Lee Fondiller grew up just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His family relocated to Syracuse, New York when he was 14 years old, and then later to Baltimore, Maryland when he was 17 years old. Before completing his studies at the University of Maryland, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Agribusiness, Lee purchased a franchise in a commercial cleaning business. He ran the business until he graduated, a move that enabled him to earn the money needed for graduate school. After that, he was accepted to Johns Hopkins University and earned a Master of Science in Environmental Sciences.
Lee Fondiller’s experiences in entrepreneurism excited him, and convinced him he wanted to be his own boss in whatever field he decided to pursue, so he set his sights on a career journey far removed from his academic education. He started a document imaging business that provided business-to-business (B2B) services for document storage and indexing for quick retrieval. He ultimately sold that business to a company that would employ him for the next twenty years as their product manager. Throughout this period, Lee kept himself busy by developing new businesses. One such business was Global Tracking Group, a company that outfitted personal and fleet vehicles with tracking devices, where Lee still serves as the chief operations officer (COO).
In 2017, Lee branched out to the real estate market. He created a new company, RSH, through which he has overseen multiple house flips and the purchase of several rental properties. Lee Fondiller owns and operates RSH, while simultaneously performing his role as COO at Global Tracking Group managing the mapping platform and device maintenance for the company’s electronic trackers.
In his spare time, Lee Fondiller enjoys woodworking and having fun with his family. He has been married for nearly 18 years, and has one child who is going off to college in the fall.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I’ve always been interested in real estate and providing quality housing for people. Over the years, I had discussed pursuing this dream with a college friend. Eventually, the timing was right, and we were able to go into business together, find some good deals on property, and through renovation and rehabilitation, create some great places to live.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Being part of a few different ventures, I’m usually multi-tasking and ensuring my to-do lists from the previous days are being processed. I usually have a few meetings in the morning with my business partners where I identify anything that needs immediate attention, and then will work towards new business after those matters are handled.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring my ideas to life through execution and persistence. Once I decide to move forward with an idea for a project, I get the necessary buy-in and then I’m off to the races.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I’m excited about a trend that was stimulated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that is communicating over video conferencing. It has been really helpful—and not just for work purposes, but also to save a huge amount of time in general. For example, by taking advantage of this technology, I save driving to all kinds of appointments. The time it takes to drive to my doctor’s office and then wait for my doctor in the waiting room is now available to me, whereas it wasn’t before. For most ailments, I simply dial up my doctor over Zoom or Skype. In fact, virtually all aspects of the health industry, from primary care to mental health to specialists have been able to adapt this new technology to provide quicker and better service. I’ve also had the experience of troubleshooting computer equipment using online chatting and cloud-based, peer-to-peer technology.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Due diligence and positive thinking are elements of my day and my overall business philosophy, and these really enhance my productivity.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would advise myself to continue learning and expanding my knowledge on subjects closely related to my interests. I would also say that, in the working world, hands-on experience coupled with extensive theoretical knowledge will give you a real advantage over others competing for the same positions.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
In my experience, when you hire someone to do a project, you expect three things: (1) Quality, (2) affordability, and (3) timeliness. You will only ever get two of those things at once. Until they are experienced, most people I talk to don’t think this is the truth.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Do your homework! Be more knowledgeable about the product or service you are interested in than anyone else. Continuing education, research, reading, and involvement in industry organizations will really help in reaching that goal.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I believe it’s really important to generate quality, long lasting, business relationships. The bigger your funnel, the more opportunities will come your way. Also, being fair and honest in every aspect of your business will be seen as a strength and will encourage people to want to work with and for you.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
On more than one occasion in the past, I’ve made certain decisions that do not live up to my current standards for production for a product. I failed in finding contractors that could do quality work. This has led to higher costs and more headaches, and it definitely could have been avoided. I overcame this by not cutting corners, and by recognizing that you do have to pay a little more for quality work.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Through the experience of owning short-term rental properties in small towns, I’ve noticed that quality, cost-effective services are hard to come by, especially with regards to services like custodial work during off-season months, handyman services, things like that. I think there is a niche market for these services—if done correctly—that could grow beyond what already exists. Using technology and improving communication to enhance a service that most owners desperately need would be a winner.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Being prepared is important to me. There’s no downside to being well-prepared. In my case, the tools I use to stay prepared for any new developments are my mobile phone, tablet, and other electronics. I just recently bought a high capacity portable power device for around $100 so I can make sure those tools are always available when needed.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I use an online project tracking application called Trello that allows for a high level of collaboration between myself and my vendors and contractors. It’s an easy way to share ideas as well as monitor progress on a project, not to mention having a central repository of everything you’ve learned at your fingertips when planning future projects.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I was able to relate to The Millionaire Next Door because, while I don’t have all of the traits identified in the book for the accumulation of wealth, I am still learning and identifying what it takes to reach my goals and maintain the financial stability I desire.
What is your favorite quote?
“A dream does not become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.” – Colin Powell
● Hard work leads to success.
● Being prepared is key.
● Maintain high standards in the service or product you provide.
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.