Thursday, May 31, 2018

When The Personal Gets Professional

My sister and brother-in-law recently purchased a business that they plan to operate together. While they have been married for over 25 years, they are still a little nervous about working together day after day. For the past 10+ years, he was on the road a lot and they sometimes only saw each other on weekends so this will be a huge shift in both their professional and personal lives. My husband, Dan, and I have been in business together for 12 years so she asked for my advice.

In real estate, it’s very common to find spouses or partners working together so I thought this was some advice many of us in the field could appreciate. I reached out to several other successful couples who are in business together to solicit their advice as well. Based on their responses and my experience, I believe the best advice can be boiled down to three main points:

1. Mutual Respect - Whether you are partnered with your spouse, your parent or even your best friend, it is important to appreciate that your personal relationship may operate on a different level than your business relationship.  While you may have a marriage where one of you is considered “captain of the ship” or in a parent/child relationship where a parent is used to being the boss, when operating a business together it’s important to recognize that your personal dynamic may not translate well when running a business. Each person’s voice, opinions and expertise needs to be equally appreciated or you run the risk of alienating your partner. While this doesn’t mean that all decisions require a consensus (more on that later), it does mean that the contributions of each person should be equally valued.  If one person is a dictator, the partnership will likely fail or at the very least will not flourish.

2. Shared Goals - Are you on the same page? Does one of you envision a small local company while the other grinds toward statewide domination? Or, worse, one of you is full speed ahead thrilled to be self-employed while the other resents the risks, longs for the steady paycheck and benefits, the weekends free of worry or work? Before you begin a partnership and then regularly afterwards get out of the office environment, grab some coffee or cocktails and talk about your goals. If you aren’t on the same page, keep talking (being mindful of point #1 above) until you get on the same page. As my colleague, Anita Ortiz, put it, “Make sure your spouse has the same level of commitment to your business.  If one is not ready or able, it will leave the other resentful as more work falls on them.” Furthermore, both partners need to be very honest with each other about their goals. If you are practicing mutual respect both people should feel free and open to share their concerns so any issues will be confronted sooner rather than later.

3. Division of Labor- This is the final, and vital, piece of the puzzle for a successful partnership. Take time to discover each other’s talents and strengths and then give each person ownership of the role that suits them best. Erika Butler, who is in business with her husband Tiger, told me they took personality tests to determine how best to divide labor. I think this is a great idea. It may take a little practice and tweaking to get the roles set most favorably so don’t be afraid to switch things up. But, once those roles are clearly defined, stick to them and trust your partner to do their part. Doing so will make your business run much more smoothly and with quicker progress.

While I can’t promise that there won’t be disagreements, struggles or rocky patches, I can tell you that being in business with your spouse or other significant person in your life can be an extremely rewarding experience. Dan and I never run out of things to talk about and sharing the achievements that we made together strengthens our bond and commitment to each other! With that, I wish two of my very favorite people who are about to start this adventure together the absolute best!

Monday, April 30, 2018

StepStone Realty-Moving Real Estate Forward

The following is a speech I gave at the April StepStone Agent Workshop introducing our new logo! Read on to find out how StepStone Realty is Moving Real Estate Forward!

Have any of you ever looked up “creative real estate investing” on Wikipedia? 

Creative real estate investing is any non-traditional method of buying and selling real estate. Confidence tricks and pyramid schemes in the 20th and 21st century such as Nouveau Riche (real estate investment college) have embraced the term, leading contemporary usage of the term to be synonymous with unscrupulous practices.

Ouch. What we do is synonymous with unscrupulous practices? Well, this is certainly what Dan’s parents worried about when he decided to start real estate investing. They probably started to worry more when Dan left his job as a political consultant to practice creative real estate investing full time. A year or so after Dan left his job he would call me on my lunch hour and he would tell me “Angie, you need to get your real estate license. Angie, you need to start your own business” and I would think, “Dan, I’m the one bringing in a steady paycheck!”  or " What kind of business could I start? What do I have to offer?” I’ve always said Dan is the gas and I’m the brake pedal.

Luckily he has a lead foot and that along with deteriorating conditions at my job which led to my firing or my resigning (depending on who you ask) led me to deciding that yes… I should get my real estate license which I received in November of 2006.  Dan is a really sweet and kind husband and while some of his motives might have been his concern for my happiness it was mostly because he really wanted an agent on his team that understood him! He found out what many investors at the time knew and what many investors still struggle with… main stream real estate supporting services, such as title companies, lenders, insurers and particularly Realtors, did not support creative real estate investors. After all… why would they when the prevailing opinion was that these investors were unscrupulous.

Over the next 9 years we worked on our business, had lean times and rich times, partnerships that came, partnership that went and we earned our wings. All along, though, when it came to support services it was still often like fitting a square peg in a round hole.

It took me a long time to realize I was unique. I didn’t realize most brokerages and brokers would frown upon or maybe even prohibit the kind of real estate I was practicing. I knew I didn’t quite fit in with the traditional agents…. that I was definitely not in sync with the other Realtors I would encounter when taking CE classes or attending other traditional Realtor events. But, then I started talking to other Investor Agents and discovered they too didn’t fit in and even worse were being hamstrung by their broker in their investment goals.

Dan, Cameron, our COO, and I had our “Ah Ha” moment. WE were perfectly suited to be the brokerage home for Investor Agents. Since we began recruiting Investor Agents over three years ago our WHY has become very clear to us. Our goal, our passion, our WHY is to bring creative real estate into the main stream.

StepStone Realty, the brokerage, is the mothership of this idea. We are no longer agents on the fringe of the traditional model, hiding what we are doing from our broker, trying to find a place that will give us the freedom AND support, a home that encourages us to use our knowledge, tools and education to not only represent others but to also build wealth for ourselves and our families! That’s bringing creative real estate investing into the mainstream.

But, that’s only the beginning. We also created StepStone Charities which is getting ready to host The 3rd Annual Black Sheep Open charity golf tournament for the creative real estate investor community. Because, if we are going to be in the main stream, we need to be a visual, vocal and contributing member of our communities. Dan also developed and runs Safe Loan Servicing to help serve Investors to create safe and secure owner financing options. Most of you are familiar with MojoVest, a program designed by Dan to be a lead and content management tool built by and for the creative real estate investor. And while, it’s Frankenstein’ed a bit into also a Brokerage management tool, it is currently undergoing redevelopment to deliver all the needs of the brokerage as well as operate as a separate CRM tool to be used by investors of every kind to rival the currently available CRM’s that sorta work for us.  We are also in the early stages of creating more opportunities for capital that can serve in places that hard money and traditional lenders leave a gap. All of these activities are an effort… a passion… to bring creative real estate investing into the mainstream.

I believe, WE believe, that by bringing real estate in the mainstream, creating an environment where investors and investor strategies are viewed as legitimate and valuable, we are truly Moving Real Estate Forward.

And, with that, I’m very excited to announce… we have a new logo!

When we first started the logo process it was a little hard because we didn’t really hate the old one but knew we needed an updated, more polished brand and we can’t tell you how excited we are for this new look. We really feel like it speaks to what we are trying to accomplish!

And it’s not just the efforts of the StepStone Team. I believe that it’s all of you, our agents, partners, and sponsors, that are helping to Move Real Estate Forward! By joining this community, being a part of this vision, you are making a statement that you believe in doing business with a high level of integrity and honesty. Not just with each other but with our clients, our customers and other investors. With your help, with your actions, we are taking creative real estate investing out of the gutter.

With your efforts and support, together we are creating a world where creative real estate transactions can be completed with confidence knowing that we are all working toward common goals with honesty.  We are creating a world where people don’t steal deals but help each other complete them.  We are moving real estate forward to a more advanced, civilized and honest form of business.

We are not only Moving Real Estate Forward by our ethics and business practices but also by being active in the causes that influence real estate policy. StepStone agents have shown they can be a force in their communities. I’ve seen many of you get involved when the most recent Texas legislative session was threatening to severly impact our ability to do Subject To transactions which would have had devastating consequences for some homeowners facing foreclosure.  I’ve also seen many of you get very involved on a more local level as more and more city jurisdictions consider restrictions on Short Term Rentals. Without our voice, the negative economic consequences of prohibitive regulations, as well as the positive consequences of a healthy STR market, could easily be overlooked. Furthermore, some of our agents are also involved in the CodeNext conversations in Austin that also help to shine a light on healthy investor involvement and development in our communities.

So here’s your challenge… how will you help this cause? What will you do, what actions will you take to help us Move Real Estate Forward? Where will you get involved? Together, we can take a profession that is sometimes feared to a profession that is revered.

Get involved…. You can get involved by joining the fight against negative Short-term rental codes in your city.  You can get involved by joining actions against legislative moves to hinder owner-financing.  You can get involved by playing in or volunteering for the Black Sheep Open.  And mostly you can be involved by showing the world that success in this business can be accomplished through hard work and integrity over scams and dishonesty.  Together we can write a new Wikipedia that talks about how creative real estate investing is a phrase that means advanced techniques in helping homeowners, bettering our neighborhoods and having a positive impact and influence on our communities.

I hope that you all are as proud to be part of this goal as I am. I look forward to continuing our work with each of you to Bring Real Estate Forward!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Get Off Your Lonely Island

StepStone back offices are in full prep mode for the upcoming StepStone Agent Workshop scheduled for April 13th and 14th in Austin. We are fine tuning the schedule, lining up sponsors, creating handouts, processing registrations, printing name tags…

It’s a big undertaking that started late last year and as I write this we are coming up on the registration deadline on April 5th. Have you registered? Still on the fence? Unsure if it’s really worth your time?  

First things first, this is not a profit driven pursuit for StepStone. In fact, the Workshop is a significant expense of both time and money and each additional person who attends costs us a little more. Yet, we still call you, email you and blog about it in an effort to GET YOU THERE! Why? Because we honestly believe the Workshops will help you become more successful. And I don’t mean that in a general sense. I mean that in a very real concrete way. Here’s how:

1. Hands-On Content Driven Classes: Whether you are interested in more Realtor training or more Investor training you will have class options to fit your needs. We bring in the best and most successful people to share their skills, knowledge and experience with you. Get comfortable with contracts in my New Agent Basics class, unravel the mysteries of title commitments with title attorney Ashley Patten, take your flips to the next level by learning how to solve Design Dilemmas and successful Project Management from some of the best, or practice Phone Call to Contract strategies that will get you in the door.

2. Not a Pitch Fest: Ever been to an Expo, sit through a class, gain a few nuggets and then learn that you need to buy into the program to get the rest of the story? Other than some brief introductions and comments by our sponsors, outside of class time, you will not get a pitch in class. Nothing to sell, no coaching programs to peddle, just education. How refreshing is that!

3. Connections: Don’t discount this one. I know of one StepStone agent who was able to get a private money loan from another StepStone agent because they connected with each other at the Workshops last year. You can’t make it in this business by being on an island. You need resources. You need time, money or expertise. It’s a lot easier to do business with someone you’ve met, networked with, had dinner with, and brainstormed in classes with. Personally, I want to do business with people who participate, engage and take advantage of opportunities to do so. 

4. You already know it all: One agent we talked to really just felt there wasn’t anything for him to learn. His business is hopping, he’s feeling good, doesn’t feel like he needs to give up his weekend for this. If this is your attitude then you clearly do not know it all. Dan and I have been in this business for 12 years and I assure you that you will never know it all. Laws change, techniques change, the market changes, styles change, contracts change.  Don’t ever get too comfortable or you might find yourself behind the eight ball.

5. You don’t know enough: It’s not easy to walk into a room of people you don’t know very well and think that you could potentially be the greenest person there. If this is your first Workshop or even your first StepStone event to attend then what a great first step! Don’t let your fear get in the way. One thing I can tell you about the StepStone community is that we don’t play king of the hill. Each and every person’s experience, talents and time is valuable.  Furthermore, I believe that our Investor Agents are among the most generous with their knowledge. Take advantage of that!

StepStone Realty is unique. We don’t meet for weekly sales meetings or have a centralized office where we can gab over the water cooler. That works really well for most of us as independent entrepreneurs. However, don’t let yourself get stuck on the outside. There is a ton of opportunity in our community but you have to get off your lonely island and participate.

Registration open through April 5th. Questions or concerns? Pick up the phone and call me or Dan. Otherwise, sign up and we’ll look forward to seeing you in Austin in a few weeks!

PS. Absolutely cannot make it? Open your calendar RIGHT NOW and block August 10th and 11th to join us in Houston for the next one.

PSS. Sign up your spouse or business partner. They are welcome!