Entrepreneurship and the military life have many things in common. They demand a change of mindset towards teamwork, commitment to goals and sacrifice. They involve both strategic thinking and thinking on your feet to overcome setbacks.
In fact, back in the day, entrepreneurship used to be the natural next step for veterans coming home from war. After WWII, over 49% of vets returned home to start their own businesses. Actually, we owe companies like Walmart, FedEx and GoDaddy to military vets.
But, why wait until leaving duty to start your own venture? Starting your own business is easier than ever. As long as you have a good idea, perseverance, and access to internet, you can commit time to get started. Plus, you'll get to build something for yourself that provides diversification and enriches your CV.
This week, I want you to meet Michael Hughes. A 2014 graduate of West Point, he’s currently serving in the Army in Texas while focusing his 10% efforts on the real estate market. He started his own investment business, PMW Acquisitions LLC, while working as an independent agent for another real estate group.
If you’re a military member hiding an entrepreneur under your uniform, you can find inspiration in Michael’s story to start your 10% project now.
1) What inspired you to try real estate investing for your side venture?
I've always been interested in investing in real estate and I thought becoming an agent would help me get more knowledge and experience in the field. While doing so, I found myself liking to help others along the path to financial freedom with the brokerage side of the house.
Also, a former member of my unit also did something similar to what I am doing now. He definitely inspired me to try out this venture.
2) Why do you think your business is a good idea?
There are several reasons why. First, housing is an essential need that will never disappear. Second, I can help others invest in real estate; helping them achieve financial freedom. Finally, I ensure that service members and civilians work with someone trustworthy when selling or buying a property.
3) What skills and talents of the military life have you used in your business?
The most important ones are: solving conflicts, professionalism, and empathy. I've found that if you act as a professional, and put your clients needs and questions first, it will separate you from the competition. Also I find empathy to be crucial in real estate. You need to put yourself in the sellers' or clients' shoes and create win-win opportunities, otherwise you will never get anything done.
4) Routines and staying organized are key elements in the military life. Do you have one for working on your venture?
Yes, in real estate you have one job and that is lead generation. Whether it be looking for potential clients or investment properties, I check in daily with my staff on efforts made generating leads. It’s usually a simple text message or quick video chat, I find formal meetings are usually an enormous time waster.
5) If you’re deployed or are involved in a special task that disconnects you from your business for a long time, do you have a partner back home? If so, how do you divide your work with them?
Yes, I do. I let my clients know up front when I will be gone for an extended period of time. If they need to view properties or extra support, my partners will assist them. I always stress to my clients or investment partners that I’m only a text or email away from contact. I’m always available to answer questions!
6) In what ways does this business play to your strengths – i.e. past business or education experience or network of contacts?
It allows me to leverage my network of military contacts to help service members navigate the real estate market and find great deals. I have the chance to give back to military personnel by ensuring they have a solid understanding of real estate markets whenever they PCS in the future.
7) What have you invested in your company?
a. Time – Nights and weekends. I use nights for lead generation efforts, marketing, and catching up on paperwork for clients or current deals. I use the weekends and holidays to view properties with clients and hold open houses.
b. Money – $50,000 give or take, most of that is for investment properties.
c. Resources - I have a nice home office, along with everyday items such as a laptop, car, signs, nothing especially interesting. I plan on utilizing drone technology soon for advertising efforts. I completed the requirements for a commercial drone pilots license, and am planning to shoot aerial videos and pictures of the properties.
8) How has your network been helpful (if it has) or encouraged you?
Most people in my life have been very supportive and encouraging. I really appreciate their advice and motivation, whenever I've needed it. Having said that, I've run into some people who can't understand or value what I do as a side project. I don't let it get to me, and use it as momentum to achieve my goals!
I’m lucky to have received support from the other agents and investors I work with. Whenever I’ve needed assistance or information, they’ve provided great advice.
9) What has been the biggest challenge with your business and how have you overcome it?
The biggest challenge so far was definitely working through the first several months of my business. It must have been 3 or 4 months before I actually made any money. But, after a couple of setbacks, I was able to close some deals and finally had some success.
10) What books and blogs have you read and that have been helpful to you (if any)?
11) Do you recommend military personnel and veterans to try 10% Entrepreneurship? Why?
Yes absolutely! As military personnel, we're expected to have courage and try things outside of our comfort zone. The skills, leadership qualities, and critical thinking required to run a business will only enhance a military career and enable you to do your job in the military at a higher level. Also, whether you plan on making a career out of the military or not the valuable business skills you get by being a 10% entrepreneur will help you tremendously in the civilian world.
Got any questions or wise words for Michael? Share them in the comments below!