John: Thanks for tuning in to Local SEO Today, don’t forget to subscribe and share this episode. My guest today is Tom Karadza, the co-founder of Rockstar Real Estate. Rockstar focuses on education first, helping investors across the Greater Toronto Area and Golden Horseshoe invest in real estate and live life on their terms. Thanks for joining me today, Tom.
Tom: Hey, happy to be here, John.
John: I’m so excited to learn a little bit more about you know, dig a little bit deeper because I’ve been to a lot of your events. I’m a member obviously and for me it’s always a pleasure to come and see you in person and meet with some of your staff regarding real estate because that’s something that I’m a big advocate of. So tell some of the audience members a little bit more about your back history…story, who you are, what you do now and where you came from. Maybe even back you know, growing up days.
Tom: Sure, okay and I just want to thank you for this because your story is inspirational to me, John. Just…I just want to throw that out there, knowing your story and everything that you’ve been through you are an inspiration to me so just thank you for this opportunity to chat but so my story kind of begins…born in Toronto raised in Mississauga, two immigrant parents my father escaped the former Yugoslavia. He climbed over some mountains. I don’t think he was hitching like different spikes into the side of walls to hike over these mountains but they were kind of big hills that he went over into Austria where he might have been you know, the threat was he would be shot and killed on site if he was caught doing that. Got over into Austria declared refugee status and they wouldn’t keep them there then they shipped them out through Germany. I think the church somehow paid for a boat ticket they basically said we’re going to pay…you’re either going back or we will pay for a ticket to Canada or Australia. It’s the only two countries that are going to have you and they shipped him out on a boat from Germany, Northern part of Germany came on a boat and then landed in Halifax and then somehow worked his way down to Toronto and lived in some friend of a friend of a friend’s basement to get started and I think he was so upset with the culture change he wanted to go back. It was really a shock to him, he didn’t have friends or family here and he didn’t have enough money to go back so he was stuck in Canada so that’s our father, our mother’s Scottish. She…her family had a little bit more money, very poor but they came over on a plane so sophisticated they came over and my parents met here in Toronto. Nick and I were born and we grew up in Mississauga to immigrant parents who didn’t understand how to track us…us in school or high school so we were left to just like you know, we yeah…we were like all immigrant kids kind of like looking back. I’m like — Oh, my gosh we were all kids of immigrant parents no one had a clue about high school like we had basically no supervision you know, parents are now like so on top of their kids. We were just like left to like to run wild, right? And but it was great. I don’t know if we seemed to survive okay and went to university. My father’s advice was just you know, go to university. I went to university and that’s kind of when the reality hit me in the face because I thought going to university meant I would get a good job and I would be set financially for life and I remember when I got my first job it was 35,000 dollars a year in the IT department of Royal Bank and after I paid for my go train and some parking and some meals and I…when I went to Harry Rosen, I couldn’t afford Harry Rosen like I don’t know what I was doing, going to Harry Rosen. I got a nice life jacket to think you know, I guess I thought I had like made it or something and I remember the cost of that jacket and how much of it my salary was taking and I just remember thinking –Holy smokes, I think I’ve been fed a lie like I went did all the right things. I was…I got good marks in high school, went to university. I was supposed to go down the engineering path, a path bailed on that when I got a degree in psychology and sociology so maybe that was part of my problem. I got an arts degree but I found it useful but going into the workforce and then seeing the income I was going to be able to earn I realized quickly that I wasn’t going to be able to live the life that I wanted to live, maybe not even the life that my parents lived you know, they bought a pretty good house in Mississauga. They worked hard like both of my parents, our parents worked hard but I thought — Oh, my gosh like I don’t even know if I’m gonna ever be able to buy a house that like the one I grew up in Mississauga and we didn’t grow up like super well off but that was when the reality hit in and it was at that moment I started thinking I needed to get better skills in the marketplace and it’s when I jumped over to Oracle Corporation which I got some database skills and then I jumped from there into sales and I really earned some good money in sales selling IT sorry database software and I learned that if you ride a trend in the economy you are going to make quite a bit of money and it’s not like that, John you or I maybe even deserve that money. We are just right… we’re in the right place at the right time. Kind of like real estate when you’re in there for long enough, right? And the trend just kind of lifts you so that was that was kind of my move into software and then eventually I quit the software job and started Rockstar but yeah that’s a bit of the story.
John: That’s amazing so now I would love to hear about why real estate, first off and what triggered you. Were there people that really inspired you like there were other entrepreneurs that you really looked up to. I know we know each other like you go to a lot of these mentor sessions and you know, a lot of the live events but really what triggered you what was that pivotal moment that really made you decide to kind of do something outside of what traditional you know, you were raised and born to learn to do.
Tom: Yeah, I think so real estate…I was reading in my early 20’s I was reading a lot of books and it seemed like everyone who had amassed any sort of freedom in their life or wealth had real estate like even if they started other businesses. Yeah, you know they ultimately shared, they owned real estate I think. I remember reading a book about Arnold Schwarzenegger and it was like he did all this bodybuilding stuff and he was in movies but then I learned he owned a whole bunch of real estate in California. Yeah and every story was kind of like that so I decided kind of for myself pretty early on that even if I don’t really love real estate. I should probably incorporate that into my life somehow and that led down flipping some properties in my 20s and buying some rental properties but then the moment for me to quit my job and go into real estate and start Rockstar on a full-time basis was that when I was at a software company so after Oracle for seven years out as a company called Netsuite for two years and it was a really aggressive company. They were going public, they wanted to go public for a billion dollars on the New York stock exchange which they did accomplish and I quit about six months before that. I was a regional sales manager there and running a really great team and the pressure from within the company to produce results every month was making me sick every month. I was literally getting sick every month because it was…I was putting so much pressure it wasn’t their fault by the way. I was putting so much pressure on myself to deliver and I took it really seriously I was literally getting sick and one month I remember specifically we missed our forecast and I was kind of ripped pretty hard for that and it was no fault of the person doing the ripping you know, it was just it was just the nature of the beast. It was this software company that was going public and I remember going home after that experience because they had ripped me in front of a whole bunch of other regional sales managers. They were saying how I had missed my target and up until then I’d always hit my target always like one time I had missed and I really got kind of you know, I thought directly attacked for it and I went home. I already had you know, two kids, mortgage on the house. My wife was not working. Carol was at home and I got a piece of Bristol board from Dollarama you know, like we all…when I went to dollarama this is like this is my strategy. I went to Dollarama that day on the way home in Mississauga. I bought a green Bristol board and markers. I got home I cleaned off the kitchen island and I started writing out a real estate plan on how to start a real estate business the way that I would have enjoyed so which was working with investors and talking about cash flow and if people are going to flip properties understand the process to flip and the dangers of flipping and how you can lose money flipping and all this stuff and I wrote different metrics that I have to track for this business I wrote it on this green piece of Bristol Board and I told my wife I’m like — I think I’m going to have to quit my job and I was just hoping she would support me and she thankfully was on board. I think she knew that if I didn’t quit you know, I was going to be a really grumpy husband for a long time and so I wrote out that plan and then I started thinking you know, I have to do this because I extrapolated forward to some people I had seen in their 40s that were in the industry and I remember a few of them wanted to take some time off in the summer to go with their families and in sales in an aggressive American software company if you take off more than two weeks you’re basically looked upon like you’re not committed to the company and I remember thinking i don’t want to work 20 years and get to my 40s and basically beg for two weeks off and for someone to tell me I’m not committed where I’m so committed that I’m getting sick every week, every month sorry so I can’t do this if that’s my future 20 years from now I can I gotta change now and I think the best decisions in my life have always come from looking forward 10…20 years and then kind of reverse engineering backward to today and what I have to change today to live the life I want in the future and that was enough for me between getting kind of ripped on missing my sales forecast and then coming to the realization that I wasn’t going to have the freedom that I wanted to spend time with my family that was it so six months before they went public. I quit on good terms. I gave a lot of notice. I didn’t give two weeks’ notice. I gave months and months worth of notice so that they wouldn’t be left in a jam and we Nick and I had our real estate licenses because we wanted to bypass realtors you know, when you’re an investor you don’t want to deal with realtors like you’re like — Forget it, there’s no real…look I know what’s going on. I’m a real estate investor you’re a realtor you can’t help me you know, there’s that kind of like mentality so Nick and I got our real estate licenses to basically bypass realtors while we were both working in software and doing other things so when it the time came to quit I already had my real estate license so I called up Nick and I said — Nick, I’m gonna go help investors. I don’t think there’s anyone focusing on investors. No one’s helping us anyway. Some people are just selling us properties shaking our hands and walking away. No one’s actually walking us through. How you get rent and you know, how you deal with tenants and what to look for when you’re flipping a property, how you create a duplex all these things and I said I’m gonna go quit and work with investors are you in or out and he right away, he was like — I’m in. So we both quit what we were doing and we started this adventure that was Rockstar Real Estate and you know, no looking back it’s been awesome so…
John: It’s amazing. Yeah, I love your story and just so the audience knows Nick is your brother , right? Yeah and I see you guys all the time and you guys are great inspiration to all the members so I applaud you for everything you’ve been doing and I think it’s over 10 years that you’ve had your business now, right?
Tom: Yeah, we….yep I quit in 2007 and we incorporated Rockstar in the fall of 2008. So yeah, we’re over 10 years now. It’s been crazy.
John: And I loved where you mentioned that you know, working with a lot of people in their 40s and 50s really gave you a realization of what your life would look like in the future and a lot of these people who are starting off like getting into the workforce. They don’t have the opportunity to actually work with other individuals that are, you know, at a certain level or age that you know, diverse culture, right? What I would say is if you go work at shopify or google, you’re gonna be working with a lot of people within your age at this point, right? You don’t get to see what other people are going to be looking like and I was very fortunate very similar to yourself. I worked at yellow pages and I saw all these 40, 50, 60 year olds grinding it out. Working day and night in sales. Yes, they were doing fairly well but it was stressful, right? As you know, the sales environment and then you look at managers, VP’s, directors and you’re like — Is that what you want to be when you grow up, right? Like putting in that 10, 20 years to do that and then you know, what joy in life is it when you only get a couple weeks of your life or that year to go away, right? With family or whatnot.
Tom: Yeah, you’re right, totally right because the department that I was in it was all young people too. It was only when I got exposed to some of the other areas that I saw some of the older guys and and women that were working there and I thought — Oh, my gosh that’s not the life I want to live and I feel like it sounds awful saying that but when I saw them at that age basically playing company politics and and struggling for the right accounts. I’m like — Oh, my gosh like in your 40’s you have to be still like worried about you know, something or then a new VP would come into the business and then you didn’t know if you were secure in your role anymore because they had their own people and I just remember thinking this is I don’t know if I’m allowed to swear or no, I was thinking this is BS, man. This is like…this is not the life I signed up for. Yeah, you know? And my father ran his own drywall company and he was not you know, he didn’t really know what he was doing as a businessman but he did it like he ran his own company so I think having that I thought well you know, I’ve seen people run their own company. I’ve seen my own father run his own company. My father has like a grade eight education like he stopped going to school in grade eight and I thought — Well, I don’t know. I wonder if he could do it. I don’t even think he could do it it was more like I had just been exposed to it so thought you could do it. Yeah so I kind of think I’m just really thankful for everything that you know, my parents did for us, right? I feel thankful to be born in this country. I feel thankful for the opportunities that I had for the friends and different cultures and to meet so many amazing people. I just feel like Canada is a really you know, if you’re lucky enough to be you know, grow up here you kind of get a lot of opportunities thrown your way.
John: Yeah, I love how positive you are and grateful you are too because I’m the same way because every moment I have, I’m always smiling. I’m always like just being present and loving life, right? Because if you’re not, why are you even doing what you’re doing? What are you pursuing in your…as your end goal, right? So just enjoy the moment, spend time with people you love, do things that you love and that’s what happiness is about, right?
Tom: Totally, yeah totally.
John: So growing up I know you mentioned like your career you started your journey but did you ever imagine being your own boss like running a business? Was this something that you really looked up to while your dad was pursuing his own kind of company on the side?
Tom: I think because our father had… was so interested in us getting educated at university it really wasn’t something in my mind like I thought maybe I’m you know, I’m the older brother and maybe growing up I thought well our father see I think he really wanted us to go to school and become a lawyer like I think that’s what he liked. If I think…if he admits his dream I think it was like going to school and becoming a lawyer and making the family proud you know? And I think maybe that’s what I thought was the right thing to do even though I didn’t go and become a lawyer so I never really had it in my mind to run my own business. I think it’s weird. I think that came from the book. I think is the biggest influence or one of the biggest ones I read Richard Branson’s book Losing my Virginity his story of like what he went through. I remember reading that book early on thinking this guy’s insane like he’s getting arrested, smuggling records or whatever he was smuggling across the border. He’s spending nights in jail, he’s writing his newspapers, he’s then starting an airline by renting a plane when he’s on a trip. He buys an island like I’m like this is chaos. This is chaos so I think it was more being exposed to these stories through books because I couldn’t afford like at that time…couldn’t afford a mentor or couldn’t afford to really get direct exposure to people who were doing things so I think it was through books and reading these things that I thought — Wow, like there’s a there’s another way so I think it was less you know, our father’s having his own company but and more just being in the work world, reading these books getting me exposed to other ideas and it’s weird. I didn’t read from 18 to 24 like from early 20s I read some books but till about 24 I hardly read and then I did the deep dive like Think and Grow Rich and you know, all of Napoleon Hill’s stuff and how to win friends and influence people, Dale Carnegie. The classics books, right? Like it went down all these books and it was just like this new world was opening up to me and I think that’s really what got me thinking — Wow, there’s a different life here. I don’t have to, you know, go into this corporate world and stay here. I can do something else so I think it was the stories of other people which will be interesting I think for the next generation coming in the next 10 years because through what you’re doing, John. And what everyone’s doing and sharing online it seems like anything’s possible to everybody you don’t even have to read books you can just you can see on instagram what people are doing and not doing or you can learn you can get exposed to things so much more quickly. Now, I’m interested to see what happens to the workforce and the economy in the next 10 and 20 years, right?
John: Yeah but I like you put in the time to actually read and be inspired and actually do something about it. A lot of these people today will look at a snippet of a social post or instagram video and think they are experts right away without putting in time and effort to really understand the root cause and what it really means.
Tom: That’s true and that’s something I’m doing with my own kids. You’re right…you’re…I’m trying to yeah and anyone who asks especially some younger people who meet us here at Rockstar you know, some people I think that we’re just kind of like going on beach vacations and like you know, I’m like — No, you don’t understand like running and starting a business requires an incredible amount of momentum like you’re gonna have to work harder, like starting a business was way harder than my nine-to-five job. My nine-to-five job. I just walk out of the job and I don’t care anymore or I kind of cared but I mean you know, you kind of detach a little bit and starting your own business like it’s never ending. I remember at the beginning Nick and I like…I was for a few months I was starting Rockstar and working still and I was…I had two laptop bags my like nine to five bag and my bag of like my future and I remember getting up at like 4:30 in the morning going to one of the coffee shops close to the office I worked in and sitting there at 5am when that…when the owner unlocked the door I was going in there ordering breakfast and a coffee and sitting there working on the laptop for Nick and our you know, our business that we were launching writing content and newsletters and stuff and doing that from about five to seven thirty and still going to the office and being the first person in the office at the nine-to-five job and then doing my nine-to-five job. On lunch sometimes I would take off from lunch and I would drive. We were doing some stuff in Brampton then I was actually looking at properties for investors in Brampton on my lunch and calling investors thinking — Hey, saying I got a good property over. I found a good one and they’re like why aren’t you buying it. I’m like I don’t have any more money. I can’t buy it like I…we don’t have more money like we can’t buy but this is a winner and so we’re doing these deals on lunch coming back for the afternoon and I remember sometimes I was driving to Hamilton from Mississauga and those were long lunches those were like two hour lunches and people were like where did you go and I was driving from the airport to Hamilton to scout out properties and then calling people on the way back trying to get an investor to buy a property and not forcing them but like I genuinely found a good cash link. We were buying single-family homes on the Hamilton mountain for 195 to 205,000. They were cash flowing just straight rent made them cash flow so you know, we could do that kind of thing and I was calling investors on the way back and then working and then after coming home eating dinner. Nick and I went to get together from about eight to midnight, stuffing all our marketing envelopes so you know, we were writing search engine optimized blog posts that were working like gangbusters you know this better than anybody and we were starting to earn leads and the leads were coming in and from eight to midnight. We were in my unfinished basement on the cement floor on our hands and knees because I didn’t even have a table and we were stuffing these flyers, these reports that we had written about real estate investing into these envelopes and we were licking them and we were arguing about like who’s doing it faster because we’re both exhausted, you know? And Nick was like — Well, you’re taking so long to lick these envelopes. He’s like you do it like this and he got the sponge in the little water and he was like you know, doing it like this. I’m like — No, you do it like this and we were arguing about the most ridiculous things like just out of exhaustion, right? And it would be midnight and then I’d go to sleep for like four and a half hours. I’d get up at 4:30 and I would do it all over again so those first few years were like instant, one point but right before I quit Netsuite somebody came into my office and I had my laptop for Netsuite on my desk and I had my other laptop bag like underneath the desk you know, for my other business and someone said they looked at how tired I was and they said — Are you gonna make it like…Are you okay? You know, you look horrible. And it was tough. It was that the beginning was so difficult. Holy smokes but yeah…I’m saying that all to your point about instagram that…yeah, people misunderstand the amount of momentum it takes to get started but then once you have some momentum it’s easier to carry that forward.
John: Yeah, but it all takes grit, right? It all takes hard work and grinding it out like what you did was inspirational but it also meant you put in the time and effort, know how, you’re gonna make mistakes like you bootstrap, it was a side hustle at first and a lot of people like they look at you at your pinnacle, right now. When you’re the owner ,10 years, you have a great team you know, they see that you’re going on trips, you post it or whatever but they don’t see you know, it took 20, 30 years of hard work, right? But they see you and they’re like — Oh, I can do that and they’re in their 20s. They don’t understand you’re now you know close to 40s and 50s and it took you so many years to get to where you are.
Tom: I think that’s the biggest thing that like no one realized…I used to think there was a secret… I used to think I didn’t have enough money because I didn’t know the secret now I know the secret is just putting your head down and working every single day in and out and I’ve also, learned there’s no mistakes like I used to be scared of maybe making a mistake or looking feeling embarrassed that people might see me fail in some capacity and now I’ve learned that the mistakes are only made because I didn’t have the knowledge that I needed and the mistakes are necessary for me to get that knowledge so in fact mistakes are required to succeed like the mistakes are the raw material like the mistakes are the raw material that you need to build upon your success. You have to make all the mistakes and when I discovered that Nick and I realized — Oh, my gosh let’s go and make all the mistakes we can…yes like that really propelled us. That little realization is ridiculous as that sounds that really propelled us because then we were fearless. We were like well let’s let’s do this and let’s promise this and not promise something to an investor that we couldn’t, we didn’t feel we could do and if we didn’t live up to it. We would correct it, right? We would know, we would do whatever we needed to do to fulfill our promises but sometimes we were making crazy promises like one time there was a guy from British Columbia who found out about us. I don’t know how and he said — You know, I want to buy a property in Hamilton. I heard Hamilton’s a really good place to buy a property. I’m like — Sure we can help you out and he goes — Well, you’re going to have to rent it out for me and I need this much rent every month because I need this much cash flow. It’s not going to work for me. I’m like — Oh, I can. I got you easy. I got you no-pro and I remember thinking — Okay, that rent’s a little higher than I probably should have committed to, right? And we went out to this property and the first time we went out to it and this guy needed to rent it out quickly. There was a snowstorm but Nick and I still went out there and we were calling attendance back saying — Yep, we’re going to be there meet us. We pulled up in front of this house. Nick plowed like he got a shovel out of our trunk and plowed a little pathway this big like I swear up on a Hamilton mountain you know, sometimes it can snow up on the mountain there like it was a lot of snow and he pulled he made a little path to this house so all the tenants could walk there and I checked my pockets and I forgot the keys at home and I remember thinking — Oh, my God! Like I went and apologized to everyone. Nick was furious like you know, we’re brothers, right? And he was like just furious with me and I drove home that day thinking what a failure. I like I’m letting him down, I’m letting this investor down. I’m like…I’m…I gotta check myself here like I’m losing it here like this isn’t gonna work, right? And I had to kind of regroup myself the next two days. We called leads back got people back to the property I rented out that weekend for more than I thought I was gonna rent it for and I thought — Oh, my god you know, where sometimes where you think just the universe is working out for you? You know, you went through this low low moment and then a few days later you kind of have the success and it was going through more and more things like that I realized — Okay, you know, what if bad stuff happens just keep going, just don’t stop keep going keep going and things will work out so anyway I’m rambling now.
John: That’s awesome because you know, failure only happens when you give up, right? And a lot of business owners give up too soon but they also have to acknowledge when they should kind of see if it’s a real business or not. To kind of unfold or try to…try to pivot, right? And do something outside of what they’re you know, say they’re exactly or some are business plan was right? A lot of people spend too much time thinking about what to do and actually just going out and doing it. I think you and me is very similar. We just do it and I’m sure we’re doing it wrong. It’s okay, right? But you’re having fun and you’re learning, you’re making mistakes and you’re pivoting and you’re trying to refine it and get better and it’s okay because people won’t see you make those mistakes. It’s just you knowing that you made it, right? They don’t…they won’t even realize it, right? And it’s a part of business, it’s all about life as well because as we evolve and grow this is what life is all about. It’s a journey, right? And without these little hiccups in life how fun will it be if you already have a plan on everything as an outcome.
Tom: Totally, yeah 100 percent agree like and that’s why I don’t have any regret. I think you know, sometimes what people will ask saying — Well, do you have any regrets or anything you would change? Not really because those mistakes made me stronger you know, I don’t regret making any of those mistakes. Those mistakes gave me the confidence that I have today knowing that you know, everything can be taken away from Nick and myself everything and it wouldn’t even phase me like I’m not someone who needs to drive a nice car. I’m not someone who I don’t want to say cares about anything because I care about stuff. I just mean care about
anything material maybe and I think that all comes from a place of knowing that we can do anything we want in life. You can do anything you want so if this journey ends in a certain way so be it then the next journey begins like I just I’m not tied to anything that I thought I would be tied to. I thought I would be tied to having the nice watch and having the nice clothes and getting in the nice car and I thought success meant you had all the free time in the world like I’ll have my assistant get those documents to you and you just wave your magic hand and stuff happens and I’ve realized that in business you will have assistance and you will have people to help you out but it’s a pain. Like you’re training people and people will come and go and you know? And but the only way to grow is to go through that you know, and hire people and freak out about paying someone else when you’re not sure if you have enough money for yourself, right? And going through all of this stuff so I think just the journey is what real…to your point it’s important and it gives you a certain confidence and that confidence is what gives me personal freedom because I really believe you could pick up someone like yourself or myself and drop us anywhere and I’m gonna make it. I’m gonna make it. I’ll know how to hustle and make myself some money for myself and my family…
John: We’ll figure it out.
Tom: Yeah, exactly. And to me that is the ultimate freedom. It’s not having a business and having the business produce cash flow which is of course amazing, right? Like that’s huge and it allows us to travel as a family and do all these wonderful things but it’s not the freedom that…my personal freedom doesn’t come from that. My personal freedom comes from knowing I can get through anything. You know what, try me. Throw something at me. Let’s see…let’s see what you got you know what I mean? It’s kind of like that.
John: That’s amazing man so regarding business again were there mentors or coaches that really changed your perspective in like how you ran your business or how you’re gonna focus on going very niche down the real estate line? Like was there someone or a couple people that actually geared you to the direction that you’re in today?
Tom: Yeah, by far the biggest mentor we’ve ever had it was first through his books and then through his events and then we hired him privately as a coach was this gentleman by the name of Dan S. Kennedy. He’s having some health issues right now but he’s still around. An older guy and he was just so blunt and to the point of how to run a business. I had read a lot of stuff that like you know, the customer is always right and you should have an open door management policy and I read all these things that were from…almost like they were written by business school professors but never want anyone who would like run a business and I realized that yeah like if you have an open door policy all the time you’re never going to get anything done because there’s going to be people in your in your face all the time. Like you can’t do any actual productive work and the customer isn’t always right if they are not being respectful to you and your business and demanding things that are incorrect so I kind of…I was attracted to this kind of alternate way of thinking about business and Nick and I went to a bunch of his conferences and then we hired him as a mentor and we met other people through that because we met other business owners like yourself and then we could hang out together and talk at the bar about — Hey,what are you doing? What are you seeing? So getting that mentor and then getting into that mentor’s world and getting exposed to other entrepreneurs really propelled us forward because when Nick and I thought maybe we were struggling with something then we would hear that like — Oh, well John’s struggling with the same thing or he struggled with the same thing a year ago. He did this and now he’s overcome it. And you would share that with us that was mind-blowing so to us we tell everybody like start with books if you can’t afford mentors and then go to some conferences like go hang around people that are doing what you want to do even if you’re not doing it yet, go hang around them talk to them you know, like get exposed to them and you’ll realize they’re just human, they don’t have all the answers, they’re struggling too and that whole path of going down that… so first with the books then with the conferences and then hiring Dan Kennedy as a you know, into going to his personal mastermind and then as a couple times we had him you know, personally and a few other mentors like that. Bill Glazier was another really important one for us that really propelled us forward faster, I think.
John: That’s amazing. Yeah, I just finished Ray Dalio’s life principles book. A ton of Seth Godin’sbooks like I’m all about reading as well because nowadays you can’t fly anywhere to get you know, one-on-one. No coaching.
Tom: We can’t even leave our house. We can’t even leave our house anywhere.
John: Exactly, so can you share some of the maybe mistakes because I know we go through tons of mistakes all the time, right? And some of these listeners are either starting off as in their entrepreneur journey like what did you do to overcome them and how would you have done things differently if you would have that would have you know maybe set you back or propel you differently in your outcome today?
Tom: I got it…guess some of the things that maybe we would have done differently looking back is that we waited too long to hire help. I think we were so nervous about not having I think our our first…our limiting belief was we didn’t think we had enough work to fill eight hours a day for
someone so we thought — Oh, my gosh like we’re just starting out. We can you know, barely pay ourselves at this point but we were overwhelmed like we needed help and if we didn’t hire somebody we were going to sink I think but we were slow to hire that person and it was just our first it was a first part-time assistant that was freaking us out like it was one person part-time like that was enough to freak us out and I remember when we hired her we were both like — Well, I don’t know like does she have enough work for the whole day like we’re paying her for eight hours. I think she’s not doing anything for the last two hours you know, this is crazy like we’re wasting money and now looking back a lot of that a lot of time spent on that type of thinking was a waste you know, because it’s nice to have some even if someone’s going to be around for two days and you have nothing for them to do. The next three days you might be swamped and if you don’t have them around you’re not going to be able to capitalize on some of these opportunities that might come your way so associating you know, somebody’s time or lack of activity with time that we’re paying for as a failure and thinking that we shouldn’t hire them because their time’s not full was a complete mistake and held us back for a little bit and that’s not to say to hire someone too early. We believe leading with revenue. I don’t know if you’ve there’s a really good book written by the guy who started Keller Williams and it’s a brokerage that just went right through North America and he started, he wrote a book called The Millionaire Real Estate Agent and it applies to any business owner even though it’s specifically geared for realtors. It talks about building a business from one person and then adding people around you and he has this concept that’s not unique to him but it he talks a lot about leading with revenue
so you know, as soon as you’re able to generate some revenue then you add on help and I think that was our limitation that we were generating revenue but we were trying to do everything we were trying to micromanage everything. Nobody could do anything as good as us like you know, you’re not even licking the envelope as good as we can like you know, you’re taking too long we would have licked those envelopes in like 20 minutes you know, you’re taking 40 minutes like what’s wrong with you? You know? It was some of that kind of thinking was incorrect so hiring people was probably the biggest mistake and then other things I think that we avoid is a lot of people wanted to do branding with us early and we knew that the Search Engine Optimization stuff that we were working on so we knew that branding would become a byproduct of the good information that we were exposing so we didn’t want to lead with like creating brand. This is a mistake that I’m thankful we avoided that we didn’t want to lead with creating brochures and fancy business cards and letterhead and like a glossy website that really served no purpose other than an online brochure. We dodged that thankfully and doubled down on providing good information and making that good information food for the search engines and that was a mistake I feel very great because I feel like a lot of companies don’t do that. They focus on all the glossy ego stuff and they don’t offer the good information out to the public and that by some miracle we avoided that and just have always led with good information and that really propelled our business and I know you know, all about this stuff and you’re the expert on it not me but that was a really important thing because you can spend a lot of money branding your business and on like ego driven ads and people would want us to sponsor different teams and things and although you want to give back to the community which we do. There’s certain times where the money is not best spent. When you’re starting off sponsoring a soccer team for example the money’s better spent in developing a website that is going to offer good information and capture leads for my business, right? So I know I’m preaching to the choir here I know.
John: No, these are great points and I love the point where you mentioned like hiring early you know where your skill sets are, where your strengths are and where you can produce way more revenue by doing things that you love doing, right? And to devote that time doing it because you can earn way more money doing it. Hire someone to do that task that you’re paying 20, 30 dollars on and you can earn 500 an hour doing something that you love, right? And then early on another thing is no one’s gonna do everything the way you want them to do and no one’s like you, right? Because you’re a business owner we think differently than an employee right? Employees are very task driven, right? And you have to just have clear guidelines and instructions for employees whereas no one’s ever going to get anything done because they cannot think the way you’re thinking and do things the way you want to do it, right? So, I love that point and secondly you mentioned that glossy branding. A lot of business owners forget the most important asset is understanding how to run a business, provide good value, offer up a product or service that people are willing to pay for your expertise, right? If no one’s willing to pay for it they don’t really care how nice your storefront images website looks like you know? I mean people spend money on all the wrong things when they’re starting off as a business owner. They put so much money on decor, renovations and then they’re broke when it comes to marketing and sales, right? It’s because they’ve been trained by, I guess you know, people who are lending the money or VC money or whatever it is. As a bootstrap business owner we basically do the opposite, right? It’s like revenue first or sales first before you start hiring so…
Tom: It’s the biggest thing I think when it was Dan Kennedy who taught us that you know, you want as a business no one cares about your business name people have their own problems and you want to get inside the conversation going on in the mind of your customer and once you enter that conversation on your website provide the answer to whatever it is the problem that is going through their mind so that your website shouldn’t be geared towards your company name. There couldn’t be a corporate website but there should be some components of your website that are basically answering the question or answering or providing a solution to the problem that people are having and something else that we’ve learned along the way that you know, around mistakes is a lot of people came to us wanting to make business plans like let’s make a business plan, let’s make a business plan and I think the biggest thing I would share with anyone starting out is that we don’t want a business plan. We want to know a few things. We want to know how much is it going to cost us to get a lead so for example how many web page visits do we need until somebody raises their hand and says — Yes, I’m kind of sort of interested in your offerings, tell me a little bit more. So how many do we either pay for that or is that through impressions on our website whatever it is how can we measure that and then once we have a lead how many leads will it take to get a new customer and if we can solve that little riddle; business is easy because now we know you know what it takes us a hundred views of our web pages to get a new lead so if we want 10 new leads for our business in any day, we need to work to get a thousand views of our website every single day because we know it takes 10 leads to get a new customer and we want a new customer every single day. Now it’s a math, now business to me becomes a math problem whereas when it’s a business plan and you know, people will talk to us –Well the size of the real estate opportunity here in Canada is this big. It’s this many billions of dollars and if we get just 1.5 of the market we will have this size of a business and I’m like — Yeah but tell me how to get a customer to walk in the front door you know, I mean or to email us or something that to me is the secret to business so that’s something I try to scream from the rooftops when people are starting a business and I don’t think I’m doing a very good job, John. No one believes me.
John: Well, it’s a predictable…a sales right? Like I understand but it took you years to uncover that. Understand and get in the mind of exactly who your ideal customer is, your persona, the avatar and what are they looking for? What are the triggers, main personality points that they want to want to purchase from you right? And then the cost per acquisition how much will it cost you from impressions, to clicks, to engagement to how many visits before they actually submit a lead and then of course a lead doesn’t mean a sale, right? You may need 10 or 20 leads to get one sale and then what’s the quality like of that client and what’s the lifetime value of the customer and then the referral component and there’s so many other things that we could talk about funnels and drips and all that stuff but that’s a different topic but yeah. Great points. I love it man. Like at the beginning though… At the beginning it’s hard as a business owner. You’re there’s so much going on in terms of operations, HR sales, marketing accounting you know, learning how to run a business that they’re not going to think about that , right? And I find it very fascinating that you had your brother to support and kind of work with, right? As a solopreneur, I had no one to rely on, right? It was…
Tom: I have so much respect for you, so much respect for you.
John: It’s challenging because I didn’t and I would work 18 hour days, 16 hours and I don’t even know who to talk to, right because everything’s going on my head and my wife has no interest in talking to me anything about business, right? She already has her own worries and then she has no interest in even listening to what I’m talking about, right? So for me it was like finding people in this online sphere and then learning by making mistakes, right? And it’s challenging for a lot of business owners but enjoy the process just don’t get overwhelmed because it is overwhelming. It’s very difficult but just make it fun somehow.
Tom: Yeah…yeah, no it’s a good point you have to kind of and I think you can make it fun by keeping the big picture in mind like if you have a purpose to what you’re doing like I kind of pick up from you that you really take a lot of satisfaction from helping businesses succeed whether it’s finally or succeed in new growth that maybe they didn’t have and I personally find when I can associate a bigger purpose with my life and my business outside of the business itself. It really allows me to put the stress in perspective so when you’re first starting out, to me it’s important to have that bigger purpose of your business because without the bigger purpose a lot of the pain that you’re going to go through is really going to suck the bigger purpose. To me it’s important…it’s why in our business we have this thing that I know you’ve heard from us. We say your life, your terms and the reason we have that bigger purpose is to us our business isn’t about selling somebody a rental property like in fact real estate has a lot of pain and suffering that’s associated with it. Real estate often sucks, you know what I mean? But the benefits that you get from holding real estate over periods of time are amazing and that helps to meet us and our investors, our clients helps them in some small way hopefully live life on their terms by having a second income stream. Maybe some equity build up maybe if they’re lucky even some appreciation of the property so having this higher purpose of your business to me it’s like a strategic marketing principle that was never really explained to me but it is very critical in surviving the ups and downs of business, right?
John: Yeah I and I know you probably read like Simon Sinek’s book The Why…
Tom: Yeah, I haven’t. I’ve read like a few for whatever reason haven’t been through that book but that book has been referred to me so many times. Now that I need to get through this book because I’m assuming it’s talking about all of this stuff, right?
John: Yeah…yeah it’s like pursuit of passion and pursuit of your reasoning of why you’re doing what you’re doing, right? But yeah amazing tips so far Tom, I love it man in terms of technology. I know things have changed over the last couple years and before it was the manual licking and I know you still do that, right? Which is direct mail but how have you used technology for your business today versus maybe when you first started or even five years ago and how has that advanced for you or downsize or how has it worked?
Tom: Yeah, it’s really interesting on an infrastructure side moving into this new office everyone was asking us where is your server room going to be or where’s all you? And I was like–Whoa like you don’t understand with google we can run everything. Yeah, we can have everything in the cloud, our phones are voice over IP, bell dropped in fiber optic. Here we have a gigabit …gigabyte internet up and down but like a voice over IP is super smooth so the…with all of that our infrastructure needs are like now you can start a business you…some of our team yeah some of our team doesn’t even have the voice over IP phones anymore. They have the app on their phone and the internet’s so fast in the office here they can sit privately in one of the meeting rooms and get some work done something and they can be answering calls that are coming in and everyone’s roaming around. We have a work from home day every week, where…but you know they can still take phone calls as if they were in the office. On Technology the amount of infrastructure that you used to need like I don’t know if you remember setting up like a Microsoft Outlook email server and like putting updates on this thing and like you know, I’m old enough I remember windows NT and having like a file server and like — Oh, gosh it crashed and so now starting a business is just from the back end technology. It’s beautiful and then on the front end. It’s beautiful because to share your message you have so much media to choose from because if you don’t like to speak in front of a camera you don’t have to go on youtube. You can go on the internet on your website and write beautiful long form articles but if you don’t like to write long form articles well there is youtube and you can record videos and put them out there and have somebody transcribe them and also have an article for you or if you like to speak not on video, you can do podcasts that are just audio only so now we have all these different forms of media and I’m sure you’ve heard that essay I’m going to mess it up about a thousand true fans in business now you only have to offer good enough information to like a thousand loyal customers that will continue buying your product or really be local fans and referring your service and that’s enough. And with all these different forms of media you can get to those thousand fans of your particular business faster and easier than you ever could before. Yeah, so technology on the backend infrastructure is like mind-blowing like we literally have I feel like we have no… you know, we have like the internet streaming in here and what else do we have? We just have the network jacks like that’s we have oh we have some sound system in the office here but like that’s pretty much it.Yeah you know, there’s apple TV’s on the computer so we can throw up our screen on here so infrastructure and on the front-end media side, it’s just mind-blowing, I’m not sure if I’m answering what you were asking but it’s mind-blowing to see it evolve.
John: And it’s amazing hearing from an entrepreneur that how affordable it is today. How fast it is and how advanced it is in terms of like before like when I was working at yellow pages it took five minutes to boot up a computer. It took two minutes to send an email because it was a 3g network. Loading up a website took a couple minutes and then it’s like how many people are actually using the internet because it takes so much time, right? Technology has advanced so quickly. API’s with smartphones like that phone is so powerful, right? Like GPS, video, email, movies you name it is on that device, right? Versus before you had different devices for everything, right?
Tom: Totally, it’s amazing. I think now the biggest one to me is just seeing the smartphone, our voiceover IP phones on team members, their own personal iphones here as an app. But to me this is my… I know that’s been around for a little while now but now I guess with the internet speed so fast and it’s so usable because before it was kind of choppy, calls would drop that was echoey but now people don’t even know they’re on their own personal iphone but answering like a Rockstar incoming phone call from one of our members or clients like it’s just mind-blowing to me.
John: It’s 5g, right? Soon it’ll be 5g, a thousand times the speed of 4g right? Like it’s crazy how technology has advanced, right? So just the last couple of questions: what drives you today? Like what really motivates you? What really pushes you to do what you do and like in terms of like passion and purpose, what is your key drivers today as opposed to when you first started?
Tom: I think today is I this is going to maybe even sound really weird or bad in some way but I feel like we’re getting…can most Canadians don’t understand the rules of money and the fact that the foundational base of our economic system is geared against them and that even if they’re working very hard nine to five and saving some money. Property prices are going to go faster, up faster than they can save and it’s not really their fault and I hate saying that it’s not their fault because I’m a big believer in taking personal responsibility for everything but when the system is geared towards rewarding asset owners and really kind of punishing savers which then ultimately means income earners to me I just take that personally and I think part of the reason I take that so personally is I believe Canada is one of the best countries in the world and I grew up I would consider it like maybe middle, lower-middle class kind of you know and I found that was a beautiful way to be brought up and I feel that’s vanishing. You know, there was a time when my father worked and my mother didn’t work and we didn’t really suffer we… I don’t think we were like rich by any means but we could pay the bills, right? There were times when both my parents had to work to be fair. There was you know, ups and downs and that kind of stuff but I don’t think that’s possible anymore. I think everybody just assumes both parents are going to work whereas there was a time that I can remember where that was an option and I just feel that this theft of people’s time and labor through inflation and the way the economic system is set up really drives me to share our real estate message because I feel a good real estate property is one way to circumvent the system so real estate to me like we’re not passionate about real estate by trying to tell people real estate’s the best investment you’re ever going to make and looking prices never go down. No…no…no the prices go up and down and you need to be careful you can lose money. This is a a dangerous game you need to be sophisticated in it
but if you can be sophisticated in your real estate decisions it will help you navigate through a money system that is geared against people who do not own assets and that really drives me and it might sometimes…I share that I think I sound completely ridiculous but I really don’t even care. I really…it drives me and that’s what keeps us going.
John: That’s amazing because again asset allocation is very critical. I’m reading a Tony Robbins
Tom: What is that master…mastering money? Mastering the money game or something like that.
John: Yeah, I’ve almost done it.
Tom: That’s a thick one. Yeah, that book is like… that’s thick, man.
John: But I love the Ray Dalio’s principal life principles one as well. That was a really good one.
Tom: Yeah, cool.
John: But yeah, like learning about assets and understanding what the true system is all about. The rewarding the rich, right? The ultra wealthy but if you can uncover how you can you know, take part in it and you know incorporate some of it so that you can own some of the assets, so that you can live your life on your terms that’s what ultimately you’re after, right? For the positioning not for your life potentially but maybe the next generation or your kids or legacy, right?
Tom: And it’s the society that I want to live in. I want to have neighbors that are making some money and getting ahead and I want to have neighbors where their savings are expanding like I want to live in a community where that’s happening. I don’t want to live in a world where everybody’s struggling.
John: Yeah, right…yeah like Tony Robbins is…he’s always saying three things about life; it’s all about money, relationships and health, right? And those are the three pillars that he lives by so aside from business and you know, this is a little bit more deeper, Tom but what are…think some of the major pillars in your life today? Like I know work is very inspirational because you’ve been working for the last 10 plus years building what you’ve built but how about like community? How about family? Can you dig a little bit deeper on how those pillars has molded you to become who you are?
Tom: Sure yeah, I think what what drives me a lot is my family and the I want to have time with my family and quality time with my family and I want to be able to contribute to my family and help out my kids and support my wife and so that drives me a lot and I’ve learned over the years that sometimes the way I can express that is by working hard and but I’ve also learned that sometimes in a relationship that maybe my family won’t recognize that. My working hard and time away from the family is for them and that’s not their fault. That’s time with them is what they need so for a while I just thought — Well, I’m working all these hours like don’t you get it? It’s for you like I’m doing all these hours for you like you even though. I’m not with you because I’m working so hard like it’s all for you but I kind of realized thankfully I feel like maybe 10 years ago or something. — Oh, I’m like. Oh, this isn’t right if I can’t not be with my family for you know? And wait 20 years to have time with them. I need to carve out a life where I have time with them now so really important in my life is having family trips and vacations which I know things kind of seems like a thing of the past right now but you know, having family vacations and spending quality time together and then being able to spend time together throughout the week, all the time you know? And sometimes it’s going to be busy in our business and sometimes it’s going to be less busy so it’s not like perfect but having that family time is really important and then also personal sovereignty and what I mean by that in my life, I want to be free like I want to be able to save up enough money and create enough streams of cash flow where I can. No, matter what happens I can live the life I want to live and that’s really important to me and then I also want to give in to the community and giving into the community sometimes can be time sometimes it can be education like helping other business owners you know, who are might be struggling a little bit and helping them kind of get through some of their struggles with some coaching and some of that kind of stuff so it can be whatever you know, the way you want to give back but for us sometimes it’s not maybe always like a classic like I’m going to make this donation to this cause sometimes it’s getting your hands dirty and sitting down next to somebody and helping them get to the next step so that’s really important to me too having…helping other people in the community and I’m not sure like I’m really great at that by any means but I’m trying you know, like I’m trying…I’m trying to help.
John: And that’s the key though at least you know, there’s a gap or something to achieve, right? And do better because just like anything at least you’re a doer versus a say or someone that always says they’re gonna do it but yeah, he doesn’t. Those kind of people. So that’s amazing man, I love this conversation, Tom. It was great to get to really know you so how can some of the listeners get a hold of you know, reach out to you or learn a little bit more about your business?
Tom: Sure the best website is probably rockstarinnercircle.com. There’s a bunch of books and reports and articles and stuff on there and ways to contact us so just that website’s probably the best way.
John: Amazing, well thanks a lot I really appreciate your time, Tom and it was a lot of fun thank you.
Tom: Yeah, thanks for having me John. This was great.