Friday, August 16, 2019

Musings on Buying Businesses and Real Estate

I've been an official business owner for about 2 years now and, wow!, have I learned a ton.  My plan had been to buy businesses passively and let good managers run them well.  Sometimes this seems to work and sometimes I find myself more involved than I ever imagined.  I came up with this concept of buying businesses through my never ending study of Warren Buffett and his strategies in conjunction with a little research into private equity.  I mean, those guys make a ton, so why can't I do the same, starting on a smaller scale??? 

I'm a 42.5% owner in a moving and storage business, a 50% owner in a mixed use commercial/residential property, and a 51% owner of a chocolate company in Nashville.  I still believe this is the way to wealth, along with some solid investments in public companies along the way.  My thoughts are, if these businesses can start kicking off excessive cash, that cash can either be reinvested back into the company if high return opportunities exist or the cash can be withdrawn and invested into public companies at decent rates of return.  Over time, I would imagine this strategy would work out profitably.

So here are some musings on what I've learned so far:

I'm not a big fan of real estate.  It's just a different game and seems to be a constant struggle to find good tenants.  This, in my mind, defeats the purpose of passively investing in it.  You can hire a company to manage the property, and they take 7% or more of your monthly income, which eats pretty quickly into your investment.  Over time, real estate appears to under perform the stock market anyway.  There's a game here where you can make a ton of money (just ask our POTUS!), but it's not for me.  I don't enjoy it and it lacks excitement.  And, most of all, I can imagine going into old age getting bored and tired of the same old.

I've also learned debt isn't always terrible, but it is usually bad.  We've taken out a number of loans to keep our businesses afloat, including when purchasing the businesses.  These loans handicap the businesses and the individuals involved.  I agree, not all debt is bad, but if possible to pay cash, I'd highly recommend it.  There's good debt and bad debt, as we all know, and we've taken out both.  If you can borrow money at 6% and invest it at 20%, you've got a pretty good deal on your hands.  But if things turn, you're still stuck paying this 6%, while possibly not being able to invest that money at a higher rate.  In fact, you may be put in a scenario where you're forced to take out money at 20%-30% just to stay afloat.  Good luck investing that profitably . . . but sometimes you've gotta do what you gotta do.  If you can use cash and invest at that 20%, you're in good shape. 

Also, I agree with Buffett (as usual) that good managers make the business.  We've got an outstanding manager, who holds ownership, in the chocolate company.  I've never met anyone who works as hard as she does and we simply lucked upon her.  The company would be dead in the water if we didn't have the right person in charge.  We've got a really hard worker and driven operator at the moving and storage business.  He is a straight shooter and is decisive and I like him, as well.  We knew him prior, but we still were lucky to convince him to run the operation.

On that note, I think more and more that it is important to surround yourself with people who make you better and leave less and less time for those who don't.  I find that some people are fun, but I leave hanging out with them disappointed and unfulfilled.  You don't gain anything from the time spent.  Others, you want to keep talking with all night because you can almost feel yourself growing intellectually.  You leave inspired.  I think one of the goals in life is to make more time for those people.  I'm not saying that you shouldn't hang out with the fun crowd every now and then to blow off steam, but I think you need to prioritize who you choose to spend your time with.

Those are the big generalizations at the moment.  For me, if these investments don't pan out and I have to go back to the dreaded corporate world, I'll surely be disappointed but I'll be glad I tried something different that I truly enjoy. 


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