Michael Patrick Carroll of CARROLL: How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur

by Charles Purdom
Michael Patrick Carroll of CARROLL: How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur

Being a founder, entrepreneur, or a business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur  we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Patrick Carroll.

Michael Patrick Carroll is an experienced entrepreneur, and the Founder and CEO of CARROLL, a nationally recognized leader in the real estate development sector. As a hands-on leader, M. Patrick Carroll led his innovative team to the successful exit of more than 88 properties from the portfolio, resulting in $4.2 billion in sales proceeds. Committed to philanthropy, M. Patrick Carroll actively participates in various charitable endeavors, donating to over 50 charities worldwide.

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?

Michael Patrick Carroll: I’ve been an entrepreneur my entire life. Taking a non-traditional route, I skipped college and started working as a clothing representative in Atlanta. After a few years, I got into the real estate business by borrowing 100% of the capital needed to renovate homes and flip them. With those initial successes, I started building houses and just worked my way up the proverbial food chain. I completed a student housing development in 2007 and sold that, really in 2008, right before the downturn of 2008–2009.

After the downturn, I had capital and wanted to build a business and expand into apartments. In order to be successful in this expansion, I was regularly going to New York to raise capital, and to receive helpful feedback. I learned that you need a fully integrated model, a management company, and a collaborative team working together at this scale. This led me to buy three property management companies in 2009.

Basically, we’ve grown the business since then, partnering with institutional capital and joint ventures through raising funds. CARROLL has purchased and sold about $12 billion of real estate. We have a 25,000 unit portfolio today. We have about 700 employees. The backstory really is seeing an opportunity and going after it, and just trying to figure out how to build the best business in that particular space.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

Michael Patrick Carroll: The “aha moment” that led me to my current company was spurred by one of my biggest accounts when I was in the clothing business. I was always picking the owner’s brain, asking him for advice. One of the things I was struggling with was leaving the clothing business to get into the real estate business. Literally, I was preparing to ask him what his thoughts were about potentially making this jump. He stopped me halfway through and said, “Listen, Patrick, if you don’t get into the real estate business, you’re an idiot.” I respected him as a business leader, so this made the decision a little easier. I was about 23 at the time, so in hindsight, it was a low-risk proposition.

In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?

Michael Patrick Carroll: I think I’ve always been a natural-born entrepreneur. I’ve always had a sense of urgency, of trying to figure out the path forward and trying to do things faster. I push, question, and look for solutions. It bothers me when less-than-perfect solutions exist, whether it’s things our own company puts out or other companies. A lot of times, I consider, “we should be able to do this, and do it better.” Coincidentally, that’s the intersection of opportunity.

It’s definitely a personality characteristic that I’ve always had. In good times, they call you an entrepreneur. In bad times, they probably call you a pain. I definitely think it was something I was born with. I think you do develop it over time. You refine your skills in capital markets, finance, business operations. You get up-to-speed swiftly. Naturally, it’s a position that I kind of fit in well with, and that’s my natural characteristic.

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?

Michael Patrick Carroll: Many people in my life have inspired me. There’s a mentor of mine named Tom Shannon in Tampa, Florida, who is a fantastic, albeit “gruff” mentor. By that, I mean that his approach is, “Hey, look, I’ve got 10 minutes I’ll share with you. Don’t drag this out for two hours, I’ve got things to do.” His limitations and time management forced me into asking really thoughtful questions, thinking about it ahead of time, instead of wasting peoples’ time.

Early in my professional trajectory, I surrounded myself with people that had either done what I wanted to do, or what I was trying to do. Being immersed in the industry made it more “real”, by just being around people that have done it before. I told myself, “If this guy’s done it, surely, I can do it.” Instead of looking at successful people and thinking that they were merely lucky, it gave me firsthand insight into what it took on a daily basis for these people to be successful.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Michael Patrick Carroll: I think CARROLL stands out because we’re constantly trying to improve. There’s nothing really about our company that I would consider traditional, stagnant, or status quo. While the real estate business has been in existence for generations, we’re constantly trying to take different approaches. At CARROLL, we’re constantly trying to identify new trends and trying to push the envelope. I believe that even the people we employ are cut from a different cloth. They’re more entrepreneurial in nature and they come to CARROLL because they are entrepreneurial in nature. So, I think that separates our business from a more bureaucratic, institutional type 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?

Michael Patrick Carroll: One of the three character traits that have been most instrumental in my success is salesmanship. A lot of people have good ideas and good plans. However, if you can’t convince other people to follow you, invest with you, partner with you, and if you can’t really articulate your plan, then your plan is not going to be very fruitful. Salesmanship is definitely something that I think is very important and a character trait of mine that I think has been helpful in my business career tenacity. Not giving up, not just settling for things, and always wanting to improve are also character traits that have helped me in the past, and will hopefully continue to guide me toward success. Finally, I think that general paranoia can be a positive thing. I’m always paranoid, I’m always trying to think about what could go wrong, and the ramifications of things going awry. I think I’ve done a good job at protecting the downside, which leads to that overwhelming fear or paranoia forces you into critical thinking, and making good decisions, that hopefully expand the business.

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?

Michael Patrick Carroll: I’ve received a lot of good advice. I’ve typically tried to not follow what I would consider “bad advice”. If it didn’t sit well with me when offered, I didn’t follow it. An example would be hiring somebody that looks great on paper, and that comes highly recommended, but something doesn’t click during an in-person interview. If there’s an internal feeling that tells you it’s not the right decision to make, you may sometimes talk yourself out of listening to that internal guidance. That has never ended up well for me and not something I would recommend. I’ve certainly learned how to hone in on those feelings and to trust them. My advice is to listen to your gut, listen to your intuition, ask for opinions. You can trust but should verify.

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?

Michael Patrick Carroll: At CARROLL, I’ve always tried to seek out self-starters, and then encourage them once they become team members. To avoid burnout, I would recommend encouraging them to take breaks, take vacations, take care of themselves, and maintain healthy lifestyles. Throughout the years, I’ve also committed to taking team members from the company on trips, getaways, and things like that, aiming to not only bond but recharge the batteries. Professional burnout is something that I’ve witnessed. Burning out and being overwhelmed are things that I think everyone struggles with.

Usually, the best and most motivated people tend to be overwhelmed at times because it’s kind of a function of success. If you’re successful, you get more work. So, sometimes, a coinciding factor of success is being a little bit burnt out and overwhelmed. You have to make a decision on whether this is something you want to do over a really long period of time, and can maintain. If so, you’re going to have to pace yourself and kind of take the “marathon versus the sprint” mentality.

What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?

Michael Patrick Carroll: Well, this is something that’s tricky and it has a lot to do with marketing, building credibility, and authority in your industry. You almost have to toot your own horn a little bit. You have to be conscious of building a brand, building a reputation, and reflecting that brand on a constant basis. Being willing to participate in conferences and take an active role in establishing yourself as a thought leader in a brand is crucial to developing your narrative. I think that’s one thing you have to do. You have to constantly be aware that if you’re in a position of authority, you are somewhat of a public persona. As a leader, you have to manage that accordingly. You have to manage it just like it’s a business asset, and it takes constant work. What worked five years ago doesn’t work today. Taking a proactive and thoughtful approach to marketing yourself, marketing your business, and making sure your narrative is authentic are key components to success. Behind the scenes, do the actual work to keep yourself up-to-speed, to keep yourself current on the markets, and to have insightful thoughts to share across industry platforms.

As far as building trust, trust is something that has to come over time. The best way to build trust is to build trust. Simply. Doing what you say you’re going to do and rewarding employee performance when they perform are both integral facets for creating trust with employees across a corporation. As things progress, you can offer opportunities for team members to invest and things like that, offering them more of a stake in the success of the company. I think that’s a great way to build trust.

Really, doing what you say you’re going to do, and not ever really deviating from that, is the key. If that’s something that’s in your core makeup, it’s something that comes easy, but it’s still crucial. Without trust, you have no business. If you think about it, everyone that does business with you is in one way or another trusting you. So, if you blow that trust, it’s a death blow for your business. It’s something that’s very important. I believe if you do the right thing over and over, good things will happen to you. The opposite is probably also true.

Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?

Michael Patrick Carroll: The world is extremely competitive. It’s probably more competitive today than ever, in history, and it’s because barriers have been broken down. People and companies can shift into industries overnight. You have to constantly be conscious about what you bring to the table. What’s your value proposition? Why are you in the arena you’re in? Why are people doing business with you? You have to constantly be asking those questions. To the extent you’re comfortable with that, you have to be articulate in it. Sales, marketing, and reputation are all part of growing your business. Remaining front and center to customers, clients, investors, and partners, I think that’s all crucial.

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?

Undoubtedly, a lot of people make mistakes when they start businesses. They may try to move too fast, which is almost always a mistake, or they feel like they need a partner. Sometimes, I see these great ideas with these CEOs, these Founders, and they have multiple Co-Founders. To me, I look at that and hope that the Co-Founder brings a lot to the table because they’ve just reduced their equity by 50% or more. Naturally, I think people take comfort in having a Co-Founder or having a Partner sometimes. Sometimes, that’s a very expensive proposition to make. What can be done to avoid that is simply to surround yourself with people that you trust, incentivize them but don’t be afraid to go it alone. Don’t be afraid to be a Founder. Don’t be afraid to make the tough decisions. That’s the best way to do it.

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”?

Michael Patrick Carroll: The highs and lows that entrepreneurs experience as sometimes the motivating factors for their decision to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. When you’re high, you’re high. Conversely, when you’re low, you’re low. It takes the highs to get you excited to create a lot of change and move a lot of ground. The lows are, as an entrepreneur, more crushing, as you’re likely doing it for more than just a financial incentive. In the real estate business, for example, you’re most “successful” when you sell a property, when you buy a property, you execute the business plan, you sell for a profit. That’s, in theory, successful. Sometimes, that’s bittersweet. Sometimes, that means your company, essentially, is shrinking. That’s probably what a lot of entrepreneurs feel. They start a successful business and they sell it, and then they’re kind of left feeling “empty.” Financial success alone gets old in about two seconds, and so you’re looking for something to do. You’re looking for an identity, you’re looking for your next passion, and the thing that brings the passion out.

The same is true when you don’t sell your business. Nothing goes up indefinitely. There are cycles that people have to manage. When everything is going great, that’s when you have the hardest challenges. Sometimes, you have personnel issues that come out of nowhere. Sometimes, a great employee that you assumed was a long-term loyal employee decides to take another job or forces you to retrench a little bit. So, you don’t really get a long amount of time to enjoy the highs or the success because you’re constantly thrown back into problem-solving, and charting the next way forward. That’s certainly different from a regular job. In a traditional employment environment, somebody likely wants consistency, and they’re willing to give up some of that upside to minimize some of the roller-coaster feelings that you may encounter regularly as an entrepreneur.

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.

Michael Patrick Carroll: Each time that I traveled to New York City and raised capital or completed deals, I felt great. One of the things I would do if I had a successful capital-raising trip was to treat myself. There’s a watch store next door to the hotel I’d stay at called Wempe. I would go in there and frequently, if I had a good trip, I’d buy myself a nice watch. It was an expensive habit, but it was really at a time when I was getting a little bit of burnout. I would do things like that. I would always stay at nice hotels, I would always eat at nice restaurants as a way to reward myself for putting in a lot of the hard work. Now, I look back on that sometimes and say, “Okay, that might have been overkill”. It’s important to reward yourself along the way and to celebrate successes, and to remind yourself, especially when you’ve done a good job, that this is not as easy as it looks, and it should be fun.

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.

Michael Patrick Carroll: The worst feeling in business, and the worst part of running a business, is employee turnover. Sometimes, you’ve had employees for 5–10 years, you’ve grown and it almost becomes like family. When they leave, don’t work out or somehow let you down, that’s always hard. The best part of it, though, is to bounce back from that.

Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?

Michael Patrick Carroll: There are always new people searching for an opportunity, there are always new ideas. There are always new people you can bring in, and fresh blood, sometimes, is a good thing. It’s always disappointing when you grow accustomed to working with someone and there’s a transition. That’s probably the hardest part about business, regularly reinventing that type of relationship. The bright side is that I’m always surprised, in a good way, about the quality of people out there that can bring stuff to businesses, that can really come in and add a lot of value on day one. The more you grow your business, the better talent you tend to attract.

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.

Michael Patrick Carroll:

1- One: Salesmanship. You have to be a salesman. You have to be willing to get in there while you’re trying to get to a “yes”. On the sales side, I thrive at it. I enjoy it. I’m competitive. I’m trying to get to “yes”. If it’s a “no”, I want to know why it’s a “no”, and I want to know how to get it to a “yes”. If you’re a salesman at heart, I think that just helps being an entrepreneur, your number one pitch band. If you have confidence in yourself and the product you’re pitching, I think that’s always very helpful.

2- The second thing is tenacity. You’re your own boss. So, you have to tell yourself to get out and get up early every day. I always tell myself I need to work the hardest. If I’m setting an example, if I’m asking other people to work hard, I need to be the one working hard. That mentality of self-discipline is really something that’s crucial to being an entrepreneur.

3- Number three would be a genuine desire to be the best, or at least to aim for being the best. It goes back to being competitive, it goes back to what motivates a lot of people to start businesses, to solve problems. It’s about having a conviction that you can do what you see others do, and maybe you have a conviction that you can do it better.

4- Number four is flexibility. You have to be nimble, you have to be flexible, and when the market changes, you have to be willing to do the same. If you’re not comfortable with change, being an entrepreneur is a difficult thing. So, I think four is being flexible, and being comfortable with change.

5- Finally, number five is being a good judge of character. Who you surround yourself with, who you employ, who you decide to work with and partner with, will ultimately make or break the group. Picking the right people, and having good intuition about those people is key. Hiring the right people, and having just a good parameter on judging talent is key.

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?

Michael Patrick Carroll: Resilience to me is similar to tenacity. There is no such thing as giving up, there is no such thing as accepting “no”. In fact, you kind of thrive with your back against the wall. You feel more comfortable like that. I always feel most uncomfortable when things are going perfectly. When there’s nothing to improve, there’s nothing to fix, there’s nothing really to worry about, that’s when I’m always most nervous. When there’s a definable obstacle or definable challenge or problem you’re trying to solve, there is always the most pressure.

Resilient people, in my opinion, don’t shy away from issues or conflict,s or problems. They’re the ones out in front looking for those things. They’re happy to take them on and solve them because they know it’s just another day. It’s just another way of building the business stronger. Another trait of resilience is knowing that every time you go through a setback or a hardship, that ultimately, you’re coming through that stronger and more capable.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?

Michael Patrick Carroll: Taking a non-traditional route after high school graduation has taught me that success can take various avenues. Starting from the bottom has also helped me to build resilience, to recognize that I need to always pick myself up by the proverbial bootstraps, and to depend on myself for my own success. My earlier points about creating a company independently, without Co-Founders and Partners, speak to this point of creating resiliency. When you have to rely on your own skills, leadership, and tenacity to move forward, you learn to be resilient.

In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?

Michael Patrick Carroll: I certainly attempt to maintain a positive attitude during difficult times. Often, I try to find learning opportunities within those difficulties and to leverage those tough moments into innovation. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a brand new workforce based at home. Thus, in order to meet the evolving demands of this new workforce, we’re committed to offering the amenities that a work-from-home population needs to thrive in this new environment. Together, we’ve adapted to offer solutions to an evolving (and sometimes out of control) situation.

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.

Michael Patrick Carroll: As a leader, your team members are constantly looking to you for non-verbal queues, responses, and general demeanor, and emulating the energy that you emit throughout the day. Thus, your attitude can largely shape their attitude. The way that you react to something can impact the rest of the team, and set the standards and tone for future situations. That’s something to always keep in mind, as a leader and entrepreneur.

How can our readers further follow you online?

Michael Patrick Carroll: If you’d like to ready further professional musings, please visit my Medium page at mpatrickcarroll.medium.com

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with
this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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