Do you want to grow your single-family portfolio, but not sure how? Don’t think you’re smart enough to be successful in real estate? Invest in yourself, get an education, and hire a coach.
Today, I am talking to Mark Dolfini, founder of Landlord Coach and author of three real estate books. Mark shares how he ventured into real estate, property management, and landlord coach. He follows the VIP Paradigm: Vision, Infrastructure, and Process.
[04:40] Real Estate Education: You can learn, if you want to; even if you’re not smart.
[07:21] Hospitality Industry: How to treat people, customers, and residents like guests.
[10:37] Set up sustainable business by shifting to VIP Paradigm.
[14:35] Landlord Coach’s favorite catch phrases focus on valuing your time and money.
[19:30] Better Business Owner: It’s not about the number of doors, but what you’re trying to accomplish in revenue and lifestyle.
[26:40] Cycle of Suck and 4 Ds to Revenue (doors, deals, duration, and dollars).
[29:10] Being time wealthy is more of a decision than a destination.
[31:37] Bad communication is a symptom of the problem, not the problem. The problem is a bad infrastructure and/or process.
[36:35] Product to Produce: Consistency; sloppiness is your only competition.
[37:35] Negative Feedback Loop: If you put something in place, make sure it gets done.
[39:04] Company’s Compass: Define/develop core values to make business decisions.
[41:55] Being your own boss is great, but get a coach to take you where you want to go.
[44:10] Difference between mentor and coach: Invest in yourself by paying a coach to hold you accountable.
[bctt tweet=”Real Estate Education: It’s about the want to; not the intelligence.” via=”no”]
[bctt tweet=”Don’t do it all. Learn to fire yourself!” via=”no”]
[bctt tweet=”There is no amount of money that will make time irrelevant.” via=”no”]
[bctt tweet=”If you don’t place a value on your free time, someone else will. ” via=”no”]
Jason: Welcome, DoorGrow hackers to the DoorGrow Show. If you are a property management entrepreneur that wants to add doors, make a difference, increase revenue, help others, impact lives, and you are interested in growing your business and life, and you are open to doing things a bit differently, then you are a DoorGrow hacker.
DoorGrow hackers love the opportunities, daily variety, unique challenges, and freedom that property management brings. Many in real estate think you’re crazy for doing it, you think they’re crazy for not, because you realize that property management is the ultimate high-trust gateway to real estate deals, relationships, and residual income.
At DoorGrow, we are on a mission to transform property management businesses and their owners. We want to transform the industry, eliminate the BS, build awareness, change perception, expand the market, and help the best property management entrepreneurs win. I’m your host, property management growth expert, Jason Hull, the founder and CEO of DoorGrow. Now, let’s get into the show.
Today I’m hanging out with Mark Dolfini of Landlord Coach. Mark, welcome to the show.
Mark: Hey, it’s great to be here. That’s a heck of an intro.
Jason: It’s our manifesto, I call it.
Mark: I love it. That speaks directly to my heart when we’re talking about people who want to grow their single family portfolios. That gets me fired up.
Jason: So Mark, I want to introduce you. I’m really excited to have you on the show. We’re talking before show a little bit and we have a lot of alignment. We both believe in coaching, we both believe in having coaches.
It says Mark Dolfini is a veteran of the US marines—thank you for your service—and the author of three real estate books. He was first published in 2017, second book released in early 2018, and his third book, The Time-Wealthy Investor 2.0, came out in March of 2019. He received a Bachelor of Science in Accounting at Purdue University, worked for Marriott International before venturing out full time into the world of real estate investing.
He’s a managing broker for property management company based out of Lafayette, the founder of Landlord Coach, sits on numerous boards, including the Better Business Bureau of Central Indiana, the National Federation of Independent Business, and is a training director for the Central Indiana BNI Franchise and Networking Organization. He spends his free time pistol shooting and kayaking, and lives in Lafayette where he and his wife, Jennifer, are raising their two sons, Leland and Logan.
All right, so we got through your bio. Mark, let’s start out with you and I want to hear about your background. How did you get into the space of real estate, property management, landlord coach, all of this. How did this all come about? Give us a little backstory.
Mark: Sure. Well, I’d love to say it was a straight line trajectory, but you know there’s your plan and God’s plan, right? That doesn’t and usually don’t always match up.
Jason: […] and then there’s reality.
Jason: […] winds. Always.
Mark: Right. I’d always wanted to do something entrepreneurial. I didn’t know exactly what that was. I mean, this is back me being seven or eight years old, I started with a vegetable stand, the vegetable that I grew in Upstate New York and sold them at a vegetable stand that I built out of out of wood. So I always started back from there.
My first go at real estate was when I was actually in the marine corps still and I bought 40 acres of property that was in Northern Arizona. I paid a couple of hundred bucks an acre for it and that was really it. It was just a desert in the middle of nowhere that no one seemed to want, but I knew at $200 an acre was a pretty good deal. I ended up buying it for capital appreciation at that point in time. But having a piece of land that doesn’t generate income doesn’t generate revenue. I learned pretty quickly is not the way to wealth. Getting someone else to pay for it was really what I wanted to do.
I was getting near the end of my time in the marine corps. Had a great time, it was good for me in a lot of ways. It was tough, but I’m glad I did it. I also knew I needed to get an education. So, I got out. Now, let me just frame this because I went to school in Upstate New York and graduated 352nd out of 354. Let that sink in, everybody. I was at the bottom of the class.
Jason: Right […] the class by any means.
Mark: Right. Not even close. The reason I’m saying that is because people who are out there think that they have to have this high-level of intelligence and high-level of intellect to make this business work. If you know anything and you’re doing real estate, it’s about the want to, it’s not about the intelligence. Let me just put that to bed right away.
Now, that doesn’t give you an excuse to not go out and say, “Well, I need to learn things and therefore it’s just too hard.” There are lots of things are difficult. Walking when you were two years old was probably difficult. Or 18 months when learning how to talk was difficult at one point. It’s the same thing. You can learn this if you have the right intention.
Anyway, getting out of the marine corps and getting into college was a little tricky because with my “stellar” high school career. I had to figure out how to how to do that. I hadn’t sat for an SAT. I had to learn in high school all that stuff. When I got out of the marine corps, I actually got accepted to Purdue. I got a high-enough score on my SAT. While I was at Purdue, I started buying some rental real estate. By the time I got out of Purdue, I had about a dozen rental units altogether, which is roughly half a million dollars for the real estate. That really how I got started and that’s really where my real estate education really got started.
Jason: Right, so you cut your teeth on in the real world with your own real estate deals dealing with tenants, toilets, and termites, I’m sure. Fast forward to now. Help us understand. We’re going to be talking about the VIP paradigm: vision, infrastructure, and process the acronym. Let’s get into it.
Mark: Sure. Before I get into that, it’s important to know that the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey might say. As I was getting out of college and I was buying more rental units, there’s lots of property managers out there who are also investors, so now I’m speaking to them as well.
As I was growing this side of the portfolio, I was working as an accountant—I have a degree in accounting—for the Marriott. Wonderful, wonderful company. I learned an awful lot from the hospitality industry in terms of how to treat people, how to treat customers, and really treat my residents like I would be treating hotel guests. There’s a lot to learn out there from the hospitality industry in terms of what they do right. It’s just a different approach.
It’s almost like the paradigm shift that happened with the banks maybe about 20 years ago. It used to be you run into the bank almost when you were in trouble. Now, you walk into a bank and everyone greets you, throws bottles of water at you, says hello and they give you this. That wasn’t always the way. The old school guys may remember that. Now, it’s a different paradigm because now they’re welcoming customers. They want you to come into the bank. They want you to have that transaction at their location.
I would love to see that shift continue into the property management side because now it almost seems like the residents are the enemy rather than they’re the ones who pay the bills. As I continue to evolve and I loved what I learned from the hospitality industry, eventually I got to a point where I was able to get out and start to do that full-time just managing my own portfolio.
Unfortunately, I got very, very overleveraged, not only in money but in time. What was happening is every time a task would come on, rather than looking for someone to hand that task to, I just took it on and kept it. There’s lots of property managers out there that are doing this. They’re not valuing their time highly enough.
What ends up happening is they end up taking on this job, they don’t factor in opportunity cost where they’re going to take every job that’s out there and they’re going to do it. Even though they may be worth realistically $20–$50 an hour, they’re still doing $10 an hour jobs. In essence, every time they’re doing a $10 an hour job, they’re costing their business $40 an hour or $30 an hour and they don’t look at in that paradigm.
Learning to fire yourself is one of the biggest things and I’m sure we can get in that little bit later, but really where my transition in the property management occurred was almost out of necessity. That seems to happen for a lot of people and certainly I was no exception.
Going into 2009, I had about $6 million worth of real estate in my own portfolio. I was working 16–17 hours a day just trying to keep all the balls in the air. When the economy fell apart, that’s when things really, really got bad for me. Of course I started working 20 and 22 hour days and kept catching naps wherever I could. I was doing it all and I was doing it all very, very poorly.
Finally, where the camel’s back broke was I got sick and I almost died in the hospital from double pneumonia. From all that, is really where I really got very intentional about setting up a business that was sustainable and I started delivering to my cash flow by doing some property management for other people.
I got my broker’s license, started doing some property management on the side, and that’s really where I also got very, very intentional about how I want my business to look, the infrastructure that I needed it, and also the processes that needed to run on that infrastructure. That’s the vision infrastructure process paradigm that you’re alluding to earlier is you’re getting a vision where I wanted to go, setting up the proper infrastructure for it, and then putting the processes in place on top of that.
Jason: I want to point this out because this is a milestone that I’m wondering if every entrepreneur eventually go through it. It’s like a crisis of health where we finally realize that we are not invincible, that it’s not sustainable to just do the hustle and grind that’s trumped up, and it made to look beautiful and exciting to just work, endless work weeks and crazy amounts of hours.
Looking back, I had my own crisis like this. I remember I was literally at the end of a sales call laying on the floor because I had slipped a disk in my back or something because I wasn’t eating. I was just working, I thought I had to work harder and harder, I was just do-do-do, and then I couldn’t work for two weeks. I was laying on the floor and it was ridiculous. That gets really expensive trying to recover from that.
5That was when I had this shift and this epiphany came to me that our health and self-care is the foundation for my ability to provide, to do everything in the business, and you need to have a business that serves your needs and be sustainable instead of becoming this robot slave that is going to wear your body out on the business.
Mark: Right To that point, you have to understand that we work so we can live, not the other way around. There’s so many people who are out there living to work and property managers, you get that one or two critical pieces, or one or two critical people that are doing 80%–90% of the work, and then you get everybody else who just shows up and cares or doesn’t care, whatever. I know it’s a typical 80/20 rule where you get 20% of people doing 80% of the work. In property management, it’s more like 1% doing 99% of the work. Then you got those critical pieces and you cannot build a sustainable business on that.
Lots of property managers are very small. They’re under 500 units and they’re one- or two-man shops. In the property management company that I have, definitely is a weird hybrid between management company, maintenance company, but it works and it works really, really well. We can get into that later, but I agree with you. You have to almost get to that crisis. You either get to that crisis and you make a decision or you just have enough for you to just walk away. In either one, I don’t think is good. A lot of people get to that point because they don’t value their free time. That’s fundamentally it. They’re just not buying their time.
Rob: Yup. Time is worth more than money to me now. If people approached it from that standpoint at the beginning, that’s why you hire somebody. You’re buying time. That’s why you build the business. You’re buying time. Every dollar I spend should be hopefully moving towards buying me some additional time or collapsing time. That’s why I get coaches. It collapses time. I’m buying time.
I love what you’re saying. A lot of times, we start out building the business we can have instead of the business that we want, and they’re two very different things. One you’re serving and the other one serves us.
Mark: That’s exactly right. There are two catch phrases I use all the time. One of those is, “There is no amount of money that will make time irrelevant.” When you get your head around that, then all of a sudden you say, “Okay.” The other phrase I use quite often, especially when I’m signing-off on a live event or something like that is, “Not only is there no amount of money that will make time irrelevant, but if you don’t place a value on your free time, someone else will.” Usually the amount of value that they’re going to place on your free time is far less than what you’re worth, and they know it. That’s why they’re calling you with that, right?
Jason: Yeah. The, “You got a minute?” and, “Hey, can I just take you out to lunch?” these kind of things.
Mark: Absolutely right. That’s exactly right.
Jason: You need to value your time. I don’t know how you tell people to value your time, but I usually say, “Take your gross revenue of the company if you’re the entrepreneur and divide that by 20-, 80-, or a 40-hour work week. That’s a pretty good estimate of what you should, at least, value your time as a dollar if you were looking at it on a dollar per hour basis.”
Mark: Yeah, and if you did it on a 40-hour work week, you’d be surprised that most property managers I know are working way more than that. When you come back into it just from that simple math, that’s a perfect calculation. In fact, that’s exactly how I would tell people how to put just a rough number on your time. Or even people that are doing property management on the side. There’s lots of property managers are also estate brokers. They all have to be brokers, but they’re also doing real estate transactions on the side where they’re showing properties and they’re selling properties.
That’s all revenue and that’s where you need to determine your opportunity cost. I would say all of your revenue that’s coming in, divide that by coming up with an hourly rate in terms of a 40-hour work week or even a 50-hour work week, to be fair. If you’re coming up with the $50–$60 an hour rate and you’re doing a $12 an hour work, you’ve got to replace yourself from doing that task as soon as you possibly can.
I have a driver that I hire when I go to Indianapolis. I go to Indianapolis a couple of times a week and people are like, “Oh, you’re mister big time,” and I’m like, “No, it’s not about that. It’s not about because I feel super important. It’s because I get three hours of windshield time that literally is purposeless. I might listen on audio book. I still like to drive, but it’s not about that. It’s so I can get that time back.”
So when I’m done at the end of the day, I’m not completely wiped out and spent. I don’t have to spend an extra three hours at the office that I should be spending with my wife, even if just sitting on the couch with her. Or just sitting at home being with her, or being around my kids, or just being home, where I want to be.
There’s lots of people who don’t understand that and I’m like, “Okay, I pay this guy maybe $50, $75, $100 to drive me there and back. That’s easily worth it because my time is several hundred dollars an hour. Someone wants to call me and coach with me, I’m like, “Yeah, that’s what I’m going to charge you,” so why would it cost myself that money driving? Sometimes, I still do because I want the solitude and I want to listen to an audio book and just enjoy it. Sometimes, I just want road time. But lots of times, if it’s purposeless, I really want to try to eliminate those bottlenecks as quickly as I possibly can, so I can stay focused on what I’m really trying to accomplish.
Jason: Yeah. It’s funny. You’ll see entrepreneurs, they say they have $1 million business. Their time is probably worth about $480 an hour by that calculation, say $500 bucks an hour, and they’re still doing stuff like sometimes you’ll see them doing their yard. If they love doing those things, great, but sometimes we’ll be so focused on one area that we lose sight. For example, there was a time period where I hired a house manager and a nanny because all the fake dad stuff was being done. […] care about laundry. They don’t care who makes the mills. They want time. So if I can offload those thing to somebody and I’m not paying them $500 an hour to offload those things, then I can spend time. Ultimately, were buying time and that’s a critical piece to growing and scaling business.
Mark: Yes. That’s 100% vision. A lot of times, especially whether I’m working with an individual investor or I’m working with a property manager, door count is really where a lot of people say that and I stop them. I know.
For example, I got the moniker, Landlord Coach, but my goal is to make people not landlords. If I was going to be a property management coach, my goal would not to make them better property managers. My goal for them is to be better business owners. Even though a lot of times they say, “Oh, all I want,” if it’s an investor, “are 100 units,” or if it’s a property manager, “I want 1000 doors.” I’m like, “Okay, so 999 wouldn’t do it?” and they go, “Well, yeah maybe.” “Okay 997 wouldn’t do it?” I’ll go down this until they finally get that, “Well, okay Mark, what’s your point?” I said, “Look, it’s not the number of doors. It’s really about…”
Jason: It’s not an ego number, not an ego goal.
Mark: Right. It’s not about that at all. It’s about what you are trying to accomplish in terms of your revenue goals. It’s really about that. If this is about ego, I respect that, but that’s not toward your vision. A lot of times they say, “Okay, well let’s get towards a vision that’s really actually purposeful and usually after I beat him up a little bit and I go, “Okay, 997. How about 995?” After they go, “Okay, what’s your point?”
A lot of times I would say, “Okay, so in other words, you’re saying to me that you need to get to a revenue or you need to get to 1000 doors at, say, $1000 apiece. That’s what you need, but you couldn’t get there with 500 doors at $2000 apiece? Obviously the math is the same and a lot less work,” and they go, “Well, yeah. Okay.” “So, is it really about door count? Because I can get you 1000 doors. There are not going to be anything in the world that you or anybody else going to want to manage, but you really want 1000 doors?”
Jason: […] ridiculously low, that you can get a lot of doors really quickly.
Mark: And that’s what a friend of mine did. He’s in the area of the state that I wouldn’t go to for love or money, and it’s terrible. I feel bad for him because I see him, watching him get into a leaky lifeboat in shark-infested waters, and I’m just like, “Oh, my God.” And he’s a good dude. He grew overnight from zero to, I don’t even know he’s pumping maybe 150–200 now, but they’re units that I wouldn’t take for any amount. I literally go, “Well, the rent amount isn’t enough to cover my management fees,” because they still wouldn’t be enough.
Jason: Ultimately, people really need to ask themselves the question, “What do you really want? What do I really want out of the business?” If it’s an ego goal, great, but maybe what you really want is usually some lifestyle or maybe you want to have some amount of time, you want to spend time with your kids. What do you really want? And maybe you can create that and have that without having 1000 doors or without it having to look a certain way that you may have thought. […] really matter? Why […] matter?
Mark: Right. It’s really not about door count as much as people want to focus on that now to a certain degree. It depends on your business structure. Again, investors are a little bit different than property managers. In my case, we do a lot of our own maintenance. We have an in-house maintenance department. A significant amount of revenues come in from that. Having more doors enables us to have more opportunities to maintenance. So in that particular case, it does really matter, but we still want to manage higher-end properties.
We don’t do a lot of low-end stuff anymore just because of the amount of banging your head against around. It just increases exponentially when you get a certain lower market. It’s just not a market that we want to court anymore. We got out of that probably maybe six years ago and never looked back. The level of drama that has decreased in my life has just been exponential.
Not saying that’s bad. There’s other people who want to court that market and do well in that market. That’s certainly fine if that’s a strategy that’s working for you. I’m not telling you about to change it. But for me, I would really invite you to really focus on not even so much as a revenue goal, because then the revenue goal, it’s funny because people go, “Well, yeah. I would like to have $50,000 a month coming in free cash flow, Mike.” And then, I go back to my normal argument and go, “Well, okay. So you want $50,000 a month coming in. $49,990 won’t do it?”
So, you have to tie it to a life output goal. That’s why I say to them, “What is this even about? What are you trying to accomplish?” When they say, “Well, okay. What I’m really trying to do,” and usually it’s after they start to fight back some tears, “honestly I just want to spend more time with my kids.” “Okay, does more time mean?” “Honestly, I would love to be able to homeschool them.” “Awesome. Now we’re getting to a vision that really frigging matters. Not some nebulous 1000 doors, or $50,000 a month, or whatever it is. That’s what you want and we can tie a number to that. We can tie a revenue number to that.”
Or, “I want to move my aging mother into a house that’s just close by.” “Okay, what’s it going to take to buy your mom a house? Do you even need to buy it? Can you rent one? The next 10 years, your mom’s 80 now. Is she going to live another 10 years or you can budget 10 years worth of rent payments for that sort of thing?”
Whatever that is, you can actually get a quantifiable life output goal that’s tied to that and that’s really what vision really needs to be. It needs to come from the limbic system of our brain. The problem with the limbic system is it doesn’t have a capacity for language. It can’t explain why you love your wife. It can’t explain why you love your grandmother. We come up with platitudes like, “Well, she bakes me cookies,” but that’s a thing. You just say, “I don’t know. It’s just the way she makes me feel,” and you get teary-eyed.
That’s the limbic system activating your brain and that’s how when you get to that point of your vision and you start to think that way, feel that when you get the goose bumps on your on your arms, that’s when you’re close. And that’s when you know you’re starting to get to a vision that really, really matters.
Jason: I like it. I like it a lot. You touched on a couple things. Some of the concepts that I share is the cycle suck. It’s like if you take on bad owners, you’ll have bad tenants or bad properties. If you have bad properties, you get bad tenants. If you get bad tenants, then you all have a bad reputation, and then you’ll attract more bad owners. By taking up on the crappy properties, you end up caught in property management hell, the cycle of suck.
Another concept that resonates with what you’re talking about that I the shares the four Ds to revenue. It’s not just about doors. The four Ds, the first one could be doors, but the next one is how many deals. Deals is usually what I share first. You get number of deals you get in, how many doors per deal? It’s not just about the doors. One deal being worth one door, that’s the ratio, then you don’t have as much leverage. It’s not as easy, but if on average your deals have two doors, you double your revenue. It’s these four numbers that multiply.
Then, you’ve got duration. How long can you keep the door on? A 1-year accidental investor versus a 10-year buy and hold, in your property management business there’s 10 times difference. That’s pretty significant.
Then, there’s dollars. It’s just what your fee structure is like. Are your fees good? It’s not just about doors. There’s all these other variables that can create that.
I love shifting it towards the life goal because the life goal is what really matters. I would imagine you found this with coaching clients. Sometimes the life goal and all the stuff they had trumped up in their mind, or built up, or that they felt they needed in order to have the life that they want, sometimes you can just jump right to life goal.
You can just create that like, “I want to spend an extra hour with my kids.” “Okay, block out an extra hour,” and they’re like, “Oh, I didn’t think I could do that.” Sometimes it’s really that simple. We can just jump right to the life goal and the business will still be there and it will still function.
Mark: Yup, that is true. One of the things I talk about in The Time-Wealthy Investor 2.0 is really about making that decision. A buddy of mine who’s got multiple units is just nauseatingly wealthy in terms of real estate. He’s a great guy and said to me, “You know? I read your book the other day.” He’s a guy who doesn’t read and he’s such a snarky friend. His name is Randy and he says, “I would never admit this to your face, but I feel I have to,” he goes, “I really got a lot out of that book.”
I was like, “Okay. What’s the punchline?” He’s like, “No, there’s really no punchline. I feel I am time-wealthy,” he goes, “and funny, I could probably retire based on the life output that I want to define right now.” He’s like, “Really, time-wealth is really more of a decision that it is a destination.”
I was like, “Yeah, it really is because right now I have all the time-weath that I want. I work about maybe two hours a week. Sometimes I’m working more, like right now, I’m pitching in more in the office just because we’re down a person,” but it gets me re-engage in the business and it makes me go, “Hey guys, why are we doing it this way?” and then they go, “Oh, because this this and this.” I’m like, “Okay, cool,” and I let them define the process.
If they’re the ones that normally work the process, my job is really to come in, look and see what maybe needs tinkering with, maybe new or adjusting, giving them coaching, that’s the sort of thing. Working 2 hours a week, sometimes 4–5 hours a month in the property management business, but I have all this time-wealth to do other things like coaching, writing books, and things that I really, really enjoy. It really is just a decision.
When you hire good people, you bring them in, you set up a solid infrastructure for your business, set up solid processes, and you let them run it. Stay the hell out of the way. When I’m coaching property managers, that’s where I see a lot of problems. They don’t have an established vision for themselves, they don’t have proper infrastructure, they’re trying to run on really lean infrastructure or none at all, so the process has to pick it up. What I’m talking about infrastructure, say property management software, or website, or things like that, when you have a weak infrastructure, it has to be picked up by a stronger process, which means people. A person has to pick up that extra process.
Let’s just go from the really sublime to ridiculous level. Say you don’t have property management software. You’re running everything on Excel spreadsheets. That’s the extreme, but there are property managers out there doing that, so that means they have to have a lot of people managing that poor infrastructure.
Here’s the thing. Here’s the one thing I hear all the time is that, “Oh, my property manager doesn’t communicate. They don’t communicate with me. They don’t tell me.” When you have bad communication, that is a symptom of the problem, not the problem. Let me say that again. When you have bad communication, that’s a symptom of the problem, not the problem.
The problem is you have bad infrastructure, you have bad process. That’s where communication issues are going to show up. Let’s just use a very obscure example. We’ve all been to a restaurant where you had bad service. You’re sitting down and you can see that that waiter has nine tables and that waiter has one table. You’re trying to communicate to someone to take your order. You can see the problem because you’re sitting on the outside. You can see the problem, but you’re going, “Well, that waiter’s got nine tables, that one’s got one. Why isn’t the manager stepping in?” Bad process. “Why does that person have nine tables?” That’s bad infrastructure. That never should have happened that way. That’s just one very obscure example.
Let me use another quick example here real fast. Have you ever walked up to a McDonald’s at a truck stop, where there’s basically four cashiers ready to take your order. You walk up, you look left and right, and everybody’s standing back away from the registers. the customers. You’re trying to figure out who’s next in line. You’re like, “Can I go? Are you next?” Because there’s no infrastructure, the customers have to decide who’s next in line.
What’s a simple piece of infrastructure that you could put in place to manage that? Well, a simple queue, a simple rope line. That’s a piece of infrastructure that you could put in place that would manage the customer flow. Then, you don’t have to worry about that.
Another example would be a bad process. Let’s pretend you go back to the same McDonald’s. This time it’s really busy and the customers are four and five deep at each line at each of the four registers. This time what ends up happening is you get a manager that opens the fifth register and says, “I can help the next person.” Then, you get somebody who goes from the bend of one line and then jumps in front of everybody else. Now you just base and created a brawl. It’s this mad rush towards this fifth line. That’s a process problem.
What should have happened is, “Hey, I’m the assistant manager. I’m going to have you open that line over there but I’m going to direct some people over there. I’m going to go out to the crowd and direct some people over there first before you say anything.” Then you can manage the process. That’s process. That’s a broken process when they do it the other way.
That’s why I’m saying infrastructure and process shows up in bad communication all the time. This means they’re not communicating work orders when they come in. They’re not communicating when a resident doesn’t pay rent. Owners need to know that. They need to know if they’re expecting the revenue to come in on a certain month and they don’t get communicated that. “Oh, by the way, the resident never paid rent,” and, “Oh, yeah. By the way, we’re going to go ahead and evict them.” They need to know these things and when you don’t have an infrastructure or a process in place to let them know that, that’s when communication falls. That’s when the bad communication issue show up.
Jason: Yeah, it’s interesting. It’s really tempting for entrepreneurs to start blaming their team. This is like early entrepreneurs that they’re transitioning away from being a solopreneur, that having a team, they usually build the team around them as if they’re just the solopreneur still, and they try to micromanage them. They’re always complaining about the communication. They’re always complaining about people not doing things, “Why can’t they just do what I tell them?” and that sort of thing.
I like what you’re saying is they have bad infrastructure and bad process. Things are not defined, there isn’t clarity, and that leads to challenges in communication. […] built into the process. They can be part of the process. […] you need the right tools to facilitate communication. I run a virtual company. If we didn’t have the tools that facilitate communication, there wouldn’t be any. We’re in different states, some of us different countries.
Mark: That’s exactly right and they need to think about their business, about the product that they produce. I used somewhat as a nebulous example, but the product that they need to produce should be consistency. That’s the product that they need to be shooting for. When consistency is your product, the only competitor you’re going to have a sloppiness. When consistency is your product, sloppiness is your only competition.
That’s the thing that is really hard for me to convey to lots of managers because we’ve got all sorts of products. We sell properties. We buy properties. We do all these different things. I don’t care what you’re doing. I don’t care if you’re making razor blades. You need to have a consistent product and I will not allow us to do anything in the business unless we can do it consistently.
If they come to me and say, “Hey, you know what we should do? We should send out birthday cards to all of our residents.” “Okay, great. How are you going to do that consistently? And you need to tell me. Who’s going to manage it? Who’s going to do it? What’s the negative feedback loop if that doesn’t happen?”
Let me talk about negative feedback loop for second. You put something in place, it’s like I send you an email expecting you to do something. What’s the negative feedback loop I’m going to put in place if that doesn’t happen? I’m not talking a negative feedback loop like someone complains, which is often what happens if something doesn’t get done.
You go, “Oh, man. I don’t know. I sent that email off two weeks ago. I forgot about it. I just assume that they would do it.” What’s the negative feedback that you’re going to put in place to make sure it actually gets done? Are you going to list that […]? Are you going to put a task? Are you’re going to put something in some task management software? What’s the negative feedback loop that you’re going to have to make sure that stuff gets done? That’s all part of process.
Let me just boil this down into an example because I keep saying vision, infrastructure, and process. Think of vision as your map. Infrastructure would be the train tracks, and then the process should be the train that runs on those tracks that all stays in alignment with your vision for the future.
Now, for property managers, they’re saying, “Well, why would my employees care about my vision?” They’re not going to care about your vision. They’re only going to work so hard, but they’re not going to work that hard to put a boat in your driveway, or a pool in your backyard.
This is an extra step to goes in with property managers is once you have that vision for your future, then you go into developing core values for your business. The core values are just the things that you value. You may value justice, You may value efficiency, you may value lots of different things that are core to you, but now you get to identify what those things are and that becomes your compass for all decisions that you’re making. Once you have those core values defined, if you’re making improvement, you say, “Okay, is this in line with my core values?”
If I’m going to make a hiring decision or a firing decision, are they acting in line with my core values? When I do my employee evaluations, I’m going to say, “Hey, when you did this, this was really in alignment with our core values and I really like what you did,” or, “Hey, when you did this, I was really upset because it wasn’t in line with our core values. I’m […] say you. I’m just upset that your behavior because this isn’t in alignment with our core values.”
One of the things I’ll coach them through, some are three, four, five, no more than six. A lot of people sometimes want to get, “Oh, we value all the stuff,” but usually it’s something that’s inherent to them as an individual and they value these things. They value justice, they value equity, they value fairness, and they can value profitability. There’s nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person because we all need profits to grow, get better, and be a better company.
Once you get those core values defined, then it’s easier to put infrastructure and process improvements in place. The infrastructure of the things I’m talking about there are websites, software, even the desks and chairs in your office. The process pieces are really about how you operate. It’s the rules of how much you operate, it’s your SRP, it’s your FAQs. Those things that really helped define how things are done in your office based on it that infrastructure that you have in place.
Jason: A lot of alignment between what you’re doing and what I do with clients as well. I mean, 3–4 core values for their business, you’re helping them figure out their purpose, their why as a business owner. These things sound like woo woo and fluff to a lot of people until they implement them. Then, they’re usually pretty astounded because, like I tell my clients, “You’re the sun at the center of the solar system. If you don’t like what’s going on inside the solar system, you change the sun, everything changes.” Usually as business owners, we try to externalize everything and tackle everything farthest away from ourselves. If we work on ourselves. everything changes by default.
Mark: That’s so good. I love that. That is so true.
Jason: So, we talked about vision, we talked about the infrastructure, we talked about the process. Is there anything else that you want to touch on while we’re hanging out here?
Mark: Yeah. I see a lot of people out there that are just working themselves. They’ve created a job for themselves and they’re not ever trying to transition themselves out. They think that there’s no end in sight.
Jason: They’ve succumbed. They […] to their fate.
Mark: Yeah. I’m not saying I’m the coach for everybody and you would probably say the same thing, that you’re not the coach for everybody, but for God’s sake, get a coach. Get somebody that can help you get to where you want to go so much faster. Yeah, it’s great being your own boss because you didn’t want to be held accountable to anybody. But now you’re not accountable to anybody, know your life sucks. It didn’t turn out the way you want it. If you’re living the dream, your life is great, and you have everything that you want, that’s great. I don’t know that I can help you get much better, but get somebody to help you.
We talked earlier about each of us having coaches. I spend a lot of money each month on coaches to help me in areas where I have blind spots and just to challenge me, just to say, “Hey, Mark. You said you were going to do XYZ by a certain period of time. That’s not done, so now what?” They already know how they’re going to hold me accountable and I pay a fair sum to these people, so it hurts when I show up. I know I’m going to be ready when the bell rings.
It’s not about paying them the money just for the sake of paying them the money so that they can call and yell at me. They are a softer touch, but the thing is, I want to make sure that I’m being held accountable because we don’t have anybody that’s holding us accountable. That’s the danger of being an entrepreneur.
I would really encourage people to look at that. It doesn’t necessarily need to be real estate-focused although it probably would make more sense. I have one that helps me in sales. I have one that helps me in marketing. I have one that helps me as a national speaker. I go and I speak at a lot of different places, so I have one that help coach me in that. And of course different masterminds of things like. I would really, highly encourage people that if they are looking or just flirting with the idea, get somebody.
I am going to say this. The difference between a coach and a mentor, I would say a mentor is probably someone that you’re not paying, probably a friend. They are not going to hold you accountable to the level that you need. I say that this is someone you need to pay, it needs to hurt a little bit, and you need to have some skin in the game. You really need to be committed and you really need to be paying somebody to do that. Like I said, it doesn’t need to be me, it doesn’t need to be you. I’m just saying it’s someone they knew paying someone.
Jason: Yeah. There’s some magic I’ve noticed, just psychologically, that happens in shifts inside of my clients or that shifts inside of myself when I am paying a coach and I’m investing in myself. It just shifts psychologically how we value ourselves and energetically it allows us to convince others to invest in us as well.
It’s a hard sell to go out even as a property management business owner and if you’re doing the sales in your company, you’re the BDM and say, “Hey, you should spend money with us. You should invest. You should have us manage your rental property,” but I don’t even invest in myself. I don’t care enough about myself or my business to invest in that. I’m just trying to make money, then you’re going to ask others to invest in you.
Psychologically, when you invest in yourself, I’ve noticed revenue goes up for me, lifestyle shifts. There’s something that happens energetically and psychologically when you are subconsciously investing in yourself. It shifts things. I love what you’re saying, everybody really deserves to have a coach, they deserve to be working with consultants, they deserve to have people above them.
If you’re at the top of the org chart, there’s a problem. There’s a problem because everybody below in the org chart is hopefully being fed, getting some input, growing, and evolving, but if you’re at the top of the org chart and there’s nobody above you, it’s a scary place to be. […] The Emperor With No Clothes, unless you get some input, unless you get somebody that you can place above you in that org chart like a coach, or mentor, or something that will feed you.
Mark: I look at it exactly the way you’re looking at it except I flip your chart upside down. I look at those people as the direct supports for everybody above them because they’re carrying the weight of everybody above them. If you get somebody that’s not doing what they’re supposed to be doing—they’re coming in late, they’re wiggling around at the top, and you’re trying the keep the org chart balanced—it’s tough.
Maybe it’s so far up that you can’t see what’s going on up there, but you have a coach that can stand back and go, “Yeah, that guy’s playing Galaga on his computer and you don’t even see it,” because you don’t want to see it or you just can’t see it. That’s where it gets tricky and a lot of times, you get too close to the problem and you can’t see it. It’s like you sitting back watching the waiter who’s got nine tables. You can see the problem instantly.
Jason: […] you can’t sometimes. They’re too close to the fire, they’re dealing with what they’re dealing with right at that moment, that’s us as entrepreneurs all the time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a coach, I’ve sat down with coach or talk to one of my coaches and said, “Hey, here’s what I’m dealing with,” and they point, they say something to me, and I feel really stupid, then I say back to them, “That’s exactly what I would’ve told one of my clients.”
We’re just too close to the fire. We don’t have somebody outside of ourselves because we are the one that created the problem. We’re at the helm. We are the problem. We are the biggest bottleneck in our company. We are the one holding everything back. We’re the one preventing growth. Us trying to solve the problem on our own is like trying to look at the back of our own head.
Mark: Yeah. It’s like trying to put sunscreen on your own back and that’s the thing. If you don’t see yourself as part of the problem, you cannot see yourself as part of the solution. A lot of times when it’s educating them to say, “Look, your company has a very real culture problem. That one is not respectful, that one is treating customers anyway that they want. As a result, they’re treating each other very poorly and blah-blah-blah.” That’s because when you got ill-defined core values, you’re going to run into that. You’re going to run into culture problems.
There’s a client that I really didn’t feel like I could help him as much as I wanted to, but he had a real culture problem is at his office. He didn’t really see it until he started letting some people go that were really some of the major problems. He had a live event that we don’t work together anymore, but I’d love to get him back on just to say, “Hey, how are you doing? How did things evolve for you in terms of getting those core values more well-defined?” and really start holding people accountable to them.
One of the things that I do is we have an [8:07] meeting every day. The reason it’s [8:07] is people are rarely late to a meeting that’s got an oddball time to it. They always get there early. There’s not much I don’t do without purpose, but every meeting, we pick one of our five core values and we review it.
They’re hearing these core values every single day. That way at their 90-day evaluation, guess what they get to roll over again? Guess what they’re hearing again? Our core values. They’re getting graded against those core values. It’s not just a shock like, “Oh, yeah. Okay, yeah. I never heard that core value before.” These are things that need to be repeated over and over.
Jason: Yeah. I think we run our businesses probably somewhat similar […]. Everything gravitates towards truth. We do our daily huddle at [8:45] every morning. I always have appointments starting at [9:00], so it has to be short and that allows our team to see each other because we’re virtual, but yeah, it’s an oddball time which does work, to make sure people show up.
Jason: Cool. Mark, it’s really great to connect with you, to get […]. How can people get in touch with you? Now, I want to point out like we were talking before the show, your area of genius, what you really can help probably our listeners with, is on the delivery, the fulfillment side, building out this portion of their business where they may be struggling, especially those that are graduating maybe from solopreneur to trying to build a team. That’s where they’re getting the systems and processes. They’re not the guy doing every single thing or the gal doing every single thing anymore and that’s a painful transition. How can people get in touch with the Mark and Landlord Coach?
Mark: My website’s landlordcoach.com. I’m on Facebook @mylandlordcoach. You can find me easily. You can see the moniker in the back. I think where you and I differ is that I helped create capacity in the world. I helped create white space on our calendar. What they do with that white space is up to them. If they want to use that white space to grow their company from 300 doors to 800 doors, that’s fine. I don’t help them with the growth side. I just help them create capacity on their calendar, help create white space, so they can do whatever they want.
Now, some people go, “Yeah. I’m happy with the white space and I’m making enough money now and I’ve gotten time on my calendar. I’m cool. I got everything I want.” Some people get to that point in their like, “No, we’re ready to grow.” I’m not the growth guy. It’s not what I do. I’m not from that piece of it. I […] turn it over to someone you and say, “Now that you got this increased capacity, that’s the person that’s going to help you take your business from 1000 doors to 2000 or whatever.” That that’s not what I do. What I do is I help them create capacity on the calendar.
To that aspect I just want to make sure I delineate myself there because I do work with a lot of individual investors. I also work with property managers and just helping them get their life back. That’s one of the biggest things that I do.
Jason: Love it. Mark, I appreciate you being on the show. Thanks for being here.
Mark: This has been great. Thanks so much and my best wishes to all your listeners.
Jason: Thank you. All right, we’ll let Mark go. If you enjoyed the show, be sure to like and subscribe on whichever channel we’re on. We’re on YouTube, we are no iTunes, and make sure that you subscribe to our email newsletter. If you are property management entrepreneur that’s wanting to grow your business, add doors, and increase your revenue, then please reach out to us over at DoorGrow. We’d be happy to have a conversation and see if you are a good fit for what we might be able to do for you. Of course, check out Mark and his business over at Landlord Coach. That’s it for today. Until next time, to our mutual growth, everyone. Bye.
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