Surviving

During this Covid19 global pandemic, I have been faithfully watching the TV show, “Survivor.” The cast is competing, surviving, living minimalistically, and trying to figure out who to trust. Sound familiar to our daily lives, during this public health crisis right now?

We all are competing. For our lives. Our health. Our work. Our jobs. Our business. Our livelihood. Our stature pre and post Covid19. Our normalcy.

We are surviving. The majority of us are trying to stay healthy, and yet remain active. Millions are in food lines, many people and families that have never been in those lines. Thousands are recovering from the complications of Covid19, and thousands have passed. Millions globally are grieving, and wonder why did I make it, and others didn’t make it. Many just want their lives back to normal.

We are living minimalistically. For the last two months, I haven’t painted my toe and finger nails. And guest what? It’s ok. They are trimmed and clean. We haven’t gone out to eat, and only picked up carry-out a couple times. Our entertainment consists of watching Robin Roberts on Good Morning America at 7am E and then David Muir nighly at 630pm E on ABC. To keep those laughing, facial muscles in shape, we squeeze in some comedy regularly. Music rings daily through the house. Repetitive meals seem to be just fine, with very little variety . Even our clothes and make-up are simple and minimal. We are surviving, and it’s ok.

Aren’t we all trying to figure out who to trust during this pandemic? That’s a difficult one to figure out, right? Are our political and community leaders truly caring about our health and well-being, or trying to get re-elected? Are businesses re-opening with safety in mind, or money in mind? Are restaurants carefully preparing food, or are they just wanting to get it out the door for the carry-out order to be paid? Are our health care providers being provided what they need in a timely fashion, or are they being forced to cut corners as they care for all types of patients and diseases and emergencies?

Keep surviving, my friends, keep surviving. The last time that I seriously watched “Survivor” was when I was very ill, recovering from two surgeries in the first six months of 2000. Now that was surviving, as there were a few days that I didn’t think I would make it. But somehow, I did. We all survive in our own ways. Trust yourself, trust your instincts, and take care of yourself and others that you can impact. Survive, and look to Thrive.

My Cup? Still Half Full With Holes

Like billions around the globe during this public health Covid19 and economic crisis, the insatiable desire to see friends and family is real. The exhaustion is eye-dropping heavy by the end of the work week. The at-home meals are becoming too repetitive. The Zoom and WebEx meetings are not as much fun, and in fact, a bit of a burden now. The walking route is starting to get a bit stale, since the beach is not open. Getting dressed up, going to the office, and the feeling of helping others are all missed deeply. And as an owner of a real estate company, this market is challenging sellers and buyers to stay true to their contracts; it’s also challenging bankers, appraisers, and title companies to make solid decisions that benefit all parties.

Yes, there are lots of holes, but my cup is still half full. And if you own real estate right now, be resilient and keep your cup half full. Let me share with you some examples of having a real estate part-time gig, while you work a full time role.

In early April, five of my eight rental homes were damaged by hail and wind storms. My primary home in Indiana was also damaged in that same storm. So let me get this straight: I have six storm damage claims, in the midst of COVID19? Yes, Jen, you do. However, your cup is still half full because you invested years ago, own these homes, and you have insurance. Life happens. Storms happen. That’s why you have insurance.

This past week, a huge tree at one of the rental homes was not showing it’s normal Spring green growth. So let me get this straight: I have a dead tree, that could fall on one of the rental homes and potentially a neighbor’s home? Yes, Jen, you do. However, your cup is still half full because it’s only one tree. All the other trees are alive, blooming and bringing their Spring green colors of hope. The dead tree was removed quickly, to help ensure no further damage. And that tree contractor was thrilled to have the work.

In the last couple days, two of our clients (tenants) have reported that their dishwashers are not working. Is that because of anything that I did? Of course not. Maybe too much food in the drain or a forceful push on the top plastic rack that broke it? So let me get this straight: Two dishwashers aren’t working now, during COVID19, when most families are home cooking 1-3 meals/day, and it’s my responsibility to fix these dishwashers? Yes, Jen, it’s yours. However, your cup is still half full because these families feel secure enough to call you and ask for some help. And we did help them; the dishwashers are back up and running again.

The locusts didn’t show up, but the termites, roaches, racoons, and mosquitos did all at the same time in our new Florida home. In all my years of owning real estate, I’ve never had termites. So let me get this straight: You have tiny critters trying to eat up your home? Yes, Jen, you do. However, your cup is still half full because the previous owner had a termite bond, so the pest control company quickly came out to address the issue.

On March 16, we high five’d as I accepted an offer to sell my primary home in Carmel, IN, for nearly the listing price. Committed to help ensure this sales contract closed easily by early June, I spent over $6,000 to address items on the inspection report the first couple weeks of April. And then fast forward to the past two weeks. Both appraisals came in and were $45,000-$70,000 lower than the sales contract price. So let me get this straight: this home of mine that had 20 showings in 48 hours back on March 14-16, the sales contract has now blown up because of two, low appraisals? Yes, Jen, that’s right. However, your cup is still half full because there are other families who will want this home, and one of them will live there happily ever after. And, don’t forget, you are remodeling another rental home, so it actually gives you a bit more time to thoughtfully get that done, while I re-list and market my primary home again.

On Valentine’s Day, I signed a contract to sell a building lot to a young family, only to find out that the deal couldn’t close recently. Why? The previous owner of the lot, an unnamed Christian college, deposited my money back in Feb. 2019, and yet did not release the lot from the mortgage. So let me get this straight: I buy a lot in 2019, go to sell it in 2020, and the paperwork still isn’t ethically processed correctly? Yes, Jen, that’s right. However, your cup is still half full because on April 10, you did sell the other two homes that are next to the lot. Those two deals were 20x’s the size of the lot deal, so keep it in perspective.

In mid-March during a routine HVAC check up, learned that one of the steady-eddy rental homes needed a new furnace, immediately. So let me get this straight: I buy the HVAC maintenance plan, and it turns in to a $3,450 new furnace? Yes, Jen, that’s right. However, your cup is still half full because the air conditioner was just fine, the new furnace is safer, quieter, and more efficient for the long-time tenant. She deserves that, as she rarely complains. And you just upgraded your home’s value.

The USA government announced numerous programs in early April to help the economy, individuals, and small businesses. The Paycheck Protection Program was touted to help small business owners, like me. After I filled out the paperwork for an EIDL loan, I was informed that I might receive $1,000 for the two $10,000 applications that I filled out. So let me get this straight: 50% of my clients have incurred lost wages, I am discounting rent by $200/month and also allowing late payments, and yet I get zero assistance from the USA Government. Zero? Yes, Jen, that’s right. However, your cup is still half full because all of your clients have paid rent, and are communicating proactively with you. They are making it happen, and for that I am grateful.

In early March, I was able to sell two other homes that had been non-positive cashflow drains on my business. So let me get this straight: you sold two homes the week before the COVID19 “stay home” social distancing all started? Yes, Jen, you did. My cup is beyond half full because of these two deals actually closed in-time and on-time.

We good with all those examples? They clearly indicate to me, again, that my cup is half full with some holes. Be grateful. Be resilient. Real estate is one of many ways to make a living; it’s a comforting feeling to provide housing for others and watch it change their lives. Yes, Jen, that’s right. It does!

Thinking That…

Thinking that…this public health crisis will teach us all about the importance of understanding and learning more about the impacts that science and math have on our daily life. 


Thinking that…just like after the 9/11 terror attacks and the resulting surge of brave men and women who joined the military, we’ll see an increase in people retraining to become nurses, respiratory therapists, and doctors. And cleaning companies will establish even better processes to clean workspaces.


Thinking that…we will visit our seniors more frequently and observe their care more closely at nursing homes. 


Thinking that…I hope and pray that I never end up in a nursing home, not me nor any of my loved ones.


Thinking that…we (my partner & I) will quarantine once a year, as we are finding it beneficial to take some time to focus on our health, exercise, nutrition, tech & digital aptitude, writing, cleaning, organizing, home projects, continuing education, and things that rarely get reviewed (like insurance and umbrella policies). It also allows our bodies to take a break from the forces of life, and yet still be outside to see and wave at the neighbors and go to the store. 


Thinking that…because I had a couple personalized, proactive discussions with physicians here in Florida, I changed a few things up, because they taught me to proactively care for my own immune system better, immediately. 


Thinking that…losing weight now is a benefit of staying home. We are eating less and much more intentionally to help protect our immune systems.  We’re also exercising 100’s of minutes each week. 


Thinking that…embracing technology & doing business digitally, with a highly personal touch, has kept me, my company, and the company that I work for highly relevant during these times while many are working from home. 

Thinking that…I am beyond grateful that we both are working, and it’s probably MORE, and that my clients are paying their rent. Felt good to give our clients a discount in April and May. Truly feel for those who aren’t working, and can’t pay their rent.


Thinking that…since I have been working from home for nearly eight years, I got a jump on this whole “work from home” movement.  Grateful to be able to share quite a few best practices with many of my colleagues.  


Thinking that…when I was a young adult, so glad that I listened to the financial experts who said emphatically, “save up to build an emergency fund of 3-6 months of expenses,” and “pay yourself first (401K or similar), have your company match it, and do it for your future retirement or cash flow needs.” Praying that many young adults can do that again, as we come out of this public health crisis.


Thinking that…we will all be a bit cleaner, wash our hands more frequently, and really think about who we hug, and why. And who we shake hands with, and why. 


Thinking that…appreciation will spike about all those events that happen naturally and/or annually, like graduations, tournaments, weddings, funerals, classes, trips and holidays. 


Thinking that…we were stocked up, but the run to the store will happen even earlier in the future when we hear about something that’s happening across the world. We will be even better stocked with healthy options to strengthen our immune system, and to also have a few key go-to items, like toilet paper, water, fuel, etc. 


Thinking that…Google and Apple can trace and track me to keep me and others healthier. I am good with that. Nothing to hide, absolutely nothing.


Thinking that…many of us are becoming even better at client service, and more astute entrepreneurs. Creativity is flowing; I mean, check out Zoom calls, TikTok, You Tube, carry out in restaurants/stores/pharmacies/etc.


Thinking that…I can’t wait to see and hear a live concert. Music has impacted me more positively than I ever realized. 


Thinking that…although I love sports, actually not missing the games as much I thought I would. Wasn’t sure how I’d make it without March Madness. But, realizing that there is so much to learn and read about, and to do. 


Thinking that…staying connected with family and friends has always been a priority, and thus thankful for low levels of anxiety right now, and no depression. It’s fun seeing them on Zoom & Facetime regularly and spontaneously. Praise the Lord. Praying for those who are experiencing stress and anxiety.


Thinking that…my parents are being remarkably healthy and yet staying engaged thru this quarantine with physical distancing. So proud of them. Zero complaining. 


Thinking that…we are praying more, before eating at the table. And that’s a great peace to have and to also feel the deep connection with Him and each other. 


Thinking that…although our lives have been disrupted, adjusted routines have been tweaked and are working pretty darn good. 


Thinking that…it’s not been that bad. In fact, I see (as mentioned in my earlier blog) much HOPE. I Hope. 


Jen Wilfong 4/20/2020 

I Hope

I Hope we remember our resilient grandparents and great grandparents, who got through World War I, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression and World War II during the early-mid 1900’s.

I Hope we remain resilient for a few months, to help save 1,000s and 1000’s of lives.

I Hope we remain patient and calm, yet confident and full of Hope.

I Hope we truly appreciate the nurses, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, and doctors, and every single member of the cleaning crews, who are going to work in extreme circumstances to help save lives.

I Hope we remain home, so that these caregivers soon have less cases of COVID-19, not more. I Hope when we do go out, it truly is “essential.”

I Hope we are grateful because we do or did have a job, and complain a bit less in the future. I Hope we find purposeful and meaningful work again soon, if your work was lost.

I Hope we pitch in and help those that have lost their jobs.

I Hope we cook more at home, eat at the kitchen table, and wash our own dishes.

I Hope we tip more happily, and I Hope we praise the chefs freely, when we return to our favorite restaurants and bars.

I Hope we say THANK YOU more, not less, to every one of those fellow humans who serve us.

I Hope we allow teachers to teach in the classroom, without helicoptering over our teachers. I Hope we thank them for managing overcrowded classrooms with minimal supplies, day after day, year after year.

I Hope we let our kids learn consequences, both good ones and the bad.

I Hope we teach our kids at home, how to help run and operate a home, manage a budget, cook a meal, change a furnace filter, clean the house, do the laundry, etc.

I Hope we save more, and build an emergency fund, so that we are ready for any future inconvenience.

I Hope we love, teach and care for our children, and not abuse them more.

I Hope we keep taking walks outside with our partners and family.

I Hope we don’t hole up and never trust again.

I Hope we can trust ourselves to make the best decisions, for ourselves, our families and others.

I Hope we further realize how difficult it is to lead, and the deep complexities to it. I Hope we help our leaders become better, with calm feedback.

I Hope we refine our own crafts and trades. I Hope we are more astute entrepreneurs, and become even more in tune with what our clients and customers truly need.

I Hope we continue to wash our hands, even more thoroughly than ever.

I Hope we appreciate our hair stylists and barbers, and give them appropriate tips.

I Hope we keep riding our bikes after dinner, instead of allowing the tires to go flat.

I Hope we keep saying hello to our neighbors on down the street, like we are doing now, while out on walks.

I Hope we always care for our most vulnerable, our seniors and elderly, who have the most wisdom and love to give. They’ve seen it all; I Hope we always listen to them.

I Hope we embrace technology even more, as a way to allow efficiency and ease in to our lives…instead of rejecting it like in the past.

I Hope we keep doing our “Zoom” happy hour meetings and those “House Party” get togethers.

I Hope we appreciate public spaces like parks and golf courses, and pick up after ourselves when we visit them in the future.

I Hope we beam with excitement like never before when we can once again attend all the movies, sporting events, and concerts. I Hope it’s a flipping blast!

I Hope we respect and thank the police, the National Guard, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and security personnel for caring for our needs, and handling the deep, dark horrible acts that continue to happen in our cities during this crisis.

I Hope that we remain thoughtful and caring Global citizens.

I Hope that if we are sick, we will STAY HOME. I Hope we think more deeply about that one decision in the future.

I Hope that we prep a bit better, and have our necessary supplies in our home, so that we don’t rush to the stores and create havoc for grocery and general stores.

I Hope we continue to allow long-haul semi-trucks, Amazon, FedEx, UPS, and the US Mail trucks more room as they travel to deliver OUR goods and products.

I Hope we smile at the garbage and recycle workers, and be grateful they do what they do. I Hope we realize they are picking up our messes, every single day.

I Hope when we travel in the future, we understand and do the research so that we clearly understand the situation where we are headed.

I Hope when we are in airplanes and using public transportation, we have clean hands and our coughs are covered properly. I Hope we say “Bless You” when one sneezes.

I Hope we continue to pray more, and embrace our place of worship and our Lord.

I Hope we love more, selflessly, like our care givers love us under this COVID 19 threat.

I Hope that we can trust again.

As I woke up this morning, I simply said to myself, “I Hope.” Today, April 2, 2020, the USA now has over 200,000 cases of the nearly one million cases of COVID 19 globally, which is two times as many as any other country in the world. And yet I still woke up, saying and thinking, and now writing, “I Hope.” Please, do what you can. Stay home. Stay physically distant from others. Stay deeply connected to those you love. Stay in touch with your people and your families, leveraging the wide variety of technology tools. Stay close with your Lord. – Jen Wilfong 4/2/2020 8am E

April 2 morning prayer: The world presses in on me and defeats me, despite my best efforts, until finally I call on You for help and find You there, just waiting for me to ask. Thank You, Lord, for helping me. Amen.

source: Johns Hopkins COVID 19 Dashboard https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/

Working “On” The Business The Day After Christmas

Today was a day that I actually focused on developing my skills. It felt great to take hours and truly listen to other coaching experts, read from a multitude of coaching websites, and watch other coaches at work via YouTube. At the end today, I am actually better for taking time to Stop. Learn. Develop. Grow.

We coach our clients to take time to work “on” their business, and not just “in” their business. Today, I worked “on” my business/craft/skillset. As coaches, we must be role models to others, and practice what we preach.

There was time for others today, too. In fact, the best part of the day was planning some future fun with both of my parents. As they drove away this morning after a couple holiday, family gatherings, I said to them with a smile, “…see you in a month.” My dad is going to be inducted into the Indiana Standardbred Hall of Fame, and my mom announced this surprise at our family Christmas gathering. Now we are all planning to be there in person in late January 2020.

How did you spend your day after Christmas? Connecting with the people you love? Working on developing you? Working “on” your business? This is a short, but targeted time to get a lot done before the New Year begins.

Reading Like Mad

For years and years and years, reading more had always been a goal. Finally, I knew that I had to change it up to get better reading results. Get some small wins by finishing books that I had already started, read shorter books to gain a feeling of accomplishment, and embrace technology. So in 2018, I signed up for the Audible. Read more than ever, and finished 19 books.

In 2019, I signed up for the FREE Libby app, via my local library. Deleted my Audible account, which saves me $15/month. And the result is even better than 2018. In just four months, already completed 11 books and have two more books that will be finished by the end of April, which will total 14 books in the first four months of 2019.

Why am I reading so much? Because I have always wanted to. And because when I read about our seniors and the elderly, they wished they would have worked less and read more, among many other things. With Libby and Audible, we can listen to the book, and drive. We can listen and work out. Listen and go on a walk. Even listen while in the home, on our Echo Dot. Reading via Libby has been a wonderfully efficient use of my time. What a great way to leverage technology to increase my learning, knowledge, and relevancy.

More than ever now when I am speaking and coaching, I have a calm confidence to recommend books that are specific to a situation. If a team is trying to implement their first business plan, I recommend “Traction” by G Wickman. If a team is trying to figure out their brand and how to be relevant online, I recommend “10X” by Grant Cardone or “Crushing It” by G Vaynerchuk. If a team is facing some dysfunction, I recommend “Strengths” by T Rath or “Five Dysfunctions of A Team” by P Lencioni. If someone is refining their leadership skills, B Brown’s “Dare to Lead” is spot-on. If I am trying to make sense of current events, then consuming history helps me to better understand that we humans have a tendency to repeat what our ancestors did.

How are you staying relevant? How are you sharpening your saw? How are you helping others refine their skills? I believe that at the end of life, I will be very glad that I read all of these fascinating books (consuming books via Libby & Audible) and kept my learning edge sharp.

In The Next 100 Days, I Will…

This is the week in January when New Year’s Resolutions stop, stall, or become unrealistic for most people. Back on January 1, just 21 days ago, these were invigorating ideas to attack with energy in 2019. Things have changed. So what is getting in the way of these resolutions? Why are they losing steam? Now what do you need to do?

In our coaching work, we find that New Year’s Resolutions lose steam due to a variety of reasons. We also find that the art of delegation and accountability is tied to how you ask questions and give clarity around when, who, what, and why.

WHEN. When do you want to accomplish your goal? It’s a simple question, but the most critical one that is typically not understood. Many goals are set, and are missing a date. Thus, the goal keeps getting pushed out or not achieved, because a date was never set. That’s why it’s a great tactic to state, “In the Next 100 Days, I will...” When we force ourselves to identify what WE will do in a more defined time period, we tend to be more successful. Just try it and simply ask, “When does this need to be done?”

WHO. Who can help hold you accountable? Having a partner, teammate or coach will help you push through barriers, and sometimes even help you get there more quickly and smoothly. Who can help you with their expertise, and are you asking for it?

WHAT. Goals that are specific and truly have some ummph behind them tend to be achieved than ambiguous or unrealistic goals. For example, if I want to weigh in the 150s this year. I want to get there, and before the end of April. Why? Because I want to feel and look better, while at the lake in the late spring and all summer. Before that though, we head to the Florida beaches right after Easter. So it’s time to get serious and be wise on portions: reduce one meal every day to simply fruit and a small handful of nuts, and also increase my exercise to at least 10,000 steps every single day.

WHY. Plenty of goals are loosely defined, i.e. “lose 10 pounds.” However, when we add some why and purpose behind it, these goals tend to be MUCH more achievable. Let’s take my simple, “weigh in the 150s this year.” WHY is that so important? Because in the summer of 2018, I was diagnosed with osteoporosis at just 53 years old. My doctors gave me a list of things to ensure that I do for the next few decades of my life, and one of the specifics was “weigh in the 150s, carry less weight on your briddle bones, and strength train so that your muscles are strong to carry your body/weight.” DONE. That’s all I needed to hear.

What’s YOUR WHY? Name it. And then state, “In the next 100 days, I will...”

p.s. Many thanks to Dr. Kevin Elko’s message here in Indianapolis last week. He inspired me to write this blog. He asked the crowd to say out loud, “In the next 90 days, I will…” MANY thanks to Dr. Elko for his reminders on what we CAN do. Follow him on twitter @DrKevinElko

The 7″ Snowfall

As the weather channel updates shouted, “the snow is coming,” most were thinking, “so run to the grocery store, drive home quickly, squeeze in those last minute errands, get outside and shovel that snow, salt the sidewalk,” right? Well, actually no was the answer for me this snowfall. Yes, I said, “No!”

Stayed Inside. The snow arrived on a Saturday morning and snowed all day. I purposefully made the decision to stay inside. This decision allowed me to get some tax prep done, sort thru some piles on my desk, watch some NFL playoffs, get on the treadmill for over an hour, catch up on my Linked In connections, and just be/do nothing. I lit candles, had the fire burning all day.

Plenty of Food. We looked at all the food in the frig (removed some items that were dated “best used by 2017 and 2018”) and kitchen cabinets, and realized we had plenty of food for 4-5 days. Plenty! Even had time to make soup, rice, bean salad, omelettes, whole wheat pancakes, and protein shakes. Sorted thru and organized the canned goods, and noticed that we are truly executing on the Mediterranean diet: very little meat, lots of beans, fruits and veggies, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, some dairy, and yes, some red wine.

Write and Read. Staying inside, enjoying the views of the snow while sitting by the fire just simply allowed me to slow down. I read. I wrote. I refined my 2019 goals a bit more. I talked to some friends and family. I slept over 9 hours!

Leverage Others. One of our contractors came by with a snowplow on his truck, and he plowed my drive quite easily. Thus, zero back pain for me. When I went thru my grocery list, I ordered groceries with an online app, and after the snowstorm had subsided for more than 24 hours, I easily drove on clear streets to pick up my groceries curbside. These both were huge time savers, and that’s interesting during a weekend that I was choosing to spend time in the home, on me and friends/family.

How do you say “NO?” When do you say “NO?” It’s a decision that only YOU can make. I feel refreshed as I head in to my Sunday evening. How you manage YOUR time is YOUR decision. My recommendation is to maybe more thoroughly enjoy the 7″ snowfall, instead of getting caught up in the craziness. If you choose to “Stay Outside”, then go sledding. Play. Make a snow angel. Enjoy the 7″ snowfall.

Perfect Pancakes & Leadership

How could anyone ever correlate making Perfect Pancakes and Leadership? I have used this metaphor many times over the last couple years, especially when a leader may need to practice their key messages, or talk through key topics prior to having a critical conversation, or prep before they introduce a new product launch.

This Sunday morning, I whipped up some pancake batter and grabbed the Nutella spread from the kitchen cupboard. My mouth was salivating, thinking back just one year ago as we enjoyed our time in Cantania, Sicily, Italy, savoring all kinds of chocolate croissants, espresso and cappuccino. However, my first two pancakes didn’t turn out so well. Why did that happen, when I had such a great visualization going on in my head?

Because, I hadn’t made pancakes in a while. With no recent practice, I burnt the pancakes because the temperature in the pan was just too hot. Yes, I over cooked those first two pancakes. Torched them! The third and fourth pancakes turned out much better, and I quickly spread the Nutella on them and devoured them. And I am encouraged and now ready to make even more pancakes on New Years Eve and New Year Day mornings.

In our coaching work, I continue to be amazed at how some colleagues hardly practice for those huge, critical conversations, or for that presentation to the key prospect that might help make your yearend numbers look brilliant, or on how to deliver a new message or product to current clientele. As a former college athlete, I recommend to practice. In fact, I recommend it too frequently. Too many colleagues just are not practicing, and so when they don’t get the results they intended, they are frustrated and surprised. As a coach, I recommend practicing your messaging in your car, in front of a mirror, on a walk with a trusted mentor, and even with your spouse or partner.

Let’s don’t over-complicate how to execute better as a leader. Most leaders are former athletes. Do what you used to do, all the time: Practice! When on a team, the coach held more practices than games you played. Many more practices than games. Athletes become good because they learn how to execute under pressure due to their countless hours of practice, and yes, winning some games along the way.

As a leader, are you practicing? Are you learning from other leaders? Are you practicing on simplifying your messaging with great clarity? Are you taking time to develop personnel? Are you prepping for those critical conversations that can change the trajectory of you and your colleague’s professional relationship? Like making the perfect pancake, it takes a few before the good pancakes are eaten. Practice makes better pancakes, and it makes better leaders, too. Practice!

Start A Business at 49? Yes

My great grandmother (GG Kate) immigrated here in the early 1900’s, when she jumped on a ship and landed in the USA from Lithuania.  As a teenager, she had the courage of a lion, to leave her family and country, and go abroad. She lived in East Chicago and bought apartments one by one, and then bought the entire building(s).  During the early 1970’s when our family traveled to Daytona Beach, FL, we visited my great grandmother.  She was a woman entrepreneur,  living near the beach, and a  good story of immigration done right.

Fast forward approximately 100 years from when she fled Lithuania. It’s now 2013. When you’re 49 years old,  and you want to start a real estate business, well, you just do it.  You courageously, just like your GG Kate, buy some properties, evaluate, buy and sell more, and now five years later, you have a profitable business that serves others in a very desirable community. And serves my bucket list of travel, enjoying life, and helping others.

Here are some TIPS on what TO DO as you start a business, and what NOT TO DO:

  1. Prep: Walk, think, look, inspect, read, listen. Before I bought my first three homes in the same week in June 2013, I walked the streets of downtown Carmel, looking at traffic flow, understanding prices, learning about infrastructure, asking other landlords how to be landlords, etc. for 18 months. NOT DO: buy properties based on emotion.  Instead, make business decisions.
  2. Draft: While in bed one evening in April 2013, I hand-wrote a business plan on one piece of paper. It was short, to the point, and gave me great clarity.  In short, it stated, “Provide homes with incredible walk-ability to shops, schools or restaurants. Be able to walk or jog to these homes. Focus on ranch homes for the safety of families and older clientele. Ensure that 10% gross income is achieved annually on your initial investment.” This draft helped me start my business and invest in homes the following 60 days. NOT DO: wing it, with nothing written down.  Instead, do the prep, plan, and then execute.
  3. Team of Advisors: Call an attorney familiar with establishing LLC’s, especially a law firm that understand real estate laws.  Not only did they help get the LLC going, but they provided me with a detailed and fair lease. Get a CPA who has other clients like you.  Align with a good realtor.  Find ethical and reliable contractors, and then pay them quickly. Establish a very strong relationship with at least two bankers.  Understand your own financial plan with your financial advisor.  NOT DO: Not willing to pay or slow to pay for advice and help. Instead, realize there is always risk with any business and pay for guidance, help and advice. Build your team by sharing your vision and business plan.
  4. Work: On a downright yucky/rainy/cool Sunday in Spring 2013, I walked the streets of downtown Carmel.  When open houses were cancelling that day, I was out there working.  In the next week, my realtor helped me on offers, buy and close on three homes within 1/2 mile of each other. NOT DO: Rest, assume others will find the homes and do the work.  Instead, YOU do the work.
  5. Adjust: Of the 3 homes, the first home was rented quickly. The 2nd home was a ranch, but it was dated and had two bedrooms downstairs in a dark basement. The 3rd home was my personal home.  Adjusting quickly, I sold the 2nd home to a realtor and cleared a few thousand dollars, thank the Lord.  And I sold the 3rd one, my own home, after I remodeled it and captured a nice gain 2.5 years later. NOT DO: Move slowly. Instead, when it’s the wrong decision, quickly own it and fix it. Learn from it.
  6. Care: Once you have a client (tenant), take good care of them.  Your first client should help you quickly learn what’s important to them/future clients. If a client needs something and it’s a reasonable request, do it quickly.  NOT DO: Ignore your clients.  Instead, remember they are paying you, providing revenue, so be thankful and aware of what feedback they are providing.
  7. Ask: The first home that I bought had a nice home next to it. So I asked the owner if he would be willing to sell it.  Timing was everything.  I got it bought before he put it on the market.  And then I asked my realtor about buying the messy/skinny/wooded lot on the other side of the first home.  Within a few months, I had 3 properties next to each other, directly on The Monon in downtown Carmel. Location, location, location. NOT DO: Wait. Instead, you will make the difference in your business. You are in charge of the decisions. No one else.
  8. Track: Once the business starts, track every single expense and revenue.  I set up a spreadsheet, put it in the cloud, and can view the status of all the homes from anywhere.  And I can share this easily with my accountant to assist with tax prep. Created folders for every home, for every receipt, for every year.  NOT DO: Fall behind in tracking expenses.  Instead, to be profitable, you need to know your revenues and expenses.
  9. Grow. Let others/neighbors/tenants/realtors know that you are a local business owner, looking to grow the business, wanting to buy more homes, etc. Good people will help you.  Be opportunistic, and buy distressed assets. And update your assets AND your business plan regularly. NOT DO: Get lazy.  Instead, keep learning, sharing, and growing.
  10. Buy Low, Sell High. Seems simple, but the lower priced homes with nice remodels or updates are the ones that are most liked by our clients and most profitable.  Sell them when you are comfortable with the gain.  NOT DO: Sell Low, Buy High.  Instead, be wise. Have a goal for your profits and then execute.

Since my grandmother came to America in the early 1900’s, she grew, learned, moved, and leveraged advisors.  GG Kate owned multiple properties, and even had a will in place when she passed.  Her daughter (my grandmother Bernice) and my paternal grandfather George owned real estate. And my mom and dad own land, as well. So one might say that I have a natural gene that’s called, “the love of real estate.” What’s YOUR plan to start YOUR business? Don’t let age, or being a woman, or fear stop you.  Instead, be courageous like a lion, execute with a plan, and make YOUR dream a reality, just like GG Kate did in moving to America. And then truly becoming an entrepreneur.