Monday, October 26, 2009

Leadership Definition

This last Saturday Jessi and I went to a Univera regional event. It's a ton of fun because we get to see many friends from across the country. It's also educational with great speakers all day. I thought I'd share one of the things I learned today: The definition of a leader (at least according to Univera, though I'll try to generalize)

Clearly Established Priorities & Values
First and foremost it's important for a leader to have balance in their life. Some areas to consider are spiritual, family (spouse, children), business, recreation, fitness & friends. If their life is in balance, they will find consistent success and not burn out.

Desire to be Free Financially
A leader has goals, both short-term and long-term. More importantly, they're willing to sacrifice to achieve those goals (yes, be willing to sacrifice TV). It's actually this desire, not just financial freedom, that drives people to be and do their best. Without desire you get one of two possibilities: 1) They give up when times get tough or 2) There's a flurry of activity with little actually being accomplished.

Coachable & Teachable
A leader will use a system that works, and improve the system when it doesn't work. They will study and strive to be the best they can be. Part of that involves reading daily and attending training courses.

Is a Team Player
A leader is willing to do the work themselves to become great (sometimes called "Leading from the front). Others are inspired others because of their leader's work ethic and compassion. Obviously, leaders work well with people. They are positive, energetic, empowering and engaged.

Invests in the Business
I'm talking both time and money here. A leader invests in people and themselves to help achieve their goals. With Univera, this involves buying products and going to team events. Maybe it requires buying a piece of equipment for a different business.

Has the Magic!
People are attracted to leaders - they are inspired and believe the vision set by the leader. Leaders are fun to be with. They laugh a lot and are always smiling. They also submit their ego, utilize personal power & credibility, are mentally tough and have a huge heart for people.

Draws out the Key Leaders In Their Group Everyday
A great leader figures out who else is a leader within their organization and helps them become even better.

Well, those are some thoughts on leadership I took away from this weekend. I know it's much more complicated, and in some ways simpler, but I thought this was a good way to think about leadership. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Couple Thoughts On Getting Out of The Rat Race

I recently had lunch with a new friend and the conversation quickly turned to one of my favorite topics: getting out of the rat race. I love talking about why people want to get out and then sharing ideas on how they're doing it. I've learned a lot from reading and talking with people and thought I'd share just a little bit.

The Why
Despite everyone having seemingly different reasons (travel more, sleep in, be with children, etc.), I've found that it always boils down to one thing: they're seeking some sort of control in their life. Once I realized this, it opened me up to even more possibilities. What I am looking to control? Can I achieve it without getting out of the rat race? For example, if all I wanted was to be able to sleep until 8am, I could simply change jobs and reach my goal.

The How-To
Just as much fun to talk about are ways to create passive income which frees up your time to do other things. Note: passive income does not mean you never have to touch it. You will have to check in and do stuff, it just doesn't require 40 hours every week. Now we all know of the classic businesses like real estate and laundry mats which take a significant amount of capital to get started. Instead, I wanted to share a couple smaller ideas I've heard.
  • Own and rent pinball machines to other businesses. This is exactly what Warren Buffet did when he was a kid.
  • Own and rent candy/soda machines to other businesses. Jessi knew some family friends who did this with each of their kids to teach them about passive income.
  • Raise animals for later sale. My friend bought some cows, is raising them, and will sell them in a couple years. His kids help him feed and take care of them. If you already have the land, this could work well.
  • Grow plants. Another friend grows hay. It's relatively low maintenance, you earn some money, and the tax advantages are nice.
  • Create a website selling drop-shipped items. You sell it, another company makes and delivers if for you. Being an amazon affiliate is another type of example.

There are tons of ideas out there. Each idea I just mentioned could potentially get you out of the rat race, plus they're great learning tools for kids. You start small and continue to reinvest to grow your business. Eventually, you reach a large enough scale that you can hire someone to help with the day-to-day operations (Raising 12 cows is do-able. A couple hundred requires help). For example, we own a duplex now which we manage. We will buy and manage more property in the future. Eventually we'll own enough that we can trade them in for a larger complex and hire a management company to run it for us. Remember: owning a business, not managing it, is what you want if you're looking to get out of the rat race.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fix Up Videos

Jessi and I were in high gear this weekend working on our new digs. It's a lot of work, but ultimately we're enjoying it. Here's one of my favorite videos which captures our realization that we still have a long ways to go on this painting project.

We have more short clips which you can watch on my YouTube channel.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The First of Firsts - A Slumber Party!

Since last night was the first night we owned our first property we decided to have a simple dinner and spend the night there.

Since I had jiu jistu practice last night we didn't arrive until 8:30pm - dark and wet. We set up our sleeping bags in the living room while our water boiled for Macaroni & Cheese. Then we did, what I imagine any new home owner does the first night: we walked into each room, doubled checked the lights, heaters, cabinets/closets and basically took a mental inventory of things to be improved in the future (oh yeah, we need to buy a shower curtain bar).

Of course, improving things on a rental property is much different that your dream house. Everything we decide to do will be measured against some sort of future ROI. So, as much as I think granite counter tops are cool, we will not be installing them.

Once we finished dinner we talked a little bit about Univera and our short-term plans to grow the business. You see, if Jessi moves one more rank up, she will be earning enough that she won't need to substitute teach if she doesn't want to. Since we woke up at 5am to get back to our apartment so Jessi could get ready for school, this is our next big priority after we do the initial improvements. :)

Speaking of improvements, here's our plan: On Friday we're going to deep clean the entire interior - I don't actually know what this means, but Jessi seems to know what she's talking about. Then, sometime on Saturday we'll prep the interior for painting. I imagine this will involve lots more scrubbing and minor touch-ups, we're not going to dive into any major improvements yet. Then Sunday through whenever, we'll be painting.

Then we'll focus on the exterior, while moving our stuff in at the same time, of course. One of the major issues with this property was water under the house. From crawling under it, it's clear that water was at one time at least 12" deep - not great. So, we've fixed all the damage under the house and now we'll be focusing on preventing water from getting under the house in the first place.

Normally, this would be a deal killer for most people. It almost was for us. Thankfully, my dad was able to come up and check the property out and provide his insights. He's an underground contractor, so dealing with water, especially underground, is something he's excellent at.

First, the drain under the house shares the same main outlet as the other rain gutters on the property. We believe this is causing back pressure on the drain under the house. So, not only is the drain under the house not working (ie not draining), water is actually flowing back into the crawl space. Therefore, we'll be installing a back flow prevention valve to at least stop water from flowing the wrong direction. Could this cause an issue with the other rain gutters? We'll see, and we have a plan if it does.

Finally, we need to re-grade the front and backyard. Currently, the backyard's slope is relatively flat. It's not bad, but it also means that water isn't running away from the property. We're going to add a little more slope in the backyard to get the water a little further away. The front yard has a similar situation so we'll be re-shaping that as well. All the roof's gutters have already been fixed, so that'll help too.

Then we'll just sit back and watch. If we need to, there's more we can do, with each solution getting more and more creative. Installing a sump pump is actually 3 or 4 on the list of "try this next".

Clearly we have lots to do in the short-term. Personally, I'm excited for all the new toys... err... tools we get to buy for our projects.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New Property

Jessi and I are officially investment property owners! We purchased a duplex in Albany Oregon and it is sweet. We will be living in one side with the other side rented out. This is fantastic! We're excited on so many different levels. We're excited to start making improvements on the property. We're excited to actually have a front and back yard. We're excited to be one step closer to getting out of the rat race.

We've been kind of hush about it because the process is so uncertain. With the credit crunch, everything has become so stringent that seemingly little things have been killing deals. This one was particularly interesting because we kept finding little surprises at every turn. Thankfully, the people selling the property were remarkable because they were very professional dealing with issues as they occurred. With everyone's perseverance this deal came together perfectly in the end.

Now the real fun begins. Our first step is to paint the inside of our unit and start moving in. Then we'll begin working on some preventative maintenance to make sure it gets through the winter just fine.

So, this is the first of what I'm sure will be many posts. We just wanted to share that we've got our first property and it is awesome!