Today, we’re talking with a couple of our friends, Howard Zonder and David VanSteenkiste.
Howard and David have both been interviewed on the podcast in two separate episodes. Howard was in episode 9, and David was in episode 36.
Howard and David are now business partners and work together on a joint venture called Land.MBA that we’re going to hear more about in just a minute. These guys offer some great coaching services for land investors, and in this episode, we'll discuss their thoughts about where things are going for the small niche of the land flipping business.
Links and Resources
- Land.MBA Podcast
- 009: How to Scale and Manage a High Volume Land Investing Business (Without Going Crazy)
- 036: David Fired His Boss to Pursue Land Investing Full Time. Here's How He Did It…
- Price Boss Review: How to Calculate Land Values and Price Offers
- Who Not How by Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy
- Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
- Rich Kid Smart Kid by Robert Kiyosaki
- Tolosa Property Group (Mike Marshall's Website)
Seth: Hey, everybody. How's it going? This is Seth and Jaren, and you're listening to the REtipster podcast. Today we're talking with a couple of our good friends, Howard Zonder and David VanSteenkiste.
Howard and David have actually both been interviewed on this podcast before, but in two separate episodes. Howard was way back in episode 9 and David was in episode 36. And I'm going to link to both of those shows in the show notes at retipster.com/136 because this is episode 136.
Howard and David are actually business partners now, and they work together on a joint venture called Land.MBA. Now, we're going to hear more about that in just a minute, but these guys offer some great coaching and software for land investors, and we're going to discuss what their thoughts are about where things are going for the small niche of the land flipping business. Howard and David, welcome. How are you guys doing?
David: Good. How are you?
Howard: Great to be here, Seth. Thanks for having us.
Seth: Yeah, absolutely. If people want to hear more about your histories again, they can go check out the individual past interviews we did with you, but just jumping ahead here. Tell us about Land.MBA. What is this all about? How did this come about? What exactly did you guys offer for land investors?
Howard: Well, let me take a first stab at that. Dave started in land investing a little bit before I did, but I started in January of 2016 and there were not many tools out there. So I was just struggling along. As my deal flow got a little bit larger, I was finding that spreadsheets and posted notes just weren't quite cutting it as a CRM system. So, I started building some automation pretty much for my own business and that eventually evolved into land speed.
And then come around to 2018, some people reached out to me and said, "Hey, do you guys do any coaching?" And I said, "Well, we've thought about it, but we haven't actually put a program together yet." So, we put a program together and we started building a coaching clientele. And Dave was one of my early customers, one of my first coaches and we developed a good friendship.
And then at some point I said, “You know what? I don't really want the education and the software to be part of the same brand. I think it's confusing to people.” So, David and I decided, "Let's take all this education stuff and pull it out into a separate business." And so, we formed Land.MBA at that time, maybe about two years ago.
Jaren: Which I will tell you, hats off to you guys for a really awesome name. Out of all the different land communities or different camps, if you will, I really like you guys' name because that's very creative. So, good job.
Howard: Thank you.
Seth: Yeah. I regularly think that when I see some people going through the Land Investing Masterclass and they share their website URL. I'm like, "Oh, man, it was a great name. I should have thought of that like 10 years ago."
Howard: Actually, when we started, we were saying, well, how are we going to differentiate ourselves? And what is it we really like doing? It seemed that there were plenty of big programs teaching the basics of the business, which, in my mind, is the 101-level courses. We really loved working with people who already had a little bit of the basic chops and the business, and really wanted to take it to the next level. So originally, we called it “Land 201” and somehow that evolved into Land.MBA.
David: Not very catchy.
Seth: Yeah. Do you primarily focus on the intermediate folks or do you focus on beginners? If somebody comes to you, is this somebody who ideally has been doing this for a little bit? Or I don't know, who's your ideal person to work with?
David: It's really anybody. It's fun to work with someone who's already got a little bit, they're down the runway a little bit and you can just help them grow wings and fly. It's also fun working with beginners. It's fun working with people, and you guys know this, who have both feet in and are ready to go and are committed and willing to do the work, willing to do what you tell them, don't have too much fear to fail, and so are coachable. Let's use that term and they're going to be successful. It's fun because you see them do what you tell them and then have some success.
Seth: Yeah. It's funny how that issue of just being teachable, like that alone is a skill, just being somewhat of a blank slate and willing to do what people suggest. Some people really can't do that, which is kind of surprising.
Jaren: I found it interesting that you guys like people to have a little bit of experience under their belt versus somebody who's a blank slate because what I find, if they have prior experience, they come with some baggage or some like what I would deem, not best practices, but everybody has their opinion and their approach to the business. So, take it for what it is.
But I'm sure you guys have those same kinds of, “Hey, I really don't like doing due diligence this way, or I don't like doing X, Y, Z.” But if they come from a previous camp that specializes in that, they're going to try to pigeonhole your stuff and your coaching into that box, don't you think? Or do you guys not see that?
David: You get some. Everybody comes from a little bit different background. I just try to work with people where they're at, whether they're beginners or they have a little bit of experience. Most of the time it's been people who've had some education, but haven't done a deal yet. So, they've gotten their education, taken somebody's class. My mantra is A plus B equals C. Just stick to the fundamentals. And even though there might be this new little tool over here, or you heard about this.
When we're new at something, it's really easy to get shiny object syndrome. And thinking, “Oh man, direct mail, that's the old way,” or whatever. Well, in some niches, the old way still works the best. I just try to convince my students that it may be frustrating early on, but just do A plus B equals C and get really good at it. And then see some success and then go spread your wings. And if you want to add something or tweak something like you just said, then do it.
But if you're just second guessing everything you're being taught and thinking you got a better way to do it, then you're not going to have success. I have had one client like that before, but we were able to work through it and establish some humility. And once we did, then he was off to the races.
Howard: I think the key thing that Dave just said is meeting people where they are. Because one thing that we do is when we bring people in, we do an assessment and we want to know, “Have you ever done any land? Have you done any deals? Have you done any other aspect of real estate? What are you bringing to the table in terms of knowledge, capital, relationships?”
People bring different assets to the game. What we've found is that, and through our own experience, is that a lot of programs when you first get into land, it's kind of a one-size-fits-all. It's about, “Okay, let's go out and let's go buy some dessert squares.” I totally get the idea that it's a great place to cut your teeth because you can turn some deals and deals are where you're going to learn the process.
But one of the things we always try to tell people is that, that's one of many strategies in land. It's certainly not the only one. And we don't want to portray that it is. So, let's understand what assets you're bringing to the table, what is it you're trying to accomplish. Our job as a coach is to get you from point A to point B. And I can't do that if I don't know what point A and point B is. And so, we try to work with them on that basis.
Seth: Yeah. Does that mean you try to work with them to formulate, what is point B for you? Like if it's not dessert squares, how do you decide, “Okay, you should go here, pull these directions to get there.” Do they tell you something that leads you to that conclusion? Or how does that work?
Howard: Well, what Dave always says, and he's absolutely right, is that if you don't understand your “why,” entrepreneurship is not a straight line from here to success, it's a very jagged line. And there are a lot of moments along that path where it's easy to lose one's energy and belief and desire.
But if you understand what your why is, and you're really committed emotionally to what that destination is, you're going to be able to get through the low cycles and you're going to be able to maximize or optimize the high cycles. So, in addition to sort of doing this analysis of where are you at today, then we also do a little bit on what's your why? And the goal of that is to say, all right, let's understand sort of the big why. And then let's bring it back into a one-year milestone.
What is the one-year milestone on your path to your big why, and how can we take that one-year milestone and convert that into a free cash flow number? And once we have a free cash flow number, we've got a tool that we have where we can reverse engineer from a deal perspective what it would take in land in order to be able to achieve that one-year objective.
Then we'll have a conversation. Is it reasonable? Is it possible? It's obviously fine to have a BHAG, a big, hairy, audacious goal, but let's be honest and have a sense of whether it's truly achievable or not. But once we have a number, we can then start building an actual plan around it. And the plan is how we get from A to B.
Seth: Yeah. Howard, I'm curious, like what would be some examples of if somebody has certain BHAGs big, hairy, audacious, goals that are not reasonable. Can you think of any examples of somebody saying, "I want to make this amount by this time." And it's like, "Nope, you can't do it." Sometimes I hear people saying that kind of thing too. And I'm just curious how you reverse engineer that and help them get a reality check and where the line is in terms of realistic versus not.
Jaren: Especially with Grant Cardone being the 10X guy, telling everybody to go crazy with their goals. I've run into that all the time. So, I'm very interested, intrigued to hear your response.
Howard: I think that there is no limit on the “why.” I mean, the why is whatever the why is, whatever gets you emotionally engaged. It's when they bring that back to a one-year milestone and turn it into a free cash flow that we might have a question. So, let's just say, okay, based upon bringing that back to my one-year milestone, I want to make $1 million in the first-year profit. We can say, well, we can build a plan around any number, but since you're starting educationally from zero, is it reasonable that you're going to get from zero to a million dollars free cash flow in one year?
David: First year.
Howard: Highly unlikely. Nothing's impossible. You know yourself better than I do. I'm not going to tell you “You can't do it.” Highly unlikely. So, then we'll kind of come back and say, the way we look at it is the first three to six months is your learning curve. And you're going to do deals in that period, and you're going to make money in that period of time. The important thing is don't look at that like, “Woo-hoo, I just made money in the land business.” Look at it as, “Wow, I just got paid to get an education.”
And then once you've got that and you've got some solid ground underneath you, then it's about figuring out how to scale. Just the learning process takes some time. And then when we get into scale, then we can start thinking in terms of bigger numbers. But now you're halfway through that first year. So maybe we need to make that first milestone something a little bit. It can be stretched for sure, but we want it to be at least at some level attainable.
David: Yeah. And I have a great example. I had one student that didn't give me those bigger numbers, but still, he gave me a pretty big number that he had for a goal his first year. My reaction was, well, it's possible. And I didn't know him very well yet and it turned out to be that he was just that perfect hustler. He had the entrepreneur mindset, he had already done another business that he had grown and sold, not in real estate. He was a case of somebody who he went through and hired a mentor for his first business and that it accelerated his success, was very successful. Sold it and knew that, “Hey, if I want to do a new thing and I've decided with all my research, I like land, I got to hire somebody to help me hack my success, because I've done it before and it pays for itself in spades.”
So he plugged in, and we built a plan based on that tool that Howard talked to you about and reverse-engineered to see what kind of price point properties you need to go after and blah, blah, blah, to build that kind of income. And he went out there and just crushed it. He actually doubled his goal. And now he is doing seven figures and he's been in it two and a half years. He's zoomed way past me.
Jaren: Dave, I really like what you just said there. I have a friend. I'm going to name-drop him but if Seth, you want me to not name-drop him, we can edit it out. But AJ, he's very active in the land community. He's like 23 years old and he's killing. He just quit his job.
Seth: Oh, really? That's awesome.
Jaren: He quit his job I think like, I don't know, three months ago and he's full-time in land and he is doing crazy big stuff. One of the biggest deals I've ever been a part of, he brought to my lap because he had some wetlands on it and stuff. He didn't know how to navigate that. Long story short, great guy. He is far ahead if we compare apples to apples of the years in land that he's been in compared to the years that I've been in land. So, if we compare year one to year one, year two to year two, he is far, far ahead of the curve.
He's like in some ways kind of like I'm five years into the land business. And though it's been more kind of a side hustle more often than it's been my full-time pursuit, now it's my full-time pursuit. I lean on him heavily on a bunch of stuff. And you know what it is, why he's so successful so quickly? It’s because he's not afraid to invest in education.
Me and my wife, we had him actually over at our house a while back for dinner and we were talking about that. And it hit me, this guy invests in good coaches so that he vets them and really knows how to identify a really good coach or education platform. And he goes all in and the proof is in the pudding. How can you be 23 years old and running a land business? Like it's crazy.
So, what you just said is so spot on and it's something that I wish I had the right perspective on. If I could just double down and pay the people that are already doing what I want to do to teach me, then I'd be off to the races from there. So, I just thought that was a great insight.
I wanted to circle back to what you guys teach and you coach. I know you said it's pretty customized, but do you guys get into different types of niche strategies, like subdividing or I don't know, forcing easements or entitlements or rezoning, those kinds of things? Or is it mostly run-of-the-mill, buy at a discount from a motivated seller, turn around and sell it?
David: It's mostly the foundational business with some nuance and various strategies as far as types of properties, areas, the different types of closings you can do. We cover double closes and things like that. And we touch a little bit on subdividing and how to understand those opportunities. When they're at that level where they're ready to start subdividing then we'll refer them over to people like Mike Marshall who's got a good niche on subdividing it and already covers it very, very extensively. And he's a specialist in that. So yeah, we don't get too deep into the subdividing, but we do cover it at a high level.
Seth: What are some typical reasons that trigger a person to come to you? I don't know. The top three problems or opportunities. Do they do it because they're stuck on a deal and they just don't know what to do or do they do it because it's like, “Hey, I'm not making enough money?” And I know the answer is probably all the above, but when you just think back to the different situations that people go through, that lead them to you, what's the most common reason or two?
David: It's usually all of the above as far as an actual reason. But the deciding factor we've been told many times is just that a lot of people come in through our podcasts and they just tell us we sound genuine.
Howard: Well, that's sort of the selection process, but really, we just keep seeing two different kinds of people coming in. There's the kind of person that says “I want to quit my job. I've listened to enough podcasts to think that this is a path that will get me to where I can quit my job.” That's a person who may or may not succeed, to be honest. Then there are your real entrepreneurs. “I've been a house wholesaler for the last seven years or I owned and sold an Amazon business” or whatever it is. And they will succeed 100%.
And what we've found is that the difference between those two groups it's just so stark. The entrepreneurial people, they have wonderful minds. They're really, really smart and yet they come in with incredible humility. Just as we've talked about, they are teachable. They know that every time they do something, they're going to go get a coach and to use Dave's quote, "They're going to hack their success," because they know they'll be successful. Their goal is to be successful faster. And that's where the coach comes in. So, their whole approach is different. They don't see that coaching as a cost. They see it as a true investment. And it is. The people who come in because they want to quit their job, that's a good reason and that's certainly a good “why,” it's kind of motivating.
Some of them do succeed. Some of them don't. And it really comes down to, like I said, entrepreneurship is not a straight line from here to success. It's a very jagged line. Your kind of natural entrepreneurs are already programmed to understand that. And they have no problem when you hit…
David: The peaks and valleys.
Howard: The peaks and the valleys.
Jaren: Because some of them peaks and valleys are in the same day.
Howard: The people who come in without that background, they have a real hard time in the valleys. And it really comes down to the biggest difference between those two groups is belief. I mean, it's sort of the nature of what an entrepreneur is. They have an unreasonable belief in their ability to succeed. They know they don't need to know everything. They don't care if they know everything. They have absolute belief that when the moment comes and they have to solve a problem, they'll either figure it out or find somebody who can figure it out for them. Whereas people who don't have that mindset struggle so much more because it makes them question themselves in what they're doing, and maybe I should go after the next shiny object.
David: Yes. What you said comes a little bit back to what we were talking about the other day. I just finished reading the book “Who Not How,” which really just reiterates a lot of stuff for entrepreneurs. It's not a new philosophy, but they know that when you have the mindset of an entrepreneur, you know that look, "I can't be the expert at every topic. I can't know everything inside and out, nor should I. I've got to run this business. So, I'm stuck here. Who do I find to help me? How do I be resourceful to go find somebody to help me with this answer." The person who maybe comes from being a successful W2, maybe even ran a division. So, they've got a lot of autonomy in their position and they're entrepreneurial, but they're not true entrepreneurs because they're not having to pay the bills. They just got a lot of responsibility in that company.
But that person might sit there and just struggle with analysis paralysis and just “I've got to learn this” and they get stuck and spend hours and hours and hours. And that's when it really, really helps though, to have that coach that says, “What are you doing? Don't spend so much time on that.” And please, if you've got access to your coach, shoot us a text. Let's help you get unstuck and keep moving, and work focusing on the things that are going to move your business forward.
Seth: Yeah. It's interesting, the difference you're talking about, Howard, between the people who want to quit their job versus the true entrepreneurs, because I was that in the beginning in terms of the person who wanted to quit my job, that was definitely my big push, but that wasn't all there was.
I almost wonder if it's not so much about the reason as it is about how some people just get bored really easily and they abandon stuff with the drop of a hat like, “Well, it's hard. Forget it. I'm doing something else.” Whereas other people, they're just loyal to the cause. They will keep going until it works. Because really every business is hard. Land is no different. I mean, it's a really tough thing sometimes and people kind of get into it, maybe thinking that it's going to be easier or something, I don't know. But anyway, just a passing thought.
David: Hey, $10,000 of passive cash flow in six months. You can do it. It's easy.
Seth: Yeah. I've never heard someone say that before.
Howard: But you're absolutely right, Seth. I attributed me being stuck in my career 100% to adult ADD. I mean, I have serious adult ADD. I'm an amazing starter. I'm a crappy finisher. I just lose my interest. It's like, “Oh this is actually kind of cool too. Let me go work on that for a while.” And I'm seriously obsessed with starting.
Jaren: Yeah. My former boss, Brett Snodgrass over at Simple Wholesaling when I used to work for a large wholesale operation in Indianapolis. He thousand percent textbook starter, like quick start. That was his thing. But he needed the whole team to help follow through to the very end. It's funny that you guys are talking about this because I've been meditating on that whole Hare versus Tortoise fable story. And I've been Hare my whole life. I've been anti Tortoise. I've been like, “No, no, no, no. You got to go hard. You got to look for 80/20 leverage and all that.” But I think I've come to the conclusion after 30 years of life that the Tortoise always wins.
So, if you can approach this business, like, “Hey, I don't care if it takes me the next two years of my life, I'm going to inch forward towards this goal, no matter what." And you're just dogged. And it doesn't matter if it's like five minutes a day in your business, you don't care. That you're just going to put it in, put it in. Eventually you're going to get there. That I think actually is the key to winning and being successful. Not the “let me just look for the next cool strategy or the next new thing.” It's not sexy and it will not sell from a motivation stage. But I think that's actually what works.
Howard: Yeah. Life tends to be a marathon, not a sprint.
David: Yes, exactly. You guys have all read “Think and Grow Rich” I'm sure, right? You remember the story “Three Feet From Gold?” I like to use that a lot, where the company was a small mining company. They were gold runs in a vein. They kept working at it, kept working at it and they quit, sold all the equipment. Some guy went to the local hardware store, bought up all their equipment, went down there and within a couple of days, hit that vein in three feet.
Seth: Those kinds of stories drive me crazy.
Jaren: They drive me crazy too.
Seth: Because we all have to agree, there are times in life when you need to quit things.
Jaren: You never know when.
Seth: Yeah. What if it's just around the next corner? You could do that forever, and especially if you're going nowhere, it's like, I don't know. So, it's a great analogy, but it leaves this big question mark in my brain because I don't actually know what's behind the corner.
David: Right. Yes.
Howard: I think the attitude that you have towards business is really important. One of the guys, he's just so inspirational, you might have heard of him. I'm not sure. His name is Steve Jobs.
Jaren: Who's that guy?
Howard: The thing about Steve Jobs, and if you look at some of the most successful mega success people, him and Jeff Bezos is another good example. Well, Steve Jobs, first of all, what gave him joy in life was building great things that changed the world. The money was an afterthought. He didn't do it for the money. And I think there's such a lesson in that, is when you have joy in doing something that actually contributes value to the world and not just putting money into the bank, you end up putting a hell of a lot more money in the bank. It's the people who are so fixated on the dollar as the goal. They're the ones that they're not as successful. And oftentimes they struggle more because it's harder to connect to the motivation, I think.
And the other thing that I think was interesting between Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos is that they had their vision and they understood that as soon as you go public and you've got quarterly earnings and all these short-term pressures, if you don't control the board, you don't control your company.
And so, they made sure that, at least at some point in the journey, they figured it out to control the board so that they can control their own journey and they can make the decisions, whether the board liked it or not. And whenever you've got these Wall Street pressures that say to drive you towards quarterly earnings, those companies aren't as long lasting. Those are just investors looking at numbers, trying to suck out as much of the value as they can as quickly as they can. It's the guys with the longer-term vision and the ability to execute that longer term vision that always, always end up winning.
Jaren: Howard, would you entertain some pushback on that? Just a little bit. Just so you have a little debate here. I don't actually know if I disagree with you or not, but it's something that I'm wrestling with. What you just laid out has been a primary approach for me in my career, just kind of have money, be an afterthought, just focus on opportunity, adding value. And I think looking hindsight that kind of hindered a lot of my growth maybe because I was so over on the extreme. I was in the ditch of just emphasizing fulfillment and all of that, like being missional, being vocational in your career. For me, I got to the point where I was just like, “Okay, I just need to focus on the money piece because I got two kids now.” It's that season in life where it's like, “Okay, we need to actually build some substantial wealth for the future for my kiddos,” and what have you.
I don't know, I've been wrestling through what you said versus the pragmatic, “Hey, money is actually the point of business.” And if you start doing stuff, and maybe I'm a weird person and this is not relevant for anybody, but in case it's helpful, I just thought it would be interesting to push back on that a little bit. I mean, how much would you say a brand-new person looking at the land business or looking at different pursuits in their entrepreneurial journey or what have you, how much should they really be emphasizing personal fulfillment versus the money at the end of the day?
Howard: I don't mean to imply that you give things away for free. I don't believe that service says “I'm just giving and I'll just let the universe figure out how to get back to me.” I don't think Jobs felt that way. I certainly don't think Bezos feels that way. They have a very clear idea. Money is a scorecard, I think, at some point. And so, I think in Jobs's vision is we will, both in product and in bran, establish a premium brand with premium products and we will get paid appropriately for the premium nature of what that is. He was never afraid to charge a lot of money for his stuff, more so than the equivalent over on the window side of things.
So, I'm not suggesting we'd be afraid to charge money for. Business is about an exchange of value. If you create greater value, you should get more in return for it. It's as simple as that. I think that there are plenty of people out there with the service mentality that forget that and they forget that they're giving, but they're not thinking about the equal exchange process. I think there always has to be an equal exchange process.
One thing that Dave and I talked about extensively at the beginning was just how we talked to people, especially on consulting calls leading up to a customer joining in sales calls. And the importance of getting our heads straight before we get on that call. Because when you're a salesperson and you get on a call and you're thinking, “Oh, man, if I land this deal, I'm going to be getting this big commission. It's going to be awesome.” That comes across whether you use the words or not, it just comes across.
But when before you even pick up that phone, you say, “My job on this call is to deliver value to this person and show them how they can achieve their dreams,” then that comes across. And so, as long as both of you, there's an honesty about it, say, “Look, our goal in life is to help you succeed.” And there will be a fair exchange of value for that service. Then it works.
David: I think you both kind of hit the nail. There's a balance in between your vision for what you're doing and your reason for what you're doing and the money side. I think it does come back. It points back to your why and your purpose. And if you're going for that, if you're just focused on the money, when things aren't going well, and things will go not well, always, you're going to have valleys. It makes it more difficult if it's just about the money, when the money's not coming in. It makes it more difficult to get through those valleys. But if you've really got a clear vision of where you want to go and money is part of that journey, I think it makes it easier, it gives you the motivation to push through the valleys.
Seth: David, you have mentioned the book “Who Not How” a little bit ago. I also read that book earlier this year. Kind of got me to think more open-mindedly about different partnerships and partnering up with people and that kind of thing. I've always had a hard time with that because I've got an absurdly high standard of quality, but I miss the ball sometimes. There are other things that also matter that I just forget about or ignore and another person could bring that to the table. And it just goes over my head. Or maybe in some ways I like control and you kind of have to let that go a little bit the minute you decide to partner with anybody and anything, because that's just not how it works.
But given how you two guys have been partnering together for a while, I'm looking for insight on what do you both bring to the table that's different from each other? How did you even figure out in the first place that, “Hey, we ought to be doing something together?” Because I know this kind of partnership thing, it's a very common thing. A lot of times different land investors will come together, whether it's to create software or to do good deals together or whatever. Now, I'm just curious as to the evolution of that and if there's any challenges or great things about working with another person who kind of complements areas where you're not the best?
David: Do you want me to take that or you want to take that, Howard?
Howard: Go for it.
David: Well, I'll tell you what. I think if we were to teach about picking a partner, sometimes you work along with somebody, like I've partnered with people on deals, especially when I was doing more sticks and bricks. And that many times can be whatever the dynamics of the deal are. Somebody brings the deal and they don't have the capital or the expertise or something and they need to bring it and you have that particular expertise. But you could make lousy, actual, permanent business partners because of whatever reasons. You don't complement each other in a certain way.
Howard and I kind of evolved out of me being a coach for him. We became really good friends and had a lot of conversations about the business and certainly had a lot of similar aspirations and vision for what this could be. Now, if we were to go back and use the textbook and try to check the boxes on how we complement each other, I think there's probably a lot of ways where we're a lot the same, like both being good starters. If I were to tell you to go pick a partner, well, one of you should be a great starter. One of you should be a great implementer. That's the match made in heaven. Neither of us are good implementers. We struggle with that.
Howard: That's why we have a team.
Seth: I'm somebody who actually is a good implementer and I'm not as good of a starter. And I'll tell you, I get frustrated by that because I feel like implementing is way harder than starting something.
Seth: Way harder.
David: It is.
Seth: If you have one person who's the starter and the other person is the implementer, there's a natural, huge imbalance there because one person just vomits out ideas and the other person has to actually do it. So, how do you guys handle it?
David: But you got to have the idea of vomiter in the first place.
Seth: That's true. That's true.
David: Otherwise, you got nothing to implement.
Seth: That's exactly it. It's a critical component of it.
David: Yeah. We got to find that who.
Howard: So, one of my good friends who we worked together and then he was just a born entrepreneur and he went out and started a business with his college roommate and I ended up joining their business. Just a great entrepreneur. And one of the things he always used to say is “Every business needs three people at the top. You need a visionary, a businessman, and a son of a b****.” Now, sometimes you can find two of those roles in one person. It's almost never do you find all three roles in one person.
Jaren: You know what's really weird? You literally just described my entire team. Not to throw my wife under the bus, but the one that is cracking the whip. She's very much, if we were to have an org chart, she'd be like in the acquisitions department, but in a silo. She's one of those people that goes in and makes a bunch of mess, but she gets so much results that you justify the mess and you're like, “No, no, no, make your mess. We'll clean it up. Just go do your thing.” And it's really funny. But I'm probably more the visionary. And then my acquisition manager that we just brought on is definitely my implementer. It's without question.
I agree with you that even though it's kind of funny how you said it, those three components are actually pretty important because you need somebody to be able to bring down the hammer, keep everybody accountable. If you want to call it a starter or a visionary, practically, it's the guy that says, “Yo, this is our target. So, we now all have a collective goal that we can actually reverse engineer and take action.” But with no target, you're going to hit nothing every time. So, it's important to have all of those components. That's a really cool insight that you brought up there.
Howard: He's kind of a brilliant guy. It was actually his second business. I did some work with them in the second business also. And it was really fascinating watching how they started their business. The first thing they did was create an LLC. The second thing they did is rent office space. The third thing they did is create a logo. And the fourth thing they did is figure out what the heck they were going to do. That they were going to do something and that they were going to succeed was a foregone conclusion. They needed to have a place to work.
Jaren: There's a scripture that says, “What a man thinks, so is he.” And there's so much truth to that. What we behold or what we think on, we eventually become. And so, if you really want to become successful, I know it kind of sounds a little bit like woo-woo or spiritual or whatever. But I think there's a very strong principle there. If you are going to go into something, applying faith and belief that it's actually going to be a successful venture, I think is a major key to its success.
Howard: Isn't that the whole basis of the book “The Secret?”
Howard: Yeah. It's like, we're all kind of connected at some cosmic level. And when you put out there your wishes to the universe with sincerity and authenticity and whether it's through meditation or prayer, however it is you communicate, somehow good or bad, the universe has a way of delivering.
Jaren: I agree. Yeah.
Seth: It's interesting that I've heard that for years. I believe it. It's totally true and all this, but I feel like sometimes my thoughts are very reactive. How do you control your thoughts? When I feel a certain way about something it's because of something I've seen or heard and my brain has this reaction to it. Or if I believe something is possible or if I don't believe something is possible, it's like, I don't even really know how to change that.
Say, if I don't trust you for some reason, how do I just flick a switch and be like, “Okay, I trust you now?” No, you need to do something for me to trust you or vice versa. But I know it's not that simple. I know this is doable. You can totally take your thoughts captive, but how do you do that? Is it just a discipline thing, just will yourself to think a certain way and it will happen? Do you guys have any experience with that? Overcoming doubt or something like that?
David: Overcoming doubt, overcoming fear, there's no magic bullet for anything. It's a process. And it requires discipline to do. Jaren, there's another scripture that says, "Faith comes by—" not to turn this into a religious podcast, but it's the same principle—"Faith comes by hearing." And it's talking about the faith in God, hearing the word of God over and over and over and studying it and meditating upon it.
Well, it's something like if you've got a fear about something that you need to overcome and you know you need to overcome it, then you've got to figure out what process it takes to build your belief, to build your faith in that. Or if it's a person, trusting a person. Well, maybe it's like, “Okay, I'm not sure I trust this guy, but there's something about him that is keeping me from pushing this person away. So maybe I just need to talk to this person a little bit more. I need to interact with them a little bit more and just give it some time.”
Jaren: Love it. Very insightful. What about you Howard?
Howard: When I was working with my friend's second company, I was actually just consulting on their behalf so they can make money and pay me a few shekels. We were consulting at Telcordia, which was part of the Bell system back in the day. And they served all the big telephone companies, and it was just this old monopoly mentality. They wanted to branch out and create new products. And so, that's what we were doing. We were helping them look at the technology they had in their lab and see what can we product-ize and sell.
And I was working for this guy there and he was one of the best bosses I've ever had. Certainly not even close to the most educated of the bosses that I had, not even close to the smartest of the bosses I've ever had, but the best. And he would walk me around the halls and he would introduce me as, "This is Howard Zander. He is the best marketer I've ever worked with in my entire life. You are going to be astounded." Now, I didn't believe that. I'm not even sure he believed that, but he said it and I loved this man. And there was no way I was going to turn this man into a liar.
Seth: That's really interesting. I like that. You're calling somebody to a higher standard. It really does give you something to live up to.
Howard: It does.
Jaren: We might as well call this a scripture podcast. My goodness. It's like, stuff's coming to mind “Call the things that are not as though they are.” I think it's Romans Chapter 8 or 12. I forget. But it literally says, that's what we're called to do, right? I think again, not taking it out of the religious context for a second, there's something to this principle of, “Hey, if I set my intention and I go after, and I don't allow my thoughts to bombard doubt or whatever, but I just keep handing it.”
Sometimes I've noticed certain things. When I first started learning about real estate, there was a long period of time where I've bombarded myself with podcasts about real estate. If I was not doing something where people needed my attention, I was listening or reading or doing something about real estate because I wanted mastery. I wanted to become a real estate investor. And lo and behold, here we are. So, I really love what we're talking about here, guys. This is some good stuff.
Howard: It is great stuff. I've had a saying that I've always used for most of my career and that is “Almost 100% of the time people will meet your expectations. If you have low expectations of them, they will meet your expectations. And if you have high expectations of them, they will meet your expectations.” It just works that way.
But the thing that's really important is, just to tie it back to something we were talking about earlier, is that also applies to ourselves. If we have low expectations of ourselves, we will meet our expectations. And if we have high expectations of ourselves, we will meet our expectations, which gets back to this idea of belief and the difference between the person with the entrepreneurial mindset and the person who just wants to quit his job. It really comes down to “Do I believe and do I have high expectations of myself?”
David: And sometimes you have to build that. You can set it, but then you've got to build the stepping stone so that belief becomes confidence. Like, “Okay, oh, I did a deal. I did another deal. I did another. Oh, now let's start adding zeros to the deals.” That's been a personal growth journey for me in the last year or so, and it really came into fruition this year. It’s just doing higher-dollar deals. It's less deals, but it's paying off in spades.
And so, we all have hurdles in our careers, hurdles in our businesses. And call that a fear, call it lack of confidence. Anything we start that's new, we work with a new person, you got to build trust. There are building blocks. Sometimes it takes a little bit of time and you have to do what you figure out what you need to do to build confidence in that process, in that business model, in that person.
Jaren: I want to chime in on Seth's question, if it's okay with you guys. Howard, are you really an adult ADD, or was that like you're just distracted a lot? Are you legitimately diagnosed?
Howard: I won't be too belabored in the answer, but I was working for a company called Level 3 Communications in Broomfield, Colorado, and I had about a 30 - 40-minute commute home. And I'd always be on the phone with my wife on my way home. I just remember I would always say this to her, I'm like, "I feel like a race car with the parking brake on and I don't know how to turn the parking brake off." And so, I would start these things and people would say, “Oh my God, you don't think like anybody we know. You come up with ideas out of a left field that are really awesome, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” But the people who get promoted are the sets of the world who can execute and get stuff over the goal line.
And so, I hit the ceiling in my career because I couldn't do that in subsequent jobs. One night I was watching, it ended up being like an infomercial or something. It was for this doctor who specializes in ADD and ADHD and everything he's saying, I'm like, “Oh my God, that's me. Everything he's saying is me.”
So, I decided first I was going to go to a psychiatrist, not a psychologist, and I was going to be evaluated. And if appropriate, I was going to go on meds. And I tried that for, I don't know, a month or two. And I said, this is stupid. These meds don't do anything for me.
I said maybe the real opportunity here was just being able to label it because now I know what the problem is. And so, right at that time, I came into land and I remember I very firmly said this in my head. I said, “I don't care what shiny object comes up. I am not deviating from this business until I either succeed, or I am convinced it doesn't work. I will not go to the next shiny object.” And it was just a decision I made based upon being able to label myself as ADD. So, I don't know whether it's official or not.
Jaren: Well, that's awesome. I appreciate the explanation there. I personally actually am legit diagnosed ADHD. I don't actually ever talk about it. Half of my life I even questioned if it was like a real thing because you don't see kids in developing nations running around diagnosis of ADHD and on meds. So, I always was kind of suspicious of it, but I definitely think it's real in light of recent events. I think my propensity is to, as you've described, I had to explain it how my brain works at one and a half speed. It's not necessarily mean I'm smart. I could be thinking about stupid things, like I don't even know, whatever, pick your fill. But I definitely struggled a lot as a kid and I was on Adderall and Ritalin. First Ritalin and Adderall as a kid until I was 15.
And then I wanted to live life without it. And so, I started doing a lot of things about how to figure out your mindset and how to take thoughts captive.
Circling back to your question for what it's worth, food for thought. I think that if you take the position of an observer in most things and use a practice, like you practice kind of taking a step back and just recognizing that there's a separation between who you are and your thoughts and your impulses, it's like step one.
And then from there, deciding whether or not you want to yield to that thought or impulse. Now, sometimes certain impulses are a lot stronger, like when you're angry or whatever. So, there's definitely a lifelong practice of this thing. But I was off of ADHD medicine for years, and what I was able to do was figure out how to recognize, “I'm very impulsive right now. I want to be super hyper and just not yielding to that.” Just recognizing that it's there and keeping it separate. So, I don't know if that would help, but that's what has worked for me to some degree.
Howard: Yeah. Brilliant. Self-awareness is a great starting point.
Seth: There's a book by Robert Kiyosaki called “Rich Kid Smart Kid” that I listened to a couple of years ago, and took a bunch of notes from it. He had one interesting comment about ADD. He said that we all have ADD and it's what causes channel surfing. If nobody had ADD, there would be one thing on TV and we'd all watch it mindlessly.
And unfortunately, kids in school don't have the luxury of changing the channel. They have to be drugged into compliance just to sit there. And that's probably the difference you're talking about, Jaren, is that in third world countries, people don't just sit at desks all day or in front of computers. They're actually out working on a farm or doing something else. And it's almost kind of a non-issue because their brains don't have to be subjected to that.
David: It's an interesting analogy for sure.
Seth: Yeah. So, to wrap this thing up here. I know the state of the market is kind of weird right now. It's probably weirder than I've ever seen it in the land space anyway. Just lots of things have changed over the past years. I’m curious what do you think have been the biggest one or two challenges that people have had from like 2020, to 2021, to now 2022?
Howard: I think that it might have surprised some people, but the COVID lockdowns turned out to be obviously a big boom for the land business. But it's important to note that they also coincided with very low interest rates and a general model of escape from the big cities. So, that created demand.
Right now, interest rates are going up and they're going up fast. And the key economists on both sides of the aisle, even guys like Larry Summers are looking at, “Okay, we're kind of in that 1979 moment and is the current chairman of the Fed going to be the Paul Volcker and raise rates to 21% and stall the economy to kill this thing?” Well, we know that there's a direct correlation between interest rates and real estate, and we're already seeing the slowdown in the real estate market. The question is to what degree will that transfer to the land market?
I don't think we absolutely know the answer yet because even 2007, 2008 is not a really great parallel because while we had problems, we still had low interest rates. So, I think we're in a slightly different situation right now.
Just thinking through it logically I think, on the one hand, our business is predicated upon finding people who are owners of land, who are distressed. And I have a feeling that there are going to be a lot more distressed people coming up than there have been in the past. So, I think the buying opportunity is going to be phenomenal. The question is, “Will the selling opportunity be there?” It’d probably be different kinds of buyers.
Like our buyers were always, “Oh, I want a piece of land for legacy, or I want it for recreation. If it was an infill lot, I was going to do it because I'm going to build a building on it.” I think that could very well slow down. But for people who have cash and know that their cash is losing value on a daily basis, they need to park it in hard assets. So that might be a market where we can pitch to. But we have to understand what kind of land they want, make sure we're acquiring the right stuff.
David: Exactly. It's not going to be desert squares. It's going to be a little nicer stuff. Might be large desert squares with a few trees on them. Yeah. I think nicer properties, people are going to want to park cash. That's going to be a good store of value for people. A lot of people would rather buy that than gold. That's a good inflation hedge.
It's not 2008 where we had all the subprime loans and where things just collapsed, but we've certainly got headwinds ahead. And it's difficult to say. Even if I look at housing and what's happening very quickly with inventory increasing, because not only do you have the inflation and the high interest rates, so you've got inflation and those cost factors, cost of living factors that are really pushing first time home buyers out of the market, because they can't save a down payment and now, they can afford a lot less because of interest rates.
They're just kind of like “I'm out. I'm going to see what transpires.” We are going to see more inventory, and probably in various markets. Some downward pressure on housing. So, it's really difficult to see where that's going to play on land. And it's assuming we don't have any black swan events or anything. That's always a game-changer, but I'm still fairly bullish.
What I'm telling people is stick to your principles on your pricing, on your offers. Don't chase stuff too high, and you got to know your market. For example, there are some markets that are still so hot that you got a buyer's list as long as your arm that are going to buy that property in that location as soon as you've got it.
So, go ahead and offer 60, 70 cents on the dollar and sell it for 110, 120 cents while you can. But if you're not in that position where you really know that market and that exit price, don't chase your offer percentages up too high, stick to the fundamentals so that if we do get in a situation where the land business stalls for a little while and you got to get the capital back out, you're still buying right. And like all real estate, we make your money on the purchase, right? You got to buy right.
Seth: Got you. Awesome. Thanks for your insights on that. So, if people want to find out more about you guys or check out the different things you have to offer, where should they go? Just Land.MBA?
David: Land.MBA. Yes, sir.
Seth: Awesome. Sounds good.
Howard: Our name is the URL. It just doesn't get any easier than that.
Seth: Yeah, No kidding. You really can't mess it up.
Seth: Well, thanks guys for chatting with us today. It's awesome to hear what you've been up to. And yeah, you guys know where to go if you want to learn more, Land.MBA. And again, if you guys want to hear the show notes for this episode, retipster.com/136 where you're going to find a lot more details and links to related things that we've talked about here in the conversation. So, thanks for listening and we'll talk to you guys next time.
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