The Simple Secret to Building (Literally) Any Kind of Business From the Ground Up

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When I first became a real estate agent, the initial hurdle I had to overcome was: “How am I going to find my clients?” This is the one question that every new real estate agent faces, as their success depends wholly upon building a pipeline of paying clients. However, it’s a problem that not only real estate agents face — anyone starting or running their own business inevitably will find themselves asking this question.  

Despite the fact that I work in sales, I am not inherently a salesperson. I didn’t let that stop me from getting into real estate, but I knew that because of my more reserved disposition, I had to figure out a different way. I started thinking about my “why” and how I wanted to be perceived. I decided to focus on playing up my strengths as much as possible, rather than trying to improve upon my weaknesses.

That led to a complete mindset shift, one that has been showering me with rewards, seemingly only after a few short months.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Since I am working in my hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina, my foundation as a part of this community is rock solid. It is something I have been slowly building up over years and years of living here, so while the success may seem like it came overnight, I can assure you that is an illusion.


Related: What I Learned by Quitting My Job to Start a Real Estate Business 24 Years Ago

How I Bought, Rehabbed, Rented, Refinanced, and Repeated for 14 Rental Properties

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How to Find Win-Win Opportunities for You & Your Clients

How did I do it? I stopped scrambling to find clients. I stopped focusing on getting and focused on contributing. I started asking instead, “How can I become indispensable to my community?” and “What can I do today to make sure my friends are successful?” I knew that by taking care of other people first, I’d eventually be taken care of, too.

Anyone who has read Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People knows what I’m referring to: It’s known as the abundance mindset. Rather than seeing life as a zero sum game with a clear winner and loser, having an abundance mindset means you see the world in a completely different way — as a place with more than enough to go around. Win-win opportunities abound; all you have to do is relax and change your thinking. (I get it, easier said than done.)

As a real estate agent, rather than hounding people on whether they wanted to buy or sell, I just said, “If I can ever help you, let me know.” Keeping it open-ended worked extremely well, as I left it up to them to get in touch with me when they needed. After all, I wanted to be known as a problem solver — not their annoying real estate agent friend.

No expectations. No pushiness. Just a genuine desire to be helpful.

You can probably guess what happened next.

Friends started calling me. They approached with, “I am thinking of buying a house. Can you tell me what I should do first?” Or, “Hey, I know you do some rental property investing. Would you help me run some numbers?”

Absolutely,” I’d said.   

They started trusting me because they knew I wasn’t doing it just to make a sale. They knew my answer would always be, Of course, I’ll help! The irony of it was, once I proved my value, they didn’t want to work with anybody else.

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It’s Not About You

This is the simple — but not easy — secret behind building any kind of business, real estate related or not: It’s not about you. It’s about how to best serve others.  

You may be asking, “Where do I start?” Here are a few examples:

Introduce two people that you think should know each other.

Making meaningful connections is one of my favorite things to do because it helps TWO people at the same time!

Go the extra mile.

For example, if a contact asks me what a good rental property return is, instead of giving them an arbitrary number, I say, “Hey, I actually have built a spreadsheet for this, and you can plug in your own numbers and play around with it as needed. Would you like me to send it to you?”

Support your friend’s businesses.

Last year, I met a young entrepreneur who builds websites for startups. Since I am tuned into the startup scene here in the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham, NC), as soon as I got wind of anyone needing a website done, I would send them to him, simply because he knew how to build great sites for a price bootstrapped startups could afford. Almost immediately, he started sending real estate leads my way, without me even asking.

Related: 5 Life-Changing Tips for Growing a Business While Working a Full-Time Job

Focus on the relationship, not the sale.

A recent client was looking for an investment property, and though we’d found a perfect Class B property under $100K, he was also intrigued by a Class A complex down the road and brought it to my attention. I told him even though it was a nicer property, after running the numbers, it would not be as favorable for him as a long-term buy and hold investor.

If I’d solely focused on the sale, I would have made double the commission by pushing him toward the Class A property — but it would not have been in my client’s best interests, and he probably would be less likely to use me in the future if he’d felt short changed in any way.


I’m sure you can come up with more on your own, just in your day-to-day life!

When it comes down to it, it’s all about your mindset as you work on building your business. The abundance mindset has worked for me, and I’m nothing special — so I know it can work for you, too! There is a world of opportunity out there just waiting for you, and I firmly believe that the more opportunities you create for others, the more opportunities will be created for you.

So get out there!   

Entrepreneurs: What’s your #1 tip for building a business from the ground up? Any suggestions you’d add to the list above?

Be sure you leave a comment below!

About Author

Tiffany Alexy

Tiffany Alexy is the Broker/Owner of Alexy Realty Group, a boutique real estate firm located in the Raleigh-Durham, NC metro area. She actively invests in her own buy and hold projects. With several financial certifications under her belt, Tiffany specializes in helping individuals understand how real estate can fit into their investment portfolio. In her spare time, Tiffany loves to ride horses and travel.


  1. Douglas Skipworth

    Great article, Tiffany. I believe in your philosophy 100%.

    Personally, I try to do the same things you mentioned above and it has been so much more fulfilling (and rewarding!) than I ever imagined (not to mention all of the benefits that other people have enjoyed from it!).

    Thanks for the great reminder that the secret to success in business and living is giving!

  2. Hugh Nelson

    Excellent post, Tiffany! It reflects not only exceptional business advice, but personal integrity. I’m quite confident that the rewards will continue to come to you, with a mindset and business practice like that. You won’t need it, but good luck in all your work!

  3. Johnny Kang

    Your post was a great reminder for me to provide value instead of just being focused on trying to hit my goals. Yes it make take a little longer (doesn’t have to), but even if it did, you certainly build a more sustainable business. Thanks for writing that!

  4. Thank you Tiffany,
    It is so good to hear this way of thinking. I’m a Realtor in Northern Virginia and a Real Estate Investor and I have come to the same conclusion as you are practicing. Keep up the great work and bless you.

    Neema Nene

  5. George Arditi

    I have done just that as a contractor for many years. I am in the business of altering and repairing real estate in whatever shape and for whatever purpose either to hold and rent or to sell and I enjoy helping others accomplish their task at the most efficient and lowest cost possible. At this point I don’t need to advertize the work comes from word of mouth. May everyone be blessed by this giving method!

  6. John Hamrin

    Great article Tiffany!

    I’m currently at the idea stage of my business ventures but even at that stage the question is still prevalent “how am I going to find my clients”? Your insight is a great answer to that question. Thank you for sharing your experience and proving that helping others is the best route to take.

  7. Chaim Kernkraut

    Thanks for the post this is the right philosophy everyone should be thinking, but the problem is that you always have people taking advantage of you giving free advice and don’t end up coming back to you for the real deal so you can have the courage to continue giving and sharing. I know it might be beyond the point of this article but would you be able to guide me to a source where I can fully learn to execute this way of thinking
    thanks again for sharing this wonderful article,

    • Tiffany Alexy

      Hey Chaim! Thanks for reading! I’d recommend reading “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey and “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. I think both embody the message I’ve tried to convey here and may offer additional insights. Hope that helps!

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