10 Questions with Al Beahn
1. Where were you born?
I was born in Macomb, Michigan, a northern suburb of Detroit. The town was named in honor of General Alexander Macomb, a highly decorated veteran of the War of 1812.
2. How was your upbringing?
Comfortable, middle class. Family dinner Monday through Friday, and even on the weekends. Aunts and uncles and cousins were always around. My dad coached my baseball teams, and both my parents were at every practice. They each worked 9-to-5. My mom was a beautician, my dad was in sales.
3. Was your father an influence, then, in you becoming a sales person yourself?
I think what had the most influence on me was how he carried himself within his organization. He always wanted to be the number-one sales guy. You don’t have to tell me to run a mile, I’ll run two on my own. He’s the kind of guy who gets up at 4:30 in the morning and jogs seven miles before he goes to work. That’s the guy I watched growing up.
4. Did you know as a kid you wanted to be in business?
Actually, there’s a video somewhere of me, at four years old, answering the age-old What do you want to be question. I said, “Like Donald Trump. ‘Cause he’s got the big bucks.”
About four years later, a teacher asked me the same question in class. Everyone else said, “policeman,” “fireman,” “football player,” “musician.” I said “I want to own buildings.”
5. So I guess you knew?
Well, my mom called me “Bugs” when I was really young because I played with bugs all the time. We lived near a little creek, and I went there every day to catch frogs.
I also played a lot of sports. My dad was a pitcher in college, and I started at age six.
But by 15 I did already have the drive. That year, I lied about my age to get my first job, as a busboy at a local restaurant. And I started my first business. I would go to the Gibraltar Trade Center in Taylor, Michigan. There were flashlights, batteries. They sold for like a dollar a piece. I negotiated to get them at a lower price, then went home and sold them for at least twice as much on eBay. I was earning 100% on my investments before I could drive!
6. Did that continue into your teenage and early adult years?
100% returns!? Not always. But I did find great success and almost completely paid my way through college with work I did between classes, on weekends, and during breaks. And I honestly think that if it weren’t for that first position during college, I would never have founded Pioneer Homes.
7. What job was that?
When I was 18 and in my first year at Central Michigan, I joined a fraternity and one of my frat brothers was a district manager for a paint company that recruited students to take on their own territories. Next thing I know, I’m interviewing and hiring guys, doing estimates, and selling people on why they should trust me enough to hire me to paint their house. I had to handle payroll, profit/loss, email marketing… and I was making really good money.
My friends at school kept saying, “You go home every week, and you’re in college — what’s wrong with you!?” My answer was always the same: “I’m making money.” I set up all my appointments during the week and then went home on the weekends to fulfill them. I was booking a month in advance! And I learned early, I could go clock in and report to someone else, or I could make sure my guys were on my crew.
8. And Pioneer Homes is that crew today. Was it an immediate transition to real estate after graduating?
Not exactly. I studied entrepreneurship and finance in school. And, I realized that as a student I could capitalize on the school pride and popularity of college sports on campuses across Michigan. I founded my first company, Tailgate Gear, and set up shop at all the events, selling about 500 T-shirts at every game!
9. So why didn’t you stick with that?
I almost did. After graduating, I did some test runs around the State, with a plan for taking the T-shirt company national. I traveled to all the local colleges and towns. But the emotional reward in this role did not match the financial. I knew I had to do more with my professional career to feel fulfilled. And in 2009 I bought my first flip.
10. And real estate investing fits that criteria?
It doesn’t have to, but for me it does. I pride myself on providing a better product than other landlords. Anyone can take a picture of one nice property, even if it’s surrounded by burned-out buildings. But not us. I put my money where my mouth is. I invest in my own properties. We talk to the tenants, we inspect the property. If you see something you like, we make it happen. And we handle everything. This is hands-off investing at its best.
And then there’s the aftercare. If something unusual and unexpected happens two months later, nine times out of 10 I’m going to get it fixed — and 90% of people in my field don’t do that. I want to be sure that the people inside our properties are taken care of, and so are our investors. I think some of my competitors forget: these are human beings with kids, mothers, fathers, husbands and wives.
For me, knowing my tenants have a roof over their heads, a home they can afford to rent, and a feeling of safety and security in a city we all love, that’s special. But the greatest reward in this business is when your clients are successful in their investing. Many are investing their retirement savings. And when they have a successful year, I’m happy.
I can’t guarantee success — and you should never trust anyone who does — but I pride myself on finding investments that history tells us are most likely to outperform. And hearing from clients that we’ve helped them enhance their financial well being… it’s the reminder I need that I’ve made the right choice.
In less than eight years since I started, I’ve closed more than 1,000 deals in Detroit, valued in excess of $50,000,000, and I don’t have a bad review.
I work seven days a week, every week, and I love it.
Read Al’s Feature in Bloomberg
Listen to Al’s Interview with Abhi Golhar