Apply the Who Not How Principle to Succeed in Real Estate Syndication Investing

I love when I come home from a long day at work
and see that my lawn has been freshly manicured. When I used to do the mowing,
I would have to mentally schedule time after work or on the weekends. Of
course, I would also have to watch the weather forecast and adjust my lawn care
duties accordingly.

Each week, I had to ask, “How am I going to get this done?” My sons did take over this
responsibility for a while when they were old enough, but after they left for
college, I asked a different question: “Who
can mow the lawn for me now?”

My wife and I decided to hire a lawn and
landscaping service, and we never looked back. Even though it took less than
two hours a week of my time, I felt that hiring that company has been a great

In addition to supporting a local business, I have
more time to go for a run, hang out with my family, play tennis, read, and even
write blogs. In other words, I have more
time freedom

Ask a better question

While reading the book Who Not How by Dan
Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy, I realized I had been applying this “who not how”
principle to many aspects of my personal and professional life.

For example, as a physician, I depend on my
front-office staff to make appointments and to straighten out insurance issues,
and I rely on my back-office staff do the initial part of the patient workups
and to help me with charting in the medical records. I could never see as many
patients as I do in the finite time that I have in each day if it were not for
my excellent staff. They are my Whos who help me accomplish my How more
efficiently every workday.

It dawned upon me that “who not how” is also a
great rule to follow if you are a real estate investor, especially if you want
to be a
passive investor.  

The basic premise of this book is to use other
people’s education, experiences, and talent to “gain freedom of time, money,
relationships, and purpose”. Instead of asking “How can I achieve this?”, the authors convince you to ask “Who can help me accomplish this?”

Real estate investors understand the concept of
leverage as it relates to financing a property. This notion of “who not how”
utilizes leverage as it relates to time and human capital.

“Unlearn the bad habit of
How, and lean into the good habit of Who.”

                                     – Who
Not How

Spoiler Alert: Dan Sullivan, the originator of this idea, did not write a
single word of this book.  Benjamin Hardy
approached Dan after hearing his presentation on this “Who Not How” concept.
Ben wanted to write this book because he loved the principle. He eventually got
Dan’s blessing, and the rest, as they say, is history! Talk about putting your
money where your mouth is!

How do active real estate entrepreneurs use (or
don’t use) “Who Not How”

The Wholesaler

Many real estate investors start their journey as
wholesalers – those who find houses (usually unwanted) and quick-turn them to
house flippers for a moderate profit. They hustle around town to stick “WE BUY
UGLY HOUSES” bandit signs into the grassy area next to busy intersections or
staple them to telephone poles.

Although most wholesalers do it by themselves or
with their partner, some of the more successful wholesalers employ the “who not
how” principle and hire others to do the work for them so that they can work on their business and not in their business. However, this still
requires their time to double check that signs have been strategically placed
and to follow up on leads.

The House Flipper

Early on, most flippers tend to swing hammers and
become experts with the paint roller. If their acquisitions increase, they
start running out of hands and time and tend to find Whos to do their How. But
even with the best systems in place, flippers still have to manage their teams
to make sure they show up to their respective job sites to finish up the work
in a timely fashion.

The Buy-And-Hold Investor

This type of investor must deal with many moving
parts. They also have many Whos in their business such as wholesalers,
realtors, inspectors, lenders, title companies, attorneys, insurance agents,
and property managers. Even with so-called
turnkey operations,
this “passive” investor still must deal directly with many of these Whos. And
if property managers quit on you, you may no longer be a passive participant.
For one of my “turnkey” single-family homes, I ended up having five property
managers in the eight years that I owned it! 

The Private Lender     

As I transitioned out of my small residential
portfolio, I did some private lending to some local house flippers. Even though
the returns were solid, I still felt that this was not truly passive. I was the
one who had to make sure the legal paperwork was filled out correctly and
filed, and many times, I had to go to the title agency for the closings. I
never did figure out how to use a Who for my How in my lending business!

“Who Not How”
is essential for the passive syndication investor

The main issue with active investing is that you
end up diluting your energy and focus. There are only so many hours in a day to
get your work done. Even with a great team, you still have to manage the
day-to-day activities.

Passive investors do not ask themselves, “How can I do this by myself to achieve
my financial goals?” Instead, they intuitively ask “Who can help me with my goals?” Remember that your Whos are an
“investment” that will save you time and flatten your learning curve.

How requires your
time and attention. Who requires someone else’s.”

                                                               – Who
Not How

I spent countless hours researching sponsors,
talking with them, and figuring out whether to invest with them. However, I did
not have any of the right Whos to help me. I may have spoken with references
hand-picked by the sponsor, but that is a slippery slope. Of course, they will
say what the sponsor wants them to say because they probably did not invest in
any of their deals that did not go as planned!

The Whos that
are vital to accomplishing your passive investing How

Podcasters and Bloggers

Many passive investors first discover this
burgeoning investment strategy after listening to
podcasts or reading blogs. This is a
great way to learn more about the various asset classes and to find
syndicators. Many sponsors will have educational materials on their websites to
help you navigate the world of passive syndication investing. Listening to a
sponsor on a
podcast can also give
you an idea of what they are like on a personal level and to see if it is worth
your time to talk with them on the phone.

Sponsors/Syndication Team

Passive investors find out quickly that the
sponsor is the most important part of any private syndication. These Whos have
more to do with the success of a project than the deal itself or its location.
They, in turn, rely on their Whos – real estate brokers, lenders, construction
team, and property management – to help them run the asset efficiently and to
be profitable. It is vital that you find several
syndicators so that you
can diversify your investments across asset classes and geography.

“You define the vision, find
the Who or Whos, and let them create the result.”

                                                   – Who
Not How


Accountant / Tax Advisor

As a real estate investor, this Who will enable
you to
minimize your taxes each year.
Many people file their own taxes. This is the How mentality. Unless you are a
CPA who specializes in real estate, hire a tax professional to
utilize the tax law to maximize
your tax savings especially when you have several syndications in your

Other Passive Investors

These essential Whos will give you names of syndicators they know,
like, and trust. They will give you confidence in sponsors because they can
relate how their investments have done and tell you how their communications
have been. Other passive investors will teach you the right questions to ask
the syndication team, and they can teach you what they find important when
vetting deals. Instead of
employing the trial-and-error approach, find Whos who will save you time and

Left Field Investors founder Jim Pfeifer was my first passive investing Who, and I believe I
was one of his first Whos. We met up for coffee one day in January of 2020 and
compared notes on sponsors and deals. We both left that meeting with more
confidence in what we were getting into was the right path for our respective,
financial futures.

“You can survive without a
community, but you can’t thrive without one.”

Dan Sullivan

Communities like Left Field Investors provide lots
of education and networking opportunities in this space to find Whos. LFI has
Monthly Meetings where the
guest speaker is usually a sponsor or a veteran passive investor. After the
Monthly Meetings, we have virtual networking to discuss all things in the
passive investing world.

All Left Fielders can opt in each week in the Intros program to
coordinate a mutual time to speak one-on-one with another Left Fielder. Our
weekly Mound Visits, hosted by one of the founders, is another opportunity for
Infielders to discuss
deals and sponsors via the Clubhouse app. Our inaugural, live Meetup in The
Left Field, held in October of 2022, was a great networking and educational
event to find many like-minded Whos.

Lastly, the private, Infielders forum allows you
to not only discuss deals and sponsors, but also to see who are in these
discussions so you can connect with them. Many members find this to be the most
valuable part of the Infield. It is a great way to find your own references for

“That’s the power of having a
Who – you instantly get access to knowledge, insights, resources, and
capabilities that are not currently available to you.”

                                        – Who Not How


You will have more time, more money, better
relationships, and a greater sense of purpose when you dedicate yourself to
finding Whos instead of figuring out How to do things by yourself. Allow
passive investing to be a “team sport” so that you and your Whos can shorten
time frames and 10X one another’s financial acumen. And don’t forget to apply
the “Who Not How” principle to the rest of your life too.

Steve Suh is one of the founders of Left Field Investors. He began investing in real estate in 2005 when he bought his business’ office condo.  After owning a few small residential rentals and seeing that it was not easily scalable, he transitioned to the world of passive investing in commercial real estate syndications. He enjoys learning and talking about real estate and hopes to educate more people about the merits of passive investing in the Left Field. 

Nothing on this blog or website should be considered financial advice. Investing involves risks which you assume. It is your duty to do your own due diligence. Read all documents and agreements before signing or investing in anything. It is your duty to consult with your own legal, financial, and tax advisors regarding any investment.

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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