This interview is part of our Entrepreneur Interview series.
Creating a business is not just something that comes at the switch of a button. It takes hard work, some failure and a great team. Brenton Hayden of Renters Warehouse based in Minnesota got his business off of the ground at the tender age of 22 with a start-up capital of only $3,000 in personal savings. He turned his business into one of the most well-recognized property management companies in America. Brenton shares his stories about his success and how he got to where he is today.
Do Your Research, Create a Business
Renters Warehouse is one of the fastest-growing Property Management Companies in America. Why and how did you start it?
It was 2006 and I was a working real estate agent. My job was to work on buyer leads for our property advertisements. Often in conversation I would get requests to help them find a rental property to live in, or requests to help them rent their property instead of buy/sell. With so many requests, I started to research companies to help them and found almost none offered these services. Furthermore, none had a real value proposition. This was my “ah-ha” moment and I began to create the idea and company that is Renters Warehouse today. But I built it for the little guy, the blue collar guy/girl. Because if you were an investor with lots of properties, odds are you can get a vendor. However, if you had only one or two, you were deemed too small for the typical property manager. Considering this was the bulk of all real estate investors, I thought this was flawed. I just needed to figure out how I was going to provide value, and yet still make revenue goal and once I did and that is how Renters Warehouse came about.
Owning a Business is Stressful
What is the hardest part about being an entrepreneur?
The stress. I think I literally had gray hairs by the time I was 23, right along the temples which I’m told is because of stress. The stress of making payroll, the stress of finding new clients to grow the business, the stress of hiring key team members to help me and the stress of lots of money going out and only slowly trickling back in with the concern of whether or not it will come back in time to keep the company afloat. It was also very hard to run a business by myself. One of the first things I realized early on was I was going to need the dedication and support of my employees. I needed them to care as much about my business as if it was their own, and I needed them to buy into my dream and my mission. Figuring that out in itself was a stressful time.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
My original career plan was to become a police officer, and shortly after start my own security firm for private housing associations and high end property developments. I lasted 9 days in school before taking a job at a large Fortune 500 company because I learned just how much college would cost and how little money I would be making after I graduated. This was right after 9/11, and everyone wanted to become a police officer and my odds of getting hired were becoming slimmer and slimmer. It was when I was working at Kelloggs that I had learned to become a great networker and salesman. I began to trust myself and my skill sets, which empowered me even more. It was the rise and then the fall here that got me into my first business. After 2 years of great success at Kelloggs, I was let go over a mis-understanding, and I went from earning $100K annually, to $0. I needed a job and someone told me the only way to make $100K when I was that young with no degree, was in real estate. So I decided to get my real estate license and begin learning the industry. It was while I was learning about real estate that I got my first entrepreneurial itch to scratch, and that was Renters Warehouse.
Manage Your Money
Who inspired you to become who you are today?
If I had a mentor, it was my dad, Gary Hayden. He raised me well, and taught me that if I ever wanted to make real wealth I had to create it on my own. He also taught me basic values like ethics, honesty, candor, and gumption. On top of this, he taught me from a young age to manage my money well, and to leverage it to make more. I remember how I would take my $7 allowance most weekends and buy Country time pink lemonade and sell it on my street in front of my house. I could often double my allowance in a weekend. And when you are about 12, that extra $7 dollars goes along way!
“Don’t Talk About It, Be About It.”
Your company just acquired a new software company called RentFeeder. Could you explain what motivated a real estate professional to acquire a software company?
We have a phrase we say a lot in upper management: “Don’t talk about it, be about it”. And frankly we were talking a lot about being one of the most tech savvy property managers out there, however, we had no proprietary software. We also lacked the technology to increase our listing volume, and decrease our market times. RentFeeder was something we wanted to build, and in the research phase, we found one entrepreneur already trying to build it, however he became unmotivated as he sold his previous company for $220M. Developing his new property management software was not a high priority, but it was for me. I saw that as great timing and deemed it a good buy for us to help “be about it” instead of just talk about it. Now, we make this software ONLY available to those in the Renters Warehouse family.
You claim to have officially retired at the young age of 27, was this a goal of yours, or something that just happened?
It was more like when I was 28. However, my form of retirement is different than most. I am not living on a sunny beach somewhere (I’m still in Minnesota) and I hate golf. So for me, retirement needed to be redefined, and I define it as, “The privilege to design each day as I see fit.” So what does that mean – that means some days I still work, however only on things I want to work on. In fact, I am only working 1-2 days a week. I wish it was less, however there is one job that never goes away, even if you hire a new CEO, you will always be considered “Owner of the Business.” With that said, I can work from home or anywhere now, and have plans to avoid the tough Minnesotan winters by living in sunny Southern California this winter. I am living the dream, with enough wealth to retire today, however, one of my hobbies still includes being an entrepreneur. Some people golf in their retirement, I oversee businesses. My job now is to work on the business, not in the business.
As for it being a goal, yes indeed. When I was 22 I realized I was rather lazy when I was not at work and that I left it all on the court as they say during the work day and was often very toured after work. I just knew I didn’t want to feel this way my whole life. So I started crunching numbers to determine what amount of wealth would I need to have a sustainable and nice lifestyle. I came up with the number $7M – $7M divided by 53 was $132,000 annually. I figured I had lived the good life at $100K annually, so if by earning $132K annually for the rest of my life would let me live that life, I would do it. There and then it became a goal, a goal I told everyone about which meant that now I had to make it a reality. I ended up retiring about 7 months after my initial lofty goal of 27, however I more than doubled my requirement net worth to retire, so it was well worth it!
Good PR = Brand Recognition
Having worked with Onboardly for awhile now, how has PR and content marketing contributed to the growth of your company? Where do you see the future of these marketing channels going?
In the past week, I have taken home 8 awards for myself and my business. Awards such as; 2014 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Executive of the Year in Real Estate by the ABA’s, Top 100 Company to work for in Minnesota by the Star Tribune, to name a few. Our brand recognition has grown tremendously and we are now thought leaders in the real estate space, and are considered a PR beast by local competitors. We are seeing improved growth numbers in 2014, and I attribute this to Onboardly’s aggressive PR style.
You MUST be passionate
7. Any pro tips, tricks, or things you have never shared before (that you will for us) that have helped you launch or grow your company?
I do have a few pro tips to help grow any company! First of all, you need less money than you think. Secondly, your business plan is usually not that valuable which means that ideas are worthless and execution is priceless. Thirdly, you do not need to figure it all out before you start, that’s the fun part in business, figuring things out but, beware of banana falvored lasagna – listen to feedback, but not all feedback is valuable or actionable. Finally, you MUST be passionate about your business succeeding – almost a “I must succeed or die trying” mentality.
Brenton Hayden is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of Renters Warehouse USA, a four time honoree of the Inc. 500|5000 list. At 29, Brenton leads his dedicated team of over 100 employees and franchisees in seven states to see gross revenues of $12.5 million. With a portfolio of managed properties valued around $750 million and $2 billion in residential leasing transactions, it’s no surprise that this Harvard Business School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Sloan School of Management graduate was named the youngest franchisor in America by INC. Magazine in 2011 at the age of 25. Brenton’s expert marketing skills and entrepreneurial spirit have largely contributed to the success of his company, earning Renters Warehouse numerous awards in real estate and business.