Max Coursey is the president, broker and founder of Tiger Prop, the real estate brokerage with a purpose to “give.” Tiger Prop gives homebuyers money instead of fruit baskets. Tiger Prop’s brokerage fees are as low as two percent and never exceed five percent of the sales price on a home. Unlike national franchises, all Tiger Prop listings are treated with professional photography, a private staging consultation and other marketing services that provide a return on investment for the seller. Follow him @maxcoursey.
Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
Dr. Fuzzy Steuart. I was very lucky to have had him as a fatherly figure throughout my entire childhood. People perceived him as a bit of a crazy genius, and I had several physicians and others tell me he was the smartest man they had ever met. I consider him the same. Growing up, we would sometimes try to find a word in the dictionary that he couldn’t define and seldom, if ever, fully succeeded. He taught me normal lessons about working hard, helping others, honesty, standing up to tyranny… He was not a man who preached to me often, but I do remember two lessons that he taught me in many different ways throughout my life:
- Helping others. Before he passed, Fuzzy was known as the $10 doctor. In Arco, ID you could hire a world-class physician for $10, a six pack of beer, 30 minutes of dog watching, or whatever you had for medical care. He didn’t give it away, something of value was traded.
- Fuzzy often told me, “Every minute that you aren’t having fun, you’re letting the man upstairs down.” It didn’t matter if he was riding a Harley, joking around with somebody, or reading a book. He was having fun and sincerely seemed to enjoy most activities.
What’s the single best piece of business advice (unorthodox tips welcome!) that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
“Have as much fun as humanly possible.” I’m not 100 percent certain why we are on this planet other than to enjoy the journey, help others and have fun. Since I was a kid I have always pushed the envelope when it comes to having fun. I think following a business philosophy of having fun makes economic sense in addition to making customers, vendors and employees happier. The research is pretty clear that people who are happy perform better in sales, perform better on standardized tests, show more resiliency, creativity and problem-solving skills, and a host of other benefits. In our office, I try to uphold a policy of never being serious unless it pertains to real estate. In the words of Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
Roughly a decade ago, I entered into a business deal with a man on a handshake. I knew what he would do and he knew what I would do, or so I believed. The biggest and most costly mistake I have made in business was not having this agreement in writing. This mistake cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars, extreme anxiety and hundreds of hours of my time. Make sure that you have a meeting of the minds and it is clearly spelled out in writing.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I go into my office, shut the door and focus on the most important priorities for that day. This is my time to recalibrate and focus on the best opportunities to improve my life, family and business. I am easily distracted by nature, so I try to create an environment free of distraction where I can improve my focus. Although my top priority is typically my business, I often use this time to focus on friends, family, myself or even a side project. If I couldn’t sleep the night before because of X, then I will focus on X first thing in the morning when my mind is fresh. In short, I try to identify my most pressing problems and find the opportunities hidden within. By analyzing where I’m off course, I am able to improve the direction of my business, personal and familial life. I’m able to best identify these opportunities in the morning when my mind is fresh.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Look for ways to minimize costs while maximizing service. When I purchased our downtown headquarters, I wasn’t able to finance furniture and improvements into my SBA loan. This was a problem because I didn’t have $100k sitting around. One of the opportunities afforded by our downtown retail setting is heavy foot traffic. I had a friend who owned a vintage mid-century furniture shop. I partnered with him to sell designer furniture out of our office space. This synergy converted a roughly $30,000 liability (purchasing furniture) into an asset that generated revenue. The icing on the cake was working on a George Nelson desk with an Eames chair. Since the space we purchased was still a bit big for our business, I decided to lease a portion of it to a coffee shop. The coffee shop pays rent and provides one-third off coffee to our agents and clients. Synergy is everywhere. Find it.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Focus on the destination and visualize it in your mind constantly. Southwest Airlines, Apple, Google and other businesses that have found success seem to be fairly clear about their destination. If everybody on the ship knows where you’re going, then you are more likely to arrive at your destination safely, in a timely fashion and with fewer problems. To me, the biggest problem is not being off course, but not knowing where you’re going in the first place. If you don’t know your destination, you probably shouldn’t leave the harbor yet. If you know where you’re going then you can always correct your course. The journey is the destination, so try to stay positive and thrive in chaos.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
For me, it will be to give or save our clients over $1 billion before I die. If this happens, then we will have positively impacted thousands of American lives by putting them into more equitable positions in their homes.