A native of Belarus, of the former USSR, Andrey Sokurec obtained a full scholarship and graduated with honors at the Belarus Economic University, earning a degree in Finance and Banking. He began his career at a Russian bank, where he worked “underwriting commercial loans.” Soon after, he left Russia for the United States, where he believed he could achieve his dreams.
In the US, Andrey Sokurec started out as a manual laborer. By day, he worked, and by night, he read business books, hoping to learn the secrets to business success. In 2005, he finally broke through and bought his first investment property, and he has since completed “over $100 million in Real Estate transactions.” Now, he has a sizable portfolio of houses.
Since then, Andrey Sokurec has also become a recognized real estate authority. He founded the Midwest Real Estate Investment Association. He also became the host of the TV show called “The Real Deal in Real Estate.” Also, Andrey frequently appears as a guest presenter at “investment summits and training seminars.”
Andrey Sokurec also co-founded Homestead Road, where he aims to “integrate the entire process of buying homes, restoring them to marketability, and ‘homesteading’ families.” Since 2007, the company has bought over “100 properties ‘as-is,’ freeing sellers from cleaning, making repairs and having any future liability for the home.”
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Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Andrey Sokurec: I came to Minnesota from Belarus in 2004 because the U.S. is a great land of opportunity. I won a green card lottery, and I needed to pay my brother back from a loan I took for a failed business. I thought I would work here for a while and then come back home. I had my kids here and ultimately decided to stay.
I took any job I could when I got here. I was a pizza delivery driver and a construction worker before I used my Finance degree as a loan officer. It was a humbling experience. I worked 70–80 hours a week. I was making decent money, but I had no time to spend with my family. I received a wake-up call when my young nephew died. Family is everything, and I needed to find a way to prioritize them.
Real Estate Investing was something I was passionate about, and it didn’t require a lot of resources. I learned that I can attract private and bank capital without having my own money in order to invest in real estate. I found a mentor to help me figure out how to build my business. I made $12,000 on my first home that I flipped. My company, Homestead Road, has since sold more than 1,000 homes, we’ve been on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies for the past two years and we recently expanded from Minneapolis to Milwaukee and Tampa.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Andrey Sokurec: One of the struggles was having the money to get started. I had to be very disciplined and make a lot of sacrifices so I could set aside money to invest in real estate, but I had the vision of what I wanted to do and nothing was going to stop me. The hardest thing to do was to purchase my first property.
When I made an offer on the house, I was incredibly nervous and didn’t want it to get accepted. It is difficult to take the first step when you are close to making a big and wonderful change in your life. I’ve seen so many people not pull the trigger. The right time to start is right now. I think a quote from the author Nora Roberts is appropriate for people starting their first business. “If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.”
Having someone you trust who believes in you is also so important. When I told a mentor about my trepidation to buy the first house I put an offer on, he said he would swoop in and close the deal if I didn’t. He then reassured me I was doing the right thing. I needed that confidence boost. Conversely, it’s important to stay away from naysayers. Some relatives may even tell you your ideas won’t work because they’re trying to protect you from failure.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Andrey Sokurec: When I purchased my first house, I wanted to be a master of delegation. I hired a painter, and he asked what color I wanted the house to be. I said, “You’re the professional. Do what you think.” He chose pink. Not red… pink. I couldn’t believe it. The lesson I learned is to delegate but verify. I still keep that picture of that pink house to remind me.
Jerome Knyszewski: Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Have a vision or dream- It’s important to have a big, audacious goal. Something that makes you excited. You have to chase your dream and money will follow, not vice versa. Adapt best processes and systems. We want to become a household name for people to sell their house as is and stress-free. When you have a huge goal, you attract like-minded people who want that excitement.
- Build a great team. In order to succeed, you need to have a good army. It’s important to surround yourself with people who are better than you are and get out of their way. Don’t explain what they need to do. They’ll figure it out. When I started, I had to do everything myself; finance, accounting, marketing. When I brought in chief marketing and financial officers, they were much better than I was, and it has improved all of our results. It’s hard for entrepreneurs to let go, but you have to in order to succeed. I was looking for someone with experience in a company 10 times bigger because they know where I want to be.
- Measure everything- If the process is not measurable, it can’t be improved. We have over 70 KPI (key performance indicators). We were able to make incremental improvements that made a big difference. If you buy a house and we can save $1,000 on our budget and we flip 500 houses a year, that’s $500,000 a year. We’re able to reduce our house time from six months’ to four months’ time from buying to flipping it. We figured out a process to shorten that within a year.
- Be curious and strive for constant and never-ending improvement- We’re all used to certain ways of doing business. You have to ask, “Why can’t we do something another way? How can we respond to customers faster? How can we improve?” Just because you haven’t done something before,it doesn’t mean you can’t in the future. If there is something I like, I take a picture and implement it.
- Surround yourself with mentors and a board of advisors- When I got started in real estate, I didn’t know anyone. I identified top people in real estate. They didn’t know who I was. I sent letters asking if they would talk to me. There are so many people who want to talk to you and are willing to share their perspectives. Steve Hoyt in Minneapolis was the first person to answer me.
Jerome Knyszewski: Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
Andrey Sokurec: With our company, we want to serve our customers better than anyone else. We’re proud to be the best in our industry based on reviews, Google, referrals and the Better Business Bureau.
While we certainly want to be better than our competitors, it goes beyond business. It’s really about our highest level purpose as a company which is to positively impact others. This is important for us because we have the resources to help people in the communities we serve. The more successful we become, the more financial help we can provide for people and have a positive impact on them.
If you only have money as a target, it won’t excite you personally or your employees. When you have a certain level of financial security, money doesn’t mean much anymore. The biggest satisfaction people can get is from helping others as part of a purpose-driven business and brand.
Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
Andrey Sokurec: Track everything. If you don’t measure, you won’t improve. Build as many Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as possible. At Homestead Road, every department has a scorecard with particular focus on those KPIs that relate to converting a lead into a sale. When you look at those on an ongoing basis, you can establish best practice benchmarks and optimize your entire business across functions.
Jerome Knyzewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Andrey Sokurec: In general, the real estate industry doesn’t have a great reputation, so we wanted to establish a premium brand with a premium service model focused on customer experience. Our goal is to consistently delight every customer much in the same way Lexus or Ritz Carlton might. It’s why we have over 100 5-star reviews and many customer referrals. Beyond that, our customers value the fact that we give back to the community in many ways. We opened an office in Florida. Someone accepted an offer because they heard of our brand from someone who liked us in Minneapolis.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Andrey Sokurec: Readers can follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. They can check out my company, Homestead Road, at homesteadroad.com. I’m also proud to announce I’ve written a new book called “Total Financial Awakening” which provides a starting point for people who want to generate wealth while being truly happy through passive real estate income.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!