JF2193: How To Go From Navy Pilot to Owner Of Two Businesses With Bill Allen
Bill is a former Navy Pilot and Founder of BlackJack Real Estate and CEO/Owner of 7 Figure Flipping. He initially started flipping one house a year and as he started to gain the confidence he then went full-time. He recently bought a new real estate company called 7 Figure Flipping. Today he shares how he has been able to grow from Full-time Navy Pilot to business owner.
Bill Allen Real Estate Background: October 15th air date
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“Listen to a podcast that is educational, and surround yourself around people who are strong where you are weak” – Bill Allen
Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners and welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Theo Hicks and today, we’ll be speaking with Bill Allen. Bill, how are you doing today?
Bill Allen: I’m doing good, Theo. How are you?
Theo Hicks: I’m well. Thanks for asking and thanks for joining us again. So Bill was a guest all the way back in May of 2017, on Episode 905. So make sure you check that episode out. We’ll be talking about what Bill’s been up to since then. But before we get into that, a little bit about Bill – he’s a Navy pilot as well as the founder of Blackjack Real Estate, and CEO and owner of 7 Figure Flipping. He and his team at Blackjack currently flip and wholesale over 200 deals per year. He is based in Nashville, Tennessee, and his website is blackjackre.com. So Bill, do you mind telling us a little bit more about your background and what you’ve been up to since we last had you on the show?
Bill Allen: Yeah, you told me May 2017, so I can’t believe it’s been that long; over three years now. So I have a Navy background. I was an engineer and went through as a Navy pilot, and I thought that’s what I would be doing my whole career. I bought a couple of houses as rental properties. I moved around 15 times in 18 years that I have been a Navy so far, and just bought a house everywhere I went. I started to expand into doing a flip on the side; made a bunch of money. You make $45,000 in a couple of months, it starts to feel really good, and you figure out how you can do more of that. So I did one a year before I started scaling up a business, and then eventually I was able to leave the Navy full time and I’m a reservist now. So I fly part-time.
Over the past four or five years, we’ve been able to do over 100 deals a year. I have a team of about 15 or 16 people in that company, and it’s pretty nice. I’ve got to the point where — I talk about passive income a lot. I don’t really do a lot in that business anymore in Blackjack Real Estate, so my COO runs the company. He does the day to day ops. I spend two hours a week with him on a call and he does the magic, and the team’s awesome. It’s really incredible to get to that point. So that’s my background.
We primarily wholesale houses in the southeast. So Nashville, Chattanooga, Pensacola. We do some deals in Atlanta, Birmingham. If something pops up, we might do some marketing in some different areas. It’s pretty much all virtual now. COVID pushed us into a virtual world. So we’re closing everything over the phone. We’ve got a system set up where we don’t actually have to go see the house anymore. So it’s been a great journey. I don’t know — last three years, my COO’s got up and running, and I’ve been able to remove myself, and then I bought another business and I’m running that now. So that’s where I spend my world in that 7 Figure Flipping company you’re talking about now. It’s where I spend about sometimes 80 hours a week doing that.
Theo Hicks: Perfect. So the Blackjack is a machine that’s running on its own. Well, not on its own, but you’re not running it, and then your focus now is on 7 Figure Flipping.
Bill Allen: Yeah, I spend all my time in that mastermind company for single-family wholesaling, flipping. Blackjack’s great because I have a phenomenal team. We have a great leadership team. I don’t have to look over their shoulder. They hold each other accountable. We operate off with a system called EOS, so the Traction by Gino Wickman, that system… And everything runs. I can just pop in there, look at the scorecard, see how they’re doing. I show up every month and give them a meeting over some rah-rah, talk about how amazing things are doing. The Inc. 5000 list just came out yesterday and we were number 206 in growth from 2016 to 2019, which is amazing to see that. So I can celebrate those things with them and do something else. My passion moved somewhere else, and to be able to do that and build another company and put the right people in place has been fun.
Theo Hicks: So in my notes here, this is from your first episode, is that in 2016, you had flipped 13 houses and wholesaled 54 while you were working full time, and now you’re telling us that you’re spending a few hours on that business. You’re doing over 200 deals a year. So double, triple what you were doing at the time. What are the two or three things that you’ve done that have allowed you to not only increase the amount of deals you’re doing, but decrease the time investment on your end involved in doing those deals?
Bill Allen: Well, I think the first thing is listen to podcasts like this. Understand that it’s possible. When you hear somebody that you can relate to and realize that they’re just a normal person doing things like this, it’s possible for anybody to figure out how to do it… And then surround yourself with the right people. I brought in staff members and team members that were better in areas that I was bad at.
A lot of people say strengthen your weaknesses, and I really believe in that work on your strengths, know what your strengths are, and then surround yourself with the people who are strong where you’re weak, and that’s what I was able to do. I was able to put this team together that when I’m sitting at the conference table and I’m talking about marketing, I’m not the know it all at marketing. Somebody else knows a lot more than me. So when I started listening to other CEOs, other business owners to figure out how they got to the place that they got, it was mostly about the fact that every decision doesn’t have to go through them.
So putting the right people in the team, and — you guys have that here, right? You guys have a great relationship here with your team, with Joe and you, and it’s really cool to see that. So when you can bring the right people in on your team to do the things that you’re not very good at or don’t want to do, it frees you up to do the other thing. So first of all, a little bit of education and just really honestly, it’s all pretty much mindset. Believing that you can actually do it, that’s the first step. And if somebody else can do it, so can you. Lots of different people have been able to do this. It’s possible. It’s real. There’s a lot of people out there doing it. And then finding the right people. Those are the big things. We talked about systems and automation and process. It’s the people that are involved that are most important. Whether it’s the people in the deal, the people on the team and staff, that’s the important part in business as far as I go.
Theo Hicks: How did you find the team members? Did you just post a job listing? Did you get a recruiter? Are they people that you knew previously? Where did you find them? And then how do you know that they are the right fit? You mentioned that you want to find people who are good at what you aren’t good at or don’t like doing, but I guess tactically, how do you know that this person is actually good at these things?
Bill Allen: I think the first step is knowing yourself. So once you know yourself and what you’re good at — because people ask me all the time, who should I hire first? The answer to that question is it depends. I can tell you who I hired first, but who you hire first might be somebody totally different. It might be a project manager, it might be a bookkeeper, it might be a salesperson.. It’s really where are you weak and what do you not good at; that should be the first person that comes in. So knowing yourself, get to know yourself, your personality, what you’re good at, what you’re not good at and be honest with yourself. And then you interviewed me in 2017; 2016 is when I started hiring people, in early 2016, and it was like a Craigslist posting. We don’t do that style anymore. You can still do that…
The thing that I think you need to do is you need to cast your vision. You need to know where you’re going. Because that first person that comes in when you have no company and you have no track record, why should they leave another job or believe that coming to work for you is a stable way for them to do what they want to do? Casting the vision for them is the most important thing. Getting them on board and getting him to believe and buy into your vision. So what we do now is we hire off Indeed. That’s the only place we post, and we have ads running all the time. We look at the personality profile that we want somebody to have. So you can use a free resource like the DISC test. Kolbe is another one, Myers-Briggs is another one. We use a paid service called Culture Index. They cost anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 a year depending on the size of company that you have. But I have two companies, we have about 50 people that work for the two companies combined. So it’s a great resource for us. I actually pay two licenses, one for each company. It’s that valuable to me.
So we set the personality profile that we’re looking for, and that’s who we are. What’s in your DNA? From the time that you’re 12 years old, you have these characteristics and traits that are in you. It might not show up, you might be able to work through it sometimes, but when you get stressed out, and things are going wrong and everything happens, you go back to that natural state that you’re in, and we’re constantly under stress as a real estate business. I think it’s safe to say that 70% or 80% of the time, there’s problems and things are blowing up. So I want the people that show up that can naturally go back to being salespeople or naturally going back to being admin people or naturally being good at bookkeeping at that point in time, and they’re not going to miss the details. So we look at that personality profile, and then we look at skillset. So a lot of people do it backwards. They look at skillset and they look at the resume, and then they hire somebody.
So I want to know who you are as a person, what your core values are, what you believe in, and if you can fit in with the team. I have a team member of mine, she’s amazing. She said one time, “They’ve got to pass the beach test. Would you go to the beach and sit on the beach and hang out with them for a little bit, especially as a small company?” I’ve hired some people before, they just don’t really fit the culture and it’s just the wrong fit. They can be great at that position, but they got to fit into the culture, the core values and all that stuff that we believe in, who we are.
So we post on Indeed, we create the personality profile that we’re looking for, and then we write the job ad on Indeed based on attracting that personality profile. So we use adjectives that when somebody reads it, they’re like, “That’s me, that’s me, that’s me.” Instead of talking about what the job is, we talk about who the person is that would be interested in this, and then we look at the resume.
So it’s like a funnel, just like your leads are. If you look at hiring just like you do going out and looking for leads for houses or for buyers or for raising money, whatever that is – same thing with hiring. And then we ask the same questions, we compare apples to apples. We write down the questions that we’re going to ask. We don’t change them, because a lot of times, you’ll go one way with the candidate on an interview and you’ll go another way on a different candidate on an interview, and you can’t compare apples to apples that way. So we ask them the same question. It’s very clear, it’s very obvious that we’re just being systematic about our approach. So that’s a short answer on hiring. There’s a lot involved in this stuff, but if your gut says no, don’t do it.. If your gut says this might not be the right person, but they have the resume… I’ve gone against my gut a couple times, big mistake.
Theo Hicks: That’s something I wanted to ask too, is how do you know when it’s time to fire someone, and then how does that approach work? Is it just one day it’s done? Is there a warning system? How much time do you give them to turn it around? I’m just curious of how that works.
Bill Allen: Yeah. That’s the answer again – it depends. For me, the problem is, I know that I’m an emotional decision maker, so I’ll hold on to people longer than I should. When my confidence runs out in somebody or it’s in question, it’s very hard to climb back up and get back on the good side of me and the company. Once I lose a little bit of trust and confidence in them because of their performance or what they’re saying or it doesn’t line up and my gut starts telling me this is the wrong fit, that’s the time that I should be letting somebody go, or having that first conversation. Usually what I do is I’ll have a basic conversation with them. I’ll give them some time to turn it around, and it’s never worked out for me. So from the HR side, I’ll say yes, we’ll give people a couple chances.
We use EOS. So we use something called the people analyzer as a tool inside of this EOS system that we use, and when they get below the bar on the core values or the Get it, Want it, and the Capacity, that’s when we go to them and say, “Hey, you’re below the bar. This happened, this happened, this happened.” So what I do is I give them three different times of things that they did in the past that highlights this core value being below the bar, and then I say, “You’ve got the opportunity to get back up, but this is what you need to do. You have two weeks or one week or three weeks or whatever we put a plan in place to get above the bar.” Because if it’s one instance, they say, “Oh yeah, but this happened,” or, “Oh, it was because of this.” But if it’s three times, they really can’t defend the fact that three times, they’re not showing up. And for us, it’s extreme ownership, stewardship, hard-working, integrity and personal professional development.
So if they’re not showing up with integrity, for me, you’re pretty much gone. There’s not going to be a warning for integrity. But if there’s some hard-working, maybe they had something going on with their family, they’re just not working as hard as they should be or showing up the way that they should, then that’s something that’s coachable. Personal professional development, if they’re not putting enough time into developing themselves professionally, then we can have a conversation and try to start to talk through some of that stuff.
Ownership, if they show up to that and go, “Yeah, but that was this person’s fault or this person’s fault or this person’s fault,” then they’re not even going to get through that meeting. We’re just gonna fire them right there. So it just depends on who the person is. But when your gut tells you that it’s time for somebody to go, it’s probably too late. Don’t be afraid to fire somebody in the first couple weeks, the first month, the first two months. You pour a lot of time and effort and energy into these folks, but there’s a lot of opportunity cost lost by holding on to the wrong person for too long.
We just had a quarterly meeting. One of our teammates was below the bar, and we had the opportunity to coach her, but she just wasn’t coachable and it was time to go, and we just parted ways on good terms. I’ll tell you, every single person that we let go so far, pretty much every single person, has written me back a year later. Every person I let go, I said, “Look, this is the best thing that I could possibly do for you. You don’t understand that this is not the right fit, you’re not in the right seat, this isn’t for you. You’re going to go find your dream job. Believe me that you’re going to be happier somewhere else. Here’s a couple of recommendations I have based on your personality profile, what I’ve seen; maybe go try this,” and I’ll get an email or a phone call six months, a year later, and somebody will say, “You know what? You were right. I found the incredible job. I love my job. I love what I do now. Thank you. Thank you for firing me. Thank you for letting me go. Thank you for caring about me that I’m actually not doing what fills me up.”
I think it’s pretty rare that employers actually look at their staff to see if they’re happy, if they fit the culture, if they’re enjoying what they do, and looking out for them. That’s the way I look at it is if they’re not happy, we’re not happy; they’re just working for a paycheck. Let me figure out where to put them and move them somewhere else, and if they can’t fit inside of our team, then what can I recommend for them?
Theo Hicks: That’s probably even more rare, is not only looking out for what’s best for them and for you, but also saying, “Hey, here’s what you probably can do based off of your personality profiles. So I wanted to ask a quick question about 7 Figure Flipping, the mastermind group. Is that traditionally an in-person event or is it online?
Bill Allen: Yeah, it’s traditionally in-person. So we have a big event every year in October called Flip Hacking Live, and last year, we had over 600 people there. We were planning on having it in Orlando this October. And then it’s traditionally quarterly meetings in person that we have, mastermind meetings, that we have transitioned to virtual meetings recently. So it’s been quite a challenge. We even just had one here in Nashville. I live in Nashville. We had it scheduled in Chicago. About a month before, we said, “Nashville is opening on July 1st. Let’s move it to Nashville because Chicago’s a no…” and it was in the middle of July. Two weeks before the event, we moved it into Nashville, got the contract in place, and then sure enough, July 3rd, they were just like, “Shut down Nashville, too.” We had to plan three events in a month. It was crazy.
Theo Hicks: Well, I wanna ask you, what are some of the things you’re doing for these virtual events to engage with people through their computer? What are some of the things you’re doing to engage with people?
Bill Allen: Well, you’re looking at some of it right now. So you can’t see, but I have four computer screens here. So when I’m presenting at these events, I’ve got a professional camera, lighting, set up my studio, I’ll move things around, and I can see every single face that’s at the event. I got the standing desk because of this. I got a lot of different new tech and things like that. I invested a ton of money into figuring out how we could deliver an experience to them. We learned a ton of things in Zoom. We do Zoom breakout sessions. We gamify some of the stuff. The biggest thing for me was to be able to see everybody, look at their reactions, and make sure that the content that I’m delivering is strong, and also coach up some of our other team and saying, “Hey, I need you professionally dressed. I need you with a nice background. I need you in a quiet place. Make sure that your internet is strong.”
We’ve put on probably six virtual events that we have learned how to do things. You can do a lot of cool stuff with zoom. You can do breakout sessions where you can send them to breakout sessions and then bring them back into a general session.
We’ve run two simultaneous events in the same weekend with six breakout sessions with different speakers and people running the room. So we’ve had to get lots of different licenses, do things like that. It’s been interesting. This October event that we have, we have the same event planner that does Tony Robbins’ event. He just did this Unleash the Power From Within; it had over 40,000 people. At his event, he had a 360-degree monitor. So what we’re doing for October is we’re building out a studio in Charlotte, where I’m gonna be there, I’m gonna fly the speakers out, and we’re gonna present a live event from stage to everybody and stream it to them.
We’re sending boxes ahead of time, we’re sending all the stuff that you would normally get at an event like that to their house ahead of time. We’re giving them point systems to gamify it, win some prizes and stuff, using private Facebook groups to get them interested and excited and network ahead of time. Networking sessions, breakouts, bringing keynote speakers in that we couldn’t afford before, all that stuff. Just taking it– elevating it to a point where it’s not just a Zoom call or another webinar, because people are tired of that right now. I’ll tell you – a three-day Zoom call, they’re just not gonna be interested.
Theo Hicks: Okay Bill, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?
Bill Allen: Best real estate advice ever. I would say looking back, build the foundation and the mindset of what you want to do. I usually say take action, but I feel like that’s so played out. I really feel like when I look back, my success is because of what I tell myself in my mind all the time. So your mindset and the way that you show up with failure, with loss, with issues, with problems and the stories that you tell yourself in your head, that’s the most important thing. So if you can start with that and understand that you’re building the foundation on rock instead of sand with your mindset and where you’re going, you’ll be unstoppable.
Theo Hicks: Okay Bill, are you ready for the Best Ever lightning round?
Bill Allen: Ready.
Theo Hicks: Okay Bill, what is the best ever book you’ve recently read?
Bill Allen: Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. Absolutely amazing book. It will change your life. Make sure your entire team, your family, your friends all read that book. It’s amazing.
Theo Hicks: If your business were to collapse today, and we’ll say Blackjack, what would you do next?
Bill Allen: I’d keep doing what I’m doing. I’ll tell you what I would do if Blackjack fell apart. I would probably look at what the marketplace looks like and figure out how to pivot the people that I have inside that business to something else. If it was because of the fact that we’re wholesaling real estate and that started to tighten up or close down, I have phenomenal people that we could have a rockstar donut shop right here in Spring Hill, Tennessee if we needed to. So look at the marketplace and look for opportunity and figure out how to pivot.
Theo Hicks: What is the best ever way you like to give back?
Bill Allen: I’m actually the Tennessee Director for Operation Underground Railroad. So I absolutely love giving my time and money and raising awareness for that. That’s an organization that frees trafficked kids from sex trafficking, sex slavery. In the US, about 500,000 sex slaves here in the US that are kids and almost 2 million total, so over 1.5 million abroad. So it’s a pandemic, it’s an issue. We’re fueling the problem as Americans and that’s it. Operation Underground Railroad, ourrescue.org. You can check it out. It’s absolutely amazing. It’s changed my life, opened my eyes to something I had no idea was a problem.
Theo Hicks: And then lastly, what is the best ever place to reach you?
Bill Allen: Well, that event, Flip Hacking LIVE, absolutely amazing. I recommend anybody to check it out. But 7figureflipping.com, you can reach me there.
Theo Hicks: Alright Bill, thanks for coming on the show again. I really appreciate you catching us up on what you’ve been up to, and congratulations on such massive growth since we launched talk. Again, went from 13 houses flips, 54 wholesales, full-time to working a few hours and having a self-generating machine of 200+ deals a year.
So we talked mostly about team. So we talked about the two main reasons why you’re able to scale – one was education and mindset; the other one was, surround yourself with the right people, complementary skill sets. You mentioned that you’ll post a job on Indeed, and rather than looking at the resume first, you’ll focus on the type of person, the values that you want, the personality you want for that job.
And then as you create the job listing based off of that, they’ll take the personality test, then you’ll look at the resume and then when you interview them, you’ll ask them all the exact same questions so you can compare apples to apples, and then ultimately, it comes down to your gut. If your gut tells you no, well, it’s probably not gonna be a good fit. We talked about the process of firing someone and your three examples of if they weren’t aligned with specific values. But again, if your gut tells you it’s not working out… You said that you’ve never had a time where you’ve lost confidence in someone, and then they’ve been able to turn it around. But I really liked what you said that when you do fire someone, you don’t just say, “Good luck.” You actually will try to give them advice on what might be a good career field based off of their personality test. You gave us a lot of advice on how to effectively do virtual events, whether it’s a meetup group as you’re doing every single month or a one-time yearly conference, and that would be your 7 Figure Flipping.
You talked about investing in a studio and making sure your team also has a nice camera, lighting, background. You said you use Zoom a lot for the breakout sessions. You get point systems, games, private Facebook groups to get people excited. And then something else you said that I thought was interesting was you can get bigger name speakers to talk. So you don’t have to fly them out, pay for their hotel. They don’t have to do an in-person event and spend a full day or full weekend. Now they can spend an hour at their computer doing it. So that was also interesting. And then your best ever advice was to build a foundation and a mindset first before you go out there to start taking action. So Bill, thanks again for joining us. Best Ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening. Have a best ever day and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.
Bill Allen: Thanks, Theo.
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