Than Merrill – Founder and CEO of FortuneBuilders

Each morning after focusing on education, I prioritize the rest of my tasks for the day and try to tackle the most important things first. Rather than just completing routine tasks or check off a to-do list, I try to prioritize and focus on accomplishing five or six tasks each day.

Than Merrill is one of the most successful real estate investors in the nation. During the course of his investment career of more than a decade, Than has bought and sold hundreds of properties nationwide and founded FortuneBuilders using his unique blend of expertise, knowledge and passion for real estate with aspiring investors.

As a graduate of Yale University and a former NFL player, Than attributes his success in sports, business and investing to coaching and education. These values were the driving force behind FortuneBuilders and the key to his student’s rapid success in the franchise-like systems he helps students set up within their business. Than exhibited his real estate prowess as he starred on A&E’s Flip This House, a popular house flipping show, and has since become a highly sought-after speaker. As a bestselling Amazon author, Than’s book “The Real Estate Wholesaling Bible” continues to be a trusted guide for those looking to get started in real estate investing.

Than Merrill is also active in philanthropic efforts and started a non-profit charity with his wife Cindy (the brains of the operation) called Equal Footing Foundation. In addition to his own charity, Merrill spearheaded the creation of FortuneBuilders Gives; the company’s philanthropic initiative to provide opportunities for employees and students to give back to their communities.

Where did the idea for FortuneBuilders come from?

FortuneBuilders stemmed from the opportunities Paul and I got as our real estate business began growing rapidly. Through speaking opportunities at different real estate conferences around the country – I recognized my personal love for teaching, and for inspiring others. I just love seeing people take what they got from my teachings, and then apply it to go out there and start their own business, whether that be on the side or as their full-time career. To see the results and the impact we can make is an extremely rewarding process.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My typical day starts with learning something new. I try to master a few skillsets each year by focusing on learning something for an entire month, if not more. One month it may be leadership skills, and another it may be my computer skills, or maybe even copywriting. I try to read three or four of the top books on a topic, and I find programs to compliment them.

Each morning after focusing on education, I prioritize the rest of my tasks for the day and try to tackle the most important things first. Rather than just completing routine tasks or check off a to-do list, I try to prioritize and focus on accomplishing five or six tasks each day.

How do you bring your ideas to life?

By having a good team with a diverse set of skills. Most people can’t bring their ideas to fruition because they lack the complementary skill sets to do so. You must have a good team around you: A team of people who have those skill sets to supplement yours – who you can trust – and who excel at their respective job.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The trend I’ve been most impressed by recently is Amazon’s “Prime Same Day Delivery” service. The idea of needing something and having it delivered in the same day without even having to leave the house has the ability to revolutionize the way people do business. I don’t quite understand how it’s even possible, but it’s a trend I’ll be watching closely.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I mentioned it earlier – the “power hour” I spend each morning dedicated to learning as much as I can. It’s probably the one habit people can employ themselves that will have the biggest impact in their business, and can deliver dramatic results over the course of a decade. Bar none, that’s probably the most important thing: to have the focused ability to learn something new every day.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

At a very young age, I worked as a janitor at a small business my mom owned for a couple of years. It was the worst job I ever had, but I learned the importance of hard work and doing your job well – no matter what that job may be. The lessons I took away from it are some of the best things my mom ever taught me – take pride in what you do and do it to the best of your ability.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I wish I had taken a greater risk and hired better employees early on, even if that meant sacrificing my own income for the first year. With the right team in place, I could have accelerated the growth of my business at a faster pace.

As an entrepreneur what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Learning every day. Without the intent to learn, I really believe you’re missing out on one of life’s greatest joys. Learning something new gives me great personal fulfillment, and allows me to complete the tedious tasks that I do every day to operate my business. It also gives me the opportunity to expand my horizons, and potentially my business as well. If you aren’t moving forward, you aren’t moving anywhere at all.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Documenting business processes. Everything in business is a process – after you have done something once or twice, you need to document how it was completed and create a process. For everything you do, ask yourself: How can I do that same process in less time? Can I create a checklist? How can I integrate software to make things more efficient?

It’s important to continually ask yourself these questions over and over again. Six months later you need to review the process again and say, “alright, I cut that process from four hours to two hours; how can I cut it to one?” More importantly, how can I teach someone else do it? Perhaps you can cut yourself out of the picture altogether.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?

We lost money on one of our first real estate deals, but we overcame adversity by assessing what we did wrong and learning from our mistakes. Instead of avoiding similar transactions and being fearful, we took the opportunity to improve our systems. We realized that there were greater lessons in the mistakes we made than in our successes. I think that was something very valuable to learn early on in our career. A lot of people, when they make a mistake or fail at something, will either quit or try something new. In reality, all the lessons you need to be successful are in the mistakes you make.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

As we’ve begun hiring more and more people for our growing businesses, I have come to notice that there is a greater need for assessing someone’s talent level prior to employment. I’ve been looking for different ways to efficiently assess someone’s skills from a testing perspective. If they are a programmer, how can you test their coding skills before they start working for you? If they are in sales, how can you assess their personality type and their sales abilities? I have been looking for a one-stop-shop where someone can help me better evaluate an individual’s skillset, as to make sure I hire the right person. While I’ve found several disjointed testing services, I have yet to find one business that meets all of these needs.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and Why?

The best $100 I recently spent was purchasing Scaling Up, by Verne Harnish, for my team and myself. That book has influenced the way I think on a daily basis, and I have utilized it throughout our various businesses. That book was a very good investment to say the least.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

The Google Drive platform has been the most pivotal in helping my company grow. It has business applications that allow us to complete any number of projects at a given time. Google Documents and Google Spreadsheets also add a unique collaborative element, where several people can work on the same project from different locations. It’s the software that I rely on the most for the wide range of business we have in place.

What is one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Any entrepreneur starting a business should read Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth. This is the number one book I recommend to all of my employees and students. Any of John Maxwell’s leadership books are excellent as well. Once your businesses have begun growing, I recommend reading Verne Harnish’s Scaling Up.

Additionally, I would recommend is Mindset by Carol Dweck. No matter what profession you are in, it’s a book that everyone should read.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

My mother is the number one person that has influenced the way I think and approach life. Outside of her, Michael Gerber is definitely somebody who has had a great impact on the way I approach my businesses. From a personal development and achievement standpoint, Tony Robbins has also been a great inspiration for me.


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