In this episode, I'm talking with Ajay Sharma to learn about his journey in building a winning acquisition team for his business.
Ajay shares where he found his team members, what roles they play, and how he manages them effectively. He also discusses how he changed the marketing channels of his land business and the significant impact his new team has had on his life.
Whether you're just starting out or looking to scale your business, this episode is a must-listen for anyone in the land investing space.
Links and Resources
- Get Your Land Acquisition VA (REtipster Affiliate Link)
- Land Investing Masterclass
- Text Marketing 101 for Land Investors w/ Callan Faulkner
- LaunchControl (REtipster Affiliate Link)
- REI Optimize (REtipster Affiliate Link)
- MapRight (REtipster Affiliate Link)
- DataTree (REtipster Affiliate Link)
- Learn.Land (REtipster Affiliate Link)
- Pebble (REtipster Affiliate Link)
- PATLive (REtipster Affiliate Link)
- PATLive Review
- 139: The Simple Land Investing “Hacks” That Won Ajay Sharma His Absolute Freedom
- 151: Note Investing 101 w/ Eric Scharaga
- 077: Transforming Land Investing with Seller-Financed Notes: Justin Sliva's Expert Tips and Tricks
- The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace
- The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
- Alex Hormozi on YouTube
Editor's note: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Seth: Hey everybody, how's it going? This is Seth Williams and you are listening to episode 156 of the REtipster Podcast.
Today, it's just me and Ajay Sharma talking back and forth. The reason I wanted to do this is because earlier this year, like in the first couple months of the year, Ajay made a video for the REtipster community talking about how he had already made six figures of gross revenue and acquired well over a quarter million dollars of inventory, largely thanks to his team that he put in place. And this is the first tiny little check of the year!
And the idea of hiring a team of people and making that kind of money without being the sole driver of the ship is something a lot of land investors dream about. It's something that they wish for someday, but they don't really know how to get there.
And in today's conversation we're gonna talk about how Ajay got there and how he found these people, how he manages them, the pros and the cons, if any, of running and growing a team, and a lot more.
So Ajay, welcome. How's it going?
Ajay: Thank you very much, Seth. Appreciate that introduction. I am living the dream, my friend.
Seth: Yeah, I'm sure you are. Where should we start this for the people that didn't see the video that you made? I mean I kind of just recapped it there in this introduction, but maybe you could kind of tell us a little bit about the journey from when you first started your land business and it was just you, you're trying to figure things out. And then maybe take us to the first person you hired, like when was that what role did they fill and in hindsight, like was that the right person to hire first? Let me start there.
Ajay: Yeah, great question. I had ran this business by myself for way too long, unfortunately. For some time relevance. Today is April 13th, 2023. I started my land business… it was either August 31st or September 1st, 2020, I can never remember which day I bought the REtipster Course and got rolling. I had my first deal within a couple of weeks; about a year in, I had done just over a handful of deals, and then stumbled into a really big deal, making multi-six figures.
And then, after that, continued to solopreneur my way through for another several months. So it wasn't until June 6th, 2022 that I finally brought on my first staff. Her name is Nix, she's a rockstar. Nix is based out of the Philippines and her role is a lead manager-slash-acquisitions coordinator, is kind of how I would define her.
And I mean, the short answer to your question of whether she was the right hire at the time is yes, she was certainly the right hire at the time. I recommend everybody's first hire be focused in a production-based role. So we wanna make sure that whoever we bring in makes us more money, especially in those early times in our land businesses before we have consistency. Because truly to get consistency, it's a function of getting output done. And so if you have somebody in a seat where they're gonna help you drive more output, you're going to see more consistency in your business as a consequence.
Seth: Yeah, that makes a ton of sense. And how did you find her? Were you just on your own, just kinda on OnlineJobs.ph or something? Or did you have somebody holding your hands showing you where to go and how to do it?
Ajay: Yeah, so I pulled up a big rock and found… No, I'm just kidding. Right, I found her through the Learn.Land community. So Clint Turner's the founder of Learn.Land. He runs a program, we run a program with the “acquisitions coordinators,” is what the role is called. And so I was plugged in with them at the time, was doing one-on-one coaching with Clint and plugged into the Mastermind and all the community and they had advertised that they had staff available for this role.
And you know, for myself, I didn't even know where to begin when it came to hiring at this time period. I think I was just about to turn 24. And so I had very little experience in the real world when it came to hiring, recruiting, managing talent. I didn't know where to start. I didn't know where to keep the ball rolling and learn land basically said, “Hey, here's a done for you solution of a trained VA out of the Philippines who has the right personality temperament for this role, who is already trained in texting through Launch Control, is trained on how to look at land and map, is trained on how to use a command-style board CRM with Trello and FollowUp Boss, and has the ability to cold call, has really good English.” And so it was a turnkey solution and I knew I needed to hire, I just wasn't sure what I was doing. So was lucky enough to be in the Learn.Land community and get plugged in there.
Seth: So Learn.Land is actually like, they find the people, they train the people. Is it basically a turnkey thing? here's this person, they're ready to rock.
Ajay: Yep. So I would best describe it as a staffing solution and, and for some context for everybody, recently I actually came in as a partner at Learn.Land, so I'd like to make that transparent as I'm sharing this. Not like this is some behind the scenes kind of deal.
But it's a staffing solution. So where Learn.Land really specializes is identifying good talent, interviewing them. So we're screening for good English, we're potentially running background checks on some individuals. We are asking good interview questions of course and bringing in really good talent. And then once they're in, we run them through a training curriculum we have for these virtual assistants that gets them ready to go and take over a good chunk of your acquisitions activities. And these are very smart, trainable, teachable individuals.
So they come in knowing how to make offers on properties, they have a good baseline for comping. And the reason I say baseline is just because comping a property in like Southern Florida is gonna be really different than Western Texas, different than mountainous Colorado, different than Northeast America. So anyway, the point being, as land operators, land business owners, we know that comping in different areas means different things. So as, like I said, I have the baseline, they know kind of how to go through the motions, but you may need some oversight there. That being said, they know how to comp, they know how to talk to sellers. They are capable of doing anything in your CRM and preparing paperwork. You might need to teach them on some stuff, but these are very trainable, teachable individuals that know how to operate a good chunk of your acquisitions coordination and pipeline.
Yeah, I mean, they're just fantastic individuals that rock and roll and are really consistent and get a bunch of work done.
Seth: I assume there's a cost to working with this staffing solution. So like what does it cost to get one of these pre-trained people who gets it because that's a huge value. I mean if that's really true, that's a big deal because there you can spend a ton of time just picking up any person who is very sharp and qualified but they don't understand the business. So to get somebody who just can hit the ground running, that's a huge deal. But what would it cost to, I guess, the fee for getting that person and then what are you expected to pay them ongoing after that? What is the price range?
Ajay: So I think before I answer that directly, I just want to give a little bit of context for anybody that's hired overseas before. You probably understand there are some risks associated with that. A big portion of that being staff disappearing. You know, the plethora of health issues will pop up, honestly, sometimes they just don't show up for a month and you have no way of really getting in contact besides the normal channels that you've used in the past.
So I bring that up to say, we and Learn.Land have identified that we can create kind of a moat around the idea of retention with our staff if we just pay them a lot more than what they typically would get paid over there. So that being said, an investor who's looking to work through program can expect to pay around $15 an hour for a virtual assistant through our program. We do have an upfront placement fee as well and that changes based on promotion. I would say the best way to get that information is to book a call with somebody on our team. Good chance you'll end up chatting with me.
Seth: And by the way, REtipster does have an affiliate link to what Ajay's talking about here. If you wanna book a call through our affiliate link, help support REtipster and Learn.Land and yourself, retipster.com/vastaffing. And I'm gonna have that link in the show notes for this episode as well. And the show notes are retipster.com/156. So go check that out.
So it sounds like in terms of cost, somebody should plan to be paying about 15 bucks an hour. When I hear you say VA, when I hear virtual assistant, I have a certain picture in my mind of what that means, but it sounds like this is kinda like above and beyond that. I mean, having somebody who's specifically trained in the acquisition process for the land business, there's a lot of specialization there so I don't wanna brush over that. it's kind of a big deal to have that kind of focused training on a very specific thing that you are going to need, whether it's you doing it or you paying somebody else to do it.
So who is the person finding these people and training these people? Is it you or is there somebody on Clint's team who's doing this? I mean, that's a important hat to wear in terms of having good judgment in finding and turning these people up.
Ajay: Yep, it's a great question. So it is not me, it's the short answer, nor would you want me in that seat. But I will say we have two fantastic staff on our team. Both Jessica and Dylan run a lot of that behind the scenes and are fantastic when it comes to sourcing. We have basically how you could imagine a pipeline for leads for land deals. We basically have a pipeline for staffing when it comes to VAs overseas.
So we keep our pipelines full, we're working in both the Philippines and actually we also have Latin American VAs as of now. So this is a big deal for folks that want bilingual VAs in both English and Spanish. And we just started working with a recruiter over there and, and some other folks.
And so we're getting really good systems in place overseas to, to get some really good talent and just started staffing those the first few times and it's been awesome, especially if you're doing deals in Florida, in Texas and markets where you may get a lot of Spanish-speaking landowners, it's been a huge value-add.
Seth: Is it more expensive to hire a Latin American person?
Ajay: Yeah, that's a good question. Right now it's the same price for both Latin American and Filipino.
Seth: I don't know if people are grasping this, but I just wanna take a moment. Again, I've kind of already hit on this, but just to emphasize if this works, if you can really find a qualified person at this price this easily where it's done for you. This is something that has held me back for years. I mean just not even really trying to find a person because it just feels like such a huge mountain to climb to find him first of all and then to like teach him and management all this stuff. And I know there are many people out there who are similar. It's just so hard having this kind of job done for you, the fact that that opportunity even exists in any form is a big deal.
So when you look at your team now, Ajay, how many people on are on your team now? Did you find all of these people on your team through this or have you found them from other channels? Tell us more about that.
Ajay: Yeah, absolutely. I'll just start by saying I love my team. We are at a really good, healthy place right now and it has taken a lot of investment to get here. But you know, at the executive level, about six months ago I brought in a partner to run our operations. So you can envision him as kind of like a chief operating officer or if you're a big Traction by Gino Wickman fan, he's the integrator, I'm the visionary, he's kind of those seats that you can imagine. That's who we have at the executive level.
On our acquisitions team, we have three roles. The first being a full-time texting VA. So as of November, it's funny around the holiday season, mail is always just so, so slow and I had been through it for two years. I was going into the third year and I was like, I really don't feel like spending $5,000 to $6,000 on mail right now, only for it to take six weeks to really go into place. And so we brought in a full-time texting VA who was recruited by Nix, our VA from Learn.Land. It was actually her niece, so her niece was looking for a job and the timing just worked out really well. And so she came on full-time texting those leads.
Then go from texting over to our CRM, which is where Nix then takes over and she is what I would call again lead manager-slash-acquisitions coordinator. So she's running initial due diligence on these properties, making sure you know that they aren't all in a floodplain, in a wetland, have road access, back taxes. A lot of the basic stuff you can check in five to 10 minutes, mostly through MapRight and the county sites. And then it moves along, and we'll say, “Okay, well, this passes our quick check, so let's go ahead and spend some time on the phone with this seller.”
So then Nix is gonna go ahead and call them. So she's gonna go through a script that is most similar to I think what you've written out for folks to, if they wanna work with PATLive a lot of those basic questions of, how long have you owned the property, why are you interested in selling, some other stuff like that. And her job is really just to build rapport and get information. Just extract as much as you can on motivation and then stuff that would be a potential roadblock. So are you the only owner of record? Why are you interested in selling?
We usually close in either 30 or 90 days depending on if we're gonna purchase versus do like a double close. And so it's… are you good with those timelines? So just setting some expectations and extracting as much information that might cause a roadblock in the future.
If that conversation goes well, it gets moved along to get comped. Our texting VA actually also does our comps and this is a little bit atypical. So , I wouldn't necessarily recommend this role to people, it's just how our pipeline fell, our processes fell, our team fell. Because I always tell my team if if you have an interest in something, you're welcome to just ask and we'll let you give it a go and if you're good at it we can keep rolling at it. Right? And so she said she was interested in trying to comp properties, she ended up being really good at it and we have her texting probably five, six hours a day and then she has another two hours a day to comp properties and it makes for a really smooth process flow.
And then after the property has been comped, it goes over to our acquisitions manager who is U.S.-based, her name is Veronica, she is a rockstar and Veronica then is in charge of making offers to sellers. So that's pretty much her primary role is getting on the phone, of course building rapport and then making offers and and closing as many deals as possible .
But that's what my team looks like today.
Seth: Gotcha. What was the name of the full-time texting VA?
Ajay: Her name is Zoe.
Seth: So is there anybody on this team who like pulls lists and gets everything mailed out? with the right template and the mail merging all this stuff? who would that be?
Ajay: Yeah, so right now Ben is still doing that who's my COO and he spends probably three or four hours a week massaging our data and getting lists ready to go.
Seth: So I'm trying to just visualize like when somebody says acquisitions manager, I mean that could literally mean anything that has to do with actively finding and buying properties. So it almost sounds like you have like several acquisitions managers really, I mean they're kind of working together at different parts of this process.
Just to recap, we've got Zoe, she's the full-time texting VA, she also does comping and then Nix is the lead manager acquisitions coordinator. So does she work with all the different parties involved to make sure they're doing their things at the right times?
Ajay: Yeah, more or less. You know, her and Zoe talk a lot because if a lead is really hot then we want Nix on the phone right away. And then she's in charge of getting it kind of to the next stage where Zoe's then gonna come back in and comp the property and move it on to Veronica. So when you think coordinator, more so think of she's got a couple of plates to spin. Because she's, she's talking to Zoe pretty frequently to say, “Hey, this lead’s hot, take a look at it, give him a call.” She's also running a little bit of quick due diligence on properties and moving that along. So yeah, when I say coordinator, think more so like she's communicating with parties and moving things along in the pipeline, more or less.
Seth: Yeah. And then Veronica, she's the one actually making offers and she's the U.S.-based one. I guess part of why I'm trying to figure this out is because like when you think of continuity of communicating with a motivated seller lead, who is the person that does that? Or do they have to talk to more than one person before they actually sell their property?
Ajay: Yeah, so they talked to two people, both Nix and Veronica and we haven't had a continuity error with it. That's been an issue in our business and a big piece of that is truly setting expectations, Seth. So we have found that if Nix says, “Hey, I'm gonna pass you along, Veronica's gonna give you a call in a couple days,” and then somebody calls in the next 24 hours and says, “Hey my name is Veronica,” they're not a surprise.
Seth: I know, in talking with Callan Faulkner, the way she has kind of the way she teaches text marketing for this process is the person's sending the texts is also the person who may get on the phone and talk to a person, in which in a phone call is usually necessary before you actually get to a sign agreement, and that kind of thing. So is Zoe ever having these conversations or if the need for a phone conversation comes up, then she pulls in Nix to do that part or Veronica?
Ajay: So the latter is correct. I'm actually just gonna go through our entire process flow here from beginning to end with some roles and responsibilities and some tips and tricks that we use. So bear with me. I might talk really fast because I get excited. I know people have given me feedback that I speak to quickly. Sometimes it means I'm happy and excited. So that's a good thing.
So the process obviously begins with Zoe sending out cold text messages. We receive feedback from sellers and really, all we're looking for is interest. So the moment we find out somebody is interested in selling the property, we might do a little bit of basic inquiry through launch control. That's something to the effect of like, okay, let me ask about utilities and if they're still talking to us, eventually the seller's gonna say okay, make me an offer or you know, what are we doing here?
And that's when we say, “Hey, so sorry, like, we just need to grab a little bit more information. When are you free for a call?” Notice the question is not like, “Are you free for a call?” You don't want it to be yes or no. The reason being, it's it's you're trying to assume that they're willing to get on the phone because once you're on the phone, that's where you can really gauge rapport with individuals and make sure they're really motivated to sell. So there's a judgment aspect that's involved that Nix uses, but we have our roles pretty specialized and segmented from a communication standpoint.
Okay, so we have Zoe manning the text messages and she's just communicating with Nix. “So, hey, this person's ready. Can you get on the phone with them ASAP if they're not ready?”
We actually go as far as to have Zoe act as an appointment setter for Nix. So Zoe has a Calendly link that we have for Nix, and basically if a seller says, you can call me today at 3:00 PM central standard time, she's gonna get in Nix's Calendly and put it on her calendar to call this person. And she's got that person's info in the background and she's gonna go in and call them and we saw the theme of appointment setters being a lot more common in big sales spaces. People that use kind of a lot of outbound strategies will use appointment setters because how seldomly is somebody free exactly when you're talking to them and you wanna make sure you're doing good follow-up. So a follow-up text message to be like, hey, looking forward to chatting in an hour.
You can do 24 hours in one hour, you're golden. People have all those automations set up in Calendly that make it really easy now too. So there are all kinds of stuff you can do. So that'll move along to Nix.
Nix is the person that speaks to our sellers on the phone. Zoe currently we don't have her doing any phone activity. She's just very focused and specialized in text messages and just want her to be the best possible texting person out there. And so we have poured into her in that manner and she is fantastic at it. So she can manage about 800 to 1,000 texts a day pretty consistently. And if she ever gets a little overwhelmed because maybe a campaign is really high in terms of response rate, then we'll buy all that back down. But we have found that she can consistently handle 800 to 1,000 text messages a day.
So we're on the middle-tier Launch Control plan, we pass that along to Nix, and Nix is in charge of building rapport with the sellers, going through that, that basic kind of intake more or less before that. She'll look through that piece of due diligence. Something I didn't mention that we have engineered into our pipeline is the idea of process of elimination. So if anybody here in the audience like went to college and studied for the SATs and all that fun stuff, if you went through any kind of training for it, you remember the big thing everybody pushed when they were helping you with the SATs was process of elimination. And you think about the concept behind it so you peeled back the layer and it's essentially don't spend bandwidth on things that are not the right answer.
Oftentimes we spend so much time trying to force deals to work versus just getting them out of the way. If you struggle to have your pipeline filled with consistent deal flow, it's not a function of deals as much as it is either process or your marketing. We can dive into that a little bit later, but the question we asked ourselves is how do we fill our pipeline with good quality leads rather than how do we fill our pipeline and how to make these leads turn into deals? They're two very different energies as you're driving through the pipeline.
The goal of everybody as we're moving along is to eliminate, because each time we move forward in our process, our talent's a little bit more expensive. So it actually saves dollars for the business if you can eliminate with a $5/hour VA before it gets to a $15/hour VA, before it gets to $18 to $25/hour acquisitions manager, and then before it gets to Ajay or Ben or both of us, because us at the executive level are supposed to be the most expensive talent. I think early on in our business we're like, “Oh, well, we're not taking a salary maybe so we're technically cheaper talent,” but that mentality is really gonna drag you down because you're gonna get stuck working on some really low value activities consistently.
Now let's go back to the process here. So we've engineered process of elimination to be a big driver in our lead generation. And so it'll come over to Nix, her goal is to eliminate as much as possible how do we get this person out of our pipeline if they are not a good fit. Number one is through making sure it has road access, making sure it's not covered in wetlands and anything else that would disqualify a property. Maybe a super messy probate, we don't want to into account whatever it is. But she's doing discovery and figuring that out early on.
Number two is when she's on the phone with somebody and they're like, “Well, I'm not selling for less than a million.” And I'm like, “Dude, your property's worth 25 grand. What do you mean?”
We get it all the time and it probably means I'm not gonna spend too much time working with that lead. But her goal is to eliminate something we have engineered into our business to help us eliminate. And this is a really good tactic. Listen if you're on a bike or in the car right now and you're not really paying attention, listen to this tactic. I promise you will close more deals if you do this.
We introduced something called a “double dial.” And it is as simple as it sounds, this tactic is when we call a seller. If we get voicemail, we don't leave a voicemail on the first call, we pause and wait 3-5 seconds. That pause is really important and I'll tell everybody why a little bit later, okay?
And then we call back. And on that second call we have found people are a lot more likely to answer their phones. And here's why. If you get a call, Seth, if I get a call and I look at it and I don't know the number, even if I'm just watching TV or on a walk, I'm like, “Ah, I'm not in the mood for this. It's probably somebody trying to sell me something or buy something from me, or whatever else it is, robo calls, spam calls, whatever else it is in in today's world.”
But we all get calls from numbers we don't know. And very seldomly do we pick them up even if we're expecting something. But if you get a second phone call. And this is why the 3-5 second gap is important because then your brain registers that it ended and another one began. Somebody's really trying to get ahold of you. All of a sudden your curiosity is piqued. You're gonna say, “Oh no, did I forget about a pizza I ordered? Do have delivery out front? Am I forgetting a kid at school? Do I need to bail somebody outta jail? Who knows what it is!”
But it's something that could be important and we're not paying attention to it. And what we found one of the metrics that our business tracks is connection rate. And what that means is for how many outbound calls when we're trying to get in contact with somebody picking up the phone.
And we found pretty consistently it was about 1 in 5. So about 20% of people would pick up the phone, which means when you're trying to follow up with people in your pipeline, it's gonna take you about five dials before somebody finally answers. Because they said at one point they were interested in selling their land and maybe they're not. Now we introduced double dials and almost instantly that jumped from 20% up to like 45 to 60 depending on the day, which is insane.
And this is gonna have two huge effects in your pipeline. Number one is you are going to be able to eliminate. Remember when I talked about process of elimination in your pipeline, you're gonna be able to eliminate leads faster because you get them on the phone faster. And if you can eliminate those leads, you spend less time looking at them in your clunky pipeline. That's number one.
Number two is expedite. Notice I engineered a little alliteration into this. I've been talking about this a lot lately. But eliminate and expedite, expedite meaning well now this lead's been in your due diligence column for a day. If you can get an offer out to that person within one day instead of within seven because you needed to follow up and you played phone tag and did all these things, you are a lot more likely to get that deal. So you're speeding it along, increasing your chances of getting that deal.
So anyway, just wanna point out double dials have been a fantastic tool that we have utilized. I wouldn't do it every time you follow up. The way our team does it is the first two days we have a special stage both for when the lead first comes into our pipeline. They said, “Yep, I'm interested in an offer.” We said, “Great, we're gonna call. When can we call?” They gave us permission to call, we give them a ring and we're gonna double dial once in the morning, once in the afternoon and do that for two days in a row.
The only other time we're gonna double dial is when we have an offer ready for them. Because again, at this point, we've already built rapport and qualified the property. And so now this is a pretty expensive lead when you think about it. This is something people neglect a lot in the land business. If you send out a lot of mail and get leads, we have pretty expensive leads, like they can cost anywhere from $30 to $80 per lead the more time your talent invests in that lead. You pay your talent per hour.
Well now, this lead costs you between $50 and $150. You better take this thing to the finish line if it's a deal; this can get expensive for your business quick if you don't. And so as soon as I've recognized this is a qualified opportunity, there is a decent chance we're gonna take this thing down. I am going to get on the phone with them. And so back to it. So we'll double dial in that, that process there. It'll go over to get comped.
Here's a really, really good takeaway that we had working with our team. Now I don't want to generalize, but I'm gonna generalize a little bit here. So we have found that with the culture in the Philippines, sometimes staff from that area of the world does not want to come off as overly confident. There is, for whatever reason, culturally, they just don't want to say, “This is how it is, here's the answer.”
And when I caught it, I said okay, so we want our team to comp, but they're not comfortable giving us the here's the number. And so here's what I told my staff. I said, “Zoe, I don't want you to be a hundred percent confident in this comp. I don't want you to be 90% confident in this comp. I just want you to be 70% confident in this comp. All right?” I said,” I just want you to look at this and say I'm pretty sure this is what it's worth. We could be right, we could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure you know, and you can get to pretty sure in about 15 minutes or less typically.”
And so that's the standard we've set on our team is a comp shouldn't take less than 15 minutes, or excuse me, more than 15 minutes unless it's in North Carolina. North Carolina is tricky sometimes for whatever reason. But you know, as long as it's not the side of a mountain, it's usually a pretty easy comp. And we're doing deals right now in Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama and Colorado. I mean all those markets have been pretty supportive of our 15 minutes or less comps as long as they're not super tricky.
Seth: Are you talking about that in the context of whoever's doing the comps? Would that be Zoe? So when she's coming up with that, that's to then pass along to Veronica to make the offer. Is that what you're talking about? Are you talking about the actual offer itself? Veronica needs to be 70% confident in the comps?
Ajay: Yeah, that's a great question. I'm gonna answer it by continuing to explain this actually. I think that'd be an easier way to go about this.
Seth: I'm gonna sidestep that question on over here. Just kidding.
Ajay: No, no, no. This is really good.
Seth: Sounds like a politician or something.
Ajay: That reminds me, I'm running in 2024. No, I'm just kidding.
So, we have told Zoe get 70% confident and then we've also told her don't give us an exact number. I actually told her to give me a 20% deviation upwards and downwards of what she actually thinks it is. So, Seth, if she thinks this is a hundred thousand dollars property, she records this property is worth between $80,000 and $120,000. So now when this gets passed from that stage, so Zoe, 70% confident, has given us a range and has looked at at least three comps. That's kind of our criteria. She then moves it along and it goes to Veronica.
Veronica has full autonomy to make an offer on a property of 50% of the lower limit on that range. So keep in mind this was a $100,000 property, Zoe gave a range of 80 to 120. Veronica has full autonomy to offer up to $40,000 without me ever looking at it verbally. We can even get it under contract cause we have a due diligence period in our contract.
So what that does, Seth, is it removes me from pretty much all of acquisitions until we have a deal right now, the moment we get a contract signed or even a verbal acceptance, cause I get a little excited, I'm gonna get my hands on this thing and I'm gonna review the comps and I'm gonna go comp it myself. It removes me from almost the entire acquisitions process until we know we have a seller that wants to sell a property for a price we are willing to buy it at right now, if that's a gray area, that's where it'll resurface to me or Ben and, and they'll say, “Hey, they wanted 60, is that something we can do?” And we'd say, “Ah, maybe let's get an under contract and then do some more due diligence or whatever.” There's a couple different ways that can go.
We have found that this process is the most efficient for removing ourselves from a lot of it while also keeping a good insulation of deals we want to do in our pipeline. Did that answer your question?
Seth: Sort of due diligence. I mean that that is inherently part of comping right? To a point. I mean you don't have to know everything, but you have to know some stuff. So, but in my notes here it looks like Nix is the one doing due diligence. Does Zoe do that as well? Is that part of how she comes up to that comping conclusion?
Ajay: It's a great question. So we have two phases of due diligence. Nix completes both of them. So we do have a couple more stages after a contract gets signed, but Nix performs phase one due diligence. Where we're looking for road access, we're at least gauging for utilities. Can we see if there's electrical lines over? Does it look like these houses might have water and sewer hookups whatever else you can see based on some maps and some Google Street views, and that kind of thing.
What I will say is in phase two due diligence, we're gonna call the utility companies and see if we're in service, we're gonna call county planning and zoning and see what the permitted uses on the property. Make sure there are no red flags, see if they can tell us about anything else we'd want to know easements, any of that stuff. Sometimes they have the answer, sometimes they don't. What I will say is never get off the call with the county official without a next step.
So if they don't have the answer to something, don't be like, “All right, well thanks for your time.” Instead, say, “Hey, who can I talk to that might have this information?” Because it might either be another county person or like a utility company, but they're at least gonna get you a little bit more information so you can drive that to the next step. You never want to feel lost as you're doing due diligence because somebody's gotta know. Someone knows something about the answers to these questions.
Zoe's looking for like and kind properties. So if we have a property on a paved road, she's comping based on properties on a paved drug that also have electrical lines over them, if the first one did that kind of thing. And then we're gonna verify utilities as we go. And part of our process is also getting two Realtor opinions of value. And so we're gonna double check with the Realtors, “Hey so we're seeing X, Y, and Z for water and sewer and and electrical in this area with the paved road. Is that in line with what you're seeing?” And so we verify with some local experts before I put my own money into this or we raise some capital.
Seth: In phase two that's happening after a purchase agreement is signed.
Ajay: That's correct. We don't want to spend time doing phase two due diligence and it'll take 30 minutes to an hour most of the time. But we don't want to be getting ops and we don't wanna be, again, process of elimination right before you're doing most expensive activities. This lead gets more and more expensive the more time you invest on it early on. And we have found that phase two disqualifies properties pretty seldomly. And if it does, it doesn't mean you can't do the deal. Usually it just means you have to buy it for a lower price.
But the good news is you have new information you're equipped with to go back and renegotiate and say, “Hey Mr. And Mrs. Seller, you told us this had water and sewer, we spoke to X, Y, and Z utility company, this is not in service. I'm gonna have to spend $20,000 to get a water and sewer pipe over here and then the taps are an extra X dollars and I don't even know if the county's gonna approve that. So, unfortunately, it's gonna be well in septic and I'm gonna have to buy it for X dollars less.” And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. But that's just a part of our process.
Seth: I've heard you talk about texting. Are you guys still doing direct mail and are you doing cold calling too? I've heard you talk about that in the past and if you are doing direct mail and cold calling, who's doing those?
Ajay: Yeah, so we have been a full texting shop since November. It was funny. You and I chatted for the first time on air back in, I think it was July? And at that time I had lead generation sources via direct mail, cold calling, texting, we had a PPC subscription, that might have been it, but that's four different lead gen sources.
So November rolled around, and I may have mentioned this earlier, but November rolled around and direct mail sucks during the holidays in the sense that it just takes like six to eight weeks before anybody actually looks at it. Number one, USPS is just so backlogged with all the packages and everything else going on and people on holiday and there's all kinds of reasons that it's slow, but it's slow. That's a fact. I'm not gonna negotiate that or argue that with anybody, excuse me.
So I'm like, I don't feel like waiting six weeks to get results. Beyond that, I just recognized that we did not have process in place to manage our leads effectively. So again, leads are expensive. Leads are expensive, and the more time you spend investing in that, especially with your talent, your human capital, the leads get more expensive. And so if you don't have a good process to move things along, which I didn't at the time, your leads get really expensive, you don't do as many deals, which means you're not making as much money, which means you're getting a horrible ROI on your leads. And I realized the issue was process and so I said we're gonna turn everything off. I stopped direct mail, I fired my cold caller we were working with an agency. I just told him we weren't gonna renew. It sounds more dramatic than it was .
And I withdrew my subscription from the PPC group I was with and only received leads via text message. And I said, “We're gonna do this, we're gonna get roles and responsibilities figured out. We're gonna get follow up, figured out. We are gonna make sure we actually understand what it is we're doing with these leads and the timing and and our team,” because I brought on two staff in November and we had just Nix from June to November and then we brought on Zoe and Veronica in November.
So the timing of it was, well we wanna invest in the team, let's just get really good at one thing. And if anyone hears a fan of Alex Hormozi, he's blown up on social medias over the past couple years and he's fantastic. But he talks about when you're going from from zero to a million in revenue, you really wanna focus on one product and one marketing channel.
And so I said, okay great, our product is flips, our marketing channel is text messaging, let's go. Right? And we just focused on getting really good at texting. And what's crazy is within a few weeks we had our first deal for an area I had not marketed in for a property I hadn't looked at for a property. I had not comped for a seller, I didn't speak with, we got a contract signed on this beautiful 40-acre property in Colorado. And I remember when we got the contract signed, I actually cried because it was the first deal that we got that I didn't even touch. I didn't even know we were marketing in this county at this point. It was insane. I was like, oh my gosh.
Seth: That is amazing.
Ajay: It was, it was insane. Yeah, still to this day gives me chills when I think about it and it was like 7:00 PM on a Tuesday or Wednesday I think when I got the email that we got the contract signed and I was like, what is this ? You know, I got the DocuSign notification, I was like, I didn't even know we had this out. And I start looking at it and I'm like, this is a great deal. We bought it for $30,000, we ended up double closing it and had a buyer at $52,000. So, ,you know, a $22,000 spread. We could have put it on the market for probably about $60,000 if we wanted to hold on for a little bit longer. But you know, we didn't have to put any cash into it and had a $22,000 spread. So I was pretty happy with it.
Seth: I didn't realize that, that you were doing solely texting at this point. I haven't talked to many people who are doing only texting and nothing else.
By the way, a little shameless plug here. So Text Marketing 101 for Land Investors is a course I put together with Callan Faulkner, who's pretty much a pioneer in the land space for text marketing and how to do it and do it right. We spent two and a half hours going through the whole process. How do you get it all set up? She's amazing. She did a great job of explaining it. If you guys wanna check that out, I'm gonna have a link to that in the show notes. Or we just go to REtipster.com and search for text marketing and you'll find it, it's a blog post and basically the first half of the course is free right on the blog. And you can pay if you wanna see every last little bit of it.
But since you have switched solely to texting, like would you say things have improved overall? was that the right decision, do you think?
Ajay: Yeah, such a good question. The short answer is yes, things have improved.
Here's why I like texting as much as I do: it's predictable. So I know we're gonna send out this many text messages and that's gonna generate this range of leads which is gonna over time average out about here. And it's gonna take us this range of offers to get an offer accepted. We close X percentage of them and that's how many deals we're gonna do this month.
So there's a range, but the way we do it is we send out about 800 text messages a day right now. Some days a thousand, but usually 800 of those we're gonna generate somewhere between four and six leads a day pretty consistently. You know, we're gonna push those over and typically of those leads we'll disqualify somewhere between 10% and 20% of them for any of those reasons I mentioned earlier that we'll do in our process of elimination after that, move them along through the pipe and make offers on them.
What we have found is with neutral messaging and the way we eliminate properties, there's a lot of variables in here, folks. For every 25 to 40 offers we make to property owners, we get a contract signed. So right now with our current output, we're getting somewhere between three and seven deals a month solely through texting.
Seth: Since the light bulb went off for me and Callan showed me the texting thing, I'm kind of surprised, I almost feel like I'm… I don’t know if resistance is the right word, but like when I talk to other land investors about it, like they're kind of stuck on direct mail, like it certainly has its play, don't gonna be wrong. I mean that's for many, many years that's all there was and it, it works, but texting just brings certain value to the table that I don't know why you wouldn't at least try it.
The only negative I've heard of it, it's just that it takes more time. Somebody's gotta be manning the computer doing it constantly. But if you have a VA for that, and also like just when you also compare that to the benefits of like how fast it is and how cheap it is and how, how bad you can screw it up and not waste nearly as much money as if you had screwed it up with direct mail.
And also like when you run on a team like it, it feels like it makes things a lot more trackable if you have a good CRM. You know, if there's a paper trailer or a digital trail for every message that's going on, I just see a ton of benefits with that. And you're the first person I've talked to who is just a hundred percent doing texting. So it's really interesting to hear that it's going well for you.
Ajay: Yeah, it has been fantastic for us. And I'll be honest, it took us a while to crack the nut, and that was just because of bad management. So I take full responsibility for that. I was graced by getting an implementation done by Callan. She's brilliant. He mentioned her, she's a really good friend of mine, super, super happy to have her in my circle and she got us going. I mean, we were sending out text messages and you know, we were getting some deals and some buyers through it, but it was inconsistent. And I'll tell you the reason why, Seth, is that I struggled to make offers on properties. And so this is important for everybody if you're working with neutral messaging, meaning you're doing any kind of an offer that is not or any kind of outbound marketing that is not a blind offer especially, okay?
The only metric you need to track in the land business is offers made because you could send out 600,000 neutral letters a day if you wanted. And if you didn't make an offer on any properties, you're not getting any deals. And so I struggled to convert out of text message marketing because we weren't making offers on properties. It was my fault. And as soon as we made the switch and invested in our team and started tracking the metric, I'd say, “Why didn't we make a lot of offers that day?” No, we didn't have a lot of leads. “Why didn't we have a lot of leads?” Oh, well Launch Control did X, Y, and Z And I know that's an issue but I'm able to see the data and it tells me a story now. And there's a lot of variables in there, but the point being, if you don't track anything else, track offers made, if you're gonna invest in texting, make sure you have a dedicated staff to do that.
We train all our VAs from Learn.Land to go through texting so they know how to use Launch Control when they come into your team. So a lot of the people we work with actually want to VA for texting, and so they can get that text messaging going and then they're equipped to be an acquisitions coordinator. So guess what? This person can also put the lead into the CRM, get on the phone with them, conduct due diligence, potentially make an offer to the property owner. So there's a lot of functionality there, but the point being, there's a huge opportunity in texting. It takes a lot of management, it takes a lot of data. You know, anybody that has a landline, it's not gonna register. Of course this goes to cell phones. So you need more data than you would assume just based on how many people you're used to mailing and your data sets there.
I will also say the lead quality is probably a little bit stronger from direct mail versus text messaging. And here's why is a lot of the demographic of people that sell land to us as investors are, are typically over the age of 40 and more, particularly over the age of 55. And it's just easier to engage that type of audience through the direct mail marketing channel versus text messaging. That being said, text messaging works again, you just have a slightly lower lead quality is what I would say. So I, I think your quality of leads just a little bit cleaner through the direct mail.
Seth: So with texting, comparing that to direct mail, when you look at like the number of texts you have to send out to the number of offers you send out, whatever that process looks like. Is it worse or better or the same for texting when you compare that to direct mail?
Ajay: It's about the same. So we get a deal for about every 4,000 messages we send out. Sometimes better, sometimes worse. Again, there's a lot of variables that go into that. We primarily target properties in, I think, Justin Sliva calls them “bass boat properties.” So the property is the same price that somebody who's gonna go buy a bass boat would buy for $30,000 to $150,000 range. I think Justin might say a hundred. I'm not sure, Justin. Feel free to call me out on it. I'm sorry to use your thing.
Seth: Google “bass boat prices.”
Ajay: Yeah, but we target properties with exit values, meaning sale prices between $30,000 and $150,000. And that's where we see really good responses. If you're talking to property owners that have million dollar properties, you're gonna see it play out a little bit differently
Seth: Now with texting. So there's been a bit of changes going on here in terms of now you have to register to continue sending SMS to U.S. phone numbers. I know OpenPhone has sent out this email. A lot of people are talking about how that's a new thing. I'm not sure how that has impacted things on Launch Control. Has that messed with anything at all? Has it made things harder or more complicated? Or do you think any more regulations will show up that will make text marketing less viable? Or what are your thoughts on that?
Ajay: Yeah, I think my short answer is yes. I don't know if we'll still be text marketing in five years from now. I know I'm keep doing it until we see some reason not to more or less, but there's probably a risk for a couple of reasons. Number one, apple in the past year introduced a report junk button. So you know, you may get flagged as junk more often with iPhone carriers, especially now, nice thing launch control does is it like cycles a bunch of phone numbers for you. So your risk there is a little bit lower. But I mean, we haven't seen a decrease in our acquisition rate, our response rate or anything to that effect through texting as of now. It's something we're monitoring very frequently. You know, one of the metrics we measure is how many outbound text messages did we send today?
And then all the leads that come with that. So it's really cool when you can start drawing pictures. You know, we really started tracking our metrics more heavily in November and December, and once you've got about two or three months of data, you can finally start to paint some pictures and reverse engineers some things and say, Hey, why did we get seven contracts out and zero signed ? That was actually an issue we had at one point was in, in our process, we were getting these offers accepted and we'd send out the contract via DocuSign and people wouldn't sign it. . I was like, what's going on? We spent about a week digging into it and really it's a function of sales process. So here's a couple of things. Number one, we weren't setting expectations. So when you're on the phone with Stellars something you need to say is, Hey, so we've got a one page contract coming your way.
Just want you to know it's so simple, anyone can read it, but what we're gonna do is we're gonna send this over, blah, blah, blah. You know, let us know what questions you have. And that's something I just wanna tweak there is don't say, “Let me know if you have any questions.” Say, “Let me know what questions you have.” You gotta assume these people are gonna have questions. And if you assume that it opens it up and makes it just a little bit more inviting versus if you have any questions as well, maybe I reach out, maybe I don't. But anyways, that's another topic. So number one is setting expectations. Okay, hey, super simple contract. Anyone can read it. Because now they feel kind of stupid if they don't understand something, but you've invited them to ask questions so they're more likely to expect it and work with it.
Versus if you don't say something in that messaging, what's gonna happen is they're gonna get your contract. And if it's a slightly more sophisticated seller, they're gonna ask, what is this ? You know, if they've sold any real estate in the past and you use one- or two-page contracts like many investors do, people are gonna wonder what we're running, what we're doing with these contracts because they're not the typical state contracts that people see with real estate. And so that's where then you've gotta backtrack and all of a sudden you've lost credibility and you've lost trust with the seller. So I tell people all the time, this business is like 70%, 80% price, but the remaining 20%, 30% is really a function of like sales process and trust. You really need to hammer in those details if you want people to work with you because, Alex, again identifies in the value equation.
One of the variables in the denominator is customer-perceived likelihood of achievement. Meaning, am I actually gonna get what this person says I'm gonna get? So we tell them, “Hey, I'm gonna give you 10 grand.” And they get this one-page dinky contract and they're like, I don't know if I'm getting my 10 grand. And all of a sudden they don't wanna work with you because they don't see it as valuable. You see how there's a trade-off there? And so anyway, that being said, super valuable in our sales process once we had the data to then go back and do that.
Number two actually was we would work with sellers and say, “Hey, glad we can agree you're gonna sell this for 30 grand. Let me just go verify this with my team before I can get a contract out. Can I call you back in 10 minutes with a confirmation?” They say yes. Okay, great.
What you're actually doing in that 10 minutes is prepping a contract. So our team will prep the contract, send it out, give them a phone call and say, “Hey John, in your email inbox you should have a contract right now. Why don't we just go through it and see what questions you have about it.” And you're gonna boost your ratio of people that actually signed that contract.
So these small tweaks in our process got us to get all these contracts signed and people to trust us and work with us. We also have designers that just redesigned our contracts so they don't look the same as everybody else in Pebble, we just hired a graphic designer for 200 bucks on Upwork or something, we have a designer that created a one-page graphic before all our contracts that are sent out, walking customers through the customer journey, is what we call it. So it's a six-step process with a little road in it. It's a roadmap. Of you click this and then you do this and then it has roles and responsibilities. You try to make it simple for anybody to read it, but it looks professional and then people say, oh, this looks good, we trust you. So, again, you're trying to drill in trust, you want them to think what's gonna happen is gonna happen.
Seth: Yeah, that's super helpful, man.
When you look at your business now and the fact that you were able to make money without being actively involved, I don’t know if that was kind of a one-off thing or if that's just like the way it always works now, if you're kind of just, “Yeah, I don't really do anything, they're all doing it.”
I guess it makes me wonder, what do you do at this point? Are you just there to oversee them and make sure they're okay? Or is it just these situations at the end where you're jumping in to close the deal if needed? Sounds like that's not always required. Or like what is your role day-to-day now?
Ajay: Yeah, man, so I just kick my feet up and hang out at the beach.
Actually, funny story, I was speaking to a Mastermind the other night with our good friend Eric Scharaga, actually I think you interviewed him a few episodes ago and I was speaking with his group and somebody asked me a similar question. They were like, wait, so Ajay, if you've gotten yourself out of all these activities, what do you like doing? Is there anything you're passionate about in this business? And I was like, “Cashing checks and receiving wires.” Obviously joking around there.
I would say as you delegate out activities in your business, your role evolves in two ways. Number one is you are now a problem solver. So you've heard th phrase, it's the exception, not the rule. So I step in when things are an exception: “Hey, this seller's got a problem situation, okay, I'm gonna get on the with them.” I just had a gentleman who talking about trust. So here's, I'm gonna tell you guys the reason why we redesigned our contract is we had sent out pretty standard contract same template that I think we may have gotten it from Pebble, great, it works for us.
You know, we did plenty and plenty of deals using that contract. Not a slight at them at all. But we had sent this out to be e-sign and the seller said, I just received a contract in the mail that looks exactly like this with a very similar offer with a different company's name on it, what's going on? And so now again, you like, oh, we just lost trust and this was a great deal. Buy at 40,000, sell at 80,000. You know, I'm like, ah, “We've got 40 grand on the line.” That's gonna be a great soundbite later.
So I came back in and immediately got on the phone with the seller and basically was like, “Hello Mr. Seller. I'm not gonna lie to you. There's a lot of people that do what we do. We're an investment company that purchases land and we got the contract from the internet. I imagine the people who sent you that mail got it from the same place in the internet. It's a very standard boiler plate contract. But what I can tell you is we always work with a third-party attorney or title company and we are happy to do so in whatever manner makes you feel comfortable. I am not in the business of forcing people to sell their properties. I am in the business of buying investment properties, essentially.”
So we got on the phone and then he kind of eased up a little bit. He let his guard down and then was like, okay, well I'm gonna want to get this to my attorney. So we followed up and he definitely didn't have an attorney. It's just something people like to say. And so I told my team, “Hey, go find a title company in his backyard.” He wasn't in the same county as his property, but he was in the same state. So I said, go find a title company in his backyard and I'm gonna give him a call. They found one, they vetted him, we have a little process to make sure the title company we work with is gonna be a good title company, more or less. They left the details in our CRM.
And I called him back and I said, Hey, Mr. Seller, I know last we chatted, blah, blah, blah, blah this has happened. I want you to know we found a title company. Here's what it's called. It's on the corner of X and Y street, just south of the CVS Pharmacy and First Baptist Church.”
So you're trying to make it sound very similar to the seller because when you can communicate similarities, all of a sudden you're like-minded people, more or less. People like doing business with people that are similar to them. People like doing things with people that are similar to them. That's why we're drawn to certain groups and character traits and whatever else. And so when we could communicate, “Hey, we're in your backyard,” all of a sudden the trust level goes up. “Hey, it's just south of the CVS pharmacy.”
So anyway, because of that though, we went back and, and had a designer redesign the contract because we didn't ever want that to happen again.
What was the initial question you asked? You asked what I do all day? Yeah, so it's a lot of solving problems like that when there's an exception and not the rule. I still review every single deal once we get an offer accepted. And then last, and most important, Seth, is I solve for bottlenecks now. So again, Alex Hormozi taught me this beautiful concept called constraint theory. And it's our job as executives to identify what is the constraint of the business right now? What's the reason we're not doing more deals? What's the reason we're not scaling?
And this is operating under the assumption that your goal is to scale. So if you're sending out the same amount of mail every month, you're probably not trying to scale necessarily. But actually, I'm gonna resend a piece of that statement because there's some sales process involved in that. So my job as an executive now is to make sure that I remove constraints from the business. The constraint of sales process to get a contract signed, that was a constraint. Not having quality leads in our funnel. That was a constraint, not being able to keep track of where our leads came from. That was a constraint. And so my job now is really just to look for constraints and, you know, you really need to invite your team into sharing, “Hey, what do you not like about your job right now?” Is there anything that's stressing you out? Is there anything we could change? If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?”
And you gotta word this stuff in different ways cause you don't want to just be like, “Hey, what do you not like doing?” And they're gonna be afraid to speak up.But if you can get your team to constantly give you feedback, and again, monitor the metrics, look through your CRM, see how things are going, you're gonna find some bottlenecks. So we just found one recently where, I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but because we're doing some double closings, we started selling properties on our own, meaning not with Realtors because we don't own the properties yet, but we have permission from the sellers to market the properties. And so that means we have to manage our own buyer leads, but that doesn't mean Ajay's gonna manage the buyer leads and we don't have anybody to manage the buyer leads.
So we had our acquisitions manager managing buyer leads, which I'm embarrassed to say because it's just very different. I mean, it was fine when we had one or two properties that we were managing, but it's gotten to a place where we just have several now, you know? And so I looked through her call logs and she has different numbers for buyers versus seller lines, and I saw 70% to 80% of her day was being taken up by buying leads. And I was like, “That's an issue.” We are gonna cause a cycle in this business where we acquire a bunch and then sell a bunch and we're gonna, yo-yo is what Clint Turner always calls it. Yo-yoing in your business. And so immediately I'm like, “Why didn't anybody communicate this out?” Because they don't wanna say they're overwhelmed or stressed or anything like that.
Great, I'm gonna make an executive decision. I called up Ben, I said, “Ben, we're gonna go hire a transaction coordinator slash disposition VA.” So then we were on a call with Nix and Zoe and said, “Hey, do you guys have any friends?” We really like hiring from within if we can because there's an extra element of accountability when they bring in a friend for on both sides. They're only gonna recommend people that are gonna do a good job on the other side of that. The person doesn't wanna make their friends look bad friends or family, whatever it is, you know? And so you have this increased layer of trust again, when you kind of hire from within if you can, if they have any referrals or references for the role. But we had that call two days ago. Ideally, we're gonna be hired in the next three weeks.
There's this good saying, I stole from Clint, and he says, usually the best talent currently has a job. You don't want the person that's been unemployed for six months. There might be a reason why they're not unemployed for six months. You want the person that's a player who either isn't being compensated as such or it just isn't being taken care of or treated the best. And you can bring them into a better work environment and give them a role to empower them and succeed to really reach their potential and enjoy what they're doing a lot more.
Seth: Is it safe to say that your stress levels and peace of mind are have improved as a result of getting this team?
Ajay: Oh yeah.
Seth: Was it just different?
Ajay: You know, it is better.
Ajay: Yeah. It is much better, Seth, and here's why.
Man, the biggest thing that changed in my life when I hired out all of this day-to-day is my to-do list almost vanished because my to-do list used to be comprised of things like send out this contract, follow up with this seller, make this offer due, due diligence on this property, all normal day-to-day activities. You know, now it's comprised of spend an hour thinking about this and come to a decision, go talk to this entrepreneur to figure out how to solve this problem. And I am empowered, like I get energy from speaking with other entrepreneurs about strategy execution. That's like my creative genius, so to speak. And so I have really enjoyed just getting to sit in it. I try to go for a walk every morning and now that it's warmer out, I really can.
And in that time I like throw my AirPods in, I'll listen to lo-fi beats (Shout out to Jaren Barnes for giving me that recommendation on lo-fi beats). And I just think for an hour. It's fantastic because you just let your brain lead you into what are you either avoiding and need to think about or what's on the front of your mind that you really need to address and process through. And so it's been really good for me to just address conflict in my life that maybe I was suppressing or putting aside for whatever reason. And then also for solving problems that are on the forefront of my mind.
Seth : Has it ever happened to you where you've had to let somebody go or they just didn't work out? Have you experienced that yet? And if so, why? What went wrong there?
Ajay: Yeah, at an employee level, not necessarily. I have had some turnover, but it's due to that staff leaving, they just weren't a good fit for the role. I'm glad they left before I had to fire them more or less. It was nine days into the role.
So here's another good kind of hiring tactic for everybody is when you bring somebody on, start them at a different rate than you would pay them at 90 days. And here's the reason for that is number one, communicate that in the hiring process.
Seth: You mean a lower rate?
Ajay: Yeah. Did I say higher?
Seth: No, you just said different. So I'm assuming you meant lower, but I wanna make sure.
Ajay: Okay, yeah. So give them more money after 90 days is what I'm trying to say. And communicate that to the staff when you're bringing them on and say, “Hey, we're gonna start you at X dollars an hour and you, it's subject to a raise at the 90 day mark given a performance review. Okay?”
What that communicates to the staff is we are watching what you're doing the first 90 days, number one. Number two, you're gonna make more money after 90 days. And so it gives you wiggle room as to how much you want to give them a raise, but it acts as a reward system. You can reward good behavior and so if they started here, they're more likely to stick around and you can say, “Hey, you've been doing a great job, I'm gonna give you x dollar raise.” And they're really pumped about it.
But that said, the only person that I've had to part ways with was somebody who prior to Ben, I was grooming for kind of that executive role. It really wasn't a fit just because of compensation more or less his lifestyle was requiring a pretty hefty salary, unfortunately he just had a family of support and stuff, which makes sense. And we as a business just didn't have the cash flow predictably yet to really commit to that. And it was like, “Hey, I don't know the timeline that this is gonna happen.” So it made sense for us to part ways unfortunately. So it was kind of a financial thing, kind of a time thing. There was a lot of layers in there, but that's the only experience I've had. I've been really lucky thus far with our staff in terms of not having to fire people.
Seth: Something that I don't know if you can relate to this or if anybody else out there can relate to it, but something that I severely dislike is having to manage people to just stand over their shoulder and just check, “You still doing your job? You still motivated?” Is it still being Mr Quality Control? I hate that, but I've found I can't just let go of the reins indefinitely and assume, I feel, like human nature. You kind of just lose your motivation. Or if there's not a policeman sitting on the side of the highway, people will all drive a hundred miles an hour and break the law.
I don't know how it works with your team. Maybe it just depends who you hire. I'm not sure. But how much oversight do you have to give to these people? How many hours a week do you spend “managing” them and making sure they're motivated and doing things right?
Ajay: Yeah, that's a good question, Seth. There's a lot to unpack there and I talk a lot. So I'm gonna try to be conscious of that.
That being said, when I bring on new staff, I tell everybody basically one really important thing and then I do something else. So I tell my staff, I say, “Hey, you have my trust until you don't. Okay? If you betray my trust, you're not getting it back.” It's as simple as that. But this is respect I'm handing over. I I trust that you're gonna do your job and do it well, okay, if I find out you're doing something funny, well then unfortunately that's gonna be that, and I tell everybody that in the interview process. So it's before we even onboard them, I say, look, this is how I operate. Don't be surprised if you do something funny. And we have to part ways.
Thankfully, either this is because of a lack of management or because my team has been phenomenal we have not had a misuse of trust thus far. The second thing I tell them is, guys, we are extremely understanding and flexible here. If you have a medical emergency, if you have anything going on in your family, you really don't even need to give us details. It's not really my business to know what's going on. Again, you have my trust until you don't. If you have something going on, please go take care of it. If you have a family member that passed away or, or a medical emergency you need to take care of or something with your kids, just let me know. You're gonna be gone for a little bit. Say, Hey, I've gotta attend to a personal matter, I'll be gone. I'm gonna make up the time or whatever it is that we need to do to make sure you're executing on your role. And so those two principles have taken us very, very far.
Now, Seth, that being said, there's um two more principles underneath this that make for successful management. Number one, and this is kind of unfortunate, but it's micromanaged until you don't have to, okay? Because you really can’t mitigate people setting some pretty bad habits early on. But micromanagement doesn't need to be looking over somebody's shoulder. I'm gonna tell you, I hate looking over shoulders.
And so another thing I tell my team frequently is, “Hey guys, I don't actually like being a manager. In an ideal world, I don't have to tell you what to do. And if you don't know what to do, come tell me.” Because clearly that means I failed to give you some direction. But my team knows what to do every day. They show up and do their job. It's as simple as that.
I mean, if anything, what I have learned is adults just do their job if you give them enough direction to go execute. And so there's an underlying principle there that our role as executives is to define the activities that our staff is supposed to perform. Meaning, hey, you're supposed to send out 800 text messages a day. I defined that activity for Zoe if all I told her was, Hey, go text people, see how that's more vague and all of a sudden she doesn't know exactly what she's supposed to be doing. “Hey Zoe, we need you to comp properties within 24 hours as soon as they hit this stage. And I want you to comp up to 70% confidence, 20% upwards and downwards of what you think the property is worth attached. These properties, whenever they hit the stage, you see how they're a little bit different.”
So you need to give your team guidelines, but if you set the expectations and define the activities, people are just gonna do what you tell them to do. And if they don't, maybe they're just bad staff and they need to be let go. And that's that's a function of the interview process and setting some expectations. But I think as an executive, if you do a really good job of defining those activities, most staff are really gonna perform typically.
Seth: I hear what you're saying about like setting the expectation and you did a very good job of explaining that. I loved how you worded that stuff. I almost wanna like take notes so I can rehash that to the people I’ll work with in the future. So that's how you establish expectations.
But say the current machine that you have running right now, what if you were to just like drop the reins, disappear for a year? They literally don't hear from you. They have no idea if they're doing it right or not. They know what you said at one point in time, but I feel like human nature is, eventually the wheels just fall off. You know, people start doing making tiny mistakes and then bigger mistakes and they really screw it up and nobody's there to tell them otherwise. So it just falls apart.
That’s my experience and that's not because I've tried to just let go of the reins. But I guess what I'm trying to make a ridiculous point to illustrate, like as much as you don't like managing people, you need to, people will screw stuff up and if, if they start veering off the highway and nobody's there to say, “Hey, FYI, you veering off the highway,” they'll just drive right into the field.
And so I guess what I'm asking for you is like, just given today where things are at, like what's your plan for next week? How many times will you touch in and talk to each individual person? What do they require to keep doing their job and not screwing it up?
Ajay: Yeah, that's a great question. So in terms of how long it would take before things blew up, I'm lucky in the sense that I have been as an executive to oversee a lot of the day-to-day operations to some extent. That being said, our team does not need us until there's a problem or a contract has been signed typically. So I would be willing to bet a wager that our team could still do probably one to two deals a month pretty consistently without our oversight.
And here's why is we have some really good guardrails in place in terms of due diligence of what would disqualify a property. And if all else fails, we have a standard operating procedure to always get two opinions of value from agents. If we're calling planning and zoning, if we're calling two agents that go walk the property or at least know the area very well, they're gonna identify red flags before, before I would find them myself maybe, but there's still some pretty good guardrails in place.
Now that being said, because of my knowledge and skillset, I'm going to be able to solve some problems that my team simply can't. And that's also why I'm compensated as an executive is I'm gonna be able to solve problems that other people can't. Versus they perform activities that frankly are, fairly, I don't wanna say replaceable cause that makes them sound expendable and I don't want to communicate that, but it is unfortunately like a lower paying job. And that's just how the economics of capitalism works, so to speak. Now that being said, I would say we would probably cut our deal flow down to about 40%. I am still solving problems and they're pretty quick, like most of them, honestly, can be solved via Slack. I'll get a problem and send back a voice memo or maybe I need to hop on a 7-minute phone call.
But it's pretty minimal for the most part. In terms of my direct involvement with the team today, I probably do a group call once a week, about 30 minutes checking in on everybody, make sure they know I'm still around, and then one-on-one's a little bit more ad hoc. I wish I could tell you I was a better leader and had daily standups or weekly touchpoints with each one of our staff. I don't, I get together with our staff pretty much as needed and if I'm pretty emotionally intelligent I think, or at least I like to believe that I am. And so if I sense something is a little bit off, I'll schedule some time with somebody, I'll be like, “Hey, I noticed something was disjointed here, or I picked up on something” in a group call.
I'll take that person aside and we'll see what's going on. That probably happens once every 7-10 days, realistically. So not quite every week, probably just past every other week. Just past every week but not quite every other week. That being said, I think a really good way people self-manage is actually identifying the KPIs that produce outputs in everybody's roles. So how many text messages did you send? How many leads did you generate? How many properties did you comp? How many properties did you perform due diligence on? They're forced to count every single day on all the metrics that we've identified as high leverage. Here's the stuff that makes a difference in the business. Boom
And so they're gonna notice if their numbers change, they're gonna be like, “I haven't gotten a deal in three weeks. What's going on?” Now I don't know that they would self-discover and figure it out, but they're gonna notice when the numbers change because they look at them every single day as they self-report these things.
Seth: One last question here. Did you get your entire team through, through Learn.Land or like Ben for example, it almost sounds like he's on some different level. Did you find him some other way? Yeah, just curious how that worked.
Ajay: Yeah, so Nix was the only staff we sourced through Learn.Land, which is where it all started and was fantastic. Ben was actually a friend of mine back in college. We bonded over real estate, which was super cool. We went to the business school together and we stayed in touch over time. Eventually he came into the business in an interim capacity where he was like sending marketing out of the business and we would JV on some deals. And over time he was a classic, like an Andrew Carnegie-esque story where he just kept asking for more and more and more responsibility without any expectation of additional compensation and just kept doing stuff and eventually just made himself irreplaceable in the business. And I said, “Okay, hey, it makes a lot more sense for us to just run this together versus you doing kind of this JV arrangement where you also just take care of a bunch of random things around the business.”
And then we were able to really clearly define roles and responsibilities. So Ben was a friend from college, Nix's came from Learn.Land, Zoe is Nix's niece, so that's how they know each other and how she brought her in. Veronica was sourced through HireMyMom.com. So we posted a job posting, I interviewed like 20 people. Veronica was funny enough, the first gal I interviewed of that cohort of interviews. And it was funny because at the time I was like, I really liked her. She was impressive. She passed the vibe check. She seems like she, she took a personality test very quickly and had the personality temperaments aligned to our role. And so it seemed fantastic on paper and I was like, “Well I I have this proclivity to make really quick decisions sometimes. So I didn't lean into it right away.”
And I actually continued to interview for a week and a half just because my calendar was so full of people who, I mean we had so many requests for this job actually, but at the end of it I was like, I was still the most impressed with Veronica and we ended up hiring her and she has been a stud. She has really performed time and time again.
So anyway, that's where we sourced all our talent from.
Another thing I just want to touch on, you mentioned something around keeping our staff motivated. I just wanna call out different people are motivated through very different avenues as staff. Okay? Some employees love languages or, excuse me, not love languages necessarily, but business languages if you will. Or vision. So, Ben, as my operator, is very responsive to vision. When I cast a direction of the company and we're aligned, he's jazzed up and ready. He's fired up and he wants to execute and get the team excited and, and you know, we're just, we're moving along. So that's, that's a way that Ben is very responsive.
I have found that Veronica is both quality time and she also likes gifts. And so anytime she does something that you know, is good for the business, anytime she surprises me in a positive way, I send her a gift card to something and I try to keep it personal. So you don't pay attention to what your staff does on their weekends and in their free time. She loves Target. And so we've sent Target gift cards. She mentioned once that they went to steakhouse as a family and so it was Texas Roadhouse was the one locally and so we'll send them Texas Roadhouse gift cards and, and different stuff like that.
And so, we'll try to do gifts. Obviously money goes a long way. People like bonuses and stuff and so we try to keep our team incentivized with certain activities but at the end of the day, a gift card that's personal for $50 can actually mean more than a thousand dollars envelope of cash sometimes, which is crazy, but it's true to the same effect you could send somebody a box of really nice meats or some really cool trinkets or something and it's gonna mean more it'll cost you maybe a hundred bucks, but it's gonna mean a lot more than an envelope of cash.
So just pay attention to how your team responds. Do they want time with you? Is that how they feel valued as a staff? Do they need compliments? Do they need to hear your complimenting them?
Something I do is if I hear good feedback from Ben about a staff, I wanna make sure I share it with them in my next one-on-one. “Hey, Ben told me you were doing a really good job about this.” That's a Dale Carnegie principle. He talks about how if you give people honest praise heard by other people, it means a lot more. And so, yeah, just trying to relay that as much as possible. So be really intentional to make sure your team members know they feel valued and you're pouring into them. And so that's been really, really good for us and kind of our management of everything.
Seth: There actually is a book, if anybody out there is familiar with the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It's a pretty brilliant book if you haven't checked it out. But there is a version for the business place called The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. Now basically, I think it's kind of getting at the same thing, it's just adjusting it for like the business workplace.
For example, physical touch is one of the five love languages. And there's not a whole lot of ways the physical touch is acceptable other than like high fives and handshakes or a pat on the back. So yeah, kind of adjusted for that. But you know, still if you wanna understand those concepts as it relates to company you work for, that could be useful too.
Ajay: Yeah, that's great. Fist bumps go a long way. .
Seth (01:17:42): I kind of feel like people who need that, if that's the love language in the workplace they need, they're kind of hung out to dry because you just can't really do that without inviting lawsuits and stuff.
Well, Ajay, man, we've covered a ton of ground here. This has been awesome. I feel like you had so many great insights. Thank you for sharing all that stuff. I had like a list of questions to ask you and I feel like half of those we didn't even do because you just went in a different, much better direction with it. So thank you for coming prepared with great things to say. We could probably talk about a lot more. I can think of other questions to ask that we didn't even get to, but this is getting kinda long. So I'll wrap this up here. But thank you again for being a great co-host and for being willing to sit down and talk about this part of your business. I know it's something a lot of people will find value in.
Again, if people are interested in, in the VA thing, the pre-trained pre-vetted VA, that's retipster.com/vastaffing, that's a link that I'll set up that we'll send you to where you need to go to schedule a call, talk with Ajay about that. So again, it's for this episode, retipster.com/156. If you guys are listening to this on your phone, go ahead and text the word FREE, F-R-E-E to the number 337077. You can stay up to date on everything in our REtipster world.
So thanks again, Ajay, appreciate you and all the listeners out there. We'll talk to you next time.
Hey there, it's me, Seth again, and if you're still listening, I can only assume you enjoyed what you heard on today's episode. And if you liked what you heard, you also might want to know that this May, I'm gonna be meeting up with a bunch of other real estate investors at an in-person event called REWBCON. That's R-E-W-B-C-O-N. It stands for Real Estate Wealth Builders Conference. And this is a conference where we can connect with other real estate investors, get around experts who will show us how they're succeeding in their business, help each other pass roadblocks and struggles and analysis paralysis, and find others who can invest with us in our deals.
REWBCON is happening on May 4th through 6th in Phoenix, Arizona. And I wanna invite you to hang out with me because I'm gonna be there. I'm gonna be a speaker. I'm giving a presentation all about seller financing, the pros and cons of it, who it is for, who it's not for, and how it can really open up a lot of doors and opportunities in your business.
If you decide to go check it out, again, just go to REWBCON, rewbcon.com. And if you enter in the promo code, Seth, S-E-T-H, you'll get a 10% discount off your ticket price. Be sure to check it out and I'd love to see you there.
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