Keith Roberts, who retired as an Infantry Major from the United States Army after almost 23 years of active duty service, invested in a HomeVestors of America franchise in Bryan/College Station, TX in 2012 with his business partner, Jeffrey Mazzolini. He shares his experience with Franchise Business Review.
Why did you decide to invest in a franchise? I believed HomeVestors would give me the training I needed to get a head start in owning a real estate investing company. I spent about a month speaking with the franchise development team and interviewing other franchisees to make sure it was the right fit for me. I was impressed by how willing the other franchisees were to set aside time to talk and share details of their businesses. The support and training from HomeVestors and the network of other franchisees willing to help was a key factor in my decision to become a HomeVestors franchisee.
What have you found particularly beneficial about being a franchisee vs. if you had gone out on your own? I believe had I gone out on my own, that it would have taken me much longer to gain the experience I have now and would have most likely cost me a lot more money in mistakes or missed opportunities than I spend as a franchise owner. We benefit from the nationally recognized and trusted name of HomeVestors and the We Buy Ugly Houses brand. Additionally, and probably more importantly, the HomeVestors team is protecting my brand, building my brand, optimizing my website, developing my software, training me on my software, designing my logos and business cards and ads, managing my marketing budget, and much, much, more for a fraction of what it would cost me to do on my own. Not having to manage all these things allows me to focus on running my business. HomeVestors also creates and hosts numerous forums where its franchisees share cutting edge ideas.”
What advice would you share with people considering purchasing a franchise? As great as the HomeVestors team is in supporting its franchisees, success in any business will always come down to hard work and a desire and passion to succeed. Real estate Investing is not a get-rich quick scheme.
What advice would you share with a franchisee in his or her first year of business? Safeguard your working capital. It takes money to make money, but it shouldn’t take all your money. Keep staff and operating costs low in the beginning – very low. Talk with other franchise owners about what is “necessary” and what can wait. Very few people will loan you money to keep your operating budget afloat for a few months when you run out, but there are a bunch of people who will loan you money to finance a good deal. Work hard on things that cost little like research, attending National Real Estate Investors Association meetings, and networking. Take every phone call, go on every appointment, do not over screen your calls and make excuses not to make an appointment. You paid for that phone to ring, now go out and see if you can help them sell their house. Make offers on houses. Follow the HomeVestors model. If you have to say you’re new and need to bring your “partner” back to check your numbers, then do that. If you have to ask for a few weeks for you to find a partner who’ll help you buy it, then ask for that. The HomeVestors network will share ways to do this and even be that “partner” for you. Bottom line: be honest. Tell people what you know and what you plan to do then do what you say you’re going to do.
What is your work/life balance? My schedule in the Army was hectic, unpredictable and kept me away from my family for long periods of times, nights, and weekends. I missed many key family events. Once I retired from the army and ran my business full time, my schedule became much more predictable. In the beginning, I tried to work out of my house to save money, but it was too distracting so renting office space became “necessary.” I get to eat breakfast and dinner with my kids on most days of the week and most of my weekends are predictable. The nature of real estate means you work when other people aren’t working, so in the beginning I went on a lot of appointments on nights and weekends and was taking calls while on vacation. Now, I have more experience and am blessed to have a business partner who can run the business while I am gone. My partner and I haven’t tried going on vacation at the same time yet, but our technology, office assistant, and good rehearsed systems allow us to both work remotely if necessary and we’re able to both be with our families most nights and weekends.
What is it that you like best about owning your franchise? I am blessed to own a business that allows me to have fun, help people out of bad situations, support my family, and actually be there to enjoy my kids growing up. I enjoy the challenges of figuring out which directions to expand in, what new strategies to learn, and love being able to lean on the tried and true systems either built into the franchise or gleaned from fellow franchise owners at the HomeVestors summits and conventions.
What is the most challenging aspect of being a franchisee? Finding the balance between paying other people to do work I don’t like to do and safeguarding my capital / earning more money.
What kind of support do you most appreciate from your franchisor? They provide me with so much knowledge. HomeVestors does a great job of boiling down a couple years worth of experience into the bare necessities during initial training to get you started and then provides you with a dedicated Development Agent invested in your success and a forum of experienced fellow franchisees to help you hone that knowledge. The initial training empowered me to take a live phone call from somebody in desperate need to sell their house, gave me the confidence to meet a homeowner in their living room for the first time, taught me enough to estimate repairs and be able to confidently make an offer on their house.
What kind of support do you get from fellow franchisees? My fellow franchisees opened their books, their offices, and their files to me in the beginning. They will take my call in the middle of a busy day and spend countless hours sharing files, research or lessons learned knowing I’ll do the same for them. I look forward to the mid-year summits and the annual conventions mostly for the knowledge I know I will gain from my fellow franchisees.
How has your military training helped with running your business? The Army Rangers taught me how to operate on my own, to figure out what I don’t know, and seek out the knowledge I need to succeed. I learned the value of hard work and doing the routine things correctly. Even without a boss now, I leave the house early in the morning and spend most days in the office or out looking at or buying houses. I plan out key business events and appointments on my calendar and I follow checklists before, during, and after my HomeVestors appointments. The Army taught me if I want to be good at something, I need to evaluate it. So we spend time analyzing our Buying and Selling statistics so we can get better.
Did you start looking for a franchise while on active duty? I started planning my post-army career about a year and a half prior to my retirement date. I purchased my HomeVestors franchise and began working in it prior to retiring. The initial challenge was getting the new-franchise training completed during scheduled army leave and army out-processing/separation requirements. Then my challenge became looking at houses on lunch breaks or immediately after work.
How did you fund your franchise? Fortunately, the startup costs for a HomeVestors Associate Franchise are not all that steep. We funded the purchase of the franchise and the initial six months of operating costs with savings we had on hand. Thanks to great training and an excellent support network, we were successful on our first few projects and continue to grow our business each year.
Did you receive any discounts when you purchased a franchise because you are a veteran? Yes, at the time, HomeVestors offered a $1,000 off the cost of an Associate Franchise Fee and $5,000 off the price of a Full Franchise. I took advantage of the initial Associate Franchise veterans discount and then the Full Franchise veteran’s discount when we upgraded to the Full Franchise.
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