7 Lessons I Learned in 2020

The author and his wife earlier this year in Idyllwild, CA

It’s important to reflect on your life regularly. I try to do this daily to maintain perspective and focus on the bigger picture rather than get bogged down in life’s daily minutiae. It’s also valuable to reflect on self-improvement. As the curtain falls on 2020, I thought I would share some things I learned throughout the year. 

Your Network is Critical

I like reading autobiographical books by successful people. Within these books, I have never once read something resembling “I did it all by myself. No one helped me get here”. Rather, the opposite is true. No successful person got to that position by themselves: it takes mentors, coaches, employees, family members, friends, and even enemies to encourage and inspire that individual to achieve their big goals. I’ve noticed this is especially true in real estate. If you are finding the deals, financing the projects, doing the rehab yourself, and managing tenants, you’re doing it wrong, and you will likely fail or burn out unless you build a team of experts around you. 

Always Provide Value to Others

I read an insightful book this year titled “The Go-Giver,” which extolls the idea that you must focus on empowering others to achieve their goals to be successful yourself. No one likes being in a partnership or relationship of any kind that is one-sided. We must consider what the people in our network are trying to accomplish and do everything we can to assist them, whether we get anything in return or not. Give without the expectation of receiving anything in return. 

Photo credit @elcarito via unsplash.com

Don’t Set a Reading Goal Based on Total Number of Books Read

There are very few activities I enjoy more than reading. Just give me a good book, a comfortable chair next to a window, and a cup of coffee, and I’m a happy guy. At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to read 50 books. This number was double my goal for 2019, which I exceeded by 1 or 2 books. That sounds like a substantial goal, right? The problem was, I noticed that when deciding on what book to read next, I tended to pick shorter books so I could hit my monthly quota of 4 – 5 books—erring towards shorter books resulted in some more enormous tomes feeling lonely on my bookshelf. In 2021, I will adjust my goal to focus on the number of pages read per day. When I sit down to do my weekly goals every Sunday, I will look at my schedule for the week and decide a daily page number that is attainable. This way, I won’t be discouraged from reading the larger books. 

Plan Long Term, but Take Action every day

Consistent, daily action is a cornerstone of success. But so is making significant long-term goals, right? “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan taught me that you have to take that big goal you want to hit ten years from now and break it down into progressively smaller chunks to the point that you ask yourself, “What can I do today to make progress toward that goal?” Incremental progress every day eventually results in the achievement of massive goals. This concept applies to business development, fitness, nutrition, relationships – anything you can want to improve in your life. 

Daily Planners Work

When I signed up for a Bigger Pockets Pro account earlier this year, they sent me a free Intention Journal as well. I had heard Brandon Turner (the ‘author’ of the journal) talk about daily planners and their value but never started doing it until they sent me the free 90-day Intention Journal. Wow! I love using it. You write down your goals for the 90 days, then create a plan for the upcoming week for the steps you will take to get you closer to those goals. I use the journal to track my real estate progress, personal fitness, daily reading, and more. As I came closer to filling up the pages of my Intention Journal, I researched different kinds of planners. I decided on the Panda Planner: Venture edition, which is designed for entrepreneurs. There are many kinds of daily planners and journals out there, but I highly recommend you pick one up and start writing down your goals and planning out your days. If you do this, I’m 100% confident you will see more progress towards your goals! Do you have a planner you like a lot? Send me a message on Instagram or an email to doug@honorandequity.com. I’d love to hear about it.

Work on Your Business, Not in Your Business 

Entrepreneurs feel like they have to do everything. “If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself.” This mindset is common at the beginning of any business venture, but if you ever want the business to scale or succeed on its own, you have to delegate and outsource tasks. When I started the Honor and Equity Instagram page, I made the content for the first few months. It was very time consuming: I had to come up with ideas, find images that worked, design the post using social media software (I use Canva), pick what I hoped would be the best hashtags, and come up with a witty caption. I realized I was spending too much time on social media and not having enough time to connect with military members, write helpful articles, and learn more about real estate and investing. This realization led me to hire a virtual assistant to create content for me, so I have more time to work on my business. 

I can’t outsource everything, but I try to regularly assess what I’m doing that feels light and what feels heavy, and I outsource those things that feel heavy. I will likely hire a virtual assistant bookkeeper in 2021 to manage the month-to-month income and expenses for our real estate portfolio. When you hire people, you are creating jobs and enabling them to do more of what they are good at. The owner of a company should be working on the business, not in the business. 

Photo credit @clemono via unsplash.com

Hire Slowly, Fire Quickly

Back in May, I had to fire the property management company that manages our Milwaukee properties. They had become progressively worse with no sign of improvement, so I switched to a fantastic company that performs better and charges less. I knew it would take time and would be inconvenient to change, but I also knew the old company wasn’t performing at the level I expect, so I pulled the trigger and never looked back. It was the right decision. I also had to fire the first social media virtual assistant I hired only a few months ago. He did not communicate well, couldn’t follow basic instructions, and was even dishonest a couple of times. I hired a different company that does much better work and is more professional overall. They are double the price of the previous guy, but it’s worth it. 

In both of these situations, there came the point that I knew it wasn’t the right fit. Once you feel that, you have to end the partnership quickly. Prolonging the relationship will only make things worse for yourself and your business. However, hiring the replacement should be a slow, deliberate decision based on past performance, references, and the degree to which you think they will be compatible with you and your business. I can only work with people who are exceptional communicators. If they take days to respond to a question, they’re out. If they can’t get to the point quickly and tend to dance around the topic at hand, they’re out. You probably have different priorities, so you should communicate those priorities and expectations upfront with a potential hire and ensure they can meet those expectations. 

I hope you gained insight from this article. Please send me a message on Instagram @honorandequity or send me an email at doug@honorandequity.com and share your thoughts!

Why Military Members and Veterans Make Great Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders

Photo by Luemen Carlson via unsplash.com

Service members and veterans have a unique skill set and background that makes them fantastic entrepreneurs. Many are eager to start their own business after years of rigid structure and receiving orders from higher-ups. It can be satisfying to break free of the military chain of command and venture out on your own into the wild of capitalistic pursuits. In addition, there are many programs out there designed to help veteran entrepreneurs succeed on their own.

Here’s why military members have an advantage in the business world.

A Higher Capacity for Stressful Situations

Military members are comfortable being uncomfortable, which makes us well-suited for the stress and uncertainty of entrepreneurship. From day one of boot camp, you are frequently put in hectic, challenging situations designed to acclimate you to the pressure of military life. You get used to just rolling with the punches and accepting that the stressors imposed upon you are out of your control. However, you ARE in control of how you react to those stressors. You can break down mentally and emotionally and be defeated, or you can just accept the challenges, put your head down, and make it through to the next evolution.

Sometimes the stress is more real and life-threatening. Sometimes you’re getting shot at, or another aircraft comes within feet of hitting you, or you come close to having to eject while trying to land on an aircraft carrier. Once you have survived moments like these, it makes the stressors of the entrepreneurial life seem much less significant.

Our Brains Are Wired for Planning and Contingencies

No military mission – whether in the air, on the ground, or on/under the ocean – reaches the execution phase without first going through the planning phase. Details are meticulously calculated. You must know who is doing what at every step. Contingencies are essential to plan for because when something happens differently from what was expected to happen, you must be able to adapt and adjust.

This is the same mindset an entrepreneur must have when starting and running a business. There are always unexpected struggles that arise, but if you have a solid plan and have thought through what could go wrong, you are much more likely to adjust and still achieve your goal. If you fail, you do not dwell on it and let the failure break you down: you learn and move on. It’s the only way.

Photo by CoWomen via unsplash.com

We Are Comfortable Delegating Tasks

From the beginning, military members are conditioned to operate within a clearly defined chain of command. Gradually, we are put into leadership roles whether we are ready for them or not. We learn how to receive tasking from up the chain, and give tasking down the chain to work toward a common objective. Many civilians think that it’s all about barking orders and saluting your superiors when they give orders like in the movies, but this is not the reality. Military leaders – like business leaders – must work hard to convince everyone the overall mission is worth working hard for.  

If you don’t have this buy-in from your team as a leader, you won’t get the results you want. It doesn’t matter if you’re leading in combat or leading a marketing team.

What Resources Are Available for Veteran Entrepreneurs?

The federal government has free programs designed to help veterans succeed in business including education and lending programs.

Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov)

Within the SBA is the Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD) which is “devoted exclusively to promoting veteran entrepreneurship – specifically veterans, service-disabled veterans, reservists, active-duty service members, transitioning service members, and their dependents or survivors”.

The OVBD gives vets access to customized curriculums, in-person classes, and online courses designed to provide the necessary knowledge to succeed in business. Also, lending resources are available through tools like LenderMatch which connect vets with lenders. Low and no-fee SBA loans help reduce barriers for veteran-owned small businesses so they can access capital and create jobs.

There are many non-profits out there as well whose sole purpose is to help vets achieve more through business. Similar to the SBA’s programs, the focus is on education, lending, and networking.

VETRN (vetrn.org)

VETRN is a free executive MBA program designed to help already established veteran-owned businesses grow even more. You get a mentor from day one and you get access to VETRN’s substantial resource network. To qualify for this program, you must have been in business for at least one year, have at least one employee, and have annual revenue of $75,000 or more.

VetFran (vetfran.org)

VetFran believes veterans make excellent franchise owners, and they provide education and resources to both vets and franchisors about these opportunities. According to VetFran, “Although veterans make up only about 7% of the population, they account for a whopping 14% of all franchisees in America”. Their website is great, so check it out of you’ve ever considered opening your own franchise!

There are many more programs available to veteran entrepreneurs and many people out there eager to help us succeed in business. Don’t think of this as a charity – you have developed many skills that will make you a prosperous businessman or businesswoman, and people want to see this happen. In doing so, you will improve your community by providing jobs to others, tax revenue for local government, and a world-class service or product that people need. Get out there and take action today to build or grow your business!

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