If I can think of any one moment that had the biggest impact on my entrepreneurial journey, I can tell you that it was in the fall of 2018. A good friend and mentor of mine who works as a wealth manager brought me in to look at my corporate structure and tax situation. He sat at a whiteboard and asked me to be wildly open about my financial situation–how much I make, my debt structure, my tax situation, my investment portfolio, absolutely everything, and then he revolutionized the way that I think of taxes and investing.
At the end of our meeting, he made 5 core recommendations about my company, the debt we use, our leverage, and our risk. He gave me a full 45-minute consulting package in person completely free, then took a picture of everything on the whiteboard, shared it with me, and let me walk out with no bill or expectation of further business. And he does this with every potential new client.
I thought this approach to business was crazy, that he was giving away his main source of revenue absolutely free, and asked him why he would do these sessions without getting paid. He told me that his goal is to help every new client as much as he can in those 45 minutes, and he wants to provide as much value as possible.
Wealth management is a relationship-driven business, and while some people walk out, those initial sessions have driven tons of new business for him. These new clients walk out of his office knowing that he’s legit, and the next time a problem or question comes up they call him and start paying. More often than not, they hire him on the spot.
When you add value to people’s lives, they trust you and want to do business with you, and I’ve taken this learning forward in all of my interactions. After this meeting, I began to bring this radical transparency to every investor and storage owner I met with. When I cold called a woman who wanted to sell her self-storage facility shortly afterwards, I laid out my complete operational plan on how I wanted to add value to facility. I told her that I wanted to raise rents, install an automated fence and gate, use some new software to smooth operations, and raise rents again. I told her that I thought this would bring the property value up to $2M or even $3M, and she sold it to me. This was just my fourth acquisition, and it’s worth about $4M now.
This open-mindedness has built up my personal brand as well. I’m completely open on my podcast and on my Twitter, seeking to give all my knowledge and lessons to my audience, and it’s given me a huge following and new set of connections. People, including my partner, ask me all the time if I think this is breeding new competitors. Truthfully, most of my audience won’t ever come into my path of operations, and there are so many opportunities in self-storage that it won’t harm us if we get outbid on one.
So while it hasn’t grown my competition, this mentality has exploded my network and my investor list, all because I aim to add value first. When you gain trust early on, both sides can win. If you’re uncomfortable and go out of your way to give people advice and help, you will gain and everybody will win.
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