Imagine waking up every day to a profitable business in which you get to work with clients who are aligned with you and your values.

Imagine being able to easily identify and attract those clients into your life and business.

Today we meet Neal Collins, Co-Founder and Change Agent who is pioneering the work of Regenerative Real Estate in which they transform the built environment.

Together we teach you how to reverse engineer a profitable business you love.


When you’re ready, here are a few ways I can help you…

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Justin Stoddart 0:00
Wouldn’t it be amazing to sell the kind of real estate to the kind of people that you love being around, they’re really in alignment with your values and your vision of what’s, you know what the future is going to be like, today’s guest is going to walk us through his story, exactly how he did that got in total alignment with the business of life that he wants to lead. Stay with us. Today’s episode is going to teach you how you can do that as well.

Welcome back to the think, bigger real estate Show. I’m your host, Justin Stoddard, thrilled to always be finding very intelligent people around the world who are in our industry, who have a unique read upon what is coming in the future, and how they are building a business that meets their goals. And today’s guest is no different than that. He is a big thinker. His name is Neal Collins. Neal, before I do a full intro, thank you so much for joining us today on the Think bigger real estate show.

Neal Collins 1:00
Yeah, Justin, it’s my pleasure. This is it’s truly a work of passion. So it’s, it’s a pleasure to get to talk about what we’re up to.

Justin Stoddart 1:06
I love it. I love it. So for those that don’t know, Neal, Neal is also based out of the Northwest, he happens to live on Whidbey Island up in the Seattle area, for those of you that are unfamiliar with that. And he really kind of stepped back from where he had been raised and said, Okay, where do I want to live? What I want to do, and is now built a career that’s in alignment with all of that. So again, whatever your story is, the inspiration that I hope comes each and every one of us today is to what like where do I want to live? What’s important to me? And how do I build a real estate business that centered around those things? I’m confident anybody that does that will be able to be not just successful, but also significant, which is what this show is all about. So now if we if you would mind, just tell us a little more of your story. How did you get to Whidbey Island, please connect the dots for us?

Neal Collins 1:55
Yeah, that’s a fun story. And I think so much of what our calling is, is how do we follow what we’re, what our values are and what our interests are. Because I started my career outside of real estate, I was really into marine conservation, community development, natural resources, production. And I found myself working with with my partner Alyssa in India and the Maltese, doing whaleshark research, doing marine protected areas with with the government, and it was kind of living life backwards. Like I was living on a amazing white sand tree, coconut that had beach making their money, but I love the work. And we ended up making a really hard decision of okay, we can’t financially make this work. Work out for us. What are we going to do whenever we get back?

Funnily enough, I listened to a podcast on bigger pockets. And I was introduced to this concept of time freedom of you can work in real estate you can own at cash flow and predict productive assets. That then you can get freed up to pursue whatever you want, you can sit on a beach and drink my ties or you can pursue your passion projects.

And that was when a light bulb went off. I thought, You know what, let’s get into real estate. And let’s get into real estate investing particularly to figure out how do we fix up and performing buildings that are typically in the small multifamily spaces is really what we’re called to. And, and hopefully we’ll get enough doors that will just be able to retire and come back out to the Maldives and continue our work. But life has a funny way of once you start to focus on something that’s going to start to grow.

And so we moved to Portland, Oregon, really get into the small multifamily investment space between two and I’d say like six-unit, and then really started to figure out how to work off-market, how to buy, how to renovate, how to reposition how to manage, and life just kind of kept getting deeper and deeper into that business model. Because once you start to renovate and then put it back out on the market, now you’re a property manager, and then you realize that you’re taking on more staff, you’ve got to your overhead goes up, they need more revenue.

So we either need to help people manage their property or when they start buying and selling and after about seven years, we looked up and we realized that we’ve got a brokerage of about 20 agents doing kind of the unique broker or place-based brokerage thing that importantly Portland as you know, is is like we love Portland so much because of whatever it is, and and there’s a whole cottage industry of amazing brokerages that have the same message that are amazing brokerages and they’re doing great work.

And so we had these agents and we had about a couple 100 properties under management all in great locations, and we’re doing the things that we learned we’re supposed to be doing there doing this this business and, and building a real estate team and working more on the retail side. But we woke up and we just realized that this doesn’t encompass our values.

Like we’re not, we’re not making the world a better place, we’re not working with the kind of clients that we want to be working with. Like, if we want to talk about what we’re really interested in, like, we’re really interested in sustainability. And one of the things that that you will find if you’re new into real estate is that there’s a tremendous amount of power that is congregated, within the real estate industry, it’s the majority of the wealth that’s held in the world is in land and buildings. It is a major consumer of energy, it is how it is everything that connects us in the common ground beneath our feet in the food that we’re eating. Like, it all ties back into the real estate industry.

And so we decided to really follow that thread of curiosity and say, What does sustainability look like within the real estate industry right now. And around 2019, it was still pretty, pretty disheartening to see what that looked like, where if you type in green real estate, or sustainable real estate, you’re gonna find a lot of references towards energy generation of solar panels, and of electric vehicles, and energy efficiency. And these are all amazing grants. Right. But fundamentally, it was really missing, I think the the essence of what sustainability is all about, which is how do we, how do we throw out? How does the human and non human life thrive together?

And one of the major problems is that right now, people and planet are in service to the economy, and the economy is in service to finance. And that’s exactly the opposite way that, that it really should be. And so we took our team from 20 to two and said, We’re going to really rethink how we’re going to do our business. And in what does this look like, instead of just advocating for solar panels? Like how do we also talk about health and wellness, because this is a time that I started to see, all the elders in my life came down with cancer diagnosis, my mother in law just died.

And so we started to do research into that to realize, you know, one in two people are getting cancer diagnoses these days. And in some people like to combat that same, you know, we’re just living longer. But that doesn’t account for the fact that now 52% of our kids younger than 17, they’re gonna get a chronic disease they’re gonna have to deal with for the rest of their lives. And so it doesn’t take too long to realize that what we’re building out of, and how we’re congregating ourselves in the food, we’re eating the error that we’re drinking, like, something’s going on here.

And if we are professionals in the built environment, and we are working with homeowners and tenants, and sellers and buyers, that we have tremendous leverage to start to shift the needle in the direction that we all know that we have to go in. And so we really started to congregate, what does this look like? So if it’s sustainability, and health and wellness, what else is? Does it show up in the built environment? Well, it shows up in ecology, and it shows up in community. And and then really, it shows up in how do we embrace the spirit of a place? And how do we really create frameworks rather than models. Because real estate is playspace is inherently subjective of what works well on Whidbey Island is going to be very different from what works in, in New England or in the high desert. And so that’s really what we started to jam on.

And we we really just realized that the the opportunity as real estate professionals to choose the clients that you want to work with by who are the professionals that are already working with those clients.

So instead of going and finding the cheapest general contractor that would define we went out and we look for contractors that were doing really innovative thinking projects or landscape designers that are working with people to install a plug for landscaping that are drought-tolerant, beneficial for pollinators are beautiful year-round.

And we started to realize like that’s where our client bases and and that has really led us down this amazing path where our real estate professionals from around the country and around the world are saying, You know what?

I am really tired of the mantra that our brokerage is putting out, which is this, like there’s 1.4 million realtors in the US. And we’re all saying the same thing. We can help you sell your house for the most amount of money in the least amount of time. Or let us help you find your dream home. And it doesn’t take a marketing genius to realize like if you’re parroting the same thing that everybody else is parroting you. You’re, you’re gonna be struggling to get any kind of business. And you’re going to be posting the same kind of thing that everybody else is posting on Instagram and Tiktok. And Facebook, because you think that’s what you need to do to get ahead. And I just, fundamentally, I’m trying to showcase that was not the case, you can do it very differently. And right now is the most critical time to, to really use our profession as a force for good.

Justin Stoddart 10:29
Now, I’m inspired by what you said, and I didn’t realize how much we were in alignment, prior to this conversation when it comes to finding your ideal clients. So for those that don’t know, I wrote the book, the upstream model, apologize, I didn’t have the forethought to call it the upstream framework at that point, though. But it really does apply across a number of different applications. But the concept of the upstream model is that typically the way that we are taught to market right, which I love, what you said, is very much carbon copy of what everyone else is doing. And kind of that carbon copy model, if you will, is to build a big database of the people that we know, and to then try and stay in contact with all of them. And from that group, we will find people that either want to use us or refer us, right. My challenge with that is that the number one the opportunity cost of all the people that we’re serving that that won’t use this era for us comes at a great costs, right, we ended up spending a lot of time and effort that doesn’t ever return. And any traditional business would be like this isn’t a good use of our resources, but for some reason we keep doing it. And what I teach instead is to go find a professional, a professional, who has already has a client base, and find a way to serve that professional, and then eventually that professionals clients, and you’ll have a steady stream of clients. So when people ask, like, where do I start, I tell them to do exactly what you mentioned, right? There’s like, who are the ideal clients that you want to be serving day in and day out? Now go backwards to say, who is a professional that already has a relationship with those people. So I love that you said that that was unprompted. And it’s fantastic. I’m gonna share that with, you know, with my coaching clients, and many others that will listen, that this is how you begin building not just the business, but the life that you want. Imagine showing up every day having plenty of business, plenty of customers. And each and every one of those customers you’re extremely aligned with, and how you want to impact the world for good. Like that would just be a great life. That is the recipe of not just success. But it’s the recipe of significance, which is what we’re about here, think bigger, you’ll know that Think bigger, does not mean just to build some big empire for the sake of building an empire. It means to think bigger than real estate, it means to actually pursue more than just a profitable business, but also the life of impact. And, Neil, you’re you’re a great example of that. I absolutely love that, that our thought process on how we get there is very, very similar. Let me ask this question. What have you done once you identify that professional? What is it that Neal does to to to really add value to them to really get that professional to begin to want to kind of share their clients to some degree, right? Like, what’s that process for you?

Neal Collins 13:14
Yeah, so what we call there has is building an ecosystem. And if you look towards what an ecosystem does, it’s it’s a bunch of different actors that are working together towards kind of a common goal. And you don’t even have to mutually benefit each other. But you have to know about each other. And you have to, if you can add value in that, in that way that I think it’s it’s tremendous. And so most, I think new real estate agents are going to come in, and they’re going to say, well, if I’m building an ecosystem, I gotta find a home inspector, and a contractor and a photographer. And these are all amazing. Like, you need these professionals to do what we do every single day. But if you’re really trying to identify what you’re talking about is choose your customers first and then choose people that are already talking with them on a regular basis. I think one, what we found is if you’re going to somebody like a permaculture, landscape designer, they have written off the real estate community entirely. They think that we’re all transactionally minded and focused and like that’s the holy grail for us. And for a lot of us it is but if you can start to present that, hey, look, what what I see what my vision is, is real estate and service to life. And I want my I want my clients to know about you. And hopefully, if we can show up in that manner, if we can engage you in conversation, if we can send you referrals, then then you can do the same thing towards us. And one of the best ways that we do this is to know that there is value in creating community and value in creating conversation. And so I’m I love food. And I think that inherently if you’re going to have a sustainable future, you’re gonna have a very flavorful future. And so we like to do is we like to gather people around long tables outside and have open fire cooking or some kind of some kind of coming together where we can break bread, and we can get to know each other. And we can really identify that our our commonality is that we’re purpose driven, rather than opportunistic. Here’s a client that’s getting enough money to pay for our work. And once you shift, because that is a big shift to go from, I just need to work with anybody and everybody because I’m a real estate agent to, I want to be very intentional and purposeful in my work, you’re going to start to find that there are other professionals that are value lead, that are very similar to yours, that it doesn’t have to be around sustainability and regeneration, it could be whatever it could even be like DESIGN LEAD, there are some amazing designers out there that you need to get to know that you can really start to curate your clientele and curate your business that way. So that’s, that’s how we do it. And it’s the same tricks of the trade. How do you build a database? How do you stay in contact with them, like, that’s all amazing, solid advice of keep yourself top of mind, but do what you love. And I love to congregate people around food. And so that’s been a tremendous way for me to get business.

Justin Stoddart 16:27
I love that. I love that great, great, great ideas, right? When you’re building an ecosystem, there’s no doubt that the personal relationships have to take part in that one thing that that I teach sometimes as I’m walking people through my model, is it in the way most real estate agents approach a professional, right? Once you identify the person you want to serve, and the professional that already has a relationship with that person, oftentimes what people will do is that they will simply take a kind of a traditional approach of, and this is no disrespect to kind of who coined this phrase, like this man has been a mentor of mine. But when you say oh, by the way, I’m never too busy for your referrals, that works very well with people who you already have a relationship with who already know you love you trust you. And it was designed for that purpose. But when you walk into the life of a professional, and and early on, you’re saying I’m I’m I’m here to get I’m here to get referrals from you, it becomes difficult to actually ever get anything because quickly, they see you as a solicitor or a vendor, they’re to get something and you get lumped into the same sea of sameness as everybody else. Whereas when you can come in, like I hear you saying, I’m here to add value, I’m here to learn about you. I’m here to be curious about you. What are your goals? What are your values? What are you? What’s the purpose that drives you? And here’s the purpose that drives me. Now there’s something more in common that you have with that professional over just the fact that I need to get business and you look like you’d be a good person to give me that business. Right?

Neal Collins 17:52
Yeah, I’ve also found these those professionals, they all have their own dreams, aspirations and desires as well. But if you start to really scratch that surface show like okay, where are you going with your, with your business? And what what do you want to do with, with? How do you see real estate and attacking? That? That’s a fundamentally different shift of another real estate agent coming to them being like, I want your referrals to one thing, you know, what, what’s your vision? And I want to learn about that. And it really starts to create a much more of a mutual relationship, because that’s what it is like we’re creating meaningful relationships that can last over time.

Justin Stoddart 18:33
Yeah, yeah, no doubt. And that’s, it’s interesting that you say that because one of the things that I teach is when you meet with that professional, once you’ve been introduced properly, and you sit down to meet with them, all too often, we’ve been trained to have our elevator pitch ready to go right? 30 seconds, and then maybe 60s, right? That is not the way to build a relationship is to talk about yourself. And the more step in and by the way, that immediately puts you in the category of this person’s a vendor, they’re here to sell me something, right? Whereas when you could come in and instead act as a peer, to where you’re there almost as a business consultant type feel, where you’re very curious about them, where are they at? Where do they want to go? And all the things that you just mentioned was absolutely beautifully put at the cabin to have that conversation, not under the guise of I’m really here to get I’m just I’ve got it really well camouflaged, but you’re genuinely interested in hearing about who this person is, are they a fit with who I want to be surrounded with art like, like genuinely looking for ways to add value when you come in with that mindset? Number one, it’s gonna get a lot easier, then you’re going to want to do it because it doesn’t feel insincere. It doesn’t feel like you’re, you’re you’re you’re they’re marketing, you’re genuinely there to give and to to look for alignment and to see how you can contribute. And I feel like that’s a lot of the breakdowns why there’s so many programs and systems and coaching set up around creating accountability around your lead gen. Why is it so difficult for people to have conversations with people and it’s because at the very core. More of all of that it’s I’m here to get something from you. And we as humans, I don’t think we’re like, in our deep DNA, I don’t think that’s, that’s what we’re made for right is here to get something, we’re actually here to give something. And so it goes contrary to that. So it gets very difficult for people. And so we have to, through our own grit, and will an outside force be able to say, I’m going to make these calls, because I’m going to, I’m going to, I’m going to reach my quote, I’m going to get my number I’m gonna, I’m going to build my empire. And, again, I think it goes contrary to who we are as as humans at the core. And I think, as we start to shift to really be like, How can I contribute? What What purpose am I passionate about? What purpose are you passionate about? If there’s alignment, great, let me see how I can contribute. When that becomes the motive, then all of a sudden, all the shackles that normally keep us from from lead generation go away, because it’s not about lead generation, it’s about alignment and develop a purpose with other professionals that are aligned with who we are. And it gets really easy. And and it makes it very enjoyable as well.

Neal Collins 21:01
Yeah, I’ll give listeners a hint on how you go about this process. Because it is a process of a vendor of knowing your self, that if you can internalize the some of your experiences, what happened whenever you’re a child, what what were you really gravitating towards what happened whenever you left high school, wherever you travel, what are the jobs, and you really start to see the patterns of that, to understand what your values are, and what your interests are, that’s your uniqueness. And your uniqueness is what forms values that you can then bring out into the world and will ultimately lead to a vocation that you can understand this is the reciprocal value that I can give to this person, rather than what had rather than just mean I needed to give values to this professional. So what does that look like? It is follow following your energy and follow your values, because that’s where you’re really going to start to find, okay, this is how I set myself apart from everybody else, and to go get the kind of business that are really want to do and, and I think that is the most energizing thing about this work is I get to work with amazing people now, across the country that are far more knowledgeable about sustainability and regeneration that come up with incredible projects. And the value that I get to bring is, how do we finance it? How does it fit together with the sticks and bricks of it all? And, and really, who is the ecosystem that I can provide to this project to really get it off the ground?

Justin Stoddart 22:38
That’s, that’s actually a really beautiful thing that you’ve talked about there now, which is like, Okay, what was if I don’t know what my, you know, what, what value I bring to the table? What are my values, right? And I think you gave us some very, very insightful ways to go about doing that. And it coincides with, with what I’ve taught in the past, which is, there’s a lot of different ways that you can build a business, it’s more, it’s more, what you’d ask yourself is, what am I willing to get up and do day in and day out. Because in there is is that like the magic bullet, which is consistency, it’s doing the right activities, day after day, week, after week, month, after month, you will develop a great business. But if it’s not aligned with who you are at the core of what you actually the value you can bring to the world, then either you’re gonna burn out or you’re going to spin out, you’re like, you’re not going to want to do it consistently enough to ever get the results and how fun right to build a business that is, is going to align with that Northstar that’s inside of each of us. Right that that calling as you described it, which I think is a very powerful conversation for each of us to have internally. And and if we have a hard time doing that, to reach out to the people that can help us to discover that because once we get on that thread, it’s really, life gets really quite beautiful. And business gets way easier, I think right? That you don’t have that the uphill resistance that oftentimes it feels like when we’re out of alignment. So

Neal Collins 23:57
Exactly. And I think that’s really how you build a profession and you widen your stance to realize that, are you a real estate agent? Are you a real estate professional, and it gives you the longevity in this career, so that you can be very transactional at the beginning of it. But if your aspirational desires are to be an investor or a developer or designer or whatever it is like it gives you that that freedom to really just start to build that foundation. And so I think, really understanding that there are steps and there are methodologies that you’re talking about is I wish I had this 10 years ago going into the business because it would have saved me a lot of blood, sweat and tears over building a business that just was not in alignment. And it makes all the difference in the world. Because even if you’re just starting and you’re struggling, you can at least struggle really well and have fun doing it.

Justin Stoddart 24:51
That’s great. But now I’ve got one question that I asked every big thinker that walks across the stage, and I’m really interested to hear your thoughts and I do that you are big thinker. And my question to you is, what does Neal Collins continue to be a continue to do to be a big thinker to continue to expand your possibilities? What’s that look like? For you?

Neal Collins 25:11
That’s a great question. I mean, I think there’s, there’s an definite need in my life to create structures of discipline. Andgoing into business, I really gravitated towards all the like self development books, and cherry pick the ones that I really got ahead of it the best of like, how to have a morning routine before my five year old wakes up and like really cultivate that inner calm and resolve. But just being curious and and I think, doing shows like this, I’ve got a podcast as well. And that’s been a tremendous catapult to, to really launch myself into other conversations that are going on and to learn about all the different ways that people are really, I call it throwing spaghetti at the wall, because no one really has solutions to a lot of the issues that are coming up right now. And, and just that kind of incessant curiosity is is what drives me. And it pushes, whenever you find somebody that will like really push the ceiling on your thinking, like, ah, that’s it, that’s where my energy is going. And so it’s really trying to understand, like, my job is to field build on a national level, while keeping my feet firmly on the ground and my community in between those two, kind of the ends of a dumbbell, it keeps me like super energized, very passionate, and, and building out a career that I’m really just glad and privileged to have.

Justin Stoddart 26:44
I love it. Such it’s such a fun conversation. I really, really appreciate you Neal, and all that you bring to the industry and what you’ve brought to us today, you’ve really inspired us to think differently and even think bigger, about how we go about building a business that it can be more than just reaching our goals, right kind of our monetary goals, it should be much bigger than that. And it can be if you surround yourself with the right big thinkers and really seek out that purpose. So I would encourage anybody that got something from this, go back and listen to it again. I’m confident you’ll find even more golden nuggets. That the left for us today. So Neal, thank you so much again for your time. And to everybody listening here today. My final request is this there three simple words. You know what they are? Go think bigger. Neal, thanks for helping us do that today. My friend.

Neal Collins 27:30
Yeah, thank you, Justin.