How to Vet Investors, Employees, and Create a Startup Strategy

Let’s jump to the first question, What questions do you ask potential investors? 

For potential investors, honestly, there we have a whole list of things that we talk about. The number one thing is always the same, which is just do we feel it's a good fit for them. Because there are times when people are completely sold and are ready to invest that exact second. But from what they've told us, we just know it's not a good fit. So we're typically just asking questions to make sure that it lines up with what their goals are and what we can deliver for them. If people are looking for astronomical returns and they're okay with really high risk, we're not a good fit for them. They should go to bet on crypto or other areas where there's just huge speculation and there's a possibility of these insane returns because we always deliver the same return - we're very stable, and we're more conservative. 

So at the end of the day, we're looking for goals and we're looking to make sure that we always exceed expectations, but that we're not in a position with the investor where we're both expecting and delivering different things. 

The second question is, What qualities are you looking for in an investor? 

Green flags for investors are typically for us to go back to who we're targeting and who we have identified as the best fit for. So that's typically entrepreneurs, people that have businesses that are really busy, that can't manage their portfolio on their own. 

So we're a good fit just cause we're adding streams of income directly to their life that are just conservative, simple, reliable streams that they can count on on a monthly basis. 

Our goal is to simplify the fund as much as possible. We don't have any fees. We don't have acquisition or disposition. There are no fees. We pay a set percentage. You can get your money back 90 days after the lockup period. So it's literally geared around people that work best. 

So entrepreneurs are the number one category. We work with a lot of them. I'm in all those communities. I see and feel and understand their needs because I was that guy and still am.

The other is we deal with a lot of really successful retirees or people in that position where they're going towards a position where just that stable income is an amazing fit for their portfolio, who we don't work best with are people that are super return sensitive. If somebody needs to make a million percent or they just are really trying to push the market, we are not the best fit for those people and frankly, we recommend them to like friends and other funds and stuff that we might feel would be a better fit. But everything goes back to making sure that the fund and the investor are a good fit, 

Next question is, How did you decide where to establish your company? 

The choice of where to HQ Saint actually goes back to my LA days, funny enough. I personally really like LA. A lot of people hate LA, but it's an area with a ton of variety and a ton of opportunity to find whatever you want. So if you want to be an idiot or you want to get in trouble, let me know that's all there, right? But also if you wanna find amazing things or experience some of the best things in the world, like food, entertainment, just really cool people. There's all of that as well. So I really loved LA. The issue that I was having with LA is it wasn't the hub for what I was looking to do. If I was into entertainment or full-time marketing, that might be a really good fit, but I was an investment and at that time the market was taking a complete crash. It was the great recession. So I needed to be in a hub where there were gonna be a lot of people with a lot of money, right? Just the average net worth of the area would be very high and people that would be disproportionately less impacted than the average population. 

In addition, it's one of the nationwide hubs for things like creative financing in all types of different investment strategies on the financing side and there are just a lot of real estate investors here. So all in all the best spot I found for that in the country for what we were looking for was Newport Beach, California and I'm still confident today that it was a good decision. There are some new cities that I have an eye on at some point in the future, who knows, but where we're at right now is great and the team's happy, and also, by the way, a huge chunk of our team is working from home or overseas. 

We have a big footprint. If you want to think about the world from that side and we don't feel we're limited by talent where we're at. So it's like we kind of have the best of both worlds. We have the things that other places can't offer us where we're at now, but we also tap into the work from home and extended talent as well. So it's a freaking great combination. We're happy where we're at and we'll see where the future takes us though. You know, maybe there's a better city out there in the future, but right now it's solid. Newport beach is a good spot. 

Then moving on to the next question, How do you select your employees?

Essentially, I think selecting employees is a really good hiring process. So if a funnel, if you want to think about it that way, like a marketing funnel where we have all these leads on the top end and you filter it out on the way down the funnel, you gotta have one for hiring and you have to understand what that looks like and also you have to understand what role you're hiring for. 

So at one point in previous businesses, we had a very big need for frontline workers. These are basically entry-level positions. They train on the job. There's not any extra schooling or anything needed, but we needed a lot of them and they needed to be sitting on the phone, basically following the script and following the systems on a day-in and day-out basis. But because our need as a company was so big for so many different people, we essentially had a semi-joke about pulse hiring. If they had a pulse we'd hire, and that was a certain, very specific phase, but once the ranks were filled with people, then it was about quality. 

So on one end of the spectrum, if you're working with a lot of front-end employees that don't require as much training and you need a lot of them, you need the volume of employees. There comes a point where you're just trying to get people in chairs and it's more of a trial and error process. So it's like higher, fast fire fast, realistically.

The other end of the spectrum, which is where we're at today, is more like a very skilled, very specialty  T-type of an employee. So when we hire an employee today, we know exactly what we want them to do and exactly the skills that we'd like them to have at a minimum because our process and our hiring funnel are very wide and we have our systems down on that, we're almost always pleasantly surprised from what we need and what they have is always like this huge gap of like all these amazing extra skills and those are the people we want to have forever. Those are the people we want on the team forever. They come in with one set of skills, but also bring the whole team up by having this additional value that they can add to the team. 

From there I think it's about having really organized incentive systems that are very clear, not kind of the casino style, where you hand out the random bonuses and people are just surprised that they got a bonus and then they're happy, but then they're kind of upset another week. Why didn't I get it this week? But I did get it last, things like that. It's like if you hit certain criteria, certain benchmarks, or certain performance goals, then you get a bonus and I think that if you're honing in on the right tasking and the highest leverage activities for your team, so you have this funnel, so you're bringing in a wide variety of people, so you can choose the best of the best. 

So from there, you're honing in on certain skills and what the bare minimum is, and then you're comparing the talent pool on what the extras are that they bring to the table. So you're really choosing the cream of the crop. Plus you get to see all the bonus features that you can bring to the team to make everybody perform better and be better and then from there you're turbocharging and giving that person even more opportunities by having a solid bonus incentive structure. 

So to me, that's kind of the three steps. If you're looking for a very specific, specialized type role where it's very performance-based, and it's not volume where you just need a lot of people 

Next is, How do you give promotions to employees?

For employees that want to grow with the company and continue to expand, it's really about adding responsibility. It's really about two things. It's about adding a wider range of responsibilities under their umbrella of what they personally are responsible for and it's also adding another layer of people below them, where they're interested in being more responsible for those people as well. So it can be one or the other, but ideally, we're looking for both someone that wants to take on more responsibility into say, Hey, I'll even bring on more people and manage more people as needed to achieve those expanded responsibilities in the role 

Then,  What strategy did you first use to market your business?

Early marketing, in my opinion, is all about identifying exactly the result you need and kind of just doing the moonwalk backward to figure out the steps between that. 

So at our previous company, the goal was that we needed sales to go through the roof, which is most companies' first goal, right? You just need to have sales or else you don't have a company. You have a bunch of people that are doing random tasking that doesn't actually generate the revenue because sales was our first priority at the old companies that we sold. We basically analyzed a marketing plan that involved how to tap into the customers that we wanted and we just scaled that, making sure that we were more efficient with our marketing than our competition because we didn't putt around with all the other stuff we knew, which avenue we wanted to go. We maximized it completely and tapped every single piece of gold that we could from that marketing channel. 

Now today, our marketing goals have shifted because it's less about revenues as are just growth revs, and it's more about assets. So today we have entire marketing funnels just to get assets that are out of the market. So we're approaching a wide audience in really unique, different ways to find that. So if someone's in the real estate space and on one side, they need to raise money and on the other side, they need to find deals, which is very common. Then they need to have an entire funnel for acquiring assets. It's usually not as simple because if you go and just buy directly off the market. Market returns are often crap. 

The other side is bringing in investors. It's very difficult to be amazing at both of those in real estate, but you also need a funnel for the investor side. You need to understand the investor journey, tell your story, and be able to explain to them why this isn't a good fit or not a good fit for them while I could say all day that it depends on your industry. The biggest advice is to find what marketing channel you're going to pursue and think about it at scale so that you can attack the market as a whole with what route you take. So if that means eCommerce and you have a niche eCommerce brand. It might be Google ads or Facebook ads and from there in my experience, when we've mastered multiple amazing large-scale channels for marketing, we've always had enough business to ramp that company up to as big as we wanted to go. 

Last question, What have you enjoyed most about starting your own company?

I really like the entrepreneur space. I like the energy around being an entrepreneur. I like problem-solving. I like that every day, there are different things to conquer and to build and improve. So I like that challenge and I like that. It's really interesting and every day you can improve it. I like seeing different departments and different strengths develop in a company a lot to see what next level you can take the company through with different evolutions and things that you can add on. 

As a president or CEO, I've always been more marketing-focused. For me, I've always felt most comfortable, kind of like slaying the dragon and being on the front lines and like going and getting it right. 

So having different people on the team with all these different strengths and skill sets and us all coming together to share a common goal and to achieve common things, there's just something super unique about that. It's pretty cool that I haven't found anything outside of entrepreneurship, maybe team sports, but not really, right, more so that entrepreneurship brings that together, like nothing else. 

So I enjoy seeing that people create amazing lives for themselves through a company that was started by a small group of people. I think that's pretty amazing as well, but if you're cut out for it and you're built to be an entrepreneur and that's something that drives you and that you 100% know in your bones, then it's a really good option and it can be a  big rewarding experience. 

But on the flip side, I don't think it's limited to just being an entrepreneur. I think many people can step into great organizations and completely revolutionize either their department or their team or the company on a grander scale. So I think it's just bringing a group together and having that group have a shared vision to achieve something, that's the simplified most distilled version of that.

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