1. I surrounded myself with quality people. It took a while, but I could see positive changes when I did so. For example, I had the wrong real estate agent for a long time. I wanted to be loyal, because she was loyal to me. But I realized at one point she wasn't a good fit. So, I found someone who was: Jack. Jack was a great fit at the time for many reasons. First, he understood investing the way the Rajun Cajun never did or would. Second, he set boundaries with me I didn't even know I needed. I appreciate all the Rajun Cajun did to help me (and she was paid for her assistance), but I would have handled those chores myself or found people who could help me if Jack hadn't told me upfront what his expectations were.
1.1 I also found someone who would help with the daily boots on the ground kind of work. I owe a great deal of gratitude to Carolsue for this. Thank you my friend.
2. I (finally) hired a property management company. In all fairness, when the market changed in 2008 and I saw that our business model was changing to rentals instead of to a REIT, I fought for a property management company. Mr. Ex-Partner didn't want to spend the money on having someone else manage our homes, after all, he had me. Marty--and I am not being unkind, just stating the facts--didn't realize how stressful managing a gazillion homes was on me and the toll it was taking on my health. After a surgery in 2009 to fix something in me that was caused by stress, he started to come around. But if the truth be told, I just went out and got a property management company. When I did it, I didn't ask permission. Nor am I sorry.
3. I figured out what good tenants looked like. Granted, this was a direct correlation from experiencing bad tenants. But once I got rid of the Waywards, Mrs. 508s and Mr. Smiths of the world, I became more selective. Carolsue's input was invaluable. Though I didn't always listen to her, she was right about folks more often than not. Please understand, there is a huge difference between "bad tenant" and "obnoxious tenant." I had several obnoxious tenants you are more than welcome to read about in the archives of this ole' blog. But obnoxious people having personal problems that trickle down to their landlord is very different than just downright bad people renting my homes.
4. I knew when to get out. However, I couldn't convince our three partners (Marty and the Ex-Partners) I was right. I take a smug satisfactions in knowing this. But an, "I told you so!" doesn't get me anywhere.
5. We started buying homes in the right neighborhoods. If I had to do it all again, I can think of four properties Rajun Cajun advised us about and encouraged us to buy that I wouldn't touch again. The "right homes" we bought were always winners. The "wrong homes" we bought were always losers.
6. The education I got from this experience is invaluable. It is also intrinsic. There is no way to cover all I have learned, such as conducting business in the South--another culture--managing a company, forecasting, talking with investors, lawyers and banks, and lots of other things my college degree touched but didn't really do justice. I remember meeting with a group of investors, me the Yankee, them the Southern boys. I felt awkward and inadequate stumbling through my presentation (that I had practiced for weeks leading up to that moment). When I was done, I answered questions and got the approval and agreement for funding I was looking for. I was floored. I had taken a big step in growing our business. Of course, this was late 2007/early 2008, so the rest didn't go the way I hoped, but I wouldn't be afraid to do that kind of thing again if I had to.
7. Speaking of not being afraid, I would start another business. I would invest again and probably will in the future. Next time I hope what I have gained from this experience has a better outcome.