Starring in “Million Dollar Listing” has certainly helped Josh Altman’s business as a realtor in the hyper-competitive southern California market, but he was a star in his own right even before the show. Josh and his brother built their company from scratch, coming up from humble beginnings to dominating the industry. Josh tells an incredible story of his roller-coaster ride to success.
“I became a millionaire at 26 and was broke again by the time I was 27.” Josh got his start in real estate investing fixing and flipping houses during the boom of the early 2000s. In his early twenties, Josh began to have more and more profitable deals and amassed a large portfolio of properties. Then the market began to crash, and in 2008 and 2009 his business bottomed out. A multimillion-dollar fortune lost almost overnight. “I made some pretty big mistakes, but those allowed me to become the person that I am today. I can look back now and recognize those mistakes and see them as learning experiences.”
As Josh began to unfold his story of losing everything, Andrew was quick to identify having undergone a very similar process himself in the 2008 crash. “Tell me more about that, about having these failures, or what seems like failures at the time, become really the stepping stones to even greater success.”
“The most successful people I know have all made major mistakes in their lives. No question. They can tell you how that mistake changed their life and what they learned from it. But you have to be able to see it- sometimes you can’t see it right away.”
Andrew responded with his perspective during the crash. “Sometimes when you’re in the crash you don’t know you’re in the crash, right? It’s Just a bad month to you, and you figure it will pick up next month. Then the next month is another bad month!”
“When I lost all my money and the economy collapsed, trust me, I didn’t see it. I was angry and depressed, but years later now I can see it.” Josh spoke about learning and identifying potential warning signs of a troubled deal or a market in a downturn, and how he discovered the power of mentors in his life. “You have to have mentors in your life. People that you can bounce ideas off of, people that have done it before. In real estate, you’re not reinventing the wheel, it’s more about understanding the market and educating yourself. If you surround yourself with experienced people who can advise you or back you on deals, educate you on deals and even bring you in on their own deals, that’s one of the most important things for me.” Josh is a firm believer in mentors and the awesome power they unleash when you find the right person. He attributes much of his success to those people who mentored and helped educate him as he began to rebuild his company and his wealth after the 2008 bust. “I’ve always been obsessed with success, and surrounding myself with successful people. I’ve always been a fan of reading as a way to elevate yourself, and I still enjoy ‘How to be successful’ books or, you know, ‘Positive traits of successful people’ type books.”
Andrew was in total agreement on that point, as he had also shared similar experiences with reading and finding mentors in his journey. “I think that’s so powerful, Josh, that idea of developing yourself through reading, but also finding that team of people, those mentors to surround yourself with in order to grow and succeed.” Andrew then pivoted the conversation toward the driving passion, the true motive that compelled Josh to overcome the adversity he had faced and become a leader in his industry. “So tell me about what it is that drove you, what motivated you along your journey. What was your ‘why’ so to speak, and what was it that kept you going even in the darkest times.”
“First, I think you have to love what you do. You have to enjoy it.” Josh talked about having a passion for what you do as the primary driving force behind overcoming hardships. If you don’t possess a true love for what it is you’re pursuing, then whenever obstacles come, you’re more likely to give up and fail as a result. “People tell me they got into real estate because they want to get rich, and I think, wow that’s not the way to approach this. I get up every morning and I’m super-pumped. I haven’t used an alarm clock in a long time, and I get up at 5:30 every morning! It’s because I love what I do!”
Andrew quickly agreed with the point Josh had made so passionately. “I would tell everyone the same thing. You have to have that natural enjoyment of it. Tell me a little more about the customer side of it, because real estate, especially your side of it as a broker, is all about customers and building those relationships.”
“What I’ve learned in real estate is this, if you make someone money then you’ll be on their speed dial for life. If you treat your customer’s money as if it’s your own, then you’ll always be able to do the best deals. That’s the way we approach things within our company, and that’s what keeps our clients coming back. I have no problem telling a customer to be patient, to maybe take a little hit now on, say, a 20 million-dollar deal, if I feel like it will pay off for them in the long run. And they appreciate those kinds of things, when we have their back so to speak, and are looking out for their best interests and not just flipping a quick buck.” Josh then explained how he favors a long-game approach to customers and business. Viewing each deal as a long-term play is the general default lens through which Josh evaluates a deal. He sees it as almost thinking in terms of a worst-case scenario. What if I have to hold something long-term? What if I can’t make a quick play and get the money back out of the deal? Considering certain worst-case type scenarios is helpful as you evaluate opportunities. That outlook also allows Josh to refrain from being too emotionally attached to deals. He views emotional attachment as a stumbling-block many new investors struggle to avoid.
Andrew expressed appreciation for the seasoned viewpoints Josh had presented and posed one final question. “What is that one thing that gets you jumping up out of the bed every morning at 5:30,” Andrew paused to share a quick laugh with Josh, “because I tell you, man, I’m not always jumping right up. What is it that gives you that motivation to succeed?”
“Investing in real estate allows me to make my own schedule and spend time with my family. I have a beautiful daughter who’s 2, a newborn son, and my wife who I love more than anything. To be able to provide for my family, at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing in the world to me.” Josh spoke with a passion that was obvious and moving as he described his family. All of his philosophies about business and investing crystallized in this moment- we do what we do and sacrifice to become the best in our field, and we motivate ourselves to push through adversity, setbacks, and even failures because we have people at home who depend on us. That bond of family is the powerful driving force behind the highly successful entrepreneurs, like Josh Altman, who inspire us to become greater than we thought possible to achieve goals we dreamed improbable.