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Building Your Lifestyle with Tom Sylvester
I’m excited because I’ve got Tom Sylvester to join us. Tom and his wife, Ariana, are not only successful entrepreneurs and real estate investors, but they’ve also got this amazing book coming out. It’s called Lifestyle Builders: Build Your Business, Quit Your Job and Live Your Ideal Lifestyle. Tom, thanks for joining us on the show.
Thanks so much for having me on. This is a topic that I geek out about. I’m excited about it.
You’ve got an amazing podcast too. We met at Podfest. We’ve met a couple of times, hung out and drank a couple of Coronas in the lobbies and some stuff there while networking. We’ve got similar friends in the business with Tyler Sheff and Shawn Yesner and a few of those other crazy guys out there that we’ve had on. Tom, why don’t you take a second and share your journey up to where you’re at right now. We’ll talk about why that’s relevant to everybody who’s reading.
I’ll start with where we’re at right now. We have three different businesses. We have a real estate investing business, which is mostly buy and hold rentals, residential and commercial. We’ve done some flips, some wholesales, but buy and hold is our core. We also have a wine and liquor store. We have a coaching and consulting business. Through those three businesses, my wife and I have both been able to leave our jobs. My wife did it in her late twenties. I did it in my early 30s. That’s enabled us to be able to design and build our own lifestyle. We have our daughter that’s home from school. We were able to do something called Friday family field trips.
We take every Friday off. We have experiences with our kids. We take them to the zoos, museums and get to design our schedule. That’s the entire goal. The journey to get to this point, there were a lot of ups and downs along the way. My wife and I met on the first day of college. I had a degree in Computer Science. She had a degree in Zoology. As we got ready to graduate four years later, I started looking ahead. I was like, “I don’t know if I made the best choice here. I don’t want to sit in a cubicle with computers for the next 45 years.” She was struggling to find a job because even though we had all the debt from student loans, there weren’t many jobs for a zoology degree.
At that point, I said, “I want us to be retired by 35. I have no idea how I’m going to make it happen. I figured if I set it, it’s long enough while I’ll figure it out. It’s not so long that we’ll have to miss our life while doing that.” Ariana is like, “It’s another one of your crazy ideas. You’ll let it go.” I did it. Every time I tried to start a business, she would shut it down. It came to a combination when I was driving home from work and I had tried to do stocks, MLM and starting a business. She shut everything down. I heard an ad on the radio that said, “Do you want to start your own business? Do you want to do all this stuff? Come to this free two-hour real estate seminar.” I’m like, “Yes, that’s it.”
I went to a free seminar. If anyone’s been in any of these circles, you know how this goes. I went to the three-day event. They go to upsell you into this expensive package. I was like, “We can’t afford this.” We were nine months away from getting married and $200,000 in personal debt but I had this thought in the back of the mind that’s like, “If I don’t do this, it’s never going to work.” I whipped out two high-interest credit cards and put the $7,500 on it. I realized I had to tell Ariana afterward. She was not there with me.
That was the moment where we had a lot of tough conversations after that. What came out of that was when Ariana asked me the key question and she said, “Why would you do this?” That was a question that changed everything. What I had realized was myself and many other people out there, we get excited about an idea and we go all in. We know our why, but we don’t express that. When I shared with Ariana, I was like, “I don’t want us to be slaves to a job. I want us to be able to build a life and be able to be there for our family.” She was like, “I want the same thing.” It was through us aligning on that we were able to say, “Now that we know where we’re going, what are the steps and what are the things we’ve got to do to get there?” That set us up on our journey.
You signed up for higher interest on the credit card and you didn’t tell your wife. You understand $1,000, $500, $7,500, I bet the paint on the wall peeled a little bit that night when you got home.
I would not recommend that path. There are much easier ways to go. Learn from other people’s mistakes. That’s a huge lesson you don’t have to experience all of this yourself.
You’re working and you decide you want to go to real estate. Was real estate the first business you launched out of the three that you currently have?
Yes. You always get to these decision points. It was like, “It’s been done. Where do we go from here?” It was like, “Give up on this, go back to the job and work on paying it off,” or “We’ve already invested in this, now let’s go and get our return.” Even though the training itself wasn’t valuable and it wasn’t what I needed, I used that as a motivation and went out and bought my first duplex within the next couple of months.
You bought a duplex. Have you built a rental portfolio?
Yes. It’s gone up and down over the years. We’ve got nineteen units right now. That business, at this point, we set up for autopilot. We spent a lot of time building it. We put a lot of work early on. Now it’s set up to where there are systems in place. We have a team in place and monthly cashflow is coming in. That’s our view on how you build businesses and how you build wealth is you find an opportunity. You put in the work because early on there is a lot of work. You always ask this question of, “What would it have to look like for this to be able to run every day and pay me money without me having to be there?” That’s going to help you identify what systems you need, what team members you need. Over time, you start putting those pieces in place.
A lot of people look at us now and they’re like, “You are so successful and you’re doing well.” I was like, “Yeah, but you didn’t see the twelve-year journey. The weekends where I was out ripping drywall out or the weekends or the nights where I was up analyzing deals and sending out marketing materials. You didn’t see all that stuff.” That’s what I try to tell people. It’s like, “You can do this, but it’s going to take time. You have to be intentional with your time and where you’re spending your resources.”
One of the big nuggets I want people to think about is you said something that you’ve got to think about it and plan your business. Plan it with the image of you not being there to have to run it on an hourly basis. It’s such a different mind change there. I want to ask you if that was something on your front end side or it’s something that’s evolved over time because so many entrepreneurs, we’re control freaks, especially the real estate side. Let’s face it. We’ve got to control everything. We’ve got to touch it. We’ve got to taste it. We’ve got to rub on the carpet. That’s why I like the note business because we can do it remotely quite a bit. Has that been something that’s evolved along the way, the nineteen doors or was it something that you tried to sit in place immediately?
It definitely evolved. I’ll share one of my early mistakes was when I was analyzing a deal, I didn’t factor in some of the costs like, for example, property management. I’m like, “We’ll manage it ourselves so I don’t have to include that.” What I was saying was, “We’ll manage it ourselves so I’m going to work for free.” It’s a huge mistake that many of us make. What ended up happening was at the point where we wanted to hire a property manager out, we didn’t have money built into that calculation to be able to do it. That’s why I said there are a lot of mistakes that you learn along the way. That’s why if you can find people that are doing it, not a weekend seminar that comes to your city. People that are doing this, they can save you so much time and mistakes like that.
That’s such a huge thing is seeking counsel and not getting advice from your next door neighbor but seeking counsel from others that have been there, that are successfully doing it. Is all your portfolio in roughly one or two areas or pretty close to where you’re at or are they spread out across the country?
We invest about an hour away from where we live. It was my home town and the surrounding areas. I knew the area and the way that I set it up was it was close enough to where that if there was an emergency, I could be out there, but it’s far enough away where it’s an inconvenience. It made me set up the systems so that I do not have to go out there. What we’ve been able to do is over time I was able to do less and less physically there. When we buy a property or renovate it, I usually am not seeing it until after we’ve purchased it or after the renovations have been done because we’ve got people on the ground that are able to take care of those things.
Where’s home for you?
It’s in Rochester, New York.
It’s up in New York. Rochester, New York is totally different than New York, New York. Let’s face it.
They’re like two completely different areas.
There’s a great price point of the neck of the woods. It’s affordable, higher average rent rates compared to a lot of other areas out there too. That’s a great place to build a portfolio. Jack Krupey is at that neck of the woods. We’ve spoken in the neck of the woods too. We’ve got some great friends up there. That’s smart. You’re within an hour away. If you did have an emergency, you could go do that. That’s smart thinking and going that route. You’ve moved into the liquor store and wine. Were you a big fan of Gary Vee that you had to emulate him business for business?
It’s so funny you mentioned Gary because I first came across Gary with all of his videos in Wine Library TV. A lot of people that know Gary now don’t know his backstory. I’m a big fan of what I call planting the seeds. Thinking about the future, doing things now, and cultivating and watering that so later on I can benefit. When I was in college, my father called me up and he was having an issue where his friends were getting divorced. One was selling a building, one was selling the liquor store in the building, but they couldn’t come to an agreement on it. My father had a background in construction. He was looking to retire. I said, “If you buy this, you can put apartments in the upstairs, and you can get into real estate. You can run and manage the liquor store and I’ll let you retire from your job.”
He was like, “I don’t know anything about running the store.” I said, “We’ll do this. You buy it. I’ll help you get the store set up and running. You’ll be able to do that.” That seed was planted years before. When we had our real estate business, there was a liquor store for sale. I said, “I’ve already been through this process once, let me go and add another income stream.” We got into real estate in ’07, ’08 when everything was dropping. I knew that we were going to have success in real estate, but I wanted to start diversifying over time. We went to buy another liquor store. It was overpriced. The location was poor. I said, “I know the business. We’ve got a real estate company. Let’s go buy a building and we’ll open a business in there.” We bought a four-plex, two commercial units, two residential, opened our liquor store in there. I repeated the process that we did before, built a team, built systems there. We’ve had that for several years now.
You took what you knew and you applied it. Instead of going out and hiring tenants, you became your own tenant, for the most part, knew what the business would generate and you’ve got that structured. You’re paying rent to yourself and things like that.
It’s funny when that comes up. I talk about this a lot. When people want to achieve success, oftentimes I look at other people and they’ve got one of two questions or one of two views they’ll say. They’ll either say like, “Tom, you were able to invest in real estate. Your father had a construction background. You were able to get a liquor store, your father had one.” I always tell people, “We all have unfair advantages. We all have things that we can do or that we have in our network that other people don’t. If you identify your unfair advantages and take advantage of that, that’s what’s going to help you succeed.” A lot of people will look at it and play the victim and say, “You could do that, but I couldn’t do anything like that.” That mindset is important because when you’re clear on where you want to go and you’re looking around at opportunities, you can find the ones that will align and help you get there.
Many people play a little whining aspect of things that’d be done or in life on stuff. People look for excuses, “I can’t do that.” We’ve got some good friends that we’ve tried to help you get into the real estate side of some sort, talking about it and they’re like, “We don’t have any money.” I’m like, “You can raise capital. There are plenty of people in your neck of the woods.” “I’m not as good as that.” It’s a matter of like, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” People have to take that journey and come to a conclusion individually. They’ve got to go through the two-hour seminars, to the upsell and sometimes the hard knocks of life tuition that we like to call to find their why.
It was funny because that was such a traumatic experience for us. I never want anyone else to go through that. I had never planned on coaching people or helping other people. When we got into that, I thought my purpose was to be able to save people from that. What I realized over time is that I can’t save people from that. All those challenges we go through cause us to grow and challenge us to say, “Are you ready to be able to do this?” I wasn’t doing people a service by saving them. What I had to do is let them experience what they needed to grow and become that person. What I could do is be there as a support and as a leader so that when they proved they were ready to put in the work, I was there to help them with that.
You’ve carved that path. You will help them walk and lead them down the path. They had to make the turns themselves. Now let’s talk about as you’re sitting down with somebody, a couple or a person, what are some of the biggest mistakes that you see entrepreneurs or wantrepreneurs make as they’re trying to get to where you’re at and where you’re trying to lead them to?
One of the biggest ones is that they immediately jump right into the business. It was funny when we were writing the book, we were sharing it with some friends afterward. One of the friends was like, “People aren’t going to read this. This isn’t connecting with them.” I was like, “That’s so weird because we’ve done this with all these people and we’ve had other people read it and no one gave that feedback.” Ariana called it out afterward. It’s usually like, “The person you were talking to is Sam. It’s that person that wants to jump into the business and they forget that they’ve got to get their personal life figured out beforehand.”
The first thing we have people do is we take them through this activity, we call it the life planner, which it’s like a GPS. You figure out what you want your life to look like in the future, the destination. You figure out where you’re at now. You build out a roadmap to help get you there. That roadmap is taking your vision and your goals, breaking it down into pieces and chunking it out into 90 days. What that will allow you to do is to get clear on where you go and make intentional decisions of where you spend your resources.
We all have money. We all have time. We all have energy and focus. People that are successful will leverage those in smart ways because they’re very intentional of where they invest that to get to where they want to go. Whereas people that struggle, if you look at where they’re spending time versus where they say they want to be, they’re not connected. The first step is to get that figured out because that’s going to guide you. The second thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that your personal habits are going to translate into whatever business you get into. For example, when I started my first business, we were over $200,000 in personal debt. We got there because I was terrible at managing money. When you don’t figure that out, you’re going to go and make those mistakes that I talked about not paying myself for the business.
The next thing we do is have people get their personal habits down. Do you have your personal finances in order? If you have debt, do you have a plan to pay that off? Do you have a way to have more cashflow coming in every month and going out? With your time, are you intentional with where you spend your time? Are you able to carve out time? If you have a job, are you able to carve out time to set aside for the business and do that consistently? Do you have the right mindset? We do a lot of work with people before we ever get to the business to help make sure that they’re ready. A big one is making sure that your spouse or family is onboard because even if you’re the only one doing the business, it’s going to have a huge impact on everyone around you. You as the entrepreneur or the real estate investor or whatever you pursue, you need as much support as you can get. Any resistance that comes up, it’s going to make more challenges for you.
It’s easier when your spouse and family is rowing the boat with you versus rowing against you. It’s okay if you’re the only one doing it, but they’ve got to be there as a supportive net, a supportive sounding board to be there because everybody has ups and downs every day. We all have it. You need that support, otherwise if you’re going in directions, it’s not going to work in some form or fashion. Can I ask you a personal question? What has been the biggest hurdle along the way with you in your strive to build this perfect lifestyle for you?
I’m going to say two. The first one, to be completely honest, was my ego and having to get over that. I was young. I thought I knew a lot and especially when I had some early success, I got to a point where there was a couple of years where I didn’t ask questions because I was worried about what people would think, “He’s having success. If he’s asking questions, maybe he’s not successful.” I got to a point where I thought I knew everything and I wasn’t seeking knowledge or seeking more information. I spent quite a bit of time where I was doing business consulting for these Fortune 500 companies. I got to a point where I started to doubt myself. What I realized was that I had to truly come to grips with what I knew, what I didn’t know and be open and vulnerable to ask for help when needed.
That is a tough transformation for people to go on. The only reason I got through it was that I had my wife and family supporting me. Even though Ariana didn’t know everything that I was doing in my day job, she was my biggest fan. I had peers in my network that were either further along or had been through it that helped coach and mentor me. Once I got over that and I realized truly why I was doing things and I didn’t worry about what anyone else said or what anyone else thought about me, it allowed me to propel so far.
Tom, I’m glad you shared that. I know it’s not always the easiest to share is when we have a bruised ego. A lot of times I remember, is we have to step back and say, “I can’t do this all myself. I don’t know it all.” We’re all guilty of having an ego. Otherwise, why would we want to get out of working for the man and doing our own thing?
Having an ego is not bad with anything. If you’re on either extreme, you’re usually going to have an issue. There takes a certain amount of ego to say, “This is the vision I have for the future. I have no idea how I’m going to get there, but I know I’m going to be dedicated every day to making that happen.” That takes a certain level of ego, but we’ve got to counterbalance that with vulnerability and to say like, “I have confidence that I’m going to get there, but I know I don’t have all the answers. I’m going to look for all the help and support I can get along the way.”
Greg Reid likes to say, “If you have a $50,000 mindset, there’s no way you could make it to $1 million mindset. You’ve got to grow that mindset first before you can grow and the finances will follow.” That’s such a huge thing there. You said that’s what you did. You had to sit down and figure out, “I need help. I need to listen. I need to talk with the experts to help me get over this hump and help me grow as an individual.” What was the other thing? You said there are two things. It’d be having an ego and putting your ego aside is the first thing. What was the second thing that you’ve mentioned?
The second thing, to be honest, was getting Ariana on board. When I say getting her onboard, it says a lot more about me than it did about her because what I was doing for so long was trying to drag her along. It wasn’t until I took a step back and said, “Instead of me trying to drag you along with this, let’s have some conversations and understand, one, why we’re doing this and two, what each of our roles are?” We did something cool. We do annual planning and we re-plan every 90 days. We built three businesses. We had a couple of years where I was a traveling consultant away for four or five days a week in another city. We’ve got two kids that we’ve been raising and there are some challenges with sleep and all this there. We said, “We’ve got to start putting ourselves first even more than we’ve done before. Take care of our health. Take care of our mind. Take care of our relationship.”
One of the best things we did was starting to go see a marriage counselor. When I first tell people this, the immediate response is like, “Are you guys okay?” or, “I didn’t realize things were so bad.” When we went to our first session, our counselor said, “You are doing this right. You have a good relationship. Obviously, there’s some stuff that you can work on to make it great. You’re coming at this now and you’re investing into it way before anything ever gets bad or gets too far gone.” That’s a big thing that we like to share with people now. It’s like, “If you want to build a great business, what do you do? You go hire a business coach, a mentor, someone who’s been there.”
What’s more important than your life and your relationship with your significant other? It took a lot of, one, getting over my ego, but two, saying, “This is the most important thing, our life, our family and investing time and effort into that because part of it was reconnecting and knowing who we are, why we’re building this life together and why we’re building the businesses.” My first coaching client when I transitioned from corporate into entrepreneurship, he was $40,000 in debt. He was trying to build this business. We helped him build $1 million business in several months. My ego took a nice pat on the back for that. I was like, “This is great. My skills are able to help other people. This guy was able to move his family to another country.”
I thought everything was great until three months later, he reached out. He was like, “Tom, I need your help.” I was like, “Whatever it is, we’ll get through it. We got through all the other challenges.” He said, “She left me and she took the kids.” I was like, “What?” He was like, “We’re getting divorced. She took the kids.” For me, that was like a punch in the gut. I didn’t do a lot of soul searching. I had a lot of conversations with Ariana to say, “What are we doing here? Why are we helping people? Are we helping people to build a business and build a business that might negatively impact their life?” We realized that wasn’t the case. That’s where Lifestyle Builders came from because we said, “We want to make sure that we’re helping people build the right business to amplify their life, not take away from it.” We had a couple of different iterations of our coaching business. It took a lot of those mistakes, challenges and a lot of growth from both of our perspectives to say, “This is our purpose in why we’re doing this now.”
That’s the difference in being a business builder and a lifestyle builder. You’re exactly right. Most people go, “You’re going to counseling. Things must be wrong.” It’s not that. You say, “I’m going to a marriage coaching.” You’re hiring a coach. You took it valuable. Some people will get upset about counselors or dealing with shrinks or whatever. I’m like, “It was somebody to bounce things off of to bring together the third party so you can listen to the other people.” Unfortunately, most people aren’t listening to their spouse or they’re speaking on the wrong tune or the wrong love language. You have to understand sometimes you need somebody to connect those dots for you. Let’s face this, us guys, we aren’t good at reading women and understanding women or some things.
One of my biggest takeaways from that was I’m a problem solver and most entrepreneurs, most of us high achievers, are problem solvers. One of the biggest things I would always do is Ariana would come to me with a challenge and I would immediately jump in and try to solve it. What I had to realize was I hot stop and take a step back and be like, “What are you looking for from me here? Are you’re looking for help solving the problem or do you need me to listen to support you?” That’s been such a huge challenge, but figuring that out has helped with many things.
I know I’m a problem solver. It’s my love language, “Let me go fix it for you.” You’re exactly right. Steph comes to me and sometimes I jump in, she’s like, “I don’t want you to fix it. I want you to listen.” I’m like, “Okay, I’ll listen.”
When I tell people that’s a trap a lot of us fall into is our intentions are good, but we don’t realize that the way we’re going about it doesn’t serve the purpose.
That’s also very relevant a lot of times as an entrepreneur with our business partners, our vendors, our staff is sometimes they want you to be there to listen and bounce ideas off of. They don’t need you to fix it. They would like to fix it, but they need to bounce some things off to it. A lot of entrepreneurs aren’t listening effectively to people. God gave us two ears and one mouth. A lot of times, we’ve got to do that in direct ratios before we spat off and answered, listen, think about it and sometimes ask. A lot of times, our solutions are right in front of us so we’ve got to ask for it.
We talk about life a lot and we talk about business a lot. I say there are underlying principles that apply in both and the one you described is key. Often we want to advocate our position, we want to go and tell other people what we think. One of the best things that have been able to help me is being curious. When I meet someone new or when I find a new opportunity before I immediately pass judgment on it. I’m trying to understand. I’m trying to ask questions because by doing that I can respond and better understand how this fits in or how I can provide value in a situation. Far too often, especially when we let that ego come up, we want to jump in without understanding. It’s that clarity, curiosity and understanding that will help you succeed in every relationship, whether it’s life or business.
Those that are reading out there, what are some simple things that they could start doing to prepare themselves to make that transition for building a lifestyle?
One of the first things is getting clear on what you want the future to look like and doing that with your spouse or with the people around you that are important. That was one of the biggest things Ariana and I realized is the first time we did this, we both wrote our goals out on Post-it notes and we put them up on the wall. 80% of our goals were the same. Some of them were different and that’s fine. The second thing we did was we started sequencing them. We started building our own roadmap. For example, Ariana wanted a new house. She put that on a two-year timeframe. When we put other stuff up there, it was like, “This time period is heavy. Which of these is more important to do first?”
Once we had that roadmap laid out, now it was like the GPS was there and all we had to do is execute on it. We were able to be very intentional about like, “In order to achieve this, what do we have to start doing? More importantly, what do we probably have to stop doing?” We can make sure that our actions and all of our resources were focused that way. Another thing too that people have to think about is what does the financials look like? For example, if people want to leave a job, you have to know what we call your freedom number. That is how much money do you need bringing in a month to cover all your expenses. When you go to leave a job, that’s not what your budget is, but when you leave a job, you’ve got to think about things like insurance.
You have to think about things like self-employment tax, all these expenses that you may not have that you’re going to have when you leave a job. Let’s say that number is $5,000. Now you know the target of what you have to replace. When you start thinking about the lifestyle you want, how much time, money and energy you have, where some of your unfair advantages are, now you can start looking out for the opportunities and saying, “What makes sense? Does investing in the stock market get me there? Does investing in real estate get me there? Does starting a business get me there?” We can now be intentional about how we get there once we know where it is we want to go and what some of those mile markers are from a financial perspective.
If you need $5,000, you figure how many deals you’ve got to do is bringing in $500 a month in cashflow, it’s $10,000. You know what your other expenses are because a lot of times when you’re leaving a job, your expenses may go down because maybe you don’t have to have the travel expenses. Maybe you’re not eating out as often. Maybe you’re not wearing the monkey suit on a daily basis. Maybe you’re working from home, so your commute and travel costs go down. There are a whole lot of things to keep in mind. I love what you said about building the timeline. You throw every goal that you want to accomplish on a board and you start fitting the pieces together. It’s like taking and looking at the stars and putting the constellation together by connecting the dots.
We always talk about GPS. Having a plan is great, but we all know life happens, stuff comes up. Like a GPS, we’ll constantly check in and tell you, “Redirecting, you’ve got to take this turn.” We do the same thing. We have a meeting cadence set up where every 90 days we’re reflecting on the last 90 days and planning the next 90 days. It comes down to daily we have a quick meeting to set our intentions for the day. Weekly, we have a focus so we understand what the key things we’re going to do this week. Monthly, we have a check in to review our finances, review how we’re doing towards our goals. All of these things work together to make sure that not only have we set the goals, but we’ve got a plan working towards those. When we’re off track, we realize that sooner than later. We can say, “Based on that, what do we do from here?”
Are you doing this at the house? Are you getting away every 90 days to have a check in? I understand the weekly, the daily stuff but 90 days, are you hopefully taking a little bit of a trip to get away from the hustle-bustle of life?
That’s one of the critical things like this is something I stole from my corporate consulting days. Big companies do what they call off sites. Every 90 days when they do this quarterly planning, they go somewhere else. Part of it is to do the planning, but part of it is to enjoy yourself, have experiences. One of the things we always try to do is go to a different location. One, so that we’re out of our normal context. We’re not sucked into any of the business stuff. Two, to create experiences because you and I met at a conference, one of the things we do is we go to a lot of events. We speak at some, we attend some, but we try to integrate life in business. Many people try to have a work-life balance. To me that’s BS because we’re trying to balance everything. It doesn’t make sense.
What it makes sense to do is to integrate it and say, “How does this support this and this support this?” When we go to a conference, for example, we’ll tack a trip on top of that. We’ll go see things. A lot of that is a tax write-off because the primary purpose is business. There are lots of things you can do that. There are a lot more options that you have when you build your own business or you have control of this compared to, for example, when you’re working a job and there are some restrictions you have on yourself.
Let’s recap a little bit here. We’re talking with Tom Sylvester here, co-author, let’s not forget Ariana out of this because she’s 50% of the thing of Lifestyle Builders. Figuring out where you want to go, throwing it all down, getting your spouse, getting your family involved and throwing it all on there. Organizing it to see that roadmap, that path that you want to go, planning your financials, “What does that look like? What income do we need to be making to get to where we want to be? Whether one, is leaving our job or two, we’re leaving the jobs as a dual income household. Figuring the expenses of whether you’ve got insurance or private school or other expenses, fewer expenses and planning out on a realistic timeframe or in that timeframe as you go.
We like to set that timeframe and work backward and say, “What has to happen at each point along the way?” One thing we always advocate that a lot of people do wrong is they leave their jobs too early and they don’t have a smart way to figure out when that is. One thing that we’ve developed, this helped a lot of people, it helped us was a startup business, they have what’s called a runway. That means how much money do they have before they’re going to be out of money? What we do with people is we say, “Let’s set up your personal runway. Let’s figure out based on the income that you have now, the savings you have, what are your monthly expenses, what your burn rate is, and how much one of your business is making?”
If one spouse was to leave at this point, how many months would you have to build the business to where you’d run out of money? By running through a couple of these scenarios, you could say, “If I left, we’d only have a few months.” Even if I’m optimistic, that’s probably not going to work. What this does is allow you to have an idea, be realistic and get on the same page with your spouse to say, “Let’s run through different scenarios and see when the right time to leave is.” In the ideal scenario, you’ve replaced your income and you’ll leave your job. Most people don’t wait at that point. What you want to see is you’ve validated your business, whether that’s real estate or whatever else. That means people are paying you money and you’ve got some consistent money coming in.
You see the path forward to where if you leave your job, you know how you’re going to be able to use the extra time, the extra resources to close that gap and move beyond it. That’s the point most people want to look at when they’re going to leave their job. Unfortunately, a lot of people leave haphazardly. When they don’t have a plan or they don’t have some of these routines in place, they end up back in the job a few months down the road. Now they’re demoralized. Now they’ve burned through their savings. It’s a lot more challenging to try to go back and find a job and do it again than it is to stick it out or even switch jobs in the meantime so that you can build the business and build these income streams.
You have to be serious about that. Not waiting and quitting because you get pissed off because you don’t want to do it. If you’ve got those things in place and building that runway, as you say, the longer the runway, the more likelihood of success versus the small business success rate in America is 95% in the first year or something like that. It’s ridiculous. It’s tough out there. That’s the thing most people have an idea they don’t have a plan. If you’re starting with the end in mind, you have to have a good plan, a good blueprint for success on where you’re going. I obviously say, “Don’t be afraid to have to stop for a little while especially if you’re working to put your goal on hold for a little bit because you’ve got to make money so that you’re going to have success in the long run.” Extending your employment for a few months for you to be able to make that big leap is much more valuable. Honestly, if it’s you and me, it’s a different story than if you’ve got kids or a spouse. That’s a whole different thing when you start messing with the nest.
The big thing is I always tell people, “Just because you hate your job doesn’t automatically mean you should be an entrepreneur or a real estate investor or any of that. If you hate your job, switch into a job that you enjoy.” There are a lot of ways you can be very intentional. You can move into a job that maybe even less pay, but you’re picking up skills that are going to help you with your business or with your real estate. For example, I was a software developer in the company. I became a project manager and started working with teams and all this stuff. When I left that job, I could have gone out on my own, but it wasn’t the right time especially with a family. What I did was I started becoming a business consultant. It was tough. I traveled for a couple of years, my kids were young. That gave me so many skills to when I did finally leave, one, we had more money. Two, we had more time to build our businesses, and three, that company trained me. I got to see how entrepreneurial business worked. I got to see how consulting contracts work. When I left and started doing that on my own, I had so many more skills than I did years before. A lot of people don’t realize that you might not want to be in a job forever, but there are a lot of benefits you can get from having the right job and having the stability of a consistent income while you’re building your business.
You’re doing great nuggets out there for everybody. Let’s face it when we all have stubbed our toes and done a variety of things. You mentioned about MLMs. I’m sure you drew a few circles with some whiteboards trying to build that entrepreneurial spirit. I’m going to be a double diamond eagle in a few months.
The good thing about the MLMs, I went to a couple of meetings and I knew right away that wasn’t my vibe and how I was going to do it. That’s an important thing too when we talk to people and we have them figure out where they want to go or what their ideal life looks like. One of the things that we focus on is your core values because what ends up happening to a lot of us is that we get overwhelmed. There’s so much going on and we get this decision fatigue where we’ve got to make all these decisions. It can burn us out, especially as entrepreneurs and when we have families and all of that. Knowing your core values, it takes a little bit of time to figure out. What those become is a filter for any of your decisions. When you know where you want to go, that’s a filter because if something isn’t aligned to where you want to go, you immediately know you’re not going to do it.
Your core values act the same way. When I was working with the MLMs or not even working with them, testing them out, I knew right away that this wasn’t how I wanted to be able to get us to where we want to go. For example, our number one core value is to do the right thing. Whenever we come to a decision point, we step back and say, “What is the right thing in this scenario?” We’re going to go ahead and do that. Sometimes that isn’t what I would naturally do. Let’s say we screwed up, a tenant had an issue and it was our fault. We’ll do the right thing. We’ll credit them. We’ll take care of them. It might even be a loss to us, but it aligns to where we need to be. When people are looking for those opportunities and trying to make decisions for themselves, understanding your core values and what’s important to you will guide you in a lot of those decisions.
I have to thank the MLMs for helping me to ignite some of the entrepreneurial spirits I’ve already had, but it was nice. They were feeding you with this motivational stuff. If it wasn’t for an MLM, I wouldn’t have read Rich Dad Poor Dad or Think and Grow Rich initially. That helps you build the mindset of things. I’m sure you’ve got a bit, besides core values, you also probably have a big chunk of helping work with people’s mindset along the way?
I hated reading growing up. I did everything I could to avoid it. When I set that goal to retire, I had a friend gave me a book called The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach. I love the concept. The thing I didn’t like was I was like, “I don’t want to wait 45 years. I understand the compound interest but how do I compress it?” It was through that and doing some other research that I found Rich Dad Poor Dad. Since then, I’ve read thousands of books. The reason that I do that and the reason I recommend them to other people is that we’ve all got to get that desire and that motivation. A lot of it is shifts because we grow up and depending on who our parents are or what life we had, what school we went to, we’ve got certain views.
In order to get to where we want to go, oftentimes we have to let go of some of those views or some of the stories we tell ourselves. The reason so many people referenced Rich Dad Poor Dad is that it is one of those books that changes your perspective. You’re like, “My house isn’t my biggest asset. It’s a liability because it takes money out of my pocket.” That shift of saying, “I want to look at things, do they give me money or do they take money away?” For a lot of people, it’s finding whatever that means is for you. If it’s a book, if it’s a podcast, if it’s going to events, whatever that is to get you into the right mindset to get you inspired and to get you around like-minded people. We all need ongoing support.
That’s the truth. Entrepreneurship is sometimes a lonely road when you’re out there. You don’t want things like that. You’ve got to have that mind shift. You’ve got to have that mentality. You have thick skin where others would go crying back to their mama. You also have the Lifestyle Builders Podcast.
As we were working with people, we started having a lot more people reach out to us. What I found was that we couldn’t respond to everybody. We see a lot of the same questions come up. We started with the podcast and it’s Ariana and I. Periodically we’ll bring on guests or we’ll have certain themes, but it’s us talking about and answering the questions that we see a lot of other Lifestyle Builders have. Sometimes they’re business questions, sometimes they’re their personal ones. We have our daughter home for the summer. We shared an old episode we did, how you work from home with kids and some of this stuff that comes up. That’s been amazing. It’s opened a lot of doors for us and it’s also allowed us to get that message out to a lot of people. What’s been cool is that the book, we were able to take a lot of the same topics but logically organize them in a way. If you listened to podcasts, it might be the business one day, life another day. The book was cool because, at a low cost, people can now logically go through the advice and the stuff that we do in our coaching programs.
I love the banter back and forth between you and Ariana. You’ve got to love what she gives back on everything.
We get that feedback all the time. A lot of our followers had started doing this team Tom, team Ariana because we almost always have the complete opposite views on things. If you work from home, do you get dressed to go to work or do you go in your sweatpants? Are you team Tom or are you team Ariana? What was cool when we wrote the book because we were trying to figure out how we write this together because we’re so different. What’s cool is at the beginning of every section we tell a story that was pivotal in our journey. I first tell it from my perspective and Ariana tells it from her perspective. You’re like, “Are they even talking about the same thing?”
That’s the beauty of having two people that are as close to getting on the same path. You do see things through different shades of glasses depending on what’s going on there. As long as you come to the final conclusion and the final point in destination, that’s what the most important thing is. You do have curves. It’s not a straight road. That’s the beauty of having such a close-knit couple like you and Ariana are to making things happen. What’s the best way for people to go out and grab a copy of the book because it’s not quite available yet, but you can pre-order on Amazon?
Tom, it’s been a pleasure having you on the show. You dropped a lot of great nuggets for our Note Nation out there all across the country because there are so many people that are tired of the 9 to 5 or the 40-40-40 plan. We’ve got such a huge entrepreneurial spirit still in the United States. It’s got a lot more flexible of people being able to go out and accomplish their dreams. I take it that no matter what you want to do, you can go accomplish it if you put your mind to it and start planning things out on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly basis as you talk about in Lifestyle Builders.
For anyone reading, there is more opportunity than ever now. That’s great because if you want to do something, there are so many resources to help you do it. I’ll tell you though, on the flip side, part of that means that everybody’s going to try it and the barrier to entry is so low. For you to succeed and for you to have that longevity, part of it is you committing to it and committing not to the end result of what you want to achieve, but commit to the daily practices that will get you there. You’ll find a lot of people will get started and they’ll be gone three months, six months, a year down the road. If you truly want to succeed, there’s more opportunity than ever. You’ve got to commit to doing the core things every day, every week, even when it’s fun, even when it’s not fun.
It’s the day in, day out grind if you could plan to delegate it on the front end if you can’t do it. Tom, thank you so much for joining us in the show. You dropped a ton of knowledge bombs. Go check out the book, LifestyleBuildersBook.com or TomAndAriana.com.
I need more fans, to be honest. Ariana is killing me.
Give her a big high five for us. We’re big fans of what you are doing. I’m looking forward to having the book received. This is also going to be one of the books going out in our WCN membership and our swag bags for our WCN families. We’re excited about that as well.
Thanks so much for having me on and thanks for everything you’re doing.
I’m glad to have you. I’m looking forward to spending some more time with you. We’ll see you at the top. Go check out the book. You will not be disappointed. They have a great way of writing and sharing their story. What better way to make a point than storytelling? Nobody wants a dry book. Tom and Ariana are far from dry when it comes to sharing their knowledge, their counsel or their ups and downs, and helps you get over those potholes and hurdles that life likes to throw our way. Go make something happen. We’ll see you at the top.
- Lifestyle Builders: Build Your Business, Quit Your Job and Live Your Ideal Lifestyle
- Lifestyle Builders
- Rich Dad Poor Dad
- Think and Grow Rich
- The Automatic Millionaire
- Lifestyle Builders Podcast
About Tom Sylvester
Tom is a co-founder of Lifestyle Builders™, a coaching and training company that helps entrepreneurs build their businesses to create more impact with their customers and more freedom in their lives. Over the past 15 years, Tom has helped with thousands of business leaders and their teams create more success, from Fortune 500 companies to startups.
During this time, Tom has honed and refined his philosophies, models, and strategies for growing entrepreneurial businesses. Tom and his wife Ariana share their philosophies and guidance for entrepreneurs on their Lifestyle Builders™ podcast, their upcoming book Lifestyle Builders™: Build Your Business, Quit Your Job, & Create Your Ideal Life, as well as through their coaching and consulting programs.