Entrepreneur Crush of the Week: Keith Hand

I know, I know. You're all thinking, "She must not have had anybody else to write about this week," but that couldn't be furthest from the truth.

My husband is truly a noteworthy individual.

I have a long history of working up to four jobs at a time & doing anything it took just to get by - an approach most adults take. While Keith has experienced this as well, I'll never forget the day he came home from his job of being a personal trainer at a local gym & decided to re-evaluate the entire process of making somebody else money. He was bringing home an absurdly small amount of money while simultaneously making the gym a decent profit. Though, at that point, he already had several businesses under his belt, that was the first time he decided to cut out the middle man & do business for the purpose of making his money work for him - not the other way around. That was also the first time I had ever heard of this concept. I watched him & his then business partner hustle to find (& manage) employees, start business accounts, perfect the world of taxes (I hate to be so generic with the work "taxes" but, honestly, if you can figure out taxes as a business, that's a HUGE deal!), & all the other business things. Keith read nonstop & when he couldn't read with his eyes, he was listening to audio books. Since then, he's started two other companies (one of them C&H Investment Company, a local investment company) & has learned more about business & money than I ever thought possible.

& then one day, late last year, he came home & told me he was going to buy a trailer park. I laughed at first (because I thought he was kidding) & quickly realized he was serious. I had a lot to say to this man who thought he was just going to come home to his wife & be all, "I do what I want" but it's remarkable how time changes things. Today, if my husband were to come home & tell me he was going to buy an apartment complex or another trailer park, I would happily respond, "Ok, honey" & smile. The transition has been tough but I've learned to sit back & trust his judgment.

I've watched Keith interact with people who don't know a lot about him & believe you me, that's a big ole pill to swallow for a stranger, especially in regards to money. But the amount of knowledge he possesses is game-changing. I honestly could not be more excited to share some of his knowledge. At the end of the day, he works so that I can stay home. He works to pay the bills & he works so in a few years, he doesn't have to. Keith & I are vastly different but once I decided to trust him & his financial plan, things got a lot easier for me. I think he has a lot to offer people.

-They just have to want to hear it.

When did C&H being?

C&H officially began on January 3rd of this year. I have been studying real estate investing for a couple of years & had sort of gotten a taste of it when we bought our house with the two rental units on the property. At the end of last year, I decided it was time to really take action. I set a goal to get one cash-flowing multifamily property under contract by the end of the year. I told a business associate & partner in another business about my goals & we partnered up when we found a deal in Jesup in October of last year. We closed on that property, which was two mobile home parks with thirty mobile homes.

Talk a little bit about your history with owning businesses

I have sort of been a serial entrepreneur my whole life, but I didn’t really start to learn about business until about three years ago. When I was in college, I bought a truck with a friend & we hauled junk & had a small moving company for a summer. After I graduated, I started a gym in Brunswick, but I didn’t really know anything about business. I think I fell into what Michael Gerber calls the E-myth. He says that people who are good at a certain skill often start businesses in that field, but those people rarely find success because they focus on the skill instead of the business. I was a good trainer, but I didn’t understand business. At that time, I still felt like I needed to continue going to school, so I sold the gym and went to graduate school. While I was in school, I was working as a trainer, and I got an opportunity to start a personal training business. That was my first real business & the start of my education about how to run a business. During the last four years of running that business, I learned about what I really wanted out of my entrepreneurship & how to achieve that goal.

Why did you decide you were interested in real estate investing?

Well, I’m not interested in investing only in real estate (I will have other investments, too), but I have always loved real estate. I just never knew how to get into the field. I think like most people; I used to think I needed a job, so my first thought was to become an agent because that was what I thought of when I thought about working in real estate. For probably 10 years I thought about that idea, but it just wasn’t really what I wanted. I could never put my finger on what I wanted to do with real estate until I changed my mindset about business & money. Once I opened my mind to the possibility of owning real estate instead of selling it, my path became a lot clearer.

What's in the future for C&H?

I set a goal to buy 100 units in 2017. We are closing on our second deal soon & that will give us 74 units in C&H (77 total for me). The short term goal is to get enough to hire in-house maintenance people, which we just hired the first of, & an in-house property manager to manage our units. My focus will then be on finding more deals in other markets, & to get into different rental classes. We would love to own larger apartment complexes in the next few years. In the meantime I am building business systems to allow us to put the right people in the right places to allow our business to grow.

What message do you have for those who may be interested in getting started in real estate investing?

The message I have is to get educated & take action. If you want to be an active investor, focus on educating yourself. Before I bought my first deal I spent a couple of years studying real estate investing. I read everything I could find about it, listened to podcasts, read forums, etc. Then, once I felt I had a solid foundation of knowledge, I started trying to figure out a way to get started. There will be plenty of opportunity to do nothing, but you have to figure out how to take action. Don’t let limiting beliefs keep you from getting started. Often people are scared to get started in real estate because they don’t have the money. This is a limiting belief that anyone can overcome. Money will always find good deals, and people who have educated themselves and take action will put themselves in situations where the money will find them.

What message do you have for people who may have misconceptions regarding having "your money work for you"?

I think most people think that business owners or investors are concerned with money. Most people who chase money will have a hard time finding it. I think to be successful you have to have some of purpose. Most successful people realize that the end goal is something else & that money is nothing more than a means to an end. My ultimate goal is freedom. I never liked the idea of having a 9-5 job & having to go to work whenever I was scheduled to be there. I want to be able to live how I want. My goal is to have freedom with my time so that I never have to miss moments in my kids’ lives that I will never get back. I want to be at their sporting events or whatever events they want me to see. I don’t ever want to have to turn down a trip because I have to go to work or can’t afford it. Real estate investing is a way to make money in a somewhat passive manner. As I grow in business I will make other investments more passive, & I will build systems that allow my business to operate without me being there. This is something that anyone can do if they really want to & have the education & work ethic to do it.

How do you improve your skill & what steps do you take at getting better?

I am constantly learning & updating my systems to make them better. I read constantly & I listen to podcasts every day in the car. I am also learning from the experiences I am having in the business now. Each time I learn something new, I update my business systems & write them down so that I can streamline my processes. I love Bigger Pockets and try to engage with other investors there to learn from their experiences.

What's the biggest lesson you've learned as an entrepreneur?

Probably the most important thing I have learned is that money doesn’t come from work & that money isn’t the end goal. A lot of people think money comes from hours they spend working, but in reality money comes from owning assets. That shift in mindset was the most important thing for my career. After learning that, I stopped putting a value on my time. Time is invaluable & the more freedom you have, the more time you can spend doing the things you want to do with people you love.

What's the biggest obstacle you've had to overcome as an entrepreneur?

Probably the biggest obstacles I have faced is balancing family life with the beginning phases of business, which often require a lot of hard work, and managing people. It would have been a lot easier to get started younger when I didn't have a family to take care of. Also, people are complicated. Finding good employees and managing those people is tough.

In regards to success, what sets you apart?

I think there are several things that set successful people apart from those who fail or don’t get started. One is constant education. I have noticed that very few employees spend all of their spare time learning more about their jobs, even if they love that job. The most successful entrepreneurs are constantly learning & figuring out ways to get better. Also, I think I have a lack of fear of failure that other seem to have. I am not scared to take risks & I think that fear keeps a lot of people from getting started in business & investing. I know a lot of people who would love to have a business, or have more free time, but they feel stuck in their secure jobs. They will also leave their money in the bank earning less than 1% instead of making investments that seem more risky, but could give them 10% returns or better. I think creativity also sets me apart & I don’t believe there is a problem I can’t solve. When situations arise, I don’t let them get me down, I look for solutions until I find one. Believing that anything is possible in business gives me a huge advantage. Most people in my situation would look at a $10 million apartment complex & think there is no way to get it, but if it’s a good deal, I know I can find a way.

Why trailer parks?

It was part opportunity and part strategy. We started with trailer parks because my partner owns one and had experience with them & because we happened to find a good deal on two of them right when we started looking. Also, the return is better if you don’t mind dealing with the headaches that come with them. We also wanted to go into lower priced rentals first because we are somewhat pessimistic about the current economic atmosphere & we think that low-income housing will be in high demand in the near future. We felt like starting here minimizes our risk in the event of an economic downturn, but we are looking to get some higher end apartment complexes as well.

Talk a little bit about being called "slumlord"

It’s a funny catch 22 for people who own low-income housing. If you own low-rent properties people assume you are a slumlord & some people don’t like investing in those properties for that reason. But if you refuse to invest in those properties, where do low-income families live? There is a negative connotation for people who own these types of properties because people automatically assume that they are not taken care of. We do our best to treat them just like an upscale property, but people still think we are bad people for some reason. There are certainly people in this field who operate as slumlords, but taking care of these properties is an important part of what we do.

What are some expected sacrifices one must consider when starting a business?

We are creatures that love instant gratification & it takes a lot of patience to put in the time & effort to get a business started without any return while it is growing. Because people have put a dollar value on their time, it's hard for people to understand the concept of working for free to build something for the future. It was the same thing with FitLife, but the long days paid off eventually when I was able to step back from the business and earn a living while also spending a lot of time with my first son. It is the same now with C&H. Eventually, the long hours will pay off, but it is tough getting started with a family. 

Most people think that hard work is a virtue, and people often praise those who work hard. I think there is a major difference between "hard work" and "work ethic", which I define as the willingness to do hard work the right way. I think that work ethic is a virtue, and sometimes long hours and hard work is necessary. However, I think it is a mistake to think that hard work just for the sake of work is something that is virtuous. Too many people spend their whole lives working hard and missing opportunities to spend time with family or doing whatever it is that gives them joy. On the other hand, some people are not willing to put in several weeks or months (maybe even years, depending on your goals) in a row of 18 hour days. If you are aren't willing to do that, it will be difficult to build something really successful. So, my goal is to work hard now for freedom later.

Why is real estate investing not a good idea for some people?

I think investing is a great idea for everyone, but I think it’s risky to jump in with little or no education. I don’t mean college or high school, or any other structured education. I am talking about learning how money and investing work. Real estate is just the avenue that I chose, but investing in general is the most important aspect of financial education. I think we will teach our kids that they don't have to go to college (or maybe even high school), they certainly never have to get a job, but they must learn to invest. Everyone is focused on specializing in some skill because they think it will get them a better job or career (that is why I was focused on getting a doctorate before I started FitLife), but I think our education system has really missed the mark when it comes to teaching financial principles. At the end of the day, very few careers can actually give a person financial freedom or freedom of time, but anyone with any job who knows how to invest can get that freedom for themselves.

If you could go back & change one thing regarding your career, what would it be?

I would get started a lot earlier in life. If I had it all to do over again, I would not go to college & I would not have thought about having a “job” or a career in the typical sense. I spent seven years in college mostly because I didn’t know what I wanted to do & I thought that traditional education was important. I believe that if I had known that I would never need a job, I would have started right out of high school. Starting earlier makes it easier to work long hours and take more risks because you don’t have a family to take care of & if you fail you have more time to get back up. I would have started learning about money earlier & I would have had a lot more freedom at this point in my life. I am hoping to teach this to my children & I am hopeful that by the time they are becoming adults, they will already understand the concepts of freedom of time, money, & investing.

I couldn't be prouder to stand beside this man in his business ventures. Unlike most of my entrepreneurs, he doesn't have a storefront or a product but he does continue to inspire me daily in my own business ventures &, oh my stars does he work hard to ensure the quality of his rentals. Personally, he has shaped who I am today &, whether directly or indirectly, has forced me to evaluate how I perceive business & money. I have many things in mind for the future of Leslie Hand Photography & you can bet your bottom dollar I would never have entertained such goals if it weren't for my husband.

Thanks for letting me feature you, babe :)

 Just doing work during our interview

Just doing work during our interview