In nearly all aspects of real estate, from brokerage to investing, the concept of “team” has become popular. Fact is, most of us over 40 realize it’s been around since Moses’ son died — it was just not called a “team.” Today let’s talk about the #1 factor virtually guaranteeing success when it comes to teams: Elite expertise.
When all members of your team are bona fide experts in their field, systems take care of themselves. I realize the day to day “systems” of handling appointments for calls/meetings and the like must be handled. But when the dust settles, it’s not the minutiae that produces results. The little things can surely kneecap ya if you’re not vigilant. But it’s the major parts of our enterprises that must be slam dunk reliable. Allow me to share three examples of teams I’ve seen firsthand from inside out that produce predictably bluechip results. Full disclosure — one of ’em is mine.
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3 Examples of Teams That Produce Expert Results
1. The Dentist
I wasn’t very observant when I first visited his offices a couple years ago. Certainly, his staff was professional and did their various jobs without a hitch. But so do most dental office support staffs, right? He did much work on me, most of which required (by me) sedation. I was happy with the results and didn’t feel the need to return for over 18 months. That’s when I decided to bite the bullet (sorry) and have all the bad results of a poor childhood repaired, removed, or replaced.
Here’s how his operation works. You’ll likely notice it sounds like most offices of its kind, but trust me, the average dentist would turn green with envy at this operation.
When you first check in, the receptionist goes into full on Star Trek action. Turns out every employee — and there seems to be a team of roughly 8-10 on a given day — sports wire thin headsets with multiple ‘channels’. Nobody has to ever walk anywhere in the office unless they’re escorting a patient or moving from room to room as needed. I could literally hear the receptionist speaking softly into her mic, “Jeff Brown’s here for his 7 a.m. appointment.” There were no loudspeakers in the ceilings; it was all very hush-hush. Within seconds the team “Captain” appeared from her office by the reception area to greet me. She said that Carmella would escort me to the right room. Carmella appeared as she spoke. Boom, I’m headed to my room. Though it seems like a small thing, I was dumbfounded at how seamless it was. No fanfare, just pure efficiency.
Before continuing, let’s briefly talk about office attire. The dentist himself is always in very nice slacks with a long sleeved dress shirt and sometimes a tie. Same with his team. Unless they’re working on you, and even then their ‘blues’ are worn over their casually dressy garb. Though most won’t admit it, it matters.
The nurse settled me in, and within a couple minutes, the doctor arrived. “Hey Jeff, long time no see. Ready to roll today?” I replied, “Let’s stop the yak yak and get this show on the road.” After he stopped chucklin’, he told me I’d be out for quite some time, as I would be given almost twice the usual dose of sleepy time. I then noticed the nurse in the room talking quietly into here headset mic. Next thing I knew, my ride was there, and I’m being wheeled to the curb. 🙂 That’s the spooky part of being there. People just seem to appear at the right time.
The Follow Up
The next day’s follow-up visit included a meeting with the aforementioned Team Captain. She has a very small office, but it’s a command center Google employees could appreciate. Half a dozen six inch screens built into the wall on her left show everything happening in the office. She knows where everyone is at all times and what they’re doing, etc. She’s also the cashier. You’re in, you’re out, or stay and shoot the breeze, your choice. It’s the most well run operation I’ve ever seen in person.
How good is the work they do? Suffice to say that a very good friend of mine saw the work and is setting up an appointment next month. He lives in Arizona; I’m in San Diego. That’s how good. I once asked the dentist himself about his staff. He beamed. He was proud of two things: The employee with the least time on the team had been there over five years. Also, due to his insistence on the best in everything, he literally has a waiting list of pros wanting to work for him. I can attest to their expertise at every level. I’m envious of his operation.
2. The Builder
This guy’s been in business nearly as long as I have and is also second generation. His team consists mostly of office and field executive types. He’s the most benevolent and generous dictator I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. 🙂 If you work for him, you adopt his standards, or you politely but quickly are dispatched, period. He’s OldSchool to a fault. In fact, though I’ve done hundreds of transactions with him — and to this day we operate on a handshake and our word to each other — we’ve never had a piece of paper between us. THAT’s OldSchool. 🙂
Long Term Team Members
He has a CFO (Chief Financial Officer) who runs the company cash flow. In a construction firm, that position is beyond crucial. She flat out gets it done. In nearly eight years of doin’ business with ’em, her next major mistake will be her first. It’s like she never blinks, if ya know what I mean.
Next up is his trio of superintendents, the ones running the various projects in the field, boots on the ground. When I first began selling his product, all three of ’em were nearing retirement. It’s taken over three years to replace ’em, and the process was painful. He must’ve gone through 8-10 replacements ’til he was happy with the new triad. The good thing about the new guys is that they’re all under 50, so the firm’s good for quite a while when it comes to field bosses. My firsthand observation has been that they’re now virtually as good as the original gems.
Here’s just one small example of what this builder does that I’ve never seen before: He allows complete and open informational give ‘n take between the buyer’s lender and his field bosses. This really becomes critical when projected completion dates arrive late OR early. It’s an innovation I’ve come to rely on big time.
A Family Team
This builder lucked out tremendously with one of his sons. The guy was born knowing a good piece of land when he first sees it. Even his dad admits that at 45, he wasn’t nearly as adept at finding new projects as is son is at 35. I call him the Dirt Whisperer. Within 3-7 days this kid has already found any hidden black widows, done an in-depth rent survey of the local market, and ascertained exactly what should/shouldn’t be built on the parcel. Most folks in the industry believe they do that, but that’s not anywhere close to my eye-witness experience of the last several decades in a few states. This gives the builder a huge edge over the competition.
In fact, I can count at least half a dozen projects he was told not to buy, yet did based on his son’s work. Every single one of ’em was a resounding success at every possible level. It’s called vision. In over half of the places they choose to build 2-4 unit properties, they’re not replacing anything already in that market. Either the current inventory/competition is woefully old, functionally obsolescent, or both. They’ve learned, again via the son, that just cuz nothing’s come along to improve things for 20-30 years doesn’t mean the underlying strong demand wasn’t still there. I’ve found over and over that his research doesn’t contradict my own boots on the ground data.
3. The Real Estate Investment Broker
Again, so there’s no confusion, this one is me. My team consists of eight very important players.
To be brutally honest, when it comes to hiring quality people — legit experts — my batting average leaves much to be desired. However, I learned from my mentors that how we end up with our team populated with experts isn’t nearly as important as ending up that way. Me? I’ve learned the only way to do it is to “fire my way” to a virtually bulletproof team of actual real world experts. It took me a few years, but the team I have now is to me like the ’27 Yankees of Ruth and Gehrig.
The Tax Experts
I have two of ’em on call. They don’t always agree, which is golden at times. Nothing like empirical evidence — another way to say tax code documentation — to settle an ambiguous concept. These two guys take on roughly 50-75% of my new clients. They’re beyond crucial to what I do.
This guy is the closes thing to bulletproof I’ve seen, with one exception in all my 45 years in the business. For the most part, lenders are like real estate agents/brokers, a dime a dozen. It takes real effort to find one who’s not only a genuine expert, but one worthy of the trust a lender needs.
When it comes to lenders and small rental financing, most of ’em couldn’t find their butts with both hands, a map, two helpers, and a GPS. For example, I fired about six lenders before ending up with The Guy. Consider this — in the last five years or so, the next borrower of mine he says is qualified who doesn’t close as planned will be the first. Like I said, bulletproof.
Clearly, it’s the aforementioned firm. Actually, we met when they headhunted me nearly eight years ago. They’ve been in business for 32 years now. They build very high quality homes and residential investment property. In fact, there are times when they’ve exceeded building requirements cuz they thought they weren’t sufficient to their standards. They build the investment product only in locations I’d put my 80+ year old, post-stroke mom to live alone. If something goes wrong in the first year after a building is sold, they take it as a personal insult to the bar they set.
I once had an investor who was amazed to learn from a tenant that the builder had sent the dang foreman to check out the problem, not a worker bee. The repairs, if needed, are always on his dime, and usually more than required. Lastly, but certainly not the least, is that he’s the only builder I’ve ever known who actually understands the investment side of real estate. That’s priceless.
I’ve fired more management companies than lenders, which speaks volumes, right? Virtually all ’em are “good” when interviewed. But it’s the results they produce when units are vacant that separates pretenders from genuine experts. We have local pro management in every geographic location in which we do business, in every state.
In Texas, where we now do most of our work, we have three of the four major population centers covered. The three firms have survived all the bad weather and economic twists we’ve seen. Solid pro management is beyond critical when the investor lives hours away by jet. Duh. This is why they’re such an important team members and why they’re held to such high standards of performance.
Self-Directed Retirement Plan Pro
This member became important when I resumed brokering discounted notes a while back. Dad had forced me to stop the practice back in the ’80s cuz it was making me a work zombie. Though continuing to invest personally, I stopped doing it for clientele. Once a doable M.O. was devised to resume the practice, having a bona fide self-directed IRA/401k expert in-house was a Captain Obvious no-brainer. This guy does what experts should do, which is answer questions most would never in a million years even know to ask.
I went through four pretenders to the throne for this one. For people with at least 15 years to go to retirement, this is more likely than not gonna be a stand-alone source of tax free retirement income. I won’t debate the merits, as it seems many aren’t fans. Suffice to say I’ve told multiple family members to get one, including both my kids. This expert is wicked smart, and OldSchool in his DNA.
A Fellow Note Expert
I’ll put a name to this guy, as he’s also a fellow BiggerPockets author. David Van Horn’s firm is the manager of my discounted note fund.
Now it’s time for you to weigh in: Who makes up your real estate team and what makes your team great?
Don’t forget to leave a comment below!