Earl White is the vice president and founder of House Heroes, a real estate investment company that operates mainly in Florida. The company buys properties that need a lot of work, fixes them up, and rents or resells them. The company struggled to gain customers until it focused efforts on online marketing.
Why did you start your business?
I was a philosophy and economics major at Rutgers. There really aren’t any jobs for that, so I went to law school. I graduated from The University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2008. I landed a job at a top law firm doing big commercial litigation. It became time to move on, because only very few people can become partners and I was no longer building skills. I was working really long hours and was expected to have my BlackBerry on during weekends and special occasions.
I got a job at the New Jersey Attorney General’s office doing child protective services cases. I did that for three years. I enjoyed that and was passionate about it. Then, my son was born and I knew that I wanted something where I could control my schedule more, which was never going to happen in litigation. I had been doing real estate part-time for 3-4 years. I decided to work from home and start building the real estate company.
How did you fund the business at the start?
We used personal money for things like operations and marketing. When we would buy a property, we would take out a hard money loan for the property. It’s a high-interest short-term loan that’s more for properties that are in poor condition.
Running the Business
How do you manage cash flow?
My partner and I draw guaranteed partnership payments, which is kind of like a salary for partnerships. We pay our four employees a regular W2 income. My partner does all the accounting using QuickBooks. We track our spending on Excel. We have a spending rate that we discuss monthly. We project income per month. We track how they move together. When we increase the amount that’s coming in versus the amount we’re paying, we decide to invest in new things like increased marketing, bonuses, and new business lines.
What’s the most challenging thing about running the company?
Finding deals. Connecting with the people who need our service.
What’s the most rewarding thing about running the company?
The flexibility in my schedule. I can work when I want. I still work hard, but I’ve decided that I never work from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. I spend that time with my wife and my son. Also, between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., I make breakfast for my family. I’m not running off to court.
What I’ve Learned
What’s the biggest mistake you made at the start?
We underestimated the importance of having an online presence. We also didn’t value having online social media reviews from real people. That created a trust issue with people who we connected with via marketing. When I realized what was happening, I devoted a lot of my time to our online presence and getting testimonials. That’s made the biggest difference, for sure. It’s helped people trust us.
What’s the smartest thing you did at the start?
My partner and I have always had a long-term vision. If we had a short-term vision and expected to make a lot of money, it would have been very disappointing, because we weren’t really making much in the first couple of years. We always had the goal to keep building. We’ve doubled our revenues every year. Things are really taking off this year – We will probably do more than that because of the work we’ve done on the website.
Also, we’ve been honest and transparent with people. That’s how we got the testimonials we have. We’ve always provided the service we said we were going to provide. That’s why we’ve never gotten a negative social media review.
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
Create an online marketing strategy even before you start. You can test and see if people are looking for your service online. Have a strong marketing plan that addresses how you’re going to get business.
What’s next for House Heroes?
We want to expand more into rental properties for long-term wealth building instead of constantly flipping houses. We want to focus on passive income instead of staying on the treadmill of always doing deals.
This article was originally written on April 2, 2019 and updated on January 31, 2021.