July 7, 2021

JF2500: A Multifamily Affair with Abigail & Sean Thomson

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Father-daughter duo Abigail and Sean Thomson didn’t think they’d end up working together one day when she went off to college. But, after sharing her long-term goals with her dad, they both knew investing for passive income was the answer. They now successfully run the business together while Abigail balances her daily tasks and school. They talk about why they made the switch from residential to multifamily, how they structure day-to-day tasks, and what it’s like working with family. 

Abigail & Sean Thomson Real Estate Background:

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Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners, and welcome to the Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Show. I’m Theo Hicks and today we’ll be speaking with Abigail and Sean Thomson. How are you two doing today?

Abigail Thomson: I’m great. How are you guys?

Sean Thomson: I’m doing really good. Thanks, Theo, for having us on.

Theo Hicks: No problem. Thanks for joining me. I’m doing well. And a little bit about Abigail and Sean before we get started, so there are a father-daughter team who are running Thomson Multifamily Group. They have 10 years of real estate investing experience and their portfolio consists of 157 units. They’ve also done 23 assignments and 23 flips. They are based in Plano, Texas, and you can learn more about their company at www.thomsonmultifamilygroup.com/.

So starting with Abigail, can you tell us more about your background and what you focus on today?

Abigail Thomson: Absolutely. Thank you for the introduction. I’m actually a college student currently and I’m studying real estate finance with a minor in marketing. But my focus in our business is a lot of our marketing and investor outreach.

Sean Thomson: And my background is in the single-family residential. I’ve been buying, selling, flipping or holding residential property for the last decade or so. A couple years ago we just decided to migrate our business to multifamily, and I asked Abby to join and help me do that.

Theo Hicks: What would you say was the main reason or reasons why you transitioned from doing, as you said, single-family residential for 10 years, to multifamily?

Sean Thomson: Well, my goal in my investing has always been income. So I want to have a monthly income. And with my single-family business, I was doing that; I was buying rental properties, adding them pretty quickly. My business has always been fairly small. My focus has been on not volume, it’s just been on solid investing.

And one day I got to a point where I wasn’t reaching my income goals, and I thought to myself, “Why am I buying these one door at a time?” And I started to think, “Well, there’s scale in multifamily. There’s all these advantages to doing multifamily.” But I always thought it was out of reach, I thought it was hedge funds and big REITs and things that own those properties. I didn’t know that individuals like me could do those things.

And I met Corey Peterson, and heard his story about how he owns apartments and things, and I thought, “Well, if he can do it, I can do it.” So I’ve been working with Cory, ever since then to just transition our business so that I could scale the business from buying one door at a time to buying 100 plus doors at a time. So that was my motivation.

Theo Hicks: And then Abigail, when did you enter into the business? Was it something that you always knew you were going to do, or did something happen in your dad’s business that made you decide to join, or did your dad invite you? How did that kind of start?

Abigail Thomson: That’s actually a really good story. I started college and I was really confused. I was like, “I don’t know what I want to do with my life.” And I went into business because I thought that that would be a good entryway, and I always had a little bit of an entrepreneurial and business mindset. So I went into that thinking, “Okay, well, I’ll just figure it out then.” And then going through my first semester, I was like, “I really, really want to go take a gap year after I graduate and go travel. But I want to be able to do it on my terms. I don’t want to have to get a job. I don’t want to have to save all this money beforehand”, things like that. I wanted to be able to focus on being a student. And I had always seen my dad doing single family.

One day, he came up to my campus and we had dinner and I was like, “I really, really want to travel. How do I do that?” And he said, “Buy real estate and get passive income.” And I was like, “Oh man…” because I hated my dad’s job growing up. I always thought, “That is the last thing that I want to do”, and I never wanted to even think about being in that space… Until that moment. And I go, “Okay, well, let’s start doing that.” And that was right around the time that he was thinking about transitioning into multifamily. It kind of just worked out, being the perfect fit. We transitioned the business, he took me under his wing to try and help me learn and now we’re here. It’s been really fun—

Break: [05:00] to [07:01]

Theo Hicks: So Sean, from your perspective, when she came to you and you told her to buy real estate and get passive income, how did you decide which aspects of the business to let Abigail be involved in or focus on or control?

Sean Thomson: Well, it just sort of happened organically. We have our strengths. She’s a bit of my opposite, and she has a lot of the skills and talents that I also have too, at the same time. So my specialty is sort of acquisitions. I’m really good at buying things. I’ve done that in previous careers. So my focus has always been on acquisitions, even in my single-family business. So that was just organically going to be my sector, I guess.

And then Abby’s taking college courses in marketing and business operations and finance and all those sorts of things, so I thought, “Well, why don’t you handle the marketing and handle the investor relationships?” She’s easy to talk to and that sort of thing too, so she’s done really well with that. But it just sort of happened, I guess, based on our strengths more than anything.

Theo Hicks: Sure. So, Abigail, you’re still in college, right?

Abigail Thomson: Yes, I am. I’m in my last semester right now.

Theo Hicks: Nice. Congrats. So can you maybe walk us through what a day or a week looks like balancing between being a full-time college student, as well as being responsible for Investor Relations. And then when you talk about the investor relations, maybe like specifically what you’re actually doing.

Abigail Thomson: So that’s a good question. It is constantly busy. I always have a very long-running to-do list, but I like it that way. It’s a lot of time blocking. So my classes are scheduled, and I kind of just adjust what I do around that. Right now I’m focused a lot on our social media growth and getting engagement with our audiences and things like that. So that’s a big portion of what I do on my day to day basis. I also have a team that helps me, so that makes it a lot easier to balance things. And they are here on campus with me, so they’re also students. So we just sit in a room and work together, which is awesome, and I’m really grateful for both of them.

But mainly, my day-to-day looks like waking up decently early, getting my day started. I really think it’s important to also focus on making myself better and focusing on things that I can do to take care of myself. So I work out and I take my mornings off to really focus on myself and my schoolwork. So my mornings are a lot to do with also my university courses and work along that line. And then I spend most of my afternoons doing TMG work and potential investor meetings, and then growing our social media and engaging with our audiences.

Theo Hicks: A quick follow-up question. That’s interesting that you have a little team on campus – how did that come about? Are these like your friends?

Abigail Thomson: Yes.

Theo Hicks: Or did you put an ad on campus somewhere to find these people?

Abigail Thomson: No, I probably should have put an ad, because I feel like that would have made my life slightly more easy. But they are my friends. One of them is actually my boyfriend, and my other is one of my best friends and roommate. And I went to them — my roommate specifically, I went to her… Her major is marketing. So she does a lot of our social media posts and things like that. And I was just like, “I have this need for help in my business and I think it would really help you gain experience for your future career.” And she now has essentially our whole business as her marketing portfolio that she can now take on to businesses and say, “Here’s what I’ve done,” which I think is really cool experience for her.

And then the other person on my team, he is very good with analytics and he does a lot of our KPIs and things like that. So it kind of just fit that what I needed in my business were the strengths of people around me.

Theo Hicks: Do you pay them?

Abigail Thomson: Yes, we do.

Theo Hicks: How did you guys structure that compensation for them?

Abigail Thomson: We do hourly.

Theo Hicks: Okay.

Abigail Thomson: So they have to get a minimum hour amount, and then we based our pay by jobs around town. So I did a lot of looking at other possible student work and saw what they were paying, and I based it off of that.

Theo Hicks: So I always ask this question whenever I interview a husband and wife combo, so it’s my first time being a father-daughter combo… But what are some of the pros and cons or benefits and challenges—we’ll do Sean first—about working with your daughter, and then for Abigail, working with your dad?

Sean Thomson: It’s great because you already have a pre-existing relationship. So we understand each other. I’ve known her whole life, so it’s easy to establish the relationship part of the working relationship, right? So it’s just a matter of identifying strengths and weaknesses, and then aligning the work for those strengths, and supplement the weaknesses where we can.

So once you figure that part out, I think it’s just a matter of keeping communication going and making sure that any issues in the business are addressed. She has a lot of autonomy and freedom to do what she wants to do. I trust her on everything with the marketing side, so I think it’s pretty easy how we just flow the business. But it’s been — I think for me, I needed some of that young energy and some of that organization and some of those things that she brings to the business, I sort of needed those things. So it’s been an enhancement pretty much across the board.

The only downside I would think is that sometimes your relationship does get in the way of your business. Sometimes it’s hard to identify when your father-daughter duo and when your business partners, right? So sometimes that gets in the way, but we just talk our way through it and it works out pretty smoothly.

Theo Hicks: And Abigail, what about you, from your perspective?

Abigail Thomson: I’m going to start with a con, because it’s exactly the same, as we don’t live in the same place anymore. So a lot of times our phone calls get confusing, we start talking about, “How’s school?” and then it goes, “Okay, well, we have to do this with the business, and things like that. So I think that’s the only real downside to it.

But there’s so many pros. Both of us, our why and why we do this is essentially for each other. So every day, we are motivating each other to do better and to succeed. And to me, that is so amazing. And I love that what I’m doing directly impacts me and my family, and that’s probably one of my favorite things about this business and about our business specifically.

Theo Hicks: Okay, starting with Abigail, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Abigail Thomson: Oh gosh, keep going. It can get really hard and you can feel really defeated and frustrated at times. But if you are, in that point, you’re so close that if you give up now, you’ll never get to that point. So you just have to keep finding ways to motivate yourself and just keep going.

Theo Hicks: And then Sean, what about you?

Sean Thomson: Yes, I would say pretty much the same thing. I guess if you wanted to add a component there, I would encourage people to get over their fears. Fear dominates a lot of my decision-making and I try to overcome that all the time. It’s a constant struggle I think almost all of us have. But to get started in real estate or to get out and sort of chase your dreams, if you can get beyond that first fear hurdle of believing in yourself, I think that will open up a ton of opportunities for anybody wanting to achieve anything really. So just getting over that first initial, “I believe in me, I know this can be possible for me,” and then going and doing it.

Theo Hicks: Are you both ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Sean Thomson: Sure.

Abigail Thomson: Absolutely.

Theo Hicks: Okay. First, a quick word from our sponsor.

Break: [14:25] to [14:59]

Theo Hicks: Okay. What is the best ever book you’ve recently read?

Abigail Thomson: For me, it’s not really real estate. But recently I’ve read Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, and it completely altered how I look at the world and my perspective.

Sean Thomson: For me actually I think the Best Ever Syndication Book is probably the one that’s helped us the most this recent past. But I would say for anybody—I carry around two books with me pretty much all the time. My Audible account always has a book that’s [unintelligible [00:15:24].27] I think if you just apply reading to your life, it doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s applicable to what you’re trying to achieve. I think that’s the most important part.

Theo Hicks: And Abigail, is it Daring Greatly?

Abigail Thomson: Yes, Daring Greatly.

Theo Hicks: Okay, just making sure I got that right. If your business were to collapse today, what would you do next?

Abigail Thomson: I have no idea. This is the only thing that I can think of at the moment, is my business. But probably just getting a corporate job; I have a finance degree, or will have a finance degree in a couple of weeks. So just on the job hunt.

Sean Thomson: I would just start over. So I would identify my mistakes that I made initially in the first run at it and I would try again. This business that I’m in has tremendous rewards, and I believe in what real estate can do for me, so I would just continue with what I’m doing, I would just start over.

Theo Hicks: What is the best ever way you like to give back?

Abigail Thomson: I love kids and I love nurturing; it’s something that comes naturally to me. So I love doing Boys and Girls Clubs and reaching out through our community, through the youth.

Sean Thomson: We donate to charities constantly throughout the year with our business and our personal lives. We also have our podcast, we’re trying to share the message of real estate and how you can achieve your American dream through real estate. So we do outreach through our podcast, I guess. And that’s really about it, I think.

Abigail Thomson: We also love giving back to the community by creating spaces and homes for our residents that they can think of as their own. We provide a lot of housing, and I think it’s really important that we are always thinking about how to make that a place and a community that people want to call their home.

Theo Hicks: And then lastly, what is the best ever place to reach you?

Abigail Thomson: The best ever place to reach us is probably our website or any of our social media under https://www.thomsonmultifamilygroup.com/. We are on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and pretty much every podcast platform underneath Next Level American Dream.

Sean Thomson: Yes, if you just go to https://www.thomsonmultifamilygroup.com/, that’ll lead you to all of our other resources. You can connect with us directly through that, schedule meetings with us, email us, our phone number is on there, I think… So https://www.thomsonmultifamilygroup.com/  is the best place to start.

Theo Hicks: Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for joining me today and providing us with your best ever advice. We talked about why you decided to transition from single-family homes to multifamily. We talked about Abigail’s journey towards joining dad’s business, which she said she hated growing up, but when she had her goal in mind, this was the best way to achieve that goal.

We talked about how you two work together to figure out how the roles and responsibilities will be split up. We talked about what Abigail’s day it looks like, how she’s able to balance being a full-time student and focusing on social media and investor relations. I liked how you talked about how you hired some of your friends on campus to help out with the business.

Then we talked about some of the benefits of working with your dad or daughter, someone you have a pre-existing long-term relationship with, and I really like what Abigail said about the whys being for each other and helping the family, so you two can help each other stay motivated, because of that shared why.

And then the best ever advice, which was to keep going when it gets tough and you’re kind of feeling down and despondent, you’re really close to breaking through, so don’t give up at that point. And then also getting over your fears. I liked how Sean said that it’s really a constant struggle, but the first step is to get that confidence in yourself and that struggle gets a little bit easier over time.

So thank you again both so much for joining me. I really enjoyed this conversation. Best Ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening, have a best ever day and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.

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