JF2378: Not Letting your Business Run your Life with Darrah Brustein #SkillsetSunday

Darrah used to be an entrepreneur who built businesses thinking that bigger was better and more was the way to go. Over time, the four companies she has built took over her life, and Darrah hit the burnout phase.

She restructured her businesses and her life in order to spend more time traveling and learning. That’s how she got into mentorship and coaching, helping other entrepreneurs and investors who are at a burnout point find their passion again.

Darrah Brustein Real Estate Background:  

  • Founder of four businesses; Equitable Payments, Network Under 40, Network Over 40, & Mind Your Business Accelerator
  • Author of “Finance Whiz Kids”
  • Prolific writer & interviewer for Forbes & other outlets working with Shaq, Seth Godin, Bobbie Brown & many more
  • Her mission is to connect people to the resources they need to elevate what they do.
  • Based in Atlanta, GA 
  • Say hi to her at: www.darrah.co 
  • Previous guest on JF151

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Best Ever Tweet:

“We don’t know when it’s enough and why we’re building it in the first place.” – Darrah Brustein.


Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Show. I’m Joe Fairless. This is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast where we only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any other fluffy stuff.

And today – well, it is the weekend and I hope your having the best ever weekend. Because it is the weekend, we got a special segment called Skillset Sunday. And the outcome of today’s conversation is to make sure that we are setting up our businesses to do more of what we really want to do, and not just setting up a business to create a business.

With us today is Darrah Brustein. How are you doing, Darrah?

Darrah Brustein: I’m great, Joe. It’s really good to be here with you again.

Joe Fairless: Yeah. And you said again, and we were looking at this before we started recording – Episode 151, aired on January 31, 2015; more than five years ago, and wow, a lot has changed since then, especially for this show. And I’m looking forward to learning more about what has changed, or really just what’s the latest with you.

So I think it’s important that we first give a refresher on where you’re at. I have a couple of things that I’ll mention and then I would love to learn more from you. So Darrah is the founder of four businesses – Businesses Equitable Payments, Network under 40, Network Over 40 and Mind Your Business Accelerator. She’s the author of Finance Whiz Kids, and she’s based in Atlanta, Georgia.

But would you mind, Darrah, given us just a refresher on your background and your focus now? And then we’ll dive right into the outcome of our conversation.

Darrah Brustein: Great, sounds good. After spending a decade plus building most of those businesses that you just rattled off so eloquently, I hit a point where I realized, much like you teed up at the top of the show, that I have been building these businesses, thinking just bigger is better and more is always more, and I’m hitting all these metrics that other people are celebrating and glorifying… But when I looked around, I thought the life I’m living is not at all commingling with the things that I say I value, like growth and learning, connection, things of that nature. And I have really [unintelligible [00:05:08].12] those in favor of growing this business for the sake of that alone. And I was burnt out and sort of miserable, and I thought, “Well, what’s the point of doing this if this is the outcome?” And I sat back for quite some time, and it just sort of occurred to me that the thing people were asking most of me about three years ago now was, “How do you live the life that you do?” Because when I started to make that realization, I decided that I would shift all of my businesses to a place that would actually support the life that I wanted, which was about 50% travel, which allowed me to be at the milestones of people I cared about, it allowed me to constantly be learning and growing and collaborating with people whom I admired and respected intellectually, and all these other things. So I began to shift my career at that point to one of coaching and consulting entrepreneurs who were burnt out and felt like their business was running them.

Joe Fairless: So 50% travel and the other 50% was what – coaching the entrepreneurs?

Darrah Brustein: Well, interestingly, as I would travel, I would work. I just made sure all of my businesses were structured such that I could do them from wherever. And like I was implying, I’ve really sort of crafted this formula for myself of first design your life, identify what it is you want, identify what your core values are, and what your North Stars are, and then identify what does that life actually cost me so I can reverse-engineer my business or businesses to make that possible, rather than consume and de-escalate the things that I say that I want, but I’m not actually carving out time or priority for. And then lastly, it’s build the network that opens the doors to the success you’re seeking on your terms. And that’s how I started to prioritize everything.

Joe Fairless: Well, you went through that just now high-level… Can we unpack it a little bit, one by one? So is the first one, design your life, or is that the ultimate outcome and then the first one’s North Stars?

Darrah Brustein: Nope, you are totally right. It’s design your life first. And for some people, I think that’s really complicated, because the older we get, the further and further we get away from dreaming and envisioning what we actually want. And oftentimes we get bombarded by what other people expect of us or from us, or the things that our culture, society, parents, company, employees, fill in the blank, tell us that we should have, whether that’s directly or indirectly.

So it really is about pausing for long enough to tap into ourselves and suss out what is truly what I want, versus what other people have given to me. And that sounds quite simple, but actually is often a really big sticking point for people. So there are a ton of exercises that I do with my clients, or tons of freebies on my website if anyone wants to dive into them… It will really help you analyze what those things are, so that those North Stars are the goals.

I really encourage people to identify, what are your top three values? Because when you know those, it really makes decision making and road mapping for yourself, both short and long term, so much simpler. Because when you say — like, I mentioned two of my top three, when I was speaking earlier, about growth and learning and connection… So when I look at those things and I say, “Well, does this move me in that direction, or does it move me away from that?” And if it’s going to move me away, is it just temporary? Is it just a season? Or is it going to long-term do that? And if the answer is no, and then no, again, it’s definitely a no for me; but it helps me to really put it through the funnel of my own needs and value set, rather than just looking around and think what other people seem to value. Often that’s a subliminal process. But that, I think, is always the most important starting point.

Joe Fairless: What is an exercise that you do with your clients?

Darrah Brustein: Oh, there’s so many…

Joe Fairless: Yeah, I know, so that’s why I said just one of them.

Darrah Brustein: From the values-based perspective, I give them a list of 300 different values and have them chop it and chop it and chop it until they get down to the three… Because there’s this recognition, just like with everything in life, that just because it’s not your top priority doesn’t mean it’s not a priority for you or you don’t value it.

So for example, so many people would say, well, kindness isn’t on there, family isn’t on there, fill in the blank; it doesn’t mean I don’t value those things. They’re just not in my tops. And that’s okay. When we start to do that prioritization, it makes our yes-es a lot clearer and our no’s a lot clearer as well, which really trickles down into boundaries. It’s very simple these days to just say yes to everything, or have the FOMO of, “Well, I’m going to miss that opportunity if I don’t say yes to that.” But if we pause for long enough and either put it through that sieve of our own intuition or put it through the sieve of the values, we would have a lot more clarity.

You asked for one, but I’m going to give you one other. There’s also, on my website, a free guided visualization that I find very helpful for people who are saying, “I’m stuck, or I’m in analysis paralysis mode, or I just have so many ideas in my head, or I can’t even begin to figure this out.” It will take you through a 15 minute guided visualization to help you unearth and tap into some of the subconscious stuff that’s there, so you’re not judging and being critical of it.

Joe Fairless: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I see that, I’m on your site right now.

Darrah Brustein: You’re like, “Signing up right now…:

Joe Fairless: Yeah, I actually will be signing up right now, so I’m keeping the placeholder for after our conversation.

Darrah Brustein: Nice.

Joe Fairless: Alright, so design your life. First, we’ve got to know what we value and how we prioritize those values… Then what?

Darrah Brustein: Then is where the business comes in. So depending on where people are in their real estate journey, and the people I work with, myself included, do sometimes real estate – I do it as part of my portfolio – but oftentimes, they have other types of businesses, either as well or alternatively. And it’s really about either making sure that the business that you are going to start and grow aligns and elevates what that is, and doing some profit planning and projection based on “If I’m going to do this product or the service or invest in these cash-generating cash flow real estate opportunities, is it going to get me there? And how much of that do I need to do? And how does that either elevate or diminish the goals that I have set for myself? Because now I know what that life looks like, and a longer-term scale, typically a five to 10-year roadmap, and I know what it’s going to cost.” And what is the real roadmap to get this business to shoot off that type of cash to me and not just obviously revenue from the business, because obviously, you have to take out expenses and taxes and whatever else, to get you to that number.

And that’s when we know, “Is this business going to really do that for me, both from a time perspective and a financial perspective?” And if you already have the business to look at — this is exactly what I did with my earlier businesses, and I said, “How do I get these to be the types of businesses that allow me to be on the road and traveling, that allow me to make the same impact, create the same amount of revenue or greater based on what the goals were at the time, and do that so that it all aligns?” But oftentimes, we see the opposite, that people just go out and say, “I’m going to start a business, I have this idea, I’m going to build my real estate portfolio” and we don’t know when is enough or we don’t know why we’re building in the first place. And oftentimes that becomes quite taxing or fruitless, because we get these moments that should feel so fulfilling, but then suddenly, what was once the ceiling is now the floor as far as our stretch goals were concerned, and then we just say, “Well, I guess I got to get to the next thing and the next thing.” And it becomes this real fallacy of “when” – “When I get x, then I will feel _______.” And so many of us have experienced that in so many parts of our lives and businesses and know that that’s not true.

But when you say, “”Okay, the freedom for me is at this number, because I know that because of the life I planned and designed, and when I calculated its total, then when this business hits that, then I have hit my goals, and I can choose to either feel satiated, or I can redesign”, and that’s up to you.

Joe Fairless: What’s a tactical thing that’s completed? You said profit planning in this stage, you said taking a look to see if it elevates or diminishes what I ultimately want my North Star… What’s the deliverable from this that you do?

Darrah Brustein: It depends on the client and where they are. The profit planning – we use a spreadsheet that literally goes through, “These are the services or the products that I have, this is what I sell them for, this is how many of those I am either currently or plan to sell them at, these are my tax lines, these are my expenditures”, and then they have to move those around, because let’s say that number is 200,000 a year in income, not just revenue – then they’re going to have to move those around and say, “Oh, well, I need to flip this many more houses to get to that number”, and then look at that and say, “Well, is that realistic or does that mean I need to move into a different echelon of homes at different price points? And is that a risk that I’m willing to take?” And it allows them to go through some of that mental, both calculation and mental gymnastics to play out and envision the scenario, as well as look at how the numbers might get them there.

Or they might say, like I do, my real estate portfolio is just passive, and I use it as straight up investment, but it’s not my full-time; that’s not where I get my cash flow from. They might say, “I want to build something else on the side.” Otherwise, we’re often just looking at, what’s actually essential in your business? What’s actually making the money? What’s actually the path of least resistance, and where do you have the most impact for the least amount of effort? And how do we dial that up? Versus having scattered impact or scattered energies across the board.

Joe Fairless: That makes a lot of sense. I can tell you firsthand when I focus on my strengths and I’m not focused on a bunch of different stuff, then the overall business benefits, versus if I’m scattered across the board.

Darrah Brustein: Well, I think that comes down to a mindset thing. And I do this all the time too, where we think if we’re busy – and oftentimes it’s artificially busy – or we’re feeling productive, because we’re checking things off, that it makes us feel good. It makes us feel like we’re moving things forward… When really, if we really look at the impact of the things that we’re putting our energies into, oftentimes we can narrow it down to a much smaller list and delegate out other things, or get rid of them altogether. And then oftentimes, it opens us up to some of those mindset concerns… Because this is always where my clients get into the mindset hurdles, that no matter how much you think you have your stuff together, we all have mindset narratives that are holding us back; it’s the doubt, it’s the fear, it’s the ‘what are people going to think’, the ‘what if I fail’, it’s that ‘am I good enough’, the ‘they’re already doing it’, the ‘you fill in the blank’.

But when we hit that point, we have to recognize when you clear the slate a little and you create the spaciousness in your mind, that dust is [unintelligible [00:15:03].20] And that’s actually a healthy and a good thing, because it creates a spaciousness for you to be more creative, to get better ideas in your business and to come back more strongly.

Joe Fairless: What’s the next step? Is it the reengineering—oh, no, I guess it’d be building the network to accomplish this?

Darrah Brustein: Yes, I’m a big believer in once you know where you’re going, that it’s a lot easier to bring people along with you. And it’s just in my natural proclivity to be a connector and a collector of people and to help connect the dots for others… So I’ve always been a big believer in no matter how many technological tools we have at our disposal, nothing will be as powerful as human connection, whether that’s virtual or in-person, depending on when someone is listening to this.

And that being said, when we know where we’re going and we can enroll people in that mission and we can galvanize people [unintelligible [00:15:52].25] people who are helping us with our reno, or it’s having the people who are helping bird-dog for you and find the opportunities or whatever it is – your network are the people who hold the keys to the success that you’re seeking. And that is obviously by your definition, as we’ve talked about.

But it’s a little bit fruitless to just be garnering and gathering a whole slew of people into your network, when there are studies—there’s a woman named Robin Dunbar who talks about this, that we have about an average of 200 or so people with whom we can actually have contact. In three concentric circles, she displays this as five is our inner circle, 50 is the middle circle and about 150 give or take is in the external circle. And that each of those represents the amount of closeness and amount of actual contact and engagement we have with people. And everyone else is basically just a social media contact or in your CRM, Rolodex, whatever that is for you.

I think that’s a really important visual because it reminds us that there are seasons to life, there are stages of life and there are stages in our business. So when you’re in a growth stage, you might need more people who are helping sort opportunities or helping as mentorship, and that might be where you are investing some of your energy in those 200 people.  And you might have to recalibrate and do some housekeeping and say, “Well, these are the people that I was spending the most time with and I was investing my energy into and nurturing and maintaining my relationships.” But really now this other segment of people are those. And it’s hard to know who are the right people to do that.

This is a tricky combination here because I’m a believer that the networks are really just a fancy word for relationships, and relationships need to be you giving, you nurturing, you taking the lead…

Joe Fairless: Right.

Darrah Brustein: …you not making someone feel like it’s a transaction, because it’s not… And you’re not keeping tabs and certainly not doing something waiting for someone to do something in return for you. But you’re really investing because you believe in it. I personally call it this karmic retribution of giving in relationships where — it’s very a la Adam Grant studies, that when you give, it ultimately comes back to you. And in his studies givers win in the world, over matchers, who are the people that are sort of the ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine,’ who are the takers, which are understandably, the people who feel like it’s all about them and them as number one. And that’s really counterculture to what we’ve been taught; we’ve often been taught, reciprocity is essential. But ultimately, I am such a believer, both anecdotally and through the studies from people like Adam Grant, that when you are a generous person, that it does come back to you and that it might be me giving to you and you giving to Alex and Alex giving to someone and that person ultimately comes back to me someway somehow, because that’s just how it works.

But you still need to consider about who those people are and being strategic about how you stay in touch; setting up systems in your calendar, in your CRM system, or baking into parts of your day that you text three people or while you’re making your coffee, you make a quick phone call or send a voice text or you DM some people that you’re following, just to let them know that you’re there and you care and you’re being considerate of the relationship… Because those little things to keep you top of mind and them for you, are really what makes the difference between a relationship going dormant and an opportunity being available to you when the time is right.

Joe Fairless: How do you balance over-communicating with people who you’ve recently found that, “Hey, I should bring them back into my network, I haven’t been as intentional about it”?

Darrah Brustein: I love this question, because I see people do it poorly all the time, where they’ll reach out and just immediately say, “Hey, I saw this thing you did,” or “I’ve been following you, help me.” And it immediately goes to the ask, or the brain pick… Or if you look at it from a bank account perspective, of “Let me take a deposit or let me take a withdrawal from this bank account that I have put no deposits into in the last decade.”

I’m just a big believer in defusing the situation and calling it out and taking the onus on yourself. So you and I haven’t spoken, like we’ve talked about, in over five years. And if I had reached out directly and just said, “Hey, Joe, I realize it’s been over five years and that’s on me and I am so sorry, but I’ve been following your career and tremendously admire it,” meaning that as a sincere and true compliment… And then say, “Here’s why I’m showing up in your inbox today”, or in whatever format I’m showing up… And if you’re going to be asking something of that person or you want to get them to be interested,  you have to make it something that’s both quick and palatable for them and isn’t something you can just find on one of your podcasts or on their website or on some other place that they put information out there, and make it something that’s going to make them want to help you, and it doesn’t ask for too much of them.

But ultimately, I think when you just call it out, that goes such a long way to demonstrate that you realize you kind of fumbled or that life just got in the way, and that you’re sorry that you haven’t been there throughout this, and that you don’t want it to just be this one-sided relationship. But that I have seen time and again, really helps the situation.

Joe Fairless: I’m glad that you elaborated on that. As it relates to this thought process of designing our life so that we’re spending the time doing what we truly want to do, versus just mindlessly doing things because that’s what we wanted before, or because maybe someone else wanted it, or whatever the reason… Is there anything that we haven’t talked about, before we wrap up that you think we should?

Darrah Brustein: Another tough one. Sometimes I just let my intuition kick in and tell me who is going to need what message today… I think a lot of that really does come back to the mindset piece. I’m really glad that there’s a lot of well-reputed entrepreneurs like Sara Blakely, and other people who are these billionaires in the world, who are talking openly about this idea, that success is not something that we can have if we don’t first tackle the mindset stuff, and we don’t continue to tackle it.

And no matter who we are, no matter where we are in the span of our business, by just the fact of us being entrepreneurs, we are growth-oriented and we are pushing ourselves into terrain we’ve never been in before, which means naturally at some point, you’re going to be uneasy and uncomfortable.

So getting more comfortable with that discomfort and with uncertainty, and saying, “What’s coming up for me? Why is it feeling this way? Is this narrative mine? Do I want this? Does it serve me?”, like you were hearkening to before… “Was this something that did serve me, whether it’s like an actual thing or a mindset or a thought, or not?” Because sometimes that can be the key differentiator to unlock an entirely new portal for us.

Joe Fairless: How can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you’re doing?

Darrah Brustein: You can head to my website and grab some of those freebies if you’d like. It’s just https://darrah.co/.

Joe Fairless: It’s such an important topic that if it gets brushed over now, we’ll likely regret it decades down the road when too much time has passed and we wouldn’t have time to do something about it at that point. And it’s tough to really capture, because people, myself included, tend to be so focused on business results and growing. Until some life event or someone like you come on and enter into our world, it’s tough to really break that cycle, and it’s important to have that jarring event to really understand, “Hey, let’s ask ourselves some tough questions that ultimately will be beneficial to ourselves now and in the future from a fulfillment standpoint.”

So I greatly appreciate you sharing your insight with us. I greatly appreciate you being on the show again, and looking forward to continuing to learn from you. I hope you have a best ever weekend and we’ll talk to you again, hopefully, before six years from now; we’ll try to make that conversation more frequent.

Darrah Brustein: Likewise. Thank you, Joe.

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JF2366: Using Old-Fashioned Tactics to Find Buyers and Sellers with Frank Iglesias

From the music industry to IT, and then to real estate, Frank has always been fond of receiving education and learning something new. While working in IT, he picked up a few properties on the side. In 2011, he walked away from the corporate world and became a full-time investor.

Back then, he started by utilizing the power of tried and true methods of reaching people such as direct mail and networking. In 2020, people are still happy to share what they do in a casual conversation and get on the phone to discuss a deal, so old tricks do work when used properly. 

Frank Iglesias  Real Estate Background:

  • Full-time investor 
  • 11 years of investing experience
  • Portfolio consist of several rentals, construction projects, has completed 100s of deals as a wholesaler & flipper 
  • Based in Atlanta, GA
  • Say hi to him at: www.buyinvestmentassets.com 
  • Best Ever Book: Think and Grow Rich

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Best Ever Tweet:

“Surround yourself with the best people you can afford” – Frank Iglesias.


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 Frank Iglesias. Frank, how are you doing today?

Frank Iglesias: I’m doing outstanding.

Theo Hicks: Great. That’s good to hear and thank you for joining us today. A little bit about Frank. He’s a full-time investor with 11 years of investing experience. His portfolio consists of several rentals and construction projects. He has also completed hundreds of deals as a wholesaler and a flipper. He is based in Atlanta, Georgia. His website is buyinvestmentassets.com. So Frank, do you mind telling us some more about your background and what you’re focused on today?

Frank Iglesias: Absolutely. Thank you for having me on the show, I just appreciate the opportunity to share my background. I was actually a music guy when I was younger, in high school, in college, and went to college for music… I thought I was going to rock the world on drums and that sort of thing. Then we realized that maybe that wasn’t the best avenue or the best chance of success, so when I left college and actually got into the IT industry. So for all intents and purposes, I was a computer geek for 15 years. I kept the music up on the side, so I did a lot with education. I’ve always been around the education aspect of whatever I’ve been involved in. Even in the IT space I did, along with the engineering that I got involved in, I was also a consultant, and when you’re a consultant there’s a lot of education involved. So that’s kind of been a consistent thread between those careers.

In a nutshell, I actually started getting bored with IT. We were part of a really great team, and it got to where the joke we had internally was if we do this much better, we’re going to automate ourselves out of a job. You hear that sometimes in the world today, and you’re like “Wait, that actually can happen”, and I realized the challenge was no longer there. Around that time, I’d actually picked up three or four properties by then, just while working my IT days. Like so many investors, I heard about Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I actually don’t even remember how I heard about it. I went to the seminar, of course, it got the bells and whistles turning in my head, and light bulbs going off… Once I left the IT industry, I really dove into real estate full-time. It has been quite a roller coaster since then. Certainly a journey and adventure, very different than corporate life. That’s how I got to today.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Thanks for sharing that. How long ago was it that you left the IT world and started real estate investing full-time?

Frank Iglesias: At the end of this year, we’ll be at nine and a half years. It was the beginning of July of 2011. Right smack in the middle of the year we walked away from that world. Back then I had heard of Preston Ellie, and he was talking about preaching freedom. And I literally came home, and my children who were young at the time took LEGO blocks and they built the word freedom and put it on our mantle. It was a really cool experience as a dad.

Theo Hicks: Nice. So nine and a half years ago you left the IT world, and at that point you said you had three to four properties?

Frank Iglesias: Yeah, we had learned the wholesale a little bit, but primarily we were buy, fix and rent. It might have been five or six – I’d have to go back and look – that we had rented. Back then you could rent them and I had a full-time job so the banks like lending to you. You were the ideal person to give a mortgage to under great terms. That was in the middle of the crash, of course.

What was interesting was, as the market was crashing, I really didn’t understand it. I would hear that the stock market was crashing, because that would be what my corporate clan would talk about… But nobody really talked about the real estate market crash. I didn’t really start to understand that until once I was in it full-time. Up until then, it was “Oh, look. Oh look, we could buy houses, they are kind of cheap. This is cool.”

Theo Hicks: Yeah. So a lot of people I talked to who transition from working a full-time corporate job to real estate, they either have built up a portfolio so that they were generating enough cash flow to replace their corporate income and then they jump into it full-time… Or the second one is usually the case where they kind of just burn all the bridges and just jump into real estate, and they just figure it out. Which of those two categories do you fall into? Are you somewhere in between? Like, were those three to six properties giving you enough income that you felt comfortable leaving your job? Or was it less of a financial decision, more of like “I’ve got to get out of this IT world?”

Frank Iglesias: You know, it really was a little bit of both. We had some savings, we had a little bit of passive income, and we had done a few wholesale deals. Back then wholesale was still kind of new to us, so it was like, “Oh, look, I could just go do this and make five or 10 grand, or whatever.”

But I was bored in IT. I remember walking into my manager’s office and I said, “This is a fantastic place to work. Great job, great benefits, great opportunity, and I’m bored, so I know it’s time.” It wasn’t just time to leave the job, it was time to leave the industry. So it was definitely a mix of things. But you’re absolutely right, to your point.  You’re right, most people do the latter, they just dive in. I would actually add a third option and say they get fired. I know a couple of guys that just got let go and said “Forget it. I’m just going to stay fired and go for it.”

Theo Hicks: So after you had left your job, what was your first main focus in order to grow your real estate business?

Frank Iglesias: My focus for the first few years was heavy on wholesaling. We really focused really hard on that. I really had a good time, I did very well with that. I wish I had known how to scale, because that’s probably what I would’ve done. I would have done more of that in retrospect. But that was fun, that was really a lot of fun, just really diving into wholesaling. I learned from Lee Kearney how to do it, and to this day, I still use most of his techniques for wholesaling and it just works. So that’s been really nice. We still did some rehabbing though; we never not rehab it’s always just been a matter of to what degree.

Theo Hicks: Okay, do you want to go over some of those wholesaling tactics you talked about? Maybe kind of walk us through, from beginning to end. How you find the deals, and what type of thing you’re doing to get them under contract, negotiate the right price, and then how are you finding the buyers in the back end.

Frank Iglesias: Obviously, there are different techniques. Direct mail used to work really well back then, now it’s a little bit more of a different approach. But the one thing I would say that worked for buyers in particular and for sellers was just networking. Really telling everybody what you do.

When I say networking, I mean actually talking to them. Not texting them, not emailing them. Literally, picking up the phone, and talking to people. It’s so powerful. I feel like as technology has evolved, that still gets lost more and more. I don’t know, maybe people have other experiences, but I’ve never met someone that’s like, “Sure, I’d love to do $200,000 worth of business,” over text messaging. I just have not had that experience. It just always seems to go back to getting on the phone with people and just being real with them. People sense sincerity, people sense when you’re real with them. It’s just built into us as humans. So when I’m talking to other wholesalers or sellers, sometimes sellers will refer someone… There are so many people that you talk to you that will send you a great deal, just because they feel like they can do business with you, and same on the buyer side.

Just this year, as an example, someone wholesaled to us just a great deal, someone that I had spoken to and had a good conversation with several months ago. It’s been quite some time. He literally calls me out of the blue and sells me this wholesale deal. I couldn’t believe it, it was a unicorn deal, because the deal had 100 grand in equity. I’m like “Who wholesales me a deal with100 grand in equity?” I said that’s relation right there. Because my average email that comes from someone I don’t know doesn’t have those kinds of figures. And they made good money on it. They just negotiated an outstanding deal, and gave me an outstanding deal, and I’m like, “That’s all networking right there.”

Theo Hicks: I definitely understand the talking on the phone and networking. But kind of taking it just one step back, how do you know who to call, or how do you get the contact information? Who are these people you’re talking to? Give us an example. Are they wholesalers? So you’re finding out who the other wholesalers are and talking to them? Or is there another strategy you have?

Frank Iglesias: I always made it a point to talk to every wholesaler. A lot of people tend to write off new wholesalers. I love talking to them, because for every 10 new wholesalers you talk to, you’ll find one or two that are really, really eager to learn, and it’s great to connect with those people. So I always say, talk to all the wholesalers.

In all the years I’ve been doing this, the wholesale deals I get from people are not great deals, that’s never changed. That’s okay. Just keep talking to them, because you’re going to find the ones that do good, and they’re willing to learn, and they’ll start sending you deals more and more.

I just had someone from Chicago, send me one today. It actually looks pretty decent, so we’re going to look into that. But beyond that, how do you find them? Obviously, there are forums, you have Facebook, and all that. But really, the best place I like to go is into the public records. Because everybody talks, but when you go on public record, you can start seeing “Who’s closed 100 deals in 2020? Who closed 100 deals in 2019?” I’m just picking 100 as an arbitrary number. You can actually see it in the public record. I’m in Georgia, so it will actually sort, “Here’s who the biggest buyers are in descending or ascending order”, so I can see who they are. And what was interesting when I did this a few years ago, the biggest buyer in Atlanta right before the hedge funds came in, the biggest buyer in Georgia actually lived 10 minutes from me. If I told you his name, you’d probably know who it was. But a few years ago, he was the biggest buyer, and he bought hundreds of properties. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I had no idea.”  I would have wholesaled him a few deals, nut I had no idea he was buying that much. What I have learned is a lot of the busiest people don’t tend to be out there, they tend to be much more quiet. That’s my experience.

Theo Hicks: Hm, interesting.

Frank Iglesias: Now again, a lot of this was pre-social media. Social media now has changed that dynamic a little bit, but it still seems to me that the people that do the most business, you don’t tend to hear about them a lot. But they’re in the public record and if you get in there, skip trace them, nowadays, you can skip trace companies so you can find these people. It’s pretty cool. Technology is making this business so much easier to find people. There’s a lot of people quite honestly that do like to be found when they sense that “Hey, this guy is real. This guy is sincere.”

Theo Hicks: Okay, Frank, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Frank Iglesias: My best advice ever? Well, if there’s one thing I can say I’ve learned, and there’s nothing revolutionary about it, but I’ll echo it because I would agree, is surrounding yourself with the best people you can afford. I can’t put into words how valuable that is. And having a coach. We’ve had some great experiences, but I will tell you that not having a coach at some specific points in our career, that’s cost us a lot of money that we could have had on the right side of the bank account. So I think to surrounding yourself with the best people and having a solid coach. I cannot emphasize that enough.

Theo Hicks: I think I might know the answer to this question, but answer it anyway, which is how do you find these people? How do you find your coach? How do you find the best people you can afford?

Frank Iglesias: Oh, it’s actually a good question. It’s not easy. I am a huge believer in the 80/20 rule. 20% of people do 80% of the business, that sort of thing. I would say 20% of the people are really good at what they do, and the other 80% – I don’t want to say they’re bad at what they do, but they’re not your top tier. I would even say, it’s probably more like 90/10 or 95/5.

I’ve just learned that really, really good people are really hard to find. It takes talking to a lot of people. Like many investors, I’ve seen no shortage of webinars, and ads, and that sort of thing. As an example, the builder I use for our new construction projects, we were building houses for five years before I found them. Once you have them, you’re like, “Oh, my gosh, where were you four years ago when I needed you?” But that’s okay. It’s part of the evolution.

So it takes a lot of talking and just really exploring a lot of avenues… Not just real estate avenues, I would even say look at other business avenues. Sometimes your best people may not be completely all about real estate.

For example, I’ve got a business coach, and we talked a little bit about real estate, but really, it’s more about this is how you run a business. When I hired him – it’s been over a year now that I’ve been with him – it’s completely changed how we look at our business. Things that, quite frankly I never heard in real estate circles, all of a sudden became very, very real. He’s got a different perspective on it.

So I’ve got a real estate coach, I’ve got a business coach, I’ve got a life coach… I think you need those specialists to help you — start with real estate because that’s what you’re doing, but then as your business grows, get that business coach. Make sure you get that life coach, so you don’t lose perspective on things, because things can get crazy in this business, as you know.

Theo Hicks: Alright Frank. Are you ready for the Best Ever lightning round?

Frank Iglesias: Best Ever lightning round. Sure.

Theo Hicks: Alright. First, a quick word from our sponsor.

Break: [00:17:12][00:17:52]

Theo Hicks: Okay Frank, the first question is, what is the Best Ever book you’ve recently read?

Frank Iglesias: I recently read, Think and Grow Rich again. I think that book is truly timeless. What I would say is don’t just read it, really apply it. When you really apply what Napoleon Hill is talking about, it will challenge you, but it really opens your eyes, especially if it’s not the first time you’re reading this. It gets more impactful every time I read it.

Theo Hicks: If you’ve ever lost money on a deal before, how much did you lose and what lesson did you learn?

Frank Iglesias: Oh, my. Yes, I’ve definitely lost money on a deal before. I think that’s an experience. No one wants to lose money on a deal, but we also learn a lot when we go through tough experiences. We lost over $100,000 on a rehab. The biggest lesson I learned from that was – I worked with a designer who also did project management at the time. She was an excellent designer, by the way; she was absolutely excellent. It was kind of a trust a little too much, but not enough verification… And that design thing can get away from you. It totally got away from us. We actually had a house design, and in a nutshell, once the design came back, she literally said it’s ugly. I kid you not, it was that simple. It’s ugly. So she really wasn’t excited about it. And the market was appreciating at the time.

Instead of just doing it, because ugly houses sell every day too, everything doesn’t have to be the Taj Mahal… We actually ended up delaying the whole project, changed it to a pretty house. By the time we built the pretty house, it was more complicated. And it was a nicer house, but more [unintelligible [00:19:31].26] way over budget. At the end of the day, we lost 100 grand. Whereas if we built the ugly house, we would have made money. It was crazy.

Theo Hicks: And then on the flip side, what’s the Best Ever deal you’ve done?

Frank Iglesias: I think my favorite deal I’ve ever done, that’s the best – because some of the ones I bought back in the early days of 2009, 2010, there was nothing glamorous about them, but I held them. In fact, we sold one earlier this year that we owned for nine years. For nine years we created 150,000 in equity, and we were able to do a 1031 exchange into something better. So when I look at all the other deals I’ve done, I’m like, that to me is the best deal. I just had a handful of those; buy and hold, build that equity, because it’s really nice what it can turn out. Now, of course, you want to make sure in a market where that can happen, and across Atlanta has been that market. But that’s what I would say.

Theo Hicks: What is the Best Ever way you’d like to give back?

Frank Iglesias: I have a background in education, I’ve always been involved to some degree, and I enjoy teaching real estate, I enjoy speaking, I can do the hype thing and be excited, but also when I share, at a lot of meetings, I like to just get real with people. Because a lot of people again, just want the sincerity, “Hey, what really happens. This is not HGTV. There’s a lot of real work that goes into this.” Nothing wrong with HGTV, by the way, but there’s just a lot you don’t see. So when a new person is coming in particular, they really want to know what’s happening. Or if you have someone that got involved and they got burned, they still want to do real estate, they’re excited about it, but they really don’t like the feeling of being burned, “Can you help me?”

So I love sharing in those types of situations in particular, because it really allows you to connect with people, you feel their pain, they understand that you understand them…  And it gives them a lot of confidence, a lot of hope, and really restores their, “Yes, I can do this.” That’s really rewarding.

Theo Hicks: And then lastly, what’s the Best Ever place to reach you?

Frank Iglesias: The best place to reach me – you can email me, it’s frank@workingwithhouses.com. Or you can call our office at (678) 408 2228. Those are the best ways. You can message me on Facebook as well, or Instagram, but email and phone are definitely much more likely to get me.

Theo Hicks: Awesome, Frank. Well, thank you so much for joining us today and providing us with your Best Ever advice. We focused a lot on wholesaling, but I think most of the things we talked about, if not all of them, can be applied to any real estate niche.

At first, we talked about you leaving your job, and the two options, and you added the third option, for people to leave their jobs, which is they have enough money to leave their job, they burn the bridge, or they get fired. So you were the got bored with what you were doing at your work and jumped into real estate full-time.

And then those timeless universal tactics that you talked about for wholesaling was networking, so talking to everyone you know about what you’re doing, and then actually talking to them on the phone, as opposed to just text or email or social media, things like that. Making sure you’re honest, you’re real because people can sense that. Making sure you’re talking to everyone, not just the established guy, but also the newbies, just because you might find that one out of 10 person who ends up being a real go-getter and brings a lot of business.

Then you talked more tactically specifically about wholesaling and finding buyers, like just go into the public record and seeing who’s closed on the deals, find the biggest buyers and skip trace them. And then your best ever advice was to surround yourself with the best people you can afford and having a coach. You kind of talked about how you start off with a real estate coach, but eventually when you find a specialist for business, and then a life coach as well. And you did mention that it’s really hard to find these best people. But just like you mentioned him with networking, you’ve got to talk to a lot of people. Then something I really liked was that you don’t necessarily have to just focus on talking to real estate people, because some other business might also be a good fit for you, whether they be a mentor, or a partner, or someone that’s going to work with you.

So a lot of solid advice was given in this episode. We really appreciate it, Frank, and thanks for coming on. Best Ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening. Have a Best Ever day, and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Frank Iglesias: Thank you.

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JF2279: Investing Out Of The Country With Evie Brooks

Evie Brooks (Atlanta, GA, and Veracruz, Panama) is an elite Real Estate Investment Educator, Keynote Speaker, Investor, Coach, Mentor, Entrepreneur, and former Advanced Trainer for “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, who now specializes in “All Things Panama”, including real estate and organic, sustainable agriculture investments. 

Evie Brooks Real Estate Background:

  • Full time investor and former advanced trainer for  “Rich Dad Poor Dad” 
  • 24 years of experience in domestic and global real estate
  • Currently investing in 13+ countries and 30 U.S. states
  • Based in Atlanta, GA
  • Say hi to her at: www.eviebrookspanama.com  
  • Best Ever Book: Who Stole My Pension 

Click here for more info on groundbreaker.co

Best Ever Tweet:

“Utilize the funds that you have in pension plans, IRA’s, & 401ks, in real estate” – Evie Brooks


Evie Brooks: Hello, Best Ever listeners, and welcome to the Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever show. I am Theo Hicks, and today we’ll be speaking with Evie Brooks.

Evie, how are you doing today?

Evie Brooks: I am good. How are you doing?

Theo Hicks: I’m doing well, thanks for asking. Thank you for joining me. A little bit about Evie — she’s a full-time investor and former advanced trainer for Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which is probably the number one best ever book we get on the show and probably for most real estate investors. So everyone knows who the Rich Dad, Poor Dad is. She has 24 years of experience in domestic and global real estate, and she’s currently investing in over 13 countries and 30 US states. She is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and her website is http://eviebrookspanama.com/.

So, Evie, do you might telling us some more about your background and what you’re focused on today?

Evie Brooks: Real Estate just runs through my veins. It is what I do. It’s my playground, my sandbox, if you will. And I accidentally stumbled into it right out of college. I was supposed to go to law school and ended up pregnant my first semester and was so sick I could not complete that journey, and ended up in real estate as a fallback and I’ve never looked back.

I stayed in corporate America for four years in asset management and property management commercial. And then I went out on my own and that has been my focus ever since. I started of course domestically, locally in my home state in Georgia, and then I expanded throughout the United States. And then I started doing international once I started teaching with the Rich Dad, Poor Dad Organization. And I started in Costa Rica. The big crash happened in 2008, I held on until 2012 and then I moved over to Panama, and it has been a whirlwind ever since that time, and looks to continue to be that way for many years to come.

Theo Hicks: Thanks for sharing that. So we’ve talked to people on the show before about investing in their own backyard, we’ve talked to people before about investing out of state, but it’s not every day, we get to talk to someone who is investing out of the country. So you kind of mentioned you started doing this during your time with Rich Dad, Poor Dad and traveling around, but can you get more specific as to why you decided to transition to investing out of the country? Why did you decide to not strictly stay in the states and invest? What’s the benefit you saw?

Evie Brooks: Well, when I was teaching with the Rich Dad Organization, initially, I was teaching domestically and they had an opening to teach in Costa Rica and Latin America, and I immediately jumped on it, because I love being there. It’s tropical, it’s warm, the ocean, water… So I immediately jumped on that opportunity and I started teaching the international investing portion of that training program in Costa Rica as an elite trainer.

In my very first trip, I purchased property myself, I started my first project, I ended up with over 750 acres total in Costa Rica, with projects that we were doing in Costa Rica because of the experience of international investing and the opportunities. So we really tapped into, for that market, the expat market; people from not just US, but North America, Canada as well, but all around the world; people that are looking for (and still) a Plan B or investments outside of their country or tax breaks and things like that. So that’s how it all started.

Theo Hicks: So you were teaching a course on how to invest internationally. So you applied the course to yourself and then—

Evie Brooks: Absolutely.

Theo Hicks: Okay, that makes sense. So can you tell us about your first deal? You said it was 200 plus acres of land. How did that come to be? So you land in Costa Rica for your training and then you have the land. Can you tell us about the steps in between?

Evie Brooks: Well, the first project that I purchased was only about 25 acres, and that was the first trip there. And then when I realized what the opportunity was going to be with that, I found a one acre parcel right on the ocean. I mean, just right on the front of the ocean. So I bought that one. And then I found another just raw piece of land that was 750 acres, and it was a huge undertaking because there were not even roads to get back to the land. So we had to bring in the roads and the utilities and the telephone poles and all that kind of stuff. So ultimately, we ended up with an over 700 acre master-planned community that we were developing in Costa Rica, until the big 2008 crash. And that was an interesting time.

Theo Hicks: So for that first 25 acre deal, are there real estate agents in Costa Rica? Is that how it works, or is it through some other avenue that you find these deals?

Evie Brooks: Yes, but not along the lines of what we think of as real estate agents in the United States. They don’t have the MLS, and it’s kind of like anybody can just stick up a sign “I’m a real estate agent” for the most part, especially at that time. So I wasn’t looking for real estate agents. I had my Costa-Rican attorney who worked for our company full-time, that would go with me, and we would just start looking for land. I do this everywhere I go, whether I’m on vacation in Belize or in South Florida, I’m always looking for real estate deals. So that’s what we were doing, and we found this big piece of property that we realized would be an opportunity for a large expat community, with all the amenities and things like that and that’s how it came to pass.

Theo Hicks: And you mean you’re literally in a car, just driving up and down the street with really no plans but just looking?

Evie Brooks: Exactly.

Theo Hicks: And then do you see the land or are there signs that are up?

Evie Brooks: There are signs. Of course, they were in Spanish and I didn’t speak Spanish. Just poquito, just enough to get by. But my real estate attorney was Costa-Rican, and so she was taking me everywhere she knew. She knew the market. She knew what we were looking for and so we were just out seeking for treasure.

Theo Hicks: That’s awesome. And so all of the deals you have done, have they been found through this method or are there other ways you’re finding deals too, like the word of mouth type of talking method?

Evie Brooks: A lot of word of mouth, of course. Everybody knows what I do and they’re always sending me opportunity. Now that didn’t happen initially right out of the gate. But as I became now known and people knew what I do and became an instructor for the real estate with the Robert Kiyosaki Organization, of course, I get referrals and recommendations all the time. But to this day, I will still take a whole day and just go drive — let’s say, I want to purchase land on Lake Lanier in north of Atlanta; I’ll just go out and start driving and all the little fingers up and down the roads behind where all the [unintelligible [00:09:08].06] are looking for a local treasure.

Theo Hicks: How do you fund these international deals? Is it through syndication, are you raising money? And then if you are, how does the process for raising money internationally differ from raising money in the US? Is it easier? Is it harder?

Evie Brooks: Well, we did a 506 Reg D for our Costa Rica project, and it was a US 506 Reg D but the project was actually in Costa Rica. I am not doing syndications at this point any longer. It’s so intense for effort, work legalities, rules and regulations… That the stuff that we work with now, I have connected with some of the largest developers, most well-known financially stable, financial debt-free developers in Panama, and have worked with them over the last eight years to put together owner financed type situations for our particular investors.

Most of the Expat type of investors that we’re looking are just looking for investments $200,000-$300,000, $1 million or just looking for a retirement home, a vacation home, that type of thing. So we’re now doing these large developments like the one that we did in Costa Rica… And I also did another one up in North Dakota, that I still have right now that we’re working on, but in [unintelligible [00:10:20].05] So it depends on the project itself and how much funds are required and needed, but I haven’t done a syndication since we did the Costa Rica project.

Theo Hicks: I’m sorry, I should have asked this earlier, what is an expat?

Evie Brooks: An expat, an expatriate; people from around the world that’s looking for a reason to leave their country, either on a resident basis or even change their citizenship or getting dual citizenship because of the benefits that’s associated with that. So you have people all around the world, even more so now after Coronavirus, than what we had before. We’re just getting swamped with people that’s like, “Okay, I was supposed to retire in two or three years, I was furloughed, I’m not going back, we’re ready to get out of here. We want to go somewhere else where the cost of living is less, the standard of living is comparable to what we’re used to, the taxes, we’re not going to have to have these taxes before we get our citizenship,” those kinds of things.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. So can you maybe give us an example of one of these expats who are using you to — let’s do an investment deal. So they’re trying to invest out of their country. Give us an example of how this works. How much money are they putting down? How does the seller financing structure work? What’s your ongoing involvement? Or is it just upfront, then you’re done? Can you maybe just walk us through a sample deal so I can get a better understanding of how this works?

Evie Brooks: Okay, first of all, with my clients, I’m never done. If somebody invests in a deal that I am involved with, as well as — typically, all these projects I’m invested in as well… But they’re going to get in or get out or they’re going to hold on to it for a period of time, or they want to rent it… We are all things Panama. We do everything from A to Z; from helping them getting their citizenship, their residency, finding a car, getting their legal visas, or their citizenship process… Now, of course, we’re not attorneys, so we can’t do that, we don’t provide financial advice. But we’ve got our power team in place and we can send them to the appropriate people to make sure they’re not getting taken advantage of; because we’re green guys, people see us coming and they see dollar signs. And so we’ve vetted all of these people.

But as far as the financing programs, with the deals that we’ve put together, you can get bank financing internationally, but it’s gotten a lot tougher, especially since the Dodd-Frank laws and the money laundering issues and all that kind of stuff. So it’s a long process and you pay more for the money internationally if you’re not a citizen of the country. So we started working with our developers. And every project is different, even with the same developer. You might have a project in the city and then another project out on the Gold Coast on the ocean that’s two hours away and they’re going to have two completely different structures. But the bottom line is you can put down 10%, 20% or 30% in a particular project, the owner will carry the financing for anywhere from 5-10 years. If you roll out and buy another one of their properties, then they will in some cases finance the first property to the second buyer, or they will always give them the option to do owner financing when they roll into their new property. So people are like, “I’m not ever going to get to a place where I’m stuck and I have to have the funds to pay this principal balance off.” It’s interest-only payments every single month, and those interest rates — in the last year we’ve had one particular project that we had three quarters of 1% interest, interest-only. So a penthouse on the ocean is less than $250 a month.

Theo Hicks: Like 0.75.

Evie Brooks: Yes, 0.075, it is three quarters of 1%. The average right now is about 4% for developer financing, but back in the day when the interest rates were higher, we would pay 7% interest rate. Then once a year, during the duration of the time that you own that property, you’re going to pay a principal pay down, which typically is somewhere between 5% and 7%. So let’s say you owe $200,000 on a property after you’ve put down your 30%, and that 30% was paid over three years, okay? So you have a $200,000 balance, you’re going to pay 5% per year or $10,000 per year principal pay down, one time per year. So it’s interest only each month, and then a principal pay down. Now there’s all kinds of different options and opportunities. Sometimes there’s a lease to purchase option. It depends on the project, the developer and the timing. I will say that with Coronavirus and everything it’s happened we might have some pretty interesting opportunities and promos coming up in the near future.

Theo Hicks: So you’re in a lot of countries, and it sounds like you’ve been to a lot of countries. I was reading your website beforehand and you’ve done a lot of talks in other countries. What would you say is the one hidden gem country, whether it’s someone living there or investing there, that — obviously, if someone has probably heard of this country before, but maybe not a country that they would expect to be a good place to either live or a place to invest; maybe it’s the same place, maybe it’s here a hidden gem for a place to live, maybe it’s a hidden gem for a place to invest… But what’s your answer for that?

Evie Brooks: Well, if I were emotional only and that’s what I was looking for, I would go to the Caribbean. There’s no question about it, because the crystal blue, beautiful ocean water and the sand and just the views. But I can never think like that. I’m always thinking bottom line.

Panama is absolutely, unequivocally in my opinion, the best place, and the reason why is Panama is on a tear. And the reason why is when the Panama Canal expanded in 2016, four years ago, for the supertankers to come through, the flow of money coming into that country has just been obscene. Now, you add to that the new Cobre copper mines that have started mining the copper, the copper mines are projected over the next 40 years to actually bring in more revenue than the Panama Canal. And when you look at what’s happened in Panama since the crash of 2008, the GDP has been obscene.

In 2009 it was the lowest that it has been, all the way up until we got hit with Coronavirus, and we don’t know what it’s going to look like on the other side of that. But it was 4% in 2009, all the way up to over 9.5% over the years between 2009 and 2020.

So it’s all about the opportunity, the bottom line, the growth, projections, those types of things. And can people come there and have a career? Can they come there and start a business? Can they come there and have the tax deductions that they’re looking for? So I’ve looked at many different factors that people are looking for, and we can just check off the box on just about everything in Panama.

Theo Hicks: Okay, Evie, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Evie Brooks: My best real estate investing advice ever is to utilize the funds that you have in pension plans, IRAs, 401(K)’s and there’s ways to do this, in most cases, not in every case, in real estate… Having that underlying asset, especially in an international country, you’re just setting up protection for that [unintelligible [00:17:07].28] plan and those retirement funds.

I’ve never personally had an IRA or 401(K). And I know that sometimes you ask what is the best book you read recently and I’m going to tell you, it’s Who Stole my Pension? by Edward Siedle and Robert Kiyosaki. It just came out on the first of this year. And what’s happening with pensions and IRAs, 401(K)’s around the world is astounding right now, and if people really understood that, you just need to protect that money. And I have never had a 401(K) and an IRA because I’ve always been in control of my own funds, and my own retirement, and I’ve built a far greater retirement by doing this instead of putting it into a 401(K) or IRA type of structure.

Theo Hicks: Okay, are you ready for the best ever lightning round?

Evie Brooks: Okay, let’s do it.

Break: [00:17:56] to [00:18:38]

Theo Hicks: Okay, Evie, well, you’ve already answered the first question, which is what’s your best ever book, and that was Who Stole my Pension? So the next question is, if your business were to collapse today, what would you do next?

Evie Brooks: I have two answers for that. I’ll really go and start all over in real estate again, in a realistic term. If I was just living in La La Land, I’d do what I wanted to do as a child, which was being a marine biologist.

Theo Hicks: Nice. Tell me about a deal you lost money on, maybe the most money, and then why did it happen? And then what lesson did you learn?

Evie Brooks: The deal that we lost the most money on by far was the Costa Rica deal because of the crash of 2008. No doubt about it. We lost as a group of investors, we were 506 Reg D investors, we had 63 investors, we lost over $13 million. I personally lost over $750,000 in that deal.

And the lesson that I learned was never, ever, ever to do an investment in a tourism only country. But again, I will never go to a country where vacation and tourism is the number one stream of income or the only real opportunity. Now, I said earlier that I’d love to be in a Caribbean country like Grand Cayman, but it’s tourism. That’s all they really have to offer. But I would never invest there because of that experience and having lost what we lost. And it wasn’t just the financial loss, it was the emotional stress of having to deal with that.

Theo Hicks: And do you apply that same logic to domestically as well, you won’t invest in a city that’s dominated by tourism, or is it just internationally?

Evie Brooks: You know, I’ve always thought about investing in the big cities, even downtown Atlanta, New York, places like that, and I never have, and I’m going to tell you how grateful I am right now. I’ve always been in the suburbs, because like I told you earlier, I love water. So I’m always investing where I’m on the water, like Lake Lanier in Atlanta, for example. In Florida, I was in Fort Myers, Cape Canaveral area. So I’m always going to areas where there’s water, and boy, am I thankful right now, because everybody’s racing out of the major cities to get to the suburbs right now.

Theo Hicks: Yeah. On the other end, let’s talk about your best ever deal. This could be best ever in regards to the most money or best some other way… But what’s the best ever deal you’ve done?

Evie Brooks: Absolutely, unequivocally the agricultural investments that we’re doing where you’re basically in an AG deal where you don’t have to hold the [unintelligible [00:21:01].13] personally. You’ve got somebody else doing it, you do a reverse Co-Op with a large, very renowned farming company. We are working with several of those from different areas; Colombia, Panama, Mexico, Peru… And you have the ability to get into what I’m now calling one of the greatest buzzwords of all time, which is [unintelligible [00:21:22].14] And when we stop and think about what’s happened with the Coronavirus, food was the greatest — and toilet paper… [laughs] It was the biggest demand that we saw; and you saw the shelves just empty off and people were terrified that they were not going to be able to get food. And it’s not a fad, people are going to continue to eat every day always from now on, and as the population continues to grow, there’s going to be a big demand for that.

Although it’s not as challenging and exciting, because it’s not hands-on, you forget it, you make the investment and wait for your returns from the produce production to come in. It is absolutely, in my opinion, one of the best investments that we can have, especially for that safety net that we’ve been talking about with what’s happening in our world right now.

Theo Hicks: What is the best ever way you like to give back?

Evie Brooks: I work with a number of different organizations, but I like to work with the Salvation Army and then American Breast Cancer. Also, different patriot companies that help those wounded warriors that have been hurt and cannot continue to function and have a normal life.

And then my biggest thing is I love educating; educating other people and teaching people about the real estate investment strategies and how they can actually, personally, control their financial futures through real estate if they really understand what they’re doing.

Theo Hicks: Well, on that note, what’s the best ever place to reach you to learn more about the international investing, the agricultural investing and more of the teachings that you have?

Evie Brooks: Well, if you go to eviebrookspanama.com – and there’s a little 11 minute video; if you watch that, I do offer a free one hour mentoring session with you. You have to watch that video, because we want to make sure it’s right for you and it’s right for us. And then we’ll do that one hour just to kind of evaluate, is this a path that you should take, that you need to take, that you’re ready to take? And then from there, we’ll proceed into whatever it is that you’re looking for, what your goals are.

We also do a three-day, four-night VIP tour in Panama. And that is an intensive boot camp, boots on the ground, educational program that we do. And we also discuss that in that video, and you can find out more about that there. And we do offer a one-third discount for that if you come through the video.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Well, Best Ever listeners, just make sure you take advantage of that one hour session. So, Evie, thank you for joining us and walking us through your, in my opinion, unique investment strategy of investing in other countries, in agriculture… I’m definitely going to have to check out that video, because we’ve only been able to talk about this in 20 minutes, and I know it’s obviously a lot more in-depth than that.

But you talked about the reasons why you started investing out of the country. We talked about your first few deals. I really liked your driving for dollar strategy that you apply everywhere, but you had the Costa Rican attorney who knew the area very well, and you just got in a car and drove around looking for land, and you got a 25 acre deal, and then a one acre deal, and then the 750 acre deal through that… And then now you’re getting your deals through word of mouth, obviously.

We’ve talked about the way these deals are financed. That’s seller financing, interest only, one time a year principal paydown. And then you talked about the hidden gem being Panama. Obviously, in your website name you talk about the video about Panama, the private tour of Panama, and then your best ever advice was to leverage the IRA, 401(K) type funds and then use that to invest in real estate.

So thank you for joining us. Again, I really enjoyed this conversation. I always like talking to someone about something that’s again, unique and new, and something that I don’t know anything about. So that’s always fun.

So Best Ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening, have a best ever day and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Evie Brooks: Thank you so much.

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JF2268: Nice Guys Buying Houses With Terry Burger

Terry is a full-time real estate investor with 19 years of real estate experience and founder of “Nice guys buying houses”.  Terry will be sharing some great information around how to find leads, to strategies in how they separate themselves from other real estate companies such as focusing on the Better Business Bureau and focusing on a specific customer. He also was open to sharing how he comps markets by focusing on micro-markets, schools, and other ways. 

Terry H Burger Real Estate Background:

  • Full-Time real estate investor
  • 19 years of real estate experience and 5 years of investing
  • Portfolio consists of 6 rental properties and flips 30-40 per year
  • Based in Atlanta, GA
  • Say hi to him at: https://www.niceguysbuyinghouses.com/ 
  • Best Ever Book: Traction

Click here for more info on groundbreaker.co

Best Ever Tweet:

“If you have that warm fuzzy feeling when you find your first deal but not sure about the numbers, then you need to be careful” – Terry Burger


Theo Hicks: Hello Best Ever listeners and welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Theo Hicks, and today I’ll be speaking with Terry Burger. Terry, how are you doing today?

Terry Burger: I’m doing great, Theo. Thanks for having me on today.

Theo Hicks: Absolutely. Thanks for joining us, looking forward to our conversation. A little bit about Terry. He is a full-time real estate investor, with 19 years of real estate experience and 5 years of investing. His portfolio consists of 6 rental properties and he does 30 to 40 flips per year. He is based in Atlanta, Georgia and his website is niceguysbuyinghouses.com. So Terry, do you mind telling us some more about your background and what you’re focused on today?

Terry Burger: Yeah, no problem. So I am a trained classical musician, turned middle school band teacher, turned realtor, turned real estate investor. So I spent about 9 years teaching public education and then went into residential realty or real estate for about 16 years, and then made the transition around 2013 to investing full-time. And that’s a little bit of my background. Kind of my claim to fame is my superpowers comping property and knowing what the consumer wants.  I have probably walked through 10,000 properties, I probably had 5,000 moms in my car at any given time. So I kind of feel like I’m the house whisperer when it comes to knowing what the retail consumer wants. So that helps me in my flips for sure.

Theo Hicks: Well we’ll definitely talk about those two things. So the comping properties and the knowing what people want. But before that, so you do flips and you do rentals. So which one is your main focus?

Terry Burger: So we flip to buy and hold. We like to generate cash through our flips and then we can save the best ones with the most cash flow as a rental properties. So we’d pick up two, maybe three a year, if we can.

Theo Hicks: What’s your main way to generate leads?

Terry Burger: Let’s see, the main way to generate leads is direct mail at this time; we buy some online leads as well. Those are our two primary.

Theo Hicks: You buy online leads. Do you buy like lists?

Terry Burger: Yeah. So there are companies out there that have great organic traffic. So you could either do Google pay per click – we have done that before – and drive traffic to your own site. Or you have these companies out there that have really great SEO and they appear in top search results in just about every market and they get plenty of leads. So we basically just pay for leads from them.

Theo Hicks: Interesting. So you have like an ad on their website? Like if I go on a website, on the corner it will have an ad for you buying houses, or how does that work exactly?

Terry Burger: No. It’s not an ad at all. It’s kind of like they go in, and because these companies have national SEO presence they just go in, and let’s say somebody clicks Greenville, South Carolina, I have a house to sell in Greenville, South Carolina, then I buy that lead.

So if you think about how Service Master does it for storm-damaged and water-damaged houses, it’s just a national website and it’s a lead collection service, and then there are a multiple of people that buy leads. I can give you the company names if that would be helpful, Theo.

Theo Hicks: So you buy it and then they will send you a list of people who said “I want to sell my house in this market”?

Terry Burger: Yup. Let’s say Suzy Smith hits their website, and they know that I’m going to pay X amount of dollars for this lead, call it a hundred bucks, a hundred and fifty, two hundred dollars… Then they send that lead over to me and they just ping my credit card per lead.

Theo Hicks: Okay, and what are some of the websites that do this?

Terry Burger: There’s a needtosellmyhousefast.com, is the most common one, and then fasthomeoffer.com is the other. A lot of people, I think, have heard of fasthomeoffer.com.

Theo Hicks: And then for the direct mail, what’s your criteria for that? What type of people are you mailing to have you found to be the most receptive to direct mail? And then what type of messaging are you putting on these letters?

Terry Burger: I think the best messaging is just consistent messaging. What is it that your company has that might separate you from other people? So we have done a really concentrated effort to get Better Business Bureau reviews. So we leverage those Better Business Bureau reviews against our competition, and we hear this all the time, “We went with you because you were BBB rated,” or “We called you because you were A+ rated on the BBB.” That seems to help us a lot, so that kind of messaging – we get that out all the time. And then in terms of the type of person that we mail to, just like everybody else, they need to have equity, and we’re just trying to figure out who is motivated.

We have personally, I don’t think, ever bought a house from anybody under 40; so we go 40 and up. We just kind of look at our avatar customer, who is it. The problem with us sometimes is – I remember buying a house from an attorney couple one time. So typically he wouldn’t be our avatar customer, but they hated realtors. Really, honestly, Theo, that’s really what it boils down to. If they don’t like real estate agents, they call us. And I think from an investor’s perspective, a lot of times that’s what makes the investor a really good option for people, is because a lot of people have this bias against real estate agents sometimes. And that usually stems from a bad experience along the way.

And look, I was an agent for 17 years, I sold over a thousand houses, and I was a really good agent, but did I make everybody happy all the time? No, I didn’t. So that one person that I didn’t make happy, or they didn’t have the experience they thought they would have, they may reach out to an investor.

Theo Hicks: So, you’ll have on the direct mailing a stamp that says “A++ Better Business Bureau”? [unintelligible [00:08:33].23]

Terry Burger: “And if you hate realtors, call me.” No, I don’t put that on there.

Theo Hicks: Well it’s funny, because I talked to people before who would put that they’re an agent on there, and say that’s like a benefit to them that they’re an agent. But it’s interesting, they said sometimes people don’t even like agents. That could potentially hurt you as well. So thank you for sharing that.

So you send out your direct mail and leads start coming in. Now you said that you are the master comper. So how are you able to determine what the offer price is without having to go and inspect every single property?

Terry Burger: Yes, so during COVID-19 we have switched over to in-person and phone appointments, and I think a lot of people have shifted that way, right? So our biggest obstacle is how do we evaluate the property when we can’t see it. So, I’ll tell you what we do.

Let’s say we put a house under contract over the phone.. Then of course I teach comping to my team so they kind of get how to comp a property; we could talk more about comping if you want, but the process that we used to do it virtually like this, especially during their phone appointment era that we’re in, is we send our home inspector there and we also send our photographer at the same time.

So we give our photographer a big checklist of things to look for, in addition to just looking for problems in general. So our home inspector is there going all over the house, and it takes a couple of hours for him to do that. And then our professional photographer is in there with wide-angle lens and  micro-lens, and she’s shooting videos, she’s shooting photographs, and she sends them back to us in high resolution. So I can get on my Mac or whatever and I can zoom in really, really tight on things; as long as you get that stuff back in high resolution, you can zoom in on something really detailed without having to be at that house. And that’s how we do it right now.

Theo Hicks: Okay, can we take a step back… Because this is what you do after you got it under contract, but how do I know what that contract price is, how do I know what to offer?

Terry Burger: So, the way we comp properties is our philosophy is we comp in micro markets. So if you think of the city of Greenville, South Carolina, that’s kind of micro-market to the whole country right? But it’s more of a micro-market regionally… So we drill down a little deeper and say, “Okay, this neighborhood right here,” Judson Mill for example, “is its own micro-market. It has its own set of values, its own set of people that live there, they buy there, and all that”, right? So one of the easiest micro-markets that we use are main roads; we won’t cross over a main road, we’ll stay within the boundaries of main roads and we’ll try to stay inside of a little neighborhood pocket that we know is how are we going to grab our comps.

The second trick that I teach people – this is an old agent trick… You’re going to at your values based on the elementary school. So you could do a zip code search which gets you kind of big picture, you could do an elementary school to search, which kind of drills you down a little deeper… Or if you want you can go into the MLS, or PropStream or whatever program you’re using, and you draw out a little polygon based on the area that you want. So we employ the polygon method, and we employ that elementary school method, particularly when you’re in the suburbs.

Theo Hicks: And then is that… Is the number like dollar-per-square-foot? Is that what you are looking at?

Terry Burger: If we can find houses that are all very very similar, we look at the values and we can ballpark it. But yes, very wildly in square footage, which in some of our areas they do… Then we are looking at 2 values – the market value cost per square foot, which would mean a normal residential retail sale, and then hopefully sometimes we can find current condition comps of houses that needed to be fixed up and sold in the MLS.

Theo Hicks: So my second question, how do you know without seeing the property if it is going to need $5,000, $20,000, $30,000 in renovations?

Terry Burger: We use a home visit sheet that I came up with. It’s got a lot of the numbers on it; so if our acquisitions manager is looking at the comps and they see that the ARV includes new kitchens and it’s basically flips, if they see that, then we are going to estimate our rehab based on those comps. We only look at the comps when we estimate rehab.

Theo Hicks: So you just assume that if the comps have a new kitchen, then you’re going need to put in a new kitchen; if the comps have whatever else, you’re going to need to do that. Okay.

Terry Burger: Yep. It’s interesting, in some markets they just paint the cabinets white. They don’t put in new kitchens. In Atlanta a lot of new kitchens go in, but in Greenville, they just paint the cabinets. So we look at those comps and go, “Okay, two out of three of the comps have painted cabinets. Why don’t we just paint the cabinets?”

Theo Hicks: What about the major cap-ex things like a roof, or painting the outside a house, air conditioning, HVAC – how do you know if you’re going to need to replace any of that stuff?

Terry Burger: So in our home visit sheet, HVAC for example – is it older than 10 years? If it is, we automatically replace it; we budget for a replacement. The same thing with the roof – if it’s a 30-year architectural shingle and they’ve got 20 years on it, we’re going to budget to replace. If it’s a 15 and has 10 years on it, we’re going to budget to replace.

Theo Hicks: Who does the home visit? Is someone from your team doing this? Or are they sending this to the owner to fill out?

Terry Burger: So our lead intake people do it during that screening call that comes in, and then our acquisitions department goes a little bit deeper on the phone, asking them questions like that.

Theo Hicks: So the next thing that you’re an expert in is knowing what a buyer wants. So if you’re flipping most of these, and you’re keeping some yourself, what do you mean when you say that you know what they want? And what step in the process does that come into play?

Terry Burger: Well, I’ll tell you a funny story… Clients are always asking me, would you buy this house? And that’s one of the most popular things real estate agents get asked by their clients. Would you buy this house? And over the years, what I’ve seen, particularly in the residential suburbs, – so I’m in the North West suburbs of Atlanta, and then we’re in the suburbs of Greenville, we’re also in downtown Greenville as well… But I asked three words; so I said, “If I’m sitting on my deathbed in a hospital and somebody asks me what’s the secret to real estate, I have 3 words for you: backyards sell houses”, period.

So in Georgia, for example, we are in a very hilly area, in North West Atlanta, kind of the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains, so there’s a lot of topography changes. So you’ll have a big family-friendly, 2-story traditional house, but your kids can’t pick a soccer ball in the backyard, because it’s hilly, or it’s steep, or whatever. So I always told my clients, “Look for a nice backyard first. You can fix up the house, but that piece of dirt is always going to sell that property.” So that’s the biggest one for us, particularly around here, is a nice backyard.

Theo Hicks: Alright Terry. What is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Terry Burger: A lot of people say this, but gosh, it’s so true, Theo. You’ve got to buy it right, and you cannot get emotionally involved in the buy. You have to keep your wits about you, be numbers focused only, and buy that house right.

Theo Hicks: In your agent days when you were dealing with clients buying a home, this seems, at least from my perspective, to be more relevant when someone’s buying a single-family house. How do you communicate with a client who is emotionally invested and wants to buy this house that’s either overpriced, or it’s going to cost too much money to fix up? What’s some advice that you’d give to them, and then think that you’re talking to a Best Ever listener who might be emotionally involved in a deal and how to get them to relax a little bit and calm down.

Terry Burger: Yeah, those first few deals are pretty emotional. I remember my first deal, the butterflies were in my stomach; I ran the numbers on a napkin at a Chick-fil-A… But I knew it was a great deal. I think inside, at least for me that first deal or two, I was so giddy about the deal, I couldn’t wait to get the ink on the paper, because the deal was so good.

Now I’m numbers-oriented; that’s not everybody. So I was emotional about it because I knew I had a great deal, because I analyzed the numbers. So if you have that warm fuzzy feeling because you found your first deal but you’re not sure about the numbers, you’ve got to be careful there.

I would always tell my retail real estate clients, “The numbers don’t lie.” So for example, if you’re going to buy a home for you and your family Theo, you’re going to look at it and go, “Well, this one is priced $20,000 more than the one that sold down the street last month. Why? Why is that?” “Well, it has a pool.” “Okay, so how much was that pool?” “It was a hundred thousand dollars.” “So you’re telling me I can get that pool for 20 grand?” That’s a good deal if you want a pool.

So it’s just looking and comparing the facts with all of the houses, just like an appraiser would. And just looking at those things and analyzing them. And knowing your numbers, knowing what stuff costs.

Theo Hicks: Alright Terry. Are you ready for the Best Ever lightning round?

Terry Burger: I’m ready.

Theo Hicks: Okay. First, a quick round from our sponsor.

Break: [16:57]-[17:33]

Theo Hicks: Okay Terry, what is the Best Ever book you have recently read?

Terry Burger: Right now I’m reading — we have a pretty big team so I’m trying to learn how to lead my team better… So I would say lately, in the past 6 months, two:  Traction by Gino Wickman, and then the Who Method For Hiring by Geoffrey Smart. Those two.

Theo Hicks: If your business were to collapse today, what would you do next?

Terry Burger: Oh, wow… Thanks for planting that seed in my brain. I would figure out how to do it better. I love real estate; I’d figure out how to do it better so it didn’t collapse again.

Theo Hicks: What is the Best Ever deal you’ve done?

Terry Burger: My first deal was really sweet. The guy had an old Porsche 911 that he wanted to fix up. The house sat empty for 9 years after his ex-fiancé moved out… And he had just got a wild hair that he was going to fix up this 911 and it was going to cost him 40 grand, and he needed 40 grand. So I gave him 40 grand for a house that was worth a lot more and fixed it up. And even to this day — we have made $65,000 on that property. Probably one of our best flips ever.

Theo Hicks: I wanted to ask you one more question – who is your favorite classical musician, classical composer, and classical artist?

Terry Burger: Composer would be Gustav Mahler. And I was a trumpet player, so my all-time favorite trumpet player is Philip Smith in the New York Philharmonic. He teaches at the University of Georgia now.

Theo Hicks: When you said that in the beginning, I wanted to ask that question, because I always listen to classical music while I work.

Terry Burger: Mahler is like the Led Zeppelin or The Kiss of that era. It’s just lots of brass music.

Theo Hicks: How do you spell it?

Terry Burger: M-A-H-L-E-R.

Theo Hicks: Okay. What is the Best Ever way you like to give back?

Terry Burger: My wife and I like to give. She’s a giver, and I like to make the money so she can give. So we support our church, we support missions organizations… One time we were trying to give away 20% of our income. It might be that way now, I’m not sure, but we give away a significant portion. I am passionate about Operation Underground Railroad. Their sole purpose is to free children from sex slavery or any other type of slavery all over the world. And that’s one of the causes I really care about right now.

Theo Hicks: Do you know who Bill Allen is?

Terry Burger: Yeah. He’s a good friend of mine, in fact, I’m now the Chief Operations Officer of 7 Figure Flipping.

Theo Hicks: I just talked to him right before we got on.

Terry Burger: Oh, that’s awesome. I talked to him earlier today too, he didn’t know I was going to be in your podcast.

Theo Hicks: Wow. And then I talked to someone else on his team yesterday, Beka Shea. It’s a small world.

Terry Burger: Yeah, good friends of mine. And Mike Simmons… Those guys, we kind of grew up in this business together, Bill, Beka, and I.

Theo Hicks: Small, small world. Alright, last question. What’s the Best Ever place to reach you?

Terry Burger: The best place to reach me, probably Facebook. For somebody who’s just reaching out to me it’s Facebook; just private message me, Terry Burger, and you can reach out to me there.

Theo Hicks: Perfect, Terry. Well, thanks for joining us and walking us through your step by step process for flipping homes, starting from your direct mailing strategies, as well as buying leads from websites like needtosellhomefast.com and fasthomeoffer.com.

We talked about how you create your offer, which is by doing comps based off of the micro-market, so a neighborhood with the major roads as the boundaries, as well as looking it up by elementary schools. And then from there, you do phone conversations with people once these leads come in.

The biggest obstacle is evaluating without seeing the property, so you will send the inspector as well as a photographer who will have a checklist of the things you look for, and then make sure that they take high definition pictures, so when you get the pictures you can zoom in to see any issues that you want to investigate further.

And you mentioned something else too about knowing what the buyer wants, and that the secret to real estate is backyards sell houses. You can’t really renovate a house and add a backyard, unless you cut the house in half. I don’t know what you would do. So look for the backyard, and then you can make the inside of the house really wherever you want it to be.

And then the Best Ever advice was to buy it right and don’t get emotionally involved on your numbers. Act as if you were an appraiser. So thanks Terry, again, for joining us. Best Ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening. Have a Best Ever day and we will talk to you tomorrow.

Website disclaimer

This website, including the podcasts and other content herein, are made available by Joesta PF LLC solely for informational purposes. The information, statements, comments, views and opinions expressed in this website do not constitute and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC are providing or undertaking to provide any financial, economic, legal, accounting, tax or other advice in or by virtue of this website. The information, statements, comments, views and opinions provided in this website are general in nature, and such information, statements, comments, views and opinions are not intended to be and should not be construed as the provision of investment advice by Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC to that listener or generally, and do not result in any listener being considered a client or customer of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC.

The information, statements, comments, views, and opinions expressed or provided in this website (including by speakers who are not officers, employees, or agents of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC) are not necessarily those of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC, and may not be current. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC make any representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of any of the information, statements, comments, views or opinions contained in this website, and any liability therefor (including in respect of direct, indirect or consequential loss or damage of any kind whatsoever) is expressly disclaimed. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC undertake any obligation whatsoever to provide any form of update, amendment, change or correction to any of the information, statements, comments, views or opinions set forth in this podcast.

No part of this podcast may, without Joesta PF LLC’s prior written consent, be reproduced, redistributed, published, copied or duplicated in any form, by any means.

Joe Fairless serves as director of investor relations with Ashcroft Capital, a real estate investment firm. Ashcroft Capital is not affiliated with Joesta PF LLC or this website, and is not responsible for any of the content herein.

Oral Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action. For more information, go to www.bestevershow.com.

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JF2161: Two Losses and One Big Win With John Stoj #SkillsetSunday

John has battled with failure throughout his journey to starting a successful business and has gone from having a business to completely losing it 2 times over. He shares how he pivoted and took those lessons to implement it into a business providing food to universities. He gives advice on how he scaled his business and eventually sold it for a profit.


John Stoj Real Estate Background:

  • Spent 14 years on Wall Street from 1992-2006 
  • Raised $300 Million for a distressed hedge fund
  • Has started and grown multiple businesses
  • Based in Atlanta, GA
  • Say hi to him at  www.verbatimfinancial.com  

Click here for more info on PropStream

Best Ever Tweet:

“First thing you need to think about when it comes to scaling is, what do you want to do, what do you want to make and what can you make?” – John Stoj


Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless. This is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast where we only talk about the best advice ever; we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, John Stoj. How are you doing, John?

John Stoj: I’m doing great. I’m really so happy to have the opportunity to talk to you and share with the Best Ever listeners.

Joe Fairless: Well, I’m happy as well, and I’m looking forward to our conversation. A little bit about John – he spent 14 years on Wall Street from 1992 to 2006, he raised $300 million for a distressed hedge fund, and has started and grown multiple businesses based in Atlanta, Georgia. With that being said, John, do you want to give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?

John Stoj: Sure, sure. Well, right now, I’ve, I guess, re-entered the workforce after a little bit of time playing Mr. Mom – super-excited about that – and one of the reasons why I’m doing it is that I feel like I finally found my ‘why’. People talk about that a lot, but I realized that my ‘why’ is taking care of people, and how do I do that? I’ve done it through the course of my career by helping companies more so than people. During the time I took off, I helped raise my son. My wife works a lot; she’s a physician, and I also helped be a caregiver for my dad. He was 96 when he passed away. So we’re in a position where I feel like I’ve got a lot to offer for folks. I can help them to get a sense of where they fit in the world and more so, where they fit with their careers and their goals, whether they be entrepreneurship or existing within the corporate world.

Joe Fairless: Okay, and so that’s from an individual standpoint. I am sure that ties into our topic today, which is building, scaling and growing a business. So how are those dots connected?

John Stoj: That is a fantastic question. It makes a lot of sense… Because when I speak to people — I get a lot of people calling me because they say “Well, geez, you’ve done this before. I want to start a business. How do I do it?”

Joe Fairless: Before we get into that, what businesses have you started and what were the results of those businesses?

John Stoj: Sure. I call myself an accidental entrepreneur… Although, I realized I was an entrepreneur from an early age, whether it be just having a paper route as a youngster, or building up a cache of folks who I mowed lawns for… But after getting out of college, I went to work for Wall Street, and the thing I liked about it was that your income was uncapped. If you did well, you got paid well, and I really couldn’t understand how people could go into careers where they knew what they were going to get paid regardless of how they performed, and that, to me, drove my entrepreneurial mindset. The reason why I say it was accidental is, I would say, I was pushed into it by the financial crisis. I left a banking position along with the rest of my team to start a money manager. And we started in February of 2007, and we were out of business by Thanksgiving. This was not a good time, if you recall, in the financial world, and I think that you have some experience with that, if I read your bio correctly…

Joe Fairless: So February 2007, in terms of what do you mean by that, I have experience?

John Stoj: Your experience in Lehman.

Joe Fairless: No, I’ve never– I’m not related to Lehman. You might be thinking of someone else’s bio. Never worked there, never–

John Stoj: I bet I am, Joe, and there I’ve made my first blunder on the podcast. I apologize.

Joe Fairless: I lived in New York City for ten years, but I wasn’t working for any financial company.

John Stoj: That’s exactly it. You were in advertising; my mistake. Let me go back to that and say, we got there and looking back– so, the reason why we were put out of business – and this is a key bit that I get into with folks, is learning to do the due diligence on any project you’re getting involved with. We were supposed to have financing for a minimum of 24 months, but there was a key provision in the company’s financing that scuttled the whole thing if a few key things did not happen. So surprise, it didn’t happen.

Joe Fairless: What were those things?

John Stoj: Well, we had to do a deal by a certain time period, otherwise, our bank wouldn’t release the rest of the funds for us. And now what we were doing was we were buying CDOs… So not to get too much into the weeds on that, but suffice it to say you could not purchase goods assets at the time. So I was an asset manager, I said I wasn’t willing to purchase these assets, and as a result, we couldn’t close the deal, and the company had to go out of business. So this was something where I trusted too much in someone else who had arranged for that type of financing.

Joe Fairless: So your financing was contingent on you all closing on a deal, okay.

John Stoj: And of course, that could happen in real estate as well.

Joe Fairless: Yes, definitely financing provisions could be violated or not adhered to or loan covenants rather. So it’s a little bit different in that world though, because — help me understand, why did your company need financing, because — isn’t it just your salaries, so if you just didn’t get paid, then that’s fine?

John Stoj: So think of it like a construction loan.

Joe Fairless: Okay.

John Stoj: We had to hit certain milestones in order for them to release the funding.

Joe Fairless: I get that.

John Stoj: We did not hit the milestone; the funding which would cover everything from salaries to the rent would then not be released.

Joe Fairless: Okay, got it. So how come you all just didn’t take salaries and just work from home?

John Stoj: Well, this is actually what led me to raise the capital for our hedge fund. Some people just threw up their hands. This was a time in ’08, where people in the finance industry and in my sector of it, structured finance, were throwing up their hands and giving up to do something different, or just taking some time off. A partner and I, we decided that we didn’t want to do that; we wanted to do exactly as you say – let’s start our own business. We had somebody try to start the business for us and work for them, and that was unsuccessful. Let’s do this on our own. So we were lucky enough to put together the project materials and raise $300 million for investing in these distressed assets, all backed by the types of securities that started the financial crisis – CDOs, subprime, real estate, bonds and such.

So what we did was we created a whole system where we would be able to purchase those types of assets out of the banks who were under severe distress at the time, and we ended up getting — these transactions take a long time to close. We were around for about a little over a year. In our second year, we were about to close on our first transaction of about $120 million or so, and literally, two weeks before the closing date, the banks were bailed out for the last time by the government, and we got a call from our banker that we were going to purchase from saying, “Well, we love you guys, but we don’t need your money anymore.” So that ended that adventure, and that’s [unintelligible [00:09:47].03].

Joe Fairless: Oh, that’s a punch in the gut.

John Stoj: It was a punch in the gut. I always tell people that you never know when the brass ring is gonna come and you never know when they’re gonna snatch it away from you. So I went from two weeks from being financially independent–

Joe Fairless: How much would you have made personally?

John Stoj: Well, my partner liked to torture himself, so he tracked that one investment, and contractually, we would have each made $7 or $8 million.

Joe Fairless:  Oh, that’s it?

John Stoj: Yeah. So not that much… [laughter]

Joe Fairless: Oh my… Alright. Instead, you didn’t make any money?

John Stoj: I didn’t make any money, except for our little salaries that we took during that period of time. So the $300 million was lined up specifically for the purpose of buying those assets.

Joe Fairless: So the $3 million that was lined up – was that already funded in an escrow account or in some other account?

John Stoj: No, it was pledged.

Joe Fairless: Okay. So then what did you do?

John Stoj: So then I got fed up and I said “This is now the second or third time that I’ve been put out of business in the finance world because of extraneous events. I want to control my own business. I don’t want to deal with any of that. So how do I do that? I’m going to go ahead and start my own business that’s completely different.” So I looked into businesses that have low barriers to entry. Food business is a business with low barrier to entry… And started making inquiries.

I found actually a friend of mine who I had gone to business school with had started a small business selling sushi, and that’s how I came to run a sushi kitchen… But then he was looking to expand his business. So this is one of the– we haven’t gotten to it, but when I talk about the steps that I think you should look at when opening your own business, one of the steps is making a plan that includes for running the business as it exists, and then running the business as you hope it might exist, and seeing even what could be the issues if you have no growth, low growth or even exponential growth.

So I figured the only way that food business could have exponential growth is either franchising or wholesale, and I had no interest in running a restaurant, because I did not want customers like that, and I didn’t want to worry about hanging up a shingle and just hoping somebody would walk in the door, whereas I knew I could go out and sell a product to folks. So I wanted to sell a product that I could sell to people all over the place or as many places as possible, and I didn’t want to deal with retail. So I caused this sushi company to be turned into a wholesale supplier as opposed to a retail restaurant, and we bought – or I should say we leased a large catering kitchen here in Atlanta, we transformed the company’s other locations into production facilities as well, and I went out and got businesses who had cafeterias, buildings who had cafeterias, and then universities, hospitals, folks like that to purchase our sushi and offer it as lunch fare. So we would make it overnight and package it and sell it to those folks at lunch.

Joe Fairless: I bet that’s so much more profitable than just a standalone restaurant.

John Stoj: Well, that’s it. You’re in much better control of your margins.

Joe Fairless: Oh, yeah. The stress level’s down, you don’t have to deal with random people complaining about stupid stuff…

John Stoj: Correct, and I’m also a planner. I was a Computer Science major in college along with finance, so I have a programming mindset and a planning mindset, and what you could do with a wholesale business like that, especially when we developed long term relationships with clients, you knew the whole month’s production, give or take some standalone orders, so you could control your inventory, you could control your labor, all those kinds of things, which are just impossible with a day-to-day operation like a restaurant.

Joe Fairless: So smart. And do you have any actual numbers for before and after, in terms of profitability or anything like that?

John Stoj: Yeah. So, the business, when I joined it, there were– I’ll call them two and a half locations in two different cities.

Joe Fairless: What were the cities?

John Stoj: They were in Kansas City, Kansas, and of all places, Alexandria, Virginia, and then we opened up one in Philadelphia, and then one is in Atlanta; it was the last one to open. So we had four production locations. When I joined the company, two of the three existing locations were losing money. The profitable location was supporting the other two.

Joe Fairless: Because they were restaurants.

John Stoj: They were restaurants with extremely small production, and we just turned them into production. And the Atlanta office, obviously, we started from 0 and we went from 0 to 400 in revenue for the first year, then we doubled it again, and then we finally got over the million-dollar mark by the time I sold the business.

Joe Fairless: What a smart move. If i as a restaurant owner, I would be doing the same exact thing. Well, fortunately, I’m not, because there would be no restaurants in United States.

John Stoj: Some things are more difficult to transform into that packaged food than others… And in fact, I will tell you the main reason that I like sushi as an idea was not because of I’m a big sushi eater, or that it wasn’t necessarily the most popular food, but it’s a food that’s–

Joe Fairless: Gotta be made fresh.

John Stoj: It has to be made fresh, which is a little sad. I was always jealous of the guys that did frozen stuff, because our shelf life is literally just one day. But constructed food, there’s no cooking involved. All you do is– the rice is steamed, but everything else is just a construction, essentially. So if you have a couple of guys that are good with knives that can cut the fish correctly, the rest can be trained. So those are all reasons why I really liked that business and why I chose it, even though it wasn’t something that my heart was drawing me to. Now one of the things I talked about when making the plan for the business–

Joe Fairless: Well, let’s talk about that. That way we’re not sprinkling in some stuff. We’ve got about five minutes left. So let’s talk about your steps for scaling. So what are your tips?

John Stoj: Okay, the first one is to think about, what do you want to do? How much do you want to make? How much can you make? You have to ask yourself all those questions, and then what would happen if you had something that was extremely good that happened, like exponential growth, versus– people always think about, “Well, what if nobody comes in the door? How can I keep the lights on and cover expenses?” Well, what happens if that customer walks in the door and they ask you for 5, 10, 100 hundred times what you’ve ever produced in the past? I tell folks the same story, and it did happen in my sushi company, because I was pursuing a client – the Atlanta public schools, in fact – to see whether they would be interested in selling sushi in their cafeterias and providing it to their students, and going back and forth with the head chef, and then even the superintendent of schools and all that stuff… Tons of meetings, tons of samplings, all that stuff, and you say, “Well, geez, nothing’s gonna come of this.”

And then summer before school started one year, I got a call from the chef and he said, “Okay, we like the idea. Can you start providing the sushi in August, whatever” and I was like, “Oh, that’s great. Sure. How much?” and he’s like, “Well, we want to have two pieces of sushi at least for each student on the opening day of the school” and I did the calculation pretty quickly. They wanted 120,000 pieces of sushi. Now pieces aren’t rolls; they’re eight pieces in each roll, you do the math, but it was a staggering amount, that he also wanted delivered at the same time, on one day. And that was the offer that you get as an entrepreneur and you think to yourself, “Oh, geez, this could make me and/or break me.”

So I did work it out, but it took a lot of figuring, it took a lot of explanation about the food business, about freshness and about delivery service, because half of my company was a logistics company by delivering the sushi. But it doesn’t matter that I did get through it, that good thing was just as stressful as a bad thing. So I tell folks that you’ve got to think about it and you’ve got to wargame it out, and really figure, “Okay, how do I do this if it happens”, and if it’s not possible, don’t go for those opportunities.

Joe Fairless: Okay, so that makes sense, and it’s gonna be a fun exercise too to think what would happen if things went really well, and also what happens if they don’t. You mentioned earlier, making a plan that includes running a business as it exists and how you hope it might exist, which is similar. Any other tips for scaling?

John Stoj: Scaling is big. I think you’ll find that — I’m not the first person to say this, but systematize everything as much as possible. And that’s where I would tell folks, especially — I’ve worked with a few people who have, like me, have left the corporate world to go and try to either purchase a franchise or start their own business. They’ve got a great idea they think, and one of the things I tell them is think about anything that you took for granted working in the corporate world is suddenly not available to you. The human resources department, for instance, how to hire people. It’s a little easier now. Even when I started the company in 2010, between then and now, outsourcing is a lot easier than it used to be, but as you know, there are pitfalls that can go along with that as well. So I tell people they need to figure out where they can source people, they need to systematize things. So if they need to hire people quickly, they can get that person trained up quickly. It’s all about creating almost that handbook of the business while you’re building it.

Joe Fairless: It makes sense. And then any parting thoughts that we haven’t talked about that you think we should before we wrap up?

John Stoj: I think one of the biggest things that if you’re going to be an entrepreneur and you’re going to start your own business, if you have a family involved, you want to get full buy-in from your family, because without that, you’re going to have a difficult time being there for the business. Because as you know, owning your own business means you’re never fully off. You’re never fully on vacation, you’re always on call, and if they’re not up for that, you might want to look into a different opportunity. I’m going back now, way back in your podcasting days, hundreds of episodes back, but I listened to an episode with Matt Rodak, and he said–

Joe Fairless: He’s a friend of mine.

John Stoj: Okay. He said that entrepreneurship is hard, really, really hard, and when I heard him say that, that lit up in my mind, because that’s what I tried to tell people. I sat down last year with a friend who told me that he and his wife both wanted to quit their jobs, and they were looking at half a dozen franchises to purchase and open, because they wanted control of their lives… And I told them two stories. I told them the story of how I started the sushi business; it grew, it was fantastic, but my wife practically wanted to divorce me before I sold it, because I was getting calls at [1:00] in the morning when the guys ran out of avocados. So I said, “Watch out for that, because that could be a big problem.” But if you talk to somebody who started a business and they didn’t really notice it, and then somebody bought them out for millions of dollars, they’re gonna give you a different opinion for sure.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, they’ll have recency bias.

John Stoj: Yeah.

Joe Fairless: They’ll just remember the end. Well, John, thank you so much for being on the show. How can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you’re doing?

John Stoj: Well, thanks a lot, Joe, for having me. Again, just being able to do this podcast for so long and so consistently is super impressive. Best Ever listeners can get to me at my website at verbatimfinancial.com or john.stoj [at] verbatimfinancial.com.

Joe Fairless: I have been doing this podcast for many years, but I learn something every day that I do them; I do about eight to nine interviews. Let’s say I learn probably something on every interview, but maybe not every interview, I don’t learn something, which is my fault, because ultimately everyone has something to teach us; it’s my responsibility to find out what that is. But on this one, I can say I certainly learned some stuff, and I find your sushi restaurant to wholesale supplier fascinating, and it’s something that we should all take a look at in our business.

If our business in total is not working, then what services, what products do we have to offer within that, that would be beneficial for others and maybe we just shift the focus. So thanks so much for being on the show. Hope you have a best ever day. We’ll talk to you again soon.

John Stoj: Thanks for having me.

Website disclaimer

This website, including the podcasts and other content herein, are made available by Joesta PF LLC solely for informational purposes. The information, statements, comments, views and opinions expressed in this website do not constitute and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC are providing or undertaking to provide any financial, economic, legal, accounting, tax or other advice in or by virtue of this website. The information, statements, comments, views and opinions provided in this website are general in nature, and such information, statements, comments, views and opinions are not intended to be and should not be construed as the provision of investment advice by Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC to that listener or generally, and do not result in any listener being considered a client or customer of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC.

The information, statements, comments, views, and opinions expressed or provided in this website (including by speakers who are not officers, employees, or agents of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC) are not necessarily those of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC, and may not be current. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC make any representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of any of the information, statements, comments, views or opinions contained in this website, and any liability therefor (including in respect of direct, indirect or consequential loss or damage of any kind whatsoever) is expressly disclaimed. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC undertake any obligation whatsoever to provide any form of update, amendment, change or correction to any of the information, statements, comments, views or opinions set forth in this podcast.

No part of this podcast may, without Joesta PF LLC’s prior written consent, be reproduced, redistributed, published, copied or duplicated in any form, by any means.

Joe Fairless serves as director of investor relations with Ashcroft Capital, a real estate investment firm. Ashcroft Capital is not affiliated with Joesta PF LLC or this website, and is not responsible for any of the content herein.

Oral Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action. For more information, go to www.bestevershow.com.

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JF2007: Understanding The New WorkForce With Chris Tuff #SkillsetSunday

Chris Tuff is an expert in working with millennials and getting high levels of production from them. His new book “The Millennial Whisperer,” explains that there are two different types of millennials; the “Snap-Chat” and “Oregon Trail”. In this episode, you will learn about each of these two different types so you will be better prepared when you are looking to build your own business and hiring help for the first time. He also shares some great stories to put you in the seat of each generation so you can have a better understanding of why they think the way they do so you will be better prepared.

Chris Tuff Real Estate Background:

  • Expert in working with millennials and getting high levels of production from them
  • Youngest partner in the 100-year history of Atlanta-based advertising agency, 22squared, where he turned a team of Millennials from an “investment” to a major profit center
  • Based in Atlanta, GA
  • Say hi to him at https://www.themillennialwhisperer.com/bestever 

Best Ever Tweet:

“They want to hear from you where it is you’re making mistakes, where it is that you’re gaining ground and why you’re making the decisions that you’re making. They want context, they want to see the full picture.” – Chris Tuff


Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners, and welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m your host, Theo Hicks, and today we will be speaking with Chris Tuff. Chris, how are you doing today?

Chris Tuff: Awesome! Good to catch up.

Theo Hicks: Absolutely, Chris. I appreciate you coming on the show. Chris is actually a repeat guest, so make sure you check out his first episode, which we will have a link in the show notes. Since he’s  a repeat guest, we’re going to do a Skillset Sunday, because today is Sunday; we’re gonna talk about a specific skill that Chris has, and how that could apply to you as real estate investors.

Before we get into that, a little bit about Chris’ background as a refresher. He is an expert in working with millennials and getting high levels of production from them. He is the youngest partner in the 100-year history of Atlanta-based advertising firm 22squared, where he turned a team of millennials from an investment to a major profit center. He is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and you can say hi to him at themillenialwhisperer.com/bestever, which we will also link to in the show notes.

Chris, before we hop into the skill that we’re gonna talk about today, which is going to be the six ways the business landscape will change as baby boomers retire and millennials take over… Do you mind telling us a little bit more about your background and what you’re focused on today?

Chris Tuff: My background – I grew up in the tech space; I was one of the first advertisers to work directly with Mark Zuckerberg right when he was graduating out of the colleges into the real world. People ask me what he was like back then, and I will attest to how far he’s come with his interpersonal communication, because I sat at a dinner with him and he didn’t say one thing the whole dinner; it was like a group of us…

So I kind of fell into this niche spot within the digital social media/emerging media world, and grew within that niche to one of the leading experts and go-to people, which brought me to my agency where I’m a partner (22squared) ten years ago… And it was during that ten years I’ve always been surrounded by millennials. And I was so sick and tired of everyone taking them down that on an executive retreat I felt inspired to introduce myself instead of as the digital and social media expert, which I had for so many years, I was like “I don’t really know what I do anymore, but we’ve got 390 employees at our firm and I’m kind of like the millennial whisperer.”

And it was from that point forward that Tommy Breedlove, who I didn’t know at the time, who has turned into one of my best friends – he challenged me to [unintelligible [00:03:36].29] he goes “You’d better write that book.” And I wrote the book. Here we are, nine months later we’ve sold over 50,000 copies of it, and we are now trying to really bring it into the world, and we’re gonna be releasing an online work series, training series, we’re doing a bunch of consulting gigs at Fortune 50 companies around the U.S, and I’m finally starting to feel like I have the impact that I intended this book to have.

Theo Hicks: What’s the title of the book?

Chris Tuff: It’s called The Millennial Whisperer. For those that have not spelled “millennial” recently, it’s a difficult word to spell.

Theo Hicks: It really is.

Chris Tuff: Two l’s and two n’s. Some people do two l’s and one n, so yeah… TheMillennialWhisperer.com is where you can find a lot of this stuff, and you can find my book on Amazon and your local book retailer.

Theo Hicks: Perfect, perfect. So the skill we’re gonna be talking about today is basically how the business landscape is going to change as the baby boomers exit the workforce, and the millennials make up the main part of the workforce… But one thing I wanted to ask you – because I see a million different definitions, quite literally, of what a millennial is… So from your perspective, what is a millennial?

Chris Tuff: 1981 to 1996. And I set out in my book, The Millennial Whisperer, that it’s really two different generations, and it’s what I call the younger millennials or the older millennials. What makes them different are two main factors, which is when they adopted technology in their lives, and then when the recession of 2008 either hit them or their parents.

So instead of trying to cast a wide net, like a lot of us do – instead of doing that, I actually treat them as two very different generations within that. So 1981 to 1996. In the application that’s 23 year olds to 37 year olds.

The ones that are graduating right now  – that is actually gen Z. So what I tell everyone is if you can get the younger millennials  – and I’ll talk about some of these, obviously, coming up – you can also get gen Z. But don’t even try with the younger millennials until you get the older millennials. We’ll talk about that.

Theo Hicks: So 1981 to 1996.

Chris Tuff: Correct.

Theo Hicks: So you say there’s two different generations… So 1981 to what would be older?

Chris Tuff: I would say late ’80s to 1990, and then younger millennials – really, I call them Organ Trail millennials, because older millennials, they played Organ Trail as their computer indoctrination in high school… And younger millennials were given a brand new iPhone with a Snapchat account on it, and that’s why I call them Snapchat millennials.

So I think that if you can ask “Oh, did you play Organ Trail, or were you on Snapchat?” and people will either be like “What’s Organ  Trail?” or they’re gonna say “Yeah, I’m all over Snapchat.” But there’s a nondistinct line with any of this stuff. The important piece is to at least look at it differently.

Theo Hicks: Okay. So let’s go into the skill… You can take this any direction you want. Or we have six particular ways, so if you wanna just go down the list of six, and then I can ask follow-up questions after that…

Chris Tuff: I can do that, yeah. Absolutely. Okay, so I’m gonna bang these out… And this is in no particular order. I would say one of the big things that people can start seeing in what millennials are gonna be changing their (especially) work environments around is work flexibility. If you look at what millennials are looking for according to the Deloitte Millennial Survey of 2018, you will find that work flexibility is one of those main pieces that they are demanding of their organizations. So one, work flexibility.

The second piece is that they’re looking for different things in their leadership… And the two pieces that are super-important are 1) inspiration, and 2) autonomy. And I can talk more about what those look like.

The third piece that you’re gonna start seeing in terms of this shift is boomers retire and millennials take over is millennials are demanding purpose out of their companies that they work for, but also they are demanding that they give back to the world around us and our environment. So if you don’t stand for something and if you are not looking into LEED certification for your buildings etc. you will be losing clients. So it’s super-important, this over-arching purpose piece… And that only gets more important as you look towards younger millennials and gen Z.

The next piece I would say is that our conditioning to brand loyalty, as well as employee loyalty has gone out the window, and that will continue. So the idea that someone might stay for 5-10 years to get the watch or the reward that your company might look for, that will continue to take the trend that no one’s gonna be staying in places for as long as they were conditioned to, or at least the boomers were conditioned to. So be ready for that brand loyalty flip in terms of employees, but also in terms of businesses.

People are willing to ditch businesses overnight if they find a better product or one that stands for something that’s more important than the other ones. That’s why these big CPGs and massive companies have been struggling so much in this new world, where trends move faster than ever before.

And then the last two things that I would add to that is reward and recognition for your employees – if it’s not at the core of what you’re doing, then you’ve gotta start bringing it to the core of what you’re doing.

One of the big pieces of what makes this next generation and the one following it so different is there’s a lot of truth to the fact that they are products of helicopter parents, as well as anytime they wanted any sort of recognition or boost, they would post to social media and get it; when they post a picture, they get their 120 likes, and if they don’t get their 120 likes, they take it down… So making sure that you have a program and pieces and tactics in place to reward and recognize your people.

And then the last piece that I’ll add to it – and this is more tactical for the listeners, but with work flexibility, as well as the trend that we’ve been seeing in terms of open work environments – I think we’re gonna see massive transitions there. And I’m not gonna tell you exactly what those transitions will look like or what the workplace of the future should be, but I can tell you, incorporate your people or the employees of the companies that you’re working with, to help dictate what those spaces should look like. Make them a part of the process. I think that’s my probably juiciest for this discussion, of things that people that are listening can do differently. I can rant about any single one of those.

Theo Hicks: Okay, before you rant about any one of those, something you said multiple times when you were going through that is the conditioning; the reason why the business landscape is gonna change is because millennials were conditioned different than baby boomers. You gave a few examples of that, but what are some of the main differences in conditioning that millennials went through compared to previous generations?

Chris Tuff: Well, the two main pieces are the recession and technology. If you look at just technology — one of the things I emphasize to everyone is that what I’m saying is not that millennials are the best generation ever; what I’m saying is that this next generation and the one following it, gen Z, have a lot of good and important points that we need to start incorporating into our businesses and our decision-making, and use them as the catalyst towards change.

At the same time, there’s a lot of things these next generations can learn from us. They can learn from boomers before they’re gone out of our corporations and retired, because along with gen X’ers — so if you look at that whole picture, technology is massively important, but the other side of it is true as well, where we’ve gotta help our people build that muscle with interpersonal communication.

And if you look at even the simplest of things, the conditioning is just that older millennials and gen X and boomers in order to just flirt with someone they had to pick up a phone, they had to call a house, they had to talk to a parent, before they even got to this person on the other side. And then they would have to set up with that person (whoever it is that they wanted to flirt with) a time to actually meet up in person to get the permissions etc. So all of that built interpersonal muscle, it builds this EQ, that you  compare that to a first flirtation of a younger millennial and gen Z’er is actually all happening on their back, in one moment, via Snapchat or an Instagram story.

So it’s up to us to help build that in, and it’s why I talk about rules that I have in place for the younger millennials and gen Z’ers that are entering our workforce. If you’re in the same building, as people, you’ve gotta walk your butt over to their seat, and not IM, and not text, and  not do a lot of these things that they are conditioned to and comfortable with. So two main places is that conditioning piece…

I talked a lot about the technology influence, and then also the helicopter parenting that a lot of that millennial generation was a product of… But then you look at the recession of 2008. And what’s scary is that any older millennial that went through the recession of 2008 – they built a resilience into their lives, because they had to experience what it was like to go through a massive recession while having a job or losing their job. So there’s more of that entrepreneurial spirit and ability to move around, from shop to shop.

The younger millennials saw their parents lose their jobs while they were in school, and then they inherited a bunch of student debt as a product of that, and are actually looking for a place where they can hang their hat for a little bit longer. And then you go into gen Z, and gen Z – they hardly even remember what it was like to go through a recession. So their conditioning is very different as they enter the workforce, whereas everyone else is like “Uh-oh, when is this all gonna end? When is it gonna come tumbling down?” These guys are just whistling as they rock and roll… And a lot of their priorities and what they’re looking for are different because of that, which is this move to purpose and impact on a worldwide scale etc. So that’s my quick rant there.

Theo Hicks: Okay, we’ve got a little bit more time left, so… Of those six, the one I wanna focus on is number two, so different things in leadership. I think that’s something that as real estate investors – if you wanna grow your business, you’re gonna need to create your team, and you’re gonna have to work with millennials. So me as an investor – how should I be a leader if I want to attract millennials, if I wanna keep millennials and I want to get a lot of productivity out of my millennial employees.

Chris Tuff: Sure. So the biggest thing is what millennials are looking for more than anything else is inspirational leadership. And the unfortunate side of what comes along with inspirational leadership is most leaders think they’re inspirational, whereas in fact they’re not. It’s why I created the millennial leadership assessment, which can be found on my website… But the millennial leadership assessment actually asks your people whether or not that leader is inspirational, among 7 other points.

So the first piece is you’ve gotta be an inspirational leader. If you’re not an inspirational leader, maybe you’re more of the order person, and maybe you’re more of the operations side… So pair yourself up with someone that is inspirational. We’ve gotta look at pairing up teams and leading teams, versus asking someone to be all things to all people.

The second piece of leadership is autonomy… And the best example of autonomy when writing this book that I got was Ben Kirshner, who Forbes called out as the number one boss for millennials. He and I had a discussion about what autonomy meant, and he reminded me of this thing that he tells his team every time they meet; he goes “It’s up to YOU to protect this house.” I said “Well, tell me more.” He was like “Well, it comes from an UnderArmour campaign”, and anytime I get together with my team I tell them – whether it be a culture thing, whether it be unlimited paid vacation, whatever it is, I tell them “It’s up to you all to protect this house.” So I push down that control, but I also emphasize the fact that we’ve got something worth fighting for. I thought that was a great explanation of how you can take autonomy and bring it into your workplace.

Then the third piece of leadership that I’ll just quickly touch upon is transparency. A lot of times when people hear about transparency, they think that it either needs to be monetary transparency, or on the other side vulnerability, where they have to cry in front of their people… And it’s neither one of those things out of the gates. They want to hear from you where it is that you’re making you’re making your mistakes, where it is that you’re gaining ground, and why you’re making the decisions that you’re making. They want context. They wanna see the full picture. And what they’re looking for in transparency is for you to help build that for them. Interpret it that way, versus a lot of the other ways.

If you do just those three things you’ll see a massive improvement in both morale, retention rates, as well as ability to attract the right talent.

Theo Hicks: Alright, Chris, is there anything else that we haven’t talked about as it relates to the change in the business landscape as boomers retire and millennials take over that we have not talked about already?

Chris Tuff: No, but the one thing I’ll end with is a lot of the times, especially when talking about this move to work flexibility, where you ask any business leader if they are willing to provide the infrastructure for their people to not be stuck in traffic on Fridays for four hours, and to give them four hours back to their bottom line or their billable rates or whatever it is, “Are you willing to make the changes to let that happen?” and a lot of the times their main obstruction/barrier to doing that is “I had to do it this way. Why don’t they?”

So I encourage everyone, especially in regards to work flexibility, is find a way to at least move in that direction, because it’s such a simple fix that will alleviate so many of the issues, as well as probably have the most immediate impact on morale, as well as ROI and bottom line.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Alright, Chris, I really appreciate you coming on the show and sharing your wisdom on millennials. I definitely learned a lot, and I think the Best Ever listeners will as well. Again, Best Ever listeners, try to think about this advice and process it and figure out how you’re gonna apply it to your business.

Just to quickly summarize what Chris went over – we’ve defined what a millennial is, 1981 to 1996, and this is my first time hearing about breaking it into the younger and the older… The Organ Trail millennials and the Snapchat millennials. I really like those names. Basically, the difference is when they adopted the technology, and then whether the recession hit them or their parents.

Then we went over the six ways that the business landscape will change as baby boomers retire and millennials will take over. I’m just gonna quickly run through those, but if you relisten to the episode, we went into details on at least two of those.

  1. Work flexibility
  2. Different things in leadership
  3. Demanding a purpose out of their company
  4. Brand loyalty and employer loyalty is no longer really a thing
  5. Reward and recognition of millennial employees
  6. Open work environments, and making them a part of the process of creating their work environment.

We also talked about the differences in conditioning between the boomers and the millennials. If you want more details on these six different ways, as well as more details on just the millennials in general, make sure you check out Chris’ book, The Millennial Whisperer, which we will link to in the show notes.

We also mentioned a survey that you can download, the Millennial Leadership Assessment that will let you know if you’re a good leader or not by interviewing your millennial employees.

Chris, thanks again for joining us today. Best Ever listeners, thanks for tuning in. Have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Chris Tuff: Thanks!

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JF1979: How to grow your business by firing yourself with Brandon Barnes #SkillSetSunday

If there’s one thing that Brandon Barnes has learned through his investment experience, it’s that, in order to grow, sometimes you have to hand over the reins. Bringing on someone can be scary, but Brandon shares how having someone dedicated to analyzing and closing deals instead of relying on yourself, can take your real estate investment business to the next level. 

Brandon Barnes Real Estate Background:


Best Ever Tweet:

“I knew it wasn’t working with me being the sole person doing all of the following up and making offers so once I made that leap of faith that, even if they’re 80% of me, they’d probably be 3 to 5 times more productive than me.” – Brandon Barnes


The Best Ever Conference is approaching quickly and you could earn your ticket for free. 

Simply visit https://www.bec20.com/affiliates/ and sign up to be an affiliate to start earning 15% of every ticket you sell. 

Our fourth annual conference will be taking place February 20-22 in Keystone, CO. We’ll be covering the higher level topics that our audience has requested to hear.


Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless. This is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast where we only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, Brandon Barnes. How are you doing, Brandon?

Brandon Barnes: Hey, I’m well. How are you doing?

Joe Fairless: I am doing well, and I’m glad to be catching up with you again. Brandon was on the show, and Best Ever listeners, you know this because you’re loyal and you’ve been listening for a while. In fact, three years ago, on episode 798, titled “How Most of His Revenue Comes From PROBATE Leads,” Brandon was on the show. So if you want to learn more about his best ever advice and what he was focused on then, feel free to listen to episode 798.

Brandon is a wholesaler and he hosts a real estate meetup. His team now grosses north of $1 million annually and is continuing to grow. Today we’re going to be talking about firing yourself to grow a business. So today is a Skillset Sunday episode, and we’re gonna be talking about firing yourself to grow a business. But first, Brandon, how about you just catch us up to speed on what you’ve been up to for the last three years, and then let’s roll right to firing yourself to grow a business.

Brandon Barnes: Yes. Thanks again, Joe. I’m super-excited to be back on. I think that first interview we did, I didn’t even think I was worthy of being on your show, and look at how things have transpired over the years. So that first year, I was by myself. I was doing everything, I was a one-man-band. Again, I mentioned previously I was a Tom Crowell student and he told me very early on the first hire can be a solid virtual assistant. Best decision I ever made, even when I didn’t have the money to pay her; I found a way through the years, especially early on. She was my first core hire, that really allowed me to establish my business, keep my marketing consistent, keep track of my KPIs. She knows more about the systems in our business than anybody else in it. She’s now a very well paid administrative assistant, if you will. So, that year–

Joe Fairless: Where is she based?

Brandon Barnes: She was based in the Philippines. She was the youngest of five siblings that had all moved out of the Philippines into the US, but some elsewhere. It was her dream to move, and we were able to help her do that, increased her rate from $5 an hour to $20 an hour to support her transition to Toronto. Now she is getting her citizenship in Toronto and we were able to help her do that.

Joe Fairless: Very cool. All around, very cool.

Brandon Barnes: Yeah, for sure. So later in that year I remember probates saved me because I was sending a lot of direct mail postcards, and then I found through a podcast– which is always great to expand your horizons and listen to other information… As I would drive for dollars, I found that podcast that talked about the probate process. I put that in place, I was rocking and rolling with that. Then in the Tom Crowell group, Brent Daniels, who’s now — I’m about to call him Mr. TTP, but Mr. Talk to People, Brent Daniels, was very early on talking about his game-changing strategy where he’s just straight up cold-calling, not sending any direct mail. Because he was such a go-giver early on, I reached out to him and he gave me everything. He gave me scripts, the KPIs, the systems. I put that in place starting at the end of 2016. So we interviewed in September that year. By the end of that year, I started transitioning to cold-calling. So by early ’17 I was already off to the races. Cold calling before TTP was even a thing, before he even came out with the course, before everybody started using that cold-calling script, I started at that time.

I was still doing a lot of stuff myself. I was the acquisition manager, the marketing manager, of course with Nicole, my assistant… But that year, 2017, of changing my channel to mainly cold calling – we were still sending some probate letters – I got to about 200K in revenue that year in 2017. End of that year, I realized that I needed to get out of my own way and fire myself. Because at most, it was a good week if I sent ten offers to people that I had spoken to.

At the end of that year, that November, right around Thanksgiving, I went on to hire an acquisition manager to replace myself. So they only focused on making offers and following up. That next year, 2018, we did just shy of a million dollars in revenue. So in that business, I did just shy of a million, but I’d done a few other deals, so I grossed for the year a million, and we’re already tracking at 850k, 900k for the year… So we’ll definitely blast through that this year and continue to grow.

Joe Fairless: Congratulations on that. What are the things that changed once you stepped aside?

Brandon Barnes: Yeah, I’ll go back to the beginning. One of those first books was the E-myth. It was, “Stop working so much in your business and work on your business.” So by having somebody that was dedicated to making offers and following up, everybody gets an offer that I didn’t have to worry about doing all the follow-up, because I was horrible at it. I was going to closings, I was going to showings, I was going to meetups and networking. It was scary because you’re taking on an individual that their success is tied to your productivity and your business, and you have to pay them. and they’re a little bit more expensive than $5 an hour in the Philippines…

So once I made that jump, I was like, “Hey, I know that this isn’t working with me being the sole person doing all the following up and making offers”, once I just made that leap of faith that somebody else would be, even if they’re 80% of me, they’d probably be two to three to five times more productive than me. Once I just made that switch in my head, hired that person, jumped out there, it’s exactly what happened.

The great thing is, the first hire that I had – they’re not with us no more, but even that person, she was maybe 40% to 50% as effective as me in closing deals and analyzing deals, but she still was producing more than me because she was solely focused on making offers and following up.

Joe Fairless: Right, completely dedicated to it. So it certainly can be a scary thing to bring on someone, and now you are paying them, and there’s always uncertainty on “Am I going to get more deals? Am I just going to be paying a lot of money and then not getting any return?” So how did you structure the compensation and how much were they paid that first hire? We talked about the VA, but this other hire.

Brandon Barnes: For sure. So I started off $20 an hour, basically the same as the cold callers, and with the expectation that they work 30 hours a week. There was a point where we did a flat fee commission. Actually, there was a point where we did a percentage commission of deals. We got to the point– when I say ‘we’, I brought on a business partner when I started doing the cold calling early on. Once we started to see that our costs were always fluctuating each and every month, we actually made the decision to put them on salary at that point, and just pay a flat amount per month. I want to say it was $2,500 a month for the cold callers and $3,500 a month for the acquisition manager, and then we may pay them a spot bonus here and there… But we’re able to then understand exactly what our costs were each and every month and not be so up and down depending on how many deals got closed.

Honestly, there are certain people that want that percentage commission for deals closed, but there’s other people– and honestly, the majority of our folks like that stability and security, that “Each month I know that I’m making x amount of dollars to support my family.” So it’s actually a win-win for both of us to go to a flat fee based rate salary for each month, for each team member.

Joe Fairless: During the transition period of when you hired this first person who was focused on closing deals and analyzing deals, what were you doing during that period?

Brandon Barnes: Yeah, it was a fuzzy period. Honestly, it was so new… I think for most of that time, I was just making sure that everything around the deals got closed. So we had a sales manager at a point that was just talking to buyers. But there’s still an operation involved, because my acquisition manager was just getting deals under contract over the phone. The crazy thing is– crazier, is that my acquisition manager, who’s an absolute stud, lives in Mexico. He’s a former Marine US citizen expat living in Mexico, dialing in and following up and making offers here in Atlanta. And there’s still that process of needing to go to the properties, check out the property, get pictures, do a showing, make sure everything’s situated, going to closing with the closing attorney… Just making sure that the rest of the after going under contract happened and got closed. That was probably my primary focus at that time. Since then, I’ve had an opportunity to start to help others that are interested in real estate. I started a local meetup group, so now I’m really focused on building that and giving back to other people here in Atlanta with my monthly meetup group.

Joe Fairless: How do you determine what areas you should focus on now, that generate the best return on your time?

Brandon Barnes: The monthly meetup and everything that I’m doing with the coaching is still somewhat new. So for me, that’s my primary focus. But I’m only able to do that because I spent so much time upfront. Let me also add this in here… Early on, I spent a lot of time working with my acquisition manager, looking at the deals, helping him see the numbers as I saw them, helping him understand the areas, because of course, he’s not able to see it – he’s been here and visited a few times – but making sure that I’m pouring into him and empowering him to understand the bigger picture in the business… Even to the point where, today, for instance, we actually just brought on a new sales manager, and my acquisition manager is leading our team meetings. He’s making sure everything is getting lined up to go to closing; all those things that I was doing in that 2018 period, last year stuff… Working with him, helping him see it. Now he can do it in my absence and lead the team, make sure everything is going well, call out anything that I need to focus attention on.

So for me now, by having that meetup and networking with others, I’m actually understanding what’s working well in certain areas. I’m getting tips and tricks from peers and colleagues. We’ve had some great speakers to come out. Brian Daniels, of course, has come out; Jamil Damji is coming. Working with them, speaking to them and understanding how we can continue to be agile in our marketplace has actually brought a lot of value back to my core business, so that I’m making sure that we’re on the right track, we’re not getting stagnant, we’re not just using the same acquisition channels and outreach, and going after the same list, or the same automations. I’m spending time cultivating that community here, but it’s also helping me build my network and find out some other things that are working in other markets and how we can apply them in our business so we can continue to sustain and be ahead of the curve as things change in this ever-changing market.

Joe Fairless: When would be the best time to make that first hire? Not talking about the administrative assistant, but the acquisitions person? Because I imagine when you started out it wasn’t the right time to make the hire, because you were starting out of the company. But somewhere along the way, it did make sense. What is that point?

Brandon Barnes: That’s going to be tough to answer. On the whole, it’s somewhat going to depend on the person, what resources you have. But generally, I’d say if you’re at the point where you’re doing one to two deals each month or even every other month, you’ve kind of got the hang of it, and you can budget out three months… Here’s another piece – even if you’re not doing that many deals, but you could budget out paying how to teach them or you have a mentor that you can help train that new hire, and you can budget out three months to six months of pay for that person, that’s probably a good time.

Honestly, the soon as you could possibly do it — I wish I had done it at an earlier point in time. As soon as you could do it, I think it’s ideal. But even with that pay, I say that it’s tricky because if somebody really has a certain amount of resources, like I have all the knowledge and the skillset, but I don’t have the money, and I go out and network with somebody that potentially wants to work for some sweat equity and commission-only, maybe you can find that person even sooner without having the ability to pay them.

So it’s what resources you have, what type of talent you can find… But ideally, you will want to find an employee mindset person, not another entrepreneur; somebody that’s going to stay with you. And you’re going to want to try to budget out, I’d say, at least three to six months. Three on the low end if you have it really dialed in, because that person should start to produce enough to support their pay within that second, third or fourth month.

Joe Fairless: Will you elaborate on the employee mindset mentality versus entrepreneurial mindset mentality, and if that comes from personal experience with hires that did or didn’t work out?

Brandon Barnes: Oh, yeah. For sure. Everybody — not everybody, but once you get into that mode of hiring different people, you’ll start to see a trend. Honestly, one of those first acquisition managers that we brought on, one of the ladies was a personal trainer, and sold insurance on the side; a real hustler and real sharp, great communication skills. Managers knew that she was going to be great and was gonna be a rock star, and hungry… But she was so wrapped up in her vision and wanting to do her own thing that she was splitting time and attention and didn’t really get ingrained, and dialed into being an active member of our team, and it showed in the performance.

I’ve had an agent come on board as well. They were trying to look at different exit strategies, and wanted to wholesale everything. “I can list this, and I can do that, because I have so much experience.” So the people that have been with us the longest– I have a cold caller woman named Sharon from Louisville, Kentucky. She’s been with us for two and a half years. Cold-calling is gruesome work. You’re getting negativity thrown at you, hurled at you, day in, day out. But Sharon is old cool; she’s used to putting in her time, she loves consistency, she shows up to work every day. She’s the hardest-working woman that I know, and she just wants a steady paycheck, she wants stability. That’s the employee mindset that you’ve gotta go after, that will stay with you. So you get that great return on your investment, which is your time. The time that I poured into training her, it’s paid off in spades.

Joe Fairless: It’s something that a lot of people don’t talk about when they talk about looking for team members. I’m glad you did. I’m in the process of hiring for a couple of positions, and it’s something that I was waffling back and forth on, because there are a couple of candidates that were more entrepreneurial. I’m not going to go that direction, because they were a little too entrepreneurial, and it’s for the exact reasons why you mentioned it. Because I want people who will stick around for the long-term, versus learn something and then bounce in a short period of time.

Brandon Barnes: Right. Like you talked about, it’s that time. The time you put into training them – you can’t get that back. So you want that to last and pay you back for at least a year or two. At least, at a minimum.

Joe Fairless: How can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you’re doing and get in touch with you?

Brandon Barnes: Yeah, for sure. So I love to connect with people and interact with people via social, @IamBBarnes on Instagram. You can also search that on Facebook, and that’ll go to my business page… As well as my website is iambbarnes.com. I’d love to connect with anybody, especially if you’re in Atlanta, to come out to REI Live Atlanta monthly meetup.

Joe Fairless: Awesome, Brandon. Well, thanks a lot for being on the show, talking about how to step aside and allow others to grow your business and overseeing that process, putting people in position to be successful, having the right people in that place; making sure the two things you want to have before hiring – making sure you have the resources to do so and making sure that you can find the talent and find the right type of talent. So thanks for being on the show. I hope you have a best every day, and we’ll talk to you again soon.

Brandon Barnes: Awesome. Thanks, Joe.

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JF1971: How to Find Good Investments When Prices are High and Markets are Ultra-Competitive with Steve O’Brien

Steve O’Brien, co-founder and Chief Investment Officer of Arcan Capital, has been responsible for the acquisition of over 20 multifamily assets totaling over $300MM in the past five years. On this episode, Steve tells us four ways for how they stand out from the crowd and find deals in their competitive market. Listen to Steve’s Best Ever Advice to learn how you can get the edge and win deals in your market. 

Best Ever Tweet:

“If you can get your investor to accept a lower yield and a lower IRR that’s more in line with where your market is today, you’re going to be able to find yourself more competitive.” – Steve O’Brien, Arcan Capital

Steve O’Brien’s Real Estate Background:

 The Best Ever Conference is approaching quickly and you could earn your ticket for free.


Simply visit https://www.bec20.com/affiliates/ and sign up to be an affiliate to start earning 15% of every ticket you sell. 

Our fourth annual conference will be taking place February 20-22 in Keystone, CO. We’ll be covering the higher level topics that our audience has requested to hear.


Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless. This is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast where we only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, Steve O’Brien. How are you doing, Steve?

Steve O’Brien: I’m doing well.

Joe Fairless: Well, I’m glad to hear that. Best Ever listeners, in case you don’t recognize Steve’s name, well you can go to Episode 940, titled “Why VALUE-ADD Multifamily Properties ROCK!” and Episode 1048, titled “Focusing on Lenders to Make MORE MONEY!!” It’s a Skillset Sunday with Steve O’Brien.

Today we’re going to be talking about how to find good investments when prices are high and markets are ultra-competitive. I think most of us have experienced this challenge. That’s why we’re doing a special segment on Situation Saturday. So Steve has been responsible for the acquisition of over 20 multifamily assets totaling close to $200 million in the last five years. He’s placed nearly $100 million in financing. Like I mentioned, he’s been on the show a couple times before. So first, Steve, how about you give the Best Ever listeners a refresher on your background, and let’s roll right into how to find good investments when prices are high and markets are competitive.

Steve O’Brien: Thanks for having me again. I am the Chief Investment Officer and co-founder of Arcan capital. We’re based in the Atlanta area and focused on value-add, multifamily investing in the south-eastern United States. It’s funny as you read that intro, it’s been a busy few years because I think numbers are actually closer over $300 million and $200 million in financing now, and $300 million in total acquisition. So it’s been a nice run, as I think it has been for lots of people this cycle.

Joe Fairless: Nice, congratulations on that. So with that being said, you just mentioned, “Hey, bump me up another hundred million in each of those two categories.” So you are finding deals, but it is an ultra-competitive market. So how are you all finding deals? And then we’ll apply that to how everyone can try to find deals in a competitive market.

Steve O’Brien: Absolutely. So I think one of the things we’re doing as we prepare for the end of the cycle here – we’ve had the longest economic expansion in US history, and things are going really well. I think, by any measure, you’ve got really good data, and lots of money raised to buy not just apartments, but lots of deals. So there are a lot of ways that we try to separate ourselves from the crowd,  and one of them takes a long time and that’s reputation, particularly in a market where brokers and sellers – everybody talks, so everybody knows, as big of a market as it is, sometimes it feels like it’s really small. One of the best ways that we’re able to find deals now is by doing what we say we’re going to do, doing really good, thorough underwriting on the front-end. So when we say, “Hey, I’m going to buy this deal for $15 million,” we don’t come back and get into a re-trade battle, because sometimes those re-trade battles can leave a really sour taste in a seller’s mouth and a brokers mouth. Whether we like it or not, in our experience, the only way you win deals in a market where everybody’s healthy and is ultra competitive is by somebody picking you over someone that’s probably pretty close, either in price or in terms or some other way.

So we’re very focused on reputation and doing what we say we’re going to do. A lot of times that means you don’t win the deal because someone else has offered a really big number… But we find that a lot of times people will come back to us and say, “Hey, Steve, we had somebody say they’d pay x million for this and they re-traded by 250k. Are you guys still there at your number?” So sometimes, we’re the second place or third place buyer, but because they know we’ll perform– once a seller’s had a bad experience, a lot of times they’ll say, “You know what, I just want somebody to give me a good number that will actually close.” So we find that’s definitely a way to win some deals.

Joe Fairless: Let’s pretend that you no longer have your company and you have to start a new company, for whatever reason. How do you get ultra-competitive then? Because what I heard is, “Have a good reputation.” Your company has a good reputation, doing what you say you’re going to do. With a beginner, that won’t help them as much, or at all really, because they don’t have a reputation. So how would you go about getting deals in an ultra-competitive market when you don’t have that to rely upon?

Steve O’Brien: I think there are a ton of different ways that you can skin this cat, but reputation is great. But to your point, you’re starting from scratch or you’re in a new market, even. If we were to go to Kentucky, where we’ve never purchased anything, people would say, “Who are these guys?” So I think what you’re doing there and what we focused on is making sure your underwriting is great, and having enough data that you can push in other ways people haven’t figured out; maybe that’s having a really good contractor that can get you really good pricing, or really accurate pricing on the way in. If something needs a new roof or something needs new siding, and you can get a really accurate quote… Sometimes people overestimate what it’s going to cost. So as a part of your diligence, when you’re going around before you’re offering, they’ll give you pretty good access to the property. They’re probably not gonna let you do a full diligence process, but if you bring a contractor with you and have them really price out some items, maybe you figure out that the deal only costs $250,000 to do what you want to do, and somebody else’s penciling at half a million. That’s a great way to get aggressive.

I also think communicating with your investors is huge, because part of the reason, I think, things are so competitive right now, is people and investors have a certain expectation of return. So one of the things we’re doing a lot of right now is communicating with our investors on how the market is changing, because the reality is the returns today, even on a very similar deal that you feel great about, in our opinion, they’re just not as high as they used to be. If you can correctly convey that to your investor and get them to accept a lower yield and a lower IRR that’s more in line with where market is today, you’re going to be able to find yourself more competitive. When all the stats are good and everybody’s got money raised, the reality is people are going to squeeze returns. That doesn’t mean the deals are bad, it just means they may not pencil — if they were penciling out to a 20 IRR before, maybe it’s only a 15 right now. But if your investors understand the market and understand that in today’s market a 15 is a great return or a 12 is a great return, whatever it is, that could create some opportunities for you too, and let you get a little bit more aggressive in finding a deal. Historically, I think I’ve seen recently, average return on multifamily investing is around a 14%. So we’ve had a pretty good run here.

Joe Fairless: 14% what? IRR, or…?

Steve O’Brien: IRR, Internal Rate of Return. I think that’s a Real Capital Analytics number. So historically, there aren’t a lot of people who, if you get them a 10% IRR historically, with some cash flow along the way, are going to be angry. But because things have been so good up to this point, people will look at deals that have those type of metrics and say, “I don’t know, I don’t want to do that. That’s not quite as lucrative.” But you may be missing some really good deals if you do that.

Joe Fairless: I love both those points. Thank you for sharing both. We’re going to talk more in detail about each of them. Let’s go with the second one, because that’s what you talked about last, communicating with investors to level set the returns. Specifically, how do you go about communicating that?

Steve O’Brien: Well, I think it depends. We’ve traditionally been a syndicator. So on a deal by deal basis, we found a property and we then go raise the money for the property in a number of ways, whether that’s a group of our own investors that we get together, or a mix of our own investors and a large investment shop that may put a path to 90% of the total equity. Regardless, you’re having to sell people on a deal after you sell yourself on it. So we use newsletters, we do quarterly reports for every deal that we have, we send monthly reports out for every deal that we have. So it creates an open line of communication between you and your investors where you can give them some market data, and hopefully they’re reading the information. As you write your report, you can allude to certain factors that are going on in the market. You can allude to investors that, “Hey, we’re not getting the rent increases that we thought we were going to get,” or “Hey, we’re getting twice what we thought.” So that when you come back to them, you’re not getting a call from an investor saying, “How’s that deal doing?” They’re going to understand, and they’re going to have a better picture of what’s going on.

So we found that as we do that, and you pick up the phone and call them, which is another important thing to do –  it’s very old fashioned, but sometimes the best thing to do is to just make a list every quarter and say, “I’m going to call my 50, 20, 100 investors and just say “Hello.” Almost all the time, at least in our situation, they’ll ask, “Hey, how are things going? How’s the market?” and it’s a chance to update them. So we do that heavily through communication on a regular basis through newsletters, phone calls and reporting.

Joe Fairless: If I heard you correctly, you said you do newsletters, you do quarterly reports and monthly reports. Did I hear you correctly, first off?

Steve O’Brien: Yes, that’s right.

Joe Fairless: Okay. So what’s the difference between each of those three?

Steve O’Brien: So the newsletter is, I think, just more informational – “Here’s what we’re seeing.” In the newsletter we’re actually about to launch we wrote a couple articles on actually this topic, “How do you make money in a market that’s very competitive?” like this one, and bigger picture macro discussion about the economy and where we think the economy is headed. So that’s our newsletter; maybe we include some information about ourselves, a good story, but we try to keep people updated on the market and something that’s going to keep people interested. The quarterly reports and the monthly reports are–

Joe Fairless: Is that emailed out?

Steve O’Brien: It is. We do an email through a service that sends it out to people on our list.

Joe Fairless: What service do you use?

Steve O’Brien: We actually use Constant Contact, which I think is phenomenal. It’s actually one of the bigger ones.

Joe Fairless: How often do you do the newsletter?

Steve O’Brien: Really, we try to do it quarterly. But we really are focused on doing it when we have something to say. So sometimes it’s six times a year, maybe it’s four times a year. But we’re really going to be focused on getting that out to people on a routine basis when there’s something interesting. We want to stay in front of people, but we also want to have credibility so that when they’re opening their email, they don’t just immediately toss it aside because it says, “Hi, how are you? We’re having a barbecue. How’s your summer going?” We want to keep the information high quality in front of them.

Joe Fairless: I dislike it when people email me, “Hi, how are you?” and then they get to what they really wanted, because they don’t really care how I am. They just want to make the point or ask the question they really want to ask; which is totally fine, they should. But no need to get into social conventions on the “How are you?”, because if I actually think about it and respond thoughtfully, I tell them how I am, it doesn’t really matter.

Steve O’Brien: Yeah. Well, if you’re like me, you get so many emails that I wish I could take my email inbox, and just make everything only the stuff that I need to see. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get a random email that’s not very important that I want to read, but it’s hard to know of the hundreds of emails I get a day or however many I get a day, maybe 25 are really important and another 25 are stuff that I would really like to get to, and the rest it feels like it is clutter. So we try and stay out of the clutter and only send something when it’s meaningful.

Joe Fairless: Okay, so that’s the newsletter. It’s more keeping up on the market, macro level. What about the quarterly and monthly reports?

Steve O’Brien: The monthly reports are more of a traditional financial reporting structure that I think, in my opinion, everyone should provide. We will often include, depending on who is receiving it and what they want to see, rent roll, balance sheet, financials, bank reconciliations, different data that shows your client, “Hey, I’m watching this asset for you. We are paying attention.” We’re vertically integrated and a management company too, so we like to take every opportunity to remind our investors that when you invest with us, every nickel that you give us never leaves our sight, all the way down to paying the property manager and the maintenance team on site, we’re in control of your money and we’re watching. So that’s our monthly report. It is a straight financial report.

The quarterly report really gets in-depth and talks about the statistics, analyzing this quarter versus last quarter, returns and market details. Part of the reason we like that one, I think, is it gives you an opportunity to talk about how this deal is affected by the market, the returns, you’re getting, what you’re seeing and where you expect it to go. So that’s a great way to communicate with investors, especially when, in our opinion, the best way to raise more money in the future is by taking care of the people that you have. So for instance, for us right now, we’re in the middle of raising a fund, and because we communicate so much with our investors, and we share those quarterly reports, the investors that are already with us when we call them and say, “Hey, I’ve got something new for you”, they’re more up to speed on the market. So it’s not like you’re starting from scratch when we’re saying, “Hey, this is what we’re doing with our fund.” If they’ve read our quarterly reports, a lot of our investors will say, “Oh, that’s great. So you guys are making an adjustment based on what you’re seeing in the market. That’s smart.” And it actually helps you raise money.

Joe Fairless: Contractors and then to the first point, contractors who provide good and accurate pricing, sometimes people overestimate what it will cost. But if you have a good contractor, and to your example, 250k versus 500k, then you’ve got a 250k spread there. What are some specific things that you do due diligence on with contractors, that a good contractor could identify some cost savings that others are ballparking numbers?

Steve O’Brien: Sure. I think this actually moves in both directions, too. Sometimes, when we’re bringing on a contractor that we trust– I think windows are a great example of your question. Windows come in all different shapes and sizes and different manufacturers. If you get a really standard window size, and the requirements of the local municipality or county or city are very standard, you can find windows that are very inexpensive. But you find yourself in a coastal market where, like we just saw in southeast down here by Florida and Georgia, north of South Carolina, and a hurricane comes through, a lot of those municipalities have very heavy requirements for the type of windows you have. So when I say that it can work in both directions, sometimes your contractor can find you a great price.

Other times while you’re early in your process, if you know it needs new windows, or it needs a new roof, you can actually figure out what it’s really going to cost to do it, if you have a good contractor. Sometimes that can get you to the broker and the seller. And maybe they don’t realize the problem that they’ve got. You’re the first one to go back to them and say, “Hey, I know you guys think you could replace the windows on this for $200,000. But did you realize that it has to be shatter resistant and hurricane glass etc, etc?” Sometimes that can help you show that you’re more diligent and make the buyer feel more comfortable with you because they’re just waiting on someone else now to come up with that same information.

Buyers want to sell and they want a real price. Yeah, they want the max price. But there are plenty of horror stories, and I’ve been that seller too. The sellers want the highest price they can get, but they also want it to be real. You do 60 days of diligence in closing or whatever, and they come back and re-trade you because they didn’t do a good enough job on the front end. That’s painful as a seller to have to go start that process over again. So having a good contract, whether it’s giving you a really big number or a really small number, I think it can really help from a credibility standpoint. And credibility definitely helps you win deals.

Joe Fairless: Tell us a story of when that happened to you as a seller, the re-trade, and they weren’t informed enough.

Steve O’Brien: Yeah, I’ll give you a perfect example in a deal that didn’t sell. We’ve had a deal in the Atlanta area where someone approached and gave us a very big number, and said a lot of the things that buyers are saying right now that set up are red flags. “Oh, I’ve got a 1031. I know this area. I love this market, and this is what we’re thinking.” Then you go down over that–

Joe Fairless: That’s a red flag? “I got 1031 money; I know the market”?

Steve O’Brien: It can be if somebody is coming to you and saying those things. “Here’s what we’re thinking about your deal,” and you find out that they don’t have a deal in that neighborhood. I think brokers and some buyers right now know that those are buzzwords that attract people, so they get your attention early. In reality, maybe it is a 1031, maybe it’s not, but a lot of 1031 buyers are identifying three or more properties, or up to three, I believe. So sometimes they can drag you in when what they’re really trying to do is make sure they’ve got a place to put this money. That happened to us. So it just raises our hackles when somebody approaches us totally unsolicited, and offers you a really big number. That’s what happened in this instance.

So we started going down the road and as we started to offer to send them information, it started to fall apart on us, meaning, “Yeah, that looks good.” Then you start asking some specific information, and you realize they haven’t really underwritten the deal. So that could be for a number of reasons. It could have been because they weren’t serious, or could have been because they tried that shotgun approach, and they did that with 100 different properties, and that’s all they were trying to do was find three or four to buy. A lot of times we see that with 1031 – it’s great because people will have pressure to get a deal under contract and acquire it. But also 1031 money can be tough, because you’re gonna sell for a really big price. But they’ve identified another property, and they waste your time, figuring out, making sure that they put this money to work, and it turns out you were their third choice of the three that they identified.

So it’s definitely worth spending your time on, but I think the thing that we always say is like, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” So somebody shows up and is offering to pay you a lot more than you think something’s worth for some pressure reason that they have – we tend to be very wary of that situation.

Joe Fairless: Initially, were they non-refundable on any money?

Steve O’Brien: They were not. That’s, I think one of the keys as a seller right now, especially in a market where in a lot of instances you’re able to get non-refundable money going in. But again, we got to be careful because almost all the time when we’re negotiating nonrefundable initial earnest money, if you really dig in and spend the time negotiating, it takes you a couple weeks to negotiate all the rules there, and they’re getting a two-week free look in that timeframe. I’d say, we’ve gone back to and forth for up to a month, just negotiating the non-refundable earnest money, because in our experience, not all non-refundable earnest money is considered equal. There is a lot of outs. Whether it’s reasonable outs like environmental, or other outs– they’ll say it’s non-refundable, earnest money, then they’ll say if there’s any sort of misrepresentation like the rent roll’s not accurate, they consider that a misrepresentation. So it’s refundable at that point. So you’ve got to be very careful. I think people go around throwing around the word hard money right now, and it’s not all the same. It’s very dependent on what the agreement says.

Joe Fairless: Yes, very much. Anything else, as it relates to finding good investments in competitive markets that we haven’t talked about that we should before we wrap up?

Steve O’Brien: The only last thing that I’d leave your listeners with is the idea that if everybody is chasing something in particular, it could be a smart idea to look in a slightly different area. That’s what we’re starting to do now… Meaning, there is an enormous amount of money raised throughout the country, particularly in the southeast where we’re based, for opportunistic or value-add apartment investing. So if that’s what everybody’s looking for, there may be some other type of investment opportunities in multifamily or other types of products that are being missed. So we’ve been very thorough, and as I mentioned, we’re starting to turn a little bit and start looking where other people aren’t. Because cap rate compression is getting to the point where– I’ll give you a perfect example. We’ve recently seen a Class A deal in a market in the Southeast that was built in 2014, that it looks like was going to trade at a five and three quarters cap. Down the street from that property, another property that was in the same market, but 30 years older, was going to trade for a five cap. To me, I think time will tell, but that’s a big spread between high quality almost brand new product that you can acquire with really attractive debt these days, and a type of property where there may be a big upside, but you’ve actually got to execute the plan perfectly in order to get that five cap up to the six and a half or the seven.

So I think we’re starting to look in new areas for some mispricing or areas where 40 people are making offers on this one property… What about this other property here that only got two offers? What’s the story with that one? Is there any opportunity to buy something at a better deal just because it doesn’t fit the mold for most of the capital chasing deals right now?

Joe Fairless: How can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you’re doing?

Steve O’Brien: The website is the best place for us – www.arcancapital.com.

Joe Fairless: Three ways that we can be competitive or find good opportunities in an ultra competitive market… Well, you discussed four really. One is being focused on doing what you say you’re going to do, so have a good reputation. Two is having enough data so you can push in ways that other people haven’t figured out.  For example, having a good contractor. You gave some examples about that, and in particular the windows example. Three, communicating with your investors to level set with them the type of returns that are available at this point in time. Then four, going in a slightly different direction to — they call it the blue ocean strategy. The last thing I learned is the term “raises our hackles.” I had to google that. Thank you for sharing it with me a new term.

Steve O’Brien: Oh, good. That’s great.

Joe Fairless: “Make one very angry”, raise one’s hackles. Never heard that. So I really appreciate you sharing your advice, talking about your experiences and I’m looking forward to staying in touch. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you again soon.

Steve O’Brien: Great. Thanks for having me.

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JF1924: How Low Cost VA’s Can Help You Scale Your Business with Brad Stevens

Brad is the CEO of a company that helps entrepreneurs and real estate investors find and work with great virtual assistants. We’ll hear about where the VA’s are based, and why, what kind of roles they thrive in, and how to train them to work in your business best. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!


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“Everything in business is about ROI, it’s all about how you value your time” – Brad Stevens


Brad Stevens Real Estate Background:

  • Founder and CEO of Outsource Access
  • They provide Entrepreneurs and Commercial Real Estate Agents with highly trained, low cost virtual assistants
  • Based in Atlanta, GA
  • Say hi to him at https://outsourceaccess.com/
  • Best Ever Book: Fast Forward Mindset


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Our fourth annual conference will be taking place February 20-22 in Keystone, CO. We’ll be covering the higher level topics that our audience has requested to hear.


Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners. Welcome back to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I am your host today, Theo Hicks, and today we are speaking with Brad Stevens. Brad, how are you doing today?

Brad Stevens: Fantastic, Theo. Thanks so much for the opportunity to be here.

Theo Hicks: Oh, absolutely. I appreciate you stopping by. I’m looking forward to our conversation. Before we get into that conversation though, a little bit about Brad – he is the founder and CEO of Outsource Access, which is a company that provides entrepreneurs and commercial real estate agents with highly-trained, low-cost virtual assistants. He is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and you can say hi to him at OutsourceAccess.com.

Brad, before we get started, can you tell us a little bit more about your background and what you’re focused on now?

Brad Stevens: Sure. I’m originally from Atlanta, which is kind of rare these days. We have quite the melting pot and huge growth in the city here. I grew up in an entrepreneurial family, and I kind of knew that was the path I was gonna take after college… So after graduating I actually went to work [unintelligible [00:02:27].04] I came back to Atlanta. The last 20 years all I’ve done is build and grow companies in different industries. Some product-based business, service-based businesses… And as anybody knows, as an entrepreneur it’s quite the journey up and down along the way, but you learn a ton. Along that path I actually learned about this whole world we’ll be talking about today.

Growing my last company I had some challenges, and I had to figure out how to  get lean, make dollars stretch. Nowadays I heard about this whole world of outsourcing and VAs, and people that have read Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek back ten years ago… I just was intrigued by it, and it just absolutely changed the game once I really took all my perceptions and really learned what that world is, and who these people are, and the incredible competency and what they’re able to get done; super-quality, super low-cost… It just completely changed my life and my business.

So I launched Outsource Access, which we’ll talk about — it’s a whole company based in the Philippines, and why we chose that as a country, which is really unique… And now I get the chance to do speaking as well, under Brad Stevens training brand; I get to speak all over the world now. I’ve got about 30 speak engagements throughout the year… Just bringing this information to small business owners, entrepreneurs; Best Ever listeners, a lot of them out there I’m sure are in the same boat, of “How do you get more done with less in today’s world?” So now I live and breathe it, and speak, educate on it, and have a whole platform where we provide some of these resources as well. I absolutely love it, and it’ll be what I do through the end of my career.

Theo Hicks: There you go. So you mentioned that the virtual assistants that your company provides – you said they’re in the Philippines, and you said that you have a reason behind choosing that country. Why is that?

Brad Stevens: When I first started — and a lot of listeners maybe have heard of platforms like UpWork, and Fiverr… There’s over 300+ platforms out there where you can find people all over the world to do things, where the American dollar has a strength from a currency standpoint… I work with a lot of different countries for different types of things. For India, for example, I do a lot of website development and graphic design and stuff… But I’ve found that particularly in my world I used all these tactical freelancers out there, but I felt I needed a rock-solid right-hand person that I could afford… And most small businesses – the entrepreneurs can’t afford a full-time executive assistant or an admin to help in everything, from managing email, and travel, and scheduling, and then to take on and manage other tasks…

So I learned about the Philippines, and basically, relative to the rest of South-East Asia, it’s very Americanized. The U.S. kind of controlled it up until 1946-1947, and English is actually their second language; they have an American education system and they’re highly talented, very skilled individuals. I visited there back in April, visited 20 facilities. You walk down the streets of Manila and you feel like you’re right in the U.S. They have Starbucks, and steakhouses, and so forth. So it’s a very Americanized culture they get, so it’s very easy to work with in terms of culture and language and so forth… But the minimum wage there is still $1 to $1,5 per hour. That’s why for years many companies have had their call centers over there.

What we do – we’re able to pay and they’re able to make multiple, multiple times the minimum wage, and work from home, have flexibility. They’re very appreciative for work, they work super-fast, they learn super-quickly, and you don’t have the language barriers.

So we used that for our general VAs, to manage and do everything from scheduling and email and research and data scraping for leads, and social media management… I have one that lives in my LinkedIn account full-time, just kind of helping me grow and manage our LinkedIn account… But then they also manage all the other skilled stuff. You need a brochure done – you have your VA go and manage someone to go get a brochure done for you. Or you need a mobile app built – your VA will source and manage it, and manage the project. So they kind of become your quarterback project manager. We’ve found the Philippines is the best place for that particular role… And then we use other countries as well for other specialized skills.

Theo Hicks: That’s very interesting. I did not know how Americanized the Philippines was. I’ve definitely seen a lot of VAs out of that country, so that really makes sense to me now. So in my mind I’m kind of thinking through the process… So if I want to hire a VA, what are the steps I would go through. In my mind, the first step would be determining when would be the right time to hire a VA, and then actually find the VA, and then screen the VA. I kind of wanna walk through that process with you… So whether you’re talking to a client, or just from your perspective as a real estate investor, when do you think is the right time to bring on a VA? What point in their business should they be at, or what point in life should they be at, when it’s time for them and they go “Okay, I can actually hire a VA now”?

Brad Stevens: Well, everything in life is about ROI, both in business and your personal life… So I’ll speak to two points. One is “When is the right point for it?” It’s all about how much you value your time and what your time is worth, and what you’re able to do with your time, which is the highest and best use of your capability… And a lot of people struggle with finding clarity on that.

To give you one point of reference – with VAs, when we provide VAs, we charge $1,450/month. When you average — and we provide a whole bunch of back-end culture and support, and they have this thing in the Philippines called the 13th month, where they get a full additional pay in December, a whole other month’s worth, so you’ve gotta normalize that all out… But that’s kind of what the cost is for somebody working 40 hours a week for you, and doing a whole variety of things, everything from personal email management, follow-up, scheduling, research, and generating leads… Particularly from an investing standpoint, which we’re people in this field, it’s data scraping prospects; all the public records are out there, and if we’re doing wholesaling, VAs can go and aggregate all that information, and even do email outreach to hard money lenders, they can go into Facebook groups where all these different people live and exist, and go in and look for opportunities to engage… Managing your LinkedIn account and do a whole bunch of things there… There’s a whole laundry list of stuff, and I can share at the end kind of a short video training I got a chance to do actually for the Global Conference for Real Estate, SIOR Group…

But when you see all those different things and you look at $1,450/month for example is what our cost is, with commercial real estate — we work with a lot of commercial real estate agents… And if they close one additional deal, that can be worth $25,000-$30,000. So if I got back that amount on my time and I had a VA working for me 40 hours/week… And a lot of people think “Well, I don’t have 40 hours of work to begin with.” Well, you may not to start with, but you kind of grow into it very rapidly, is what we find with everybody. And if you got your time back so you could focus more on the relationship building, which for most people (in real estate investing or otherwise) it’s all about that personal connection, relationship building, and then just getting market intelligence.

If you could spend your time focusing on strategic direction relationship building, evaluating data versus actually doing a lot of that, what I call administrative operational clutter – I kind of call it death by paper cuts, which is not the best use… And we all know what it is when we wake up and do that stuff; we’re like “This is not worth my time…”

You get somebody that’s plugged in, that learns super-rapidly, and they take that off your plate. With commercial real estate, they close one additional deal. If you looked at a VA full-time for the entire year, that’s just under $18,000/year; if they close one additional deal, that more than double pays for a VA for the entire year.

So it’s about how you value your time and opportunity cost. When you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. So it’s looking at it through that lens, and how you value your time. And if you got X back, could you just get one more deal? Or how many deals do you need to close to pay for it? Everything should be in terms of ROI.

And on the personal… It blew my mind what VA’s could do on the business side, but then like in our house, we actually had a natural gas leak in our house, and we had to rip out all the drywall and repair all our gas lines… And it’s gonna take hours and hours of my time (or my wife’s) to go research vendors, and find people that could do drywall repair… So I literally just took a video of it. I went and took a video of it, and recorded “Hey, this is the problem.” I sent the video to my VA, she took it, and she went and posted on HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List and so forth, and went and found people, emailed back and forth to get quotes, and then teed up the candidates for me. It saved hours of my time.

My watch was broken. I took a picture of it, sent it to her, she took the picture, zoomed in, found a repair  place online, went and filled out all the paperwork, went in my UPS account, created a shipping label using a tool called Dashlane, which we’ll talk about how you can share your password without ever giving your password away to a VA… And had it all in my inbox the next morning.

So how you value your time is kind of when the decision point is of getting things off your plate. Most entrepreneurs and people continue to wear more and more hats, because they can’t afford a typical resource or what it would cost; this makes it affordable, and they can actually get things delegated.

In terms of the process, it’s all about vetting. What we’ve found, and myself – I have been doing this for ten years now – just like in the U.S, it’s the same thing internationally; there’s good quality work and quality folks, and there’s poor quality. So it’s about setting a very high bar. So kind of what we do, with Outsource Access, and the way we’ve evolved, and  just from learning about all the failure points, what I’ve seen people experience directly – I talk to thousands of businesses about this all the time – it’s about setting a really high bar, putting people through a rigorous assessment in terms of their intelligence, competence, emotional intelligence, grammar proficiency, their project management skills, giving them test tasks and seeing how well they do with vague instructions, and how well they ask questions, and can take vague instruction and finish a task… And then doing intensive interviews. We do like four intensive interviews with our team to make sure that they meet the criteria… And then we actually have them go through a whole bootcamp. So we make sure people are highly qualified and highly trained to be VAs. So I recommend whether it’s us or anybody you explore, make sure that they have a very good vetting process to really set a high bar.

I’ve found that having them a part of  a company, versus just being an individual working, we’re able to provide culture and support and education and training that’s really important. And I’ve found in the past, going just purely through job awards and finding somebody that’s working with these countries from home, remotely, long-term there tends to be some challenges sometimes.

And then it’s critical that these people know how to work with these resources. A lot of people fail with working with VAs or other people like this, because they get frustrated because they can’t get stuff out of their brain over to them. So we talk about tools like Screencast-O-Matic, and we talk about ways that you can easily get things out of your brain and quickly get it communicated to a VA to understand.

We actually make clients we work with go through a short 30-minute training that teaches them best practices on how to work with these resources, so they can do it effectively.

Theo Hicks: Yeah, perfect answer. You actually answered one of the questions I was gonna ask, which is “Why is it better to work with a company who places VA’s, versus finding one on your own?”, and you definitely hit the nail on the head on that.

The last follow-up question I have before we get to the money question, which is – you mentioned the things that you do upfront to vet them. Are you also vetting them on an ongoing basis, to make sure that they are continuing to perform, or is it just the upfront assessments, and bootcamp trainings and interviews, and then from there you just assume that they’re top-notch?

Brad Stevens: Oh, no. I mean, it’s just like for anybody that’s built a business or hired employees every in their life. You’ve got to provide the ongoing support. That’s a big part of what we do, and that’s why people are drawn to come work for our business, because we have a whole business in the Philippines. It’s a company with a whole management team and so forth, providing ongoing training.

A couple Saturdays ago all of our VA’s that work with clients of ours – I paid and had a high-end quality speaker that’s very sought out to come in and do a whole half-day workshop with all of our VA’s, just to take their training to the next level. We have tons of training that we do ongoing… And part of it with it is something that we do differently – instead of having a VA, or everybody has had an assistant that was kind of twiddling their thumbs about “What do I do next?”, we’re there to constantly be an execution ninja for you and bring ideas to the table and things that we can do to help you based on what you’re trying to do in your specific business.

So it’s all about the culture, the training, the back-end support… Because that’s what I’ve found – you get people engaged [unintelligible [00:13:26].12] And people are concerned about safety, and privacy, and all of that, and that’s all kind of addressed in terms of how you work with these people in a secure environment. You use tools like Dashlane and LastPass to share access without ever giving your password away, and making sure they’re feeling engaged… It’s just like culture, just like in the U.S. We actually have a whole Virtual Assistant Gives Back program, where — our VA’s are making good money, so we actually fund and pay for shoes and educational supplies for children in these lower-end villages there, and our VA’s volunteer their time to go deliver those supplies that we purchase.

So it’s just like in the U.S, we’re trying to build culture. Every big leadership book talks about culture, culture, culture; it will kill everything else if you focus on that first, so we’re big on that on the back-end also.

Theo Hicks: Alright, Brad, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Brad Stevens: Obviously, as far as from my angle specifically, on what we do and in working with people in a space, everything from people that are in residential, or in wholesale, or commercial, it’s just protect your time, and value your time. Think about everything in terms of opportunity cost, because that’s where a lot of people get caught in this constant “paddle, paddle, paddle”, keeping their head above water, and aren’t able to scale and do things on a larger level. It impacts ultimately their family relationships, their firm relationships, their health, because they’re working non-stop, trying to keep their head above water, and aren’t able to ever make it to the gym…

So it’s just really people sitting back and valuing their time, and thinking about everything in terms of opportunity cost. What am I giving up when I don’t make my kid’s next baseball game? What am I giving up when I’m sitting here until 2 AM, trying to copy and paste from a Google Sheet for the next set of prospect opportunities… And value what you could get when you get that time back and do it on “What is the highest and best use?” I call it kind of “highest return on time” for what you are most suited for… And just thinking of everything through that lens, and then seek out opportunities to capture that back as quickly as possible.

Theo Hicks: Alright. Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Brad Stevens: Let’s do it!

Theo Hicks: Alright. First, a quick word from our sponsor.

Break: [00:15:30].28] to [00:16:28].15]

Theo Hicks: Alright, Brad, what is the best ever book you’ve recently read?

Brad Stevens: I’m actually just wrapping up one called Fast-Forward Mindset. It’s by a guy named David Schnurman, that was the president for Entrepreneurs Organization for New York; it’s an organization I’m actually a part of… Fantastic book; audio it’s three hours, it’s not like nine hours, like some of these are. It’s high-impact, great experience in growing and building this business. It’s been a good one.

Theo Hicks: If your business were to collapse today, what would you do next?

Brad Stevens: As far as that question – being in a different industry?

Theo Hicks: You can take it any way you want.

Brad Stevens: That’s the cool thing that I always share about having this mental inventory about what I know and how you can leverage these resources, and how quick and fast, and high-quality, and low-cost… I can literally launch a business in two weeks, with less than $500, in pretty much many, many different industries. But if I were to shift gears from an industry standpoint, probably in education. My wife is a third-grade teacher for 13 years, and I just see a huge need. I have an almost three-year-old myself now, there’s a lot that needs to be fixed and addressed in education… So probably something in that arena, and leverage some of our resources to help there.

Theo Hicks: Yeah, I have a four-and-a-half month old, and it definitely changes your perspective on things, that’s for sure, once you have kids. What is the worst deal you’ve done? This could be a real estate deal, or it could be a business you started.

Brad Stevens: In terms of just a crisis experience I had – I kind of shared a part of what kind of got me to learning how to do all this stuff; as I was referencing, in my last business we were in the teeth whitening space, and we had sold I think close to 50k units of one of these teeth whitening products that we were selling all over the U.S, that you could brush on your teeth to whiten your teeth. We sold it to dental offices, and spas, and medical spas… And our next order of units, one of the manufacturers changed one of the components in it, and it caused it to react with the teeth whitening gel in these teeth whitening pens.

We had about 10k units that we shipped all over the country, that started exploding in people’s purses, and on shelves… And we had just had great success and sent it to all the major editors of all the major publications, and this teeth whitening pen started exploding and oozing out. So I had a disaster on my hands nationwide and globally actually, and that’s what forced me to get lean. You never know what life is gonna give you on these crises, but it’s what taught me how to learn how to do all this stuff, so that it’s my life’s work now.

Theo Hicks: And then lastly, what is the best ever place to reach you? I guess you can plug the course you were talking about earlier here if you want as well.

Brad Stevens: Two things. For anybody out there that has conferences – I love speaking at conferences and events, and so forth. For that you can go to bradsteventraining.com, and that shows my speaker background and so on. I love sharing this message, and case study-driven for audiences…

And if anybody is looking for learning more about this whole outsourcing and virtual assistant world, outsourceaccess.com is our website. If you wanna just send an email, you can put “Best Ever” in the subject line to an email that we created: best@outsourceaccess.com. You don’t have to write anything in it, just send the email and put “Best Ever” in the subject line. We’ll get it, and I’ve got some VAs as you can imagine to manage that, and I will send you a link to the exact presentation that I did for the SIOR Conference, the top commercial real estate conference in DC, back in April this year, where I walk through and show step-by-step examples and case studies of a lot of things that I alluded to here… And I’ll give you a whole link of all kinds of other books and resources that we recommend around it. So it’s best@outsourceaccess.com, shoot us an email and we’ll send that link to you.

Theo Hicks: Yeah, thank you for offering that to the listeners. I really enjoyed the conversation. I learned a lot about the process for – essentially the ultimate blueprint when it comes to VAs. Just to summarize what we’ve talked about so far – we’ve talked about why the Philippines is one of the best countries for VAs, and it’s because it was basically America; it was very Americanized, English is the second language, they’re very easy to work with as a result, and the American dollar goes really far in the Philippines.

Then we went through the actual process of hiring the VA, so in order to determine when is the best time to bring on a VA, it comes down to ROI and how you value your time… And you gave a really specific example, which is “Alright, so it’s gonna cost you about $1,400/month to hire a VA… How much money will you be able to make by focusing your time elsewhere?” So if you’re a broker, if you close on one extra deal per year, then the cost of the VA essentially pays for itself, just because you can spend more time on the important aspects of the business, which are relationship building, strategy, and then evaluating data, as opposed to pulling data.

And then it can also help you with things in your personal life as well, so it’s not just the business, the return on time, but also the personal return on time, and you gave the example of the natural gas leak; you sent the picture to your VA, and they took care of everything for you and saved you hours and hours of time.

When you’re ready to hire a VA, how you find them – it’s all about vetting. Your company sets very high expectations and a high bar for people that you hire. You mentioned that your interview process is — you do emotional intelligence, grammar tests, you put them through an intensive interview process (four interviews), and then from there you put them through a bootcamp training to make sure you’re setting them up for success.

Then you also mentioned that the people that are hiring VA’s need to know how to work with VA’s, and how to get all the information in their head to a VA’s head, so that they understand what you need them to do. Then you also mentioned that it doesn’t stop there; you also do ongoing support, so you offer ongoing trainings and workshops and just bring them ideas on how to help them stay busy.

Then we also mentioned why does it make sense for an investor to use a company who places VA’s, as opposed to finding one themselves, and it has to do with all the things you put them through before you hire them… So people that are hiring a VA through your company or a similar company knows the vetting process they’ve gone through. Again, opportunity cost – do you wanna spend your time hiring a VA, or would you rather have someone that hires them for you? Then we also talked about the importance of culture.

And then lastly, the best ever advice comes down to thinking about everything in terms of opportunity costs, and that’s essentially why you wanna hire a VA in the first place. So again, I really enjoyed the conversation, Brad. Very informative.

Best Ever listeners, thanks for stopping by, and make sure you take advantage of the offer Brad mentioned. His email will be in the show notes of this episode. Again, thanks for listening. Have a Best Ever day, and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.

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Joe Fairless and Adam Capes podcast episode JF1657

JF1657: Using Real Estate To Raise Money For Non-Profits #SkillSetSunday with Adam Capes

Adam is here to talk fundraising with us today. Not necessarily fundraising to purchase real estate, but rather for non profit organizations. Adam and his company use real estate to raise the money for different charities. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!


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Adam Capes Real Estate Background:

  • Co-founder and president of Getaway2Give, a company changing the way non-profits raise money
  • Their mission is to be the best in the country at helping charities and schools raise money, they’ve helped raise over $10M so far.
  • Based in Atlanta, GA
  • Say hi to him at https://www.getaway2give.net/


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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. With us today, Adam Capes. How are you doing, Adam?

Adam Capes: Doing great. How are you, Joe?

Joe Fairless: I am doing great as well, and looking forward to interviewing and having you on the show. A little bit about Adam – he’s the co-founder and president of Getaway2Give, which is a company changing the way non-profits raise money. Their mission is to be the best in the country at helping charities and schools raise money, and so far they’ve helped raise over 10 million dollars. They’ve got a real estate slant to their business, and we’re gonna talk about that. Based in Atlanta, Georgia. With that being said, Adam, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?

Adam Capes: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks, Joe. Our company, Getaway2Give – as you said, our mission is to be the best in the country at helping charities and schools raise money. We do that by putting together packages of vacations; we currently lease about 35 residences in 25 destinations, mostly in North America. We do have property in London, in Costa Rica, and some other experiences in places like Africa and Asia. But most of them are private two to five-bedroom residences,  that we do long-term leases on… Typically two-year leases, with the ability to renew those; we typically have renewed leases. We’ve been around about seven years, and we have some properties that we’ve been leasing for that long.

We’ve put together these packages that charities will put in their live auctions, typically. It might be a fortnight beach vacation in one of our two-bedroom oceanfront beach properties, and there’s a reserve on it, and the charity gets everything over and above the reserve, which is how we’ve been able to raise over ten million dollars for organizations. But as you said, we do it using real estate, and specifically vacation residences. The vast majority of those are owned by individuals that we have found that we lease the properties from. They love it, because they don’t have to worry about managing the home; they can still have some personal usage, and we work with them on that on a case-by-case basis… And they get a check every month. It’s totally turnkey, and they usually make as much or more than they would make if they rented it out. And as I said, we take great care of the properties. So that’s kind of the business model and how we help real estate investors, specifically in resort and vacation destinations, both make a wise investment, get a good return, and help make a big difference for lots of organizations, as we’ve raised over ten million dollars for charities since we started.

Joe Fairless: Wow. Was it your idea?

Adam Capes: Yeah, it was.

Joe Fairless: How did you come up with this?

Adam Capes: I joined a destination club back in 2003. A little over 15 years ago my wife and I, at the time, our daughter – we’ve since had a son – but we joined this destination club, which is kind of like a private country club, but instead of everybody having rights to go play golf or tennis and socialize, it’s rights to stay in vacation homes around the world. So I joined one of these destination clubs, and it was great from an experience standpoint; we traveled all over, didn’t have to worry about any issues of home ownership. It was a great alternative to home ownership, but it was mismanaged and the company went bankrupt… So I decided to start one that was built on a little more sound financial model, where we had very strict limits on the amount of debt we could take on.

So we did a luxury residence fund that’s still around today called Equity Estates. A few years ago – I guess seven years ago, in 2012 – the fund was fully subscribed, and I decided that I wanted to do something that didn’t cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and have a private placement memorandum, a 120-page legal document that you had to go through, and just something that was much more affordable, that pretty much everybody could partake in, and have better vacations, save money and make a difference in the world by helping charities.

Joe Fairless: What is a greater challenge for your organization – getting landlords on board, or getting non-profits to participate? Or something else, that I didn’t mention.

Adam Capes: That’s interesting – the supply side or the demand side, and we’re scaling very quickly. We have a national sales force now of about ten people around the country that work with charities and schools, and I think I would say they can both be challenging. We have different challenges. On the demand side, with the charities, I think the challenge is this is very new for most of them. They are used to a model of just getting donated items for their auctions and trying to make 100% of what often times is a small amount of money… And what we are trying to show them is that it’s more of a capitalist business idea, that the non-profit sector is not always as open to.

Our properties and our packages are always no-risk. If it doesn’t sell for the reserve, nothing happens. The charity can’t lose. But getting them to understand that — you know, Dan Pallotta I think makes a great point in his TED talk, which is focused on non-profits, and he’s also got a couple great books on this topic. But he says “Would you rather have 100% of a $70 bake sale, or 70% of a $70,000 fundraiser?” Because a lot of the charities are so focused on what percentage is going to their cause, and not on the real dollars that are going to the cause. So that’s the challenge that we have on the demand side.

On the supply side, we kind of add destinations and residences as we need them, and I think it’s been getting easier for us, because we have over 400 members around the country that travel with us. We’ve gotten more people, even friends of members, that say “Hey, I wanna buy a place at this same resort in Costa Rica. If we buy it, will you lease it from us?” and we actually just did that. That is a real example. But we’re doing that in other destinations as well.

I think the supply side is getting a little bit easier. The challenge there is there’s a million non-profits on the demand side. There’s 1.5 million non-profits in the U.S. The supply side – there’s tons of vacation homes, but finding the right ones and having conversations with those homeowners is not always easy. So it could be that some of your listeners are interested in buying a vacation home for investment purposes, and using it, and we might be able to help them make that a live investment by leasing it from them for a period of time.

Joe Fairless: It seems like that would be pretty time-intensive for your side, when you’re talking to all these landlords and coordinating schedules, and blocking off, and then whenever someone gets there for a week, then you have to clean it up… What’s that like?

Adam Capes: Great question. We take over the property — so if a homeowner just bought a place in San Diego (true story) and they wanna go for a couple weeks a year, not a problem. They can book those out in advance, or whenever they know what dates they have, we build that into the lease. And then we manage the calendar. So we don’t go to them every time someone wants to come; we have a two-year lease (typical) and we manage the calendar, and our charity trip winners and our members stay there, and we have a destination manager on the ground that acts as a concierge and helps them with their stay, shows them around. They’re kind of a  property manager for us as well. They’re our eyes and ears, as well as the homeowner’s, to make sure that the property is being taken care of. Then we have housekeeping that comes in and cleans it up between stays, and makes it ready to go for the next guests. We do that all the time, 365 days a year.

Joe Fairless: Have you ever defaulted on a lease with an owner?

Adam Capes: Nope.

Joe Fairless: How do you commit to a two-year lease if you don’t have charities lined up to pay for that lease for the next two years?

Adam Capes: We know just based on surveying our members and talking with charities, we know what the demand-side wants, and there is so much demand that it hasn’t been a challenge for us. We’re not perfect; occasionally we will make a mistake and pick a property, a specific residence or a destination that is not as big of a home run as we thought…

Joe Fairless: Like what?

Adam Capes: We had one home where it was very vertical, a lot of stairs… A big house, but just a lot of stairs, and there was construction going on in the area that was kind of problematic, and just some issues with the house… So we waited until the lease was up and decided to move somewhere else in that same region, but to a different property.

Joe Fairless: So vacation homes and stairs – not a good match.

Adam Capes: Yeah, typically you don’t wanna have four floors. That’s a lot. I think the bigger issue, honestly, is vacation homes and loud construction next door, or in the general vicinity, where it could be bothersome, is not a good match. And that’s something we’ve gotta be cognizant about, especially in resort destinations that are growing and popular and expanding – there’s always construction going on, so we really try and make sure that we don’t have a property that is gonna affect the quality of the stay.

Joe Fairless: How do you screen for that?

Adam Capes: I’ll give an example – I was just in New York City; we have a property there. They’re building a huge building right near there – it’s a major corporation tower – but you can’t year it. So in places like major cities – really not a problem. And if there’s a ton of construction going on, like right next to the unit, we won’t lease it. We’d rather be somewhere where it’s not gonna be an issue. But that’s usually not a problem; that just happened to be the case with this one residence in the example, where we had to make a change.

Joe Fairless: What’s been the most desirable property?

Adam Capes: That’s a good question. I would say for the past year, in 2018, Costa Rica was up there. We have five residences there, so as a destination – hugely popular. There’s really no bad month to go to Costa Rica. You don’t have hurricanes, really, in Guanacaste, on the Pacific side. You have the rainy season, but it’s really great year-round, and eco-tourism is amazing, the temperature is great… So I think that makes Costa Rica — and also the people, and the beaches… It’s voted one of the top two or three happiest countries, best countries to live in every year, so… I’m a big fan of Costa Rica, and our charity trip winners and members are, as well.

Joe Fairless: What’s a success story that a charity has told you when they’ve auctioned off one of your trips? I’m specifically wondering really how much money has a charity raised on one package, that would be something that’s eye-opening?

Adam Capes: Sure. Do you wanna know what our record is?

Joe Fairless: That’s what I want. You’ve phrased it so much more succinctly than me. Yes, I wanna know the record.

Adam Capes: Our record is $118,000 in under three minutes.

Joe Fairless: $118,000… And what were they bidding on?

Adam Capes: We had four individuals or groups all purchase our private island in Belize, and they paid $40,000 each for it.

Joe Fairless: So those four groups went in together and purchased one private island in Belize?

Adam Capes: No, no. Each of those four groups or individuals bought a five-day/four-night stay on a private island in Belize, for ten people.

Joe Fairless: Alright, that makes more sense. [laughs] “Where is this private island for $40,000…?” Okay…

Adam Capes: They each paid $40,000 for four nights… Which, actually the charity is getting the bulk of that money, so they’ve raised a ton of money. There were some other packages that sold as well, but that was most of it, and they netted $118,000.

Joe Fairless: They netted that. That’s how much was the money that they raised for their own charity. Okay.

Adam Capes: Yup.

Joe Fairless: What was the reserve on that for you?

Adam Capes: I think the reserve at that time was just under $20,000. And that’s kind of typical. We usually sell most of our packages for about two times the reserves. Sometimes it’ll be 50% more, sometimes it’ll be three or four or five times the reserves. We’ve sold trips that have a reserve of $2,750 for $15,000 before.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, that’s interesting. Well, anything else as we wrap this up, anything else that you think we should talk about as it relates to your business tying into real estate, non-profits, that you think the Best Ever listeners should know?

Adam Capes: Well, I’m sure you’ve got a lot of amazing real estate investors that listen to your podcast, and they’re making plenty of money (hopefully) on their investments, and that’s great; I would say what’s more important is what do you do with that money? I’m obviously passionate about travel and vacationing and seeing the world, and creating those memories, and about contributions and giving back and helping make a difference to causes that you care about… So I would just challenge your listeners to think about “The better I do and the more money I make from my real estate investments, how am I putting that to use to make  a difference in my life, in the life of those that I care most about, and the causes that I care most about?”

Joe Fairless: Yup, I concur. Well, Adam, thank you for being on the show. Best Ever listeners, I should have mentioned this at the very beginning – I hope you’re having a Best Ever weekend. This is a Skillset Sunday episode, and we are clearly talking about the specific skill of incorporating a philanthropic component to our real estate investing. I find it very interesting your business model and how you’re structuring this with non-profits, and how you’re being the match-maker… And the idea that you came up with, and the challenges that you are overcoming while having launched this company.

Thanks again for being on the show, Adam. I hope you have a best ever weekend, and we’ll talk to you soon.

Adam Capes: Sounds great, Joe. Thanks so much.

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Joe Fairless and Shane Connor podcast episode JF1581

JF1581: Necessary Sacrifices & How To Successfully Operate 4 Strategies At Once with Shane Connor

Shane has multiple successful strategies he uses in his real estate investing career. Hear the sacrifices he made to grow his business to where it is today, and how he is able to divide his focus across multiple strategies and businesses. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!

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Shane Connor Real Estate Background:

  • Leader of Red Rock Capital, a private investing group providing access to opportunities in MF/Senior Living/ Storage and MHP
  • He’s also a part owner with ACM Senior Living
  • Based in Atlanta, GA
  • Say hi to him at https://www.redrockcapitalgroup.com/
  • Best Ever Book: 168 Hours

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Theo Hicks: Hi, Best Ever listeners, and welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m your host today, Theo Hicks, as Joe is traveling to Texas to look at a few apartment deals. Today I’m speaking with Shane Connor. Shane, how are you doing today?

Shane Connor: I’m fantastic, Theo. How are you?

Theo Hicks: I’m doing fantastic as well. A little bit about Shane’s background before we dive in – he is the leader of Red Rock Capital, a private investing group providing access to opportunities in multifamily, senior living, storage and mobile home parks. He’s also a part owner with ACM Senior Living. He also mentioned to me that he is a limited partner in one of Joe’s deals. He is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and you can say hi to him at redrockcapitalgroup.com.

Before we get started, can you tell us a little bit more about your background and you’re focused on now?

Shane Connor: Absolutely, and thank you everybody for sharing some of your time with me. As you mentioned, my real estate background would be LP and GP investor with ownership in over 1,000 units in multifamily, as well as investments in storage, mobile home parks and senior living buildings. Also, I’m still in the full-time corporate world, staffing and recruiting business in the healthcare practice; I’ve been doing that for about eight years. And lastly, yes, I’m now a 10% owner in a senior living operations company, which synergistically ties into being able to offer investments to private investors in that area.

Theo Hicks: Awesome. So how are you able to balance having that full-time job, working 40+ hours a week, as well as growing your real estate business?

Shane Connor: Yeah, definitely a challenge. I think my wife would like if I was free a little bit more. It’s all about having focus and planning, being okay with very early mornings, late nights… This morning I was up pretty early, working in the gym, then spent about an hour on investing before being at my desk at my corporate job by [7:45]. Then tonight before I go to bed I’ll have a plethora of things that I need to be doing to move the business forward.

So it’s definitely having balance, planning, and just knowing that you’re working for something that’s really good for you and that you really care about.

Theo Hicks: Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about your investment. It sounds like you’re investing in a lot of different assets… What’s the breakdown of that? What’s your main focus? Or are you diversified a quarter each of those four?

Shane Connor: Yeah, in some private investing circles you’ll hear something like “three out of four dollars still goes to multifamily”, and that definitely runs true in terms of my business and my investing as well. Most of the transactions happening are in the multifamily space; it’s also just more comfortable for raising capital and talking to passive investors. They understand apartments more. They have all lived in them at some point in time. Storage and mobile home parks are kind of being second to that… Senior living being kind of brand new, but I expect that to grow a lot coming into 2019. It’s a space I really know and understand well, because as I mentioned, I’ve been in the healthcare recruiting and workforce business for about eight years, I have a masters in healthcare administration… So I’m kind of excited to be able to bring my investing and finance background and then my healthcare operations background to really educate investors that may not understand that space as well. It’s a very, very lucrative industry, and as we all know, baby boomers – 10,000 people hitting Medicare every day. That is going to be a very, very busy space. With Medicare reimbursements you’re looking at upwards of $350/day on a typical skilled nursing facility (SNF), as opposed to monthly rents. So it can be extremely lucrative investing.

Theo Hicks: So your main focus is multifamily – let’s talk a little bit about that. You raise money and then you invest yourself?

Shane Connor: Correct. I started – as you had mentioned earlier in the call – my first ride was where I was actually  being an LP investor on one of Joe’s deals a few years back out in Dallas, and that kind of opened my eyes to what was possible, and that this whole world even existed. I continued to do LP investing over the next year to two years, and then over the last year, year and a half I was able to form some partnerships, where now I raise capital for a couple different operators, Joe being one of them; we do some deals there, and  that’s kind of really grown.

My investing is focused a lot on raising capital, but still investing alongside my investors when I can, in deals that make sense.

Theo Hicks: A very common theme for people that wanna become multifamily syndicators, or just wanna be involved in the business in some form, which includes raising money, a piece of advice that is often given is for them to invest in a deal first, as a passive investor, and then move on to some other aspect of the business yourself… So what types of things did you learn, or how did being an LP in a deal first help you raise capital?

Shane Connor: Well, you don’t know what you don’t know, and going through the process as an LP, from soup to nuts – and I was as green as they got when I was first learning about the syndication opportunity that I ended  up investing in… So going through the process, soup to nuts, from that initial conversation, “What is this? How does it work?”, all the way through closing, first distribution, monthly updates – you’re gonna get exposed to the entire process front to back, so that on the next deal, or if you do two LP’s and then you decide to raise, you are going to be able to speak that process to somebody else who’s completely green, much more than you’d be able to if somebody just tried to give you a crash course. You have to actually know what it’s like to be in that brain of somebody who’s mind-blown and has no idea how this would even work, how a bunch of people together would buy an apartment building.

I wasn’t even a finance major, I just kind of had this notion that Wall Street or big banks must own every apartment building. I had no idea that it could be a collection of GPs and lots of LP investors coming together. So until you sit on that side of the fence, it’s gonna be hard to try to do that and confidently raise money from somebody if you have never been in their shoes before.

Theo Hicks: Okay. And you mentioned that you go through the process and then you’re able to communicate that process to others, so that’s obviously one tip for how to raise money… For someone who’s just starting out, they’re educated, maybe they’ve been an LP on a deal before, or maybe they bought a smaller apartment themselves and now they’re moving into raising money, but they’ve never done it before – what are  a couple of things that you could advise for someone in that situation?

Shane Connor: I’d say definitely talk to more people than you initially think. If you think “I’ve got  a good network of 50 people”, you should plan on trying to talk to 100-150… Because you may get this space and you might be comfortable and know that this is a good deal, but not everybody’s brain is wired into real estate like all of us listening on this podcast might be. So that would be one – definitely don’t underestimate the amount of people you’re gonna have to try to talk to.

Two would be you’ve gotta get around more successful people than you, people that have more liquid capital than maybe is in your immediate network, because friends and family are great to start, but most of these deals we’re talking about, $50,000 minimum is a small amount of money. So try to think outside of your immediate networks to other groups and places that have business owners, executives, things like that that you can get yourself around and start marketing yourself as an expert in this area.

Theo Hicks: Once you surround yourself with those people, you go to meetups, maybe different business groups, events in the area… I know volunteering is another good one, because a lot of high net worth individuals are at the charities… How do you approach that conversation with them? Do you just walk up to them and say “Hey, wanna give me money to invest in a deal?” Obviously you don’t do that, so…

Shane Connor: Definitely not, and that’s why time and relationships are pretty crucial here, because it may be that you meet somebody there at that charity event, or at a cocktail hour at a executives business event, and over a casual conversation you’ll drop in that “Yeah, I’m part of a private investing group. We acquire apartments, reposition them, add value, force appreciation, earn some profits when we sell…”, and that might be it. You might gauge their facial reactions, look for silent queues, or do they pique up, do they look like you’re crazy… And then just keep those mental notes and you’re gonna follow up with those people. You might be looking at somebody that’s six months or a year until they actually are interested in investing.

So you’ve gotta develop deep relationships, not transactions, and you cannot sell; I’m a corporate salesman, I sold to Fortune 500 across the country… This is not selling. You never wanna force somebody into a deal; you wanna educate, and then let them come. You’re gonna give them all the reasons why they should – or you think they should – but you are not trying to sell or pressure these people at all, and that’ll come across pretty easily to somebody, especially high net worth or an executive; they’re gonna sniff that out.

Theo Hicks: How much money has your biggest investor invested so far?

Shane Connor: I think $150,000. Sometimes people use the term “singles” or “doubles”. A lot of 50k increments, a couple 25k, some 100k… Even most of the deals that I’ve been a part of across the board, I feel like the average comes in around 100k. Even sometimes the max will say 200k or 250k per investor on the PPM. For me it’s been mostly between 50k and 100k, and I’m 31, so I’ve got a fair network, but by no means do I know 50 people off the top of my head who are high, high net worth. A lot more kind of 25k, 50k, 75k.

Theo Hicks: Okay, so for that person that invested that 150k-200k, where did you find them? Can you tell us about how you found them, what you said to them, how long did it take them to invest…?

Shane Connor: That’s actually coming from some of my corporate business over the years. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with, do business with different clients and vendors, so that was actually somebody that I had known from just years of my healthcare business, who happens to be a business owner. He’s pretty liquid, he does a lot of different investing, so kind of already got this space and had a lot of liquid capital. That’s just kind of a fortunate side effect of being in sales for over eight years… You actively build a rolodex across the country of just a variety of different people.

Theo Hicks: How does that work — because obviously you know them through work… Is it perfectly okay to approach your work colleagues that you work with, or you meet through work? Are you ever hesitant to do that, because you don’t wanna mix your full-time job with your real estate business?

Shane Connor: Absolutely, that’s why it’s not gonna be something that you’re blasting out or just actively advertising when you’re in a middle of a meeting. And we all know those people that over the years — they might be a client, they might be a vendor, but you’ve gotten pretty friendly with them, and you might talk other times about other things, and this is one of those good opportunities. So by no means is this something that I would advise approaching at the end of a business conversation in normal practice, but I know for me personally I’ve got many people that have become friends from doing business with them through my corporate job, over a seven-year period. So that’s certainly something that’s feasible.

Theo Hicks: As it relates to either raising money for deals, or being a passive investor in deals, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Shane Connor: I would say just get in the game and build relationships, not transactions. Get in the game, like we mentioned – do an LP investment. Just start small. If you don’t have the capital to meet some of these larger opportunities at 25k or 50k, get on CrowdStreet or on one of the platforms where you can get in for much lower, and just at least try to soak up everything you can… But you’re never gonna win on the sidelines. Eventually, you can analyze all you want, but you’ve gotta pull the trigger when you know it’s a good deal… And then relationships, not transactions, like we mentioned. It’s gotta be for the long-term, whether that’s with other sponsors, other GPs, people you’re raising money with – you’ve gotta go deep with these people in terms of getting them to like, know and trust you.

Theo Hicks: Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Shane Connor: I’m ready.

Theo Hicks: Alright. First, a quick word from our sponsor.

Break: [00:14:15].08] to [00:15:30].28]

Theo Hicks: Alright, what’s the best ever book you’ve recently read?

Shane Connor: A book called 168 Hours. The concept of the book is essentially that in a seven-day week there’s 168 hours that make up that block, and that by thinking in blocks and the actual hours’ time, you realize that you have a lot more time than you think. We’re all very busy and we say we don’t have time to do that side thing, or to get to that event, or whatever it is; the book kind of takes you through a lot of different people and examples that show you even if you’re sleeping 8 hours a night, working 45 hours a week, spending 3 hours with kids, working out 3 hours 5 days a week, that still leaves an excess of 20+ hours… So as long as you’re strategic about it and really prioritize it, you’ve got a lot more time than you think.

Theo Hicks: What’s the best ever business decision you’ve recently made?

Shane Connor: Well, I don’t know if it’s recent, but I moved to Atlanta from Philadelphia. I didn’t know anybody, I’d never been to the city; I took an opportunity to start an office with my company… And kind of taking that risk and jumping into the unknown has led to basically everything else that’s happened to me good in my life. So I would say taking risks and taking a jump is the best thing that I’ve done.

Theo Hicks: What’s the best ever deal you’ve done, besides your first deal and your last deal?

Shane Connor: That would probably be the acquisition of ownership in a ACM Senior Living operations company… Because aside from real estate deals that we’re gonna get in, renovate and sell, this one we plan to last and build it for decades, potentially even build it to go public one day, so I think that will probably have the longest-lasting impact.

Theo Hicks: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in real estate?

Shane Connor: The biggest mistake – not so much like an actual blunder that I could point to, but I would say more the being a little bit naive when I first went to start raising capital, thinking that it might be a little easier than it actually was, that more people would think like I did, that I knew in my immediate network, that would be wanting to invest. As I mentioned, if you think you need to talk to 50 people that you know, when you’re first starting out you might have to talk to 150-200… So not underestimating that it’s still a lot of hard work to do this.

Theo Hicks: What’s the best ever way you like to give back?

Shane Connor: This year I’m planning to start a foundation in my dad’s honor, who passed away from heart failure this year. Our foundation will focus on a few areas; he was a pool builder, so building pools in underprivileged communities, helping underprivileged kids access golf courses, because my dad did that for me, and I attribute a lot of my success to being around golf courses and successful people… It’s also going to provide financial assistance for families that lost their breadwinners to heart failure. Fortunately for me, my mom is kind of taken care of and we’re all grown, but there’s a lot of families that lose a man or a woman, a breadwinner, too early on, and they struggle financially as a result.

Theo Hicks: That’s wonderful, thanks for sharing that with us. Lastly, what’s the best ever place to reach you?

Shane Connor: You can get me at shane@redrockcapital.com, www.redrockcapitalgroup.com, Facebook, LinkedIn, or a website for networking dinners, syndicationsuppers.com.

Theo Hicks: I like that. Well, Shane, I really appreciate you coming on to talk to us today. A lot of great information for those listeners who are interested in raising capital for deals. You talked about how you were able to balance your full-time job with real estate; it really just comes down to getting up early and staying up late, and it sounds like you might have gotten that idea from that 168 Hours book you were referencing, or at least reiterated that concept in your mind…

You mentioned that being an LP on a deal will help you raise capital because you get to go through the process first-hand, and it’s really difficult to get that education otherwise; you go in green, you learn the process, and then you’re able to communicate the process to other people who are green.

A couple of tips on how to raise money – I think the biggest one was knowing that you’re gonna need to talk to 2-3 times more people than you actually think… The way I think about it is if I need to raise a million dollars, then I need to have at least 2-3 million dollars in verbal commitments lined up in order to be certain I’ll be able to hit that million-dollar number.

You also mentioned that it’s all about building relationships over time. Sometimes you’re not finding someone who will invest right away, but more than likely it’ll take a little bit longer for it to happen. And then if you wanna raise money through work, don’t do a business meeting and then on the last slide of your PowerPoint have a link to your website to invest in a deal.

Shane Connor: Absolutely not.

Theo Hicks: Instead, it takes time – become friends with them, and once you start chatting about other things (sports, life), you can bring up your side business and go from there. Again, Shane, I really appreciate it. Thank you for talking to us. Have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you soon.

Shane Connor: Theo, thank you, and Best Ever audience, thank you as well.


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Joe Fairless sand Bryan Ellis podcast episode JF1488

JF1488: What Are The Best Asset Classes To Invest In With A Self-Directed IRA? #SitationSturday with Bryan Ellis

Bryan and Joe had a conversation on the podcast over three years ago, he’s back today to tell us about self directed IRA investing. Even if this doesn’t apply to you right now, there’s a chance you will be in the future. Bryan has a very extensive real estate background as well as owning SelfDirected.org  where he focuses on helping other people invest their money. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!


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Eastern Union Funding and Arbor Realty Trust are the companies to talk to, specifically Marc Belsky.

I have used him for both agency debt, help with the equity raise, and my consulting clients have successfully closed deals with Marc’s help. See how Marc can help you by calling him at 212-897-9875 or emailing him mbelsky@easterneq.com


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 Saturday, we’re gonna be talking about a specific situation that you might perhaps be in, or if you’re not in it right now, then you might be in it in the future, and that is you have some money in a retirement account, you’re looking to do a self-directed IRA, but you’re not sure what are the best asset classes to put that money into. Fortunately, we’ve got the founder of SelfDirected.org with us. How are you doing, Bryan Ellis?

Bryan Ellis: I am doing well, Joe. How are you today?

Joe Fairless: I am doing well, and nice to have you back on the show. Best Ever listeners, you recognize Bryan – he was on episode (listen to this) 207. It aired back in March 28th, 2015. That’s over three years ago we were talking. Holy cow!

Bryan Ellis: Yeah, it’s been a while.

Joe Fairless: It’s been a while. I know we saw each other in Atlanta…

Bryan Ellis: I think it was Atlanta, yeah.

Joe Fairless: It was Atlanta, yeah, like a year or so ago. So we’ve seen each other since then, and I’m glad that we’re catching up again. Bryan is the host of Self Directed Investor Talk, he’s also published in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, TheStreet.com and a bunch of other publications. Based in Atlanta, Georgia. With that being said, Bryan, how about you refresh us on your background and your focus, and then we’ll go right into the best asset classes to focus and invest in via a self-directed IRA?

Bryan Ellis: Sure, Joe. Well, I have a very vast background in real estate. I’ve been in the real estate industry since the mid ’90s, and I was impressively bad at it for the first couple of years… But most of my focus has been on single-family properties, and some leasing, some flipping… Just about everything you can do – rehabbing etc. I’ve done just about all of it, and done all of it a whole lot of times at this point. But along the way, I discovered, as all real estate investors do, that it’s kind of important to have access to money, even if it’s not your own money, and that’s what spurred my interest in self-directed retirement accounts.

Now, this was back in the late ’90s, and today if you say self-directed IRA, still most people don’t know what that is. Back then nobody knew what it was. It was like doing research on a long-lost civilization, that had been gone for thousands of years back then… But things have changed a bit since then, thankfully, and in the process of the last intervening 20 years, I’ve learned a whole lot about self-directed retirement accounts, such that at this point I largely focus on helping investors – largely real estate investors – who want to use their retirement savings to invest in real estate, which is something that most of them either don’t know how to do, or only think it can be done, but have never actually pulled the trigger. So that’s the gap that we fill in, it’s helping them do that.

Joe Fairless: Are you a custodian?

Bryan Ellis: No, I’m not.

Joe Fairless: You’re not a custodian, okay. And what is a custodian?

Bryan Ellis: A custodian is the financial company that is required by law to be in the mix with every self-directed IRA. They’re basically like a stockbroker, but whatever you do in a self-directed IRA, it’s their name that’s on the line, essentially. They’re acting in your place. That’s what a custodian is for an IRA. For solo 401K’s you don’t really have to have a custodian, so it’s not really relevant there.

Joe Fairless: So your company works with investors who already have a self-directed IRA set up, to then invest in certain opportunities.

Bryan Ellis: Yes, most people who come to us already have one set up. Part of the trainings that we have in the self-directed investor academy do target specifically people who are very new to the process. So we’ll teach them not just the advanced stuff, we’ll also teach them how to choose the type of self-directed account you need, because there are actually about a dozen of them, and most people have chosen the wrong one.

We’ll teach them how to choose the right type of custodian for them, and how to choose the types of assets that will actually really work in a self-directed IRA, versus just being theoretically compatible. We do have some content that targets the brand new folks as well, but really the most people who come to us have some background.

Joe Fairless: I didn’t know you a self-directed IRA academy…

Bryan Ellis: Yeah, Self-Directed Investor Academy.

Joe Fairless: Okay, Self-Directed Investor Academy. I wrote it down right, I just said it wrong. Is there a  cost to participate in that?

Bryan Ellis: Yeah, that program is a monthly subscription program, because we actually had two additional trainings to it every single month, and that’s $39/month… So it’s the least expensive thing there is out there.

Joe Fairless: Oh, yeah.

Bryan Ellis: And later on, if you decide that you’d like to, we can offer your listeners a free trial to it.

Joe Fairless: Cool. That’s great. And as a member, do you get access to previous content and stuff [unintelligible [00:07:53].05]

Bryan Ellis: Yes. It’s really kind of foolish on our part probably, but from day one, whoever is a member, they get access to everything that’s been done from that point in the past, to that point.

Joe Fairless: That’s cool. So that’s not a big revenue maker I don’t imagine, so how does your company make money?

Bryan Ellis: That does reasonably well for us, but the other thing that we do is that in the process of educating people about self-directed retirement accounts invariably people end up coming to me and saying “Bryan, I’ve got some money. What do I do with it?” We’re not financial advisors, we’re not investment advisors etc. but what we do is sometimes connect those people with opportunities that make sense for them, and let them evaluate in concert with their own advisors, and we can all enjoy the spoils of war together thereafter.

Joe Fairless: So are you on the general partnership side of those deals, where you connect an investor to a deal?

Bryan Ellis: In terms of the specific legal structuring, we do it in a lot of different ways… But we have done everything from just connecting people to individual pieces of real estate that they could buy, and we just took a slice of the transaction, all the way to — we did at one time have a formal hedge fund that we operated in Northern California where we did a lot of fix and flips. So we’ve done everything from the least formal to something a lot more than that.

Joe Fairless: Going back to the focus for today’s conversation, when you look at the best asset classes to invest in as a self-directed IRA investor, what do you come up with?

Bryan Ellis: The cool thing about self-directed IRAs and solo 401K’s is that there is a practically unlimited universe of options. Now, I am very partial to real estate as a general focus, because it’s a proven commodity; it’s something that if you have a little bit of patience, it tends to work, even if you don’t do everything exactly correctly, which I kind of like that, having a bit of margin for error.

Within that framework, the simplest thing that I have found for most people to get involved in doing in terms of real estate in their IRA is turnkey rental properties. Buy one here, another one there, and pretty soon you have 5, 10, 15 turnkey properties. And a turnkey property is just a rental property, but when the person purchases it, the property has already been renovated, it already has a tenant involved, and it already has a property manager handling it. So it’s a cashflow-producing asset, instead of just a house. So that is something that really makes a lot of sense for a lot of people.

The fact that there are property managers involved – that’s really what makes it a good fit for IRA’s, because that means you can really keep a safe distance from that asset, which is really very important.

Joe Fairless: Why do you have to keep a safe distance?

Bryan Ellis: Because there are some rules that one has to comply with in the IRA world, and if you cross those lines, you commit what’s called a prohibited transaction. In IRA specifically, if you commit a prohibited transaction, it is cataclysmic, and it doesn’t matter how small the transaction is that you did.

For example, maybe you have a five million dollar account, and one day you commit a prohibited transaction in a deal that was worth $10,000. Well, you’ve blown up that entire five million dollar account, and what most people end up doing is losing 40%-60% of the value of the entire account as a result of crossing those lines.

So  you’ve gotta be very careful, and that is one of those rules that really matters – you really can’t, as a practical matter, get too close to the properties, because if you do, you’re just dramatically increasing the probability that you’re going to do something that’s not allowed. So that’s the reason for that.

Joe Fairless: Turnkey rental properties – one recommended approach that you have for investing with self-directed IRA’s. What’s something else?

Bryan Ellis: Another one that I really like it real estate secured notes. It’s really interesting, Joe, and my observations about the path that a lot of small individual investors take in their careers is that a whole lot of them will start out and they’ll do something like renovations, or they’ll do some leasing, or just basic introductory strategies like that, and then a few years later they’ll kind of fall into a groove and do what they’re gonna do, and a lot of them end up collecting rental properties along the way, and what I’ve seen is that a lot of people run about being in the business 20-25 years or so, a lot of them start graduating (that may be the wrong term, but I’m not sure), a lot of them start gravitating away from rental properties and into real estate secured notes. Those things make a lot of sense, because you get all the nice cashflow that you could get from leases and rental properties, but there’s no management concern, there’s no interaction with tenants, there’s none of that stuff.

Now, it’s not an absolute gimme, there are responsibilities, but it’s just a much lower degree of responsibility than owning a rental property, much lower degree of legal risk than owning a rental property, and also there are some rules that we can talk about if  you want – and then we’d be getting pretty deep into the weeds, so maybe we don’t – that make real estate secured notes a particularly attractive and compatible asset with IRA’s for the IRS itself.

Joe Fairless: How is it being compatible beneficial to the investor?

Bryan Ellis: Let me clarify – are you asking how the additional compatibility that the IRS has stipulated is relevant?

Joe Fairless: Yes.

Bryan Ellis: Well, it simply means that doing those kinds of deals, if you do them with any modicum of legal reliability, the probability that you cross over those prohibited transaction lines is much lower.

Joe Fairless: Compared to what? Turnkey rental properties?

Bryan Ellis: Compared to just about anything else. Yeah, I mean, if you look at it, the prohibited transaction issue is not a function of the asset class, it’s a function of how you interact with the asset, regardless of what it is. So you can commit a prohibited transaction with privately-held stock, or with intellectual property, or just about anything else that you could do in an IRA. It’s not real estate specific. But in the case of promissory notes and real estate secured debt, that works really well for the governments own admission, and I think basically the reason why is that there’s a clear separation; that is a clearly passive asset, whereas it’s arguable that if you’re being your own landlord, for example, it’s arguable that even though you’re earning passive income, that you’re not passively involved. So that’s really the distinction there.

Joe Fairless: One, turnkey rental properties. Two, real estate secured notes. Anything else?

Bryan Ellis: I guess a third one, and this is way down the list, not in terms of relevancy, but in terms of accessibility… And that is – you know  a fair amount about this side of the world – doing multifamily investments, but from a passive investment point of you. You know, you’re putting your 100k or 500k or whatever usually into a syndication, and let the syndication handle doing all the work. That works as well, depending on how the money is handled in the syndication, but usually it’s fine.

That works really well too because obviously it’s a desirable thing to have exposure to multifamily income, and I’m seeing a lot more people being particularly interested in that as a mode of investing their retirement savings in the real estate.

Joe Fairless: Real quick, what’s a downside to each of these? Turnkey rentals first.

Bryan Ellis: Turnkey rentals – it’s the same downside as to any rental property; you could pick a bad tenant, you could buy a bad property to begin with, or you can have a bad manager. All the risks are the same.

For notes – there again, same as if it’s outside of an IRA, the big risk is that you — actually, let me back up to the rental properties. If you get involved and do anything yourself on that property, then you are introducing a risk that doesn’t exist outside of the IRA world, which is the prohibited transaction risk.

Moving on to the notes – the risk there really is about the same, because prohibited transactions are gonna be hard to accomplish there. The risk is that you buy a note with a borrower that doesn’t pay, or won’t pay, and you don’t have good collateral, or maybe the paper that backs up the loan is not well-structured, is not really up to snuff. All those could be problems.

In doing syndications, that’s a different thing entirely. Generally speaking, you’re not going to run afoul of prohibited transactions whenever you’re doing  a syndication; however, that’s not necessarily true. There are some other factors, and one of the biggest risk points there is that if the syndicator involves debt in their business activities, that could have a negative impact on the IRA itself, because IRA’s actually have to pay income taxes year-to-year on any money that’s generated as a function of using debt. That’s a risk point that most people don’t know exists.

But the good news about all three of those assets and risk points that they involve is that most of that stuff is knowable largely ahead of time – not all of it, but most of it is knowable and analyzable ahead of time, and most of it is something that you can watch for quite closely on an as frequent of a basis as you like.

Joe Fairless: On the syndication one, you said if it involves debt it could have a negative impact; are you referring to the bottom line profitability, or are you referring to a prohibited transaction?

Bryan Ellis: I’m referring to the tax liability as it exists for the IRA. A simple example is — let’s use a simple asset. If an IRA buys a house and pays $100,000 for it, and it collects $1,000/month in rent, and this is a totally cash deal, there’s no problem. But if the IRA does that same deal but it borrows the 100k, well that $1,000/month it collects – that money is a function of debt; it’s a debt-financed transaction. So that $1,000/month that they collect is actually taxable on a year-to-year basis, even though it’s in an IRA.

So if you did something similar inside of a syndication where debt was involved in some part of the transaction, and if the syndication is structured like most are, as a partnership of some sort, then it could be the case that the IRA has to pay some money year-to-year based on the profitability of that syndication for that year. That’s not prohibited, by the way. That’s just a factor that the IRS doesn’t want you to be able to make money or to make tax-free profits on money that was not your money… So that’s what we’re talking about.

Joe Fairless: It makes sense.

Bryan Ellis: Yeah.

Joe Fairless: Who can an investor talk to about something like you’ve just described? “Hey, I’ve got an IRA. I wanna invest in a deal”, they’ve got debt on the deal, like most of the deals do… Who should they speak to?

Bryan Ellis: Well, one option that they could speak to is anyone of the self-directed IRA attorneys, particularly those who have a focus on the taxes. That would be a good place to go. You could come to me as well, that’s an area that we offer some assistance to our clientele, although we don’t offer legal advice obviously… We do offer some situation-specific education, you might say. And there really aren’t a lot of others.

You might be inclined to go to your self-directed IRA company, but really they’re not supposed to be involved in the investing side of your account, they’re not supposed to get anywhere near it. If they are willing to do that, that’s a pretty good indicator you need to go to a different company.

Joe Fairless: Right, right.

Bryan Ellis: So go to an attorney or come to us over at the Self Directed Investor Society.

Joe Fairless: I love it. I learned a lot. I’m grateful that you were on the show again. Bryan, how can the Best Ever listeners get in touch with you and learn more about what you’ve got going on?

Bryan Ellis: Well, probably the best way to do it, Joe, would be to go over to SelfDirected.org/academy, and we have set up a free 3-day trial that your folks can get access to the Self Directed Investor Academy, the training resource that I mentioned to you earlier. So SelfDirected.org/academy is where they should go, and that will get them taken care of.

Joe Fairless: That’s great. Well, the three asset classes that you recommend self-directed IRA’s take a look at – one, turnkey rental properties; two, real estate secured notes, so note buying, and three, passively investing in syndications. There are many things that you talked about as it relates to self-directed IRA’s. One in particular that you elaborated on was the prohibited transactions, and there needs to be clear separation from you and your investment.

Really good stuff. I’m grateful you were on the show. I hope you have a best ever weekend, and we’ll talk to you again soon.

Bryan Ellis: Thank you, Joe.

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Carole Ellis with Joe Fairless on a Best Ever Show flyer

JF1456: How To Interview Big Name Investors & Entrepreneurs with Carole Ellis

Carole is editor-in-chief at Think Realty Magazine, and has a ton of interviewing experience. Since she’s interviewed some big investors and entrepreneurs, Joe spent some time asking her about those interviews. He asks Carole what she’s learned from the interviews, how she prepares, questions she asks, and how she was able to get ahold of these people in the beginning. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!


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I have used him for both agency debt, help with the equity raise, and my consulting clients have successfully closed deals with Marc’s help.

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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.

With us today, Carole Ellis. How are you doing, Carole?

Carole Ellis: I’m doing well, thanks for having me.

Joe Fairless: Well, I’m glad to hear it, and it’s my pleasure. A little bit about Carole – she is the editor-in-chief of Think Realty Magazine. She’s the co-founder of Self-Directed Investor Society, she has been investing, writing, reporting and educating in the real estate space since 2006. Based on Hotlanta. With that being said, Carole, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?

Carole Ellis: Absolutely. I got started in real estate because I bought a house with a no money down loan, and I was the person that all of your Best Ever listeners hate; I was the person who’s at the closing table and randomly decided I need to read every word in a document… And I swore I’d never be in that position again, so I got my real estate license, and then the market crashed.

At around that time, I was actually working at a magazine, and I was also creating a lot of real estate educational content. So if you bought a home study course in the early or mid-2000’s, there’s quite a decent chance I either wrote it or helped write it.

When the market crashed, my husband Brian and I started working on education and teaching people, honestly, overseas, where their money was strong against the dollar, to invest in the United States. So we did a lot of coaching, a lot of teaching throughout that entire period; we were sort of doing various things of our own too, and eventually, after quite some time, I ended up at Think Realty Magazine, which is my dream job; I am editor-in-chief at that magazine, and that’s where I am today.

Joe Fairless: How were you reaching international investors when talking to them about investing in the U.S.?

Carole Ellis: Well, you have to remember we’re going back about 10-12 years, so the concept of virtual real estate or virtual investing was much newer, and it was kind of the Wild West in terms of — today I would just go on Craigslist or somewhere like that and say “Hey, I need a website”, and I’d probably get 50 people offering to make me one, and probably ten of them would be really good. At that time, it was a much more alien concept.

We did a lot of webinars… Goodness, I think maybe when he started he was still giving teleconferences, but that was before me… So we’ve had a series of websites, and we learned how to find motivated sellers; those people needed to be walked through contracts, and things like that, because it’s a different system. We had a huge, physical manual that I wrote… All sorts of stuff that today people would be like “Yeah, that’s great…”, but at the time incredibly useful, and a wonderful resource.

A lot of people ended up using them for their own businesses; sometimes they didn’t even have anything to do with real estate by the time they were done customizing them. It was amazing.

Joe Fairless: Now you’re the editor-in-chief at Think Realty Magazine… What are your responsibilities?

Carole Ellis: My responsibilities are wonderful. Every week I speak with dozens of real estate investors about the strategies they’re using, the markets they’re working in, I get to interview economists… Anybody related to the real estate industry we’re talking to, in order to pull in as much actionable, insightful information into one place – our magazine – so that when you pick it up and read it, you can really get a very good handle not just on how the national or a specific regional economy is working, but also what real people are doing right now and why it is, or in some cases it’s not working.

Joe Fairless: What’s an interview that stands out?

Carole Ellis: Well, honestly, I would say all of our cover interviews really stand out to me, because especially this year – and this is a real honor – we got to interview Samuel Freshman, from Standard Management Company, I got to interview Svenja Gudell from Zillow, Rick Sharga – I have long admired him, so I was thrilled to interview him in June. [unintelligible [00:07:07].08] all of these people are people who took time to talk to our readers and say “Real estate investing matters, and you as an individual investor matter”, and here’s some steps that they know that maybe you wouldn’t know just on an individual level… So it was just really amazing.

Joe Fairless: Do you have a process for preparing for an interview?

Carole Ellis: Yes. To be interviewed, or to interview?

Joe Fairless: To interview someone.

Carole Ellis: Yes. I have eight ice-breaker questions, and I always use them all. They are incredibly generic, and I use those because when you’re talking to someone to learn something from them, I feel like it’s really important to let them tell their own story, or their own strategy, or whatever it is. So I do a lot of research in terms of I Google-stalk them and I read everything I can about them, but I don’t ever say “I know you wrote this in the Wall Street Journal”, for example; I always start with a really generic question, like “What’s your favorite strategy/favorite market/favorite deal/proudest moment? If you weren’t in real estate, what would you be doing instead? If your life was a headline…?” – things like that, that are wide open… Because I can always ask about the Wall Street Journal article or whatever it is later, but I don’t know necessarily if that’s really the thing that is the best thing for us to pull out of that. So I always do a lot of reading, and then keep everything very generic, and I always warn them ahead of time, because I don’t want them to think I don’t care.

Joe Fairless: Yup. And with your approach, it sounds like you want it to be open-ended… At the beginning allow them to take the lead, and then you play off of what they say after that…?

Carole Ellis: Absolutely. So one of the interviews that we did this year – and I hope that he forgives me if I don’t say his name perfectly… He’s the CTO at Auction.com, his name is Amit Aggarwal… And there were so many interesting things about what he did before he got to Auction, in terms of being involved in some banking and finance software, some of his own views on education, and how that affects real estate, and how you should be strategizing, that we never would have ever gotten if I had started out saying “You’re the CTO over at Auction.com” and going from there, because it wouldn’t have come out.

Joe Fairless: How do you apply that approach to other interviews?

Carole Ellis: I think it holds true in everything. If you’re gonna go talk to a motivated seller – and I’m sure your listeners have heard this ten thousand times, but you know, if you go in and you talk to a motivated seller, and you go in telling them how they feel, you automatically sort of put yourself at a disadvantage; you knew how they actually feel, and then figure out how to solve the problem. That’s not ground-breaking information… But it’s really the same thing for everybody. Investors are incredibly innovative, they’re incredibly creative, and a lot of times they’re not as proud as they should be, or as aware of how amazing they are in terms of finding flexible and new solutions to things, as I think they should be.

So I really wanna go in, and if I interview someone, I wanna make sure that I’m getting everything I can out of them, but I also really want them to come away from that feeling like they’ve done a service, because they have… Not just for me, but to every single person who’s reading the magazine, or going to the website, or anything… And I really want them to feel that, because it’s an honor.

Joe Fairless: What are some lessons — you mentioned the investors that you speak to, they’re incredibly innovative and creative… What are some lessons that you’ve learned through the interviewing that are real estate specific?

Carole Ellis: Well, I think that you have to be very careful in real estate not to get into a box. Most of the people honestly that we interview – it turns out they’re not in a box… But in terms of looking at an investment – again, not groundbreaking information; you need to have an exit strategy, you probably need more than one, you need to look at the worst-case scenario… All of those things are so standard, I think a lot of people – including me, from time to time, sort of forget about them, and then it’s like “Well, what am I gonna do with this? It’s not working the way I wanted it to work.” Well, when you interview pretty much any investor, every single person, you would get a different answer as to how to solve that problem, whether it’s “Oh well, I used to wholesale, but I got stuck with a couple deals that I couldn’t move, and I didn’t wanna not buy them, so now they’re Airbnbs”, or really flexible things like that…

Lots of things in terms of financing… Anybody who is involved with self-directed investing usually has about 1,000 different legal creative ways to accomplish whatever it is that they want in their specific retirement account. The strategy is boundless.

Joe Fairless: When you said “Don’t get into a box” – will you elaborate on what you meant by that?

Carole Ellis: Sure… Like, there’s a box; if I say “My name is Carole and I flip houses.” That sort of puts a box around me. I flip houses, that means theoretically I buy at a certain price, I improve to a certain extent, I sell at a certain other price… But if you say “My name is Carole and I’m a real estate investor”, all of a sudden you get all these other opportunities, and if any of those points along the way don’t work, or the gear gets stuck, or something like that, all of a sudden, if you’re not a flipper, you’re a real estate investor, it just changes the mindset. Does that make sense?

Joe Fairless: Yeah, it does. It’s more of an evolution. When you’re in an interview and you are looking for something beneath the surface – perhaps you’re getting canned answers – how do you get beneath the surface with someone?

Carole Ellis: See, now you’re making me nervous… [laughs] I’m afraid I’m being canned.

Joe Fairless: Oh, no, I wasn’t talking about you… [laughs]

Carole Ellis: No, I was kidding. So that does happen; I think pretty much everyone that answers questions regularly ends up with a set of things that they really like to say… At that point, that’s when you kind of like dig out the Google stalking results, because that shows that you did care and you did have questions… I ask them about something more specific, and I guess if even that doesn’t work, then you just tell them. I have an advantage, because my interviews aren’t live.

Joe Fairless: Oh, got it…

Carole Ellis: So I can say “I really wanted to talk about this, and you’re not talking about it… Would you please start?” I don’t know if people would appreciate that if I did that in a live setting. I probably wouldn’t.

Joe Fairless: So as editor-in-chief, what are some additional things that if you were to speak at a conference that you would speak about, as it relates to your experience?

Carole Ellis: Man, I would love to speak at a conference… [laughs] Usually, when I speak – and I don’t do a lot, because Think Realty has ambassadors and other people who do that… But usually, I am fortunate to get to do one of two things, both of which I really like. One, I already mentioned – anytime you put me in a room with a group of real estate investors and give me a microphone, I really want to just convey what an honor it is to be able to write about them, to report on them… And not in a bragging way, but everybody who is active in real estate should be incredibly proud of themselves; it’s just such a diverse, innovative group. I can’t get over that, and I just really want every Best Ever listener and every real estate investor our there to really take in and to appreciate what they’ve accomplished by being a real estate investor.

So that’s one thing, and every once in a while I get to say that, and I think it’s important… I love it, I love to say it. The other thing I get to do that I really enjoy is every now and again I get invited to do market analysis, which is we’ll either pick apart a market in terms of what it’s been doing recently, what it did long-term, what does the community masterplan look like, what are trends, what’s local policy, and I really try to dig into indicators of what might happen in the future, what’s happening now, what to be aware of, things like that.

Joe Fairless: With the market analysis, how do you gather the information that you just said, which is what it’s done recently, what it’s done long-term, community masterplan, trends in local policy?

Carole Ellis: Well, thanks to Think Realty, I have an incredible advantage because we get to work with ATTOM Data Solutions. That is a wonderful starting point for anything like that, because they’ve got (goodness, I don’t even know…) data on data on data on data… It used to be RealtyTrac and it was all about foreclosures, now it’s so much more.

So you can kind of say “Okay, well here’s some things that I think would guide me towards…” For example, we’ve recently  created a list of notable turnkey markets. “Here’s some things I think would be interesting to start with in terms of turnkey markets”, and of course, ATTOM’s data happens to have a lot of very specific turnkey data, so we just use that.

But then from there, once you’ve got your list of very hard data and some markets that you’ve decided are interesting for whatever your purposes are, then you go and you read everything you can on the Chamber of Commerce. I would never cite Wikipedia, but it is a good place to start, n terms of  — I don’t feel like you can believe it in terms of being research, but it’s a great place to look to find trends in the economy, or if you want a little history or whatever it is that you’re trying to do, that’s a good place to start, and then you kind of go and google that stuff out, to make sure it’s actually true.

A community masterplan should be available online to the public, you just have to google around until you find it…

Joe Fairless: What is a community masterplan?

Carole Ellis: Oh, they’re so cool. It sort of depends, because they’re kind of a [unintelligible [00:17:12].11] thing that communities use to get grants, if they’re using them right a lot of the time… But it basically says “Here’s our community now, here’s what we want it to be, and here’s how we think we’re gonna get there and here’s what we need, whether it’s money, or population, or a different industry…” Sometimes they’re just that. If that’s all they’ve got, then I would say it’s maybe not all that much of a masterplan… But a really good one will say “Here are the 20 grants from state and federal sources that we could qualify for if we did this to our main street”, or maybe if you go and you match up a masterplan with Public Department of Transportation information; you can say “Okay, well they said they needed to get more people working in this area”, and you can see that there are bus routes in this area now, or planned for 12 months from now, or whenever. All of that is technically public information. Not everybody has a community masterplan, so if it’s not, then they may just not have one… But basically, it’s just a chart of where they wanna go, and then you try to sort of match it up with where they are now, and also with what kind of progress they’re making… But if they hadn’t made any, then it’s great to have a plan, but they may not really be doing anything.

Joe Fairless: That’s right, yeah. It’s nice to verify the progress, that’s for sure. Based on your experience interviewing successful real estate investors, as well as your own experience investing, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Carole Ellis: I think probably to be articulate… Not in terms of being persuasive or making a sale, but in terms of just being really careful to say what it is you want out of your investment, or the person sitting across the table from you, or the guy on the other end of the phone. Be very clear, not in a rude way, but just “This is who I am, this is what I do, this is why I’m doing it”, but not to get too overboard in terms of being articulate until they’ve told you those things.

Joe Fairless: Do you have a personal example of this?

Carole Ellis: [laughs] So I like to talk, and I have lots of things that I think are really interesting to say. However, it is basically — you just made my day by letting me do this, because normally, my job is not to talk… And it is so hard, because when you’re interviewing somebody and they’re saying all this great stuff, and you wanna tell them what you think about it – you have to remember they didn’t tell you you could interview them so they could have a conversation with you and get your insights; it’s not what you’re gonna get out of it. What you’re getting is their insight, and sure, if you have a rapport and you end up being friends, that’s wonderful, but… That’s really the thing, and fortunately, I learned it a long time before I ever even got into real estate at another magazine that I was working at, so I didn’t ruin any interviews recently, but I definitely blew a few early on.

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

Carole Ellis: I’ll try.

Joe Fairless: Alright, then we’ll do it together. First though, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [00:20:07].03] to [00:20:58].09]

Joe Fairless: Best ever book you’ve recently read?

Carole Ellis: Principles of Real Estate Syndication by Samuel Freshman.

Joe Fairless: Best ever deal you’ve done?

Carole Ellis: Honestly, I think it was writing an article for Think Realty Magazine a couple years ago, when I first started… Because otherwise, I’d never be here right now.

Joe Fairless: What’s a mistake you’ve made on a transaction in real estate, or just in business?

Carole Ellis: Talking too much.

Joe Fairless: Best ever way you like to give back?

Carole Ellis: I wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to say for this one… Obviously, I really do feel like Think Realty gives away a lot of really amazing information, including the magazine digitally, which is free on the website… But I also have a — it’s not mine, but I support a charity called No Hungry Children; there’s basically like no administrative intervention in terms of money. If you give them a dollar will feed a kid for like a week… And they’re amazing. They do a lot of work in Africa, with a lot of kids who just have no food and no school or anything, if they didn’t have the support of that charity. I really like that charity.

Joe Fairless: Best ever way the Best Ever listeners can learn more about what you’ve got going on and get in touch with you?

Carole Ellis: Actually – and everybody laughs at me for this, but really the easiest way to do this is to e-mail me. My e-mail is cellis@thinkrealty.com. Everybody laughs, because they’re like “Don’t give out your e-mail”, but it’s in the front of every magazine, so… That’s what I do. [laughs]

Joe Fairless: Fair enough. Well, Carole, thank you so much for being on the show, talking about the process you used to open up conversations with people who you’re interviewing… You have eight different ice-breaker questions that are more open-ended, that way you get them talking, and then you evolve the conversation from there. Then the lessons that you’ve learned from those interviews as well, in terms of the real estate lessons that you’ve talked about, to things that you also focus on, which is the market analysis and things to look for there, and how to do that if we don’t have access to a database, and what to look for… So thanks again for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you soon.

Carole Ellis: Thank you so much.


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investment portfolio and sales advice from Theo Jones

JF1329: Creating A Big Portfolio In One Zip Code & Selling To Large Investment Funds with Theo Jones

Theo got his start in real estate at the age of 22. Now, about 8 years later he has his main strategy in place and has executed on that strategy so far. Theo likes to build a larger portfolio in one zip code, and then sell to an investment fund. He’s already done this in Atlanta, with plans of doing it again and again. He also has some buy and holds and other strategies, as well as tips about what can go wrong with your partnerships and how to be proactive in keeping everyone in a partnership happy. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!


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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.

With us today, Theo Jones. How are you doing, my friend?

Theo Jones: I’m great, thanks for having me, Joe.

Joe Fairless: My pleasure, nice to have you on the show. A little bit about Theo – he is doing fix and flips; he’s also developing a vacation rental in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He bought his first investment property eight years ago at the ripe age of 22 years old, and he’s got a construction business where he helps real estate investors in the construction field. He’s based in Atlanta, Georgia, but he does his fix and flips in Louisiana, and he’s got his construction business in Atlanta, and he is developing, as I said, in the U.S. Virgin Islands… So we’re gonna talk to him about all this stuff. With that being said, Theo, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?

Theo Jones: Yes, sir. Thanks, Joe. I’m originally from Northern California, a place called Oakland, California, and I moved to Atlanta at the age of 20, and upon moving here, like most people — everyone’s trying to get new opportunity when they move, so… I’m riding down the interstate and I keep hearing the real estate commercials – “Come on down, come on down, it’s free. Come to the course.” I went. Rich Dad education. Then from there, it just opened up my mind. Then all I did from that course in 2007 to 2009 when I bought my first rental property is just focus on putting my money away. That’s all I did. And focus on studying my market and what I wanted to do, so that’s how I got in. Then from there it just started to grow.

Like you know, Joe, that time of the market, it was just — yes, it was at a downward spiral, it was at a slump, but if you could see the opportunity and you had cash to buy, you could do a lot, and that’s basically where I was at. So it took me a couple of years, but I was able to raise money to grow the portfolio. Basically, we were just investing in single-family homes, buying them, fixing them and renting them out. That’s what I got into. I had already known about construction growing up, and then that just gave me more in-depth experience about residential constructions and specializing in the rehabs. That was basically my beginning in getting into real estate and how I got started, and how it kind of came to fruition.

Joe Fairless: So your first deal was at 22, after attending the Rich Dad, Poor Dad seminar. You put the information into action.

Theo Jones: That’s it.

Joe Fairless: And then what did you buy next?

Theo Jones: My first house was a duplex, and then from there it was a single-family, about a 900 square foot house. All the properties I bought, Joe — I created a portfolio over about six years’ time, and all those properties are all in the same zip code. On average, they were about 800 to about 1,200 square feet, 2-bedroom, 3-bedroom; they might also only have one bath… And they were just 1940’s, 1950’s, cinder block foundation… The majority of them brick houses, just the old-school Atlanta type houses.

Joe Fairless: Do you still have those properties?

Theo Jones: I just finished selling all those just a couple months ago. I sold them all. My goal was to create a whole portfolio within that zip code and then sell it to some of these big funds, like Invitation Homes and all these big companies now, but… Their interest I think has gone elsewhere, so it took me a long time to sell them all, but I sold most of them individually, and some of them as packages… But yeah, they’re all sold and I made a great profit holding them for three or four years, with a cashflow.

Joe Fairless: How many at the peak did you have in total?

Theo Jones: Oh, man… I really went by the residents, because I was managing this… I think it was about 26 residents, and we had a couple multifamily; the six-unit is what we’ve just sold. We’ve made a killing on that. We bought that for 140k, sold that for 380k three years later. So most of them were duplexes, single-family, and then we had that one multifamily, but about 26 tenants in Atlanta alone that we were managing.

Joe Fairless: Okay. Let’s go with that six-unit. You bought it for 140k – that’s incredible, the 380k… How much did you put into it?

Theo Jones: About 100k.

Joe Fairless: You’ve put about 100k.

Theo Jones: It was about 10k/door, and then termites had eaten through the wood, a lot of that had to get replaced in the cross-space, a lot of exteriors, all new windows, gutters [unintelligible [00:05:10].16] Everything you could think of. That was about 20k, 30k, 40k we put into it, and that raised it, got it up, and we just sold that one in November.

Joe Fairless: Congratulations on that. With that property, the acquisition cash, the 140k – is that your out of pocket cash, or did you partner with other people?

Theo Jones: That was cash. I started by myself; a couple years later my father came out from California and started investing with me too, saw the opportunity. Then we got another investor from New York, and just merged everything together he wanted to invest, so we just created one LLC and put everything under one entity, and it was all cash, we didn’t do any financing.

Joe Fairless: Okay, so it’s you, your dad and a New York guy who bought the six-unit… And you paid cash for it, the 140k, so no debt on it, and then you put an additional 100k out of pocket into the property.

Theo Jones: Correct. That was over (I would say) 30 months time. We put about 100k into it. After every resident moved out, we rehabbed every single unit the exact same way.

Joe Fairless: And with the returns on it, why not maybe put a loan on it now that it’s stabilized, and get the majority of that cash out and keep the property?

Theo Jones: Yes, you are 100% correct, Joe. The only problem is that the partnership was not the best. That was the problem. We almost financed the whole entire portfolio. We were in contact with Blackstone Lending, we almost financed everything, took out a blanket loan… But it just wasn’t right. But I agree with you, yes; in the best situation – yes, you refinance that and just keep it rollin’. And that’s the thing – I think we should talk about it a little bit too, Joe, you’ve gotta make sure your partnerships are tight, because things can go… I don’t wanna say bad; it’s not like we’re in a bad situation, but people have different ideas of growth and management and how things should be operated, and that can hinder growth; that’s kind of what we do. I had a sale just based off that… And it wasn’t any hard blows, but it’s just what had to be done. We just couldn’t see totally eye to eye, you see what I’m saying?

Joe Fairless: Yeah, and I appreciate that. That’s gonna be helpful for a lot of people. What were some of the sticking points that couldn’t be resolved?

Theo Jones: I think for me, growth. We were probably about 1,5 million total at the peak. My goal was to be at the minimum 3 million mark, and get a refinance then… But everybody has a different risk, everybody has a different tolerance, everybody just looks at things different, and I think his risk level and his tolerance was very different from mine.

Joe Fairless: And I assume you’re talking about New York, not dad. Would it have been possible to buy out New York partner during that refinance stage, so that if you did put a loan on the property and you did the cash-out refinance, and then just buy that person out with whatever cash you would have received if you had sold it?

Theo Jones: You’re 100% correct, and the only reason I didn’t do that either is because unfortunately what happened right around that time when we were getting ready to divest a six-unit, is that Hurricane Maria hit my house in St. Croix… Still right now we’re just at a point where I just had to kind of liquidate fast.

Joe Fairless: Got it.

Theo Jones: I didn’t wanna go through the paperwork unfortunately to do it, and I didn’t wanna create more paperwork for me… Not create, but it would have been another speed bump. I think that was the ideal situation, but I’d been kind of banged up indirectly over the last year, especially with the hurricane; it really threw us off, so I just said  “What is the quickest thing to liquidate, the smoothest thing?” …so I can transition this money and put it into unfortunately this almost emergency situation. That’s kind of what happened, because we liquidated two months after the hurricane.

Joe Fairless: That makes sense, and my thoughts are with you. Fortunately, you’re safe. Was that a rental property?

Theo Jones: Yeah, so that property we started building in 2015 from the ground up, about 3,800 square foot, two-level vacation rental in St. Croix on the West side of the island… And we actually started renting it; we had the roof on the top, but the top unit, the personal unit where my mother was living – she was managing that property – the top unit where she would live at was not complete, but we were cash-flowing and everything on the bottom unit, and then the hurricane came and kind of did its thing… So we’re just in the mode of reconstructing and rebuilding, and it’s a learning lesson.

We found a lot of flaws in the construction, so it’s actually a good thing… I hate to say it. Some people look at it as a bad thing, but I hate to say, I think it’s almost a blessing in disguise. And I don’t mean a lot of flaws, but we’ve had engineers out to look at the property, and they’re saying “Hey, this thing could be done to prevent this in the future”, because unfortunately, as you know, Joe, we’re dealing with this more, so… It’s definitely [unintelligible [00:10:18].20]

Joe Fairless: Was that covered under insurance?

Theo Jones: No, it wasn’t. But we got FEMA money, and we actually raised a lot of money and gave a lot of money back to the community. This actually was a great thing. But no, they didn’t cover it just due to the type of insurance we had, because we were under construction, so it was a lot of little unique… You know…

Joe Fairless: Sure. Okay. You live in Atlanta…

Theo Jones: Correct.

Joe Fairless: You’ve just told us about a property in St. Croix…

Theo Jones: Correct.

Joe Fairless: And you are building a property in the U.S. Virgin Islands right now, and you are doing fix and flips in Louisiana…

Theo Jones: Correct.

Joe Fairless: I don’t even know the question to ask, but I guess the question is why all these different areas? There’s the question.

Theo Jones: Okay, that’s a great question. UDI Group, my company – we like to go in under-resourced environments (that’s the term we use), and we like to go in and figure out how to strategically move in those markets. We understand the markets that we’re in – I understand Atlanta; I’ve been here for 10 years now. Louisiana – I have family members there and people managing the assets there, so we understand that market well… And my family is originally from the U.S. Virgin Islands, so we understand the opportunities, the market we’re traveling, and… We just understand the markets, because we kind of were in the markets, you see what I’m saying? So that is just kind of how we operate. We wanna be inside the market that we live in, so we can live and breathe and understand it, to give it what it needs so we can get the best return back.

Joe Fairless: You’ve got family in each of those markets. It makes sense.

Theo Jones: Family, friends, managers… Someone that’s there on the ground that can give you information that you could not see otherwise.

Joe Fairless: Where in Louisiana?

Theo Jones: We’re in New Orleans right now.

Joe Fairless: New Orleans. How many fix and flips are you doing right now there?

Theo Jones: One on the market; it just actually got relisted this morning (on the East side, in Gentilly) right now. And we’re looking for other opportunities, but unfortunately we’re trying to do a little bigger, so we’re trying to figure out how we can go in and execute and do something big as far as just the individual one-offs… So that’s what we’re strategically looking to do more over this summer.

Joe Fairless: So the one that is on the market that got relisted – educate me on what “relisted” means.

Theo Jones: Oh, okay. Basically, we have a property we just tore down, rebuilt it in Gentilly, East side of Louisiana. The price – it was listed at 459k, which I thought was a little high, but I’m not in the market; the individual that gave me the information said “This is the price.” We didn’t get the offers we wanted, we didn’t get the feedback we wanted, we didn’t get the viewings we wanted, so we took it off the market in order for it to seem fresh on the listing. Instead of just dropping the price down, we wanted to take it off the market for a day, then relist it, put it back on fresh with a lower, new price, to try to get a little more attention and try to get it locked up and under contract.

Joe Fairless: Okay. It was listed at 459k. What’s it listed for now?

Theo Jones: 429k. So we did a big drop, because we want a bidding war. We don’t want one offer to where it’s just one offer; we want multiple. So that’s kind of our technique right now, and I know I’m kind of still new to New Orleans a little bit (me personally), but I know we’re just getting onto Mardi Gras and all that, so I think right now we relisted that and we should be on a roll coming up this next week.

Joe Fairless: Let’s assume it sells for 429k – how much did you buy it for and how much did you put into it?

Theo Jones: It was a Katrina house, auctioned off by the city. The land was 21k, the construction was about 175k as it stands. So what’s that, about…

Joe Fairless: A little under 200k.

Theo Jones: About 200k, yeah. There’ll be a couple of fees and stuff on top of that, so yeah. A little more than 200k.

Joe Fairless: Cool. And just curious, the couple other fees, what are they?

Theo Jones: Agent, just have an insurance… You know, all that. The closing costs, staging it, the power, the gas bill – all those little things that seem to pop up and add up at the end of the numbers that we’ve gotta take for granted.

Joe Fairless: What’s been your most profitable project?

Theo Jones: I would have to say probably this one coming up will be profitable, but work was obviously involved… So for me, the most profitable one also probably was the six-unit, but there was a lot of work involved there, so if you ask me personally – I bought another six-unit burnt, but it was four blocks from the Georgia Dome, and as you know, they’ve just torn down and rebuilt the new Falcon stadium… So this was about two or three years ago, I bought a six-unit burnt, 35k cash; I think six months later I sold it for 80k. I did nothing to it.

Joe Fairless: You just sat on it.

Theo Jones: I just sat on it. Of course, as soon as we got the 80k locked up, we got offers for 150k.

Joe Fairless: Of course, but… You know, hindsight is 20/20, you know?

Theo Jones: Yeah, yeah. And you know, it’s all good. It worked out. But for me to do that in four months, without doing anything – to me that was probably the best for me, in hindsight. Even though it was a small deal, it still was pretty decent money.

Joe Fairless: Oh, absolutely. And when you say burnt, you’re talking about the whole thing was burnt to the ground, or was it something else?

Theo Jones: That’s a great question. The funny thing is, Joe, it was an older gentleman who owned four apartment complexes. We were trying to buy them all, but I got so frustrated with him because he kept going back and forth; all the other units were rented, and he wouldn’t come up with the leases, so I’m like “Well, let me just buy the one.” And by the time we bought it – yes, unfortunately, these are very rough neighborhoods in Atlanta… Unfortunately, somebody burnt up the top unit, but they didn’t totally get burnt to the ground. It was fixable, it was repairable, but I think the ideal thing there was to tear down and rebuild, because that was already zoned for redevelopment, it already had all the TADs… Everything you could ever want is right there in that area; anything you could get from the city, grants, all that. So I think that was a great selling point, and he did not know how to market the property with those things, so that’s what we were able to do… But yeah, it was a little distressed with the burnt part.

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

Theo Jones: For me, it’s narrowing it down; staying focused… Because there’s a lot of different investing out there, there’s a lot of different avenues, lanes you can go in. I think you just have to really figure out what works for you. I understand distressed environments; a lot of the properties we did rentals was with the Housing Authority, also known as Section 8, so… I understand that. That’s what I understand. And I think that me going into high-end rentals – I don’t not understand it, but I don’t totally understand it… But I think people go into other lanes because they see money on the outside. But if you don’t know how to operate something… You can have a Ferrari, but if you don’t know how to drive a stick or a paddle shifter, it’s not really gonna work out for you.

So at the end of the day to me management is my number one thing, and that’s my best advice. If you cannot manage it – and I actually worked for big management companies for a while back in 2014 and 2015 – I just think it’s pointless. Or having someone that can manage it, and focusing, narrowing it down and sticking in your lane and perfecting your lane and what you do, and do it the best.

Joe Fairless: When you worked for the big management company for those two years, what’s something that you learned that you now apply to your business?

Theo Jones: Oh my goodness, that’s a whole other story. It was actually a Inc. 500 company. We were managing, in that office alone in Atlanta, at our peak, probably about 3,000 doors. For anybody that knows the big funds, we were managing Tricon American Homes, [unintelligible [00:18:31].09] all those big funds. That’s really who I study and that’s who I modeled in what I’ve done after. But Joe, the best thing – and this is what I call it – the landlord/tenant psychology to it. It’s [unintelligible [00:18:47].16] at times like “Are you really dealing with a problem, or is there not really a problem?” So it’s really getting down to what is the core issue – are you just not happy, or is your toilet really broke? You know what I mean? People might not be happy, and they’re calling and they’re going on and on and on, and they’ve got this laundry list of repairs, but it’s like “Is that something that’s really broke, or is there something else you’re upset about?”

So for me, it’s really getting down to the core issue, because I really want to help people, but I know there’s some things I cannot help them with, and we provide – for a lack of better word, when we were in our heyday, when we had all our Section 8 rental properties, the inspectors, as soon as they walked in, they knew… They knew, because the quality was just impeccable to anything else.

So for me it’s providing the top notch quality and providing service, and I learned a lot in management on how to do that better, how to do it more effectively and how to deal with people, how to talk with people, how to get things done in a timely manner.

Joe Fairless: If I am one of your tenants and I call you up and I say “Theo, my toilet’s broken”, what do you say?

Theo Jones: Well, first of all, it’s gonna be all online, so if you put it in, we’re gonna come out there. But if your toilet’s broken, your blind needs to be fixed, this, that – this long barrage of things, we’re gonna come look at it all of course, but is it really broke? We’re just trying to make sure… You know what I mean, Joe? Is the toilet really broke? Yeah, we’re gonna fix it. But I have one tenant – I just wanna try to keep this short… One tenant – I learned a lot from him. He would turn off the breakers and say that the heater was broke. [laughter]

Joe Fairless: He just wanted some attention. He liked you guys so much, he just wanted a friend to hang out with.

Theo Jones: You’re right. And we provided him great service, don’t get me wrong, but we had to draw the line, like “Hey bro, you’re creating issues.” We’re gonna provide you a great service, a timely service, and I think you’re right, Joe, that people are so surprised when we pop up the same day, or next morning, instead of that three-day gap to get the call back. People do appreciate it to a certain extent, and some people will take advantage of it. I think that’s kind of what happened in that situation, but we want to provide the best service. When the inspectors came to look at our house the next day, our policy is have the house finished.

We just want things done swiftly, we want people serviced swiftly, because I think that  reduces the problems in the long-term. The faster you can react to your residents, I think the less problems you’ll have moving forward. That’s probably also some of my best advice.

Joe Fairless: Absolutely. That is a fact for not only residences, but investors, and customers, and anyone who works with you in life. Relationships – wives, husbands… Everything. Alright, we’re gonna do a lightning round. Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Theo Jones: I’m ready, sir. Let’s do it!

Joe Fairless: Alright. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [00:21:46].03] to [00:22:28].11]

Joe Fairless: Okay, best ever book you’ve read?

Theo Jones: 80/20 Principle, Richard Koch.

Joe Fairless: Nice! Perry Marshall’s got a book 80/20 on marketing and sales. That’s a really good one, too. You’ll probably like that.

Theo Jones: I’ll check that out.

Joe Fairless: Best ever deal you’ve done that we haven’t talked about already?

Theo Jones: Best ever deal I’ve done – on one block in Atlanta I bought four properties, none of them on the market, two of them I bought from private real estate funds with no agent, then sold them all together as a package deal to another investor about three years later after, making some great cashflow. I think that was one of my best deals because the people on the block really appreciated what we did. It really means a lot.

I still drive down the block and people still get out and give me hugs and stuff, so that really means the most out of all of them.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, it brings things to life for what you’re doing, versus the P&L statements. It’s pretty cool. What’s a mistake you’ve made on a transaction?

Theo Jones: Man… I think it’s just not looking through things close enough, rushing. My mother always tells me “Slow down, slow down, slow down…” So I think rushing. It’s really no specific deal, but it’s just not looking at things. It’s several deals that I just — like, I bought five properties at one time, and the whole time in one of the properties I was looking at the wrong property, and I didn’t realize until like the day of closing, “Oh my god, I was looking at the wrong property the whole time.” [laughter]

I had to tell that to my investor, too. We were moving too fast, but it still worked out, don’t get me wrong. The deal was still so good, it could have not even came with that house, but… Just moving too fast and not checking everything. Joe, as you know, checking the contracts – hiring attorneys, hiring accountants… Don’t overlook those little things. You’re trying to save money, but you’re not saving money. So just don’t think you can do stuff fast in this game.

Joe Fairless: Best ever way you like to give back?

Theo Jones: I like to go into schools and talk. I like to talk about exactly what we talked about here, I like to talk about the kids, how I took my $5,000, bought my first rental property, and collected over $75,000 in rent and then sold that property for 150k. For me, it shows them it’s possible. Because I can always ask them, “You guys can save up $5,000, right?” They all say yes.

So that’s one of my best things. I just enjoy that. I love going into schools and just trying to put it in perspective that there’s other things that you can do besides what we’ve been taught in school.

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

Theo Jones: The best way, by email. It’s info@theloniouscjones.com, and pretty much all my social media is TheloniousCJones. Check me out there. YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, the whole barrage, and I get back. Hit me up though on email; I get with the emails the fastest, so if you really wanna get with me, hit me there, and I look forward to hearing from anybody.

Joe Fairless: Thank you so much for spending some time with us and talking about your business, your approach, the partnership advice where having alignment of interest, especially with growth and how things are managed, different risk tolerances, how you approach — you gave us a lot of different case studies for deals, from the New Orleans one that you just relisted, to the six-unit that was four blocks away from the Georgia Dome, and then the landlord/tenant psychology, too.

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

Theo Jones: Thanks so much, Joe.

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Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Show Podcast

JF1188: Taking A More Human Approach To Sales #SkillSetSunday with Michael Maher

Michael has a different way for us to be able to attract sales leads. He never asks for referrals, but he generates over 500 referrals per year. Michael attracts his referrals through love, generosity, and appreciation. He actually wrote the outline for his bestselling book and system in intensive care directly after he flat-lined for 37 seconds. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!


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Michael Maher Background:

  • Leader of The Maher Team with Keller Williams
  • the story of The Generosity Generation
  • December 18, 2007, he flatlined for 37 seconds due to blood clots, he survived to tell his story, The Generosity Generation
  • Based in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Say hi to him at: http://referco.com/


Made Possible Because of Our Best Ever Sponsors:

Fund That Flip provides short-term fix and flip loans to experienced investors. If you’re looking for a reliable funding partner, their online platform makes the entire process super easy, and they can get you funded in as few as 7 days.

They’ve also partnered with best-selling author, J Scott to provide Bestever listeners a free chapter from his new book on negotiating real estate. If you’d like to improve your bestever negotiating skills, visit www.fundthatflip.com/bestever to download your free negotiating guide today.


Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, 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.

I hope you’re having a best ever weekend, first and foremost, and happy Sunday. Because it’s Sunday, we’ve got a special segment for you called Skillset Sunday; you know what this is – this is an episode where we dive deep into a particular skillset so that we as real estate investors and entrepreneurs can get better at what we’re doing.

With us today, we have a guest who is going to talk about the generosity generation, which is the human approach to sales. How are you doing, Michael Maher?

Michael Maher: Joe, I’m doing fantastic. I appreciate you having me on, and kudos on the success of your show. This is fantastic.

Joe Fairless: My pleasure, and thanks a lot for the props. A little bit about Michael… On 18th December 2007 he flatlined for 37 seconds due to blood clots and survived to tell a story. Now he has come up with the Generosity Generation – it’s a human approach, as he mentioned, to sales. It’s not about asking for referrals or doing the tactical things that we might think about, but rather it’s using certain things and attracting the sales lead. I’ll let him talk more about that…

With that being said, Michael, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?

Michael Maher: Yeah, thank you. What a lot of people don’t know about me and my background is that I got into real estate and very quickly had success. I went from 7.1 million in sales, to 19.1, to 40.1 million in sales with 186 transactions, in Kansas City, as a real estate agent and broker. The years following that, I was doing between 180 and 255 transactions, and I was doing it all through referrals. The typical real estate agent gets between five and six referrals a year, and we generated – or I personally generated – over 500 a year and over 600 a couple of years, netting over a million dollars in six of those years, and over two million… Netting – not gross, but netting – over two million in two of those years.

So what happened is everybody started contacting me about “Holy cow, what are you doing? What’s your system?” and then they were finding out that I never asked for a referral; what I did was I just attracted referrals and earned referrals through the law of generosity and appreciation.

So I flatlined, as you said earlier, for 37 seconds, I came too and just really realized that my system about died with me… So at night, in intensive care, I wrote the outline for the book that became The Seven Levels Of Communication, with the subtitle of Go From Relationships To Referrals. That became an instant best-seller and has now been a number one best seller in the real estate sales category for almost seven years… And of course, that’s blossomed into speaking, coaching, training, and helping others live a lifestyle that this type of sales allows you to live.

Joe Fairless: So let’s talk about this… Obviously, we need to – what is wrong with the traditional sales approach that people take, and then how is yours different?

Michael Maher: Have you ever been chased by a stranger?

Joe Fairless: Yeah.

Michael Maher: So what are your two reactions when you’re chased?

Joe Fairless: I’m annoyed… When you say chased, is someone literally running after me?

Michael Maher: Literally, yeah.

Joe Fairless: No, I don’t think a stranger has run after me, unless we’re playing a sport.

Michael Maher: So what’s your favorite football team, or baseball team? Major league, or I don’t know.

Joe Fairless: We’ll go with Detroit Lions.

Michael Maher: Okay… So great example, by the way. You’re at a Detroit Lions game, and Barry Sanders comes out of retirement, and you win your first play-off game. You guys are all excited and you decide to stay out afterwards and have drinks there at the stadium. This is the Pontiac Silverdome, is that correct? Is that still the…?

Joe Fairless: I think that now is the shell of a wildlife preserve or something, unintentionally, but yes, you can keep going with your point.

Michael Maher: [laughs] Yeah, so after the game, your friends kind of go one way, you go the other way to find your car in the parking lot – which, it happens to be easy to find, because it’s the only car left in the parking lot… But the lights are out in the parking lot and you start walking towards your car, and out of the corner of your eye, behind you, you see a shadowing figure coming out of the darkness and coming directly towards you. What are your two basic instinct reactions to that?

Joe Fairless: Oh, protect and figure out what’s going on…

Michael Maher: That’s right. So isn’t it interesting that we don’t instantly think “Woohoo, another Detroit Lions fan! Let’s go give him a high five!”, right? So instinctively we have the fight or flight response… We’re either gonna turn, face him and take it on, or we’re going to flee, we’re going to run. Well, it’s just like in the sales world. So much of what is taught out there is to approach strangers, chase strangers. So when we go at them, they instantly have these reactions – they’re either gonna fight or flight, and this is what happens… [unintelligible [00:06:22].22] and that does happen. Sometimes we’re calling, or we’re going through the doors, we’re meeting people, and all of a sudden they say “Yeah, I’ll work with you”, and there’s this little voice in your head that goes “Oh no, that was too easy”, or “What’s gonna happen here?” And of course, what happens is you didn’t even know you were getting in a fight; that person was looking for a fight, and now you’re in a battle.

This has happened probably with some of your investors with fires that have come along and said “Yeah, I’ll do it”, and you’re like “Oh, crap! That’s too easy” or different people during the transaction… But bottom line is some people are just looking for a fight; luckily, it’s less than 3% of the population. But when two people are fighting, we call it a battle. Well, how do both parties feel at the end of a battle?

Joe Fairless: Exhausted, probably…

Michael Maher: Yeah, exhausted, frustrated, and just not very happy. And the thing is, how likely is an exhausted client to refer you? The truth is they’re not going to refer you, and quite honestly, we don’t want the Fight Club community as clients. So we’re not gonna worry about that side.

And then there’s the other part – we’re taught to follow up, and likely this is 97%+ of the population. We call them, or we door knock them, or we chase them, and what do they do? They flee. Then we finally get them on the phone again and we talk to them, but the problem is most salespeople overpromise. They say “Well, no, we can sell this in three days. Our return will be 25%”, or whatever it may be, but they say “No”, and they flee some more. What are we taught to do? We’re taught to “follow through/follow up/nurture/chase”, essentially. Then what happens is we’re finally getting cornered. We overcome all their objections, we promise the moon, and they finally submit and just say “Okay, I guess I’ll do the deal” or “Okay, I’ll become your client.” But the problem is they’re passive-aggressive.

So the bottom line is the entire time we’re trying to work with them, they’re looking to get out, and the truth is we gave them the way out by our over-promising. The only way for us to deliver is to under-deliver, because we over-promised to get them as a client. So we under-deliver, and here’s the thing – a client that we under-deliver to, how do they feel? When we don’t do what we say we’re gonna do, how do they typically feel?

Joe Fairless: Right, I’m with you. Of course, they feel let down.

Michael Maher: Frustrated, let down, disappointed, whatever it may be, and the bottom line is how likely is that disappointed client going to refer you? The answer is they’re not going to refer you, so what do you have to do? You have to continue chasing. Now you are on this wonderful cycle I call the cycle of discontent, which is this chase, fight, battle, exhausted, no referrals, so you have to chase some more, chase some more; they flee, you chase some more, you finally get them, you under-deliver because you’ve over-promised, they’re frustrated, they don’t refer you, so you have to chase some more.

So there’s that whole chase cycle, or the cycle of discontent, which is, by the way, taught in all the sales training out there. So that’s a downward cycle of sales, and that’s why 99% of all salespeople and entrepreneurs don’t make it, because they’re taught that they have to chase. They have to go through these things, and they’re told to watch movies like Boiler Room and The Wolf Of Wall Street and Glengarry Glenn Ross to get primed for what it’s like to be a salesperson, but what’s interesting about those three movies is at the end of them they all either die, or go to prison. That’s our model for top salespeople? I think we can do better.

So if there’s a downward cycle, there must be an upward cycle, and I believe that the positive cycle is the referral cycle, which is somebody refers you, and when they referred — you’ve been referred deals or referred clients, maybe even referred buyers to buy your fix and flip or buy a rental property, or even referred renters. What have you noticed about those referred deals?

Joe Fairless: It’s smooth sailing.

Michael Maher: Yeah, it’s easy. They buy. There’s no selling that takes place. So what you can do, which is so beautiful, is you can tell them the truth. In fact, you can tell them the worst case scenario; you can tell them the nuclear truth, and here’s what happens when you tell the truth  – no matter how the transaction goes, it wasn’t the worst case scenario. It wasn’t you in preparing them for the worst case scenario — it wasn’t the worst case scenario, because there’s only one worst case scenario, you only have one of those.
So anything you do is a positive. You are actually over-delivering, and an over-delivery is a wow. A wow-ed client, they’re like “Oh my gosh, I actually got 17% return instead of the 12% that they thought we would get”, because you just told them the truth upfront. Well, if they are wow-ed, what do wow-ed clients do? They refer you more.

That referrals come in, you tell them the truth, you wow them just simply by doing your job or doing whatever you would normally be doing anyway to get those returns or to provide that customer service, they’re wow-ed, and they refer you more clients. So that’s the referral cycle.

Joe Fairless: Is the key just to get the referrals in?

Michael Maher: Yeah, so how do we get more people on the referral cycle? That becomes the question. And the way to look at this is like bicycle… Bicycle – two cycles, right? The referral cycle is the front wheel of the bike. The front wheel of the bicycle is to guide you and to kind of keep your eyes on the prize, which is keep your eyes on referrals and keep your eyes on the clients, and the customer service, and so on and so forth.

Well, there’s a back wheel of a bicycle. And the back wheel – how do we get more people on the referral cycle? The back wheel is what I call the generosity cycle. The generosity cycle is what starts or gets us to the point of referrals, and when we lead with generosity, we give massive value first to someone else, what do they a lot of times [unintelligible [00:12:37].03] I’m sure there’s people – either guests or people you’ve helped with your show or with your real estate investing, that they feel this urge to do what?

Joe Fairless: Continue to give back more, continue to keep the cycle going.

Michael Maher: That’s right, they wanna reciprocate, they wanna give back to you. You’ve given a ton of value to them, they wanna give back. But here’s what’s interesting as salespeople and entrepreneurs – the problem is people wanna help us, they wanna give back, they simply just don’t know how… And what I teach is listen, let’s train everybody who wants to reciprocate or everybody who wants to give back to us that the way to give back, the number one and only way to reciprocate is through referrals; so let’s train them through referrals.

Generosity leads to reciprocity, reciprocity leads to referrals, and once again, there we are, we’re on the referral cycle. But here’s where this gets even better… So generosity leads to reciprocity, they wanna give back; the reciprocity – we train them that the best way to do that is through referrals. Over time they understand that message and start to give us referrals. Then referrals, as you and I both know, is the most profitable type of business, so we’re gonna make the most amount of money, because they’re referred; we don’t have to spend any money on marketing and advertising.

Well, here’s the deal – that profitability, your business making money… There’s something more important than making money, and those things are freedom, choice, relationships, family, love… Of course, wealth, having time. All of those words, if you mix them and put them all together, they lead to prosperity. And prosperity leads to more generosity.

So the back wheel of our bicycle is the generosity cycle, which is generosity leading to reciprocity, reciprocity leading to referrals, referrals lead to profitability, which of course, leads to prosperity, which leads to more and better and higher generosity.

So the interesting thing about the back wheel or back-cycle of a bicycle is that’s where we put our energies. We should be putting our energies into generosity, giving massive value first to others; everywhere we go, give massive value to others, and they will wanna reciprocate, which we teach them that “Hey, listen, don’t buy me dinner, don’t give me a gift certificate, don’t send me cards… The number one way is through referrals.” Referrals is not a question, referrals is the answer.

Joe Fairless: Two questions… I’ll ask you them one at a time, because I hate it when people ask me two questions at once. The first question is you said when we lead with generosity, we add value first… What are some specific ways that you’ve seen that have been really effective?

Michael Maher: Well, it comes from genuine curiosity and asking great questions, which you’re a great model of. The first thing is – alright, let me ask you… With this show, the real estate investing show, what is your goal for this show in general? What do you want it to do, or do you have a stated, specific goal on what you want it to do?

Joe Fairless: The primary is to help my listeners get to know me better faster, so that we could potentially do business together in the future through my multifamily syndicating deals.

Michael Maher: Okay, very good. So they will either invest with you or partner with you, or find you multifamily deals, right?

Joe Fairless: Yeah.

Michael Maher: Okay. Here’s another question that I have – it might be interesting how many people knew that before this interview? Because you’re such a giver, you’re always asking these questions and it never comes up with maybe that stated goal.

Joe Fairless: Right.

Michael Maher: So that’s a great goal, and hopefully you’ll get an investor or two from this. Okay, and then when it comes to this show or your real estate investing business specifically, what is your biggest challenge right now?

Joe Fairless: Finding opportunities, which deals to purchase.

Michael Maher: Yeah, so if your listeners of this could find you deals and just refer them to you, it’d be fantastic, right?

Joe Fairless: That’s correct.

Michael Maher: Okay. So what have you tried so far to find opportunities? What have you seen in the past that has lead you to opportunities?

Joe Fairless: Broker relationships and…

Michael Maher: Real estate agent relationships?

Joe Fairless: Yeah, real estate agent relationships in markets that we’re focused on.

Michael Maher: Yeah, because they know what the deals are. They stumble upon them, and a lot of times the owner doesn’t wanna do the fix-up or the repair, or the [unintelligible [00:17:14].06] person is retiring, or whatever it may be, right?

Joe Fairless: Yup.

Michael Maher: What are you gonna do next when it comes to conquering this challenge of finding opportunities?

Joe Fairless: I’m gonna crack the whip even harder to the team members of mine who are on the ground, searching for opportunities… [laughs]

Michael Maher: Okay, so you’ve got this grassroots ground group of people who are looking for you already, so maybe growing that would make some sense, and maybe growing it with unpaid individuals, people who just wanna do it to help you, yes?

Joe Fairless: Perhaps, yes.

Michael Maher: Okay. So by when? What would that look like to crack the whip, and by when will you put that into play?

Joe Fairless: I don’t know, I haven’t thought about that… I already have brokers and team members doing direct mail, I have brokers looking for opportunities… So I’ve already got something in place.

Michael Maher: Okay, great. So maybe just honing that and educating the people who are doing that for you. Would it help to maybe add 50,000 unpaid salespeople to that group of people looking for deals for you?

Joe Fairless: If I don’t have to manage them…

Michael Maher: Yeah, you would not have to manage them at all… Just educate them over time on what the perfect deal looks for you. Would you be open to that?

Joe Fairless: Yes.

Michael Maher: Okay, so I have a group of 50,000+ people, a very active group, and I’d love to welcome you into that group, and have you come in. You would be the only real estate investor that would be in this group at this time.

Now, I am a real estate investor, but the bottom line is you would be looking for some unique product, right? So we could talk about that stuff, or at least get the message out that I am a real estate investor and we could figure out how we can help this group. And by the way, it’s 99% real estate agents. Would that help?

Joe Fairless: Yes, it would.

Michael Maher: There’s no cost.

Joe Fairless: I get it, yeah. And now we’ll pause in this scenario, and I see what you did… I was writing down the questions, so that it’s not just applying to me… I see what you did, and it makes a lot of sense. So that is, instead of answering the question “What’s an example?”, you just rolled right into it, and I love that.

Michael Maher: Yeah. The other thing I would do… So the three facets or areas I wanna go into – I wanna go down to finding out what your goals are, and I don’t mean just your business goals… And I’m gonna help you achieve that as a surprise. I’m gonna help you achieve that.

Same thing with your biggest challenge – what is your biggest challenge right now? And I’m gonna help you conquer your biggest challenge; not just a little weenie challenge, but truly the winning challenge, the big challenge.

And then the other avenue would be, okay, what do you do when you’re not doing work? And you would tell me an interest of yours, and that would be a third realm of me being able to help you. If you said “golf”, I would say “Alright, well what are you looking to do with your golf game?” It’s like “Well, I wanna go [unintelligible [00:19:56].10]” and I’m like, “Okay, which part of your game do you need work on?” “Short game? Great.”, and then I would either send you a book from Amazon on your short game approach, or I would go to someone I knew who knew the short game and connect the two of you; I would send you videos from YouTube, or I’d google it, or I’d set you up with a [unintelligible [00:20:14].22] tour instructor in your area to have some lessons, depending on how many referrals you’ve sent me in the past.

So give massive value first, and please note that most of those will cost me less than $10 to $0, but you can get massive value first [unintelligible [00:20:30].22]

Joe Fairless: Except for the PGA one.

Michael Maher: Absolutely, but here’s the thing – I have some connections with PGA people who would be happy to do a one-hour free lesson to possibly get you on as a client for the long-term.

Joe Fairless: Right. I love that. We can replicate that very easily, that approach. That’s a great one.

Michael Maher: Anybody can do it. And the other part of that too is we all can help others. Thank god for Google, thank god for YouTube. There’s literally no challenge we can’t conquer in today’s world… Even the mindset challenge, we can conquer that. With enough videos, with enough psychotherapy, you can get somebody through the mindset issue of fear. But it’s one of those where we can all help, and we can all help in a big way, and we can all give massive value first to others.

Joe Fairless: The second question I have is you mentioned multiple times that you let your clients know the best way to reciprocate is to give referrals… Is there a way that you do that other than just saying that to them?

Michael Maher: Yeah, I really don’t typically just say it to them; it’s not a point blank. But remember, I said also that referrals is not a question, referrals is the answer. When I say “referrals is the answer”, I mean that 100% of the time. So let’s say I get you in this group and all of a sudden you’re making connections for deals… In a follow-up conversation I’ll go “Well, how’s it going in the group?” and you’re like “Wow, it’s been great. We’ve already made some connections, and I can even get a couple partners maybe.” And then what might you ask me?

Joe Fairless: I don’t know, “What can I do to help you out?”

Michael Maher: That’s right, “What can I do for you?” and “How can I help you?” My answer is “Referrals.” So if you said “Michael, it’s been great. How can I help you?” “Referrals”, that’s the answer. And then your follow-up question might be “Well, who are you looking to get connected to?” and that for me could change over time. “I’m really looking for sellers right now. I’m really looking for people — increased inventory we have, because we’re low on that, we’re selling the heck out of properties very quickly.” Or buyers, or in some cases, if I know you know someone really influential, then I would say “You know what? You are connected to the CEO over at John Davidson Motors. Would you be willing to connect me to him?” and all I would be doing is looking to meet with him to find out why he’s so successful… I would literally kind of almost interview him and ask about how he became so successful; it would not be a sales call at all, but “Would you mind just connecting the two of us and letting me do that interview, where I’m just looking to grow?”

Joe Fairless: What if they don’t ask “How can I help you out?” You know that they would be willing to, and they would be interested in it, but they don’t explicitly ask that.

Michael Maher: So somebody talks about themselves a lot. So I keep asking, and they keep talking, and so on and so forth. I’ll be like “You know what? Let’s stop right here. You probably feel like this was a game of 20 questions, and honestly, I’m genuinely curious, Joe, about your goals, your challenges – everything about you, and I think I’m just scratching the surface on how awesome you are, but here’s the thing… Let me just stop right here; instead of having this be 20 questions and me just bombard you with questions, let me ask you this – do you have any questions for me?” or I’ll say “What question do you have for me?”

I want you to know there’s something called question reciprocity. Question reciprocity is that when you stop in this line of questioning, the last question that you asked them is most likely to be the question that they ask you back. So you get to that point, it’s like “Alright, what are your challenges?” or “What’s your goal?” and they tell me what their goal is and stuff like that. I go “Wow, that’s awesome… You know what, I’ve got some ideas on that I’d love to share with you. But before we even go on, what questions do you have for me?” They’ll say “What goals do you have?” “Well, my weekly referral goal is to give 10 referrals and receive 5 referrals. So out of all the people you know, who can I help?”

Joe Fairless: Is that still your goal?

Michael Maher: My weekly referral goal is to give 10 referrals and receive 5 referrals, yes.

Joe Fairless: To give 10 referrals and receive 5?

Michael Maher: That’s right.

Joe Fairless: Interesting. This is fascinating stuff… I loved that last part – the last question you ask them is likely the same question they ask you… That’s great.

Michael Maher: Yeah, it is. I do podcasts, they don’t even know it’s coming. So I’ll do the podcast and I’ll go “Alright, let’s just roleplay it…” Literally, we’re in the middle of a roleplay and they kind of forget we’re in a roleplay; we’re just having our conversation, and literally, I’m asking about the goals and the challenges and what their ideal client is and how is the best way to refer them… And I’ll either get to the goals question or whatever, and I’ll go “Alright, let’s reverse this… What’s the question that you have for me?”, and [unintelligible [00:25:11].15] every single time they ask me the last question that I just asked them.

Joe Fairless: That’s fascinating, I love that.

Michael Maher: It’s not manipulation or magic, it just is. They could ask me some other question, like “Are you still single, or are you married?” or some other crazy, annoying, weird out of the box question, but do you know what they ask me? They ask me the last question.

Joe Fairless: That’s great. Well, Michael, where can the best ever listeners get in touch with you?

Michael Maher: Thank you for the referral mention, right? I think the best thing is referco.com, but they can also go to Facebook; they’re already there, probably most of them, right now. Facebook.com/referralguru, and in my photos, there is a photo that has been liked 738,000 times. It will say on there 738k…

Joe Fairless: Is it you with your shirt off, flexing?

Michael Maher: It is not me flexing; that one has just 612k likes… But it has 738k likes and it has 216k shares. And if they could like it and share — it’s a picture of a tombstone, so that will help them find that. It’s a very, very cool tombstone.
So bottom line is that they can go to Facebook.com/referralguru. No, that’s not my title; that was chosen by a PR person a long time ago… But 83k members there, and we’d love to have your listeners become members there, and share and post their photos and videos and posts that I post that are positive, inspirational and typically lead us down a path of generating referrals and great relationship with people.

Joe Fairless: Outstanding. This is a very practical, hands-on conversation. I’m grateful for it, I know the best ever listeners are as well… Some takeaways – we need to first lead with generosity and add value first. You went through a role-playing scenario where you asked questions; fortunately, we have a transcription of every episode, so Best Ever listeners, you can just go to BestEverShow.com and check out the transcription of this when the show airs… So you can read those questions.

Then the best way to give back or reciprocate to you is to give referrals. It makes so much sense… I have a background in advertising and I can tell you the number one influencer of purchase intent is word of mouth, referrals. So when we have word of mouth referrals, then that’s going to influence purchase intent more so than anything else on the face of the earth.

It doesn’t matter what type of ad or how creative you get with PR, it’s word of mouth referrals that’s the number one influencer of purchase intent, therefore, referrals should be at front and center of our business, and you have given us a step by step process for how to practically do it in our own business.

Thanks for being on the show, Michael. I hope you have a best ever day. Best Ever listeners, you can go to his website, which is in the show notes link… And talk to you soon!

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Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Show Podcast

JF1147: This Is How To CORRECTLY Brand Yourself with Chris Craft

Chris says that the best thing you can do for proper branding is have good content. He’ll give you details in this episode of what kind of content to create, and how to leverage your personality and knowledge. The voice behind the content is one of the most important parts to master. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!


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Chris Craft Background:

  • Founder of content creation agency Nao Media
  • Author of The Foundation: Branding for Successful Real Estate Professionals
  • Helps real estate professionals brand themselves through written content
  • Real estate marketing and content expert
  • Based in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Say hi to him at http://www.naomedia.co/
  • Best Ever Book: The Content Code

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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.

With us today, Chris Craft. How are you doing, my friend?

Chris Craft: I am doing well, Joe. Nice to be with you today.

Joe Fairless: Nice to have you on the show. A little bit about Chris – he is the founder of content creation agency Nao Media. He is the author of The Foundation: Branding For Successful Real Estate Professionals. He helps real estate professionals brand themselves through written content. He is a real estate marketing and content expert, based in hot Atlanta, Georgia. With that being said, Chris, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your focus?

Chris Craft: Yes, definitely. First and foremost, I’m a follower of Jesus Christ; everyone knows that about me, and now your listeners know. I’ve been in content marketing since 2010 with the launch of Nao Media. The interesting thing about Nao Media – it’s the first three letters of our oldest daughter’s name, Naomi. When she was two, I asked her if I could borrow the first three letters of her name to start a company and she said yes, and history has been made ever since.

Joe Fairless: Did she negotiate an equity agreement with you?

Chris Craft: [laughs] I think she’s in good position for that.

Joe Fairless: Okay, there you go.

Chris Craft: I’m two-times published in terms of being an author. The first book that I wrote was published in 2013 and it’s called “OPEN Routine: Four Components To Personal Branding Excellence.” Now I’ve taken that personal branding niche and hyper-focused it on real estate with the second book, that you mentioned, The Foundation.

Joe Fairless: Got it. Okay, so let’s talk about branding ourselves as real estate professionals. Before we get into the specifics, why should we care about this as real estate professionals?

Chris Craft: Because anytime you leave your home or the four walls of your office, you’re presenting your brand to the world, with you wanting to do so or not. Anytime you present yourself, whether it’s to the teller at a checkout line or to a prospect that you’re trying to help sell a home to them, your brand is on display. It’s one of those ingrained things, it’s your God-given identity put on display and you can’t avoid it; that’s why I harp on it so much, because every single one of us have a brand, whether we like it or not.

Joe Fairless: That is very true, we do have a brand whether we like it or not… It’s just, are we thoughtful about it and our approach to make sure that we are really presenting what is truly authentic to ourselves and putting ourselves and the brand in the best light… So how do we do that?

Chris Craft: You hit the nail on the head, Joe. The way you do that, in human terms, is being comfortable with yourself and being truly authentic. You hit the nail on the head with that word ” authentic”. People who are transparent – and I’m not saying transparent to a fault, but people who put themselves on display in a way that people can know more about you, more than the person who’s trying to do business with you, the more comfortable they are with you.

I like to focus on web presence, so the first way to start that is with your web presence, right? And not giving people a canned representation of you. Taking the time to write a really good bio for your static About Me page, taking the time to really bring yourself through social media by letting people know more about you than just your listings, and then also taking the next step and putting out helpful content to people, that lets people know that you have domain knowledge and you’re an authority on a specific niche within the real estate industry.

Joe Fairless: How do we go about writing the content? What are some tips that you have?

Chris Craft: Can I be transparent right here, first and foremost?

Joe Fairless: I hope you’re transparent all the time, baby.

Chris Craft: [laughs] 95% of agents don’t have time to write their own content; I’m just upfront, and that’s why my agency does so well. One of my best and most trafficked blog posts is “Stop Blogging. Let Me Do It!” That’s not to be overly salesy, it’s just the reality. If you’re not out there trying to create deals, then your business won’t go, and I think many of us can agree with that. But if you are in that 5% of the people who are able to do their own content, start by doing the brain dump, seeing who you are… I would say concentrate 20% of your content on letting people know who you are and how unique you are and your value prop, and then do the remaining 80% on being helpful with people who are looking to buy or sell within your specific neighborhoods that you cover.

I’d say the first place to start is to do a topic dump. That’s always where I start after I engage a client. I get specific keywords from them, I get a sense of their voice, and that’s a whole “patented process” that we have, to nail the voice of our client. After all that is done, we literally do a topic dump and we take these topics back to the client to have them pre-approved. So if you’re writing for yourself, sit down, block out a good 30 minutes to an hour and write down, even if it’s in bullet points, the type of topics that you would want to cover with that 80/20 split that I gave you just a second ago.

Joe Fairless: How do you nail the voice? That’s a tough one. And I’m not asking to learn the proprietary process you work with your clients, I’m asking for the 5% of Best Ever listeners or investors who want to create their own content – they have a personality and then they write, and it’s just “Bleah!”, just normal stuff; they’re not capturing their voice. How can they do that?

Chris Craft: [unintelligible [00:06:50].26] in popular media that AP style writing is still very important – you want to spell things correctly, you want your grammar to be somewhat good, but you can mix in a “y’all” every once in a while; you can mix in an “ain’t”. So for the people who have trouble writing, I really recommend recording yourself, especially if you’re a audible learner. Record yourself. You don’t necessarily need to have one of the dictation softwares, because those things are kind of hookey, but if you listen to yourself and then if you take the audio of that and repurpose it into written content, that’s a really good hack for people. In fact, a lot of the podcasts that I appear on, I have them transcribed, and even your best transcription service, sometimes they try to turn the transcription into AP style writing, and it just doesn’t feel human, it doesn’t read human… So just let your personality flow through your writing by writing how you speak.

Joe Fairless: I like that. That’s a very practical tip that we can implement if we’re looking to create content for the first time; we’re not sure how to write, what type of angle to take… Just talk, record yourself and then use that as the fodder for your first article.

Chris Craft: Exactly. And our agency doesn’t focus on video, but that’s the appeal of video, and that’s why people really like it. It’s unfiltered. The best video is unscripted… If you have a general outline of the points you wanna cover… But it also appeals to more than one sense. But you couldn’t kind of replicate that through written content by just writing how you speak.

Joe Fairless: What are some other content tips that you can share with us?

Chris Craft: Content is like a product – you can’t just put it on the shelf and expect people to come. You have to ignite your content – that’s a term that I borrowed from my good friend Mark Schaefer, a really awesome content marketer. You have to ignite your content by sharing it through social, especially if you have evergreen content, and that’s content that stays relevant for a long period of time.

Honestly, a lot of my most popular posts that I’ve written are 2-3 years aged, and they’re still relevant. So how do you do that? With things like IFTTT, which is “If This, Then That” (IFTTT.com), you can basically take one blog post and share it to several social media platforms that you have a presence on on a consistent frequency. That gets it out there, it gets more people to see your content, and it’s the hub and spoke model; it drives people back to your hub through those social channels afforded to you, and your hub being your website.

So that’s the main tip I would say for — after the content is written and published, make sure you ignite it, because you can’t depend on Google to index your blog post for you and for you to be instantly number one with that specific piece of content… So you have to force the action.

Joe Fairless: So you sign up for a website like IFTTT.com, it links to all of your social media accounts, and it sends out the content… That is a tactic that we can implement, and then it is working for us, on our behalf. What are some other ways to share or ignite the content?

Chris Craft: I’m a big fan of repurposing. Everyone loves the idea of having an e-mail list, but they don’t send information out to their e-mail list unless they think that there’s something absolutely new that they need to share. Well, the reality is every single piece of content that you write, in some way, shape or form needs to go out to your list, so repurpose it.

I do it one of two ways, I kind of mix up the strategy. I either send a quick update to my e-mail list and linking back to the content, or sometimes, my specific members on my list love long-form content directly in the e-mail, and I will repurpose the entire copy inside the body of an e-mail. I’ll still at the end and within the body of the e-mail offer key calls to actions to drive them to specific pages that I’m trying to send traffic to for inbound marketing purposes… But that’s the other thing – do not sit on the content with it just being on your blog or your website; get it our through your e-mail list as well. That will be my number two tactic that agents can use, and investors as well.

Joe Fairless: And as far as your e-mail list, any suggestions for which e-mail platform to use?

Chris Craft: Yes, I am a big fan of ConvertKit.com. The reason why is because you’re able to organize your lists into subgroups under each list, and then also they have these really cool links that you can put into your e-mails and it tracks the people who click those links, and it will drive people who click into another more targeted group for really specific marketing… Because you don’t want to be that marketer that sends every single e-mail to every single person on your e-mail list. You wanna have your list segmented so that you can contact specific people with the type of content that you know that they will like. And it’s really fairly priced too, and it scales with the size of your e-mail list.

Joe Fairless: I have MailChimp and it’s the same pricing model – it’s free at first, and then as you get more and more subscribers it just costs you a little bit more every month, but it’s very reasonable.

Chris Craft: MailChimp is here in Atlanta, they’re excellent as well. I will say those two, ConvertKit and MailChimp are really awesome.

Joe Fairless: What is your best advice ever for real estate investors who want to brand themselves through content?

Chris Craft: The number one thing is make the decision “Can I do in on my own or do I need to outsource it?” That’s number one. Because if you’re motivated to get started with writing on your own and then you find yourself not publishing any content for a three-month gap, you’re gonna lose any and all momentum that you have.

Now, if you’re the type of person that blogs in concert with other strategies, like podcasting or video, then hey, that’s your strategy. So I will say number one, make that decision.

Number two would be to write content that’s able to be ranked, and gone are the days that you can write a 200-word piece and Google gives you a good amount of juice behind that. You have to write things with a little bit of meat to them. If you’re gonna write, try to commit to at least 500 words of rich content that has a fair amount of keyword density. What that means is know beforehand which keyword you wanna rank for, and put that keyword inside your content tastefully throughout the content.

Those would be my top two things… One, make the decision on if you really can do it, and then two, write meaty content that people feel will be worthwhile to actually read.

Joe Fairless: As far as knowing the keywords that we wanna be ranked for, how do we determine that?

Chris Craft: A lot of it, especially in real estate — it’s really set up well for real estate… A lot of keywords that you wanna rank for in real estate, they’re geo-targeted. They’re more specific than just “Austin, Los Angeles, Houston” and “real estate investor”. Get down to the specific neighborhoods, get down to subdivisions, get down to — not really zip codes; no one searches Google by zip codes… But that’s really your starter. Try to carve up the cities or towns that you are going after into specific neighborhoods and use those as the foundation of your longtail keywords.

When I say “longtail keywords”, I’m talking about keywords that are 3-5 words long, and not just 1-2 words long.

Joe Fairless: And if we are choosing to — regardless of if we have a partner like you and your company, or if we’re choosing to do it on our own, should we identify those keywords and then attempt to incorporate in all of the articles that make sense?

Chris Craft: That’s exactly right. That’s actually step number one. So if you’re working with an agency like me, the voice is important. We actually take 2-3 weeks to nail the voice, and we turn content in too to treat the client like the editor in chief. We send 2-3 weeks’ worth of content just for heavy redlining, just to nail the voice. If you’re that 5% and you’re writing on your own, you should be able to come upon your voice a lot quicker than that.

After voice, those keywords must be (I will say) 80%-85% of your content you will want to have a keyword in the background being the motivation or what you’re trying to drive traffic through when people search. The remaining 15% could just be personality-driven, it could be something about your kids if you’re a parent, it could be something that just adds color and context to you as a person.

Joe Fairless: Okay, good to know. Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Chris Craft: Oh, I love it. I can’t wait!

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

Break: [00:16:23].19] to [00:17:24].28]

Joe Fairless: Best ever book you’ve read?

Chris Craft: Oh wow, that’s a good one. I will have to say the Bible. It’s my center, it’s the light that’s in my life and it’s the truth, so that’s my best ever book. Now, if we wanna go to best ever marketing book, I’ll have to go with one of Mark Schaefer’s books, The Content Code.

Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever case study that you’ve done?

Chris Craft: The best ever case study that I’ve done… Definitely at the end of the year I do a survey to all the people on my list, and I also go outside and do research on what’s the upcoming digital marketing trends for the upcoming year. I did it at the end of 2015 and I did it at the end of 2016, and I turned those findings into a one-pager PDF and people just love it, they eat it up every time I come out with it at the end of each year, and it’s for the following year. In fact, you can grab my 2017 one at CraftWrites.com/marketing.

Joe Fairless: What’s a mistake you’ve made in business?

Chris Craft: Oh, this is an easy one. I’m an awareness content creator now. My team, we write content for people to express their domain knowledge and for them to write content that allows people to learn from them. The biggest mistake I used to make would be to make promises on page rank based on the content that we would write for people. Not that our content is not SEO-centered or SEO-driven – that’s definitely a part of our process – but there’s no way that you can predict, especially with the changing of search algorithms… So that’s the biggest mistake I used to make – putting too much weight into SEO in the services that we would sell; we’ve since pivoted from that, and our business has definitely benefitted ever since then.

Joe Fairless: Best ever way you like to give back?

Chris Craft: Definitely with my time, and serving in the community, and then also with the money that the Lord has blessed me with I definitely give back to faith-based causes and also community causes. With every single dollar that I earn as an individual and every single dollar that Nao Media earns, the first fruits are going to the community efforts that help people who are in need.

Joe Fairless: How can the best ever listeners get in touch with you or your company?

Chris Craft: Shoot me an e-mail at Chris@NaoMedia.co. I love to engage on Twitter, and you can find me on Twitter @CraftWrites. And then also, if you just wanna read some of my writing, you could go to CraftWrites.com. If you just wanna learn more about the agency, you could go to NaoMedia.co.

Joe Fairless: Outstanding. Chris, thank you for being on the show, thanks for sharing the content marketing tips that you’ve walked us through, from igniting your content using some platforms or some services like the IFTTT.com (If This, Then That), to being consistent and identifying — it really is a very important question… Are you gonna do it? Are you gonna have someone else do it? Either way, make sure that it’s consistent, because that’s the key to ranking over a long period of time and being in this business for the long run, it’s being consistent. So set up yourself for success, take whatever path works for you so that you will be consistent.

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

Chris Craft: Thank you, Joe. God bless.

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