Aaron has been in the finance space for over 20 years, and has been in real estate for a long time too. One of Aaron’s goals and visions is to help as money other real estate investors grow a business that can allow them to live more comfortably, retire, take more vacations, or whatever it is they want to do. Hear how he has been helping others achieve that while also growing his own business. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!
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Aaron Chapman Real Estate Background:
- 21 year veteran of finance industry
- Rated as part of the top 1% nationally and ranked #12 in 2017 by Scotsman Guide for units closed in Real Estate Finance industry wide
- Specializes in financing for the real estate investor, aiding in the analysis and structure of multiple financed properties
- Based in Mesa, AZ
- Say hi to him at www.aaronbchapman.com
- Best Ever Book: Master Key System
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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, Aaron Chapman. How are you doing, Aaron?
Aaron Chapman: Not too bad. How are you doing, Joe?
Joe Fairless: I am doing well, and nice to have you on the show. A little bit about Aaron – he is a 21-year vet of the finance industry. He is rated 1% nationally and ranked number 12 in 2007 by Scotsman Guide for units closed in real estate finance. Based in Mesa, Arizona. With that being said, Aaron, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?
Aaron Chapman: Definitely. So that tells you how I bread my table, as far as doing the real estate investing finance. I finance people buying turnkeys mostly, from single-family up to four units; we’ve opened up a lot of other channels with our relationships for others types of financing for folks, but my main objective in life though is to help people get away from where they have channeled themselves into a rut and help them reach beyond what they’re doing, and try and become a little bit more than what they have become up to this point, because most of the time people hold themselves back. So that’s one of my main focuses in life, taking each person who’s considering real estate and helping them to become the CEO of their real estate finance business.
In addition to that – of course, that business is being very successful, as you pointed out, ranked number 12 in the United States for units closed last year, and we’re doing between 600 and 700 units a year… So it offers me a lot of experience for people to be able to pull from. In addition to that, my wife and I both volunteered with the Sheriff’s Office locally, and we do several hundred hours a year in the rescue unit. I’m in charge of the technical rescue unit, [unintelligible [00:04:27].07] rescue unit, as well as the air rescue unit. So if I’m in town, if I’m not traveling, any given time during the cooler months we could be flown out into the desert or the mountains around Arizona and have to rappel into a very rough situation, and take care of somebody medically or however, and have them pulled out of one of the worst experiences of their life. I have a lot of cool war stories with that, that we’ve been able to participate over the last nine years.
I have four children that I’m also working with to become very versed in real estate investments. I have built my trust around making them responsible for what investments we go in as a family, and also making my children responsible for participating in the trust, to build it to the extent that when they turn 65, they at least have something to pull from in the form of interest. They will never touch the principal; this is built in a way to make them responsible members of society, to take care of themselves, and if they don’t participate and they don’t help build that, they don’t get any of it. I’m not just gonna leave a bunch of well-funded drudges of society.
Joe Fairless: [laughs] Well, our kids and grandkids thank you for that. A couple of things to talk about… One is – it’s gonna be a tough question to answer, but answer to the best of your ability… You closed between 600 and 700 units in 2017; if you didn’t have that larger purpose of helping people become the CEO of their own real estate finance business, how many units would you have closed?
Aaron Chapman: I really truly believe it would be between 100 and 200 units, because I have been stuck at that level for years, until I opened my mind up. I had to sit down and literally write down my vision for my future, and do it in a way that really I can emotionally and I could mentally really put myself in it. So every time I read it, I could feel it, I could smell it, I could be there.
The majority of it had to do with my ability to matter to other people to the extent that they matter to themselves. As I had developed that part of myself, I started to see things continue to grow. It went from 100-200 units to over 300 units when I started incorporating that, to over 400. Then I wrote another vision to try and reach 600 in the beginning part of 2017. Then that vision created a whole bunch of other things, and it sparked from there, it jumped up over 600 units, and this year I’m on track for 700+.
Joe Fairless: I’m glad I asked that question, and that you were at 100-200 units before you had that vision… So when you’re at 100-200 units, then there’s a vision, and then there are the results that got you to where you are now, in between the vision and the results what were some of the tactics that were implemented that led to those results?
Aaron Chapman: Well, the main tactic was standing in Chipotle, getting lunch with my one employee back in 2014… And it was back before the E.Coli thing or whatever that was that happened with Chipotle back in ’15 or ’16… But as I stood there, the line was all the way to the door, so I had to do something to entertain myself, and I was looking around the store itself (the restaurant, if you will), and I started counting the heads behind the counter. Have you ever remembered back in like 2013, 2014, 2015, walking into a very busy Chipotle, and counting how many people were working there?
Joe Fairless: There’s a lot.
Aaron Chapman: Yeah, most people will say five or six, because that’s what they see, but when you start looking beyond it, the people behind the counter, into the back, I counted 11 different heads. So what I started trying to do as I stood in that line is understand the role of each person in that particular system that they had built, and I realized and I found it interesting that they need 11 people to build a burrito successfully, yet I only had two people building an intricate financial instrument. So in that position I was in in line, I started creating for myself an 11-person assembly line for financing a piece of real estate. Now I have 11 people working for me, doing exactly that.
Then the next step was I read the book The Goal, from Eliyahu Goldratt. He talks about efficiencies; I took some of the principles from that and applied it to our process. He talks about an assembly line using CNC machines, because these machines can only go so fast; no matter how fast you turn them up, they can only go a certain speed, so that is the bottleneck. He had found in this story about this efficiency that the plant manager had noticed that there was a lot of the parts that were being cut by these machines that were thrown off to the side because they didn’t meet the quality inspection… And after further investigation, a part of that quality inspection was an X-ray of the material itself, and found that there were flaws in the raw material. So he moved the X-ray to the front of the line instead of the back.
So what I did is I took my best and most seasoned — her name is Ellen; she’s been doing this I think for 35 years… And I put her at the very front. Instead of being my best process, returning the biggest load and being able to handle 100 transactions at the time, I put her at the front as looking at every single transaction in every pre-qual before it got to a processor, and before they personally even made an offer on a property, to ensure that that X-ray was done and that the raw material was 100% usable before we went and spent anybody’s time. And that also sped up our process significantly.
And then also being open to always improving the process. We are never done improving. If you ever feel that you have the perfect process, you are right now on your first step towards failure.
Joe Fairless: The 11-person assembly line doing your deals – is it 11 because at the time when you were at Chipotle you saw 11 people back there?
Aaron Chapman: I created that process to mirror the Chipotle system I saw, and literally have 11 jobs that they do… And albeit some of it is duplicated, because you also have to have some redundancy in the system in case somebody goes on vacation, so there’s a lot of redundancy built in as well, but it just works out that I wrote down 11 in my vision and I have 11.
Joe Fairless: As best as you can, can you break down those 11 people, and what they do?
Aaron Chapman: Sure. Initially — I won’t get into the 12th, because I would make the 12th… I have the very first conversation with the potential real estate investor, and help them with their mindset to go from a consumer spending money and going into debt, to now a business owner. They are the CEO of their real estate investment firm, and I work to help them understand how they are moving from a person trying to get the best and cheapest to going after the quality to build a business. And at that time, I’m applying for their CFO position, and we walk through the experience that I have and the different methods and things that I have seen, and the people that I’ve seen make mistakes, because good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment… And they don’t need to go through the process of gaining experience from making mistakes to learn where is the best path, where you can take from the people that I’ve worked with over the last 21 years.
Joe Fairless: When you say you’re applying for the CFO position, I get that’s a metaphor, but for me, when I’m thinking of a CFO, they’re gonna be overseeing the financials on a monthly basis, to make sure that the property is profitable. Do you do that, or are you securing the loan for them and then they are off and running?
Aaron Chapman: What we do there — I do of course secure the loans. The loan is how we make our capital here. But as far as their financial position, we help them review where they are financially, personally, and how they can take what they have and help them structure their finances in a way to be successful on the acquisition of that real estate, and then the expansion of that business. Then as they come around each year, we will do as the clients want. It’s not something that we just reach in and start messing with their stuff; as they wanna call a board meeting, we can schedule some time to spend a half hour or an hour on a call (or a Zoom call) and review their finances and see how things are progressing.
After each transaction, we re-review their finances after they closed on that, update what they need for the next transaction, where they need to be financially, where they’re at at that time… So yes, we do a continuous review of things as they’re purchasing and building.
Joe Fairless: Got it. Okay. So one is you, and then what?
Aaron Chapman: The next step is they are directed to complete their online application. That’s necessary, because the government says you have to do certain acknowledgments. So they’ll prepare that application and submit that over. One of my team members will download that, review it and they will send them to the next step, which is where to upload their data and exactly what data is needed. So they’re not lost, they’re not trying to figure out where to go from there, we lead them to that additional step.
Once that all comes in and it’s reviewed and we have enough data there, it goes to Ellen, who is, again, my quality control, my X-ray, if you will. She is going to review all that and go to the pre-qual process, almost like an underwrite of their file. Then she brings me in and we review it with her, to be sure that I as the licensed loan originator have reviewed it, and then we’ll issue either a pre-qual letter to that person, or we’ll tell them, “Hey, we need other things to move forward”, or we’ll direct them otherwise. But if they’re qualified at that point, we issue that letter we send that out to them, they’ll go find a piece of real estate that fits their business needs.
That contract comes to us and it goes to a specific team. I have two people that will review that contract. One or the other will review it. As they review it, they look for certain elements. Those elements are confirmed with the seller and the buyer to ensure accuracy, because many times there might have been further negotiation in the form of an additional addendum or something to that effect that gets missed in the original sent to us, or somebody mistyped something… So we confirm those elements that would cause any sort of delay in the process. Once those confirmations are complete, the file is set up, all the disclosures are sent out by the next individual, and then assigned to their processor, who is their main point of contact going forward, and we do the introduction to that processor. That processor then will reach out to the client, introduce herself, explain the timeframe that she’s gonna need to review and submit that for approval. She’ll get that in for an initial approval. Once the approval comes back, she reaches back out to the client and updates whatever is necessary, orders an appraisal, takes it to closing.
Once that loan is completely approved and ready to close, another person steps in and takes that person through closing – sets up their signing, ensures they have the documents they need, and once that signing is done, they review it, ensure that it closes and funds, and then they will then follow back up with them, go over their pre-qual again, make sure they’re qualified for the next purchase, what their finances need to look like for that next purchase, and then give them all the information they need to have available for them for their taxes for the next year on that property, as well as what they need to make their first payment, where that gets made to, and then gives them all the information they need to communicate with us should they run into any issues.
Joe Fairless: What’s been two enhancements you’ve had to that process since you’ve began it?
Aaron Chapman: One was putting Ellen into that role, because before she was carrying a lot of the other weight. That was probably the biggest enhancement. The next was the follow-up after closing, creating a whole new pre-qual for them, re-evaluating their file after it’s closed, and making it a live operating file for them, and then giving them basically a calculator that will show them what they need to close on the next transaction, where their finances are today as far as their assets, and whether they’re lacking and they need to save a little bit more, or whether or not they have plenty to do that. Now, if they have enough, we’ll show them “You can do four, five, six, seven transactions”, and show them what their capability is, and kind of coach them where they need to go from there.
Joe Fairless: What type of ongoing communication do you have – or system set up where you communicate with your clients on a regular basis. Really it’s just built into a system that gives its — I’ll call it like a database management system. They’ll reach out to each client on a regular basis, whether it be milestones in their life, milestones within their business… Also when I have speaking engagements – we were just in what was called The Cashflow Wealth Summit, where we had filmed a presentation and then people could watch it virtually (it was about 45 minutes), and we’ll get that out to our database as well… So anytime there’s something that’s happening in our world that we think people would benefit from, we make sure that goes out to them.
Joe Fairless: From a business standpoint with what you’ve learned in 21 years in the industry, what are some mistakes that you were making at the beginning that you’ve since corrected?
Aaron Chapman: Treating people like a consumer. When I got into the industry, I crawled out of the mines in New Mexico. They were shutting down the mines and I had lost that job. Before that, I ran heavy equipment, drove truck, worked in the oil fields of Wyoming, I was on a [unintelligible [00:16:51].17] crew, I grew up on a cattle ranch, so I had a lot of experience in manual labor in different specific types of labor, and I was trying to find a job in those fields and I couldn’t. And there’s even a deeper story here, but ultimately a friend of mine introduced me to this and I started as a telemarketer. But when I started doing the actual lending piece of it, the broker I worked for had the capability to advertise on billboards actual interest rates, the first person in the state of Arizona’s history. But he would advertise a rate that was not really achievable at the time, but it got the phone to ring.
It was really irritating a lot of people when they’d call in off of what they saw on the sign, but then what we were giving them was different. I went to him and said “Dude, you really need to take that billboard down.” He goes, “No. My job is to get the phone to ring, and your job is to sell it.” I said, “Okay, well they want this rate.” He goes, “Well, give them what they want.” I said, “But they get frustrated when I show them the cost.” He goes, “They don’t need to know the cost till the end.” That right there, that lesson learned — because I tried to follow his lead for just a couple of deals and literally, come the closing day, I’d have to have my back in the corner and hold it back, because people were angry with us. And I learned you can’t treat people that way.
This whole thing of treating them like a consumer, trying to get butts into seats, like a really good movie trailer for a really sucky movie, is wrong. We need to paint a better picture. So I started evolving in that respect, and I found that it actually in some cases can be detrimental to paint a real picture up front [unintelligible [00:18:14].04] sometimes a little bit worse picture than reality… I tend to paint a worse picture than reality. I like to go worst-case-scenario with folks, and then tell them “Trust me, we’re gonna make it better for you.”
But my contemporaries like to come in as low as they possibly can legally just to get their butts in the seats, and then they end up showing the real deal at the end, and it’s very similar to where I would be. There’s no real difference out there. There’s very few that have lower fees and lower costs; we’re all fairly the same. But it’s the expectation set up front.
So I learned about setting expectations properly, because I respect those who I work with enough to not lie to them about that in the very beginning.
Joe Fairless: What’s your best real estate investing advice ever?
Aaron Chapman: Find the right team. If you do not have confidence in the people you’re working with, 100% confidence that they have your best interest in mind and that these people are not out for themselves, then you’re putting yourself at risk. Each person investing in real estate, whether it be commercial, whether it be fix and flips, whether it be residential, long-term holds, and doing the turnkeys, which is where we spend a lot of our time – no matter who it is, you’re gonna have to have a team, no matter what process you’re doing. And if you are not interested in that person’s success and they’re interested in your success, then you’re stepping towards a very extreme failure. Getting the right people onboard and making sure they’re the right type of people makes all the difference in the world.
Joe Fairless: We’re gonna do a lightning round. Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?
Aaron Chapman: Let’s give it a shot. You may end up hearing just crickets on the other end.
Joe Fairless: [laughs] I doubt that, but we’ll give it a shot. First though, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.
Joe Fairless: Okay, best ever book you’ve recently read?
Aaron Chapman: That would be The Master Key System by Charles Haanel.
Joe Fairless: What was that book earlier you mentioned, the Goal book?
Aaron Chapman: The Goal, by Eliyahu Goldratt.
Joe Fairless: Best ever deal you’ve worked on, for whatever reason?
Aaron Chapman: It would have to be really just every turnkey; when a person successfully closes, the excitement that they get from being able to get involved in the real estate investment world, in a place where they never thought they could be… Honestly, all very similar; they’re great opportunities for folks.
Joe Fairless: What’s a mistake you’ve made on a transaction that we haven’t talked about?
Aaron Chapman: That’s a solid question, because there’s a lot of them. Really, it was underestimating my team. This was the worst mistake I’ve ever made. Thinking that I was the individual that needed to be involved in everything. When I realized that I didn’t need to do it all, that I need to get very good people that I could trust to handle those things and then let them do that, that was the best move I ever made. The worst thing was discounting their capabilities, because what ended up happening was I was stealing opportunities from them. When I realized when I did those things I stole somebody else’s job from them… And then another person, because it took time away from me to be able to build my business, instead of working on the business and then providing more jobs, I was stealing one job, therefore stealing a second one, because my time was sucked up.
Joe Fairless: Best ever way you like to give back?
Aaron Chapman: Taking the time to encourage another person that their positive thoughts will have a positive reaction, and feeding them to the places I’ve come to those conclusions myself. Sometimes it will take an hour/an hour and a half of my time to have those conversations, but when you hear the light bulb go on in the other individual, there is nothing better.
Joe Fairless: And how can the Best Ever listeners get in touch with you and learn more about what you’ve got going on?
Aaron Chapman: The absolute best place is aaronbchapman.com. It should always be that. And then they can also check me out on the NMLS, so they can see that I’m licensed, in what states I am. For that, they can go to the NMLS consumer access page, and my NMLS ID is 267844.
Joe Fairless: Well, thank you so much for being on the show, talking about the larger purpose that you have, and the vision that you have, and how having that vision has resulted in increased business, as well as just a more enjoyable experience along the way.
One tactic from that vision in order to accomplish those results was creating your 11-person assembly line in real estate, just like you had that epiphany whenever you were in Chipotle and you started counting those workers. I loved how you walked us through each person and the responsibility, as well as how you’ve enhanced that along the way, putting one of your all-stars instead of at the end, putting her at the beginning of the process.
Thanks again for being on the show. I hope you have a Best Ever day, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Aaron Chapman: Thank you, Joe. I appreciate you, man.