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3 Reasons Real Estate Investing is Better than Working in Corporate

Picture of Erica Neal

Erica Neal

Erica was born & raised in west Texas, graduating from Permian High School (the school from “Friday Night Lights”). She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in Finance & Economics from UT Permian Basin. After college, she moved to the DFW area and began her career in finance by working for a large investment firm. She learned the basics of running a financial practice but also saw large holes in the company’s planning process from early on.
Real Estate Investment



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I remember the day of my 16th birthday party and the overwhelming excitement I felt when I saw the white F150 in our driveway with a big red bow on the hood. All my friends “ooed” and “awed” at this older model, refurbished, extended cab pickup and I was thrilled to say the least. It was a standard stick shift with cloth seats, no bed liner and I loved every inch of that metal heap. From that day on my independence has maintained exponential growth, starting with getting my first job.

A couple of my friends worked at Texas Roadhouse so naturally I applied and got hired on as a hostess. I wore the uniform, regurgitated the lines and followed the rules, moving myself up step by step throughout my 7-year employment eventually being offered a salary manager position. My next job was at a P&C insurance brokerage company where I started as a receptionist and moved into customer service as a licensed agent. Although the HR department head was not my biggest fan, it came to pass that I was the next customer service supervisor. Trust me, that is not as glamorous as it sounds.

Basically I only talked to the maddest of customers, dealt with the strangest of situations and held responsibility for making sure the other 20+ adults in my department did their jobs correctly. I continued to transition between the restaurant and insurance agency throughout college so once I graduated, I decided it was time to turn the page to my next chapter. For those that know my financial planning background, I was initially hired by a large investment company where I was groomed for their business model. Over the years I was able to obtain multiple accolades through the company’s standards and eventually moved into their management training program. This training was just another straw on the camel’s back, but the ending of that story is for another day. My point is, like most Americans, I have spent years of my life clocking in and out, putting sweat equity into someone else’s dream.

 Climbing the corporate ladder was all I ever knew. Don’t misunderstand, I learned valuable lessons in every position, gained skills that continue to help me today and have lasting friendships with coworkers I met along the way. But even though every company was embedded within different industries and each occupation held varying responsibilities, there were multiple problems that were consistent amongst every experience. Since my breakaway from the corporate environment, I have found distinct differences within real estate investing that allow individuals to overcome those problems and realize a new way to do business.

  1. Collaboration vs. Competition

 Anyone that has worked in the corporate world knows the general cultural mindset is focused on competition. Now, I am an extremely competitive person and love to jokingly haze my teammates. However, more often than not there is a culture of distrust and manipulation. I can vividly think back on multiple events where conversations and feelings were shared in a private setting, only to be used against me later or skewed maliciously and shared across the office. The concept of climbing the ladder within a corporation paints a picture that is applicable to a corporate mentality. Everyone is trying to go up but there is only room for one person on each step. And for one person to go up, there someone else must go down.

It is a dynamic that affects the way everyone does business and interacts within their workplace which I believe has a compound effect into productivity as well. Transitioning into the world of real estate investing was the mirror image of that experience. My initial peek into real estate began almost 10 years ago when I bought my first house. It was unlivable, had been vacant for over 10 years and I was a full-time college student, new mother and full-time employee. Needless to say, I had no business buying this house. The gut and remodel process took way longer than expected and for anyone that has seen Money Pit with Tom Hanks, you have an idea of what I went through.

Even though I was young, dumb and inexperienced, I still ended up making money on the house! From there I figured if I actually knew what I was doing, I could really create some cash flow. The biggest hurdle for me was having basically no resources or relationships in real estate and not being sure of where to start. Fast forward a few years and I’m ready to dive in deeper to real estate investing as an actual source of revenue. After researching available meetups in the area and connecting with a business partner who was also interested in real estate, I attended every event possible. These group events allowed us to meet new people, find those that had values in alignment with ours as well as expose ourselves to experienced investors that we wanted to emulate.

To my surprise, these experienced go-getters were willing to share their stories, lessons, words of caution and even tips on how to achieve success! Many of them even sat with us to grab coffee and connect 1 on 1. I always made sure to be up front and honest about my time in real estate and what goals I was looking to accomplish. I also would do whatever I could to help them move forward as well. Even though I did not, and never will, know everything my career of networking granted me the ability to connect people together who have complimentary skillsets. These interactions were about true collaboration. Every conversation was laser focused on how we could create a mutual benefit through working together.

Throughout my time talking with and listening to investors that had been around for years, I quickly gathered this large group of people made up an oddly tight community that is real estate investing. They are welcoming and receptive to newcomers willing to learn, but have no problem weeding out troublemakers very quickly. Of course, it is understood that we as humans will make mistakes and as long as we learn from them to progress forward, all is forgiven. But those who consistently do bad business, behave unethically or flat out lie to investors’ faces will be found out by one, then shared with all. Not all real estate investors work together, but all real estate investors are in the same community, so it takes close to no time for word to spread.

 Keep in mind, this is not parallel to my corporate experience of backstabbing or manipulation. This no-nonsense dynamic should be seen as a value add, especially for new investors. This tight knit collaboration of people has standards and expectations so understanding that early on is vital to creating successful partnerships. Work hard to learn what you can, don’t be afraid to ask questions, give more than you take and the collaborative environment of the real estate investing community will be a relief from the competitive nature of corporate America.

  1. Determining your own worth vs. Someone else deciding what you’re worth

Years ago, my husband’s grandmother was recently widowed and ready to downsize because maintaining a house and yard were way more than she could handle. In typical downsizing fashion, grandma had a garage sale to clear out some belongings. One of the hardest parts of hosting a garage sale is always pricing items, but this situation was particularly difficult. Every pillow, dish and knick-knack had a memory attached to it so according to grandma, each held a very high value.

My husband tried to explain, “it is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it” which is true, but grandma’s argument brought me to think on a deeper level. She said, “the right person will value it for what it is really worth”. Is this not a true statement for us in our own lives? When we look at the most successful and wealthy people in the world, we don’t see valedictorians, straight “A” students, or even kids voted most likely to succeed. In fact, a majority of the wealthiest people were terrible students and were not commended for their grades. The metrics society puts down on children to meet, do not directly correlate to true success. In another conversation we could talk about how we are trained to become worker bees, but that’s for another time.

The point is, those who have found prosperity did so by determining their own worth and creating it on their own, not by working in middle management. Most Americans work 50+ hours a week in order to provide for their family, pay debts and maybe take their family somewhere nice for the allotted 2 weeks of vacation. That is not a life to be ashamed of at all, but my point is do we really want to live life in that rinse & repeat cycle? If so, that is fine but for me the corporate world had me spinning my tires in the mud only digging myself deeper until I couldn’t move anymore. Like I mentioned in my work history, in every place I worked I progressively moved up through the ranks into management.

 My first two jobs I left because I knew I had reached the highest point in the company I would ever be able to obtain but I felt the drive to achieve more. In my initial financial planning firm, I was sold on the idea of “working for myself” and “being a business owner”. It all sounded fine and dandy until I put down my cup of Kool aid and realized the company taking 50% of my commission, providing a negligible base “salary” (that is in quotations because after all my deductions I brought home about $800/month regularly) and charging me per square inch of space my cubicle took up was really a one sided business arrangement not in my favor.

 The scariest thing I ever did was walk away from corporations reviewing my resume to determine my worth, and venture into entrepreneurship and achieve my own worth based on my own efforts. My biggest regret is not doing it sooner. In all transparency, entrepreneurship is harder, takes more time, effort and energy, and can take time before producing real results. But when the ripe fruit of your labor is placed before you, and you remember all the devoted effort it took to blossom, that is the sweetest bite you will ever take. YOUR dream, YOUR vision, YOUR mission, YOUR dedication goes into building YOUR business to generate wealth and value and cashflow.

 What anyone else thinks or how others perceive you doesn’t matter anymore. Johnny Appleseed down the road may be going out on Friday night to celebrate his 5% raise after 10 years in his company, and I can be content in my own world knowing my business and assets are appreciating in the double digits every year and creating consistent, residual cash flow. I am building prosperity for my family now and a legacy for my children and their children to come. I do not want to be a garage sale item having my value haggled down for a better bottom line.

 I want to be valued for what I am truly worth. There are good, employee focused and empowering companies out there that take good care of their people, I know this to be true. But there is nothing that will compare to what you will do for yourself and your family in your journey for creating your own worth.

  1. Time Management vs. Clocking In and Out

One of the most annoying, irritating and almost rude phrases I can think of is “It must be nice”. And we all have at least one “it must be nice” guy in our life, right? You get a new car, “it must be nice”. You buy a new house “it must be nice”. You post pictures of your family on vacation at the beach, “it must be nice”. Here’s what I have to say to those people, YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT IT IS! Like I said before, most Americans work 50+ hours a week to get by and get their 2 weeks of paid vacation a year. I’m not shaming anyone, I lived that life for many years. Get to the office by 8am, mark items off your to do list, arrange lunch around whatever schedule changes your coworkers have had, come back to work to mark more items off your to do list, then clock out to go home.

Not to mention requesting off certain days and hours for school events, vacations, holidays, special occasions only to hope your time gets approved. As employees, we revolve everything around work and the requirements they impress then try to shove the rest of our lives into the remaining minutes of the day. Efficient employees basically lose money because they are able to complete their workload in a timely manner leaving plenty of hours left in the day. Within the real estate world there is no HR officer or office manager watching who clocks in and out at the right time or monitoring tasks list so that all items get marked off as complete.

As an entrepreneur, your time is yours to manage and use at your will. But with great power, comes great responsibility. It is up to the investor alone to decide what time is spent when, where to spend it and how much is enough. These are important questions every investor has to figure out on their own as well as execute the plan by their own motivation. The realization must be had that unless the steps are taken to progress through the process, there will be no reward on the back end. Riding the clock in real estate basically means letting money fall out of your pocket. However, working efficiently to accomplish as much as you can in a given amount of time will open up more time in other areas of life. There are business owners that work 70+ hours per week on a regular basis, and then take their whole family on vacation for 2 months straight.

 Or you may want to work every single day throughout the year for only 4-5 hours. The beauty is, its up to you. Your efforts and discipline drive your income. This amount of control is not understood until it is had. I am so blessed to go to any school event, awards show, sports game or family gathering that I want. But I also know my time spent there will be countered by hours in my business making sure the wheels never stop. I’m also able to include my family in the business as well. As a family, we will drive out to our new development builds to walk and monitor progress. My husband has come to love real estate and enjoys these ventures.

 My daughters are beginning to understand investing, creating cash flow and the power of having assets work for you. They’ve also acknowledged the change in our family dynamic. They love to travel and enjoy the benefits of our business growth. But foundationally having mom and/or dad at home with them at any given point is powerful. I will not say I am home every night and provide home cooked meals for my family. But if I am gone, they can all understand what it is that I am doing and as a family we know what it is we are all working for.

 My time management is under my control and when I do spend my time on work, it is for work that is creating true benefit for my family to create generational wealth in knowledge and money.

Business is the foundation of our country and it is imperative companies provide jobs for people to work and earn a living. I will never deny those truths. But there is another truth that needs to be accepted by those who are out of the box thinkers. There’s 2 types of people in the world. There are those who go out to conquer the world and build their own business, and there are those who work for those people.

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