How do you shift your mindset from being an employee to an entrepreneur? Jens Nielsen was an IT professional for more than twenty years until he decided he didn’t want to be in the rat race anymore. Figuring out how he can generate income outside of relying on somebody else giving him a paycheck, he discovered real estate. In less than three years, he was able to build a personal portfolio of 82 units by leveraging a strong team and still working full-time. Learn Jens’ secrets to creating more generational wealth, carrying passive income and helping people who want to get started with syndication.
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Shifting Your Mindset From Employee To Entrepreneur with Jens Nielsen
Our guest is Jens Nielsen. Thanks for being on the show, Jens.
Thanks, Whitney. I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you.
I was pleased to meet you when I was in Tampa at an event. We had lunch or dinner together. I knew he’d be a great guest and it’s a pleasure to get to learn more about him and his business. He immigrated from Denmark and had a powerful mindset shift from being an employee to entrepreneur, which so many readers can relate to. I look forward to getting into that. He’s built a personal portfolio of 82 units in less than three years by leveraging a strong team and he’s still working full-time. He’s also been able to share the benefit real estate investing to more people by raising money for syndications. He was able to raise $350,000 in seven days. That’s very impressive. Give the audience a little more about your background and what you’re doing right now in real estate.
I emigrated. It’s been a long time. In 1996, I came over from a plane from Denmark. I have been in IT and telecommunication pretty much for the last years. A few years ago, I was like, “This is a great business. It’s a good pay, but it was also a job. If I decided to stop working one day, the income would stop coming.” I was like, “I need to change. I need to do something different here because this is the rat race,” as people would call it. A few years ago, I was like, “What can I do to do something that would create more generational wealth and create some passive income?” After studying, I realized that real estate is probably the best vehicle that a lot of people have found. It’s a strong way to get into generating that wealth and that long-term income. I decided that it’s time for me to shift into that and start building a portfolio. That’s what I got going here when I started down this path.
What was it that made you think of real estate or opened your mind to the real estate? Had you thought about it for a long time?
I had thought about for a while. What are the options I can do to become more independent then and get some passive income? Like a lot of people, you start to explore what’s out there. I stumbled across a bunch of podcasts, somebody like you that provides a lot of value to people. I loved the podcasts. It’s like, “This is a very interesting model to get into.” I realized so many people had built some strong portfolio through that vehicle. I listened to some podcasts and read books. Like everybody else, I started with Rich Dad Poor Dad. I’m an analytical person, so I dug into it. I started understanding numbers, started to see how to evaluate properties and so forth. That was the shift that I had. I say, “I’ve got to build something for myself, not just for the person that I’m working for.”
I’d like to talk about that shift that we discussed, from the employee mindset to the entrepreneur mindset. Maybe help elaborate on that a little bit, from being an employee to an entrepreneur, which I feel like so many people can relate to. Is that something you plan to do permanently? What does that look like right now?
I can’t put the cat back in the box. That ship has sailed. I changed who I am as a person after realizing that. A lot of people go to work because that’s what we learned through school. It’s like, “Get an education, become a doctor, lawyer, IT professional. Go get a job and work for somebody else. If you save you money, by the time you’re 65 or 70, you can retire and live on the beach for the rest of your life.” There’s a lot of flaws in that. I’ve come to realize there’s a lot of flaws in that philosophy because tomorrow, if your company is not doing well, you can be laid off and be on your own. If you haven’t saved any money, you don’t have any other way of generating income. You have to struggle to find a new job.Elevate your peer group. Find people who are already doing what you want to do and ask them questions. Click To Tweet
I think a lot of people think that that’s security. You’re secure if you had that job. In reality, you have no more security than what your employer’s business is, what’s going on there. I’ve gone through so many changes and outsourcing to other countries. With disruption and technology and everything else, things really change very quickly and you don’t have a lot of security in your job anymore. We have to figure out how can you, as a person, generate income outside of relying on somebody else giving you a paycheck every couple of weeks. That was that shift and I was like, “How do I move into that personally?” I didn’t want to go out and create a huge complicated business and start something up from scratch. I’m not trying to create the next Facebook or something like that because that would be way too much an effort that I’m not willing to put in to generate. I’m not looking for this huge thing. It’s basically trying to create some income that can supplement and eventually take over what I’m currently doing.
With 82 units, that’s a pretty good side hustle. From being an employee, you’re moving into being an entrepreneur. You changed that mindset, which many of us have gone through. I was raised the same way. We’re taught in school to have a good job. You’ve got to get an education and get a good job, then you wait for that pension or you wait for that retirement to actually be able to live. Moving into the entrepreneurial mindset has been a big thing for me as well. Tell us about when you started purchasing. You finally pulled the trigger, you said, “I’m going to buy a property.” From the first property to building your team, what does that look like now?
I do some research, then I take action. I know a lot of people get stuck in that analysis paralysis like, “I have some money saved up.” The first thing I did is I reached out to somebody in my local community that I know have invested in real estate. I was like, “Can I buy you a coffee? Let’s sit down and talk about this.” He was like, “These are the things that you should look at it. This is how you analyze it.” The best thing that happened to me was I asked him a very powerful question, “Who do you know that I should know?” He’s like, “You need to call this and this guy. This broker will help you out.” He had worked closely with him. I call this broker. I started small. I found a fourplex.
Within a couple of months, we bought a small fourplex and this broker helped me out. He’s an older gentleman and likes to help the new investors to get started. Me and that this gentleman, we hit it off and bought a couple of fourplexes and an eleven-unit property within the first six months through savings I had on the market. The stuff was not that expensive, so I had the capital to do that. About a year later, I found this 38-unit property that looked interesting. Me and the broker and a couple of friends, we actually decided to buy it together and actually do a joint venture on that. Very quickly, I went from buying stuff for myself to getting more people involved in deals.
There are a few things there that we needed to talk about. This person that you went to and you asked these questions to, I like how you said you ask him, “Who do that I should know?” Even before that, how did you meet this person? How did you develop that relationship or meet them?
There were some different common interests we have. I’m a cyclist and he’s a cyclist and he runs a local event that I’ve been participating in for years. I knew him from a totally different world. When somebody said, “You’ve got to go and talk to this gentleman. He knows stuff.” I was like, “Can I buy you some dinner?” I did. I think it’s a lot to do with do you have a scarcity or an abundance mindset? Are you trying to hold stuff close to yourself and not sharing with anybody because you’re afraid of competition and afraid of people are going to take stuff away from you? Do you want to share because if you help somebody? What goes around comes around. He helped me out in the end and said, “This how you analyze the property quickly,” and so forth. We created great relationships and we have some business ideas now that we may go into together and stuff like that. It’s that abundance mindset. What I found in this business is people are willing to share. They want to help other people. If they don’t, I don’t waste my time with them. We’re here to help each other here. We’re here to grow. We’re here to create well for our families and so forth.
You knew this gentleman before you had decided to get into real estate.
I did. I knew him before. I didn’t know much about his business and I realized he had a couple of hundred units by himself. I was like, “That’s impressive. I will do this.” We walked through that whole thing. That’s been a great conversation. Basically, we meet on a regular basis now. We have our own little mastermind going, so that’s awesome.
I like to point out too, you never know who you’re talking to. You never know how you’re going to be able to provide value to them and them to you sometime down the road. You had no idea that this gentleman was going to help you launch your real estate business and be a mentor.
That’s been amazing. Since then, if people have questions, I’m like, “Let’s grab a coffee, I’ll talk to you about what I’m doing. What can I do to help you to pay forward?” I make sure that other people can learn and grow as I have.
You bought a couple of fourplexes and an eleven-unit. Quite a few months go by, then you find a 38-unit. Tell us a little bit about how did you feel prepared or ready to do a 38-unit from what you had already done. We want to get into the partnership side of that as well.
I realized with the first couple of smaller properties I bought, I may not have known what I was doing. They were small enough that I didn’t feel too worried about it. I actually started educating myself, getting into coaching programs, surrounding myself with people. I was getting the right education. Real estate is not super complicated. There are some very key things you need to know. If you do those things right, your chance of success is much higher. As I got into some coaching, I joined the group that has helped me grow and stuff like that. I felt I wanted to grow bigger because I knew there’s a limit to how you can scale on an individual basis. You can save money and buy properties. That’ll take a very long time, but it’s totally fine too if that’s how you want to do that.
I was a little bit more impatient, but I wanted to grow a little quicker. I found this property. It was actually listed on LoopNet. I looked at it and it was a good price. I presented it to my broker. Even though he’s 72 years old and owns a lot of stuff himself, he was like, “I want more and I want to grow.” We looked at it and it was a heavy value add property. We realized he had a team that could help with the renovation and I could bring some capital to the table and stuff like that. We decided that it would be a good partnership.
It’s out of the box a little bit. You’re talking about partnering with your broker and some friends. I hear that more often, but I think a lot of people don’t think about that broker and him being a partner as opposed to trying to sell you the property or help you buy a property. They’re willing to make some money too, at least I feel anyway. They don’t see the long-term game in real estate. Sometimes they’re in a sale after sale and they get in this grind, but sometimes you can find one that understands owning some equity in that property could be a big change from going sell to sell and creating some passive income. Was this the same broker that you had purchased the first few properties with?
He’s the same guy. He’s a broker, has a property management company and he has a virtually-integrated company that does property management, rehab, maintenance and everything else. It’s a one-stop shop. His interests were obviously aligned with ours. If we got into this property, he also knew that his company was going to help rehab and all this stuff. His interests were aligned with ours. It’s been a good synergy there that way.
I like that. You’ve had a year of building a relationship with him. You’ve done a couple of deals with him, then this one comes up. You know that he has an alignment of interest because he can help on the management side and the rehab side, all those things that you talked about. It’s clever to bring them in the deal as well. Who were the other partners?If you don't have a plan, the first person that you meet that day is going to make the plan for you. Click To Tweet
I’m not an IT guy anymore. My real passion is real estate. I started talking to other people that I have and friends I have in the community. Again, cycling is my big passion too. I would say to people, “I’ve been investing in real estate and if I ever find a deal that makes sense, are you interested in stuff like that?” Several people’s like, “Yes, for sure.” I had looked at a couple of other deals that I made that looked promising but didn’t pan out. I had already talked to them and say, “This is what it’s going to look like and this is what the numbers may be,” and stuff like that. When this deal came up, I said, “This is an interesting deal. It’s a heavy value add, so it’ll take a while before we can get a good income on it. I also think that with the price we’re buying it at and the rehab, there’s going to be a good growth of equity in this deal.” I’m not going to be the person to go out and ask people for money, if you will. It was actually relatively easy. I partnered with a couple of friends and they’re like, “Here’s the money. We trust that you know what you’re doing. We trust this guy that you’re going to work with and let’s do this thing.”
Once again, it goes back to those relationships that you’ve built over a long period of time, most likely.
People want to get into real estate. They want to raise the money, they want to do stuff and you can’t come out. I don’t think you can come and say one day, “I’ve got this deal. Are you interested?” You have to build that credibility, that trust, so people know what you’re doing and say, “This is what I’ve been doing.” Slowly, anybody who wants to listen, talk to them about it. It takes some time. I’ve done it for three years. Every chance I get, I mention what my passion is and what I’m doing.
It probably comes out in conversation about cycling because that’s something you’re passionate about. I think real estate has to be the same way. You’ve got to let people know what you’re doing.
I would rather sit down and talk about cycling and real estate than IT and telecommunication that I’ve done for twenty-some years.
Thinking about the first part of our conversation, we were talking about going from this the mindset shift or the way you were raised thinking you got to get a good job, all those things and then learning about entrepreneurial mindset. I wanted to ask you, if somebody that’s reading right now is on that fence or was raised the same way, thinking that way, what advice would you tell them? Maybe they’re thinking about starting out in multifamily or in syndication. What advice would you tell them?
Get some education. Read a bunch of books and listen to a bunch of podcasts. Understand the basics because it’s not difficult, but there are some very key things you want to understand. I would definitely go multifamily. I have no question that multifamily is the right path versus single family or anything like that because of the scale and everything else. Start networking. Go to your local meet up, go to REIAs you have in your local area, then start surrounding yourself with people. Elevate your peer group. Find these people that are already doing what you want to do and ask them questions.
Buy them coffee, buy them lunch and say, “How did you get started?” Try to add value. Sometimes you have some skills that day that they need to grow their business and you can help them and in return, they’ll maybe mentor you. Don’t go and ask, “Do you want to be my mentor?” Create a relationship. Be that person and show enthusiasm, be enthusiastic around it and say, “What can I do to add value to grow myself and help somebody else?” I think that’s where it comes in. Be passionate. Talk about it all the time, anybody you meet.
I think it’s neat that you already knew your mentor before you got into real estate. You never know who those people are. What would you say some of your buying criteria right now? What are you looking for? What are some key things where you say, “This is a deal I want to pursue or not?”
Basically, what we look at are cash on cash returns on 8% to 10% that we can return to our investors. If I buy myself, if I have a bit of a longer term, I want something I can hold for twenty years, I’m maybe a little bit more patient and say, “I can see that this area’s growing.” I’ll take maybe slightly lower return up front but have an opportunity to grow it over time. If I’m getting investors involved, that’s good to be able to pay the investors 7% or 8% and then return an internal rate of return of 17%, 18% over a five to seven-year-old time. I think right now the value-add, B minus C workforce type of housing is where I think there are still opportunities. It’s hard to find those properties right now. It takes a lot of networking. It takes a lot of looking at deals and understanding does this make sense.
What’s been the hardest part of the real estate business for you so far?
I think it’s getting out of my comfort zone. I’m an IT guy. I’ve been sitting behind a computer for so many years. It’s actually being out there and reaching out to people. I don’t know if networking is the right word, but the outreach habit and then connecting with people. Becoming a mostly outgoing type person, that’s been a challenge for sure. Sometimes you feel if you call a broker, you’re like who are you from that’s calling the next day? It’s creating that relationship. Once you start connecting with people, people want to share. People want to give back and people are open. If they’re not, then move on to the next person. It’s not personal, it’s business. Get over it.
Getting into the real estate business, you have to have to put yourself out there like you’re talking about. If you’re comfortable, you’re probably not growing. You’re not growing until you’re uncomfortable. Stretch yourself a little bit. It sounds like maybe you’re more introverted and so you’ve had to work to be more extroverted or being able to reach out to people. Is that accurate?
Yes. It’s getting outside your comfort zone. It is that idea of if you continue to do the same thing, you continue to stay within your comfort zone and you’re never going to grow. I think that’s a key thing to understand. The amazing life is on the other side of discomfort. Push yourself and go out there. It may be a little bit uncomfortable up front, but what’s the worst thing that can happen? You got to know and it’s not the reflection on your personality or on yourself. It’s just that didn’t work out with this person. There are many other people that you can then talk to and reach out to, then maybe the next one is this going to have that amazing breakthrough.
I liked that you said your amazing life is on the other side of discomfort.
This is a quote that I did not come up with and I do know where it came from exactly.The amazing life is on the other side of discomfort. Click To Tweet
I was going to give you credit for it.
What is a way that you’ve improved your business that we could all apply to ours?
It’s about creating systems. I’m reading this book right now, The E-Myth. It’s by Gerber. It’s that idea of the technician who tried to start his own business and realized that he wants to be in control. You have to try to don’t do stuff that you’re not good at. Hand that over to the other people that can do your accounting and your taxes. Let’s say you’re doing direct mail and you hire VA’s to do that. That’s still a process I’m building, working on. Initially, I want us to do it all myself because I want to understand all aspects of it, but I am slowly moving some of these pieces out to other people. I know how to do it and I could explain it and then move on to the core stuff that I can grow with myself.
I think we’re going to have to have you back to talk about these systems and talk about how you created a team and the capital raising part too that we discussed in the beginning. What is the number one thing that’s contributed to your success?
It is a daily routine. I get up early in the morning, I spend some time with exercise, meditating, doing some journaling, then set out the goals for the day. Basically, be deliberate about what’s going to happen today. There’s another quote that I don’t know where it came from. If you don’t have a plan, the first person that you meet that day is going to make the plan for you. Be deliberate about what you’re going to achieve today. That’s the biggest thing that I have learned.
If you don’t have a plan, the first person you meet is going to make the plan for you. That’s clever. It’s a mindset thing. If your mind isn’t already in the same gear of what’s going to happen that day of what you’re going to accomplish, I should say, you’re going to be swayed too easy.
You’ll react to whatever comes your way. Your boss runs in and says you need to X, Y and Z. I’ll say, “That’s fine. I’ll do it after I’ve done this that I had planned to do today.”
How do you like to give back?
I’ve been in a coaching and training program for several years now and I’ve actually started to do my own coaching. I feel like I’ve learned a lot. If I can give back and help other people to grow quicker and become more successful, that’s one of my passions too. It’s coaching people. Anybody who wants to sit down and talk about real estate, I’m super excited about that. Helping people grow and become better invested in self, that’s my passion and something that I love to do.
Tell the readers how they can get in touch with you and learn more about you.
My email is Jens@OpenDoorsCapital.com and my website is www.OpenDoorsCapital.com. If anybody wants to get on a free call, then go to my website, www.OpenDoorsCapital.com/Call. They can schedule a three call with me. We can chat about real estate, cycling, anything else. That’s my way of providing value to anybody that’s interested.
Thanks so much, Jens, for opening the door for people to call and or schedule a call with you. That’s a lot of value there. I hope the readers will take you up on that. Also, go to Life Bridge Capital and connect with me, as well as go to our Facebook group, The Real Estate Syndication Show, so we can all learn from experts like Jens and grow our business together.
- Facebook group – The Real Estate Syndication Show
- Jens Nielsen
- Rich Dad Poor Dad
- The E-Myth
About Jens Nielsen
Jens is originally from Denmark but has lived in the United States since 1996. He has invested in multifamily real estate since 2016 and is currently the key principal on 82 units in New Mexico and Coronado. These deals are a value add deals, with significant renovation required. His team is currently rehabbing a 38-unit property in Albuquerque NM, where they are taking each unit down to the bare walls and upgrading them significantly.
After the success as a KP, Jens recently branched out to raising money as a GP for syndication in Atlanta where he raised $350K in a week. This is his second multifamily equity raise, the earlier raise was a JV for the 38 units property in Albuquerque. Jens is also just starting to raise money for a deal in Pennsylvania.
He has also passively invested 12 syndications, spanning over 800 apartment units, 2000 mobile park lots and over 6000 storage units plus mortgage note funds and done private money lending.
Jens has a long career in IT, but over the last couple of years has had a mindset shift from being an employee to an entrepreneur, which is a change for someone that grew up in Denmark.
His mission is to get more people to invest in private placements for the strong cashflow and equity growth, and his company missions are to “Open Doors to your secure financial future through multifamily investing.”