Whoa! Today’s episode is a masterclass in building a business that runs without your day-to-day involvement.
You won’t find Ryan in the office, though. He lives 1,800 miles away. And because he’s put an executive team in place, he can focus on his “superpowers”: content marketing and big-picture strategy.
You’ll love hearing Ryan’s tips on how to keep remote employees accountable, why “core values” aren’t B.S., and how to screen potential mentors/coaches to make sure they know what they’re doing.
This is a seriously inspiring episode, and you’ll walk away ready to automate and delegate those tasks you’ve been meaning to get off your plate.
Download this one, and subscribe so you won’t miss the next BiggerPockets Business Podcast episode!
J: Let’s welcome Ryan to the show, how are you doing today, Ryan?
Ryan: Doing good, guys, that’s for having me.
Carol: Thank you so much for being here, we’re so looking forward to jumping into your journey and all the amazing things that you’re doing, and learning more about your business.
J: Yeah, for those of you who are listening to this and don’t know who Ryan is, Ryan’s actually a real estate investor, he has been on the BiggerPocket’s real estate podcast, he was episode 335, so if you listen to the real estate podcast you may be familiar with him. If you haven’t listened to the real estate podcast, it’s a great episode, I highly recommend it.
J: But here today on the business podcast we’re going to be talking about something a little bit different, we’re not going to be talking necessarily about Ryan’s real estate investing, though we will be touching on it. We’re going to be talking about his business, CallPorter and I’m going to let you, Ryan, tell us a little bit about what CallPorter is, and where it came from.
Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. So in a nutshell, it is a call center for real estate investors. So investors may be sending letters to people, trying to get them to sell a house, it could be pay-per-click online, could be SEO. Long story short, somebody finds a rel company, calls them, we handle those inbound calls.
Ryan: So our staff are trained in a lot of the specifics for real estate investors, like kind of really the nitty gritty, and that’s the only kind of niche we serve, so we kind of joke that they’re not pretending to be a doctor’s office and trying to become a real estate investor than flip-flopping to a receptionist for an oil change. So pretty specialized.
J: Got it.
J: So let me just summarize that real quick. So basically I’m a real estate investor, I want to buy somebody’s house, I somehow figure out either I send them a letter, I put an ad online, I put something in their mailbox, and I want them to call me to hopefully sell me their house. When they call, they’re not actually calling me, they’re calling you and your call center and you have people whose sole job it is, is to answer the phones to potentially get leads from sellers for people like me?
Ryan: Yep. It’s pretty neat. They’ll even book appointments for your employees to go meet with that person on the initial call.
J: Got it.
Carol: Very cool. I love it. So we’re going to dig all into the backstory and the background and how it all started, but to set the stage for our listeners, Ryan give us an overview of kind of where that company is now. Like how many employees you have, how many calls your team handles every month, how many customers, clients, your revenue, kind of the magnitude of what your business is today.
Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve got over 27 people on payroll. All of our staff are US-based, everybody’s actually based out of St. Louis, Missouri, which we can talk about why, on that. The business pulls in over seven figures a year. We’ve got a couple of hundred clients we service around the country, ranging from kind of really small people to people who may have 20, 30 offices in a state. And yeah, it’s been a lot of fun so far.
J: But these are all real estate people? You don’t take calls for any other industries, it’s purely real estate. So the people that are on the other end of that line, they really can hone their craft and get really good at dealing with potential sellers?
Ryan: Yeah. Like, my background was in car warranty sales, so I’m very good on the phone, that was kind of my baptism by fire. I started in that industry when I was 17, horrible environment for a 17-year-old, but got really good at being on the phone. And what I tell people all the time is, even if you’re pretty good at being on the phone, our staff take over 10,000 calls a month. You’re not every going to have the exposure that they have to get the practice that they have.
J: Interesting. And so you said you have 27 employees, how do they break down in terms of number of people that are entering calls versus management versus potentially other-
Ryan: Good question. So we have a CEO how effectively runs the business. We have a COO who kind of puts all of the pieces together. We have a general manager who is kind of over employees, scheduling, customer service type stuff. We have another gal who also takes calls but does kind of some of the backend admin stuff. We have a fractional CFO and then the rest of our staff are on the phones.
J: Wow, okay. I’m going to want to jump back into the structure in a bit. But can you start by telling us just a little bit of backstory. So where did the idea for CallPorter come from? How did you initially decide to start this company? What did it grow out of?
Ryan: Yeah, so, best way I can explain it is kind of the Marriott business model, if you’ve ever read kind of their story. I did not start out with, “Hey, I want to own a business.” I started out as a real estate investor, and one of my flaws is I’m not very detail-oriented, so as calls would come in, I would be calling somebody back who I just called who told me to never call them again under any circumstances, and I forgot that I just called them.
Ryan: So, I realized like, “Okay, I’m missing calls, calls are going to voicemail,” a lot of real estate investors just let their stuff go to voicemail, I wanted to pick my stuff up live, so I hired one gal, out of the car warranty industry, and was kind of like, “Hey, you’re just going to take my calls.” And then I like to chat when I’m doing something cool, so friends were like, “Wait a minute, you don’t have to take your calls, well, can she take mine?” And it kind of just started to grow from there of okay, well, we have too many calls for one person, so we need a second person and then a third and kind of went from there.
Carol: Very cool. So it went from there but, you say you hired one person and then another and another, was this all completely you starting the business, or was it a private company, investors, partners, so it was all you and you’re hiring more people?
Ryan: Nah, I bootstrapped the snot out of this thing. My initial… I probably sunk about 100 grand in, initially, that really just came from my real estate business. But it kind of became this backbone to it of, this one cannot run without this one, because I’m not going to go back to taking my calls. And the first year wasn’t what I would call fun.
J: So who was your first paying client? How did you first start marketing, did you go through your network? Or did you just decide early on, “I want to build a company?” Was this an accidental thing that you just-
Ryan: Nah, this was totally accidental. I honestly, I should know who my first client was, I don’t off the top of my head. I have a few ideas of people it could be but, it was literally just friends of mine that were in Masterminds or other groups I was in, or people I knew off BiggerPockets that I was talking about, “Hey this is really working, I don’t have to take my calls anymore.” And they were kind of like, “Well, can they take my calls?” And then I was kind of like, “Maybe this is a business.”
Ryan: And it got to the point where I had about three employees, decent amount of customers and I realized like, okay, I have customer service, I have sales calls, like I’m doing everything, I should turn this actually into a business because it was getting too time-consuming.
J: Interesting. And what year was this that you kicked everything off?
Ryan: So that would have been end of 2016, early 2017.
Carol: Oh, okay, a few years ago. So you’ve grown this thing really, really rapidly. So back in the beginning you mentioned, like right off the bat you had about $100,000 to sink in to the business, what were the expenditures like? You took that 100 grand that you earned through your real estate investing, what parts of the business did you focus on with that money?
Ryan: So let me clarify something so people don’t think I’m smarter than I am. I did not have $100,000 set aside that I was like, “Oh, I’m going to build this business.” It was like, “Okay, I’m going to put this on a credit card, this deal made me seven grand I’m going to throw at this, I can pull this from here,” it was a lot of robbing Peter to pay Paul early on. I mean it was literally like bootstrapped is the best way to explain it.
Ryan: A big part of that, I did a pretty large fix and flip, I bought a house, put money into it, sold it, made about 60,000. And I was about that much in debt, so it kind of like paid the business off. But yet, what was your question? Other than that?
Carol: No, that’s great. I was wondering what… You said that you had that money, even though it was bootstrapped and piece by piece, that type of thing, what were you investing in, in the business, to grow this business? Where did that money go? Was it toward people, was it toward a call center technology? What was it?
Ryan: So it was a mix of call center technology and people. One thing about running a call center, and we can talk about a couple of the fun points of running a call center but, it is very staff-cost intensive. With us we hire early and we run with probably an extra employee or two than we need, because I would rather have somebody sitting there bored than be dropping calls.
Carol: That makes perfect sense. And how do you go about finding those people? I would love to get some hiring tips, that’s always so valuable for our listeners, to hear how you go about vetting the right people.
Ryan: Yeah so fortunately for us, my brother and I are… My brother is the CEO who runs the company now, which we can talk about how I hired him, because that’s a fun story. But we just kind of put it out to our network of we’re hiring. One of the interesting things with the car warranty companies in St. Louis is they train people very, very, very well. You have to be just a killer to keep your job, but they treat people extremely poorly.
Ryan: So you have all of these people that are talented and miserable, and we give them the, “Hey, there’s no selling, there’s no pressure. Like you’re literally facilitating this journey for people.” And there’s stuff they get bonus and stuff off of, but it’s nothing like doing retentions or sales or kind of the level of pressure they’ve been under for years.
Ryan: So we kind of shoot out to our network, okay, we’re hiring, and that’s how we find most of our staff. On the tech side we use a company called Typeform, that basically puts together a questionnaire, and we make people go through a type form of basically why should we hire you? Give us one of your favorite calls you ever did, any metrics you have on yourself, and then we also use a company, I believe it’s Wise Hire that includes personality testing in their application.
J: That’s really cool. Okay, this business has only been around for about three years now, is that about right? And you’ve gone from obviously zero revenue three years ago when you kicked things off to, you just mentioned earlier in the discussion, that you’re up to seven figures in top-line, gross revenue. That’s tremendous growth. Can you talk to us and tell us a little bit about what you did to accomplish that kind of growth in such a short period of time?
Ryan: Yeah, so a lot of it has been kind of auditing our business model. And initially we started out with stuff that just didn’t make sense, like early on you paid $400 a month and we’d take an unlimited amount of calls. Obviously that’s not scalable. Right? Like that worked when it was me and five buddies, but so then we moved to a model of… We tried kind of modeling like PATLive, which charges per call and per minute. But what we realized with that model is it’s just so unpredictable for people, they have no clue, is their bill going to be $400 or 1200?
Ryan: So, what we moved over to now, is a model of there’s a monthly recurring and then they purchase basically buckets of calls. So as their volume goes up they tap into the next bucket. The neat thing for them is, the more volume they do, the cheaper it gets for them. But for us, we have kind of this nice monthly recurring revenue that that’s what we hire off of, that’s what we promote off of. So the physically growth came off of online advertising. So primarily Facebook and Instagram, and kind of converting cold traffic, getting them to know who we are, getting them to like us and then getting them on the phone with us.
Ryan: So initially we did over-the-phone pitches, we realized Zoom calls actually convert better, so all of our sales are done through Zoom now.
J: Okay, so Facebook, Instagram, so I guess a whole lot of online advertising, or were you building organic growth by building Facebook groups and just an Instagram following?
Ryan: We didn’t do anything organic. It was pretty much all paid, initially. I run a Facebook group now, but we’ve also kind of got pretty good brand recognition in the industry. A lot of people know who CallPorter is and don’t know who I am, so it was a lot of offering them a lead magnet, something of value. Here’s how I did X, give me your email to find out why. That adds them to an email sequence where they’re routinely seeing us in their email inbox, and then we also do quite a bit of re-targeting to those people once they are in that audience. And our goal is every single post they see from us, any time we show up and try to grab their attention, it’s something they want to see.
Ryan: So we’re dealing with investors, so I’m just peppering them. I have a couple of hundred ads at this point of, “Here’s how I do this, here’s how I do this.” The vast majority of our ads are asking for nothing. We may be in those group of, you know, a hundred that they’re going to see, maybe five are, “Hey, why don’t you hop on the phone with us?” Most of our “Hop on the phone with us” call-to-actions actually come through email, because they’re getting familiar with us so our email open rates and stuff are pretty stellar.
J: Wow. So, basically anybody that’s familiar with online marketing, what you just described is you built a really sophisticated funnel for directing traffic to your business, so a lot of people use funnels to sell courses or sell content or products, but you’re using a funnel to basically build a clientele for your business?
Ryan: Yeah. So I mean we used ClickFunnels for opt-ins. We used a company called ActiveCampaign for our email automations. ActiveCampaign is stellar for any business owner. You can do things like if you have an email list, on some of their plans you can predicatively send emails based off of, historically, when people have opened your emails. So instead of everybody getting the email at 9:00 AM, if we know J checks his email at 6:30 on the dot, he’s going to get an email at 6:29. So if that’s when he is typically opening or emails, we’re going to facilitate that timing. So ActiveCampaign’s great for that.
Ryan: We used a program called ScheduleOnce to get people on our calendar. It has some neat automations like at one point we had a problem with people not showing up for our calls, ScheduleOnce fixed that. You can send text message and email reminders with stuff like, “Hey, we’re going to talk to you in 15 minutes, looking forward to it,” they get a text a day before, the week before so it’s… We’re really reminding them.
Ryan: And then we also kind of go the shame route a little bit, if they miss the call, of like, “Hey man, we’re waiting on you, what’s up?” And that’s all automated. So that’s in a nutshell what the kind of pieces we’re using. Early on we used PayPal for billing, we now use Stripe.
Carol: Very cool. So it sounds like with this sophistication of this funnel, and all of the ways you have everything automated and built, and all of these different touch points throughout the process, all the content that you’re delivering to these perspective clients and so on, is it kind of easy conversionary once you actually get those people on the phone, or what’s that looking like for you?
Ryan: Yeah. So our closing percentage on average is about 35%, and that’s like week over week, it doesn’t count people who sign up after the fact. The biggest thing with us is because of how we’re priced, our minimum is 500 a month, so for brand new investors who… There’s this romantic idea of it being passive and they don’t have to take their own calls, when we kind of hit them with, “Yeah, it’s $500 a month,” some of them kind of like swoon. Like, “Oh, oh no, I need to talk to my wife right now.” They rush off really quick.
J: So you have, it sounds like, if I go back, 27 employees, and you had a CEO, COO, a general manager, admin, fractional CFO, so that leaves about 20, 21, 22 people that are actually answering the phones. So Carol and I, we do some direct mail and Carol’s always been the one that’s answered the phone for us, she’s amazing at it.
Ryan: My apologies.
J: She actually-
Ryan: That is a strong woman you’ve got there, J.
Carol: I love it, I love it, I love it. I know it’s kind of bizarro, but I do.
J: She wouldn’t want to outsource it, she absolutely loves talking to-
Carol: I just chatting with people.
Ryan: That’s awesome.
Carol: It’s so fun.
J: But it’s made me realize, just watching her do this over the years, I’ve seen that she’s gotten so much better at it. She started to learn patterns and techniques that work, things that don’t work that she kind of drops, and it’s been a long process. So, how do you train these people that are coming in than don’t necessarily know anything about real estate, don’t necessarily know about, I guess it’s not selling, but it’s converting a cold lead to a warm lead, how do you train these employees?
Ryan: Yeah, so we’ve got a decent amount of video content they go through that’s also backed by quizzes. So if they can’t test out of that section they’re not ready to be on the phones. When they’re on the phones, they’re physically there with our manager, she is over their shoulder, all calls are monitored and recorded. There’s a pretty decent amount of involvement, our approach though, is very how to win friends and influence people based, it’s how I try to make everything I do.
Ryan: So it’s not like this 50-point questionnaire, it’s like, “Hey, J, what do I need to know about your situation? What can you tell me about the house?” And there’s things they will dig in on, where the skills more come in. So, “What kind of shape is the house in?” Is obviously an important question. Lots of people will say, “Oh, it’s great, needs nothing.” And we kind of chuckle and, “Yeah, hey, tell you what, I haven’t run into one yet that needs nothing. Is there anything that kind of needs updated? Everybody’s got a honey-do list, what does yours look like?”
Ryan: And if that doesn’t get it out, they’ll hit again with, “Tell you what, you want a gift card to Home Depot for 25 grand, what do you remodel?”
J: Yep, I love that question. I love that question.
Ryan: Everything. You start to get much more of a real picture. Same thing, they’ll get into asking price, what are they wanting to sell the house for, that kind of stuff. And it’s all, “Hey, you know, what are you looking to get out of the property? Is that negotiable? How did you come to that number?” So it’s all rapport-driven, it’s pretty comical, because back when I used to run my own appointments and my own company, we’d have sellers that I’d show up and they would be bummed that my CallPorter employee wasn’t there with me.
Ryan: Or, a lot of them would just assume it was my spouse, which is really awkward when you bring your wife on an appointment, and they’re like, “Where’s Lauren?” And your wife’s like…
Carol: That is great. That is great. I think the point of that, though, what I find so fascinating is we’ve just started digging into, we’re going to dig into it more, automating your business, but it sounds like even the training your employees is very automated, sounds like you’re… Correct me if I am misrepresenting, but it sounds like you’re hiring for these soft skills anyway, but then with all these videos and the quizzes and everything attached, it’s guiding them through the right questions to ask in specific situations and that’s all automated? Is that accurate?
Ryan: Yeah. So we kind of have a framework of points they need to hit on the calls, minimums of what they need to hit on the call. We just recently invested pretty heavily into a new call center software that’s absolutely insane. I don’t even know that we’ve told our clients about this yet. But, it does things like, it will monitor calls live and if somebody on my staff swears will flag the call and email it to a manager for review. If it even detects that one of my employees has a bad attitude based off the EQ patterns in their voice, it’ll send it to us, and if the manager’s logged in live, it will pull the call up and say, “Hey, you need to listen to this right now.”
Ryan: So pretty nuts.
Carol: That’s amazing.
J: That’s awesome. And so, I’m going to kind of go off on a quick little tangent here, have you considered creating a call center that does stuff, I know you mentioned you’re real estate, real estate, real estate, nothing but real estate, but it sounds like you’ve got such a streamlined operation with great employees, great technology, great training, have you ever considered using this technology and this infrastructure to do stuff outside of real estate call center?
Ryan: Yeah, so we probably will. It would be a totally separate business with its own staff. Early on, I think what kind of got us well-known was that we were only real estate-specific. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we’ve had same thing with us being US-based, we’ve had all kinds of… Companies come to us and, “Hey, you can actually outsource all your calls to us, we’ll handle them, your margins are going to improve.” But it’s like, “No, your people aren’t going to be trained like mine are.” “Oh, you can use overseas Vas,” well, we’ve built our brand on not using that, so we’re not going to now compromise that.
Ryan: I do think, probably within the next year or two we will roll out an answering service for just businesses in general. Simply just for scalability. You know, there’s a lot of real estate investors, there’s a lot more business owners.
Carol: Definitely. Definitely. There are lots of them. And the call center, you mentioned St. Louis earlier, so the call center is physically in St. Louis?
Ryan: Yes. So, kind of. All of our employees actually work from home.
Carol: Oh, okay.
Ryan: We do have an office that they can come into if they’re having internet issues at home, and that’s where new employees start, just to make sure that we’ve… We’re not going to just turn them loose on their own. We’ve debated pulling everybody into an office, but we really kind of actually like the flexibility it gives our staff. We’ve got a lot of single moms, retirees, not to mention our core values, we’re really big on things like community and individual development. So hey, you’ve got two extra hours added to your day because you don’t have to commute to an office somewhere in traffic.
Ryan: So it’s a lot of giving our employees the kind of lifestyle that we ourselves strive to have.
Carol: Awesome. And what is it about that talent pool in St. Louis that makes St. Louis so special?
Ryan: So it’s where I’m from, initially. All of the car warranty companies are there.
Carol: Okay, okay.
Ryan: So they’re like training these people and then burying them out, and then we pick up the cream of the crop. So give you a good example. My CEO of that business was the retentions manager, basically loss prevention, in charge of saving all of the sales of this organization, was over something like 50 million a year in retentions. Had a team of 40, 50 people. My older brother. So my sales pitch to him was, “What’s the least amount of money I can pay you, because I need you to come run this thing because I don’t wan to do it.” Got him for three grand.
Ryan: He was making sex figures. So got him for 36 a year, we’ve now got him back up to what he was making before, but the person who replaced him was there for five years, incredible guy that they just treated absolutely awful, I just picked him up as a CEO for a different business I run. So, I don’t think I would get along well with their owners at this point, but it’s kind of like I troll their higher-level management.
Ryan: So the other kind of perk, and this is almost like a Malcolm Gladwell advantage, is I don’t really have any sort of an accent. I don’t sound like eastern, western, I don’t sound super southern or hickey, it really allows our staff to take calls for people around the country effectively. Different markets are different but if you call into a call center and it sounds like the person’s not local, you can get that pretty quick. St. Louis, just diagraphically does pretty well. The only place where you get pushback is in Boston, because we don’t sound like an aggressive person from the northeast.
Carol: That is very fun. So you have all of these employees working remotely throughout the St. Louis area, in addition to your smaller office, which is where, I presume your C-team works, or are they remote, too? Okay, so they’re there. So give us some more of the nuts and bolts because we haven’t explored this yet on this show, of having a team of employees of that magnitude who work remotely. How do you check in with them? How do you record data and what they’re doing? All of those types of things, because I would suspect there are lots of great advantages, like you already started to mention with having these remote employees, but how do you physically-
Ryan: It has challenges.
Ryan: So early on we used a software, I believe it was called Hubstaff, that kind of does what like Upwork, the VA website does. It would record screen grabs of what they’re doing, track activity, things of that nature. So we use some of that kind of tech now, too, but our call center software as well shows us things like how fast are they picking up, how many calls are they missing, is there high background noise on a call, like are they watching TV? Like to prevent anything like that.
Ryan: And then we use Slack, so we’re constantly kind of chatting with our teams. Our system has some gamification built into it where they can… This is the new call center software, but it’ll do things like, “Hey, if you pick up your calls in under X amount of time today you’re going to get 500 gold coins, which you can use to purchase a day off.”
Carol: That’s cool.
Ryan: But our employees can do things like bet against each other, so like, “Hey, I bet I’ll beat you today and I’m going to bet you 1000 coins.” So it kind of makes it like fun, which call centers normally aren’t, and just community is a really big core value for us, so we do things like, you know, fall picnics, we take them to baseball games, holiday parties. We do stuff like, “Hey, we’re going to be reading this personal development book, anybody why reads it fills out a book report is going to get a monetary bonus.” It’s really a lot of, I would say our biggest thing when hiring is culture and our core values. Do you fit our team or not? If you’re abrasive, if you’re rude, if you’re selfish it’s not going to work out.
J: That’s awesome. So I know that there are a lot of real estate investors in our audience, in our listening audience, and so I’m just curious for them because they’re probably wondering this as well. A lot of times we like to take our own calls, because again, with Carol and myself we take our own calls because Carol’s really good at it, we’re control freaks, and we don’t want to necessarily outsource because we always think, “Okay, other people can’t do this as well as we can. They don’t know our business as well as we do, they don’t know our houses as well as we do or our model as well as we do.”
J: What are you doing to kind of track your success metrics to ensure that you are… I’m trying to think of the best way to ask this. To ensure that you’re doing everything you can to be as successful for your clients as they could be for themselves. How do you customize the call experience based on different businesses or different clients? How do you ensure that your phone answerers are achieving… What do the metrics look like? What are they trying to accomplish? What are the calls to action that they’re going after?
Ryan: Yeah. So the biggest chief thing we focus on is rapport. Get to know this person. Make them feel connected to you. I think I’m going to address this in two parts.
Ryan: So the first part is the mindset of nobody can do this like I can. Being a little open and raw, my dad always owned his own businesses and that was his linchpin of failure. Incredible work, he did security systems and home theater. You would look at wiring he ran and it was like this is a work of art. Nobody else did it like he did. The problem with that mentality, it got him into debt. Currently he needs reconstructive surgery in both of his shoulders, and has a day job working for somebody else. Totally just burned through his body and that was kind of his issue.
Ryan: So early on when I started I made the decision of, I will not own or run businesses in which I am the linchpin. So I tried early on but like you J, I’m married, I was taking my own calls. My wife was only cool with me getting up from a dinner so many times before it started to become a point of contention. Not to mention, I don’t know what kind of marketing you guys are doing or the volume, but what if you have two calls come in at once? You’re missing something.
Ryan: So I definitely get that. Everything we do is tested on my business first, so if we decide, hey, we’re going to try this new approach of trying to get to an appointment, they test it on my real estate company first. They do stuff that quite frankly I doubt you guys do, so for instance, call comes on and it’s a pick up, hang up. You never even talk to them. My staff automatically calls that lead back five times.
J: Oh wow.
Ryan: There are no investors that work their leads that hard.
Ryan: Yeah. Something comes in after hours, it’s automatically called back five times. So the metrics we kind of track with our staff is how fast are they answering their calls. Most of the competitors out there that we’ve seen it’s anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute plus. Our average is around 12 seconds, and we’re actually working on getting that under 10.
Ryan: Things like the amount of calls that are answered live. Our goal is 100% but that’s humanly impossible. You know, one client drops 40,000 pieces of mail and doesn’t tell us, even 27 employees, there’s going to be some hick-ups. So tracking that percentage, we’re on average about 95% of incoming calls are answered live. If something gets missed, it’s automatically added to that, and we have clients that will give us their data from other call centers, so we know we’re like… We’re really leading the pack here, setting some new standards.
Ryan: As far as on the actual calls, it really is up to our clients. So some clients will come to us and they’ll say, “Hey, you know Ryan, I’m just a bad dude, I close everything. Get me in front of people and I’m just going to lock up contract left and right.” So we use more coffees for closers approach for them and push everything to an appointment. We have other people that are like, “Hey, if they’re not waiting with milk and fresh-baked cookies and they haven’t drafted the contract, don’t book the appointment for me.”
Ryan: So it’s really kind of figuring out what their preferences are and tweaking. I will say legit investors that are doing volumes stick with us indefinitely. One of our clients does about four million a year in revenue, and they switched from a different answering service to us, and he told me the biggest change was, they knew if it was a call we took that we probably didn’t screw it up.
Carol: Oh my goodness.
Ryan: Kind of metrics what we see, it’s about a third, a third, a third. So 33% of people say, “Take me off your list I’m not interested in selling to you.” A third of people are interested but not… It may be there’s a tenant there, they want to check with the owner, or they want to check with the tenant before they book an appointment and bring somebody in. And then a third of those, we schedule an appointment on that initial call.
J: Wow. So a third you’re actually scheduling appointment. That’s really good. Carol, what do you think ours is for actually getting in front of the…
Carol: Certainly not a third, let’s just leave it at that. But it sounds like, Ryan, everything you’re talking about, it sounds like you have this whole rapport, like you said, built throughout the dialogue that the prospects have with your people in the call center. It also sounds like, again, that’s ingrained throughout your corporate culture and it sounds like it’s also ingrained between your culture and your potential clients. Did that just naturally evolve or was that a strategic decision from the get-go of this business, this whole concept of having to create this amazing customer experience and this rapport. How did that all come about?
Ryan: So early on I knew nothing about company culture, core values, mission statements, it was like, “Why are you sucking today? Can you do better?” I mean, that was how this started. There was actually one of the things that I really think on top of our advertising helped us grow pretty dramatically, was establishing core values and we now kind of had written what we expected out of people. And it took hiring and firing from kind of this emotional, off-the-cuff thing to, these are the core values that we hold dear, and you’re not meeting them.
Ryan: So the litmus test became, yes or no, not like, “Well, they’re kind of a nice person, they’ve got two kids, we know their brother,” it just became like, you either make the cut or you don’t. And that’s not to say we don’t do performance plans and stuff like that, but with the rapport piece we also have our clients tie-dyed in, so one of the biggest things we recommend when they get to the appointment is, mention by name which of our employees took the call, and our clients act like my staff are their… Like their in-house team.
Ryan: So you know, “Hey, Josh from my team said incredible things about you, kind of brought me up to speed. Why don’t you kind of give me a quick recap, give me a tour of the house.” So we’re connecting this whole piece of, “Here’s who you spoke with,” so it’s very connected instead of them being like, “Well, who are you again?” When the person whose up for the appointment.
J: See I love the fact that you built this business around an industry that you knew well, that you’re actually… I mean, I worked for Microsoft for a long time and we referred to it as, “Eating your own dog food.” Basically, you were the first customer of your business and you even said earlier in the conversation that everything you do is something that you test on yourself first, and I love that and it ensures that your clients are getting the best experience possible.
J: Okay, so I want to transition a little bit because we talked earlier about what your team looks like. And you mentioned you have a C-level staff, you have a CEO, you have a COO, a part-time CFO and general manager. That’s pretty rare for a business that’s three years old. I think you’d probably still classify it as a small business, I mean most businesses are small businesses.
Ryan: Yeah, absolutely.
J: And our experience, talking to people that have businesses of that age, just a couple of years old and that level of revenue, typically the owner isn’t comfortable relinquishing control but you obviously are comfortable with relinquishing control. Can you talk to us a little bit about what’s your day-to-day responsibility in the business now versus what you hand off to your C-team, and where do you go from here?
Ryan: Sure. My job is exactly what I want it to be, and that’s content creation, is one of my favorite things to do. Love writing our ads, writing our posts, being involved in our email marketing, that kind of stuff. I’m over big picture decisions like we’re having an app built out next year that will give clients push notifications of calls, it’ll give them like, “Hey, congrats on your first appointment getting booked.” “Hey, you’ve saved 100 hours of your life hiring us,” like that kind of stuff, that will let them see real calls, real metrics, real data in realtime.
Ryan: So that kind of stuff comes across my desk. “Hey, are we okay to do this?” Kind of big picture financial decisions, and then like new partnerships and stuff get bounced off of me. New business angles and stuff that goes through me, but realistically this is less than a four-hour work week for me at this point, and pays me a pretty handsome salary.
Ryan: So it, yeah. Kind of where we’re at.
J: How many hours a week would you say you’re working in the business?
Carol: About four.
Ryan: I mean, a week? Two, one or two.
Carol: That’s amazing. That’s amazing that you’ve grown it this quickly and this successfully in such a short amount of time and you’re already to the point where you can relinquish all that control in so enjoy the success of it. That’s phenomenal.
Ryan: Yeah, big picture, I mean so it truly is I act as the visionary in the business. Our COO acts as the integrator with our CEO. Sometimes I’ll come up with ideas and they’re like, “That’s terrible, that doesn’t make sense.” It’s great to have people that will tell you “No.” Other times they’re like, “Oh my gosh, why haven’t we been doing that?”
J: And I’ll point out because a lot of people are listening to this and they’re not watching this and they don’t see you and can I ask how old you are?
Ryan: So I just turned 26.
J: Okay. So you are very young for an entrepreneur, certainly for an entrepreneur with this level of success. I love the fact that you have figured out at this age, we use the cliché often, work on your business not in it. But that’s easier said than done, and a lot of us, myself included and a lot of entrepreneurs we talk to, they are 10, 15, 20, 25 years into their entrepreneurship and their business ownership before they recognize that, “Hey, I need to pull myself out and put somebody else in charge.”
J: You figured that out obviously very young and very early in your entrepreneurial career. Was there some role model that taught you this? How did the whole idea of building your business and not being sucked into it come about?
Ryan: So I mean part of it was watching my dad who, despite the fact that I’ve learned some lessons from his mistakes, I look up to more than just about anyone. The second kind od cautionary tale for me was my grandpa. So my grandpa did biopharmaceutical sales for a German company. Pretty much traveled the country, the world, somebody I super looked up to. His relationship with my grandma kind of rapidly deteriorated over the years, got to the point that like she was at home all the time alone, all the time he’d be home like a day or two out of the month. And when he retired it was really cool to watch them kind of like fall back in love, the fact that they stayed married over all these years.
Ryan: And a year after that she had a stroke, and is now at the mental capacity of like a 12-year-old.
Carol: I’m so sorry.
Ryan: Yeah. So I watched that happen, and kind of looked at my life and was like, “Okay,” I was working… 2016 was a pretty rough year for me, just across the board, but I was working 18- to 20-hour days, and my wife was going to bed alone and that was kind of about the time this stuff happened and I was like, “This is not what I want. I didn’t quit a job to go into business for myself to have a job that I couldn’t pay anybody to do.” Like, no one would take the salary I was paying myself back then for the work I was doing.
Ryan: So I kind of had just those cautionary tales, and then just I was in a couple of Masterminds, surrounded myself with people that ran big businesses and just asked like… I tried to be the dumb guy in the room, you know, so just asked a lot of questions and kind of just like plugged it in. I would actually say my challenges, sometimes I hand stuff off too fast. So it is kind of like a double-edged sword but I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is, I can’t be in a position to focus on growing a business if I’m the one also putting out the fires, doing the sales, handling collections. You don’t have the mental bandwidth, and it’s pretty hard to go from the inspiration of creating when you are just collecting on somebody who issued a charge back for services you provide.
J: And I want to take this because… I want to throw out a quote that I’ve heard from you before, that I absolutely love and again, this is your quote. I’ve heard you say, “Build a business that serves you, not enslaves you.” And I really love that. I mean it basically… Businesses are a tool, they’re a tool for us to get what we need to survive and thrive and take care of our family and help take care of other people. But too many of us kind of end up, like you said, enslaved in that business and not getting what we want out of it, but it taking from us.
J: And so I just love the fact that you figured out so early in your career how to do that and thank you for sharing that with us, your tips.
J: So do you have any other words of wisdom for people that might be looking to start a business and how they can do it the right way?
Ryan: So I love your Microsoft quote of eating your own dog food, that’s absolutely going in my vocabulary.
J: Not my quote, that’s the company quote, but-
Ryan: Your Microsoft quote, so Microsoft’s quote you introduced me to. I think that’s a really good point. Especially in real estate investing, I’ve seen a lot of people trying investing, realizing it’s kind of hard and decide to become a service provider. I personally don’t respect or use vendors that don’t have firsthand experience, for the most part. You know it’s kind of hard to expect somebody to do something the right way when they’ve never done it the right way themselves.
Ryan: So, I really recommend if there’s a particular business that you want to create a product, for instance, I’ve got a buddy who’s coming out with, and I’ll give him a shout-out, the guy’s name’s [Sheraad 00:44:16], the company’s reSimply, is coming out with the most incredible CRM for real estate investing you’ve ever seen. The guy’s an accountant by day, so the backend of this software is literally like QuickBooks. It logs into your accounts, reconciles transactions, actually shows you profits and losses based off your actuals. No investors are treating their businesses this way.
Ryan: The guy owns 70 Doors, he’s been on BiggerPocket’s podcasts before, has been an investor for years and has been working on this product for five years before it’s coming to market. So the result of that is what he’s built is incredible. He’s actually had some competitors reach out and tell him not to launch, so you know you’ve built something good then.
Ryan: So I would just say, learn the business before you try to sell shovels in it, and I would say that especially goes for coaching or mentoring in an industry. You know, I had somebody hit me up on Instagram that was like, “Hey, it looks like you’re pretty busy, why don’t you just sell my course for me to people and I’ll throw you a cut.” And it was like, “Well, what have you done?” I’m like, you didn’t teach me how to… So I remember early on, I had a mentor of mine, who kept asking me, “Hey, are you going to go into coaching? Are you going to go into coaching? Are you going to go into coaching?” And I didn’t til I owned nine million in rentals and had multiple seven-figure businesses and felt like, hey, I can actually help people instead of, maybe I got lucky on one deal, but I’m going to roll out a program for 9-9-7.
J: Yeah. Definitely, it’s funny because there are two mentalities there. I see people that are ready to jump into coaching after their first deal and then people like you and me who, they’ve done hundreds of deals and they still don’t feel like they’re qualified to do it.
Ryan: And I was like afraid to do it.
J: I know.
Ryan: I was like, “I don’t know if I’m good enough yet.”
Carol: Well, Ryan, I must say overall you’re incredibly humble. You’ve achieved so much success in so may different areas, and the fact that you’ve grown and you’re still just so humble about all of it is just really awesome and inspiring, so thank you for that.
Ryan: Thank you.
J: Cool. Okay, so now if it’s okay with you, we’d like yo jump into the final segment of the show that we call Four More, and this is where we’re going to ask you the same four rapid-fire questions that we ask all of our guests, and then after that we’ll jump into the More part, where we’d love to give you an opportunity to tell us more about where we can get in touch with you and learn more about you. Sound good?
J: Okay. Then I will take the first question. Ryan, what was your first, or your worst, I’ll let you decide, job and what lessons did you take from it that you’re using today?
Ryan: So I’m going to give you my first job. So my first real job I worked at a, like an ice cream, like a milk shop, and I’m going to confess something that I’ve never told anyone before-
Carol: Oh boy.
Ryan: So when I was back in the kitchen and like half-made stuff would… So like you put it in the cans and stuff that cleans it, right? I’d be back there just like eating it. Long story short, I didn’t last very long there. So that wasn’t what actually got me fired, so, there was a girl who was a manager, that was just really, really hard to work with. She’d tell you to do one thing and then would flip-flop to something else, and I think my ego was what got me fired at that job is, she’d tell me to do something, I would do it. She’d tell me to do something else and I would go do it, but then I was like… I had a really bad attitude about just kind of her style of management.
Ryan: So it was just kind of a good like… I think it took me from, I think I was 16 or 17 at the time, from, “I can’t act like a kid, I have to act like a professional.” So, yeah. But yeah, I ate a lot of free ice cream.
Carol: Awesome benefit right there.
Ryan: And I want to clarify, this was like, not like out of customer’s use dishes, this was off of the clean equipment. Still absolutely disgusting and probably a health code violation, but…
Carol: No, that’s all right, no one will know, you’re fine. Okay, I’ll take the second question. Ryan, what was the defining moment when you realized that you had an entrepreneurial edge?
Ryan: So, this is kind of weird for me. So when I was 12 years old, I wrote myself a letter that I don’t have anymore, because I’m not sentimental, but, the theme of it, I think it was only one or two sentences was, I don’t want to be normal, I don’t want to be average, I don’t want to have a day job. So I think that kind of came from my dad. So you know, I did the rational thing and got a full-time job at 27 working on a sales floor for four years, but I think that was really the kind of the words I’ve always looked back at.
Carol: At 12, I love that, how you did that at 12. And can I clarify something there real quick? I know we’re supposed to be rapid-firing, you sort of working full-time 17, so that means you didn’t go to college? Am I guessing that correctly?
Ryan: So, I was in public school through eighth grade, and I had some friends who were home schooled, so I sold my parents on, “Hey, let me home school.” And about tenth grade my mom was just kind of like, “I’m done.” So I technically didn’t graduate. The state of Missouri says you’ve graduated whenever your mom says you’ve graduated, so my mom was like, “Yeah, you’re done.”
Ryan: But realistically, my education pretty much stopped around ninth grade. So I don’t have a diploma, I don’t have a GDE, I didn’t go to college.
Carol: That’s amazing. That is so cool. Talk about inspirational, right? This is just awesome all the way around. This story is just absolutely amazing. Love it.
J: Love that.
Ryan: Thanks guys.
J: Okay, question number three. What’s some of the worst advice thar you hear in your industry and I know, when we talk about your industry there’s real estate, there’s your businesses, I’m going to let you pick what you want to consider your industry, but what’s some of the worst advice that you tend to hear and how do you turn that around in turn it into good advice?
Ryan: I think I would say the worst advice I’ve heard, and this is hard because there’s a fine line here, is like the just take action crowd. Like, there’s a nice romantic view to that of like you’re just going to figure it out, but in real estate investing, in business, you’re doing things that can get you sued. So, the amount of times I… Or you’re going to do things that cost you money. I was on a Zoom call for another business, they hired me to [inaudible 00:50:47] some of their members, and some girl comes through chat and says, “I bought a house from some people, and how do I get the deed?” And I was like, “Well, if you bought the house, sweetheart, you should have the deed.”
Ryan: And she wired some people like $40,000, went out to meet with them to see the house and they met with her and they’re like, “Yeah, you know, we don’t have the deed.” There’s nothing in writing. I was like, “You need to hire an attorney now.” She “just took action,” and that cost her. I mean, she’s not ever going to get that property.
Ryan: So I also have a lot of people that will reach out and be like, “Hey I got this deal under contract, now what?” Well, how do we know it’s a deal? Who are you going to sell it to? Do you have the money? So I think it’s like you need to do enough research that you understand A to Z the process, you don’t have to understand everything, but you also can’t just, “Oh yeah, I’ve got this deal under contract.” We had somebody go under contract with us, and J, I think you’ve had this experience as well, to buy a house, didn’t wire in money so we closed on the property, and oh, you know, give them an extension, didn’t close again, and now doesn’t want to release EMD. So he’s getting served by my lawyer today.
Ryan: But if that’s a new investor, you know, they’re now in some pretty hot water over something, had they done a little bit of research or acted a little bit honestly they wouldn’t be in trouble.
J: Absolutely. Yeah, we just about a month-and-a-half ago we finished up a lawsuit where a buyer backed out of a deal at the last minute, didn’t tell anybody, wouldn’t release the earnest money, and long story short, it was $10,000 in earnest money and it wasn’t even his, he borrowed it from somebody else. And ultimately, all said and done, we got $55,000 from him. So yeah, it was a lot-
Ryan: And this was like 3500. Our issue with him was he went to title and signed both times and then [crosstalk 00:52:43]. So we told him he could pay us an extra five K in damages and release EMD or we’ll go further than that. So we’ll see what he does.
J: Okay, Carol, you want to take your favorite question.
Carol: Oh my gosh, this is my favorite question, I didn’t realize we were there already. Okay Ryan, what is something, in either your personal or professional life that you’ve splurged on along the way that was totally worth it?
Ryan: So I’m going to give you two answers. First one was really like Masterminds. I look for people that are uniquely successful in fields that I’m interested in, and my goal is to buy their program, their course, their mastermind and become a case study, where I’m them basically buddy-buddy with that person. So there was a guy whose course I bought back when I was broke, I split it up into payments, put him on a credit card, and now off of Facebook ads I’ve generated over seven figures. So I’m like one of his top testimonials, but he’s somebody that I can shoot a message to and have reply, and this is somebody who does $1 million a month off of Facebook stuff.
Ryan: So there was another group we hired around more of the business structure, which is probably why I have his C-team so early, and we paid them 85 grand in 2018. So really kind of like, these guys are uniquely qualified, let’s follow them.
Ryan: The other thing I did, and I don’t know how much of a splurge this technically is or isn’t but, when I initially started out there was a particular watch that I wanted. It’s made by Tudor was in partnership with Ducati, it was about 3500 bucks. Now, this was back like dead-broke, day job, was like, “Man, some day I’m going to have a watch like this.” And I kept sending these metrics of, I’ll buy it when I get to this level, I’ll buy it when I do this. And once I have a six-figure business I’ll buy it, and then I didn’t do it. Once I own 50 rentals I’ll do it and I didn’t, then 100 rentals then a seven-figure company.
Ryan: So it was honestly like six, seven months ago, I woke up and I was like, “I owe this to myself, I’m just going to do it.” And it was actually kind of an emotional experience for me of like, I earned this, I am worth this, it is okay for me to do this. I grew up very middle-class, I didn’t come from money. I think if my parents listened to this and found out I dropped thousands of dollars on a watch, you know, I’ll get a call. But, that, for me was just big kind of mindset shift of, not like of “I’ve made it,” because I don’t think you ever really make it, but like, “Hey, I’m doing this thing I set out to do.”
J: I love that. And especially in, I mean again, we’re talking about your business but I know you primarily… You started out as a real estate investor, especially in the real estate field you hear too many people that are just the opposite, they’re very much the, “I just finished my second wholesale deal, I made $18,000 I’m going to go buy a Lamborghini.” So there-
Ryan: Now I will say, in defense of that, I’m a car guy. Mark Ferguson is actually one of the people that got me interested in real estate, and I am probably buying a Ferrari next year.
Ryan: But this is like a… I am a car guy first and foremost, that was actually how I found real estate, I remember googling, how do people afford Lamborghinis? And I actually stumbled on something by Mark who’s a pretty good friend of mine now.
J: Yeah, Mark’s a good friend of ours as well. Co-author one of our books.
Ryan: Oh, yeah. [crosstalk 00:56:15] tons of clients.
J: And yeah, I love the fact that Mark’s figured out how to actually turn buying cars into an investment as well, so it’s not just throwing away money, so.
J: Anyway, thank you so much for that. So now we’re going to jump into the More part of the Four More and this is where we’re going to give you an opportunity to tell us more about where people can hookup with you, can find out more about you, find out more about your business and connect with you if they’d like to.
Ryan: Yeah. So super easy, my name Ryan, R-Y-A-N, Dossey, D-O-S-S-E-Y-dot-com, and that will take you to my main website, walks you through the companies I own, contact info for me. I’m also pretty active on Instagram and my handle’s just ryanc, as in Christopher Dossey.
J: Awesome. Ryan, this was absolutely fantastic. It was great talking to you-
Ryan: This was a blast.
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