Ideas are ideas until implemented — All of us have great ideas for business, however few of us have the tenacity and perseverance to actually create a business around them. I also have had hundreds of ideas but I had a difficult time actualizing the ideas into a business. If someone early on had told me to “Just do It” then I would have started my journey into entrepreneurship much earlier in life.
As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Kam Zainabadi.
Kam Zainabadi’s interest in real estate started around 2008 when he finished his residency training and started working as a medical doctor. This, as we all know, coincided with the financial crisis which led to the housing crash. Knowing that this is an opportunity of a lifetime, he started buying distressed single-family properties and renting them. He soon learned about the tremendous power of leverage and how he can use it to secure large amounts of assets with small amounts of money down. As the market recovered, he converted many of the single-family holdings into multi-family units throughout Southern California, via 1031 Exchange. 1031 Exchange was another tax-protected modality that he used to increase his net assets held. His interest in real estate also branched out into angel investing in tech startups. He has invested in over 5 startups. At the same time, through his network of investors, he got introduced into real estate syndications. He invested in several syndicated deals and has continued to look for more opportunities. He also became interested in real estate crowdfunding which combined his interest in technology and real estate. However, having invested in several crowdfunding platforms, he found many shortcomings in the structure of the deals. This prompted him to bring a team together to create Park Place Investment. The mission of PPI is to become the “MLS” listing platform for all syndicated commercial real estate deals, so that investors can easily choose from hundreds of syndicated deals to invest in. PPI also wants to democratize real estate crowdfunding by removing barriers that traditional syndications have into entering real estate crowdfunding.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. I know that you are a very busy person. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you grew up?
I grew up in Iran and my family migrated to the United State when I was 11 years old. The two countries are so much different. I found the United States living up to its name of being the land of opportunity. Like children of most immigrants, my family valued hard work and education a lot. So Those values were instilled in me. After struggling to learn the language, I became a very hard worker and a good student. I did well in High school as a great student and I was popular amongst my peers. I then went to UCLA where I did well and found out I wanted to be a Doctor. I then went to medical school and completed my residency to become a general surgeon. Knowing the financial struggles of my parents I knew I wanted to leave a lasting legacy for my children. I found out Real Estate is the best way of creating generational wealth. I started investing in real estate, first in single families and then in larger and larger apartment complexes. I also co-invested with larger developers. Meanwhile, I also got involved in investing in technology startups which expanded my network of friends and acquaintances. This culminated in me forming my own property technology company called Park Place, which is an online marketplace for commercial real estate deals. Investors can join the large developers as partners in multi-million dollar deals as passive partners without needing to deal with the day to day management of these properties.
What were your early inspirations that set you off on your particular journey?
As an immigrant that came to the U.S. with modest means, my early inspiration was the “American Dream” which I saw materialized in successful people all around me. America is about succeeding through hard work and having the right attitude. It is really the only country in the world that gives its citizens this ability. Another inspiration was the founding fathers of the United States, collectively. These men were, not old as it is thought of in popular culture, but rather young, intelligent men with the idea of changing the world for the better. The United States is the fulfillment of their dreams.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I have made many humorous mistakes throughout my career. As far a funny mistake I have done with my current venture — I taped an entire podcast with the wrong guest on my show. Interestingly, we both didn’t know this fact until the show went live and he said that was introducing him as a different person. The person that I misidentified him as also called me and said the person on the show isn’t him. Everything finally got sorted out with some good editing. In the current remote work environments, these mistakes can happen and it taught me to double-check everything.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
This is definitely true as there have been several people during different phases of my life that have helped me out on my journey. My parents, my 6th-grade teacher who taught me English and American way of life, my surgical attending who mentored me, and currently my partners at Park Place who work so hard at making my dream come true.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
One of the hardest moments of my life as a doctor was when I had to deal with a young patient’s death when I was a surgery resident. This was a young lady, only 19, who was shot while driving a car. It was a very emotionally trying time to have to take this in and also to try to tell her family members about what had happened. As an entrepreneur, especially as head of a start-up, the toughest part of the job is facing the naysayers who always try to find faults in your business. Thankfully, I have enough self-confidence to know that I am doing the right things for my business to succeed.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My drive is always internal. It is to succeed in whatever I am doing. Not sure exactly where this drive comes from. It is partly due to immigrant mentality, and perhaps partly genetics?
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Things are going well. Not giving up on my dreams has helped me tremendously. Those who don’t have the tenacity to continue to dream and find a path to succeed are those that are haunted by regrets.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Park Place is all about making it easier for investors to invest in large commercial real estate deals. We believe every person should have more of their investments in real estate. We all have seen how the stock market can be volatile and if you are close to your retirement and the market takes a dip, then there is not enough time for you to recuperate all your losses. That’s why real estate is such a great investment. We also are growing very organically without accepting any venture capital money. We want to focus on our goals and succeed in our mission without outside influence which makes us unique. Many of the real estate investors and developers have really embraced our mission and have led to the tremendous growth of our platform. I was very nervous in my first meeting I had with a developer and was afraid that he would dismiss the entire idea. However, he thought it was such a great idea. That made me think, Ok I am not crazy. Let’s push forward.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Be resilient, don’t give up on your idea, learn to deal with people and be a team player, be a lifetime learner, always grow, always listen and try to understand another person’s perspective, especially when it comes to your company.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have mentored many people and have donated to charity.
Wonderful. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Ideas are ideas until implemented — All of us have great ideas for business, however few of us have the tenacity and perseverance to actually create a business around them. I also have had hundreds of ideas but I had a difficult time actualizing the ideas into a business. If someone early on had told me to “Just do It” then I would have started my journey into entrepreneurship much earlier in life.
2. Don’t listen to naysayers — Entrepreneurs are surrounded by naysayers. It can be their family members or their friends. It is not that they mean any harm, but it’s their attitude and view of the world. Optimism, a positive attitude, and a go get them mentality is what separate entrepreneurs from the rest. If someone had told me earlier in life that you are either a naysayer or entrepreneur I would have understood much earlier about what it is to be an entrepreneur.
3. Listen to criticism of those who believe in you — after you remove all the naysayers from your unofficial “advisory board” then you must listen to positive criticism of those with a entrepreneurial mindset who are on your side and wish you success. Early in my career I always became defensive about criticism; but this was due to the fact that I couldn’t distinguish naysayers from those who were giving constructive criticism.
4. First create a minimum viable product (MVP) — We all get excited about a new business idea we have. We know that it will be a success. We bounce the idea off our friends and they also like it. But then we don’t follow through. We don’t test the market. Or worse, we go full scale on spending large amounts of capital and the idea doesn’t take off. MVP’s are prototypes that demonstrate our ideas and are a laboratory to fine-tune our business plan and make appropriate adjustments without going broke. Thankfully, I had friends around me to introduce me to MVP’s early on and I am very thankful for this
5. Create a team of people that believe in you. Many times friends jump on board and want to participate in our new venture. However, this is a bad idea. Always find the right people, with the right mindset, the right work ethics and the right makeup to join you. They need to understand that there is a lot of hard work and free labor that needs to be done before the business can succeed. Early on, in my own business ventures, I was so excited about my ideas that I wanted to surround myself with friends that shared my excitement. However business is not a get-together, it is a labor of love. Only let people onboard that you think will lead you to success.
Now that you have gained this experience and knowledge, has it affected or changed your personal leadership philosophy and style? How have these changes affected your company?
I definitely listen more to other’s perspectives. I am a better delegator of tasks and rely on others to do the task correctly. I don’t try to micromanage everything. There just isn’t enough time. I let others lead, as leadership requires trial and error and everyone has their own style of leadership.
This series is called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me”. This has the implicit assumption that had you known something, you might have acted differently. But from your current vantage point, do you feel that knowing alone would have been enough, or do you feel that ultimately you can only learn from experience? I think that learning from mistakes is the best way, perhaps the only way, to truly absorb and integrate abstract information. What do you think about this idea? Can you explain?
I think learning involves several steps 1) book learning 2) taking action and acting upon what you have learned 3) analyzing what went right and wrong and seeing how you can improve on it. It can be that you may need more book learning, or you need more experience, etc.. 4) acting upon what you learned with the new gained insight. I don’t agree that you should keep on failing. Failure needs to be an educational process. Unfortunately, some people just don’t have the ability or humility to learn from their failures. They just continue to retrace the same failed paths over and over again. Avoidable mistakes shouldn’t happen as they usually result from a failure in following the above steps.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We need to create a greater sense of community — from micro-scale to macro — it starts with getting to really know your family — your kids, spouse, parents, and the 2nd degree. Really spend time with them and get to know them. Then expand this to your neighbors and their town and keep on expanding. One of the biggest problems in our current society is that we have replaced our communities with social media.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!