This morning at the gym someone asked how long it took us to leave the business each year for a month and go to Europe.
It took us years to get to that point.
We started this business in 2006 and we both left for Europe for a month (overlapping 2 weeks) for the first time in 2011.
So about five years to get to that point.
Over this past seven years, we've made a lot of mistakes, had many successes and wished we had done things a lot sooner.
In an attempt to be a tiny bit helpful we're going to share some successes and mistakes right here...
Here are some of the things we did right in starting up Rock Star Real Estate:
1. We've never made decisions for "money" only. We've always stayed true to the mission ... help investors reach their goals and that will help us reach ours.
2. We focused 100% on direct response marketing. We don't spend money on marketing unless it builds our database. End of story. Period. No branding nonsense.
3. We somehow, some way, found GREAT people to join the team. Boy, are we lucky to work with the people here at Rock Star.
4. We were so naive that even going into $80,000 in debt to start the business didn't scare us ... we just believed in our cause and that it would work out. Sounds ridiculous right?
5. We worked ridiculous hours to get started. 4:30 am to 12 am was not uncommon for the first couple of years.
6. We decided to send out a weekly email to our database even though it's a lot of work to fit it into the schedule each week.
7. We save money for the business. We don't spend everything that comes in. We invest and we save both cash for rainy days - that gives us a very nice peace of mind and security in the business. It wasn't always this way though ... there was a time that every penny that came in went to more marketing. Today we could buy bigger cars, houses and toys but it's not our thing. We did splurge a little and bought a condo in Croatia - all cash. I did get a BMW X5 this year ... Nick still drives a 10-year-old Honda Civic ... seriously ... even our Accountant can't believe it. Two weeks ago he literally asked Nick if it may be time to drive something a little nicer 🙂 When do you hear an accountant telling you to spend money! Personally, I think it's great.
8. We left the brokerage we were working out of and started our own.
Here are a few things we clearly did wrong and some we're still doing incorrectly today:
1. We should have hired our first assistant much sooner. We were so scared that we couldn't afford to pay her that we had to have a mentor literally SCREAM at us to hire one.
We were then scared we couldn't fill up even her part-time hours. We quickly did and wish we had hired an assistant much sooner.
Instead of thinking about the entire annual salary it would cost us we should have just focused on how much a month it would cost to hire someone ... much less intimidating.
2. We didn't start building our database (our list of prospects for our business) until about 1.5 years after we started.
We spent tens of thousands of dollars on leads and because we didn't save the leads in our database we couldn't follow-up with them. Today we know that over 80% of our business comes from follow-up. So we wasted thousands of dollars and it's cost us tens of thousands in revenues ... possibly hundreds of thousands.
3. We didn't send out a weekly email until 1.5 years after we started the business. We should have started that on Day 1 (see point #2 above).
4. We paid to have all our marketing materials mailed out in colour. Huge waste of money ... huge. We tested black and white and learned the response was exactly the same. As long as the content is good the look doesn't matter. Hard to believe, we know ... but we've tested. In fact, some of our ugliest stuff gets the best response.
5. We still don't "split test" enough. We run a marketing piece and stick with it for too long. We should be testing new ads regularly in A/B split tests to see if we can beat our best pulling ads. It would save us money and generate more leads.
6. We don't celebrate successes enough with the team. Last year was our fourth anniversary of Rock Star as a brokerage (prior to that we were doing this out of another brokerage). We didn't even pause to celebrate - bad.
7. Although we're really good at planning our weeks and months we could do a much better job of stepping back and deciding what we want to achieve each YEAR and then planning accordingly. Sometimes we get caught up in tactical reactive stuff instead of strategic stuff. I'm sure we're not alone.
8. We try things that work and then stop doing them. We mailed out a "mini-paper-based-newsletter" that pulled in good leads for us and then just stopped doing it. No reason.
9. We didn't start building additional income streams into the business until many years after we started. Today we've started a "regular" real estate team here at Rock Star and it's just starting to work. We should have started this years ago. This gives the business some diversification. We have big plans for this part of Rock Star! (we'll never leave our investor roots though!)
10. No business should have a single point of failure. With many of our lead sources, property strategies and professionals we use multiple so we have little risk if one goes bad. However, in some areas, we are heavily dependent on one thing. This needs to change.
This list was put together off the top of my head. I'm sure there are better examples in each category that we could share but hopefully - if you're starting out - this helps in some small way.
It's been a great journey so far. We're super grateful for how far we've come.
And we have a lot left to do!
Watch out world - here we come!!
Until next time ... Your Life! Your Terms!