Show Summary

Tony Alvarez has made a fortune investing in California real estate. In fact, he’s made and lost many fortunes, but always found his way back. Bumps and bruises like that come with tremendous learning opportunities, and Tony shares all in this FlipNerd.com VIP interview. As an immigrant to the US (moved here at a very young age from Cuba), Tony has always been thankful for the opportunities that America has presented him…something too many natural born American’s often take for granted. It’s an insightful show…don’t miss it!

Highlights of this show

  • Meet Tony Alvarez, highly experienced California real estate investor.
  • Learn Tony’s take on what it takes to be successful in real estate investing.
  • Join the discussion on how America is the land of opportunity, and how we all need to be grateful.
  • Learn about Tony’s greatest lessons….losing everything.

Resources and Links from this show:

Listen to the Audio Version of this Episode

FlipNerd Show Transcript:

Mike Hambright: Welcome to the FlipNerd.com podcast. This is your host, Mike Hambright, and on this show, I will introduce you to VIPs in the real estate investing industry as well as other interesting entrepreneurs whose stories and experiences can help you take your business to the next level. We have three new shows each week, which are available in the iTunes store or by visiting FlipNerd.com. So without further ado, let’s get started.

– Hey it’s Mike Hambright. Welcome back for another exciting FlipNerd VIP show. Today I have with me a special guest, Tony Alvarez, who is a successful California real estate investor, speaker, author, coach. He is known as the REO mentor. This guy has a ton of information to share – a lot of great knowledge. Before we get started today, let’s take a moment to recognize our featured sponsors.

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Please note, the views and opinions expressed by the individuals in this program do not necessarily reflect those of FlipNerd.com or any of its partners, advertisers or affiliates. Please consult professionals before making any investment or tax decisions as real estate investing can be risky.

Mike Hambright: Hey Tony, welcome to the show.

Tony Alvarez: Thank you very much for having me, Mike. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Mike Hambright: We’re glad you’re on. So a lot of your work is in California and I know a lot of California folks and a lot of west coast folks know you really well. Tell us a little bit more about you for maybe those who don’t know you yet.

Tony Alvarez: Well, quickly, just so folks get a bead of my background a little bit, I’m not a really educated person in the sense that I didn’t have a lot of formal education at the beginning. I wasn’t born in this country. I came from Cuba during the Castro revolution when I was five years old and grew up in Lawrence, Massachusetts. It’s a small mill town up in New England where there was nobody else who spoke Spanish. I think those kinds of things are important to know about anybody who has succeeded because you get to understand the makeup of the person, which over time I’ve learned is pretty important. I come from a survival type of background. You grow up in a neighborhood that is half Irish and half Italian and I always tell people that they considered us to be martians because they don’t understand Cuban. So it was kind of different.

Then I got into the business. I moved to California back in the seventies. I got into the business and I dropped out of high school in my last month. I was kind of rebellious and I got into the business as a result of being basically unemployed. I didn’t have a lot of prospects. Then this guy Dave Del Dotto came on TV one night on an infomercial and said that basically any idiot without anything – education, money, whatever – could become wealthy in this business if they just had the right level of desire and took action. I bought into it. I also bought his course immediately. I didn’t even read the first three chapters of the books. He said a huge amount of stuff on some CDs and I went out and started looking for houses. I went out talking to agents and bought my first house. My parents gave me the first financing – my mom actually. My dad didn’t.

I was told most of my life that I was not the brightest bulb and that was confirmed. I went to Catholic school. In eighth grade, a nun, while everybody was getting ready to pick a high school to prepare them for college, called my mother in and I’m standing there right between them and she says, “Anthony is a wonderful child but he’s just not college material so you better put him in a vocational school”, which my mom did. A nun represented God so you have to do what they tell you. I was an introvert until I was twelve, my mom says, “You never said a word and all of a sudden you opened your mouth and you never shut up since”. But my dad was always saying, “You better get a job at the mill because you’re not the brightest”. I have five brothers and he’d say, “You’re not [inaudible] [00:04:56]. That was his way of showing me love and trying to keep me from having pain in my life right? So through all of that, none of it stuck. None of that stuff stuck and I just kept going and bought that first house and it took off from there. I’ve been through some hard times as well.

Mike Hambright: With buying that course, a lot of folks buy those courses and never even open the box. So you said you just read a little bit of it, but a lot of those courses, for people who do take action, which you later find, in my experience, is it really had nothing to do with the course. It was just the catalyst that lit the fire under your ass to go do something.

Tony Alvarez: You’re absolutely correct about that. What that guy did for me was, in that infomercial, which was very well done – keep in mind that up until that point nobody had done that before. He was one of the first guys to do that. But he got me to do two things which I went back and identified over time. I went back and analyzed my own behavior. Number one, he got me to believe in myself. He said, “No matter how bad off you are…”, and he named “Even if you’re a high school drop out, you don’t have any money, you don’t have any formal education…”. I was identifying with this. In the end he says, “Any idiot can do this” and I thought, “That’s me!”. So he got me to believe in myself and, more importantly, he got me to believe in myself and more importantly that I could make this happen and that it was possible for me. Once you lock and load on that, the only thing that there is left to do is go out and take action.

I guess that my background, having come as an immigrant family – though we never stopped to think about our situation as anything to complain about. I want to make that clear. My whole life, growing up in this country, was all about being grateful for the opportunities. You see a lot of nonsense today about people complaining about this and that and the other thing. There’s nothing to complain about. Just get out there and do what you have to do. My parents pushed us to think in terms of “You’re at a buffet. If you’re starving, it’s because you’re not going up and picking what you want to eat”. So that’s the mentality that I think that I have. It wasn’t about reading all of this stuff in this box. It was a desire within me to take action immediately to go out there. I guess at some level, it wasn’t even about the results but about doing the thing. There’s a fire and an excitement in doing it and going through the experience of it that maybe lacks for some people.

Mike Hambright: I know you’re big on folks trying to understand why they make decisions and things like that. Something you just said is really interesting to me because we live in the land now where everybody and their brother is a victim, right?

Tony Alvarez: Right!

Mike Hambright: And you’re in a blue state too and I’m in a red state, and I can still say that even here. What do you think… You always hear from folks, not necessarily that are immigrants, but talk about immigrants that move here and they say that this is a land with amazing opportunities and there are so many native-born Americans that feel like they are a victim and they were dealt a bad hand or something like that. As any successful real estate investor knows, you have to make opportunity happen – any successful entrepreneur. What do you think is happening in America these days where folks can’t take personal responsibility like they used to be able to? We don’t have to get too political here. This show’s not that long.

Tony Alvarez: I want you to realize that we grew up in my home. We came from Cuba, so my parents decided that they’re going to take their kids out of there and it was for very specific reasons. In Cuba, at the time after Fidel Castro took over, the first thing he did was he put into place a military program where when you hit nine years old, they inducted you into the military, you went away for six months and you were brainwashed. You came back and you basically became a spy inside the family to tell on anybody who wasn’t favorable to the Castro government or who didn’t favor them. So my parents decided to get out of there.

Here is Castro with all of his military might and everything and here’s my mom, and my mom decides: ‘We’re gone. They’re not going to take my boys into this’. My mom is like five feet and she didn’t have a weapon, but yet she was determined to get us out of there. My dad worked as a clerk of court in the same courthouse where my grandfather worked as a judge for the prior government, so they were not loved and my mom worked as a schoolteacher. All those kinds of things were hated by the communists because they needed to change the minds of the children to the extent, by the way, that I was attending, even at five years old, a Jesuit school where they came in. We used to eat breakfast… I have very few memories but I have specific memories of when I was a kid in Cuba, and they would come and put a bowl in front of you and tell you to pray to your God for food. You pray and look at the bowl. Nothing. Now pray to Castro and they fill your bowl. Who’s greater? So my mom heard that kind of stuff and she’s [hand clap:00:10:32]: ‘We’re outta here’.

My mom, without a weapon, and my dad made the paperwork, did whatever they had to do and the next thing you know we are on a plane to Florida. We’re here. Those kind of stories were discussed in our home as we were growing up and it was very clear to us the value of landing here. Nothing else. We didn’t expect anything else. As a matter of fact, my father brought us up to believe within ourselves that a handout was degrading. To have somebody write you a check to support yourself? But that’s not to say that there aren’t people who are born handicapped of something or you have some problem with your or whatever, but not if you’re physically fine or able. We were brought up to think in terms of there’s so much stuff we could pick from and there’s so much stuff to could do. Today’s world is a different world.

I think that in the scripture, and I’m not pushing any religion on you, but there is an inscription that says, “And the scales fell from their eyes and they could see”. I think in the United States we have people walking around blind. They just refuse to see that life here is a smorgasbord of opportunity. I’m not even from here originally and here I am at the height of my career. Within basically ten years I made ten million dollars which I could basically walk away with and say: “This is mine”. I could buy a certain amount of real estate, pay it all off, and I never have to think about anything again. So I have a tremendous debt, as well as all of my family members who feel the same way, to this country and also to pass on to another Americans. Anyone whom I can help to wake up – that’s an obligation on my part. As it is when we think in terms of the military here. The worst day in my life, the worst day here in this country, pales in comparison to the best day any military guy in Iraq had. I have nothing to complain about. But only a fool decides different or decides that they are too old or something or other.

Mike Hambright: I think you might have said this before you started recording, but you said something about real estate being the equalizer to equalize people with varying educations. In fact, real estate is traditionally – and even today – it’s a very different business because when Wall Street and hedge funds and a lot of smarter people start getting involved – it’s a different industry now – but traditionally, this has been the game of who can hustle the most or who can be the smartest, but it is more street smarts than it is intelligence. I thought that was an interesting comment because this is absolutely a hustle business. There are so many people that’ll tell you that it is easy, but you and I both know that this is not an easy business. It’s not a hard business, but you’ve got to be willing to roll up your sleeves. The reason I said all of this stuff about people feeling like victims is that those people, even if they say they have an interest in real estate investing, they’re going to have a hard time because they already have this preconceived notion that the deck is stacked against them.

Tony Alvarez: That’s a very good point that you just made and that brings us to something that is vitally important and one of the reasons that I decided at the end of this year to actually stop talking about real estate and let people like yourselves that are doing it full-on and correctly handle that. I’m really an investor at heart. That is my primary business. I found that speaking and stuff like that was actually taking away time from things such that I was divided. The only thing that I’m going to be speaking on in the future is what’s behind what keeps us from making decisions. I see people go to classes – this is what really did it for me – was seeing people go to my class and feel horrible when I see a student a year later and ask how they’re doing and they say that they haven’t bought their first house yet and they’ve taken all of these classes. I would feel like a failure as an instructor until I realized that it’s not really my fault, but at first I felt like that. I felt like I was taking this guy’s money for a class and he is doing nothing. How good am I?

But you’re right about what you said. People are being almost, to a certain extent, indoctrinated or conditioned to think that someone else is supposed to do this for you. But in real estate, it has to come to the point where you start taking some action, even the smallest action. I tell people to just go out, go talk to agents, go look at houses or go do something. Stop thinking about it. Stop having this mental conversation with yourself while you’re sitting in someone’s classroom or you’re debating which class you’re going to take next and start taking some action. What is the problem? Underneath all of that is this sense of ourselves that we can’t fail or we can’t make a dumb decision or we can’t make a decision and be wrong. God forbid we should be wrong! Where did that come from? Why do we think that every time we do something we have to do it with perfection? If you’re waiting to do whatever you do and get into real estate to make every decision you make perfect, you’re never going to do anything. It’s not going to happen and then you’re setting yourself up for huge disappointment no matter what the outcome is because everything for you depends on the result.
I learned over time Mike that the important thing is to move forward and to take the action. I have never been in the military ever but I really use that as my rule or model for what I’m going to do because in the military you have to act. Even in the best of situations when that helicopter lands, you jump off and you hit the ground, you had better move. It’s not about questioning what to do. You can’t go: “Hold on Sarge! We need another classroom meeting”. There’s no time for that nonsense. What’s good enough for them is good enough for me. So I think in terms of ‘do’ the thing. Do it. Find out. Maybe you’ll even find out it’s not for you. What’s wrong with that?

Mike Hambright: It’s interesting that you say what you just said because I always talk about how there are a ton of people that never even get out of the gate and my thought was always that they were lazy or don’t find a reason to get around to it but I hadn’t really considered or thought about the fact that it’s the fear of failure to not do it in the first place.

Tony Alvarez: Of course! When you get down to it, I was asked that question. We were on a panel and everybody was coming out and giving excuses. I actually taught a class on the fourteen most common obstacles to getting into the real estate business. Over the years, having taught people and dealing with different students – and I love people- I want you to know. I’m hard because if you can’t tell by now I am a no-nonsense person. When it comes to this country, I have very little tolerance for nonsense. For example, before I speak anywhere, I had one caveat that there be an American flag at the front of the room. A lot of people are going to think that I am coming off as too much of a patriot but you know what? Tough! If it wasn’t for that flag and what it represents, I would not have the right to speak in front of you.
So let’s put things in order. Number one is we must honor and respect the things that are our foundation right? I’m talking about real estate. That’s all well and good but what gives me the right to stand in front of you and say a word? If we were in Cuba, I couldn’t say three words to you without being listened to and someone dictating what comes out of my mouth. So are we to take that for granted? Never. So real estate? Let’s talk real estate. I have no problem with that. Let’s start out with the pledge of allegiance before I say a word. If you have a problem with that, I’m not speaking at your club. If you can’t get an American flag in front of that room… By the way, you know what I started doing? I found some places would agree but I would show up and there would be no flag. I assume they did not bring it in so on my PowerPoint I have a picture of a waving flag to solve that problem. I brought a flag with me! I have had the experience where someone has gotten up from the room and walked out. How do you like that? I’m okay with that.

Real estate business – you want to become wealthy in this business? It’s ninety percent what you decide to do, ten percent what you learn on how to do it and who you associate with as a man of importance because you don’t want to be hanging around with people who are just complaining and are a misery pity-party. You want to get away from that. I’ve had people come up to me and say, “I can’t find a deal”, or “I can’t do this”, “I can’t do that”. ‘I can’t’ to me represents ‘I won’t’. That’s about as clear as I can put it. I have absolutely no reason whatsoever to have made the success in this business if you use the definition that most of these people use that ‘everything should go perfect for me and everyone should be running to my aid’. That’s not the way it works. I’ve been through bankruptcy twice while trying to scale the wall of financial freedom but guess what? I had the right to fail. How do you like them apples? I get to choose right?

Mike Hambright: Tell us a little bit about your experiences from getting started, to success and the trials and tribulations in between and obviously, if there’s a volatile market anywhere, it’s in California.

Tony Alvarez: You know what? I love the business and I’ve never seen it as anything else except for… It goes through changes and we all have definitions I’d say of what’s a good market and what’s a bad market. A good market for us, as investors, is a plentiful amount of property that nobody else wants at that point in time because as that cycle spins out, everybody wants it and then we are in a position to let it go. I have found really that over time – since everyone uses a certain type of terminology. They say they can’t find a deal. I have found that historically, depending on the point in the real estate cycle where we’re at, I’d probably find anywhere from about thirty; well depending on the cycle from thirty percent sometimes only ten percent of my transactions are found to seventy percent.

Depends, we have a lot of REOs, real estate owned stuff, foreclosure, or whatever when the market is tighter. But what’s the opposite of that? Making the deals happen. You creating those deals. The reason is that when the market is flooded with discounted real estate where you can literally buy things at fifty cents on what it cost to build them, and you can lease them out. You can buy a house for let’s say in our market, fifty thousand dollars in our market. It cost a hundred grand to build it and you can rent it out for a thousand dollars a month. Do the numbers. Even if you had one hundred percent financing and twelve percent interest, you’re still cash flowing. You’d be an idiot not to buy it. But even under the worst of situations like that…

Let’s say you have all of these deals but is everybody out there buying stuff? No. So is it the market that dictates how well we do as investors, or is it us? And when the market does go through changes, you either get sad and depressed because your life fell apart, or you get down and dirty and you get almost excited because you realize you have to find a way to make this happen. That’s the part of this business that I think made me successful. It was the same things that when we landed here. What are you going to do? Stand around and complain? Are you going to say “We don’t have a job”, “We don’t speak the language”, “People think we’re crazy or weird”? No. Get busy moving. Get busy doing something that’s worthwhile.

The real estate business is nothing but a fantastic opportunity for anybody who wakes up and smells the coffee. Even if you go to the multiple listing system – the MLS – where it’s like going to Vegas to gamble and where everybody throws their dice… We’re not talking directly about owner/sellers or any of that, but just go there. In any point in any market, I don’t care what it is, and you start to analyze, sometimes you can find plenty of deals just on stuff that’s getting listed. That’s when nobody wants it, right? Then everybody wants it and it’s no longer there, for twenty four months in my market, one hundred percent of our deals came from – guess what – the multiple listing. Not from the active listings. Not from anything except for pending deals and do you know why? Fifty percent of the transactions in my market, they vacillated between forty-two percent and fifty percent of them fell out of Escrow from one to three times. Why was that? Because all of the REO’s government changed the rules and said that you had to give the first shot to owner occupants. We don’t care. Here we’ve got an FHA house with no windows, but you’ve got to let the guy who’s going to get financing for ninety-five percent financing go ahead of you because you’re offering cash and that’s not fair. We have to treat everybody equal. There you go. Se here’s the guy, he makes the offer. The agent knows it’s not going to fly. The FHA guy knows it’s an idiotic decision, but they’ve got to do it because the rules say that what it is to be fair. You have to follow those.

So what did I do? I drafted the equivalent of what was a letter of intent but I call it a letter of interest and I send it out to all the pending deals on stuff I wanted to buy. Pretty soon it became every single pending deal, by the way. Here’s what I also learned; that letter of interest became basically a calling card letter. It’s the same thing as what I call a calling card. Do you ever hand your card to people at a meeting? Most of them end up in the trash, honestly, but that one came with a message that was vitally important to that agent because the biggest complaint we had in our market was that they won’t stick.You put them in Escrow and it… How did I know that? Because I had friends who were agents and I would go in and talk as ask what their biggest headache this month was. They would tell me that things were falling out. Two or three weeks later it falls out again. Three months and we can’t get the damn thing to stick. Finally, guess what? We were buying deals that were Fanny May, FHA, whoever… Government agencies were putting up for sale where they would not drop it a penny at the beginning.

We’re picking them up for fifty, fifty-five, or sixty cents on the dollar three months later when they’ve fallen out of Escrow because when they’ve fallen out of Escrow the third time, it’s like the rule book gets burned in effigy. They don’t care anymore. They just want a deal that is going to close. The conversation isn’t any longer about who the buyer is and how can he qualify or any of that nonsense. It’s about getting somebody to the table who can close this transaction. I don’t care who it is or what else is going on. So is it about finding deals or is it about making them happen and creating them? That was an amazing thing.

And how did I get that tip? I want you to know that I attend a class that Bruce Norris is doing. Bruce Norris out here in California is an ace. I love him to death. He’s one of my best friends, but he’s a timing guy. He does this whole presentation on California comeback and this and that and I’m sitting there and I hate all that data. I love to get the bottom line. Just give me the bottom line!

So I’m listening to a full day of this stuff and I am bored stiff. He gets to the point where he’s talking about these statistics and he says, “Here’s a curious statistic. In California, about forty-two percent of the deals are falling apart every once every three times they are going to Escrow”. I lit up like a Christmas tree and I didn’t know if anyone else caught it, but I grabbed my pad and I started writing that down. I immediately called my assistant and I said to pull all the stats in our market and find out what our closing percentages are. We came down with fifty percent. I said, “It’s a gold mine”. That one statement was worth the whole time I came to this class. Just that! I literally couldn’t wait for the whole thing to end so that I could go home and start locking that up. I don’t know if I even answered your question. I get so excited.

Mike Hambright: I don’t even remember what the question was, but it brings up another interesting question that I would like to get some feedback on, which is how it is important for real estate investors to continually reinvent themselves and find new ways to survive in that market. Do you want to offer some advice to folks that you need to ebb and flow and always be open-minded to those little tips like the story you just shared.

Tony Alvarez: Here’s the basic question you have to answer when you get into this business, because everybody gets in as a flipper especially if you don’t have any money, you’re trying to put it together or you have some money or some partner… I’ve found a couple of things. Number one, sooner or later you have to ask yourself a very serious question: Am I chasing money or am I building a business? If you’re chasing money, you might get into the business when it’s easy to do and there is a lot of low hanging fruit and then it changes. I see these people all of the time at clubs and they talk about how they cannot wait until the market comes back and there is nothing to do right now or say they just went into stocks, they’re doing something else or became a gardener. If you have no staying power and you have no long term plan, after the first bump, you’re out of the game.

When I started teaching this by the way, I use this and I want to share it with you and with all your viewers because I analyze my own behaviors as a result of somebody asking me to share how I did what I did in ten years. So I agreed and here’s what I call the three most important decisions: Number one, you have to decide what you want to do and why. Simple decision. Doesn’t it seem like common sense? Decide what you want to do. Do you want to build a business or do you want to chase money? The ‘why’ is the most important part because that’s the steam behind your decision.

Two: choose a target market and know it better than anyone else or very well. Some people have a hard time with that when I say to know it better than anybody else. “How do I know?”, they say. “How do I know who knows what?”. I say, Oh God, you’re missing the point. For me, the target market was I chose Antelope Valley because I wanted to learn the methodology of being a professional investor. Then once I got that under my belt, I could go anywhere. You could go anywhere!

The third decision was to load your ‘GPS’, which I actually had trademarked because I realized that they hadn’t trademarked it. It was Goal, Plan, and Systems. Your goal is where you want to go. I don’t care if that’s ten houses like it was for me. I wanted ten houses paid off. Over time each one of those houses would be worth one hundred grand. I’d have a million dollars in equity and each one would be bringing in a gross of a thousand dollars a month of rent. If I paid forty percent to thirty percent expenses – if I managed it myself I would only pay thirty – and I’d have six to seven grand a month and that’s all I needed. I’m very frugal. I don’t live a crazy life or anything. So that’s my ‘goal’. The ‘plan’ is how you’re going to get there. You buy low, sell high – however you’re going to do it – lease options or whatever turns you on or rocks your boat.

The third thing is ‘systems’. Those are the daily action steps you must take. I’m talking about scheduling them out. Monday, eight o’clock in the morning I am in my office. What are you doing from eight to nine? Nine to ten? Ten to eleven? If you decide that you are going to work with agents and you think you are going to get on the phone and call them before ten o’clock in the morning and it’s Monday, you had better move that back to eleven – ten thirty or eleven, because they’ve got so much going on that the last thing they want to do is hear from some investor asking, “Hey, do you have anything going on?”.

Having a business plan, so to speak, even though I hate those terms because they conjure up ideas in our minds and limit our actions, but having a plan that you designed and it’s for you! It’s nobody else’s. Who cares about anyone else’s opinion or what Sally or Johnny is doing, right? So you have that.

The most important part of that whole thing I just described to you are your daily systems. That’s where the rubber meets the road. Your action steps every single day and what do you do at the end of the day? You ask yourself three questions; what did I do right, what did I do wrong, and what can I do better tomorrow? Tomorrow. Not next year! Tomorrow. If you do that on January 1st of 2015, by the end of that year do you think that your life is going to look a little different? Believe me, Mike, if you’re true and faithful to that plan and you’re taking actions and correcting yourself at the end of every twenty four hour cycle, you will not even recognize yourself or your results. Keep in mind one thing… I know I’m talking a lot…

Mike Hambright: No, it’s great.

Tony Alvarez: …And I know you only have so much time but everybody is results-oriented. I have to tell you honestly that I gave up results a long time ago. If I focus one hundred percent of my attention on my daily actions, the results will be there. They’ll show up. But if you are always thinking about the results you want, you’re in imagination. I always tell people that I know we live in a competitive business world, so to speak.

I really have gotten to the point in my life where I reject the whole thought of competition in that sense and I’ve really analyzed some of the best coaches. Vince Lombardi, from years ago, the only thing he ever regretted saying was that “Two teams walk out into the field and one walks off a winner. The others, it’s obvious”. He took that back on his deathbed. He said, “If you make it to that field, you are indeed a winner”. So it’s about your actions, your actions. Not the results of the game or whatever happens. In sports, we always want our teams to win and that’s part of it, but what do people do in sports? The individual players go out into their field. What happens at the end of that game when they’ve literally thrashed each other? They shake hands and walk away, unless, of course, you’re watching one of those soccer games from South America, where I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I’m Hispanic every time I see those people do those kinds of things to each other.

You have to have a sense of yourself and a sense of urgency to get the things done that you determine are important. In this business, in real estate, we choose initially to chase money. Somewhere along the line you realize that if that is all you do, you are going to be reinventing yourself to a certain extent. The reinventing of how you do your business? That always changes. If you’re in real estate long enough and in this business thirty years, believe me, the internet comes into play. You think you’ve done it all and learned it all? We had to change the way that we approached business when the internet showed up. At the beginning, we hated it. Now we’re loving it. I can analyze transactions across the country and I don’t even have to leave this desk.

So you are reinventing yourself. You are absolutely correct about that, but you have to start with a sense of where it is that you’re going. It’s a combination of both of these things. One last thing that I wanted to say: I owe my success to the team of people that I have learned from – to my business friends. I got into this business with a very competitive mindset. Everybody was the enemy. If I identified anyone else, my job was not only to be better than you, but to squash you. I had to eliminate the competition. After a few times going up down, crashing and burning, I realized that I could do a whole lot better if I could get all those people out there to work with me like we are on the same team. To do that, I have to learn not only what is important to me, but I have to learn to love my business associates and I have to learn to care about their success as much as my own. To the extent that I can accomplish that, I have in essence won the lottery. I have a whole team of people walking with me as opposed to me walking by myself and watching everyone else out there and feeling bad. Any time you take your eyes and put them on someone else’s as your competitor, you have your focus off your own actions to accomplish your own goals and that’s a poor decision.

Mike Hambright: That’s great and I say this all the time and that this is a really lonely business. It can be a really lonely business if you let it be and it’s a whole lot better if you can surround yourself with people and find a way where everybody wins together.

Tony Alvarez: And without a doubt, because if not, what the heck are you really talking about? You’re going around creating enemies and you’re feeling not all that great yourself all of the time. It’s not to say that you can’t make a good living. I can tell you from experience, considering everybody the enemy, I made a few million bucks, but what happens is that if you spend five or six years of your life fighting everyone else and hoarding and fighting, you get to the end of that and you’re a burnout case. There’s nothing worthwhile in your life, not to even begin to talk about the destructive nature that destroys your personal life. You just don’t care about anything except that money.

But when you’re building a business and you look at everyone else as really your teammate and people you have to help – because everyone, to a certain extent, we all care about the same things and all want to keep the wolves away from our door and we all want the best things for our families – so why would you want to keep that from somebody else? There is plenty to go around. I think it took me a lot longer to learn that, though. I know some people out there know that already but it took me a long time to figure that out.

Mike Hambright: Well Tony, I definitely appreciate you being on today. I know you’ve got a lot of great information online. I know you’re on the verge of retirement here, but I know you’ve got a lot of great information online and sharing your advice and your opinions. Can you tell us how to learn more about…

Tony Alvarez: My thing is simple. The website address I have is Tony@TonyAlvarez.com. That’s probably the only thing you need to get a hold of me. I’m pretty open book like you guys see right here. That’s what I am. If you call me, if you somehow get a hold of me, send me an email, I’m open to talk to anybody about anything. If you ask me a silly question, I’m going to give you a silly response, so just keep that in mind because I’ll hold your feet to the fire. Just use your mind!

Mike Hambright: How about websites, Tony?

Tony Alvarez: That’s TonyAlvarez.com is the website. So you can email me with any questions you have, you can go to the website and we have a ton of stuff on the website. I have a starter kit, which is basically taking you through an internal process of asking yourself a lot of questions and stuff. We give it all away for free. At the end of this year, December 21st – I cannot wait! God willing if I make it – I’m going to probably open up the doors to that website and I’m donating all the money from whatever we sell, which isn’t a lot. We don’t sell a lot of stuff on there. I donate it all anyways because my money comes from the rentals and stuff that I have and I do quite well. So whatever I can do.

Mike Hambright: Great. Well Tony, thanks for joining us today.

Tony Alvarez: It’s been my pleasure.

Mike Hambright: I appreciate your insights and telling your story.

Tony Alvarez: I talk too much. You ask me a question and I give you a three hour answer.

Mike Hambright: No, no. It’s good stuff. It’s a good story and I think there are a lot of folks that can learn a lot from people like you that don’t let excuses get in the way and just go make it happen.

– Thanks for joining us on today’s FlipNerd.com podcast. To listen to more of our shows and hear from incredible guests, please access all of our podcasts in the iTunes store. You can also watch the video versions of our shows by visiting us at FlipNerd.com.