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Good Success In Gary with Tom Olson
We’re honored to have my friend, Tom Olson, from Good Success join us.
How are you doing?
I’m doing great. It’s good to have you. For those who don’t know, Tom won an amazing award from Think Realty Magazine as the Single-Family Investor of the Year.
I’m very honored and humbled that somebody else would think that. That’s probably the guys in my mastermind voting for me. When people know who you are, then you get voted for. I appreciate that. I do believe in the Think Realty platform. They do have a lot of stuff going on. They are going to be the voice for real estate investors. I do appreciate and like them a lot.
Let’s talk more about you, the man, the myth, the legend. We have known each other for a while. You run an amazing mastermind as well. Before we dive in, talk a little about yourself. Tell everyone a little about who Tom Olson, the man is.
I own several different companies. One’s called The Olson Group, which we buy and sell real estate. We buy houses, fix them up, rent them, buy and fix them up, and sell them retail. We wholesale a little bit. We don’t wholesale a lot. Then we also do a program called Active Turnkey. That’s when people want to buy houses cash from us as a wholesaler. After the buy and sell company, I have a construction management company. Construction is my background. I’ve been doing it since I was twelve years old. We did about $5 million in renovation in that business for other investors. Now, we’re doing a lot more for ourselves for Olson Group. We also do a lot of work for other investors in the Chicago and Northwest Indiana area. I have a property management company called Olson Property Services. In addition to those three companies, I also have the Good Success company, which is a real estate education company that talks about how to have the right success. That’s what we preach and teach. It’s all about why you do what you do and making sure that you’re doing the right thing for the right reason.
At the end of the day, when everybody asks me, “How do you have 115 people on your lender’s list?” I’m like, “I got people that want to lend me money all the time. I have more people that want to lend me money than I can take their money.” They ask me, “How do you build that?” I’m like, “Pay people back. You do the right thing over and over again.” You get to the point where people start seeking you out instead of you trying to seek out people to loan you money. That’s what we’re doing. The Good Success Mastermind is for elite entrepreneurs and that’s a blessing to me. It’s a great time to be able to network with people like yourself and people of status who have been doing this. I’m not good at getting people off their butts to start. That’s you. You’re good at that, Scott. You could motivate people to get that first deal done. I’m not that guy. Once they’ve gotten off their butt, once they started something, I can get people from the five-yard line maybe down to the 50 or 75-yard line much better than I can get people to get started. That’s what that mastermind’s for. People who are already doing it and people who already have some success, but they’re trying to figure how to scale and how to work in there.
When you get to this point in your business, you’ve got to become a business. You can’t be that solo entrepreneur, that person who’s doing everything. You’ve got to figure out how to work business. How to have HR, how to hire properly, and how to fire properly. Everybody has their own challenge whether it’s trying to find private money. Some people have too much money, they don’t know where to put it. Some of those people are in my mastermind. I got people who can offer support and help. Gary Harper is in our mastermind that can help set up people with EOS or with a system for their business. We have a good time. It’s an encouraging week and we can help encourage each other. We can support each other but also challenge people to set those goals high and hit them and then hold each other accountable. It’s a good time.
I love what you’re doing with your podcast. We run our mastermind as well here. It’s my favorite weeks of the year when I get to hang with the people in our mastermind. I’m sure it’s the same way with you because you get a lot of energy out of everybody. It’s great seeing what other people are doing and sharing everybody’s journey along the way and also, nuggets pour into it.
The biggest thing about the mastermind is to express to people and articulate that you have to be vulnerable. The more vulnerable people are in the mastermind, the more powerful the mastermind. I’ve been in masterminds where guts are spilled out in front of everybody. You end up at the end of that having such a better experience and going so much farther than next quarter because of all the vulnerability. I’ve been at masterminds where I was like, “I’m awesome. I was great. I did good. I’m amazing. Come see me.” Those masterminds, you don’t get as much out of. You don’t get as much encouragement. You don’t get as much challenge. You don’t get to connect with the people and support them the way that you could if you’re being vulnerable. To me, that’s one of the most important things about a good mastermind, to have awesome people in there that they’re going to tell you and be willing to tell you when you’re wrong.
In order to be able to have them tell you that you’ve got to be willing to open up and ask for help, to me, it’s what I say, “Be a conduit, not a bucket.” You have to be humble enough to ask for help, but then you also have to be giving enough to once you have the knowledge to give that to the next person that is in your shoes that you were five years ago. Your network is your net worth. In my opinion, it’s more important than being your net worth. It’s also your survival plan. We talk about 2008, what happens when that happens all over again? It’s going to be your network that keeps you steady and keeps you above flow. Sometimes it’s more about staying afloat, it’s more about staying alive in those times than it is about anything else. The people who stayed alive during 2008, look at where they’re at now. Those are the people who are rocking. The people who went down with 2008 because they didn’t have the network are the people I know who are still rebuilding from 2008. It’s because they didn’t have that solid network of people to ride that wave.
I could not agree more with you on that. Sometimes we all pivot. We get used to doing one thing and do it well and getting into our groove, but then we have something that happened years ago and we’ve got to adjust. You’ve got to make a 180-degree turn to figure out where you want to go. I’ll be the first one to say, I made a big pivot and ’08, ’09, ’10 were not the greatest of years but it built up to where I could capitalize to where I’m at now where a lot of our students are and people are out there doing it because they took advantage of the market. As the market’s raising back up, some of those opportunities have dried up.
You’ve got to be a little bit more flexible and be able to change, tweak, dip, dodge, duck and dive. I see a lot of things starting to build up to another meltdown, another explosion in the mortgage industry like we saw back a decade ago. It may not be nearly as big, but they’re still going to be a lot of opportunities changing versus this continued uphill climb we see in the market. I see we’re going to take a dip and who knows where it will go from there, but you’ve got to be flexible. Surround yourself with great people. You often are able to find that pivot or be able to work with other individuals who are successful to ride that wave together to avoid failure.
We’re in a very unique period of time. I’m very opportunistic. I believe that there are still markets out there that you should be looking at and investing in. I also believe there are markets that I would stay out of. This next market correction is going to be different. Everybody’s expecting 2008 to happen all over again. It’s not going to happen that way. Have you been tracking the foreclosure rates as they have been starting to rise already? There are people that are late on their payments who are already back up to 3%. It was unnatural to be at 1% if you look at a long period of time, but they’re creeping back up. We’re starting to see even inventory back into the sheriff’s sales. If you’re in notes you should know that that’s an opportunity for you to be looking at.
I’m not saying necessarily be salivating, but it’s already happening to a degree. That market turn is already happening, but it’s going to turn in different ways than it did in 2008. It’s going to be a lot more localized. You’re going to have markets like Dallas that may continue to do its thing. There’s too much population when you have 2,000 people a week moving to Dallas. I don’t see the prices dropping. You can’t have that. You see other areas of the country that may have the opposite effect because of different factors. You’ve got to be very local in your mindset of what you’re doing. It’s going to be better to be more centrally located. Building the communities is going to be way more important in the next ten years than it was in the previous 50 years.
Let’s talk a little about Gary. Let’s take a pivot here because I get people saying, “Scott, should we buy in Gary?” I’m like, “You’ve got to be very careful of Gary on a block by block basis.” It’s the only city that I’ve been to where I’ve been shot at twice.
How long ago was that? I’d love to talk about that.
One was in 2015, the second time. The first time was about 2013.
That alone has taken a pivot in the last years. If you looked at the top ten, top 100, top 50 dangerous places or dangerous communities, Gary was always in one of those lists. However, since 2015, we haven’t even made the top 100 one time. As far as that is concerned, I’d be much more scared to walk down some places in Houston or walk down some places in Dallas, South Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit or St. Louis. Those are the cities that are coming up consistently in those top dangerous places. I was at Baltimore and I was a few blocks away from downtown. Chicago is not that way. In Chicago, you have to drive down five or six miles before you get to the South side, which is where all 650 murders happen out of the 651. I’m very excited about Gary, Indiana. We have seen the list prices go up to $9,000 in the last months. That’s not a big deal for most places in the country, but when your average list price was $19,000, that’s a big deal. We are buying houses all-in at around $35,000, $40,000 that are renting for $750 a month. In the same neighborhoods, I’m seeing actual retail comps in the $60,000 range. In other areas like Tolleston and on the West side, we are seeing that not a single house has sold for over $40,000 since 2007. We have four or five comps in those two areas that are over a hundred. It jumped from $40,000 to $100,000 and then there’s a comp for $115,000.
When you see that happen, I’ve known this was going to happen. At some point, everybody has to go somewhere. Because of the danger factor that’s been taken away and because it’s not like it was three or five years ago, they’ve torn down probably 4,000 or 5,000 houses in the last three or four years. That’s helped a lot. The help isn’t there for the people. People are going back to Chicago. They’re moving away on the crime-written type places. I am very big on Gary. Gary expanded their airport. They have a longer runway than midway in Chicago. Their longest runway can handle the largest planes in the world. There are major things happening in the airport for logistics companies. FedEx should be here, UPS should be. There are small hubs, but they’re not major hubs. We have I-65 that goes North and South all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. 8094 that goes East and West coast to coast right on Lake Michigan, which gives us waterways throughout the whole Great Lakes plus gives us access to Mississippi River. The one thing that people hate around here but are great transportation is trains. There are trains on half of the blocks everywhere, up and down Gary and everywhere. Gary also has some big things coming for it. The South Shore train is expanding. There’s already one that goes right through Gary and they’re putting an extra tracking. The high-speed rail is coming right through Gary, which will go all the way to South Bend.
To me, those are very big deals. There’s a big steel manufacturer putting $750 million into a new part of their plant, 1,200 new jobs that the governor announced. In addition to that, Indiana is the only state in the Midwest that people are moving to instead of moving away from. People should know this. We’re right next to the red estate. Illinois, where people are moving away because they can’t handle the taxes that are getting placed on them. With all that stuff happening, we’re getting car manufacturers, we’re getting everything, we’re benefiting from all these other states having issues. If you look at the Midwest Indiana is the only state that there is positive growth in population. I’m very big on Gary, Indiana. One of my dreams, which you probably know, is to flip the entire city of Gary. I am bringing nonprofits here. I am bringing business here. I’m going to go talking about buying a six-story building in the downtown portion of 5th Avenue in Broadway. It will be a centerpiece of the entire city, making that into commercial space on the main level. Then the top levels will be residential. I’m not sure it’s going to happen, but it’s something that we’re looking into.
We have flipped probably twelve houses in Calumet Township, which is where my office is. We’ve raised the values in those ten houses from about $85,000 to $140,000 in the last months. People might look at me and say, “You’ve made a bunch of money in that.” To me, it’s more important to the community what I’m doing. I had a cash offer on a property at $140,000 and I would’ve made the same money as a $150,000 offer that it ended up later accepting with a conventional, with them asking for all their stuff. I took the $150,000 offer to have the better comp. Even though I’d make probably more money, taking the lesser offer with them asking for more concessions. They did it for the one purpose of helping the community. If I can raise the value of the whole community to $5,000 and there are 100 houses, I gave that community of $500,000 gift. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m focused on how I can make a positive impact on the community. How can people understand that we’re trying to help them and not just make money?
That’s such a wonderful thing that a lot of people don’t realize. We see that on the debt side of things. We’re buying debt. I’m like, “A foreclosure is going to be a debt to that neighborhood for a while. Do whatever you can to keep it re-performing or getting it modified.” That was one of the biggest mistakes I made early on in the note business. I want to take everything back. I want to foreclose on everything because I want to own the real estate coming from the fix and flip side. I put a lot of money on the table modifying the paper and keeping people in their property, but that’s now switched. It makes more sense to get people in the property, to get them reinstated, to work some modification to keep the values up so it helps everybody versus it dropping down. You see that happening in other areas of the country where foreclosure is increasing a lot. Florida’s got the hurricane effect taking place. Texas is second in the country in foreclosure rates as well because of all the hurricanes that hit and flooding that goes on there. We’re seeing increases in foreclosures in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and the Gulf Coast and it’s so frustrating as an investor to come in and buy something in the area.
We’re going to get it up only to have your values knocked down because of the stuff that’s going on around you. I always make the running joke that we, as real estate entrepreneurs, are going to make America great again. It’s not going to be politicians. It’s going to be guys like you and me and others out there that are going to take and are going to help keep America where it’s at, who are going to help build it up and taking the opportunities in areas like Gary, Hammond, Columbus, Fort Wayne or other areas around Indiana. I love Indiana. It’s got some great markets besides the big city of Indie. It’s a great state. It’s the salt of the Earth people, for the most part. They’ve got bigger companies there that most people don’t realize that are there. I’m pretty excited what’s going on in the state there and I’m glad to hear about what’s going on in Gary. That’s good stuff. Good education.
If anybody needs boots on the ground or wants help, I will offer that to your entire audience for anything in Lake or Porter County and the whole counties up here via Chicago. Hammond and Gary are like a snapshot. You also have East Chicago, which is on the uptick. You’ve got an amazing mayor in East Chicago who is helping turn things around. They have the Cline Avenue Bridge that is going to benefit the city of East Chicago. I wish that the mayor of Gary screwed the pooch on that whole deal. They had an opportunity to be a part of that deal and they snubbed their nose at business, the stupidest thing a politician could ever do. What happens is East Chicago gets all the benefit from that from a financial standpoint. They’re going to get $0.10 for every single car that passes over that bridge that goes to East Chicago. That’s going to be a very big long-term positive thing for the city of East Chicago. That’s the North side. The South side of the county, we’ve got Munster, which have the best schools in the state. Valparaiso is a great place to live in. Crown Point is always in the best five or seven schools in the state. We’ve got a good neighborhood. Salt of the Earth people as well. If any of your audience get notes in this area and wants to get a hold of me, I would love to offer that as a resource to you. I’ve got great property management and great acquisitions if you’re looking to sell. I’m an outlet for that as well. Anything I can do to help you, I’d love to be able to help.
It’s totally a win-win brother, I guarantee. Be careful what you ask for, you may get it.
I love working with the note people. I’m creating a lending company as well. That’s something in my 2019 initiative, to have a hard money lending company. I’m trying to make sure I dot all my I’s and cross all my T’s when it comes to the notes. I’m sure that some of your students are in the lending side as well. To me, it’s all about the people that you’re dealing with. If you’re going to be a lender, make sure you vet that person. At the end of the day, make sure that if something goes south, that’s a person that you’re going to want to be in the saddle with to do some workout or whatever with down the road that you trust that person.
What’s been the biggest hurdle that’s happened in your business? Let’s take it back a little bit. What’s been the biggest hurdle that’s happened to you in your Good Success?
It’s a little hard to articulate. I had a partner and we disbanded ways. With all of my experience, I thought that I could completely move everything that I was doing with a partner to doing it all myself and I did. I already had this construction company. I already had a small rental portfolio. I already had other stuff going. I added to that a brand-new property management company, which I used to be a property manager years ago. I was managing 40 units on the side with a full-time job. To me, I knew the business. I didn’t want to have it until I started realizing if I’m going to sell turnkeys, I want to make sure I’m in control of that relationship with an investor down the road. I started a property management company. I started this buy and sell company. I’ve got four main companies that I’m running in addition to my portfolio in my other LLC that runs all my rentals. Then trying to deploy my IRA, which is a whole another business almost in itself. I have an old business in my IRA.
To me, the biggest hurdle has been patience and having the belief that it’s going to work out. We had this huge machine going. Me and Wayne, we sold 300 houses in one year. We go from that and I’m like, “I want to do 100 houses this year and we’re probably on track for about 80.” It’s like going back to zero almost and then I have to wait for it to start clicking again. It has been my biggest hurdle. It’s always in your head. It’s always that belief that it’s going to work. When you see things, you’re like, “I lost $30,000 this month.” Then you’re like, “The next month, it went well.” It’s a little bit of that roller coaster that you have to believe that it’s going to work and keep pivoting. These aren’t one pivot type deals. It’s like a running back. They’ve got to keep pivoting. They can’t go straight forward and expect to get to the end zone. That’s been probably the hardest thing for me that I’ve experienced for sure.
Wayne’s a great guy. It was mutual, going different ways. I heard about that. A lot of people get into businesses or partnerships initially and one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made is I have brought a partner earlier on who didn’t pull the weight like I was doing or didn’t have the same mentality. He was going to a different direction than I was. We had to split. I didn’t learn from that first mistake. I brought another partner on a few years later. It was a total nightmare. You think it’s going to match, it doesn’t match up. You’re driven. You’ve got a goal and you’ve got a mindset. Working out the details from what you see because we’re all very forward-thinker and trying to work to communicate that back to your team or your new staff to help you go, “Here’s where I see it. I’ve got to deconstruct that to where we’re at to build it.” I know you’re a huge fan of Traction. It’s a great book, EOS Operating Systems. A lot of people rely on partners to fill in a weakness when a lot of times you can hire staff or hire vendors to help out that way where you keep a sole focus or sole direction.
Part of that whole thing has been more about making me better. Many times, we go through life and we think if you’re a Christian like I am, I pray to God to please change my circumstance, “God, please make this happen.” People that went through the hurricanes are probably thinking, “God, why does this have to happen to me?” It’s over and over. Sometimes it’s a barrage. It hits you day after day and you’re like, “What in the world is going on? Can you please change these circumstances? Change these things in my life.” At the end, what it is God is trying to change you. He’s trying to make you better so that you can handle those things. My wife always tells me, “He has something way bigger for you down the road that he’s making you go through this.” Something I learned through this is I am a big proponent of the EOS system and everything that they talk about in business. However, there are a couple missing factors. I’m going to read at least a book a week and I’m going to dive in and learn as much as I can. I came across a book called Scrum. It talks about how to get done twice as much in half the time or something.
To me, I felt like that was a missing piece in our business. We had the great structure, we had the meetings, and we had everything. We weren’t letting our teams be autonomous and we weren’t making them hold themselves accountable. When the boss has to hold everybody accountable, it’s no fun anymore. When everybody inside the business holds everybody accountable and they have a daily quick meeting every single day and they’re the ones doing the meeting, not me, not the team level management, not even their boss, it’s the actual team that’s on the ground doing the construction, sacquiring houses on the ground, selling houses. If they’re having their daily meetings and they’re asking, “What’d you get done yesterday? What are you going to do now? What do you need help with? How can I help you?” It’s very simple. It’s how you start every small business. It’s how Scrum is created. We’re in the process of implementing that company-wide.
We’ve implemented a lot of that Scrum daily meetings and small huddles. It’s not like a huddle with the whole company. It’s not asking all these extra questions, it’s about the work. It’s what do you need to get done? How can I help you? It’s the whole team looking on the board and saying, “You didn’t get that done yesterday. Why didn’t you get it done?” It’s almost like positive peer pressure. It’s a very good thing and that that was something that we were missing in our business. If you haven’t read that book, that’s probably my top book that I’ve been involved with. I’ve read it six times because to me, that was a missing piece in our business.
I want to bring it back a little bit. You’ve got the picture of the tree, talk a little about that because it was such a great nugget that we were talking about. It’s a very valuable piece. A lot of people need to hear that. Talk about it.
I’m planning on still doing this here. Underneath it says, “He shall be like a tree.” The tree, for me, represents something very powerful. Number one, we talked about the mastermind already and how you have to be vulnerable. The first thing about a tree is that a seed has to go into the Earth. You have to be humble, you have to go into the Earth. Not only does it have to go into the Earth, it has to crack open. A seed has to crack open in order to ever sprout, in order to ever do anything. The first part of the tree story is you have to be humble enough to go deep. All the stuff that’s underground sometimes is way bigger than what’s above ground. Once a tree sprouts, it doesn’t give shade to people right away. It takes years and years. A lot of times, we want things now. We’re so focused on ourselves. We’ve got our iPods, iPads, iTunes, and iPhone. Everything’s about I. It’s all about me, me, me and it’s not about our purpose and our purpose-driven life that we all should have. If you read that verse, it says, “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of waters that bring forth his fruit in his season. His leaf also shall not wither and whatsoever he do shall prosper.” The tree is the story about via a conduit, not a bucket. A tree planted by the rivers of water. You’re soaking up that water every day. Nobody even sees you’re soaking it up. Because you’re planted, it’s your roots that are soaking it all up. Then you’re that shade that can be the shade for whoever you can be a shade for being a conduit.
Everyday I’m trying to plug into somebody that can encourage me that can teach me, that I can serve, that I can be a servant to. That I can make money to my investors for instance. Then I want to go find a community to be able to serve and be able to give that knowledge to. Like you’re doing with your podcast. Every day you’ve got people on here that are trying to help people. You’re trying to share your knowledge and share your network with everybody. You’re not trying to say, “What can I keep for Scott Carson?” It’s, “How can I help everybody with all the network that God’s given me.” That’s the same thing for the tree. In addition to that, it also teaches that you have to be patient with it. Every day I’m a very impatient person. I want to share it to everybody I have to sometimes know that bringeth forth his fruit in his season. Sometimes it’s not your season to shade everybody. Sometimes it’s your season to shade some people. As you get larger, as you grow your network, and as you grow your influence, you’ll eventually be able to be like that tree planted by the rivers of water.
The Prayer of Jabez is something I pray every single day, “God, please bless me indeed or bless me a lot. Expand my influence or expand my coast. Keep me from evil and keep evil from me. Work behind the scenes and be in everything I do, whether it’s working with my family. Working with my kids, working with my investors, working in the community. I want that to be my life.” Our core focus in all of our businesses is to glorify God. How we do that is by adding value to our communities, whether it’s somebody I’m serving, whether it’s you, Scott Carson on this podcast, the communities that we’re building gardens. I’m a part of Veterans Path Up trying to help veterans in Gary give the hand up instead of a handout. All the initiatives that we’re trying to do to help the community. That’s how I’m trying to make sure that I’m glorifying God.
You’re doing a great job, Tom. I always admired you. I always appreciate what you provide and bring to the table. I’m very honored to have you on. I’m also very honored to be on your podcast. A lot of people have to realize that tree analogy, the tree verse is true. The fruit comes in his time and doesn’t come always in the time that we want. You have to be patient with that. Realize that you’re going to get blown by the wind a little bit and you’ve got to go with it. Soak up as much information as you can and sometimes you’ve got to put down what you’re focused on. For everybody else, focus on you a little bit, absorb it, grow a little bit, and then be able to help everybody else. Too many people get in trying to help everybody else out first and they find themselves financially strapped out there versus, “Focus a bit on you and then go feed the world with what your cup runneth over.”
It’s a process. We talk about processes so much but the process is work, to have, to give. That’s what the whole concept of being a conduit, not a bucket analogy is all about. Some people have that process broken, the work to have process. Some people have the work to have all figured out and they’ve got to figure out how to have to give. You have this selfishness and this I attitude in this realm. Some people have the selfishness and I attitude and they don’t have the work to have to give. They feel guilty because they’re being blessed. They feel guilty because they don’t want to have more for some reason. If you have it for the right purpose, there will be no guilt.
What’s the best way for people to find out more about what you’re doing?
Check us out on the podcast, Good Success Podcast. You can find us on Facebook. I don’t mind giving out my phone number and I know you have a lot of people that I believe the more times you give out your phone number, the fewer people call you, except for telemarketers. If you have a note, if you have something in my area or if you want to come to see our office, we have an amazing community, Go-Giver Event. It doesn’t cost anything. It’s $500 for three days. CommunityGoGiver.com for that and GoodSuccess.com for our website. If you want to get a hold of me, it’s 219-742-7957. TOlson@GoodSuccess.com is my personal email. I would love to hear from you.
Tom, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it. We’ve got to spend some time together.
I would love it, Scott.
As always, go out and take some action. Be a giver, go out and build your own forest. If there’s a shade out there to help people accomplish bigger things, it’s the biggest joy. I know that’s what Tom uses is when we can help people overcome obstacles to grow leaps and bounds in their business and their lives, to help make America great again one mortgage at a time. Go out and be something. We’ll see you all at the top.
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About Tom Olson
Tom Olson has been an investor for over 20 years, starting with first purchase when he was 19 years old. He owns several businesses, investing across many different spaces. His unique ability to project vision enables him to lead this company to greater heights every day.