The Value in Telling Others What You Do

9 Replies

I have spent a large part of my life shrouding myself in secrecy. I didn't want people knowing what I was up to or how I knew what I knew. Part of me feared that by letting someone know these things, they would see through me somehow and see that I was nothing special. Part of me even feared that if I told people what I was doing they would get ideas and be able to do it better. Everyone wants to feel special and I had figured that if I remained mysterious, then that would keep me interesting. What else does he know? How does he know these things?

The thing that I have learned about espousing a position of "information retention" is that you might be retaining the wrong information. You might be retaining a sliver of a concept, thinking you know all, when in reality there is so much more out there. There are so many differing perspectives, differing opinions, differing beliefs. It is once you start trying to understand someone else's beliefs and why they hold such positions that you start opening your mind to new ideas. 

Getting into the rental real estate business, I entered with a somewhat guarded position. I had read books, I had listened to podcasts, I had studied law. I felt that I had the answer to any possible situation. I felt that my way was the best way.

When my business partner would start telling contractors or friends about what we were doing, I felt a tinge of apprehension. He talked about how we were getting into real estate, looking to buy multifamily properties. About how much we were thinking on charging for rent, about the amenities we planned to offer. I wanted to tell him to cool it, I don't want this guy stepping on our turf. But time and again, I let him explain to others what it was that we were doing and what it was that we were planning  to do, and time and again, those people seemed to open up, talking about how they had rental properties or knew someone who had rental properties. These people started providing information and insight on things that I thought I knew enough about.

It came to me relatively quickly that telling others our ideas was not us providing closely guarded secrets. We already had a property, we already had a plan. They couldn't take that away from us. On the contrary, I have learned a wealth of information from simply talking about how I plan on putting a privacy fence around the backyard of each unit. Someone mentioned that I should probably get 811 out to map out the underground pipes. I hadn't thought about that. Someone recommended a few fencing companies and detailed different types of wood. And the slew of compliments, congratulations, and motivation from just about everyone was worth it in and of itself. 

From that point onward, I take a certain delight in telling people what it is that I am doing and even asking for their opinion. While I may think that installing a bar top is a great idea, what do other people think? Well, Daniel, you've gotta consider whether a disabled person will be occupying your unit. A standard bar top usually isn't ADA compliant.

The simple concept of telling others what you do, or are doing, should be a cornerstone of any business model. If you're in real estate and you tell people this, they're not going to tell you their friend Jack has a toy poodle, ran a marathon last week and is looking for a life insurance policy. They're going to dismiss that as irrelevant, instead offering information about how their wife's mother Susanne is looking to sell her house so she can move to the Palisades, but she hates  realtors because of a bad experience she had many years ago. 

Consider telling others what you do as free marketing. Word of mouth spreads and seeds become planted. Susanne might not be selling her house now, but when she does decide to do so, she's going to tell her friends and family. One of those people might just remember you and mention your name.

Consider telling others what you do as an investment, or as a means to save a couple bucks. You could hire a company to come out and diagnose and fix your fridge that isn't cooling, or you could start telling people about that dang fridge. Maybe someone says it's the compressor. They had the same problem. Hundred dollar fix if you do it yourself, an extra 200 for labor if you hire it out. I had this instance occur with a washing machine. Someone said the code the washer displayed meant it needed a new drain pump. $25 bucks on Amazon. I can't imagine how much it would have cost had I hired an appliance repairman to come out.

Time and again, telling anyone and everyone what I'm doing or am planning to do has yielded valuable information. People want to be helpful. They want to feel useful. They want to keep the conversation going. At most, you learn of something that you completely overlooked. At worst, they shrug and say "good luck."

Entertaining other peoples' ideas, opinions and positions can be hard for some. It's as if by listening to Guy A explain how he vets tenants is acknowledging that I may be wrong. If you want to succeed and prosper, you must be comfortable in knowing that you might be wrong. You must be able to be comfortable in the fact that there may be a better way to do what you are doing. But again, what is better for someone else may not be better for you. You must have the ability to distinguish what works for you and what doesn't. But how will you know if something else doesn't work for you if you don't take a moment to at least understand why someone else does it different?

Be comfortable, be confident, be courageous. Try a new way. Listen to a position contrary to yours. Try to understand why that way works for them. 

Get out there and tell someone that you are a real estate investor looking for properties to buy. Tell someone about a problem you're up against. Do this daily and you will find connections growing at an exponential rate.

Well put.

Once we have experiences to share and lessons to teach others, it is imperative we share! We can help others learn from our mistakes and missteps and help them along the path.

Talking is also particularly important at the beginning. There are so many naysayers out there with the "uncle who had one tenant then he lost everything." Talking with those folks when you're new will show you who you need to get away from and stop listening to!

@Daniel A.

I've gone as far as telling my network what I do on Facebook and LinkedIn - I try to post several times per week.  Just this week, I had two people (friends I haven't seen in years) reach out to me on LinkedIn that have money and are interested in investing in real estate...  This is quite common too - when I'm actively posting and talking about what I do, I get lots of responses like that.

In fact, my first property came to me because I was actively looking for a single family investment home and told a few people... that led to someone in my family offering me a good deal on the home they were planning on selling.  Had I not been vocal about it, they wouldn't have known to talk with me.

@Taylor L. talks about the negative people to stay away from, and that's true.  I've had more surprises when I find out some of the people that I casually interact with (like a few at work) are actually very interested in real estate... They've just never said anything to me about it because they didn't know I was interested....

Originally posted by @Taylor L. :

Well put.

Once we have experiences to share and lessons to teach others, it is imperative we share! We can help others learn from our mistakes and missteps and help them along the path.

Talking is also particularly important at the beginning. There are so many naysayers out there with the "uncle who had one tenant then he lost everything." Talking with those folks when you're new will show you who you need to get away from and stop listening to!


You bring up a valid point, one that I keep meaning to elaborate on. You mentioned that naysayers allude to the "uncle who lost everything." When I first started telling people about my desire to get into real estate, I heard story after story of how things went wrong. One commonality that I picked up on was that most of the horror stories came from people who either didn't plan on being a landlord, or from those who elected not to educate themselves. They brought in tenants without knowing how to screen them. They gave them generic, one-paged leases they found online.

While knowing how to vet tenants and having a solid lease can't guarantee a smooth ride, it goes a long way in preventing you from becoming that Uncle Who Lost Everything.


Love it. I encourage you all to push it even further. When someone says "What do you do?" respond in a way that your response captivates their attention as opposed to responding in a way that just satisfies it.

For example, I run CT Property Management, so in essence, I'm "just a PM". But when someone asks me "hey Filipe, what do you do?" My response goes something like this now: 

"I'm in business of getting people their time back."

Do I have your attention now? Way more interesting than "property manager", right? My experience has been that now they want to also know HOW I am getting people their time back, and I can explain that in more detail to a captivated audience. 

Typically if someone has no interest in property management (or whatever position you just mentioned) they will zone out on anything that comes after it. But by hooking them on the front end, you're able to hold their attention / focus that much longer and hopefully they find some value in what you said afterwards. 

If I meet someone thats intrested in talking about rei or even business in general, I'm an open book. Ill talk about whatever aspect. I will talk numbers in general but not mine especially with my plumbing business. Sometimes people are just fishing for information on what your making. Plus whenever I have talked numbers with my business, shortly after I'll start reciving calls asking to borrow money from freinds/family lol. 

It's amazing how you just do your thing, hang out at HM, Lowes dressed like a homeless scruffy dude picking up deals for yet another property you bought. Then someone in the aisle or in-line tells you they're working on a problem on one of their buildings & it becomes a 'been there done that, try this' 30 min chat. Or there's that guy yesterday who looked at my cart of 70% off culled materials & tells me he would NEVER use that defective crap on his place.

We have friends & family with auto loans/leases & still heavily mortgaged who confess that they can't afford to retire & hope social security will cover their retirement living expenses. Yet they still have the time to tell us or send doom emails & now Covid-no-rent scenarios confirming that we're risking it all. 

Somehow we have been quietly doing it for 50+ years & for 20+ years have had NO debt, never had a mortgage on any of the 4 homes we enjoy living between & yet none of them have shown any interest in REI ???

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