Always make time for developing your relationships with friends, family, and your partner.
Raymond Grinsell is the founder of Founders Realty, a company started in 1975 in San Francisco, California. He is currently an avid real estate investor on many projects around the Bay Area. Raymond Grinsell’s real estate career began in 1972, when he served as a salesman for Phillips Realty before moving on to Golden State Realty. While working as a real estate salesman, Raymond learned everything he could about sales and realty, and decided it was time to venture out on his own. On October 10th, 1975, Raymond started Founders Realty on 8th Avenue in San Francisco. Founders Realty remained at that location for an impressive 29-year stretch. Raymond states that his practice was very eclectic, and is where he developed an early passion for buying and keeping apartment buildings.
Raymond has a gifted ability to sell 2-3 unit buildings and homes. What is most impressive about Raymond Grinsell’s career, is with little to no cash or help, he paved his way to success through hard work. Raymond was able to purchase buildings through using real estate commissions and small down payments to leverage into property deals, in order to keep them or trade them for better properties. Raymond successfully built an apartment house portfolio to showcase his abilities to clients.
In the early 1990’s, Raymond began to diversify his work to specialize in REO properties and represented several major financial institutions, including Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. After mastering the REO property market, Raymond started buying foreclosure properties, renovating, and selling them, which quickly became his primary business.
Where did the idea for Founders Realty come from?
I worked for two real estate offices before I started with Founders Realty, but I didn’t like the brokers taking so much of the commissions. I wanted to open my own office, and an opportunity came up where there was some space available in a building that one of our original partners owned. My idea was to continue what I was doing, which was listing properties and buying as much property that I could. So that’s what I did there. We also had brokers and agents and everything else. The idea was to have an independent presence in real estate.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’ve always made real estate investments to one extent or another, but now that’s all I do. I buy property and resell it. I spend time looking at property, and I spend time working things out with my niece, who goes to the foreclosure sales for me. She’s a broker at Founders Realty. There haven’t been as many foreclosures recently, but the ones we do buy are generally very profitable. I’m working about half the time, so I tend to leave later in the morning and finish up around 4 p.m. so I can go for a swim before I come home. That’s a typical day for me.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I make them happen. When I work, I’m like a laser beam — totally focused. No nonsense. When I’m working, I don’t mess around. I guess you could say that’s how I bring my ideas to life. I just make them happen. Most of my stuff has to do with buying a property, renovating it, and reselling it. So, a lot of it has to do with sales and management. The biggest and hardest part is to get the property, but once I get them, I know exactly what to do with them. We have great contractors.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The trend that I think is most exciting in the world is the exponential pace of technological innovation. There is a creative-destruction aspect of it, and by that I mean, I think some people are going to have trouble transitioning from some people losing their jobs to productive employment that will provide them with a good living. I do think that’s an issue. However, take medical advancements, for example — I had a procedure done in August called The WATCHMAN. It wasn’t even around five years ago. This device gets rid of blood thinners for you. They go into your heart, and they put this WATCHMAN device in there that looks like an umbrella. They put it in a spot, and the umbrella opens up and closes off this appendage in the heart where the blood clots have formed. Then you no longer have any issues with blood clots in the heart.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. I belong to a lecture series, and I listen to these guys, and one person was talking about how mapping the genome in human DNA, and how it was predicted originally to take 18 to 20 years. He said no way, and it turns out they did it in six years because everything is going so fast due to technological innovation. So, this is exciting to me, particularly because it affects me.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’m a hard worker. I think in order to be an entrepreneur, you have to be a hard worker. I’m also very tenacious, which kind of ties in with the hard-working thing. Also, what I mentioned before is when I work, I’m laser-focused. There’s no-nonsense. You can’t stop me from what I’m doing. So, those are all tied up in the same idea, but that’s the main thing.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell a younger Raymond Grinsell to spend more time cultivating personal relationships. I was working so much when I was younger that I didn’t have time for that much of it, and I wasn’t raised with that kind of thing. However, I’m making a point of it now to reestablish it with the ones I have. My wife and I have a lot of friends, but I want to make those friendships more meaningful by spending time with people, spending more time going out to dinner, going out for lunch. Honestly, I think I could have done more of that even though I was restricted to some extent by how much I had to work. So, that would be my advice.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I believe in psychic connections between people. That doesn’t exactly mean the supernatural, but, for example, my mother was almost a psychic in a way, and when she died on a Friday afternoon, I was bringing groceries into the house. I looked at my wife and all of a sudden I had this headache, the worst headache I’d ever had. I said to my wife that I had to sit down. It felt like something was being ripped out of my brain. Then my brother calls me ten minutes later and said, “Ma just died.”
So, these are the kinds of connections between people I am describing.. I believe that there is something, I don’t know if you want to call it a force, a spirit, whatever, or just ways people can connect telepathically that they haven’t really figured out yet. And part of that is because, if you look at the research and quantum physics, they still don’t even know what’s going on within the atoms They’ve got particles they don’t have names for, ones that disappear and come back, and the ones that move erratically. I feel like this is a belief that most people do not readily accept.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I think you have to wake up in the morning with a focus on what you’re going to do. I think that has to be the priority, which means you have to plan ahead at night. What I do before I go to sleep is, I’ll start to get into that state of semi-consciousness, and all these ideas will come up or things I have to do that I forgot, so I’ll write them down. I think you need to be completely focused on what you’re going to do, and that means no-nonsense. It’s real. Either you’re doing it, or you’re not doing it. I spent my life in a business that either you close the sale or you didn’t close a sale. There wasn’t any in-between where you got credit for doing part of it. You’ve got to do the whole thing.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
The biggest strategy was leveraging into these apartment buildings early on with very little money and keeping them, not selling them, and an appreciation and everything else. A lot of buildings I bought initially didn’t pay for themselves, but there wasn’t much of a loss every year, and gradually they kept going up. That was critical to wealth formation. The other aspect of it was that I was going to take the risk. I’m a risk-taker. I like risk.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
There have been times where I have lost money on properties, and that’s unavoidable. With the risks I take,, it’s going to happen one in 20 times, sometimes one in 10. The average is probably one in 15. And when you have a loss, you take a loss, sell the property and move on. Again, this goes back to the same thing. You have to be truthful with yourself. If that situation is not going to get better, and usually it isn’t, sell it and move on and then, and don’t worry about it. You’ll make twice as much on the next one. That’s the way I see it.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think there may be businesses like this, but I haven’t seen them lately. One business is buying the furniture from offices that are closing. And I mean everything in the place. Whether it’s furniture or computers, just buy it, lock, stock and barrel and then resell it. And then the other one is buying restaurant equipment, cooking equipment, as well as the tables and chairs, etc. from restaurants that are closing. Restaurants go out of business often. Something like 90 percent of the time they only last about a year or two. I think if these businesses are done right, you could make a lot of money.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
For a while, I was using drivers to go back and forth between the East Bay and San Francisco. And rather than paying them $80 a trip, I paid them $100 a trip. I ended up with two guys who were committed to me because I was generous with them. I could have negotiated down to less, but they were completely committed to taking care of stuff.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I’m not a big computer guy. I text, email, and write online, so having the capacity to do those is important to me. But I don’t use any software or web services specifically. I think that’s age related. Younger people know how to use social media and other sites to promote business.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson
I usually don’t read non-fiction, but this is a book about why certain countries became rich and why certain counties became poor, and there were cycles. The rich weren’t always rich, and the poor weren’t always poor, and you have to see what’s happened to make that happen. It’s a fascinating book. I was totally absorbed in it. One of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time.
What is your favorite quote?
“Never, never, never give up.” – Winston Churchill.
I loved Winston Churchill.
● In order to be an entrepreneur, you have to be a hard worker. You need to focus on what you need to do and stay focused. No nonsense.
● Always be truthful with yourself.
● Always make time for developing your relationships with friends, family, and your partner.