106: Level Jumping: Creating a Real Estate Business for Time Freedom with Mike Simmons

PILF 106 | Level Jumping


In this unique episode, Mike Simmons, the author of Level Jumping: How I grew my business to over $1 million in profits in 12 months, shares insights on growing a real estate business with wholesaling and land contract deals. More than just the nuts and bolts of investing, Mike discusses with @Jim Pfeifer how to create an actual business out of investing by systematizing it so you can be free of your job. Learn how focus and announcing his intentions led Mike from a job he did not enjoy to embarking on a successful real estate business that gives him freedom of time and money. Mike has personally worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs to help them optimize and grow their businesses. Tune in to this insightful episode and start level jumping on your business today!



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Level Jumping: Creating a Real Estate Business for Time Freedom with Mike Simmons

I am excited to have Mike Simmons with me. He is a speaker, coach, and the Founder of 7 Figure Investor, one of the country’s largest real estate mentorship in Mastermind companies. He’s also the host of Just Start Real Estate, a podcast, and he’s the author of Level Jumping, a book about how he grew his business quickly to over $1 million in profits. There’s a lot of stuff that Mike specializes in as a coach and speaker. We are going to get great value from this. Mike, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. I’m excited to be here. I can’t wait for the talk. This is going to be fun.

The first thing I would like to do is hear about your journey. How did you figure out the finance and real estate which you want to do? I know you had a job that you weren’t satisfied with, and so you went looking for something different. You found real estate, then presumably you found coaching and entrepreneurship. I would like to hear about your journey. How did you get into all that? How did you get to where you are now?

You mentioned I had a job that I didn’t like. That puts me in the category with about 95% of America. Nothing unique there. Also, I’m not unique in the fact that I decided I wanted out, and I wanted to do something different or find a way to take back my life. I discovered real estate back in 2003 and decided that’s what I wanted to do. What does it take to be in real estate? You have to buy your first piece of real estate or somehow do a transaction.

Until you do that, you are talking. You are all talk. I was all talk for five years. It took me five years to go from, “I want to do this,” to having the nerve to do it. Most people get stuck in that phase where they know they don’t like what they’re doing now. They don’t like their job or whatever, and they have some idea what they might have to do to get out but they don’t do it because either they are scared or tell themselves they don’t have time or whatever, but I did that.

I was in that place until I got to the point where going to work one more day without doing something to try to get out of it was more painful than the thought of taking a chance and failing because everyone’s afraid of failure. I was afraid of it, but at some point, failure was going to be less painful than doing the same thing every single day.

[bctt tweet=”Everyone’s afraid of failure. But by taking action, it will be less painful than just doing the same thing every day.” via=”no”]

I started taking action and it was a side hustle for me. I was not doing it full-time. I was trying to spin up my real estate company while I was working full-time at a very demanding job. To be honest, I was not doing enough. I was not flapping my wings hard enough to get off the ground. I was flapping my wings but I was not getting off the ground. I was doing deals here and there and making a little bit of money but it was nothing remarkable. I bought my first piece of real estate as a flip property in 2008.

I always say, “That’s when my company was conceived in 2008.” It was not born until about 2013. The reason and the significance of 2013, I had an incident one day at my work from 9:00 to 5:00 work where I was a project manager in an automotive and setting. We built seats for the big three. We were behind on a project and we had been there all week well after closing time. Everyone goes home at 5:00. We were there at 8:00 or 9:00 at night, working away every single night, and it was Friday. We had been there all week.

The client was in the building that night because they were upset that this project was not on time. The client walked up to me and said, “Why are we so far behind?” I gave them an honest accounting of why we were behind. Some of it was our fault but this was a client where they provided a lot of the engineering specs and a lot of the stuff that we needed to do the job. There were some errors in their work too. I said, “This is what happened. We did this. This was on us. This was some stuff we got from you that caused some delays.” I was giving him honest accounting.

He took a step forward, got right up into my face, and said, “You are a wow F-bomb liar.” I was like, “I’m here with my crew. We are working our butts off. We have not seen our wives and kids for the whole week. We are trying our best to get this ship straight, and all you have to say is that I’m a liar.” I was not lying.

I took a minute to cool down. I went to talk to my supervisor who happened to be there. I said, “What are we doing? It’s 9:00 at night. It’s a Friday. These guys are burnt out. The client is accusing us of lying. We are not productive at this point. There’s a point in your day where you have not gotten enough sleep. You are not productive. It’s 9:00 at night on a Friday. We need to go home.” He looked at me and he goes, “You need to get your priorities.” I was like “Wow.”

This was a supervisor I liked. I thought he was a good guy. He goes, “You need to get your priorities straight.” I said, “You are right.” I walked out of his office and he thought I was conceding that he was correct but what I was saying was, “You are right. My priorities are my wife and kids and my mental health. I don’t want to be here anymore.” That night, I decided this little side hustle of real estate that I was doing was going to be my escape plan for this company. I was going to start focusing on it and taking it more seriously.

That was going to be my out and a year later, I quit my job. A year after that, I went from about a $200,000 business to a $1 million business and I have not looked back since. Honestly, in that year that I made $1 million in profits, that million dollars, I went back and calculated it. It was more money than I had made in the last twenty years working for somebody else and I did it in a year. That was my ticket out. It was my proof of concept that I can do this. Honestly, once I started focusing and I started working for myself, I realized, “This is what I was meant to do. I was not a good employee.”

I was opinionated, pigheaded, and had better ideas. I was not the best. I need to be calling my own shots. I need to be hunting for what I eat. I can’t wait for someone to bring it to me like I was before and I would be the worst employee now. I can’t even imagine being employed now. It’s not even that I don’t want to. I don’t but I would be awful. I would have to run the company or I would have to be fired. There’s no in-between for me anymore.

That’s a great story. I have a few questions. When you are talking about you found real estate when you were in 2003. I know you didn’t transact until 2008, but what do you mean you found real estate? How did you find it? Why did you decide real estate was the place to be?

I was working this 9:00 to 5:00 that I knew I didn’t like. I started to get a little bit panicky. At the time, I was like, “I am scared that I’m going to have to do this for the next twenty years, what I’m doing.” I’m not happy. When I looked at my finances, I realized, “I would have to work until I was 100. I’m never going to be able to retire. I don’t make enough,” and with the cost of living and everything, so I went on the internet. I went on Google as most people do.

I think back then it was Yahoo. I started typing in search queries like how to invest for retirement and where to invest funds and how do I invest better and all these things. The things that came up organically were people teaching you how to invest in the stock market. Day trading back then was a hot thing. I thought, “I’m going to learn about this stock market thing and I’m going to make my money in the stock market.”

As I dove into that world and started trying to educate myself, I was so bored. It was like reading insurance manuals to me. I could not get into it. The next thing you know, I’m looking up stock, how to trade stocks, and what this all mean. Then an hour later, if you looked at my screen, it’s like, “You are looking at ESPN. You are reading box scores. What are you doing?” I got so bored I kept drifting but if you search investing, investing for retirement, or how people invest successfully, if you go far enough down, you will start seeing real estate as what people are talking about.

PILF 106 | Level Jumping
Level Jumping: If you search investing, investing for retirement, how do people invest successfully? If you go far enough down, you’ll start seeing real estate as what people are talking about.

Once I stumbled on that, I went low enough in the Yahoo search to find real estate. I started finding these websites. Back then, there were a lot of websites and things where people would tell success stories. I became a success story junkie in real estate. I’m reading about all these people, how they did it, what they did and I realized I would lose myself for hours in real estate and how people created successful companies and how do you invest in real estate. I never got tired of it. I was insatiable for that content.

I kept going down that rabbit hole and I decided in 2003, “This is me. This all sounds great. This is what I want to do,” but fear and people’s natural tendency to not do something that’s going to hurt themselves kept me from being in the game. I regret it. I have done the math and went back and said, “If I had started in 2003 as I did in 2008, how much farther ahead would I be? How much money did I leave on the table by waiting for five years?” I know the number. It’s $3.1 million. That’s what I left on the table by not getting started sooner.

Assuming there’s still going to be a ramp-up. I’m not going to know everything right at the beginning but still, if I had started five years earlier, that’s an approximation of what I probably have left on the table conservatively. Time costs. There’s a value and a cost to time and opportunity costs. If I would certainly be much better but that’s how I found real estate. I was looking for anything. I had to scroll past the stock market and stocks. I couldn’t bear the thought of doing that because it was painfully boring to me. As I kept scrolling for what else? Real estate started showing up and I was hooked.

That’s great. It reminds me when’s the best time to plant a tree? It’s 30 years ago and if you didn’t do it 30 years ago, it’s now. I think that’s what a lot of people need to do with this real estate is you’ve got to take action. That flows nicely into my next question. You said you were stuck for five years from 2003 to 2008. It was a failure that seemed less painful than go going to work again. That was what got you unstuck but can you talk a little bit more because so many people are stuck?

They know what they want to do but taking that first step is the hardest. That’s the 0 to 1 thing but once you have taken that first step, all the others are easier. Aside from finally figuring out that failure was less painful than doing what you continue to do, how did you get unstuck? How did you like, “I’m going to jump into this first one?”

Part of the reason I was able to procrastinate, make excuses, and be afraid, the reason was nobody knew what I wanted to do. I didn’t tell anybody that I wanted to do real estate. Kept it to myself. There was no accountability at all. When I woke up the next day, five days later, or a year later and I hadn’t done anything. There was nobody saying, “What about this real estate thing? Have you got started? What are you doing? Tell me about it.” Nobody was holding me accountable. Not even my wife. It’s easy to procrastinate or live in fear when you do it in silence.

It’s not easy but it doesn’t push you to do anything because nobody knows. These people who go on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok and they make these New Year’s resolution videos. You may or may not be the person who likes putting yourself out there like that but the actual value of doing that is there’s something that happens inside of you when you announce your intentions to the world. It becomes much harder to ignore them and not do it right.

[bctt tweet=”Something happens inside of you when you announce your intentions to the world. It becomes much harder to ignore them and not do it right.” via=”no”]

If you want to get in shape and lose 30 pounds by the end of the year, tell everyone you know. Put it on social media. Tell your friends. Tell your friend who will razz you and harass you every time they see you if you haven’t lost any weight yet. The person who will try to humiliate you, who will give you a hard time, and will laugh at you, tell that person because there’s nothing more motivating than avoiding that. We all want to avoid embarrassment. We want to avoid shame. You put yourself out there. That was one thing. I didn’t tell anybody what I wanted to do.

One of the other things was most people hide behind education. By that, they say to themselves, “I want to be a real estate investor but I’m responsible. I’m going to do my due diligence. I’m going to read books and I’m going to educate myself because I don’t want to lose money and that’s the prudent thing to do.” That’s true to an extent. You need to understand what you are doing to an extent but you can use that excuse indefinitely.

A year later, “Have you done anything yet?” “No.” “Real estate’s a lot of money being transacted. I don’t want to lose money. I have this seminar I’m going to go to in six months and that’s going to be helpful for me.” You can do that forever and I did it for five years. I told myself I was educating myself and I hid behind that excuses. In my own brain, I hid behind that excuse for years that I was educating myself. I was procrastinating.

The fact of the matter is, in real estate, there is a lot at stake but you don’t have to know how to get from A to Z. You need to know how to get from A to B. When you get to B, you need to know how to get to C. When you get C, you know how to get to D. You need to know the next step or two. You don’t have to understand the entire thing. I still don’t understand all of real estate investing.

Somebody tells me they are investing in notes. I understand at a high level. Conceptually, I get it. I don’t invest in notes, so I don’t know that world. I don’t need to know that world until I’m getting ready to invest in notes but what I found myself doing and I think people do, I got a book on flipping, on rentals, and on wholesaling. Pretty soon, I’m trying to learn every aspect of real estate and you can’t learn anything effectively that way. You have to focus, pick something, laser focus on it, nail it, and scale it.

[bctt tweet=”You can only learn something effectively if you pick something, laser focus on it, nail it and scale it.” via=”no”]

That’s great advice because what happens is if you pick something, you might find out it’s not for you or it is. I started the same way as you. I flipped a house and we made hundreds of dollars. We joke about that because when you flip a house if you are making hundreds of dollars, you are losing a bunch of money. We figured out that’s not for us. We went to rentals and we did okay and got better then we finally found real estate syndications and passive investing. That’s where my strength is, so I’m all in but it took me a while to find that.

The other thing that you mentioned is about losing money, which is people that are investing in the stock market. They don’t think twice when the value drops 25%. They still think, “It’s still the safest place to be.” When a real estate syndication stops sending distributions, people act like the world is ending because they are not getting the income from their investment. You might not get all your distributions. You might lose money in real estate occasionally. Can you talk about the difference and how people view that?

Do you know why I think people have more faith or get less nervous about the stock market? It’s because their dad or grandfather did it. It’s been around forever. It’s this thing that everyone knows exists. It’s been around forever and it’s all anyone thinks about who isn’t in real estate. When I was not in real estate when I thought about investing. I didn’t even know there were other categories other than the stock market.

It’s what’s known. It’s like when you go to sell your house. You know this, I’m sure. I know this and a lot of your readers know this. If I were going to buy a property, a rental property, and if I wanted to sell it. The likelihood of me using a realtor is pretty low or at least a traditional use. Maybe like a flat fee listing or something because real estate is demystified for us. It’s not this scary black box that we don’t understand but most people go to a realtor.

Half the time, it’s a part-time realtor who doesn’t know it and they are putting it on the MLS. That’s pretty much all they are doing but that’s all they know. When they want to sell their house, what do they do? They go to a realtor. They don’t realize that they are these people like you and I who will buy it off the market and it’s safe. You don’t have to pay a realtor commission if you want to sell your house necessarily.

The stock market is this known commodity. It’s been around forever. Wall Street and you know where that is. It’s all people know but real estate, you are right. First of all, a multifamily building will not vaporize into thin air as a stock can. The stock that you are investing in is like you are investing in an idea or concept. That idea can disappear tomorrow, theoretically. A large apartment building will not disappear tomorrow. It could go down to value a little bit but we know if you look at it in the micro sense, you look at real estate. Whether it’s single-family or multifamily, in the micro sense, it goes up and down.

PILF 106 | Level Jumping
Level Jumping: The stock you’re investing in is an idea, and you’re investing in a concept. That idea can just disappear tomorrow. Theoretically, large apartment buildings will not disappear tomorrow. It could go down to value.

When you pan out and look at it in terms of decades, it’s always going up. It’s like are you looking at the little bumps along the way or are you panning out and seeing the 45-degree angle that it’s going up in value? In the long term, it’s going to go up in value for sure. If you are buying and selling real estate on a daily basis, you have to be careful if goes up and down but it never disappears. We are not in the multiverse where things happen in weird ways. It’s like a house that’s sitting there will be sitting there tomorrow too.

It may go up in value or may go down but it’s still sitting there. It’s tangible. It’s so much safer than the stock market. You and I know this. People ask me all the time like, “Where do you invest?” Real estate and they are like, “You don’t invest in the stock market?” No, I don’t. You can for diversification purposes if you want, but if I have to put all my chips on something, it sure is shooting is not going to be the stock market. It’s going to be real estate.

I’m all in there with you as well. Talking about real estate, then you said you started with a flip. What happened next? What’s your focus now? How did you get there?

Yes, started with flipping. Again, it’s all I knew. I didn’t know there was anything else. Intellectually, I understand people hold rentals but my thought was, “I don’t have the money to buy a rental. I don’t have that money.” I did my first flip and it went okay. I ended up making $15,000. It was great on a $40,000 house, so pretty good. I made a ton of mistakes. I had contractors take the money and not do work and all that. I had a contractor mechanical lien put against my house because my general contractor didn’t pay the subcontractor.

All the things that newbies do. I did it all and made $15,000. It was great and that’s the direction I was going but I was running my business pretty poorly. In that, I had some key failure modes. I had some keystones that weren’t 100% under my control. I had one contractor that I wanted to do everything after that first one when he didn’t do a good job. I found another one. He did all my work and I had a realtor that gave me all my ARVs and values and sold them for me.

He had a lot of control. Those two people had a lot of control over my success and failure. On one particular project, my contractor flake stopped showing up and started overcharging me. I had to let him go. My realtor made some bad estimations on the value of a house that I was working on. I lost money on that house and I had to let him go. I was like, “I don’t have anyone to operate my business. I don’t know how to get values. I don’t know how to do any of the work,” but I had leads coming in still.

I still had opportunities to buy and I found a house I got under contract. I’m like, “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t have a contractor. I don’t have a realtor.” I called a friend of mine whom I knew was also flipping houses and I said, “I got this deal. I told him about it. If you want it for $110,000, you can have it.” I had it under contract for $95,000. I said, “For $110,000, you can do it.” He goes, “Give me ten minutes, let me run some numbers.”

He came back to me and he goes, “I can do $110,000. That’s great.” I was good. I wholesaled it to him before I even knew what wholesaling was. I wholesaled it to him and made $15,000. $15,000 at that time was on the low end or maybe even close to the middle of the road on a flip, what I could expect to make on a flip. Here in Michigan, at that time when I was doing it, I was making $15,000 to $25,000 on a flip. I was on the low end of an actual flip and it took me two weeks to get the money and I didn’t do any work.

I was like, “I like this.” I got another property under contract in the same area for the same price. I got under contract for $95,000. I called the guy and said, “I have another one like the one you bought. You can have it for $110,000.” He goes, “Give me five minutes.” Does his work, came back, and goes, “I will take it.” I sold that one to him in two weeks. I made $30,000 in a month. I had never done that before. I was like, “This is my new life. I love this a lot. This is a lot of fun for me.” I started wholesaling. I built a big wholesaling business.

Now fast forward, our business is split 50/50. Half of what we do is wholesaling. The other half of what we do is owner-finance but not owner-finance from a seller to us. We find properties through our wholesaling process. We identify properties. Some of them are better for wholesale. Some of them, we buy them. We raise privately. We buy the property outright then we owner-finance them. We call it land contracts here in Michigan but we owner-finance them to buyers who either can’t or don’t want to buy with a mortgage.

We played the bank. We hold these as passive investments like a rental but without the hassles of repairing toilets and dealing with leaky roofs like they have ownership. They own the property. We are playing the bank and we hold the note. We have been doing that now for about a year. We have about 25 of those. Our goal is to get up to 75. We want 50 more and what that does for us is we have traditionally run a wholesaling company but that’s a very active business.

PILF 106 | Level Jumping
Level Jumping: A wholesaling company can be a very active business. You have ups and downs. So rather than be on this rollercoaster, build a passive portfolio that covers your base.

You have ups and downs. Sometimes your marketing produces well and sometimes it doesn’t and all these things. Rather than be on this rollercoaster, we are building this passive portfolio so that covers our base. It pays all our people, for marketing, handles all the bills, and wholesaling sits on top of that as icing on the cake. It’s all pure profit at that point. That’s our direction now, whereas we were pure wholesalers for seven years. We are 50/50, wholesale and passive.

How did you find it because that’s awesome to find a more passive way to cover your expenses. The wholesaling is as you said, it’s the bonus. It’s all the profits. How did you think of, “My wholesaling business is transactional,” and it’s like flipping? Once that deal’s done, you got to go find a new one or you are not having any income. How did you figure out, “I will go passive but this is the way to go passive,” because you are still doing the wholesale thing but you find a property and you can decide which bucket it fits in? It’s a great plan but how did you come up with that idea?

The wholesaling side of it is our lead gen and sales side. To answer your question very honestly, I interviewed someone on my podcast who had this exact model. He is got 300 of these. His passive monthly income is off the charts. It’s stupid money. At that point, when I interviewed him, I had about 25 traditional rentals and it was okay. I had a management company but I made mistakes.

Sometimes, when you buy rentals and it’s your first time buying them. You don’t know what you don’t know. All the things I didn’t know about how to properly buy, renovate, and manage rentals started to come back to bite me years later. When I was talking to this guy who laid out the model that I’m using now, I was in the process of some of these deferred maintenance things. Things that I bought in the wrong places. I didn’t do the right renovations sometimes when I bought these rentals.

All these costs and expenses were starting to unfold and I was starting to have all these calls from my management company. I was a little bit stressed. He laid out this model and I was like, “This is beautiful. This is everything good about renting and none of the bad stuff.” It was a guy that I interviewed on my podcast. It was like I interviewed you. Matter of fact, I was DMing somebody and they are like, “The podcast you had on with the passive guy, that was perfect timing for me because I want to get into passive investing as soon as I retire. That was a great interview and it was super timely.”

The same thing, I found a guy. During the interview, I do what you probably do too. You hear something interesting and you become selfish and go, “I want to know more about this.” You start asking questions, which is great because your audience is thinking the same thing and I did that. I started asking that questions as if I wanted him to explain this whole model so I could do it, and then I did.

I eventually hired the guy to come back and flesh out and fill in some of the gaps of things that didn’t make sense to me and we started running that model. It works great and there are a lot of people. What’s great about it too, other than not getting calls for repairs and things is in a market like ours where interest rates are going up and values are going down, we are creating a very strong buyer’s list of people who want to buy on terms because they don’t have the credit or don’t want to use a bank for whatever reason.

A lot of times, these are people who work for companies that pay them in cash, or maybe they are an entrepreneur. They don’t have great income verification but they have big down payments. They have a great history of paying their rent that they have been paying but they don’t want to get a mortgage for whatever reason.

There are a lot of people out there like that. As banks start tightening up their lending policies and things like that, we are getting more people coming to us. We have a huge community of people that are waiting for our next property. When we get a property that we want to sell on terms, it’s almost a bidding war more than it is begging people to buy it.

I was going to ask you how you find your buyers but it looks like they are finding you. The difference between the wholesale and the ones you sell, the wholesale, you don’t have to do much to them. Are you rehabbing and fixing up all these properties before you sell them to a new owner?

Sometimes. If they are not livable we are rehabbing them. If they are in good shape but dated, a lot of times, we are not because we are also not selling them at full value. We are selling them undervalued. They are getting instant equity and they can do that sweat equity themselves and save a little bit of money. The move is typical if this house is a dumpster fire, we got to go in there and fix it up. We got to make it right and make sure it’s livable.

If it’s in good shape but it was like grandma’s house, it hasn’t been updated since the ‘80s or early-‘90s but everything works. It’s clean, sanitary, the heater works, and all that, then usually we are not. We are not doing anything to it at all. People are excited to go in there and be able to do some of the work themself and have instant equity.

These mortgages, are you doing 30-year notes, or is it shorter term notes with higher interest than the market? What is that side look like?

It’s a 30-year amortization with a five-year balloon and we are higher than the market. We are usually around 10% or 11% interest, which sounded outrageous when we were at 3% more than normal. Now that interest rates are going up, it’s not that big of a deal but we make sure that they are not paying more than they would be paying for rent in that neighborhood. For the same price as rent, they can own the house and work toward the homeowner. They own it from day one but the idea is that they are going to pay. They are going to refi and lower their interest rate.

That’s the goal. What happens at the five-year mark? They are not going to have the cash probably to pay for that. Is that when they go to a traditional bank?

They go to a traditional bank at that point. At some point, the goal is that they are going to refi out of it. If they don’t, we are going to probably extend them for another couple of years until they can get it together and that’s fine. It’s a good problem to have but if they cash out, it’s great. We will take that money and rinse and repeat.

The idea for us is we know for our business, we need to get up to about 150 of these, eventually. Over the next 2 or 3 years, we will hit our goal of being 100% self-sufficient on passive income. These things will pop up every once in a while and we will get a little influx of cash. We will go out and buy more and keep moving along.

You fund your business through investors. Are those equity partners or private lenders?

Private lenders. We are borrowing money at 7% or 8% and we are loaning out or we are owner financing at 11%, so there’s a little bit of arbitrage there. We are selling it for more than we bought it for in most cases because we have a wholesaling arm. We know how to buy it, $0.40 or $0.50 on the dollar. We are selling it at $0.70 or $0.80 on the dollar and there’s a little arbitrage there with the interest.

Has the private lending market changed at all with these interest rates rising? Is private money getting more expensive or are they holding? It seems like for me, I do a little bit of private lending. I haven’t been able to push my rates hardly at all. Interest rates have gone up and I’m still at the same spot I was years ago pretty much.

It depends on what spot you were at years ago. If you were charging 50% years ago, it’s hard to go higher. If you were charging 6% years ago, you should be getting more. The answer to your question is, it depends on who I’m borrowing the money from. If they are in the real estate world and understand real estate, the rates are going to be typically higher.

Honestly, I prefer to borrow money from high-net-worth individuals who are not in real estate and who think that 7% is amazing to get that month in, month out, year in, and year out without any fluctuation. The fact of the matter is even private lenders want to charge 10%. If you are going to charge 10% and let’s say you are loaning to fix and flip people. You are doing private lending, fix and flip and you are charging 10% but your money’s only working 8 or 9 months out of the year because somebody uses it. They pay it back, takes you 2 or 3 months to figure out who you are going to lend it to again. By the time you do it, it’s another.

You are not making 10%. You are making 7% or 8%. For somebody like that who doesn’t want the hassles of the money coming going back and paperwork, underwriting, wiring, and all this stuff, I will give you 7% in perpetuity. Lend us your money and there will be no back and forth then you don’t have to worry about it.

It is a good option if you think of it that way. They go, “I want 10% and I loan 10%.” How many months out of the year on average is it working? 9 or 10, if you are lucky. You are making 8% or 9%. You are not making 10%. Those are the folks I like. If there could be something in real estate, that’s whom I want to borrow from. Otherwise, borrowing from a dentist or a lawyer. I have a lawyer friend who loans me money at 7% and he’s ecstatic.

He thinks he is killing it and he is. He’s doing great. He doesn’t want to learn real estate. He doesn’t want to understand that industry to the extent that he could get a few more percentages. He doesn’t have time for it. He wants to be in real estate. He gets it and understands the value and it’s tangible like we talked about earlier. It’s not a hope and a prayer but he doesn’t want to learn it. I give him 7%. He is tickled pink. Those are the folks that are great to borrow from.

I want to pivot a little bit. I know you coach and mentor. In our community, we do sometimes get people who are like, “Can you coach me?” I’m never sure how coaching works or how that operates, especially when it’s a passive thing. It’s more like, “We are giving you all the coaching you need on our website and through podcasts and stuff.” Can you talk about your coaching and mentorship and how that can help passive investors who are either lending private money or investing in syndications and other types of passive investments?

I will say this before we get too far because that’s relevant to what you are asking me now. I have created a landing page for your group. The reason I made it is I want to give them a downloadable version of my book. It’s called Level Jumping and it’s incredibly relevant to your audience because it’s not about the nuts and bolts of investing so much. It’s more about how I turned it into an actual business in how you take this little thing you are doing and systemize it and create an actual business out of it so that you can be free of your job.

PILF 106 | Level Jumping
Level Jumping: Level Jumping: How I grew my business to over $1 million in profits in 12 months

When I said I went from like $200,000 revenue to $1 million, I outlined in my book how I did that. For people who are reading, go to MikeSimmons.com/leftfield. You can get a download version of my book. That’s one thing but how can they benefit from coaching? Everybody in real estate, including your folks, needs to find deals.

If they are doing something with multifamily, I’m probably not going to be as helpful to them because I’m not in that. If they are on any level buying single family or even small multifamily, triplex, quad, or whatever. What my real estate wholesaling company is, it’s all it is a marketing and sales company. It’s all it is. It happens to be real estate that we are marketing to and buying but you need to understand the marketing and sales arm of the business.

How do I find these owner finance? I lean on my wholesaling company. The expertise of the people in that company to kick up these deals for me so I can make a decision if I’m going to wholesale them or make them a passive investment for me. My program is designed for wholesalers but 75% of it is relevant to anybody. Anybody who’s trying to find deals, negotiate a price with a seller, and get those things under contract in the most efficient, cost-effective way. My course is going to be incredibly successful for you.

You don’t have to necessarily listen to or care about the part where I wholesale it out but that’s the very end. Everything, 75% of it is relevant to all investors. We all want to find better deals at a cheaper, better price, and be able to turn these things around and use them for whatever we want. That’s one reason. For coaching, to your point, I believe you are right. Your website and your show tell everything they need to know to be successful.

I know when I was getting started, I had a mentor but he didn’t do it for me. He gave me some basic stuff and I ran with it. Some people need that warm blanket over them where there’s somebody who’s going to answer their specific question about their specific circumstance. That’s a lot of times what coaching is. It’s giving people the confidence that somebody is there. There’s somebody on their team or in their corner who’s going to answer a question for them if they get panicky and don’t know what to do? My course, it’s video related. I do training but then there’s a Q&A portion where you can ask me anything.

I will do training but if you feel like there’s something very unique that you are dealing with, we can have a conversation about that. The fact of the matter is, there are very little unique things that happen in real estate. It’s people who think they are unique because they have never heard it before but that’s what we do. My goal is to teach people to demystify but more than demystify. I want to systemize and streamline what they are doing because I think a lot of people, the reason why they can’t get out of their job. This is why I couldn’t get out of it. I was treating my business like a popsicle stand at the end of my driveway.

I had no processes and no systems. I hadn’t hired anybody. I was not tracking KPIs. Nothing. I was expecting these wonderful results but I was treating it like some lemonade stand. I was not running a business. My book and my coaching, what it does are it teaches the fundamentals but more importantly, it teaches you how to create a system and a process, and a business that allows you to step back and it still runs.

I’m buying and selling houses. We did $1 million in 2021. I swear to you, I went into maybe three houses and it was only because my sales guy got sick or my dispo guy was flummoxed on what the renovation could be or should be. I would go, “I’m going to be in the area, I will stop by.” I could go a whole year without ever walking into a house or negotiating with a buyer or a seller because I have created systems around my business.

That’s great stuff because no matter what you are doing. I am a passive investor, if you put all that stuff around it, so you are running it like a business then it becomes something that you are not doing willy-nilly because now you are making plans, you are targeting, and having goals and all that. I think that makes a huge difference overall. Treating it like a business makes it become a business.

[bctt tweet=”Treating real estate like a business. Makes it become a business.” via=”no”]

I will make this controversial comment on your show. Wholesaling can be passive. I told you and I’m not lying. I swear. You can talk to my whole team. They would probably roll their eyes and go, “He doesn’t get involved in our business.” Sometimes they want me more involved than I am. I’m not in the day-to-day of my business and it produces seven figures in profits.

I’m not talking about some BS top-line revenue sales that we know are dumb. It creates $1 million in profits and I’m not in it. It’s passive. It is transactional and so if you say, “You said you do this other thing,” because it is transactional. You are correct. The houses that we wholesale this month are not helping us next month. We need to go find more property. We have to continuously hunt but it’s passive. I run a passive wholesaling company.

People would argue with me that it’s not passive. My time in it will tell you it’s passive. I spend an hour a week in my business. I sit on one meeting a week and I don’t even need to be in that meeting. I do it because it seems reckless not to be in that meeting but one hour a week and I run a $1 million business. If that’s not passive, I don’t know what is.

It’s not traditionally passive. It’s not what people think of but it’s because people run wholesaling companies like a lemonade stand. They don’t take it seriously. Hire, train, and create processes and systems around it and accountability and KPIs. If you do that, Steve Jobs was running Apple. I get it. He worked all the time. He was not making anything. He was not working in the business. He was above it. He could go away for a month and it would run fine. It was passive but he loved it and he was in it. I love it but I’m running a lending business, a short-term rental business. I have my podcast. I have other things that I’m doing. I’m not in my real estate business all the time.

That’s the way you want to set it up and it hits home because that’s what we are trying to do with the show is to put all those systems in place because we have been running several lemonade stands from our driveway and you are always running from one thing to the next. You are right. You can’t get away from it until you put systems in place that handle everything. That’s awesome advice. The last question I always ask is, what is a great podcast that you listen to. Just Start Real Estate does not count. If you are a podcast person, what is one you would recommend?

I will tell you, I don’t listen to a lot of real estate podcasts. I’m in real estate 24/7. Sometimes my brain needs a break from real estate and a podcast that I listened to religiously. It inspires me a lot, even in my real estate business. Even though it has nothing to do with real estate. It opens my mind a little bit more. Sometimes we all tend to get a little bit of small thinking and we start getting into this little bubble world that we are in.

This opens up my mind constantly and it’s a very popular podcast but it’s called My First Million. It’s hosted by two guys. They are tech millionaires. They have nothing to do with real estate at all. They sometimes goof on real estate and they have said that, “Real estate investors are the dumbest rich people in the world,” but it’s very entertaining. It’s very eye-opening and mind-expanding. I love it.

If readers want to get in touch with you, what’s the best way for them to do that?

They can reach out to me. They can go to MikeSimmons.com and they can contact me there for sure. There’s another thing I have. I will give this away to your folks too if they are interested. They can get my book by going to MikeSimmons.com/leftfield. If they go to WinningDirectMail.com, I created a five-video series on how I do direct mailing. Direct mail has been responsible for 80% of the money that I have made in the last few years.

I break down from A to Z exactly how I do my direct mail so that other people can emulate that and get similar results and it’s all free. There’s no charge. They can have that and get me there too, or you can find me on Facebook and DM me and say, “I heard you on the show. I loved it.” We can have a conversation.

Thank you very much for being on the show. We enjoyed it. It was an interesting topic and we are thankful that you shared your time with us.

Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

That was a different episode than we normally have, which is fantastic. I love a lot of the mindset stuff and a different approach to doing business the wholesaling, to selling the properties. I thought that was fascinating. A couple of things he said. He was at a point where failing at real estate seemed less painful than doing the same thing over and over in his job because he was not happy in his job.

That resonated with me because I always told myself that if I was ever working a job and I hated going in every morning that I would quit and I did that with my first job after twelve years. I quit, which I don’t recommend because people think you are playing a joke on them but I have not been back since. I think they finally figured it out after many years. That was powerful for me. Failure was less painful. It finally got him to take action and that’s the key. You got to take action.

He did not say this exactly but the value of time and that you need to use it wisely. He was talking about that. You need to think about what you are doing, put a value on it and take some action and go for it. The other thing he mentioned was accountability. I was thinking that about things as he said it is, “If you are going to do something and you want to do it, it’s helpful to announce it to the world.” It’s scary to announce it to the world but it’s helpful because if you say, “World, I’m going to lose 10 pounds,” and the next time they see you, you have gained 10 pounds.

You are going to feel like, “I didn’t get done what I said.” Getting it out and not keeping it in internally when you have a goal, whether it’s real estate, health, finances, or whatever it is. It’s helpful to share that with people that can help you be accountable and not necessarily in a bad way but accountable, which can get you unstuck. It can get you to start and you got to start somewhere. You got to take action and that is critical.

He also talked about you want to be the one that is in control of your success. That’s also why entrepreneurship is so popular I think within our group and these additional income streams and creating your own businesses. It’s giving you operational control over your success. It’s allowing you to make the decisions and you be successful because you chose to. That goes into how we ended it, which was making your business, your passive investing, or whatever it is, turn it into a business.

That’s what we are finding with LFI and that’s what I’m finding with my own personal passive investing. The more I can systematize and put things in place, so I’m running it like a business. The less time it takes because now I can assign other people tasks and have them do them then I’m the one that is doing the $200 an hour tasks and farming out the $10 an hour tasks.

I think that was pretty powerful to make it into a business so you are understanding what you are doing and put procedures in place so you can be more successful. Fascinating show. I appreciate Mike being on and we will keep an eye on him and see what else he gets into because he got a lot of interesting thoughts and ideas. That’s it for this time. We will see you next time in the left field.


 Important Links


About Mike Simmons

PILF 106 | Level JumpingMike Simmons has shared the stage with Gary Vaynerchuk, Ryan Serhant, Jocko Willink, Russell Brunsson, Walter Bond, Andy Frisella, and Tom Ferry, among others.
As the owner of a successful real estate investing company, and also partner in one of the country’s largest real estate mentorship/mastermind companies, Mike specializes in helping entrepreneurs create systems, processes, and automations that allow them to work on their business and not be a slave to it. Mike has personally worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs to help them optimize and grow their businesses.

Additionally, Mike is the producer and host of his own online show and has conducted over 500 interviews with entrepreneurs who run 6, 7, and 8 figure businesses.
Mike is a husband and father of two daughters and one son. Residing in Michigan, Mike is always looking for a reason to escape the cold weather and get to a beach!



Our sponsor, Tribevest provides the easiest way to form, fund, and manage your Investor Tribe with people you know, like, and trust. Tribevest is the Investor Tribe management platform of choice for Jim Pfeifer and the Left Field Investors’ Community.

Tribevest is a strategic partner and sponsor of Passive Investing from Left Field.

Chris Franckhauser

Vice President of Strategy & Growth, Advisory Partner

Chris Franckhauser, Vice President of Strategy & Growth, Advisory Partner for Left Field Investors, has been involved in real estate since 2008. He started with one single-family fix and flip, and he was hooked. He then scaled, completing five more over a brief period. While he enjoyed the journey and the financial tailwinds that came with each completed project, being an active investor with a W2 at the time, became too much to manage with a young and growing family. Seeing this was not easily scalable or sustainable long term, he searched for alternative ideas on where to invest. He explored other passive income streams but kept coming back to his two passions; real estate and time with his family. He discovered syndications after reconnecting with a former colleague and LFI Founder. He joined Left Field Investors in 2023 and has quickly immersed himself into the community and as a key member of our team.  

Chris earned a B.S. from The Ohio State University. After years in healthcare technology and medical devices, from startups to Fortune 15 companies, Chris shifted his efforts to consulting and owning a small apparel business when he is not working with LFI (Left Field Investors) or on his personal passive investments. A few years ago, Chris and his family left the cold life in Ohio for lake life in the Carolinas. Chris lives in Tega Cay, South Carolina with his wife and two kids. In his free time, he enjoys exploring all the things the Carolinas offer, from the beaches to the mountains and everywhere in between, volunteering at the school, coaching his kids’ sports teams and cheering on the Buckeyes from afar.  

Chris knows investing is a team sport. Being a strategic thinker and analytical by nature, the ability to collaborate with like-minded individuals in the Left Field Community and other communities is invaluable.  

Jim Pfeifer

President, Chief Executive Officer, Founder

Jim Pfeifer is one of the founders of Left Field Investors and the host of the Passive Investing from Left Field podcast. Left Field Investors is a group dedicated to educating and assisting like-minded investors negotiate the nuances of the passive investing landscape and world of syndications. Jim is a former financial advisor who became frustrated with the one-path-fits-all approach of the standard financial services industry. Jim now concentrates on investing in real assets that produce cash flow and is committed to sharing his knowledge with others who are interested in learning a different way to grow wealth.

Jim not only advises and helps people get started in passive real estate syndications, he also invests alongside them in small groups to allow for diversification among multiple investments and syndication sponsors. Jim believes the most important factor in a successful syndication is finding a sponsor that he knows, likes and trusts.

He has invested in over 100 passive syndications including apartments, mobile homes, self-storage, private lending and notes, ATM’s, commercial and industrial triple net leases, assisted living facilities and international coffee farms and cacao producers. Jim is constantly looking for new investment ideas that match his philosophy of real assets producing cash flow as well as looking for new sponsors with whom he can build quality, long-term relationships. Jim earned a degree in Finance & Marketing from the University of Oregon and a Master’s in Business Education from The Ohio State University. He has worked as a reinsurance underwriter, high school finance teacher, financial advisor and now works exclusively as a full-time passive investor. Jim lives in Dublin, Ohio with his wife, three kids and two dogs. In his free time, he loves to ski, play Ultimate frisbee and cheer on the Buckeyes.

Jim earned a degree in Finance & Marketing from the University of Oregon and a Master’s in Business Education from The Ohio State University. He has worked as a reinsurance underwriter, high school finance teacher, financial advisor and now works exclusively as a full-time passive investor. Jim lives in Dublin, Ohio with his wife, three kids and two dogs. In his free time, he loves to ski, play Ultimate frisbee and cheer on the Buckeyes.

Chad Ackerman

Chief Operating Officer, Founder

Chad is the Founder & Chief Operating Officer of Left Field Investors and the host of the LFI Spotlight podcast. Chad was in banking most of his career with a focus on data analytics, but in March of 2023 he left his W2 to become LFI’s second full time employee.

Chad always had a passion for real estate, so his analytics skills translated well into the deal analyzer side of the business. Through his training, education and networking Chad was able to align his passive investing to compliment his involvement with LFI while allowing him to grow his wealth and take steps towards financial freedom. He has appreciated the help he’s received from others along his journey which is why he is excited to host the LFI Spotlight podcast and share the experience of other investors and industry experts to assist those that are looking for education for their own journey.

Chad has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business with a Minor in Real Estate from the University of Cincinnati. He is working to educate his two teenagers in the passive investing world. In his spare time he likes to golf, kayak, and check out the local brewery scene.

Ryan Steig

Chief Financial Officer, Founder

Ryan Stieg started down the path of passive investing like many of us did, after he picked up a little purple book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad. The problem was that he did that in college and didn’t take action to start investing passively until many years later when that itch to invest passively crept back up.

Ryan became an accidental landlord after moving from Phoenix back to Montana in 2007, a rental he kept until 2016 when he started investing more intentionally. Since 2016, Ryan has focused (or should we say lack thereof) on all different kinds of investing, always returning to real estate and business as his mainstay. Ryan has a small portfolio of one-to-three-unit rentals across four different markets in the US. He has also invested in over fifty real estate syndication investments individually or with an investment group or tribe. Working to diversify in multiple asset classes, Ryan invests in multi-family, note funds, NNN industrial, retail, office, self-storage, online businesses, start-ups, and several other asset classes that further cement his self-diagnosis of “shiny object syndrome”.

However, with all of those reaches over the years, Ryan still believes in the long-term success and tenets of passive, cash-flow-focused investing with proven syndicators and shared knowledge in investing.

When he’s not working with LFI or on his personal passive investments, he recently opened a new Club Pilates franchise studio after an insurance career. Outside of that, he can be found with his wife watching whatever sport one of their two boys is involved in during that particular season.

Steve Suh

Chief Content Officer, Founder

Steve Suh, one of the founders of Left Field Investors and its Chief Content Officer, has been involved with real estate and alternative assets since 2005. Like many, he saw his net worth plummet during the two major stock market crashes in the early 2000s. Since then, he vowed to find other ways to invest his money. Reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad gave Steve the impetus to learn about real estate investing. He first became a landlord after purchasing his office condo. He then invested passively as a limited partner in oil and gas drilling syndications but quickly learned the importance of scrutinizing sponsors when he stopped getting returns after only a few months. Steve came back to real estate by buying a few small residential rentals. Seeing that this was not easily scalable, he searched for alternative ideas. After listening to hundreds of podcasts and attending numerous real estate investing meetings, he determined that passively investing in real estate syndications was the best avenue to get great, risk-adjusted returns. He has invested in dozens of syndications involving apartment buildings, self-storage facilities, resort properties, ATMs, Bitcoin mining funds, car washes, a coffee farm, and even a Broadway show.

When Steve is not vetting commercial real estate syndications in the evenings, he is stomping out eye diseases and improving vision during the day as an ophthalmologist. He enjoys playing in his tennis and pickleball leagues and rooting for his Buckeyes and Steelers football teams. In the past several years, he took up running and has completed three full marathons, including the New York City Marathon. He is always on a quest to find great pizza, BBQ brisket, and bourbon. He enjoys traveling with his wife and their three adult kids. They usually go on a medical mission trip once a year to southern Mexico to provide eye surgeries and glasses to the residents. Steve has enjoyed being a part of Left Field Investors to help others learn about the merits of passive, real asset investments.

Sean Donnelly

Chief Culture Officer, Founder

Sean holds a W2 job in the finance sector and began his real estate investing journey shortly after earning his MBA. Unfortunately, it could not have begun at a worse time … anyone remember 2007 … but even the recession provided worthy lessons. Sean stayed in the game continuing to find his place, progressing from flipping to owning single and multi-family rentals to now funding opportunities through syndications. While Sean is still heavily invested in the equities market and holds a small portfolio of rentals, he strongly believes passive investing is the best way to offset the cyclical nature of traditional investment vehicles as well as avoid the headaches of direct property ownership. Through consistent cash flow, long term yield and available tax benefits, the diversification offered with passive investing brings a welcomed balance to an otherwise turbulent investing scheme. What Sean likes most about the syndication space is that the investment opportunities are not “one size fits all” and the community of investors genuinely want to help.

He earned a B.S. in Finance from Iowa State University in 1995 and a MBA from Otterbein University in 2007. Sean has lived in eight states but has called Ohio home for the last 20+.  When not attending his children’s various school/sporting events, Sean can be found running, golfing, shooting or fly-fishing.

Patrick Wills

Chief Information Officer, Advisory Partner

An active real estate investor since 2017, Patrick Wills’ investing journey began like many others – after reading the “purple book” by Robert Kiyosaki. Patrick started with single family rentals, and while they performed well, he quickly realized their inability to scale efficiently while remaining passive. He discovered syndications via podcasts and local meetups and never looked back. He joined Left Field Investors in 2022 as a member and has quickly become an integral part of the team as Vice President of Technology.

An I.T. Systems Engineer by trade, he experienced the limitations of traditional Wall Street investing firsthand in his career and knew there had to be a better way to truly have financial freedom.

Unfortunately, that better way is inaccessible to those who need it most. His mission is to make alternative investments accessible to everyone who seeks to take control of their financial future and to pursue their passions in life.

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