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Show notes from Podcast episode 69.
Hi this is Drew from Brisbane – one of my business ideas is around beer line tap cleaning. There is a franchise in my area that I could buy into for a reasonable price. With the fees you pay they provide support and training however I have a technology background and I feel like I could do a lot of the things myself. What are your thoughts on franchises?
First of all you have a lot of questions you should ask and research you should do before you make the jump and purchase a franchise. A lot of them are great but others are designed for the franchisors to make money and the franchisees are left to figure out how to pay the fees.
There are two main pieces of the puzzle here to consider. The first is how your business looks and feels from the outside from the perspective of a customer. The second is how your business operates and looks and feels from the inside from the perspective of an employee.
Franchises hand you that structure out of the box. They hand out an appearance of professionalism to instantly put in front of customers. They also hand you a guidebook and a set of operational procedures on how the company should work from the inside. If this happens then that happens. If that happens then this happens. For any possible situation.
Lets start with #1 – the customer side of things. While the company can give you a legitimate website and software to manage your customers, getting customers is not a gift franchises can give you. They don’t just automatically get 300 calls a month heading for your phones. If you want to open up a franchise because you think its a sure fire way to get customers walking in the door you’ll be sadly mistaken. You’ll still need to do a lot of marketing and have your own sales strategy. They can likely do some of it for you but they’ll charge you a premium for that and you’ll still need to pay for the clicks or commercials or whatever you implement.
Then #2 – they hand you systems to manage your team. They have a customer relationship management system for collecting payment and sending bids. They have an organizational chart with positions and job titles. They have training materials to get employees up to speed on completing the job. They might have a call center for you to help with customer service in a centralized location. This is all important to consider and really try to figure out the value of this to you in your current situation.
The tools they give are often outdated and expensive. Before CRMs like Jobber were available for $100 per month companies were forced to spend hundreds of thousands to design their own software solutions that are now outdated and don’t do things like GPS tracking, text message customer notifications and other things.
The fees are brutal. In most cases you’re paying branding fees, equipment markups, marketing fees and franchise fees that can total 10-15% of gross sales + an upfront buy in. That sounds reasonable until you think about the bite out of your profit margin that comes out to be! 15% of gross revenue on a business that has a 30% profit margin (standard in most service businesses) would be 50% of your profits! These fees are forever as well. Operate a successful branch for 10 years and you’ll have spent millions in fees that would have otherwise went directly into your pocket or reinvested in the business.
You have very little control. There are often terms in the agreement that make you a drag along partner who is forced to follow along for any rebranding or corporate decisions that are made. Want website upgrades? Too bad. Want new updated tools? Not your call. Want to stop paying for a billboard or radio advertisements? Hush up already.
The investment and the risk are higher. If you aren’t a semi-experienced manager with capital and a plan there is some risk involved in buying a franchise. You’ll have immediate bills to pay. Fees to the franchise. Mandatory equipment purchases. Insurance. Etc. There is no taking your time and easing into it here in a low risk way.
Getting customers is the hardest part of running a business in the early days and while you might get some help here it will largely be up to you. You’ll need to execute and fund your own marketing.
Things to find out:
What kind of content marketing and SEO strategy are they implementing? Some franchises do a notoriously weak job of ranking for organic search results. I recommend hiring a freelancer to actually do an SEO audit on the company’s website before you buy a franchise. They’ll be able to tell you how good or how bad of a job they’re doing getting ranked in local search engines.
What kind of software are they using? Get a demo of Jobber and then also get a demo of whatever software your franchise provides? Does Jobber do the same things? Is it up to date?
What is the fee structure?
How much control will I have – if any?
You’ll want to see profit and loss statements from current franchisees. How are those branches performing?
There is generally no obligation to look into a franchise and begin speaking with the company about this and you can learn a lot. You’ll find out really quickly if they are working hard to sell franchises or working hard to support the franchisees and build a system that can be a win win for everyone. Unfortunately there are a lot out there that have the #1 goal of selling franchises and everything else comes second.
So the questions you should consider:
How hard would it be for you to build a website and some systems to manage your customers?
How hard would it be for you to acquire the equipment and develop simple systems to get started?
How hard would it be for you to implement a great content marketing and SEO strategy to get your business ranking in your local area?
How hard would it be for you to implement your own marketing strategies to drum up some early business?
What are the advantages of being backed by a major brand in your potential space? Do people prefer a national brand or are they happy to shop local and is it a level playing field?
How profitable are the branches that are currently operating in cities with similar demographics? What are the worst performing branches? Why are they doing poorly?
If this happens then what? If that happens then what? What if I want to sell? What if I start losing money? What if I want to purchase and embroider my own employee uniforms? All of those unique situations should be discussed with the franchise. I also recommend an attorney to take you through the process if you’re interested in finalizing something after your initial audit and research.
As time goes on and technology gets better it gets easier and easier to get the tools set up to appear professional in the eyes of customers AND set up systems inside your business to organize and manage your team. The value proposition of a franchise in a local service business (being a business in a box) is shrinking every day.
Out of the box software as a service is getting incredibly powerful and incredibly cheap. It’s easier than ever to operate a business from anywhere with location services and blazing fast internet anywhere.
It used to be really hard to find specialized work to help you with the day to day tasks of running a business. Content marketers, web developers, accountants, bookkeepers, graphic designers are all available in the form of freelancers at very reasonable rates to help you where your skillset lacks. Gone are the days of needing to hire all of these people in your office in your local town or depend on your franchise offices to take care fo this for you.
We live in a time where everyone wants to spend massive amounts of money on digital marketing and social media campaigns. While it can be effective and generate a positive ROI its competitive and also simpler than ever to outsource to a digital marketing freelancer**. I personally believe the marketing opportunities right now are in the local grassroots guerrilla marketing and sales approach.** There aren’t many advantages to be part of the franchise when it comes to marketing and sales unless they have a specific strategy you like.
I personally would not buy a service franchise unless there was a special opportunity to do so or a unique circumstance where you had the opportunity to take over a currently thriving business or one you could turn around.
Show notes from Podcast Episode 66.
Hey Nick it John from Vancouver. What are your thoughts on taking over a family business?
I think if you analyze it right and take the right steps its an amazing opportunity to own a business that is years ahead of one you might otherwise start. You can also likely get it at a fair price, have an idea of the inner workings, trust the parties involved and make a deal with low risk and a lot of upside.
It can also be hell. Personal relationships can deteriorate if expectations aren’t aligned with reality or you don’t communicate properly with the necessary parties before jumping in.
The opportunity to take over is a semi-successful family small business that has a lot of room for improvement is a very common situation. There is a LOT to unpack here. Lets dive in.
First you must keep in mind that there is a massive human element to this. In stressful life-changing situations people are not always logical beings – they are emotional. Family and business intermingling creates a very emotional situation. Your family member has likely built this business from scratch and it has been their entire life for a long time. It is their identity and their legacy. Their customers and employees are like family. Their retirement is likely tied up in the corporate bank account. You are taking a chance and changing your entire life and career path to take this over. Two very emotional parties right?
Remember something very important. Most forms of conflict and resentment stem from expectations that are not met. Somebody has expectations of someone else that likely aren’t properly communicated (most often they are assumed). People may have totally different ideas of how something should work. People may have different goals. People may have not clearly outlined day to day responsibilities.
The main theme of this post is that it’s all about effective communication and managing expectations. You have to figure out what everyone in your family EXPECTS to happen. Not only your family member that owns the business but also your siblings.
If you properly communicate and lay out everyones expectations on paper, manage those expectations and make decisions based on this information you will be much more likely to succeed. It’s a lot more likely to shake out without anger or resentment or a family feud when money is involved. You’d be amazed at how many families end up resenting each other and going to court over things just like this. Don’t let it happen to you.
You first need to do some introspection and figure out exactly what you want out of this deal by asking yourself a series of questions.
Does it align with your career and professional goals? Does it have growth potential? What would need to happen to make it worth it to you?
What is your relationship like with your family who owns the business? What are your personality types? Would you get along in co-management roles?
Do you have the skills and ability to take over? Will you need your parent on board for a while to keep it above water?
Many times the business is a job for the owner. It isn’t set up to run without them if they quit? What are your thoughts on this matter from the outside looking in?
What is the future of the business if you don’t take over? Is it large enough to run itself? Would your family member be able to sell it on the open market?
What improvements would you make the the business? Digital marketing and web presence are likely some improvements you can make but keep something in mind. There is a good chance the business doesn’t have a customer problem. They probably bring in plenty of revenue and have their hands full keeping up as it is.
Building a nice website, running online ads and getting on the first page of Google sounds great and all but thats not the hard part of running a service business.
Every business has either a customer problem (not enough sales) or an employee problem (not able to deliver solid service to the customers you have). Which problem does this business have? Which one of these factors is limiting the growth?
The employees and the internal systems are the hard part. What would you do to improve the business in this regard? How would you organize the company structure? How would you recruit and train employees? How would the pricing the business charges the customers need to change to make this happen? The Sweaty Startup is dedicated to helping solve these problems but they are complicated and they take a certain level of management know-how to do.
The point I’m trying to make here is that you aren’t going to just put together a website and some digital presence and all of the sudden add a ton of value to the business. The real value is being able to deliver and build an organization with systems and processes to solve the employee problems and be able to deliver these services. So make a plan for that and get serious about this part of it because its the key.
Before you do anything else put pen to paper and organize your own wants, desires, goals and plans. Going into this without a plan is not a good idea. Saying to yourself “oh I’ll just get started working and we’ll figure out the details later” is not a good idea. Figure out what you want before moving on to the next step.
Think of this as an investor presentation. You are going to walk into a meeting with the person who owns this family business and tell them exactly what you’d like to happen for it to be worth it to you to get involved.
Some considerations to make while making your plan and building your presentation:
It’s not all about the money but it’s an important part of the equation that is often ignored. Don’t name a price off the bat but realize that it needs to be agreed upon before you start working in the business. Think of it as an option. If I start working now I have the option to buy the business for this price 6 months from now or a year from now. The last thing you want is to start adding a ton of value and make the business way more valuable and then end up having to pay a higher price or disagreeing on the price when it comes time to ink the transaction.
Consider doing a trial period. Have all the hard conversations with the necessary parties and then come on board either part time or full time with a trial period and the option to leave. Begin to work alongside your family member. Get a feel for the business. Dive in and start analyzing the books. Get feedback from customers and employees. Get to know the inner workings of it all.
When you uncover information that changes the initial discussion or the agreed upon price or the future of the company have scheduled times to discuss them.
COMMUNICATION IS THE KEY.
A quick note – if the business is very small or you aren’t taking it over this may not make sense. There is a difference between going back to work for the family business and going back to take it over. Sometimes you should just jump in. Maybe you’re just out of college or not even going to college. Maybe you don’t have a lot to bring to the table. Maybe you’re unable to make a plan because there is so much unknown. Look at it as any other opportunity in this case.
But if you’re leaving your job and relocating your family and beginning to take risks and invest capital its worth making a plan right off the bat. This is what I’d do:
Go meet with your parents first. Tell them your plan. Tell them you’d like to take over the business on these terms starting with a 6 month trial period. Tell them exactly what you expect. Tell them or ask them exactly what they can or do expect from you. Discuss your job description and responsibilities. Tell them your goals. Tell them or ask them exactly how the hierarchy will work and what you want input on and what is non-negotiable.
Play the what-if game. What if the business fails? What if we miss our revenue targets? What if Dad and I disagree on a big decision? Who gets the final say? What if the family member wants to stay involved and still needs income? What will the salary be? When will they retire? Are they living on the business? What if one of us gets sick? What if the other siblings also want to come get involved? What if somebody goes bankrupt? What if somebody stops working and gets lazy? What if the business needs to borrow money? What if I do a trial period and decide I don’t want to move forward with the purchase? What if the terms would need to change if something is uncovered during the trial period?
Lay it all out there. Have the hard conversations. Discuss all the difficult situations BEFORE they happen so you are in agreement and can get on the same page with each other’s expectations.
Then it’s time to talk about money. How much is the business worth and what will be the payment terms? Will your family member finance it or will you need to get outside financing? Will it be a gift? Are the terms favorable because you are a family member?
I’m not going to go into the rabbit hole of trying to tell you how to value a business. It depends on so many factors. Many times you can come to a fair figure by having a discussion. Sometimes you should get some consulting and pay for it.
If you are going to take over the business and you want to control it its often best to purchase it outright. Feel free to get creative with your financing and terms. Maybe put an option in place to purchase the business one year from now for an agreed upon price and on agreed upon terms and then do a one year trial period to get in and feel it all out. If you like what you see maybe you execute the option and go forward or maybe you walk away.
Talk to your siblings. Don’t make the same mistake that so many others make. It happens all the time – somebody is given a business or they purchase it at a heavy discount with favorable terms without even cluing the siblings into what is going on. They find out later and they are rightfully upset because it wasn’t fair. Getting a major financial gift from a parent, especially an aging parent without an equal gift going to your other living siblings is a great way to make everyone upset and even bring upon legal action.
When you discuss and organize how everything will look with your family member who will be selling or giving you the business the next step is to have a conversation with any living siblings and their spouses. Tell them what you’re doing. Tell them how much you’ll pay. Tell them how you came to the number. Tell them what type of financing you’ll use.
If the thought of sitting down with your siblings and explaining this makes you uncomfortable its not a good sign. You’re likely getting favorable terms that aren’t fair to the other siblings. Ignoring this and proceeding onward is a horrible idea.
Get them in the loop with the entire family involved so people can voice approval or disapproval of any part of the deal.
If there is no record of a conversation it didn’t happen. I always advise spending the money on an attorney to help you put together a purchase and operating agreement. It’s worth the heartache and stress that could be caused down the road if people flip sides or everything wasn’t exactly clear. While good communication helps it means nothing for the future if you don’t have any record of it.
Any two parties, family or not, can totally disagree on how and when certain things were discussed if there is no record of it. People forget things. People reconsider things when more money is involved. People change their mind and go back on their word if its convenient to do so.
In the very least draft out the notes discussed with all family members, siblings included, and distribute by email. Ask them to read the email and send a confirmation email back to you. Thats a good way to have record of what was discussed as a worst case fall back. They’ll voice miscommunications right then and you can iron out any kinks before things get big and emotions get involved. An email is not something that can hold up in court but it’s a lot better than nothing.
Don’t hesitate to get some outside consulting when going through a process like this.Maybe an appraisal for the business valuation. Maybe a consultant who will charge by the hour to come in and help both parties sort through the details of how it will all work.
In closing… you might think after saying all of this I’d say it’s a bad idea to take over a family business. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I think it could be an excellent opportunity and you should definitely consider doing it.
Just make sure to communicate effectively and consider these factors and you’ll set yourself up to have a great experience and a successful business for many years to come!
Show notes from Podcast Episode 65.
“Hey Nick this is Andy from Louisville KY and I’m a wedding videographer. I’m looking to expand into the corporate market making videos for small businesses, real estate developments and similar things. How can I break into this market?”
Get lots of advice from people in the industry but I’ll give you a perspective you probably won’t get anywhere else on this. I’m assuming you already know how to make great video, edit it, put it online and show it off with a flashy website.
Videography is competitive because it’s a passion project. A lot of people love doing video and the equipment needed to record and produce quality content is getting cheaper and cheaper. I almost put this business on my “Businesses I hate list” but then thought better of it. Why?
This business is about sales and marketing. It’s not about the quality of the work. Any college student with a G7 and a hobby can shoot and edit above average video. Don’t get me wrong its important to do quality work. But many are racing to the bottom on price and going hungry because they can’t find work.
Ask anyone who has built a large video production agency what their key to success was. They’ll try to say we just did quality work. Wrong. Somebody was a good salesman. Somebody could lead others on a shoot and walk into a room and convince business owners they NEEDED what they were selling.
SALES AND MARKETING AND NETWORKING. If you can do this stuff and master it you’ll be different. You are generally competing against artists with visions. You aren’t competing against salesmen. That needs to be your play. Focus on sales and getting uncomfortable and building relationships and ASKING for business and you will thrive.
You need to get out and get face to face with potential clients. Thats the only way. Cold emailing won’t work. Cold calling wont work. Making great video and uploading it to instagram and youtube won’t work.
This is very low risk. Put up a bare bones website. Get some business cards. We’re talking $500 or less to get it going and less if you want to put some time into it. Don’t register your business yet. Don’t incorporate yet. Don’t worry about insurance yet. Do all that after you get some business.
As soon as you get that done get out and find people who you know could benefit from your work. Nearly every small business in America needs a nice 1 minute promo video on the front page of their website to gain trust with customers. They need it for the YouTube search results. They need it to help their business grow.
Start local. In your town only. You have to be able to reach out and get face to face with these people to increase your odds of getting some momentum. Analyze local businesses. Find an amazing website like this and then use that to sell other local businesses like this. Strike fear in the business owner that they are falling behind and they’re missing the future of media and online sales because they really are and we all know it.
Find those businesses and walk in the door. Get on the phone. Get a meeting. Get out of your comfort zone. You’ll get rejected. Its a numbers game. On to the next one. Do whatever ritual you need to do in between meetings to keep moving. Take business cards from all of them and follow up relentlessly. Sell sell sell.
Remember that there are two types of businesses. Business that don’t want to pay very much for a video and businesses that do. Don’t waste your time with the low margin businesses or the owners that don’t value your work. The ones that want a video that requires 40 hours of work for $500. Ignore them. They’ll nickel and dime you and it will be tempting to take the work. Especially in the early days. Thats fine for a while to build your portfolio but its critical that you start telling them no and walking away when you spot them.
An introvert? I don’t care. Take an acting class. Find a way to be personable and talk to people about their business and their life. Smile and exaggerate your facial expressions and your body language. SHOW GENUINE EXCITEMENT about what you are doing and the kind of difference it can make. Make it clear you are EAGER to help and you really know your stuff.
Read Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. Sounds stupid because its coined a negotiation book but its Sales 101. Mirroring and keeping them talking about them. Every sales situation is a very emotional negotiation. Master the EMOTION of it.
This is what 99% of videographers aren’t doing. They suck at sales. They have anxiety making cold calls. They hate talking to strangers and especially hate selling to strangers. They’ll never walk into a business and try to get a sale. They want to do the art and be the artist. But remember this business isn’t about the art. Its about sales and marketing.
You aren’t selling video. You are selling trust. You are selling a first impression on a customer.
Get out and sell the crap out of it and you will be successful.
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Show notes from podcast episode 62.
Maybe you’re in high school or younger. Maybe your child is in high school or younger.
What steps can I take right now to prepare myself for entrepreneurship and what businesses could I possibly explore starting as a youngster?
I’ve told the story of how I became an entrepreneur in 7th grade. I was 13 years old.
My father’s company owned a few shopping centers in town and the old guy who mowed the grass for them had a minor heart attack and his doctor told him he couldn’t mow anymore. So my dad volunteered his 13 year old son to pick up about 8 hours a week of mowing. 4 commercial properties and 2 apartment complexes.
I was WAY too young to be in charge of something like that so it became my parent’s headache in a way. My mom drove me to the jobs and charged me $10 per hour for her time. It was 95 and sunny the first day and I chopped up a bunch of trash because I didn’t know to pick it up before I started. I cried and complained and told my dad I hated the job and wanted to quit. He didn’t let me quit.
I got the hang of it a few weeks later. I hired a high school student to drive me to the jobs the next summer. The rest is history. Is this what I recommend you do? Probably not. A 7th grader shouldn’t be put through that kind of treatment.
But hey. I learned invoicing. I learned a profit and loss statement. I learned how to deal with problems and complaints and I learned to talk to and sell to other customers as I picked up jobs and grew the business. I learned how to work with my hands and fix my mowers and have the confidence to do those things. I went to college with $40k in my bank account. I started a business in college. I’m not super rich and I’m not anything special but my life is way better now than it would have been if my dad wouldn’t have volunteered me for that job as a 13 year old.
I’m 100% certain that an entrepreneurial spirit begins in the household and at a young age. Just like the families that talk about money and have a conversation around money raise kids that are financially responsible the same is true in business. Learning to be curious about businesses and their profits and how they work as you walk around life doesn’t happen automatically. It takes influence.
While I think starting a small business would be great experience there are two things that I think you should really try to master whether that is through entrepreneurship or not:
Learn to sell. Learn how to communicate with people. Learn how to get out of your comfort zone. Learn how to break through barriers and create a connection with people no matter the circumstance. So many of your peers are afraid to talk on the phone let alone try to sell something. Work on your communication and your persuasion skills.
Become “handy”. Work on stuff mechanically. Learn to change oil. Learn to tune up a lawn mower. Learn to cut and build with wood. Learn to look at a malfunctioning machine of any kind and diagnose it and repair it. Power wash the deck. Fix the leaky faucet. Clean the gutters. Shampoo the carpet. Clean the filters in the HVAC unit.
If you can do these things you’ll have a huge leg up when you get your drivers license and can start a local small business.
Taking it one step further in high school consider getting a summer job or internship with a tradesmen. Electrician, carpenter, HVAC technician, plumber, welder. Learning skills like this will be an insurance policy for the rest of your life as you could go get a job for $30/hr anytime you wanted.
Starting a business with just a little bit of skill involved is a great way to earn really good money if you wanted just a one man shop and really limit competition if you do decide to grow and build a business. Niche carpentry like trim carpentry, closet building, bar building, cabinetry installation, deck building etc.
Here is a list of businesses that I think are appropriate for high school aged kids:
If you yourself are in high school or younger learn how to sell and learn how to work with your hands. Experiment with business if your parents are okay with that and talk to them about it.
Starting a business while you’re a student affords you a number of advantages. The main advantage is that you’re still on your parents payroll. The pressure to earn hasn’t hit you yet. The skills you’ll learn are valuable in the workforce. You aren’t wasting your time when it comes to making yourself more valuable. I learned more about life, relationships and money in 5 years running that lawn care business than I did getting an Ivy League degree. As a youngster you’ve got nothing to lose. You don’t have a family to feed. You don’t have a mortgage to pay. You don’t have a nest egg to protect.
Business is a snowball. It takes years to get momentum but once you get it it can take off at an exponential rate. Just like saving for retirement the earlier you can start the better off you’ll be.
If you are a parent who wants to encourage entrepreneurship it starts in the household. Talk to your kids about business. Have that conversation. Teach your kids to sell and get comfortable where most kids are uncomfortable. Don’t raise antisocial kids buried behind computer screens. Raise kids that can look you in the eye and get excited during a conversation. Raise kids that aren’t afraid and can figure out how to fix a flat tire on the side of the road instead of calling triple A.
I don’t recommend being as forceful as my dad was but get their minds working and see if a curiosity develops and then nurture that and engage it if you believe its important.
All the best!
A listener reached out with a question. They’re saving some money each month and want to set up a passive income stream through local rental properties.
Real estate is a tough market to get into right now. Not saying impossible just a fair warning:
It’s competitive. The economy has been booming for a long time. Everyone and their brother has a little bit of extra cash sitting on the side and is asking themselves the exact same question you are asking right now. This is the first passive income stream most people with some savings explore. Its really easy to borrow $ right now and the rates are low. This makes it even more competitive. Put simply – its harder than ever to find good deals. Not impossible. But harder.
Some cities are way overpriced because of weird market factors – mostly large cities. Boston, DC, NYC, San Fran has experienced a massive influx of foreign money that simply purchases and sits on this real estate. That drives the prices up a lot faster than rents go up. The cap rates (return multiples) goes down. People are buying real estate in Manhattan at a 2 CAP. That means they are excepting a 2% return on their cash in the form of profit. INSANE.
There are a lot of risk factors. What if you are in a college town and the college decides they want more money so they build a bunch more housing and require students to live in it? They do that all the time. What if a large employer closes up shop or moves? What if a huge development gets approved and the market floods with new supply?
I always say don’t start playing in real estate unless you can handle the worst case scenario and get through it.
What I would recommend:
#1 Start a service business that has the potential to lead into real estate down the road. Do it while you have a job. Consider starting a rental property management company that focuses on short term rentals. Learn the market that way. Collect data. Use the data to convince partners to invest with you.
#2 Find a real estate niche so you can compete against fewer buyers.
If a property is on Zillow it’s often too late. Thousands of people shop on Zillow for turnkey investments. That makes them overpriced and it reduces upside and potential. Find a way to buy off-market property. Cleaning up tax liens would be a good way to take others out of the market (as the other commenter mentioned). Getting an investor partner and buying with all-cash allows you to get foreclosures and buy from people who need a quick simple close (like those “we buy houses” signs you see). Learn a trade and fix the homes yourself. These are just a few of many.
#3. Create and study a cashflow projection spreadsheet.
Estimate your revenue and expenses on a monthly basis. All of your expenses. All of your interest. All of your maintenance. Taxes. Everything. Make sure it works out. Run them a few different ways. What if the tenant stops paying? What if taxes go up? They won’t go down that’s for sure.