Overwhelmed by Info? Here’s How to Focus Your Learning for Maximum Business Impact

by | BiggerPockets.com

A mother repeatedly called upstairs for her son to get up, get dressed and get ready for school. It was a familiar routine, especially at exam time.

“I feel sick,” said the voice from the bedroom.

“You are not sick. Get up and get ready,” called the mother, walking up the stairs and hovering outside the bedroom door.

“I hate school, and I’m not going,” said the voice from the bedroom. “I’m always getting things wrong, making mistakes and getting told off. Nobody likes me, and I’ve got no friends. And we have too many tests, and they are too confusing. It’s all just pointless, and I’m not going to school ever again.”

“I’m sorry, but you are going to school,” said the mother through the door, continuing encouragingly, “Really, mistakes are how we learn and develop. And please try not to take criticism so personally. And I can’t believe that nobody likes you — you have lots of friends at school. And yes, all those tests can be confusing, but we are all tested in many ways throughout our lives, so all of this experience at school is useful for life in general. Besides, you have to go, you are the head-teacher.” (Story taken from businessballs.com.)

Hi BP! It’s Liz back this week to talk about an important topic for success in real estate investing: learning. Now back to the fable I just told. For many of us, this was exactly how we felt about going to school. As young people, we associated “school” with “learning” and vice versa. Somewhere along the way, we became frustrated with school and the “learning” that was supposedly happening.

Thankfully, most of us as adults have disassociated “school” with “learning.” The two don’t go hand-in-hand anymore. As adults, we actually appreciate the idea of learning and know that in order to achieve new goals and expand our lives, we must learn new information. It is just that simple. Brian Tracy said it best: “To earn more, you must learn more.”

Whether you are an aspiring real estate investor or a current real estate investor looking to expand, you are probably a life learner. In other words, you are committed to learning and expanding yourself. Sometimes learning new information can be exciting, but it can also bring up overwhelming feelings of frustration at times. I don’t know about you, but when I Google something that I am interested in learning, the fact that millions (millions may I repeat) of results appear is overwhelming.

I think one reason “learning” something new is overwhelming to most of us is because there is so much to learn about that subject. Let’s face it — most people don’t have a plan for learning. Learning anything new is all about taking baby steps and being focused with what it is you want to learn. In order to avoid being overwhelmed, I would suggest for this year choose 5 areas to focus on learning. Not twenty-five, but 5 areas only! Success is all about focus. Learning is all about focus as well. The biggest trap in learning new information is that people do not set a plan for learning (and stick with it)!

Related: Does Education Paralyze Us? An Argument for Action in Real Estate

I don’t know about you, but I am excited about this year. I am excited to learn and expand what I know, but in a focused way. Here is my list of 5 areas that I am excited to learn about.
Matt and I look forward to hearing what you are excited about learning about, too!

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5 Investing Areas I’m Focusing My Education on This Year

1. Learning more effective marketing strategies

I am looking forward to learning how to make our presence more “known” via our website, social media, etc. As we begin to market properties or whatever, I am excited to learn more how to maximize our efforts online.

2. Learning new processes and systems to automate our property management business

Ever since I read The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris, I can’t help but think on a daily basis, “How can we make this more efficient and automated?” Obviously there are some areas of a property management company that can be automated, and others that need that personal touch. I am excited to speak to folks who run property management companies and learn as many best practices as I can.

3. Learning more creative ways to find properties to fix & flip and buy & hold

We have two strategies we are focused on this year: buy-fix-flip and buy-fix-hold. We have existing strategies that have worked in the past to find properties; however, I want to learn more unique and out-of-the-box ways to find properties. I am looking forward to finding these “off the beaten path” strategies and then sharing them with the BP community!

4. Learning from other successful business people and real estate investors

I will be the first to tell you that I don’t have all the answers. I love to surround myself with people who are on a successful path as well. I used to be part of a mastermind group – a group that was made up of successful business people who offered ideas and suggestions to one another to grow one another’s businesses. I would love to either form or join another group like this in 2015. Success breeds success. In order for this to happen though, you have to surround yourself with the right people.

Related: 4 Ways to Build a Strong Real Estate Investing Financial Education Today

5. Learning ways to take our real estate investing to the next level

Last year we bought more units than we did in several years prior. That was a great achievement for us. However, there are always ways to be more efficient, profitable, and effective in every area of our business. I am excited to find ways to be make this portfolio even more profitable for our investors and our team.

In summary, we never stop learning. It pays to have a plan for your education and set goals around it. So what are you excited and committed to learning more about this year?

Matt and I are committed to offering as many ideas and support as we can throughout the year on our weekly blog. We would love to hear from you on what you want to learn more about from us!

Happy Investing!

Now it’s your turn to weigh in: What areas are you focusing on for further education in 2015? What new skills have you learned recently?

Leave a comment below, and let’s chat!

About Author

Matt Faircloth

Matt Faircloth, Co-founder & President of the DeRosa Group, is a seasoned real estate investor. The DeRosa Group, based in historic Trenton, New Jersey, is a developer and owner of commercial and residential property with a mission to “transform lives through real estate." Matt, along with his wife Liz, started investing in real estate in 2004 with the purchase of a duplex outside of Philadelphia with a $30,000 private loan. They founded DeRosa Group in 2005 and have since grown the company to owning and managing over 370 units of residential and commercial assets throughout the east coast. DeRosa has completed over $30 million in real estate transactions involving private capital including fix and flips, single family home rentals, mixed use buildings, apartment buildings, office buildings, and tax lien investments. Matt Faircloth is the author of Raising Private Capital, has been featured on the BiggerPockets Podcast, and regularly contributes to BiggerPockets’s Facebook Live sessions and educational webinars.


  1. Charles Williams

    Hi Liz. Great article. Let me ask you about your property management company. When did you all decide to form that company? How many units did you all have when you started the company? My business partner and I have 17 units now and are looking to add 10 more units this year. Together we are managing everything. All is fine now, but I can see at some point we will need help. I really do not want to hire an outside management company. I would rather start my own. Advise??

    Thanks, Charlie -VA

    • karen rittenhouse

      Hi Charles:
      I hope Liz doesn’t mind that I jump in ahead of her here, but we’ve done just that.

      20-25 properties seems to be the tipping point where most investors find the time it takes to manage just too overwhelming. I had an assistant and we got up to 56 of our own properties when I decided it was time to find a property management company to take them over, or go out and drown myself…

      Problem was, I couldn’t find a management company that I thought was good enough to take over my babies. Their response time, conversation, everything about my interview with them let me know they were lacking. So, we decided to open our own management company and hire another person to take my place.

      In most states, you must be a licensed broker to manage properties you do not own. My husband and I are not licensed, so we first had to create a full service real estate brokerage and hire agents. We then opened our property management company to take over management of our properties and began managing for others as well. 3 years later, our company was managing about 200+ properties (mostly single family houses).

      Good luck to you in your new endeavor!

      • Charles Williams

        Thanks Karen. I think in the up coming year what we will need is an assistant. This person duties would be to help with advertising empty units, do showings, running credit/background checks, getting leases signed, and answering the phone calls. I do not think we want to start managing other people’s properties just our own. You mentioned you had an assistant, up to 56 units. Were the things I listed above what your assistant helped you with? I know here in Virginia you do need a RE license and additional training in property management to manage other people’s properties, but I do not think you have to have any of that to manage your own. I will have to check on that. I was thinking on the lines of forming another LLC with its main function to manage our own properties. To keep it very simple is that possible? Our ultimate goal to reach our financial goal we have calculated is that we will need to own 70 units. Do you think my plan of forming an LLC is doable or will we have to eventually expand our business to a full Brokerage as you did?

        Charlie- VA

        • karen rittenhouse

          Hi Charles:
          Your employee works for the owner of the properties so you can have him/her do any of the processes you like!

          No, you won’t need a real estate license or brokerage if you’re only managing properties you own.

          Certainly you should have your rental properties in an LLC. Get a real estate CPA and attorney to help you structure the entity with the correct Articles of Incorporation that allow you all the tax benefits available when holding real estate. An online LLC will not suffice.

    • Elizabeth Faircloth

      Hi Charles, Thanks so much! So sorry for the delay in responding! You have to love these holiday weekends!! Happy to offer some insight into your situation. I read the thread between you and Karen and she is offering some terrific advice!! We did not hire someone to help us manage our properties until we got to about 30 units. Before this, it was just my husband and I managing the units. The first person we hired took care of our book-keeping and office management. So, she helped with many of the tasks below. We eventually (at about 70 units) hired a tenants relations manager who now deals with anything relating to tenants. Our book-keeper/office manager focuses on rent collection, invoices, etc. We own just about 110 units at this point and our team is at four (along with a full time maintenance person). I am in the process of talking to other property managers (like us) to learn best practices, etc. I have developed a lot of processes in place to help streamline everything but there is always more to do! I am happy to talk off line with you – set up a call to help share some of our learnings. Please feel free to message me through BP and we can connect together!
      Good luck to you in the meantime – sounds like you are making some terrific progress.

  2. Richard G.

    Hi Liz,
    great intro to the blog; such relevance! Just some comments if you do not mind as your 2015 investing interest are similar to mine –
    1. learning more effective marketing strategies I believe I heard before and this will be key not only in 2015 but the year after and the year after….technology and user friendly social media sites/apps are always evolving and we must evolve with it.
    2. the 4-hour workweek I heard is good book that I have not read yet; I can see how both this reading AND networking can help in learning new processes and systems to be more efficient in your business.
    3. finding more creative ways to find deals will be paramount for me as well this year. I like how you call it the “off the beaten path” as this might be the case with many investors thru the years. Whatever we do I believe being consistent and sticking with your criteria will reap much reward in the future.
    4. meeting and knowing like minded people can be a win-win for both parties. I appreciate your humbleness when you wrote this bullet. The real estate business needs more people like you, I wish you much success in this task as I know you will be an amazing Mastermind for any group and I wish I could have.
    5. I like how you added this task to your 2015 to-do-list. As any investor you should always being thinking one more step, the next level and the day after- meaning how can we make healthy money more wealthy money. I actually have been thinking about other types of investments to grow my portfolio besides actual buy/hold and buy/rents. ie. real estate ETFs, crowd funding on commercial projects, or buying limited partnerships interests in real estate. What are your thoughts?

    All the best!


    • Elizabeth Faircloth

      Hi Richard,
      I think you raise some great points in #5 above. It is always helpful (and necessary) to re-evaluate our investment strategy – what’s working, what we need to change, and what new strategies we can add to our portfolio. Crowdfunding is a very interesting topic and there is a lot out there about it. I think there is something to be said about diversification – while having a focused approach (i.e. investing in real estate oriented strategies). Good for you! I am curious what is a “EFT.?”
      Thanks Richard!

      • Richard G.

        An exchange-traded fund (ETF) is an investment fund traded on stock exchanges, much like stocks and must be bought from an online brokerage or a brick-and-mortar. An ETF holds assets such as stocks, commodities, or bonds, and trades close to its net asset value over the course of the trading day. Most ETFs track an index, such as a bond index or stock index which includes real estate. Actually, not sure if you heard this but the SEC has proposed that real estate be the 11th sector in the stock market to go with energy, financial, health care, etc. This will be a major change on Wall Street if approved (will take over a year).

        One real estate ETF I am looking at is iShares Cohen & Steers REIT ETF (ICF); currently yielding over 7%. Just like you said, its about diversification and focusing on other avenues of revenue. I understand this may be more passive for many RE investors though!! Have a good week –


  3. Pyrrha Rivers

    Thank you for the inspirational and thought provoking post. I created my list and like Richard G. I found my goals to be very similar to yours although my business is in its infancy stage.
    Being a buy and hold investor, living abroad presents unique challenges but there are , fantastic examples of incredible generous, successful investors in the same position that are willing to share their experiences, so I am grateful and encouraged to follow their lead.
    Here is my list of 5
    1.Learn more creative ways to find properties to buy and hold. 2. Learn how to better estimate rehab costs.
    3. Learning from other successful investors Best practices on how to manage contractors from a distance.
    4. Start learning about NOTES investing.
    5. Learn how to create processes and systems to scale my business.
    Thanks again for the inspiration.

    • Elizabeth Faircloth

      Thanks so much Pyrrha for your comments! I really appreciate you listing the areas you are most interested in learning more about this year. We will definitely keep these in mind as we plan out our future blog posts! Good luck to you and all the best to you in 2015!!

  4. karen rittenhouse

    Hi Liz:
    Perfect time of year for everyone to re-evaluate their plans.

    And “life learners” is a perfect description of real estate investors. If you don’t want to learn, you will fail.


    Because real estate investing is a constantly changing business. We are just beginning our 10th year of full-time investing and no 2 years have been the same. The economy changes, legislation changes, demographics are shifting – so it’s not only investing that we all have to stay on top of.

    For us this year, the focus is on wholesaling and renovating/reselling. We have our nest egg and we’re now working to generate huge sums of cash to pay down huge piles of debt!

    Thanks for your post.

    • Elizabeth Faircloth

      Thanks so much Karen for your comments! Yes, I can’t agree more with you re: real estate investing is a constantly changing business. If you don’t keep an eye out for all areas of your business – it probably will come back to bite you! I know since this has happened to us!

      I love your “focus” for this year – very similar to us in many ways. It would be great to connect together. Sounds like we have a lot in common!!!

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