Many startup businesses suffer from self-sabotage because they simply jump into entrepreneurship without knowing their true purpose first. If you are not clear with your personal vision or cannot see your business as an extension of yourself, you are just sending cash down the drain. Landlord Coach Mark Dolfini is here to discuss how to go beyond this limiting mindset and turn yourself into a go-to brand in your chosen industry. Sitting down with Julie Houston, he talks about three ways to define vision and the top ten reasons why people buy. Mark also shares how he helps business owners realign with their core values and build their brand by identifying their life purpose in the most specific way.
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Learning Your True Purpose With Mark Dolfini
We have a guest on. I‘m very excited to have our guest, Mark Dolfini on our show. Before we even dive in, Mark, can you tell us a little bit about your background, what you did, and what you are doing that led you to where you are at?
I was born in a log home. I’m kidding.
I was like, “You don’t have to go that far.”
The Earth was formed. As the Earth’s crust cooled, life formed. I grew up in upstate New York. I was a smart kid and smart enough to realize that I could get away with not doing very much in school. That didn’t always work for me. Not to brag but I was in the top 98% of my class, which mathematically also correlates to the bottom 2% of my class. That’s exactly where I was.
I love your honesty.
I share that because I know there are a lot of folks out there who think that success is about being super intelligent, and it’s not. You have got to have some level of intelligence, some business acumen, and some life experience but you don’t need to be Elon Musk to be successful. I graduated from school, barely. I did not set myself up well for college. I ended up going to thirteenth grade, which is a community college and decided that was not scratching the itch.
I ended up joining the Marine Corps, and that’s where things started to take off for me. I was in the Marine Corps. I was a celestial navigator on C-130s. I did well in the Marine Corps. I enjoyed it but it wasn’t what I wanted to stay in. I did my four years, got out, and then decided I wanted to go to Purdue. I didn’t know 100% what I wanted to do but business was attracted to me. I got into an accounting program and got a degree in accounting and finance.
That’s the field that I stayed in for a while. I worked in the field of accounting and banking. I was a commercial underwriter for a while. I worked on all different aspects of that. Even while I was in school, I started buying real estate and learning and making as many mistakes as I possibly could. I got good at making mistakes. I made a ton of them. Probably one of my biggest mistakes is one of my biggest successes. I was able to turn a $6 million portfolio into $1.5 million in about 8 months. That’s what happened in 2008. I pretty much learned how not to do things.
Once I started figuring things out and learned how to bounce back, I started to take off, becoming a student of business. That was back in 2012. I didn’t declare bankruptcy. I probably should have but I was able to keep some of my properties. I climbed out of that hole. As they say, it was one of those situations where I learned a tremendous amount from all the mistakes that I made.
I still kept making a lot of mistakes along the way but they became far less expensive and got to a point where my property management business has several hundred doors. I own some and manage some for others. Several hundred units take me maybe an hour or so a week to manage. It enables me to be time wealthy, control my calendar, and do what I want to do. I wrote a couple of books. I get to coach others and spend a lot of time doing what I want to do.
What do you focus on with your clients?
Back when I first started coaching, I was under the moniker Landlord Coach. I was thinking that I wanted to show people how to do that because they were struggling. There were a lot of people out there who were mom-and-pop business owners. They struggle with managing the rental properties and everything else, even mom-and-pop property managers if they were managing their portfolios.
I started down that path and taught them using what’s called the VIP method. It’s Vision, Infrastructure, and Process. Vision is specifically about what it is that you want. What are you trying to accomplish? Usually, I travel around. At the time, I was traveling a lot more to different REIA groups and so forth. People would be like, “You are the Landlord Coach. I’m trying to get some rental properties.” I would say, “What are you trying to accomplish?” They would say, “I want to get 100 rental units.” It’s always in increments of 25. I’m not sure why but it is.
I’m not making this up. They always say, “I want 50 rental units. I want whatever it is.” I said, “Ninety-nine wouldn’t do it?” “Ninety-nine would do it. A hundred is a round number.” I’m like, “I get that 100 is a round number. I have a degree in Accounting. I get that but 99 wouldn’t do it?” They are like, “Ninety-nine would do it.” “What about 97?” “Ninety-seven is a prime number.”
What I will do is keep going down from 97 to 91 to 82. What they finally recognize is that they are confusing the number of rental units with the level of life output they think that’s going to buy them. What they are conveying to me is a business vision. I would argue to them, “Get a personal vision. What are you specifically doing this for? Why do you feel like you have to have 82 rental units or 100 rental units? You have got 100 rental units, for what?”
Here’s the problem that I have noticed. Ask me how I know this. When they focus on a business vision, they end up creating a life that exists to serve the business. You have to form a personal vision first. It’s not that the business vision is irrelevant. You just can’t form it first. You need to form the personal vision first and then create the business vision after that because when you create the business vision before you create the personal vision, you end up creating a life that exists to serve the business.
In that framework, that’s how I start to coach people saying, “Many people would come to me because they know the systems.” Even though I still use the Landlord Coach brand as a marketing channel, I started to shift toward a more small business entrepreneurial channel because my skillset was way beyond managing rentals.
I looked around at my inner circle coaching program, and about half of the individuals in the room didn’t even own real estate beyond what they lived in. They were all small business entrepreneurs. They were all generally under 500 employees. That’s how the government defines it. These were people with anywhere from 0 or 1-man armies all the way up to 20 to 25 employees.
They all had similar if not the same issues of all of these self-sabotaging behaviors, which might be procrastination, always seeking the approval of others, even a bad relationship with money, or maybe continually trying to rescue other people because it would prevent them from having to work on their head trash. All of these things came around the context of forming a vision first, setting up the processes, which everybody thought was the hard thing, and setting up the infrastructure, which is the system of the business.
That makes sense. Is there a frequent thing you see when you meet with people initially that is common where they are jumping ahead of the cart before the horse?
They usually will come because they think that they are struggling with systems. I will say, “Hang on a second.” I explain it the way I explain it with the VIP method. That’s the methodology that I use to get me out of my hole because I was getting up, and I was like, “I have been in the corporate world. I worked as an accountant for a while. Even though my degree is in accounting, I could not do accounting for a living. I would feel like a bird dying in a cage.”
I‘m grateful for CPAs and accountants because I would die trying to figure it out.
The problem is I’m good at it. That’s the problem but I would rather be better at anything else. I would rather have X-ray vision or something else but I do have sarcasm though. I can’t make any money at that. The problem that I would often see is they think it’s a systemic issue, “If I can only get this figured out in the business, then I could work on my personal stuff.” One of the more systemic issues that I see is the fact that they don’t recognize that the business is simply an extension of them.
You are going to issue the personal vision first because that’s what you are building everything out around and what you want out of your life.
I might ask and pull on a thread to say, “How are things at home? What’s your relationship like with your kids? What’s your relationship like with your spouse or significant other? What’s that like?” Usually, it’s very vague, “It’s good,” not a knock-the-cover-off-the-ball answer. That’s where I start to say, “I’m going to be honest with you. This is why I feel like you have to have a clear vision of what you want in all of the aspects of your life that are important. What’s your relationship?” I and my bride have been married not quite nine and a half years but coming up on nine and a half years. We have an amazing relationship. We have got a 17-year-old, a 14-year-old, and a 6-month-old.
Thanks. I turned 50 as I was holding my daughter in my arms. I’m like, “This is awesome.” It was one of those things where I finally had to stop and realize that this was something that we wanted. We were very intentional about this but because this was part of our vision, we were clear about our vision and what we wanted our faith to look like. We are clear about the vision that we wanted with our relationship with one another and with our children.
We were clear about all the people that are important to us and all the things that are important to us in our vision. It’s hard for some people to want to do that, especially small business entrepreneurs. Think about it for a second. What’s the default setting of an entrepreneur? Go do work. That’s the default. When that’s the default setting, and there’s never any real vision for what you are doing it for, the default setting is to go do work.
The great thing is that many small business entrepreneurs that I run into are smart, and they have a great work ethic. The problem is they are smart, and they have a good work ethic. They feel like, “I can figure it out. I’m going to do it myself. I’m going to keep doing it.” That’s terrible advice. If you were in the Navy, that would be like your drill instructor saying, “You keep doing pushups until I get tired.” Until you get tired? That’s a terrible thing.
That’s a perfect example.
That’s what so many small business entrepreneurs do, no matter if they are in real estate, an HVAC business, or an electrical contractor. If you think about it, whatever the small business entrepreneur is dealing with, that’s the default setting that they go to. That’s the framework that I keep going back to because the vision is the main circuit breaker. That’s the problem when I start talking to them about this.
The main thing that I talk about is what seems to be the problem. The problem is they lie to themselves, “I like work.” “You are hiding in work, which is different than liking work because you don’t want to deal with the stuff over here and the personal stuff.” That’s generally what I have to talk them down from. They are not being honest with themselves. They are not working on the things that they need to work on. Unfortunately, when they get to success or whatever that is, they usually get there by themselves.
That would be an opportunity for me to talk with these individuals if they are having issues like that and issues around most of the things that we run into. You asked me this question before. What you run into are folks who engage in lots of self-sabotaging behavior. That self-sabotaging behavior might look like procrastination or seeking the approval of others. It might be hiding inactivity. You have got so many things to do. You don’t know what to start on first.
What happens when you hide in inactivity? You have got 99 things on your thing. Does anybody ever have that list of 99 things? They are like, “Brush teeth, check.” There’s no way you are going to get all this stuff done in one day. You hide inactivity. You don’t even know what to start on. You are like, “Screw it.” You declare checklist bankruptcy. These are the sorts of things that I run into all the time.
This relates to self-sabotaging behavior. It’s not solely for the small business entrepreneurs but it’s almost like an epidemic among them because they put themselves through this absolute meat grinder, “I have to go out and perform. I need to do this.” That’s all related to that vision piece. Get a clear vision of what you are trying to accomplish, first and foremost, about what you want. It has nothing to do with income generation. It has everything to do with what you want out of your life.Building and running a business has nothing to do with income generation. It has everything to do with what you want out of your life. Click To Tweet
When you put your business vision together, I look at the business vision in three things. It’s got to be defined in three ways. First and foremost is, “What is the core purpose of the business? What business are you in? What problems does your business solve?” I want to be specific. I don’t know if many of your audiences are real estate folks or if many of your people are small business folks. Whatever the thing is that they do, then be specific about that.
I’m not in the event business. I’m not in the Tony-Robbins-Grant Cardone-25,000-people-in-Madison-Square-Garden business. That’s not the business I’m in. I’m in the one-to-one coaching business, and I have a mastermind that’s associated with those folks who are in the one-to-one coaching program. Get specific about it, “From a business perspective, what business are you in? What problems do you solve?”
Secondly, once you get your core purpose determined, get very specific. If you say you are in the real estate business, I’m going to say, “You can get me a mortgage, do an appraisal, and get a home inspection for me?” “No, I can order it for you.” You are not. Be specific. I want you to get dialed into exactly what your business does. Does Starbucks sell hot liquid? Yes, but do they sell soup? They do not but they could put caffeine in their soup, I suppose. That would be disgusting to put caffeine in their chicken noodle. That’s the business they are not in. They are obnoxious about what they are and what they are not. Get dialed in terms of what your core purpose is.
Secondly, I would say, “What are your core values? Our businesses are extensions of ourselves. What are your core values? What do you specifically value from you personally?” My personal values need to be an extension of my business values. My business values are an extension of my personal values because I want you to stop and think and answer these questions, “What is it you value? What’s important to you? Specifically, why would the world be worse off if you went out of business?”Personal values need to be an extension of your business values and vice versa. Click To Tweet
Think about that. Not why would the world be better but why would the world be worse off if Julie stopped doing what she did? You are like, “That little old lady with the little white sneakers would get taken advantage of if I wasn’t doing what I did.” Why would the world be worse off if you went out of business? That’s related to the core values. You got a core purpose and core values. The third is your client avatar. Who specifically do you work for? Whom are you trying to attract? You want to get intentional about who it is you want to work for and who it is specifically you don’t want to work with.
Would that come with the business vision?
This is all helping to find the business vision because once you get all clear in terms of your core purpose, what business you are in, your core values, what it is that you value, and what’s important to you and your client avatar, then you can answer the ten reasons why people buy. Why are they going to want to do business with you? What are those ten reasons? How do I help them make money? How do I help them save money? How do I help them save time, avoid effort, and escape pain? Those first five are supercritical.
I get multiple reasons in terms of how I help my avatar make money, save money, save time, avoid effort, and escape the pain. Think of any commercial. When I start to unpack that, then I go, “I help people make money this way.” Maybe your client avatar is later in life, and they are not doing it to make money anymore. They have made all their money, and now they are trying to make it easy.
I don’t mind making money but I don’t want to work that hard for it. It’s where I’m at in life because I have got enough real estate and things. I have been lucky and blessed. Things are good for me but that also relates to the other five, which are more comfort, better health, gain praise, feel more love, and increase status. If I can help someone feel more comfortable or get better health through having less stress, gaining praise, feeling more love, or increasing their status, I solve a lot of problems for them.
I want to know. That would be a good exercise for your audiences to put them on a whiteboard and for a couple of hours say, “How many ways can these ten categories solve problems for all these people?” When you get clear on that, your marketing message comes out clear. Your offer comes out clear. You know exactly what you want to do. When you have that conversation with folks, all of a sudden, it’s not fragmented, “We help everybody.” Do you want me to send you everybody? That’s a terrible business model. That’s terrible marketing. That’s how I help people formulate. That’s the methodology that I would say in helping out form and craft a business vision.
You have a great perspective on this.
We want to control the white space on our calendar.
Before closing, what would be some suggestions you would leave our audiences with? You said to work on the whiteboard and align things out in their business but what would be some of your top recommendations or suggestions, whether it be a highly recommended book or a highly recommended suggestion that they could use to incorporate?
It goes back to first and foremost having a clear vision for their future. You can answer a couple of questions. You and I have the same mentor. He does a vision extraction. I don’t subscribe to that. There’s a better way. It’s better for the individual to try to extract their vision. There are plenty of ways to skin a cat but the thing that I like about going through this and having people go through that iteration on their own is you have to believe it after seeing this same vision come in front of you day after day.
I review my vision every day multiple times a day. It plays in my affirmations. If after a while I don’t believe it, and I only said that to somebody because I wanted to either impress them or maybe I want to impress people that don’t give a crap about me or that I don’t give a crap about like neighbors that I don’t like, the reality is the personal vision process starts with uncovering first and discovering next.
It’s about, “What did Julie want when she was a little girl at eleven years old? She’s chasing butterflies and being a little princess,” or in your case, maybe a submarine commander. I have no idea. I don’t have a gender bias there but what were you thinking about when you were eleven years old, and you spent a lot of time in your alpha state or your daydreaming state when you were running around and doing the thing, and you didn’t care if you got gum in your hair?
When we were kids, what are the things that we dreamt about? A lot of times, when I have gone through a visioning process with someone or they have gone through this uncovering process, they are going to the mental attic in their head, opening up, and going, “Remember this?” That’s the uncovering process because what gets stacked on top of that chest? Life, “I forgot about that dream. I forgot I always wanted to do this. I have always wanted to take a kayaking trip all the way down to Colorado and come up to Lake Mead.” Lake Mead is down to two feet now, so you better hurry if that’s a thing.
Whatever it is, if it’s something that you would want to do, now you can get intentional because it’s uncovering first and discovering later. The reason I say that is because a lot of times when I talk about people and say, “What is your personal vision?” they are like, “I want to see the pyramids.” They are coming up with random stuff. Their spouses will look over at them, “When did you ever want to do that?” It’s like, “I watched a documentary last night. I want to go to the pyramids.” I get why they are answering it that way. That’s why uncover first and discover second.
Try to go back and put yourself back, not just metaphorically. Go back to that time in your life when you were a kid, “What would I do?” I remember some of the best days of my life. I was 16 or 17 years old driving this heap of crap Nissan Sentra with the windows down and the cassette tape blaring who knows. It was probably Rick Astley or something. It’s something I’m embarrassed to even admit. In the best days of my life, I would get lost, drive around, and fill up my tank of gas. Some of the best memories of my life are the sorts of times that I would love to resurrect in my life. I even said it to my bride.
I love how you call her your bride.
She’s my gal. She’s my everything. I’m very blessed. I will be honest with you. It was several years ago that things were not good. Things were horrible. This is what winds my clock in terms of why personal vision is so important to me. Back in 2017, I’m not proud to say this but she and I were not living together. I was living out of my office, and she was living at home. I was out doing my thing. She was doing her thing. It sucked. I was the thing that was so frustrating about all of this is that we didn’t know how to communicate. We weren’t doing the things that were beneficial to us.
People see the dividends of our relationship but they don’t see the investment. I’m not talking about investments like, “I spend time with my wife.” I’m not talking about spending time with your wife, your significant other, or whoever that is. I’m talking about what investment have you made. When the football player goes on the field, that’s not the investment. The investment is all the work that they did to learn how to be a good football player on the field.
What am I doing to learn how to be a good husband? What am I doing to learn how to be a good husband to a wife who’s six months postpartum? What am I doing to be a good father to two teenage boys? If this was an investment, what am I learning about them? What am I learning about myself as we evolve as a family? It’s a continual investment and continually learning how to be a better dad, a better man of faith, a better spouse, and a better friend.
Those are the things I’m focused on. At the end of the day, that’s what matters most because if you don’t have those core people on that vision, that support, and people in your corner, it’s amazing what happens when you dial it in and eliminate the outside noise.
I usually say it a little bit more brash but I will keep it clean for your audiences. When crap’s not right at home, crap’s not right. Back in 2017, I finally said, “I can’t do this. I’m not getting divorced. I’m not living at home anymore. We have to figure this out.” I walked into my bride, looked at her, and said, “I don’t know what we have to do but we need to commit and be done with whatever we are done with. We need to stop looking back and make sure that we are not going to keep revisiting the same things over and over again. I’m letting you know now. I am not getting out of this marriage until I’m effing dead.” I stopped talking. She knew I was serious about that.
That was the defining point for so many things in my life because I had so many things that were going sideways. I was like, “I can’t do this anymore. It changed things for me.” What winds my clock now is helping those small business entrepreneurs or people who want to be small business entrepreneurs. Even from the life coaching perspective, it’s married couples or couples who are struggling because they don’t have it all figured out. They are not talking the same language, or they are not committed to the relationship. When you don’t have a commitment, it goes back to team dysfunctions. One of the team dysfunctions is a lack of commitment. You know that when you are revisiting the same thing over and over. Have you ever been on an HOA board? There’s a lack of commitment.
I want to thank you for sharing that. I wasn’t expecting you to share something so personal, which says a lot and speaks volumes about where you are at now and what this has done, incorporating this into your personal life. Thank you for sharing that. That was an intimate detail. I know you are on a timeline but before we close, are there any final words you want to share with our audience?
It’s something I had said, and I would love to say this came from me but I don’t know if I’m ever creative enough to come up with this on my own. I’m going to give the credit to God on this one. One time, I was talking. I was in front of a room. It surprised me so much because I said it, and I was like, “That was amazing.” I’m not taking credit for this. I was the vessel.
I know this sounds so squishy and everything else but in the context of leadership and being an effective leader, and in the context of relationships and being an effective spouse, parent, or whatever it is, it’s one of those things where you recognize that it’s in the absence of love where our differences are magnified. I always feel like if I always go back in love, whatever it is, I always can find some common ground with someone when I’m not in judgment. That would be my advice. Always go back to love. Default to that.
Thanks for the great feedback. Mark, it has been such an honor having you on the show.
It’s my pleasure.
About Mark Dolfini
Is your personal Life suffering because you’re feeling stuck in your business?
Mark Dolfini is a veteran of the U.S. Marines and the author of three books. Most notably, The Judge: A Landlord’s Tale, which was released in the summer of 2018 and his much-anticipated 3rd book, The Time-Wealthy Investor 2.0, was released in January 2019, which teaches the exclusive VIP Method of how to create a real estate business focused on Life-Output. It became the #1 Amazon Bestseller in March of that same year. He is currently working on his 4th book, The Time-Wealthy Advantage, directed towards the small-business entrepreneur.
Mark is a strategist, and coaches his clients in both life and business endeavors. performs operates a Strategic Coaching one-to-one coaching for his clients in addition to a Mastermind to help foster community and accountability for small and medium-sized business owners who often feel stuck in operations. He also operates under the Landlord Coach brand, for his client who have a real estate focus.
Many dozens of business owners have found Mark’s approach to coaching using the VIP Method and his extensive background in accounting and commercial lending translates well across all industries. From buy and hold investors, to roofers, gym owners and CFOs, his clients span many industries and have benefited greatly from his knowledge and coaching using the VIP Method.
Mark spends his free time pistol shooting and kayaking and lives in Lafayette, Indiana where he and his wife Jennifer are raising their two sons, Leland and Logan, and their new baby girl Liliana.