Focus! It's hard to get anything significant done without it. And it has been one of my biggest challenges in Business and Real Estate - and still is!
Welcome to Episode #32 - Focus & Make 2020 Your Best Year Yet!
Focus... Such a simply concept - give your full attention and effort to a single thing, task, or undertaking (to the exclusion of pretty much everything else) - until you've completed it. But, so much easier said than done - if you're anything like me.
Distractions are everywhere. And I'm not just speaking of the numerous phone calls I get each hour of the day, constant text messages, endless emails, Facebook, Messenger, various Forum alerts... on and on. These are problematic, but easily controllable to an extent.
To avoid distractions, I now check Facebook and Messenger, once per week (if that). I only check text messages once or twice per day or when idle - so I tell people who are seeking something of me urgently to call instead of text. If you need to hear from me NOW, then call; but if it can wait a few hours (maybe even a full day or two), then text. And I check emails every few hours or so, or more frequently if I have something going on where an important email or text is expected - like a closing.
I try to keep these distractions to a minimum so that I can protect my time for focused activities. Phone calls are the most frequent distraction, as I made the mistake of registering a Domain Name once with my cell phone number on file, and now I get almost hourly spam calls from India offering a Website for my new Domain Name. Which is ironic being that I have a Website business. So now I always use a different number when registering Domains, or enable Whois Privacy to keep my number hidden.
I also get a ton of calls from companies offering business funding and Real Estate loans, which comes from when I was starting out with Real Estate Investing and reached out to different lenders trying to get those early projects funded. They must have put me on some list that has now been sold to every so-called business or Real Estate lender out there, so be careful of that... Protect your cell phone number!
Being the biggest distraction, I got into the habit of only answer calls directly when I recognized the name on Caller ID or the number is already present in my address book (so I know who it is) - and I actually want to speak with that person at that time. But now that I'm performing as a Realtor, that becomes more difficult - because a Realtor who actually answer's their phone is already ahead of most. So I've now started to use a service to detect and block spam calls - allowing me to answer the others directly, resulting in fewer needless distractions.
But like I said, those kinds of distractions from focus are not the real problem, because I can pretty easily control them. Where my problem really comes in, are not those types of distractions from my focus of time utilization. My problem is focus of action.
I'm rarely all-in on any one thing, because I'm always doing multiple things. Right now I'm recording this Podcast episode! I certainly think it's a worth-while use of my time - I hope you do as well... And thankfully it only requires about 3 or 4 hours of my time each week. But those are also hours I could be putting towards finding more properties to buy. It's time I could be devoting to marketing and growing ViUX, my Website & Web Hosting Business. Its time I could be marketing and growing my Property Management Business or enhancing my profile as a Realtor.
Lots of other things I could be doing with my time, so when I decided to start a Podcast, I really had to consider the impact it would have on my focus towards all the other things I've got going on - time with my family being top on that list. And not focusing on your business can be problematic. I've got ViUX as one business. But I didn't focus solely on it, instead - I started Blue Chariot!
And then I couldn't even focus on one thing for that business either, as Blue Chariot became Blue Chariot Properties and Blue Chariot Homes and then I went and got my Real Estate License / became a Realtor and started Blue Chariot Realty and Blue Chariot Management and then the [... and Landlord!] Podcast and other coming things from Blue Chariot Media - and who knows what else I'll start next.
Again, lots of things going on - making it impossible to focus on any one, as they all require some amount of daily or weekly attention. This is my real challenge, because as an Entrepreneur - I get great business ideas and opportunities coming my way seemingly every month (if not weekly), and no matter how good, I can't peruse all of them. To even try would be to harm all else I've got going on. And that would be unfair to my existing businesses and the other people involved with each. It would also be unfair to myself and my family - to split my focus across so many things, that I end up doing none of them well. And if nothing else, I MUST do family well. What else matters?
Here's an example of my focus dilemma...
So in November of 2018 I got my 15th rental unit, and now here a year later near the end of October 2019, I'm about to close on number 16. Other than an unfinished Lake House I bought in September (I'll tell you more about that later); and a new build started earlier this Summer (that is now almost complete), these have been my only Real Estate transactions in 2019 for myself - other than being a Realtor for others.
My goal for 2019 was to end the year with at least 32 units (double what I should have ended 2018 with). Now hey, I've got 2 more months remaining in the year, and I'm attending 2 events in the coming months that may help to get me past my current stall - potentially partnering with individuals who are already doing this business at a high level. But it was my shift in focus for 2019 that I feel is largely to blame for this far slower year when compared to the prior years since I started this business in 2015.
Prior to 2019, I was happy to pick-up new properties one at a time. But since my goal has been to double my number of units each year, and I missed that goal for the first time at the end of 2018 - falling short by just 1 unit. I knew that I'd need to change in 2019 to regain and keep up that pace.
So I shifted my focus (away from what had been working) - to try to acquire some larger multi-family properties. All it would have taken was one 20 unit building (or a couple of 10 units) and I'd be right back on track! My first attempt was an auction of a 38 unit in Thomasville, North Carolina, near Highpoint. I could bid $1M and could have made it work as high as $1.2M - but it went for something like $1.6M.
And it's not like $1.6M was a bad price, as that's just over $42,000 per unit, and this was a good mix of 1, 2, and 3 BR units. Plus, there was a vacant lot included where additional units could be built. So I know whoever won this bid got a killer deal at that price, but I just couldn't go that high at the time.
And since then I've repeated this action several times, getting outbid at auctions, direct offers rejected and owners of off-market properties just unwilling to sell for a workable price - on everything from Duplexes, Triplexes, and Quads, all the way up to 100 unit properties. As a result, my 2019 has been lots of failure and rejection when it comes to my attempt to step-up to doing larger deals. But hey - thankfully I take failures as a lessen learned and rejection as practice.
Now partly, this is because I've not ventured far out of my backyard - really wanting this first larger scale deal to be within a few hours drive. That's just a mental barrier on my part that I have to overcome to make this work. And it's also because the current economy (in general) doesn't make for as many deals to be had on cheap(er) properties - and this is especially true in my area of Raleigh / Durham, North Carolina. Things just aren't cheap here right now and competition is stiff, from other multi-family investors, both those who are local and those coming in from other markets - most of whom have more experience at larger deals (and more funding) than me. So there experience and funding (or maybe foolishness) allows them to pay more than I'm willing or able to pay per unit on this first one... And the first one is always the hardest.
So the question I awake to each morning is - where is my focus best directed to make 2020 a more successful year for me than 2019? I just feel that my future lies in the larger multi-family deals. I'm trying to acquire hundreds of millions in Real Estate, and I'm not sure I'll be able to do that one door at a time.
But at the same time, with my focus on the larger deals, I've spent all of 2019 at the same unit count I started the year. So just to see if I was missing out, I decided to re-start some of my daily activities that had previously resulted in my getting single family houses and duplexes under contract in the prior years. And a couple weeks after doing so, surprise, surprise - I got #16 under contract at a good price for the rehab it will require and what it will ultimately rent for.
This purchase of #16 will be funded by one of my Private Lenders (who has been asking me for months when I'd have something else needing funding) - because he wants his money at work. I almost need to go back to checking for the smaller deals just to keep my Private Lenders engaged (especially those with lessor funds to lend), while I continue to try to go after and take down a larger deal.
So then it all comes back to focus... Can you do multiple things, and do all of them well? The answer, as I've determined is NO - Unless. Can I go after larger deals, while still taking on the smaller deals? Can I self-manage my own existing rentals while taking on the management of rentals for other Landlords as well? Can I do this Podcast, while also being a Realtor at a high level for Buyers and Sellers here in the Triangle area of North Carolina? Can I do new builds, wholesale deals and maybe even some high-end flips - while also growing my rental portfolio? And can I have a Website & Web Hosting Business and other Businesses at the same time, while also being there for my family, friends and enjoy life, free time, travel, and all? The answer, as I've determined is NO - Unless.
NO - Unless I leverage other people, systems and processes so that everything is not my sole responsibility. NO - Unless, I make the best possible (highest and best use) of my time. This was a hard lessen learned. And I learned it coming into Blue Chariot from ViUX. As I mentioned on a prior episode, it took me over a decade to get ViUX to a place where it was not all consuming of my time. If you've not listened to that episode, ViUX is my Website & Web Hosting Business at: V-I-U-X.com - where I offer everything individuals and small businesses need to have high-level Website (similar services as GoDaddy).
I learned this about time management and getting results, by reading books, several of which are present on the Books page at: andlandlord.com/books - such as: [The 4-Hour Work Week]; [The One Thing]; [Extreme Ownership]; [The Millionaire Real Estate Investor]; [The Millionaire Real Estate Agent]; [The E-Myth: Revisited]; and [The E-Myth: Real Estate Investor]. These and other great books speak volumes on the concept of leveraging other people, system and processes - to become the most efficient and effective version of yourself and a leader who can create and inspire a winning team.
But my problem was that for a long time, I did everything myself and everything was my responsibility. And somehow, that really even continued past when I started hiring employees - as everything still ultimately fell into my lap. I guess I wasn't a very good leader? Or maybe I just wasn't willing to let go and truly let others do things on my behalf? Yea that's it... But eventually I learned how to get out form under tasks, so now everything I do is documented and then handed off to someone else to handle on my behalf from that moment forward.
Now I conduct recorded Skype calls with different staff members and VA's, so that they can watch my screen (and re-watch as needed) and hear me explain a task, so that I only need to do it once - and they can then handle it on my behalf from that moment forward. If there's not time for a call, then I create a quick Loom video and share the link. But I structure actions to record or otherwise document anything I find myself doing repeatedly that I don't want to have to continue doing, and think someone else could handle just as well. Even if they can only do it 80% as well as I can, it's still better handled by someone other than me, so that I can focus on those few things that only I can do for my businesses. Or those things I'm not yet comfortable handing off - as there are still some.
This process has freed my time, to make it possible for me to take on multiple endeavors and to do all of them pretty well. But even with that, it's always a work in progress, because as I just related, shifting my focus to larger deals has likely cost me many properties I could have otherwise picked up this year. I'd likely be much nearer (if not at or beyond) my goal of 32 units for this year, if I had focused on continuing to pick-up units 1 or 2 at a time. Or if I had done a better job at systematizing my acquisition process of single-family and smaller multi-family properties, while also going after the larger deals. And I'm 100% certain this would be true if I had expanded my reach outside of North Carolina - again, a self-imposed mental block on my part, wanting my properties (for some reason) to be within driving distance. Like I'm going to go hug them or something!?
Now with that said, you still cannot spread yourself too thin. One of the most important things an Entrepreneur can do is to say NO - to the litany of opportunities that are guaranteed to start coming your way, the more successful you become. For instance, in addition to all else I've got going on, I will soon be launching what I hope to become a chain of sports themed barbershops and a barbershop / salon supply company. But the key here is that I'm going into this with a partner, who will be doing most of the daily work related to these businesses. I'm just an investor and the overall tech and business guide - but not the day to day operations person. I won't be cutting anyone's hair. And if it required anywhere near that level of daily involvement on my part, I would have said a hard NO.
I also choose those opportunities to pursue that are highly related or naturally lend themselves to leveraging the same team / people, systems and processes that I already have in place. Things that are easily added without being disruptive to what is already working. For example, Blue Chariot Management is a logical service add, because I'm already managing my own Rental Properties, and nothing had to change to add in the properties of other Landlords to that same system to be handled by the same team. It was a largely a seamless addition, plus it gives me insight into potential deals to acquire more properties; as well as, makes use of my already in-place list of prior applicants and inquires seeking one of my properties at the next vacancy. Property Management is a perfect service add, if you've already got the people / team, systems, processes in-place for this for your own properties.
Blue Chariot Realty is another example, as I'm already a Realtor because I wanted the education and easy access to properties and the MLS. While it wasn't quite as smooth of a service add as Property Management, you must be a Licensed Real Estate Broker in North Carolina to be a Property Manager for others anyway. And local market knowledge becomes pretty en-grained when you're constantly searching for deals on rental properties for yourself in that market. You also become pretty good at negotiating and managing transactions to close, when you're doing the same for your rental property deals - even when you don't get them all. Just add in a few more people and systems and you've got the makings of a powerful Real Estate Agency able to do well for your clients in that market.
And of course this Podcast, Blue Chariot Media and any other educational material I release through these - are a part of my effort to give back. But its not entirely altruistic, as I've heard and now proved for myself that the best way to learn something is to teach it. That sounds backwards, but something about formalizing your thoughts and knowledge for presentation to others has a way of clarifying that information and locking it into your own mind. It quickly becomes second nature and then just makes you that much better. So I consider this time well spent, and I can't say enough about how much pleasure it gives me when I hear from those of you who have been listening as to the impact its had on your own actions to become financially free through the Business of Rental Real Estate Investing. So THANK YOU - And please continue to reach out, as I enjoy the conversations and I'm happy to aid where I can.
So while ViUX and all that Blue Chariot has become all works and fits nicely into my daily routine - I must still be careful not to let my focus slip into things that are not necessarily conducive to the success of that endeavor along with everything else.
For example, I'm interested in: Self-Storage; Assisted Living Facilities; Short-Term Rentals (which itself has multiple methods to pursue); Commercial / Offices & Retail; and I own hundreds of potential Website Domain Names, each of which can be used for a verity of awesome online businesses that I've got ideas for. But I have to resist the temptation to move on these without fully considering the likelihood of success and the impact on everything else I've got going on - plus family and life / work balance. You can't do everything. So at some point you have to pick something and focus in on it.
Now that's not to say that I won't do some or all of these things in 2020 or the following years... Like I'm certain to try Short-Term Rentals at some point. And when I open a local office for Blue Chariot Realty (I'm now using the eXp Realty office), it will almost certainly be a property that I own, hopefully with a spot for one of my barbershop locations, and then several other businesses of others who's rent covers the full mortgage. There's an SBA loan program that will fund up to 90% of the purchase price for a commercial office location, as long as your business occupies 50% of the space - so I'm certainly going to be on the lookout for a property that will work for that!
But again, you can't do everything - so we must protect our time and focus attention and efforts only on those things that will yield the greatest results with the least amount of time and effort required to do so.
I've struggled with this for years, but I think I've finally got it under control - and I'm immensely excited to see what becomes of 2020 from that focus, people and systems I've now and will further have in place. I fully expect for 2020 to be the best year of my life. If you're not expecting the same for yourself, then let's speak on what we might be able to do with these remaining two months of 2019 to get you to that place in 2020 (or if you've got further to go, maybe 2021). Reach out to me (please), through the Website at: andlandord.com - using the email address in the footer or the [Get In Touch] form. I truly do feel that anyone can completely change their circumstances and entire life within 2 or 3 years (or certainly within 5 year, if you've got more significant challenges to overcome). But you've got to start that process now, and getting started is the hardest part - so let me know if I can be a guide or of any aid.
The second hardest part is maintaining your focus and putting people, systems and processes in place to reap the benefits of that focus. And I'm sorry to say - You may need to eliminate some people from your team (or life) if they are a drag on that focus or otherwise a negative influence. No one (other than maybe your minor children) are entitled to be a part of your life - so if they don't benefit your life, block them from it, or limit their access to the greatest degree possible. Anyone who is not a benefit to your life is by definition a detriment - block them / minimize their access or change their roll. There may also be other things in your life that need to be eliminated. Remember I had to cut out music, sports and TV in general, for about 3 years - replacing those useless endeavors (time wasters) with reading and listening to Podcasts. It paid off, and then I let them back into my life slowly, but nowhere near the level they had been previously.
Like I've said, you should NOT be spending ANY time playing video games, listening to music, watching sports or any TV. Other than a few shows my wife and I watched together, I cut out ALL TV to learn Real Estate Investing. I stopped listening to talk radio, stopped watching sports, stopped watching the news, stopped debating politics - as it was all a waste of my time. When in my car, I'm listening to Audible Books and Podcasts - and I spend a lot of time in my car. You have to decide what you want out of life and what you're willing to sacrifice to get it. Everyone else is spending their time on those things - do you want to be like everyone else? Or do you want to be like almost no one else when it comes to obtaining a massive level of success and financial freedom? Then be different, and start by no longer wasting your time on things that do nothing to improve your outlook for the future.
Is there any song you're going to hear that will make your 2020 better? Any game your going to play or watch that will improve 2020 when compared to 2019? Any movie or TV show that will change your life for the better? Are these things going to put more money in your pocket and set you on a path to financial freedom in 2020?
I know that 2020 will be the best year of my life so far (and I've had a good life), because I'm doing things now to make that happen. If you cannot say the same for your coming year - if you've got nothing underway or getting the process started that stands to make 2020 better for you than 2019, yet you still have time to listen to music and morning comedy talk radio shows on your way to work, you still have time for sports, your still going to be sitting in front of the TV tonight - then you don't want it bad enough - at least not yet. So get back to me when you're ready to replace that wasted drive time with educational material. Or maybe that's when you're listening to me... If so, congrats! Let's continue...
2020 is only 2 months away... How has your 2019 been? But more importantly, what are your prospects for 2020? I've never done New Year's Resolutions, but I do set goals, and I'm very excited about what 2020 is likely to hold for me and my family - and business should be very good.
And I believe I owe this outlook on what's to come for me in 2020 to the focus of action and highest / best utilization of my time that I've put into place since 2015, and especially here in 2019.
In this 32nd Episode of the [... and Landlord!] Podcast, I relate my challenges of focus. How I struggle to be the most efficient and productive version of myself by leveraging systems, processes, people and building a team to offload those tasks that are just as well completed by others as myself. I came to realize, that even if others are only 80% as good at the task as me - that's good enough, as my time is best applied towards those few tasks that only I am able to do for my businesses.
I also go into some of the things that I had to sacrifice in order to better focus on what was really important to me and my pursuit of financial freedom - which was becoming a Rental Real Estate Investor... and Landlord! Less important to me than this achievement was listening to music, playing and watching sports, watching TV. Those things and other entertainment does nothing to make money for me or move me any closer to financial freedom - so that makes it a waste of time.
I also detail how not everyone is entitled to be in our lives, so anyone who is not a benefit is a detriment - and therefore needs to be blocked, or otherwise limited in access. Everyone in my life needs to play some role in making it a better life, or I will work towards blocking / limiting them in my life. Around me is a no negative influences and no leaches zone... You should create the same for yourself.
Let's start planning how we're going to use these 2 remaining months of 2019 to make 2020 the best year of our lives yet. And focus on the important things and achieving our goals should be at or near the top of the list of things we're going to do to make that happen.