I was recently honored to be interviewed by REI Ink Magazine for the cover of their most recent issue and had a great time talking about real estate, entrepreneurship, mentoring others, Entrepreneurs’ Organization, and a few of the companies I’m involved with.
Thanks to the entire team over at REI Ink, they are great to work with and we had a lot of fun! The article is below, or you can check it out on their website.
JEREMY BRANDT: THE INNOVATOR WHO IS MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Jeremy Brandt, CEO of WeBuyHouses.com, has just returned from a 10-day mastermind session in Cuba with nine other CEOs. They relaxed, smoked cigars and even toured a tobacco plantation while exchanging ideas.
“I love talking to other business owners in totally different lines of business because it often gives me ideas or sparks thoughts around applying similar things in the real estate industry,” Brandt said.
A BACKGROUND IN INNOVATION
Brandt’s passion for new knowledge and innovation has served him well over the years. Having a background in technology, he was among the first to use the internet to advertise for real estate leads. Being one of only a few working this niche, he had a strong competitive advantage and acquired enough leads to build his first business, Fast Home Offer.
As he built Fast Home Offer into a successful leads business for investors, a company he still runs, he heard many heartbreaking stories from distressed homeowners about investors that had misrepresented themselves. Many of these novice investors were fresh out of the seminar circuit and attempting to buy homes without enough capital to cover unexpected expenses. When a tough situation would arise, they would leave the homeowner holding the bag. It was usually at this point that the homeowner would reach out to Fast Home Offer.
SOLVING THE ETHICS PROBLEM
Brandt quickly realized the real estate industry lacked a way to identify honest and experienced investors. He wanted to solve the problem by creating a national brand that investors could work under. His brand would only be represented by investors who were successful and well-capitalized and would adhere to a code of ethics. The idea for WeBuyHouses.com was born.
Brandt takes vetting his investors very seriously. He understands that one unethical investor can hurt the entire brand. WeBuyHouses.com takes a hard look at an investor’s track record and reputation before licensing them. There is no problem turning people away if they don’t meet company standards. Ideally, investors are already doing at least 6-10 deals a year before joining WeBuyHouses.com and are ready to scale up their businesses.
WeBuyHouses.com licenses one investor in each market and provides them with high-quality marketing campaigns and tools, including Google ad campaigns, lead management systems, websites and sophisticated phone systems that allow investors to track their advertising efforts.
Licensees also participate in a twice-yearly mastermind session. Because each WeBuyHouses.com investor works a different market, there is a rich sharing of information, ideas and strategies. Brandt points out that there are many people willing to spend $20,000-$40,000 to have access to mastermind sessions from other mentors. However, this is just another perk of being a WeBuyHouses.com investor.
When it comes to building the brand, Brandt stresses the importance of consistency and delivering on promises. He views “branding” as nothing more than how others feel about you, and he wants to make sure he lives up to his promises and delivers a consistent experience to his investors and the homeowners who put their faith in them.
Brandt finds it fulfilling to help other entrepreneurs reach their goals. He mentors less experienced business owners through the Entrepreneurs’ Organization Accelerator Program and through Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas.
“I really believe that the mentor gets more out of it than the mentee,” he said. “Sometimes because it’s very rewarding to be able to see somebody’s business and really know that you could save them years of building time or millions of wasted dollars based on the things that you’ve experienced because you know certain things just don’t work.”
Brandt has been heavily involved in Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO) for more than a decade. He served as president of the Dallas chapter, started a chapter in Fort Worth, Texas, and is a member of and runs the Governance Committee, which sets policies, procedures and growth strategies for the 13,000-member global organization.
Brandt’s leadership in EO has allowed him to travel the world while pursuing volunteer opportunities, with New Zealand and Morocco being among two of his favorite places. In recognition of his volunteer work, the U.S. State Department recommended him to represent the U.S. at the 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India, where entrepreneurs from across the globe gathered to pitch their ideas, raise funding and learn from one another. Among the attendees were Prime Minister Modi, of India, and Ivanka Trump.
His travel and volunteerism through EO have given Brandt a wider, more global perspective. As a member of the Governance Committee, he has had to tackle universal issues of right and wrong. Some of the most challenging issues he has encountered are how women are treated in more patriarchal societies and cultures where bribery is an accepted part of doing business. He said that, regardless of culture, he ultimately has to stand up for what is right.
Despite having to deal with complicated issues such as these, Brandt maintains that entrepreneurs are similar regardless of the country they come from.
“You can be anywhere in the world and there’s a language barrier and a cultural barrier, but there’s also kind of a shared understanding of what it’s like to run a business and manage employees and try to figure out how to grow,” he said.
Brandt extends his philosophy of volunteerism to his company as well. WeBuyHouses.com started a program called We Buy Houses Cares. We Buy Houses licensees around the country give back to their community by volunteering with other organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Meals on Wheels.
Many times, when the investors deliver meals to someone in need, they see repairs that need to be done around the home. The investors reach out to their networks and find a contractor or repair person willing to do some free work on their day off or donate used appliances they have on hand. This makes all the difference to the people they meet, who are often elderly or struggling financially.
“Success is not just monetary,” said Brandt. “To me, success is really about being fulfilled in life and giving back to others…I think the further along you get, you realize that the material things are nice, but they’re not life changing.”
THE STRUGGLE OF THE ENTREPRENEUR
Helping other entrepreneurs is fulfilling, but it’s also one of the secrets of Brandt’s success. He says it is a powerful thing to develop relationships with other entrepreneurs—not necessarily with the intention of doing business, but to talk shop and bounce ideas off one another. It helps get creativity flowing.
Brandt refers to his entrepreneurial friends as his “tribe,” and he credits their support for helping him through challenging situations. He said it’s important to have relationships with people who can understand the problems unique to business owners—and he is no stranger to the struggle.
The recession in 2008 hit his business hard. Many of his clients were overextended and dropped his marketing services. Brandt had to scale back his business, lay off all his employees and, for about two years, paid out of pocket to stay in business until the economy recovered.
People without an entrepreneurial mindset wouldn’t understand a decision to work for free for two years, he said. He knew if he could hang on, he would be in a strong position with very little competition.
Although he endured many sleepless nights during that period, his competitive spirit and unwillingness to give up ultimately paid off. His business bounced back just like he thought it would.
“I don’t think I’m smarter than the next guy,” says Brandt. “I think the key is to work really hard, work harder than the person next to you, and have a lot of grit and determination. I think people tend to give up too early.”
That attitude should serve Brandt well as WeBuyHouses.com faces its next challenge in the real estate industry: the advent of the iBuyer. Websites such as Opendoor, Offerpad and Knock, which attempt to streamline the sales process by offering to buy homes sight unseen, are now competing in the space that used to be dominated by investors. Distressed homeowners that used to reach out to local investors for a helping hand are now visiting these websites first.
Although Brandt acknowledges these companies are probably here to stay, he is confident there is still space for the local investor. There are many people these companies can help, but there are still many others that don’t fit their criteria.
It can be a losing battle to fight against disruptive technologies, so Brandt has decided to innovate once again by finding ways to work with the newcomers instead of against them. He is working to build partnerships with these companies so that when they turn down homes for sale, WeBuyHouses.com can work with the homeowners they turned away.
And, while these websites may work out well for some homeowners, there are many others who prefer a more personal touch when selling their home. As Brandt points out, homes are not a commodity like laundry detergent or cell phones. To the contrary, selling a home is a very personal and emotional experience for most people. Having someone answer their questions and offer advice along the way helps homeowners deal with the fear they experience during such an important transaction.
Brandt admits that although you can solve a lot of problems with technology, you can’t solve everything. He strives to build a business with a high level of customer service that is also very automated. That way, people can sell their homes quickly and at a fair price, but also receive plenty of personal attention.
“You really see all of these iBuyers getting tons and tons of funding, going very quickly, and everyone’s trying to figure out what’s the right model,” Brandt said, “but they’re all quite impersonal. Having a personal touch can make all the difference in the world when it comes to the largest financial transaction in most people’s lives. You really need a high level of interaction to make that work, and we want to do that.”
Regardless of the challenges ahead, Brandt believes that if you are humble, motivated and work harder than the guy next to you, you will find success. There is no doubt that his vision for a business built around integrity, following his passion and giving back to others will continue to make its mark on the world.