When Mark and Tamiel Kenney got married in their early 20s, becoming business partners wasn’t even on their radar. Today, they’re talking about the challenges they faced early on in their partnership, how they structure their business for the highest efficiency, balancing work and family, and the importance of communication in a partnership and in marriage.
Mark & Tamiel Kenney Real Estate Background:
- Full-time apartment investor and coach
- 25+ years of real estate investing experience, 8 years with larger multifamily
- Current portfolio consists of 9000+ units and $550M
- Based in Dallas, TX
- Say hi to them at: www.thinkmultifamily.com
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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. This is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast, where we only talk about the best advice ever. We don’t get into any of the fluffy stuff.
With us today, is Mark and Tamiel Kenney. How are you two doing?
Tamiel Kenney: We’re awesome, Joe. Thanks for having us.
Joe Fairless: Well, it’s my pleasure, and I’m glad to hear that you both are doing well. And a little bit about Mark and Tamiel; they are full-time apartment investors and coaches, they’ve got 25-plus years of real estate investing experience, eight of those years with larger multifamily. And in fact, their portfolio consists of over 9,000 units and over $550 million worth of apartment communities. They are based in Dallas Fort Worth, and you can learn more about them. If you haven’t heard of them already —they sponsor the podcast, which I’m proud that they do; I know both of them and I enjoy meeting up with them at the Best Ever Conference annually, and then at different places throughout the year. You can find more about them at thinkmultifamily.com.
So with that being said—that was a mouthful… But with that being said, do you two want to give the best ever listeners just a little bit more about your background and your current focus? And then we’ll kind of dive right into it.
Mark Kenney: Sure. Thanks for having us, Joe. Background-wise, really quickly – I grew up in Michigan, Tamiel grew up in Michigan as well. Didn’t really have a lot growing up as far as extra. So my twin brother and I were like, “This kind of stinks.” We go to our friend’s house and they have VCRs and they have colored TV… So we said we wanted something different. We didn’t know what that was going to be, and then we were seniors in college and both kind of analytical, both were CPAs, IT guys and said, “Hey, you know what? Everyone needs a place to live.” So we started buying 2-4 units. We were like 22, didn’t know what we’re doing, didn’t know what syndication was at all, and then we got married pretty young, Tamiel and I did, and then we started buying properties together.
Joe Fairless: How old were you two?
Tamiel Kenney: I was 20.
Mark Kenney: I was 16. No, I was 23.
Joe Fairless: Got it.
Mark Kenney: Slightly older. It was kind of those things where I started an IT business in 2008, I was doing really well. I mean, relatively speaking, well, I guess, from a financial standpoint; but I was working 90-plus hours a week, slept like three hours a night, not like sometimes, that was my schedule, which is a little rough. And for some reason, Tamiel didn’t like that, I don’t know why, but she didn’t. So she kind of gave me an ultimatum, to either do something different or this is not working out. So I said, “Hey, we both like real estate.” We started looking at buying larger properties, this was back in 2013. It took us a year to get our first deal, unfortunately, but a lot of circumstances for that. And then we just started syndicating after that, and ended up doing — we’ve done about 72 transactions since that time.
Joe Fairless: 72.
Mark Kenney: Yes, a lot. It’s probably — we got a little bit more than that, because we’ve sold some, things like that too. But a lot of transactions, we tried to focus on 100-plus units. But I know you do a lot of larger deals; we do some as well, but we also do 100 unit properties here and there, and that’s kind of what we’ve been doing. And then we started coaching back in 2016, and that’s where we kind of developed, if you want to say, in addition to our marriage, a partnership, we developed a business partnership between Tamiel and myself.
Joe Fairless: Got it. Okay. How long have you two been married?
Tamiel Kenney: 26 years.
Joe Fairless: 26 years, okay. And an interesting conversation – we were talking about before we started recording this – would be partnerships, and in particular, being married to your business partner, and what that’s like. So Tamiel, what is that like, being married to your business partner?
Mark Kenney: Why are you letting her go first?
Joe Fairless: You already talked.
Mark Kenney: Okay. [laughter]
Tamiel Kenney: So I’ll start with where we are now. Where we are now, things work pretty smoothly; I run one aspect of our business, and he runs another.
Joe Fairless: Which is…?
Tamiel Kenney: He is more of the technical. He has a CPA background, he does deal analysis and the coaching and he does pretty much most of the speaking in our conferences. I run more of the soft skills backend stuff. So it’s the branding, marketing, our events, business development, our podcasts and so on.
So in the beginning, Mark kind of has — maybe it’s all males, I don’t know, think they know best and—
Joe Fairless: Probably.
Tamiel Kenney: So it took him a little while to understand, “Hey, I actually know what I’m doing”, and putting on the events and the branding and the marketing. And just like with the skill set that I started with, I built my own confidence the more I took on, the more I learned, the more confident I became. He also – the more he saw me do, the more he saw me be able to handle and juggle, the more confident he became in that skill set as well. So now he knows that he really doesn’t have to question what I’m doing on my side of the business, and I’ve learned not to question what he’s doing on his side.
Mark Kenney: I tried questioning once, and I learned my lesson. [laughter]
Tamiel Kenney: And same here. I questioned things that you do and I’m like, “Alright, alright, that’s your space. Okay. I’m not trying to step on your toes.” So, if you can really learn what each of your skill sets are, and respect the other person for their skill set, and don’t think that your skill set is better than theirs, or… Mark used to think that his skill set was more important than mine, but really, we need both of our skill sets to work together to keep this business going, and our marriage going. So if we can just take a deep breath and relax and trust the other partner, then we’re golden.
Joe Fairless: With the, “Don’t question things, it’s your space”, how do you approach it, if at all, because I heard what Mark said, he tried doing that once—
Mark Kenney: I did.
Joe Fairless: How do you approach, it if at all, if simply more—not saying there’s a better way to do it, but rather, I’m curious why you did it this way, because in my uninformed opinion, I think this other way could work better. Because especially, Tamiel, you mentioned events… Come on, there’s so many things that can and usually do go wrong with events.
Tamiel Kenney: Right.
Joe Fairless: So I’m sure there’s an opinion out there where it’s like, “Well, why didn’t you do it this way?” How do you approach that? Because ultimately, I believe we all need that feedback to help sharpen our skill sets, even if the other person doesn’t have as refined of a skill set as we do, but it’s good to have that constructive opinion.
Mark Kenney: So I would say we still have the constructive opinion. I think when Tamiel says, “question”, that’d be completely the right term. Initially, I would say I tried to overrule, and in some cases overruled her decisions, even for the areas that she was kind of—and we never defined it upfront that she was over those areas, even though she was the one doing all that, plus areas I don’t really like that much and I’m not good at. So I would overrule her and say, “We’re going to do it this way.” And for some reason, she didn’t like that either. I don’t know why. [laughter] And we decided that, “Okay, the event space, the branding, marketing…”
So we will ask each other, so the questioning piece I think does still happen. But if I have a difference of opinion, Tamiel can still decide which way to go on it without really an issue at all and I’m totally fine with that. Actually, I enjoy it because I don’t have to get involved in that. But we do still question and we’ll ask each other too, “Hey, what do you think about this?” Even on the coaching side or if we’re dealing with a situation, I’ll ask Tamiel what her thoughts are on it, but ultimately, I can decide how I’m going to handle a situation. So we do ask each other. It was really upfront where we didn’t really ask each other that much, and I thought I was doing everything initially myself anyways, before Tamiel really got involved, and I thought I probably knew better, and I’m glad that she does it now because now I don’t have to get involved in it anymore.
Tamiel Kenney: And to be fair, I actually have a team of my own. So I ask them for their opinions and how our events went last time, and what can we do better? And sometimes we’ll even ask some of our coaching students, “Hey, what did you like? What did you not like? What would you like to see different?” So I do ask for feedback so that we can always perform at our best.
Joe Fairless: It’s going to be a hypothetical question, so it will be impossible to answer it correctly… So just — I’d like your opinion. Hypothetically, if you two were not business partners, would your marriage be better or worse?
Mark Kenney: We may not be married…
Tamiel Kenney: Yeah. [laughter]
Mark Kenney: …in all fairness. So for us, we’re probably a little bit unique, because people say they work a lot and I get that, but I have people all over the world on projects and my phone would go off, literally 24 hours a day.
Joe Fairless: No, I’m not talking about working 90 hours in an IT job. I’m talking about if one of you focused on this business, and the other person did something similar, but not with the other person.
Mark Kenney: And that’s kind of where I was getting at a little bit – I was so involved in the business, and then Tamiel wasn’t, from an IT perspective. When we went to real estate, we built the company together, and in fairness, it brought us much, much closer together from a personal standpoint, as well. And I think some people argue, “Hey, they can’t work together or whatever.” For us, our marriage would be very, very different. We talk about work all the time, and then people are like, “Hey, you shouldn’t talk about work all the time.” Well, we want to; that’s what we both enjoy.
But our marriage would be very, very different. Our kids lives would be very different. I think our personal and individual lives would be very different if we were not doing this together.
Tamiel Kenney: I think it gave us a lot more in common. We had very little in common before. So since we both became driven to create this company for the same purpose and helping other people, that gave us both a passion and we were both working hard together toward this one goal; and we’ve created other things in common since then. We’ve learned to communicate better since then, which has also saved our marriage, which is a big problem with any partnership, marriage or business, right? If one of you or both of you don’t know how to communicate well or listen well, then you’re going to have conflict, you’re going to have built up resentment, and your partnership, again, business or marriage, is just going to blow up.
Mark Kenney: And it gave Tamiel the confidence I think she probably lacked before, because she was just a stay-at-home mom or whatever it may be… Which is very important role, of course, but I think a lot of women that get that role, they are looking for something more than that. Some people are, some people aren’t. Tamiel definitely was, and it gave her the ability to get involved in an area that she already liked and knew stuff about, but to build the confidence, and now she is very confident now in what she does, and she’s awesome at it. But that gave her a little more purpose in life, I guess.
Joe Fairless: I was going to ask about how you to separate the work and family boundaries if at all. And what you mentioned earlier, I think it was Tamiel, it sounds like maybe you don’t, where you’re always talking about business. Is there a separation? Or is it — it can be right before we close our eyes to go to bed at night, and we still could be talking about an event or coaching or buying an apartment community?
Tamiel Kenney: Yeah, there really is no separation for us, again, because we do enjoy what we do, and we’re both passionate about everything about the business; events, the people we met, or whatever, right? The deals going on, we can catch up at the end of the day… And oh, what students are doing what deals… And I like having that in common with him. So it doesn’t feel like we’re always working. It feels like we’re always doing what we love.
And as far as our kids go, our daughter is attending school, so she’s gone most of the day; she’s in the eighth grade. When she comes home, she goes to her room and we almost never see her. So a typical [unintelligible [00:13:52].28]. And then our son, who’s in the 11th grade right now, he’s doing mostly virtual school, so I do help tutor him some in algebra two, and then he chats with me throughout the day, instead of doing his work, because we’re both together… So I think he’s still feeling like he gets plenty of our time… Or in the evenings, maybe we’ll sit in the hot tub together and he’ll chit chat with us some more, so I feel like we get enough family time. I don’t feel like we’re lacking in that. Do you, baby?
Mark Kenney: No. And in fact, Tyler, our son, he’s very interested in the business, and he asks questions all the time. And he’s done some stuff as far as editing the podcasts and things like that. And we’re like, “Hey, don’t you have a test tomorrow?” And he’ll come show us something like he did and we’re like, “That has really no relevancy to your test tomorrow, does it?” But he gets fixated on these things. So he’s interested in it. I think that time-wise, we have way more time available, even though we’re busy, than we did before… But it’s the flexibility. So I have to pick my daughter up from school? No problem. When I was doing IT, I might not even be in the state on a regular basis. So it’s given us some flexibility.
Our kids do ask a lot of questions about the business, our son more in particular, because he’s like, “This is my out when I get done with high school, I’m going to work for mom and dad.” We’ll see about that. But some people, I think, need that separation, I really do. For us, we don’t because as Tamiel mentioned, we love it and things like that. Our friends are from our Real Estate Group, and our kids are friends with their kids, and we go on vacation together. We went on vacation in June in Florida, with 70 people there… So just kind of in an environment where it’s just part of our life now.
Joe Fairless: Was it a mastermind vacation? It seems like quite the large friend group.
Mark Kenney: It was a pool and beach mastermind.
Tamiel Kenney: So it was for all of our members and their families.
Joe Fairless: Oh, okay.
Tamiel Kenney: And it was like no instruction, we were just going to be together and do life together.
Joe Fairless: Nice. Nice. Where in Florida?
Tamiel Kenney: Clearwater.
Joe Fairless: Okay. Beautiful place.
Tamiel Kenney: Yes, very nice.
Joe Fairless: By the way, for Best Ever listeners, this conversation isn’t just about two people being married partnering in a business, it’s really, as Tamiel and Mark have both mentioned and alluded to, it’s about partnerships in general in business.
Three things that are coming through whenever I’m hearing you two talk about this; one is respecting the skill sets your business partner has. Whether you’re married to them or not, you must respect their skill sets and give them space to flourish, and also trip up, as you will, as you practice your skill sets; one.
Two, is you both have to have matching desire and passion for what you’re doing. Clearly, you both have that. And then three is the communication piece; as Tamiel said, in marriage and business, you’ve got to have that.
What other suggestions – we’ll be specific now, for someone who is considering going into business, and we’ll say, real estate investing, with their significant other? In addition, those three things, what other areas should they keep in mind, “Hey, make sure you do this” or “Don’t do this”?
Mark Kenney: One, I would say would be define roles upfront, which took us probably about a year for us to figure out who’s doing what, and we had a lot of overlap. Sometimes we were both working on the same thing and it’s like, I’m editing an emailm and she’s editing an email, I don’t know she’s doing it, and I’m doing it, I’m like, “Okay, now we have to incorporate our comments” but we didn’t do a good job at all first year as far as having defined roles. That’s one.
Joe Fairless: Anything that you can think of, Tamiel?
Tamiel Kenney: I would say, in general, even networking, trying to network together – you can try it both ways; you can try to network together as a couple, you can try to go to a networking event, and then branch out. That was actually a struggle in the beginning for us. We got each other to the networking event, but it’s like, “Okay, well what do we say? You go, you go start.” So that was kind of a learning curve for us. But doing it together at least got us in the room. It’s almost like if you know you need to exercise, if you can just convince yourself to go and step out the door or get on the treadmill, it doesn’t matter how long you’re there… If you can work together and leverage each other as accountability, I think that’s helped a lot as well for us.
Mark Kenney: One other thing I would say, whether it’s married or not, is that we see a lot of partnerships in our group, and I’m sure you do too, Joe, with your group… And I can tell you, it’s 99% of the time that there is one partner – let’s assume that there are two people – one partner that does more than the other one.
Joe Fairless: Yep. Of course.
Mark Kenney: Without a doubt, you know who it is very early in the process.
Joe Fairless: Yep. So you have to understand that. I think, Tamiel and I are very well balanced. And we’re married, and we have different roles, but there will be a time when you’re in a partnership and you’re going to either feel like you’re doing more than the other person. And you might be; you just have to decide how big of a deal is that for you. If you’re both striving to make the business successful, you’re just going to have to realize that you may be doing more than the other partner, and that’s just reality. It happens all the time.
Joe Fairless: Anything that we haven’t talked about that you two think we should, before we wrap up?
Mark Kenney: One of the things that comes in mind, because again, I’m seeing a lot of partnerships that come through, I tell people – and they are adults, they make their own decisions, but I will say, “Hey, if you’re going to partner, watch your partner on a single deal together.” I can’t tell you how many people come into our group saying, “We’re partners, we’re partnering on all deals together.” Well, lots of times, something happens.
Joe Fairless: Yep.
Mark Kenney: So partner on a single deal, see how you guys work together. And then what happens – let’s say, you and I, Joe, our partners, and you have a skill set that I don’t have, and other people in the group want to partner with you. Would you bring me in? “Well, hey, Joe, I’m your partner.” “Well, yeah, Mark, but you’re not adding any value.” You know, so that’s a struggle.
So getting those things defined upfront, just like a marriage, is very, very important. And you won’t have it all figured out, you won’t. But if you do those things, it will make your life a lot easier, and if you have to have a tough conversation with your partner, you need to have those tough conversations.
Joe Fairless: Yeah, that’s a great point. I see that time and time again, where people will say, “Hey, here’s my partner, we’re going to do it.” And then one of them just drops off the face of the Earth, and the other one proceeds. It happens 70% of the time. But thank goodness, we’re doing individual deals, versus trying to create the new Facebook where we’re giving people equity immediately, and now we’re stuck with them… Because there’s only one deal, it is “We’re the new Facebook.” But as real estate investors, we can bounce from deal to deal. And fortunately, for you two and for me, we have found the right partners. I’m not married to my business partner, but we’ve found the right partners and we’ve grown together that way, but it doesn’t always pan out that way.
Mark Kenney: Correct.
Joe Fairless: Well, how can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you two are doing and how to learn about your coaching and also your deals and conferences?
Tamiel Kenney: Sure, they can just go to our website, thinkmultifamily.com. If you’re interested in the coaching, then it’s thinkmultifamily.com/coaching/. If you’re interested in investing, it’s thinkmultifamily.com/invest/. You can also ask us questions by firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to send personal emails to either myself or Mark, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joe Fairless: Thanks for being on the show. As always, thanks for giving your insight and sharing your experiences of partnering up together, and grateful that you both are on the show and I’m looking forward to speaking again soon.
Mark Kenney: Thanks, Joe.
Tamiel Kenney: Thanks, Joe.
Mark Kenney: We’ll see you here in a few months too, so looking forward to that.
Joe Fairless: Absolutely.
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