Fuller Wallet Media

Fuller Wallet Media

Fuller Wallet Media

Designing a Business that Fits Your Goals with Kirby Atwell

FWM 7 Kirby | Designing a Business
How do you achieve business success? First, you have to define what that success is. On today’s show, Kirby Atwell joins Julie Houston & Gem Rinehart to discuss how you can design a business that fits your goals. Kirby is the Founder of Green Vet Homes and host of the Living Off Rentals Podcast. He primarily focuses on investing in high-cash-flowing vacation rental properties and now helps others achieve similar financial freedom. In this episode, Kirby emphasizes the importance of setting goals to make better decisions for your business. He also shares investing tips to help your profitability in the long term. Stay tuned and get practical investment tips and mindset strategies that can guide you towards achieving financial success.

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Designing a Business that Fits Your Goals with Kirby Atwell

We have our guest Kirby Atwell. Thank you, everybody, for reading. How are you?

It is wonderful to be here.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Some of the members of our audience might not know you.

I am a real estate investor. I got into real estate non traditionally. I went to the military after high school, went to West Point, and I served several years as an Army officer. While I was in the Army, I picked up Rich Dad Poor Dad, like many other people have, their gateway drug into getting into real estate investing.

Thank you for your service.

Thanks. I appreciate that. After I read that book, I was like, “This is what I’m going to do the rest of my life after I get out of the military. I served the rest of my time in the military, got out, moved back home, and went through a tough transition. I was ready to get into real estate. I thought it was going to be this easy, seamless transition, but it was like leaving a whole identity behind and trying to figure out this new identity. I hadn’t done any deals. I did a couple of rentals while I was in the Army. I wanted to be a real estate investor, but I didn’t have any real estate.

I started flipping properties, and I thought everyone gets rich through real estate flipping properties. I watched all the HGTV shows. That was the route I went. After several years of doing that, I partnered with a couple of friends, and we did about 70 flips around the Chicagoland area over several years, but I realized I was on this giant treadmill and that I was never going to get off this treadmill. It was like you are always looking for that next deal. It was always enough to pay the bills and never get ahead financially.

It's just phenomenal the opportunity that exists in the short-term rental space. Click To Tweet

In 2016, I realized that my goal was financial freedom. It wasn’t the vanity metrics that we had been chasing and the sexy before and after pictures that were posted on social media. It was about accumulating assets that paid for us to live on. I transitioned into long-term rentals, and then eventually, a couple of years later, I discovered short-term rentals and realized the opportunity that exists in the short-term rental space is phenomenal. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since. It’s a 20,000-foot overview.

At this time, we’re noticing a little bit of inflation. Are you seeing any effect on the way you are doing business? Has it been beneficial or has any disadvantages?

I do things a little differently than most short-term rental investors. I buy, and I’m a big advocate for, nontraditional vacation rentals or short-term rentals in nontraditional areas you wouldn’t think of them working in. I live in Northwest Indiana. I buy pretty much all my properties in Michigan City, Indiana, which is a fairly small town of about 30,000 people. Nobody’s going to say Michigan City, Indiana, is the Mecca of vacation areas.

At the same time, it’s got everything from houses on Lake Michigan that are high-end million-dollar-plus houses to your $50,000 working-class houses downtown. In areas like that, there’s a huge opportunity because there are still some draws to that area, but you can buy stuff super affordably. The rent rates, especially in the summer, are phenomenal. The cash flow is incredible.

I always buy based on the fundamentals that the property’s going to work well. A long-term rental first, and I capitalize on the fact that short-term rentals work well now. Hopefully, that continues forever, but if not, I don’t feel like I’m gambling too much. I’m pretty conservative. If things change in terms of the market, inflation, or whatever, the fundamental still makes sense. Cashflow is still going to be there, and inflation should help the value of my properties over time. I haven’t noticed a big difference in my strategy.

What do you think the strategy difference is between your fix and flip, which is what you were doing before and what you’re doing now, which are the short rentals?

The big differentiator is that what I was doing before is a job. I was on this treadmill that we kept thinking. We started with one property. It went well. We made a chunk of change on it, $30,000 in profit. We had to pay taxes on that. We looked back across several months that it took to rehab and sold it. We had all the overhead expenses. We paid for all that. You’re left at the same starting point you were at when you started. We were like, “Now, we have to do two properties at the same time.” We started doing multiple properties. We were like, “We’re too busy. We can’t keep up with it. We need to hire people. We need to get an office, and we need to send out more marketing to get more deals, to fund all the people we’re hiring and marketing.”

FWM 7 Kirby | Designing a Business
Designing a Business: You’re going to spin your wheels and make some wrong decisions or decisions that aren’t going to be in your best interest, because you haven’t figured out what your best interest is.

You build this self-licking ice cream cone that you can never get ahead of. At the end of several years, I look at my financials. I’m like, “We made millions of dollars in revenue, and yet, my bank account looks the exact same pretty much as when we started because I had no assets.” That was the big differentiator. Long-term rentals were great. It was several hundred dollars per unit, but once I got into short-term rentals and realized it could be several thousand dollars per unit, it was life-changing. That’s been the big game changer for us.

That’s a big game changer for everybody. More people are looking for that way or method to earn extra income, alternative income, additional income, or even retirement and passive income. The opportunity seems to be right now.

For our readers out there, if there were 1 or 2 big nuggets or takeaways that you would like to give them or want them to have from this show, what would that be?

I feel like I lost five years of my life while I was flipping. I made great connections. I learned a lot in all that stuff. In terms of finances, I started with a specific outcome of what I wanted as a result of the work that I was going to put in. It would’ve changed everything. It would’ve changed all my decision-making because everything would be based on that outcome. Is this deal that I’m about to buy, getting me closer to this outcome that I defined? In this partnership I’m about to enter into, is this type of financing compared to everything else available? Is this getting me closer to that pre-established specific outcome of what I want my life to look like as a result of doing this?

Many investors I talk to don’t do that. I talk to them, and they’re like, “I want to make more money.” I’m like, “That’s not going to take you in a predefined position. Most likely, you’re going to spin your wheels and make decisions that aren’t going to be in your best interest because you haven’t figured out what your best interest is. There are way too many good options to choose from that. You’re going to be chasing a lot of different rabbits all over the place.”

When I sat down in 2016 with my wife, I said, “This isn’t working anymore. What is our goal? What do we want our life to look like?” We started to define a lot of the characteristics of what our life looks like now. We live on a farm. It was by choice. We didn’t have to move out here to a farm, but we bought a 45-acre farm. We built out vacation rentals on our property, which was part of the vision. We’ve got chickens running around. We have two and a half kids. Our third is about to be born here in 2022.

All of this was intentional. We could make backward plans. When we’re buying properties and investing in things, we could say, “Is that getting us closer to that lifestyle that we established?” It wasn’t overnight. It took years to get to a place where we feel every day, “We’re lucky and fortunate to have this lifestyle that we envisioned years ago.” That’s important and underrated in terms of what people are talking about.

Just because it's the highest return doesn't mean it's going to make you the highest return on happiness. Click To Tweet

I had a good friend call me and reach out. He’s investing at a larger capacity in my area. We were talking, and he put it simply to me in a sense that was like, “What you do with your own money, what you’re doing, and investing in, is it going to apply to your future or benefit you in that sense? Is this another investment you’re going to do? Invest in things that you will utilize for your future and that you can enjoy while you have it as well.” It was the first time somebody ever spun it that way. That’s how I look at everything now when I invest, but I’m not a huge investor.

There are investments that I’ve turned down that could have made great money. I look at many investors that are miserable that are super wealthy, but I would not trade my life for theirs for anything. Just because it’s the highest return doesn’t mean it’s going to make you the highest return on happiness, but you can’t get to that place unless you define that place.

It’s a new perspective because everything I look at now is long-term. I’m like, “What’s going to be in the long-term game?” Another thing that scared me was I noticed in the last several years alone, several people that I know personally are almost in their 70s, and they can’t afford to retire. It’s sad and unfortunate. That was a mindblower for me because I’m like, “I don’t want to wake up one day, 70 years old and not have options and have to go to work.”

If you’re working toward your ideal lifestyle, the money tends to follow, and the deals that you’re doing, things become more profitable because there’s a passion around it. Your effort and results grow exponentially. It reminds me there’s a book called Effortless that Greg McKeown wrote, and it talks about the idea of linear results versus residual results.

What most people work toward are these linear results. They do a 9:00 to 5:00, get paid for the hours they’re working, and then it’s done. They start over. Residual results are like this show, for instance. You put an hour’s worth of time. Yet, people will hear it for years potentially. I try to think through that lens, too. That’s why I think vacation rentals are the place to spend my time because you put in a bunch of effort up front to find a great deal and set it up, but it’s fairly simple to manage it going forward. It’s the consistent return on that upfront effort into the future.

You put it perfectly having that backward plan, making your moves, and living intentionally because you don’t hear people talking about it in that way. When you have your plan, and you know what you want your results to be, that helps you execute a lot better. I love the way you put that.

If you could go back before you started investing with the knowledge you have now, what would you tell your younger self first starting out? What would you say or maybe the three top things you would tell any new or seasoned entrepreneur if you could go back in time and tell yourself something?

FWM 7 Kirby | Designing a Business
Designing a Business: If you’re working toward your ideal lifestyle, the money tends to follow and, and the deals that you’re doing become more profitable because there’s a passion around it.

A lot of it has to do with what we talked about. Number one is to figure out what you’re working toward before you start working. Emotion and busyness do not equate to results for success. There are a lot of people that don’t have a whole lot of emotion in their life. They’re pretty calm, or their calendar isn’t filled up, and they’re extremely successful and vice versa. There are people who are trying to keep their heads above water and not getting good results. A lot of that has to do with sitting down and spending time regularly to think.

There’s another book called The Road Less Stupid. A smart, older guy that wrote it. He’s extremely financially successful, but the book walks you through questions you should spend time thinking about. He was like, “If you do this and think about these things deeply, you will have so much better results in your life.” Not a lot of people talk about that. It’s about doing. That’s the first thing.

When it comes to doing, buying assets is the smartest way you can invest your time because those are going to pay off long term. That’s what I didn’t realize in the beginning. I was doing a lot of things that seemed like get rich quick type things or flip a house and make quick cash and stuff like that. It wasn’t fulfilling, and financially, I was always running. Those are the two things that I would stress to my younger self or somebody first starting out. It is to think through those two aspects.

Those are great tips for anybody who’s getting into the real estate space, figuring out what they should do.

You do some teaching and consulting on this, correct?

Yes. About a year ago, my wife and I both were able to leave our full-time job because of the income from our vacation rentals. It was a blessing for sure. I probably waited too long. I was conservative, and I underestimated how much capacity it would free up not to have a full-time job that you can apply toward continuing to grow.

Once I left that, I knew the goal wasn’t to get financial freedom to sit around. I wanted to have a greater impact and share the principles of how we got to this point and what we’ve done over the years. I created a program that walks people through, step by step, the process of getting their first vacation rental. It’s from the perspective of my niche of more cost, effective nontraditional vacation rental areas that work well as long-term rentals but also work 3, 4, to 5 times as well as a short-term rental.

Motion and busy-ness does not equate to results or success. Click To Tweet

If you want to check that out, please go to FullerWalletMedia.com/Kirby.

There’s a masterclass that walks you through the first steps there. It will get you started.

Thank you for that, Kirby. We’re excited that you were on our show. It was an honor having you on. I’m going to check it out myself. I’m always open to learning and seeing other avenues to explore. Thanks, Kirby, for being on with us.

It’s been a lot of fun. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

We’ll catch you on the next episode, guys.

Have a great day.


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