You can't do everything yourself... If everything in your business depends upon YOU, then you don't really have a business - your business has YOU. It took me a LONG time to learn that, as I was essentially a one-man shop in my Web Hosting business for a very long time. Now thankfully I had learned this lesson by the time I got into Real Estate. But old habits are often hard to break...
Welcome to Episode #36 - VA's (Virtual Assistants) & Your Rental Real Estate Business Team
So back in 2015 when I first got into Real Estate Investing, I knew that I would be buying distressed properties for rehab into rentals - but that I'd be doing very little of this work myself. Even still, I couldn't resist the temptation to do certain things myself - since I'm a pretty handy guy.
So while I wasn't doing anything major or skilled like putting in flooring, electrical work, HVAC or anything like that - not even painting. But I did a lot of minor stuff, like putting up blinds, changing locks and door knobs, installing the occasional dishwasher or garbage disposal. For my second property, I even put in the bath vanities myself and did some tile back splash work. I enjoyed this hands on activity, especially because it was often work done with my son who was 8 at the time (he's now 12). But I also knew that I couldn't scale this business and expand to other markets, if I was doing any of the rehab work myself.
So as I moved forward with each project, I tried (often unsuccessfully) to remove myself from the rehab process and instead rely upon vendors and contractors to handle the work. I got better as each project moved forward, but with the properties being right here in my back yard (none more than 20 minutes away from where I live) - its hard NOT to do certain tasks myself - things that I'm fully able to do and may actually enjoy doing.
Like, why should I pay someone something around $30 per hour to install blinds, and they take 4 hours to install 8; whereas I can do it myself in half that time for FREE!? I'll save $120! Some people charge like $175 to install a fan (that I bought for $50) - so I can save that money by doing it myself! Or will I? We must remember that our time has value also. What is your personal hourly rate? I've not set one for myself, but it is certainly more than $30/hr. And what's it worth to remain at home with family on a Saturday or Sunday instead of being at a rental property doing work? Even if you enjoy that work!?
And there are many things that I'm fully able to do myself, but I HATE doing them. Like I have 2 pressure washers (two!) that I use once per year on my own house. But if I had to pressure wash homes for a living, I'd charged $1,500 - because that's hard work. I'll gladly pay someone else $150 to handle it for me, but I do it myself for the house I live in, only because its also good exercise.
But I have to force myself NOT to do certain things myself, and to instead rely upon others to do those things on my behalf - even if I'm able to handle them myself at a perceived cost savings. I must value my own time more than the savings. But its hard to maintain that stance, especially if someone wants $175 to install a damn fan. Thankfully, I can get it done much cheaper - by members of the team that I've built.
Just this weekend I got a call from a tenant reporting that a hose has come loose from the water heater, that spewed water everywhere in the basement prior to her finding the cutoff value. Luckily it was noticed before any significant water damage occurred. I had her open a ticket and post a picture to the ticket, and I could easily see in that picture the issue. The clamp holding the hose to the base had come loose, and it just needed to be re-attached and tightened, plus maybe replace the clamp at most.
Now I could have easily driven over and handled it (all my tools are right there in the back of my truck) - but instead I called the person on my team who handles my general repairs and maintenance tasks, and he called the tenant back to arrange access to handle the issue. And if upon arriving he had determined that he couldn't handle it, I would have then called the plumber on my team to handle it instead. In either case it would have cost me money to handle (much more if it had required my plumber) - but I got to continue sitting at home in my pajamas.
But the interesting thing is what I was doing at that exact moment in my pajamas when the tenant called to report the leak - that ultimately got handled with no action required on my part, other than a phone call and a few text messages.
So at that moment I was on the website Upwork.com - and I was in the process of writing a job posting for a General VA (Virtual Assistant) to aid me in my Real Estate Business.
This posting was to find a VA to not just aid me in various general tasks, but also to aid my Administrative Assistant. My Administrative Assistant (I guess my AA) is actually a trusted family member. She handles those things for me that require information or access that I just wouldn't be comfortable giving to someone on the other side of the world - whom I've never met in person and have no direct access to.
For example, my trusted AA has access to my merchant account and my QuickBooks accounting system, and my tenant and property management systems - and just about all my other critical systems. So this role has to be someone I have direct access to here in the USA, and for me, it helps that I've known this person my entire life, trust them implicitly and love them dearly. This person would never do anything intentionally to harm me, and they have perfect skills and time available to perform in this role for me - and I can train them for anything else.
But this person can only do so much, like I can only do so much. So it must be determined, what is the highest and best use of our respective time? For me, its certainly not fixing leaks or putting up blinds, even if I'm good at it and might enjoy the time spent working with my hands - plus the cost savings.
Instead, I outsource this work to a person on my team - who is grateful for the work. And I spend my time doing those things that only I can do. For example, at this point no one else would be able to hire this VA to benefit me and my business. I know what I need... I know what I'm looking for.
And that is a person who speaks and writes English VERY well. I must be able to easily communicate with this person via Skype by both audio / video and text chat. They must be expert with using computers and the Internet. I can't be spending time showing someone how to right-click their mouse.
They must have knowledge and skills of using Social Media, conducting Internet Research, and just certain concepts of United States Real Estate in general. Second only to English skills, they must be teachable. I have to be able to tell or show them how to do something once or twice, and they've got it. I don't have time to be going over the same thing 4 or 5 times.
So I'll find this person to be my General Virtual Assistant (GVA), and I'll start them with a single task - and then one by one, I'll give them progressively more tasks until I get them up to full time hours.
My plan is to conduct this work of bringing on a GVA in association with my primary trusted Administrative Assistant (AA) - so that I can train my AA on each task while also training the GVA. So that when I need additional VA's or must replace the GVA at some point, the next one can be handled entirely on my behalf by my AA.
Again, I'm thinking about how to protect my time for what is my highest and best use - and that's not training VA's over and over again. Plus eventually, my AA will be able to find, screen, hire and train VA's on my behalf - without me. I will have fired myself from this job, to move-on to higher dollar activities. I have to repeatedly ask myself - what is the highest and best use of my time? And you know what that is?
I need more distressed properties to rehab into rentals. I need them for myself to grow my own portfolio of rental properties; and for the investor clients I work with as their Realtor.
I need deals, deals, deals... I need them from the MLS, from wholesalers, and from any and every off market source. So the highest and best use of my time right now is everything related to marketing for deals, analyzing deals, making offers on deals, getting properties under contract, and on - for me and for my clients. And a lot of what is involved to do these things at a high level involves repetitive tasks that can also eventually be outsourced to a VA.
And over time, I'll get to the point where each VA is working on a single aspect of the process, so they can do one job well and at a high volume... I'm trying to build a deal assembly line. When I get there, I'll again fire myself from several roles. Ultimately my singular role will be as an ambassador for Blue Chariot to raise capital. Anything else will ideally be handled by a combination of my AA, GVA and other VA's, plus vendors, contractors and other team members - including strategic partners, like Garrett White, who I interviewed in episode #17.
You may recall from that episode that Garrett and I are building a house - our first new build project. Well its done now and under contract to be sold - set to close next month. The combination of a great GC and Garrett managing the project (with input from myself as needed) - has resulted in what should be a highly profitable exit. Now we're looking for another vacant lot to do it again, so I'm documenting the process and steps that I undertake in looking for lots and making offers. And I expect to be able to hand this process off to a VA tasked with this singular endeavor. And I know this is far more likely to meet with success, than me trying to do it myself. Because I can't be consistent with it, so its just hit or miss when it depends on me.
But outsourced to a VA that repeats the same process and actions daily, I'm 100% certain I'll find our next vacant lot and get the GC back to work on another profitable project. And think, its not just profitable for ME. Yes, I benefit, but so does Garrett. So does my AA. And any GVA and VA's on my team also benefit. The GC benefits, as does every vendor and sub-contractor on his team. My lenders benefit, as do vendors and other members of my team. And the resulting home owner or tenant benefits. I could go on and on - but you get the point... By being a Rental Real Estate business owner who is willing to outsource and leverage other people to grow your business, you become like the SUN - shining on everything, and a whole lot of things revolve around YOU. Because I didn't go anywhere near as far as I could have in detailing all who benefit from your efforts as a high-level Real Estate Investor.
So benefit yourself and others around you by being the best version of yourself that you can be. And you won't get there by trying to do everything yourself. VA's are a great way to build your team. If it can be done with a computer / the Internet or a phone - then why not use a VA? We are in the most amazing time to be alive in the history of the world. The Internet and technology have made a world-wide work force of intelligent individuals available at our fingertips. Leverage them! We need their help, and they need and want the work.
You may be able to pay a skilled VA as little as $5/hr (and I've seen offers to work for even less) - and that $5/hr may be 5 times more in an hour than the average person makes in an entire day in some countries. You don't think they want that job!?
So right now I'm reading a book (audible.com) called "Virtual Freedom". If I like it once finished I'll add it to the books page with the other great books at: andlandlord.com/books/ - but so far it has provided some great insight into the justification and process of outsourcing to VA's. The author of the book owns a VA staffing firm, and it appears they charge $495 to do all the needful to find a VA for your business on your behalf. And it involves all the screening and interviewing and everything that you then don't have to do. I may try that, but I'll go with Upwork.com first, as the current Webmaster (Zohaib) for my Web Hosting business (ViUX) came from a job I posted on Upwork back when it was still elance.
So everything you see at ViUX.com (V-I-U-X), BlueChariot.com, andlandlord.com - and many other sites of ViUX clients, and several other sites - all came from Zohaib who lives in Pakistan. And I meet him on what later became Upwork.com. We're now close enough that I've gotten pictures from his weeding and of his child as she grows.
Although I've never meet him in person, we've worked together long enough - and we've corresponded through chat and video on Skype many time over almost a decade now (maybe not quite that long). But I consider him to be a friend at this point. Yet I've never met him in person. Since my wife isn't likely to be going to Pakistan, I probably won't be meeting him anytime soon. But he travels a lot, and so maybe the next time I'm in London or if I go back to Dubai - I'll try to have an in-person meeting with him.
So Zohaib is just one of many examples of how I've successfully used Upwork.com for many projects. The intro and outro of this podcast was handled by someone I found through this site. And many custom coding jobs where handled here. So get out of the habit of trying to do everything yourself.
If you're not, then stop making excuses for WHY your not where you want to be - and leverage other people to get there. VA's are a great thing that the Internet and technology now make possible - so if there's anything that you can document that you need to get done, outsource it to a VA. Build your team with VA's, vendors and local contractors - and make great things happen in your Real Estate Business in 2020. You certainly Can't do it by yourself! Believe me - I know - I tried.
I was a one-man business machine. 16 hour days were nothing for me. I often worked to 3AM, slept to 7 or 8AM, and got back up to do it all over again - like it was nothing. If something needed to be done, of course I did it myself - as I wanted it to be done right. And surely no one else could do anything right, but me - right?
That worked well enough in my late 20's and early 30's... But not so much once I reached 40 or so. At 40+ if I'm up to 3AM, I'm not getting out of bed before 10AM - if not 11. And thankfully, I've long since learned that I'm not the only person who can do things right.
Having come to understand this, I'm no longer clocking 16 hour days. I can (and do) occasionally, if and when I must - but now I have a team in place that removes most of that burden from my shoulders. This episode of the [... and Landlord!] Rental Real Estate Investing Podcast is about VA's (#VirtualAssistants) and other members of your #RentalRealEstateInvesting Team.
I leverage VA's to get things done - because I can't (and shouldn't even try to) do everything myself. There is a highest and best use for my time, so in this episode of the #LandlordPodcast, I speak about my use of VA's and team building activity. My goal is to fire myself from any and every job that can possibly be done by someone else on my behalf. Even if that person is only 80% as good at the job as me, putting multiple VA's on several tasks at even 80% of my effectiveness still results in a LOT more work getting done than I could possible do on my own.
So would you rather a job done at 80% of your greatness or yet another job sitting un-done on your to-do list? I know my answer! Hear it in this episode, along with details that will help you do the same.