There is nothing more important that you can invest in and costs less than investing in your clients.
Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Alexander Diaz de Villegas attended Miami Dade Community College for a little over a year before beginning his 26-year career in public service and moving on to Lynn University.
During his time in public service, Alex Diaz de Villegas served on many civic and non-profit organizations; including his seven years of service as the chairman of the board for the South Dade Venture Community Development District.
Two and a half years before his retirement from public service, Alex Diaz de Villegas received his realtor license and began doing real estate part-time for Keller Williams.
Alex Diaz de Villegas currently works in partnership with his long-time friend and business partner, John Reasor. Together, they are the most successful team of realtors for Battlefield Investment Group in Homestead, Florida.
In his free time, Diaz de Villegas enjoys traveling with his family. He has so far visited around a dozen different countries, including Canada, France, Costa Rica, Peru, Colombia, Italy, Spain, Cuba (where his parents are from), England, Turkey, and Thailand.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
Throughout my career in public service, many people suggested that I would do well in real estate and sales. I had plenty of friends that were doing it part-time. One day one of my closest friends invited me to go with him for a one-week course and so we did. I quickly developed a passion for helping others buy their first home and the rest is history.
I got my license about two and a half years before I retired from public service. During those years, I worked part-time for Keller Williams, an international leader in real estate. That helped me learn the ropes at my own pace. After I retired, I moved to Battlefield Investment Group to join my business partner, John Reasor.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I learned from many Ted Talks and self-help books that when you’re self-employed, you have to have the motivation to start your day. What I mean by that is you have to make your daily actions very habit-forming. So, the typical day begins for me around 6:30 a.m. After tending to my family obligations, I’m able to head to my home office and begin a checklist of daily items that are crucial to our clients’ needs, maintaining accountability of our established business plan, and ensuring proper and constant communication with my business partner and support staff at all times. Additionally, we plan several small weekly meetings with only one agenda item such as, client status, marketing, and career development/training.
I’ve realized that structuring my day in this manner has allowed us to tend to our “to-do” lists much more efficiently. Our level of commitment has us sending emails and text messages late into the night and showing homes throughout most weekends. It takes a lot of structure, discipline, and coordination, but our clients definitely appreciate our level of commitment.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I think one of the reasons I believe people suggested I get into real estate is attributed to my creative marketing strategies I had demonstrated while I served on the Community Development District, my contributions were not typical. During this time, I developed many new and innovative ideas in response to many unique problems. Fortunately, I had a very supportive staff that saw my vision. This allowed us to tend to and resolve many inherited issues through the initial seven years of this community of over 2,000 homes.
For example, one of the issues we had early on was the lack of good communication with our residents. There was certainly many rumors and false information circulating, in a special taxing district structure that most people just didn’t understand. I knew that finding good resources for communicating with our residents was going to be key.
This community, known as Waterstone, had 2,269 homes, which were developed during the “housing boom” in the early 2000’s. The developers had established a little-known form of localized government known as a Community Development District or CDD. The CDD issued bonds to pay for the community’s infrastructure. To which, the homeowners would then carry that debt by making annual payments toward those bonds in their home’s property tax bill. Additional funds are also collected for the maintenance and operation of the established infrastructure. This was a very confusing concept for most. It was certainly challenging to communicate with residents on a many key issues. We decided to dedicate ourselves to getting the correct information in an elaborate plan that included: Annual Town Hall Meetings, a new website with many resources and a not-so-traditional newsletter. We developed a full color, quarterly magazine format because we thought it would be a more eye-catching and entertaining way to get the proper information to residents. We called it “Waterstone Living” and it became the pride of the community and an effective marketing to tool for the resale of homes within this community.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Any trend that would provide an opportunity that wasn’t there before. The opportunity to utilize creative resources and develop something no one has done before is invigorating to me.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I have a few: discipline, structure, and organizational skills. I like to keep hard copies of everything. I use digital technology for things like scheduling, but for me, I’m a very visual person, so I have to have everything in writing. What works best for me is keeping good notes and a timeline of what and where we need to be throughout the week.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell a younger Alex to spend less on non-essential items, don’t fall into the credit card trap, structure your budget, save as much as possible, and invest in real estate as much as possible. It’s the same advice I give to a lot of younger people just starting out in life. Make those sacrifices now, find out what is a good real estate investment is and have a plan to make it your reality. Also, know what your future goals are going to be and plan for those financially. If you’re at a point in your life where you’re planning to have kids or just had one, start putting away for their college education because it adds up quickly and believe it or not, time goes by fast.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I think I’ve always been a mindset for me that is expressed in a Henry Ford quote, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” I think everything’s a mindset. In a lot of cases, I would have these kooky or crazy ideas for marketing or something else, and I’d have people tell me that I can’t do that, it’s never been done before. But, just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it can’t be done. When you have the mindset and the vision for something, you just need to find the resources to materialize it. You must realize that some people are intimidated by innovative personalities because they can’t see your vision.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I think it would be persistence. You’re going to experience many failures, and you have to accept that from the beginning. You have to be tenacious. You have to keep going. When one plan doesn’t work, find another plan. When one launching strategy doesn’t pan out, and you’ve lost money, you can’t say, “well look, I’ve lost money, I can’t continue to market.” You just need to find other creative ways to market.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I think it’s our attention to our clients. I believe they see how professional and dedicated we are to them. Believe it or not, our absolute most successful marketing is word-of-mouth. There really is nothing more you can invest in and costs less than investing in your own clients. When they want it, we hold our client’s hands all through the process. We attend every home showing for prospective buyers as well as those selling their home. Our clients trust us because they know, or quickly learn, how we work and that we’re going to go that extra mile for them.
For example, we’ll often go into county records and look up any deed restrictions ahead of time on a home that we know a client is very interested in. We’ll look at HOA records. There’s a lot of legal stuff guys that standard listing information may not disclose. There’s a lot of hidden things we’ll research that may fall outside of the scope of the realtor’s responsibilities. Nonetheless, these extra efforts to protect our clients’ interest are what set us apart from most realtors.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Honestly, you can’t really call them failures because, in this business, you realize that failures are part of the learning process and the business in general. You just have to learn from your failures and keep learning as you try new things. With marketing, you’re investing a lot of money in certain marketing plans, and you don’t necessarily see the return right away. However, sometimes, the return might surprise you down the road.
For example, let’s say we spend $2,000 on a mail-out flyer campaign for a neighborhood we just sold a house in, but we don’t see a return for three, four, even five months. Then eight months down the road, without even expecting it, someone approaches the homeowners we sold that house to. They ask who the company was and the new owners give them the flyer we mailed out months back. Now we have a new lead, and those flyers just paid for themselves. Usually,
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’ve done a lot of research into this. Homeowner associations are becoming more popular than ever before, especially here in Florida. There are so many homeowners’ associations now, but very little regulation or oversight on what’s going on with the management of these associations. When I saw this, I realized that there was a void in accountability. The vast majority of people do not necessarily want to get involved with the association, go to a meeting every month, nor understand the laws. So how does a homeowner hold their board members and management accountable? You see these articles every once in a while where they discover a condo board or manager was funneling millions of dollars to their brother-in-law’s company for unnecessary or overpriced work.
I believe there should be a company or organization that provides an accreditation or certification for each homeowners’ or condo association. The homeowners themselves would vote on it and decide, yes, we want to have this accreditation for our association. This would keep everything transparent. This company or organization would come in annually and re-certify the association after a review of their budget, finances, meeting minutes, and compliance to legal protocols on matters such as violation enforcement and leasing and resident application processing. The financial audit and other documents would be openly displayed on a provided webpage where residents and prospective residents could view them. This process would create transparency, and a third-party watchful eye that would prevent unforeseen costly special assessments due to mismanagement and or corruption.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Probably the annual fee for our website management. Mass communication is the key to any good marketing plan. I think you’d have to be able to communicate what makes your service different from everyone else’s and a good website is an easy and economical way to do that.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
For me, it’s the ShowingTime Mobile App. It allows you to request and schedule showings for a house. It helps to organize and document every showing, which becomes a great resource for cataloging or efforts.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Millionaire Real Estate Agent by Gary Keller. This book is an incredible insight into a successful real estate career. This book focuses on the three L’s: Leverage, Listings, and Leads and serves as the template for our business.
What is your favorite quote?
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” – Henry Ford.
● Just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
● There is nothing more important that you can invest in and costs less than investing in your clients.
● When it comes to marketing, always think outside the box.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.