JF1364: From Quizno’s To Real Estate Development & Everything In-Between #HappyMemorialDay with Todd Fox

Listen to the Episode Below (31:37)
Join + receive...
Best Real Estate Investing Crash Course Ever!

Against the advice of his parents, Todd started branching out from his Quizno’s franchise. He bought his first property at an auction and thought he might lose his shirt. That first property ended up being extremely profitable, but he still was not all in on real estate. Once he decided to really focus his efforts on real estate investing, he blew up, even after a bankruptcy. Now his company is completing $50 Million of new construction.  If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!

 

Best Ever Tweet:

 

Todd Fox Real Estate Background:

  • Started investing in real estate 9 years ago
  • He had $20,000 and no clue what he was doing
  • Spent first few years working 100 hours a week, learning the business from the inside out
  • Now in 2018, his company Visum Development Group will complete just under $50 million of new construction in this year alone
  • Based in Ithaca, NY
  • Say hi to him at https://www.visumdevelopment.com/
  • Best Ever Book: When I stop talking, you’ll know I’m dead

Join us and our online investor community: BestEverCommunity.com


Made Possible Because of Our Best Ever Sponsor:

List and manage your property all from one platform with Rentler. Once listed you can: accept applications, screen tenants, accept payments and receive maintenance tickets all in one place – and all free for landlords. Go to tryrentler.com/bestever to get started today!


TRASNCRIPTION

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. With us today, Todd Fox. How are you doing, Todd?

Todd Fox: I’m doing good. Thanks for having me, Joe.

Joe Fairless: My pleasure, nice to have you on the show. A little bit about Todd – he started real estate investing nine years ago, he had $20,000, and according to him (not according to me), had no clue what he was doing. Spent the first few years working a hundred hours a week, learning the business from the inside out, and now his company, Visum Development Group, will complete just under 50 million dollars of new construction this year alone. Based in Ithaca, New York… With that being said, Todd, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?

Todd Fox: Yeah. So background – you are 100% correct, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing with real estate. Actually, at the time when I bought my first property, I had owned a Quiznos franchise, and I was just absolutely miserable with that career path and what I was doing; I wasn’t happy, I was looking for something else… And I was actually dating a girl at the time, and I went to visit her, she was moving into a new place; I’m driving down the street in Ithaca, and there’s like 30 duplexes, on both sides of the street, identical, nothing’s different, other than the color of the siding.

I get to the end of the street, I’m like “This guy has gotta be making money, or he would have stopped after the first or second duplex.” I asked “How much do you pay in rent? Are you guys paying utilities?” and I started doing back of the napkin stuff, and I said “Listen, do me a favor – reach out to your landlord, ask him how much it cost to build one of these buildings”, so she did. I’m like, “Alright, this guy is making money. I could do this.” I knew nothing other than I just felt like I could figure it out. That was kind of my attitude.

I needed to be doing something different, and if this guy was doing it, I can do it, too. So I ended up basically just kind of copying his model, doing 3-bedroom 1-baths, and searching for properties. I came across this estate auction; it was like a 3-bedroom house, and everybody was there, buying… They were flippers. I go to this auction, I got 20k to my name, literally. The auction starts, it’s “One thousand dollars here! Two thousand dollars there!” and everyone’s raising their hand, and my hand is just pounding [unintelligible [00:03:23].08] “Sold for $32,000!” and everybody’s looking at me and I’m like, “Oh my god, what did I just do?”

This old guy walks past me, he’s like “Oh, this kid is gonna lose his effin’ shirt!” and I’m like “Oh my god, am I gonna lose my effin’ shirt?” [laughter] “I don’t know what I’m doing right now!”

Luckily, I’d had the foresight to meet with an architect just to make sure I could actually build what I wanted to build on the site. I called her up and I’m like, “Listen, Claudia, I don’t know what I’m doing right now. I think I actually just bought this property… I really need your help. I don’t know a single contractor.”

She was like, “Alright, calm down, calm down. I’ve been doing this for decades, I know a bunch of really good, reliable guys.” She helped me with the bidding process, and I ended up getting the thing built on time and on budget, and I actually got more in rent than I’d projected. That was kind of my start into real estate, just trial by fire.

Joe Fairless: Since you said you got more in rent than you projected, it sounds like that was a buy and hold?

Todd Fox: Yes.

Joe Fairless: With 20k in your pocket, how were you able to do a buy and hold? Because I imagine all the money that you had – plus, there was a 12k difference – went towards the project.

Todd Fox: Yes, we ended up redeveloping the site, it was a new construction. So we tore down the existing home… And I’d gone to my mom and I said, “Mom, I need to borrow some money, because I think I just bought this house.” She’s freaking out and she’s going “What do you mean you’re going into real estate? You own this Quiznos! What are you doing?!”

After like a couple of weeks of trying to convince my mom, she finally came around, and that’s how I got the first property.

Joe Fairless: Was it 12k that you borrowed from her, or was it more than that?

Todd Fox: No, it was right about that, and that time, that was about enough to be able to have a down payment for the house, and they used that as part of the 20% down… So it pretty much covered it.

Joe Fairless: And since that was all the money that you had, how were you able to hold on to it and receive the monthly rent, versus selling it and getting the cash back out plus profit?

Todd Fox: At the time, I never even thought about refinancing or anything like that. It was making about $20,000 a year profit after everything.

Joe Fairless: Wow.

Todd Fox: Yeah, it was a good investment right off the bat.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, it sure was. [laughs] It was approximately 32k all-in, and making you 20k in year one – is that accurate?

Todd Fox: Yes.

Joe Fairless: Well, you should just keep doing that then, right?

Todd Fox: That was the plan, and ironically, that didn’t really give me the bug yet. At that time, I had actually started working on an internet startup with a friend. I had actually gone through a personal bankruptcy, because I had sold my Quiznos, and a  year later the guy ended up defaulting on paying his rent payments, and the landlord came after me because I still had a personal guarantee…

So I really wasn’t even in the mindset of real estate at that time, and I ended up moving down to Brooklyn and working on this internet company… And it didn’t end up working out for me. So I’m sitting in my apartment, just sitting there thinking like “Alright, what am I gonna do next with my life?” I had gone through this bankruptcy, at this point it had been about a year, and this internet company didn’t work out, and the only income I had was this rental property that was making me $20,000 a year.

I’m like, alright, if I could just get ten of these things, I could make a quarter million a year, and it’s passive income, I don’t really have to lift  a finger, so why don’t I just do that? And at that point, if I wanna start another company or I wanna travel, I can do that, because you have all this passive income coming in.

So I had written on my wall I was gonna own ten duplexes within the next three years, and then I started meeting with banks… And every bank I talked to was like “What? Are you crazy? You just had a bankruptcy a year ago. We’re not gonna lend to you. Come see us in seven years, kid. You’re out of your mind.”

I talked to my mom, and my mom was like “No, I’m not gonna help you out… Are you crazy? You just had a bankruptcy!”

Joe Fairless: What terms did you give her on the first 12k? I imagine she got her money back, right?

Todd Fox: Yeah, she got her money back, and that time she didn’t ask for any interest; she just wanted to help her son out…

Joe Fairless: Oh, you should have given her some interest rate on that, that way she would loan to you later.

Todd Fox: Oh, believe me, I’ve been able to take care of [unintelligible [00:07:32].26]

Joe Fairless: [laughs]

Todd Fox: I was bootstrapping it back then. So here I am, I’m like, alright, I wanna make money in real estate. This makes sense to me. But I literally talked to every bank I could and they all told me “Listen, it’s not gonna happen. Go find another career path.” Luckily, I didn’t listen to them, and that’s one of my double-edged sword things in life, where it’s good and it’s bad, but I don’t always listen to people and take advice, but this time it ended up working out pretty good for me.

So I realised, listen, if I could find these deals, all I’ve gotta do is just find someone that can basically co-sign on the loans for me. I had a friend that was looking at investing in Connecticut. He was like, “Alright, show me the deals that you’re working with.” I said, “Listen, I’m getting double those returns in Ithaca. If you can help put up the money for these projects and you can help get the bank financing, we’ll go 50/50 on these projects. I’ll manage them, I’ll find the deals, I’ll take care of the leasing…”

He ends up partnering with me, and… It’s interesting, because I got really close to giving up. I was sending out letters to people, I was knocking on doors, and I had about 50 doors slammed in my face, or phone calls, or people who were like “Listen, if you call me back, I’m gonna call the police, because you’re harassing me.”

Joe Fairless: [laughs]

Todd Fox: I think probably the best deal I ever did was really that first one where I knock on the door and the guy opens up and says “Yeah.” He actually had a piece of land that was across the street and I said “Have you ever thought about selling the land across the street?” He said “Only if you buy my house.” I said “Okay, can I come in and see?” The guy shows me around the house… The house is probably worth about 425k; it was actually a three-unit that he lived in, and the land across the street was a double lot and it was worth about 100k.

I said, “Okay, well what do you want for the land?” He said, “Well, probably 25k for the land…” I’m like, “Okay.” I said, “What do you want for the house?” He said, “260k.” I’m like, “Are you sure about that?” He said, “Yeah, absolutely.”

Joe Fairless: You said, “Are you sure about that?”

Todd Fox: I said “Are you sure?” because in my mind I’m like “This thing is worth 425k easily.” I’m like “Is this really happening?” I’m like “Am I taking advantage of this guy?” I asked him, and he said he lived there, the house was paid off, and he always had in his mind that he wanted to sell it for 260k.

The next day I had my attorney write up the contract, and that was really like when I caught the real estate bug and that was my a-ha moment, because I’d just made basically 200k by knocking on this guy’s door. If I turned around and I sold these properties, I could cash out with 200k, and that was just like, okay, all the podcasts that I was listening to, and the books that I’d read – it’s true. This really does happen, if you just keep putting in the work.

Joe Fairless: Knocking on the door – how did you identify the neighborhood where you were knocking on doors, and then when you knock on a door, what do you say?

Todd Fox: So at that time our county didn’t have anything online, so I had to go down to the county assessment office, I had to pull out tax maps, and really what I was looking for was vacant lots, because I just wanted to replicate what I already did. I built this duplex, it makes me 20k; if I could just find building lots like that, I could just keep replicating my model. So it was a process to even be able to get that information, and I’d sell letters out to people, I’d go and knock on doors…

This guy – I knocked on his door, and he answered, and I said “Hi. This may sound a little strange, but I was wondering if you ever consider selling your land across the street.” That’s where he kind of looked at me and said, “Yeah, I’d sell it, but only if you buy my house.” I was just like, “Wait, what?” I was just not expecting that.

You hear a lot of different thing… People think that you’re there just to harass them. I literally had doors slammed in my face before… So I just tried to make a friend, and just smile as much as I could, and it just worked out.

Joe Fairless: What did you end up doing with the property that had the house on it, and then what did you end up doing with the one that was vacant?

Todd Fox: The property that had the house on it – we renovated it, because it was dated; we redid the floors, kitchens, baths and everything like that. I rented it out and it cash-flowed great. Then the double lot across the street – I ended up building two more duplexes. I basically took the exact same floor plan, didn’t have to pay for an architect, because I already had the house, and I just built two more of those duplexes on there.

Joe Fairless: How long ago was that?

Todd Fox: 2012.

Joe Fairless: And fast-forward to today, have you reached your “I wanna get ten of them to cash-flow 20k/year?”

Todd Fox: We well surpassed that. I really started falling in love with real estate, and like I said before, I was working 100 a week, I was laying floor, changing toilets out, unclogging toilets… Just learning the business from the inside out, and I really fell in love with it. And I said to myself, “Okay, I’ve kind of mastered this duplex thing… What’s the next step?”

I started looking at multifamily buildings. Now this year alone we’re gonna have just under 50 million in new construction. So the ten duplex thing – we far surpassed that a long time ago, which is crazy, because every time I talk about it, it’s mind-boggling to me, because at that time, ten duplexes was like this monumental goal. It was like “Am I really gonna even be able to do this? Everyone’s telling me I can’t even get a loan… What am I getting myself into?” And then all of a sudden you start to have some success, and you start to get really good at your craft, and you realize you can kind of take that next step and you can do an 18-bedroom, and then you can do something larger. One project gets 207 units, that is under construction right now… So it scales. I’m putting in the time and the energy and the work, and having this success.

Joe Fairless: That 50 million dollars under construction this year – what’s the value of the largest project within that 50 million?

Todd Fox: 37 million.

Joe Fairless: And what is that?

Todd Fox: It’s a 207-unit, it’s geared towards student housing for Cornell University.

Joe Fairless: Can you tell us about that project?

Todd Fox: Yeah, it’s about 85,000 square feet, it’s a five-story building, high-end, luxury student housing… So you’ve got a sauna room, and a jacuzzi, and the lounge, and all that stuff.

Joe Fairless: What’s your team’s role in that and who are the other partners involved?

Todd Fox: The partners that I have — it’s investors that I’ve kind of built up over time. I started out with one investor, which is actually kind of a neat story. Actually, my first duplex – the guy’s daughter was renting from me, and he called me up and said “Hey listen, I reviewed the lease, everything looks good, but that’s not why I’m calling.” I said, “Okay, why are you calling?” He said, “Well, you know, I’m interested in investing in the Cornell market, and I was wondering if you have any deals.”

So he was my first investor, and we ended up really hitting it off. He’s actually brought in his friends and stuff into deals, and their group invested almost four million dollars into this project. So it’s investors that I’ve kind of built up over the years, and my investor group has essentially kind of grown organically. It’s like, you do a really good deal with someone, you execute on time, on budget, and you do another deal, and the next thing you know it just kind of snowballs, and you build up that trust and that relationship. Then they wanna kind of tell their friends and family about it, and essentially why we’ve been able to scale at the rate that we have is the investors that we’re working with.

Joe Fairless: And how is it structured with investors on a deal like this?

Todd Fox: Every single deal that we do is basically structured differently. With this one it’s pretty interesting, just because we’re able to create so much equity into the deal, that we’re going to refinance the building in year two; the investors are gonna get 100% of their capital out, plus an 8% preferred return, and then they’re gonna maintain about 50% of the equity in the building, which then produces about 8% or 9% on their original investment.

Let’s say they put in a million dollars – they’re gonna get their million dollars back in year two, they get their 8% preferred return, and then they’re gonna make about $90,000/year going forward in perpetuity.

Joe Fairless: And what if in year two the million isn’t able to be paid back?

Todd Fox: The investors basically will have essentially 100% equity. We don’t get our equity kicker until they’re made whole. So 100% of the cashflow will go towards paying off the investors.

Joe Fairless: Got it. And then once they have the original investment  back, plus 8% preferred return that’s accrued, then you do a 50/50 split?

Todd Fox: Correct.

Joe Fairless: Cool. I’ve seen some development deals that have, say, 12% preferred returns, and I always wondered how the heck does the development have a preferred return at all if there’s no cashflow, but then someone told me “Hey, dummy, it’s just accrued until cashflow can be distributed.” Is that basically how you approach it?

Todd Fox: Yeah, it is… And again, what’s really unique about this deal is just the amount of value that we’re able to create in it… So we’re gonna be all-in into this project about 23 million dollars. That’s hard costs, soft costs, land costs. We have an as-built appraisal at 37 million. So the bank will finance 75% of the appraised value… So not only are we gonna be able  to get 100% of our money back, but based on their equity, we’re projecting an additional 40% return. It’s not written or guaranteed into the operating agreement, but it’s most likely going to happen.

So if they put in a million dollars, based off the refi money they’re gonna get their million back, a minimum 8%, and most likely, it’s gonna be an additional 400k. And because it’s a refinance, you don’t pay capital gains on that money.

Joe Fairless: When you are looking at that project and then you’re also working on your other ones, how do you prioritize your time and where you put your focus?

Todd Fox: I have the most incredible team around me, and without them we wouldn’t be doing any of the stuff that we are right now… I just have super-intelligent, talented, passionate people, and it’s really just delegating, allocating whatever time needs to be for whatever project, based on the team that we have. So it’s really all about the team that we have at Visum.

Joe Fairless: How many team members do you have? Not including on the ground people nailing nails with hammers, but just full-time team members.

Todd Fox: Construction-wise we employ hundreds of people a year, but within the Visum office there’s five people, and I make six. And then we’re actually looking to hire two more team members.

Joe Fairless: What are the roles, high-level, of each of the five?

Todd Fox: We have one person who basically is focused on leasing and managing the projects, we have an in-house project manager who’s basically at the various job sites every day, just making sure everything is staying on schedule. We have someone in-house that’s basically focused on raising money, investor, relations, staying in constant communication with the investors based on the current projects, as well as constantly raising new money.

We have two people that are in the office that are just focused on new deals and new markets, so we’re basically expanding our horizon; we’re looking pretty much as far South as Florida, and as far West as Nebraska. So we’re basically just focused on finding new opportunities in new markets.

Joe Fairless: As far as asset management, does that fall under the project manager’s responsibilities?

Todd Fox: During construction?

Joe Fairless: After.

Todd Fox: After construction. We’ve decided recently that we’re gonna do all of our property management in-house, just so you can kind of have your finger on the pulse of the market and get a better understanding of where things are going… So we’re hiring a couple additional people from the property management side.

So we’ll have three people that are dedicated to that, and then we’ll scale that based on the demand and how many hours is really needed, as the new projects come online.

Joe Fairless: Based on your experience, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Todd Fox: I feel that I could spend hours going through that… I think if we’re kind of talking for people that are trying to get into the business or just starting out, it’s trying to find a really good contractor, having a good contract in place; don’t ever pay them, unless work has been completed. I know there’s contractors out there that they want 50% down, which I always tell whoever, like “Listen, there’s always this thing what-if. What if this person gets hit by a bus? They might be the most honest person in the world, but you pay them $20,000 and they get hit by a bus tomorrow… Good luck trying to get that money back.”

And I think on a more high-level type of advice, I would say everything you do, just do it with integrity. I think that’s really one of the main reasons why I’ve been able to grow my business the way that we have. It’s always being honest, being a man of your word, executing, putting other people’s interest ahead of yours… It’s all about relationships in life. It’s all about taking care of other people and putting their interest ahead of yours. If you do that, you’re gonna be successful.

Joe Fairless: We’re gonna do a lightning round. Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Todd Fox: Definitely.

Joe Fairless: Alright, let’s do it. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [[00:20:25].19] to [[00:21:08].05]

Joe Fairless: Best ever book you’ve read?

Todd Fox: I’ve got two, and it’s really difficult. So the first one would be “When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead”, by Jerry Weintraub. It’s an autobiography… If you haven’t read it, you’ve gotta read this one…

Joe Fairless: Never heard of that one.

Todd Fox: Oh, man… Every other page, you’re jumping out of your seat. So it’s this guy, he grew up in the Bronx, came from poverty, and ended up managing Elvis Presley when he was in his early twenties, and managed Frank Sinatra… And it’s just the most crazy story, because it’s this guy who never took no for an answer; he just went out and he just made things happen. He wasn’t the most intelligent guy, he just went out and did things… It’s such an incredible book.|

And then the second book would be Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight, which is another autobiography, and it’s about the guy that started Nike. And again, the guy started with nothing, bootstrapped his business, was on the verge of bankruptcy for the first five years or whatever, and ended up just growing his company into Nike. They’re both such amazing and inspiring stories.

Joe Fairless: You like the bootstrapping stories, and it makes sense based on the challenges that you came across early on.

Todd Fox: I can definitely identify… I remember when I first moved back to Ithaca to work on the real estate – all my credit cards are maxed out, and I went out to dinner with my wife, and we are at this Vietnamese restaurant, and I thought I had money on my one card, or I wouldn’t [unintelligible [00:22:29].28] and I think the meal was like $35, and I think I had like $16 on my card… So I put that on there, and then I went to my car and I’m grabbing one dollar bills and change… I remember being at the counter, counting out change. It was embarrassing, but I put everything I had back into my businesses. Those books, especially Shoe Dog, I can totally identify with his story.

Joe Fairless: If someone’s in that position and they don’t end up in a position of monetary success that you’re at, why would you say they don’t?

Todd Fox: I think one of the biggest things that holds people back in life is just getting outside of their comfort zone, it’s fear of failure, and I’ve personally always viewed failure as an opportunity. I’ve made so many mistakes in my life… I make mistakes on a daily basis, but you learn so much from those mistakes. I think if you can just have that paradigm shift and change your perspective and realize that if you fail, that’s a good thing, because you’re gonna learn from that experience and you’re gonna grow from that experience, and you’re probably not gonna make that mistake again, and it’s just gonna make you a better, stronger, more intelligent and capable person. So I think that’s really the deciding factor right there.

Joe Fairless: What’s your favorite mistake that you’ve made?

Todd Fox: Again, I feel like I could spend hours kind of going into that. Favorite mistake… There’s been so many, so it’s kind of hard for me to even pin it down.

Joe Fairless: Maybe the last one, or maybe a mistake on a transaction that might come to mind.

Todd Fox: Again, trying to think about first starting out, I paid a contractor – and this is why I said, never pay someone ahead of time… And it was like $6,000, and again, you know, I’m bootstrapping, so to me at that time it was a lot of money… And the guy just disappeared on me. I had already rented the space out to tenants, they were supposed to be moving in in like four weeks, and I didn’t have any money to renovate the place, and I didn’t have a contractor… So that’s why I say, never pay people ahead of time.

Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever deal you’ve done that’s not anything you’re working on now, and was not your first one?

Todd Fox: I think it’s definitely that second deal that I talked about, just because it was such an eye opened for me, and I really was on the verge of giving up. I’d been sending out letters, I had so many doors slammed into my face, and had that deal not happened, I might not be where I am today… And  I hope that people can listen to that and realize that that can be you. If you just persevere and you keep knocking and you keep moving forward, eventually it’s gonna happen… Because it happened to me, it’s happened to probably everyone that’s been on your show, or all these other podcasts, or all these books that people write… Just keep doing the right thing, and eventually something good like that is gonna happen, and it’s gonna change your life.

Joe Fairless: It’s one thing to hear someone say they view failure as an opportunity, it’s another for someone when they hear that think “Okay, when I come across a failure, I’m gonna think of it as an opportunity”, but it’s a whole other to actually apply that whenever we’re in the middle of a failure… So any thoughts on taking it from concept to action for the Best Ever listeners?

Todd Fox: That’s a really good point, and there are definitely a lot of times where when it’s happening to you, it’s really hard to deal with, especially depending on what it is that you’re going through at that time… But self-reflection is important, and I think if you can realize that “Hey, whatever I’m going through right now, there’s a solution to it…” Every problem in life has a solution. At the end of the day, what you’re going through may really suck at the time and be hard to deal with, but at the same time in the grand scheme of things it’s probably not that bad. So if you can just kind of remove yourself from the situation for a little bit and try and gain some perspective and say “Okay, this is what’s happening… What good can actually come out of this? How am I gonna grow from this situation?”

I think sometimes that’s all you’ve gotta do – you have to just take a step back and try and gain some perspective.

Joe Fairless: When you are approximately 16 dollars short on a dinner out with your wife, how do you step back from that at that time?

Todd Fox: Yeah, that’s great… Because it was highly embarrassing. It was extremely frustrating, because I’m sitting there and I’m like, “Man, how did I let myself get in this situation? Because I don’t wanna live like this. I’m trying to grow a business, but at the same time, if I can’t even take my wife out to dinner once a month, that’s not a way to live.” So you sit back and you say “Okay, what could I be doing differently with my business? Do I need to slow down a little bit in certain aspects, so that way I can start to build up a reserve?”

It takes hitting a wall for you to realize, “Hey, I need to take a step back, because I just ran into this wall. How do I move forward from here?” There’s a lot of things that are always gonna happen that are unexpected, that you don’t anticipate, and it’s just figuring out how to get through it, that you possibly can.

Joe Fairless: It’s interesting how you said “How did I let myself get in this situation?” versus “Oh, why me…?”, more of the victim mentality, versus “I let myself get here, so how can I get out of this situation?”

Todd Fox: Yeah… You know what, it’s a very interesting perspective, and you’re absolutely right. I think that’s an important thing in life if you wanna be successful – you always need to be accountable. You can’t always blame people or things and feel sorry for yourself. Life happens, and there’s always gonna be things that are out of your control, and you’ve just gotta deal with it.

If you make a mistake, you need to sit back and say “Hey, I made a mistake. How am I gonna fix it?”, as opposed to “Oh, the world owes me something” or “This person didn’t treat me right”, or “My contractor ripped me off…” It was like with my contractor – I was more mad at myself than I was at him for stealing the 6k. I wasn’t like, “I can’t believe this happened to me. I’m giving up on real estate.” It was more like, “Okay, Todd, you’re an idiot… You paid this guy money when you shouldn’t have.” And you know what, I never made that mistake again.

Joe Fairless: That’s certainly a lesson we can all apply – if we’re not already – when we get stiffed by a contractor or someone else, in life. Instead of being mad at them – which rightfully we very well could be, and perhaps in many cases should be… The common denominator when we go throughout life in other circumstances will not be them, it will be us. So how do we fix ourselves, so that we can mitigate that risk from happening again?

Todd Fox: Right, absolutely.

Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever way you like to give back?

Todd Fox: I love mentoring people, I love helping people, even competitors. I just think about when I had my first duplex, I had this kid that I went to high school with and he came in and he was saying he wanted to get out of his career, and he wanted to get into building duplexes… I ended up giving him my blueprints, which were probably worth $10,000 at the time, and I remember I was talking to people and they were like “Why did you do that? He’s gonna be a competitor, he’s gonna hurt your business. You gave him $10,000 worth of plans for free…” I was like, “Yeah, but he’s a good guy… I don’t know, I wanna help the guy out.”

Then fast-forward like 5 or 6 years, and this guy now works at my company, he’s one of my best employees. He ended up selling his duplexes, which – he was a competitor… And he reinvested all that money into my business. So in me trying to help that person, just because I felt like it was the right thing to do, paid dividends down the road.

So I believe in helping everybody that I can, and sometimes it bites me in the butt, because you get people that screw you over, but to me it’s always very gratifying when you can do something for other people.

Joe Fairless: And how can the Best Ever listeners get in touch with you?

Todd Fox: I think the best way to get in contact is going to our website, visumdevelopment.com. We’re also on Facebook and Instagram @VisumDevelopment.

Joe Fairless: Inspiring story, that’s for sure. The takeaway is we should all buy a Quiznos franchise, go bankrupt, and then start knocking on doors, because clearly that’s a model for success. [laughter]

Todd Fox: Yes. You can also skip the bankruptcy and the Quiznos part, and then go knocking on doors, but…

Joe Fairless: Oh man, you’re skipping the best part though… That’s where the character building comes into play.

Todd Fox: Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more, and believe me, I learn more from those failures than anything else.

Joe Fairless: Well, I’m grateful that you were on the show, shared not only your story, but then also how you’re structuring your development project, the 207 student housing units near Cornell in Ithaca, New York, with investors, as well as the mindset that you have that helps propel you forward… Being accountable for your actions, asking “How did I let myself get in this situation” versus “Oh, I can’t believe this happened to me.” It didn’t happen to me, I LET myself get into this situation. And that’s generally speaking. Everyone starts out at different places, everyone has different things happen to him/her, but generally, when we have the approach of “I’m  in control, and I need to be accountable for my actions”, that’s generally a good approach.

Thanks so much for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you soon.

Todd Fox: Thanks, Joe.

You may also like