What Is Wrong With Paying For Mentoring, Coaching Or A Guru’s Program?

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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.

Photo: Roland

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About Author

In 2005, Chris Clothier (G+) began working with other investors and has since helped hundreds of investors purchase over 2,300 properties in Memphis, Dallas and Houston through the Memphis Invest family of companies.

18 Comments

  1. Jeff Brown

    Hey Chris — Your take on investment clubs is spot on, and the reason I’ve ignored ‘em the last 30 years. Your point about saying ‘no’ is also very insightful. Over the years, fully 25-40% of those asking me for advice get told either that I can’t help ‘em, or that they’re doin’ great, don’t let me mess it up. :)

    • Chris Clothier

      Jeff –

      I like that last sentence! Its kind of funny how most people (me included) tend to give way too much advice and don’t often say “you’re doing great, don’t let me get in the way!”. Thanks for taking time to read the article and write a reply.

      Chris

  2. Hey Chris, I agree that sometimes a paid mentor is worth it, but it sure can be tough to spot the good ones from the one’s just looking to take advantage. Though, I find that anytime I pay for something I’m much more willing to do it, so that alone is often worth the cost. Thanks for the good stuff Chris, as always. You’re a wise dude.

    • Chris Clothier

      Brandon –

      Thanks for taking the time to post your comments. I agree with you on the value of a good mentor and the questions about how in the world an investor can figure out if they are dealing with someone of quality. I only briefly touched on how to go about that, but in reality anyone buying something needs to be honest with themselves. I also agree with you on spending money, but even I am guilty of justifying a purchase and then not using it…

      BTW, I really appreciate your points of view on the BP Blog!

      Thanks – Chris

  3. As a new investor I’m always meeting other investors and the one thing that seems similar to among ones who appear quite successful (and by successful I mean having multiple properties, high cash flow, or a system rather than just one or two single family homes) seem to all mention some sort of class they took. Now, when it comes to saying which class or ‘guru’ is best is where I start to see certain egos come out. From attending a number of of these introductory classes I really believe it comes down to a fit for oneself.

    • Chris Clothier

      Steve –

      I could not agree with you more. It is absolutely about what is the best fit for each investor. If it is a class, if it is a program to save time or effort, or if it is mentor/coach, every investor is different.

      Thanks for taking the time to jump in the conversation!

      Chris

  4. Good article Chris. I am one of those people who warn others of the guru and coaching programs quite often and I believe for good reasons. First, many of the people who are asking about these programs do not know a single thing about real estate investing, they just heard of the program and are considering jumping right in by paying for a program. I think that all of these people should take a few weeks to read up on there own…this will give them an idea of the business and give them a little perspective about the program before they pay for it.

    Also, I give advice based on my experience and the data, and from what I have come across, these programs are very rarely worth the money for most people. Of course if someone takes the time to do their research, they will likely make the best decision on their own, but generally it takes a little time to do that. So if I helped someone really think about it and they still decide to do it, they probably did the right thing.

    I even have a rule for myself…I am want to purchase something, a wait a week or two to see if I still want it…it is amazing how many times I have decided I didn’t want it after I really considered it.

    I do agree, for many people a coach or mentor is very important and can provide a great service well worth the money.

    • Chris Clothier

      James –

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the article. AND…let me start by saying I can tell by the way you conduct yourself on the forums and even on the blog that you are a class act and speak (write) from a passion to help others. That is a great quality. I may not always agree with every response you may put on the forums, I never question your motivations. I think we both genuinely want investors to succeed. I worry though that too often the conversation moves from “facts or knowledge of something” to “why in the world are you mr. or mrs. investor going to waste your money”. Unfortunately, this idea that all gurus are bad has evolved from the answers given to questions.

      In my experience, there are some high quality products, people (coaches and mentors) and opportunities for investors to get the specific help they need and I just hate the idea that many are chastised for even considering spending their money.

      I love your advice at the bottom of your comments and I think that is a really important way to conduct yourself. I exercise the same kind of caution when I am upset or mad about something. I try to put my thoughts our of paper and then put that away. When I have had time to reflect, I pull that paper back out and if I still feel that way, I respond. Usually, I don’t!

      Take care –

      Chris

  5. Fantastic Article Chris! One of the best I have read regarding coaching, mentoring, and home study courses. So many new investors have some unwritten expectation that a $99 membership to their local investor group will make them multi-millionaires. Don’t get me wrong, I love my local group and I do encourage everyone who is interested in real estate to join, but my challenge is shaking this underlying expectation. Does McDonald’s share their money making secrets with Wendy’s or Burgoo King? I think not. Sharp investors are in every town USA; however, they NEVER share what really brings home the bacon for them. Finding a qualified coach and mentor requires some homework on the part of the student.
    You hit a home run about the “experienced investor” who will teach someone for FREE – Run, Beware, and avoid.
    Your local investor group should provide education about local laws, eviction process, insurances, tax updates, etc. The real meat and potatoes on creating and running your business in the black should be left to the true experts. Your local group should also be the conduit for sharing the opportunities to access advanced training and coaching.
    my first time on Bigger Pockets, I think.
    Once again Chris, great article!
    Mike Butler

    • Chris Clothier

      Hey Mike –

      Thanks for taking time to read and comment. I do want to clear up a couple of things that may have come across wrong on the article. I have people in my office that want to learn from my company on an almost weekly basis. I never charge them. I’m not necessarily teaching either, but I am spending time with them and giving them the best business advice I can think of as they start their own businesses. That freebie though is very valuable to them. At the same time, I am showing them all of our “secrets” because in reality there are none!

      There are no secrets in the real estate business. There is only hard work, right decisions and a mix of luck. IMO!

      Chris

  6. Great article. Reminds me of a friend I have that has spent over $30,000 on mentoring, coaching, boot camps etc. He has an LLC, a home office with gorgeous oak desk and captains chair, and the baddest computer. He has fancy business cards and just ask him any question about Real Estate and he can give you a complete breakdown and explanation. Well, I think u know where Im going here, he’s never done a deal. I offered to help him get started, I told him the kind of properties I was looking for and how to find them. I told him I will put the deals together and split the profits with you. His reply was, “So I do all the work and you get half the money”? It all boils down to mindset. How can you help somebody that wont change a negative attitude? I also have friends and family members that are in dire financial shape and unwilling to even try learning Real Estate. What can you do? Just leave them by the wayside? I dont mind paying for courses and training and I have. Still am. Let’s make some MONEY Rando

    • Chris Clothier

      Rando!

      Thanks for taking time to read and then comment on the article. When it comes to mindset and belief in yourself, I try not to surround myself with the naysayers. I fimrly believe that you will become the 6 people you surround yourself with. That is in your personal and your business life.

      All the best – Chris

  7. Valerie Gambino on

    Chris,
    Thank you for this great article. I am one of those new investors who was so gung-ho and bought into a program because I was afraid that if I waited I would never do it later and would let the opportunity slip away. They made it sound so easy! So a year later, I’m still taking classes, but feel there is still so much to learn about the basics that I haven’t had the nerve (nor the time) to get out there a find deals. I’m not saying I regret going for it, but I do feel that I should have done some more research into the business and what it actually takes to become successful.
    Reading articles on this forum definitely helps keep me motivated. In the end, success really is up to the individual.

    • Chris Clothier

      Valerie –

      Thank you for taking time to leave your comments especially when they are so honest.

      I can make you one promise. You can find great people on the BP forum site and great inspiration as well as answers for your questions. Do not count yourself out and never look back with regret on your past decisions. Just move forward in a positive manner and with the determination to get started.

      Don’t hesitate to let me know if there is a question I can answer or something I can assist you with.

      All the best – Chris

  8. Good article Chris. It has been a huge debate in my home country for years and is always divided into the anti guru brigade and the “I used them and it worked” people. Having been an educator myself my observation is that people who pay tend to actually do something. Like you I have given a lot for free advice and generally you see those people at some event years later and they have done nothing.
    But I have seen people pay eye watering amounts for mentoring and that has motivated them to get a result. I actually think the quality of the education is pretty insignificant. Get somebody hungry enough to succeed and they’ll find food!
    I think the bottom line is that people need to be pushed into doing something and money is one good way to give them that motivation.

    • Chris Clothier

      Dean –

      I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. I know you have a history as a real estate educator and understand the intense scrutiny that people who share their knowledge, paid or not, go through. I don’t know if there is a correlation to spending money or not, but I do know that people place a certain value on the price of things. Some people perceive “free” to mean no real value and others perceive a “$25,000″ cost to be completely excessive and offensive. In reality, both have the exact same value to the person staring at the choice. It all boils down to what is inside. You are wasting money and time, regardless of how precious you rank each of those commodities if you are not committed to succeeding.

      Chris

      • Hi Chris. This is my first post on BP, which I’ve been lurking on for awhile. Great info here; I read everything I can and have used a lot of the advice in my thought process while looking at deals. I also have a coach online I pay $65 a month. I send her specific questions about specific deals and she gives me specific answers within 24 hours. She’s basically a sounding board as I go through the trying process of attaining my first buy and hold property (besides the home I live in, which has a studio apartment rented in the back and a suite in my large home renting to another tenant). She has been an invaluable asset in giving me the guts to follow through on my hunches. She’s reviewed inspection reports, spreadsheets, etc. and given me her honest and seasoned opinion. She also has connections to other professionals that she freely shares. I’m about to buy a duplex attained through a short sale for $45K with her help (in a great neighborhood).

        To your point, I did a lot of soul searching before beginning this adventure. I also educated myself a bit before choosing a coach so I wasn’t totally unaware of what I needed in that coach. I don’t need broad ideas or concepts (for me, those are easy to grasp). I need nuts and bolts help when I have a question based on what I’m going through in real time. I might not be taking the next step without her expertise and the comfort it gives me to bounce things off of her. Of course, this doesn’t ensure success, but it has sure helped me to start pulling triggers.

        Like most other things in life, generalizations don’t get people far. Find out for yourself, regardless of what it is. And, as you say, know thyself!

  9. There is no such thing as a paid mentor or professional mentor. If you are paying them, they are functioning as coaches or consultants, not mentors. The mentor/mentee relationship is a very, very special one that shouldn’t be confused with coaching or consulting. You don’t pay your mentor back directly; you repay the debt by mentoring someone else down the road, when you have acquired the necessary level of knowledge, experience & skills. That said, the great majority (more than 90%) of people who pay for real estate investing courses and coaching never make a dime. The willing-to-say-no screen is a good one, but it doesn’t go far enough. The people who are going to succeed should be able to take the information from the coach/guru’s free promotional seminars and webinars and do a deal. Then, they could probably benefit from the coach/guru’s paid courses, etc., and learn how to streamline the deal-doing process.

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