"THE BEST INVESTMENT ON EARTH IS EARTH."
“THE FASTEST WAY TO SUCCEED IS TO LOOK AS IF YOU'RE PLAYING BY SOMEBODY ELSE'S RULES, WHILE QUIETLY PLAYING BY YOUR OWN."
Back in 2007, I took a leap of faith and bought my first commercial investment property. Seven years later, I found myself walking up onstage at the American Business Awards in Chicago to accept the Gold Stevie Award for National Real Estate Company of the Year. It seemed surreal.
The acknowledgment was humbling and I was sincerely grateful for the recognition. At the same time, my accomplishments had piqued a lot of peoples’ interest. Everybody was asking the same question: “How did you do it?” I remember one reporter shook his head and commented that I was amassing properties like he collects socks in his underwear drawer. “What’s your secret?” he asked.
The question was not a new one for me. Yet for a long time I didn’t know how to respond to this seemingly simple query, and it bothered me that I struggled with the answer. It’s not that I was trying to hide anything. I just didn’t know what to say. At times, figuring out how to grow my nascent business seemed like trying to solve a giant Rubik’s Cube.
Why? For one thing, I certainly never felt like I had it all figured out. I was just an ordinary investor trying to find my way . . . somebody who was making plenty of mistakes and trying not to screw things up. And for the most part I still am! Yet my properties were thriving while others around me headed to foreclosure.
So when confronted with the inevitable “what’s your secret?” I usually just mumbled something about how important it is to reinvest back into your properties (a boring response, by the way, that is pretty much guaranteed to be met with a blank look of disappointment). People want to hear something a lot more exciting. They figure there has to be some kind of trick.
In the months after receiving the Gold Stevie Award, I gave the question more thought. I found that it proved far more enlightening to stop looking in the mirror and instead take a harder look at what other commercial investors were doing.
Closely examining my investment approach in contrast with other methods allowed me to deconstruct my strategies and pinpoint what led to my success. This helped me realize the extent to which my investment philosophies, while not particularly complicated, were surprisingly unique.
In retrospect, I realized how great of a blessing in disguise it was that I didn’t have any commercial real estate experience when I started out. Because I’ve since discovered that many of the traditional ways of doing things in the industry are ripe for improvement.
My inexperience gave me the freedom to figure out how to do things the right way—how to run my real estate investments like an actual business, and not some bloated, passive source of easy money. I had too much at stake to do it any other way.
By ignoring convention and staying laser-focused on making the best possible business decisions, I exploited a variety of weaknesses that are pervasive in the industry. And in doing so, I was able to achieve extraordinary growth over a relatively short period of time.
Ironically, while my methods had been highly effective by any measure, they were also fairly straightforward. I didn’t have any “secrets” . . . or at least they didn’t seem like secrets to me. My way of doing things had just evolved over time as my business grew.
I hadn’t taken any real estate courses, and I didn’t have a mentor. I read lots of books and latched onto ideas that made sense. I relied heavily on intuition, embraced sound business principles, and made the best decisions I could—even when they seemed to go counter to mainstream. I continuously tried different things and learned from my mistakes.
From all of this emerged a set of principles that allowed me to achieve success with my investments. In the chapters that follow, I reveal each of the strategies that were the most important keys to my success.
I should acknowledge that my strategies for investing in commercial real estate are by no means the only ways to do things. And they’re certainly not going to be the best approaches for everyone. But they worked for me, and they can be used as a roadmap for you to follow, if you so choose.
I believe that if you’re determined to make a better life for yourself and your loved ones through real estate, the opportunity is there for the taking. Whether you’re already an investor or just getting started, commercial real estate remains more accessible than most people realize.
So if you want to invest in real estate, you don’t need to limit yourself to single-family homes and duplexes. You can think bigger than that. Office buildings. Plazas. Apartment complexes. Commercial real estate offers real potential to create wealth and change your life, as it already has not only for me, but for countless others before me.
But while the strategies in this book offer a real opportunity for wealth creation, I want to be clear up front that they don’t promise overnight success or “easy money.” This book does not feed into the sense of entitlement, culture of immediacy, and “something for nothing” attitudes that are ubiquitous in today’s society.
So just to clarify, here is what this book is not:
First, this book is not a get-rich-quick scheme. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Many of the strategies here require that you effectively position yourself to make the effort and sacrifices necessary to be successful.
The best way to be successful is to EARN IT. Understand that despite what you might hear on a late-night infomercial, real estate is a business like any other, and it takes hard work. Nine times out of ten the easy path isn’t the right path. If you’re going to be a successful real estate investor, you’d be well served to hold yourself to a high standard and do things the right way.
Investing in commercial real estate can yield tremendous rewards, but it still requires perseverance. It’s not for everyone, but the sky is the limit if you’re willing to put in the effort. The strategies here are most likely to work for investors with grit—a trait that some would argue is the single most important key to success, both in business and in life.
Second, this book is not a guarantee of success. It’s unique in that it focuses on specific strategies to put you in the best position to control your own destiny. By embracing the recommendations, you can reduce your risk, but by no means eliminate it. All investments carry risk and you should never invest anything you’re not prepared to lose. The goal is to manage this risk to the best of your ability, and achieve the greatest possible returns.
One way to mitigate risk is by leveraging your small investor’s work ethic and feet-on-the-ground presence to secure an advantage over the competition. But these competitive advantages don’t guarantee success, and they require you to roll up your sleeves and make short-term sacrifices.
Lastly, this book is not intended to be a comprehensive introduction to the world of commercial real estate. There are innumerable potential paths to riches in real estate . . . and many more to bankruptcy! Some strategies are more risky and complicated than others. The intention here is to focus on the more straightforward and proven methods.
In general, the more complicated the project, the more difficult it is to accurately assess the risks involved. This book’s goal is to distill commercial real estate investing to a specific set of basic, down-to-earth strategies designed to leverage the advantages of the small-to-medium-sized (but highly motivated) investor.
My journey in commercial real estate has been rewarding, yet fraught with challenges and mistakes. My motivation for writing this book is simple—so that others can reap the benefits of what I’ve learned. In the end, if you read this book and walk away with even one thing that can make a difference, or slightly improves your chances of success, then writing this book was a worthwhile endeavor.
Now get out there, roll up your sleeves, and crush it.