October 31, 2022

JF2979: Starting from Scratch & Seizing Opportunities ft. Vab Jain


Vab Jain left medical school in 1998 to become a stock broker. After serving on the Chicago Board Options Exchange for a time, he returned to school to earn his master’s degree. By 2006, he had an MBA, but no job prospects. Determined to own his own business, Vab began investing in hotels. However, one deal that didn’t work out left him with nothing. 

 

Without a home or any money, Vab returned to his hometown of Dayton, Ohio, to stay with his parents and start from scratch. He decided to turn around a hotel that his parents owned, which became the catalyst he needed to get back on his feet.

 

Today, Vab is the CEO of Athena Investments. In this episode, he shares how he was able to use creative financing for several years while he worked on improving his credit, how he has been able to adapt to an ever-changing market, and his advice for scaling in today’s economic climate. 

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Vab Jain | Real Estate Background

  • CEO of Athena Investments. He also served on the CBOE (Chicago Board Options Exchange).
  • Portfolio:
    • GP of 200+ residential units
  • Based in: Dayton, OH
  • Say hi to him at:

 

 

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TRANSCRIPT

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 guest, Vab Jain. Vab is joining us from Dayton, Ohio. He has an extremely interesting background. At one point he was actually homeless, and now has over 200 units. We're gonna dive into that. Vab, thank you so much for joining us. How are you today?

Vab Jain: Good. How are you?

Ash Patel: Very well. Thanks for asking. Vab, before we get started, can you give the Best Ever listeners a little bit about your background and what you're focused on now?

Vab Jain: Today's current background, or background from 20 years ago?

Ash Patel: No, man, give me the whole story.

Vab Jain: "Give me the whole story." So I graduated undergrad in about 1998 from Ohio State. And like a good little Indian kid back then, I was going to medical school. I was on my way, and it just didn't jive with me to go spend eight more years doing residency in medical school. So I completely left, and I went and became a stockbroker, honestly. This is in 2000, I'd say. And even that was relatively boring, because it was just -- you'd sit in an office, cold-call etc. Pick up clients... You know, there's a lot of money in the stock market market, but it wasn't really my passion. So then I was able to finagle my way on the Chicago Board of Options Exchange. This is about 2001. And I ended up basically clerking and trading on the floor back then. It was an incredible time, and everything you hear and see in the movies is real. They're throwing all the papers up and down, there are crazy parties, lots of money... I mean, the guys I was clerking for, they'd made like $3 million in just a matter of a summer. It was crazy. At that time, about September 2001, I remember the September 11 happened. And at that point, the market started to crash. There was changes coming... I left and I ended up just going back to get my master's. So I went back to grad school at Ohio State, and I got my MBA. Incredible experience; I would recommend anybody go do that. Education is just a) it's an important, b) it's a great learning experience. It's not always about the degree, it's about the people you meet, things of that nature. I'll give you a quick two stories from that.

I ended up backpacking through Europe, I would have never thought that -- I was 26 years old, and a buddy of mine says, "Hey, I'm gonna go to Ireland." "That sounds like a pretty good idea. I'd like to go to Ireland." So I signed up for the exchange program, and I spent all six months in England. I mean, it was an incredible experience.

I'll give you one more story that I remember from my masters days... There was a doctor - and anybody can do their masters, by the way; you don't have to be an accounting background or anything. So there was a doctor sitting next to me in class. I don't know what type of doctor he was. And he used to go running between classes. I looked at him one day and said, "Gosh, you run in between classes? Between one to three you'll go run at the gym? Who does that?" [laughs] Who would do that? The next year, I was running in between classes. I did two half marathons in a week. And all just because -- yeah, it was incredible [unintelligible 00:03:48.13]

Ash Patel: I didn't even want to walk to my next class in college. I would ride a bike if I could, or take the bus, let alone run. So that inspired you, and then you started running half marathons.

Vab Jain: Yes.

Ash Patel: So you're saying you're easily influenced.

Vab Jain: [laughs] Yeah. It could help sometimes. So with that said, I graduated, I think, in '05, '06, around there. And at that time, the market had recovered, everyone was taking jobs... About 98% of my graduating class had a job lined up when they left. Guess who didn't? Right here. I had zero interest. And I had applied to Cantor Fitzgerald, all these big-name firms out there... I was gonna go do the MBA stuff, and it just, I don't know, there was just something that didn't jive with me there either. So I was looking for my own business.

Long story short, we got into hotels, and I got into one in Columbus. Fast-forward, ran that for a couple of years... Things just didn't work out. I'll just leave it at that. And at the end, I had nothing. This is about 2012 at this point. I left that place, and it was me, my dog, and a minivan. So when you say homeless, it's true, but it was like the pseudo-homeless. I could go stay with friends; I didn't have a home, I didn't have a place to sleep. Yeah, buddies will let you crash, your parents could always go some time, but I didn't end up doing that. I ended up coming back to Dayton, Ohio, where my parents were at, here... And I literally just started from scratch again.

Ash Patel: Did you wish you had followed the track of all your other MBA colleagues and gotten a job instead of going out on your own?

Vab Jain: Not at all today.

Ash Patel: Not today, when you left that hotel in your minivan. Did you kick yourself and say, "Damn, if I'd only not gone out on my own..." And did it occur to you that you should start looking for a job? What was your mindset?

Vab Jain: Great question. No, I never once looked back at not becoming an MBA and doing that work. So that I will answer by saying, [unintelligible 00:05:50.21] still want to go do that kind of work. I'll tell you honestly, something in my life, I didn't care how much money I made. I didn't care if I made $25,000 a year. I just wanted freedom in my life; freedom to take a Friday off, freedom to not ask my boss, "Can I go do this? Can I go do this on a Wednesday afternoon?" That's all I've ever asked. No amount of money can buy you that. So I didn't care about money. To this day, I can literally live out of my car. It was never an important thing. So what was my mindset? My mindset at that point was just to survive, honestly.

Ash Patel: What was the driving force for you not wanting to work for somebody? Was it seeing your parents struggle? Was it you having a bad job early on, and realizing this sucks? You're obviously very driven with not wanting to work for somebody else. Why is that?

Vab Jain: Like everybody, we've all done jobs, whether it be the call center job, or the stock market job, McDonald's... I just hated always having to work a schedule nine to five, or live under somebody else's command at all times. They had the ability to fire you when they wanted... I remember especially the call center jobs I'd picked up early - this is college days, of course - 15 minute breaks. I didn't even smoke, and I wanted to become a smoker with the rest of them, so I can just get that [unintelligible 00:07:06.25] It's a very structured life, and that's not something I wanted. And that's why, again, it didn't matter if I made 25k or not in a whole year. I just didn't want a structured life. I wanted the ability to go lay at the campground sites and see the stars if I wanted, without somebody's saying, "Hey, you need to get back to work."

Ash Patel: Yeah. Alright, man, so here we are... You lost everything, you're out of the hotel business... Were you also in debt? Or was it just back to zero?

Vab Jain: Yeah, so I had lost everything, the bank had taken over. I had no credit, and I couldn't even buy a cheeseburger on credit at this point. I couldn't get a loan. I didn't have much money... So the deal I had kind of made was - alright, my parents said, "If you can help pay the mortgage at the hotel, you can stay there, and if you can make a couple thousand bucks a month, you can keep it." I was like, "Okay. It's a couple thousand bucks, I can live off that. It's okay."

So I remember walking around the place in June or July going "We're not going to make it. This place [unintelligible 00:08:08.05] I did some things, turned it around, and by the end of the year it was still finally profitable enough where -- I remember borrowing money from my cousins just to make payroll and then paying them back two weeks later; every single month I was doing this, just to keep it afloat.

Ash Patel: And this was a hotel that your parents owned at the time?

Vab Jain: Yes.

Ash Patel: So this is different than the one that was taken away.

Vab Jain: Yes. It was just a bad market in 2012.

Ash Patel: Got it. So you went into turning your parents' hotel around?

Vab Jain: Yeah.

Ash Patel: And that was a catalyst for you getting back on your feet.

Vab Jain: That was literally the catalyst. So by March of 2014, one of the maintenance guys said to me, "Why don't you buy an apartment building or something?" I said, "I know nothing about apartment buildings. I've never even used a hammer and a nail, honestly, in my life." I could barely do anything. I can't do it. He says "It's no different than what we're doing now. You know, we can fix anything." So I said, "Okay."

Somebody came to me and said, "Hey, there's this guy selling 10 or 12 units." And I said, "Okay." I looked at him and I said, "Don't rip me off." And I didn't know anything, so I didn't know how he can rip me off. I really don't even know what [unintelligible 00:09:12.16] I said "What do you want for this duplex?", the guy goes "I want 25k." 2013 or 2014 at this point, right? I said okay. He said "I've got a four-family, 36k." I said "Oh, wow. Okay." I did the numbers...

Ash Patel: You're an MBA at this time, man. You should be able to do some rough numbers.

Vab Jain: I did the numbers, and it made sense. Of course, like a true Indian, I tried to negotiate it all down. $36,000 for four units, especially back then, was still really, really cheap. But I didn't have 36k, just so you know. So I had to go borrow

money...

Ash Patel: My assumption is it needed a ton of rehab as well...

Vab Jain: Actually, in this particular case, not much, because he wasn't an older man, he was 90 years old, he was trying to get out of business... It was more in the harder parts of Dayton, let's say. So he was just trying to get out. So I picked this thing up. Again, I borrowed from friends, family, everybody, and I was able to buy this thing. It didn't make a lot of money, but I started to pay everybody back over time. But it made $500, $1,000 extra a month.

From March to June in that time period I had also been talking to a broker about a property that he listed on the MLS, and this particular property was a bank-owned property, and it was 16 units. And the bank wanted 40 grand. Now, I didn't have 40k.

Ash Patel: Wait, you didn't have 36k. How did you buy the first one?

Vab Jain: I borrowed from friends and family. I had a couple thousand. Maybe up to four or five grand I had saved up at this point.

Ash Patel: And it was a cash deal, or was it financed?

Vab Jain: It was a cash deal, yeah.

Ash Patel: Because your credit sucked.

Vab Jain: Yeah, I had no credit. Banks generally weren't loaning out in those areas a lot of times either.

Ash Patel: Got it. So now you're presented with a 16-unit for how much?

Vab Jain: 40k. This needed work. Eight units were down to the studs, there was some people living there... I called the broker... It was a receivership property... He wasn't all that about selling it... No big deal. I didn't think twice about it, nor do I know anything about this business, again. No big deal. So one day, out of the blue, in like mid-June, he calls me up and goes "Vab, do you want that property?" I said "I would love that property, but I don't have $40,000. I've got $4,000 saved up at this point." And I said, "I'll tell you what I'll do... If you can ask the bank--" Because the $40,000 comprised of $35,000 of back-taxes, and $5,000 in fees for the property management company and broker. Remind me to go back to that broker here in a little bit. What happened next was I said, "Can you ask the bank if they're willing to take" 35k is what I first initially said. He went to the bank, the bank said, "No, we owe 35,000 in property taxes." So I can't do that. I said, "Okay, will you ask them, if I take over the property taxes, and give you the five grand that I've saved up at most, will that get the deal done?" He went back to the bank, and the bank said "Yes, we'll take that."

So then I had to go make a deal with the county. I think it was 200 bucks per building, it was 400 bucks a month, to pay the county property tax. It was like a two or three year plan. And I gave them all the money I had. So that was one of my first biggest deals I had done. This was June of 2014.

Ash Patel: Is that intuition? Or was that learned in your MBA program, on getting creative with deals?

Vab Jain: That was a part of both, honestly. Intuition, for sure, because I'd seen my father make deals throughout his whole life. And it's also something they would teach you properly in your master's program. I would say a combination of both.

1:Yeah. And Best Ever listeners, I want to clarify some of Vab's references about our culture; we're both Indian, and when he mentioned, "I went to med school, like a good little Indian" - I did the same thing, man. I majored in it, because my parents essentially made me. I had a career for 15 years that I did not enjoy. It was what we were supposed to do. So same thing with you, you were supposed to go to med school... You were smart and opted out of that life early on, good for you. And then just first-generation immigrants coming from Asia, in their countries, they negotiate fiercely for everything. So that's ingrained in the culture. So I just want to clarify that... I love that you're pointing these out?

Vab Jain: Yeah, sorry, I didn't mean to--

Ash Patel: No, no, thank you.

Vab Jain: Even down to the food, they negotiate...Like you said, it's just ingrained in our culture. They negotiate to the food vendors. It's a cultural thing, you're right.

Ash Patel: To the point where they'll negotiate, and then tip as if they never negotiated. It's just the art of the deal, so to speak, right? So this $40,000, 16-unit property you acquired for just over $6,000? Where did the rehab money come from?

Vab Jain: Great question. So whatever little bit of money I was making - remember, I had a four-unit now, also had this [unintelligible 00:14:09.03] here's an interesting thing about the rehab... There wasn't a lot of money needed, it was a lot of labor needed. It wasn't faucets and lumber, as much as "Hey, someone's got to go out and actually do the work." I used all the hotels maintenance, and I just kind of sent them out to do that.

Ash Patel: I love it.

Vab Jain: That's how I was able to get that place up and going.

Ash Patel: And that's on your parents payroll.

Vab Jain: Yeah, it was on the hotel's payroll. [laughs]

Ash Patel: Alright, getting creative. How long did the rehab process take?

Vab Jain: So I didn't start immediately rehabbing. Again, I didn't have a lot of money. So we rehabbed for about a good year, year and a half, I'd say. We just kind of ran it, and as money came in, we'd redo a unit. By 2016, I would tell you, within less than two years, I had sold that building. I sold that building for a quarter million dollars.

Ash Patel: Now you've got to be hooked...

Vab Jain: Yeah, I'll never forget...

Ash Patel: Now, you rinse and repeat, right?

Vab Jain: Yes. I sat there, the day I sold it, and I said, "Wow, a quarter million dollars in my bank account, just sitting there. Isn't this crazy, or what?" Remember, there was no bank mortgages, so all that money did come my way. But then you're right, when you say rinse and repeat. The next thing after the 15 minutes of joy that I gathered from that was "what am I going to do with this money?" [unintelligible 00:15:23.06] I have no use of this thing, this money, other than helping an enriching other's lives, children, things of that nature, right? And I said, "What am I gonna do with this money?" So I rinsed and repeated, like you said. I went out and bought a lot more property. At that time, the market was still relatively low, and you could still find deals at 10k, 12k, 15k a door... So I just kept buying more units.

Ash Patel: Did your credit get straightened out, or how are you buying these units?

Vab Jain: With that quarter million dollars was how I started buying those units. I went back to the the old man that I had bought the first set of four units from. He was 92 at this point, and he sold me his last 10. Now, again, I did not have 100,000 locked. It was 10 units and $10,000 apiece, 100k. I came up with $33,000 for him. I might have even had the money, but I made him a deal where he would take the next 66,000 over a payment plan. So I bought 10 units there, and we just started acquiring a lot of units. I don't even know how to describe it, I just started buying.

Ash Patel: It was the Wild West for a few years back then.

Vab Jain: It was the Wild West. I remember passing on deals at $7,000 a unit, telling the lady, "It's just too much money you're asking for." [laughs] Today, those same buildings are worth $500,000, right?

Ash Patel: Yeah. So Vab, at some point, did you build out a team? Or was it always you?

Vab Jain: So the last two, three years - I've only been doing this seven, eight years - we did build out a team. I have three or four guys, I have a property manager now... We did build out a team at some point. He came in 2019, my property manager did... And that's because I was acquiring another 70 units, and there was no way I could handle 140 units I felt at that point by myself. So I did acquire a property manager. He's a good friend of mine, actually.

Ash Patel: You told me to remind you about the broker, come back to the broker... What was that?

Vab Jain: So 2014 I bought that building. He called me up after that and told me he never got paid, because there just wasn't enough money in that deal. So throughout the years, I kept thinking to myself, "I've gotta get back to that guy. I've got to catch up with him." Years have gone by, and in the last seven, eight years, I've been thinking, "I've gotta get a hold of him." Finally, this year, about three months ago, I was driving by somewhere, and I see his billboard, he's selling something else for some company. I take my phone, I get his number, and I immediately call the time. He didn't pick up. I left a message. I said, "Hey, Joe, I haven't seen you in eight years. I hope you remember me. I'd love to meet you at some point, because I'd love to just catch up." He doesn't know what I was going to do for him, but he called me back, we set up a lunch, and I handed him my envelope.

Ash Patel: We'll leave it at that.

Vab Jain: We'll leave it at that. [laughs]

Ash Patel: What was his reaction?

Vab Jain: Beyond thankful. And I said "Without you, I wouldn't be where I'm at. Without you put that deal together.

Break: [00:18:22.25] to [00:20:19.28]

Ash Patel: Vab, for somebody that doesn't have a lot of use for money, self-proclaimed, what are you doing with 200+ units?

Vab Jain: We're about 200. I've sold 110 this year already, so we're still down about 190-200 right now. And by the way, I say "we", but it's just me.

Ash Patel: In the corporate world, man, that's all we said, was "we". I get that.

Vab Jain: So everyone's got a different philosophy of life. Some people want to hit this thing hard and hit it hard till their dying day. I'm honestly not on that boat, as I've stated the whole time. I really don't have a lot of use of this. I am trying to liquidate mostly everything we have. We started the processes here, and like I said, liquidated about 110. I hope to have everything liquidated in the next six to nine months, let's say.

Ash Patel: Alright, so Best Ever listeners, if you want to buy something, and try to negotiate with Vab, hit him up. Vab, listen, a lot of people are going to say "He got lucky with timing." What are your thoughts on that? And if you had to start all over today - let's say that hotel collapse happened today, while the markets are a little bit more shaky... What would you do? So two-part question. What do you say to the people? You just got lucky, good timing. And then what would you do today to start all over?

Vab Jain: Okay, so first question - did I get somewhat lucky? Absolutely. We all did a little bit. The difference is, there are so many people who also got lucky, but they got stuck at 20 and 30 units, and 40, or 50 at most. The key difference was they didn't take advantage of the opportunities presented. We all got lucky in that market. There's thousands of us, millions of us that got lucky in that market. But to have made it in that market, they had to go further than just the luck, because they all got appreciation in real estate. But why did they stop at 20 units, or 30 units? It was me taking an opportunity, is what I would say. As opportunity presented itself, I wasn't scared to go take the next one.

The one thing I will say about that is you have to adapt to change. So as this market has evolved, I've had to evolve the entire time also, from buying units at 5k and 10k, to 20k and 30k. Same buildings, now valued three to five to ten times more. You have to adapt to change.

Your second question, what would you do today - I would start from scratch again. A couple things I would say to somebody was a) get your first steel under your belt. It feels good just to have a deal on your belt. You know you could do it then. How would I do it? There's a lot of knowledge that goes into that. So I would use existing knowledge, or I would go out and gain the knowledge. And I would use my resources, that's the other big thing. Knowledge and resources. Now at least I know who to call, let's say, right? Again, I'd go to 20 people and go "Hey, how did you get started?" I still do this to this day. "Hey, do you have a good plumber?" You just ask. A lot of resources, networking. That's what I would tell you to do.

Ash Patel: Networking and knowledge, followed by execution.

Vab Jain: Followed by execution.

Ash Patel: Out of curiosity, when's the last time you bought any units?

Vab Jain: Last month.

Ash Patel: Okay. Well, listen... So now let's talk about that contradiction. Are you a deal junkie, where when you see a deal, you've got to chase it? So you've got this competing mindset, where you want to liquidate everything and sail off into the sunset... Is that really going to happen?

Vab Jain: It might not completely happen, but I'd like to reduce down to a number that's more comfortable, that I can go sail off into the world if I felt like it. It's hard to pass a deal where you see a huge amount of possibility. And that's part of the reason I bought this last deal. I'll probably take six months, I'll fix it up, and I'll go resell it.

Ash Patel: How are you finding deals today?

Vab Jain: They're still on the MLS. So I know a lot of people don't like to believe that, but they're still on the MLS. There are wholesalers, there are numerous avenues. You can cold-call if you wanted... You can have off market deals, people bring them all the time; they're on these websites on Facebook, and all these people are all part of these off market deals... I'm sure you do too, and everybody does. I get a text a day from all these wholesalers trying to sell you stuff. And then, again, a lot of times I still buy off the MLS. This last month's deal that I bought, it was a 25-unit, and I bought it off the MLS.

Ash Patel: Yeah, Best Ever listeners. I don't want to hear anything about not being able to find deals. I can't tell you how many people I interview that find deals on the MLS. You've got to put the time in. You can't just open it up and "Oh, look, here's the deal." You've got to consistently get on there and look for deals. So another devil's advocate question, Vab, is why haven't you scaled up, instead of buying 5, 10, 20, 30-unit properties, why haven't you bought 200-unit properties?

Vab Jain: I guess it's a good question. Again, I want out. [laughs]

Ash Patel: How about when you were scaling up? I'm not gonna let you skate out of that question. So granted, you did scale, but why didn't you go bigger? And do you wish that you had back in the day, when things were on the upswing? If you could give your younger self advice, would you tell your younger self, "Hey, stop with these 16, 20 units. Go big, 100, 200 units."

Vab Jain: With that said, a) I don't remember a lot of opportunities being presented at 100-200 units. Let me say that. I think someone told me last week or a couple of weeks ago that in the Cincinnati market alone, only five deals last year were transacted over 100 units. So there were not that many of those. Nor was I that large, and had the ability to to go to a bank till about 2019 to go buy these larger units. Remember, I had lost everything, I had no credit. My first bank deal was 2019, seven years after I had lost everything. Pretty much what it takes to repair your credit. By that time, everything had fallen off, and I was able to go to a bank and ask for money. So for what resources I had, I just worked within the resources I had; whether it be a maintenance guy at the hotel, or asking the broker, "Can you go to the bank and ask them this?" I worked within the realm of what I had.

Ash Patel: Yeah, that was gonna be a follow-up question, is - for all of those years that your credit wasn't repaired, were all of these deals just creative financing?

Vab Jain: Oh, yeah, absolutely. A lot of times with just the owners themselves. As I told you, I gave the man $33,000. I could have probably given him all 100k, but I didn't want to lose the little bit of cash that I did have at this point. It was 2016, and I didn't have a lot of cash. And I didn't know what else was going to come my way.

Ash Patel: Vab, what's your advice to somebody today, again, with the markets being a little bit shaky, rates going up... It's early October 2022 that we're recording this... Somebody that is slowly ramping up with number of units, what's your advice on going bigger today?

Vab Jain: A couple things, I would say. It's the same thing I said to myself and I say to others still to this day, is buy low, buy right. Meaning a lot of times people look for cash, like give me a 7%, 8%. I never looked for cash flow. I just looked for a possible large equity favorability down the line. So [unintelligible 00:27:27.09] I know that one day of after I do all the work, it's gonna be worth 120k, let's say. I always look to buy low and buy, right? So that if unforeseen circumstances did come my way, whether it be a bathroom just fell apart, all the plumbing went bad in a house, let's say, and it costs an extra 20k, it won't make a difference, because you bought right. So whatever you buy, buy right. Don't buy something where the margins are thin, and if everything goes right, then I'll make X amount of dollars, or something.

Ash Patel: Yeah, I'm sure you're connected with the current state of investors, operators landlords today... And there's some razor-thin margins out there. What are your thoughts on when the dust settles, what's going to happen?

Vab Jain: If these places aren't operated to ideal optimal levels, they'll go under unfortunately, because the banks come after their money, as you know. And if you can't make bank [unintelligible 00:28:24.15] they will go under. I would hope that would not be the case. With interest rates going up, that will slow down, of course, people going out and just buying anything and everything.

Back to the last question still, though... Another piece of advice I'd give somebody is adapt to change. And I touched on it earlier - the big thing was six years ago, units were 10k, 15k, 20k. Today, those same units are 40k and 50k. Don't think along the lines that I didn't change. I went from 5k, to 10k, to in 2019 buying them at 20k, 25k. Today, those same units I'm going out and purchasing at 30k, 35k. My margins have grown a little bit, but my buying power has also grown a little bit. I would say adapt; always adapt to the waves of the market.

Ash Patel: And you're still not buying deals that require flawless execution. You've got enough margin in your deals, so if a roof didn't get caught, it needs to be replaced, not a big deal.

Vab Jain: Not a big deal. Right.

Ash Patel: Yeah. So important, man - people that are trying to just keep the deal flow going, and buying properties just to deploy other people's capital... That's a tough one, man. I don't want to see people do that.

Vab Jain: I've seen people do that.

Ash Patel: Yeah, we all have. The deals have to stand on their own, and you've got to stress-test your deals. Rates going up, you not being able to sell at the same cap rate... As a matter of fact, it's 100 points higher than what your entrance cap rate was, or 200 points higher. Deals have to be stress-test.

Vab, man, you've been through a lot in this career of yours... What is just the one hardest lesson that you learned, and what advice would you give everybody based on that lesson?

Vab Jain: It's a tough question.

Ash Patel: Take your time, man. We can pause. How about if you're giving your kids advice... I know you don't have kids, but you're giving a young kid advice on just overall business or life... And I want it to come from a place where you learned a very hard lesson, that you don't want them to repeat.

Vab Jain: It's not as much of a business lesson as it was a personal lesson, I will tell you that. When I had lost everything - I guess I'll share this, you know... The person I was with, I could have bet you a million bucks - I didn't have a million bucks, but I could have bet you a million bucks that this person would never leave. At least we would be together. And whatever I did, and lost, I still would have had somebody with me. That person ended up leaving. It was the biggest, hardest lesson I have personally taken. I had lost everything at that point, just to help people, and help this person, and things just didn't work out.

I'll give you one more story behind that. It's a story that I generally don't share very often, but since you asked... I was so in love with this person that I said, "I'd like to come see you, this and that", I thought we were still going to make it.. And I bought a plane ticket. She would always just say, "Oh, you know, I'm busy, I can't come this weekend" and moved across the state. I had lost everything at this point, right? But still, there was that love there. I moved to another state, and bought a plane ticket. And this plane ticket allowed me to go anywhere in the country, round trip, within a year's time, from Southwest, for one set price that I paid for. And I kept waiting, waiting, waiting... And nothing came up. I won't take up a lot of time on this one, but let me share this...

Ash Patel: No, take as much time as you want.

Vab Jain: So at the hotel, a gentleman came to me in the summer and says "Hey, I need to stay a couple of nights. [00:32:07.24] with my wife, this and that." I said "Okay, no problem." I gave him a room, and they paid for it. I caught him outside the first couple nights he was there and I said "What's going on?" "We just didn't see eye to eye, things happen... I run the dog shelter in town." So a really commendable thing to do. And we had a nice, jovial conversation. He says, "I've been homeless, I know how it is... What would you do, Vab, if you were homeless?" And I remember having this exact conversation with him six years ago. "I don't know, hopefully I'd have my network. I'd go to my network." [unintelligible 00:32:40.07]

Long story short, he stayed about four or five nights in the hotel, and he comes to me, he says "Ive got court in the morning." I was like "Okay." He comes the next morning from court, I said "What did the judge say?" "The judge says to me, I will drop all your charges. But you've got to do me a favor, and I will only do it under this condition. If you can prove to me that you're going to leave; you're gonna leave my city, and you're gonna go home." I said, "Okay, alright. I'm gonna go home. Where's home? Portland, Oregon." It hit me at that point... I didn't buy that plane ticket for [unintelligible 00:33:12.01] I walked over to my desk, grabbed that plane ticket. I had 48 hours left on that plane ticket, otherwise it would expire. I said to the man "I bought this for you. I didn't know I bought it for you", but he knew I bought it for you, and it was supposed to be delivered to you right now. I didn't know what I was gonna do with this thing. It was gonna expire sitting on my desk. But it was meant to [unintelligible 00:33:34.18] But it wasn't meant for me. It was for that man.

So you don't know in life what to expect, and things are set sometimes in places you will probably not even know. I didn't know till a year later I had bought a man a plane ticket that I'd never seen in my life. But it was meant for him. After me.

Ash Patel: Yeah, what a story, man. Vab, let's do the Best Ever lightning round. Are you ready?

Vab Jain: Sure.

Ash Patel: That's a no. Okay. We're gonna do it anyway. Vab, what's the Best Ever book you've recently read?

Vab Jain: I don't know about recently, but the Best Ever book that I have read, and I recommend this to everybody, is "Don't sweat the small stuff. And it's all small stuff." It's a small book, I tell everybody about it. I usually keep 10 or 20 copies. It's about that small. And I hand it off to people, and it basically tells "Everything 100 years from now is not gonna matter. Don't sweat the small stuff. It's all small stuff."

Ash Patel: Yeah. Listen, my wife bought that for me. I'm an inpatient guy from Jersey, and I think I read it a few times... I don't know if it worked for me, man... [laughs] Alright, hey, what's the Best Ever way you like to give back?

Vab Jain: I'll tell you what I do... I started this about three or four years ago on my birthday. Again, I don't like to share a lot of this, because I don't like to sound a certain way... So I get up in the mornings on my birthday, and I don't make it a day of celebration, I make it a day of gratitude, and giving. So I generally will buy 100, 150 pizzas for the homeless shelter, and I go to [unintelligible 00:35:02.13] And then we, me and my dog go to animal shelters, we'll give out donations there... We'll go to the food pantry... We'll just spend the whole day just giving, morning to night. It's not a day of me drinking, or getting drunk, and that kind of stuff. It's a day of gratitude in my life. It's a day of reflection.

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

Vab Jain: I guess Facebook... I don't really have any other profile. I don't have a LinkedIn, or anything like that.

Ash Patel: Alright. Well, hold on, the news is out that you're liquidating... So is that where they hit you up, on Facebook? Vab Jain, Dayton, Ohio, Facebook?

Vab Jain: Yeah.

Ash Patel: Alright. You might start getting blown up. Alright. Hey, brother, listen, thank you for your time today, man. We went over on time, but that was great. You gave us some incredible, inspiring stories, a lot of hard lessons learned, lessons with your own success and failures, and what you would do today in this market if you had to start all over. It's been an absolute pleasure getting this out there today, man. Thanks for your time.

Vab Jain: Thanks, Ash.

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

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