Don’t forget to kick the tires. And no, that’s not one of the wealth-building secrets! But, let me explain.
It was the summer of 2008, and I had decided that I was ready to expand my investment portfolio into real estate. More specifically, I wanted to purchase my first apartment building. My timing couldn’t have been worse, or better, depending on which way you want to view the situation.
OK, let’s rewind even further: I was exposed to the apartment building business as a young child. I vividly remember visiting the small apartment buildings my grandfather owned in the early to mid-1970s. He was a European immigrant who arrived in North America in the early 1950s with a suitcase, a wife and child, and a few dollars in his pocket. He didn’t speak English when he got here, which made the transition all the more difficult.
Luckily, he found a job as a butcher, but it wasn’t an easy life. Still, he saved every penny he could and ended up putting that money into apartment buildings. Real estate became his salvation from the countless hours he spent chopping meat, taking orders, and waiting on customers in the butcher shop. Although I didn’t understand it at the time, I later grew to appreciate what it meant to own an income-producing real estate property.
My grandfather, who came from a different generation of course, refused to hire out any of the work that needed to be done to his properties. Every time we visited his buildings, which I always enjoyed because it meant spending time with him, he would pull out his paintbrush and do a minor touch up, replace the lightbulbs or lay down new tiling, weed the garden or fix the toilet, and let’s not forget collecting the rent …The thing is my grandfather wasn’t a handyman—he was a butcher with a paintbrush. Nothing ever looked perfect, but he took tremendous pride in his buildings and the small real estate portfolio he had created.
When we were together, he would explain as best he could in a nonbusiness way—his heavy European accent not making it any easier— concepts like mortgage, income, the building of wealth through real estate investment, and, generally, his perspective on business and money. Three things made his eyes twinkle: 1) speaking of my grandmother, his princess, 2) his family, and 3) his buildings. He was my inspiration, and with that experience in mind, I knew that someday I, too, would get into the real estate market.
As all of my readers will know, I eventually did get into investment real estate. I bought four apartment buildings in fact, three in Toronto, and one in Miami, all between 2008 and 2011. I started a telecom business in 1991 and sold that business to private equity in 2017.
The life, business and wealth-building secrets I learned from my grandfather when I was a child were taken with me into my own business career.
My grandfather wasn’t a particularly rich man, but considering he dropped out of high school when he was in grade 10, made his way out of Germany to Canada in 1952 with no knowledge of the English language, and then retired at the age of 56 only 20 years after he arrived classifies him as a wise man.
And so I learned the following 14 business, wealth, and personal living rules by watching and listening. To be fair, these 14 are not all from my grandfather. Some are from my father, and a couple are my own.
14 Wealth Building Secrets and Business Building Rules
1. Your word is your bond. When you make a promise and you shake someone’s hand, that’s as good or better than a signed contract.
2. You will live and die by your reputation. If you compromise that, in any way, by stealing, deceiving, or lying to someone, that will come back to haunt you many times over. Be honest and forthcoming in everything you do.
3. Live well below your means. If you look after your pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.
4. Save 20% of every dollar you make. Invest that 20% wisely.
5. Debt, if not used for creative business expansion and leverage, will kill your wealth. Good debt is leverage. Use it strategically. Bad debt is borrowing to live beyond your means and then putting that debt on credit. Avoid bad debt at all costs.
6. Kick the tires when you buy a car. I always got a laugh out of this one. He actually did that.
7. Cash is king. Always have spare cash put aside in order to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. And opportunities always arise. (Incidentally, I wrote a book called The Kickass Entrepreneur’s Guide to Investing, which you can download for free by visiting here. I address this very point in my book).
8. The customer is the boss. Don’t ever forget that. They pay your bills. Treat them with respect. No customers mean no business.
9. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Go ahead, take risks, and make mistakes, because therein lies success.
10. Work hard no matter what you do. Give it your best, show up on time, be the first one in and last one out, and work harder than anyone else. Incidentally, my grandfather arrived at his butcher shop at 3 a.m, and my father arrived to work at 5 a.m. every workday.
11. Always surround yourself with experts and trusted advisors. No matter what you do, you should always have an amazing doctor who you can call at any time. Then, a lawyer and accountant are always important for business and life transactions.
12. Always keep busy. There’s an expression, idle hands make the devil’s work. Find interesting projects to keep yourself engaged, both while you’re working, and even when you’re retired.
13. Treat your wife like a princess and take care of your family. These are the most important relationships you will ever have.
14. Take care of body and mind. You only get one.
My grandfather passed away in 2003. My grandmother, his princess, is fortunately still alive and healthy at 97. She’s living on her own, still watching her pennies, and following my grandfather’s wealth-building secrets.
** The image below is of me, my son, and my grandparents taken in 2001.
If you liked this post, you might also like this one: Here’s How To Buy An Apartment Building And Make A Whopping 110% In Three Years. You should also consider subscribing to my blog. I publish one article a week on small business and wealth creation. You can subscribe here.
Also, I published a book during the summer of 2018, “The Kickass Entrepreneur’s Guide to Investing, Three Simple Steps to Create Massive Wealth with Your Business’s Profits.” It was number 1 on Amazon in both the business and non-fiction sections. You can get a free copy here.
*** The first few paragraphs of this blog on wealth building secrets were excerpts from my book, The Kickass Entrepreneur’s Guide to Investing which you can download for free.