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Intro: Welcome to the Smart Energized Entrepreneurs Podcast with JP Stonestreet, episode #5.
JP: Today’s interview is a real treat, you are going to get to meet Sarah Bowles who is an amazing real estate agent here in the Denver Metro area and she has a lot of really interesting perspective on not only real estate but just business in general and she is a fantastic social media marketer, so you can definitely learn a lot about how she gets new clients through social media and through her other online and offline marketing channels as well as through networking and mentors and we will just talk about all kinds of stuff and Sarah has such a great personality, she is full of energy and I really think you are going to enjoy this podcast. So, without further ado, let’s welcome Sarah Bowles.
Hi Sarah, how are you? Welcome to the Smart Energized Entrepreneurs Podcast.
Sarah: Hi, thanks for having me.
JP: You bet, it’s a complete pleasure to have you on this. You and I met, it’s been a couple of years ago now, at least a year and a half at least and I remember, I am going to tell an embarrassing story about you. I was standing next to you in a bar and I heard you throw this poor young chap completely under the bus. He came up, he got up his nerve to come up and talk to you and your beautiful friend and said something along the lines of “I am your knight in shining armor” and I think your response was “I don’t see any shining armor and you are definitely not a knight” something along those lines and the guy just basically hung his head and turned around and walked away. Do you remember that?
Sarah: Of course I do.
JP: I leaned over and I said “You know how much courage it took that poor kid to come up and talk to the two of you?” and that’s how our friendship started.
Sarah: Great, first impression.
JP: I know, it was great and I just remember that conversation we had because it was definitely eye opening, because obviously you are very attractive so is your friend and to have guys come up, I am sure guys come up and talk to you all the time in the bars and you probably get tired of it and when they say stupid stuffs like “I am your knight in shining armor,” I bet you just get sick of that.
Sarah: Yes, it was a reaction.
JP: Yes and so you and I started talking about that and we started talking about business and I told you what I do and you told me what you did and that’s how we ended up where we are right now. So, why don’t you start by telling us about your business and what you do?
Sarah: Well, I am a real estate agent here in Denver, Colorado and I opened my doors just almost three years ago and I haven’t looked back since, I love it, I just love it.
JP: I know, I can tell because obviously I follow you on Facebook and we talk regularly and you are just so energetic and I see all of the things you do for your clients, it’s just amazing. Your open houses aren’t open houses; it’s like a wine and cookie and cheese party.
Sarah: Yes, I have learned that going over the top gives you over the top results.
JP: That is very true and very good advice and it implies not only in real estate, but in everything that you do.
JP: So, you have been in business about three years now, what was your inspiration for becoming a real estate agent and kind of doing your own thing?
Sarah: You know what; I wish I could claim inspiration to be my own initially. My inspiration was actually stoked by others who believed in me and then once I finally started listening to these people who love and care about me, I realized that they were onto something. So, my whole start was I was fired from a job that actually a friend of mine owned. The position was no longer suitable for my skill set.
JP: That’s a good way of putting it.
Sarah: Hey you know the kindest words I have ever had to hear someone fire you for so, honestly it was the best thing in my life. I was super upset and I was kind of went through a little thing of depression for a couple of months and I didn’t work for few months and kind of just did nothing and one of my cousin, he is very successful agent here in Colorado, just moved back at that time and asked me if I knew anybody who could help doing some personal assistance. I helped him for about three weeks. He sat me down and said, “You are no good for this” and that just blew my ego out of the water to a point where I feel even lower and he said because I think you would be better as being your own boss and doing this for yourself because if you would be way more successful. That started a string of conversations with family and friends and I did a lot of soul searching and that’s kind of how I got started.
JP: I didn’t realize that you would loss your job and that kind of what kicked you out of the nest and into the entrepreneurial world.
JP: My very first interview, Brad DeGraw, he did the same thing. He lost his job and he was like “Well now what?” He is an entrepreneur if you have ever met Brad or if you meet him, he is an entrepreneur, a typical entrepreneur. He is all over the place. He has got a million ideas, very outgoing, he is a great guy, but it’s the same thing with him. It happens a lot with entrepreneurs. It happened with me. I have talked about that before I talked about on the interview with Brad that I lost a contract job, I just didn’t fit there and so, on the way home, I have decided that then that I wasn’t going to give up on my entrepreneurial dream. It happens so often, I hear this story over and over again. People they lose their job, they may be had a life change, may be their spouse lost a job, may be they had a baby or they moved and that is the catalyst that gets them to go off on their own and start their own business.
Sarah: Yes, it’s kind of funnier that seems to be a recurring theme to kind of get kicked out and shunned out, it’s almost like you always feel like you don’t belong and you are super happy there, at one point you can muddle, like you are muddling along and you are not very passionate about what it is. It’s amazing transition between one and the other.
JP: Yes, when I was out at the New Media Expo event, I saw a guy walking around with a T-shirt that said “I am Unemployable” and I thought that is the truth for almost everyone at that event. There were a few employees at the event representing their employers, but for the most part they were all solopreneurs or entrepreneurs who own their own business and I would be willing to bet that 90 percent of the people at that event were unemployable.
Sarah: I love it. I never even thought about it like that, that’s cool.
JP: We entrepreneurs don’t make very good employees, we just don’t. One reason why I think is because we ask too many questions.
Sarah: Yes, questions I find that in corporate world get you in trouble a lot. They just want you do what you are told and not ask too many questions.
JP: Exactly and an entrepreneur just can’t. I used to when I worked in the corporate world I was the same way, I would try and buy my time and I would be like “I can’t do it, I can’t, I got to ask.”
Sarah: You are like “Do I rock the room and get those looks that I am normally getting or do I actually sit here and do what I am supposed to?”
JP: Exactly. So, how much experience did you have? Have you done anything in real estate before you decided to get your license?
Sarah: I had interactions with family sales of houses, I have had family kind of who been in it for a while that dabbled in certain aspects to it and I wasn’t necessarily directly involved in the happenings, but my uncle owns a lot of property and managements, so I would help him with some stuff and I would hear stories and I would ask questions and then when my parents were buying and selling a couple of things, I was able to pretty much run the process because I got excited about it. My parents said “Well she wants to do it, let her do it.” So, that was the biggest majority of my experience really before I dove into what this could and is and can be. I know it’s not like a highlighting story.
JP: No, most of the people, like my last interview, she had zero experience. She owns RockSalt Spa. She had zero experience other than going to a salt therapy place up in Boulder, but for health reason.
Sarah: Someone who likes it and knowing that it intrigues you, that’s about where it starts.
JP: Yes, and I really can’t see you in a better position than what you are doing because you are as ADD as I am, as most entrepreneurs are and I can’t imagine you sitting at a desk all day. I mean that would just not be you at all.
Sarah: Oh I would go insane.
JP: Yes, she would. You are being in real estate, usually the opportunity to get out from behind the desk and you are doing all different kinds of things, you get to exercise all different kinds of brain muscles and it’s a perfect fit for you.
Sarah: I love it.
JP: Yes, it’s cool and I love following you and seeing all the stuffs that you are doing.
Sarah: Oh thank you, at least I know someone is following me.
JP: Yes, I see all the comments and likes on your posts. I know lots of people are following you. Okay, what was the most difficult challenge that you faced so far and how did you overcome it?
Sarah: I think the most difficult challenge for me was the structure aspect to my business and structure is extremely important, but it’s something that I think as an entrepreneur I have known a lot of them. Entrepreneurs I feel like are very creative. There is lot of creativeness that they have to them, but it’s like they have that idea and they just want to go with it, but actually figuring out and constructing the plan about how they got there can sometimes be challenging, it’s actually from my legal aspects of how do I structure my business and so and so forth. How I came over it was the first few months I was banging my head against the wall which kind of started hurting for a little bit and then I actually started to reach out to people and ask questions and that’s where I have gotten a lot of my help from it and I find that being my own boss and being an entrepreneur you need to resource other people who are in the same sort of like idea framed as you rather than trying to recreate the wheel. I sought counsel from friends who had either own their own business or were in the middle of struggling through some of things I was struggling and we brainstormed and I think that was something my husband told me this and if he ever hears this, I have never said this.
JP: You know this is a podcast; it will be on the internet.
Sarah: Only if he finds it and I am sure he will. Anyway, my dear husband said the most wise words to me and he said “You know, you got to figure out what you are worth and then at the end of the day if doing something is so frustrating that you could pay someone else to do it for you and then it enables you to do what you are successful at then do it” and my biggest example is bookkeeping; I hate it. I tried doing it on my own and I realized that I was more successful and a lot nicer when I don’t have to do my own bookkeeping and I hired it out and so that was part of a structure thing for me, it’s just figuring out. It’s okay to not pinch every single penny so long as you are using yourself I guess wisely. Like I am more successful being out what I do in selling real estate. I am not more successful if I am bookkeeping and keeping track of my receipts. It’s so much nicer to have someone else who knows how to do it, can get it done in 15 minutes or take me 3 hours.
JP: Yes, that’s so important for especially early stage entrepreneurs to figure out because if you want to make it to being a late stage entrepreneur and be successful, you have to learn how to delegate the things that you either hate doing or that you are not any good at.
Sarah: Yes, you have to learn that “Yes you own your own business, but there are things that you have to give out to other people like you cannot control everything.” To be successful, you have to be willing to give up some things and do the stuffs that you rock at to make it work because really you have so much time.
JP: Yes, that’s the challenge is the time. That’s the biggest challenge of an entrepreneurs I think is managing the time.
Sarah: Oh yes.
JP: It is very difficult because there are so many things to do and unfortunately I struggled in the beginning of my latest entrepreneurial venture and what I am doing now we are delegating because it is like “Oh I don’t want to spend the time to find somebody, I will just do it” and I got to a point where I was doing so much stuffs that I thought it’s worth the time to find somebody to do this for me. I am silly for continuing to do this. For example, this podcast, I have been editing the podcast myself and when I was at NMX, I met a guy that does his podcast production for him and so I got the guy’s contact info and he will be doing the post-production for this podcast which is going to save me probably one or two hours worth of work.
Sarah: That’s huge, like that’s a lot of time.
JP: It is, that is two hours is 5 percent of a 40-hour work although as an entrepreneur, I am sure you know that we work more than 40 usually.
Sarah: I only work at least two hours a week.
JP: Wow you could write a book about the two hour work we got. I bet it would sell twice as many as that other one.
JP: That’s so important for entrepreneurs to do is delegate and it’s so easy now with online services like Elance, oDesk, and Guru and all of those and Fiverr and 99designs and it is just so easy to outsource those mundane tasks. I have a transcriptionist that transcribes all of my podcasts and I put that on the website and I upload it to YouTube because I will actually create a YouTube video for this as well because some people overseas can’t listen to iTunes or podcasts, but they can listen to YouTube, and so I try and cover all the bases. So, anyway I have a transcriptionist in India who does the transcription for me, that would take me hours to do and she does it for 35 cents a recorded minute.
Sarah: Yes, that’s a huge thing and lot of times these people actually enjoy what they are doing, that’s kind of why they are in it, they love it.
JP: Is your bookkeeper a local?
Sarah: She is local and she is phenomenal and it’s funny. I was telling her if she should charge more, but she says “I don’t like charging more than I have to.” She says “I am happy with what I am making per client and I would like to give my clients best service” and she is phenomenal, I love her.
JP: Great, remind me to get her contact info when we are done here.
JP: Cool. How do you cope with the stress of owning your own business, it’s not all walk in the park. There is a lot of stress especially in real estate. I have bought and sold several houses and I know that process can be really stressful as far lenders not getting back to you, appraisals not coming in, all of that kind of stuffs. So, how do you deal with all of that?
Sarah: Lot of happy hours. I am kidding. How do I deal with that? It’s one of the things where you learn to not take things personally and yes it’s stressful, but there is only so much you can control and it used to be, like my first couple of deals doing my first deals ever, it was like I was so high strong and I was like “Oh my God, I have to get those right” and I realized that nothing in this world is perfect and that it’s one of those things where you start the process and then you start perfecting it as you go along and I think the most awesome stress reliever I have and again kudos to him is my husband allows me…you just have to vent, make it out for 10 to 15 minutes and then you just have to let it go because if you hold onto it, it starts affecting you not only personally and other things like I have like four to five deals that I am working on at a time at minimum and since they are all different stages and if one particularly is stressing me out, I don’t need it to affect my other ones, so in order it to try to manage stress you have to try to keep it within the situation and let it go because there is only so much you can control and you can’t control everything. So, I just do lot of deep breaths and realizing that time eventually will fix all and that you just have to take it a step at a time sometimes.
JP: Yes, and it helps to have somebody to vent to because I just had a vent call this morning from Amelia. She was struggling with the quote with her lighting project that she is doing and she was like “I just have to call in vent,” so I gave her five minutes and then I was like “I got to get back to work.”
Sarah: Yes, a quick vent, my best friend and my husband, they normally get a phone call from me at least once a day, not necessarily venting, but at least once a day from me, but yes you need someone just to hear you out for a few minutes, don’t ever vent to a client, don’t ever vent to people that could be potentially affective, you need like someone who you can have confidence in that it will just stay and then they will just need to hear you and move forward.
JP: Yes, that’s great because when we owned our business, our best employee Morgan, it was so funny, she would handle customer service calls and account management calls and she was just like dripping honey when she was on the phone and then as soon as that phone hung up “Oh man, it was like truck driver central” and I said “You know, Morgan I have no problem with you venting as long as the phone is on the hook.”
Sarah: Right, so long as the clients never catch wind of it, they don’t need to know, but sometimes you just feel like you want to choke somebody out and you can’t, you just have to like vent to somebody.
JP: I know, it’s amazing that she could do that. I remember my mom growing up, it was like that. The phone would ring right at dinnertime and she would answer the phone “Hello, how are you?” She would be like so sweet. I am like “How did you go over being so angry to so sweet in a split second?”
Sarah: I love it.
JP: But you have to do that. You have to keep your customer separate from all of the stress and troubles that you are experiencing in your business that is your customer is not the person to vent to.
Sarah: Yes, I was told life is a stage and when you are at work, you are on that stage, so you smile no matter how much your feet hurt, no matter how much you don’t want to be there and then when you are off the stage and no one can see you and you are behind the curtain call, you can break down into tears for either wonderful or horrible and then just kind of think about it, I always think about that. You are always on stage and someone’s always watching you. There’s always a time to be able to vent later.
JP: Yes, just make sure your microphone is off when you go backstage.
Sarah: Yes, oops.
JP: All right, I want to switch gears a little bit, I want to talk about something that you are amazing at which is marketing and advertising what you do because you not only have to market yourself to get new clients, but you also have to market your client’s homes and I see you on the social media outlets and you are really good at it, you are a natural or may be you are not a natural, may be you worked really hard at it, I don’t know. So, tell us how did you get your first five customers?
Sarah: My first five customers, my first one was my parents, they count I guess.
JP: Of course.
Sarah: My first five customers, honestly it was me just letting people know what I did, it was just talking to people and getting excited about it and making sure people know about it like I updated all my profiles that had some sort of like real estate note to it and I am a subtle hint-dropper, I have never been the “Got to buy this now.” When I first started with my first five customers, it was just “Hey, this is what I am doing” or just real estate comment here, real estate comment there “Oh this is awesome, this is what I got to do today in my job” and people just kind of enjoyed it and so, my letting people know was not necessarily saying “You should buy from me,” it’s “Hey, this is what I am doing and OMG this is exciting, did you see what I got to do today?” and people just started catching on and thought that was really cool and most of the people were people that I already know and they know like, I am slowly coming to grips with, I am little bit of a control freak. Yes, step one is admitting it and just talking to people who already know and like you and can see that you are successful in certain ways and that’s how I got my first five people, it’s just letting people know what I was doing and then people already knowing that they see what I have done in the past and they trust me with it.
JP: Yes, and your energy and excitement are kind of contagious and infectious as well. I think that helps a lot and I talk to people about that that you have to like what you are doing and I tell you have to love what you are doing because if you don’t, people are going to see through it and with you I can tell you love what you do because you are so excited about it and people want to be around exciting people.
Sarah: Yes, I don’t really like to be around Sad Sally, she is not very fun.
JP: Nope. Poor Sally. That’s a bad name to have. I think it’s a lot of bad rep. So, what have you found to be the most effective marketing tools now that you have been doing this three years, you are successful. How do you get new clients? What’s the best way to go about it?
Sarah: I put the sign in the corner. No, I am kidding. The best way is keeping in contact with my past clients, talking to my friends and family and just kind of keeping a state of mind, not pushy, just reminding people like this is what I do, this is my living and I love it and so, I do a lot of social media, I do a ton of social media. I do like personal stop-bys, I drop gifts off at people houses, I go and bring people lunch or stop in and do coffee, I just try to get together with people and find out what’s going on in their life, be excited about what’s going on in the life, which isn’t hard for me to do because I am easily excited and then just share what’s going on in mine and normally by the time that happens, something always come up. Just recently I sent out, you got one too, where I sent out letter to all my clients and friends, you always get those tax stuff in the mail, this is where your IRA is at and your house is one of the biggest purchases you ever make, and so I thought well probably want to know what their values are every year regardless of whether it’s good or not it’s always kind of nice to know and so, that was something I started this year and I have had such a positive return on it. People are just like “Hey, thanks for the information or super-excited to see what’s going on in the market” and great and yes those always alter your mood even to sending these things out, but at the same time, it’s just beneficial, just keeping on top of people mind is I think the biggest battle.
JP: Yes, it was needed to get that and you know what really made it, is that you hand wrote the address. I got that and I thought “Wow this is from Sarah,” and I opened it up and it’s a nice report about my house and it was cool, I don’t remember if you signed it or not, I just remember…
Sarah: I did.
JP: Did what?
Sarah: I hand signed every one of them.
JP: There you go see and that extra touch really sets you apart from a lot of people that you took the time to do that rather than just pay somebody to print it to do the reports automatically and print them off and mail them for you, the fact that you took the time to address the envelope with blue ink and signed each one of them, that just says so much. It really says it’s subconscious, most people probably don’t think about it because I am studying this stuff a lot now, I see it and I notice it and it really sets you apart.
Sarah: Yes, it’s time consuming, but I have learned that I have better response by things that you can show that you put more effort into than things that you just print off and sent off to people and yes, it kicks a lot of time, but you will get better results from it.
JP: Yes, it does and I just read The Seven Levels of Communication. Have you heard of that book?
Sarah: I have.
JP: You have? I went to high-school with Michael Maher.
Sarah: Did you really?
JP: Yes, we are from the same small town in Gardner, Kansas.
Sarah: How funny.
JP: His brother, Rob, we played on the same Little League Baseball Team when we were kids.
Sarah: Did you beat him?
JP: No, we were on the same team and he was actually a far better athlete than I ever I had been.
Sarah: This is why you are an entrepreneur?
JP: Yes, this is why I think, although he was really smart too, Rob, both of them. We have a lot of talented people from Gardner, Kansas.
JP: Anyway, so I just read that book, it has really changed the way I look at my business because I have a tendency to hide behind my computer screen and my microphone and my keyboard and not get out and actually rub elbows with people and not call people and check in and see how they are doing and not send “Thank You” notes. I apologize to everybody who receives a “Thank You” note because my handwriting is absolutely terrible, but I have committed to writing “Thank You” notes now just like you, handwritten “Thank You” notes, handwritten addresses and you will get one because I send everybody who does a podcast interview a “Thank You” note and also I have sent the radio stations that I have interviewed on. I sent them “Thank You” notes as well and it’s just a different way of doing business. We have gone, the pendulum has swung too far in the automation direction in the last five to ten years. It used to be everybody wrote handwritten notes and handwritten letters up until the computer and then we tried to automate everything that we did and we took all of the personal touch out of it and now the pendulum is starting slowly to swing back in the other direction and people are starting to put that personal touch back in again.
Sarah: Yes, it’s hugely important. This is like an hour conversation I could go on with you, but I couldn’t agree with you more, there is such an importance to personal touch and I think it has been lost and I am glad to see it’s starting to come back, but yes true statement.
JP: Yes, let’s talk about your social media. You do a lot on that, I have mentioned that, you’ve mentioned it. Tell us what you do and how you do it?
Sarah: I learned a formula from a gentleman who is wildly successful and the formula is I kind of adapted it to what was more reasonable for me and so stuffs that I found a little bit more applicable and the formula that I have that I have tweaked to my liking, I can tell both of them if you like.
Sarah: Three times a week I post up stuffs and it’s either a thought provoking question, may be an article about real estate or something that’s going on around Denver, Colorado, and I do Hootsuite. A lot of my stuff that I do is all pre-programmed and then anything else that I do on top of that is like a bonus, so I know that I at least am like having some sort of visual aspect three times a week and then anything on top of that is just I guess increases my visibility and that’s really, really helped me. I wish I could tell you honestly that “Oh I go on all the time” and thoughtfully think about it. No, I don’t. I do think about it, but I think about it anywhere from two weeks to a month’s prior to when some of those posts go out. I just timeline, it’s one of the things where it still seems personal and it is in truth so personal, but it saves me a lot of time because I can sit down for an hour or two hours and plan out about a week or two of something and then like I said anything on top of that is just bonus. So, that really is where my social media looks like I am on crack, but I don’t spend as much time as you think I do on there, I am really not on there that much.
JP: I remember I saw a post from you when you were in Thailand, it said “Check out this event this weekend in Breckenridge” or something like that and I thought I just saw a picture of you on a beach in Thailand, basically you had scheduled that probably a long time before you went there.
Sarah: Yes, I knew I was going to Thailand for a month and I didn’t want to work for a month, so I scheduled everything out while I was out there and it is awesome I think just letting people know about what’s going on in the community and some of them are like “Oh, this is a really cool event and I haven’t been to it this year, but I have been to at least something else.” So, some of them aren’t necessarily completely accurate, but the idea is there. I don’t want to say that I am lying, but I will be like “Oh you check up this festival and you should go check it out” and I have had people who thank me and they will send me a message “Oh thanks for letting me know” and it’s just one of those things where it’s personal and I am trying to help people out, but I don’t have time to sit down everyday and post up some of these things and so I do like some of the automation on that sense of it, but then if I think of something or I am out and about and I happen to be online, I will post something up like as is and current. So, I think between the mixture of it, it just kind of has an all encompassing thing, HootSuite saves my life.
JP: Yes, I actually have a social media manager who does that stuff for me. He finds inspirational things and industry related articles and post it up there for me a few a day and then I add my own things too. So, I kind of do what you do, only I have automated it a little bit even more.
Sarah: Yes, I just am automating it; I just hired someone to do my Pinterest because I don’t do Pinterest very well. There are some things that I do automate, but I actually kind of secretly enjoy some of those stuffs for Facebook, so I am selfishly holding on to it a little bit.
JP: Yes, and I need to actually take more of that after I went to the New Media Expo, I learned a lot about how you are supposed to use social media and it’s supposed to be more of a conversation and less of a billboard or a broadcast and so, I need to make some changes in how I do it and I just don’t even know when I am going to find the time for that.
Sarah: Yes, I like to call that my soft pitch where it’s like all this information is there, but it’s not like “Oh, look at this and this is what I am doing and buy this house and if you are looking to sell, buy from me.” I think that the subliminal message is in the background but interesting people rather than one thing. One think I have noticed a big change on Facebook and I am curious to see how this will keep on transforming is I have noticed a lot of people still using this medium as a way of connecting to people which is great, but a lot of the time it’s just so cold and like “I am in insurance, if you are looking to do insurance, here I am.” I feel like that’s kind of borders in the same line of the personal notes versus like automating something and having someone go out where it’s like a lot of the times people don’t realize is that business is not a given thing, business is earned and just you think people trying to go for quantity versus quality can extremely damaging. Again, that’s my personal opinion, but I think like the full-on like “This is what’s going on and you need to use me and da da da” I feel like it’s not genuine to a point where if you are not showing a massive interest in someone else’s life from what going on in their life then why are they going to care what’s really going on in your business and do you really want to work with someone who doesn’t really care about what’s going on in your business, yes you have a service, but if they are not excited for you, I believe in Karma and I think good energy and good stuffs from great people comes with good energy and good stuffs from you.
JP: Yes, it helps to start by giving something first rather than asking for something.
Sarah: Absolutely, you giving information don’t be stingy with giving. The Go-Giver, have you read it?
JP: No, it’s on my reading list right now.
Sarah: Yes, that book is awesome and if everyone I think could live their life more like giving rather than trying to always take, I think that things would be so much better and prosper and it’s silly, I am not really any religious, but my family is and it’s something it’s even a biblical principle of, “It is better to give than to receive” and I see that more and more coming true as I am practicing it.
JP: It’s okay to receive too though. There are a lot of people who have struggled with that. It’s okay to give and receive I think would be a better way to say that because a lot of people really struggle with that. They think that they don’t deserve anything and you try and give them something and they are like “Oh I can’t do that, I can’t take it, that’s too nice, I can’t it” or you give them something and then they spend seven sleepless nights trying to figure out how to get even, in other words how to give you something of equivalent value in order to make up for it.
Sarah: You don’t have to. Actually the #7 in that book is that “It’s okay to receive.” People are in the same way of giving like not taking a gift from someone is like someone not taking a gift from you, so I think that’s a great way of doing it. It’s better to give, but okay it’s also great to receive.
JP: Yes exactly. All right, you said something interesting that I am sure may be some of the listeners had their ears perked up when you said “I took a month off to go to Thailand.” How did you arrange that as an entrepreneur, most of us are thinking “There is not way I could take a month off right now.” How did you go about doing that?
Sarah: A month off? The month off from work, how you do that is you find someone in your industry that you trust to help you take care of your business. I am still available by e-mail very limitedly. I was trying to actually, during my vacation, I had a business partner, she was a broker in my office and I asked her to cover my business and I paid her. I paid her to take care of my business. I wasn’t asking her to do me a favor even though she would have, it’s not fair to her because she is doing my job, so she therefore should get money for it. So, it was one of those things. I actually joke with people about it and I said last year I calculated, I took 72 days of vacation and people were like “What?” I have to start myself, I said “Yeah, I took 72 days of vacation” where I was either out of state or not in my little domain, but I said “When I was on vacation, I am still working.” I luckily was in real estate. I can do everything away so long as I have internet just as long if they don’t want to see a house. If they want to see a house, I call someone up and I pay one of my brokers in my office to take them. So, taking a month off, it was difficult. It was one of those things where it was a situation that was too good to pass off and I needed to make it work, but it’s okay to give up control and you find someone that you can trust that knows your business or knows something about your business and if not, you train someone to help you take care of it while you are gone and then you pay them for it. It’s like a temporary job.
JP: Yes. One of the keys to being able to do that is being able to delegate and that we talked about that already, it’s so important if you ever want to take a vacation as an entrepreneur, you have to be able to delegate.
Sarah: It’s not even whenever, you need to because if not, you are going to get burnt out, you will burn out so quick and you have to be able to delegate.
JP: Yes, do you have a business partner? I don’t remember.
Sarah: I did, I tried that venture for a minute and business partners can be tricky, they could be good and it can be awesome, but sometimes in business partners I think what a lot of people find more often than that is that you get the feeling of one party is doing either more or less of the work and yet both parties are getting paid the same, which can be frustrating for one party and awesome for the other party and it was a venture for about 10 months, we tried it out and I have learned that with any partnership before you go into a partnership, you put it in writing what you are thinking how you are going to run the business, additionally you make an exit plan because you never know if something is going to happen and I am really grateful that we did and we are still friends and we still have a great relationship, but if we hadn’t had that exit plan, I think things would be really, really complicated with us and we probably would not still be friends.
JP: Yes, I tell everybody that has a business partner to get a partnership agreement, sign a partnership agreement and I even provide one that you can use if you download, go to my book page on my website and download or give me your e-mail and you can download my web startup toolbox which has the sample partnership agreement in it. You are in real estate, it’s a little bit different than a lot of the people I talk to that are more online, they have online businesses, almost all online tech startups started with a business partner. These two people sit in a coffee shop, they have a good idea and all of a sudden they have a partnership and they start writing software and spending money and they have no partnership agreement.
Sarah: Yes, it’s huge and unfortunately money changes people and no matter how much you love them, my friend works at a funeral and she tells me no matter how close the family are she tells I have never seen people get so nasty and ruin relationships so quickly over money.
JP: Yes, it really can destroy friendships and partnerships.
Sarah: Yes, it gets very bitter. So, always write a plan and always write an exit strategy. Even if you feel like you are going to be in business forever, always write an exit strategy and tweak it.
JP: Yes and it’s a living document too. A lot of people they do it when they first start. The ones that do remember and then they never look at it again. They don’t adjust it. It’s really important to have those conversations to set the expectations before there is any money on the line.
JP: I had a business partner, we are still friends, in fact we are having lunch again in a couple of weeks. He is a great guy. We had a partnership agreement and it worked for us and we were business partners for six years I think until we sold our company. He is a great guy and I think partnership agreement helps set some of those expectations.
Sarah: Yes, partnerships, they are not bad, you just have to make sure you constantly tweak them because things always change within your business. My business is nowhere where it was two years ago than it is today and you are right live document, but it’s extremely important and it will save you a lot of headache and turmoil in the long run.
JP: Also, you mentioned a good point about the equality issue and one of the tools in my web startup toolbox is what I call an equity split calculator because you are right, partnerships are rarely ever equal and yet almost every partnership is an equal partnership. It’s either time, money, resources, there is always something that makes it unequal and I created this calculator to help people more objectively figure out how to divide up the equity so that you can have a conversation that’s less emotional about this topic because everybody thinks “Well I want half, I want 50 percent” whereas my idea “Okay, I will just put 10,000 dollars into the bank account.”
Sarah: Right and I think in doing that conversation, you need to understand it’s not personal, this is now turning into a business conversation where friends or family could tick me on something, I am not taking it as they are purposely attacking me, they are telling me because it’s a business thing, it is, it all is and keeping that mind set is important.
JP: Yes, and a lot of people are like “Uhh it’s so uncomfortable, it’s an uncomfortable conversation, I just don’t want to do it.” Okay, owning a business, you are going to have lots of uncomfortable conversations.
Sarah: Right, I would rather have that uncomfortable conversation than the conversation in the courtroom, thousands of dollars.
JP: Yes, exactly. We had one of our SCORE clients, she owned a drycleaner and it was her and a business partner and the business partner got pregnant and wanted to take three months off with pay and they didn’t have enough revenue to pay for that and hire a replacement for three months for her and so they were on the verge of going to court over this when if they would have had a partnership agreement and discussed maternity leave in the partnership agreement then they probably could have…
Sarah: Probably when they first found out she was pregnant.
JP: Yes, well I think that’s probably when it came up. So, you have to talk about this stuff before you are pregnant.
Sarah: In case you have that option of getting pregnant.
JP: Yes and it’s paternity leave too. It’s not just maternity leave, lot of times fathers now want to take time off too. It’s all that stuff and I cover a whole bunch of that and way more in that sample agreement that you can download and use and tweak for yourself.
JP: Do you have a mentor or a coach that you work with on a regular basis?
Sarah: I do. I have mentors/coaches for different parts of what my business is. I have a mentor for the structure aspect. I have a mentor for the marketing aspect. I have a person who is wildly successful and she owns a portion of my company and I like to model myself after her. It’s important to have a mentor and someone who believes in you and who is willing to talk to you and coach you and tell you when you are doing things that you are not supposed to be doing and praise you when you are doing stuffs that you are supposed to be doing, but it’s as a mentee, it’s your responsibility to seek out your mentor because they are doing you a favor, they are giving you their time and the lessons that they learned and I don’t think I would be where I am at without the people that I have asked to coach me and it’s okay to ask people to coach you because you learn a lot faster and you can tweak it along the way, but it’s a lot less painful.
JP: Yes, entrepreneurs a lot of times have massive egos. I don’t, but I hear that some do and they are afraid to say “I don’t know or I can’t figure it out or I need help” and those are three of the most important things that you can say as an entrepreneur.
Sarah: Oh yes.
JP: The more people that are smarter than you that you can surround yourself with the better and the faster you are going to be successful and it’s not only their advice, it’s also their connections that these people have. It’s huge that they can put you in touch with other people and I tell everybody, get yourself a mentor whether it’s through SCORE an organization like that, the SBDC, 3to5 Club, there are just so many places, The Entrepreneur Organization is one, there are so many places you can go to meet people who know more than you do and who have been around the business longer and you can learn so much from them, but they can also introduce you to so many people.
Sarah: Oh yes, like it’s a referral basis, not necessarily directly for sources of business, but instead of me spending four to five hours trying to figure out if this person is good, I just ask people “Hey, do you have someone you know that does this or how did you solve this problem?” and instead of me trying to reinvent the wheel, I have been given a template and then I can perfect it.
JP: Yes and I have a mentor, I have had my friend Bob at SCORE, has been my mentor for several years. I now have a new business coach who is completely changing my business for the better and she is helping me do exactly what you talked about in the beginning of this interview when you said about the structure, your biggest challenge, structure and knowing what to do. I have been an entrepreneur for almost 20 years and I still struggle with that because you can’t see everything when you are right in the middle of it. You have to have somebody that can look at it more objectively and help you identify the path sometimes and so she has been doing that for me, it has been really, really helpful.
Sarah: Yes, it’s important.
JP: Who or what inspires you? Do you have a hero besides me of course?
Sarah: Like a work hero or personal hero?
JP: Any kind of hero besides me?
Sarah: I have a big boy print of you on my wall.
JP: My fat boy, is that what it is called?
Sarah: Yes, the fat boy that’s it. I do and it’s here and I put bubbles like go Sarah go. That’s creepy, but I do appreciate you. My mother is my hero because she is the most kindhearted wonderful woman that just anybody who meets her, I think she just loves it and they are like “Oh, she just warms my soul” and she is so hardworking and I will never forget there was a time when I was in high school and I was in a manager of a glow-in-the-dark putt-putt place and my mom was a teacher at that time and she was like “Well, I need a little part-time job during the summer.” So I hired her. It was really interesting as the role reversal to see my mother working underneath me, but I felt like a big D bag because my mother made me look lazy and it was an interesting lesson and I have never told her this and may be I should.
JP: You have her listen to this podcast.
JP: Have her listen to the podcast.
Sarah: I will.
JP: Say hi mom while you are at it.
Sarah: Hi mom.
JP: There you go.
Sarah: I love you. I was like “well, you have to vacuum and you have to sweep.” My vacuuming and sweep was I will get it done and of course as I was younger I didn’t understand the value of getting it done right and my mom would come in an hour after I had swept on something and she goes “Oh you want me to sweep?” I am like “Sure if you want, go ahead” and she would do it. She just was so pleasant about it. She is just the hardest worker and she now works for my uncle and he always talks about, he wrote her the nicest letter this year, her little bonus letter talking about how hard worker she is and she does it just without griping or complaining and I admire her for that and anything that she does she never complains, I get upset when I have to go to King Soopers because I forgot something to buy for my meal and she is like “I guess I gotta go” and she gets out of the door and she comes back, and she is like “I’ve got it” and continues cooking. I love it and I wish I could be more like that consistently.
JP: Yes, it’s great that you have a hero that’s so important to you. It’s not a sports figure or something.
Sarah: She is little more humble than that.
JP: Yes, that’s great. Do you have a book that you recommend, the one that’s may be influenced you?
Sarah: The Go-Giver, I know I mentioned that earlier. The Go-Giver is awesome. The other one that I am in the middle of reading and I wish actually I can tell you something that my husband got me on. Give me about two seconds and I can tell you.
JP: Is it that vampire one?
Sarah: Yes, how did you know? It was that Twilight series.
JP: There you go, Twilight.
Sarah: Suck the blood out of everyone and then shine like diamonds. It is called Mindsight.
JP: Mindsight okay.
Sarah: By Daniel Siegel and it’s kind of a cool thing about mind over matter and it really gives a great business reflection which has been very interesting and has brought new light to some of the things that I have been doing.
JP: Okay, I will add that to my list. I haven’t heard that one and I will put links to these books on the show notes for this podcast as well.
JP: Sarah, if you had to do all over again, would you do it, would you start your own business?
Sarah: In a heartbeat, I wish I had done this years ago.
JP: That’s good, that’s very emphatic. So, you don’t ever sit back and say “Oh why did I do this?”
Sarah: All the time. Probably like once every two to three months like I just get kind of concern like “Oh my God, am I cut out for this and am I doing this right?” I just am overwhelmed and my husband just say let’s go for a walk and I just a good cry or two here and there and then the next day I get a good night sleep and may be sometimes two nights sleep and you wake up and you have something positive that happens and that reminds me why I do this and I love it and in a heartbeat, I honestly don’t think I could go back and work in the corporate world, I would be probably the worst employee ever.
JP: Well, hopefully if you have to do that at some point, they wouldn’t listen to this podcast.
Sarah: Yes, we will redact my name and it will just change things.
JP: Okay. So, would you do anything differently than what you’ve done?
Sarah: Yes, I would not be so stubborn-headed about trying to feel like I have to figure out everything on my own and also learning when to say no and that I think is the thing that I would have done differently as that learning and being okay with saying that I am not ready for this change right at this time rather than taking on the change and then getting very upset with it and not being successful even though if I just took the time to acknowledge what I am feeling being okay with it and then taking the steps that I need to that I think I would have probably been a lot more successful sooner on if I was able to acknowledge that.
JP: That is really good advice. You have to swallow your pride.
Sarah: All time.
JP: Yes. All right we are almost to our hour mark, so I have one parting question for you. What is the most important piece of advice that you can give to someone who wants to start a business and since you are in real estate, let’s talk about real estate specifically. What piece of advice would you give, what’s the most important piece of advice?
Sarah: Most important piece of advice I can give someone in starting in real estate with your own business is don’t be afraid to try things, but learn from those before you, like yes you will have some great ideas, but there are stuffs that have been they call the old school ways, like old school ways can still be relevant, but not everything has to be new and reinvented. So, I think that’s important. That’s a difficult question, it is making me think.
JP: I know. That was my goal. I felt like the rest of the questions all just came so easily for you.
Sarah: Well, throughout life I lead.
JP: It is.
Sarah: Honestly I don’t know. I think more importantly would be set yourself up for success and that means like do it fulltime. Don’t be in this half ass.
JP: I have to beep that one out.
Sarah: I believe don’t do it halfway. You want to do it with wholehearted, you have to be fully lucid and you can’t expect success to come overnight. It takes hard work and it takes dedication and you have to be willing to do it.
JP: Yes, very true and that’s true in any business, not just real estate.
Sarah: Yes, I think people think “I am going to be such a success and it’s going to be awesome.” It takes time.
JP: Yes, it does. Sarah, thank you so much for coming on the show. When the whole world listens to this or at least everyone in Denver, they are going to want to know how to reach you, so what is the best way to reach you?
Sarah: You can reach me, you can either go to my website which is CoHomesDenver.com or you can send me an e-mail at Sarah@CoHomesDenver.com.
JP: Great and I will put links to your website in the show notes as well.
Sarah: Perfect. Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.
JP: Thank you for joining me Sarah. I really appreciate it. It’s been fun. This is a fun interview.
JP: I will talk to you later.
JP: Bye. Was I right or was I right? We laughed, we cried, we shared information. How much better could a podcast get? All right, so that was the interview with Sarah Bowles. As I always do, I will post the show notes on my website so you can access the links that we talked about, the books that she recommended as well as contact Sarah directly through her website. If you need a real estate agent, I cannot speak more highly of her. So, go check out her website and give her your business. Until next time, this is JP Stonestreet with the Smart Energized Entrepreneurs Podcast. Thanks for joining me.