Michael Jakobczak is a Woodbridge, Ont.-based investor and the co-founder of USFastTrack.ca, a company that helps Canadian buyers find investment opportunities in the United States.
Where were you when you finished university? Did you think you’d be where you are now?
No, not exactly. I was always an entrepreneur by heart, but it wasn’t directly in real estate. As things progressed and made money, I sat down with an advisor and put money into stocks. From my experience, I didn’t make a whole lot of money, especially when the stock market crashed. At the same time, I was investing in real estate as a side venture to make some additional money. Real estate provides less risk, and I eventually took the plunge and focused my attention on it full-time. It’s been a roller-coaster ride, but I’m happy with where I am today.
What makes you different?
I’m the type of person who doesn’t give up on anything. I always put 120 per cent into whatever I’m doing, and I believe that successful people have these characteristics. To me, there’s no easy formula (for success) out there. It’s all about pounding the pavement, shaking hands, learning and asking questions. That’s how you get places in life.
Are you a morning person or a night person?
Sometimes I’m a morning person, and sometimes I’m a night person. With my lifestyle and choice of work, it’s got to be flexible at all ends. I’ll sometimes have a late night, especially if dinner or conversations with investors run late, and I’m not one to call it an early night just because of that. At the same time, you sometimes have to get up early, make sure you’ve got enough coffee, and just deal with things as they come.
What is some of the criticism you’ve received?
I find that the most criticism you get usually comes from people who don’t want to see you succeed. Sometimes it even comes from people who are close to you, and those are the people you won’t hear directly from. I think many people want to do better in life, and it’s easy to put others down. I use (criticism) as motivation to do better. I think everyone wants approval from everyone else, and regardless of what you portray or think, it’s human nature to want to be accepted.
What is your favourite part of your job?
It’s getting work on your own time and schedule, and the flexibility of having time in your control. I probably work longer hours than anyone I know, and to me, it’s more of a lifestyle than a job.
What is your most memorable client encounter?
I have had a lot of tenants over the years, and I always give them my number. I tell them they can message me any time of day or night, and I’ll return those phone calls accordingly. I grow good relationships with these tenants, and when they move out and get into bigger things, they call me back when they’re in town. To me, it’s a great feeling when you have tenants who really appreciate a good landlord or someone who really cares about how they live.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Certain tenants who feel it necessary to call me about every little issue. It sometimes feels like overkill, especially when they call about minor things like light bulbs going out. In my leases, it states that they are responsible for maintaining the property. I think some tenants abuse the privilege of knowing that I do take care of many issues.
What are you most proud of?
Starting from literally nothing and building up to a 132-unit portfolio in a matter of three years. I’ve been investing for eight years, but the last three years, we went full-time. I’m also proud of that fact that I was able to do all of this under the age of 30, which is a pretty big accomplishment in my book.
What is the last book you read?
SPIN Selling, by Neil Rackham. It’s a great book that’s all about marketing and selling, and why pressured sales don’t really work on big-ticket items like real estate. It also teaches you how to build good relationships, and why certain tactics can potentially kill a deal.