Make sure you take time every day to read up on a new topic. Doing so will help you grow into a better person, family member, boss, employee, etc.
Jeff Carter is the managing director and founder of Grand Coast Capital Group, where he oversees all aspects of the business. He has more than eight years of experience in the real estate and investment sectors, with a total real estate acquisition value in excess of $200 million.
Prior to founding Grand Coast Capital Group, Jeff spent 3 ½ years as a principal and managing partner at Triad Alpha Partners, where he focused on multi-family development and commercial investment in the greater Boston market. Given the small size of the firm, Jeff was responsible for all aspects of the real estate process, including origination, underwriting, financing, fundraising, permitting, construction, property management, and general operations. Jeff was instrumental in growing the acquisitions and development platform of Triad Alpha Partners from 100 residential units to more than 400.
Before working at Triad Alpha Partners, Jeff served as regional director of acquisitions for a Boston-based real estate private equity firm that acquired and managed net-leased industrial properties across the country. Jeff has also worked as a portfolio analyst for Bank of America, focusing on investment and asset allocation for high-net-worth individuals and institutional investors.
Jeff holds a master’s degree in finance from Suffolk University and a B.S. from Vanderbilt University. He is a member of the Real Estate Finance Association and the American Association of Private Lenders and holds a Series 65 Securities License. Jeff currently teaches real estate finance at Suffolk University.
Where did the idea for Grand Coast Capital Group come from?
The idea was initially hatched over late-night texting discussions with my founding partner. We always toyed around with the idea of starting a business together and what it would look like. At the time, we were both running successful real estate businesses, but we knew we wanted to work together at some point.
We spent the next two years researching, analyzing, and creating a business plan for a real estate private lending business. We’d been personally investing in private real estate loans for years. However, we wanted to expand the business to provide a creative capital source for local real estate operators and generate attractive risk-adjusted returns for our clients.
What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?
I typically arrive at the office as early as possible — usually around 6 a.m. I’m most productive in the mornings, and I like peace and quiet when I’m thinking about my business and how it can grow and improve.
At this point, most of my day is spent trying to automate and create efficiencies for our team so we have a solid foundation to grow upon. Typically, I leave the office a little before 6 p.m. because I pick my daughter up from day care. Then, I spend about two hours with her before bedtime. After my family is asleep, I’ll spend the late evening catching up on additional work and reading.
How do you bring ideas to life?
As a serial entrepreneur, I feel like I devise a new idea or concept at least once a day. This can be dangerous because I need to focus on the task at hand. However, because I’m fairly analytical, I usually spend days (or even weeks) researching the idea, brainstorming pros and cons, and running the numbers. I have a great team around me — employees, friends, family, and mentors — that I always bounce ideas off of as well. They keep me sane!
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’m extremely passionate about real estate private lending because I firmly believe it generates some of the best risk-adjusted returns in the marketplace. However, on a macro level, I like bringing real estate investing to the individual, not just the large capital sources.
Crowdfunding is starting to do this on a larger scale, which I think is cool. Although I don’t necessarily agree with that business model, I think it would be great for individuals to be able to pick real estate investments online and invest as little as $1,000 in these opportunities. Considering that I place particular emphasis on capital preservation, I think investing in hard assets is a great way to achieve attractive returns and maintain security.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I attribute a lot of my success to my thirst for knowledge. I read at least one book a week that’s typically related to business, investing, or personal or professional development.
What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
My first job out of college was in the insurance business working in a call center. It was horrible because we were basically trained as robots, and there was little creativity involved in the position. It was extremely corporate, and I kept butting heads with my direct managers. Soon, I realized that I wanted to run my own business because I didn’t agree with the politics or the vertical chain of command.
However, one thing I did learn from that company is that if you create processes and learn to implement and monitor them, you can scale a business and automate a lot of the day-to-day operations. That company had unbelievable processes, which were instrumental in its success.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
If I were to start over, I would spend less time worrying about the operating budget. Instead, I would focus on adding sales and business development employees to grow the top line.
I fully believe that we have an incredible product — for both borrowers and investors — but I should have spent more time getting it out into the marketplace and less time crunching the numbers. I knew that the numbers worked, but being a finance guy, I got too caught up in that side of the business.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Educate yourself, and never settle. I’m constantly taking courses and reading new books on personal and professional development. The Internet has so much to offer, so there’s really no excuse for not being able to expand your skill set. Make sure you take time every day to read up on a new topic. Doing so will help you grow into a better person, family member, boss, employee, etc.
What’s one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
We created a product that was needed in the marketplace. Because we were already doing it personally, we knew that we could grow it just by doing it full time. However, our No. 1 growth factor has been our amazing team. We have a talented and passionate group of people who love what they do and believe in what our company is doing. People make the difference, and I am fortunate to have a great team by my side.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I’m not sure that I can name just one! But I can tell you this: Each “failure” is a learning opportunity, enabling you to prevent the same mistake from reoccurring.
I’m currently learning that as my business grows, I need to spend more time managing people and less time in the details. I’m not sure whether that’s a failure (because I’m diligently working to improve), but companies need great leaders who know how to communicate, motivate, and inspire others. I constantly remind myself that I need to spend more time on the business, not in the business.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Having an online portal for searching, identifying, and hiring experts within different fields would be amazing, especially if I wanted to hire a coach or mentor to teach me a new skill (e.g., sports, music, business, etc.). The site would have all the profiles, ratings, locations, and prices for the services. It would be a great way for people to expand their horizons and try new things without having to spend hours sifting through Google search results.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I’m addicted to spy thrillers. The best way I know how to unwind from the stresses of running a business is to curl up in bed and read spy novels. Most of my reading is focused on business, investing, and personal or professional development, but after 10 p.m., I typically get lost in these fictional characters who are saving the world.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
We use Microsoft Online, including Microsoft Dynamics, for the majority of our business. I love that our team members who are working remotely or traveling can access information from anywhere at any time. We also use Wrike because it’s a great tool for tracking tasks and projects. Lastly, we use Mindjet. It’s an awesome mind-mapping tool to visualize processes, systems, and even business ideas.
What’s the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
One book that I always recommend is “Scaling Up” by Verne Harnish. My business partner introduced me to this book, and it’s a great resource for all entrepreneurs. It focuses on systems and processes that help your business grow and keep your employees on the same page. I just purchased this book for each of my employees, and we’re meeting every week to read a new chapter and discuss it.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
• Warren Buffet
• Inc. and Entrepreneur
• Verne Harnish
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Grand Coast Capital Group on Twitter: @GrandCoast
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Jeff Carter on Twitter: @JeffCarterRE
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.