David Brim on business, marketing & life.

8 Success & Life Lessons You Can Learn From Harris Rosen

By: David Brim

Earlier today I had the privilege to listen to Harris Rosen share his story and business lessons  at the Startup Studio Global Entrepreneurship Summit.

Harris Rosen has had a truly abundant, inspiring and impactful career. He shared that he currently has 8 hotels, 7000 rooms, and not a penny of debt. More importantly, he has a profit for a purpose mindset. He has committed himself to using the profits and success he has achieved to improving the lives of his employees, the local community and world. To date he has directly contributed $55M+ to charitable causes.

Here are the top 8 business lessons that I’ve learned from Harris Rosen.

 

1. Sometimes failures put you in a better position for success

I found the backstory that Harris shared to be very inspiring. He grew up poor in Manhattan. After graduating from Cornell University he had ambitions of working at Disney and volunteered (worked without pay) as Whinny the Poo just to get into the door. He was eventually hired, but was told that he would never become a Disney Executive and was fired. He was depressed and disappointed. At this difficult time, he saw an opportunity. There was an Oil Embargo and consequently hotels were depressed and many were going under. He decided that it was a great time to buy a hotel.

 

2. Take risks to accomplish your dream

Harris found a bankrupt hotel on iDrive. He purchased the hotel for $20,000 cash and assumed a $2M+ mortgage. The $20,000 was nearly all he had to his name. Despite his family warning him to stay out of debt, Harris invested nearly all the cash that he saved and assumed a multi-million dollar mortgage. The mortgage took him roughly 15 years to pay off, but the investment paid off and gave Harris a great foundation for future success. It is important to note that Harris indicated that today in the position he is in his philosophy on debt has changed. If he cannot purchase or develop a new hotel or project with cash then he doesn’t do it.  Nevertheless, his startup story required some bold risks. These risks are often an essential part of  reaching great levels of success. Harris has demonstrated that and it is wonderful to see the levels of success he has reached since that first investment many years ago.

 

3. Work harder than humanly possible

Rosen is an extremely hard worker. He advised the audience to work harder than humanly possible to accomplish your dream. He indicated that he never took a day off in 16 years. He also lived in the hotel and would often be found picking up cigarette butts on the property, which many owners would never be found doing.

 

4. Love what you do

In order to keep you motivated and working hard, especially in the challenging times, it is essential to love what you do. Harris shared this suggestion numerous times. Love what you do and it will show.

 

5. Don’t give up.

When Harris hit tough times early on after acquiring his first hotel he dug deep and wouldn’t give up. He hitch hiked to NY because he couldn’t afford a ticket. He cut deals with travel bookers to write the room rate they wanted to pay and indicated that his hotel would honor it for 2 years. These rates averaged $7-7.25 per night, but increased business and introduced people and potential partners with influence of the quality of his hotel.

 

6. You know when you’re doing something wrong. Don’t do it.

Harris Rosen is a man of integrity. Some business people sacrifice their morals to achieve success. Harris is not one of those people. He advised the audience to be honest and try to keep silly things to a minimum. He said “You know when you’re doing something wrong. Don’t do it.”

 

7. Treat others how you want to be treated

Harris indicated that he doesn’t have employees, he has family members. His hired staff becomes family and the culture of care and love that Harris built shows. He provides his staff the best healthcare in the world. He shared that the only healthcare expense that his team would ever pay is $750/year. He shared a story of an employee that had a pre-mature baby. After being in NICU the baby racked up a hospital bill of over $1M. The employee paid the first $750 and Harris paid off the $1M balance over the course of three years. He also pays the college tuition for employees after they have worked at his properties for a few years. He cares about his team and goes the extra mile for them. Consequently they go the extra mile for him.

 

8. When you become successful don’t sit on your toosh.

Harris explained that wealthy and successful people have certain responsibilities. Making a true difference in the world and our local communities is up to the private sector. Not the government. He mentioned that when you become successful, don’t sit on your toosh. Do good things. God will appreciate it. Harris has done immense good throughout his career. He recently asked his accountant to calculate the charitable giving that he has done over his career – it amounted to over $55M. Recently his investment in Tangelo Park has led to graduation rates skyrocketing and crime decreasing. Harris created a system for free-day care for Tangelo Park families. He also covers the tuition to Florida public Universities (including room and board) for all Tangelo Park seniors. Harris also developed the Rosen School of Hospitality Management at UCF. This hospitality program is the second best in the country behind Rosen’s alma mater Cornell (by a very slim margin).What amazing, generous and meaningful gifts he is providing! Harris has committed to spreading this spirit to other wealthy people across America. He indicated that they can change America one under-privileged community at a time.

Harris Rosen is an extremely inspiring man and a fantastic human being. In a world where many say that the rich should pay their fair share, Harris is a shining example of the good that good people that amass wealth can do in the world and their local community.

 

Orlando Opportunity Fund: The Journey & Launch

By: David Brim

Today we hosted the official kickoff event for Orlando Opportunity Fund. The City of Orlando Mayor’s office proclaimed today to be “Orlando Opportunity Fund Day”. Very cool huh?

It’s been a journey! I am very thankful for the launch and am looking forward to the impact we are working to create in Central Florida.

Orlando Opportunity Fund is a qualified Opportunity Fund committed to producing investor returns while advancing our Central Florida entrepreneurs, communities and local economy through investments in commercial real estate and early stage tech startups.

I’m proud to be a partner in the fund and serve as the Chief Strategy Officer.

The journey

Through my whole professional life I’ve had a dual passionate interest in startups and real estate investing. Even looking back to my college experience at UCF, I started two ventures – one in real estate, and another that was a tech startup. Interestingly enough I won the school’s business plan competition twice (for each of those ventures), won nearly $20,000 in school, and to date am the only one to ever do that.

In addition to building my own businesses (SaaS companies, online directories, marketing agency, lending businesses, etc), I have also worked with over 1,000 growth stage companies on marketing strategy through economic gardening, GrowFl and my work with the Edward Lowe Foundation. This gave me an inside look into growth companies, their challenges and the business models I liked from an investment standpoint.

After exiting certain ventures, or if I was unable to responsibly re-invest into the growth of a given company I started, I would take my chips off the table and invest in real estate. I’ve been investing in real estate for over 10 years now.

I’ve truly committed myself to learning both asset classes and have had experience operating and managing both on the front lines.

All the while I have had a HUGE heart for Orlando and our local startups. Much of which stemmed from my experience working to raise money in Orlando for my startups, which was very much an uphill battle to say the least.

I invested that passion into creating Orlando Entrepreneurs, an asset for the community created to connect, cultivate and celebrate our local entrepreneurs. My focus was to shine light on the entrepreneurs building great businesses and help them to connect to the right resource at the right time, and gain the funding they need to start, scale and stay in Orlando.

The need

Unfortunately our Orlando market has really lacked startup funding. There is a great amount of wealth and capital here, but much of it was invested in real estate. Figuring out how to unlock portions of investors portfolios to invest in startups is something many in our community have been trying to crack for some time.

The birth of an idea

In late 2018 I began exploring models of how local government could possibly incentivize real estate investors to allocate a portion of their portfolio into startups. I thought, maybe if they did they could get a discount on their property taxes.

After conversations with the city and county, the model didn’t validate as local government gains much of their operating budget from property taxes. It just isn’t something they can afford to risk.

In January 2018 I was introduced to a new legislation called Opportunity Zones, that was just enacted through the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act on December 22, 2017.

This legislation incentivizes investors to invest in Qualified Opportunity Funds that invest in areas designated as Opportunity Zones. These funds can invest in businesses and real estate. To learn more about Opportunity Zones, read my article featured on Forbes – 7 Must Knows Before Investing in Opportunity Zones.

A light bulb clicked!

I dove deep into the Opportunity Zone market and got in very early. I spoke with my accountants, attorneys, colleagues and nobody had heard of them.

I decided to set out to create Orlando Opportunity Fund.

From idea to execution

I sought out trusted colleagues that I’ve worked with over the years and began building a team of very experienced veteran investors. Full bios can be found on our fund website.

  • John Cooper – President of Startup Investments
  • Vince Wolle – President of Real Estate Investments
  • Donna Mackenzie – Chief Financial Officer & COO
  • David Brim – Chief Strategy Officer

It’s been a long road from building the team, putting together the business plan, waiting for clarity of the regulations, working with attorneys, validating our model with investors and much more.

Our fund is very unique and Central Florida has never seen anything like it. We are targeting a raise of $20M+

  • 70% allocation to commercial real estate
  • 30% allocation to startups
  • Opportunity Zone tax incentives for investors with qualifying gains

The goal is to provide ongoing investor returns on their total fund investment driven by the real estate rental income, while providing a chance for wild appreciation that can come from successful startups. Investors (with qualifying capital gains) also get some great built in tax benefits (such as tax free appreciation on a 10+ year hold). Furthermore communities that have not seen much growth economically and those living and working in these areas can have the opportunity to advance.

It was wonderful today to officially announce the launch of our fund.

The proclamation was also really cool! Thank you Mayor Buddy Dyer and the City of Orlando Team.

I’m looking forward to the impact our fund will make for our entrepreneurs, communities and local economy.

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

A poem for you, Dad

By: David Brim

Today is my dad’s 80th birthday. My dad has been such a wonderful and positive influence in my life. But what gift can you purchase for someone that has everything materialistically that he wants?

I decided to craft this poem expressing my gratitude, some of the lessons I’ve learned, and experiences we’ve had. I’m sharing it publicly to celebrate how wonderful my father is on his special day, but also to spread some of the impactful lessons I’ve learned.


Dad, it’s your 80th birthday and not just any gift will do.
So, I decided to write this poem for you.

 

There’s so much to say…
Where do I start?
You’ve loved me from day one with all your heart.

 

You read to me when I was small while I sat on your knee.
And often put me high on your shoulders so I could see.

 

We’d add license plates up to work on my math,
and by the time I hit school I was far down the right path.

 

You encouraged me to develop my voice and speak my mind
and address problems head on so they don’t sneak up from behind.

 

You were always there for me and did what a father should
and corrected me when I was wrong and not being good.

 

You’ve always had my back and picked me up when I fell.
You inspired me to dream and pushed me to excel.

 

You encouraged me to be great in all that I do
and taught me the process for making my dreams come true.

 

Stay focused and work hard to persevere…
and find the best mentors to be in your ear.

 

You dedicated so much of yourself to help me achieve,
investing so much time that many would not believe.

 

We spent many hours in the gym at Greenway, Duquesne or Pitt…
I’d have to make 10-20 in a row before I could quit.

 

You were at every game and never missed a beat,
and would drive us long hours where my Cleveland team would meet.

 

And when I was down or feeling blue,
you gave me the wisdom and perspective to help me get through.

 

You inspired me as a leader, a principal with thousands at your school
With rival gangs, fights and challenges you always kept your cool.

 

We’ve shared so much together and had many fun times.
Way too many to pack into these few rhymes.

 

Trips to Giant Eagle, you’d leave all the workers with lots of smiles
A short trip would always take a long while.

 

South Dakota, Arizona…so many places we’d go.
In Jersey we got stuck in a hotel for days due to snow.

 

No itinerary needed, you and I always had a blast.
We’d sit and talk and let the time pass.

 

Being a new parent, I appreciate you and Mom so much more.
Lindsay & I didn’t know all the hard work we had in store.

 

Alana & Cruz are very blessed to have their grand-dad’s love
Whether from Pittsburgh or one day shining down from above.

 

And even though you’re far away and can’t teach them directly
The lessons you taught pass through me effectively.

 

Through it all I know this much to be true,
I couldn’t have asked for a better dad than you.

 

And Daddio, I have one more final thing to say…
I wish you a very happy 80th birthday.

Love Always,

David

 

Hey Orlando – INNOVATION is in our DNA. Let’s unite and embrace it.

By: David Brim

Orlando has long been recognized as a top destination for tourism. But in recent years our community has focused on highlighting other prevalent aspects of our economy. Understandably so. We have so much more to offer and as the Orlando Economic Partnership proclaimed years ago, “most don’t know the half of it”. The Orlando metro area ranked in the top five of the Forbes list of “America’s Fastest Growing Cities” the last two years in a row. Many migrating are not due to tourism.

I came to Orlando 12 years ago from Pittsburgh, where I was born and raised. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. I craved a place to dream, innovate and lay roots down for an abundant future.

I evaluated many locations, including New York, Tampa, Miami, Orlando and others. As an outsider, I considered Orlando a new and growing city. A city ripe with opportunity. A place where dreamers can dream and innovators can innovate to create the world of tomorrow.

When I thought of Orlando, like most, Disney came to mind but not as you may think. I had no interest in the multi-billion dollar tourism industry as an aspiring tech and real estate entrepreneur. Like many, I have fond memories of watching Disney movies as a child. These films are often inspirational tales of underdogs being challenged, going against all odds to triumph and bring their dreams into reality.

This journey mirrors the challenges that entrepreneurs and innovators face on their quest. It also mirrors the challenges that Walt Disney faced himself. As entrepreneurs we frequently encounter set-backs, but like Disney and the characters in his films, the best entrepreneurs pick themselves up and hold onto the hope of creating a better future through the magic of innovation.

Walt Disney’s spirit of innovation, creativity and commitment to progress permeates Central Florida to this day. It’s in our DNA. That spirit of innovation is what lured me to Orlando, helped me to choose UCF and inspired me to stay here to build my business endeavors after graduating. Our culture and fertile environment for innovation birthed our multi-billion dollar tourism industry, accelerated our space programs, created a leading defense & simulation industry, developed us into a leader within the gaming industry, and spawned a growing tech community.

*I want to take this time to shout out UCF for recently being awarded the #10 most Innovative University in the country. Up from #25 last year! #ProudAlum

We tend to refer to our tech community as the other half of Orlando. But it’s time we, as a community, lean into our spirit of innovation to help us grow and evolve. It’s time to position Orlando as the place for dreamers to dream and innovators to create the world of tomorrow. Yes, Central Florida is where you can experience your dream vacation, but also your dream education, job, startup and life.

Harnessing our spirit of innovation and taking steps to engage our talent, support our entrepreneurs, fund our research, and showcase their innovative works across our ecosystem will carry Central Florida to new heights. The more wins we have and celebrate, the stronger and more sustainable our entrepreneurial ecosystem will become.

Since I arrived in 2006 our entrepreneurial ecosystem has advanced, but we still have a long way to go to reach our potential. Orlando did not make a recent TechCrunch list of the top 10 startup cities in the south ranked by venture capital dollars invested and quantity of deals. We have all of the key ingredients necessary to be a leading hub for technology and innovation, but we are under resourced in terms of startup investments. To achieve greater success as an ecosystem we need to come together to better leverage the resources we do have and connect entrepreneurs to the right resources at the right time to maximize their potential. We need to celebrate our entrepreneurial successes and spark capital investments into early stage companies both from local investors and those in other markets that can take advantage of our favorable tax climate, lower cost of living and culture of innovation.

I am fortunate to work with many partners in our community to connect, cultivate and celebrate our local entrepreneurs through Orlando Entrepreneurs (OrlandoEntrepreneurs.org). I have witnessed first-hand the innovative solutions that our entrepreneurs are creating as well as the great work done by the vast number of entrepreneurial service providers supporting them.

This is a very exciting time for Orlando entrepreneurship and we have a bright future ahead. We must come together and lean into the vibrant spirit of innovation existing in the fabric of Orlando. If we do, there is no telling the magic we can create together.

 

Written by David Brim for the Innovate Orlando publication.

17 Startup Lessons Parenthood Can Teach

By: David Brim

Recently my wife Lindsay and I were blessed with our greatest adventure yet…becoming parents.  In our case we were blessed with a two for one deal and had twins! A beautiful boy and girl.

Our journey to parenthood wasn’t easy, we “tried” for over 5 years, followed by a complicated pregnancy which included my wife being hospitalized for six weeks and followed by a 28 day stay in the NICU for both of our babies. Everyone is healthy and happy now and we feel so incredibly blessed!

Nothing can truly compare to the feeling that comes along with being a parent, and the love that you have for your child, or in our case children. However, during a recent conversation Lindsay and I discussed the similarities of parenting to co-founding startups. While we are new to being parents (and do not consider ourselves experts by any means), both Lindsay and I know what it is like to start a business and get it off the ground. As we continue down our journey of parenthood, we couldn’t help but notice they have a lot in common.

We decided to co-author this post together. We hope you enjoy it! Without any further delay, here are our 17 lessons learned from our two little startups.

 

1) Expect lots of late nights and hard work

Having a newborn means getting little to no sleep and working around the clock to make sure their needs are met. Both babies and start ups are completely dependent. If the parent doesn’t change the diapers and feed the baby, that does not get done just as if a founder isn’t working day and night to get their start up off the ground, no one else will. Parents and founders need to buckle up and be all in.

 

2) A strong commitment is needed to reach their potential

Good founders and parents both have a strong commitment to help their little startup(s) reach their potential. They put the needs of their little startup or child above their own so that they can grow. However, the commitment for a startup can be full of pivots, or even closing down one startup to focus on another – parenthood is a full commitment for life.

 

3) Both take on the culture of the creators (founders or parents)

They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Whether you’re talking about a startup, or new little babies, their behaviors as they grow will be greatly influenced by the culture set in place by the parents (or founders). So be intentional about creating the right culture for your startup or kids. Remember if you’re cool, generally speaking your kids will be too.

4) The goal is to raise an outstanding adult / mature company

Any parent or co-founder has the goal of ensuring that their little one can not only survive, but thrive in their environment. You want to raise a startup, or child that can become an outstanding adult or mature company. One that is self sufficient,  and can provide for their family.

 

5) They don’t care about your agenda

Startups need what they need when they need it. Just like babies. A baby doesn’t care if you are sick, or have a proposal to write, if you haven’t showered in 3 days, or are hungry. They care about their needs being met. The same is true with startups. Constant attention is required and there are no days off. If you do take time off, you better make sure you have someone watching that you trust. Your startup is either growing or declining – our job as parents of children and startups are to ensure our little ones have what they need to grow…all the time.

 

6) Don’t go at it alone – build a team

Raising a child, and starting a business is hard work. Thankfully you don’t have to go at it alone. Work to develop or leverage a support system or team to help you. Find good service providers, or managers to oversee your startup. Find family members or babysitters that you trust to watch your kids. The key is to delegate to people you trust that are capable. Be willing to ask your network for help and accept it when offered. I’m sure you heard the phrase “It takes a Village”, this is true for both startups and raising children.

 

7) Be on the same page with your partner

In business it is important that you have a vision that is clearly articulated and adopted by your team and partners. Abraham Lincoln once said a house divided cannot stand. When you have two forces pulling in different directions, for example founders with different agendas or goals, the startup suffers. The same is true in parenting. Ensure that you and your partner communicate, resolve differences of opinion and are on the same page – both working for the common good of your child(ren). Start this process before you even bring your startup, or children into existence.

 

8) Nobody will love your children or start up like you

The moment we laid eyes on our little miracles, something within us changed. We felt a love like no other. No one is going to care about our kids the way that parents and often grandparents do. The same is true with our startups. The founders have to be the example for working hard on the start up. As founders, we have to realize that our “employees” are not going to love our business like we do and it is our job to inspire them to work hard. Our love for our children is very personal and Entrepreneurship is very personal as well.

 

9) Don’t be defeated

Sometimes you can try your best and things still don’t work out as you’d like. It’s important to realize that both startup and parent life will not always go your way and you will likely get frustrated. It’s important through all the setbacks that you are able to pick yourself up, stay encouraged and move on with the same optimism and hope as when you started.

 

10) You need to learn & adapt as you go

Both new parents and new founders don’t have all the answers when they start on their journey. There is no “instruction manual”.   It is important to learn quickly and be able to adapt as you move along. For your business, incorporate new concepts, tips and tricks you learn from other founders. For parents, follow your doctors orders and seek advice from fellow parents. In both instances,  see what works for you and ditch what doesn’t.

 

11) Be ready for big financial investments

Babies gotta eat, and if you want them to grow properly they need to obtain all of their proper nutrients. They also regularly outgrow their clothes, may need medicine, fresh new toys and much more. That’s before we even think about college funds, or cars down the line. All of this costs money. Startups also have many requirements for growth, and someone has to pay the bills! It often falls on the parents or founders. Finding the right talent, or specialists to help you with your startup, or work with your child can be expensive, but can provide a great return on investment!!!

 

12) You need a strong foundation – Take time for your self

They often say on airplanes that “In the case of an emergency, parents should put their masks on first before doing so for their child.” This is because if the parent isn’t able to breathe, they won’t be very effective while helping their kids. The same is true in the world of startups. Often times both founders and parents are in a Go, Go, Go mode. If the health of a founder or parent declines and they get knocked off their feet, the child or startup will also suffer. As a parent of a child or founder of a startup, be sure that you do set aside time for you. Seek to maintain your mental and physical health. This could involve reading a book, going to the beach, having a nice dinner with your significant other, going to the gym or setting aside some time weekly to do something you love. For my wife that is spending time with our horses. For me, it’s going to the gym or on hikes.

 

13) Always measure key indicators for growth

Both children and new businesses should be measured to see how they are performing. Are they keeping up with their peers, or lagging behind. There are many different indicators that can be measured. For children, some include: Height, weight, milestones (like rolling over, crawling, walking, talking, solid foods, being potty trained, etc). For startups, some include: sales, profitability, customer growth, acquisition costs, employee growth, and much more. By measuring various indicators founders and parents can become aware of trends and potential risks, equipped with this information they can seek to address potential problems to ensure the startup or child continues to grow properly.

Here is our kiddos at their six month mark. Healthy, growing well and a long way from their 2 lb 10 oz days.

14) It gets easier then harder again – there are cycles

Sometimes things just click and go smoothly. It’s great when they do. But the ups don’t last forever, sooner or later you’ll have a dip. Your child or startup will misbehave and you’ll experience challenges. Then before you know it you’re back to smooth sailing again and amazed by the progress.

 

 15) Nurture unique gifts & talents

There are lots of children and businesses born every day. Not to mention the substantial amount of them that already exist. This being the case it is important to stand out. As a parent this involves recognizing your child’s unique gifts and talents that they may not even see in themselves. Nurture these abilities and help develop them. By doing so they can differentiate and find their space in a crowded world.  The same goes for startups. Nobody wants to be a commodity that has no differentiation or competitive advantage. Find what makes your startup or child special and focus on that.

 

16) Advice – take it or leave it. Everybody has an opinion.

Everywhere you turn someone will have an opinion on how to raise your child. “You should do this, you shouldn’t do that”. I find this to be very similar to entrepreneurship. Even those that have never ran a business will have an opinion. Advice from people who can totally relate to what you are going through as a parent or who understand your business and you trust should always be considered. Remember, as a parent or a founder, the choice is yours! In both cases, you may need to let advice/opinions go in one ear and out the other and that is totally OK!

 

17) Time will tell what your creations will evolve into

When we look at our children we can’t help but wonder what they will become. Will they be a doctor, or lawyer? A singer, or maybe an athlete? Maybe future entrepreneurs?All we know is that they have potential and we as parents want that potential to be realized. Many founders start a business and end up in a business that is very different than what they initially anticipated. In the movie The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg said (referring to Facebook): “We don’t even know what it is yet, or what it can become. We just know it’s cool!” That’s how parents are. Mark Zuckerberg’s startup worked out very well for him!  We’re excited to see what heights our little startups reach!

This post was a co-written by my wife Lindsay and I. Lindsay Brim is the co-founder of Crossroads Corral, a non-profit 501(c)(3) based in Central Florida that promotes personal growth, hope and healing through the use of horses.

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