Mistakes are inevitable, especially as an entrepreneur. As long as you learn from them, you are better for them.
Dan Ballerini graduated Cum Laude from Rutgers with an MBA in Finance and Management. Real Estate investing in the New Jersey area is his current passion with over 88 rental units acquired between 2012 and now. Currently Daniel specializes in residential single-family homes and apartment buildings. He enjoys providing housing to hard-working families and has accumulated 73 properties, for a combined 88 rental units. He describes his business model as buying distressed real estate-owned (REO) properties, completing significant renovations, and then renting the properties to residential tenants in his community. Most of his residents are surprised to be able to afford such nice homes within their budget. As the founder of First Station Real Estate, Ballerini looks forward to showing perspective families his newly renovated properties. He takes pride in experiencing the excitement of his tenants acquiring their first homes and appreciates the gratitude of neighbors after he restores vacant properties on their street.
Daniel Ballerini plans to continue growing his real estate business. He has a short-term goal of 100 rental units and $14 million in property asset value by 2018. He believes that through discipline, foresight, desire, and hard work, real estate provides the best vehicle to create long-term wealth. Ballerini is proud of his accomplishments thus far and looks forward to the future growth of First Station Real Estate.
Where did the idea for First Station Real Estate come from?
I always knew I wanted to start my own business, and I always had a fascination with real estate. It took a while, truthfully. I had to decide my niche, my business model, etc. Then I had to take the leap! It isn’t easy risking everything you have, but I figured I was relatively young, no family yet, so no real responsibilities. It was the right timing, and I am so glad I put in those long hours and sleepless nights to get it off the ground.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day changes based on the pressing issues at the time. I can tell you that I appreciate bringing a full-time property manager in-house! I can still monitor the tenant management side of the business, but it has freed up so much time. Now my focus is mainly on making the right decisions to grow the business, grow the real estate portfolio, grow the monthly rents, etc. I spend a lot of time scouting new properties. For every 1,000 properties, very few meets what I’m looking for. The first step is to plug them into my spreadsheet, and figure out if they could be winners. If so, I run out to take a look before the next investor snatches it up. So yes, scouting properties, planning and monitoring renovations, lining up financing, making sure everyone pays the rent…that’s pretty much a day in the life!
How do you bring ideas to life?
I have an MBA, and a background in business management, so I have my vision of how things should operate. From there, it’s just execution. If my business fails, I have no one to blame but myself. All the pressure is on my shoulders. Because of that pressure, I make sure that everything is done the right way, the way I want it to be done. Being a business owner, the buck always stops with you.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I love technology! Let me rephrase: I love technology when it can be applied usefully and make life easier! The trend of specialized software as needed by specific industries, excites me. Last year we signed on to a fantastic cloud-based website. We can access it from any device, receive real-time alerts, organize work orders, list vacancies, etc. Tenants can apply for new properties, set up showings, and even pay their rent. We should have switched sooner! Like I said, technology is great when it can automate tasks that free up your time and make life easier!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Setting goals. I always have short term and long-term goals that I try to make sure I’m hitting. When you run your own business, it can be very easy to be so caught up in the day-to-day, that you can find yourself spending a lot of time pushing papers around, putting out the small fires, dealing with personal issues, etc. For me, I have to make sure that I’m putting new deals into the pipeline, collecting the highest possible percentage of Rents due, shortening renovation time periods, and lining up financing. These are the big picture tasks that increase the portfolio, grow the business, and keep everything else going.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Mistakes are OK. Don’t be so hard on yourself. I used to have a hard time dealing with any failures, personal or professional. That type of attitude puts a lot of weight on your shoulders to be perfect and is a great setup for disappointment. Mistakes are inevitable, especially as an entrepreneur. As long as you learn from them, you are better for them.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I don’t know. I would say, “Live below your means.” It causes less stress, and you have something to show for it at the end of the day. I would never have been able to start my business if I didn’t have the discipline to save a very large percent of my modest for years beforehand. It is my opinion this is especially true for young adults just starting their careers. Everyone wants to live large and impress their friends, but I recommend building a foundation beforehand.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Appreciate and be thankful for all the good in your life. Life is short, and we take so much for granted.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
I’m not afraid to learn from other people. You need to have humility and an open mind to be able to grow. When I was starting, I sought out local Real Estate Investing Clubs, Books, Videos, etc. I scratched and clawed to find a mentor who guided me through those first few projects. Don’t try to do it all on your own, and don’t be afraid to take advice from someone who has been there.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I experience failure several times a DAY. It comes with the territory. You need thick, thick skin in my business. You cannot have a fear of rejection. You cannot be bullied by vendors, lenders, or even employees and tenants! You have to be firm but fair, believe in what you are doing, and stick to your instincts. No one has the best interest of your company as their number 1 priority. Only you.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I don’t know. A self-cleaning microwave? They always seem to be dirty.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 you can spend is on a pillow. You spend 8 hours a day, or 5 if you are me, sleeping. Put your head on something nice.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
We use a cloud-based software called Buildium (Free Plug! I should be compensated for that one) for our Property Management side of the company. It is great. Accessible anywhere, Tenants have their own logins to make requests and submit their monthly rent payments, we can track past due balances, list new properties, etc. It all gets tied into an external website with our marketing and logo. Highly recommend once you pass 50 properties.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why.
Hmmm, the books I have read recently are pretty industry specific. I wish I had more time to read, and give a proper recommendation, but I suggest becoming an expert in your field at all costs. Knowledge is the best preparation. Read things that teach you something.
What is your favorite quote?
I like “Man in the Arena” by President Theodore Roosevelt. I have an art piece with that quote in my office. It’s especially relevant to entrepreneurs.
- Dan Ballerini doesn’t take himself too seriously but has accomplished quite a bit in 33 years. Seems to be quite driven and motivated.
- Dan Ballerini sees entrepreneurship as the ultimate responsibility. All failure and success is on your shoulders and no one else’s.
- Dan Ballerini isn’t afraid of failure, as a matter of fact he views it as inevitable in order to obtain success
- Starting a business requires preparation and planning, sometimes years in advance.
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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.