JF2052: Syndication Website Design With Todd Heitner

Todd owns a company called Apartment Investor Pro, a company that builds websites for apartment investors. Todd gives different items to keep in mind when creating your own website which includes; back end, front end, hosting, and increasing traffic. 

 

Todd Heitner Real Estate Background:

  • Has been building websites for real estate investors for the past 15 years
  • His business, Apartment Investor Pro, takes the pain out of setting up a website for your multifamily investing business
  • Based in Roanoke, VA
  • Say hi to him at www.apartmentinvestorpro.com

 

Best Ever Tweet:

“When choosing a website designer you want to focus on communication. Make sure you choose someone who is easy to communicate with and can understand your goals and vision.” – Todd Heitner


TRANSCRIPTION

Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how 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 Todd Heitner. How you doing, Todd?

Todd Heitner: I’m good. How about you?

Joe Fairless: I’m doing really well and looking forward to our conversation. This will be especially helpful for all you apartment investors out there, and I know there’s a lot of them who listen to this show. So first, a little bit about Todd – he’s been building websites for real estate investors for the last 15 years, and he has a company called Apartment Investor Pro. Told you it’d be relevant to you, apartment investors. He takes the pain out of setting up a website for your multifamily investing business. We’re going to talk about components of websites and marketing funnels. So even if you don’t work with him, you’ll still get a lot of value from our conversation. But ultimately, we’ll be talking about his business as well, and ways he differentiates himself from others. He is based in Roanoke, Virginia. So Todd, with that being said, first, do you want to give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background, your current focus and then we’ll dive right into it?

Todd Heitner: Okay, sure. I guess on a personal level, my wife and I have been married for 18 years. We like to travel a lot. We just actually got back from a trip to Asia. We were there for a couple of months. That was really cool. We’re quite like you said, I started building websites for real estate investors about 15 years ago, more recently focused more on the multifamily side of it, especially apartment syndicators. We saw a need where people were struggling to get their website up and running and just tried to find ways to simplify that process, speed it up so that people don’t have to agonize over that for weeks or months, so it’s that’s basically it.

Joe Fairless: Okay. First off, why did you shift your focus to focus on apartment investing websites?

Todd Heitner: I saw that there was more of a need there. I was doing single-family investors first. There’s already a lot of options out there, I guess, with the single-family side; there’s quite a few services out there. We were around probably, about the longest with that, but there’s a lot of competition. And also I saw that I got into that as helping somebody that– he teaches people how to invest in apartments. So I helped him with developing websites for his students, and I saw there was definitely a need there. Nobody else was really offering that, and so it seemed to make sense to try to expand that and help more investors.

Joe Fairless: Cool. Okay. So if we’re creating a multifamily– and this is primarily multifamily syndication, it sounds like.

Todd Heitner: Yeah, primarily.

Joe Fairless: So if we’re creating a multifamily syndication website, what are the components of the website that must be included?

Todd Heitner: For one thing, it starts with having a good domain name. I always recommend people, especially for syndication, get a domain name that matches your business name. If it’s Premier Investments LLC, then get premierinvestments.com.

Joe Fairless: Some people don’t do that? That seems like 101.

Todd Heitner: Yeah, and it’s a different mindset from a single-family investor. So I think some people coming from single-family investing might get  ibuyhouses.

Joe Fairless: Oh, yeah. Okay.

Todd Heitner: So a lot of people realize the need for that, but just in case, I always recommend that. And also always go with .com. You don’t want to have to explain that. Okay, no, it’s a .net or whatever, because people are still going to type in .com, and end up on somebody else’s website. So before somebody really gets too attached to a business name, I would suggest seeing if the domain name’s available because, again, that’s going to be part of your brand. So you don’t want to get set on a business name and then find that somebody else has a domain name, then you’ve got to try to come up with some other domain name that doesn’t really match your business as well.

Joe Fairless: Or if there’s a competitor in the space that has that and then you don’t do that research and you get a cease and desist letter from the competitor who’s a trillion-dollar real estate fund or something… Which, true story, has happened to someone who I know. After he got the website up and his branding up, he got a cease and desist from the original company that was his name, and he had to just pivot. So that’s part of the process you need to go through too.

Todd Heitner: Yeah, it definitely pays to do your research and get that first. I would get that locked in and then move forward getting the business name, setup, and everything. Another important part is the web hosting. With our service we include that, but otherwise, you just want to make sure it’s a fast, reliable web hosting service because people don’t want to wait on a slow website to load. Any hosting service you use, you want to make sure there’s good support there, because sooner or later, there’s gonna be some issue with your website and you need to have some way to get help with that.

Joe Fairless: Please quantify fast and reliable for someone who’s trying to look it up on their own.

Todd Heitner: Well, one thing that’s really helpful is actually, there’s several tools. First, search for “web page speed tests”. There’s several different sites that will do a speed test, and they will give you a rating to show how you compare. But within just a few seconds, you want your page to load. There should be something there almost immediately. At least, the headline or some content that people can start reading.

Joe Fairless: But that’s testing it after it’s up. But in this case, ideally, we know it’s going to work the first time and then we test to validate it later. So what do we research prior to actually putting it up?

Todd Heitner: You can look at reviews online, see what other people are saying different current web hosting companies. You do have to be careful about that because a lot of them are biased, because people are affiliates for these different services, and so they recommend whichever one’s paying them the most. So you do have to make sure you get some unbiased reviews.

Joe Fairless: This is showing my ignorance in this area, but I would think there’d be on web hosting, an option you can pay for the hosting that will be the Cadillac, or it will be the Lamborghini of hosting, and each service — like GoDaddy, for example. What do they have–

Todd Heitner: That’s true. They usually have a lot of plans that you can choose from.

Joe Fairless: Okay, so that’s my question.

Todd Heitner: Because if you go with the cheapest plan, usually it’s shared websites on the same server as you and you’re at the mercy of how much traffic they’re getting and what they’re doing on their websites, because they might be doing something that slows down your websites. And there are different plans. The one that I recommend, if people are using WordPress, there’s a company called WP Engine, and they are really fast. They have a lot of stuff in place to keep your website running fast. So it’s a little bit more expensive, but it’s reliable. They have good support and it’s fast. So that’s what I’d recommend.

Joe Fairless: Okay, cool. Like it. Alright, so web hosting, domain name… And we haven’t even got to the actual components of the website, that’s consumer-facing. That’s good. I love that we’re talking about the inner workings of it. What else should we keep in mind?

Todd Heitner: Of course, there’s the design and development side of it, and that’s something where I’ve seen people go a couple of different routes. They’ll either try to build it themselves using some online website builder like Wix or Weebly or something. The problem with that is you waste a lot of time. If you’re trying to get started in apartment investing, that’s not really the best use of your time, because it seems like, oh, it’s not that big of a deal, let’s build up our website, but it can take weeks or months sometimes. I was talking with one person, he said he built his own site; it took him 10 months to actually get it live. He’s trying to do other things too at the same time. It’s just not the best use of your time really, especially if you’re not a designer, it can get over your head.

The other route some people go is hiring designers. There’s big companies you can use or there’s– some of the people use services like Fiverr or something like that, where you just find a designer and hire them. Just some things to be cautious about that, that sometimes it looks really good, it looks really cheap, but communication could be an issue because you may be dealing with someone in another country, English isn’t their first language, and you can have a lot of back and forth, a lot of miscommunications, misunderstandings, things like that.

Then there’s the content side of it too. I think a lot of people underestimate writing the content for their website… Because you do want to get the wording right, and you want to come across with the right impression. So that’s something too, you can either write it yourself if you’re decent with writing or you can hire people to do it. But whoever writes it needs to really understand your business, and that can be a little bit tricky to explain to someone else who maybe has no experience with real estate investing or multifamily investing. It can be a challenge, but you can find people out there. It’s just one of the things to be aware of that you can take a little bit longer than you might think when you’re going into it.

Joe Fairless: And what about the different types of pages that should be included on an apartment syndication website?

Todd Heitner: You need, first, basic general information about what you do, how you help your investors, how you can help their investments, what you can do for their investments, but also you want to have just a general contact form, of course, so people have a way to get in touch with you. But then also an investor profile form is really important, something that a potential investor who is interested in investing with you can fill it out and give you, of course, their contact information, but also are they SEC accredited, how much do they want or have available to invest, have they ever done anything like this before, so that you can capture that information and be able to follow up with them. That’s really vital for that type of business.

It can be good to have an About Us page that has your team, yourself and your other team members. That can really add some credibility, because people want to know who they’re doing business with and like to see a face. Because these websites can be cold and impersonal, I guess. So if you have pictures of yourself and your team members, that can really go a long way with the credibility side of it.

Joe Fairless: What about getting people to the website? What tips do you have there from a marketing funnel standpoint?

Todd Heitner: It is a good idea to have a landing page… If you’re going to do any paid marketing, especially, that you can send people to, that just captures their name and email, so you have a way to follow up with them. But just some ways to get people to your site – you can use social media, that’s one thing that’s free, you can build up a following with that, or there’s some paid options like pay per click advertising; there’s a few different avenues of that. Google Ads, is one of the bigger ones. There’s search advertising, so people that are actively searching for a certain phrase, or certain things online, you can have your ad come up for that. There’s also display advertising, is another type of pay per click advertising. So that’s where your ad shows up on different websites, and you can target websites based on the topic that they’re based on. So you can target investment websites, for example, for your ad to show up.

Another way is Facebook advertising; you can advertise there, because there’s so many people are on Facebook. So you can have your ads show up there. And again, with these, you pay each time someone clicks your ads. There’s no base price, there’s no minimum or anything; you’re just pretty much putting your budget and you pay based on how many people click your ad.

Joe Fairless: What are some mistakes you see people make when it comes to building out their website? So I went back to the website stuff after you were talking about the marketing funnels.

Todd Heitner: Of course, one thing I touched on was trying to do it themselves when they haven’t done it before, and it can kind of get over their heads. I guess, sometimes you can try to get everything perfect and never actually get your website live, which can really hold back your business, because a lot of times people wait to do their marketing and wait to get investors until the website’s live, but then they get stuck on some of these parts, like writing the content or other things like that.

So you don’t have to get it perfect, but you just want to get it to the point where it looks professional. I guess that’s another aspect of maybe not doing it yourself, too. Sometimes you might spend all this time on it and do your best, but it may not really be up to par with other syndicators, so that can be an issue, too. Or you’re trying to cut corners, trying to save money, you’re going with the cheapest designers and cheapest web hosting and things like that, you can end up with a site that doesn’t work very well. Also some of those Do-It-Yourself type systems– I found a lot of people run into limitations with that. They realize, “Okay, it’s great for getting something up initially, but now that I want to expand it a little bit, there’s no options for that.” You can’t add on these other features that you need. So I guess, looking at the long term goal of where you want to go with a website, and making sure that whatever platform you’re using will support that.

Joe Fairless: Okay. I noticed on your website, you’ve got four pricing plans. Just walk us through each of those four, will you? And just some of the things to keep in mind for each of them, and the price for anyone who’s not on your website right now.

Todd Heitner: Sure. So we do have a starter plan. That was something we introduced just for someone who know they want to get into multifamily, but they’re not quite ready to invest a lot in or don’t have a lot to invest right now. So it’s just a low-cost way to get your website up and running, something to represent your business so that you can have something to put on your business cards. It does look professional and everything, and that’s the idea, but it just has one design option, and you can customize that. People can go in and tweak it themselves, but it’s limited on the customization that we do on it. Because I’ve been to a lot of events where people hand out business cards and you go to their website, and it’s just like a “Parked at GoDaddy” page or a Coming Soon page. That’s why we started that plan. You can have that up and running. I mean, you can be–

Joe Fairless: What do you do when you come across that?

Todd Heitner: Since I do websites, sometimes I’ll ask, “Hey, do you want to get a website?”

Joe Fairless: Yeah. That’s a perfect client for you.

Todd Heitner: Yeah, yeah, because it looks unprofessional. You’re giving people business cards and you don’t have anything there. So that’s basically it. It still comes with one design option. Our current pricing is $397 for the setup on that and then $49.95 a month. So that it gives you something to get started and you can always upgrade from there. That’s the thing you can always– as your business grows and you have a little bit more to invest in it, you can always just pay the difference and upgrades to another plan.

Our most popular is the pro plan. It has four different design options. Besides apartment syndication, there’s also mobile home park syndication, self-storage syndication, and also even for owner-operators, ones that aren’t trying to attract investors, but just need something to represent their apartment investing business. So the pro plan is that. It’s $997 and then $99.95 a month, and it does include a little bit of customization; we’ll help you do some basic customization on it, and then it goes up from there.

There’s an executive plan… The main difference is it has a custom design that’s unique to your site. That’s one thing with all of these, starter and pro. They have a pre-made design and pre-written content. So those things that slow everybody down, like trying to come up with the wording and all that, you don’t really have to worry about. You can change it, of course, if you want to, you can go in and tweak things, but we tried to make it where you don’t really have to if you don’t want to or don’t have the time right now. But then as it goes up, the executive plan has a custom design so it’s unique to your site.

The diamond plan has also unique content, too; it’s written just for you. We help with customizing a lead magnet, something you can give away on your site… Basically, setting up your marketing funnel with that plan.

Joe Fairless: Anything else that we haven’t talked about as it relates to tips that our listeners can take away from this conversation to help them make better decisions when they’re building out their website?

Todd Heitner: Yeah. I think one thing maybe is recognizing why it’s important to have a website, just the credibility that that gives you, especially if you’re starting out, but really, at any level; it says a lot about your business. In fact, one of your podcasts, I think one that Theo Hicks did, he was talking about how important it is having an online presence, because potential investors will Google you to see what they can find, and if they can’t find you, they aren’t going to trust you… Because you do expect any business to have a website; that’s a basic thing. So when people search and they don’t find anything, it really hurts your credibility in their eyes, but having a website really does a lot for that.

And it does open up options. You can also automate things with your business, you can set up a marketing funnel where people sign up for something for free, and you put them into CRM or an email marketing system like ActiveCampaign or MailChimp or something like that. You can have a series of emails go out to people automatically, and that makes sure people aren’t falling through the cracks, but also, they get a consistent marketing message that builds that relationship on autopilot. So really, the website is a hub for all of your marketing.

If you have a podcast, or down the road maybe people will have a podcast or they want to write blog posts or anything like that, really the website ties that all together, it gives these people a place to go to. Actually, I want to ask you a question, if you don’t mind, because when we were at Michael Blank’s event, he put you on the spot, and said, “If you started over, and you had only $1,000 and a laptop, what would you do?” And you said you would start a podcast, and he asked if you would have a website and you said, “Yes, I would.” And I was just curious, could you explain to me your perspective? What would be one of the first things you would do if you were starting out from scratch?

Joe Fairless: Yeah. I think 99% of the people already know that. It’s nothing groundbreaking; we need websites. The year’s 2020, so you have to have a website. People are gonna search you on Google, you have to collect emails to build a database, which will then translate into more investors in your deals. Alright, my friend, so how can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you got going on?

Todd Heitner: Well, they can go to our website, apartmentinvestorpro.com. We have a demo site there. So if people want to see that and see what it looks like, some of the features, they can do that. I do have a free resource too for anybody that’s maybe interested in setting up their own website. It’s a seven-point checklist for just things to go through; some of the things we talked about, but also some of the resources like the hosting and other stuff. That’s at apartmentinvestorpro.com/checklist.

Joe Fairless: Oh, cool. You’ve been holding out on us. That’s what I was looking for. Something like that that you talk about. But it sounds like you went through the majority of this stuff, right?

Todd Heitner: Yeah, I did. It just has maybe some specific companies that I’ve used, things like that. Resources for finding stock photos to put on your site, different things like that, where you can find some of that stuff.

Joe Fairless: Cool. Well, what’s the website to find best stock photos?

Todd Heitner: Well, there’s several, but I use Adobe Stock photos; they have a subscription service. There’s a lot, but I like– they seem really professional looking. They look a little bit better than, I think, than some of the others out there.

Joe Fairless: Todd, thank you for being on the show and talking to us about website building for apartment syndications and the components of them, some mistakes that people make coming out of the gate, and how to avoid those mistakes. So, really appreciate it. I hope you have a best ever day. Talk to you again soon.

Todd Heitner: Okay, thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

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JF1690: What Are The Challenges You Faced Starting Your Syndication Journey? #FollowAlongFriday With Whitney Sewell & Ryan Cox

We’re throwing you a curveball today, neither of our usual hosts are on this episode. We do have two outstanding real estate investors and fellow podcast hosts (bios and podcasts below) with us to share what are the biggest challenges they’ve faced, and what they would tell their younger selves as they were starting this journey. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!

 

Best Ever Tweet:

“Done is better than perfect” – Whitney Sewell

 

Ryan Cox Real Estate Background:

 

Whitney Sewell Real Estate Background:

 


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TRANSCRIPTION

Whitney Sewell: Hello, Best Ever listeners! How are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Whitney Sewell. 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.

This is Follow Along Friday. Theo and Joe are out today, but I am honored to be with you, and also with us is Ryan Cox. Thanks for being on the show, Ryan!

Ryan Cox: Yeah, excited to be here. Hello, Best Ever listeners.

Whitney Sewell: Ryan and I were asked to talk about some challenges that we faced getting started in the real estate syndication business, and we just wanna go through some of those challenges, because we know you are facing them or going to as well, and how we have worked through those.

A little about me – I’m also the host of the Daily Real Estate Syndication Show, and have invested in numerous deals now, and raised capital for numerous deals, and doing our own deals as well, under Life Bridge Capital. Ryan, give the listeners a little bit about you and let’s get right into some challenges we’ve faced.

Ryan Cox: Yeah, sounds great. Ryan Cox, Founders Grove Capital. Previous to investing in multifamily and working in syndication I was in enterprise software sales for about ten years, selling software and hardware to the mid-market, companies between about 1,000 and 5,000 employees.

I’ve been in the multifamily syndication business for a little over three years, and leaps and bounds from where I’ve started, but a long way to go.

Whitney Sewell: Awesome. Ryan, why don’t we just get right into a challenge that you wish you had known when you started? And I’ll do the same.

Ryan Cox: Yeah, I think two things really stand out as I think about what I would do differently, or that I wish that I had known in the beginning. Number one, I have a podcast as well called The Real Estate Innovators, where I interview founders of technology companies that are focus on innovating in commercial real estate, so I have an opportunity to talk to a lot of founders, venture capitalists – those types of folks that are really making a lot of interesting business models or technology that will impact commercial real estate.

I think that I had some hesitancy about jumping on the microphone and interviewing people, and just a little bit of nerves about that, and I just wish that I had started that much, much sooner. It has been an awesome way for me to build relationships, but it’s also been a tremendous way for me to learn from a bunch of really smart people, and help me think about not only how I’m operating my business today, but what the business is going to look like in the future. So I would have dismissed any of those fears and thoughts about creating that platform, because it’s really been so beneficial for my education, and I think it’s been a really good platform for founders to be able to tell their story about their business, and it’s been great for discovery for anybody who’s in commercial real estate and wondering about how technology is gonna change it… So that’s been awesome.

I think the other thing that I knew going in, but was a challenge for me was really getting outside of my circle of friends and family in terms of raising capital, and creating a system to be able to do that consistently.

So my two things are start some sort of thought leadership or group, TODAY. You don’t have to be an expert to do it. If you take a leadership role and start that, it’ll prove beneficial in helping you build relationships.

And then number two, getting outside of just your immediate circle; coming up with daily, weekly, monthly activities that you can measure yourself against, that’ll help you build an investor network and relationships, as well as daily, weekly, monthly goals in terms of underwriting deals, looking for deals.

Whitney Sewell: I like that a lot, and I can relate a lot. One of the things I was also going to talk about is wishing I had started a thought leadership platform earlier, the daily real estate syndication show… And obviously, that was influenced by Joe as well, and just the success that he’s had.

You said you had some hesitancy, you wish you had started sooner… What actually was it that really pushed you to get started? When you had all those thoughts about “Should I start now? When should I start?”, what really made it click for you?

Ryan Cox: I think like a lot of folks I was still in enterprise software sales when I started investing in real estate, so I was straddling two different worlds, which gave me some hesitancy about starting something. In hindsight, starting a podcast, having a group meetup, or doing anything in that respect would not have been in conflict with my day job, but it would have been a really fast jumpstart into a weekly/daily motion in terms of building a community and building relationships, and starting to get myself out there, like “Hey, this is the job that I’m working towards.”

So the thing that really just got me going was more or less hold your nose and jump into the deep end, and start figuring out how to swim, and that’s what I did. The first podcast I listened to – I hated my voice, I hated the questions… But the feedback that I got from people who listened said “Wow, it’s well-produced; those were good questions”, so I just kind of blindly kept going down the hallway a little bit further, towards the light, so to speak.

So there was some trial by error, and at the end of the day I tried not to pay attention to my voice or what others thought, but just trying to produce good content and be really curious. I think curiosity was a big driver that helped me push through any fears that I had.

Whitney Sewell: That’s awesome. I can relate to everything you’re talking about. I bet I get three calls a week, people asking about how to do a podcast, or how I’ve done it, or things like that… And I was very hesitant as well to pull the trigger, to launch the show, and to really commit, because I  was worried about the sound, I was worried about all these things, all these details… You know, about the show, about doing it the best that I can… So I was very hesitant.

I was talking to a mentor – Joe Fairless, I’ll say – and he helped remind me that done is better than perfect. Done is better than perfect. It really helped change my mindset. I also hated the way that I sounded, but I hired somebody to edit my audio just so I didn’t have to listen to it… Because I understood that if I listen to them, I’m probably not ever gonna launch. I’m just not gonna like the way that I sound, I’m gonna hear the um’s and ah’s and all these things, and I’m not going to think it’s as good as it should be… But I had to tell myself, I had to remember that the only way I’m gonna get better at this is just doing it, so I’m gonna have to get through that initial 20-30 shows before I really fall into using a mic, before I really fall into being recorded… And I still mess up all the time, but I’m getting better, and I understand that it’s gonna take many more shows; I’m getting better all the time. But if I hadn’t launched – guess what? I’d still be in fear of those first 20 shows.

Ryan Cox: Yeah, no doubt. I think the podcast is a good metaphor for any entrepreneur’s journey. Those first 20 or so times that you do it, it feels awkward, it feels uncomfortable. But committing to doing it — I publish every Thursday, so I’ve got a weekly show, and just the clock is kind of ticking; every Thursday, here are the 6-7 things that I need to do to make sure that I get a good show out the door.

And I guess I talked earlier about the daily/weekly/monthly, what are you measuring to make sure that you’re moving forward in your business. I think that thought leadership, whether it’s a monthly event that you’re hosting, or a podcast, whatever that looks like, getting committed and putting yourself out there is an excellent metaphor for the same type of discipline and work that you need to do to go out and put together a real estate deal.

Whitney Sewell: Ryan, what were some systems that you developed to help you make this happen? Initially you were hesitant and you hated the way you sounded, but you kept moving forward, you pushed through that… But obviously this added a lot more work to your day or your week, trying to make this happen, so what were some systems that you did to make it happen, and then also to measure the success or the growth?

Ryan Cox: Well, from a podcast perspective, I outsourced as much as possible. I batched that work; I record on Monday afternoon for an hour and Friday afternoon for an hour. I outsource all of the editing to Fiverr; I’ve got a guy that I work with on Fiverr. We’ve got another guy on Fiverr who does all podcast transcription or transcribing… So I try to outsource as much of that work as possible.

While I know that thought leadership is important and actually being on a production schedule is really important to me, the thing I wanted to be really conscious of is that this is not a six or seven hour/week job, that this is a two to three hour/week job. So it’s two hours a week in between my 8-to-5, and then I work on it at night. So typically on an average week it’s about three hours’ worth of work.

Whitney Sewell: Nice, nice. And how often are you publishing your show?

Ryan Cox: Every Thursday.

Whitney Sewell: Okay, awesome.

Ryan Cox: How about you?

Whitney Sewell: Obviously, it’s daily… So it did increase my workload tremendously; when you get that many shows done a month… But just like you, I outsource everything that I can. And I would stress to the Best Ever listeners, if you haven’t looked into hiring a virtual assistant, I’m not sure what you’re waiting on. I use UpWork. I’ve used Fiverr for different things, but I use UpWork a lot and I’ve learned some skills to be able to find people on there that work really well for me and for the tasks that I need.

Initially, I found somebody that their specialty was audio editing, or I found somebody that’s just good at show notes, somebody that’s just good at video. Then those have changed a little bit. My entire team has changed recently, but we’re improving all the time. But initially, it was such a big undertaking to get all that done that I had to outsource; there just wasn’t any way around it… And now I feel like if I hadn’t outsourced, if I was trying to do it all myself, I may have never got started, or I may have never launched, because the workload was so large. But it calls me to grow, it calls me to get out of my comfort zone, and just to make it happen.

I wanted to go back – if you’re watching this, you see behind me is a green screen. And just today we couldn’t get the green screen working the way we’re recording today, but we’re just gonna go on with it and we’re gonna make this happen; that really hindered me in the beginning, because I would have been really worried about that. I would have been really worried about that and thought “Oh, no, we can’t do it; we can’t publish this. It’s not the best that it can be.” But I understand that done is better than perfect. What about you, Ryan?

Ryan Cox: Well, just keep moving forward. I think as we talk about outsourcing and having a team help you to do the podcast, I think that, again, it serves as a metaphor for just the business and entrepreneurship in general. One of the quotes that I heard in the beginning that I have really made a part of my daily life has been when something comes up that says “How do I do this?”, I potentially would get stuck, and would put something off, or just never get around to doing it. When I switched that question around to “Who can help me do this?”, I found that one of my talents is building teams; I love collaborating with people. The more that there’s kind of a group that’s participating in something, the more energy that I get.

A lot of times, if I was stuck in doing the things that were brand new, it was “How do I do this? I don’t know.” But when I started thinking about “Who can help me do this?” and building a team around what I was trying to accomplish, I tended to have a lot more fun and got things done a lot faster, because I was putting in the action, and I’m very much a learn-by-doing individual… And I got the opportunity to see and watch and learn by others doing. So I think that that’s been a valuable tool for me, to take that question “How do I do this?”, flip it on its head, and ask “Who can help me do this?”

Whitney Sewell: I really like that a lot. I find now — as I think of stuff where I used to get my pen and paper out and I’d try and make lists so I didn’t forget things… But now I just send an e-mail to my assistant saying “I need this done” or “Can you please do this?” Now it’ll be done, instead of me having to go back and look at that list, hoping I’d get it done… Now it’s taken care of.

Ryan Cox: Yeah, I think it’s so important to build support around you, whether that’s outsourced support to help you with some of the detail work or mundane work. I think it’s important to build a real estate team around you, whether that’s others that have led and sponsored and been on the general partnership side of a deal, or have experience with property management, finding deals, doing the asset management… Any types of those roles, the more people that you can put in your world to help you learn by watching them from their experience, I think the more value and the faster that you’ll grow in the business.

Whitney Sewell: Yeah. Are there any other team members that you’ve found that you’re working with to help grow the business? Outside of thought leadership.

Ryan Cox: Outside of thought leadership, I tend to partner on the real estate side I think anywhere from two to three partners. Very simply, the job of putting together a real estate deal is 1) finding the deal, 2) operating the deal, and 3) bringing equity and debt to the deal… So it tends to be a three-person job; it can be a two-person job. That configuration is — we’ve done deals here locally, and in Dallas-Fort Worth… It tends to be a configuration of two or three individuals that are acting as a team to get a big job done.

Whitney Sewell: Nice. And any other ways that you’ve found productive or useful to measure — we’ve talked about your growth, or maybe your team, or anything like that.

Ryan Cox: How do I measure growth?

Whitney Sewell: Yeah.

Ryan Cox: There’s this book that I keep coming back to, it’s called “Measure What Matters”, by John Doerr. Have you ever heard of that book?

Whitney Sewell: I haven’t.

Ryan Cox: John Doerr is a famous venture capitalist in Silicon Valley. OKRs have been made famous by the Googles of the world, and those types of guys… It’s Objectives and Key Results. You can set those on a monthly basis, or a quarterly basis… But again, it comes back to “Hey, what are you doing on a daily basis to help you move forward in the work that you’re doing?”, whether that’s thought leadership, whether that’s finding a deal, whether that’s building your investor network.

What I’ve found especially in the beginning is a lot of ups and downs emotionally in terms of trying to build a business and get it started… But if you have written down what a good day looks like, what a good week looks like, what a good month looks like to help you get to your key results, you could always look back and say “Hey, no matter how I’m feeling, I did these five things which I know that if I show up and do them consistently, I’m gonna continue to build my business and do it in a very smart way.”

I know that if I look at the sheet and say “Man, I didn’t do any of those things” and my calendar was running me, and I wasn’t in control of my calendar, I know that I’m off track. So having that written down has really helped me measure my progress… And know that it very much is a process, and that there is no recipe for overnight success.

Whitney Sewell: I like that a lot. Could you give us a couple examples of maybe things that you’re gonna make sure are written down, making sure that you’re doing every week, or on a monthly basis, and how you’ve done that?

Ryan Cox: Yeah, my goal is to have anywhere from 15 to 20 new investor calls a month, so then I’ve got a subset of activities that helps me bring new investors, start those new relationships, start building relationships with investors. I tend to find that probably anywhere from about 90 days to potentially a year or two years that I start building a relationship and we find that we’re a fit for each other, before we bring on a new investor into the group.

So it starts with how am I making/reaching/building relationships with new investors, and then once I do establish that new relationship, how do we work through – whether that’s education about myself and about Founders Grove, and what we’re trying to accomplish, or identifying that the investor needs education on alternative investments, passive investments, find out if multifamily is even the right asset class in real estate for them… So those are the things that I really focus on – starting at the top, trying to build relationships with new investors, and then over the course of anywhere from 3 months to 12 months really have a plan that I can add value to their thought process if they’re thinking about an alternative in passive investment.

Whitney Sewell: Nice. I like that. And I like that you set that number. I wanted to ask you, is that 15 new contacts a month, or is that just following up  possibly with other contacts or particular investors that you’ve already met?

Ryan Cox: Yeah, my math is it takes me maybe 15-20 new conversations to find two or three. So maybe 10% of those conversations I find that we’re a fit for each other, that we can add mutual value to what we’re trying to accomplish, I have an investment opportunity and a thesis that makes sense to the investor… And the investor kind of checks accredited investor or some of those types of things, and we’re mutually aligned on what we’re both trying to accomplish.

So I would say for every 20 investors that I talk with, one to two are a fit. Then from that one to two that are a fit, I know that I’m in an education period over the course of 90 days to 12 months; it gives me an opportunity to build a relationship and add value to that conversation.

Sometimes it may be a lot of relationship building and we find out we’re not a fit for each other, or multifamily is not the right investment for them. I just kind of think of that as sales karma. Well, maybe they’re a better fit for somebody who’s local to them, or they have a relationship, or they wanna invest in self-storage or small retail, and it’s just “Hey, I don’t want to invest in multifamily in Austin or Dallas.”

Whitney Sewell: How are you finding them in the first place? What have you found to be the best way to connect with these potential investors?

Ryan Cox: I focus primarily on LinkedIn. As my background was enterprise software sales and hardware, I had very extensive connections through a lot of big technology companies – Microsofts, Ciscos of the world – and I started just going back through and sending notes to contacts, primarily technology, some in healthcare. I just look to connect for 15 minutes, tell them a little bit about what I’m doing. If they’re able to get on a call, then that goes back to “I need 20 calls to find one or two that are a fit.”

So I set up a 15-minute call, I learned a little bit about them, I try to understand what they’re hoping to get out of the call; typically, they wanna learn a little bit more about me and what I’m doing. From there, we say “Hey, this does make sense. Let’s set up a little bit of a longer call to talk about business strategy, what we’re trying to accomplish, and how we can work together.”

So LinkedIn is my primary resource for setting up new investor relationships… But that is a lot of empty responses, no responses, or no thank-yous. In typical sales you’re getting way more no’s than you are yes’s, but that’s been proven to be the best channel for me to get outside of my immediate circle, to develop new relationships, which I know are the lifeblood of continuing to grow the business.

Whitney Sewell: Awesome. Tell me about  how that conversation has changed, maybe from when you first started raising capital to how it is now? I do a lot of the same things, and believe it or not, a lot of my investors I’ve found at real estate conferences… And I’ll put that out, because a lot of people go to these things assuming that there’s no passive investors there, and I say you’re wrong… Because I’ve met numerous, at many events. They’re there to meet syndicators… But anyway, so how has that conversation changed, or what do you wish you had known about how to control or how to talk through that conversation back then, that you know now?

Ryan Cox: I always wanna give that conversation an out… So I tell everybody, “Hey, this might not be a fit for you, and if it’s not a fit for you and this is something that you’re not interested in, please just tell me so. I don’t wanna fill up your inbox with unwanted e-mails, newsletters, any deals that I’m working on, any kind of educational material, if it’s not a fit. If this is not a fit and this is not something that you’re interested in, it’s okay to tell me so.”

I think giving those potential cold calls, new prospects/investors just a really easy way out, and for them to say “No, this is not a fit for me”, saves both of us a lot of time. Ultimately, I’m trying to get to those one or two that are really excited to either learn more, or know that they want to invest in a multifamily deal… And that’s who I’m really trying to connect with, so I’m just saving both of us time and just having the confidence to let whoever I’m talking with on the other end go “You know what, Ryan, I appreciate you sharing about what you’re doing – it sounds like you’re doing really cool things – but this is not for me”, and that is okay.

Whitney Sewell: That’s just showing respect for them, and while they may say right now “I’m not interested”, things change. I find that investors – right now it may not be a fit, they might not like multifamily for whatever reason (something they’ve read who knows where), but then six months from now their situation has changed, or something else has changed their interest about multifamily, and then all of a sudden they hear your podcast again, and they’re like “You know what, I remember him; he’s very respectful, he wasn’t pushy. I like that about him”, and they’re gonna come back. Would you agree, Ryan?

Ryan Cox: I totally agree. I think that my mindset is try to do what’s in the best interest of all parties. I’ve had a number of opportunities where there’s just things that I don’t do, but I have relationships that could help that investor potentially get what they’re looking for… So I just try to pass those opportunities off to other investors that I know that are doing different types of projects, that could get those two people together and could add value in some way… And that might potentially not be the bottom line, or to add value to the group of investors that I work with, or to a specific deal, but if I can put others before myself and add more value than I take, I think that I’m doing a good job every day.

Whitney Sewell: You had also mentioned about educating the investor… So you’ve had that call, and now you want to educate them, you want them to understand what they’re investing in. Could you just tell us a little bit about how you’ve done that? Or maybe even how that’s changed. It’s harder to educate initially, because you’re still learning the business, but now that you’re much more experienced, how do you educate them now, so they understand what they’re investing in?

Ryan Cox: One of the things I did when I was in software sales and when I made the move to real estate – in both roles I had a sales journal. So I listen to what objections people had, what were the questions, and I just continued to write that down, so that I was either a) better prepared to overcome an objection, or b) I was better prepared to answer a question.

So I just started kind of building my own database, whether it was very deal-specific questions that I needed to be able to answer, or whether it was just generally about the business. That education phase is kind of taking people through — I think number one is “Hey, here’s what the process looks like. Here’s what you could expect when we do work through a deal together. Here’s how I’m gonna introduce the deal, here’s what an investment summary looks like, here’s our business strategy”, all the way up to funding and a private placement memorandum (PPM).

So there’s a little bit of education of “Hey, here’s what the process looks like”, understanding the timelines in that process, and helping prepare them for “Here’s how you would need to act and how you’d be able to move through that process to do a deal. Get an understanding of what their timeline looks like and how that would potentially fit.

Once we understand the process, then start kind of peeling back the layers on helping them understand the investment and what they’re trying to accomplish with the investment, and then the conversation from there takes shape on “How does this work? How does that work?” So I just kind of view that as a continuous conversation and let that unfold. I’ve developed some kind of FAQs and some stuff like that, like “Hey, here’s high-level stuff”, that can help push them along, but I always encourage “Hey, give me all the questions that you have. You can text me, call me, send me an e-mail”, and I just try to respond with timely answers to their questions.

I think I’m getting better at the process to try to manage that, but… I guess I would ask you the same question – how are you educating potential investors and current investors?

Whitney Sewell: I would say that entire thing has been a growing experience for me, from meeting the investor, to — I would say the follow-up is key; your speediness in getting back to them. Initially, it was difficult for me to track those things. Find a CRM; there’s so many to choose from. I did a lot of research trying to figure out which one I wanted to use… But at least use one, so you can track when you’re following up to people, and making sure that you’re following up, that you’re staying top of mind.

I’m answering questions quickly, or after I meet them I’m following up, I’m sending them information about the company, about who we are, about why we do what we do, and then I’m also wanting to book a call with them. If they don’t book a call, guess what – I’m gonna call them… Because they’ve shown interest; they’ve either signed up on the website, or I’ve reached out to them and they’ve shown interest in talking with me.

From there, they’re gonna get e-mails just about the business, and about what we do, different parts of the business, maybe some YouTube videos, or obviously the podcast shows… If there’s an investor who has a question about taxes, or a specific thing, or something in the syndication business that I’ve had a show where I’ve interviewed somebody on that topic, I may send it to them, and say “Hey, I thought this would be of interest to you” or “This is what you were asking me about, what we discussed, and this goes a little more in-depth”, just to show them that they’re not just another number; I actually cared about our conversation. I documented what was important to them, and I’ll try to provide value to them through that, or get them some more information if I see there’s some way.

Ask what their goals in investing are, what they are looking for, and really listen to what they tell you, listen to what’s important to them. I try to focus on that, and I try to provide value, things in the business that they don’t understand, or questions that they have. So yeah, follow up. If you don’t have that information yet, it’s important to follow up, stay in touch.

Ryan Cox: Yeah. I think about three-and-a-half years in, the thing that I would encourage everybody to have confidence to say is “I don’t know, but I’ll find out”, and deliver a timely response. I think the last thing you wanna do is get yourself in the trap of maybe getting out over your skis, and talking a little bit too much about a topic that you might not have all of the details about, or can’t speak to with authority. A critical phrase I think for everybody is “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” When you do find out, send a timely response.

I think that in terms of developing relationships with investors or your partners or whatever that team looks like for you – that could be in all facets – having a lot of discipline around communication and follow-up is critical to building a successful business. That’s something that I took from the corporate world and I’ve put into this business, and feedback from investors of all types of sizes has been “Hey, you communicate as well as anybody that we’ve worked with.” So as you’re trying to get the edge, when you’re working with new investors and how you do that, and potentially competing with somebody else who’s doing the same job for investment dollars, one thing that everybody can do from day one, regardless of your experience, is create a system to effectively communicate in a timely manner. If you show up to do that consistently, the level of trust that you’ll be able to develop with partners in a real estate deal or investor partners will be much faster than if you communicate poorly, don’t respond at all, things like that. I can’t stress enough just how important it is to have a very good strategy to communicate effectively with potential investors, current investors, real estate partners, anybody in your network and team that is helping you build a real estate business

Whitney Sewell: Great. Ryan, unfortunately we are out of time, but I hope the Best Ever listeners have enjoyed the show today, I hope you’ve learned a lot as we’ve been talking about some challenges we’ve faced, just the hesitancy that we’ve had starting a thought leadership platform, and wish we had both started sooner… But as Ryan said, we held our nose and jumped in, and it’s been great, and I’d encourage you to do the same of some type of thought leadership platform. You’re gonna hate your voice anyway, so just get it over with. Hire that VA, hire people to help you, build your team, build your systems.

Ryan, I really liked how you talked about building a system, a way to track your growth and measure your activities and those goals, those weekly things that are gonna move you forward, and writing those down… And then even the 15 investors calls a month – I liked that; you can track that, you can see that you are moving forward, and you know 10% or so are going to invest with you or become investors and partners in your own deals… And just how you got started, the conversations, how those have changed, but then also educating, and how you kept a sales journal; I like that. You’re documenting those objections, so you know how to improve. You’re going back and looking at that thing, how you can do that better. Then educating investors on the process, the business strategy, from funding to doing the PPM.

Ryan, thank you so much, and it’s an honor to be here on the show today.

Ryan Cox: Yeah, thank you. You’ve been an excellent stand-in host. I appreciate you leading the conversation and sharing about your experience. Moving forward, I think that we really admire anybody who’s started thought leadership stuff; I know it’s tough to do. The ironic thing is how tough it is to get started, but how much fun it is once you do get started. It’s something that I really look forward to.

I would tell everybody that it doesn’t have to be a podcast. Starting a meetup on a monthly basis, or some sort of event that happens in your city, to help you build relationships and have a platform… A blog, all types of things can be considered thought leadership platforms, which is very much an action of doing and not thinking. So commit to a time you want to publish a blog post every week, or have an event each month or quarter – whatever that looks like, and whatever you feel empowered to do, you should definitely take the bull by the horns and go do it.

I would encourage you to have as much fun as you possibly can in the process, because at the end of the day, the more fun you have, the more energy that you put into it, and the more the others are gonna gravitate towards that event, the podcast, what have you.

Thank you, Whitney, for being such a great host. I enjoyed being on the show. And thank you, Best Ever listeners, I appreciate the time. I look forward to speak with you guys again soon.

Whitney Sewell: What’s your website? How can people get in touch with you, Ryan?

Ryan Cox: Sure, you can find me at FoundersGroveCapital.com, or therealestateinnovators.com. Founders Grove is the real estate firm, Real Estate Innovators is my podcast. Feel free to hit me up on LinkedIn, send me an e-mail; I’d love to chat.

Whitney Sewell: Awesome. Again, I’m Whitney Sewell. You can reach me at LifeBridgeCapital.com, or whitney@lifebridgecapital.com is my e-mail. I’m happy to talk to you or schedule a call with anyone. Ryan, thanks again. Best Ever listeners, I hope you have a best ever day. Joe will talk to you tomorrow.

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Best Ever Show Real Estate Advice from experts

JF809: Creating a $10 Million Fund, Building a Hotel, and Focusing on Multifamily

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Paul Moore Real Estate Background:

– Founder and Managing Director at Wellings Capital, a real estate investment firm
– Completed over 85 real estate investments, appeared on an HGTV Special Real Estate episode
– Author of The Perfect Investment
– Create Enduring Wealth from the Historic Shift to Multifamily Housing (2016)
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– Best Ever Book: Shattered Dreams by Larry Crab

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Joe Fairless