Steve Trang runs a seven-figure coaching business helping real estate businesses improve their sales approach. But after graduating with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from UC San Diego, that path was anything but certain. Steve’s first role out of college was at Intel, designing the USB interface and hard drive in cell phones. But he left that safe career to pursue real estate at the worst possible time in 2007. After several hard years, Steve’s resilience paid off and he grew from an individual realtor to building a real estate office that led to his training business today.
We talk to Steve about his fascinating career and the mental fortitude required for entrepreneurship. We touch on finding his first deals as a realtor during the financial crisis, the pressure on his marriage of starting a business with no money, following the money, and starting a business that leverages his best talents. This episode has a little bit of everything from an incredible person with lofty goals.
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Steve Trang – Building A Seven-Figure Training Business
We have a good one, Steve Trang, the Owner and Founder of seven-figure education business. This dude left a cushy, high-paying job at Intel to get into real estate as the market was collapsing. He had to struggle for a couple of years, making no money. He had a family to support. He grew his business and realty up and now has completely pivoted to an education business that is high margin and highly profitable. There are so many career lessons from this guy and nuggets in this one. Here we are with Steve. You are going to love this interview.
Ian, you son of a bitch.
We’ve got a guest.
He’s one of my buddies.
Steve, welcome. How are you doing?
I’m doing good. I’m so excited to be here. Frank is someone that I have been fanning for some time now. When he asked me to come on, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.
Frankie, how do you know Steve?
It’s through my network with real estate within The Collective Genius. Steve joined our group a few years ago at this point. We have always struggled to find someone who knows how to teach acquisition managers to do their job. This isn’t traditional real estate. It’s not real estate agents where people go out and buy houses at a discount. It’s a challenging thing to train for.
Steve lives in the Phoenix, Arizona market. He’s going to give you a better history of himself than I will but the way that I suffice is this. He’s a thinker and a strategist. What he realized is there is a formula for sales. What he uses very well is he uses situations in psychology and teaches people how to use those things to drive at, “Are you a seller? How can I help you solve problems where I ultimately can get a great price?” There’s a service and a component.
The thing I like about Steve is he’s an ethical operator. That’s hard to find in our business. He promotes the customer. What we have been doing for years is I pay a monthly fee but I get to send anybody that’s in my acquisition team to his training, which he does online. He’s going to get into how all that stuff works. It has been a great thing for our team. We call it train training, and he’s got an official name for it. We go over every Monday through train notes and what he taught, what the takeaways are, and what’s applicable to the business. It has been hugely helpful for us.
Steve, I loved doing a little bit of half-ass homework or internet research on you. It’s our crack team of Frank and me. I was looking at your timeline. It’s fascinating how you started in real estate as a realtor. You learned the trade, started your realtor’s office, branched off into some title, and did some other things. You’ve got this expertise. You grinded long enough to learn something of value to other people. You started coaching and training and then built programs and a social media following.
For anyone reading, Steve has an interesting path of learning, becoming an expert in something, and leveraging that expertise to build his business and branch off to what he was doing in 2007. You rarely do it all anymore. You branched into a whole different real estate. Your world is around real estate but you have become more of an influencer, a trainer, a coach, and a consultant. That’s what your business primarily makes revenue on.
I appreciate you saying that so kindly because I’ve got a massive Shiny Object syndrome. I’m going to chase what makes the most business sense at the moment. I’m very tactical or maybe strategic. I see, “This is where the future is at. This is where I need to dedicate my resources.” It’s the 80/20 Rule. I appreciate you saying it so kindly because it’s a much more respectful way of saying this mess I’ve created.
In 2007, you got into real estate. Is that your first entry into real estate, getting your realtor’s license?
I was buying rental properties or trying to buy rental properties. We did acquire 1 or 2 properties at this point. It was my first business venture. This was the first step away from passive income and towards active income for real estate.
Before that, you were working for a corporation.
I worked for Intel.
Is Intel what you did right after college? Did you go right after Intel?
When I graduated from ASU in 2002, this was right after 9/11 and the dot-com bust, so no one was hiring. The only job I could get with my degree was a $50,000 testing job in which I had no interest. I didn’t suck life for four years in college to get an Electrical Engineering degree to make $50,000 a year. I went to graduate school because that’s the only other option.
Thankfully, I was able to get a full ride to UC San Diego. I was a PhD student. I didn’t finish it but I finished the Master’s degree. After a year and a half, the winds started to change. Intel was hiring at that point. I went to go work at Intel. I fully intended to be a PhD student but then realized I would be working for three and a half more years for free. I realized that’s not what I wanted to do.
That’s a lot of years of school. Are the stories of parties at ASU accurate? I went to Purdue University. We were always the top five party schools in the world but we were always chasing Arizona State.
I wish I could give you some empirical evidence but I was an engineering student. I’ve got nothing for you there.
It’s the same here. I was an engineer but Purdue sucked for parties. You get all these degrees and a job at Intel. There was a time when Intel was about as good a job as you could possibly get out of school.Diagnose before prescribing. Click To Tweet
It was a great job. I wish I could have given my job to somebody else, truthfully, because I was working probably about 25 hours a week, taking long lunches, and regularly napping during lunch. It was a great job. My bosses were always great. I wasn’t micromanaged. No matter what, I was always delivering excellent results. It was a great opportunity. It just turns out I’m not a manageable person. It took working for somebody to learn that.
Stay on that. When you say you are not a manageable person, you seem like a nice guy. Is it more about how you wanted some autonomy in how you spend your time and what you focus on? In big companies, there’s only so much of that to go around.
When I went to grad school, I was interested in engineering and the things that I was learning. I was reading research papers, “Here’s the latest in technology. Here are things you can do to optimize the design.” Once you get to the real world, you don’t get to do any of those things because if I experiment and make a mistake, I cost Intel billions of dollars.
I’m not allowed to do the things I learned in graduate school. Another thing too was there were six core values when we were at Intel. One of them was, disagree and commit, which is an awesome core value. We argue about something but once we are done, we agree, “This is what we are going to do, and then we’re going to move forward in this direction.”
When I’m talking about how I’m not manageable, Ian is my manager and he says, “Steve, this is how we are going to do the project.” I disagree but because you are my boss, I have to do it. I would do it your way. I was still doing it my way and getting it done early. Once we are in production, you will see that my idea was better. I was violating the core values of Intel but my results spoke for themselves.
When you were at Intel, were they still given out sabbaticals to people after they had been with the company for a certain amount of time?
Did you stick long enough to get one?
That was the plan. The plan was to work for seven years, get my sabbatical, quit, and by then hopefully find a wife that’s got a job and benefits so that I can go and do my whole entrepreneurial thing but after three and a half years, I was like, “I can’t do this anymore.”
You couldn’t make it until the sabbatical. How long was the sabbatical? It’s long too.
It was two months. You timed it right. You’ve got your 2 months sabbatical plus your 3 to 4 weeks of vacation. It was a three-month vacation.
I had a few engineer friends that I graduated with. I remember they spent three months in Europe and I didn’t. I was like, “Did you quit?” They are like, “No, Intel lets us do this.” I was like, “That’s pretty incredible.” It’s the same thing. It’s brilliant. Two of them stayed with the company for seven years to get the sabbatical and then left. I bet a ton of people leave after that sabbatical. They probably stick around for six months.
It was not uncommon for people to quit after that sabbatical.
You didn’t make it, though. Part of it was the feeling you were having of feeling crowded and wanting to make your decisions. Did you go right from Intel to being a realtor?
Yeah. When we were buying rental properties, I met a real estate broker. I was like, “What you do is fascinating. How much do you make as a real estate agent?” He was like, “I make six figures easily.” I said, “What do you do exactly?” He said, “I hang out and talk to people.” I was like, “I can do that. That’s more than I make. What would it take for me to learn that skill?” He was like, “You go get your real estate license. I will teach you everything I know.” I said, “There’s no problem.” Talking about a fast mover, in two and a half weeks, I got my real estate license and submitted my two weeks notice. It was a very quick decision.
Did you have some money saved up in the bank? Are you a saver? Did you have a little cushion?
I had maybe $14,000 to $15,000. It was not a whole lot, comparatively speaking. It was not enough to run a business, but I had a $50,000 line of credit on my home and an insane amount of confidence. I have always been irrationally confident, even in situations where I should not have been.
I played basketball with him a lot. He can say that at the three-point line as well. Let me ask a couple of quick questions here. You started Intel in ’04.
It was in January ’04.
You were there somewhere between ’07 and ’08.
I submitted my two weeks’ notice in April of ’07 and went all-in in May of ’07.
You were buying rentals in the Phoenix for what years? Was it ’05, ’06 or ’07?
It was in ’06.
What ultimately happened to those?
They got foreclosed. We bought 1 up North and 1 in Austin. The one in Austin was good. That one we sold to cover our losses from our other deals. Looking back, I wish we kept that one. We were buying rentals in ’05 and ’06.
You have the absolute worst timing to get into real estate. What was your first couple of years like when you quit a good job and got into the housing abyss in the middle of ’07?
First, it’s weird when you have a corporate job and a schedule. That was a disaster. I was completely unproductive for quite some time. There was that. It was hard to get deals. I eventually learned how to get leads and so on. I will share that 2008 was my very first full year. My expenses exceeded my revenue by $50,000. When I filed my taxes, it’s not a good sign when your account looks at you and says, “I’m sorry,” when he’s done with your taxes.
That was rough. I maxed out my credit cards. I got married in ’07 as well. I did the ultimate bait and switched with my wife. The D-word was dropped multiple times in this distress. I still got scar tissue. When people were talking about flipping 20 to 30 houses at that time, for me, I still had anxiety from that. I don’t feel comfortable scaling a flipping operation.
Your primary source of pride in a marriage is being an earner when you are a guy. You want to be known as an earner. Here you are, you just got married and losing money. You had some stability before you got married. I could imagine that drove a lot of stress in your house.
My wife is Asian. Most women want stability but even more so in an Asian household. She was losing sleep every night. On top of the stress of not having money, there was also the stress of not sleeping. It was not a good situation.
As we say in the business, you can’t make up a $50,000 loss on volume. How did you get out of that? I’m guessing this was a pole vault to where you ultimately will go. ’08 was bad. How did ’09 through ’13 go until you launched?
The big thing was getting an REO account and working with the banks. At this time, if you want to be successful, you have to list foreclosure properties and work with Chase, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and so on. Every realtor was knocking on the front door. They are going to BankOfAmerica.com and applying to be an REO agent and all these other things. I followed all those steps and did all the BPOs as they required to earn your stripes. I did all the right things. That gets you nowhere.
After being frustrated with that, I went to the REO conferences in Dallas and Denver and hung out with the asset managers. The way I was able to get my REO business was I would take them out, go clubbing, get bottle service, talk to girls, and bring them back to where we had bottle service. I was getting asset managers drunk and starting conversations for them. That’s how I got my business back off the ground as an REO agent. Prior to doing that, I wasn’t getting REO businesses.
I love the show Winning Time, which is about the ’80s Lakers. I also loved the movie The Aviator. In both instances, they are both like, “We will get people drunk and laid if they are into that.” I’m not saying it’s the right system but it’s the current system. It works. For those of you that don’t know, these REO accounts are Real Estate Owned accounts. This is stuff that had been foreclosed on by banks.
What Steve was trying to do was do all the right stuff so he would get noticed. He realized if he opened his wallet and took people out, they would like him. Through relationships, he built an ability to get these accounts and have the listings. This is your functioning as a listing agent, listing these properties. That was from ’08 through about ’13.
That was probably around ’09 to ’11. I got in late because I was going through the front door trying to do it the right way. I went nowhere. It was just the Hail Mary in ’09. I was like, “Let’s max out our credit cards one more time and figure this out.”
How close were you to going back to a corporate job?
I was very close. It was right around that time in ’09.
You were almost to the point of looking online at different jobs.
I went back to Intel to talk to them because I remember when I stopped in ’07, they were like, “Come back anytime. You are a valuable member. Anytime you want a job back, the door is open.” In ’09, my wife was miserable in an unsatisfactory marriage for her, which as a husband, was an unsatisfactory marriage for me. You feel like a piece of crap when you can’t support your wife. I was like, “If this is what you want and will make you happy, then I will go back to Intel.” I went back and talked to my old boss and old peers. They were like, “Sorry. This economy is so bad. We want you to but we can’t have you.” Thank God.
That was a gut punch while you were dealing with it and living through it.
It also was the necessary burning of the boats I needed.
You had no plan B. You had nothing to go back to. You had to make real estate work.
There was no more plan B. It was vaporized.
You joined beyond late in the real estate cycle. You stepped into the batter’s box in the night, thinning with two outs and a couple of strikes on you. You had no chance of getting the wave of selling. You had to go into the space of foreclosures because that’s all there was. ’09 was a wasteland. It was so depressing.
What I got to see when I joined in ’08 to ’09 was a bunch of realtors and contractors getting divorced. That’s what I walked into.There are a lot of similarities between sales and dating. Click To Tweet
Someone couldn’t get a mortgage to buy a house back then. Prices were dropping like chainsaws. You couldn’t catch it. No one was in that space. Builders and contractors went out of business. Realtors, loan officers, and people were still not back in the business. They went out. Frank jokes that half of our sales reps at NVR, a big homebuilder we worked at, became teachers and waitresses and never came back. That was it. Their careers ended in real estate in ’09.
January of ’09 is when I started my company. I would imagine after you weren’t doing great, you had a $50,000 loss the year before. You went back to Intel and they said, “We can’t hire you.” It was a lot easier to say to your wife, “I’m going clubbing but it’s for the business.”
We didn’t talk about it. I went out there, fly back, “I’ve got business.”
You do some clubbing, take some guys out, and have a good time. In ’09, you get a few of these REO accounts. Do you start making money at this point? Are you starting to learn how to get leads?
I am, at this point, making up for the lost time. The other thing too is finally learning how to have an assistant because up until this point, I have been a solopreneur. Having an REO account, you can’t do all this yourself. You need an assistant. There was no great way of hiring an assistant. It was like, “I needed an assistant.” You go to Craigslist and get the hundreds of applicants and all these other things. I started learning about hiring, recruiting, and managing people.
How many REO deals did you close before you came to the determination of, “I have to hire someone because I’ve got more leads than I can handle.”
I don’t think it was very long. It was maybe a few months because one of the most painful things as an REO agent is you have to front all the expenses. If the house needs a new roof, Steve Trang, the realtor, is paying for the new roof and then submitting an invoice to the bank for reimbursement. If you don’t follow their specific instructions, you are not getting reimbursed. I know people that were out six figures annually. That was the cost of doing business and loss reimbursements. I was never that guy.
As you are starting on that, you are putting all that on personal credit cards and maxing out cards. Not only are you not making money in ’08 and ’09 to get this new account. You have to explain to your wife why you are incurring a ton of debt, “I’m not only not making money. I’m putting us in a disastrous peril situation.”
Communication was not necessarily great. I don’t recommend this but here’s what I learned. I’ve read books about this. There’s no right or wrong way. I did learn that my wife did not handle stress well. That’s still true now. I love the poor woman but I drive her crazy. Stress doesn’t go well with her. I’m not telling her all the bad things that are happening.
Hear no evil. See no evil.
I am grinding. I am all in. I am regularly working from 8:30 AM to 2:00 AM. This put a lot of pressure on our family. When we first met, my wife thought she was dating someone that was an engineer that’s got a good stable background and going to do everything a good boy is supposed to do in the Asian culture like get good grades, a good job, and then live stably forever. I did the ultimate bait and switch. As far as the credit card situation, it freaked her out.
There were a lot of sleepless nights. They say that finance is a lot of the reasons why people get divorced. It puts a lot of strain on the marriage. I got to experience that. It’s not just the finances. It’s the sleepless nights too. It’s this compounding situation where she’s constantly worried about when we’re going to get paid next. She never got to experience a credit card getting declined. I did. She never went that far as debt goes but she knew it was bad.
I wasn’t completely honest with her. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to. It’s that I’m the person that has got a nearly infinite risk tolerance. My wife has nearly zero risk tolerance. Anytime I brought up a bad situation, it would upset her. I was conditioned like Pavlov’s dogs. I’m not going to tell her any bad news. It got bad. Thankfully, she’s an amazing woman. She got a second job so that we can keep things going.
There’s the sacrifice she put in while you weren’t earning. You believed in yourself, and she believed in you enough to give you enough rope to figure out how to do this. You mentioned something, Steve, that’s worth staying at. It’s that Asian culture. One of my best friends is Vietnamese. He jokes all the time about how his dad threw him out when he told him he wasn’t going to be a lawyer or a doctor because that was pounded into him as a kid, “Get that degree, get that job, and make money the rest of your life.”
He was a pariah when he said, “I’m not going to do that. I’m going to get into real estate.” He ended up being a loan officer and worked his way up. He said that it took him years to earn it back with his family. You have a near-infinite risk growing up in the Asian culture. How were you able to overcome some of the pressure of the Asian culture?
For better or worse, what my parents thought of me was important but outside of that, everyone else’s opinion is mostly irrelevant. I have a personality in The Predictive Index of an individualist. I’m going to do whatever is best for me but as far as my parents, they weren’t gung-ho against it. They just thought I was stupid. They weren’t like, “I’m going to disown.” It was more of, “Why would you throw this all away? You’ve got good grades and a full ride.”
I got a full ride at ASU. I did not only have a full ride to UC San Diego. They paid me to go to UC San Diego. No one talks about recruiting in engineering. We talked about recruiting in athletics but I got recruited by UCLA and UC San Diego and got accepted into Stanford. They paid me to go. I got my degree and was like, “After working for Intel for years, this isn’t for me.” They were not thrilled. They were disappointed but they were also supportive. It’s funny. I’m finally doing well in real estate. My mom is like, “It’s not too late to go back to get your PhD.” I’m like, “Mom, what are you talking about?”
She’s still thinking of that advanced degree. Your wife allows you to get to this point, and you get there. She takes a second job. At what point did the money start coming in?
Money started coming in when we started getting REO accounts and listing properties for banks. That dug us out of a hole but we didn’t get rich off of it because I got late in the game. I didn’t have hundreds of transactions like some of these guys did. In my best year in REO, I did a little over 50 transactions. Some of these guys are doing that every single month. I wasn’t killing it. Truthfully, as a realtor, I never killed it as far as finances. I did well by all the metrics. After I opened my brokerage, we were doing 100-plus transactions a year as a team.
I was 1 of the top 40 agents. I won all these awards like 40 Under 40 and so on. In real estate, it doesn’t matter how many houses you sell or what your revenue is. Your top line is irrelevant because it’s what you take home. I got three years of blowing up my ego in all those revenues. I felt like I had almost nothing to show for it, truthfully. When I watched these guys talking about how many houses I wholesale, flip, or this or that, the back of my mind was like, “I remember when that used to be important to me.”
I want to bridge the gap here. From where you are in the story, what year is it to where are we now? What year is that? It’s 2022. How far between where you are now was that?
The REO days were from 2009 to 2011, and then the team that was doing well was from 2014 to 2017.
From 2017 to that point, what was your best year of net?
The best year of net was $150,000.
You pivoted drastically from there to here. The thing to ask is this. What does your day-to-day look like now? How different is that from then? Why? I know you well enough to know you are vastly different now than then.
My day-to-day now predominantly involves 1 of 3 things. I’m either in meetings with the teams, depending on which company we are talking about because we have multiple companies. I’m in meetings, and these are either level that depicts things we need to discuss within the organization and specific issues. I am creating content. This would be considered the category of creating content.
There’s podcasting. We launched a second podcast. I’m about to launch the third podcast. I’m creating content for YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and so on, which is funny to me that this is active work but it is in 2022. The third thing is fulfilling what we have sold. I’m blessed to be a sales trainer. I get to train the top in the country in sales. Fulfillment of coaching and one matter or another are the three things.
Ian, I’m going to get a couple of things laid out here and let you dig into them. You said you have multiple businesses. What are your multiple businesses?
We still have a brokerage. It’s ending. We have a title company. We wholesale/fix and flip. We have an education company. We’re getting our media company off the ground. I just entered a partnership about investing in crypto and so on.
A revenue mix out of all that, is the majority of your revenue coming from the sales training business or the education business?
The majority of the revenue will come from wholesaling and fix and flip but the majority of the profit will come from education. One brings in a lot more revenue. One brings in a lot more profit.
I have an education business. It’s very high-margin stuff once you build it out. Tell me how the education business started. What was the first light bulb, “I could charge people for my knowledge?”
I have a podcast, Real Estate Disruptors, which I launched in 2018. It was like, “I’m going to start a podcast and see where this goes.” I had no idea what the plan was with it specifically. I was like, “It would be cool if someday this becomes something.” On that show, we had Max Maxwell come in. He’s a very influential person in the wholesaling space. He’s got a giant YouTube channel with a massive amount of followers. When he came on the show while we were talking, he was like, “I like what you are doing with the show. I would love to have you come speak at my event.”
It was Wholesaling Elite Live in ’19. The shorthand was Welive19. It was in Dallas in March of 2019. While there, I was like, “That’s cool.” People ask you, “Do you want to do this?” The answer is always yes. If it’s something that can be big, yes. I will figure the rest out later on. When I was coming up with what I wanted to talk about, I said, “We are wholesaling at Phoenix. I’ve learned a lot through the Sandler Selling System, and Chris Voss’s Never Split the Difference. Let me share our sales philosophy on stage.” I spent 30 to 45 minutes talking about how we run our sales process in front of over 1,000 people, which I had never done before.
That was the second-most nerve-racking thing I have ever done but after I did that, I had so much overwhelmingly positive feedback from what we shared that not only did people send me messages on social media for the next three months, “I did this. It worked. Thank you so much,” but people were also posting about it on social media, tagging me, and saying, “Here’s the line I use from Steve Trang. It helped me do this.” I could see that it had a massive impact in the 30 minutes I spoke on stage. That’s when I knew I had a product.
We covered this at some point. We pay you every month, and I send my sales team and acquisition managers. They come to you for sales training. For this audience, what is your sales philosophy if you could summarize it relatively quickly?
A principle is seeking first to fully understand the other person and what keeps them up at night. Understand what they are struggling with and what is causing them stress and concern in their personal lives, families, and so on. It’s not under being aware of it, which is where most people stop. It’s diving deep and finding out how it’s impacting them and how they are feeling about it emotionally.
First, it’s diving deep and understanding what their situation is. We call this diagnosing, the prescribing and saying, “This is what you are going through. Here’s how we may be able to help you. I’m not sure if this works for you.” It’s diagnosing before prescribing. The third thing is we are very assertive but we are not aggressive. We push hard for a yes or a no but do not close hard for a yes. We do it professionally and respectfully but we are pretty firm like, “Frank, at the end of our meeting, it’s going to be yes or no. You are not allowed to think about it.”
We say that professionally again with all courtesy but at the end of the day, it’s yes or no. You are not allowed to think about it. If you tell me you need to think about it, we will accept that as a no and move on. It’s no big deal. There are elements of reverse psychology and things we learn as kids on the playground, “Frank, I bet you can’t do this. Watch me do this.” We take it away a lot. There are a lot of similarities between sales and dating.
We play the bad boy who’s like, “If you don’t want this, that’s okay. If you don’t want to work with us, that’s all right. Tell us, no, and we will move on,” versus the commission breath of closing hard for the yes. People feel the closing hard for the yes. They don’t like it and will move away. It’s like, “Here’s something that we can do and offer to get you out of a bad situation. If it doesn’t work for you, that’s all right, just tell me, no, and I will move on. It’s no big deal.” That’s probably our sales philosophy in a nutshell.
When you said, “Seek to understand,” that’s a classic Dale Carnegie right there, “Seek to understand and then be understood.” There’s a lot of Chris Voss in there, and Never Split the Difference. I love all the Voss stuff. I love the way you mix a number of them and make them your own. Nothing is new. Sales have been around for thousands of years. You try to take the best ideas that have worked for you and then apply them to stories that are in your business.
I learned from a friend, Mika Self. It’s stealing if you take it from one source but if you steal it from multiple sources, it’s research.
It’s not just stealing. Any a-hole can read a book, steal some ideas, and then re-spit it. What makes a good, memorable or impactful trainer is taking the concepts and applying them to personal stories that have worked for them. Those are the people that leave me compelled to act. You take an idea I’ve heard before but then you apply it to a situation I have never heard before. All of a sudden, it’s magical. It feels like, “I hadn’t thought about using it that way.” That application becomes unique to Steve.
That’s the feedback we have gotten. What they appreciate is that for almost every scenario, we have a good story to explain how to apply it effectively. It’s not regurgitating lessons. It’s like, “We are getting our butts kicked in the streets in Phoenix too.” We are teaching what works for us.
You get a big win and go up on stage in front of a lot of people who encourage you. You hadn’t thought about it before. You only thought of this as something you could sell. They encourage and tell you, “You’ve got something here.” Your confidence is higher. You have a product you could sell. From that point, did you decide, “I need to go build this into something a little more formal?”
The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. A lot of people were like, “Teach us more. Give us more.” I’m a businessperson. If someone says, “I want to buy this,” I will go make it. As long as it’s not a strain on resources and it’s not overly complicated, they are like, “I want to learn more.” I said, “Let me go ahead. I will launch an event. We will rent a hotel space. You get 20 to 30 people to come in. We will talk about it all day,” versus a 30-minute thing. I sold a bunch of those. I said, “Here we go. We’ve got to make this work.” We did.It’s stealing if he would take it from one source, but if you steal it from multiple sources, that’s research. Click To Tweet
I’ve got an awesome business partner, Max Jimenez. He and I put our heads together. Also, I got amazing staff. We were able to put something together in a couple of months. From there, it has been steadily growing. The next major milestone was when Leon Barnes called me and said, “We need a sales trainer for The Collective Genius.” Anytime someone says, “We want you to do this. Are you interested?” In my head, it’s like, “Can this have a massive positive impact? Yes. I don’t know what I’m saying yes to but the answer is yes. We will figure it out later on.”
Your first revenue for that business was an event. That was the first money that you took from people in the education business. In that event, you filled those seats with people that had been to the other event as well.
The people that have been to the event are the people that listened to the podcast.
Your only advertising is saying on a podcast, “I’m going to do an event. Reach out to me.” Is that all you did?
There’s the email list too. It was the podcast and emails. We have been building an email list, not knowing what we were going to do with the email list. We were building email lists the whole time with the podcast. We had over a year of good karma.
Max Maxwell was on your podcast in ’18. You go to his event at the beginning of 2019. Three years later, in 2022, I met you. What does it look like after the Max Maxwell event? When was it? You go home, get the pen and the pad, get in the lab, build something, quickly go to the email list, circulate it, and start. Was your pricing model the same as it is now? Is your deliverable the same way? What does that look like?
The pricing model is very different. It was $1,000 for an all-day event because we are still proving to ourselves that this is something real.
You’ve got to get through the Imposter syndrome and realize you could make a difference.
It was $1,000 for that. After people signed up for that, I said, “If you like this and want to continue doing it, this is $1,000 a month.” We had a few takers but not that many. We started talking to the people on the podcast and email list, “If you want sales training, we are going to do interactive sales training where it’s once a week.” It wasn’t a product. It was like, “If you want to coach with us weekly calls, this is $1,000 a month.” We started at $1,000 a month.
It was month-to-month. There was no upfront commitment because, in my head, it was like, “If there’s so much value, they will never leave.” It turns out the industry churn is three months. After about six months of watching people churn, it was like, “We have to raise the price. It has to be a longer commitment.” We raised it to $10,000 for a twelve-month commitment. Now, it’s $15,000 for a six-month commitment. We grew that over time.
What’s cool is that everyone that goes through it sees the value. It’s easy. One more deal pays for it. It’s still rewarding. If someone walked up to me and was like, “I want you to let you know I’m buying a Tesla because we went through your training.” I was like, “That’s awesome.” He’s like, “Do you want to know I was driving before?” I was like, “What were you driving before?” He said, “It was a 2000 Toyota Corolla.”
What’s your license plate?
It’s 100 MIL, which is short for 100 Millionaires.
Tell Ian what that means. He doesn’t know what that means.
I’m on a mission to create 100 millionaires. Something I saw or read from Andrew Carnegie was that he spent the first half of his life making all this money and the second half of his life giving it all away. One of the things I still remember was journalists asking him, “You have eighteen millionaires that work for you.” Context-wise, back then, a millionaire was a lot of money. They are like, “How could you possibly get all these millionaires to work for you?” He said, “You are asking the wrong question. These guys weren’t millionaires until they met me.”
That’s something that always stuck out. That’s a guy that’s making a difference and leaving the world a better place than what he found. When I started my brokerage, I was like, “I’m going to create 18 millionaires 10 years from inception.” Once I started the podcast, I was like, “Eighteen is low. Let’s raise it to 100.” We want to create 100 millionaires. I will know that I left a legacy that we left the world a better place 100% without a doubt.
You start this monthly subscription amount. Did you quickly realize, “I don’t want to put together lots of one-day events?” Is that why you went to the subscription model faster?
I went through the subscription model because that was more reliable, and there was less selling. We still do events every other month but it’s active. We are constantly having to pitch it, sell it, and so on, whereas the recurring model is a one-time sell or fewer cells and more recurring. We liked that model because it’s a more predictable income, although now that we do it, we don’t offer that anymore unless you are in The Collective Genius. We went away from a month-to-month model because we saw that people were not renewing.
It’s $15,000 for six months. Is that per company or person?
It’s per company. They can throw on as many salespeople as they want. Let’s say Ian has got a team. I look at Ian as the client. I don’t charge per head. The organization is charged per head for me. I price it the way I would want to be treated. If I hired Ian to consult with my organization, I don’t want Ian to start counting how many heads I have and say, “It costs as much per head.” I want to say, “Steve trains the client. Here’s my deliverable. Here are the expected outcomes.” You would judge me by whether we were able to deliver the outcome or not for the organization.
Let’s say I paid that for my organization, what do I get? What is your deliverable?
The deliverables are weekly sales training where we go over the content and then troubleshoot. They bring in their challenges from the sales appointments they had with the homeowner, “Here’s where they got stuck.” We do a lot of overcoming objections and situations. There’s a good amount of mindset. I have always been the person that hates talking about mindset but a lot of people struggle with mindset, whether the confidence isn’t there. They don’t feel comfortable saying some of these things because they don’t believe in themselves enough. We spend a good amount of time talking about their mindset as well.
For Frank’s group, that’s a one-hour call once a week with you. Is it a Zoom call?
It’s Thursdays every week. For Frank’s organization, he’s in there with all these other guys in The Collective Genius. There are 50 other teams in there. We get as high as maybe 90 people on some of these calls. Usually, it’s probably in the 50s but we have all these guys that are within The Collective Genius and their salespeople. It’s mostly their salespeople. Frank is never going to be on that call. We go through 15 to 20 minutes of content, go over their sales challenges and objections, and also share my personal stories.
We are teaching sales but it also applies to our day-to-day lives. I will share, “Here’s an experience that I had. It wasn’t necessarily sales-related but you can see how this applies to sales.” When you go to the appointment, the homeowner wants you to walk around the house. You give them a number, and then they will call you back. We want to go in there and sign a contract.
The expectations are far apart initially for most appointments. I will share, “My wife’s phone was broken. I went to the Apple Store. We have AppleCare. When we went there to get her phone fixed, they said AppleCare doesn’t cover this.” Expectations are very different. My expectation was AppleCare fixes phones. Apparently, their expectations were a little bit different when they sold AppleCare. You can see these applications in real life around a set of principles.
You’ve got 90 people on there on this one call. Are you using software like this? Do you have your own software?
We use Zoom. Zoom is fantastic.
Ninety people are in there. Your time amount for that is the one hour you are on with them but then I imagine a few hours a week building content, “What are we going to talk about next week?”
There’s probably an extra 30 to 45 minutes. While I’m driving, there are things that come up. I was like, “I want to make sure I talk about it this week. I want to touch on this topic this week.”
You’ve got a curriculum that you repeat, and you freshen it. We will use a flywheel example. If it’s a six-month training, it’s X number of modules. You repeat the modules because I have had people that have gone through multiple times, “We have seen this module,” but you will freshen it. There are only so many principles to sales.
One thing I learned in being a broker for years is salespeople tend to need to be more reminded than they need to be taught. We are going through the same principles over and over again but I believe in these principles. I live by these principles. We are refreshing it because people forget. There was a workshop I went to. They talk about the drift. The drift occurs when your superhuman self and the things that are outside the normal conflict with who we are every single day.
There’s who we want to be, which is lazy with Netflix on a sofa all day, and then a superhuman, which is waking up at 5:00 AM, going to work out, eating well, and so on. We have superhumans and then regular humans. We drift. They will step up, “I learned this great thing. I’m going to start applying it.” Four weeks later, for no reason, we will stop doing it. We’ve got to be reminded of it.
It’s not just salespeople. In the world of education, that’s any position. I’m a baseball coach. It’s the same thing. Everyone’s swing looks the same from the end of time. You’ve got to keep reminding your little guys of the things they’ve got to do with their hands and hips. You have gotten into a bad habit. I coach people on managing people and leading people. It’s the same thing.
Someone who has been managing for 25 years turns around 1 day, and they are not delegating anything. They don’t even realize what happened to them. They are broken. Their team is pissed, and the morale is up. You go back through the same concepts that you go through with a kid who started managing people 30 days ago. In the education business, sometimes it’s about compiling the information and organizing it better because executives are busy and don’t have time to go pull it all together. Having things on repeat is smart.
One of the best lessons is this. John Wooden, at the beginning of every season, would teach all his players how to tie their shoes. You need to be reminded.
He was a Purdue University graduate. Your big moment on this monthly subscription basis was landing The Collective Genius. Did that give you the core amount of revenue that you could build around it? Was that your anchor tenant?
Yeah, that’s my anchor. I love the community. I’ve joined it. I heard about it multiple times. Ryan Pineda, Khang Le, and some other guys were like, “Steve, you’ve got to join this.” I was like, “I don’t want to travel.” It’s the amazing opportunity I had when Leon gave me a call to sign up. It has been an amazing group of people. They have changed my career. It has helped me and my sales organization but also my wholesaling organization. The guys that are on my team are like, “You are a wholesaler.” You are like, “You run a wholesaling business.” It has changed dramatically the access to the caliber of people.
When I first joined The Collective Genius, I was going through Dropbox. I’m like, “Who is this Frank Cava guy? How come every single procedure is Frank Cava? It’s Frank’s hiring thing and marketing thing. Who is this guy? I need to meet him at the next event.” I don’t know if you know this, Ian, but Frank is incredibly intimidating when you meet him in person for the first time. I didn’t have my full confident voice. I looked down when I said hi to Frank the first time.
I’ve heard that before. He had never intimidated me but I was always so much higher up in the organization than him that I looked down on him. He was more intimidated by me when we worked together. He had a lower-level position at NVR. Similar to Andrew Carnegie, who was an asshole for the first 50 years of his life and then rebranded himself by putting his name on buildings, Frank was a douchebag for the first 40 years. He had convinced everyone at The Collective Genius that he accomplished things before he got there. It’s incredible what he has done. He’s a master marketer.
In a pole, Ian’s internet broke, and we talked about the incredible dynamic that we have. Ian was unable to solve a $4 an hour task. We can talk about how unique it is for Steve to see someone treat me like shit regularly. I said, “I tend to keep coming back for more for some reason.”
I glutton for punishment. You’ve got The Collective Genius, guys. Do you have other clients like that you do a call for them?
I don’t. This could be a bad decision. One of the reasons why is I’m a very loyal person. There are other masterminds out there. I could approach them like, “What I do for CG, I can do with you.” I found a community that is true and is in alignment with my beliefs. A capitalist student would probably try to maximize and find more opportunities but for me, I’m happy in the situation I’m in. I would rather go deeper in this relationship versus riding. I’ve got a good thing going on. I don’t want to screw it up.
You have 90 companies paying $15,000 every six months.
In CG, they are month-to-month. In CG, I’ve got 50-plus paying $1,000 a month. For all the other ones, it is a recurring thing. We are finding someone else, “I want to sign up.” There are probably 2 or 3 a month, “I want you to train my team.” That leaves $30,000 to $40,000 a month in revenue but that is the actively hunting versus the monthly recurring.
CG has a call that we are dedicated to but then that other group has a call as well. There are two calls a week that you are doing.We're teaching sales, but it also applies to our day-to-day lives. Click To Tweet
They’ve got some superstars. It’s an elite-level mastermind within there. Not everyone’s team is full of superstars. Every team has got, “Here are my best guys. I would like to have them on their elite-level call.” We have that as well on Tuesdays.
All this takes five hours a week. It sounds like it’s 2 or 3 calls and a little bit of prep. It’s about that.
It’s probably three hours a week. It used to be more when I was still dissecting the content and uploading but we’ve got the VAs to handle that now.
Ian, here’s what I would like to do for Steve because the hook to get him here was to say, “Let’s dive into your business a little bit and talk about some of the things that maybe we are good at.” Clearly, we are exceptional at humility but it’s day-to-day and what you work on. You talked about your businesses. You’ve got the brokerage, the title company, wholesale, education, media, and crypto. You have two main asks of us on what those are. What makes sense is this. Tell us a little bit about how you pick and choose your time. Let’s dive into the things you want to ask us about with staffing and also notes.
How do I pick and choose?
That’s six businesses. That’s a lot.
Thank God I’ve got amazing people around me. They do take care of a lot of the day-to-day stuff. Mostly, if I’m involved, it’s more like we are bringing the surgeon. You’ve got the anesthesiologist and the nurse. They do all the prep work, and the surgeon comes. In a heart operation, they even have doctors that open up the cavity. The surgeon comes in, does his thing, and leaves.
Thankfully, when I’m involved, these are the smaller important but not as time-consuming things. I do need to be fully focused and present. If I’m coming in to solve a problem, I must be 100% on my A-game. I can’t be on my phone or checking emails while I’m trying to diagnose these things. Fortunately, we don’t have too many of those. The rest of it mostly runs on autopilot.
Each company has an integrator. A couple of them have their visionaries to drive it their own way. Our media company, Xander, is the visionary. The conversations that we have with him are like, “Here’s what I want. Go make it happen.” Max and Lena predominantly run the wholesaling company. I’m not as much in the day-to-day operations. I’m more involved in the higher-level meetings where they are like, “Here’s what we are struggling with.” This is where our problem-solving comes in handy.
For our audience and Ian, I’m going to talk about a couple of things quickly because it makes sense to ground it a little bit. In the CG world or universe, there’s a lot of scaling up but before scaling up, there is a methodology and a mindset. The business has two people in it. One is the innovator, and then there’s an integrator. There’s the visionary or that type of person and the other person who does the stuff. In my business, I do it differently. I have department heads. I’m the figurehead.
It sounds to me like you come but you use a combination of both of those where you are somebody who is the figurehead. Also, you oversee all the divisions, and you have people in line to be able to handle those kinds of businesses. We had an interview with someone who was talking about being a manager. Scaling is very hard if you don’t have good people to be able to manage. That’s how you set it in place.
It’s so hard without the right people. That’s probably the hardest skill. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it but I’ve gotten a lot better at finding the right people.
We spent the beginning of this interview talking about your upbringing, college, your career with Intel, and struggling as a realtor. You run five or more successful businesses that you don’t work in. You work on top of them. What did you learn during those periods that you’ve implemented? From there to here, how did you get there?
There’s a lot of screwing up and coaching.
There’s no other way around it.
Along the way, there was Craig Proctor, who was my business coach for the traditional realtor side. There was a lot of Darren Hardy. I am probably one of the biggest Darren Hardy fanboys you will ever meet. I bought every single one of his products. Gary Harper is a consultant I’ve hired. We are going through SEAL team leaders. Larry Yatch has been unbelievable for us. I am so incredibly blessed that I have friends like Frank Cava, Eric Brewer, and Phil Green, “Here’s what I’m running into. What are you doing about this?”
On top of all of that, the single most valuable skill of everything is finding and retaining the right talent. We let someone go, which was long overdue. I didn’t know why they waited so long. I had to push the team, “This is the 3rd or 4th time we talked about this individual in the last 5 or 6 weeks. Why have you not fired this person yet?” All in all, the skill is finding, interviewing, training, managing, and retaining talent. It’s the skill that has helped me more than anything else in running these companies.
I want to ask two things here. The first one is your internet and social media presence. How has that changed the client and the people who are willing to come work for you? In my life, it’s drastically different.
It’s a lot easier because now they know, like, and trust you. Before, when I used to post on Craigslist, I was interviewing you. You are interviewing me. It’s a two-way street.
It’s a sketchy set up that way. You have to prove something.
I’m looking you up on Facebook, making sure your face isn’t tatted, and all of these things we have to do.
Social media has changed the interview from me selling people on why they want to come work here to them selling me on why they want to be a part of it, which is drastic. Retaining is a different skill but what’s your process for finding, interviewing, and sorting to get good people? This is something Ian and I spend a lot of our time on in this show.
Honestly, it has been a massive struggle. Everyone, we found these days is predominantly by referral. It has been a lot harder to find talent. Prior to COVID, we were running on all cylinders. If we wanted to hire somebody, it was pretty easy. After COVID, I had this theory that everyone became either a crypto millionaire or an eComm millionaire or something. It was a lot harder to get talent to walk through the door.
A lot of what we have done is posting on social media, email blasting, and then asking. The best source has been internally within the organization, “Do you know anyone?” We hired someone. It’s another referral from within the organization. They can’t stop bragging about the company that they work at to their friends and family.
We have two full-time headhunters and recruiters. More than 70% of the people we hire are through referrals. One of the things that Ian and I talked about before we started this with you is we talked a lot about hiring mistakes. This will pivot perfectly into where you are going with your questions to us. What hiring mistakes did you make at the beginning?
For the most part, I didn’t hire out of desperation. I learned that lesson from somebody else beforehand. If you are waiting until you need someone to hire, it’s bad. Fortunately, I avoided that mistake. The mistakes I’ve made are not in hiring but in training and thinking that they will figure it out and be resourceful. The questions that they ask are like, “Did you put any thought into this before coming to ask me about this?”
The training was bad on my part in setting the expectations and the tone and letting them know what kind of work environment they are joining. Resourcefulness is not a core value but it’s a very valuable attribute in our organization. We didn’t have core values. We found out later on after creating core values, “We got some crappy people here.” Now we have raised the bar in what’s acceptable at our company.
I remember I went to two separate Darren Hardy events. These are two months apart. For each one I went to, I came back and fired two people because each time I went to an event, it was like, “We’ve got to raise the bar on the people at the company.” Not hiring the core value was probably one of the big mistakes, not realizing how important it was.
It’s defining them. It sounds like you weren’t even defining. When you say core values, to me, sometimes that feels like a little pie in the sky. What you are saying is, “These are the behaviors that we value in this company and my non-negotiable behaviors I have to see out of you. I’m going to put them down in writing.” A lot of companies don’t think about it that way.
They are hiring and interviewing for certain things but until you’ve put it in writing, then you stop, look at it, and say, “Half our team doesn’t fit this.” In the way you build those behaviors, you look at your top people and say, “I wish I had more of these.” To find the behaviors you want in your company is by looking at your absolute best people. You look at it and say, “If that’s what we are hiring for, why are we accepting these folks that don’t have any of these behaviors?”
“Why are we tolerating this?”
That’s pretty fascinating. It’s interesting to me how many companies put so much thought into the interview process and panel interviews. They test, drug test, and check background checks. The person gets an offer, and no one talks to them again. Two weeks later, they show up in the office, and no one is ready for them. They don’t have the equipment and a plan. I work with managers all the time. They forget what it’s like to be new in a company and be a new person.
For them, the job is over when they got them to accept the offer letter but that person hasn’t stopped thinking about you since they accepted the offer. It’s the biggest thing in their life. That day is a date they will remember for the rest of their life whereas, for you, it’s Monday. They show up. You haven’t made that first day, week or month special. They are deflated. They are thinking, “It’s all a scam.”
It’s indicative of our human behavior in sales and marketing. When you hire someone, you bring them on. We market it to them and sell them the vision. Our fulfillment sucks, which is what I have been doing for a very long time.
It’s indicative of startups. Startups are so worried. You went through that period after Intel to finally make money. You are in survival mode. You think you still have to be in survival mode and forget, “There are other people on the life raft with me.” Social media makes people understand who they are coming to work for. Everybody knows I curse because I do it here and all over the internet. It’s beeped out. In an interview, it doesn’t shock them. It helps grease the skids.
You start putting people in place who are going to make sure. One of the things that we do is make sure that every single week between your offer and start date, at least once a week, someone is talking to you. It’s a text, a call or little stuff. In some instances, we won’t start you on Monday because Monday is so damn busy. We will start you on a Tuesday or a Wednesday. If we have you on a Monday, we have a plan, “Here’s your Manila folder with your first month.” It’s little things like that, “They didn’t forget about me. They knew I was coming.”
The other thing that has helped me a lot, which I’m learning I’m not doing as well as I thought it was, is I’ve done a lot of the leadership following John Maxwell’s principles, “Good leaders ask great questions.” The three questions are like, “Do you care about me? Can I trust you? Do you believe in me?” If I surveyed your team and asked them these three questions and it was not a fast yes, you’ve got some organizational issues. That has helped me a lot in carrying the companies.
I will also share this. I am not warm and fuzzy. The feedback I’ve gotten at times is like, “Steve is cold or distant at times,” but that’s how I am, emotionally. Thankfully, I’ve got other people. We have gotten to a place now in our companies where I have other people to love on the people regularly because I am out here dreaming about the future. I’m not warm and loving at the company. That has been another mistake that we have fixed. I didn’t think it was a major issue but it clearly was.
Over time, you start to realize. We were doing an interview with someone who’s in his first managerial role. He’s learning about delegation and some of the things that you are struggling with. What you realize is that we can’t all be everything. You have to fill the gaps with what you are not. You’ve got to own it and say, “I’m going to put people here who are going to do these things.”
It’s pretty easy for those of us that are entrepreneurs, “I’ve got to hire a bookkeeper and a salesperson.” We also need to hire like, “Do you need an expressive person who talks to new employees? Who’s the glue that holds that stuff together?” It’s like, “So-and-so starts Monday. We’ve got to buy T-shirts.” Who’s thinking about that? Honestly, it shouldn’t be the owner because you have to be thinking about bigger things. What I would like to do at this point is this. Steve, you had a couple of questions for us. Let’s move to them and talk a little bit about them.
I had an intervention. I didn’t even realize it. I walked into an intervention, which is, “Steve needs an executive assistant.” I was like, “What are you talking about?” They are like, “You are not always doing what you are saying you are going to do on the calendar.” The primary complaint was from the media team because I have a responsibility to keep everything moving forward and record more content. My calendar is so freaking full these days.
I need to have an important meeting, for example. Jason Medley says, “Steve, we need to talk.” I’m going to talk to Jason. I’m going to find a place to make that work. Unfortunately, there were times when I was sitting in media time. This goes to anyone successful. Their calendars are pretty busy too. I’ve got to find a place that fits their calendar and my calendar. Unfortunately, what the guys sacrificed a lot was the media team.
They were frustrated. They were like, “Steve, you need a personal assistant that’s going to either be a gatekeeper or if this is an important meeting that you need to hold, then your executive admin needs to make up for that time somewhere else in your calendar. You have to meet with this person but you have an opening somewhere else. Let’s set that aside to make up for the loss or our recording time.” I have never had an executive admin before. I’ve had people help me execute my vision for years, which is crazy to think about but I’ve never had an executive admin. I don’t know what I’m walking into. I would love some best practices for working with an executive admin.
I have one who’s incredible. Her name is Karla. Ian knows her. Ian adores Karla. I have had a lot of the wrong ones in the past. We call her my Chief of Staff but she functions as an EA as well. She needs to understand the business and get it. I have had all the wrong people who didn’t understand how to synthesize what’s important and what isn’t. In my world, having someone we promoted from within a couple of times was the person that I needed to promote up into that role because this person spends the most amount of time with me if anybody works here.
If you don’t know what we do, don’t understand where things are, if you can’t process quickly and understand that it’s good or bad for his time, it’s going to be a mess. She also looks at my email. It’s rare but maybe once a week, there’s something that’s in my email that I missed. I’m like, “Where was that?” She was like, “I deleted it.” I was like, “Can you put that back in?”
She knows I probably get 400 emails a day. I look at 12 because she gets rid of 388 emails. She might screw up 1 out of 400 a week, which is a pretty good average. There’s trust there. I know that if something isn’t right, I can say, “I want this. It isn’t there.” She’s like, “This was my thought process. Can we adjust this?” There’s no way in hell you can get that person from the street. It’s going to take time to build it. Do you have the person identified on your staff who could be in this role?Salespeople tend to need to be reminded more than they need to be taught. Click To Tweet
Yeah. We have someone that’s in our organization. Prior to this role as the office manager, she was taking care of supplies and making sure things were clean. She’s not in the meetings but she is present. She sees the hustle and bustle within the office.
I was in sales. I was a young kid. I was 27 or 28. The sales manager was like, “We need this piece.” I was just a peon at this point but had already been a Manager and moved into sales. They are like, “We need to get this.” I’m like, “Go get it.” They are like, “We can’t.” I walked down the other side of the hall, went to the closet, and pulled out four of them. I go, “Does this work?” They are like, “Holy shit, we didn’t even know that was there.” The reason that’s relevant is that’s what an office manager will know. They know where the T-shirts are and who can handle what. They are already helping to spend some of the plates.
The thing that I’ve set as far what it looks like to me for a perfect world is if I never need to respond to another text message or another email and if I can never check my email again where all my time is spent, “Here’s where you need to be and what you need to do.” At that moment, I get to do what I do best. That’s the perfect world. I’m not saying that’s what’s going to happen but this is where I want this to get to.
The kid with the academic scholarship at UCLA figured out how to scale texts.
You’ve already started thinking about it a little bit, Steve. Where a lot of people go wrong with an executive admin is they don’t hire a qualified enough person to do it. It sounds like you have the right person to do it. What Frank is not talking about, he’s an incredibly high-paid executive assistant. This is not an executive assistant. She’s an executive. She can handle 400 of Frank’s emails a week but she’s not a $40,000 a year person. She’s more than that.
1) They understaff it with someone not talented enough to keep up with a high-performing person like you. 2) They don’t know how to define what a good job looks like. If you were to hire a salesperson, it’s clear, “I need $7 million a year of revenue from you, which is a growth percentage of 20% from 2021.” It’s pretty simple. “Generate this many leads and get this much revenue. If you are doing that, you will keep your job, and I will pay you bonuses. If you are not, I’m going to find someone else to do it.” If a salesperson hears that, they are like, “I got my marching orders. I need to figure out how to work my way around but I know what to do.”
“I know what my deliverables are and how I’m going to be measured.”
How are you going to measure this person? They need to know coming in there what a good job looks like. A lot of people struggle with that. It’s like, “Assistant, make me better.” That’s not helpful to an assistant. They want to know the specifics of, “How I can make you better? What are things you want?” That’s good to start with, “I never want to open an email.” That’s good but there’s more to it than that. You also don’t want people on the other end of those emails to be pissed off. It’s like, “How quickly are you responding? What are you responding with? What do you like to see? What don’t you want to see? Are you a reader or a listener?”
There are a lot of things that you have to sit down and get into the weeds with them on, “This is how you can make me a much better CEO of my company. Here are the things that I’m going to measure you. Some of them, I can’t pull out of a report but this is important. I will see this as a raving success if you do these things for me.” Define the outcomes you want out of this position. It’s more concrete than you think it is. A lot of times, it’s like, “Assistant, do the busy work for me.” One thing that you might think about going and doing is to try to write down everything you did in your calendar for two weeks.
I’m going to jump in. This is my weekly to-do list. It’s five pages front and back but it’s perfect. There are sixteen categories. Everything fits into it for every business, inclusive of stuff that’s further afield. Dead on, I’ve got banking and stuff but what’s helpful is I have the categories. I have this weeks’ phone calls, follow-ups, acquisitions, and leads. I won’t get into all of it. What happened is when I built this, Karla could then think of things on how I think of things. We could calibrate what we were doing, “It’s sixteenth on Frank’s list. These things come above it.” She knows where it sits.
It’s a dance partner or a marriage in a way because you are giving away Intel. You get information about your business through text messages, phone calls, and email. If you are giving that to a gatekeeper, you are going to lose that. It doesn’t synthesize and come to you, “Make this go away.” Customers could be bitching about something. If it doesn’t come to you and they are not giving you 360 feedback, you very quickly realize, “Holy crap, I have a revenue problem because this wasn’t making it to me.”
Those are the little things you have to talk about. It takes a tremendous amount of time. If you put 40 to 50 hours a week into these things or whatever it is, it’s a fool’s errand to think I can have one conversation, and it goes away. It’s crafting. It comes down to you answering stuff together for a while. They answer it and say, “Here’s what I’m thinking about saying.” There’s a calibration. That is the process. It has to be constantly in mind.
The one good thing is we have had other people monitoring my emails in the past. For the most part, she’s mostly running traffic control and forwarding them to the right departments because I shouldn’t be getting that many emails. I might be making a mistake here, given this conversation here. I have a morning call with her for 15 to 20 minutes, “What are the things that you are waiting on from me to move forward and respond to these text messages and emails?” Maybe I need to have more of those a day. I only have one on my morning commute to work.
To show how bad Frank is doing it in life, that’s my to-do list for the week. It’s only got one thing on there. It’s a long thing. I don’t have four pages of bullshit. That’s why Frank’s life is so much more stressful than mine.
Frank’s thing is driving me crazy. If I had to do sixteen things, everything will fall apart.
Let me tell you my thoughts on this. The only thing you can do instead of making a sixteen-page list of bullshit to give her is to go through your calendar and think about it over the next two weeks. Here’s what I would challenge you to think about. You’ve got an incredibly profitable business. Write down the things that someone at your pay grade needs to be doing.
An important one for you is you have an incredible social media following. I would be leaning into that and creating content. Anything that is keeping you from creating content, you need to then think about. There’s customer interfacing with Jason and making sure that the weekly call is unbelievable every week, “How can I spend more time preparing? How can I blow people’s minds? How can I get more stories out of that?”
That’s your golden egg. You don’t want to lose that. You want to make sure that when those people go back and talk to their owner, they are saying, “I liked that weekly call.” Having listened to you, those are two incredibly important things that require your brain and someone in your pay grade. Another thing is thinking about your staffing and the people on your team.
You said something important. Sometimes it takes the boss to say, “Fire that person. I’m sick of hearing this.” It’s thinking about, “Do I have the right team? How do I get the right team? If I want to get to my goals in three years, what does this team need to look like? How different is it?” There’s time to think of creating that content, interfacing with the customer, and figuring it out. It might be something of figuring out a way.
The Collective Genius is big for you, “How do I take a lot of what I do weekly and build it into a video program that I can sell without Steve involved?” You said, “I’m very loyal.” I have a very big anchor tenant in my management program. I’m a little like you. When my window with them is going on any given day, nothing interrupts me. My phone is off and everything. They get all of my time. When they call me, I will pick up and will hang up on Frank if I have to.
I also sell online programs to people I’ve never met before, where I will get an email saying, “You sold a $1,900 program.” I will never talk to them and meet them. They get my twelve-week program but they don’t get the weekly coaching. That could be something you build where you are not infringing on The Collective Genius but maybe you have a 6-week or a 12-week sales program that is priced affordably for someone who owns a business of 3 or 4 people. Those are things in your business.
You say, “Where should I be spending my time with six businesses?” Think about that it’s not 20 or 16 pages. For you, it might be 5 or 6 things that move the envelope. That’s one piece of paper. Write those things down, think hard about them, and keep it to five things if you can at first. The next piece of paper is going to be longer. Say, “What are all the things keeping me from spending more time where I could be making a difference?”
Write all of that down, sit down with your executive assistant, and say, “I should be spending 80% of my time on these five things if I want to make a lot of money. Here’s a page of things that are keeping me from doing it. What can you take off of me? How can I make it easier for you to take those things off of me? I don’t want to do these things if I don’t have to. I want to spend all of my time on these executive-level and high-pay grade things that require the founder and the owner of the company. I want to do a lot less of these.”
The reason why I’m saying to take that approach is people in any job are going to be way more bought in when they feel like they have autonomy on how to do their job, instead of, “Get my dry cleaning. Call this person back and tell him I would be late. Set up this meeting.” Those are tasks, and you are going to do plenty of them but it would be cool if you said, “Here are all the things I spend time on that I consider wasteful for me. I would love your input on how you and your role can take a lot of this off of me and transition it off.”
You’ve made your assistant feel empowered and made the person feel like, “I’m in control. I’m respected while he respects my opinion.” You want her to feel she’s building her role and not being told what to do because none of us love being told what to do. You want her to feel like, “I’m in control here. Steve is letting me design this role in the best way to help him.”
“Steve is my client. I get the service of a great client.”
As long as she knows that her main job is making you more productive and efficient, she has some control over how to do that, and you respect her thoughts when she comes to you on that, she’s going to love that role. She’s going to be bought in and stay for a long time. Like Karla with Frank, there’s a lot of respect there. She likes working there and doing a lot of those things because Frank gives her a lot of autonomy on how to do her job as long as he’s getting the results and the outcomes he expects out of an executive.
One of the things that you mentioned to me as well was that how you say no. You inadvertently said you would walk through that a little bit. Why don’t we explore that a little bit further while we are all here? How do you say no?
I’ve gotten better at saying no over time because we learn from hard knocks, over-committing, straining resources, and pissing off your team. I do say no more often now. We’ve got these businesses. The crypto thing was a new thing. We have that and then other successful business owners that said, “Here’s something I want to do. I want to do this with you.” It sounds exciting. Jason Lewis says, “We should start a lead manager training program together.”
There’s Jason Lewis and the opportunity to work with them. There was no hesitation. Those are opportunities that are coming across more. I’m like, “They all sound like great opportunities. What process should I come up with to figure out if this is an opportunity I should pursue or not?” I say no to a lot of things but it’s getting harder to say no to some of these amazing opportunities.
Ian said it’s five in the conversation we had. I had a conversation with one of my executives and talked to him about breaking things into the components of five as well. The ideal person does 3 to 5 things very well. Past that, it starts to get limited. What I heard you say is there are these new things that keep coming in. You have to constantly rate for five. We joked about 5 pages and 18 items.
There are a lot of little things that don’t get touched very often. I don’t want to forget about them. Like your salespeople and the training, you need constant reminders. These are low on the list but they are there. We don’t want to forget them. Let’s note it and make sure it’s written. For me, that works but there has to be a process in your life. Ian can talk about this well because where I am in my life, I can’t get it that simple but Ian intentionally has gotten himself to a point where it’s simple.
It was a very intentional series of moves that took him there. I contemplate, especially as my kids are getting older but it sounds to me like if you come down to five themes, you need to start a process of filtering, “Does something take precedence over these five?” It can take a little bit of time, “I want to get on the phone with Jason. I’ve got to understand that. I need to explore it.”
I’ve got my executive assistant to research or dive into it a little bit. It comes down to choices, “Do I say yes to this or not?” There’s no right answer. It could be, “It’s the wrong season for me.” Continually upgrading your problems is the definition of success. As you continue to get a higher level or a higher class of problems, you are succeeding at a pretty high level.
I’m incredibly blessed. People were like, “Would you be interested in doing this?” Years ago, I would be like, “I would like to.” Now, it’s like, “That’s amazing. I don’t know how I could do this or if I do this, I don’t know how it’s going to hurt me elsewhere.”
Here are the three questions that I ask, at least at this point in my life, when someone brings something new to me. This is going to sound corny. I’m in that place in my life where I don’t do shit that doesn’t sound fun, “Is it fun? Is it profitable? What are the unintended consequences?” The third one is the most important one because you can always talk yourself into something being profitable. You are guessing a little bit. You can talk yourself into how that should be fun but the fun thing is a gut reaction for me like, “Do I want to do it?” The other unintended consequence is a function of time.
If you getting into crypto took your time away from your education business to the point where people started complaining at The Collective Genius that your weekly call wasn’t what it used to be, that was a terrible move because that is your anchor tenant. Your whole business and staffing are built around that consistent revenue. It’s a very smart thing you’ve done in building that. The unintended consequence is you have to know what you are good at.
I’ve never wavered from this. Whenever Frank starts saying, “Maybe I should go to Savannah or Charleston,” I’m always like, “Do you have the whole market in Richmond?” It’s like, “No.” I’m like, “Keep kicking ass. Be Mr. Rich. Every dollar you put into Richmond has a higher return than you taking and building new offices in other places. When you get to the place where you think Richmond is completely saturated, that’s cool but pour your resources back into what you are already amazing at.”
There are hundreds of cities Frank could go replicate his model in but that’s going to drag him away from his business and stress him out. I will give you one more example of this. My father-in-law has a trucking business. It’s trailer repairs. He had a big shop in Downtown Chicago. He was a Polish guy. He was an awesome guy. He was an uneducated dude but built an incredible business in Downtown Chicago. He was young and full of piss and vinegar. Someone told him about a lot. It was 30 miles away, “You should expand. You don’t have enough base. We will give you more business.”
He got talked into doing it because he thought he should do it. His ambition got in his way. He went and bought another shop 30 miles away, which is an hour and a half in traffic in Chicago. He’s going back and forth from shop to shop. He’s trying to hire a manager, and while he’s trying to hire a manager in the new shop, the old manager he has got watching the shop was stealing from him.
He can’t get enough people. He moves some of his best people from Chicago down to the new one. That service starts going bad. Those customers start leaving him. He’s getting pulled in two directions. He couldn’t be less happy. It put a lot of strain on his family and everything else. One day, he said, “Why did I do this?” He had sold one of the shops. Ever since then, he has kept that one shop. By pouring himself into it, it gets more profitable every single year. He has been running it for many years.
I’ve always thought of that example whenever something new comes my way. I always have to think, “What am I giving up?” If I’m happy to give up the old thing, that’s cool. I will do the new thing but if taking on something new is going to drag the other stuff that I like doing that’s fun and profitable and that I’m good at, and if the new thing takes away from those three things, then I say no to the new thing.
It’s part of the unintended consequences. We get better at it over time but we haven’t perfected that. That’s spending more time thinking about where things can go wrong.
In every real estate deal that I’ve done with Frank, 95% of our conversations before we signed paperwork are thinking about all the things that could go badly. What are all the reasons why we don’t want to raise $4 million from our friends and put it into this? What are all the reasons that could make us have to look them in the eyes and say, “We lost your money.” We spend all our time thinking about that. That served me well in decisions for my career and being offered to do certain things.
I always think hard about all the things that could possibly go wrong. It doesn’t mean I’m a pessimist but I try not to be too rosy about looking at every opportunity. Sometimes it’s like, “Are you bored of what you were doing? Do You want to do something new because your mind races too much, Ian?” Sometimes that’s the answer and I will say, “I’m bored.” That’s not a good reason to say yes to everything either because being miserable is way worse than being bored.
Ian and I did a 75-minute portfolio that was worth $15 million. We did three buildings that are worth somewhere between $5 million and $8 million. We spent countless hours worrying about it, thinking about it, and going through it. I will tell you two things we didn’t come up with. It’s a global pandemic and double-digit inflation. We didn’t contemplate that.Not having a core value is probably one of the biggest mistakes, and not realizing how important it is. Click To Tweet
We did every little thing you could possibly do and said, “There’s no way these could go wrong.” You still have to put time and effort into it because you have to perform. What’s beautiful about where we are in our lives is we get to change directions based on what the world throws at us. What I know of you and what we have talked about is you want to have a short number of things on that list. You come up with your list of 3 to 5 drivers.
Ian has got his very well-defined with fun, profitability, and the unintended consequences. I know his non-negotiables. We can’t do this show past 2:00 almost any time of the year because he’s got baseball practice, and I’ve got to get into the gym and pick up RJ. We have to go to the cage. I have been doing this with him for almost years. I know that it can’t be after 2:00. Is there anything else for us?
This is awesome. From one podcaster to another, I appreciate the depth you go into. It’s magnificent. It’s a pleasure of mine to be on this.
You have been an awesome guest for sure behind the twelve-year-old kid from Britain that we had come on here and talked about his car wash business. You didn’t quite live up to that kid. He’s pretty incredible. You are a close second behind him on guests.
He’s thirteen in 2022. You are good.
My daughter is eleven in 2022. I’m going to have her watch that episode. I was like, “Look at what you’ve got to compete against.”
When she starts a business, I want her in this business.
His name was Yoni. He was awesome. He’s a British kid. In time management and all the stuff you have going on, Steve is a big deal. He has a whole system that he puts people through and says, “Don’t talk to him.” It’s like, “Do you want to schedule time with me? I will send you a bill first. When you pay the invoice, then I will do a fifteen-minute call with you,” which is incredible. He took the time to be with us. I greatly appreciate it. Friend to friend, thank you.
Frank, let’s let Steve tell people how they can find him and search him up. How can people find you, reach out to you, and learn more about you?
The best way to get ahold of me is Instagram, @Steve.Trang. There’s also SteveTrang.com and Disruptors.com. If you are interested in our podcast, you can find us on iTunes, Spotify, or YouTube. It’s Real Estate Disruptors.
If you are an owner, is your sales program available? Is that coming soon? Is that another one of those things you are trying to figure out whether to say yes or no to?
We do have a sales program. If you go to Disruptors.com, you will find it. It is geared towards buying houses, to be clear. We do have that sales platform on the website.
You’ve got a lot to be proud of in your career. I’m fascinated by everything you’ve done. It’s incredible.
I appreciate that. I’ve got to stay focused, which is the hardest part. I’ve got a massive Shiny Object syndrome.
Get yourself a smaller to-do list. That makes life easier. This has me stressed out, Frank. I’m stressed about getting this done.
I can’t have more than three things on my to-do list. I’m good at delegating and borderline advocating. I’m not as good as that part but I am not a person that does things. I’m a person that dreams and assigns.
Steve, thanks again. I wanted to introduce you to my biggest asshole friends. You’ve now met Ian.
It’s nice to meet you, Ian.
It’s very nice to meet you, Steve. I’m proud that I’m in the number one spot still.
- The Collective Genius
- The Predictive Index
- Real Estate Disruptors
- Max Maxwell – Real Estate Disruptors Past Episode
- Wholesaling Elite Live
- Sandler Selling System
- Never Split the Difference
- Yoni Katz – Previous episode
- @Steve.Trang – Instagram
- Real Estate Disruptors – Apple Podcasts
- Spotify – Real Estate Disruptors
- YouTube – Real Estate Disruptors