Like many of you, when I first started investing, I did everything myself—locksmith, landscaper, cleaner, garbage man, you name it. If it needed being done, I was doing it.
After all, that’s what an entrepreneur does, right?
Turns out, I was more of an “entrepren-doer” than an entrepreneur.
Looking back, I realize I wasn’t running a business. I was working a job—a job that I worked really hard for and saved a lot of money to buy. If you think about it, that might be about the stupidest thing anyone could do. Work hard, save, and buy a job—because we all want to leave our 9-5, right?
This is a big problem in the world of real estate investing, and a lot of us are missing it. Working to replace your job with a new job is not a good plan. If we want to do something about that, we need to step out of the circle of fear and control (leading us to think we need to do it all) and into the circle of trust and planning (allowing us to let others do the job better than we can). If you can break this cycle, you’ll be on your way to learning how to run a business, not work a job.
The Power of Leverage
This principle of leverage is what makes good businesses run. No one can do it all alone, and nobody is good at everything. Henry Ford recognized this and created the assembly line. Having an employee specialize in one job allowed them to improve at that task far faster than if they were working multiple different small jobs.
Modern day sports teams have taken this to the next level. By purposefully assembling a roster of various kinds of talent, they are able to create game plans to attack opponents’ weaknesses by leveraging the individual skill sets of the players on their roster.
We all have strengths and weaknesses. Learning to leverage other people’s strengths for your own gain is what separates a good business from a great one—and a group of athletes from a championship-level team.
When I was forced to start investing in other states, I quickly learned I needed to depend on the wisdom, experience, time, and expertise of others. I physically couldn’t be there to do things myself. We all know this is something we should do, but oftentimes the temptation to do it ourselves is just too much.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
There is no shortage of business books expounding on the fact that as a business owner, we should only be focusing on those tasks that bring us the highest return on our time. Focus on what we’re good at, double down on our strengths, and hire out the rest, right?
But knowing and doing are different things. All too often, if the opportunity is right there in front of us, we just can’t help but jump in and do it ourselves. It wasn’t until I stopped doing those things that I really succeeded. Getting myself out of the daily grind of working in my business allowed me to start focusing on my business. That’s when things really took off.
Now, I’m able to buy houses in other states, fix them up, refinance them, and rent them out—all while going to work on my new business and making more money than I’m investing in real estate. This has allowed me to create an awesome system that consists of earning income, amplifying that income, then investing that income.
By the time I hit the investment phase, I already got a new round of money I’d earned to take its place. I’ve chased a form of investment utopia, where I continue to invest without running out of capital and without needing to borrow it.
The secret to executing this system is planning and leverage. First I come up with the plan, then I leverage out the work.
Making a Plan
In my personal wealth building system, there are three arms:
- Earn it.
- Amplify it.
- Invest it.
The gist of it is that I make money through a business/job. I then amplify it through a short-term wealth-building vehicle such as a hard money loan, flipping a house, etc. Finally, I take what it’s become, and I invest it in a long-term vehicle such as a rental property, multifamily, mobile home park, note, etc.
In my specific situation, I am earning money through my business as a real estate agent, amplifying that money through house flips, and investing that money into rental properties.
The point I want to focus on in is how I use leverage to execute this plan and how without leverage, none of this would be possible. Through the power of leverage, I’m able to make much more money in the “earn it” phase, multiply the money in the “amplify it” stage, and then get way higher returns in the “invest it” stage.
By focusing on leverage (in many forms), I’m able to take a modest sum of money and grow it into a huge chunk of capital. Here are some of the ways I do that.
The Plan in Action: Earn It
In my personal life, I am a real estate agent and a police officer. These are the two ways I currently earn income (other than cash flow from rentals). As of this writing, I’m on a leave of absence from my police job, so I’ve been full time in real estate sales.
During that time, I’ve risen to No. 1 in sales in my office of 100 agents, built a team of three assistants, been featured on HGTV’s “House Hunters,” and been asked to teach other real estate agents how to improve their business. Since then, I’ve also written “Long-Distance Real Estate Investing” and “Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, and Repeat,” both published by BiggerPockets.
Not a bad, right? But don’t give me too much credit. Above all else, there is one thing that’s contributed to my success more than anything else: leverage.
To be blunt, I sell more real estate than the other agents in my office who have been doing this much longer than me because I leverage off the parts of my job that anyone can do. By doing that I’m able to focus on the high-level activities that only I can do. This allows me to excel at my job and ensures my clients get treated even better than if I did the work myself. Why? Because I hire assistants that are skilled in the areas I am weaker.
I’m a police officer, an athlete, and an investor. My mind works differently than some people’s. I tend to analyze information quickly, think quickly, and speak quickly. When problems are introduced, I immediately work on a solution and mentally run through different scenarios to see which is the likeliest to succeed. I can’t help this.
As a basketball player, it’s helped me make the best split-second decision based on the defense. As a police officer, it’s kept me and others alive. As an investor, it’s helped me analyze deals before others and make decisions while others stew and eat up precious investing time.
My mind works the way it does because I’ve conditioned it that way. This is really good for me in some areas, but it’s not very good in others. Because I tend to think so quickly, I’m not always the best at taking the time to listen to others when they are talking, slowing down to hear them out, or making sure they know they are understood.
Now, of course, I do understand them! But I don’t always communicate that properly. It’s just not my strength. I’m a thinker more than a feeler. In this business, however, it’s really important that your clients know you understand them, not just that you represent them well.
Hire Someone to Supplement Workload for Your Real Estate Business
That’s why I hire assistants who are strong in the areas I’m weak. My first hire, Krista, is one of the most amazing human beings I have ever met. I’m not exaggerating. Not only is she able to keep up with the heavy demands of our workload and the level of service we provide, but there isn’t one person I’ve come across who doesn’t tell me how incredible she makes them feel. Krista has a gift for making people feel loved, understood, and valuable—and those gifts benefit my business.
Krista is one hire, but there are several others I’ve made who also help my business. Leverage is key! Not only do my assistants make my clients feel good, but they also take a lot of the menial, mind-numbing tasks off my plate so I can focus on my own area of expertise.
For example, I study real estate in every capacity. I love it, whether that means owning, flipping, holding, buying, selling, representing others, crunching numbers, or whatever else. The best use of my time is helping my clients come up with a strategy based on my knowledge, maximizing the amount we can get them when selling, and minimizing the amount we pay when buying. I can’t do this effectively if I’m also handling all the administrative tasks that come along with managing an escrow—or managing a client’s wildly fluctuating emotions.
By hiring assistants who can perform tasks for me, I can focus on the big picture. For instance, when trying to figure out how much to list a house for, I need to know what the comparable properties are, how many buyers are in that market, and how to get that house in peak condition for sale. By assigning tasks to my assistant, I can get the information I need without having to spend the time to get it.
My assistant pulls comparable properties; contacts real estate agents with listings in the area and asks how many showings they are getting a week; calls our list of handymen and gets quotes for paint, carpet, repairs, etc., and prepares all the forms for clients to sign. In turn, I’m able to analyze the information she gathers in 15 minutes and let the client know what the plan is moving forward. If I were to gather all that information myself, it would take me the over three hours.
- It’s a better use of my time to look for the handymen who do the best work than it is for me to call the entire list of them to see who’s available and looking for work right now.
- It’s a better use of my time to look for people who want to buy or sell and come up with a game plan to net them top dollar than it is for me to spend hours filling out forms and organizing files.
- It’s a better use of my time to attend conferences where I can study how to become an elite-level negotiator than it is to go to the store to pick out the gifts for the closing table.
By focusing on high-level tasks, I make the company more money and I serve my clients better. By hiring better communicators and more organized assistants, I increase the overall efficiency of our office, and my clients feel as special as they should.
Outsource in Other Jobs You Have
Using leverage supercharges my results. My job right now is as a real estate agent, but there are so many other jobs where this will work too. Are you a waiter in a restaurant? Have you ever thought about how many more tables you could handle if you paid the bus boys a little extra to give your section special attention?
Do you work in sales and spend half your day preparing for the meetings where you’ll actually earn the money? Have you ever thought about how much more productive you’d be if you paid an assistant to prepare all the forms and information and conduct the research you’ll need? By doing that, you can focus on setting more appointments or learning about the client you’ll be meeting.
Do you run a small business doing hair, makeup, eyebrows, or other cosmetic-related services? Have you ever thought about how much more business you could do if you hired an assistant to organize your database of friends, family, and past clients so you can start marketing to them regularly?
Most of us never even give a second thought to how much better we could be if we leveraged off some of the lower level tasks we do every day, but I promise you the opportunity is out there.
In my personal world, I amplify my capital primarily through flipping houses, so that’s what I’ll concentrate on most. When you flip a house, you are almost always leveraging every part of it in some capacity.
- You likely used an agent or a wholesaler to bring you a deal. That was you paying someone else to do the biggest part of the job for you: finding the deal.
- You likely used some form of loan to purchase the house. That was you paying someone else to make it all possible: funding the deal.
- You likely hired a contractor to fix up the property. That was you paying someone else to do the worst part of the job: rehabbing the asset.
You probably even used some form of calculator or spreadsheet to help you run your numbers: the most confusing part of the deal. You may not realize it, but you are already using leverage every time you amplify your money. If you give it out as a loan to someone else, you are literally leveraging their efforts to make you money the whole time.
The whole magic of amplifying your money is that someone else is making it grow, while you focus on making more. It requires leverage to do this. If you aren’t leveraging the amplification phase, it’s not really the amplification phase—it’s more the earning phase. Leverage helps you amplify your money before you invest it, while allowing you to still earn more, keeping the cycle in motion.
This is the section everyone at BiggerPockets is so excited about. It’s why we’re here! The whole point of earning and amplifying is so you can invest. When you invest in real estate, you’re leveraging a lot of other people to get the job done—agents, lenders, contractors, property managers, bookkeepers, etc.
Rather than focusing on the way investing is inherently leveraged, I want to talk about the way I use leverage to supercharge my investing business. I buy rentals in other states. To do this, I need help. This may sound like a disadvantage, but I’ve found that it actually gives me a huge advantage. I’m forced to leverage things that other investors are tempted to do themselves. I don’t have the option to do it. I have to find someone else.
This has forced me to trust others to do the things that they are better at than me anyway. I buy houses sight unseen routinely. I’m often asked how I do this. It’s the easiest question for me to answer. Why do I need to see it? When actually the inspector needs to see it; the appraiser needs to see it; the contractor needs to see it, and the agent or property manager needs to see it. These are all people who look at houses, and inspect them from different angles for a living!
On my best day, I won’t be half as knowledgeable as one of these people on their worst day. They have experience—and likely an aptitude for—doing this. Why would I need to get involved in the process?
You may be wondering how I don’t get taken advantage of while managing properties out of state. But I have a system for making sure that doesn’t happen. I have the property manager make sure the contractor is doing the work they say they’re doing before I pay. My agent makes sure the property manager is giving me accurate rental rates. The lender makes sure the agent’s sending me good comps. The property manager makes sure the agent is being honest about the area/neighborhood, etc.
By leveraging each of these components to oversee each other, I make it very hard to be taken advantage of. I also make it very hard for me to get too involved in the process at all!
Mastering Your Area of Expertise
If you want to be successful at anything, you need to strive to master it. This is true for business as well.
When you go to a hospital, do you get upset when it’s not the surgeon who comes to clean you up and prepare you for surgery? What about the fact that they have office assistants filling out the paperwork and checking you in?
Do you get upset and feel cheated when the anesthesiologist is the one choosing the drugs to knock you out? Or are you happy you have an expert in that field taking care of and watching over you? Hospitals are run by leveraging the talents of the people involved, so everyone does what they are best at. The work of a nurse is not the same as the work of a doctor, surgeon, or CNA.
Don’t you want your surgeon spending all their time researching cutting-edge procedures, learning from other skilled surgeons, and mentally focusing on what they are about to do before they cut you open?
It’s time we started thinking about this in our business as well. Does keeping the books drive you mad? Imagine if you redirected all that passion and time into finding deals! Or better yet, find people to leverage to find you deals!
Don’t be afraid to start leveraging off the parts of your business that you don’t love or don’t excel at. The greats aren’t afraid to do so. You shouldn’t be either.
When you learn to trust the work of others and leverage their talents to help your own business, you find you have the capability to invest anywhere. This is whether it’s down the street or across the country. There are people everywhere who know how to do the jobs you need done in this business. Start looking for them instead of looking for excuses why it can’t be done!
What tasks have you handed off in your business?
Let me know with a comment!