Raise your hand if you remember some of the early television infomercials from the 1980’s starring Tommy Vu or Carlton Sheets? Not the latest version of Carlton Sheets, but the original infomercials running from the 1980’s? These were two of the original ‘learn at home’ real estate gurus and while their commercials and advice was often comical, many real estate professionals today readily admit to cutting their knowledge on information from one of these two originals.
I am amazed when I look back at how I got started in the real estate investing industry. It was quite by accident and it involved the $9.95 Carlton Sheets program. Like many investors this was like sipping my toe into the water and I still needed more. I had my taste, but I wanted big bites! I reached out and followed the advice of some other investors from my area whom, I would later find out, were doing very few deals themselves. Their advice set me back quite a bit. I was told to get away from paying for education. I was told that all stage speakers were hucksters and that paying for a program, a piece of technology and especially a coach, was like flushing my money down the toilet. To make it worse, I was told that all I needed to know I could get at my local real estate investment club. I was told that I could find everything I needed to know at online forums and real estate websites or even my local library. Unfortunately, they did not know my personality or me and had no idea that my REIA was more of a joke than their advice!
The problem with that line of advice is that, in a nutshell, it simply is not true. Many investors, agree or disagree, need the services of a good coach or a good mentor and often they need quality programs to help them succeed. The key for investors is figuring out what you need and then making sure the ones you choose are quality.
The Role of a Coach, a Mentor or even a Guru
Before I go any further, this word Guru really bothers me. It bothers me when individuals bestow it upon themselves and it bothers me when others use it to describe any person with any product or service for sale. In the end, the use by either is probably mis-guided and used incorrectly. I don’t have time to go into the history of the word, but I will tell you that there is a real distinction between teachers, coaches, mentors and the western use of the word guru.
In the United States, it took on the derogatory nature as it described religious teachers who gained followers by preying on their naivety. I guess it made its leap to real estate and other services as well. But calling someone a guru, and meaning for it to be derogatory simply because they have something to sell or speak from stage, is a bit over the top.
The role of each of these individuals, no matter how you package them or their services, is to make the journey from point A to point B a little quicker and a little easier. There are no magic formulas to build wealth. Regardless of the constant use of these terms in marketing products, webinars, sales calls or upcoming presentations; there are no magic bags of beans. I have never seen a handful of silver bullets and to the best of my knowledge there are no pillars that hold up the holy grail of knowledge. There are simply no shortcuts and the role of a coach or a mentor is to help you understand that. The role of a product from a guru should be to improve your processes and make your journey easier not necessarily shorter and not to make you any more successful. There is not a product and I have yet to meet a coach or mentor who can make you successful. That is strictly up to you.
Figuring out who the quality coaches and mentors are and which products are the right ones for your business is always a bit harder and that is where your role as the investor really comes into play.
The Role of the Investor
I have been reading for years on on-line forum sites, where investors are quick to chastise other investors who ask for advice before buying a product or hiring a coach or selecting a mentor. My problem with this has always been that not only are some of the responses heavy on criticism, they are also light on good advice. All of us who have had any success as real estate investors, know that it takes hard work and commitment on our parts, long before we take on a good coach, mentor or program.
As I said earlier, they are only there to help make the journey faster. But, we also tend to forget about the help of the chances we took along the way. We tend to forget about the investment we have made in ourselves. Often the investment has been time and often the investment has been actual money we have spent learning the business.
Too often, in my opinion, the comments are loaded with suggestions to simply read online content or attend your local REIA meetings or better yet – just network more with more investors. I am not sure this advice is always practical or possible and it is riddled with generalities like, ‘if they are teaching they must not be doing.’ Is that really the best advice for an investor who wants some honest opinion on a particular person, program or situation they find themselves in. Is that really the answer that will work best for an investor when they are seeking advice on something they have already been researching. What if they need a face to face mentor or coach. Is it best to tell them that you will flush your money down the toilet?
Accountability is a huge reason that many investors look to hire coaches and mentors. It is up to the investor paying for those services to recognize that accountability is something that they want – otherwise what is the point. No investor should ever pay money to simply feel part of a crowd, and that is the problem with most REIAs. I recall the horrible advice that I received from several investors to join my local REIA in Denver back in the early 2000’s. I sat with them through 5 months of meetings, even paying for all the extra Saturday meetings and falling for the promised silver bullets, before I realized that a vast majority of the crowd were packed like rats in a room and the ones running the REIA were playing us like the pied piper.
It wasn’t until I walked outside during the meeting that I realized there were 20 investors sitting in the lobby having a beer and these were the guys and gals doing all the deals. These were the real movers and shakers and this is the group I needed to be with. Not the group inside listening the sales pitch for something that I did not need.
And that brings me to the biggest point of all in the role of the Investor. If you do not need it, if you are not going to use it, if you have no plans on truly following thru . . .
DO NOT BUY IT!
I have commented on the forums on BiggerPockets.com dozens of times, that the cost of the product or program or coach or mentor does not matter. What matters is how you are going to put it to use. If it is $1 or $1,000, every penny is wasted if you are not willing to be accountable to yourself.
It should not be the role of others to tell an investor when they are making a mistake unless they have direct knowledge of the product or service that is being questioned. A savvy investor should already know if a program or a coach/mentor is going to fill a purpose in their real estate career. The truth is, as investors, we do know. And it is our responsibility to be very clear with our purpose and goals and we need to know if a product or coach is going to help reach them.
How Do You Know If They Are Good
I do like one aspect of asking questions about products or services on the forums before making a purchase. If you are able to get good feedback from other users who have used the product themselves, then you are able to get direct user advice. That is what investors should do. If dealing with the other comments comes with the territory then so be it. In the end, investors are not asking for opinions of their thought processes, they are asking for opinions of the product or service. There is a big difference.
I recently read that you can know if a mentor is good based on if they are willing to teach you for free. I would have to respectfully disagree. I’ve received more crappy free advice and mentorship than I care to remember. I don’t think price or willingness to charge for time and service has anything to do with whether or not the mentor or coach or guru is any good. Each of us has a price in us that we would be willing ot pay for each of these services. For some that price may be zero. Whether they are already doing and looking to grow or just starting our and trying to do their first deal…the price that some investors are willing to spend on themselves and their growth is zero. And there is nothing wrong with that! For others, that price may look like an astronomical number…and there is nothing wrong with that either!
So when it comes to price and are they quality or not, I look at one simple rule. I know of plenty of self-professed coaches who charge very little for their services and in my opinion they are still over priced. Way over priced! Some are even pushed by local REIA’s and my even mentioning them means I am digressing. I have an alternative way to judge a coach or mentor. Are they willing to say no?
How many times have you seen coaches and mentors say no? The naysayers, who will tell you that there are no good coaches or mentors, will say never. I know plenty who say no all the time. That does not mean that they are all great teachers. I’m not even advocating for their programs. But first and foremost, any person or company who is willing to tell a potential client no passes the first test with me. I can get to the veracity of their services later. Just show me they know how to operate with integrity first. Don’t know how to find out if they are willing to say no? Ask them. Be up front and honest with them and see if they shock with their answer. Tell them that you are not sure if this is the right fit for you and that you would like to know when and why they tell a potential client no. You will have a very good idea if they are the type of person or company that you want to be involved with very quickly.
I am passionate about topics like this because I was not served well by experienced real estate investors when I first got started. I had to learn the hard way that it was entirely up to me if I was going to succeed, but I also had to be aware of what I needed to succeed. I had to be willing to spend my dollars wisely on education, programs and even mentorship and then be willing to be held accountable. I am a much better investor today for the investments I made in my company and myself once I quit thinking I could learn everything for free.
If you are searching for the right opportunity to grow as a real estate investor, before searching the internet for the perfect solution or pulling out your credit card to hire the perfect coach, search yourself. Make sure you know what you are looking for and why and then match your needs with the solution that fits and feels the best.