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636. Multifamily Investing Like A Rockstar with Robert Martinez

The Jason and Pili Project

Release Date: 07/10/2020

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Robert Martinez is the Founder and CEO of Rockstar Capital, an investment and multi-family property management firm specializing in the acquisition and management of value-add opportunities across Texas. Currently, the portfolio consists of 3,762 units across 21 communities. As the CEO and founder, Robert Martinez directs the investment strategy, sources the investment capital, and secures the appropriate financing.

Since 2011, Rockstar Capital Management has become one of the most decorated property management companies in Texas with 17 City, State, and National Apartment Associations awards. Other industry achievements include Top-Rated status by ApartmentRatings.com for the entire Rockstar portfolio from 2015-2018 and the distinction of being ranked the #4 multifamily management company in Texas and for online reputation by J Turner Research. In all, five Rockstar Capital communities ranked in the Top 1% nationally (out of over 116,000 communities) for online resident satisfaction.

Most recently, Rockstar Capital was included in the prestigious Houston Business Journal Fast 100 for the second consecutive year (2018 & 2019). Robert was also named an Honoree on HBJ's Most Admired CEO List in 2019 and Rockstar Capital received its first international recognition as a Great Place to Work, achieving Silver Rank from the Stevie Awards.

 

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Transcription:

Well, hello again, welcome back to the Jason and Pili project. Today is Multifamily Foundation, super excited to have Robert Martinez on the show. Hey Robert, how you doing? Man, how are you doing? I am doing super. You have a great set up right down there. So excited to have you on the show and a little bit more about Robert. Robert's the founder and CEO of Rockstar Capital and investment in Multifamily, property management firm, specializing in the acquisition and management of value, add opportunities across Texas. Currently the portfolio is 3,762 units across 21. Communities got a lot of backgrounds. He's won a lot of awards across this property management. It looks like you've learned some property management in house. We have a lot we could talk to today and really let's just dive in. So here I see your main focuses are really on the strategy, the investment capital and securing appropriate financing. And you said you just got off an investor call, which is there's a lot of investors out there just wondering what's next. And none of us have the crystal ball, but how are you taking the day to day operations really, as you are progressing throughout managing such a large portfolio, you know, th th the day to day started three years ago. That's when this started because you are where you're at today and how you're handling this today, based on the decisions you did three years ago, three years ago, I sat

 

with a mentor. His name is Gary Vaynerchuk, and he told me, Hey, you need to find holes in your business and then figure out a defense against it. And one of the holes in my business was that I was unknown. I didn't have much of a brand. People didn't know where to find me. And if I can't find me, how are they going to, how are they going to lease from me? Right? So it was really important that we, over the last 36 months, we spent a significant amount of resources. We haven't, you know, we have our own in house video team. We are able to now storytell, we have reputation management that, that ranks among the highest in the country. When people come to our sites, they're going to be able to not just read reviews, but they can now go through the entire leasing process. Online only they can take a virtual tour within one of our models and take them room by room by room. It's like a little dollhouse that takes them all the way around. They can follow their application online. They can pay their rent online. They can send in their screening information, they get everything approved so that they don't have to come to the office other than to get their key. That has made a big difference right now. Um, since this officially started March 23rd, um, I just got an event, a large investor call, uh, um,

 

and we did 168 leases, 70 of which were online only that's 105 leases for the portfolio that were, people did not come to the office. It was no, you know, our offices are closed, but they're open for scheduled by appointment. We, we observe social distancing, but a lot of you don't want to do that, right? They want to just, but they do want to leave. And so I'm sorry. They do want to move in and they want to be wherever they're at, because there's an issue there. We've got 105 leases with the doors closed, and we knew we had this capability. We knew people were taken advantage of people from out of state or out of town, you know, six months ago, a year for a year ago, or, you know, that's how they would find us. They find us online. They, they, they would, uh, check out our size, look at our videos, read the reviews, and then they would lease. Now 70% of the market is doing that. And if you didn't have, we didn't make that decision. 36 months ago, we will be in a very different situation right now. That would be 105 movements that are not expecting those movies haven't even occurred yet. So I'm looking forward to the occupancy going up, but more importantly, they have to pass screening, which means they still have a job, which means they have good employment. They have good rental history, and they're

 

now ready to enhance the integrity of our portfolio. So it's, I think you prepare for the today three years ago. So you prepare three years ago, you come up with a rockstar brand, which is you what's that through message that that brings across not only to your tenant base, but also to your investors. What do the investors is? I, one of the best operators in the country, our company has won 17 city state national apartment association awards. Our company is ranked number two nationally for online resident satisfaction. That's against Greystar candidate. I don't care who your name is. We're number two, nationally. We have the number one and the number two property ranked highest for online resume reviews in the country. And I'm the, country's only two time national apartment association, independent owner of the year. That's the brand we wanted to get out there. There's a brand of confidence. There's a brand that credibility and more pointing results. I've done 12, 100% cash out refinance events. Since 2011. I put those numbers. I up those numbers against anybody before I ever took an investment dollar from 2007, until 2011, I ran 2000 units as the operating arm. And in another company I was involved with. I, I cut my teeth during the great recession. That's what I learned. I used my sales background from my previous life, brought into the apartment world. I taught my team how to lease. I taught them how to

 

survive. I talked to him the whole, how to, how to ask the right questions, how to, how to make sure you, you, you make the prospect feel comfortable and how to close the door. Uh, we, then we show you how to take care of them. All those things I learned before I ever took an investment dollar. So now with my own company, since 2011, almost 4,000 units, $380 million portfolio, I believe that's why we're successful. That's awesome. Now, as an operator, what are those operating components that you're doing that are just bringing such great reviews? I think number one is you got to have heart. You gotta to recruit people because the name of the game is people right now, right? One of the things that we first did when this occurred, and it was a lot of uncertainty in the market, we brought certainty to our teams. I told them right now, I don't care. What happens. I got your back. I asked you all the time to cover my back, the play with heart. I'm going to make sure to sh I'm going to make sure that when I'm here for you, I'm going to show you. And I'm going to guarantee your employment this entire time. I don't care if I have to use my reserves. I don't care. I have to tap my line of credit at the bank. I'm going to make sure that my team comes to play every day.

 

And then one thing they don't have to worry about is am I going to have a job tomorrow? Cause I can't get the best out cause this will pass. And when this passes, you're going to be judged and your teams don't remember how you are. So I surround myself with heart. Number one, number two, I want to make sure that the right story that gets told out to the public, right? You go to hate sites like apartment ratings, dot com or even Google. And there's nothing but negativity, right? Why it's there because you let somebody else control the narrative. You need to control the narrative because when somebody moves in, aren't they happy when somebody renews aren't they happy? Why would they be renewing? So why don't you get them to play review for you? Why don't you drown out the hate? Why do you let somebody who's being evicted for nonpayment of rent control the narrative? Why do you let somebody who's being evicted? Cause because they can't park it in, um, cause they park in a fire lane and you want them to not park in the fire lane or they parked in a handicapped spot and they come in and they start, you know, trying to hurt you while you letting them control the narrative. Why don't you let the positivity of your business control the narrative. You don't become top ranked in this country without telling that story. And it's my

 

job to promote it or I'm demoting what we're doing. So my teams understand that. And as they understand that, that I think at the beginning of operations, you know, I kept saying this certainly messages is so important because I saw people just literally firing people when we had no certainty of where this was going. I mean, March 23rd year, you're just day one, firing people. Well, what's the message that's going to send out to your team, right? That team is going to say, okay, so three weeks later, a month and a half later, you bring them back. You think they're going to trust you through the next up and down here. And so you look at this and you look across your point. It's going to be how you adapt to uncertainty, right? We have so much uncertainty. We can, we can have across the board, but it's gonna be uncertainty that we're going to be judged on. And like restaurants know I've opened restaurants before and the negative views because that's usually the people who write the most reviews for the negative. But if you ask for the people who you're doing your best thing for that's, that's just a great point, right? You want to have those people who maybe just don't think about it, right? They're renewing their lease. They're not thinking about writing a review because they're happy generally you'll get that wrong response for someone who just come across the board

 

because you know, like they said, you were parking in the fire lane. So asking for, for the, all the good people, not letting the one person who just did something that wasn't ideal for the property stand out because they're 31. That's the message had been sold. So now looking back at 2008, 2010, 2012, when you're operating, compared to today, what are some of the parallels or just some of the differences you're seeing in those times? Well, there's a lot of fear right now, right? There's a lot of fear going on in the marketplace. And again, you want to control the narrative because your residents are our way is going to dictate your financial future. So what are they watching? They're watching CNN, they're watching Fox news. They're watching the president speak and they're watching whatever rumor they find on social media. My mom sent me one the other day about how they're closing this and there's a curfew. And so some ridiculous. I was like, mom, what are you talking about? You started like Nazi Germany, where you gained this from, Oh, I saw it on Facebook. I'm like, all right. So that's where your residents are getting information from. So you got to come in there and be the adult in the room. You got to stand up just like you're going to stand up and lead your company and let them know, Hey, you're going to be securing your appointment. Hey, here's a

 

$250 check date that we gave to one of our residents to all of our staff to let them know, Hey, I'm here for you. This should help cover your extra, your extra funds of this month. And I'll probably do it again in may because it's the right thing to do well with the residents. You've got to lead them. You've got to control the narrative first. You gotta warm call them and let them know, Hey, are you okay? What's going on with you? Do you need any assistance? Are you aware of all these different assistance programs coming out? Are you aware that we're going to be closing the office? Now's the time to get your workers in? Because come Monday, we're going to close hours, us for emergency work orders only, you know, you've got to guide them through this process. Then you have to try to promote, right. Hey, if you can pay your rent on time by the first, I'll give you 5% off May's rent. Oh wow. Okay. That gives me some certainty. That gives me some comments in a base of work off of now, here it is April 4th and we've collected like 80, 84% of the rent. Okay. Mission accomplished. Now, how do we get the lay payers? How do we get the stragglers? Okay. So you make another promotion with them. You do another payment plan with them. If they can pay the rent by this month, they will get,

 

um, late fees knocked off from last month or they'll get, they'll get a credit, you know, whatever you can do to help control this, to help bring the fear down and let them know we're here. And also, Hey, let them know. Many of them don't even know that, uh, that the government gave enhanced unemployment benefits. Nobody, no hearsay to Texas. The max weekly benefit is $521. And that's, if you're a highway journey making six years, $70,000 a year, right. But if you're making 30, 40, it's going to be a puration of that. But the government came in and added $600 on top of that. So they may not know that that's coming when, when their unemployment check comes in. So now my residents have, let's say 300 bucks, 400 bucks, not the full five 21, but now they have another 600, they got 900 to a thousand dollars in their pocket, every single week that they didn't know. But they're making fear-based decisions, like not paying their rent. Like they have to hoard this. No, you're got money coming in. Right. So if you educate them, you can control the narrative. And that's what we've been doing. We've been educating them in a very, in the most sympathetic and empathetic way we can to let them know we're all in this together. Yeah. One of the best things you could do right now is to be a facilitator of great information, right? So I set

 

up Google alerts and I pass those along to the management company. And really from that point, it allowed them to reach out to tenants and tends to need to hear from you. You don't want tenants to be in the dark because ultimately who knows how they're doing. So reaching out text message, email letters, whatever the point. Cause especially if you're not going to have the office open, just to know that you're there for them. You're trying to find other ways, because just through the Google alerts alone, I found three or four local programs that I wouldn't know because I'm a thousand miles away from my apartment buildings that are there. And I got ahead of it from the management company. And some of those residents are now able to really have another angle. They can go out. So now having the property management side, along with the operation side, what, what is some of the advantages you see to that right now in this specific time where if you were using third party, you wouldn't have that advantage. Well, look, and I know I sound like you use third party. I'm not a fan of third party. I grew up in a situation where, and I joined a real estate club to begin with, right? And that real estate club, they showed me how to run operations. And one, the number one things that they did was they asked that if you're going to take

 

an investment dollars from somebody that you quit your job and you regardless with your life. And that's what I did when I got started his business back back in 2007, 2008, I walked away from my $150,000 a year, day job, which is good money here in Houston, Texas. And I, and I went to work on site making 30 to $36,000, you know, for a period of time until we grew. But I learned the business and I learned, and I learned, I learned how to collect and knock on doors. Right? Cause it's a skill. I learned how to lease an apartment the right way. It's one thing where I'm trying to sell a $500 piece of equipment to a guy with a PhD, right. And explain to him, Hey, the lifecycle cost benefit. It's a whole nother story. Having that same conversation with somebody who's making $35,000 a year. And you're trying to at least a $600 apartment, you got to go through this. Right. And really, I can't trust a company. That's a thousand miles away to have my best interests. It's not their money. They don't have skin in the game I do. And when I was going to get that means my kids have skin in the game. That means my mom has got skin in the game. That means my mother-in-law or whoever else is important to me, has skin in the game. And so I think those are some of the

 

success traits that I had in my business. Being a good operator is that I was willing to learn. I ran 2000 units under my other company before I ever took an investment dollar. And that was really important to me because I need to make sure that before I ever raised the money myself, right, that I was confident and secure that I could return that money back to them. And I guess that's why I have the returns that I have where I've got 12, 100% cash out refinance events. I would have had some more this year, but you know, the virus knocked them out for a little while. I'm not because my operations aren't there. But because the banks are really, really squarely right now and changing terms on, I had a refinance, I was going to return a, you know, a monster even with property was we paid 20 million for it. And 16 is worth 33 million Ford. Right now we're about to do a monster refinance event. We were going to actually reduce our debt service because the IO period is so low that now the bank wants to go and take 18 months of it and put it at P and I reserve and it's like, well, what do you do? You know, I'll wait until this. This is over. And then we'll go back and try to get our, our, our, our bite of the Apple then. Well, yeah, the strong operations gives

 

you the ability to choose the right timing. And that's the, that's the best thing, right? When you have the reserves, you have the cashflow. And honestly you have to the point, solid debt, longterm debt, you can sit there and make good choices. You're not pushed to a decision where if you were sitting there and you need to have this cross, and now you have to put all this money, extra pocket, it changed the narrative. So looking at what you're doing now, how is your acquisition strategy change? Or are you still acquiring? Because now we're looking at the different loan options that are, that we now have come to the table with. Yeah. So in February I a big rockstar tour, I rented out a bus and I took my investors to four different rockstar properties. Each of these properties were ranked in the top 1% of the country for resident satisfaction. And, and each of those two nights that we had this event, I, I presented two different deals that we were going to do. They were deep in South Texas, a new market for us. One of them I was in contract. And the other one, I was essentially contract. And because the arena that all that was missing was wiring the earnest money. And I'm looking at this deal and I'm thinking, dude, this is crazy. Like, what did they, what did they do? A shelter in place order? What if, what are

 

the banks are playing around with terms, right? Cause they get scared. What if money dries up? Yeah. And so I decided, you know, we're not going to do this. I'm not going to do this on this deal. I'm not, it's too far South. Um, I hadn't even started due diligence yet. I'm going to have to get into units. I don't know what finance is going to look like and more important. I don't know what collections are going to look like. I don't know what's going to happen because you could buy that deal today on this cap rate against this NOI. But if collections drop between now and the next 90 days, 60 days, and I'm going to buy this deal, isn't it worth less than what it is when I bought it? Well, what if is a Fannie loan and not a bridge loan? It can't support a lower valuation because you just borrowed the money, 75% of this number, or what have you think you're going to get into it. And now the collections fall and the bank wants to retrade you. Yeah. So we decided not to do that deal. The other deal that I did have in Concord, I had personal money in the DUI to a hundred thousand dollars hard. We already had done our due diligence. All we had to do was close and it just didn't feel right. I had equity coming in that was ready to go. The

 

bank was offering their terms, but I know it's going to change once they see that the collections fell 15%, you know, and I'm just like, I don't need this deal. That back, you know, I have 21 deals I need to worry about. I got a hundred million dollars of people's money, but more importantly, my own family's money. My kids money's in these deals. Why am I chasing a deal? And so I think that's the difference between me and the average syndicator is that I don't need to get paid. I already, I have 21 deals, right? Where I'm the majority owner, right? I have a hundred million dollars of people's retirement, their nest eggs. And they rely on us to produce, produce a return. You know, every quarter, as you said, some people are stopping distributions. You saw one of the big syndicator guys out of Miami, Florida, who, who got a lot of crap, you know, for, for pausing his syndication distributions when he's used to doing it every month, which is that to me is a broken model. You should do a quarterly, not monthly, but he's getting a lot of hate for it. Maybe, maybe rightfully so, but yet he's telling you, operations are doing really well. Well, are they really doing well or are they not? Because why are you not a Chevy? I don't want that criticism. I want to know that I, that I'm running my deals in the way

 

that I can sleep at night, that I can take care of my teams and I can take care of the investor that gave me the money. So we're doing distributions this quarter. And maybe if my mind was focused somewhere else, I wouldn't have been able to make the decisions right now to keep it steady. I gotta have 21 deals I need to focus on. I don't need a 22nd deal that bad. And sometimes it's that one deal that takes up now 50% of your time, because it's not aligned with everything else going on. So you got a great choice. I hear you and looking, what do you feel like the lay? And of course you don't have a crystal ball. So that's just, that's just hypothesized, right? Looking forward to the rest of this year. How do you feel the rest of the year is going to shape up in terms of going to go incredible. I think for us, it's going to go incredible because right now we are leasing in a kit with a capability that most others don't have. They don't have virtual reality kit, but they don't have that hundred and five leases in the last 30 days as a result of VR and online leasing. So I feel good about that. Renewables. We haven't talked about renewals. Renewals are going crazy right now because we are pushing them. We know people are afraid. I'm going to take advantage of this.

 

I know they're not going to want to leave. So I'm going to find out, do you want to stay? We're offering special than renewals. We've never done a $2 renewal. Right. And I was trying to explain to the investors like, listen, that I know that's not the plan that we did, but all the money you make in real estate occurs when people renew, not when they move out. Cause when they move out, you got vacancy loss, you've got marketing costs, you got commission. Oh, and you still got to get the unit ready. Right. You might have to buy a new carpet. You may have to repaint. You got to resurface, you've got a new appliance, you've got a variety of things that could happen. And as you've got, as you know, the average, the average turnover is 1500, $3,000 to turn a unit. Well, now that stays in the NOI. Yup, absolutely. And everybody's renewing. So I think right now with the, with the occupancies we're at right now, which you're on 94 and change with the new leasing coming in and with renewals at an all time high, I think we're going to finish strong this year. I think this is borrowers is going to pass. Uh, um, I'm not sure what state you're in, but here in the state of Texas, the adults that have decided that they're going to start coming, they're going to start rolling and governing and they're going to

 

reopen the state, uh, rightfully sell cause uh, the, the, uh, figures don't match, you know, the, the, uh, the cure right now. And so I think, uh, I think we're going to be fine, you know, for today's the first week that is, are gonna open up for us again, and that restaurants are coming next and it's going to start to get back to normality, you know, but I think we're going to be okay. I'm a little worried about oil, you know, uh, you know, having seen minus $35 a barrel yesterday, or a couple of dollars a barrel today, you know, it's really interesting cause this is, you know, I heard Trump say on the, on TV yesterday, uh, or somebody was telling me that he wanted to buy 75 million barrels and put it into our reserve. But I don't know when that buy order went in, because at one point they they're giving you three to $5 to take it. Obviously the U S government can take it. Right. So when I did the math, somebody could, if could potentially pay him 2.5 billion to take the oil, I'm like, that's genius. If he, even if he didn't, he paid a dollar. Yeah. It's amazing right now to, to, to be a good business owner, to be a good steward of your investment of your investments. Uh, I think we're going to be okay the rest of the year. I mean, we're doing permissions later

 

this week. I told the investors on my call, we're going to do it. We made money. We have our PBP loan funded. We have six months reserves. We're going to do it. Yeah. This is a housing need, right? The housing need is still there regardless. And, and keeping heads and beds is most important right now. And it just the approach of where some people are in large repositioning phases. And they were saying, well, you know, if I take this out and get a hundred on ramp up, was it better to get a $25 ramp up and not have them just in a release and have the cap X hit and have the vacancy and the downtime and having to go through this? No, not at all. Keep the person in the unit. Right? So not have that go down. So, and for us, we got different States across the States we're in. So I live in New Jersey. That will probably be a little slower than most States to come back. But other States, Kentucky, Georgia, and the others they'll come back a little quicker cause they don't have the same, you know, 20 minutes outside of New York city. So we'll see, but I'm not, I'm not stressing to the factory here. Cause it's not something that I can immediately control so I can control what I'm doing with our, our operations. But past that, then there's other lines that we're going to go for. But

 

I do think that we're going to get back. We're going to move. We have little hiccup again, that's going to maybe put some, you know, some other casts in there, but you have to look at your properties. And if you've been strong from the start with what you're doing, then there shouldn't be an issue. Now, if you were weak on really your business plan and maybe you were pushing too much on rent bumps, there are other things that maybe weren't aligning overall, but the process you might have to rethink your plan right now. But if you were strong with your operations over the last couple of years and you had the good, the best business plan going in, then just like anything, right. Things pop up right. And keeping a cool head is important. My dad used to always say, I can't control what happens outside, but I can control what happens within the four walls of my business. And I never forgot that, you know, he's no longer with us today, but I mean, I remember that him saying, I can, I can control what's in the four walls of my bed, which means I can control the narrative. I can keep a cool head. I can lead by example. And I can make sure that you take care of your people in your team, which I think is the most important thing right now. Yeah, I knew of course, banks can remember that

 

tenants can remember that investors are going to remember that everybody's going to remember here depending on no matter which direction it goes, how you operate and how you act accordingly. So Robert has been awesome, man. Really appreciate your time. Thanks so much for being on the show for the people that want to learn more about rockstar, rockstar, capital, where's the best way to connect with you and your team for sure. You know, there's something that you liked and you think you might want to invest to me. Hey, go to rockstar, capital.com, hit our investor link and you'll be able to be on that investor call that we just had. Or if you just want to follow me on Instagram at a party rockstar, I've got a bunch of free videos and micros or means showing what we do on a day to day basis. Our job is to document our journey to get the 10,000 units were just under 4,000 now. And so it will be we're documenting how we're having and how this is moving to where if you want to read some cool articles from us on LinkedIn, I'm under Robert Martinez, or just want to be my friend on Facebook. Just find me a rubber Martinez. Love it, man. I'm a fan. I'll follow you more. I'd love to hear more about and love to have you back in the future. Thanks so much for coming on the show. Appreciate your time and

 

all the listeners out there really appreciate your time. You know, you got valued here today. Go down, hit that subscribe button, give us a ratings review. Robert can get five stars. If I'm not ready for five stars, tell me what I'm worth. Tell me what I can do better. Tell me what better value I can bring to you again. Thank you so much for your time. We'll talk to thanks for having me. I appreciate it. Join us for your second cup of coffee. Every Monday through Friday at noon live everyday, bringing us our best content we've done so far. Super excited, super engaging bunch of great guests. We're here to answer your questions and so appreciate listening. Make sure to check this out. Can't wait to see you.