Scott Oots is a successful entrepreneur owning multiple businesses, with a primary focus on real estate. Early on, Scott worked for multiple companies performing standard 9–5 duties. After doing this for several years, Scott realized he had little desire to work for someone else, and he often told people he felt he was unemployable. This would soon become Scott’s reality as he was eventually laid off from his 9–5, with no idea of what he was going to do next.
Scott quickly realized that he was destined for more, and his entrepreneurial career began when he decided to dive back into the cell phone industry. Scott soon began purchasing and repairing used cell phones and selling them through Amazon, eBay, and multiple wholesale outlets. In just two years, Scott mastered his craft and quickly turned his start-up business into a cash cow, increasing his profit from zero dollars to a net worth of over 4.5 million.
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Table of Contents
Thank you so much for giving us your time! Before we begin, could you introduce yourself to our readers and take us through what exactly your company does and what your vision is for its future?
Scott Oots: My name is Scott Oots. I have been married 14 years to my wife Jessica and we currently reside in Huntington Beach California. My company SJO Investments is a real estate investment company with a focus on buying off-market properties to either fix and flip or hold as rentals. SJO was created in 2015 and has continued to significantly grow year over year. Back in 2015, my goal was simply to create a business that would allow me to escape working for the inexperienced managers that looked at their employees like a number instead of a person.
As the business began to grow, we focused our primary efforts on hiring team members wanting to work for a company that looked at them as family. Our vision has always been to put the needs of our team ahead of everything else. We knew by doing this the company would grow faster, stronger, and more profitable than I had ever imagined.
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NO child ever says I want to be a CEO/entrepreneur when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get where you are today?
Scott Oots: As a child I always wanted to know how things worked. My parents would always catch me taking something apart and unfortunately not always able to put it back together. As a child this led me down the path of wanting to be an inventor, I always tried to come up with ways to make daily life tasks easier. Once that feeling wore off, I shifted into wanting to be a Police Officer. This choice stuck with me and ultimately, I ended up trying out for the Police department when I was 21-year-old. This dream unfortunately ended when I was told that my colorblindness was going to stop this career choice.
At 21 what I wanted to be for most of my life was crushed. I hated being told I could not do something; I knew from that point on that I would never allow a requirement to hold me back again. I worked in the Cell phone industry for about 8 years living the luxurious cubicle life until one day I was laid off. At that point, I realized if I wanted to secure my future and my income, I needed to do something different. I decided to start purchasing damaged cell phones to repair and resell. I drained every penny I had to buy hundreds of phones, watching YouTube videos on how to make the repairs. Over time I became good at this and built a $4M per year business within about 2 years. After about 4 years, boredom set in, and I began to look at Flipping homes.
Once again, I drained savings, exchanging every dollar I had for cashiers checks. I went to the home auctions, having no idea what I was doing, and started bidding on Foreclosure houses. Buying houses sight unseen is never recommended, especially if you have no idea what you are doing. Somehow, I succeeded, we would buy the house, a construction company would rehab it and our real estate agent would resell it. I became good at this, eventually having 3-4 houses at a time. The one thing I didn’t like about the business model was the bidding process, never knowing if I was going to be the winning bidder on a house or not. This is where SJO Investments was born. We started researching heavily into marketing and took another risk starting marketing campaigns to homeowners looking to buy houses directly without depending on the auctions. After much trial and error, we started to see success from our efforts and SJO continued to significantly grow year over year.
Tell us something about yourself that others in your organization might be surprised to know.
Scott Oots: The first thing that comes to mind is my severe color blindness. This is not something I share daily, usually, it comes up in conversation when I call out the color of something and someone looks at me thinking I didn’t finish 2nd grade or something.
Also, each quarter my team presents dream boards showing goals they personally have, things they want to work for, and/or where they want to be in 5-10 years. While this might seem like such a simple thing it is a great feeling to see employees’ cross items off that were accomplished. Once the presentations are done, my work starts. I take it upon myself to study the notes from the presentation to ensure I do everything possible to help them start crossing items off. I take it to heart if I failed as a leader by not helping my team accomplish their goals.
Many readers may wonder how to become an entrepreneur but what is an entrepreneur? How would you define it?
Scott Oots: One word comes to mind to define entrepreneurship, that word is Stressful. Don’t take it the wrong way, I wouldn’t trade owning a business for anything, but as you grow from that two-person business in your house and start to hire other people, open an office, buy computers, desks, phones, and all the other expenses that come along with a business, it becomes stressful. You stress about the overhead, you stress about having to let someone go, you stress about a slow week or month. I will gladly accept all that stress to be an entrepreneur versus working in that 9-5 cubicle.
An entrepreneur is someone that decided to take a huge risk, someone that stepped out of their comfort zone and put it all on the line. This person risked their income, their retirement, and most of the time their savings all to work long hours with a goal to change their life. Let me tell you, it was all worth it and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
What is the importance of having a supportive and inclusive culture?
Scott Oots: This is the most important thing in my business. We haven’t created a team of employees at SJO, we have built a family. We are all there for each other when things go wrong personally or professionally, and we are the first people to congratulate each other when things are accomplished. We lift each other up daily and show we care. Without this, I have no idea where this company would be today or if it would even exist.
How can a leader be disruptive in the post covid world?
Scott Oots: Covid has brought on many challenges and has reshaped how the standard office environment was known to be. Many companies have shifted to remote work which for business owners has opened a greater talent pool of applicants as opposed to being constricted to a small geographical area surrounding the office.
We are going to continue to see a shift in how businesses must run in a post-Covid world. I spent a lot of time networking with other business owners and found the most successful business owners, the owners that came out stronger post-Covid all invested heavily into their employees to create a culture unlike most businesses out there. Gone are the days of small stuffy cubicles, stale breakroom coffee, and the water cooler talks.
Companies that have evolved to open work environments, sit/stand desks, espresso machines, a generous vacation policy, and company core values which create a work environment most candidates would strive heavily to be a part of. Business leaders spending more time focusing on their team environment will be the disruption needed in the old school way of the cubicle sitting 9-5. I look forward to seeing what comes next in the business world.
If a 5-year-old asked you to describe your job, what would you tell them?
Scott Oots: Most five-year old’s aren’t going to understand investments, so I would simply say that I buy houses to make them nicer so families like theirs can move into. Basically, we can provide them a place to play with their toys, take naps and watch TV.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Scott Oots: One of the largest expenses for a new business is the impact of payroll on the P&L. When I started this company, we hired everyone local as in-office positions. As we continued to grow it became apparent, we needed a team answering inbound calls 7 days a week, about 16 hours per day to provide the best possible customer experience. Since we were considered a startup back in 2017, we did not have the additional funds to allocate to an in-office team to cover the hours we needed. Against everything I stood for at the time, we made the decision to eliminate our in-house phone answering team and move to an overseas team.
This move allowed us to hire an entire team for a fraction of the office-based team. To the current day, we still use the same team overseas to answer all inbound calls. Customer experience has improved significantly as we are available day or night, whenever the customer needs us. This change contributed to increased revenue, therefore higher pay rates for both our overseas team and office team.
Leaders are usually asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is your most useless talent?
Scott Oots: My team would say as I have become busier and/or older I have become forgetful when it comes to things I was supposed to do. Yet I have an ability when an important conversation takes place, I remember exactly where I was when it occurred, and I can almost picture the moment it happened.
For example, if I was talking to someone from my executive team and we happened to be in the car when the conversation took place, months later if we talked about it, I would be able to remember what intersection we were sitting at and almost picture the entire time we talked. Now, this may all be in my head because I forget things easily without a to-do list, but I’m constantly told how useless this is. It could also be that my team knows I’m right and it drives them nuts.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. If you wrote a book about your life until today, what would the title be?
Scott Oots: If I wrote a book specifically about my business journey it would be titled “The Rollercoaster of business”. If the book was about my entire life, it would be called “If I can do it, anyone can”.
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Scott Oots 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 Scott Oots or his company, you can do it through his – Facebook
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