Welcome to the next installment in our young millionaire series. Today I have the pleasure of chatting with Josh Simon. Josh is a 28 year old commercial real estate investor based in Scottsdale, AZ. He got his real estate license and did his first deal when he was 18. He continued doing real estate deals while he graduated from Arizona State. He founded his commercial real estate investment firm, SimonCRE, in 2010 and acquired a telecommunications company, One Stop Voice, in 2012 (the company was founded in 2008).
Josh is a guy who has been entrepreneurial all his life, he had little businesses as a kid, worked doing what he was passionate about through college and has continued his progress after graduation. I'm excited to share his story with you today.
Remember, these interviews are designed to motivate and inspire, and show how you can be successful at a young age. Without further ado, here's Josh's story…
1. Tell me about yourself?
Josh: Growing up I had a fascination with the building process and was captivated by construction projects. I’d walk down the street from my house to construction sites so I could experience the energy first hand. As soon as I got my driver’s license at 16, I started driving workers and materials to and from construction sites. I knew my career would be in real estate development.
So when I was 18 I had an opportunity that brought it all together. A particular development project was budding and although I had never navigated the entire process before, that didn’t stop me. I pulled together all of the pieces for a successful ground lease deal with the national restaurant chain Chili’s. When everything came together seemingly effortlessly, I knew that I had found my calling.
In the commercial real estate world, I’m one of the youngest principles in the country that is leading a nationally focused development company. My firm, SimonCRE, was established in 2010 and has quickly built an exceptional reputation for service and bold business decisions. I’ve been in the industry for a decade, starting on all days, April Fool’s Day in 2004. Since then, I’ve leased and developed millions of square feet of real estate across the country from our headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona.
2. What was it like to start a company so young, when others are still in school or figuring out life?
Josh: I always new that success came from a couple of things – real life experience and getting ahead of everyone else. Doing the “normal” thing never appealed to me. So at the beginning of my freshman year of college, when most of my fellow classmates were getting used to dorm life and living on their own, I was searching for internships. Using my contacts, I landed an internship in real estate development, which was exactly where I wanted to be.
Things just clicked because I was completely focused on what I wanted to do.
3. What was the biggest risk you ever took? Do you regret it?
Josh: Going out on my own in 2010 was a huge risk because the market was still in a tough place and many people couldn’t understand why I would tackle it on my own. The biggest risk was being 25 years old and taking that leap of faith. Not having a ton of real world experience and saying that I could do it myself was really risky. But I was young and it was the right time for me. It was the best move I’ve ever made.
4. What about a failure – tell us about a time you failed at something.
Josh: I’ve started other small companies that weren’t successful because I tried to be everything to everyone. From those experiences, I learned that a business takes more precision than a spaghetti-on-the-wall approach. It needs to focused. Understanding that serves me well every day.
5. If you could make one change, what would it be?
Josh: In general, many people are afraid to say no. I would encourage them to say no more often – especially professionally. When you are successful, people look to you for insight and leadership. This often leads to invitations to sit on a board of directors, or help with a specific cause or spearhead a certain initiative. When you’re spread too thin, you’re of no help to anyone. Be intentional about what you do and do it well.
6. When did you make your first million, and do you think it changed you?
Josh: I was 25 years old when I earned my first million. I don’t think that it changed me much as a person, but there were a couple of day-to-day things that happened. I became a little more protective and aware of myself and I enjoyed life a little more.
7. Being younger, how are you currently managing your money (investments, professional help, etc.)?
Josh: I have a couple financial advisors, an attorney and accountant. My CFO and I look at everything together. Since I work in real estate, my investments are what I do, so I’m pretty hands-on. I also like to surround myself with people who are more experienced than I am – both with money and in knowledge.
8. Entrepreneurship or college for today's high school grads? Which do you think is more important?
Josh: Depending upon your discipline and definitely in my college courses, I didn’t learn a lot from textbooks that I now use on a daily basis. A true entrepreneurial spirit isn’t something you can teach. Two entrepreneurial skills that are extremely difficult to learn in class are salesmanship and how to effectively build relationships. But college is important developmentally. It’s a great arena to meet and connect with people that aren’t in your normal circles. Some of my best friends today are my fraternity brothers whom I met in college.
The university atmosphere helps you grow and communicate more effectively. Those skills will guide you through your education, require you to ask the right questions, get the right information.
9. What advice do you have for young adults when it comes to money and entrepreneurship?
Josh: As far as money – live below your means. Save money from day one and continue to always put money away. Lots of people in their 20s don’t save a penny, and come to regret it later when they’re playing catch up.
For entrepreneurship – find something you’re passionate about and go after it. Hurdle over the roadblocks and be laser focused on what it is that you want. Also, continuing education is important, as is relationship building and networking within your industry. You never know where your next deal may come from.
What I Learned From Josh Simon
I think that Josh shares a ton of great lessons for us here. For me, I love how he talked about his “spaghetti on the wall” method as one of his failures, and how he found the need for focus out of it. I think that focus is key to success – if you truly focus on something, you can make it happen.
I also love Josh's thoughts on college and entrepreneurship. Similar to me, he didn't learn a lot from college in the textbook sense. However, he did learn how to build relationships and create a circle around you. Those are vital life skills that are essential for success.
What did you learn from Josh Simon's story?