“It’s the people we hardly know, and not our closest friends, who will improve our lives most dramatically.”– Dr. Meg Jay, Clinical Psychologist and author of The Defining Decade
If you had told me this time last year that I would control 8 units across 3 properties worth $800,000, I would have laughed at you! I would say, “I don’t know the first thing about running a business or buying real estate. How would I even find people willing to invest that much money? You’re crazy!” But it happened! And you want to know why it happened? Because I stepped out of my comfort zone and networked.
What do you have to offer? What are you willing to sacrifice?
I am back tracking to my initial intro into real estate investing, so please forgive the jump in topics. After talking with Stu, I began browsing Bigger Pockets for forum posts on interesting topics, listening to webinars and looking for local investors who I could connect with. I made it a goal that I would meet/connect with one person on Bigger Pockets a day. And not just send a friend request and rack up number of friends on Bigger Pockets. No, I wanted a real, meaningful, mutually beneficial relationship where we both could learn and grow. Obviously, these people I was meeting on Bigger Pockets had experience or they wouldn’t be posting all the time on forums or writing blogs or holding webinars. So, what did I have to bring to the table?
During my time on the Albany, we went through a few different Commanding Officers (CO’s). One of my CO’s, Tom Aydt, would introduce new sailors to the crew by asking them two questions: 1. What do you have to offer? and 2. What are you willing to sacrifice? We were to ask ourselves that every day and if the answer to either question was “nothing,” we needed to reevaluate why we came to work that day. That stuck with me years later and I reflected on this while I started networking and came up with some truths about myself:
- Commitment: Being in the Navy, especially Submarines, had prepared me to put in the hard work for as long as necessary to achieve the mission. You simply had to on the boat. Not fixing the air conditioning system or not performing a retest of the drain pump can literally mean life and death hundreds of feet under the water. When it came to real estate investing, I knew I would be 100% committed to the objective–be it learning about financing options or looking at homes on Zillow or setting a goal to call and interview a realtor. That being said, to achieve financial freedom, you need to shape your MINDSET and your HABITS to be 100% committed to your success, because if you aren’t, no one else will be.
- Time: This is an often underestimated and valuable resource for rookie investors. I had plenty of time on my hands to scour neighborhoods, make cold calls and analyze deals for others. Established real estate professionals, from wholesalers to passive investors, don’t always have the time to focus on anything outside their business, at least not for free. So make an effort to give up your time for them and they will give up their time for you.
- Leadership Experience. Before I switched submarines in late 2018, I was the Albany’s Engineering Overhaul Coordinator, which is a fancy way of saying that I was the liaison between the Navy guys and the Shipyard guys. Drawing on the experiences of numerous members of both teams, I could find a solution to virtually any problem we had. That job had nothing to do with real estate investing but it had everything to do with critical thinking, team building and leadership; skills absolutely necessary for any business venture. Do not discredit your past experiences, careers—successes or failures.
So with these three things in mind, I started introducing myself on Bigger Pockets every day. I met some incredible people this way and let others’ natural human inclination to brag further my learning. If you have ever been to the Bigger Pockets website, you will see multiple tabs at the top: Education, Network, Tools, Marketplace and Bookstore. Under “Network”, you can search for members, real estate agents, lenders and most importantly, events. And by events, I mean meetups.
Meeting People Intentionally
Meetups are by far the best opportunity to meet other active investors—both new and experienced—passive investors, real estate agents, and other real estate professionals. Two weeks after I started researching on Bigger Pockets, I stumbled upon a REI meetup in my area held by my now realtor, Melanie McDaniel (put in link). Being an introvert, I was nervous about going to a meeting where I knew no one and nothing. However, I told myself if I was going to make this a true passion, I needed to step out of my comfort zone and meet people–at the very least I’d learn something. So, on December 3rd, 2018 I walked into that meeting and walked out forever changed. Melanie’s meetup was as much about networking as it was about education. We heard from three investors with varying levels of experience talk about their deals and the progress they had made. I must have met 15 different investors all eager to meet each other and learn. My wife always laughs at me when I call her on my way home from a meetup gushing like a 14-year-old girl about who I met or what I learned. I felt at home and justified with my decision to forgo a typical Navy retirement and pursue financial freedom through real estate. I approached each person with humility and an eagerness to learn; even if they only had one property, they still had something to offer. For the introverted brain, it was a lot to take in all at once but I loved every minute of it.
It may sound cold and calculating but I had a purpose with every introduction, which can be summed up below:
- Know your outcome. Know what you want from the relationship you hope to develop. Clarity is power so understand your intentions and make them known so your business card doesn’t end up in the trash can two minutes later. Random efforts produce random results. Do you want to discuss partnering or learn about their journey? Do you want a mentor or just referrals? The intention can depend on the person, but identifying the right opportunities can prevent wasted time on both sides. Quality over quantity is key for networking.
- Market yourself. Every person you meet is an opportunity to market yourself and your company. Starting a business can be daunting but the more you market yourself, the more people talk and the more opportunities come your way. It’s a pretty sweet cycle! But don’t focus on the insecure, inexperienced guy or gal you may perceive yourself to be. Focus on the “you” that is a burgeoning capitalist with real life experiences that has ambitions to own the world one day. That is the “you” investors will be attracted to.
- Follow up. Networking is pointless if you talk to someone once and never see them again. If you feel a real connection with the individual, follow up each interaction in a timely and professional manner. Set up a time to meet up later for coffee or lunch. You would be amazed at the caliber of conversations that can occur in a casual setting between two acquaintances. Through genuine interest, you can leave a lasting impression and develop a productive relationship.
Don’t sound like a Newbie
After the meeting, I talked with Melanie briefly but took her business card and vowed to meet up with her later. As a realtor, I knew she would be my gateway to my first property–in hindsight she has gone above and beyond in every aspect of the real estate profession: insurance, lending, closing attorneys, window repairman. You name it, Melanie had a recommendation. That is a true mark of an expert in their field. That being said, for her to help me, I needed to know what I wanted first. What were my criteria? My ideal geographic locations? Price range? Number of units? All these questions and more had to be answered before I could meet with a real professional. Here is a lesson to learn: you may be inexperienced but don’t sound like it. For others to take you seriously, you need to be able to talk the talk, even if you don’t know everything. So, I did my research and I met with Melanie a few days later and the rest is history. Just kidding, I’ll talk about my first investment property in a later post.
Fast forward a couple weeks and I attended my first local REIA (real estate investors association) holiday party (pic) with my wife. Again, my introvert alarm went off, but I stepped into my uncomfortable zone and embraced the moment. After sitting with Melanie, she introduced me to Phil Capron (link). The bona fide man when it comes to everything apartment buildings. I had no clue one could even invest in apartment buildings, thinking it was only reserved for the Donald Trumps and Robert Kiyosakis of the world. Yet here he was tackling an 82-unit deal, while raising hundreds of thousands of dollars and finding the lending for a multi-million-dollar acquisition. Since meeting Phil, he has introduced me to other heavy-hitters in the multifamily sphere including Rod Khlief, Trina Piceno and Michael Blank and put me on the path to closing my first apartment building deal within the next 90 days. And to think, if I had never stepped out of my comfort zone and networked, I never would have had my eyes opened to the incredible investment that is apartment buildings (which I promise to tell you more about later).
If you take anything away from this post, take this one piece of advice: go to meetups, network your ass off and claim your financial freedom. Your network truly is your net worth.
Stay tuned for more blogs on our first investment property, our first partnership and my brief stint as a new construction developer and more! Please also feel free to contact us or mention in the comments topics that interest you!