We might think that growing our profits is going to take a lot of time, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, what you need is to do a bit of level jumping, and today’s guest is just the right person to teach you how. Moneeka Sawyer is joined in this episode by real estate investor and author Mike Simmons in a great discussion on jumping to the next level. Mike shares his story of getting into the real estate space, and the challenges he faced along the way. Mike also shares his insights on success in the business and the things he learned as an investor.
I am so excited to welcome to the show, Mike Simmons. He is a real estate investor, podcaster and speaker who shared the stage with Gary Vaynerchuk at his Agent 2021 Conference. He is a Co-Owner of the wholesaling company, Return On Investments, Producer and Host of the popular podcast, Just Start Real Estate, which I was just on and a partner in 7 Figure Flipping, one of the nation’s largest real estate mastermind groups. He owns sixteen rental properties and has wholesaled and flipped over 80 properties in 2020. He wrote the book titled Level Jumping: How I Grew My Business to Over $1 Million in Profits in 12 Months, which tells the story of his success as a real estate investor.
Mike, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me. You’re awesome. I can say that because I had an hour–long conversation with you. Thank you for having me.
You’re welcome. My pleasure. Ladies, we did this fun thing. We’re doing an episode swap. We did it in one big chunk. I don’t always do it this way. It is fun to get to have a long in–depth conversation with you. This has been amazing so far. I’m excited about what you’re going to share.There are a lot of people who do real estate, work full time, and love their job. They don't want to leave. Click To Tweet
I appreciate it. I’m more excited to do this. I get the benefit of knowing you’re super cool and fun, even before we get started.
Mike, give us a high–level, two–minute version of your story of how you got started in real estate.
My story is relatable, which makes it normal. I worked from 9:00 to 5:00. I was in corporate. I went and got my degree much after high school. Ten years after I graduated, I went back and got my degree. The reason is right out of high school, I got a job working for UPS. It was a union. In my family, we were all Midwestern union–minded. My parents, all they wanted for me was to get into a job that had a good strong union. They thought that was it. That was the end game. Once I did that, I thought, “I didn’t love high school so why would I go to college.” I am in a union. This is what my parents said I’m supposed to do. I start working for UPS. Long story short, it wrecked my back at a young age. I couldn’t get out of bed without going to the chiropractor 3 to 4 times a week. I was on the road to being a cripple in my twenties. I was smart enough to look around and go, ” I can’t do this for the rest of my life. Something has got to change.”
I went into the automotive industry. I’m from Michigan. Everyone goes into the automotive industry. I did that. There was good pay, good benefits. I liked it. It was fun. I was lured away from school there too. We went through this recession. This real downturn and the automotive industry took a hit. People were getting laid off like crazy. I had to be honest with myself. The one thing I learned in growing up with a dad who’s a Marine is how to be very self–critical. I am not someone who has a hard time understanding their faults. When I looked around at this time in my life, I said, “There are so many layoffs happening. I don’t have a college degree. I have some experience. Honestly, if I were a company and hiring and some HR, I wouldn’t hire me. Why would I hire me? There are more qualified people. People with degrees and more experienced. I am very expendable right now.”
That scared me. I went back to college. I don’t use what I got in college anymore but I went back to college. What college did for me was it expanded my mind a little bit. It made me think about the possibilities. I started thinking about things that I never thought about before like retirement, investing and saving. Up to that point, I’m paycheck–to–paycheck like a lot of people. It’s stupid but that’s what I did. I started looking into the stock market and day trading. We talked about that a bit on my podcast. I did that for a while but I hated it. I didn’t like the stock market. It was boring to me. I needed something more exciting. I came across real estate. I decided this is what I want to do. I love this. I’m interested in it. It’s definitely a vehicle to get me where I want to go. I did the worst possible thing that you could ever do when you make a decision in your life that you want to do something was I got paralysis analysis. I started overthinking it.
I started reading books, taking courses and going to seminars. I was educating myself to the point that I was overwhelmed with information and I didn’t know what to do. I felt like I don’t know enough about anything. It’s sad to say the reason I called my podcast Just Start Real Estate is because I realized the biggest problem people have with success is they don’t even get started. I decided in 2003 that I wanted to be a real estate investor. I didn’t buy my first house until 2008. I spent five years paralyzed with fear. Paralyze thinking, “What are people going to say if I screw this up? What will my parents say? What will my wife say? Will I lose money? Will I look dumb?” All these crazy thoughts that people have legitimately. I was frozen with that for five years before I got started. The first house I bought, flipped, and made money was like being stuck underwater until you almost are ready to pass out and then being thrust above water. I took this deep breath of air. For the first time, I felt like I was doing what I meant to do and that was to create my own destiny. That was how it started.
That’s quite a visual. I felt that viscerally. It is interesting. We talked about this on your podcast, too, that entrepreneurial mindset. Being in corporate, for me, was being held underwater. It was suffocating, dying and miserable. I worked for great companies. I had a great job and great bosses. There was nothing wrong. It just wasn’t right for me. When I was able to get out there, it was taking that big gasp of air and feeling, “Finally, I get to be me.”
If you’re not an entrepreneur, it can be a scary, terrifying thing. That’s how you know that you might not be cut out for that. For the people who go, “I feel like I’m alive for the first time,” that’s where you’re supposed to be. That’s how I felt.
What’s interesting is that there’s a place for real estate investing in all of that whether you’re a corporate, executive, single mom, single dad or entrepreneur. In all of those places, that’s the beauty of real estate. There’s room for an investor strategy. Wouldn’t you agree?
100%. I know a lot of people that do real estate, work full time and love their job. They don’t want to leave. It’s something that helps them supplement and get them to where they want to go faster. For some people, it’s what they want to do. They don’t want to be in corporate. I was like you. I was miserable. I wasn’t the best employee because I was difficult. I always had an opinion of how things should be done. I was not necessarily beloved by all of my managers and things because I was difficult for them. I constantly had a way about how I wanted to do things. It was good to understand where I belong. I always tell folks, “In growing up my world, there was this gravitational pole. The gravitational pole was toward the security of air, unions, working hard and saving your money. That was it.” To become an entrepreneur, was like escaping gravity. It took a lot of energy. It took me twenty years. I skipped over it. I was working for someone else for twenty years before I got started in real estate. It took me that long to break out of the expectational grips that my parents had. It was no fault of theirs. They loved me. They were one of the best. That’s what they knew. That’s what they thought was the best thing for me so it took a while.
You talk a lot about creating a business that can operate without you. That’s real estate. That’s the dream. You go from a solopreneur to this business. As I say, I work 5 to 10 hours a month. I work very little on this. I call it my multimillion–dollar side hustle. That’s what we want. A business that we don’t have to trade time for money with. Talk a little bit more about that.
The worst thing you can do is go off from working eight hours a day for someone else to work sixteen hours a day for yourself. That’s not the goal. For me, what that looked like? I won’t lie. I think I’m a slow learner because it took me about 5 or 6 years to dial in and understand what it took to run a business. Up until then, I was running what I like to lovingly call a lemonade stand. The lemonade stand was making a lot of money. It was being run the same way a five-year-old runs a lemonade stand. I ‘m taking money in one hand and handing it in another. I don’t know what’s what and it’s just crazy. Going from a solopreneur to someone who is running a business, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I bounced around. I stayed local. Everyone I talked to was friends, family and a couple of people REIAs who weren’t doing anything interesting in their business. My mind wasn’t able to grow much because, like a goldfish, I was in a very small bowl. That was the entire real estate world to me. These few folks I talked to.
It wasn’t until I was put in a much bigger bowl that I was like, “There is room to grow here. There are people doing some cool things that I’m not doing.” Specifically, the number one thing that got me out of that little bowl and allowed me to have access to people who were doing things that I wanted to do but I didn’t know how to get, there was no bridge for me to get to where they are. They were in another location with no way of getting there. To create that bridge, I needed to surround myself with people who were where I am at that time and got there. That was a mastermind. If it isn’t a mastermind then at least a mentor who has your best interests at heart which sometimes can be tricky or a coach or somebody. You need to put yourself in an environment with a person or ideally people who are beyond where you are in business and can help you bridge the gap between what you know and what they know that got them to where they are.
I met a guy named Andy. A very close friend of mine. I went on vacation with him. At the time when I met him, I was running about $200,000 a year gross profits. I don’t want to get CPA here because I’m not. He was doing about $2 million at the time. I was, “You have the business that I want. You have employees. You have people work for you. You have nothing but free time. You’re not doing much most of the time and you’re running this business. How did you get there?” He said, “It took me four years to get from where I am.” I sat down with him over the course of time. He laid out some of the things that move the needle for him to get them to where he was, not just the things that work but the things he tried that intuitively make sense and I would have tried. That didn’t work so well and why it didn’t work. He showed me this field, the path he took and he pointed out the landmines.It's virtually impossible to run a company at scale without people if you value your time. Click To Tweet
If you’re running through a field with landmines, you have them all clearly marked and there’s a path where you go. It may take you four years to get across that field with no information. I said, “Why can’t I do what you did in four years? Organically, you figured out. Why can’t I do that in one year? Can I?” He said, “Sure. There’s no reason why you can’t.” That’s the groundwork for my book. How did I do it in one year? That’s what I lay out. I took all of his plans. I compressed everything he did slowly and methodically into a year and I executed it. Now, what’s the difference between me and somebody else? Nothing, except when I go to you, Moneeka and say, “You are successful. I want to emulate what you did because I think what you did was smart. I’m interested. Can you please tell me what you did?” You say, “Sure. Here’s exactly what I did.” What I don’t do in that situation is question you and say, “That doesn’t work in my mind. You had an advantage.” None of that. I just did it. I didn’t question it.
That’s part of being raised by a Marine. Guess what you don’t do when a marine tells you what to do when you’re eleven? You don’t question them. You do it right. That served me well in that instance because I just said, “This guy knows what he’s talking about. I believe it. He’s telling me. Why would I question them?” I didn’t. I executed and went from being a $200,000 gross profit business to over $1 million in gross profit within twelve months. I did that within a year. All I did was follow a blueprint that was put out before me.
There are some things I want to highlight there. First of all, when you decide to follow or take instructions for somebody, make sure a couple of things. Make sure you want to be in their shoes. There’s a couple of things to remember there. First of all, don’t take advice from someone who is not where you want to be. I used to always say don’t take investing advice from someone who’s broke. Don’t take real estate advice from someone who’s afraid of real estate. You want to be in their shoes. Also, the core mission of their business should be similar to yours.
For instance, for me, money is great but freedom is more important so freedom of choice and time. When I go to talk to somebody, I want instructions from someone who has freedom of time and freedom of choice, as you did. You went to somebody that has this multimillion-dollar business of revenue each year. They have all this free time. You didn’t go to somebody who has a multimillion-dollar business but working sixteen hours a day. They’re out there. They’re a million. They’re a dime, a dozen. When you’re choosing that person to follow, make sure there’s someone you want to be in their shoes and their life, not jealously, none of that stuff. You’re not aspiring to be them but you’re looking at their life and you want a similar life for yourself. Then follow instructions because they know things that you don’t know. You will make mistakes along the way and they will have the answers for you. After that, you can adjust it once you get good at their system. You can make it your own system. Don’t do that initially. Yes, you’re smart but you’re following somebody for a reason. They’re smarter than you in this way.
The crazy thing is, being smart is not necessarily a prerequisite for being successful. There’s a lot of smart people that fail. Find a successful formula and follow it. As you said, find the recipe that works. Make it the way they tell you to make it. If it tastes great, great. If you want to adjust it afterward, fine but you have the formula. You know how to do it. I totally agree with you. To your point, somebody who you admire. Someone who you look at and say, “They are in a position that I would like to be in, freedom of time, freedom, money, all that stuff” He fits that bill. He’s still a mentor of mine. He’s still somebody who I look up to and has my best interests at heart. He’s a great guy who I think a lot of.
You do a full breakdown of what you did in your book, correct?
Yes. Here’s the thing. One of the things that I’ve learned over the years that I’ve been in business is most people think it’s the software or specific technique that you employ. It’s not. It’s a little bit less sexy than that. It’s a little bit more of belief systems, structure and things like that. For me, going from what I was bouncing around, as a wholesaler flipper, a deal or two a month going to 10 to 15 deals a month, the difference was a couple of things. Number one, I had to learn that every time I bought a house, it should not be a brand new adventure where I change all of my systems and processes. As a flipper, I was walking through the aisles of Home Depot and Lowe’s picking out countertops. It’s, “I’ve already done 30 flips. Why am I coming up with a brand new pallet every single time?” That’s illogical and inefficient. It’s why my bandwidth was only allowing me to do so much.
I learned to systemize and create processes that were easily trainable and downloadable so that people could take those processes. Go with them and I didn’t have to be the person doing all the thinking all the time. I learned to create systems and processes that were repeatable that could have efficiencies and economies of scale. That was number one. The second thing was, I learned to track numbers. I was running a lemonade stand. If you ask most five–year–olds how much money they made that day, they hand you a bunch of money. That’s how I was running my business. I learned that I have to track things. I need to track my KPIs.
I have a couple of different sets of KPIs that I use, key performance indicators. Some of them are what I call my island numbers. My island numbers are if I were stranded on an island or vacationing on an island and somebody gave me this handful of numbers. I would reasonably know the health of my company based on this handful of numbers. It’s not all telling. I wouldn’t know if I’m succeeding or failing by looking at these numbers. That’s important. Certain departments have more granular numbers. At the end of the day, if you don’t understand what money is going out and what money is working when it comes to marketing, real estate investors may be using 2, 3, 4, 5 different marketing channels. They know they’re getting deals and making money but they don’t know which marketing channels are working. Should some of them be turned off? Should some of them be turned up because they’re very profitable and the other one is not profitable? You don’t know because they all blend together and not paying attention. Watching my numbers, knowing my numbers and when it comes to KPIs, we’ll get deeper into this during the EXTRA but as a high–level thing. I think that there are two separate categories when it comes to metrics or KPIs.
There are performance, result–based, result–oriented numbers, and activity numbers. We’ll break that down a little bit more. Sometimes, tracking the activity can be as or more important than tracking the actual results. We’ll get into that deeper. I did that. The third thing that I learned and dialed in was the hiring part of it. It’s virtually impossible to run a company at scale without people if you value your time. You can do it on your own but even Superman can’t be in two places at once. He can get to a place and be very fast or Wonder Woman but you can’t get there at the same time. I learned that hiring people effectively and hiring the right people cannot only make me more money but also free up my time. Some people think if I hire people, I don’t make as much. No. You hire the right people, you make a lot more and you get your time back.
I learned that. In the beginning, I hired so poorly. There are a lot of nuances to it that we can get in deeper to but some of it was I was hiring people based on their resume alone. I wasn’t giving any thought to culture fit. Do they have the same values as me and my company? We had to go through some pretty crazy amount of people in that first couple of years because I was hiring with only one thought in mind. I talked about this on my podcast. When you get into business and all you care about is money, it’s going to be tough. I would rather hire great people and train them to be good at their job than hire someone who appears to be good at the job on paper and maybe not the greatest personality fit or value fit with my company. That was huge for me.
Our conversations are so robust and so exciting to me. They just slip away from us.
I’m surprised it’s been this long. I love talking about this stuff.
What I want to do is let the ladies know that in EXTRA, we’re going to talk about business partnerships. I have a business partner. I know how valuable that can be. It’s also something that we haven’t talked about in the show. He also brought up some good points on what those actions are. We talked about results versus activity results. We’re going to talk a little bit about that. We’re also going to talk about hiring and scaling a team. This is a place where I, Moneeka, fall down almost 100% of the time. I have some good people that are working for me now. It’s been years of me and I would rather my ladies don’t have to go through what I’ve been through. I’m no expert. I think it would be fun. If we got the time in EXTRA, we’ll try to cover that too. Those are my objectives for EXTRA. Ladies, stay tuned. That is going to be so juicy. I’m excited about it. Before we end this show, Mike, could you tell my ladies where they can reach you?
Thank you for that. If you want to find out more about me and what I’m up to, you can always go to MikeSimmons.com. That always has the latest and greatest stuff that I’m working on or what I’m involved in. Also, we referenced a few times. You guys should definitely go and check out Moneeka on my show, Just Start Real Estate. We have fun conversations like this. We don’t always just ask the hardcore real estate stuff. We talk a little bit about life and things. Go, check that out. I’d love to have you.
Are you ready for our three rapid–fire questions?There's nothing better than having someone who's been there and who will show you how to get there. Click To Tweet
I’m so ready. Let’s do this.
Mike, give us one super tip on getting started investing in real estate.
I would say find someone local, hopefully, that has blazed some of that path for you and just ask for advice. There’s nothing better than having someone who’s been there and show you how to get there. That’s what people don’t do enough to ask for help when they need it.
What is one strategy for being successful in real estate investing?
This is not necessarily a positive look at it but I always think back to corporate and the thought of that scares me enough to make me get out of bed in the morning. It’s a little bit of motivating me a little more than pleasure sometimes but I never want to go back to that. That’s what I do.
What is one daily practice you do that you would say contributes to your personal success?
One of my superpowers is I’m very good at compartmentalizing. What I do is when I’m working, I’m working. I’m full–in and full–on. Everyone knows, don’t knock on the door. Don’t come in. Don’t bother me. When I’m not working, I am 1,000% into my family, kids and wife. I’m very good about not checking messages. I’m focused on her. I’m focused on them. I put up high and very thick walls between the things that are important between work and family. When I’m doing one, I’m not doing both.
That’s a hard thing to do.
When you’re talking to your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend or someone, one of the biggest turnoff moves in the world is to look at your phone and read a message while they’re talking. It’s so rude. You’re holding your phone. You’re running a business. It could be important. It’s hard to not look but, what does it tell the person that you’re across from whether it’s your kids, your husband? What does it tell them when they’re talking, you look down, and your reading? It’s the rudest thing in the world. I try to be careful about that.
Mike, this has been such a good conversation. I can’t wait for the next part. Thank you for what you’ve offered so far.
Thank you for having me. It’s been fun. I cannot believe how fast times go.
I know it’s fun. Ladies, stay tuned for EXTRA. We’re going to talk about the actions that you can take to build your business, hiring a team and building a partnership. All of those things that EXTRA. We got a lot of stuff we’re going to cover so stay tuned. If you’re already subscribed to EXTRA, you can stay tuned and if you’re not but would like to be, go to RealEstateInvestingForWomenExtra.com. You get seven days for free. You can check it out. If it’s not for you, you don’t need to stay. For those of you that are leaving us now, thank you so much for joining Mike and I for this portion of the show. I look forward to seeing you next time. Until then, remember, goals without action are just dreams. Get out there, take action and create the life your heart deeply desires. I’ll see you soon. Bye.
As the owner of a successful real estate investing company, lending company, and also a partner in one of the country’s largest real estate mentorship/mastermind companies, I specialize in helping entrepreneurs create systems, processes, and automations that allow them to work on their business and not be a slave to it.
I am also the producer and host of my own online show, Just Start Real Estate, and have conducted over 350 interviews with entrepreneurs who run 6, 7, and 8 figure businesses. Additionally, I have a new book that is now available on Amazon: Level Jumping: How I Grew My Business to Over $1 Million in 12 Months.
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Moneeka Sawyer is often described as one of the most blissful people you will ever meet. She has been investing in Real Estate for over 20 years, so has been through all the different cycles of the market. Still, she has turned $10,000 into over $5,000,000, working only 5-10 hours per MONTH with very little stress.
While building her multi-million dollar business, she has traveled to over 55 countries, dances every single day, supports causes that are important to her, and spends lots of time with her husband of over 20 years.
She is the international best-selling author of the multiple award-winning books “Choose Bliss: The Power and Practice of Joy and Contentment” and “Real Estate Investing for Women: Expert Conversations to Increase Wealth and Happiness the Blissful Way.”
Moneeka has been featured on stages including Carnegie Hall and Nasdaq, radio, podcasts such as Achieve Your Goals with Hal Elrod, and TV stations including ABC, CBS, FOX, and the CW, impacting over 150 million people.