Dr. Van Williams has been in the real estate investment and management industry for the past 23 years. Over the years, he has been acquiring, selling, and managing multifamily and single-family properties and transforming deteriorating into high-quality real estate assets.
He is a graduate of Ashworth College with an associate degree in Business Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services. Dr. Van also holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from Madison University where he graduated as Magna Cum Laude.
After graduating and getting his Ph.D., he started forging his career in the investment and real estate industry. In 2009, he became a registered Property Manager and Green Property Advisor with the Institute of Real Estate Management. Ten years later, he obtained his certification as a Private Equity Professional (CPEP) from the Investment Certification Institute.
Furthermore, he also acquired certifications in different fields of expertise including hotel & restaurant management and social work.
At present, he is a fund manager and the managing partner of Proactive Realty Group where he uses his knowledge in ESG investing to lead his team in realizing the company’s vision and mission.
As the Chief Operations Officer (CEO), Dr. Van heads a group of local property managers and investment professionals who aim to engage investors in socially responsible investing. Through this strategy, the company’s targeted communities are given meaningful economic benefits while investors receive stable financial returns.
Proactive acquires, improves, and operates single-family and multifamily real estate assets in areas where there is a high demand for affordable housing. It focuses on building Class B and Class C properties in these underserved local communities in order to cater to the needs of residents and avoid displacement.
In addition to addressing housing shortages and generating healthy investment returns, Dr. Van and the rest of Proactive Realty Group support social programs and create employment opportunities for residents living in the areas where they operate.
Where did the idea for Proactive Realty Group come from?
For the past 23 years, I have specialized in underserved and working-class areas and transformed old and deteriorating properties into cash-generating assets. Because of my valuable experiences, I decided to form Proactive so we can continue to help more investors gain the best returns from meaningful investments while leaving an impact on local communities.
I’m very happy to see that more investors are starting to appreciate and practice ESG investing.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Throughout the day, I spend most of my time in meetings or discussions. I speak with our team at Proactive to discuss the state of properties that we manage and evaluate strategies that we are implementing. Externally, I communicate with a lot of people including social service agencies, potential investors, and the residents in the local communities that we manage.
Apart from that, I do some research, monitor real estate investment trends, reviewing reports, and identifying the next steps that we will be doing.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Ideas come in many ways and also at times when you’re doing something else. Because of that, I make sure to write it down no matter what. And when I get an opportunity, I’d quietly do research on my own first then after getting some results, I’d review them and make some conclusions before sharing them with people whom I know can work on the idea further with me. In short, when I have an idea, I act on it, especially when I know it has the potential to positively impact my life and those of the people around me.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I am thrilled to see how environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing is continuously growing. Even the COVID-19 pandemic played an important role in this trend. When it broke out last year, many of us saw how problematic economic, social, and government systems can be in different countries around the world. Because of this, many people realized that it is time to be active participants in addressing these issues because if we don’t work now together, things might even get worse in the years to come. And in response, investors are now turning to companies that strive to create long-term solutions to challenges that our society is facing.
Hopefully, this continues in the future because I would love to see the world become a better place, especially for the children.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Since I am a very busy person it helps a lot to use my personal calendar where I put all my schedules. From there, I’d list the things that I need to accomplish for the day and rank them based on urgency so I would know which ones to prioritize first.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Always choose to do what is best for the greater good because you don’t know whose lives you’ll touch along the way. Aside from that, focus on the kind of legacy that you’ll be leaving not only to your family but also your community because you only get one life to make a difference that can last for many generations.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I believe that asking others for help is a sign of strength because you’re brave enough to admit that you can’t do some things on your own and that you need others. In fact, doing so can even help you produce better results because as John Maxwell once said, “Teamwork makes the dream work.”
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Always find time to communicate with and listen to people because it helps you strengthen relationships. This is very important because having a supportive network can help you navigate through stress and overcome difficult situations. If everyone does this, we can look forward to having a community where people are healthy, happy, and productive.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Being an ESG-focused business, we nurture relationships with both the investors and residents because it helps us build trust and understand them more so we can provide them with valuable solutions that will meet their needs.
Furthermore, nurturing existing relationships results in customer retention and paves way to more opportunities.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
There have been a lot of challenges and failures that I had to go through in the past. One of the saddest is not closing some deals with potential clients. However, through the years, I became stronger as I realized that my failures are opportunities to learn and improve.
Now, I’m ready for anything and no matter what happens, my focus will remain on the positive outcome of what we are doing.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
As global warming gets worse and the COVID-19 pandemic causes a drastic increase in plastic waste due to the continuous use of face masks, many people are starting to see how important it is to start living a sustainable lifestyle.
Having said that, I think that starting an upcycling business which makes use of disposable facemasks will be a great idea. If you have the resources to make this happen, it will be a great opportunity to turn those facemasks into creative furniture and other useful stuff you can think of.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I spent almost a hundred dollars on some pillows that I recently bought. For me, good pillows are something that we should invest on because they help us get a good sleep which leads to waking up feeling good and refreshed. I believe that anything which relates to rest is important because it rejuvenates our bodies, helps us overcome stress, and regulates our mood.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
There are actually three which I use altogether and these are Google Calendar, Keep and Tasks. I find them very useful because they help me organize things. With Keep, I can make different kinds of lists that I need for work or personal matters. Sometimes, I also use it to create quick audio recordings of things that I need to remind myself about.
On the other hand, I use Calendar and Tasks to make plans for the days to come and track my accomplishments.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I’d say try reading Making Money Moral: How a New Wave of Visionaries Is Linking Purpose and Profit by Judith Rodin and Saadia Madsbjerg. This newly published book is so on point about explaining how it is possible to gain awesome returns by making socially responsible investments. Inspiring stories cited by the authors will make you appreciate and embrace the concept of investing while making a difference in the lives of many people.
What is your favorite quote?
“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” – Warren Buffett
- A life well-lived is spent on reaching your goals while serving your community.
- Promoting environmental awareness and social equality are just as important as making an investment.
- Good habits lead to success. If you really want to succeed, you must learn to discipline yourself and focus on the more important things.
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.