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How I left my corporate 9 to 5 and created a six-figure revenue real estate business

woman sitting in her window

… in under 2 years.

In December 2014, after some deep self-reflection of where my life was going, I left my corporate job to start a business in the real estate industry. At 22 years old, I had a prosperous career in corporate finance. I hadn’t yet finished college, but I was on a clear path toward what I was always told meant success.

The problem? What I was told about success and how I felt weren’t jiving. I was drowning in despair.

I knew that I was not building a purposeful life with my 9 to 5.

I was surrounded by people who, over time, decided that predictable paychecks outweighed chasing their true passions. Some had spent decades under the same corporate roof, working in the same departments, year after year. This horrified me.

It hasn’t been easy, but today, not only do I thrive in an industry with a high turnover rate, but I have helped create a six-figure revenue business — all in under two years.

This transition has been the most difficult and most educational experience of my short life, but I have learned that a few simple principles have me form the foundation of my success.

left my corporate 9 to 5 - woman on phoneAt the point I realized I needed a change, I had been reading dozens of self-improvement and entrepreneurship books, and had taken particular interest in Tim Ferriss’s, “The Four Hour Work Week.” The way Ferriss laid out the steps to a successful endeavor resonated with me. Suddenly, a new realm of possibility opened in my mind. I was inspired. Building a business was more than feasible… it could be systematized, planned, even made predictable.

But most importantly, building a business became something I knew I could do.

Seemingly overnight, I decided that the only thing more impossible than leaving my corporate finance job was staying in it.

So my fiancé, Bryce (also with an established finance career), and I quit our jobs and began building a business in real estate. After two years, our business is doing great. We just hired our first employee, and, we get to meet incredible like-minded business-owners all the time.

In the real estate industry, nearly 90 percent of new licensees drop out of the business before the end of their first two years. I believe that our unique approach to business, and the following key principles, have set us apart to become powerful players in our market:

Your people want to help you — so let them.

Before we ever create our first product, or meet our first client, we already have a built-in audience. Interestingly, few of us actually tap into it.

Facebook is like a database with a built-in CRM; during the first few weeks of our new venture, we went through our friends lists and told everyone we knew that we were in business. This requires you to be a little vulnerable. You will be asking these people for help to build word of mouth. It can be difficult to bare all to family, friends, and colleagues, but you might be surprised by how willing people are to help.

These first contacts became the foundation of our clientele. Today, over 70 percent of our business comes from friends, family and their referrals. This would not have happened so quickly or effectively if we hadn’t asked for help early on.

Systematize and document processes for repetitive tasks, no matter how trivial.

Have you read “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael E. Gerber? In it, Gerber implores us to think in terms of systematization. Take your great idea, or that thing you enjoy doing, and create a 360-degree process for it. From the creation of the product or the procurement of the client, there should be a system that details every step.

left my corporate 9 to 5 - woman looking upAfter a few months of getting the hang of how things worked in the real estate industry, we developed a typical life cycle for our residential sellers and buyers. No matter what type of transaction, there is consistency and awareness — and this has created a more seamless experience for our clients, making us look like pros (even when we weren’t). Most importantly, having repetitive decisions frees us up to work on the higher-level aspects of growing a business. This concept is golden; it applies to any industry, with any product or service.

Say “No” if it doesn’t feel right — but only if you can afford to.

Owning a business means having the control to work how you want, where you want, and with whom you want. By default, this gives you a very powerful option: Saying “No”, when it’s appropriate to do so.

We had months of income saved before we got into business — we wanted our endeavor to be done on our terms. Sometimes in the beginning, though, you must scrape for any business you can find. I get it. But you can’t let this become an excuse to damage your brand, take on more than you can handle, or compromise your integrity by saying “Yes!” to a “No!” situation, even in the beginning.

Never confuse “freedom” for “leisure.”

Somewhere along the way, at the end of our first year in real estate, we were chatting with some old friends. We hadn’t seen them in a few months, and they were excited to hear about all that was going on with the business. At one point, my friend looked at me and said to me, “Wow, it sounds like you’re doing great! You must be traveling all over, and having such a great time enjoying your life!

How wrong she was: Eleven months after getting into real estate, we had been working 14-hour days, seven days a week. We hadn’t been on vacation in over six months. We were getting a heavy dose of reality: “freedom” did not automatically mean “leisure”.

We’ve since found more balance in our lives. But, we came into this endeavor with a very clear understanding of what “freedom” means in entrepreneurship. It wasn’t all travel and free time, or morning croissants over a blog post. Freedom to us meant having control over our business and choosing how we sailed our ship. We designed a brand identity that we could believe in. The service that we provide is unique and authentic to us. We work on the things we want to work on. This freedom isn’t a symptom of entrepreneurship; it’s the product of purposefully designing your business to allow it.

Looking back at our journey, choosing the safer route to success by staying in corporate America, may as well have been the same to choosing to do nothing. “The 4-Hour Workweek,” Ferriss writes, “Many a false step was made by standing still.” Inactivity doesn’t get you where you want to go. So dream big, keep moving forward and don’t be afraid to take risks in achieving your goals. After all, even a winding road leads somewhere.

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Written by Stefanie Swartz

Stefanie is an entrepreneur, creative thinker, and co-founder of Lugo & Co., a real estate team in Phoenix. Connect with her at @stefaniekatherine and @lugoandco on Instagram.

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