Ignoring a few key business principles cost me years of stress, headaches, and failures.
Hi, my name is Brian Ellwood. I'm an entrepreneur, investor, and real estate investing coach. I own 3 real estate companies and dozens of investment properties. I have control over my time. I'm fortunate to be able to work when and where I want, doing what I want, and with whom I want. I feel like I'm living the dream. But it wasn't always this easy. Here's the story...
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REAL ESTATE INVESTING MASTERY w/ JOE MCCALL
After graduating from the University of Tennessee and a short, frustrating stint in corporate America, one day I just quit. My body ached and my mind was worn out. I worked at a grocery store while I did some serious soul searching. I met a guy there who rehabbed houses. He agreed to mentor me. Working with him didn't pay much but I learned a ton.
I was mostly doing odd jobs and getting paid a little to help my mentor with his marketing while I was learning. I had an old push mower that I would take to the houses he was flipping and mow the lawns for him. I had this shitty piece of wood I used as a ramp to get the mower in and out of my truck. It was hilarious! I hustled hard just to pay the bills. My first official year as an entrepreneur, with every ounce of effort I had, I netted about 9 grand. Baller! I racked up about 6K of credit card debt that year, too. Even more baller. I also ate a lot of beans and quinoa. (Wait, still do.)
This is the first house I ever bought, and I still own it. Ain't she a beauty???
As I began to figure out the business, I went out on my own. The plan was to flip houses and buy rental properties. I found a rock star business partner. Another year went by and I was starting to make just enough money to get by. I was also working harder than ever. I was constantly worried that the business would fail and I would lose my freedom, whisked away back to the world of jobs and bosses.
I thought I was on the right path. I thought that my freedom was right around the corner...
Instead of having more control over my time, I soon found myself working from 7 am to 9 pm. My business partner and I were doing every single part of the business ourselves.
Here's how our time was typically spent. We:
All the while, we did all of the accounting and bookkeeping. We did a horrible job of those. Plus, sorting through a Ziploc bag full of crinkled-up receipts wasn't exactly "focusing on my strengths".
If you're a small business owner, you get it.
I had quit my corporate job and dove into the entrepreneurial world so that I could call the shots and be my own boss. I was the boss, alright. The boss of everything. And it sucked!
We were so busy pushing forward, we didn’t even have the time to take a look at our numbers. We had no idea how much projected profit we had in our pipeline, or how much our expenses were going to eat up that profit. We would just wait until the end of the month, and hope that there was a little money left over for us to pay our bills. Many times we barely made enough to pay ourselves. Sometimes we broke even. At our worst, we lost money.
I felt like my true talent was in being a visionary to the company, and making the big decisions about where it needed to go. The problem was, I had no time!
There have been a lot of studies and surveys done to figure out what drives entrepreneurs to do what they do.
Do you know what the #1 driver for most entrepreneurs turned out to be?
Most entrepreneurs want freedom. They want to do what they want, when they want, with whom they want, where they want.
They want to live life on their own terms.
And me? Well, I was NO DIFFERENT.
So what did I want from my business?
So, I set out to solve these problems. And I failed. Hilariously.
One of the first things we did was try to expand the business into other markets. Massive failure. We had no time to pay attention to that project, and we wasted money and watched countless leads just sit there.
We were so desperate for help in some areas of our business that we began hiring our first employees. While this was the right move in theory, the way we went about it was completely wrong.
Because we were so desperate for help, we usually hired the first or second person we interviewed. We were too impatient to wait for the right person.
Once they were hired, it took even more time to bring them up to speed. We had no training materials or systems for them to follow. All of their training had to come straight from us. We spent months sitting down with new employees, trying to transfer what was in our brains to theirs.
Sometimes, when we hired the wrong person, we kind of silently accepted it. We said “well, maybe he’ll get better” because we wanted to avoid the awkwardness of letting someone go.
This led to micromanagement, looking over people’s shoulders, constantly wondering if they were doing their job or slacking off. I’d spend just as much time reviewing someone’s work as it took them to do it! So again, I wasn’t getting any of my time back, which was the goal in the first place.
Instead of doing the work the employees were doing, I had the new job of managing the employees. No time saved, just different work. And man, I hated being a manager. I just felt like a dork looking over everyone’s shoulder and micromanaging their work. But I had no idea how to manage effectively, so this was my (and most managers) default mode. Now I knew why many of my bosses in the past seemed so anal. If you don't understand the right way to manage, your employees begin to frustrate you, and it shows!
There was something else going on when I was a manager that I didn’t realize. I still thought I was better at some of the things my employees were doing, so I was resistant to let them do it. I always jumped in and corrected them, spot checking, and being an overall control freak. I spent evenings going over every little thing an employee did, checking the timestamps on their work, to see if they were working. I wasn’t willing to let go, because I thought the company would fail if I did.
The big mistake I made, as I’ll explain later, was thinking that any of this was their fault.
My business partner and I had no idea what the “purpose” for the company was, either. We had no vision. One time a business coach asked us why we did what we did, and we just looked confused and said “I dunno, to make money I guess”. We didn’t understand why a vision was even important. We thought we just needed help with marketing and sales!
Because we were unclear, so was everyone else. No one on our team had a purpose for showing up, other than paying the bills. This created a poor business environment where everyone was just showing up to get their paycheck. There wasn’t a clear passion, vision, or driving force behind the business. Our lack of clarity was terrible for the overall health of the business.
We kept fighting hard to push forward. Some of our employees seemed to be up and running. Slowly, the business began to grow.
Were we finally out of the fog?
At first, we thought so. Our pipeline revenue increased. Employees required less babysitting. We got back a little of our time. We started to work on some higher level stuff to grow the business. Things felt great.
But then, small things started to slip through the cracks.
A marketing campaign wouldn’t get sent out, leaving us with no leads for two weeks straight. A missed appointment with a seller would lead to a deal getting scooped up by a competitor. A miscommunication with a surveyor or contractor would delay a deal for 2 weeks, threatening the entire deal itself. A willing customer would wait on a follow up call with an offer that never came. A contract would pass expiration date and we’d sacrifice anywhere from one to five thousand dollars in earnest money to the seller, and possibly lose the deal itself.
So there we were. Trying to spend time working on growing the business. Trying to ignore emails and phone calls. But then we’d get distracted. Something “urgent” would pop up and BOOM, our whole day was shot. We ran to put out the fire. Sometimes we put down our pens and paper and jumped in the car together to go solve whatever problem was on the daily menu. We eventually had to literally lock our phones in the trunk of the car because we were so desperate to have some time to work on bigger picture.
Our new business growth didn’t continue forever, either. Just as soon as we’d have a spike in sales, it would fall off. When that happened, we panicked. I would “dig in” with the guys, working hard to drum up new deals, get properties renovated, get deals closed, and get more cash in the business. I used to spend my evenings going through thousands of leads, one by one, trying to find the next deal so we could keep the doors open.
Instead of finding new dirt to dig, I was grabbing a shovel and digging with the rest of the team. Some might think this is a noble thing to do. In hindsight, I now know that I was not serving my team by doing this, and I was only holding us back. The business suffered as a result.
You know what really sucks? We would work our asses off, manage our employees, try hard to discipline ourselves to grow the business, work all day long, and at the end of the month we’d get our profit and loss statement from our accountant.
I started to wonder: "Why am I even doing this?"
After enough of this, I was about ready to wave the white flag in defeat. There’s only so much you can take before you start thinking about other options. Even the comfort of getting my old job back had its appeal. At least there I could show up, not have to think too hard, and get a guaranteed paycheck!
Not willing to give up so easy, we pushed forward. We were frustrated and battered enough at that point, so it became easy to ask for help. That's exactly what we did.
We devoured every business and time management book we could find. Without even having the money to pay ourselves, we invested in a high level mastermind group that meets multiple times per year, with some of the most successful real estate investors and entrepreneurs in the country. We spent any extra money we could gather on high level business coaches. We met with business owners who were successfully doing hundreds of deals each year, entrepreneurs who had highly profitable, respectable, and systemized businesses. We told everyone our biggest challenges, our areas of confusion, and our biggest fears. We asked a ton of questions. We opened the hood on our business for everyone to see. We told them our numbers. We allowed them to criticize us, which they did. A lot.
We learned that our business was missing multiple time-tested principles that all successful businesses have. We learned why we weren’t making money, and why we were so busy all the time. We began to realize how a business is really supposed to fit into our lives. We learned what we needed to do to make the business serve us, rather than us serving it.
So what was the answer?
Let me first remind you that the answers are always simple. The process of accomplishing them is complex.
The first step is to make your business profitable.
A business must make you money. Otherwise, you might as well go get a job. At least that way you’ll get paid.
We learned that there are only a couple key drivers that you need to focus on in the beginning, that drive the businesses growth and solve most of its other issues. We learned about one strategy that can even guarantee that your business will be profitable. If you already own a business that’s generating revenue but is not profitable, it can become profitable relatively quickly. But, this won’t happen without some major changes, nor without a little pain.
The second step is to make your business passive.
How is it possible that Guy #1 can own 100 successful businesses and be relaxed and carefree, when Guy #2 is completely overwhelmed by just one business he owns and is stressed to the max?
Is it possible that Guy #1 knows something we don’t?
We used to think that we were starting a business so that we could work for ourselves. Be our own boss. That’s actually what I call bottom tier entrepreneurship.
The top entrepreneurs view business very differently. They are like the professional athletes of the business world. They are after the top spot, the gold medal. They don’t settle for anything less but the highest tier.
To reach the highest tier of entrepreneurship, you have to approach business an entirely different way. You must view your business as a living, breathing organism that exists outside of you. One that can be set up to run without you.
THERE IS HOPE...
If someone who is overweight and unhealthy, there is a formula of nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle that will get them back in shape. Most would argue that roughly the same formula could work for just about anybody who wants to become healthy. It’s not that complicated to get in shape. I didn't say it was easy, though.
What we came to realize is that business is also scientific. Much like health, there is a formula that results in a healthy, successful business. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a bit more complicated than the formula you might use for your physical health. But, once you learn it, business becomes easy. Plus, you can carry those skills over to every other business you start or buy in the future, and help fix the businesses of other entrepreneurs if you wish (like the sharks on "Shark Tank" or Marcus Lemonis of "The Profit"!)
So what are 3 of the most overlooked business principles?
Here are three of the biggest ones:
You MUST create a crystal clear vision that you remind yourself and your team of daily. You must also use it as a strategic tool to guide all business decisions going forward.
You must build a healthy, internal culture based on more than just making money. This leads to a happy, engaged set of team members that produce much better results than any fancy strategy ever could.
You must focus 80% of your time and resources on marketing and sales, especially in the beginning. These are the lifeblood of your business. Not doing this is the #1 biggest mistake all entrepreneurs make!
It's important to note: There are stages to business development. Businesses need different things at different times.
It's my job as a coach to listen to your needs, your frustrations, and your wants. Then, we will craft a plan together that fits your desired outcome. The formula for success isn't rigid. It DOES need to include certain time-tested principles, but the details are different from person-to-person.
Someone just getting started out (a one man show) doesn't yet need to worry about building a healthy culture. A team of 10 that has no marketing or sales doesn't really need to spend a ton of time on their vision. (They just need a one page vision that says something like 'Develop a F&^%$# marketing strategy!!")
As your coach, I will ask you to explain your desired lifestyle (day to day experience). What do you really want your life to look like? That will be the focal point of our work on your business. For example, if time to spend with your family was high on the list, we would never get anywhere by implementing things that made your business more complicated, thus sucking up even more of your time. That would be backwards progress. Unfortunately, that happens to a lot of business owners who don't start with lifestyle.
You can say you want more money. We all do. But what we really want are the things we think the money will bring us. Money by itself does not lead to more freedom. The things you do to get money can steal away your freedom instead. If you don't start with lifestyle, it's possible that you will get the money, but not the lifestyle. There are plenty of stressed out, unhappy billionaires who didn't put lifestyle first. What a shame!
Be honest: would you rather make 500K a year, and work 80 hours a week, and be out of town 3 weeks out of the month, OR make 60K a year working 10 hours per week from a coffee shop?
There's technically not a wrong answer. The point is: These are important questions to consider.
So what's holding you back from hiring a coach? Plenty, I imagine. I've spent a good amount of time asking this question to entrepreneurs. Here's what I've found...
In my experience, here are the 3 BIGGEST OBJECTIONS to hiring a coach:
OBJECTION #1- IT COSTS TOO MUCH
This belief is understandable. When your business is already struggling, it's very hard to fork over even more of your hard earned cash to pay for a coach. This belief stems from an internal doubt that the coach will be able to add value to your business as well. If you truly believed that the coach could help you clear up major issues in your business, restore profitability, or double your revenue, the cost of the coaching would be a drop in the bucket.
Let's say you spent a lot of money on a business coach. Call it 5 to 10 thousand dollars, inside of one year. That's a lot of coin, I understand. But, if the strategy, direction, resources, and connections that your coach provides you doesn't make you at least TEN TIMES that, then he or she is doing something HORRIBLY WRONG.
Furthermore, a really great business coach would stand by his word, and be willing to give you a full refund if the time you spend together does not produce results.
OBJECTION #2 - THE COACH WON'T UNDERSTAND MY BUSINESS
This is a valid concern as well. For me personally, my background is real estate. If someone that owns a carpet cleaning company comes to me asking for help, how is that person to expect that I'll know what I'm talking about? The truth is, I wouldn't. When it comes to the specifics about the carpet cleaning business, I know nothing. I'd rely on the client to help me fill in those gaps. The good news is, no matter what business you are in, you need the following:
* A crystal clear vision that that is focused on regularly and over-communicated to your team. (How will they make you happy (by doing what you want) if you aren't telling them what you want?)
* An organizational chart (that, over time has your name in less and less of the boxes)
* A healthy internal culture that stands for something more than just making money.
* A way of managing team members that works "downstream" - where you get their buy-in, engagement, and commitment to the projects being done, and you can abandon micromanagement (and your office) forever.
* A cashflow management plan to ensure profitability at all times (extremely important)
* 80% of your time and resources focused on marketing and sales (especially when you're under 1M in gross revenue. Marketing and sales involve many time-tested principles that apply across all fields of business).
* And much, much more!!
OBJECTION #3 - I'LL DO IT LATER (WHEN THERE'S MORE TIME/MONEY)
This objection makes me cringe a bit. Often, business owners who tell me this are spinning their wheels, working all hours of the day, and getting nowhere. They can't work ON the business because they spend the entire day working IN the business. This plan guarantees they will never be free of their business.
Only time spent working ON the business can move you towards that goal. Working ON your business is a non-negotiable. Any good coach will hold you accountable to doing that incredibly important work.
Another HUGE benefit that comes along with coaching is accountability. When you commit to getting certain things done with your coach, you don't want to look like an ass the next time you jump on the phone with them, so you get those things done. For most people, their word is very important to them and they don't break it.
I personally still have a business coach, and the primary reason is for accountability. The bottom line is: coach or not, you NEED someone in your life that's holding you accountable. Sports teams need coaches for this very reason. Great coaches don't let players have bad attitudes, skip practices, or screw up in the game. It's really no different in business. Business IS a sport. Just ask the man himself...
The conventional work model says “Work 30 years and then retire”. Save up money and then live off that income. As an entrepreneur, and using the right strategies, I was able to achieve a similar result in about 3 years, about 10% of the time. I got control over my time and removed financial stress. I still work everyday, but my work focuses on learning, teaching, and adding value to others. I enjoy what I do and want to help others do the same.
I started where many of you might be today – working a job I hated with no way out. I tried to fix that by creating what some of you might also have – a business that ran my life and made no money. After thrashing around like a fish out of water for several years, I slowly discovered and used the principles found in The Passive Business Profit Formula to fight my way to entrepreneurial success. I don’t want you to have to follow in the same footsteps that I did. Use these principles, any of them, and you’ll see a dramatic improvement in your business. Best of all, it’s completely free.
Here is how my time is spent since getting my business under control:
Here's the areas that i most commonly help entrepreneurs who are just starting out, or are struggling:
I would never take your money if you feel that I am not adding massive value. If after our first coaching call you decide that we aren't a good fit, just ask and your money will be fully refunded. See REFUND DETAILS at bottom for full explanation.
P.S.: Thanks for visiting this page and taking the time to read. It's cleaar that something in you is awakening, and you're on the right path. Please remember to find a coach or at least someone to hold you accountable, no moatter what you do. You are missing out on anywhere from 2X -5X the results you could be having if you're missing this one piece! To your success...Brian