Set Your Goals High
The Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Set Your Goals High
The Inventive Journey
Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.
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i'd don't be afraid to aim high you know i my goal was when i started my own rental business um the whole point behind it was that i didn't want to put my financial security in the hands of a company um that was the whole reason behind this journey was that um i didn't trust a company to pay my mortgage every month so i wanted to build up a rental portfolio that would that i could live off of if you know if things ever went sideways and i lost my job um so that was how it started and you know i i told myself when i started i was like okay well you know maybe 25 years is enough time for me to do this you know i i hope that i can do it in 25 years you know and and then uh it was like five years later i was financially independent so yeah it doesn't take that long set your goals high [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the stereo entrepreneur that's grown several startups in the seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where we help startups and small businesses with their plans and trademarks if you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com um grab some time with us to chat we're always here to help now today we have another great guest on the podcast anthony russell um to give you a quick introduction anthony so he grew up in northeastern ohio and in his own word didn't do uh didn't do too well in high school but did not uh go off to culinary school for a bit of time didn't work out as well joined the military um was combat focused and uh did some security work and worked in and served in iraq um and then coming out of that didn't know what he wanted to do with the rest of his life um and so thought about being a commercial pilot for a period of time um ended up i think becoming a police officer for the military and he can correct me if i'm wrong there and then got into uh got into software and our software and actually got a degree in software engineering um and then jumped around for a few things and then ended up uh going into real estate and focusing on taking care of tenants as opposed to the bottom line so with that much his introduction welcome on the podcast anthony thanks i appreciate it so i gave kind of the quick brief run through of uh i'm sure a much longer journey um so why don't you take us back a bit in time to growing up in northeast northeast ohio and how things got kicked out for you in high school yeah sure so um yeah i pretty accurate i i grew up in northeast ohio and i i wasn't great in school it was a cd student in high school not a not a great kid um and uh yeah i did do some time at culinary school i i was uh i was lost didn't know which direction to go with my career for quite a while um it wasn't so long after the military that i finally figured out what i wanted to do but uh yeah uh like a lot of kids that don't do stellar in high school i ended up in the military i was fortunate enough then up in the military they they squared me away and i i was a military police officer i served in iraq for 15 months i served in the army overall for about uh six and a half years during that diving in in not to interrupt your journey but that's right culinary school to serving in iraq and you know shooting guns type of thing seems like a fairly big jump so that just uh hey culinary school wasn't working out military seems like a good option you wouldn't sign up or how did you make the mind shift from i'm going to cook something to i'm going to go and look for the military so uh i i don't know how it is where you're at or where a lot of the listeners are but when i was in school if you did bad in high school you went to vocational school and uh yeah so that was how i ended up in culinary school um i wasn't doing great in high school and um my guidance counselor in their infinite wisdom told me i was not a college-bound student which jokes on them because after i got out of the army i went and got straight a's and software engineering in college so um but yeah that's that's how i ended up in culinary school and i didn't really care for culinary um it's fun to know how to cook stuff but um it it really takes a very special personality to be great at that and that wasn't me um it wouldn't be no i would be yeah to go into culinary school because every i can check i can cook one as my kids will test we complete a side we do um every sunday i do the cooking and there when i'm here or take you get my wife to break off i'll do all the cooking again every sunday after we go to we go to church on sundays we come home i always kick her or i cook chicken nuggets out of the package nothing special and then once once every on the first sunday of each month i do do homemade chicken nuggets so that's the only thing there you go good homemade chicken nugget everything else i'm terrible at so i wouldn't have even made it anywhere near culinary school so good for you to at least make it farther than i ever would i it was it was interesting you learn a lot there you know um i i i have a little bit of those skills still not much my uh my wife doesn't let me near the kitchen very frequently but every now that i like you i try and give her a break and get in there and uh get something cooked but yeah i i ended up in the military now jumping back into because i know that was the completed site so he started the military for a little over six and a half years um now that you know you're coming out of the military trying to decide what you want to do so kind of what was the thought process or the next steps and figuring that out yeah so as a lot of veterans know um coming out of the military you know you have a ton of tools and really nothing to use them for that that's how i was you know i came out of the military um i was an army sergeant uh in the military so um you know i had a lot of leadership skills uh i had worked as a police officer in the military so i had a lot of law enforcement skills and i got out and i just i didn't want to be a police officer i'm from northeast ohio so naturally i would have gone to the cleveland police department probably and it just um i mean and now things are very tough for police so they weren't even tough uh that the environment was wasn't nearly as tough back then and i i knew back then i didn't want to do that so i was like it was in cleveland just as a side note yeah i would have been in cleveland i went to school in cleveland uh when i did law school as well as my mba degree i went to to case western ohio or case western there in cleveland oh very nice and that's a good school depending on the part of cleveland i would have never wanted to be a police officer as one more and i know i'm jumping in complete aside i'll give you my what experience with the police in there when i was there so when i was there me and my wife loved to when when we before we had kids we go watch the there's a dollar theater and in order to get to the dollar theater you had to drive through a unless you wanted to really go around about you had to drive to a city part of town and so we go there we go there about every week that was our kind of our date night for the the week and i remember coming back from the dollar theater one time and we pulled up to a stop or stop light you know stuff like there's a few cards ahead of us and the next car ahead of us was an suv and we were just sitting there waiting to stop lighting all of a sudden we had we had like five people that were all in there uh you know body armor they were they jumped out ahead of us and they started pulling people out of the car in the car the head of them so we're like and so they liked her great and we're like okay we're going around that so that was my only experience with the police but i'm like okay i would never want to be a police in cleveland because it looks scary so yeah that's accurate that's it's a tough job and um you know i i don't envy uh the the guys that are doing that work out there it's it's very it's a thankless job it was a thankless job in the army i can only imagine in the civilian world so um yeah and i i i know case uh case western it's a great school uh i went to cleveland state university uh so just the other side of town but um yes now now that i've hijacked your attorney that's all right my apologies but uh so now that you are coming back from the military you know i think you got into software how did you know how did you figure out what you're going to do and decide your next step yeah so i got out of the army and i didn't really have any direction i i had gotten my private pilot's license when i got back from iraq um it was something i wanted to do i wanted you know combat has this really interesting effect on uh it has different effects on people but it had an interesting effect on me for me um you know we we had a hard time overseas we lost a few guys and i felt like when i got back that i had like a second chance at life and i didn't want to waste it so um when you combine that with the mentality that the military gives you of like i can't be stopped uh you just uh you just start diving into stuff so i got my pilot's license when i got back and um i thought maybe i'd be a commercial pilot but after i got out of the military i realized that uh the salaries just weren't there for commercial pilots anymore unfortunately and uh the there is a significant investment in the schooling i mean it's like a hundred thousand dollars for the schooling uh which i would have gotten through my gi bill but uh i just it wasn't the path for me so i started looking at other things and um you know i had always been interested in computers but i had really low confidence about my uh educational or my education because of you know the experience i had in high school i but yeah once you couple that with the with that military you know drive i said you know what i'm gonna do this i'm gonna try it and uh if i fail i fail you know it is what it is and i went in there and i crushed it you know just straight a's most of the time i was in there a couple classes i slept on but for the most part um a's the whole way through and i actually ended up getting hired in my senior year of college i didn't get to finish i got hired by a local software company and it was at that point that i knew that i was on the right path and that i could start investing as well which is when i started my real estate business within three months of or right after i got my first job i started my real estate business and that was how i got started one question because you went in and got a software engineering degree and then you jumped over to real estate so with it you know and you said you did fairly well and uh you know in the getting the degree so what made you go from i want to be coding software and be a software engineer over to real estate well i actually i'm still doing both i've been doing both for about 11 years i i'm a firm believer in uh you know having a hobby business as well as your full-time career um you really accelerate your investment path when you do that you know it gives you gives you a lot of extra force when you can take your paycheck and roll it into investments so and not have to live off your investments so that that was actually what we did um i house hacked for about seven or eight years of that 11 years we just recently bought um a house for ourselves we've been living in an apartment for almost that whole time probably yeah seven or eight years uh just moving from building to building and uh yeah i i was taking my paycheck and i i bought my first building and my first building i broke even on for you know the first couple years just getting started real slow you know learning the ropes of being a landlord and living with your tenants um and then uh once i got my feet underneath me and i realized that you know i could do this uh and that i did have the uh you know the wherewithal to make it happen um i established kind of a a pattern that worked really well for that first building and i just applied it over and over and over again so so now that that kind of you see you're doing you know kind of i always call you know side hustles to me always seem like it's really just a second full-time job because you end up spending typically as much time with the scientists but you know so you've been doing that now for how long have you been doing both the software uh software engineering as well as the real estate oh man uh yeah probably about 10 years 10 11 years something like that been doing it for quite a while now um and yes it is it can be a second full-time job it depends on the season it depends on you know how how much care you're given for your units or your tenants um you know if you're really uh getting after it then you know you can spend quite a bit of time each month it just depends on what you're doing uh we cut back on a lot of the extra stuff we were doing this past year because we were in crisis mode you know like many small landlords we were making sure that we had the income to pay the bills um and we put a lot of the like extra stuff that we like to do to our buildings uh on hold just for the the pandemic no and i think that you know that's when you you know we when you're in crisis mode or you're saying hey we don't have the ability to just simply you know we have to delay some things so that we can keep or keep things moving and keep things uh and flow so to speak definitely make sense now one of the other things that i think if we talked about they also do is um with the leadership training or leadership for landlords and i think it's leadership for landlords.com if i remember right so tell us a little bit about kind of what that is i think it's a book and also a court if i remember right but kind of uh give give everybody a bit of an introduction to that so um yeah so that that's great so i took my military training i i had all this training for the military and i didn't really use it for anything on the outside and i wanted to apply it and i started thinking about some of the things that i learned in the military and one thing that they they teach everybody from day one is leadership right from the start right the very first thing you learn is to um you know be a follower and what good leadership looks like uh and they build in the principles that i use today they build that in from day one and basic training like um you know caring for those around you uh being empathetic to uh you know your to your soldiers um and making sure that everybody understands the goal so that everybody's on board with it uh a lot of people look at military leadership and they think uh barking orders you know like you do this you do that uh and it's it's so far from that um i mean there is a there is an aspect of that in the very beginning in basic training because they're taking you know this cookie dough civilian and they're turning them into somebody that can you know follow orders and you know fight or do their job whatever their job is um once that training's over though it's very much like a job and uh you know you're dealing with people you're dealing with your soldiers all day um you know and if you just bark orders at them they're not going to respect you and they're not going to want to listen to you and when you get into combat that's a recipe for disaster um so instead what we teach our military leaders is that you know you put your soldiers first you care for their needs uh you know and if they're messed up you're messed up you know if uh if they've got a problem you've got a problem it doesn't matter if it's you know 1am on a sunday morning um you know if your soldier needs something you need to be there to help them um so i took that mentality and when i got out of the military i looked at landlording and i i you know i read a lot of landlording books and i looked at the community and i looked at how landlords in the community were uh structuring their business and uh especially the ones that were self-property managing which is most small landlords so i looked at the way they were approaching uh their business and i was kind of disturbed by the mentality that everybody had everybody has this profit first mentality and it's really not that you know if you're listening to this right now and you're a landlord and you think that it's profit first i got news for you you are in the service business you are not in the profit first business profits do come like any good business you know you'll make money as as time goes on but um as landlords we are property leaders we are servants to the tenants and the tenants should be getting what they're paying for you know they're paying for a service they're paying for housing service they're paying for repairs in a lot of cases they're paying for land landscaping or um you know whatever it might be you know that that's that's the service you're providing and if you provide a great service then uh in return you'll get your rent on time um you'll your bill buildings will be taken care of your tenants will tell you when there's problems um it'll be easier to vet tenants your tenants will tell you when another tenant is acting out or doing something they shouldn't be doing um having that that relationship with your tenants uh really is an excellent way to to run this type of business especially if you're a small landlord and that's what my book leadership for landlords is about it's about um applying what i learned in the military to being a landlord and uh how it's worked out for me some of the difficult situations that i've dealt with both from hysterical tenants to uh you know ceilings caving in all types of stuff no i think that i think that that's a great mentality because i think to your point now there are some good landlords but a lot of them do look at is the first thing that is is to make money off of it drive as much value if that means the tenants aren't taken care of the buildings fall apart if you're making a good income make as much as you can from the building and do as minimal amount as possible but i think that to your point putting the tenants first you're going to have lower turnover they're going to stay longer they're going to be happier they're going to take better case care of the plays because they know that you care and that you're taking care of them absolutely a great mentality to have bless you yeah so uh one question before we get to the last couple questions always ask but um you know so now you've kind of got you're doing the software engineering engineering you've got the book out you're doing the um or being a landlord and everything and all of that where do you kind of now looking up into the future where do you see the next six to 12 months going for you so for us our main goal right now is to make sure that we get out of the coveted crisis uh without losing any tenants we haven't lost any tenants yet um all of our tenants have uh been able to pay uh some of them needed a a couple day extension here there but uh it looks like we're gonna be able to make it all the way through this crisis without losing any tenants and that is our first priority uh and making sure that um any repairs that are immediate get done uh once that's done then we're gonna start migrating back into uh doing cosmetic improvements around the properties and um i i had a couple things i wanted to get done this year like we needed a one of our driveways rebuilt so we're gonna have that done that's one of those things where it's like well you know yes it's it's a necessity i need to get it done eventually but it doesn't need to be done today you know um so i'd like to try and get that done this year i'm hoping that uh late in the summer we'll we'll see this pandemic really pull back and everybody goes back to work and we can we can with confidence spend a few thousand dollars on the new driveway hey always will be nice to have a nice uh nice driveway for people no i think that you're saying hey you know when things come up or first thing is to take care of that we have the ability to keep things afloat keep things moving forward and be able to keep taking care of people but then it seems to get more back on solid ground i like the hey we're going to go back to fixing things up taking care of the tenants making sure everything is done because that's what got us through in the first place so that's a sounds like a great player great place to drive forward on um so now with that as we kind of now taking you through they're taking everybody through your journey as well as a little bit of where you're heading in the future um the next thing that i always ask two questions at the end of these podcasts and so we're going to jump to those now so the first question i always ask is along your journey what was your worst business decision you ever made and what did you learn from it oh man um so i think um you know we all make mistakes obviously we preface it with that um and i'll be fully transparent with this so uh you know don't send me any hate mail if you don't like this story but um you know i had a couple tenants uh i i like to relate everything back to a story with the tenants because it you know it i think that's that's the best way to learn is is through my mistake here so i had a couple tenants that um they weren't getting along we'll say that um you know a lot of our buildings are older buildings uh a lot of buildings in ohio from the early 1900s uh and this is a multi-unit building it was a four unit building and i had two tenants one upstairs and one downstairs that were not getting along now i have always made it a hard fast rule from day one to remain professional okay you when you're when you're communicating with tenants you don't swear or if you do swear you you know keep it light you know don't don't be um don't don't be out smoking and joking with them don't be having beers with your tenants you know keep keep a very professional relationship with your tenants set up those boundaries and um it will pay off in dividends uh when when the hard times come uh when when there's tense situations or if you have to go to court or something you know they can ever point back and to you being unprofessional um one time i let it slip and i i truly regret it i i had a couple tenants that were not getting along and um i i still was fresh out of the military so i had some uh i i had some issues migrating back into the civilian world and um i thought it was a funny light way of approaching the situation but the tenant did not appreciate it um it was two female tenants and the one female tenant said oh well she's you know playing her tv too loud and i asked her to turn it down and you know she'd tell me to go f myself or whatever you know and um i was trying to be light-hearted and i said something along the lines of oh well you know uh it's it's not that big of a deal the building's old you know why don't you two just like pillow fight it out or something like that and uh that was not appreciated well huh that was the wrong message defend that was i i truly regret saying that um even i i'm able to look back on it now and i want to be transparent with people so they know that you know like it's the truth you know it's the truth and i do regret it but um yeah don't don't do things like that because i think you know everybody does slip up and you know it's always hard you know making a joke sometimes it's really funny to you and it's not at all funny though especially depending on the frame of mind it's just taken so you always have to and especially when you're in the service industry and you're working with other people you do have to be careful you know you want to be you know humanized you want to be approachable you want to be no fun and that but at the same time you also have to be cognizant of how others might take things that are not as intended so i think that that's absolutely certainly a mistake that i'm sure a lot of people made and wanted to learn from so second question i always ask kids if you're talking to someone that's just getting into a startup for a small business what'd be the one piece of advice you'd give them uh don't be afraid to aim i you know i my goal was when i started my own rental business um the whole point behind it was that i didn't want to put my financial security in the hands of a company um that was the whole reason behind this journey was that i didn't trust a company to pay my mortgage every month so i wanted to build up a rental portfolio that would that i could live off of if you know if things ever went sideways and i lost my job um so that was how it started and you know i i told myself when i started i was like okay well you know maybe 25 years is enough time for me to do this you know i i hope that i can do it in 25 years you know and and then uh it was like five years later i was financially independent so yeah it doesn't take that long set your goals high um because you know once you achieve them then you're like standing there looking around like okay what now you know yeah um i think and i'd add on to that i think you should set your goals high because even if you don't attain them you know and people are saying don't set them so high that you can't attain them yeah if you make it so i'm going to go to the moon in five years probably as an individual not attainable unless you're nasa um but you know shoot your or set your goal so that you are stretching that you are reaching to get them and it does push you to do it but then also i think or continue two cycles along the way so that you don't just one day reach your goal and you're done but over that course of the five years you've already continued to set additional goals so now you know that you're continuing to prove it i think that that is definitely a great piece of advice for sure those people are uh people want to reach out to they want to connect they want to be a tenant they want to be a um or they want to get your book they want to learn more about your leadership program for tenants they want to be an employee of yours they want to be an investor if you have investors they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out contact you or find out more church so uh if you want to get in touch with me the best way right now is just go to leadership for landlords.com um you'll see the pre-order for the book on there we're supposed to go live in a few days with it and there's a contact form down at the bottom you can sign up and reach out to me there's also also all the uh social media facebook twitter instagram links on there as well um so people are feel feel free to reach out i'm always looking for um interesting ways to partner or do new investment ideas or things like that for sure all right well i definitely encourage everybody to reach out contact you find out more and uh maybe one day one of the listeners will be one of your tenants so with that um you know appreciate coming on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure now for all of you that are listeners if you have your own journey to tell and you'd like to be a guest on the podcast feel free to go to inventiveguest.com apply to be on the show we'd always love to have you two more things to the listener one make sure to click subscribe in your podcast players so you know all of our awesome episodes come out and do leave us a review so other people can find out about all of our awesome episodes um last but not least if you ever need help with patent trademarks or anything else to business feel free to reach out to us just go to strategymeeting.com and we're always here to help well thank you again anthony for coming on it's been a pleasure wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thank you