What a Southern Indiana real-estate tycoon taught me about business, life and doing work that matters.
I was born and raised in Southern Indiana.
I grew up chasing fireflies barefooted in cool wet grass, loving vintage vehicles with candy-colored paint, playing high school basketball in gyms worshipped like churches and falling for pretty girls along the moonlit waters of the Ohio River that snaked through my small city like a serpent.
But, like any dreamer (and if I am anything I am a dreamer) I knew eventually my dreams would take me to far away places.
And, they eventually did.
From a relatively young age, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Or, at the very least someone who hunted for himself.
So, I did what so many aspiring entrepreneurs did before me. I read and read and read. I read some of the greatest business books in existence…
And, while many of these lovely reads added fuel to what eventually would become the mint green spaceship that is Honey Copy, a tiny one person creative writing shop that grows brands with pretty words… it was my father who laid the foundation.
The launchpad, I suppose you could call it.
Today, the two of us couldn’t be in more vastly different businesses.
He sells real estate for a living in Southern Indiana and on the side has built a small real estate investment empire with his business partner, a savvy hustler named Mike Reeder.
And, while the two of us ended up running two very different businesses, I grew up like most young boys lucky enough to have a father in their lives, loving him deeply and probably watching him closer than I ever realized… picking up on the ways he worked, lived and cared about people.
While I’ve never sold a house in my life. I often times find myself going back to the lessons I learned watching him as I grew up in the dream that was Southern Indiana. Here are a few gems I’m remembering today…
1. You’ll always regret losing your temper with clients and friends.
I was a hothead growing up. I still am. But, I am better at controlling it now.
When I was first starting my writing business, I recall losing my temper with a client and firing off an email I shouldn’t have fired off.
I consulted my father about it and he taught me a lesson I still remember today. He said…
“I’ve lost my temper a lot of times over the years and I can tell you there has never been a time I have felt better after doing so… I always regret it.”
Now, if I think a client is being a jackass, I will write an email and read it in the morning before sending it. After a night’s rest, I’ll come to the conclusion that I am being a jackass too.
And, I’ll write a different email.
2. Always, always, always give your clients more than they pay for.
I have a pricing philosophy at Honey Copy. My clients will pay a lot to work with me, but they will get more than they pay for.
I adopted the second half of that philosophy after watching the way my father would do business.
I was always a bit astonished at how he was willing to bend over backward for his home buyers and sellers, going above and beyond what was required to not just close the deal but ensure his clients were ecstatic about closing the deal.
Every single client that bought or sold a house with my father wouldn’t just say it was “worth it”, they would say they got more than they paid for.
3. The money you earn has energy.
My father taught me that money has energy and that $1,000 earned the wrong way is of lesser value than $1,000 earned the right way. I talk more about this in the piece I wrote on the advertising wizard, David Ogilvy.
I’ve watched him on a handful of occasions back out of real-estate deals not because they were legally wrong, but because they went against what he believed was right.
We all like to think we’d do this if ever finding ourselves in the situation. But, when tens of thousands of dollars are on the table, suddenly our ethics and morals can take a backseat.
To this day, I’m regularly thinking about the money I am earning, how I am earning it and if I am earning it the right way.
And, because of my father, I have the courage to say “no” even if that “no” costs me.
4. Build both a “service” and a “product” in your business.
For a long time my father would have to hustle for every dollar he earned. As a real estate agent, the math is simple…
Sell homes, make money.
Sell more homes, make more money.
But, as his career progressed I watched as he came to an interesting realization…
It sure would be nice to make money while I sleep.
This was around the time both he and his business partner started their real estate investment side-hustle that has since transformed into anything but a side-hustle.
By day, he runs his service business… selling real estate.
By night, he earns money with his product business… his rentals pay him while he sleeps.
This was a big inspiration for me creating my own product at Honey Copy, my copywriting guide… How to write words that sell like a Florida Snow Cone Vendor on the hottest day of the year.
When I wake up in the morning, groggy, rubbing the sleep from my eyes and see I earned a couple hundred dollars during the night… I still have to pinch myself.
5. Share the luck.
My father has done well for himself financially and I think there is a part of him that realizes (like so many in business)… it has been part skill, part hard work and part luck.
The luck is something he is constantly trying to give to others.
On countless occasions growing up, I watched as my father would help people down on their luck not in loud boisterous ways for the world to see… but quietly in ways that never made the individual on the receiving end feel like a charity case (because they’re not a charity case).
I remember us once being in a convenience store and a gentlemen was with his kids pushing a cart through the aisle and it was obvious he was having to be extremely selective about what he could buy –– telling his kids on several occasions they couldn’t have this or that.
He was down on his luck.
I watched as my father pulled the man aside away from his kids as to not embarrass him in front of them and give that man a generous heap of cash. The man didn’t say anything. I don’t think he knew what to say. He just nodded and walk away.
I’ve remembered this and constantly remind myself that luck has fueled much of my journey here at Honey Copy. While I will never be someone that donates a large sum of money to have my name on a pretty gold plaque, I try to regularly do $100 bombs.
I learned them from Joe Rogan.
You’re sitting at a restaurant. The waiter might be having a rough time. At the end of the meal, you add $100 on the line next to the word “tip”. You get the fuck out of there before the waiter has time to remember your face.
That’s $100 bomb.
And, if you think I’m arrogant for sharing that, I don’t really give a fuck. I’m inspired by my father, but am not nearly as humble.
6. If you’re not making your time, run harder.
I want to close with what might be the best lesson my father ever taught me. Growing up, he coached me in basketball for nearly a decade.
When I first entered high school, I recall having to run a 6-minute mile to make the basketball team.
The first time I ran it at practice, I clocked 8-minutes. My coach gave me two weeks to get the son of a bitch in 6-minutes.
That day, after practice, my father took me to Walmart and bought me a stopwatch. We then went home and marked off exactly one mile around my neighborhood.
The following morning, I got out of bed and ran the mile timing it every step of the way with my stop watch…
I was discouraged but ran it again the next morning…
I did it again the morning after that and again…
That day when my father came home from work, he asked me how my mile time was going and I was pissed and on the verge of tears as I gave reason after reason on why I could never make the 6-minute time.
Once I had completed my fit, my father just stared at me, blankly, and said…
“Cole. It sounds to me like you need to run harder.”
He then left the room.
The next morning, I stumbled out of my house at 6 a.m. It was still dark and my father’s words played in my head. This time, I did as he said, I ran harder and as I ran I felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest, my lungs collapse and my feet break.
When I crossed the one mile mark, I stopped the watch just as I was puking up my protein bar…
I looked at my watch through watery eyes.
I was on to something.
Two weeks later, I ran the second fastest mile on the team.
And, while it’s been a long time since I last picked up a basketball, I remember my father’s words often.
And, remembering them has helped me build a six-figure writing business, it has helped me write sales pages for Israeli luggage companies that have generated $140,000 in sales, it has helped me sling copy for the American Ultimate Disc League and has gotten me flown across the world to Minsk, Belarus to consult with Belarusian startups (this is a story for another day).
They ring in my head often…
Cole. It sounds to me like you need to run hard.
And, as I am getting older, I’m twenty-five now, I’m realizing that none of us are giants… we’re just men and women standing on the shoulders of the men and women before us.
But, I digress.
By Cole Schafer.
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