"The Man, The Mission, The Passion" Husband, Father, Attorney, CPA, Steward Leader, Entrepreneur, MBA, Author, Builder, HBS OPM 25 Class, Mentor, Teacher

Mentor’s Reply to Young Entrepreneur’s Questions (Part XVI)


Thanks for responding to my email Mr. Collier!
Your answers sincerely help me become a better business man, real estate investor and I also believe a better man.
I have some follow up questions to obtain some additional insight and understanding.

When I read your incredible, insightful answers and you refer to yourself, in any regard for an example you recently said “gunslinger”. You seem to be really self-aware. Where did that strong self-awareness come from?

Self-awareness is simple! Just took me 30 years of journaling, setting goals, writing mission statements, a bit of therapy, 12 years of YPO Forum, one soul-searingly painful divorce, a great wife not the least bit shy about giving it to me straight, a LOT of personal growth books and I’m still just scratching the surface!

Did you enjoy chess? Do you still play?

I used to play a lot of chess with my dad; it was a great structure for us to spend time together and I still play a bit with my son however these days I spend my time making decisions and doing things that require critical thinking skills, much less “doing” than in my earlier days so I can’t say that when I get home playing a game that requires those very same skills is my idea of relaxing.

What do you mean when you say “loss leader”?

Loss Leader is a service or good that you deliberately sell or price at direct cost (eating your overhead and fixed costs) or even a loss to get customers in the front door. Many retail stores do so on Black Friday after Thanksgiving (55 inch TV’s! Only $399! One per Customer!).  At a high level, many banks have “wealth management services” that they offer initial no cost high level consultations in order to entice High ($10M or more of investable assets) or Ultra High ($30M+) net worth individuals to do business with them.

What do you mean when you say “let the other guy eat the marshmallow”?

Google “Don’t Eat the Marshmallow”! Among other things (books, articles) you will find hilarious videos of kids trying to resist temptation! Basically, it means “Don’t give up what you want most for what you want now!” Or put another way, do you have the ability to Delay Gratification” for sufficient future reward? Most don’t! Most whenever they get an extra buck or pay raise instantly spend it, always allowing their standard of living (borrowing?) to rise to or above their income with nary a dime saved for a rainy day. The marshmallow test is to leave a 4 or 5 year old kid in a room alone with a marshmallow for 5 minutes after telling them that they can have TWO marshmallows if they can resist the temptation to eat the one in front of them for 5 minutes. Some can, some can’t. Studies show that the kids who have the ability to delay gratification go on to do much better in life.

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier

Plans are useless, planning is invaluable


Mr. Collier,

Here is a question I’ve been pondering, would you mind answering it? Thank you so much for your time!

Have you ever written a business plan? What are your thoughts on them? Are they needed?

In my life, I tend to over prepare (Finance degree, MBA, CPA, Lawyer, RE Broker, Builder’s License, Harvard OPM Class of 25, YPO, voracious reader) at one level because I tend to be a bit of a gunslinger at another level i.e. I often respond to “targets of opportunity”, moving fast to take advantage of an opening in the market. I tend to be an obsessive thinker, my mind endlessly going down all the branches of various decision trees much like a chess player trying to think as many moves ahead as possible. I am also very risk adverse and I think about the downside, traps and pitfalls of every situation and how I can be prepared to deal with them. Indeed, in my chess playing days, I would always turn the board around in my mind and try to think of how I would attack my position or defend against my planned moves. When I worked as an auditor I would look for the weakness in any system, ask myself how I would commit fraud given the various checks and balances and then go look and see if anyone had had the same idea!

Notwithstanding all the above, I’ve never had a formal, written business plan. Well, once, I did call in that rarity, a good consultant and spend a few days with my senior team looking out into the murky future. It was an interesting exercise, a good bonding experience but I can’t say I ever paid much attention to it.

I don’t know that I would call it a business plan per se but I do have certain principles:

Stay Liquid: Always have a very strong balance sheet and plenty of liquidity.

– Avoid Interest Rate Risk: Lock in long term fixed rate financing.

Never Sell: Unusual in an industry that generally has 5 to 7, we tend to hold our real estate investments in perpetuity. I never like churning the portfolio: not good for your organization, Uncle Sam wants a 25% cut and then you have to find a new investment that makes 25% more just to break even!

Focus on Equity, not Fees.

Keep Control: We currently have partners (mainly institutions) in about 20% of our deals, 80% we are sole owners. I want to stay at or below that partner percentage, meaning we control our destiny to a much greater extent.

– Manage What You Own: We believe our management adds equity value. The only time we’ve managed 3rd party is when someone has knocked on our door and asked to do so; we do not seek it out and we certainly do not do it as a loss leader to get other business as some do.

– Art of the Long View/Grow Prosperous Slowly: I think in terms of decades, quite content to let the other guys eat the marshmallow, chase the quick buck. I’m harvesting rich crops from seeds I planted a long time ago.

– Stay Close to Home: Or at least have a very good reason to go far afield. Distance creates risk (of course, there is a lot to be said for diversification!). I like having roots; in the last half century, I’ve lived within a mile of the same location.

Short answer:

I’m ALWAYS planning and thinking forward but no, I do not write out a formal business plan. This works for me because I’m self-funded (don’t have external investors I have to answer to), I’m horribly over prepared/educated, incredibly driven, and a back of the envelope guy at heart. I do, however, heartily recommend the discipline of a written business plan to most.

Closing Quotes:

“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” – Allen Saunders

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.” – Robert Burns

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier

How Strong is Your “der Wille zur Macht”?

maslow hierarchy

der Wille zur Macht translates from German as the “Will to Power” or (in the context of Nietzsche’s philosophical work) the drive for achievement and accomplishment, the extent of one’s ambition, the depth and breadth of one’s drive to improve oneself, grow oneself, to develop one’s gifts, talents and abilities as much as possible, to reach the highest possible station in life.

One could think of “der Wille zur Macht” as the motivation that causes us to climb Maslov’s hierarchy. Humans are complex and their motivations equally so; consider both Viktor Frankl’s concept of logotherapy (man is motivated primarily by a need for meaning) and Freud’s pleasure principle (humans are primarily motivated to seek sex/pleasure). Even Nietzsche acknowledged the need for meaning: “To forget one’s purpose is the commonest form of stupidity.”

While even priests must play and saints must sleep and a healthy amount of rest and relaxation is vital, a life based purely or even primarily on the pursuit of pleasure will almost inevitably be shallow one, a wasted one. I propose a dual combination: a life spent developing one’s talents (Nietzsche’s “der Wille zur Macht”) in service of a noble end (Viktor Frankl’s need for meaning, a life lived with purpose). To me, in my life, that means developing my talents as a leader and a creator of value and prosperity, and to do so via an organization that acknowledges all stakeholders, treats all with respect and honors the social contract. It means getting up every day asking myself how I can go to bed as a better person in a world I have helped make better in some way, no matter how small.

Closing Quotes:

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844-1900

 “Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.” – Dr. Viktor Frankl, 1905-1997

“Most people do not really want freedom because freedom involves responsibility and most people are frightened of responsibility.” – Sigmund Freud, 1856-1939

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier