Military Pilot to Million Dollar Wholesale Operation in 3.5 Years

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I was recently reminded of a post @Arianne L. did on her success in real estate and when I went to that post again I saw how many people had been affected by it, so inspiring! Then I just happened to look at how many times I had posted on BP and I was at 999 posts since I joined. Well, what could be better for my 1,000 post than to tell my story and hopefully inspire some people to think bigger than they are right now and go for it!

4 years ago I decided to really take real estate investing seriously and try and build a real business around it. I had been a weekend warrior landlord for a few years and flipped 1 house the year before when I committed to taking this leap. I had a full time job flying for the Navy at the time and thought it would be a good idea to start building a business. Essentially, it wasn't long before I had 2 full time jobs! I was actually on the BP podcast shortly after I started getting serious about REI that you can check out here if you want some more details. I think it will be funny for me to go back and listen to that episode now to see how far I have come since then, we always look at what the next milestone is and rarely do we take time to look back and appreciate how far we have come.

I think the best way to lay all this out is to outline what the results are and then go back and state the lessons learned from a lot of it year to year.

Original Plan 

December 2015 – Build a business to flip 12 houses a year netting $30k per deal making me $360k a year. Retire from the Navy at 20 years and enjoy both incomes.

2016 Highlights

Hired my first person as an assistant to handle lead intake and admin support

Jan - Apr: $18k spent and no income yet

April 18: Closed my first deal and made $9,825 on a wholesale fee

May: Did another wholesale deal making $9,900

June: Closed 6 wholesale deals for a total of $55,086.21

…….

Dec (biggest month): Closed 14 deals for a total of $111,767.18

The total in 2016 was 67 deals, 12 flips and 55 wholesale deals for a total gross profit of $667k. By the month of December I had scaled up to 4 people working with me and we did $111,767.18 that month. So, we were on track to be a 7 figure business if we could keep that going!

2017 Highlights

Jan: 14 deals for a total of $105,659.66 – second month in a row!

Feb: We were up and running in a second virtual market that I had only been to once

Apr: We closed our first deal in that new market for a $15,100 assignment fee, had 6 people working for the company now and I LEFT MY FULL TIME JOB WITH THE NAVY. More about this later.

Jul: Biggest month we had ever had, closed 28 deals for a total of $190,898.89 in gross profit

The total for the year was 183 deals and $1,315,795.40 in gross profits. About 20% of them were flips and the other 80% wholesale deals.

Hired a COO to run the company in December 2017.

2018 Highlights

Jan: 8 deals closed and $19,493.61 profit (ouch!) We decided to flip a ton more in 2018 and were trying to flip 50 houses this year.

Feb: Up and running in a 3rd market. 11 deals with $57,400 profit – again we bought more of these houses!

Mar: 16 deals for $237,033.88 profit so we were back in business

Apr: Closed our first deal in new market on the 25th of this month

Aug: Best month ever to date, 25 deals for $359,875 profit

Total for the year was 187 deals and $2,351,452.59 in gross profits. Similar 80/20 ratio of wholesales to flips

2019

Goal at the start of this year was $3.5M. This post is already too long so I will do another one toward the end of the year to tell you all how we are doing! 

Image of all month to month over these 3 years (through Sep 18) so you can see the roller coaster it is!  Something happened each time to make that line go up and down, usually people issues.

This post became way too long so I will post my lessons learned below it...

Lessons from 2016:

Don’t quit when you are 2” from gold. It took me almost 4 months to do my first deal and see any money come in. During that time I was paying for marketing, paying my assistant, working hard any time I had off from my Navy job, going on appointments, getting thrown out of houses, etc… but I didn’t quit. I set my budgets and did what I was told to do, it wasn’t easy but I didn’t quit even when I started to doubt myself and the process. I see so many new investors right now say that they are really trying, putting in the effort, spending the money, staying the course but they quit just 2” from gold. They don’t do all the things they are saying they are doing because they are scared. I wasn’t going to fail, I wouldn’t allow it. But if I did, I was going to be able to say that I did everything in my power to build that business and it just wasn’t the right thing for me if I didn’t get there.

Another big lesson is that the difference between 0 deals and 1 deal is MASSIVE! Once I did that first one look at how the flood gates opened. I gained confidence and could really believe in the process. That is what you have to do, take as much time to get that first deal as it takes but after that you are ready for A LOT more!

I saw a ton of challenges at this time of my life. My wife and I had our second son in October of 2016 and he had a heart defect. He had 4 open heart surgeries between Nov 2016 and May 2017 all while I was running a company, flying for the Navy and taking care of my family. Lesson here – turn this into fuel instead of making it an excuse. I could have quit and felt sorry for myself but I used it to focus on my WHY. I used any down time I had in the hospital to figure out how to grow. I also had a great team around me that supported me when I couldn’t be around.

2017 Lessons

I said at a meeting of my peers running other companies in October of 2016 that I would be in a new market by our next meeting in Feb 2017. Come January of 2017 I hadn’t done anything to get that rolling but with that meeting coming up I knew I had to implement like crazy. I wasn’t going to be the guy who showed up and didn’t do what he said he was going to do, that IS NOT ME! So I did it, and mostly from the hospital bed next to my son James! Lesson here is that even perceived accountability is important to all of us. You need someone or a group of people to hold you accountable or you will not make it. It’s human nature! Find your people, put it out there, and watch things explode.

2017 seemed to be the story of the bamboo tree. I focused, did what I needed to do, then once we got going in 2016 we could watch it grow in 2017. But without all that up front work in 2016 it just wouldn’t have happened. Also growing and leading a team. I had 7 people working for me this year and we were all virtual. I had moved away from both of my markets to care for my son so I had to have the right people in place before I could do that. I learned a lot about leadership and management this year. Those lessons are way too long to share here.

2018 Lessons

Hired a COO in December 2017 and he started in January of 2018. I expected this to be a 3 month process and boy was I wrong on that! I wanted to be out of the day to day operations in 3 months because I was going to be working in another company at that time and only leading this team as the visionary. That was the plan! It took 6 months but he's killing it for us now a year and a half after being hired. We were also still trying to double year over year while adding in accountability for the staff who seemed to enjoy not being managed. Biggest lesson, growth and accountability is a tough combination to implement at once!

#1 lesson of running a business. Have the right people and know how to lead them to do more than they think they are capable of. This will get you very far.

Don’t underestimate what you are capable of! I thought I was capable of making a couple hundred thousand dollars a year and that’s where I would land. I also thought I should do it all on my own and frankly I was scared to hire someone. That has all changed drastically!

Surround yourself with the right people. What are you putting into your body and who are you following? Are you following leaders or are you following people who are going in the wrong direction as you? Find that person you need to emulate and attach yourself to them! Figure out how to get in those rooms you don’t belong in, that’s what I did and still do!

Don’t be afraid to get outside of your comfort zone. You may like what you find there and may become more successful than you could have ever thought you would be! And it may not take you as long as you thought. 

@William Allen You have such an amazing story. Watching you grow and reach bigger and better heights continues to help me push past my own limits. So blessed and proud to have you as a friend and mentor! 

I am so glad you invited me to Flip Hacking Live in 2016. It changed my life. The event allowed me to see the inside workings of your real estate business, and of other 7 and 8 figure business owners and showed me what was possible. The relationships formed there are priceless.

Anyone who wants to check out that event, it's happening again this year in October! Here's the Flip Hacking Live BP event page for it

Here's a BP post on my journey if you want to learn a little more

I love this one nugget you shared

#1 lesson of running a business. Have the right people and know how to lead them to do more than they think they are capable of. This will get you very far.

Leadership is something I have been and continue to focus on so our team can continue to reach better heights! So excited to meet and learn about leadership and extreme ownership from  Jocko Willink in October!!

Originally posted by @William Allen :

I was recently reminded of a post @Arianne L. did on her success in real estate and when I went to that post again I saw how many people had been affected by it, so inspiring! Then I just happened to look at how many times I had posted on BP and I was at 999 posts since I joined. Well, what could be better for my 1,000 post than to tell my story and hopefully inspire some people to think bigger than they are right now and go for it!

4 years ago I decided to really take real estate investing seriously and try and build a real business around it. I had been a weekend warrior landlord for a few years and flipped 1 house the year before when I committed to taking this leap. I had a full time job flying for the Navy at the time and thought it would be a good idea to start building a business. Essentially, it wasn't long before I had 2 full time jobs! I was actually on the BP podcast shortly after I started getting serious about REI that you can check out here if you want some more details. I think it will be funny for me to go back and listen to that episode now to see how far I have come since then, we always look at what the next milestone is and rarely do we take time to look back and appreciate how far we have come.

I think the best way to lay all this out is to outline what the results are and then go back and state the lessons learned from a lot of it year to year.

Original Plan 

December 2015 – Build a business to flip 12 houses a year netting $30k per deal making me $360k a year. Retire from the Navy at 20 years and enjoy both incomes.

2016 Highlights

Hired my first person as an assistant to handle lead intake and admin support

Jan - Apr: $18k spent and no income yet

April 18: Closed my first deal and made $9,825 on a wholesale fee

May: Did another wholesale deal making $9,900

June: Closed 6 wholesale deals for a total of $55,086.21

…….

Dec (biggest month): Closed 14 deals for a total of $111,767.18

The total in 2016 was 67 deals, 12 flips and 55 wholesale deals for a total gross profit of $667k. By the month of December I had scaled up to 4 people working with me and we did $111,767.18 that month. So, we were on track to be a 7 figure business if we could keep that going!

2017 Highlights

Jan: 14 deals for a total of $105,659.66 – second month in a row!

Feb: We were up and running in a second virtual market that I had only been to once

Apr: We closed our first deal in that new market for a $15,100 assignment fee, had 6 people working for the company now and I LEFT MY FULL TIME JOB WITH THE NAVY. More about this later.

Jul: Biggest month we had ever had, closed 28 deals for a total of $190,898.89 in gross profit

The total for the year was 183 deals and $1,315,795.40 in gross profits. About 20% of them were flips and the other 80% wholesale deals.

Hired a COO to run the company in December 2017.

2018 Highlights

Jan: 8 deals closed and $19,493.61 profit (ouch!) We decided to flip a ton more in 2018 and were trying to flip 50 houses this year.

Feb: Up and running in a 3rd market. 11 deals with $57,400 profit – again we bought more of these houses!

Mar: 16 deals for $237,033.88 profit so we were back in business

Apr: Closed our first deal in new market on the 25th of this month

Aug: Best month ever to date, 25 deals for $359,875 profit

Total for the year was 187 deals and $2,351,452.59 in gross profits. Similar 80/20 ratio of wholesales to flips

2019

Goal at the start of this year was $3.5M. This post is already too long so I will do another one toward the end of the year to tell you all how we are doing! 

Image of all month to month over these 3 years (through Sep 18) so you can see the roller coaster it is!  Something happened each time to make that line go up and down, usually people issues.

This post became way too long so I will post my lessons learned below it...

Inspiring story! Thanks for sharing. If you don't mind my asking, what are you netting from these gross figures?

@Jeff Cagle , you want me to tell you how much money I make?  

I netted a lot more in 2017 than I did in 2018 due to hiring my COO and having a lot of turnover after he got in place and started holding people accountable. I was around 40% initially but as I grew my team and scaled it was closer to 25%. My COO takes a big salary now, I take a salary, and he runs the entire show. I have about 2-3 hours of meetings a week now with the team and emails / fires to deal with only occasionally. That was what I wanted so I'm happy to get my paycheck every Friday now and NET some more profit at the end of the year but not need to keep it all. What I really love is watching people in the company make more money than me from time to time! Never thought I'd be saying that...

@William Allen Love it! Very inspiring. Planning to follow in your footsteps, although I do think I'm going to ride out this Navy thing to 20 years....For your first hire, do you think the position of an admin assistant was the right one? And how did you find the people to hire? 

@Stuart Grazier , good to see you on here and I hope you do!  For me, I definitely think it was the right one.  When I started marketing at that time I was still flying 10-12 hours a day at the VTs so there is no way I could have answered the calls.  And to be honest, I hate talking on the phone.  She also did tasks like working in the CRM, follow up, all kinds of other to-do's that I shouldn't have been doing because I needed to be working on bigger tasks.  So for me, it was the best fit.  

There were a couple of exercises that I did to figure out what tasks I needed hired out before I decided this was the right position to hire first.  I made a list of all the things I was currently doing, every little thing from checking email, turning on utilities, answering the phones, etc... Then I calculated my dollar per hour over the last year.  Just added up how much money I made over the last 12 months and divided that by how many hours I worked that last year.  My dollar per hour the prior year was $55/hour.  So, I looked at that task list and just started highlighting the tasks that I could hire out at a cost significantly lower than that.  That was my job description for the position I needed and it came down to a TON of admin tasks.  

At first, I found almost all of my hires on Craigslist believe it or not. My first hire came from there (the one I talk about on the BP podcast) but she left after 3 weeks because her husband got a job in another state and they moved away. Her replacement was someone I met at a REIA and on here actually. She has worked with me since the beginning and is one of the only people who is still with me today. Right @Account Closed !  Although she is starting her own bookkeeping business now and moving on and I'm incredibly excited for her.  

Now we find most of our folks on Indeed and are always running ads for applicants whether we are actively hiring or not.  I learned that lesson a few times the hard way, always be recruiting talent!

@Jay Hinrichs , thank you! 

I was really proud to see what you guys are doing at A Hero's Home, Inc.  It was my mission this year to buy, renovate and give away a house in Pensacola, FL to a Gold Star Family or combat wounded Veteran.  We are calling that project Blackjack Gives Back: Homes For The Brave.  Right now, we have bought the house and are midway through the renovation.  We teamed up with a non-profit who will identify the family and work with them for 3 years to ensure they are ready to receive the deed 100% free and clear.  

I checked out your website just now and you guys are right, it's a lot harder than I thought it would be!  I've received some incredible donations from lenders, friends, family, etc.. and am working on grants to donate materials for us to complete the job but there is a ton of paperwork and red tape!

Thank you for doing what you are doing! 

Originally posted by @William Allen :

@Jay Hinrichs, thank you! 

I was really proud to see what you guys are doing at A Hero's Home, Inc.  It was my mission this year to buy, renovate and give away a house in Pensacola, FL to a Gold Star Family or combat wounded Veteran.  We are calling that project Blackjack Gives Back: Homes For The Brave.  Right now, we have bought the house and are midway through the renovation.  We teamed up with a non-profit who will identify the family and work with them for 3 years to ensure they are ready to receive the deed 100% free and clear.  

I checked out your website just now and you guys are right, it's a lot harder than I thought it would be!  I've received some incredible donations from lenders, friends, family, etc.. and am working on grants to donate materials for us to complete the job but there is a ton of paperwork and red tape!

Thank you for doing what you are doing! 

Our veterans deserve no less..    what I like about your story is you being a military pilot  the training and skills required the discipline etc that can and does transfer to the real world..  systems check lists safety first  etc etc..  those can translate to building a real estate business..  So again like I said one of my favorite stories on BP.. Congrats..  And thank you as well for your charitable work.. !!

on a side note agreed not so easy to be a charity and do the right thing.. hoops.. to jump through and lots of competition for donations.. we have done it with zero expense for marketing its all grass roots.. and many of our BP members have generously contributed..  

PS when I was flying  "Cirrus SR 22" .. I took a trip from Jackson MS  to Destin .. that was a fun flight and the airport there I enjoyed taking off over the water..  being a west coast flyer we look out for big rocks.. out there in flat land country I was dogging radio towers 2 and 3k feet in the air  … different experience.. of course we are used to cruising much higher than a lot of the guys I talk to that fly GA out east..  our lowest altitude to get out of the Willamette valley is right at 7500 feet msl.  and if your on instrument a lot of the minimum alt are 10 to 13k feet..

@Jay Hinrichs , I totally agree with those skills transferring.  Having an engineering background and mind helps me on the analytical side and I feel like the pilot in my keeps that balance and not being too analytical that I just spin in circles.  I have always known that it takes quick decision making when flying and also in business.  We need to take the information we have at the time and make the best decision with what we have available and stand by it.  Then if something new comes along figure out how to make an adjustment, like a puzzle.  Someone told me a few days ago that the helicopter pilot mentality of making quick decisions is likely why I have had success, hadn't thought about that one but he is probably right.  I would rather make a wrong decision than no decision or bounce back and forth all day and get nothing done. 

Pretty jealous of the Cirrus flying, I have a 1975 A36 and the SR 22's just fly right by me!  I actually learned to fly for the first time in a 172 out of Destin (KDTS) as a flight student.  Such a beautiful place.  I am still a Navy Reservist so I go down to Pensacola and instruct in the T-6B Texan II 60 days a year.  Love it!  Out west, I would need a turbo...

Originally posted by @Kris L. :

Nice work!  What were your primary markets?

 I started my company in Pensacola, FL then we moved into Chattanooga, TN and now we are also in Nashville, TN.  I live in a suburb of Nashville now about 30 minutes south of the city.  We moved to Nashville right before my second son was born for his heart surgeries and never left.  We were planning to move back to Florida about 6 months after he was born but my wife loved it here so we stayed.  Being able to wholesale and flip virtually in those markets with a great team allowed us the flexibility to live anywhere.  No office, everyone works from home, can't find a better business than that!  Sometimes I miss the office though where I get to see everyone all the time.  We only get together in person about once a quarter and a big Christmas party at the end of the year. 

Very inspiring William. I am a pilot in the Air Force and am being PCS’d to Pensacola to help train Navs. My wife and I are feeling blessed by this opportunity and want to take the leap into buying our first investment property. Do you have any books that helped you along the way, or any books you’ve written personally? Anything would help.

Thanks,

Mani

@Manuel Hernandez Medina , here are some of my favorites. 

Money Mindset - Millionaire Next Door

Business - Traction by Gino Wickman (don't need this until you are ready to build a company in my opinion)

Leadership - Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin **READ THIS TODAY!

When I started flipping houses, I followed @J Scott's (not sure why I can't tag him here) book "The Book on Flipping Houses" almost to a T when I was trying to figure it out.  

If you want to flip, wholesale, be a SFR landlord, multifamily investor, syndicator, etc... will be very important. That is step one, figure out what kind of investor you want to be and focus.

Have fun in Pensacola, you will enjoy it!

Originally posted by @William Allen :

@Jay Hinrichs, I totally agree with those skills transferring.  Having an engineering background and mind helps me on the analytical side and I feel like the pilot in my keeps that balance and not being too analytical that I just spin in circles.  I have always known that it takes quick decision making when flying and also in business.  We need to take the information we have at the time and make the best decision with what we have available and stand by it.  Then if something new comes along figure out how to make an adjustment, like a puzzle.  Someone told me a few days ago that the helicopter pilot mentality of making quick decisions is likely why I have had success, hadn't thought about that one but he is probably right.  I would rather make a wrong decision than no decision or bounce back and forth all day and get nothing done. 

Pretty jealous of the Cirrus flying, I have a 1975 A36 and the SR 22's just fly right by me!  I actually learned to fly for the first time in a 172 out of Destin (KDTS) as a flight student.  Such a beautiful place.  I am still a Navy Reservist so I go down to Pensacola and instruct in the T-6B Texan II 60 days a year.  Love it!  Out west, I would need a turbo...

well in the Day an A 36 was the machine.. that Parachute really was Genius for Cirrus allowed them to decimate the competition in GA.. 

 I even pull by Moonies sometimes..  and small twins..  all on 12 PGH..   Alas my flying days are over though I have medical issues with balance and Vertigo.. hopefully can get my medical back.. I still have access to our plane.. but my partner bought me out.. I can use it and pay hobbs time.. I had a deposit on the Vision Jet  well the GFC put that project on hold and then by the time they came to market what was going to be a 1 mil personal jet became a 2.5 mil personal Jet..  we paid 440k for ours in 2004 which I thought was over the top.. but now same model is 750k.  and I think the few A 36s Beech makes now are right at that price as well.  Any way.. great job.. carry on !!

@William Allen thanks for sharing your story, it’s pretty incredible to know how far you can go with a big vision and leverage.  I quit my job in July 2016 to pursue real estate full time and met you at a PIG meeting sometime around then but I had no idea you hadn’t been doing this for years before.  Congrats on the continued success!

Originally posted by @William Allen :

@Jay Hinrichs, I saw a Vision Jet at an FBO the other day.  Looked awesome!

If I kept my 50k deposit on the vision Jet  today I could sell the position for 250 to 350k..  LOL.. oh well.  

That's a solid return @Jay Hinrichs ! Hopefully my A36 holds value like I think it will. I just did a big avionics upgrade on it and I honestly want to fly it everyday. Ok, this is a REI forum so I should probably get back to those discussions...

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