How I Built a $15M Business & Learned From GaryVee
My story starts “pre” GaryVee. But man he helped me go to the next level.
I grew up watching my parents build businesses.
I was often “volunteered” to do the monotonous jobs that a son under ten is expected to do by entrepreneurial parents.
I always knew I had entrepreneurial tendencies at a young age.
It wasn’t until I was 19 years old in 2009 that I knew real estate, investing and growing businesses was a passion of mine.
I went to college to play football. I got good grades only because of an internal drive to compete with myself. Had it not been for the game of football, I probably wouldn’t have been enrolled in school. I was a 3x team captain, so the game taught me about people. The sports work ethic made me an all American. I’ve rolled both abilities forward in my life and business.
When I wasn’t playing football, I was reading books on other successful entrepreneurs. I learned infinitely from millionaire and billionaire moguls and their content. I began to skip a class here and there to read these books. That’s when I discovered Gary. I picked up a copy of “Crush It” and went all in.
The four most important things I learned from Gary were:
People in Africa walk 6 miles for water….or have none at all. In parts of Mexico they don’t have a fridge for food nor do they know where the next meal is coming from. As long as My Family has health, I have health, running water, food in the fridge and shelter over head; I AM GOOD! Find out what you are most grateful for and have that be your bedrock.
It puts things in perspective and makes the “horrible business” happenings not seem so horrible. It makes the “risk” seem minuscule. This has taken my business to the next level for so many reasons. It allowed me to redefine “risk.” It allowed me not to sweat it when, for example, last month in the same day we had a fire in one apartment unit and 5 miles down the road at another property a sewer backup into 3 apartments. Because I am grateful, I didn’t even blink or sweat those issues. We just moved forward and solved the problem. I know once I am at 50,000 units that will be a weekly occurrence. “Big” business problems are actually small beans compared to the things I am truly grateful for. Find your gratitude bedrock and rely on it, lean on it and you will never have a business problem that is “too big” again.
This one is key. Gary showed me how to go all in on my strengths.
For example, I suck at the details of accounting. The deep dirty details. I know how to read my financials statements and that is how I make many decisions. But the details of putting it together, my bookkeeper does not let me touch. The moment I realized I am good at the top line growth, putting a team together, finding deals, negotiating, and seeing things that we can fix to make us more efficient I stopped focusing on the things I wasn’t as good at. I hired and built infrastructure around me to fill in the gaps. I hired a bookkeeper, and I hired maintenance techs. I hired property managers. They are all better at those jobs than I am and I was self aware enough to recognize that and fill the void. It has given my businesses a great and solid foundation that we can build from. Fill the voids around you with people who can do the things that you suck at!
Instead of siting face to face, I sit beside people.
Whether it is my employees, a seller, etc. I try to see it in their eyes, from their shoes. I find out why the seller wants to sell and what he/she wants to accomplish from the sale. We then work together to make the deal a win win. I want win-wins all the time because I want more business to come to me.
If people are losing, they will talk about it and my deal flow will run dry… If I make the opposite party a winner, they will refer me and my business grows.
All of my employees ask what they can do for my company and what their goals are within my company, but I also have empathy and ask what they want to be doing 1, 5, 10 years from now.
My bookkeeper Eva wants to be a CPA, my property manager Deb wants to be a regional property manager who oversees 1,000 apartments or more. I told them how glad I was that they shared that, because our goals are now aligned. I can reverse engineer their wants and needs and actually deliver. Without empathy and appreciating the other perspective, you can’t help others succeed. I want to go to 1,000 and well beyond…and I told Deb and Eva that they can be our Regional Property manager, and CFO if they prove they have the talent, heart and hustle. From those conversations, they do not treat their job just as a “job” but as so much more…they have taken ownership of the tasks at hand. And it makes us all so much more better off.
“Double and Triple Down” strategy
I put everything back into businesses. One of the biggest mistakes people make is “cashing out” too early. All of my 2012–2017 direct sales income was and still is seed money to start my other ventures. I use it to invest. And now I reinvest my profits of profits. I take home a $500 salary from my property management company…yes, just $9,000 a year. Now, I do have other investments and income streams that pay me, but even that is reinvested towards my team, technology, and the company infrastructure, to maintain asset integrity, and to acquire new assets. The result is fast, yet solid growth since I have graduated college in 2012. And this doesn’t only apply with money, but growing in every facet of life…familial, relationally, spiritually, my health….everything…I double and triple down my efforts to all areas of life.
By 2011 I had saved up enough income from working summer jobs that I was able to invest into my parents expanding veterinary business. I was one year away from graduating college and ready to jump in.
My parents bought a second location and I got to own a piece of the real estate and later I got to buy into the 3rd practice in 2015.
Throughout my remaining 3 collegiate semesters that initial real estate investment paid me $80. Every chance I got, I began hitting the streets to look at deals. I learned so much from the owners I met and P&L’s of the prospective properties. I began to realize I could dictate those numbers to manipulate my return based on the proper management of the properties.
In 2012, I graduated. I was in debt from playing football at a private school. I was working four jobs. So during the time that I did have, I put towards building my direct sales business. I happened to already be taking and loving their products, and I needed to make income to feed the beast of my future business endeavors. Within two years I grew my team to the top 1% of the company.
From 2012 to 2014 I hustled hard in direct sales, I knew it could be my seed money to start my other ventures. So I grew it to a leadership level in the company that is well into the top 1% of organizational volume. Today I still do it, but my other businesses now have priority. I used direct sales $$ to invest, start, seed and feed my other businesses because I am so young.
And since 2012 it has paid me $235,000, part time.
Once I made enough income I put it towards finding a real estate deal. A year later I purchased a four unit.
I then purchased the one next door. The properties were shitty. But we (I can’t use a hammer, so my contractor) fixed them up and I ran a tighter ship from a management perspective. I also provided better service to my tenants. The rents doubled within a year. 30 minutes after closing on my first “fixer upper” four unit in 2013. I got good at negotiating.
I used a keyword Gary always talks about….I had “empathy” for the seller.
I would get onto their side of the fence. I straight up ask them what they want to get out of the deal so I can do my best to make it happen for them and for me. I always want to win, but the seller must win too. After all, I want to own and manage 50,000 units one day…that won’t happen if no one wants to do business with me.
Then, following Gary, I believed that I should start documenting this journey.
So that’s what I did starting back in 2012 with my first four unit purchase. I mainly used Facebook. Many people thought I was bragging and sadly, they still do…(whatever! I didn’t care.)
I knew that if the brand of “Me” became known and I consistently documented my journey along the way on social media, I could prove myself to my father’s entrepreneurial friends (and the investing/entrepreneurial world) that I was worthy of opportunity.
From my posts I drew in more income from my direct sales company. I stashed it away to invest. From those same posts I began to attract eyes of the community…everybody knew what I was doing. And in 2015, my dad’s friend (our now business partner in multiple ventures) sold one of his companies for tens of millions. He then told me, “If you find a big enough deal, I will go in on it with you.
If you want you can own part of it for putting it together, and doing the leg work. You can put money in. And you can also manage it.” So I got to work. And I kept on posting on Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook. More people started to take notice. As I speak now, the value we put on our real estate holdings (based on yearly Net Operating Income) is $15,000,000+.
My personal stake is worth about $2,200,000. Here is one of the nine buildings at an 88 unit apartment complex we own/manage.
On top of that, I was able to start a management company that manages it all. We are now scaling this management company to provide services to 3rd parties. Through my direct sales income, owning and managing 200 apartments, 110 storage units, a few warehouses and commercial buildings I was able to save even more.
I literally put it back into the businesses to buy another asset almost immediately. I truly believe that every dollar I put back into my businesses today, will be worth $30 to $40 five to seven years from now.
As the year 2016 came to a close. Our 3 veterinary practices in Wisconsin, merged with 18 others throughout the United States. It was a project that started as a discussion in 2014. Since the others saw the level of action I took in all of my endeavors, I was invited by the entire group to be one of only two people to make a cash contribution to the company to then acquire more practices. That six figure investment rose 40% within the first few weeks, as our new, larger organization was able to recognize economies of scale and had offers to be traded at a higher multiple.
Today we are acquiring more veterinary practices across the United States, I am actively seeking to buy out the older generation from their real estate investments (apartments, storage units, etc), and provide property management services to new 3rd party clients across the country.