How to Scale Commercial Real Estate Podcast

How to Scale Commercial Real Estate Podcast

Switching From Appreciation To Cash Flow was hosted by Sam Wilson. Sam is the Founder of Bricken Investment Group, where he helps clients find commercial real estate syndication investments that align with their investing and lifestyle goals. Likewise, this podcast guides listeners through real estate’s steep learning curve to mitigate the risks.

How can you retire five to ten years earlier?

JoeDiSanto is a semi-retired business consultant who has figured out how to live the life you want even if you are still in your pre-retirement age. He believes that building and managing a business is actually easy. What is difficult is managing what he calls the “business of you,” a concept that he happily breaks down in this episode.

Joe has built multi-million dollar businesses, produced critically acclaimed documentaries and an Emmy-winning TV show, invested millions in real estate, and was semi-retired at age 43. Now, he’s sharing a lifetime of know-how via Play Louder, an invaluable resource that helps individuals and business owners increase their net worth and plan better for their future.

[00:01] – [03:40] Opening Segment

  • Joe DiSanto is enjoying a semi-retired life right now
    • Here’s how he got there
  • The reality about building a business according to Joe

[03:41] – [08:49] Balancing Family and Business

  • Joe talks about the adjustments that he and his wife did when they had a child
  • People usually have a three-act life structure, but Joe has four acts
    • How does this relate to his life and business?
  • The challenges that Joe had to face in living the life he wants

[08:50] – [13:57] The Life of a Semi-Retired Individual

  • This is the daily life of a semi-retired individual like Joe
  • He does not feel the need to save money today
    • He tells us why
  • Joe explains the fractional CFO model and

[13:58] – [18:44] Why Bookkeeping is Important in a Business

  • Joe gives us a sneak peek about his role as a business consultant
  • Business owners should learn what Joe calls the “business of you”
    • How is it related to building a business?
  • The importance of knowing your finances

[18:45] – [22:11] “The Business of Your Business”

  • Here’s how you can retire 5-10 years earlier
  • The difference between the “business of you” from the “business of your business”
  • These are the ways that Joe tried before to learn business

[22:12] – [23:05] Closing Segment

  • Reach out to Joe
    • See links below 
  • Final words
Tweetable Quotes

“…every time you save more dollars, you take off more months or days or years of work off the backend of your life.” – Joe DiSanto

“By knowing your finances and knowing what you spend money on, you’ll also then know where you can save and you’ll very likely save more than you spend on the bookkeeping just by being knowledgeable about your financial situation.” – Joe DiSanto

“If you hit a certain income threshold, and you are a business owner…it really can pay off to engage someone to [manage your finances] or at least even just coach you.” – Joe DiSanto

Joe DiSanto  [00:00]

I succeeded, you know, some people out-earn their need to do this kind of work, you know, and if that’s the case, that’s great. I say to those people, you’re doing well on so congratulations. But I can say with almost 100% of surety, if you put time to this, you would actually be saving more of that money that you’re making. And every time you save more dollars, you take off more, you know, months or days or years of work off the backend of your life.

Intro  [00:27]

Welcome to the How to Scale Commercial Real Estate Show. Whether you are an active or passive investor, we will teach you how to scale your real estate investing business into something big.

Sam Wilson  [00:39]

Joe DiSanto has built multi-million dollar businesses, produced critically acclaimed documentaries and an Emmy-winning TV show. He’s invested millions in real estate and semi-retired at age 43. Now he’s sharing a lifetime of fiscal know how via Play Louder, which is an invaluable resource that helps individuals and business owners increase their net worth for a better life, and a better future. Joe, welcome to the show.

Joe DiSanto  [01:03]

Hey, what’s happening, Sam, thanks for having me on.

Sam Wilson  [01:06]

Hey, man, the pleasure is mine. There’s three questions I asked every guest to come to the show. In 90 seconds on me. Ooh, I’m second to last. Here we go. All right. Where are you now? How did you get there?

Joe DiSanto  [01:15]

Okay, well started in Providence, Rhode Island. That’s where I was born, ended up in Los Angeles and started a post-production company, which achieved those accomplishments. You mentioned in a great intro, thank you. And now I live in Tampa, Florida area, we did our kind of exit our life as we know it. And I’m in sort of a semi-retired state now, which I can explain if you like.

Sam Wilson  [01:37]

Yeah, that would be interesting. And maybe we’ll get into that, as part of, you know, the topic you know, of today is the logistics of living your best life. Mm. And, you know, we kind of talked about that a little bit before we kicked off the show, but maybe you can just break down a little bit of your story. And tell us what that means to you and how you got there?

Joe DiSanto  [01:55]

Yeah, sure. Well, you know, we’re trying to live our best life. And it’s a daily effort. But you know, the logistics part is that it does take some effort to kind of be able to engineer what I think is, you know, your best life. And that can be, you know, variety of things to everybody, or different things to everybody I should say. But in our case, I was always into business, amongst other things, real estate as well. And investing and personal finance, which we’ll probably talk a little bit about, but long story short, after college, kind of get started in post-production biz, in New York, moved to Los Angeles, but always wanted to own my own business, and just had that on my radar, you know, as a very definitive goal. And luckily, was able to achieve that in post-production, which I got into I was actually oddly a photography major in college photography, digital imaging, and really just had a passion for sort of finance investing and personal finance that I, you know, always was pursuing. But post-production just happen to be a kind of business that was achievable. I think, you know, for me, in terms of opening a business, it’s not, you know, it’s a kind of a niche industry, a boutique industry. And you can have a business that has anywhere from, you know, a few to a couple 100 employees, if you like, but it’s not like trying to start, you know, some multinational company, so it fit in well to my plans. And I was able to do with my partners, I had three partners who really are my closest friends, and we’re still friends. And we set out on it, and we accomplished it, but it took a lot of work. You know, running a business is hard. You know, it’s like, if you’re owning the business, it’s like you’re doing your quote, unquote, job, but then you’re doing a whole bunch of things on top of that. So it’s time-consuming, it’s demanding, it’s can be stressful, can also be super fun and super rewarding, which it was for me, but we eventually had a child, and we didn’t have kids too late. I was 40, my wife was 36. And because we really enjoyed our work, we enjoyed our career, and we kind of lived our work, but it was really fun, you know, and we did a lot of socializing our business, it’s a social business, we hung out with our employees all the time, we were all honestly just friends. And you know, we worked a lot, and we went out a lot, and it was a good time. But once we had a kid, we were like, wow, you know, this is kind of really stressful. Now, you know, they used to be like, we can just do whatever we wanted, work as long as we wanted if we needed to whatever. And now it’s like, wow, we’re rushing to get home. You know, it’s like we’re trying to balance it all, the work demands didn’t really decrease. So it became kind of stressful. And we started to think, well, you know, what can we do you know, if we can, you know, how could we change this if we wanted to, and we came up with the cockamamie idea of literally kind of abandoning our life as we know it and when I have to say is retreated to cheaper ground, we moved from Los Angeles to Florida, my partner’s very graciously cashed me out of the business, they’re still doing it and they’re still doing well. And we just kind of re-engineered a life so our overhead was way less so that I could work way less and my wife didn’t have to work at all and we could, you know, devote more time to Our family, you know, because that’s what we decided, we really wanted to focus on in this kind of, you know, next chapter of life. And we started to kind of define a little bit about, like, you know, what we think about life, and you know, how it kind of works and how it worked for us. And a lot of times in life, you know, not a lot of times, I think pretty much all the time, we’re kind of pitched what we call it a three-act life structure, if I may use the filmmaking, you know, analogy, which is basically, you’re born to get educated, you know, roughly ages one to 20, then you work for 40 years, hopefully, 20 to 60, then act three, you retire and start a start your slowest end to death, basically. And we’re like, “Well, I don’t know, that’s okay. But I’d rather be a little bit more vital, while not having to work so much,” you know. So we kind of invented this system of the four-act life where, you know, you do the one to 20 education, you work super hard 20 to 40, but save a lot be strategic, you know, really put your mind to the fact that you have to prepare for your own retirement in your own future, and no one’s going to really do it for you. And you can just stick your head in the sand. And hopefully, that goes well. And then you actually have enough money where you can win I call downshift into more of a part-time work situation, where you’re not particularly old yet, you know, you’re older, you’re in your 40s and 50s. But you can enjoy a little bit more like, Well, like I guess, you know, kind of say you’re more vital, you know, or was eloquently put, I feel like in a blog post before you have sausage legs, have to wear compression hosiery. And then you know, 60 to 80. After you’ve had your act three, now you move on to act four and hit the rocking chair and just cross your fingers.

Sam Wilson  [06:53]

That’s really, really intriguing. Tell me some of the things that you guys, strategic decisions that were difficult in that process for you?

Joe DiSanto  [07:01]

Yeah, well, I mean, for us, I mean, when I say again, back to the logistics thing, like I’m not above putting, you know, any concept into the logistics aspect of this, and we decided to have kids late because we wanted to accumulate more money and be able to devote more time to work careers in those vital working years of 20s and 30s. Right. I think what I know about kids now, if we had had kids in our 20s, that would have derailed a lot of the time, you know, we spent building our career, building the business in all those things, allowing us to make more money and save more money by having a kid earlier. Now a lot of people think that’s weird, and you probably shouldn’t commingle those things, but like I do, because I guess I’m a little bit weird. You know, I mean, I think like engineering your best life, like, it’s some big decisions. It’s not like, you know, little minor things. It’s like, significant stuff. Like another thing that we were talking about before we got on the air here, was I think you should marry a bookkeeper. If, like, your parents were right, you know, like, you need to actually think about your financial future in your mate selection process. Now, that’s not to say you should, you know, forego love and all that. But you know, it’s like, I say to, you know, because I coach a lot of people now if like you and your spouse, both know that neither of you want to do the finances, well, you need to pay someone to do like, it’s so important that you are in the know about your personal financial situation, you should be paying someone but you know, again, if that each married, you know, someone that was interested in doing your family books, then you know, you would have saved that money. But you did. So there you go. 

Sam Wilson  [08:42]

Yeah, that’s really, really intriguing. Let’s get on the topic of money and tell us what semi-retired means for you now because I know you spend a lot of time, like you said, coaching people on financial matters.

Joe DiSanto  [08:53]

Yeah, so semi-retired, for me means kind of two things. One, I am able to cover my monthly expenses, you know, working part-time, right. And the way I’m able to do that is I have some passive income sources that I’m putting towards my monthly expenses. And then, you know, what is not covered through that I’m covering through my consulting work, you know, so I kind of switched my career from owning a business. And, you know, I do a lot of things by business, but one of the things was, I was the CFO, and I managed the money because we just again, always something that I was interested in. And I really believed it was critical for the success of our business, that I as an owner, manage the money, look at it weekly, and you know, make it a very, you know, religious part of my weekly practices, but I’m quite good at that. So it turned out, you know, after I left LA and kind of was, you know, figuring out well, what can I do to do this part-time work that’s going to fill in my income requirement gap. A lot of friends actually, well, actually, what happened was my partner’s originally was like, Hey, okay, you’re gonna leave and we’re gonna miss you, but maybe you could just like stay on and do the finances from afar. We’ll just like pay you, you know, consulting thing or something. And I was like, “Yeah, sounds great.” Well, once I told other folks that I know that I’m businesses, as I’m doing that, they were like, oh, man, we need that, like, We need someone that can do that, like, that’s really good. But we can’t afford to pay them full time, right. But we could afford to, like pay you like part-time, you know, and so they’re in line, you know, that the fractional CFO work that I’ve done, but it’s pretty good paying work. And I don’t have to do even with all my clients, I got them to work full time. So that’s part of the part the semi-retired. The other part is, is that we’re able to mass enough, you know, in our, you know, Act Two are working and accumulation phase where I don’t feel the need to save more money for the future. Like, I feel like my pot is good enough. And if I don’t, you know, burn any principle off that and that just keeps growing through my investments, that really, I just need to pay my kind of overhead right now. And I don’t need to worry about saving. Now, that’s not to say I won’t save more, if I can, I certainly will. But I don’t feel like I’m under the gun to have to do that. Oddly, the consulting thing is actually working out pretty well. And I was able to save more money last year, unexpectedly. But when I fit into this, like, I didn’t feel like that was a requirement. And there you go. So that’s my semi-retired state, just basically a downshift into working less hours, less stress, less pressure, in terms of insane deadlines, and all this sort of stuff, right? So I don’t have to basically constantly call them be like, I can’t make it home again, you know, because I got to do this, I got to do that to clients. Or in my case, you know, I can basically, you know, call the truly call the shots even when I own a business, you call the shots, but you still got a boss, you got your clients, your boss now like I’m just in a scenario where my work, it’s not mission-critical, like on a timeline doesn’t have I get what I need to get done in the week. But no one’s even calling me I’m usually calling and be like, “Dude, we got to sit down and like, look at your finances. You hired me, like, come on.” I can’t help but I’m so busy. I’m so busy. They’ll just tell me it’s good. It’s a good, pretty good, it’s pretty good.

Sam Wilson  [12:10]

Well, Joe, talk to us about the fractional CFO model. I know, you kind of wandered into this, you know, unintentionally, but what are some things especially as companies are scaling? I mean, what is how does someone budget for that? What should they be doing? Or where do they be, I guess, size-wise, just start bringing on a fractional CFO, I mean, a lot of the projects we’re dealing with, especially as you’re starting out scaling and commercial real estate can be, you know, five to $10 million projects, is that all it takes, we start on that?

Joe DiSanto  [12:39]

Well, I’ll start by saying that I’ve kind of found that this is a good little niche. And part of the reason is, and I’m dealing with kind of smaller businesses, so anywhere from five to about 40 employees are mind companies. And what I’ve kind of learned is and it kind of intermingled with personal finances, business finance, but if from the business sense, if the partners that start the firm, if none of them are financially oriented people, and there isn’t like that financial partner, you know, that one of the partnerships that is really focused on the finances and takes that responsibility, there’s often a big, just kind of gap there, right. And it’s hard for a smaller business that can’t commit to, you know, a pretty sizable salary to get an experienced CFO kind of character to come in and fill that role. So what I found and the reason why people kept saying, oh, we need that we need that is like, a lot of my clients don’t have that financially oriented partner, that’s an owner of the company. And they can afford to like have some good they can afford generally a bookkeeper, you know, if that. So there’s a big gap there, because they’re not financially oriented people, they’re not really deciphering the numbers. They’re not using all the data that’s there to help them make better decisions. But you know, their bookkeeper can’t do that either. And really, they’re just kind of flying by the seat of pants, a lot of some of them aren’t even don’t even have a bookkeeper. Like they’re not even doing books, you know, and you’re like, Wow, that’s pretty rare. But even that’s happening out there. So what I’ve kind of do is like I charge, I take on the bookkeeping role as well, because then like people are willing to spend some money on that. So and oftentimes consulting, you know, kind of makes people nervous. They feel like I don’t know what I’m gonna get, and is it gonna be worth it? Am I just gonna like regret that I gave you money? So for me, the entry kind of is like, well, you’re gonna pay for bookkeeping. So you know, I can do that. And now I have an employee that helps me kind of do the books, but you’re gonna pay more for me to be the CFO character on top of that, but I very likely can actually pay for myself through the knowledge I have about running a business and I come at it from like, I’m not like a CPA. I’m not that person that’s worried about your tax return. I do help everyone get their taxes done and all that. I’m more the business owner that you know, kind of has been through the wringer for 20 years and just educated myself on, you know, taking advantage of all the tax benefits, you know, businesses offer, looking at financials and seeing what’s coming, figuring out how to, like, look into the future, and not just only worry about the past of your numbers, and do all these things, you know, that a CFO could do, and I’m like, but you’re just going to pay me, you know, a fraction of what you would pay some full time and I end up kind of being like, like a part-time employee. So, you know, me and my small team, I would employ, we get all the books done, and we do, you know, the reports, but then I get on the phone with everyone and I explain, you know, what we’re looking at, and why the information is valuable. Then, of course, you know, towards the end of the year, I prep everything for the CPA, I work with the CPA, I shepherd the returns, I get all the taxes, and basically, you know, and then they can call me, you know, anytime, you know, like, in business hours, my phone’s on and anytime you have a random question, like, hey, you know, we’re gonna buy this piece of gear should like, should we finance it? What should we do? If we want to finance it? How do we get that done, you know, whatever. So that’s the CFO part. But one thing I kind of like to really impart on my clients, and I said, we’re gonna miss that, well, you’re a business owner, but you’re doing this to ultimately make money for yourself, right? So you need to do your business books. Of course, I think everybody roughly agrees on that, like, who would invest in a company that didn’t actually do bookkeeping for their business? Nobody, that would be weird. But the money is really not that meaningful, until it’s in your savings account, you know, until it’s like officially, like taxes are paid taxes, like you have actually improved your financial situation this year. And you can’t really know that, unless you’re doing books for your personal life as well, you know, I call it the “business of you,” it’s just as important and really, even from a tax perspective, as a business owner, like the money comes in your business, but you really settle it all up in large part on your personal tax return. And that’s when you know, like how much money you’ve actually, you know, saved this year. I mean, a lot of people do these systems like, oh, well, I got this thing where I put 5% of every dollar that comes into this account, and that account, and I got whatever, and I’m again, but none of that matters. That’s all just games people played in ultimately, I think, basically gives them a false sense of reality, the only thing that matters in your life is I made this I spent this was the difference, right? That’s either what you saved or you lost, it doesn’t matter if you put $10,000 in your quote, unquote, long-term savings account. But if you put 15 on a credit card in order to do that, really, you just lost $5,000, you know, so I try to strip people away of all these gimmicks, and explain to them that like money is not that hard. You don’t need gimmicks, you just need to count it. You know what I mean? And like know, the end result, it’s like, it’s not a mystery. And they’re like, “Yeah, but I hate counting it. It’s so boring,” you know, and I’m like, well, therein lies marrying the bookkeeper. Or if both of you hate counting, then you should hire a bookkeeper for your personal life as well. And you can actually do it relatively inexpensively. I would say to people, by knowing your finances and knowing what you spend money on, you’ll also then know what where you can save and you’ll very likely save more than you spend on the bookkeeping, just by being knowledgeable about your financial situation. That’s what businesses do, you know.

Sam Wilson  [18:17]

You’re convicting me here, because that’s a been a consistent thought of mine is why don’t I have a bookkeeper? On the personal side? Because you’re absolutely right. I’m guilty as charged. It’s like, yeah, we’ll take everything on the business side, make sure everything’s T’s crossed, eyes dotted man, it’s, it’s by the book, no personal side, it’s like money, we’re saving a little bit, we have enough to invest moving on. And that’s just dumb. I feel dumb. Before this conversation, I felt dumb. And now I feel even more dumb having this conversation.

Joe DiSanto  [18:45]

All right, well, I succeeded, and succeeded. You know, some people outearn their need to do this kind of work, you know, and if that’s the case, that’s great. I say to those people, you’re doing well. So congratulations. But I can say with almost 100% of surety, if you put time to this, you would actually be saving more of that money that you’re making. And every time you save more dollars, you take off more, you know, months or days or years of work off the back into your life, that’s how I kind of look at it. So if you could save an extra 2,000 to 5,000 or $10,000 a year just by making simple changes that actually wouldn’t even affect your life in any meaningful way. Maybe you could end up retiring five to 10 years earlier, especially when you put that in, you know, invest that in something, it’s compounding, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You know, and then of course, the other thing that people need to do and are in the business of you, you know, it’s like, especially if your actual business owner is understanding your tax bill, understanding how you pay taxes and making sure that you’re using your business or your real estate or whatever, to be as efficient as you can in taxes. And then also when you start to understand taxes, you might actually make decisions about certain investments that you know, will benefit you tax-wise in the future and ultimately save you more money. So the business of you is actually almost more complicated than the business of your business, your business business kind of simple relate, but there’s more angles to be played sometimes, you know, on the personal side, which real estate and with other things, and so on. So, yeah, I mean, it’s not that I, you know, was born and set up for this. I literally started using Quicken when I was like, get out of college because I didn’t have any money. And I was like, wow, I just feel like it’s getting worse and worse, you know, I least need to know what’s going on. And then I knew, and I was like, wow, I wish I had it. No, it’s pretty bad. But that process of like, tracking things, and sort of getting my head into it, that actually educated me to run a business, you know, but I just started kind of with my own stuff, and then you get, I was always into it, you know, I read books, I read books about real estate, and investing in taxes and things and you know, kind of, it’s a fun game to me, but I realized that it’s not for everybody, like, it’s a hobby of mine, you know, so I’m lucky in that some people’s hobby, you know, is scuba diving. And that’s super fun. It’s also kind of expensive, but you know, you can be honest with yourself, it’s like, I’m gonna just spend the next 20 years talking about doing this and then lose all that time, maybe I should figure out a way to, like, take it seriously. So a lot of my clients end up, you know, they’re just like, alright, just do my whole life, you know, just do everything, you know. And it’s almost like, if you’re a high-income earner, like, I lived in Hollywood and all that, and actors and actresses, you know, they have business managers, they have people that manage their personal money. So I think, you know, if you hit a certain, you know, income threshold, and you are a business owner, whatever, like, it really can pay off to engage someone to do that, or at least even just coach you, like, you know, like a personal trainer, you know, what I mean? Like, sort of keep you on task and sort of in that sort of thing. So, yeah.

Sam Wilson  [21:50]

Fantastic. Joe, I’ve enjoyed this man, you’ve given us a lot of compelling things to think about. Yeah, lots to consider on that front, especially as a business of you, thanks for making it come on the show and chat. And learned a lot love hearing your backstory and how you got to where you are. Now, if our listeners want to get in touch with you and learn more about you what is the best way to do that?

Joe DiSanto  [22:12]

Now you just go to my website, It’s a site where you can kind of see my consultant services, but it’s also a blog. So I have lots of free information there, things I write things other people write on these topics. Also, have some free courses to kind of get you going on some of these topics. And then also some paid courses if you want to, like, you know, go to the next level and sort of get into this. Take the business of you more seriously. 

Sam Wilson  [22:36]

Joe, thank you for your time today.

Joe DiSanto  [22:37]

I do appreciate it. Absolutely, man. It’s good to meet you, Sam.

Sam Wilson  [22:40]

Hey, thanks for listening to the How to Scale Commercial Real Estate Podcast. If you can do me a favor and subscribe and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, whatever platform it is you use to listen, if you can do that for us, that would be a fantastic help to the show. It helps us both attract new listeners, as well as rank higher on those directories. So I appreciate you listening. Thanks so much and hope to catch you on the next episode.

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Editor at Play Louder !

Kristin McCasey is a partner and editor atPlay Louder!She is a former award-winning film editor turned work-at-home-mom blogger. Three years after their son was born, she and her husband left their Los Angeles careers to have more time as a family. She now works with her husband, Joe, on their finance blog, teaching others how to achieve financial independence.