How and When to Start Hiring Employees for Your Real Estate Business

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I like to have a lot going on in my life- both personally and in my business. 

I used to think I wanted to work hard to someday get to a point where I could sit back relax and lounge around – but I realized I don’t have any fun lounging around, I have fun doing stuff and conquering challenges.

Right now in my business I have a fix as flip business that does 10 to 20 deals a year, a Real Estate listing and selling business that does 200 deals a year, 7 (soon to be 8) long-term rentals, a Real Estate blog and I do 1000 BPOs a year.  When I say “I”, although I am personally responsible for all of this – in no way do I do all the work.  Recently I was at a closing on one of the flips I was buying and my banker asked me how I can keep track of everything.  The truth is, I don’t keep track of everything, my team does.  When I say my team, I don’t mean a team of professionals to help me like contractors, accountants and lawyers, I mean employees that I hire to make my me more successful.

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Day-to-Day Activities

A friend of mine works in a corporate job and he routinely works 70 hours a week.  He seems to think this is normal and expected in the corporate world.  It may be expected, but I certainly could not handle working that much.  I decided to track how much I work for a couple of weeks to show him, you don’t have to work all the time to be successful.  I ended up working about 35 hours a week, although I did spend a little more time than that on my blog.  I think my blog is more of a hobby now than work, even counting my blog I worked less than 40 hours a week.

I can work that little because, have a team in place that can handle pretty much everything I need them too.  The more people I add, the less work I do, the more fun I have and the more money I make.  It can be scary hiring people, but it is so worth it!  I usually head to work around 8 to 8:30 after getting our kids up (I actually wake up when I hear them wake up in the baby monitors).  I get home by five or earlier most days and rarely work on the weekends.  I have time to go to the kids music class or take the day of to go the Zoo if I want too.  I also am able to go on vacation without working the entire trip!  It was not always like this for me, I used to work all the time and constantly be working on vacation.  It wasn’t really a vacation, it was a work week in a different setting.

Previous Work Life

Before I hired help I had to do most everything myself.  I had to do tasks I liked and tasks I did not like.  I did all the BPOs, all the inspections, I even mowed yards on some houses when I first started getting listings.  I had to be constantly available at all times, because I had no other help.  I also had a lot less going on in my life at the time and made a lot less money.

It was really hard to keep track of everything going on with work and I had no time to prospect for more clients or money-making activities.  I was concentrating on the busy work and not on the big picture.  Then I became a HUD listing broker and it got crazy.  I received 17 listings in one week from HUD.  I had to inspect each house within 24 hours and complete a BPO and marketing plan for each house in 48 hours.  I was working 14 hour days to keep up with HUD and basically ignored everything else.  HUD made me a lot of money and still does, but I missed out on a lot of opportunities while spending all my time on HUD.   I knew something had to change even though I knew I wouldn’t get that many listings all the time.  There was no way I could do everything myself without making mistakes and risk losing business or even losing HUD.

My First Hire

I hired my first assistant shortly after landing the HUD account.  Although it took a while to train her, she was awesome and made my life so much better!  She helped handle expenses, BPOs and many other tasks I didn’t like doing.  I slowly started getting my time back and enjoying work more.  The amazing thing was the more work she was able to take over, the more new work I had come in.  The more free time I had, the more time I could spend prospecting or finding new ways to make money.  Even though I was not concentrating on busy work anymore, I was still busy with much more lucrative work.

Ideal Work Set Up

The cycle of hiring and delegating more and more continues to this day.  I get busy, I train current staff or hire new staff to take over parts of my job.  I get more free time thanks to the new people and it is immediately filled up with new opportunities.  The best part is I can continue to do the work I like doing and hand off all the stuff I don’t like doing to others.  I have a blast at work.  I like Mondays, I like coming to work and seeing what will be in store for the day.  Fridays are okay, because I know I will have more time with my family, but I am not a “Thank God it’s Friday” kind of person.

Right now, I concentrate on finding great deals either to flip or to hold.  I still do my initial HUD and REO inspections, because I love getting new assignments and seeing the new listings.  I let my staff do the BPOs and other tasks.  I also drive a lot, because I love driving.  You may see references to my cars in my other articles, but when I drive I have a blast.  I can take my Audi S4, my Porsche 928 or the supercharged convertible Mustang.  When I drive I listen to self-help CDs, podcasts or other educational material.  I am always learning – even when working.  I could have my staff do all the driving, but I enjoy it so I do it.  The point is, I have a choice with what I do at work,  because I have help.

How to Hire?

Now that you can see how much hiring help has improved my life, how do you hire someone?  I have hired everyone on my team through referrals from friends, family or coworkers.  My assistant worked for my sister, another assistant was referred by agents in our office and I hired a good friend.  There are many ways to hire people, but a referral from someone you know is the best way in my opinion.  If you can get multiple referrals for the same person from different sources that is a great sign!  Don’t think you have to hire the first person you talk to and look for attributes in people who you may not have.  You want a team that likes to do different things so they all enjoy they work they do.

How to Handle Payroll and All That Other Stuff?

I have no idea!  

I really don’t know how the taxes and insurance all works – but when I hired people, one of their first jobs was to get with my accountant and figure out how it should be done.  This goes back to my article from last week (saving money actually costs you money) that you should hire professionals whenever you can and not do work yourself that you don’t know how to do.  Our payroll is all set up through QuickBooks and my accountant makes sure it is done right.  If you don’t know how to do something, have someone else do it or hire a pro.

When to Hire People?

As soon as possible! 

The longer you wait, the more money you are leaving in the table.  It may seem like you are saving money by doing the work yourself, but is that work making you money or simply taking up time?  If you had more free time, how much more money could you make?

Another consideration is the time it takes to train and hire someone.  Don’t wait to hire someone until you have to because you are so busy.  How are you going to find time to train them if you already have no time?  With no time to train the new hire probably won’t know what they are supposed to do, won’t know how to do it properly and won’t be happy.  Hire help as soon as you possibly can!

Conclusion

I am still setting things up to be handled more and more by my staff.  I still manage my rentals and do the books on my personal accounting and rentals.  My next step is to let someone take over my personal accounting and the rental management.  This is a constant process and the sooner you start the more enjoyable your life will be!

Photo: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

About Author

Mark Ferguson

Mark is Real Estate Broker and investor in Greeley, Colorado. Mark invests in long-term SFR rental homes and also does 8-15 fix and flips a year. Mark started a blog this year that focuses on investing in long term single family rentals.

28 Comments

  1. Cheryl Carrier on

    Hi Mark. Great post! People often fail to put a value on their time or consider the lost opportunity of wasting their time on menial chores. I have a couple of part-time assistants. A very trusted one handles the books and personal accounts and the other does showings, meets contractors, does comps, etc. It really is a false economy to paint walls when you could be out finding deals.

  2. Great Post. You have a nice mixture of business activities. When I was a licensed agent in California i Primarily did real estate sales. I have never built up to have a selling business of 200 transactions. Truth be told, I am finding hiring virtual assistants helps in balancing my life. I am business, but not too busy.

  3. ” I don’t have any fun lounging around, I have fun doing stuff and conquering challenges.”

    AMEN!

    I used to think I was lazy! Then I got injured and had to be on the couch watching TV for 2 weeks. I almost lost it.

    I love work!

  4. Really, really good blog, Mark! Your point can also be extended to your personal life, as well. Many people will hire an assistant at work, but then still continue to clean their house, go grocery shopping, make bank deposits, etc. By hiring a house cleaner, ordering groceries and handling banking online, and perhaps having an assistant for 4 hours/week to run “physical” errands (like filling your gas tank, buying gifts for an upcoming party, mailing a package, picking up the dry cleaning, etc.), you’d be amazed at how much more productive you will be.

    • Cheryl Carrier on

      Sharon, you are right on. I haven’t done any of that since my early 30’s. I’ve got people to do that stuff. I may be “goofing off”, but why not? I’ve got what I need and if I want to pursue my hobbies or stay in bed watching TV, I will. In my 20’s I painted, cleaned, cut lawns…you name it. I don’t have to now.. Nothing against those that do OR simply do this stuff because they want to, I don’t really want to. My issue is those that think they are saving money when they are losing 3 months rent or a quick sale (with less carrying cost) AND missing other opportunities.

  5. Great post Mark.

    When I was in college I painted houses over the summer for some wealthy folks. The one thing that I noticed was that they hired just about everything out. I heard many people say that they were lazy, but I quickly realized that they were smart. By hiring someone to mow the lawn, clean the house and any other task, they could focus on the activities that they enjoyed and made more money at.

    When we started our real estate business we have more time and not as much money. With each property we purchase that scale shifts and I work on hiring out more and more tasks. It is definitely “freeing”.

  6. Sharon Vornholt

    Mark –

    This is a great post. Most all of us wait too long to get some help. Hiring employees right off the bat may not be possible for everyone, but almost everyone can hire a VA part time. I would say to everyone out there to “find a way”. I am certain that you are right about making more money when you have help.

    Sharon

  7. Great post Mark. You are so right. Its all about the team and the people that you hire. The E-myth is one of my favorite books and one I try to live by. It talks all about this. I am going to take a guess that you probably are a fan of the book as well.
    Keep it going!!!!

  8. Great post Mark.
    I have the ultimate goal to make myself superfluous to my business.
    Not that I won’t do work for it, but I want to only do the thing I enjoy and am good at, and only when I want to do it.

    Not even close at this point, but that is the goal. 🙂

  9. In my business, my employees are more responsible for my success in business not me. They keep track of everything. I do less work than my friends because I have a team in pace that can handle pretty much everything. Because of them i can spend more time with my family. Before i hired employees i had to do most everything myself and it was really hard.
    The best way to hire employees is through referral like i did and should do that as soon as possible because the longer you wait, the more money you are leaving in the table.
    Give time to train and hire someone. Without training they will not know what to do and how to do the work.
    This process will give you more free time in which you can other stuff too and enjoy your life as you want to.

  10. One person can only do so much. Hiring more people is the key to business growth. Many people hesitate to take that step and hire new people, but expanding without hiring is essentially impossible as you found out with your business. I like the last point about not waiting to hire until you need them. It is very true that people often wait to hire until they can barely handle not realizing how long it can take to train new employees. That lag time can be the undoing of some companies.

  11. Kelly Ejirika

    Great blog post Mark. This really speaks to the value of BP Blog.. You wrote this about 15 months ago and it helped me as I’m hiring more people on the real estate support side. I have had employees for management but no one to help with acquisitions, project management, etc.

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