August 5, 2022

JF2894: 7 Secrets to Cultivating a Winning Team ft. AJ Klenk

AJ Klenk entered real estate in the middle of the Great Recession in 2009 with a dream to eventually build schools internationally in developing countries. Today, he is the founder and owner of Capstone Companies, the country’s largest privately owned multifamily apartment brokerage. He is also a GP of more than 2,000 units, owns a multifamily development company along with multiple restaurants, and just returned from building a school in Nicaragua. 

In this episode, AJ shares his tips for cultivating a winning team and discusses how his success is helping him achieve his ultimate dream of giving back.

How to Create a Winning Team


1. Determine your core values.

Once you can identify which characteristics and principles are most important to you, you can work to surround yourself with people who share them. 


2. Put your team first.

AJ has learned that prioritizing your team is key. “If you can focus on bringing your whole team up, then you'll come up with the team,” he says.


3. Seek out complementary skill sets. 

Surround yourself with subject matter experts with the knowledge and experience you lack. After spending 15 years building businesses and brokering real estate, AJ didn’t let his lack of development experience stop him from getting into the business — he simply surrounded himself with experienced developers.


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4. A positive attitude is key.

Members of your team should possess qualities like high energy, optimism, enthusiasm, curiosity, high integrity, respect, and humility. 


5. Keep them close.

Once you find great people, keep them close. Communicate regularly. “Hit them up every once in a while with a text message or give them a shout on the phone and catch up for a beer,” AJ says. “You never know where it’s going to lead.”


6. Be honest.

“My best man at my wedding told me that I’m the most brutally honest person that he’s ever met, and I would encourage everybody to be that way,” AJ says. He notes that this is especially important with respect to hiring and retention. Establishing an open dialogue with each team member and making time to ask questions can make all the difference.


7. Know when to walk away.

Don’t waste time with someone you don’t respect or who acts unethically. “Even if there might be a commission check on the other end of it, for me, I couldn’t spend my time with those folks,” AJ says, “and there’s a lot of fish in the sea.”

AJ Klenk | Real Estate Background

  • Owner of Capstone Companies and Catalyst Capital Partners, a multifamily development company.
  • Portfolio: GP of 2,000+ units, and currently has 18 multifamily projects in motion at various stages. Also the owner of multiple restaurants in the Carolinas.
  • Based in: Charlotte, NC
  • Say hi to him at:
  • Greatest lesson: Grow your business where you feel real value can be created and where a positive impact can be had on others.


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Ash Patel: Hello, Best Ever listeners. Welcome to the Best real estate investing advice ever show. I'm Ash Patel and I'm with today's guests, AJ Klenk. AJ is joining us from North Carolina. He's a GP on multifamily, and has 18 multifamily projects in motion at various stages. AJ is also the owner of multiple restaurants in the Carolinas. AJ, thank you for joining us and how are you today? I'm doing great. Thank you for having me.

Ash Patel: It's our pleasure. AJ, before we get started, can you give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and what you're focused on now?

AJ Klenk: Sure. So I grew up in Southern Michigan, went to the University of Michigan, had a dream to be in real estate... Ultimately, my dream was to develop schools internationally, in third-world countries, and I've done some of that. So real estate is really my path to get to that point where I can focus there full-time. I got into real estate 2009, middle of the recession; I ultimately founded what's now the country's largest privately-owned multifamily apartment brokerage called Capstone Companies. I grew that from scratch with a couple partners out of Charlotte, North Carolina, and now have 19 offices across the country, and we'll close probably $6 billion worth of real estate this year. 130-person company. And from there, left Capstone active brokerage, and formed a development company called Catalyst Capital Partners beginning in 2019. We ramped that up pretty quickly to 18-19 projects in our development pipeline, mostly across the Carolinas. And I have a hospitality company on the side. That's the gist of my real estate experience.

Ash Patel: AJ, do you get bored easily?

AJ Klenk: I do. Yeah, definitely.

Ash Patel: You just find new challenges to keep taking on...

AJ Klenk: Yeah, everybody has a different set of motivating factors, and I definitely thrive off of new challenges and learning as much as I can about as many areas as I can.

Ash Patel: You started a multifamily brokerage in 2009, when there was blood on the streets. Can you talk us through that?

AJ Klenk: Sure. We had basically myself and two partners, we didn't want to be in residential real estate, so we knew we wanted to focus in commercial, and really thought there was a good future in the multifamily asset class, and didn't see a reason why we couldn't be a part of that. And we really went out and taught ourselves what a cap rate was... We didn't really have an experienced mentor or experienced person on our team, so we were really learning it from scratch, doing a lot of networking, banging on a lot of doors, hearing a lot of no's, creating our database of properties from the old apartment guide books that you'd see at the grocery stores, cataloguing those was in Excel files... Yeah, just grinded for years to eventually starting to get some "Yes, we'll share our financials with you. Yes, we'll list our property with you." And obviously, you start small, so we started on some of the least attractive properties out there, and then over the years we've built that reputation. And have a great reputation. We've got, I think, 60 real estate brokers across our offices, and in our history, we've had a two I can think of that have ever left our company for competitors. So we've got an incredible retention, very unlike the majority of the investment sales, brokerage world; there's a lot of hopping from one company to the next. That happens pretty regularly. But yeah, I think it's just a lesson in keeping your head down, doing the right thing, having a high integrity, and doing what you say you're going to do over and over.

Ash Patel: AJ, what were some of the hardest lessons in scaling that company?

AJ Klenk: That's a great question. I would say stretching your comfort zone and becoming fond of change. You're always going to be changing, doing something you haven't done. So I think studying from other industries, other businesses that have scaled, and just getting comfort with taking those risks. I think as we've grown to be the size we are today, it led to a lot more HR challenges, I'd say; it becomes much more of a managing people than managing deals type of a role. But yeah, I think everything has its challenges, and that's just part of life, right? It's navigating them, it's asking for help... Being humbled and not claiming to have all the answers I think is also very important, looking for advice from people who have been there before... And it's led us to a good place.

Ash Patel: What's the biggest mindset shift you had before Capstone till today?

AJ Klenk: My parents raised me to believe anything is possible, and not really have limits on my goals. And I think in entering the big time multifamily space where we're representing massive family offices, private equity groups, even institutions, I think I've learned through that that all shapes and sizes sort of comprise that ownership group, and [unintelligible 00:07:10.05] been incredibly impressed by the folks that I've come across, and their stories, and their work ethic, and how they've gotten here... But there have been a lot of instances where I've seen folks that maybe were born into money, or born into a real estate portfolio, or just kind of lucked into it. And so I think I took the mindset that if they can do it, I can do it. So I think always having that mantra, you're working harder than the person next to you and you're treating everybody with respect, hopefully we can do what others have done that maybe haven't followed with those same sets of ideals.

Ash Patel: AJ, you have a very successful brokerage. What made you want to start all over and go into development?

AJ Klenk: Another good question. The brokerage company feels like a high school sports team. If you can remember back to those times, athletics, where you had a really tight-knit group and you felt like brothers or sisters with your teammates, and you'd do anything for them... That's really the culture that we have at Capstone. Check your ego at the door, team before self, are a couple of our core values. So I don't ever want to lose that. We haven't sold our interest in Capstone, we don't have any plans to. We've had a lot of groups that have offered to buy Capstone, but with the culture that we have, with the consistency there, it's not something I want to leave.

So we transitioned to a board seat for myself and my two partners. We hired an experienced executive team, a CEO and CFO, CTO, head of HR, Chief Brand Officer... And the development space, Catalyst Capital Partners, our entity there is really the next challenge, I guess, personal challenge and professional challenge, now that we've got Capstone on good footing. So I think that's more or less it. I think I personally reached a point where I wasn't learning anything new, and I wasn't really being challenged. And when I reached that point, I lost interest in continuing to do the same thing over and over it. It felt more capitalistic than I was comfortable for; it became me counting the commissions more so than in the past, where I was more focused on the learning aspect of things. So yeah, I'd say for the challenge is probably the biggest rationale.

Ash Patel: And how does somebody that's very successful start a development company? Did you partner with an existing developer? Or my guess is, you just wanted to figure it out on your own.

AJ Klenk: Yeah, I think your guess is pretty accurate. We did not partner with any other development companies. We have done a couple of co-GP deals where there have been levels of partnership within those ownership entities. But honestly, every dollar that I made through brokerage, I put right back into real estate, and I happened to hit it at a good time, [unintelligible 00:09:49.15] bought a single-family home, for example, for 30 grand, that's worth 300 grand.

So you continue to do that over and over, which is what I did, on commercial and residential properties. You develop a nice little net worth and REO, and that really allowed myself and my partners the ability to sign guarantees for some pretty large acquisitions and large development projects. So we have been around it a lot, I've sold a lot of multifamily land, I know all the developers, I know a lot of the capital sources, so it's really just putting those pieces together.

Ash Patel: And what's your goal with the projects you're developing? Is it to hold them or sell them?

AJ Klenk: So one thing that I've seen over and over is developers having their hands tied by their equity partners as to what they ultimately choose to do with their assets once they build them. So lots of times if you have a JV equity partner, or if you have an institutional equity partner, essentially you'll cede control to them. So when you build the asset, it's up to them if you hold it long-term, or if you sell it, or when you sell it.

We would prefer to maintain as much control as we can, but I think we've seen a lot of developers and investors in general who have sold sooner than they wanted to sell, or sooner than maybe they could have. And obviously, the last ten years have been a good example as to why it would be helpful to hold those assets a little bit longer than one typically would, which merchant developers are building and they're selling as soon as they lease up.

So I think our goal is to hold as much as we can, create a similar culture to what we have at Capstone. And the dream is, I think, wake up ten years from now and we have a core team that we've built, that everybody has ownership in the assets, everybody has some mailbox money, if you will. That's the sort of future we're looking for, is to be opportunistic, and we may sell when we need to, but so far, we have maintained control on our assets, so that we can make the decision to hold or to sell.

Ash Patel: Are you taking on investors for these projects?

AJ Klenk: Yeah, always adding to the investor database, for sure. We've got a great loyal group of investors. And we've had high net worth investors who'd like to do the whole equity check themselves. And we've intentionally spread that around a little bit more so, so our last couple of deals in between 15 and 25 investors, as small as $50,000 investors. So always looking for investors, I think -- because we've come from the brokerage world here in the southeast, and we have a ton of great relationships, both with brokers and with owners, we have a knack for finding great opportunities, and not just opportunities that pencil, but opportunities with really phenomenal stories, timeless pieces of real estate that you could see yourself owning long-term. So a lot of our investors feel the same way. If they find an asset through us that has a great story for the long-term, they'd like to be along for the ride with us as well.

Ash Patel: And do you have that conversation ahead of time, in that this might be a very long-term hold, so that the investors that want their quick returns, they're not going to get them?

AJ Klenk: Sure. So I would say we definitely have that conversation. It's always a question we're asked. We use Zoom webinars for all of our investments and hear that pretty regularly. All of our operating agreements are structured so that we will have a capital event when we stabilize the asset, we will refinance it and hold it, or we will sell it. So at either of those stages our high net worth equity investors can choose to take their money at that point, or they can choose to take some of it, or they can choose to stay in the deal. So we still maintain maximum flexibility for our investors to do whatever suits them best at that time.

Ash Patel: That sounds like a win. With building materials at an all-time-high, where are you building these properties where it's a good deal?

AJ Klenk: I think the key right now is focusing on your construction type. I say that while I'm sitting in a property in South End Charlotte, where we're building a 30-story residential high-rise, which you can't really control costs too much on a high rise... But predominantly, we're focused on surface part, wood frame three, four, five-story multifamily projects. That's where you can keep your bases a little bit lower than a deck wrap or a podium constructed deal.

So I think that's our focus, for sure... Really, anywhere where you can accomplish that is where you're going to have a little bit of a cost advantage, but we're all building with sticks and bricks, so there's really not a ton of variability across projects. I think there are some innovative things and ways to build; there are a few builders out there that have more prototyped buildings that we can take plans off the shelf, fit them onto a larger site plan and cut down a lot of the time that typically takes us to get through our architectural planning, and obviously our construction time as well is shortened... But through that they've achieved a lot of cost efficiencies through their designing of those prototype buildings. So I think that's another interesting thing to look at, where you can save a little bit on your hard costs today.

Ash Patel: AJ, what is podium and deck wrap?

AJ Klenk: That's just ways to describe parking. So deck wrap -- basically, a parking deck with woodframe units wrapping the parking deck, which those parking spaces are probably three to four times the cost of a surface parking space. And then a podium is essentially a parking deck with units on top of it. You can typically go to stories of podium with five stories of woodframe; you can't really go much higher than that per state building code, because the fire trucks can't get much higher if there were to be a fire. So again, if you can stay away from those two parking methods, you can usually keep your costs a little bit lower.

Ash Patel: AJ, for some of the Best Ever listeners that are realtors or brokers, would you recommend starting your own brokerage? And what kind of person is best suited for that?

AJ Klenk: That's an interesting question. I think it really depends on the asset class. I think if you're in residential selling homes, absolutely; you should go out and start your own brokerage. I don't really think there's a great value proposition from residential real estate brokerages out there, compared to doing it on your own if you've got a network and a decent business sense.

I think if you're looking into the commercial space, if you like being a commercial broker, and you know how to be a commercial broker, there's no reason you can't start your own company, especially if you have some experience. I do think that gaining that experience is really valuable, so I would definitely recommend joining a commercial brokerage, gaining some experience before going out and starting your own. And I think if you want to focus on an asset class like multifamily, that's obviously something that a lot of folks have tried to do in starting new multifamily-focused brokerages. But it took us ten years to get to the point where we're finally in the rotation with sellers, where we've sold a seller an asset, and now they believe us enough and trust us enough to sell one of their assets with us.

So I would just be prepared for a long haul. There's a lot of quid-pro-quo-ness in the investment sales business, meaning the best sellers probably get the most deals, because the brokers see them as keys to their next real estate listing. So it just takes time to get your first sale to a buyer, who then can become a client on the sales side, if that makes sense. So that was one thing that I learned. And I don't really think there's a great way to shortcut that. I think it takes that repetition and getting some deals under your belt before you start getting a little bit of love from the sellers as well.

Ash Patel: A lot of integrity and a lot of patience, recipe for success on starting a brokerage. AJ, one of the things I swore I'd never get into is the bar in the restaurant industry, and here I am, I've got some bars and restaurants... How did you get into that?

AJ Klenk: I think that was another opportunistic, and a little bit bored at the time story. I owned some properties in the path of growth that I knew would be commercial properties someday soon... And I decided that it made more sense for me to actually start the business, as opposed to leasing the space to a restaurant operator and figuring out all the TI, and/or handling [unintelligible 00:18:12.16] myself and just being a landlord. Like I said, I really thrive off of learning and growing through that, and whatever industry that it might be in, I just think it makes me more well-rounded and more appreciative of what I have, and what others have gone through and are going through... So that's how that came to be.

Similar to my real estate strategies - I went out and found the best possible operating partners that I could, I've found a chef, Chris Coleman, who's somewhat of a local celebrity here in the South-East in the restaurant scenes. He beat Bobby Flay, and he's been Chopped Champion and been on the Food Network a bunch of times... So a younger guy like myself, I was a good teammate on the back-of-the-house side of things, and found the same on the front of the house with my partner, Shawn Potter. So yeah, we launched a restaurant in Charlotte called the Goodyear House, which has won a lot of accolades in the first couple of years. We opened 41 days before the pandemic shut us down in March of 2019... So it's been an interesting road getting going there, but we've exceeded all of our expectations from a coverage standpoint and from a revenue standpoint. Opened our second restaurant, and we're working on our third and fourth right now, and have a couple more in the hopper.

So I created the team and I show up with some of the capital and some of the real estate and some of the design sense. Otherwise, I have tried to let my partners run that business, which they've done quite well.

Break: [00:19:36.24] to [00:21:23.06]

Ash Patel: A common theme i everything that you've talked about today is your team. Did you always have a team with you? Were you ever a one-man shop? And what are some of the successful attributes that make your team work well together?

AJ Klenk: Sure. So I think it goes back to probably my time at the University of Michigan. And we had a famous football coach named Bo Schembechler that his mantra was "The team, the team, the team", right? He didn't want anybody focusing on themselves before they focused on the team. And I think the thought process was, if you can focus on bringing your whole team up, then you'll come up with the team. So I think that parallels really well in real estate. I wasn't born with a real estate background or with knowledge of what a cap rate was... So I had to go out and surround myself with people, hopefully, that had been there, and had received that education, or perhaps had spent the last in the development business, for example, had spent the last 15 years in development. Those are the best developers, not me, who's been focused for the last 15 years on building businesses and brokering real estate.

So I just think you've got to find your subject matter experts, you've got to design the seat that you need in your company before you go find the person, but also be open-minded and keeping your eyes peeled for just great people, that have a lot of the same tools that I've described. Again, high-energy, optimistic, enthusiastic, curious, high-integrity, does what they say they're going to do, treats people with respect, doesn't have an ego... These are really basic things that hopefully a lot of our parents taught us when we were younger. And I think if you just boil it down and you go try to find those folks... And then keep them close - hit him up every once a while with a text message, or give them a shout on the phone and catch up for a beer... You never know where it's going to lead.

So I think as long as you develop this network of good people around you, whether that's business or life, and you're thinking very entrepreneurially and creatively about your life and who you want to be in it, that you'll probably find a spot for them to play a bigger role in your life, and that's a beautiful thing. At that point you're not interviewing somebody from scratch, you've got somebody that you've built a great relationship with, and they seem like a perfect fit for your team.

Ash Patel: AJ, there had to have been a few bumps in the road... What's a tough lesson you learned about teams or individuals?

AJ Klenk: My best man at my wedding told me that I'm the most brutally honest person that he's ever met, and I would encourage everybody to be that way. I think that helps you to see around certain corners and expose certain feelings of your employees or your teams that you might not otherwise hear about.

So with respect to hiring and retention - very challenging right now to hire. Obviously, take all those characteristics I mentioned, but I had an individual on one of my teams recently that was approached and was offered to leave our company to be paid much more money than he was being paid, and different benefits... And I think I had sort of rested on my laurels a little bit there and not really had as open of a dialogue with that individual about how he felt about his current role, about his compensation, the structure, and ultimately was able to reel that individual back in, if you will, with having those open conversations that maybe I should have had sooner. So I think that's one piece of advice, is just that open communication with all of your teammates at all times. You never know who they're talking to or what they're thinking, so just making time to ask those questions I think is really valuable.

Ash Patel: And where you able to retain that employee?

AJ Klenk: Yes, we were able to. That individual didn't want to leave, it was just probably a lack of communication for a short period of time that led to that. So yeah, we were able to retain that individual. Obviously, I haven't made a lot of (knock on wood) mistakes in my real estate deals; I've owned up to 50 properties on my own, and all those have appreciated quite well, the restaurants have gone pretty well, the development seems to be going pretty well... To be honest, [unintelligible 00:25:25.12] sort of period, I invested some money in cryptocurrency about a year ago; it's probably not as down as much as others, but that's down, and to me, that was a great lesson. Let's find a failure. That's the only way I'm going to be growing, right? You're not growing unless you're failing. And I think I learned through that. And I'd kind of restrategized, took some of those funds, put them in with a more focus fund of folks that manage those types of assets... But I think at the end of the day, focus on what you know the most, focus on what you've been spending your time studying... And sometimes you need a little kick in the ass reminder like that. Hopefully, it's not too painful when it happens. But yeah, that's the only other -- I'm sure there's a lot of lessons, but those are a couple that are popping up in my mind right now.

Ash Patel: Yeah, we all need that little reckoning to bring us back down to reality and learn some hard lessons. What is one thing that you wish you had done differently in business?

AJ Klenk: I'm always the visionary in our team of three, with my two partners, I'm the one that has the high and lofty goals. Capstone's ambition is to be a billion-dollar brand in the next 10 years. That sounds aggressive coming off the tongue, but we don't have any debt at our brokerage company... We have never utilized debt or investors money really to help us grow. And I was always an advocate for that, because I just felt like we could have grown a lot faster and gotten to where we are now a lot quicker, through quicker sort of geographic growth. So I think after you've proven yourself in whatever it may be, you have the confidence to go out and take a bigger risk. For us, with that Capstone example, we did take risks; we added one or two offices, three offices every year. But we could have probably done even more than that. So I think that's probably a good lesson that I've taken.

And then I think, like I said, create a Rolodex of your top 100, top 300 contacts in and out of your profession, and keep them close, and think about based on how you want your next 10, 20, 30 years to look professionally personally, how you could potentially see those people helping and being a teammate and helping you get to where you want to go. I've tried to be intentional about that and keep my friends close.

And then obviously, if you've got somebody that you don't respect or you see doing something unethical, I don't think another second about it. Even if there might be a commission check on the other end of it for me, I cannot spend my time with those folks. There's a lot of fish in the sea. So find people that fit your core values, and those that don't... There's one of everybody, but they don't need to be for you.

Ash Patel: Yeah, great advice. AJ, that 1 to 300 people in your Rolodex - how do you communicate with them? Do you send them a newsletter? Do you just pick up the phone every so often?

AJ Klenk: I haven't been a part of a [unintelligible 00:28:04.19] for anybody out there in real estate brokerage is a great commercial real estate coaching program. And they're big advocates of top 100 and top one 300; your top 100 you're supposed to hit every month, and you can really touch base in any form of communication, but it's meant to be a little bit more personal. So a text message, phone call, meeting lunch... The top 300 I'd say you try to hit them every quarter. And this doesn't have to be exact; I think if you can be really religious about it, you're going to be even better. But more so having that sort of CRM if you will open, keeping it top of mind as you develop your businesses, then you can of course put those people into your email databases, like we do for Capstone, and like we do for Catalyst. So you can have a separate sort of messaging program and schedule where you can keep folks in touch with you that way.

I think social media is a great thing to consider as well. I have been sort of ad-hoc with my social media, but I'm thinking about being a little bit more thoughtful and maybe even enlisting some help... Because I think the thought leadership that can be provided and the value that can be added to others in your network through that is probably more powerful now than it has ever been. And I see that continuing. So yeah, being thoughtful about your messaging on social media I think will continue to be something folks talk about.

Ash Patel: AJ, are you ready for the Best Ever lightning round?

AJ Klenk: I'm ready, man.

Ash Patel: Let's do it. What's the Best Ever book you've recently read?

AJ Klenk: I've got a bunch here in my office. I'm gonna rattle off a couple, just for the sake of listeners. "The magic of thinking big" is phenomenal. You can translate that to any industry, or just your personal life. A book called Think Again by Adam Grant, who is the author of Outliers; it's really a lesson in treating every situation like a scientist. So while you might know the best way to acquire a real estate asset now, think about it with a blank slate next year, because things might have changed. There might be a totally new strategy that you're not aware of. Continue learning, and continue questioning your assumptions and you'll find a lot through that.

I'd say the best one I've read recently, that's really opened up my mind in a scary way, has been one called "Time really is money" by Rob Slee. And the idea there is quantifying your hourly wage, or what your time is worth. So we all know you can go get a job flipping burgers, perhaps for $10 or $15 an hour. But as you continue to look at yourself as a business and your businesses and your role within those businesses, you can really raise your hourly rate, if you will, or the value of your time. And I think all the way up to $5,000 an hour, right? So a $5,000 an hour wage earner - that's not where I am, but you have transformational business leaders. So if you think about Uber and you think about Amazon, lots of them are tech-enabled businesses; you can start focusing your energies on tasks that have multiples of value that you can't possibly do just as one person. So creating systems, creating machines, and then really steering those machines and those systems with high-value activities like recruiting, and envisioning, and team building, and marketing.

So you want to ultimately get up to that point where you're focusing on more of the high-level, visionary type activities, and have the team under you or a system under you operating. So that was pretty interesting, and scary too. You've got somebody who gets bored easily, and that makes me think about dropping everything, and doing something totally different.

Ash Patel: What's one big thing that you changed from reading "Time really is money"?

AJ Klenk: This was from another coaching program I'm a part of, called Strategic Coach. So the idea is create a matrix, and you have what you're good at, and enjoy doing, what you're good at and don't enjoy doing, what you don't enjoy doing but you're good at what, and what you don't enjoy doing and you're bad at. So you've got four quadrants; you write down every activity that you have in your week. So that can be as small as driving to the office, or driving your kids to soccer, or making cold calls, or working on marketing... And you basically compartmentalize each of those tasks, you create a long list, put them each in their categories where they fit... And you really start then thinking about how you can get all of the things in those couple categories that you're not good at, or you don't enjoy - how can you offload those to a personal assistant, or to a teammate, or just get them out of your life altogether, and then how you can focus your energies on what you enjoy and what you're good at, or what you enjoy and you're not good at; really trying to focus your time spent there. And I think that's really transformed how I live my life now. I'm a lot more intentional about how I go on my day. I've never been happier with the role that I have. You hear lot of people complain about the role they have in their job or in their life, and I think this is all changeable. That's the beauty of America, right? You create your own adventure. So it just takes a little bit of planning, but that's a great exercise I think anybody can do from home.

Ash Patel: Yeah, and great advice for anybody that's a one-man or one-woman shop. Look at what AJ is talking about; it's so important to evaluate your time and to offload tasks that you hate doing. AJ, what's the Best Ever way you like to give back?

AJ Klenk: The really big break for me - and that's honestly, like I said, what drove me to real estate - I built a school in Bolivia growing up, and that just transformed my thinking. If you haven't been to a true sort of rural third world developing country, you probably don't have the right appreciation for what we have here in the States. I built a school in Bolivia, I just recently built a school in Nicaragua through my Restaurant Group... I have a nonprofit [unintelligible 00:33:48.05] for each of my businesses, and we're starting to develop schools and rural communities around the world for every apartment development that we build now. So it'd be a really nice accomplishment to put 75 kids to school each year for each project.

I'm on the global board of a group called Build On. They've built more schools in developing countries than any other NGO. Based in Connecticut. This is a really great group to be a part of, and it's also a group that you can raise money with your friends, your church group, your business, and you can -- I actually travel abroad to work on that school with that group as well, which is a really great experience. I just got back from 15 days in the mountains of Nicaragua, sleeping in a [unintelligible 00:34:29.10] shack with holes in the floors, and a community where people make $300 a year. But I'm telling you, they're as happy as they can be. They've never been happier. They've never been more grateful. And all they want is a school, a place for their kids to learn, and the ability to earn as a family. So I'm really big on that, and hopefully before long I'll be fully focused on that sort of endeavor full-time.

Ash Patel: AJ, how can the Best Ever listeners reach out to you?

AJ Klenk: I appreciate that and I'm happy to help. I love mentoring or just offering a couple of words of advice. So a couple of websites, for Catalyst Capital Partners. is the apartment brokerage, or you can reach out to me on LinkedIn, AJ Klenk, or my email,

Ash Patel: Incredible. And this conversation today was incredible as well. AJ, thank you again for joining us, sharing your story, starting one of the most successful brokerages out there, going into development, restaurants, giving back the way you do... I've gotta thank you again for sharing your time today with us.

AJ Klenk: Absolutely, anytime. Happy to help. And compliments to you guys too on all you've done. It sounds like you've got quite a podcast. I've listened to a handful the episodes and you guys have a great following, so congratulations to you as well.

Ash Patel: Awesome. Thank you, man. Best Ever listeners, thank you for joining us. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave us a five star review. Share the podcast with someone you think can benefit from it. Also, follow, subscribe and have a Best Ever day!

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