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.

 

It’s Time For Fun, Isn’t It?

On a cool, rainy evening in October 2018, Hoosier Park was hosting the “Super Night” of Indiana’s best in harness racing.  And a long-shot named “It’s Time for Fun” was in 6th place as the horses came down the stretch. But then “Fun” hit a faster gear and sprinted past them all and won easily.  Friends and four generations of the breeder and owner got to the winner’s circle just in time for the celebration and fun. And that owner shined a grin and said, “It takes a team!”

Who is the owner and breeder of “It’s Time for Fun”? My dad, Lynn Wilfong, 79 years young. I intentionally used the word “young”, as he sure loves his phrase that he shares regularly: “Have someone to love.  Love what you do. Have something to look forward to.” And he has also been heard to say, “I will die with my boots on.”

Love. Four generations showed up to see “It’s Time For Fun” win the 3 Year Old Filly Indiana Sires Stakes: his wife, Barbara, of 58 years; his three adult children & their spouses; and some of the grand children and a great grandchild.

Work. Lynn has been working with harness horses since he was a young boy.  And he continues to be patient with them, even after 6-7 decades of being around these large and loving creatures.

Look Forward. Although my dad has suffered some losses and also some health challenges in the last couple decades, he sure studies his own health and how to improve it just like he studies harness horse breeding and racing. He is looking at ways to find the right mixture of breeding to win at the value that he is willing to pay, and still bring a return to his harness racing business.

How does he do this and also leverage his team? He has a vision, and that is to keep winning, especially in Indiana and Illinois. He and mom, along with my brother and his wife (Brett and Candy), truly have defined roles.  Dad studies and recommends breeding, and helps ensure the mares have healthy foals.  He and Brett raise and haul them, and Brett trains them.  My nephew, Kyle (Brett’s son, who is 4th generation in the harness racing business now) is the driver.  Kyle’s girlfriend, Nicole, is the caretaker (groom) of the horses that are being raced and trained, and she is growing and now a trainer.  And the revenue and expenses are tracked by Barbara and Candy.  For decades, Barbara leads the effort to ensure all of the horses are named and registered.  Very clear roles, with a goal of winning in Indiana and Illinois with well cared for horses.  They also leverage vets, blacksmiths, and feed companies. All of these roles are very specific, and they rarely duplicate work.  The goal for everyone is to be accountable to helping the horse(s) be as healthy as possible so that it can professionally perform in nearly any condition (rain, heat, sleet, wind and cold weather).

With a clear Vision, clear Roles, and clear Goals for each person on your team, you will most likely continue to succeed even as you approach your 8th decade.  In my coaching work, I can sense dysfunction or lack of accountability quickly.  It typically is because something is NOT clear with the Vision, or the Roles, or the Goals.  If all three are clear, you can most likely expect good results.  And good results just might lead to “It’s Time for Fun”.

 

 

My bud, the Echo Dot!

For Christmas 2017, I received the Amazon Echo Dot.  Welp, we all get busy, right? And you know, sometimes we don’t take the time to hook things/gadgets up. Finally, we took a few minutes and found it simple to get the Echo Dot working in the house yesterday.  And we love it! We played some Barry White music, we got weather updates as storms kept rolling in, we got the Wall Street Journal news update, and were told “Good night, hope you had a good day!”  And today we are further researching how we can operate our TV and music much more efficiently, while lowering our costs across our multiple homes.

After one day of exposure to the Echo Dot,  I now see why our seniors and elderly could benefit from them.  Sure, our seniors can ask questions and learn things, get weather updates quickly. But more importantly, the Echo Dot serves as a companion in the home.  And a safe companion.  It is listening for you to call it’s name all the time. It may be a simple, low cost way to reduce loneliness.  And research proves that loneliness is a deadly thing for our seniors and elderly.

As I move forward in life, I want to ensure that our seniors and elderly are able to remain connected and feel relevant.  Literally this morning, I thought about starting a business that would 1) buy, install, and sync Echo Dots for our seniors and elderly, and 2) easily educate them on “how to use the Echo Dot” in their homes. Many of our seniors and elderly are on fixed incomes, but they also enjoy listening to music, reading, watching movies, catching up on the news, etc. Why not make it REALLY easy for them, leveraging this new technology, all while potentially cutting their cable costs and enjoying an even better experience?

Making a difference is what I want to continue to do, helping others behind the scenes. How will YOU make a difference in other people’s lives?