Learn on Your Own or Hire A Coach…The Best of the Best Always Have Coaching!

by | BiggerPockets.com

I am not a big “quotes” kind of guy.  You rarely ever read articles where I am throwing around quotes from other people as validation for my point, but I am about to make an exception.  Warren Buffet…before you decide to stop reading, this quote and article has nothing to do with his recent comments on CNBC that have been totally twisted by every real estate company and guru on the planet.  No this is much simpler and much more straight forward and easy to understand.

How I Bought, Rehabbed, Rented, Refinanced, and Repeated for 14 Rental Properties

This is the dream right? Going from zero to 10+ rental properties, providing stable cash flow and long-term wealth for you and your family, and building a scalable business model to boot! Learn how this investor did just that, in this exclusive story featured on BiggerPockets!

Click Here For Your Free eBook

What Is The Risk In Real Estate

Warren Buffet is quoted as saying:

“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing”.

I am not going to try to twist that quote into some justification that he thinks you should get coaching.  But I am going to take it for face value and point out the fact that even people like Warren Buffet have coaches. Do they always have the name “coach”?  Probably not.  But really good business men and women are known to surround themselves with highly qualified and competent people, some are even paid, to help them make really good decisions.  These same people are in position to help guide and teach about topics, which they are uniquely qualified or experienced in to be able to share.

I am going to set the argument of having a coach to the side for a minute and really explore the risks in real estate.  As an experienced real estate investor, I am probably uniquely qualified to talk about risks in real estate.  First, what does it mean to be experienced in real estate.  It could mean many different things.  For me, it means that I bought my first piece of investment property over 10 years ago at the un-ripe, young age of 30.  That also happened to be the year that I purchased and proceeded to read and watch the entire Carlton Sheets program.  I don’t give a lot of credit to the program, but I do give credit to his ideas about getting outside of my comfort zone and ability and the philosophy of being open to where I can find deals.  Within two months of reviewing that program, I made my first deal and it would have never happened if I had not purchased Carlton Sheets program.  So, I guess I have to give it more credit than I thought!

I also say that I am experienced because I have done a wide variety of deals.  I have wholesaled properties to other investors.  I have done joint-venture deals for a profit split.  I have purchased project houses where we completely transformed the property and then sold it on the retail market.  I have been involved in thousands of rental conversions for other investors from around the world.  I have built my own portfolio, lost part of my portfolio and then rebuilt my portfolio even stronger.  I was one of those investors who thought he knew more than the “experienced” guys and gals who came before him and continued to buy more and more properties right through the boom and right into the middle of the bust.  I have had to learn how to negotiate foreclosures…on some of my very own properties.  Luckily, I had some good “life coaches” around me who helped me handle my personal business correctly and with my head still held high.  That helped me to keep my local banking relationships in place and take care of debts and losses that were incurred from losing some of my properties.  Yeah, I would say that pretty much sums up why I consider myself an experienced investor.

So the risks for real estate investors can come from so many different places.  Some of the real risks are located right between our ears.  We are very capable of convincing ourselves of almost anything.  A good example – the bank said you can buy these 10 properties in one day with no money down and that an interest only loan at 6% across them all is a good deal.  That is a risky deal if I have ever seen one!  Some other risks are information overload.  The internet is an extremely risky place because of the instant access to what is usually one-sided information.  In some cases, you need to refer back to your geometry courses in school to keep track of all the different sides to a deal.

There is also the risk of succumbing to “shiny-object syndrome”.  This is a symdrome that effects many real estate investors who can not seem to stay focused on one thing.  They are constantly searching for the next big thing.  Their conversations almost always center around figuring out the “secret” to real estate investing success.  This is a very real danger.  It is not paralysis by analysis.  It is literally not knowing when to get started because you never keep at anything long enough to get good.

One final major risk in real estate is not knowing when to stop.  I have met several investors who were just like me.  They became addicted to the fact that they could buy real estate.  We all forgot to reflect on what we doing and find out if we should be buying real estate.  Not being able to tell the difference between a good deal and a deal we could take down with our eyes closed was a problem that led many real estate investors right into the toilet from 2004 – 2007.  Those are the tough lessons that came from that time period and if you were lucky enough to survive them, then you definitely came out on the back side of the real estate bubble with a healthy dose of humility (I did anyway) and a new found appreciation for getting some coaching on the skills I needed to deploy if I was going to remain in the real estate game.

World Class Athletes Could Teach Real Estate Investors A Lesson

I have to give credit for this point where credit is due.  The original idea for it did not come from inside my head.  I was listening on Saturday to an excellent speaker and Catholic author, Matthew Kelly.  He was speaking at a men’s gathering in Memphis.  I was sitting there with close to a thousand other men at a local church and Matthew began to talk about world class athletes.  He pointed out that at the last Summer olympics there was a strange anomaly.  There was only one athlete there who did not have a coach present at the Games.  A distance runner from Kenya attended the games without his coach.  Not because he did not have one, but because he could not afford to bring him.  Most of the athletes, and certainly the high profile athletes had multiple coaches in attendance with them.  It was a very entertaining talk especially when he began to count the number of coaches some of the world’s top sprinters had.  One for the left leg, one for the right leg, one for the right arm, one for the left arm, one for the inside of the body and one for the brain and then one more just to coordinate all the other coaches.

He was being sarcastic of course, but the point really hit home to me.  We often look up to professional athletes for their determination, single-minded focus, incredible ability and ultimately for their focus.  But we forget about the people they have surrounded themselves with from the day they decided to go pro.  Every top notch athlete has a coach and many have multiple coaches.  From swing coaches in baseball and golf, to pitching coaches, goal keeping coaches, running coaches, nutritional coaches and head coaches (as in the brain!).  Sure, many have vast resources to pull from, but would you not be willing to put forth a fraction of your wealth and resources if it meant being the best of the best?

Is Coaching Right For You?

Consider that for a moment as you read this and think I am off my rocker for suggesting that coaching is a good and needed element to our success as real estate investors.  I have heard all of the arguments about doing it yourself and finding free resources and I am not discounting those arguments at all.  But what about being the best?  What part of being the best at your craft is found in taking the long journey of self exploration and learning?  I totally get that there are lessons to be learned by diving into the pool head first.  Unfortunately the lessons I can think of both end up badly – hitting your head on the bottom and not learning to tread water fast enough before you drown.  How much easier would it be to take lessons from a swimming coach who can guide your success and help you avoid some of the painful headaches?

This is a topic that evokes some powerful reactions and sometimes those reactions miss the real point.  I don’t want to be mediocre at anything I do.  I earned a national coaches license for soccer 15 years ago and have had the pleasure to coach for two premier clubs in the U.S.  I was able to work with some incredibly talented kids who committed themselves mind, body and spirit to be top soccer players and athletes.  Several went on to play at very high levels.  They had the same drive I did and did not want to learn at a slow pace.  They wanted someone to teach them at a fast pace to help shorten their learning curve and to start achieving above their current level.  I look back on the lessons I taught as a coach and wished I had followed those lessons as I got into real estate investing.  I would have made some mistakes, but I would have had a coach there to help me dissect my mistakes, learn from those mistakes and ultimately avoid them and the necessary losses that usually come with them.

I would love to read your thoughts and maybe even exchange ideas on this topic with you.  Whether you think I know what I am talking about or not, whether you agree with letting coaching help you to improve your “game” or not, I want to hear your thoughts and read your comments.  If you are just passing through on your way to the next article, then I hope you at least have a new appreciation for the fact that the best of the best always had help from coaching.

Photo: unoguy

About Author

Chris Clothier

In 2005, Chris Clothier (G+) began working with passive real estate investors and has since helped more than 1,100 investors purchase over 3,400 investment properties in Memphis, Dallas and Houston through the Memphis Invest family of companies.


  1. jeffrey gordon on

    Hi Chris, I have had pretty good luck over the years in retaining a coach to supplement my own personal motivating/guiding efforts. Nothing quite like knowing someone is going to be going over your efforts at the next coaching meeting to keep one on task etc. Challenge can be finding someone who has the skill/experience in the field like real estate–there are a few folks who overpromise and under deliver!

    thanks for sharing a little more of your RE experience, I have seen a number of your posts, but certainly not all of them!


    • Chris Clothier

      Jeffrey –

      You bring up a very real problem when hiring a coach and that is finding someone with the experience and the ability to coach you succesfully. It is not simply about finding a coach, but as you pointed out, finding a good one. I may have to tackle that topic in the future…

      I really appreciate that you took the time to read and comment on the article.


  2. Melodee Lucido on

    I find it so interesting to see this article on this forum where it is frowned upon to have a coach/mentor (or to mention him or her in posts) because, “Everything we need to know is right here in BP”. I find this posted soooo many times. K, I won’t go into a full rant on this.

    The article is valuable and helpful Chris. I hope the beginner investors will choose, like I did to get a coach who can cut the learning curve down by months, maybe years. There is still the learning as we go that must be done but the guidance of an experienced investor who has created success (for more than a couple weeks) is invaluable.

    It makes me sad when I see extremely seasoned investors telling newbies they can do it on their own. Well, they can, but how many good people have just quit because they couldn’t get it right?

    Thank you for not being pompous and for giving generously in helping others Chris. You are the real deal.

    • Chris Clothier

      Melodee –

      Thank you very much fro taking the time to read and then share your comments – especially on a topic that I think a lot of regular commentators may stay away from just because it is so polarizing. I really don’t mind dissenting sides to the article!

      But, I do agree with you on your points about this too common notion that “anyone, anywhere, anytime can get everything they need for free and succeed”. Is it true? Yes – on the face of a statement like that it is true. But, the facts show us that everyone is created differently and some people are going to succeed on their own and others are not. And the smart ones look for every advantage they can get to find success faster. The point of the article is that being at the top of your game requires taking steps to help you get there faster and surrounding yourself with good voices. These are your coaches.

      I really liked too that you point out the fact that they do not have to be mutually exclusive. You can continue to get great information, direction and assistance from free sites and especially on BP. But that does not mean you should not get specific tailored help from a coach as well. In my opinion…

      Thanks again – Chris

    • Hey Melodee –
      We don’t frown upon coaches or mentors on the site. We frown upon people who take advantage of others. We think finding an actual mentor who is experienced, successful, and active can certainly be valuable for any investor or for anyone in any trade, for that matter.

  3. Chris –

    I think getting a coach is a natural progression of your maturity and the growth of your business. In the beginning you learn, study and find a mentor. Later on you learn, study, find different mentors and hire a coach(es).

    I don’t know any super successful people that don’t have a coach. Even upper level coaches have coaches to make them grow and be better at what they do. Hiring a coach probably shaves years off your learning curve. Unfortunately when you could use a good coach the most; in the beginning, you rarely can afford it.

    There are good coaches that don’t cost an arm and a leg out there that you can start with. Maybe you don’t need a real estate coach but a marketing coach or a speaking coach for your business. I would encourage everyone to think outside the box when it comes to coaches. Having a non-real estate person teach you about the big picture or marketing, email marketing, autoresponders or whatever it is that you need to learn can be huge. You can get a whole new perspective on how to grow your business.

    Some “guru’s” that charge tens of thousands of dollars to teach someone brand spanking new the basics have definitley given coaches a bad name. I would say that no beginner needs a coaching program that costs 5 figures. You have to have to nail down the basics first and BP or a good REIA group are the places to start.


    • Chris Clothier

      Hi Sharon –

      Great input! And you touch on a side of this argument that often gets lumped in that I feel is a separate issue. We are not talking about gurus. If that is the path that a person takes then so be it. In an article I wrote last year, I researched where the term Guru came from and how in this business it has taken on such a negative connotation. In fact, the term was meant to show respect for a high level advisor. Coaches, mentors and education programs are all meant for a different purpose and should not be confused or lumped in together.

      You also accurately pointed out that coaches come in many forms and for many different aspects that may not always seem real estate specific, but they are extremely important as you look to grow your business.

      Thanks so much for commenting.

      All the best – Chris

    • Chris Clothier

      Jeff –

      I bet you would make a fantastic appliance salesman! LOL

      I’m sure you would be successful no matter what you were doing, but you make a great point with your comment. A mentor, or mentors, often help keep us pointed in the right direction and on the right path.

      Great stuff Jeff – thanks for commenting.


  4. Hi Chris:
    No grey area for me – I’m 100% in favor of coaching. We’ve had many real estate coaches throughout our investment career and we now have both business and personal coaches. You don’t know what you don’t know and the best way to get better is to have someone who is better show you the way.

    When choosing a coach, look for someone successfully doing what you want to do. You want someone who can pull you to a much higher level than where you already are.

    As you get better and better, find a better coach.

    Thanks for your post!

    • Chris Clothier

      Karen –

      You make two great points in your comments! Thank you so much.

      1. Coaches are supposed to pull you up to a higher level.
      2. You should continually evaluate your relationship with a coach and understand that as you improve in your craft, you may have to look for better coaching to keep improving.

      Thank you for sharing –


  5. Hey Chris -Thanks for writing this. You saved me the time. LOL. I just read the forum thread on mentoring programs & you summed it up great by distinguishing the difference between a coach, mentor and programs. They are not all the same like you said but they get tossed around and lumped in together. There was a pretty heated debate a while ago on wholesaler’s and I spoke my piece on that. Coaching is know different than any other profession in that there are good one’s and bad one’s and you should do your best diligence in hiring one if you chose so. Just like wholesaling. I am not embarrassed to say I spent thousands and paid $8000 for my first online coaching program 5 years ago. Like you and the Carlton sheets program, it may not have been the best but it got me to take action. Knowing what I know now I would of seek out a local successful investor and offered to pay him or her to teach me or find one that provided coaching services. The point is I didn’t know any better back then and was only exposed more or less by the tv ads. I am now a full time investor & have a full time acquisition manager and an operations manager and my business is going great. I offer on a limited basis some coaching and I work extremely hard for my students & treat them like they are family and help them better than myself because I care about there success. I have done my share of mentoring for sure and help as many as I possibly can with the time I have all for FREE and I know you do the same. The funny thing is my first student approached me and asked me to teach him & he would pay me. That’s how HFS started. I am now seeking a coach to help me on my next level of growth for my company. Can I do it without one? sure I can but why when a great coach can get you there more quickly & hold you accountable. I could go on and on but I just wanted to say thanks again for posting this & sharing your opinion on all the good things a coach can do for you. BTW- Congrats on – Latest book release from Joe Calloway features Memphis Invest – See more at: http://blog.memphisinvest.com/blog/bid/92848/How-To-Make-2013-A-Great-Real-Estate-Investing-Year#sthash.WnHr1RET.HXIBFeIQ.dpuf

  6. Dennis Tierney on

    As a physician I agree wholeheartedly about the value of mentoring, in fact that is the whole basis of physician education systems across the country. Residency and fellowship programs are precisely mentoring programs and we refer to them as our “training” in our profession. It is so valuable you can’t become a specialist without going through one. Unfortunately I didn’t have an apartement investment mentor locally when I started to invest in 2005 and as everyone have made my share of mistakes, fortunately none of them fatal, but, some expensive lessons learned. Keep up the good work.

  7. Ida T.

    Hi Chris,

    Thank you for your great article and advice. I do believe that having a qualify coach shorting the learning curve and guild you to the road of success much faster. However, we have been taken three times already by the so called experience coaches and gurus. I am glad that we have recently found BP and are reading and learning as much as we can. Since we have lost so much time and money already……. where and how can we find the qualify coaches who would have our interest at heart?


Leave A Reply

Pair a profile with your post!

Create a Free Account


Log In Here