you’ve done/been a part of, and what issues showed up, and writing it down in a document of the issues, and then taking that and putting it into a due diligence document on the front-end for your next deal.
It’s a very simple process, and it’s a somewhat obvious thing to do, but I imagine 50% of the people haven’t actually written that into the due diligence process for their next deal. They probably know “Hey, I need to make sure I address this”, but actually do an assessment of it, and write it into the due diligence process.
Nathan, thanks again for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever weekend, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Nathan Brooks: Thanks, Joe. You too.