It’s an honor to be included in this group of successful business people describing their journey of bouncing back from failure. I started my business life shortly after getting my Ph.D. (Public High school Degree). I had a short stint in college but spent my student loan proceeds vacationing in Maui instead of on education.
At the time, I was living in Anchorage, Alaska, pushing shopping carts in the sub-zero weather at a local grocery store. The fifty-something-year-old store manager said to me “if I worked hard went to college, got my degree and rose up through the ranks that someday I too could be a store manager just like him.”
However, I did not share his passion for dairy, produce and night stocking. I have to thank him because it did give me the motivation to go in another direction.
I talked to my father, and he told me if I wanted to be successful, I should go into real estate and finance. And so, that’s what I did.
At 19 years old, I got my first real estate license. I also purchased my first property. My dad also taught me to observe and learn the cycles of the markets. Booms and busts, etc. True to his word, in the early 80s Alaska went bust after decade-long oil boom.
In 1986, our family all moved to California where it was booming. I entered into the mortgage business and over the next several years became a very successful mortgage banker. I was in my early twenties. Towards the end of the decade, the market started to take a turn for the worse in Southern California and mortgage business dried up. I searched the Nation for another market where I might be able to be a big fish in a small pond. My choice turned out to be Austin, Texas.
In studying the cycles around the nation, I saw that Austin was in recession when the coasts were in a boom cycle. And vice versa. So as the California Market started to wane, I decided to invest in Austin, Texas. However, on my many trips to the area, I decided it would be a great area to live. So in 1993, I got married and moved there.
Starting out from scratch, building a mortgage company was difficult at best with a shoestring budget and little local connections. Through hard work, tenacity and my public speaking abilities I was able to rise to the ranks of not only the top lender in the area but also the top real estate broker.
In the late 90’s the Dot-com Boom hugely fed Austin’s economy, especially for real estate. As with any good boom, it must come to an end. Towards the end of the 90s, I foresaw the coming Hi-Tech recession. Things were getting a little too crazy. People were buying stock with companies that had no income, no revenue, and inadequate or non-existent business plans.
This is a clue. A word to the wise – when people start describing their sector of the market as “crazy” or “insane” it might be a good time to get out of that market. I did just that. I took my own advice and reduced my staff, cut my office overhead, worked a lot from home. I knew that the economic winter was around the corner. Sure enough, in 2000 the tech-bubble burst. Fortunately, my fore-sight sheltered us from that bust because we cut out all of our expenses while riding the last of the boom wave.
During the early 2000’s, Austin was in a recession while the coasts were making a big comeback. By 2004-05 the coasts were in full boom.
I started traveling and speaking in California and other parts of the country to let them know that their economic boom only has a little time left, and they should move their equity to a safer market – and of course, I was talking about Austin real estate. With 100% appreciation over the previous couple years the California, the bubble was about to burst. The local California investors were asking me, “why would I invest in Texas when this (CA) market is crazy good – it’s insane.” Once again, a good indication that it may be time to move out of a market segment.
Fortunately, I had over 700 investors do the wise thing by moving there equity to a more stable sheltered market, but thousands wish they had taken my advice. Of course, we know what happened in 2007. The market crashed, and trillions of dollars in real estate equity evaporated almost overnight. At the time, I was making a ton of money selling those Californians all that Texas property.
However, I forgot to take my own advice. I was blinded by the easy money and thought it would go on forever. I bought a million-dollar lakefront house. I went on lavish vacations with the family. I spent money like the proverbial sailor on shore leave.
Over the next two years, my sales volume dropped from 27 million down to 7 million, and the market brutally humbled me. I was embarrassed and beat myself up over not predicting this particular crash.
I knew the crazy signs were there, but success blindsided me. As they say – pride comes before a fall. Even though I was still one of the top salespersons in the area, I still had to sell assets just to stay afloat including my lakefront estate. My family was not happy about having to move. The entire local real estate community knew that I had to sell my home at a loss and that was embarrassing for me. “Yeah, Mr. Real Estate Expert having to dump your house.” I was hard on myself. Too hard. I did not go bankrupt nor did I go into foreclosure, but it was still hard.
After a long while, I went into some deep introspection and realized one habit that I had lost sight of that help me create my original success. And that was a focus on personal development. I went back to the basics start working on the skills. Listening to Jim Rohn, Brian Tracy, and Napoleon Hill, etc. I started attending and speaking at local and National seminars.
Being a speaker, it was great to share the stage and learn from some of the best like Les Brown and Bob Proctor. I spent time developing my physical, mental and spiritual muscles. I sought wise counsel and stopped being so hard on myself.
Flash forward a couple of years, and I am in a much better place than I was before the quote “failure.” I’ve learned to be humble in the best of times and in the worst of times. I realized I cannot control markets or people, but I can control my outlook, my focus, and my choices. I chose not to idolize my business or anything else but to realize that the Creator of everything is the one thing that I must focus.
Our relationship with God and family is so much more valuable and important than a business success or business failure. Although prosperity has returned, I do not measure my value based on my business successes or failures.
My value now is in the relational capital. I live by the Golden Rule… and I paraphrase… A hand up and a hand down, a love of God, a love for myself and a love for others.
This is “true” success and without it – failure.