Posted 4 months ago How to Effectively Manage a Boots on the Ground Team If you plan to invest in out of state properties, you’ll need what’s called a boots on the ground team. A boots on the ground team is just a group of people who live and work in the locale where you’re investing. They act as your eyes and ears and, as paid members of your team, they help make sure your projects are a success even when you may be hundreds of miles away. The Challenges of Managing a Boots on the Ground Team If you think it’s sometimes tough to manage staff in your department at your day job, that’s nothing compared to managing a boots on the ground team. It’s kind of like managing a remote freelance worker, except that the stakes are a lot higher. If your boots on the ground team fails you, they could cost you a lot of money or even cause the bottom to fall out of a deal. The challenges of managing a boots on the ground team are multi-faceted. On one side you have the challenge of distance. Your team may be located thousands of miles from you, possibly in a different time zone. One or both of you may need to be willing to work outside of traditional working hours. Another challenge is delays in communication. Your boots on the ground team member may have their own day job or they may work for several other people on a contract basis in addition to you. Your texts and emails may go hours or days without a response. Meanwhile you’re eager to hear back because someone else is waiting for your instructions based on how your boots on the ground team member responds. It then becomes a waiting game that is costing you money. Yet another challenge is the propensity for miscommunication. As you know, emails and texts can’t convey all the unspoken meaning that face to face communication does. Also, not everyone is as adept at communicating with the written word as you’d like them to be. Meanings can easily be misconstrued; simple lines of texts can have more than one meaning and feelings can even get hurt or ruffled through a seemingly innocuous message that was poorly written. Finally, one of the biggest challenges presents itself when unexpected situations arise. Predicaments may come up when your boots on the ground team member needs to make an immediate and independent decision on your behalf in order to prevent some calamity. Maybe the contractor’s threatening to leave with his men unless a payment is made on the spot. Or the furnace you purchased isn’t the same one that was delivered and this is the last day the HVAC tech can install it before his two-week vacation. In the meantime, you’re on an airplane and your boots on the ground team member can’t reach you. These and other challenges are all things that real estate investors face with a boots on the ground team. In my four years of experience managing my own boots on the ground teams in five different states, here’s what I’ve learned. Tips for Effectively Managing a Boots on the Ground Team 1. Treat it Like a Business The first tip I have for managing a boots on the ground team is to approach it like a business. Deal with them like you’re the manager and they’re your employees, even when they aren’t. (In most cases, your boots on the ground team will be paid by you as independent contractors.) That means all the things that you’d expect in a manager/employee relationship: respect, professionalism, friendliness and even the occasional joke. It should be a productive relationship, but it should also be enjoyable; just like a pleasant office environment where everyone gets along. 2. Don’t Run a Dictatorship Avoid letting your power go to your head. Yes, it’s your deal and your money and you have veto power over everything. But you shouldn’t lead like a dictator. The way I look at is, I took a lot of time to find my boots on the ground teams. I chose people who are professional experts at what they do. They have a lot to offer me in terms of expertise and I always make sure to keep the ideas going in both directions. I listen carefully to what they advise me before I make my final decisions. My teams know that their input is valued, and I know that I’m being shown the issue from all perspectives. 3. Be Flexible With Working Hours I tend to work many more hours than most people my age; in fact, more than most people I know. That includes weekends, evenings and holidays. Maybe you’re like that, too. But I don’t expect my boots on the ground to do that. Some of them happen to be available after hours and at night; that’s their choice. But I don’t get bent out of shape if it takes a few hours or even a few days for one of my team members to get back to me. Everyone works at their own pace. My standing there with a virtual whip forcing them to pick up the pace isn’t going to do anything but piss them off so they don’t want to work for me anymore. If it’s an urgent matter, I figure it’s my responsibility to let them know that. Otherwise, I trust that my team members will take care of the matter in a timely manner. Now, not everyone can work under that kind of freedom, and they may take advantage and your project constantly gets shoved to the back burner. In that case you’re both better off ending the relationship. 4. Trust Their Judgment When you have thousands of dollars tied up in a deal and thousands more riding on the outcome, it’s hard to close your eyes and trust someone else’s judgment. I get that. But really you’re trusting your own judgment. You’re trusting that you chose a responsible adult who knows what they’re doing and understands the stakes in your real estate deals. You can’t expect your boots on the ground team members to do their work well with one hand tied behind their backs. Loosen the reins and trust their judgment to make some decisions when you can’t be reached. On a few occasions, I’ve found out later that one of my boots on the ground team members made a different choice than what I would have made. But I didn’t ride them for it because they took responsibility and I know they represented my interests to the best of their ability. That’s all I ask of my team members. It’s definitely tough to manage a boots on the ground team sometimes. But these days, it’s tougher to find cash flowing deals in your own state than it is to find them out of state. That means you’re going to have to get accustomed to managing your own boots on the ground team. Hopefully these tips will help you. Let me know what you think in the comments section below.