Brian Davis’ career is one that has had its ups and downs with the rise and fall of the real estate market.
His experience included mortgage lending and real estate investing prior to the crash of the late 2000’s and he has been serving landlords, agents, and investors ever since.
Following the crash Brian started working as a part-time employee for a startup that facilitated state-specific legal forms, tenant credit reports, and background checks. In just a handful of years Brian climbed the ranks from part-time employee to Vice President, nearly quadrupling sales, and growing the company to the point of international reach.
Brian has since moved on to co-founding his own startup, SparkRental.com, a resource for property managers, landlords, and renters that will help to automate every friction point in the rental industry.
Career Success Q&A
What do you like most about your job?
I love that we are building something, a totally new service. It will automate rental management in a way no current company can offer.
What kind of formal schooling do you have?
I have a psychology degree from the University of Delaware, and a string of certifications from Toastmasters and the Wine & Spirits Educational Trust.
Most of my education has been hands-on, on-the-job experience and learning.
What kind of experience did you have before you began your current role?
I started my career in the mortgage industry, working with real estate investors who needed hard money loans for purchase-rehab deals. I started making my own investments, and then the crash of 2008 hit.
I took a part-time job with an online landlord resources website, which had just launched, and then the company took off.
My position quickly became full-time, then a management role, then I became completely responsible for the company’s performance. But like all things, there came a time to move on, and I decided to launch a new business with a partner and former colleague.
Do you have a mission statement or a guiding philosophy for your career?
Have a set of goals, but stay open-minded about how to get there.
Life will throw unexpected curve-balls, which usually contain opportunities if you pay close enough attention.
What excites you most about your career right now?
When my partner Denise and I set out we wondered, ‘What are landlords and property managers really looking for?’
The answer was simple: higher returns, for less work.
In other words, the same things we all want, more money and more time. So we worked backward to design an automated system that will actually deliver on that: systematizing best practices for consistent returns and cash flow.
What excites you about the future of your career?
I’ve always been a believer in passive income, even though it’s usually eluded me. I’m excited to one day catch that slippery beast by the horns and ride it for the rest of my life.
Are you an avid reader?
I average three books a month. A mix of fiction, business and motivational books, consumed as either audiobooks or on Kindle.
I’ve known successful people who weren’t readers, but their success was usually fleeting. To cite a nursery cliche, “Leaders are readers.”
What books would you recommend to people trying to improve professionally?
This won’t be the most original answer, but there’s a reason why Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad has sold so many copies.
For entrepreneurs and upper management, I recommend Jim Collins’ Good to Great.
For motivation, Grant Cardone’s The 10X Rule is a splash of cold water in the face.
For anyone seeking more creative approaches in their business, Adam Grant’s Originals is excellent and well researched.
I recommend reading Flipboard articles before you go to bed at night. You can follow certain topics and magazines, tailored to your interests and career. It’s a great way to stimulate your subconscious mind as you fall asleep.
Do you have a regular routine you follow to ensure you’re always improving?
I listen to the news as I get dressed and brush my teeth in the morning. I listen to audiobooks as I work out every day.
I’ve found some benefits to meditating for ten minutes a day.
What is the best career advice you ever received?
If you’re thinking about starting your own business, only do it if you don’t think you’d be just as happy doing anything else.
It’s too hard, too emotionally grueling, too much work to do if you have any other paths to happiness and success.
Who are your most influential mentors?
I admire people who have achieved financial independence, and then turned around and helped others do the same.
Would you consider yourself a goal-setter?
I am a goal-setter, but I think even more important than goals is creating systems and routines that will drop you right on top of your goals.
It’s one thing to say. ‘I’m setting a goal of running a marathon,’ but it’s more useful to create a routine of running 30-90 minutes every day, with a systematized build-up schedule.
My short-term career goal is scaling my business, SparkRental.
On the longer horizon, I want to systematize [SparkRental’s] management so that I can free up more time for traveling, raising a family, and writing novels.
Has there been a method of goal setting that has contributed to your successes?
Set short-, mid-, and long-term goals, then reverse engineer the steps it will take to reach them. Systematize those steps.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced over the course of your career?
Until this year – uncertainty.
I’ve never had a calling, never known what to do with my life. I now do.
It always bothered me that I didn’t have a singular passion, one set of skills in one niche that makes me perfect for a given career.
I’ve always been good at a lot of things, but not outstanding at any one skill set. Then I had an epiphany: that makes me a perfect fit for entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurs have to wear dozens of hats, and be competent in many fields, but when they need a true expert, they can hire one.
What have you found to work really well for fostering professional growth?
Constant learning, through blogs, podcasts, audiobooks and more.
What is a professional challenge you’re still looking for a solutions to?
I’m still tackling effective content marketing and social media marketing. There’s plenty written about it online, but there’s a certain alchemy to it that seems just outside my peripheral vision.
Are you currently working on any projects we should be aware of?
It’s currently a blog, and we’ll be adding a services over the next 60 days.
Our system will help automate most rental management tasks, anticipating the next need a landlord or property manager will have and making it available for them before they even ask.
For example, our online rental application lets landlords include a request for tenant credit reports, criminal checks and, eviction history.
When [landlords] find a tenant they like, we’ll have a state-specific lease ready for [the tenant] at the click of a button. When they’ve e-signed the lease, we’ll help [landlords] collect rent electronically and automatically every month.
This actually ties in with our two most exciting services: we’ll be reporting rent payments to the credit bureaus, and we’ll offer an option for rent to be deducted directly from the tenant’s paycheck.
Reporting rent to credit bureaus helps renters build their credit, and it helps landlords by incentivizing on-time rent payments. Our RentDeduct service will help borderline applicants be accepted for better housing, and will help them avoid chronic late rent fees. For landlords, it virtually guarantees they’ll receive their rent so long as the tenant remains employed.
What is the best way for people to connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/spark rental/
Landlords can sign up SparkRental’s industry newsletter at http://sparkrental.com/
Have questions about your own professional development or the details of Brian’s career path?
Ask your questions in the comments below and we’ll be sure to help in anyway we can!
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