Meet Kyle McCorkel, born and raised in Hershey, PA. He went to PSU for Industrial Engineering where he met his wife, Lisa. Kyle worked as a process improvement consultant from 2009-2019. He traveled 80%-90% of the time, although according to him, it was a fast-paced, fun job and he got to work with all kinds of organizations all over the country.
Kyle began buying rental properties in 2015 and went into real estate full time in 2019. He began flipping in 2019, and then wholesaling in 2021. Now he does everything: buy and hold, flipping, and wholesaling. Currently, he’s the owner or partial owner of 47 rental units. He started Safe Home Offer to find properties to flip or buy and hold.
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Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Kyle McCorkel: I’m Kyle McCorkel, owner of Safe Home Offer, a marketing business specializing in finding off-market real estate deals that we then buy and hold, flip, or wholesale. Originally from Hershey, PA, I went to Penn State for Industrial Engineering, minoring in Business and Entrepreneurship. After college, I married my wife, and we moved around a little bit for her job. My job was 90% travel-based, so I could live anywhere in the country. With her being from the Pittsburgh area, when we decided to start setting roots for our family, we knew we wanted to be close to one set of our parents – the deciding factor was where she found the best job. That ended up being in Hershey, so we are back to living in the sweetest place on earth. I have always had the entrepreneurial itch, and buying real estate seemed like a good place to begin, so I began buying rentals at a rate of 1 or 2 per year for extra income.
But I can tell you the exact moment when I decided to ditch my traditional career and turn my part-time gig/ hobby into a full-fledged business. I was traveling Monday-Thursday or Friday every single week. I had been married for a few years, and we were beginning to talk about starting a family. I had already started cultivating the seed of doubt I had about my job and career, knowing that that much travel was not sustainable for the level of engagement I desired to have with my family. I was coming home to Harrisburg from Chicago on a Friday night, and the weather dictated that all the flights get grounded. Wet and tired, I finally found a hotel at 2:00 in the morning. Three hours later, at 5:00, I had to wake up to book a flight home. Then in less than 48 hours, I would be in the air again for the next consulting job. My social life was gone, I never got to see my wife, and I was living a life I had never envisioned.
It was very important to my wife and me to have a plan before we jumped headlong into a new venture. We switched all of our finances and budgeting to live off of her salary alone. We lived below our means and banked my entire salary as an emergency fund. We wanted to know that if my ventures failed, we’d still be able to pay the mortgage. Once the pressure was off, it was a lot easier to focus my energy on building my business versus just paying the bills. The time between the Chicago incident and being full-time in real estate investing was five years. I started out small, deciding that if I would make mistakes (and I knew I would), it was better to learn when there wasn’t a ton of money at stake. Once I learned the ropes and made strategic relationships with contractors, mortgage brokers, and other investors, I scaled my business up.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your viewpoint, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Kyle McCorkel: I often think of nature vs nurture when I’m raising my own three boys. I think what I’ve come to is that the driving force in personality and interests is nature. I raise all three of them exactly the same way, and there couldn’t be three more different boys on the planet. In this same way, I definitely think entrepreneurs are born. Either you have it or you don’t – the drive to start something new and find creative solutions to make it work. Sure, my upbringing influenced me.
My dad was working upper class my whole childhood. He had some health issues in his 30’s that the doctor attributed to stress- mainly from his job. He also has the entrepreneur gene (that he got from his father, a farmer, probably one of the toughest businesses to run), but didn’t cultivate it. He always told me to not follow his path. He encouraged me to start a business and be my own boss. As the primary breadwinner for a growing family, he just felt it was too late in life for him to start something new. His advice did not fall on deaf ears, however. I took it and ran with it. I didn’t want to have the same regrets in life that he did.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Kyle McCorkel: I would say I’m self-motivated, passionate, reflective, and action-driven. When my wife and I decided to go on the venture, we had made our finances work on her income alone. The outside pressure was off, and the only real thing keeping me from throwing up my hands when I made a mistake was my own inner motivation to make it work. I also find that once I have an idea in my head, I need to see it through to fruition. Some people call it obsessive, I like to think I’m passionate.
I know that every experience, good and bad, is a learning opportunity if you take the time to look back and analyze it. I keep detailed records of all of the data that comes into the business – productivity numbers, budget, revenue, and time. I look at those numbers on a weekly basis to make sure we’re on track, then do a monthly metric review with my employees, and, of course, compile the EOY numbers to see how we did overall as to not miss the forest for the trees. But I reflect on more than just the business metrics. This year I was getting bogged down in a lot of necessary business practices that I just didn’t love. I saw their importance, but I didn’t want to do the tasks anymore. I sat down and made an Org Chart. I mapped out each of the roles that I was doing and put my name in for them. I made an SOP for each role and then set out to find people who could fill those roles. Knowing my own strengths and weaknesses, my likes and dislikes, and what the business needed to thrive was an important step in having our most profitable year to date.
That brings me to being action-driven. It’s not enough to design a business plan, compile all the data, and create an Org Chart if you’re not going to take action on those things. I love to learn, so I listen to a lot of podcasts and read a lot of books from people much more successful in business than I am. One thing all of these people have in common is that they didn’t just sit around waiting for their business to take off itself, they built the wings and the engine and did test flight after test flight until they got it right. What’s the point of having knowledge if you don’t put it to work?
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Kyle McCorkel: Initially, my business started as a side gig to make a little extra money. I thought real estate looked like an attractive option to make some fairly passive income. I began buying properties on market. I made some mistakes with my first couple of rentals and flips and decided I was paying too much in realtor fees, so I got my license. Soon after that, I realized that the real deals are off-market. I put my license on hold and began strictly buying properties off-market. As my knowledge and understanding of the market grows and as things change, I like to keep myself fluid and evolving so that I never get stuck in a way of thinking that doesn’t serve the business anymore.
I would say my biggest year for growth has been this past year. When I sat down and created my Org Chart, I had two employees including myself. I knew that in order to grow the business to where I wanted it, I’d need a lot more help. We went from doing 5 deals in 2020 to 20 deals in 2021. We went from 2 employees in 2020 to 7 employees in 2021. This year has seen a lot of growth, and with anything that grows a lot, I am anticipating some challenges this coming year, but also very excited to see what will come from the opportunities those challenges create.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Kyle McCorkel: The first things that come to mind that new business owners should expect are that there are always opposing forces and there will be failures. A very large percentage of new businesses fail in the first year and another large percentage fail within the first five years. You should never assume your business will be different because you think you’re smarter or more talented. You need to have a game plan. Before you start out, do a lot of reflecting about what, at the root, makes your business different from all the others in the field. What gives your business a competitive advantage?
Also, more than anything, know that it is hard work. Running a business takes a lot of time, energy, commitment, money, and a willingness to always be learning. One of the tricks to not getting burnt out is figuring out how to make the business work for you instead of you working for the business. It takes a lot of reflection, but the end result is very worth it.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Kyle McCorkel: Truthfully, when I started out, part of my game plan was to start small and iron out all the kinks and fix all the mistakes with lower dollar investments and then scale up. I chalked those $5,000-$10,000 mistakes up to the price of education, and I easily bounced back from them. Had I jumped head first into larger investments with mistake price tags of $100,000, there wouldn’t have been any bouncing back.
Am I still learning and making mistakes? Absolutely. Are the price tags of those mistakes higher than they were 5 years ago? Absolutely. But my revenue is also higher, and scale-wise they cost the business about the same percentage.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain.
Kyle McCorkel: I wish I could tell younger Kyle to always have a contingency plan. Always. Always make sure your contingency plans have contingency plans. No one property should only have one way to be profitable. What if contractors get really backed up and I can’t find one to fit me in for 6 months? What if I can’t find the right tenant? What if my financing falls through? Think of all the steps involved in the process and always assume each of them goes completely wrong. That way, when some of them go right, you’re pleasantly surprised, and inevitably when one goes wrong you’ve already planned for it.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Kyle McCorkel: The absolute worst advice I ever got when I started my business was “do everything yourself. You won’t ever be able to trust anyone to do the job as well as you can.” That last part is true. Could I be a better property manager than the guy I hired to do it? I have no doubt. But does he do a good enough job to keep my cash flow where it should be? Definitely. Could I do a vast majority of the construction that I hire out to contractors? Yes, you can learn to do anything well on YouTube.
But is it worth the time it would take me to learn it? Most certainly not. The people who stick to this advice are the type of people who only end up investing in one property and allow that property to consume all of their time and resources. In the grand scheme of owning multiple properties, small shortcomings of the people I hire cost me far less than it would if I did it all myself.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Kyle McCorkel: In light of COVID-19 and the restrictions the government was able to put onto private industry, I would tell entrepreneurs to know what to do if the government decided to shut down your business. If they took away your ability to collect rent or meet prospective clients in person or stopped you from being able to get a loan or do a title search, what would you do? Of course, those are all very specific examples from my own industry, but they are very real examples of hurdles I had to overcome. Did I ever dream the government would tell people they didn’t have to pay rent, but I still had to pay my mortgage on the property they were renting from me? No.
There are so many things that happened these past two years across all industries that seemed unthinkable in 2019. What if you have never gotten a bad report from the health department, and yet they deem your restaurant unsafe to eat in? What if the products you sell in your small business aren’t considered “essential,” so you can’t let people in the door, but big chains like Walmart are still operating at near-normal capacity? How can you compete with that?
The answer is, other than having a contingency plan upon contingency plan, look for the opportunities. When small shops were being threatened because they couldn’t be face-to-face with consumers, the ones who survived offered online shopping and free curbside pickup. When restaurants had to close their dining rooms, some offered delivery and cooking classes. If your business is going to be successful, you need to learn to work within the system you’re given instead of finding excuses for failure.
What hasn’t changed is peoples’ needs for my services and the services of so many entrepreneurs across all industries. If the need is there, the opportunity to grow your business is there as well.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Kyle McCorkel: The biggest myth I hear among other business owners is that if you are good at your day job or trade, you are good enough to run a business. The truth is that running a business is so much more than being good at the service your job offers. Running a business requires marketing, sales, and bookkeeping on top of the actual service. Chances are you’re not good at all of those aspects, and even if you are, if you don’t get help, you’ve just acquired 3 part-time jobs on top of the full-time job you set out to do.
My advice before you give up your day job to run a day-and-night job is to really do some self-reflection. Figure out what parts of the business can be run without you and what parts you don’t enjoy doing and delegate them. What is it about starting a business that’s attractive to you? Is it freedom? Is it being your own boss? Neither of those things happens if you don’t get out of way. Eventually, you will find that the business is running you and you have less time than you did before. When you insist on being the business instead of creating a system to be the business, it’s harder to take vacations or sick days.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Kyle McCorkel: The most important traits to have in business (as well as life!) are being open-minded, patient, and have perseverance. Being open-minded means that you are always open to learning: learning new ways of doing business, learning new systems, and getting new perspectives that you hadn’t considered before. More knowledge leads to better, more informed decision-making. Patience is something few people possess, but business requires it. There aren’t any overnight successes. Watch Shark Tank. It may seem like those businesses get a deal from a shark and shoot to immediate success, but the truth is it has taken them years of building their business to even get them on the show. Know that there are failures and mistakes along the way, but with patience to see it through and perseverance to keep trying new things, eventually, success will come.
Above all, no matter the industry, business owners need to know how to handle people. They need to organize their employees to communicate well with each other and work toward a common goal. They need to know what it is their customers want and how to deliver their services in a way that leaves them satisfied with the experience. I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a “people person,” but I understand the importance of my employees and my customers as individuals, and I genuinely want everyone to be happy with their end result.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Kyle McCorkel: Probably the most influential book I’ve read for my business is The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber. It gave me the tools I needed to lay out a detailed plan for my business and hire the talent I needed so I could run my business effectively instead of my business running me into the ground.
I also think that real-life experiences informed a lot of my understanding of the business world, particularly participating in a sport. For me, that sport was wrestling. In business, as it is in sports and real life, you need to learn how to deal with both winning and losing. There aren’t any participation trophies in business. You either succeed or you fail. You either learn from your mistakes and do better next time or you never come back. Individual sports like running and wrestling are especially good at ingraining these lessons because there is no one to pass the blame to. You’re only ever responsible to yourself and your shortcomings are yours alone to work on and make better.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Kyle McCorkel: This was a hard one to answer. I go back to my answer in the second question that I believe being an entrepreneur is my nature, so if it isn’t this business it would be another business. Eventually, I’d like to get to the point in business where my wife doesn’t have to work, and then I would just be building up my portfolio for fun.
Something I can see myself doing in the future as a passion project, but is still in the vein of entrepreneurship is starting a charitable foundation to educate kids about life skills outside of normal classroom instruction. I think the school system fails our kids in teaching personal responsibility, basic money and household management skills, and how to fail and get back up. Life is hard, and I would like to be able to contribute the wisdom I have gleaned along the way to make it a little bit easier for the next generation.
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Kyle McCorkel: The person I’d put on Mount Rushmore would be Elon Musk. I think he has done more to advance society, industry, and business than anyone else in modern history. He is proving that we don’t need the government to take us to space, we need SpaceX. Talk about creative solutions, bouncing back, taking personal responsibility, and always learning – Musk embodies them all. Arguably one of the greatest minds on the planet, he is using his mind, not for just personal gain and wealth, but to advance society and give everyone a better way of life.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Kyle McCorkel for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Kyle McCorkel or his company, you can do it through his – Twitter
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