Sometimes, a successful business scaling in real estate is only possible once you have made many sacrifices and pursued bigger things. This is true for Whitney Sewell, who endured many financial challenges and utilized 50% of their profits just to make it big in this field. He joins Lisa Hylton to share how he and his wife pushed through the difficulties of their real estate venture and eventually found Life Bridge Capital LLC. Whitney explains how this success became possible thanks to the right mentors, a high level of commitment, and hiring the best virtual assistants. He also discusses how his story and experiences pushed him to share his knowledge through The Real Estate Syndication Show.
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Selling It All to Build A Real Estate Syndication Business with Whitney Sewell
I’m super excited to have Whitney Sewell. Whitney is the Founder of Life Bridge Capital LLC. Whitney began his real estate investing career in 2009. Whitney’s passion is working with investors helping them to secure financial security via the exceptional opportunities that multifamily syndications offer. Since 2017, Whitney and the Life Bridge team have acquired 900 doors and $150 million on assets under management.
Whitney also hosts The Real Estate Syndication Show, a daily podcast where he has now interviewed over 850 experts providing cutting-edge tools and strategies of the syndication business. Whitney and his wife, Chelsea, are on a mission to help other families through the process of adoption. They have personally endured the financial burdens that the process puts on families and have committed 50% of their profits to this goal. Whitney and Chelsea have three children by adoption. Welcome to the show, Whitney. I’m super happy to have you on.
It’s a pleasure to be here, Lisa. I’m happy to meet you as well.
Thank you. One of the reasons I’m excited to have you on is that being in the real estate syndication business, we are essentially entrepreneurs and business owners. By and large, some people start off as entrepreneurs by themselves but then as they grow, they begin to put those systems in place. They get to hire different people to grow their business then and move into that business owner spot. Our episode is going to be focused on talking about how you have used the different tools you’ve used in your business to scale your business and share with my readers what that process has been like for you. Before we get started, I like to break out my show into three parts. The first part is a little bit about your background. Can you share with my audience where you live here in the US?
I live in Roanoke, Virginia.
What do you and your family like to do for fun?An entrepreneur must always have a correct mindset, ready to push forward. Click To Tweet
Spending time together is great and we love being together as a family, particularly outdoors. I built a swing set and my kids have loved that, so it’s been great for us to enjoy that together. We love riding horses and going on hikes. It’s anything outside.
Last question in this section, what has been a challenge or something that you have overcome that has enabled you to grow in unexpected ways?
There are many challenges between being in the military, law enforcement, federal agent, and different things. Probably the biggest has been spending a year in Iraq.
For readers, as they read that, someone automatically can sympathize but could you share a little bit more on what about that experience was your biggest challenge that grew to your biggest personal development or breakthrough?
Many things are required of an entrepreneur but one of the first things that have to happen is your mindset has to be correct and you’re ready to push forward. No matter you get kicked in the face. You’re ready to get back up. Keep going because it’s going to happen. I feel like that year in Iraq is required. It’s not an option to give up. When you’re in combat, too many people are depending on you, so you have to be ready to perform no matter what’s happening amongst mass chaos.
Being able to develop a mentality of never giving up is not an option. Somebody says it sounds simple, but it’s not. Being in those situations helps define who you are. It helps you to shine and grow and do lots of things. Not everyone in my squad, unfortunately, made it home, so I’m thankful to be here, but that teaches you many things. It puts a lot of things in perspective as an entrepreneur as well. Being able to push through things that would typically maybe make you quit or you think are too difficult. Compared to some other things, it’s not that difficult. That’s that mindset though and that’s crucial for any entrepreneur early on.
That perfectly segues into the meat of this show. Getting into scaling your real estate syndication business. Can you talk about going from 0 to that 900 doors? Maybe some of the key milestones along the way that you felt that you had to hit to get to that spot.
I’ll hit a few high points, and you dive in and ask me some detailed questions about any part of it. Ultimately, I started in 2009 with a couple of triplexes. My thought then was multifamily so that I could scale. Why do only one single-family when we could do a duplex or a triplex? That was my first initial thought. That came from being a police officer. We’re making $30,000 a year or $35,000 maybe if I worked all the overtime I could. It’s a lack of income, so pushed me to look for some other way to supplement and in came real estate.
I discovered that not 1 or 2 people have built wealth in real estate, but hundreds of thousands of people and millions of people have built wealth in real estate. I thought, “If they can do it, I can do it, too.” Multifamily seemed the quickest way but at that point, I didn’t know about syndication. It was like, “Triplexes, fourplexes, maybe it will grow.” I learned that it was going to be difficult to scale fast. How many doors is it going to take? How many small deals that am I going to have to find and manage and find again to be able to replace my income as a police officer or at least to supplement? I became a federal agent that moved us to Virginia where we live now. I purchased a fifteen unit and still, it was like, “This is a lot of work to manage this myself.” I’m with one other guy at that time, too.
Finding another project or finding the next deal or looking for more tenants. It’s going to take a long time to scale. I finally learned about the syndication business and a couple of key things had to happen to scale as fast as we did. Number one, hiring a mentor. That was a big step for me at the time. It was pretty inexpensive but to me at the time, it was expensive. Looking back, it was one of the best investments I ever made and that was in myself.
It was learning skills that nobody can take away from you but having somebody that has been there and done that and can give you another level of confidence that you didn’t have before. That was crucial. After that, it was the level of commitment and I say that because we had other business. We had a farm. My wife and I had our dream house and farm and we sold that. We sold everything around that business. I was training horses professionally, most people in this business don’t know that but we sold everything to commit to the syndication business. It wasn’t just a mentor, but it was that level of commitment.
Our dream was to be back out on a farm and which we are now but it took a while to make that happen. After a mentor, selling the farm, and that level of commitment, I started the daily podcast. Doing a daily show, still working full-time, doing deals, we were still in our third adoption process as well and we moved twice. It was mass chaos, to say the least. Managing all these spinning plates. It was a massive commitment, not for myself, but for my wife and children as well because they didn’t get to see me except on Sundays, honestly. Maybe on Saturday afternoons for a little bit. It was that intense for about two years.
That level of commitment was a must but during that time having that level of commitment, doing a daily show starting to do our own large deal syndications, growing our investor base, I had to figure out a way to scale that system. I did that through using virtual assistants initially, but now we’ve got a lot bigger team, but I still have a team of virtual assistants and even bigger. Even then, I knew that I was not going to be able to say, “Edit audio, edit video or write show notes.” It wasn’t even possible, especially doing seven days a week. I built a team of virtual assistants from the beginning that did all those things. They were finding guests and they did everything behind the scenes for me while I’m still working full-time, still doing deals, looking for deals, having investor calls and doing the interviews, and trying to be a father and a husband as well.
That is a lot right there. First of all, I want to acknowledge the commitment because as you noted as business owners, you can relate to the level of commitment that is required to build your business and to get it and take it to the next level. Hearing your story, I didn’t know that those were some of the sacrifices that you made to then build the business that you have. Moving from there on to virtual assistants. Given your experience hiring virtual assistants at this point and you also mentioned that you have a larger team. Can we start with key tips that you would give to other people as they’re building their business in terms of working with virtual assistants and hiring virtual assistants?
There are many different avenues you can go with a virtual assistant. Some of the things I learned quickly is everyone who’s an entrepreneur needs an assistant. Most people think you don’t or they don’t understand maybe how easy it is to hire an assistant. You need to know that you can hire somebody two hours a week to start to test those waters and have somebody helping you and start taking some things off your plate.
Before we get to that, I would say, think about everything you do in a day. Write it down. As you’re going through your day, have a place that you’re writing things down that you’re doing, whether it’s returning emails or whatever it is. Whatever you have to do every day, write those things down. I would say prioritize them and think about what are the most important things. Probably the next most important thing, what are the things that you have to do and think through the things you have to do.
A lot of people think they have to do certain things. They don’t. Ultimately, they need to build a system on how to do that thing and hand that to somebody else. Write out how you do that thing and let’s hire somebody that can implement that. It’s how you’re going to scale so you can focus on those top 2 or 3 highest and prioritized dollar paying tasks that only you can do in business. That’s what I do. I had to figure out who these people are, but ultimately, I need to figure out what’s good for me so I’m writing out that list of what I need and I’m going to find those people.
First, I’ve got to know exactly what those people are going to do for me. Hiring an executive assistant is one thing, but hiring somebody to take and edit audio or video for you is a totally different type of hire. You have to know what this person is going to do for you. Is it going to be an executive assistant? Maybe that’s somebody you want to be in the States. I know a lot of my friends have amazing executive assistants that are in the Philippines, India, or somewhere else as well, but you have to know what they’re going to do and you write a job description. Write a great job description that’s going to tell them who you are, for one, and exactly what they’re going to do for you. There are numerous places to find them like Upwork or Fiverr.
There’s another website called OnlineJobs.ph, where you can find great people in the Philippines that are skilled. It’s skill-specific tasks versus somebody that has to have some project management skills that are going to keep you on task. Maybe it’s answering some emails for you and those types of things, kind of two different hires, but you have to know what those tasks are going to be and what you expect from this individual.
Moving from there, you noted that you also have other team members these days. Can you talk a little bit about the idea that, “I feel that syndication has multiple businesses, in my opinion?” You have the business itself, and you have a lot of businesses. One, you have the business, depending on the way you’re structuring it. You have the real estate itself, those multifamilies, each of them is a business of their own, you’re purchasing a business. You have your business of syndication, which consists of looking for the properties, talking to brokers, and the whole nine yards. Can you talk a little bit about your process of building out your real estate syndication business to benefit investors?Everyone who’s an entrepreneur needs an assistant. Click To Tweet
That’s an interesting turn on that question. That’s important because we’re doing this to benefit investors. We have to benefit as operators but ultimately, our investors are the lifeblood of our business, and they need to benefit in a big way and we want them to. That means long-term success and partnerships for us, too. My system started to scale. We started having all those investor calls, started learning a lot more about what investors are looking for and how to serve them better. Our team started to grow.
I met my business partner and we had complementary skillsets and that was crucial, so now I don’t have to underwrite as many deals anymore. That’s what he is good at, the acquisition process. He’s good at that so now I can focus more on investor relations and other parts of the business that I’m better at. That was crucial. We hired assistants but both of us have full-time assistants but as far as to your question with investors specifically, I like hiring someone whose total focus is investor relations.
I have somebody on our team that has her entire focus and she knows she is in charge. I call it the investor lifecycle. We are always working to improve the investor lifecycle from the first time they touch our website to knowing who we are, to all the time they’re investing in a deal to the time we exit that deal. Pretty much from thereon, we are trying to improve that system constantly. Having someone that’s in that role, she’s atomizing every email that’s going out to investors. How are we represented in every way, whether it’s website, email, phone calls, text messages, or even mailing them? Do we send them a gift? All these things that we are always trying to work towards improving to see the investors’ experience with Life Bridge Capital.
This is good. Some of the key things I’ve taken away so far from this episode are connected to scaling a business. One is hiring a mentor is super important and instrumental in building your business. Commitment, the level of commitment and sacrifice that you made in the beginning, to stay committed to show up to do a daily podcast is no small feat at all. Virtual assistants are your key things. For me, I took that you can start small, and get super clear about what it is that you want to give to them before you get started.
One last thing before we close down this show this episode. I want to talk a little bit about building a podcast because some of my guests here are reading as they think about investing in real estate, they probably have their businesses and professions. Many of them think about creating a podcast for their business. What could you share with them as they think about doing that for their business and how it’s impacted your real estate syndication business?
There’s so much we can talk about growing a podcast and how it’s affected our business. I’ve interviewed almost 1,000 people. There have been months where I’ve interviewed 75 people or 80 people in one month. If you think about how fast you want to get somewhere and everyone talks about how all your network is directly related to your network. A podcast helps increase your network so fast. Lisa, I’d never met you before, but now we know each other. I know more about you and your business. You know more about me and my business, so there’s a connection there that we didn’t we wouldn’t have had without my podcast before and now your podcasts.
It’s all these connections. If you’re doing one a week and two new contacts a year while I’m having 400 a year because we’re doing more than a lot more than enough per year. You do the math where I’m doing seven times as many per week as most. It’s not been easy. It has been an extreme undertaking. How are you going to make all that happen? We had to have the team. It’s been a massive commitment but it has helped us to explode our growth fast.
Not only is my network growing, but I’m able to add value to so many more people because I’m having so many more conversations with that many more experts. People coming to our show can find guests that are speaking directly to them. They’re probably not going to listen to every episode, but they can find things that I’m discussing with other guests that are where they’re most likely. That has helped us to explode our business and move fast. It’s credibility with investors too. Knowing that we can manage that for this long and doing the deals that we’re doing and all that shows that we have systems and processes. There’s a whole system behind launching a podcast and growing it.
We’ll have to do another episode on that. This is awesome. I appreciate it. At this point, we’ll jump into my Level Up questions that I ask all my guests. The first one is what are you grateful for in your life right now?
The top thing is that I know the Lord is my Savior.
What has attributed to your continuous learning and success?
The biggest thing that’s continued my learning would be the podcasts. It’s my university. There are so many other things the way I’m educating myself every day but that’s probably the biggest.
The last thing is, what do you now know that you wish you knew at the beginning of your journey?
It’s a double-edged sword but the level of commitment it was going to take not for me, but for my whole family. I wish I had known that and maybe I wouldn’t have started. I don’t know but if I knew the end, I would have still. I better understood it’s not the commitment level for me. I was ready to make it happen but I don’t think I knew or understood this commitment level is going to take for my wife and children as well.
I feel like a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners can resonate with that because as they have built their businesses and they’ve gotten into the thick of things, I’m sure they could share those sentiments as well. Thank you again, Whitney, for coming on. I appreciate it. I know my audience will be able to get a lot of value. If they would like to learn more about you and your offerings, where’s the best place they can go to check you out?
LifeBridgeCapital.com sign up on the Contact Us page our team will be in touch with you so we can talk to you and learn about your goals as an investor but also you can email me directly at Whitney@LifeBridgeCapital.com or you can call or text me at (540) 585-4338.
- Life Bridge Capital LLC
- The Real Estate Syndication Show
About Whitney Sewell
Founder of Life Bridge Capital LLC, Whitney began his real estate investing career in 2009. Whitney’s passion is working with investors, helping them secure financial security via the exceptional opportunities that multifamily syndication offers. Since 2017, Whitney and the LIfe Bridge team have acquired 900 doors and $150M AUM. Whitney also hosts The Real Estate Syndication Show, a daily podcast where he has now interviewed over 850 experts providing cutting-edge tools and strategies of the syndication business. Whitney and his wife Chelsea are on a mission to help other families through the process of adoption. They have personally endured the financial burdens that the process puts on families and have committed 50% of their profits to this goal. Whitney and Chelsea have three children by adoption.
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