In this episode, you’ll hear Joe talk about his personal struggles with debt and how he turned them around to become successful in the business world. He provides practical advice on how to run a successful business, tips on creating a financial plan, and guidance on investing in assets and why it's important to approach financial decisions with a long-term perspective. Find out the greatest business decision that Joe has ever made and his passion for giving back and using his success to support causes. Is debt always bad? You have to listen to hear Joe’s personal thoughts on the subject. Tune in now!
Key Points From This Episode:
“I have abandoned the phrase “I can't afford that” and replaced it with “How can I afford that?” That opens up the mind to think about other ways of achieving.”
“If you put a line item in your personal budget that says ‘intentionally bless others’, you get opportunities to intentionally bless others.”
“Debt with a great margin and a lot of good math can be an excellent way to build wealth.”
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
I Was Broke. Now I'm Not. website
Rich Dad's CASHFLOW Quadrant: Rich Dad's Guide to Financial Freedom by Robert Kiyosaki
The Kingdom Investor Podcast on LinkedIn
About Joe Sangl
Joe is a leading teacher of personal finances. It is his passion to help people accomplish far more than they ever thought possible with their personal finances.
He is the founder of I Was Broke. Now I’m Not., the president and CEO of INJOY Stewardship Solutions, and Co-Founder of Fully Funded.
Joe is a graduate of Purdue University (BS in Mechanical Engineering) and Clemson University (MBA). He is the author of several books and has been featured in Money Magazine. He has been privileged to share his passion with hundreds of thousands of people throughout North America through Financial Learning Experiences, personal finance messages, and one-on-one financial coaching sessions.
Joe resides in Anderson, South Carolina with his bride, Jenn, and their three children.
ANNOUNCER: Imagine taking your generosity to the next level, impacting more lives, and leaving a godly legacy for generations to come. Get ideas and strategies to do just that when you listen to these personal stories from high-level Kingdom champions.
The Kingdom Investor Podcast showcases business leaders who have moved from success to significance, sharing how they use worldly wealth for kingdom impact. Discover how they grew in generosity, impacted more lives, and built godly legacies. You'll find motivation, inspiration, and practical steps to grow as a Kingdom Investor.
Daniel White (DW): Good morning, and welcome to The Kingdom Investor Podcast. Thanks for joining us as we interview Joe Sangl. Joe is the CEO of I Was Broke Now I'm Not. Joe and his team teach practical next steps for your money journey.
If you have enjoyed this show, please write us a review and share us with your friends. And now without further ado, let's get right into the show.
DW: Hello, Joe, and welcome to the kingdom investor podcast. How are you doing today?
Joe Sangl (JS): Man, I'm fired up. Thanks so much for letting me be able to speak to the audience. Maybe we can help somebody today.
DW: Yeah, I'm excited to do that. I love helping people. And I know, I know you do, too. So would you start out by just sharing a little bit about what you do right now and kind of where you're coming to us from? Give us a little bit of context.
JS: Well, I'm an engineer by degree. And then I got my MBA, ended up going into ministry for a little while, ended up planting a church with some buddies, and went on staff there. About six years after we started, I was on staff for a whole three and a-half years. And then kind of a combination of business and ministry called me. And so when I was in the engineering and business world, I kind of found my niche in helping the organization buy businesses and fix them up and figure out what to do with them. And I figured out I could do the same thing at a much smaller scale with a much smaller purse. And so that's what I've been doing for the last 14 years or so, either starting or buying existing businesses and then trying to grow them up.
DW: Wow, this is gonna be a great conversation because I'm very entrepreneurial, a serial entrepreneur, which can sometimes be a problem.
JS: Oh, yeah.
DW: So you know, really, you know, trying to learn and grow every day and get better at doing that. So that's, it's going to be a great conversation. So, before we jump into a little more detail, would you mind praying just for this time and this audience?
JS: Yeah, that'd be awesome. Let's pray. Lord, you created within the hearts of everybody who's listened to this podcast, the spirit of innovation, you've created a desire to be a creator. We are creating your image. Maybe that's why we're called to be creators. And Lord, I pray that during these moments together, that for those who are seeking clarity, we will give it, for those who are looking for practicality, they would see it. And Lord for everyone, we pray that we would never forget our ‘why’. And that is to bring honor and glory to you and to serve others well. Lord, be with us in this time together. And we pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
DW: Amen. All right, so Joe, would you share a little bit more about your story, and how you started these different organizations, and kind of your vision that God has given you?
JS: Yeah, I was working in the engineering world, and spending all my money plus some more, and was really talented. I found out I had the spiritual gift of making my money disappear. It's a very special gift. And my wife is a natural-born saver. And we went and got a whole bunch of debt. And so, while I was making good money as an engineer, I was spending on of course, the truck, the car, I had student loan debt, credit card debt, owed my parents, had furniture debt, I bought a house. And I just, at some point in time, I realized something wasn't working but I didn't know how to fix it. And so I started tracking my spending, which is a good step. And for three years, I was really proud of myself. I went into Excel and made like a giant check register, you know, the white line, the gray line, the white line, the gray line, printing them out. And I still have this three-ring binder sitting in my office today where I really tracked my madness and my chaotic spending for three years.
JS: And I'm so grateful that I wrote it down because every now and then I open up that book and I looked at it and it just kind of gives me a nice little cold chill and reminds me, hey, the Lord has brought me a long ways. But, I was really good in the business world at taking broken things or things that weren't working well and improving them. I wasn't very good at the creation side or the design side. But I was really good at being able to observe processes, observe equipment and figure out how to fix it. And we were part of a very large Fortune 500 company and we had done some acquisitions. And my job was to kind of fly around from one manufacturing facility to the other, and fix things.
JS: And I remember I made my first play at buying a business when we had a manufacturing facility that we had come to the unfortunate realization. It needed to shut down and we were gonna move the manufacturing to other places, and a lot of it, we were just going to exit. And I disagree wholeheartedly. I felt like the average tenure of these employees was 28 years. You know, a lot of times businesses are kind of opposed to unions, it was a union facility that had a very good relationship with management. And so I made a pitch to buy the business. And my pitch was terrible. How much are you willing to offer us? I don't know. How much money do you have? Approximately none. We owner-financed it to me. Just give-it-to-me, you know, that type of thing is a very novice, rookie level. And unfortunately, amazingly, they said no. But instead of getting bitter about it, I just said, man, I need to get a lot better. I didn't really know how to communicate really well, about what the value proposition was, or how to do a business plan, and I had no money.
JS: And so I said, I don't want to be in a position again, where I see opportunity, and don't have at least some money to put into the deal which is attractive to other investors. And so that didn't work but I resolved to get my finances in order. And so me and my wife went on a journey to pay off all of our non-house debt. And we got rid of that in about 14 months, got really serious about it. And then we started paying off our house. And we paid that off at age 38, about 10 years after we started our journey. And I just really discovered that I could do this on a smaller scale, that I could enter into the marketplace in a smaller scale, purchase very small businesses, and see what I could do with those. And that's what I've done for the last, you know, 15 years or so.
DW: Yeah, absolutely. That's really incredible. And can you kind of tie that into now, what you're doing now? And maybe why you're doing it?
JS: Yeah. Well, right now, we own and operate nine small businesses. Some of them are micro businesses. By micro, I mean, you know, $150,000 revenue. Some of them are multimillion-dollar businesses. We have 26 employees and these businesses range from consulting to real estate businesses to web e-commerce businesses. And my big ‘why’ is, well, number one, I want to provide for my family. Number two, I believe that many people have the gift of giving. The Bible is very clear that some people are given the gift of giving. And I believe that other people have the gift of getting. And I believe I have that gift as well. I think a lot of entrepreneurs listening to this will understand that. And I really have a passion for marrying that gift-getting with the gift of giving. And so me and my bride have several things that we're passionate about, including Kingdom work through our local church, and missions. We also have a passion for education and academic stuff. So we just want to be ready to give whenever we see a need. And that really drives us.
DW: Yeah, that's really incredible. And I think about how I'm kind of looking at, okay, how do we get pastors of churches to really utilize the strengths of those entrepreneurial type, business owner types that are really good at making money and being in business? How can we get them to leverage each other's skills for the advancement of God's kingdom and what does that look like and things like that?
JS: I want to speak to that real quick because this is kind of a soapbox for me. I remember distinctly I wanted to host a conference at a church and it was ministry related. I was going to help some pastors with some specific side of fundraising, capital campaigns, and the sort, and that church said, you're a for-profit organization, so it's going to cost you $50,000 to use our facility. How much would it cost if it's nonprofit? Oh, well, we let nonprofits use it for free. And I literally said, how did you build this facility? Did nonprofits build this facility or did for-profits build your facility? And I said, I think you've lost track of the fact that it is Christian business owners that were the huge, ginormous funders of your vision. It was not nonprofit organizations. And so what happened there? The pastor, I think, completely had whiffed on understanding that there are those people who have the gift of getting and the gift of giving, and using those facilities for Kingdom work, whether it's for profit or not-for-profit, man, if it's advancing the kingdom, let's go.
DW: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. So you know, and helping, like, church leadership, look at their assets that are in the seats as more than just a paycheck, or offering check, right? Because there's so many different skill sets, business acumen, things like that, that can be leveraged for the kingdom. So okay, can you dive into what "I Was Broke. Now I'm Not" is and kind of unpack that a little bit?
JS: Well, it what it is, is exactly what it sounds like, "I Was Broke. Now I'm Not.", it's my own personal story. I think a lot of people are broke. And they would like to say I was broke past tense. And so I really started it by sharing my story and really feeling compelled to say, hey, what God did for me, he could do for you. And this all happened while I was in the midst of a very heavy travel season in business. I was managing some manufacturing processes in Tijuana, Mexico, traversing the border of San Ysidro and Otay Mesa, just south of San Diego, every single day. Anybody who's listening and who's ever had to do that knows that that is, that's a challenge. Sometimes up to 2, 3, 4 hours to get across the border back into the United States. And so I was putting in a lot of hard long days, but whenever I got back to the hotel room, I would be writing about my journey. And, I really felt compelled that it should be a resource, that it should be a book.
JS: And I don't know why, my English teacher in high school would totally disagree that I should be writing anything, but I really said, I want to write this. And this thing called blogger had come out, you know, web blogs and so I found that as a place to really make it available digitally, and where people could discover it. And pretty certain some people were following it. And it really birthed in me this desire to start helping people one-on-one and I started it within my place of business that, you know, fellow people I was working with, you know, I couldn't help share the story of what God had done in me and my wife's life. I would take them over and say, hey, are you investing in the 401k? Do you have a budget? What is your bigger 'why'? What is your purpose? And I found people really are responsive to it.
JS: So, I started teaching some classes at our church. I did some Dave Ramsey classes at our church. And one of the things that I found is that people would go through those classes and not really have budgets put together. So, one day I just said, hey, I've created an Excel budget sheet, if you'd like me to send it to you after this, just give me your email address. And all hundred or so in the class just raced to the back. The class wasn't over and they all wrote down their email address, piled on top of each other. And it dawned on me, I might be on to something here. And so I blogged one day, I want to meet Dave Ramsey, and that was in 2007. I woke up the next morning and a meeting was set up. And me and my bride got to go sit in during one of his radio shows for all three hours and pepper him with questions during the breaks. And there's 22 minutes of breaks per hour of his show.
JS: And so I got to ask him all these questions. My first question is I have this book written, should I seek a publisher or self-publish it? And he said, you know, you should self-publish it. That will prove to publishers whether or not there's something there. And so that's what I did. And so I became an expert like a lot of people do. I googled it. How do you self-publish a book? And I went in the publishing business, and the rest is history. It became a study, it became a team. We've been able to serve more than a billion people through our free financial tools on IWasBrokeNowI'mNot.com. And so, it's the core of what I do. I get to travel and speak about 70 times a year now. I went to like 120 times a year and I backed off, I couldn't sustain that level as I acquired more businesses. But about 70 times a year, 70 different unique speaking opportunities to help people with their personal finances in a way that honors God and honors the plans, hopes and dreams in their hearts.
DW: Wow, that's incredible how God has really used that. Can you share maybe a little bit of like tactical strategies or tips that you have learned and maybe share?
JS: Yeah, absolutely. And I would just say the first thing is, I don't know where our listeners are in their entrepreneurial journey. But a lot of times, we have an idea. And we're trying to figure out how to get the idea off the ground. And I wrote a book called “Oxen”, and it's about investing. And it's from the verse in Proverbs chapter 14 verse four that says, "When there are no oxen, there's an empty manger. But from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest." And when I read that verse, it really changed my life, I did not have a lot of money going to investments, I was broke. But I realized that oxen is really, you know, farmers have to have oxen, if they want to have an abundant harvest. Going by hand, they'll have a nice garden.
JS: But for us that don't farm, what does that mean? It means we need financial oxen to help us carry the load. And at birth, the whole bunch of terrible jokes that says, You got to move, we're trying to steer people in the right direction, it's utterly amazing, have you heard of it?, that's no bull, and can you tell I'm trying to milk it? You know, all these terrible jokes, right? But that analogy works really well. And what I would say is, if you're starting, you're giving birth to a baby ox. And a baby ox can't carry any load. In fact, it's going to cost you, you have to nurture it, you have to feed it, it's gonna wander a while, around it for quite a while before it can start to be trained to carry a load.
JS: So, if you're starting a new ox, a baby business, what I would encourage you to do is to avoid debt, if at all possible, and work your regular job, the J-O-B for as long as possible while that baby ox grows up. So I was growing this and writing this book and all this, I had a full-time job and I would travel on the weekends and speak. So, by the time three and a half years later, it had to happen. My baby ox had grown up now, it was a wild ox, pretty unpredictable but it was big enough that when I quit, I was able to put a salary on its back and not break it. I was able to commit to an employee and be able to have confidence that I could pay them.
JS: And I think too many people say, well, it's hard for me to manage my regular job and start this thing. And I would admit it is hard. But one of the reasons why a lot of good ideas fail, and we can all quote the stats, you know, 80% of businesses fail in the first 18 months, 90% fail in the first five years, many times not because it wasn't a good idea, nor was it going to be profitable, it's because they started, they quit their job put their pay on his back, they sign up or rent some leased space. They hire employees, and then they finance their startup costs on a credit card. And as a result, that baby, it's got all this yoke and burden on it and it dies before it can ever grow up and carry a load. So, I would say run parallel tracks, let that baby grow up so you can reinvest capital, reinvest capital, and not have to take pay from it so that it can be big enough to carry the load once you get launched.
DW: Wow, yeah, that's really, that's really helpful and tactical too. So really appreciate that. Do you have any other wisdom nuggets like that?
JS: Absolutely. Well, you know, I could only talk about it 365 days a year, 24/7. But I will just say the other thing that has been highly valuable to me is that I got somebody who was really good at the financial side to help me. It was my first hire. I hired a young man straight out of Clemson University, who had a degree in financial management. And in Clemson, it's exactly halfway between Atlanta and Charlotte and that's the two banking centers of the southeast. And that's where a lot of management majors go. But he had a girl who he was hanging around who was here in our local town. And so he had interned with me for a couple of days, like, came in and did job observation. And so when I posted a job that was open for halftime, we're a whopping $12 an hour. He put in for it, and I hired him and he worked halftime, and he was here four months and I said, we gotta go full time.
JS: And so we went full time and he went at a whopping salary of $25,000 a year. And I mean, that is unbelievable. He should not have done that. But I told him, I think we can grow this. And he is now CFO of all my businesses. That was 13 years ago, he does not make $25,000 anymore and what I pay him is still a crazy bargain. And so, I would just say go find somebody who has skill sets that are greatly complementary to yours. Like, I teach finances for a living but I found myself buried in accounting nightmares. And I said, I can't do this and do what I'm wired to do, what I'm getting to do. And so I would just say, make sure you build a team around you, and be willing to make the ask, the incredible ask of will you go to work for me for $12 an hour? Or whatever the crazy ask is, because he realized this was about more than just a job. This was about helping a bunch of people, and he saw where we were headed. And so he took a risk on me.
DW: Yeah, yeah, that's really, really good. So, so then, looking at kind of your journey, do you mind sharing, maybe like, one of the greatest investments that you've made, or one of the maybe greatest business decisions that you've made?
JS: I can carry that to three areas of my life. Personally, the decision to leave corporate America and go on staff at the church and negotiate a 50% pay cut, a great decision. Why could I still prosper on less, on half is because I had rid my life of debt, which was another decision that was hugely important. This decision to reduce my cost of living so I could go do that, which I'm called to do that thing that gives me great joy in life. And then the other decision, I would say, that really just fires me up is this willingness to say yes. When a large business that I was partnered with, one of the principal owners came to me and said, hey, would you be interested in buying the whole company? My bank account and my brain said, that's not possible. But I said, I am interested, and the answer's yes. Saying yes really allowed me to explore opportunities. And I kind of abandoned a phrase for my life, I think many of us have been guilty of saying it and that is - ‘I can't afford that’ or ‘we can't afford that’.
JS: And I think it's a really limiting statement. And the better phrase that I've come up with is, ‘how can I afford that?’ Because that opens up your mind to think about other ways. And so I said, yes, and immediately my mind ran to, I can't always say I can't, how can I afford that? And I immediately ran to a couple of my financial mentors. And I said, I have this opportunity. It needs this much money, I think, to pull off the deal. I've got this much money, what are your suggestions, and that opened the door. And I actually ended up bracing private equity. I didn't know that at the time. And they lent me money at hard money lending rates. I didn't know any of those terms back then. But I knew this, I couldn't get the deal without them and it still made sense to pay them a huge amount of money.
JS: And seven years later, we had all of them removed from our life, fully paid up. We didn't have to give up any equity in the deal. They keep wanting to do more deals b ut for some reason, I'm unwilling to do them at the terms that we did the first time. But I will just say by saying yes to something that in my mind and in my world was impossible but instead saying yes. Because I believe any opportunity that presents yourself and somebody saying would you consider? My answer is always yes, I will always consider. How long I'm going to consider is another story. But I'm always gonna open up for consideration. And then for me, one of the great things that I've learned is I have this great helpmate in life, my bride named Jen, and she doesn't know anything about business. She is completely intimidated by investing. But she has cuts in line to the Holy Spirit. And it's just not fair. And so I will come to her and talk to her about some opportunity. And she'll say, yes, and she's right. Even if I can't see the way and then other times, it seems like we absolutely should do it. And she says, no. And it turns out, a lot of times, I've gone ahead and said yes. And I've just learned if she's got something in her that's saying no, we're just not going to do it. Better to have unity. And so having her on board from that perspective is a fantastic help to me.
DW: Yeah, that is really good. So, is there anything that we can learn from maybe a failure or setback in your journey?
JS: Yes. Don't be afraid to fail. Just go try it. And don't let previous failures prevent you from having that. I have made one big giant failure. I had a buddy who decided to go on this big giant conference tour. And I mean, he asked if I'd be a sponsor. I spent a bunch of money being the sponsor. And it was incredible. I mean, we went to nine cities in a month, we went to all the big cities in the United States - New York, Orlando, Dallas, Chicago, Seattle, LA, it was unbelievable, a blast, and unbelievably successful. So the next year, I said, well, I'm going to put on my own conference, and I'm gonna go to nine cities in a month. And I remember going to my first place and I had five team members there, and six people showed up, five from one organization. Okay, at the first break, the five summarily left without even telling us they were leaving. And I looked around, I was like, where'd they go? And they're like, they're out in the parking lot and running. And I'm like, they were the wrong people. We hadn't communicated well, what we're doing. And I'm serious. I said, we're going to fulfill all nine of these. And it didn't get better along the way, we learned how to communicate it better. But it was by no means a success. It was a total colossal flop.
JS: But you know what, it hasn't stopped us from doing that, doing that sort of thing. And the phrase that just resonates with me is I'm not going to get bitter, I'm going to get better. And I do a detailed autopsy and I move on. And I would just tell you, one of the things that helps me do that is we demand and require massive margin within our business, financial margin. And financial margin allows us to take some risks, but not put the business at risk. And so very early on, I just said, you know, I rarely see examples in the Bible where they say bet the farm, spend it all. I see a lot of verses about having margin, being careful, being prudent, seeking wise counsel, and my wise counsel, my life has said, hey, maintain substantial margin, you'll be so glad you did. And that's what's allowed us to thrive through the pandemic. It's what allowed us to continue to do deals in real estate through the pandemic. And so, you know, hey, look, we failed, I still, my hair raises on my arm thinking about it, that miserable moment, Dallas, Texas, five people walking in the parking lot, very special.
DW: So, can I drill down on that margin answer right there? I have a business in construction, which is that industry is really most business owners run their business with really tight margins and unsuccessfully so and you know, leads to failure. And then the real estate business is sometimes depending on the deal, run on a pretty tight margin. So can you speak to that maybe a little bit and like, what is, what do you mean by a good margin or a reasonable margin? Because, you know, you do want to be profitable and successful long term and have margin but then you feel like, oh, well, I feel like I'm charging too much, or whatever. So, can you kind of unpack that a little bit?
JS: Absolutely. So, you know, when that type of business has seasonal, cyclical and irregular income, it's up-down and it's lumpy. And so in those businesses, there are pretty, if you've been at it for a year or longer, you kind of know there's a slump period. And there's a peak period, my dad built homes for living in Central Indiana, and we built five to seven homes a year. And the slump period was the wintertime, you're not digging foundations, it's a challenge, all that stuff. I remember growing up in the 80's, interest rates went to 15%-16%. No one was building houses. And so maintaining margin, we recommend that you have somewhere between three to six months of your personal expenses, what you need to draw to make your household run saved up within the business right at the edge of when that known slump period starts.
JS: I always liken it to the Hoover Dam out in Vegas. Anybody who's been out to Vegas, you've got to make the 30-minute ride out to the Hoover Dam and see Lake Mead. And Lake Mead is this ginormous reservoir. And I mean it's so mind-boggling how huge it is, but there's an area of the water the rocks on the shoreline, its clipped faces really that look like they've been whitewashed. And that's where the lake has gone up and down, previous levels of the lake. And it's like 250 feet that like goes up and down. And here's the lesson. Why do they have a reservoir? It's so that Vegas can have a steady supply of water. And it's a little counterintuitive but when is the lean times for water for Vegas? It's actually wintertime. Why? Because all of the water is actually snow and ice up on the top of the mountains that lock up. It's in the summer when it's hot that it's actually leaking and running off and refilling the pool. And so what happens, Lake Mead goes up and down but Vegas can do a steady draw of water.
JS: In the same way you should have that margin in your business so it can go up and down. Ideally at the peak level, right? And you go into that slump period. And you can have a steady draw to your household so that your business doesn't drive your family nuts. And my dad did not learn that till I was 12 or 13. So we'd be in the winter. And he had spent money on some next piece of property to build a house on. You know, he didn't spend money frivolously but he had spent the money. And then he'd hit on my mother for going and buying groceries. Why did you buy groceries? Well, we have six boys that are eating us out of the house and home. But why was he stressed out over buying groceries? Because he neglected the margin thing. And he actually went to a lumberyard to a free conference, you know, for the free breakfast and somebody was there teaching about margin. And he came home a changed person, started to prioritize margin. And that's when he started being able to pounce on deals when they showed up and it flipped the whole script for him.
DW: Yeah, that's good. Yeah. And I think that, you know, being around the construction industry, I think that a lot of business owners don't think about that because it is either seasonal, or it's even longer, it's cyclical. And so it's like, well, I haven't had an issue for seven years, so you know, we're fine. But then you know, something like the pandemic comes, or you know, something more major or an economic downturn or you know, different things like that, that can severely impact the business and you're not ready for it, because you're running on really tight margins.
JS: That's right. And, you know, I would just say this, if you don't have margin, you do really weird things as a business owner. You'll cut prices when you shouldn't, if you're in the business, you're mentioning of construction, you will give your real estate agent, you know, if a lot of construction people actually are their own real estate agents, they'll take less percentage, because they got to get the deal. You will bid less than you should have. And then the whole time you're doing the job, you're like mad that you did the job because there's no money in it for you. You're just making wages. And it feels like everybody's getting paid except for you. And I've just found that when I'm in seasons of low and no margin, I make poor business decisions. And one of the things that I took early on, this was way before he was president, but Donald Trump who, listen, you can argue about all the stuff politically, but as a savvy business person, and one of the things he said is, I charge luxury prices because I want to give luxury service. He said, I don't charge Walmart prices because I don't want to give Walmart levels of service. And one of the things that happen when you run to the bottom, and you're trying to undercut everybody, everybody ends up losing, and no one can serve the customer well. And so I think there's some truth in that, you know. We don't want to gouge, we want to give a fair price. But hey, we're entrepreneurs, we're taking risks, there should be some reward for the risk way more than just earning wages. Because if you just earn wages, I've got news for you, you don't own a business, you actually own a job.
DW: Right? Yeah, yeah, that's really good. And, and I think I look at it from a little bit different perspective, but I think it's the same principle, you know, thinking, you know, if we're going to deliver a premium product, we have to charge premium prices, or else there's no profit to invest into the product. And so, you know, if you're running a service business, it's all about the people. And so how can you hire and retain top talent, pay them top wages, and then charge something sub-market? You can't. And so, you know, then when you are charging premium prices, you can deliver a premium product with great people, you know, great tech, great materials and all of that. And so, in the end, the person that's looking for a premium product is willing to pay premium prices, because they know they're going to get what they pay for.
JS: Absolutely. The thing we all have to be careful of is that hubris doesn't take over to where we end up saying, we're going to harvest this thing. And I want to do the least for the most amount of cash. And you're, you're building on a brand you built for years or decades, and all of a sudden, people are buying it, and they're not getting the level of service you've committed to. So that's something I constantly remind our team of, hey, we're getting paid, excellent. We need to deliver, excellent. Anything less is a dereliction of duty.
DW: Yeah. that's really, really good. All right, can we step back to something we mentioned earlier on in the episode about, you know, making money and giving money. So, maybe we talked a lot about the making, can we focus a little bit on the generosity, that giving and that side of things?
JS: Absolutely. You know, one of the things is knowing your 'why' and defining your 'why' so that when you show up to work, you're not just working for yourself, but you have your 'why' in mind. So whatever is necessary to keep that in the forefront of you, I encourage you to do that. If you have a team, bring them into it. Let them be a part of some of your 'why'. You know, they're not all gonna be fired up about exactly what you are fired up about but I'm confident there's a cause you can get everybody fired up or most of your team fired up about. And it gives a purpose to the organization. So that's something that we're working on within our organizations for the last three years. We've been working to integrate these brands, these houses of business that I bought, or started to get them all to play nice with each other where it makes sense. And, the next step of that is being united on employee development and the causes that we're, you know, unified in supporting.
DW: Yeah, so how can we maybe take a step towards generosity in our businesses and in our life?
JS: I think it starts with intentionality. You know, I have a cash flow plan for every one of my businesses. I sit down with my CFO every month and we look at the cash flow plan month by month, looking out a year every time. And we're looking at it to say what contracts we have booked. What do we believe is coming? What new expenses? What are the projects that are coming up that are gonna take money? When does that money leave? Let's make sure we're in position for that. What's our bottom dollar amount? What, you know, what's the trough so that we maintain margin? But one of the things we've included in there is giving. So, giving is in there. In my personal home budget, I put the tithe number one. And the second thing that me and my bride have in there is “intentionally bless others”. IBO, intentionally bless others.
JS: And our intentionally bless others fund has been there for over 15 years. We pull out in cash every month and we carry it with us everywhere we go. And it turns out, if you put a line item in your personal budget that says intentionally bless others, you get opportunities to intentionally bless others. And we've invited our children into it, our oldest is 23 now. We had to wait 10 years for number 2 to show up. He's 13. And then, we had another baby girl who's nine. They know that money exists and they know what it's for and they know it's not for them, it's for others. And so they have a friend who needed something, you know, my wife is, she's a track coach, and she had a girl who works really hard, is an excellent athlete, working really hard at her craft. She's not lazy. Some athletes are lazy. And this girl that she finds out, you know, she can't have good shoes because they have no money. Well, can I use some money to buy her some track shoes? Absolutely. Please do so. Get her two sets. That stuff, being able to write, over 15 years, literally more than a hundred stories and being able to intentionally bless others. There's nothing greater than that. And so I encourage everybody, do that. You may not know where that money is gonna go. But you'll see the opportunity and you'll be so glad you prepared for it.
DW: Yeah, that's really helpful. So, before we jump into the mentor minute to round out the episode, I wanted to ask you just one fun question because we talked about this, you know, Dave Ramsey and, you know, debt. Is debt always bad? What's your answer?
JS: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Nowhere in the Bible does it say, debt is a sin. If fixed to it, you know, get tons of caution. But debt with a great margin and a lot of good math can be an excellent way to build wealth. In fact, I started asking all my mentors, who had become wealthy, who were God-honoring, great citizens of their community. I asked them, you know, kind of how did you get into that? How did you do it? All of them have cautiously used debt along the way. And so, you know, I had gotten debt-free on everything, including my house. And then I wanted to get into real estate. And I didn't want to part ways with all my money. So, the first deal I ever did, that was in 2010, and I bought basically a failed subdivision. It's about 52 lots, all of them half-acre or one-acre lots and I bought the whole thing. And I bought it owner financed. You know, the guy was just trying to turn it into cash. And he was okay with carrying the deal. And 21 months later, I owned it outright. And I said, well, that worked out really well. Let's see what we got next.
JS: And so I ended up buying another piece of property. That's a buy-and-hold. And I ended up building my wife's dream house on it, and my dream barn and her dream pool. And that's where we live now. Actually, instead of paying cash for it, I ended up financing it. Why? Cause I was able to lock it on a 15-year note at an eight and seven-eighths. And my math brain could not let me part ways with the money to pay for it. And I am so glad that I kept those dollars invested because we know what's happened for the market in the last eight years, even with the downturn in the last year. And then I went into multi-unit apartment complexes. And those have another order of magnitude. And, so I bought a 14 unit. And then a year later, I bought a 12 unit. And then I bought the offices we occupied. And I liked it so much that a two-unit office complex or kind of duplex office units, I bought another one.
JS: And then I bought a 238-acre piece of land about a year and a half ago again. And I actually got a timber contract on that. And for every single one of those deals, I have some debt on them. Almost all of them cashflow. How does my land cash flow? Well, I'm selling timber off of it. And it's a long-term value play. This is an exploding area in South Carolina. But really my multi-unit apartment complexes and my other rental units, they actually produce way more cash. And they're actually paying for my land holdings that don't produce monthly cash flow. So, you know, it's just one of those things of cautiously using debt. I've not done a new debt deal since interest rates have gone up substantially. I've got all of mine fixed for a minimum of 10 years. Most of them are fixed for 20 years, believe it or not, because one of them is an owner-financed deal.
JS: And we went to an attorney and signed and did the deal. So, no, debt is not wrong. I'm more than willing to have an appetite for debt. I have one friend who, he likes to constantly trumpet that he's anti-Dave Ramsey. So, he constantly says he wants to be a deca-millionaire in debt. And he found his way, he owns a 120-doors that he's renting. And he's in his late 20s. But he's inspiring to me. And I just keep telling him, maintain margin. So I think he is. And so I would just say cautiously, carefully, prayerfully, and with your spouse, if you're married, due debt decisions. I think you'll be glad you did long term.
DW: Yeah. And I think I'll point out one thing, too, that the vast majority, if not all of the debt that you've taken out is not consumer debt. It's asset-backed debt. It's investment debt, really, right?
JS: There's zero consumer debt. I do use credit cards for businesses, we pay them off every month, multiple times a month. We process about a million and a half a year through our credit cards. We get a lot of points, we redeem them for cash and gift cards for our employees at Christmas. No one is complaining. And I paid $0 in interest, you know. So, I would just say, you know, Dave Ramsey says credit cards are the problem. I think that's a misstatement. They are an enabler of a problem. And the people are the problem. And so, you know, the credit card doesn't jump out of your pocket, although some might swear that it did. I had to live without a credit card for six years, but I changed. I've never paid a dime of interest since.
DW: Yeah, that's, that's good. Great way to close out the episode. So let's jump into the mentor minute before we do. So the first question is --
JS: Who cares about this? All right.
DW: So, who is the most influential person that you know, and how have they impacted you?
JS: At a distance, I would say it would be Robert Kiyosaki. And a lot of people refer to his book “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, but the book that helped me really change my perspective was the “Cashflow Quadrant”. He has the quadrant of an employee or sole proprietor, and the other side is an investor and business owner. And he talked about how you may produce income as an employee or sole proprietor, but you have to work for that money. You just got to transfer as many of those dollars over as an investor or business owner. And that really inspired me to say I've got to get after this.
DW: Yeah, yeah. Okay, so that answers the next question, which was what was the best book that you've read or most influential book, but also the follow up to that is what podcast would you recommend? And you have a podcast, right?
JS: Oh, I have a podcast called “Monday Money Tip”. And it's all over, it's freewheeling. It's about budgeting, saving, debt, the basics of money. But also, from time to time real estate. We have mentors and success stories, Monday Money Tip Podcast, 20 minutes or less. But my favorite one to listen to is BiggerPockets. So real estate podcast, the number one podcast in the world for real estate. And I don't listen to the latest episodes, I go back and listen to the ones that are on multi-unit apartment complexes because that's what I'm into. That's what I'm interested in. And so, I just go back and re-listen to all those. And it is very rare that I don't get a nugget out of it. My pro tip, listen to it at a time and a half or two times the speed. Do it while you're running. I run three, three to six miles on Sundays and that's when I listen to it. And I end up being fit both physically and financially. Fired up with the idea to ponder for the week.
DW: That's really good. Yeah. All right. Last question, what is the greatest lesson in leadership that you have learned?
JS: The greatest lesson in leadership is this. Your level of expectation determines your level of preparation. And it's a good thinking statement, your level of expectation determines your level of preparation. So if you have staff, and they come into a meeting, and they have no data prepared, and they have no notes, and nothing to take notes with, you don't have to ask them what their expectations are of the meeting. They've told you by their lack of preparation. In the same way, if you're listening to this podcast and say that you want to start a business, but I asked you, how much does it cost to start it, show me your business plan. If you've not done that, you don't really expect to start a business because if you truly expected it, it forces you to prepare for it. So I would just say look at your activity, and compare it to what you say and say do they match up? Because when you truly believe something is going to happen, it will demand that expectation will demand you prepare. That has helped me from the leading of my team, but also holding myself accountable to saying, hey, do my actions support what I say I expect to happen?
DW: Yeah, absolutely. All right, Joe, how can we be praying for you and your family?
JS: Well, hey, the thing that you could do for us is to pray that God would allow our team to continue to be cohesive, to continue to work well, and collaboratively together. You can imagine, as you're merging different solutions and things together. That's the challenge. Because some things are viewed, you know, sacred over here, and now we're changing things. So pray for them as they navigate through that, and pray for an increase. For the last three years through COVID, several of our organizations were set back quite a bit. And we plan on a lot of seed and serve a lot of people at little to no cost in the midst of that because we believe that you can't go wrong serving people. And we're just praying for the harvest. So pray for that. That'd be a blessing.
DW: And how can people reach out to you or get involved in what you're doing?
JS: I would encourage them to check out IWasBrokeNowImNot.com. And click on tools there. There's over a hundred free financial tools there. We also have a membership organization that helps all things personal finance, and small business. It's called FullyFunded.life. And it comes with a free 30-minute zoom coaching appointment with me and other members of our coaching team. We release new content at least every two months. And I just encourage you to check it out at FullyFunded.life.
DW: Excellent. Joe, this was a great podcast and thank you for coming on. Can I pray for you real quick before we go?
JS: That would be awesome. I appreciate it.
DW: God, I thank you for Joe and for all that he's doing to advance your kingdom to help people to really help people think about their finances differently. God, I pray that you would be with him and his family, his team I pray for unity among his team. And, Lord, I pray that You would help us to learn from this that we would take what we've heard here and apply it to our lives that we would live with margin and live generously and advance your kingdom. Lord, we thank you and praise you for everything that you've done before this time. In Christ's name, I pray. Amen.
JS: Amen. Thank you, Daniel.
DW: Thank you, Joe. And thank you, guys, for listening to this episode, and we'll catch you next time for another episode of The Kingdom Investor Podcast.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
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