For those of you who want to get involved with real estate but you don’t have a network, then I want you to know that even someone starting from scratch can still make this work. Tenny Tolofari immigrated to the US from Nigeria about 10 years ago. Starting from scratch meant more than just starting a new career; Tenny had to learn both a new language and a new culture, plus he had to build his real estate network from the basement up. All he had to fall back on was grit, talent, drive and motivation.
As we go through the pandemic, some people are sitting back and relaxing. But Tenny and his partner have decided to double down on their marketing and use this as a chance to leapfrog over their competition. Whether you’re starting from scratch or getting ready to scale up, you can use Tenny’s four strategies to build a real estate empire.
Leverage Your Skills
One of Tenny’s strategies is what he calls “cut the fat”. That means he recognizes what he’s good at, and then he hires out the rest. As he and his partner prepared to crank up their marketing during COVID, they realized that this just wasn’t their wheelhouse, so they hired a marketing strategist. As the marketing strategist began producing content, Tenny and his partner could continue focusing on networking with other investors because that is his biggest strength.
Another example of this is when Tenny realized that he didn’t want to have 100 different little properties to worry about. He wanted to hire a property management company to take care of multi-family properties so that he could continue to focus on building his portfolio. His strength is the way he can build relationships, so hiring out the day-to-day management lets him leverage his skills.
Network with Bigger Players
So many deals, especially in the multi-family space, never even hit the market. Being connected to the right brokers who can bring these pocket listings to you is going to give you an edge over your competition in this space. The bigger your deals get, the more you’ll need to rely on your broker to help build and protect your reputation. As new investors and new immigrants, Tenny and his partner had to develop a strategy that helped them network with bigger players quickly so that they could find those multi-family properties that never got listed on the MLS.
Some people want to work in isolation. But Tenny advises that one person only has one kind of knowledge. Reaching out to investors who are 10, 20 or even 100 steps ahead of you helps you learn about real estate investing faster. One big piece of his marketing strategy is reaching out and talking to bigger real estate investors and industry experts. Sometimes that means coming and talking on podcasts like mine, or going to conferences or masterminds.
I know a lot of people that think they’re just going to buy real estate and create cash flow. And they don’t realize that networking is a big part of other tactics like raising money, finding deals, finding partners, or finding boots on the ground operators. The multi-family space is very much about networking, and one of the reasons I’ve been able to purchase 2,600 units is because of the people I know and the relationships we’ve built together.
When Tenny and his partner decided to go into real estate, they had to settle on a niche. They looked into assisted living centers and fix and flips before they finally settled on multi-family properties. That’s when Tenny realized that he didn’t know enough about multi-family. He enrolled in a mentorship program and started educating himself about his chosen path. But something he learned when he came to America to go to the university stuck with him: When you learn something, you need to teach it to someone else.
That’s part of the entrepreneurial challenge that we all have. We’re all students and teachers at the same time. And there’s a lot of power when you recognize that you’re in the middle like that. You can teach people behind you, and you can reach up to a coach or mentor just ahead of you. And as you learn and then teach, you’re continuing to build that network you need to be a bigger presence in the real estate world.
Comfort is the enemy of progress. For so many of us who grew up lower or middle class in America, we’ve had a good life. We’ve had food and an education and clothes on our backs. Tenny grew up in a very large, poor family in Nigeria. He never dreamed that he’d one day be in America, have a great job, and be married to an American wife. And he is grateful every day for how his life has turned out.
For Tenny, in order to have gratitude, it’s important for him to recognize where he’s been and where he’s at right now. Just seeing how far he’s come when he sits down to dinner with his family helps him feel gratitude for the effort he’s put into building the life of his dreams. I have a saying on my wall that a great day begins in the gym and ends with a book. Framing my day that way gives me the opportunity to think with gratitude on the life that I have and the blessings that I’ve been given.
One of the most important phrases that Tenny used when we talked about his path to immigration is to “change your environment”. Success for him wasn’t in Nigeria. It was here in America. He made a huge change in his environment so that he could change the trajectory of his life. If you’re a new investor who wants to change where your life is headed, maybe it’s time to change your environment and surround yourself with a different team or network that are ready to move you toward a different future.