Is Real Estate The Best Lifestyle Business?

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Back in 2010, I started a small gym offering group fitness workouts.  I had shifted the focus of my time to marketing and running this new business. This is why I haven’t been active in the real estate world. This is also why I haven’t been writing and updating this site.

This small gym kept me busy for the last few years as I built the gym membership and hired the trainers and staff. The business was a lot of fun to build and I met some awesome people. However, I realized to really build the gym business to generate higher levels of income, I would have to open up additional locations. This obviously meant signing new long-term leases, building out and equipping each new location. It also meant hiring more trainers and staff.

But I held off on taking the business to the next level because I realized I didn’t want to build another big business. I didn’t want to have to sign long-term leases. I didn’t want to have to hire, fire, and train staff. I didn’t want to have to work 7 days a week for years. Been there, done that. I’m simply not as “hungry” for money as I once was and decided the tradeoff between my time and the financial opportunity wasn’t worth it at this point in my life.

To build a big business you have to take many risks. One risk is obviously financial. You’ve got to put more money on the line and agree to long-term financial commitments. In addition, you have the risk of relationship loss. This “relationship loss” is two-fold. One relationship loss is time with your family as you put more hours into building the big business. The other relationship loss is what you have to go through in the business as you hire and fire staff.

The path to the big business was easy to see, but I just wouldn’t pull the trigger. I simply didn’t want all of the headaches. When I was younger, I wouldn’t “see” the future headaches. I would only see the opportunities and quickly set of in pursuit. However, experience has changed this impatience as I now realize there are many challenges to building a big business. And at this point in my life, I’m not willing to deal with the headaches for more money.

Once I realized I wasn’t willing to expand the gym business, it became clear that I should probably sell the gym allowing someone else to pursue the opportunities I wasn’t willing to pursue. It didn’t seem to make sense keeping the business if I didn’t plan on growing it. Gyms are 7 day a week businesses and they are packed full of drama. (Oh the drama!)

So I sold the gym to two of our trainers this year and am getting back into real estate. However, I still don’t have any plans to build a big real estate business. I don’t have any plans to hire agents. I don’t have any plans to hire any administrative staff. And I also don’t have any plans to sell hundreds of homes each year as I did in the past. I simply am going to sell a few homes a month on my own and have fun.

Guess what?

It’s awesome. I couldn’t be any happier. For the first time in 15 years, I don’t have any employees. Not a one! All of the drama of building a business is gone and life is soooo peaceful. There is no one to hire. There is no one train. There is no one to manage. There is no one to fire. There is also no stress whatsoever.

Starting back in real estate as a one person operation is simply fantastic. I don’t have an office. I don’t have a lease. I don’t have a fancy copier and there aren’t any real expenses other than continuing education, dues, and errors and omissions insurance. These expenses are all covered through just one home sale.

Selling homes as a one person “non-business” is one of the best opportunities available. It is the perfect lifestyle business. This realization makes me laugh considering my journey. It reminds me of this story…

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.  Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna.  The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos.  I have a full and busy life.” The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”

“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part.  When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire.  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

For the first decade of real estate, I thought the only road to success was to build a big business selling 20 to 30 homes a month. A big business with more agents, more clients, more leads, more staff, and more sales. I would routinely sit down and think strategically about more. Here are some of the things I would try and maximize each and every year:

How can I make more money each month?
How can I make my business worth more?
How can I get more customers for my business?
How can I sell more to each customer?
How can I get more sales people working in my business?
How can I acquire more rental real estate?
How can I generate more passive income?
How can I add more zeros to my net worth?

Each question asks a slightly different question, but the ultimate goal is the same.

More, more, more!

The answer, or solution, to each question almost always requires us to work more and to take on more financial risk. Wanting “more” is an ugly snowball building over time. As you have more income, you spend more money each month. Because you now spend more money, you’ll need to make even more money next year. More always breeds more.

For some reason, more never is enough.

13 Comments

  • Jon Lacob

    Reply Reply November 11, 2014

    Hey Rob, glad to see your back in real estate. I learned a lot from you and can honestly say your programs and coaching were among the best investments I made in the business.
    Good luck in the future and I’ll be following your blog.
    Welcome back…

    Jon

    • Robert Minton

      Reply Reply November 11, 2014

      Jon, thanks for the awesome comment! Made my day. Hopefully I can add more value to your business going forward. Rob

  • Oken

    Reply Reply November 9, 2014

    You always had this zoom out tendencies that allowed you to see the big picture, the business model and so on. I used to be a book critique for 6 years and I can see a fiction book with real estate agents in your future.

    • Robert Minton

      Reply Reply November 9, 2014

      I would absolutely love to be able to write fiction. My daughter seems to have the gift, but I don’t. 🙁 The idea I had was to write a book in story format showing the journey someone goes through in real estate. The ups, downs, and everything in between with real stories that I’ve been through. Not sure how entertaining it would be. Great to hear from you!

  • Jean Jacques JJ Dege

    Reply Reply November 6, 2014

    Hey Rob, it is funny how life goes sometime, I congratulate you for being true to your core and for following your heart. I myself stepped out of real estate for a little while, looking up for something uncanny and with a different approach to probably one of the best businesses arround, I am glad our path crossed again. Best of luck and glad to see you back!
    JJ

    • Robert Minton

      Reply Reply November 7, 2014

      JJ – Thanks for your comment. I enjoyed being in the fitness industry. I do think leaving real estate and coming back provides a new perspective. When you come back, you don’t see things the same way and appreciate some of the benefits of this business that may have been taken for granted previously. Great to hear from you again! Rob

  • Yvette

    Reply Reply November 5, 2014

    Kudos to you Rob for blazing your own trail away from all of the other ‘me too’ real estate trainers out

    there. Thanks for being brave enough to say that you don’t need a team of 30 to achieve success in

    real estate. What a breath of fresh air! Now maybe agent attrition will decrease as agents now have

    sensible guide to follow. Keep up the good work!

    • Robert Minton

      Reply Reply November 7, 2014

      Yvette – Money is significantly overrated. Since this is true, most things we typically do to get more money aren’t worth the hassle. Building a big team isn’t easy and may (or may not) be worth it depending on one’s personal goals. It is stressful knowing you’ve got to make payroll every two weeks. It is stressful knowing you’ve got to fire someone on your team. At this point in my life, the hassle isn’t worth the benefit. Rob

  • Dan Weis

    Reply Reply November 5, 2014

    Hi Rob,

    Great post!

    I loved the story and what you’re doing makes sense.

    Figure out how much you need to earn each year to have balance in your life and go for it…then relax and enjoy your family and hobbies when you’re not working. No one should be a 24/7 Realtor!

    Looking forward to future posts.

    Wishing you the best, Dan

    • Robert Minton

      Reply Reply November 5, 2014

      Thanks Dan! You’re right, no one should be a 24/7 Realtor!

  • Delores Taylor

    Reply Reply November 4, 2014

    Hi Rob,
    Welcome back. Enjoyed you story. I look forward to following you on your new journey.

    Delores

  • Blake Russell

    Reply Reply November 4, 2014

    Hi Rob,

    Interesting story of why you got back in the business. I’m doing exactly what you are at this point: one man op, no office, no employees and I hung my license with a brokerage that doesn’t take a commission split, just a small transaction fee…freedom!!!

    I’ll be interested in following your blog moving forward. The business has changed significantly since you left and it will be interesting to follow how you adapt.

    Welcome back!

    Blake

    • Robert Minton

      Reply Reply November 4, 2014

      Blake – No overhead! No employees! No payroll taxes! No commission splits! No headaches! I’ll be posting updates on what I test and learn as things move forward! Thanks for stopping by the blog. Rob

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