Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Erik Wright: My parent’s own their own business, so I grew up with an entrepreneur mindset from watching them. They taught me the value of really taking ownership of something and how rewarding it is to see it grow and be successful. From lemonade stands at 7, starting my own lawn mowing company at 12, and buying my first investment property at 23, that drive to be a successful entrepreneur has continued to propel me forward.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Erik Wright: I worked for a homeless outreach non-profit for 5 years. While working there, I got married and had two kids. I loved what I did, but the reality is that non-profit work does not make a lot of money. It was during this time that my passion for real estate really took off. I loved the idea of being able to build a business that could generate passive income. I wanted to be able to provide a living for my family while also having the freedom to devote my time to other things I loved doing. This planted the seed that eventually grew into New Horizon Home Buyers, one of the top ranked home buying companies in Chattanooga.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
Erik Wright: I honestly cannot remember a time when I did not have that entrepreneur mindset. It has always been there. I am sure it also has a lot to do with being raised by entrepreneur parents.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
Erik Wright: When I was still working at the homeless outreach center, I became friends with a guy named Brandon who owned 15-20 investment properties but also went to thrift stores and estate sales all the time to find items to flip on eBay. I thought it sounded silly, but I went with him a few times and got hooked. He also became a mentor to me as I was learning about real estate investing on a larger scale. I started thrifting and selling online. Three years later I now run a profitable business buying pallets of liquidated items to sell online. So, what does reselling have to do with investing in real estate? One, it was the first place I ever learned the art of negotiation. Trying to get a deal at an estate sale or negotiating a real estate deal is essentially the same skill set. Two, I sharpened my ability to quickly spot a deal. At my best, I could walk into a thrift store and in 5 minutes point out almost all the expensive items without having to look them up. Sometimes I did not even know what they were, but I developed a sixth sense to be able to tell if it was something worth buying. That skill has helped me in my real estate career as I sift through hundreds of potential “deals.” I am much better and faster at spotting the potential value in deals because of my experience as a thrifter/reseller.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Erik Wright: My wife and I decided when we started our company that while we were in it to make money, we would not sacrifice compassion and understanding to squeeze every penny out of a deal. When we buy houses from people, many times it is because they are in a tough situation. For example, we are under contract on a house right now. The seller is behind almost 12 months on payments. There is no way she could catch up. She said she just wanted enough to pay off the mortgage so it would not go to foreclosure. In our conversation, she mentioned that she was recently married but had not been able to take a honeymoon yet. After looking at the house and running the numbers, we decided we could make her an offer to pay off her mortgage and give her $2,000 to take a honeymoon. The seller was ecstatic! We want to run a profitable business and help people where we can. It takes a little extra effort to really listen to their needs and what is important to them, but it is worth it! That is how we differentiate ourselves as a company.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- A Dreamer Mindset: It is often tempting to stay within the context of our current situation and accept it as just the way things are. I have never been one to just accept something because that is the way it is. I try to always keep the mindset of what could be possible. My favorite response when listening to friends or family talk about a dream or desire is “why not?” If they come up with a list of barriers, that is when I start getting excited! A barrier is just a problem that needs a solution. A solution is just a plan put into action. Now we have a place to start working toward what could be!
- Gumption: This is a funny word, but I love it. I used to be a competitive cheerleading coach. One year I was preparing my team to qualify for the world championships. I was frustrated during practice because it seemed like if one thing went wrong in the beginning routine they would give up and the rest of the performance imploded. I called everybody into a team huddle and asked if anybody knew what the word “gumption” meant. They were high school kids, so they laughed at me for using an “old-timey” word, but I explained to them my definition of gumption. It is the strength of mind to do whatever needs to be done even in the face of adversity. It is taking responsibility to do everything in your power to succeed from this point forward, regardless of any past mistakes or failures. In all my businesses, there have been moments of failure and disappointment. Call it what you want: courage, spunk, guts, or gumption. Having the mental fortitude to keep getting back up and pushing forward is critical to making it as an entrepreneur.
- A willingness to look “dumb”: I was sometimes annoying to my friends in school because I was the kid who would always ask a LOT of questions in class. If I did not understand something, I raised my hand and asked about it. I did not care if I looked dumb or if other people understood it better than me. I was there to learn. I approach all my entrepreneur endeavors with the same eagerness to learn. I try to surround myself with people much smarter and more experienced than I. It can be intimidating and sometimes I feel “dumb” compared to the other people in the room. But I do not let that stop me from asking questions and learning.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
Erik Wright: In real estate investing there are a lot of different “niches.” A lot of the successful investors would give me advice to not ever mess with anything less than a 50-unit apartment complex or others said to only do commercial investments. My problem was that I did not yet have the foundation of investing at a smaller level. The complexity of these other types of investments made it seem impossible to figure out. I spent way too many hours being frustrated and overwhelmed because I was not looking at deals with 100 units when I should have been focusing on learning the basics. It is much easier to climb to the top of a building with a ladder that has lots of rungs than to stand at the bottom and try to jump to the roof.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
Erik Wright: The key here is “buy in.” Entrepreneurs have a hard time with employees sometimes because they do not understand why their employees aren’t as passionate or dedicated as they are. But that is an unfair expectation unless we help give them a reason to have that same attachment to the business. This can look different depending on the company. Some companies use profit sharing. Others do this well by articulating a common goal or something they are trying to achieve together.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Erik Wright: Many companies have a reputation to overpromise and underdeliver. I think we need to do the opposite. We need to be realistic in what we can promise and always try to overdeliver.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
Erik Wright: Hyped-up marketing is everywhere and while we have all fallen prey to it, deep down I think we all crave authenticity. Doing this helps develop a level of trust with our customers/clients that fancy marketing campaigns could never do. Finding a way to provide extra value to customers can be a powerful tool to build that trust and credibility.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Erik Wright: One of the mistakes I’ve seen is trying to scale and grow too quickly without having all the backend processes worked out and streamlined. Marketing an idea or business and growing it is the exciting part. The backend stuff is not always as fun but, without it, rapid growth can cause the business to implode.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
Erik Wright: As an entrepreneur, I am much more emotionally invested in the success or failure of my business. It is something that I nurtured from a small idea and grew it into something real. In essence, it is an extension of me. This is why the highs feel so much higher and the lows feel so much lower than at a “regular job.”
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Erik Wright: I remember the first day my website became the number one ranking website on Google for all home buying companies in my area. I was ecstatic! I had worked for 4 solid months building my company’s web presence and working on SEO.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Erik Wright: A month after ranking #1, Google did a core update that altered their search result algorithm. Whatever they did, it caused my website to not only drop out of the top spot, but I was not even on the first page anymore. I was crushed. When it comes to getting leads from Google, if you are on the second page of search results, you might as well not even exist. I was getting zero leads. I felt like the hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars I had put in over the previous 5 months had all been a waste.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
Erik Wright: I am part of a group of investors all working on SEO together and sharing ideas. We were all affected at the same time. We all spent about 24 hours angry and complaining and then we got to work figuring out why the update affected us and what we needed to do to adjust. The group mindset was, “Hey, we figured this out before. We can do it again.” So, we all went back to working hard and sharing ideas. It took another two months but I’m back on top.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Get a mentor: There is this notion that being an entrepreneur often means being a “lone wolf.” That is total garbage. Almost every successful entrepreneur I know has a mentor of some kind. I have several in the real estate world. I lost a deal last week and called one of my mentors to help talk me down. I was frustrated and made at myself for messing it up. He helped me refocus and told me a story of one of his own missed deals. We then debriefed on what I could learn from the situation to make me better for next time. Having a mentor who is ahead of you and already navigated plenty of highs and lows can help you gain a better perspective and learn from the lows instead of being defeated by them.
- Be a mentor: On the other hand, being a mentor to somebody who is not as far along as you are can also help bring some much-needed perspective during the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. When you can teach someone else how to navigate the ups and downs, it helps you internalize those lessons even more in your own life. They say that the highest form of learning something is when you are able to teach it to someone else.
- Use KPI’s for emphasis on inputs rather than outputs: Outputs or results are, of course, the goal of any entrepreneurial endeavor. However, it is important to understand that the output is just a result of the inputs. So, flip the focus and put more emphasis on measuring and tracking the inputs. KPI’s or Key Performance Indicators are a great way to do this. Start with the desired outcome and work backwards until you know what daily, weekly, & monthly tasks must be done for the larger goal to (hopefully) be achieved. Write down those KPI’s and track them. Focusing on these KPI’s helps me stay centered and not get emotionally tossed around by a temporary success or failure.
- Get outside and sweat: This is crucial for me. When I am exercising regularly and getting outside, I feel better and am more productive. During times in my business when I feel stuck or frustrated, I have found that I typically am able to come up with my best solutions while out on a run or bike. There is something physiological that happens in our brain when we exercise that allows it to operate more efficiently.
- Have a solid “why”: Several months back, during an especially rough day in 2020, I needed some extra motivation. I took some time to think about my goals with my family, business, finances, etc. From there, I wrote 4 sentences outlining my “why” for doing what I am doing. I read over this mantra as part of my morning routine to focus my mind on why I am working so hard. When I am frustrated or overwhelmed, I remind myself of my “why” and continue pressing forward.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Erik Wright: Resilience is the ability to weather the storm and continue pushing forward. I love the Mike Tyson quote, “Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth.” Resilient people can take a punch and keep getting back up to fight.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
Erik Wright: I played every sport I could when I was younger. I believe the lessons I learned from those many years of hard practices, exciting wins, and heartbreaking losses all helped me grow my resiliency muscle. It is not something that just is or is not in somebody. It can be grown and strengthened.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Erik Wright: Absolutely! I try to expect the best but prepare for the worst. I want to approach every opportunity dreaming about what it could be because if you do not dream it, how can you every achieve it? However, I never want to go into it with a game plan should everything hit the fan.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
Erik Wright: People love to have something to be a part of that is bigger than themselves. A positive attitude is not so much about things being great in the moment but is more focused on what could be in the future. This creates hope and hope is a powerful motivator.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
Erik Wright: This quote has been one of my favorites for many years. I want to fear more the regret of never having attempted anything great than the fear of daring greatly and failing.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” -Theodore Roosevelt
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!