We interviewed David and Jason Benham, the dynamic twin authors and entrepreneurs who built one of the most successful real estate niche companies in America, Benham REO group.
In this interview the Benham brothers reveal how they were able to build a successful business by applying biblical principles.
How has being born to a preacher equipped you for life, and what are some of the key lessons you’ve learnt from your parents?
Benham Brothers: The most important lesson that we’ve learned from our parents, specifically our dad as a pastor was that the Bible has answers for all of life. Not just for a Sunday morning service but for all of life, especially in the market place.
I’m kind of stepping ahead but it relates to our upbringing with our parents. We created a nationally recognised business with a 100 locations across 35 States, and we’re one of the top 25 fastest growing private companies in America at one time, yet we had no business training. We had no formal training. We had no seminars. We didn’t attend any business classes at university or anything. We took an introduction to business one year, but that was all we had. And we built this company based on the principles of the Bible, because when we were kids we used to read the Bible out loud in our home. My brother and I began to develop that discipline in our lives as young teenagers, of reading the Bible every day. Then stopping and meditating to see how it will apply to our lives, and how we could incorporate the principles and the truth that we had just read about, into our everyday lives. It’s all summed up in one quote that our Dad would always say when we were kids, and we put this in our book. If your theology is not your biography, then your theology is worthless.
Your initial dreams were to become major league baseball players, but instead you eventually found yourself working as janitors. What was going through your mind at that stage in life, when you were working as janitors?
Benham Brothers: Well the first thing that happened to us both was an identity crisis. Because quite often every human being at some point in time, will identify themselves with what they do, instead of who they are. As we write in our book we are human beings, not human doings. So when Jason and I were professional baseball players, what we did felt really good. We felt successful and we were Christians, so we did Bible studies.
We were very vocal, yet it felt really good to have that kind of influence and impact. Then all of a sudden when we found ourselves sweeping floors, painting walls, and plunging toilets, we didn’t feel very successful at that time. As a matter of fact we didn’t feel like we had any influence, and we didn’t really feel like God was using us as strategically, as He was using us when we were professional athletes. But it all came rushing to a halt that identity crisis we were having, when one day the Lord convicted us that faithfulness in the little things, whether you’re swinging a bat or pushing a broom, glorifies God. You’re not defined by what you do for the Lord. You are defined by who you are in Him, as a child of God that he desperately loves and cares for. From that point on we committed to be faithful in the little things.
It was while we were janitors, while we were working odd jobs, and doing all of the things that society looks at and says, oh that’s not really an important job. It was while we were doing those, that we found value in every little job that we had in society. God looks at every job. Colossians chapter 3 verse 23, says whatever your hands finds to do, do it with all your might as though you’re working for the Lord, and not as unto men. It doesn’t matter what job it is, whether you’re the President of the United States or whether you’re a stay at home mom. You do it with all of your might because God looks at that, and wants you to be faithful. It was at that point at that low time in our lives, where we were having this identity crisis that we then were able to reframe in our minds, according to the Bible, according to Colossians chapter 3, Ephesians chapter 6.
In 2002 you went on to get your real estate license. What were your reasons for venturing into the real estate market?
Benham Brothers: Jason and I like to call ourselves lifestyle entrepreneurs.
So we looked at getting into a business. We didn’t really know we were entrepreneurs at the time. But we looked at okay here we were sweeping floors and plunging toilets, wondering is there anything else that we can do to supplement this income. That gives us the ability to make a little bit more money, but still provide flexibility with our schedules. So we looked at real estate because of the opportunity it gave us to be flexible with our schedules, because we had young families. Yet the same time, real estate is a service related business.
Jason and I as we read in the scripture, and see the root word of ministry means to serve. So we thought you know what, we can actually serve people in real estate, and be ministers at the exact same time. It actually came through. We found ourselves serving hundreds and eventually thousands of families, in pretty much the biggest financial decision that most people make in their lifetime, which is to buy a house.
We found ourselves serving them and helping them, and doing which was a ministry in and of itself. But also meeting the needs that they weren’t paying us for, which were quite often spiritual.
I was listening to the interview with Jason online, and he said that one time both of you decided to get on your knees and start praying to God for niche business idea. Can you let the people know what specific steps you took within the 2 weeks, what was your routine?
Benham Brothers: Okay so what we would did, we would get to the office between 6 and 7 o’clock every morning, and we would walk into the sales room which is where they had the sales board. Which recorded all of the sales activities for the agents in the office. Jason and I were nowhere to be found on that sales board. So we would get on our knees, and the Lord says commit your way to the Lord and your plans will succeed. So we would get on our knees, we would say Lord, we commit our day to you today. We ask, help us to find people to serve. Let us bring tangible value. Let us be producers and not consumers. Let us lead with value in the market place, and as a result I pray you will meet all of our financial needs that we have, for our family. So we weren’t praying Lord let us make a lot of money, or Lord let us just get a bunch of clients. We were praying Lord open doors for us to serve, and as a result meet the needs that we have in our home, because we have needs.
We got young families. Every day we would do that and so we would pray. The last part of that prayer was, and give us a niche business inside the real estate industry. Let us find a good niche where we can be the best, and that’s one of things that Jason and I always strive for. Whatever we do we want to be the best at it. We didn’t really see ourselves as competing with some of the ladies in real estate, that are phenomenal at marketing, and picking out the carpet, and the paint colours and all that. We were like you know what; we can be really good at selling foreclosures. So we started praying, God open the door for us to get into selling foreclosures. We did that for about a 2 week period of time. And literally out of the blue the little real estate office that we were part of got a phone call from a bank out of Dallas Texas.
And this banker said does anybody in this office sell foreclosures. Now my brother and I we were on call time, so we were answering the phones for the office. During that 3 hour period of time where it was our slot and we said yes my brother and I will sell them. And we said can we ask you, how did you call this number? He said well I’m actually flipping through the yellow pages, of real estate offices in the Charlotte area and I just landed on this phone number, and we instantly knew. We told him it was an answer to our prayer. He kind of laughed a little it, but we were like you’re an answer to our prayer, send us the houses. That was the beginning of 23,000 houses sold in over a decade.
Was there a certain specific time that you prayed, or did you leave office a particular time to pray every day, or were you working and you just prayed?
Benham Brothers: We prayed right where we were working. We would dedicate about 30 minutes every morning before we did anything, before we turn on the computer, before we answered emails, we would dedicate ourselves to praying specifically at work. We call it locational prayer. We pray at work all the time.
When you pray do you both pray aloud, or do you pray inside?
Benham Brothers: We do both. But we get to the office really early and pray out loud on purpose. So we walk our office quite often and then pray out loud. But when there is a lot of other people in the office and stuff, we’ll either go into our personal office for praying spirit.
A lot of Christian entrepreneurs struggle at the first hurdle being that they are not able to raise enough funds to start their business. How were you able to raise your first initial capital to start your foreclose business?
Benham Brothers: Jason and I always say that money is God’s boundary. So we worked odd jobs, every little odd job we could, to put money away and save up, and store up the capital. We didn’t go and borrow the money. In order to do that, you have to apply the principle of delayed gratification. So if you require $30,000 in capital and you have a $60,000 job, then you need to live for a year on $30,000, and put that other $30,000 away and that takes delayed gratification. My brother and I we actually moved our families in together. I’ve got 5 kids now. He has 4.When we started our business I had just had my third child, Jason had 2. We moved our families in together, and lived each family on $1500 a month and we were scraping by. We lived like that not in the same house for 2 years, but we lived like that for 2 years and took every dime that we could make, whether we were painting houses. We had gotten our real estate licenses but that’s a commission based business, so we had to still clean houses, and paint, and mow lawns and detailed cars and do whatever we could to make extra money for our family, to put food on the table. Then when we started transacting the real estate transactions, we were putting all that money away. So that we could invest in our first office, all of our computer equipment, and all of that without taking out a loan, and it took longer that way. But applying the principle of delayed gratification is much more of a sure foundation.
We wrote this in our book. Dave Ramsay says if you live like no one else, then you’ll live like no one else. So we lived like no one else by putting all that money away and living really tight but we were able to do it without using debt, and our business grew very strong.
What role did your wives play in supporting you in the early stages of your business?
Benham Brothers: Well I’ll tell you we had young families, so our wives fortunately were able to be home with the kids, and they stayed home with our kids. One of the best helps that they ever gave to us is that our home was their ambition. They weren’t trying to become Mommy bloggers, or start their own businesses at that point. They weren’t doing any of that. They were supporting us in our business, and the best way to do that was to make sure our kids were taken care of, our kids were fed and all of those things. So it really put David and I in a position to where we could focus on the business, because our wives were really helping keep things going at home. And now that our businesses are doing really well, it gives our wives plenty more time to be able to focus on the things that maybe one day that they would like to do.
Your brand is really known for always adding more value, when you started in foreclose business, How did you add more value than the competition?
Benham Brothers: We operated by a core set of 5 business principles, and this is what made us stand out. As I said this ties back into the question you asked me, where you asked us about being janitors. During the time we were janitors, we were working small odd jobs. We built these 5 core principles and we built these, and we prayed out loud these principles when we got into the foreclosure business. And banks began to just absolutely love us. The first one was be faithful in little things. So every little thing that the client needed or the client requested we would make sure we would do those little things, everything. From inspecting the property, to making sure that the air conditioning is turned on in the summer, and all of these things that sometimes real estate professionals in our area would overlook. Jason and I didn’t overlook those little things. But then we went a step further than that, and we said we want to produce more in value than we take in pay, because they were paying us to do all these little things.
So we wanted to make sure first of all, that we were faithful in those little things. But we wanted to go a step further than that, and produce more in value than we take in pay. So we begin doing that and the clients loved us. We never brought a client a problem without a solution. So we call ourselves solution providers and value creators. So if there was a problem with a roof, we didn’t just simply report to our client, hey there’s an issue with the roof, something needs to be taken care of. We would say there’s an issue with the roof, we’ve already stopped the leak. We’ve got an extraction from the carpet done, and here are 2 bids to replace the roof. So we brought more in value than we took in pay. We were solution providers, and value creators. Another one, we were fountains and not journeys. So every time we got on the phone with our client, or we were meeting with our clients, or with any of our customers, we wanted to be a fountain. We wanted to help them in all areas of life, not just for what they were paying us for. So we found ourselves helping and there’s usually the 3 F’s, Fitness, Family and Finances. If you can help someone in one of those 3 areas, they’re going to love you forever. So we found ourselves, when you’re a fountain and not a journey, you’re helping people in other areas of life and not that you’re being preachy. But as the door opens you’re able to say, hey I’m doing a fitness challenge, or I’m doing a healthy eating challenge over a week, why don’t you do it with me, and the clients loved us for that.
I mean we were really helping a lot of people. Then we also wanted to be producers, not consumers. So the thing was you find a lot of people that are consuming, by nature where they are consumers. They’re always asking for things. They’re finding what else they can get out of a deal, or what’s in it for me type of a mentality. But we say no we want to be producers, not consumers. How can I step in and produce for you? How can I bring tangible value to you? When you are running by those core principles, there’s nobody in the market place that will compete with you, and we’ve seen it. We’ve heard it with our own ears and seen it with our own eyes, how those core principles will set you apart in the market place. But here’s the beautiful thing about those principles. It doesn’t just set you apart in the market place. It sets you apart at home. You can apply these principles at home. You can apply them in your relationship, at church. You can apply them in the market place. You can apply them in government. Whatever you do you can apply these principles, and set yourself apart from the competition.
What is your morning ritual?
Benham Brothers: Okay this is for my brother and I both, we do this. The first thing we do is we spend about 2 hours reading our Bibles and praying. So usually up 5:30 in the mornings, read our Bibles, pray till about 7:30, and then do a devotion with our kids, that’s 30 minutes. Then we spend about another hour, writing down either what we learn or writing an article. Or if we are in the middle writing a book, we work on the book. Then after that we’ll work out for an hour.
Is that the same routine that you had when you started your first business? Has the routine changed along the way?
Benham Brothers: Yeah. When we first started our business, we were only able to read and pray for about an hour. Then we actually left the house, worked out, and then got into our office all before 8:00 o’clock. So we would have an hour of work out, hour of reading, praying take showers, and all that stuff, then get into our office before 8:00 o’clock to start our day. But now our kids are a little older, and we’ve got the ability to spend more time. But that was our goal all along that we knew if we got in and busted it early in business, get in the office early. Put our good 10 hours a day in, sometimes 12, sometimes 14, then ultimately one day we’ll have enough time to do the things that we really wanted to do. Which is to write, and really do some good devotions with our kids.
How many hours do you devote to your business a day now?
Benham Brothers: Well we’re not really in the office that much. May be 5 hours a week, because we’re travelling and speaking so much. Now if you want to talk about how much we travel, speak, coupled between the office that’s probably 50 or 60 hours a week.
I’ve seen some of your speeches and you guys are very gifted, great orators, like great at speaking.
Benham Brothers: Thanks.
Do you practice behind the scenes, or is it natural?
Benham Brothers: No. My Dad always said that the key to the great orator is the man who is in love with his message. So the passion comes natural. When you spend so much time with the Lord and then you’re praying, and asking him to bless your business, and then you see that it works. There’s a natural passion inside of you that gives you the opportunity to communicate. So yeah the Lord gave us the ability to do it, but now we’ve got the heart for it. So it’s a difference between going out and speaking, on how the greenhouse effect works. You can be a gifted orator and make it sound good. But then go on out and talk about how Christ has transformed your life, and how it’s played itself out in every facet of your life, well that’s a whole different ball game there.
I believe you have sold over 20,000 real estate properties, How were you able to scale your business, what mechanics did you use?
Benham Brothers: Well the first thing that we did was we built our business from 2003-2007, before we started franchising our business. So during that time, what we basically did was we created a manual for our entire process. Created check list, we created systems and processes for every little thing in our business. Along the lines of creating systems and process for every little thing in our business, David and I were looking for people who could handle those systems and processes. So we were always hiring to the lowest hanging fruit. So let’s just say for our business we had 12 different processes, functioning through 3 different systems. Then what David and I would do if figure out, okay one person can handle these 2 processes and they need this system, and then we hired that person. The next person can handle these 3 processes and are going to need 2 systems, so we hired that person. So we kind of did it with the lowest hanging fruit, but we first needed our systems and processes together.
What would you say is the main reason why many businesses fail?
Benham Brothers: Well I think there’s a number of different reasons, but the number one reason if you’re going to look at just the principle it’s their failure to scale. They don’t know how to scale. You’ve got the Mom and Pop shop, they’re really good at producing enough of their product to make a thousand people happy, but they’re not able to do it to make 10,000 happy. If they’re good at what they do then demand is going to increase, and so they have to be able to scale in order to handle that increase. But on a very specific level, it’s because most people know how to work in their business, but don’t know how to work on their business. So they’re really good at doing the thing whatever that thing is for their business, whether it’s a service or a product. They’re really good at that, but they don’t know how to actually operate a business itself. In terms of all the things that go on, in order to put people in place where they can produce that thing, or they can buy that thing. Another thing a very practical thing is that most businesses grow too fast. You know as well as I do that sales coming through the door, a lot of businesses focus on sales but they don’t focus on customer service. Customer service is where it’s at. It’s the same thing with Southwest Airlines.
They are so successful because they grow slow, very slow and they focus on awesome, crazy, customer service. So businesses fail when the customer service goes down the tubes.
How has the Bible transformed you life?
Benham Brothers: For every spiritual truth there’s a physical manifestation. So you look at the physical manifestation of a fat person, who goes on a 6 months training routine with a 6 month diet. And at the end of that, his whole body and his whole life has been transformed. He can think clearer. He doesn’t snore at night. He can wake up on time. He doesn’t have diabetes. He’s skinner physically and there’s no more high blood pressure, none of that. It’s like okay explain to me that transformation. Well every day he made decisions and those decisions involved, I’m going to do what people don’t. But what, I don’t want to do what I want to accomplish. That’s discipline to get out there and work out. The next decision was I’m not going to put that bowl of ice cream in my mouth. The next decisions was I’m going to actually replace a donut with a kale shake. You see so he’s making those decisions. The same is true with the Bible.
We can’t describe exactly what happened in that man’s body, when he’s going through this physical and mental transformation because he’s going on a diet. I can’t describe it to you. I don’t know how that works. All I know is that if you put good food in your body and you exercise you’re going to experience transformation. The same is true of the Bible. I can’t tell you how it all works. All I can tell you is if you have a steady diet, of the scripture in your life it will transform you, in every area of your life. It will bring transformation. Only a transformed person will not conform to the world. But if somebody isn’t being transformed, then they’re going to be actively conformed to the world, because our bodies and our minds and our spirits. It’s just like if you cut an apple, you cut an apple all of a sudden you see things start to turn brown. Well that’s the same as true as our spiritual life, is that if we’re not proactively being diligent to spend time in God’s word; we’re going to get worst. That’s just the nature of it.
Can you give an example of some biblical principles that you followed that has really helped you?
Benham Brothers: Yeah, yeah. Okay so the children of Israel. Moses has just died on the mountain, and they needed to go into the promise land. So they had to cross the Jordan river and when they crossed the Jordan river, one of the first things God told them was they needed to go and they need to take the promise land. So they’re getting ready to go into battle. They’re going to war and Jericho was the first one, but before they even went to Jericho God said okay I want you, and I want all the men to circumcise themselves. Can you imagine that? You’re getting ready to go into battle, you know you’re going to have to go fight in order to take this land, that God has promised you, and then God say hey you need to cut your junk. You know what God was saying? Before you go out there, and you start fighting that battle and you take what I have given you. I need you to get rid of the junk in your life. I need you to circumcise your heart, that’s what I need you to do. So David and I when we first started our business, that’s what we did. We didn’t get ambitious and go out there, and try to accomplish everything. We first were like God is really sin in our life that would cause you to not bless our business. So we were able to find a few little things, like state of mind and things like that. We were able to deal with those things and say okay; from this day forward I’m not going to have a negative attitude about this particular person. Or I need to go ask forgiveness to this person for this. You see it’s that circumcision, and then the children of Israel were successful. And so we did that in business. We took that same principle, applied it in business and it worked.
On your website there is a video where you discuss the second mile mind set, please explain what that means?
Benham Brothers: It’s called the second mile mind set, and especially for Christians in businesses. It’s good because when Jesus told the people that, if somebody asked you to walk 1 mile you travel with them 2 miles, and back in those days the Jews knew what this meant. Because there was a law in Rome that if a Roman soldier saw a Jew walking on the side of the road, he could give the Roman soldier his backpack, and the Jewish person had to carry it for 1 mile. That was the law. And Jesus said hey don’t just fulfil the obligation of the law, fulfil the law of love and go 2 miles. Because in that second mile when that Roman soldier say, hey give me my bag back.
No I’m going to carry it for another mile. Well that breaks down any barriers in his heart towards the Jews. Ultimately that law of love going that second mile was what opened the door for those Roman soldiers to listen to what these Jews had to say. So in business we do the same thing. We always say give more in value, than you take in pay. Whatever the customer is paying you for, give them a little bit more. The restaurants that give you just abundant portions of food, and you’re like wow that’s just amazing. You always want to go back there. That’s the second mile mind set.
What are your methods for winning souls for Christ through your business?
Benham Brothers: I’m not going door to door knocking on people’s houses or anything like that. But what David and I say is that, if you meet the need the customer is paying you for, then look to the door to be opened by God for you to meet the need the customer is not paying you for. So you’re always looking for that open door. Business is what puts you in a position to where that door can be opened. So if somebody walks into my business and I own a juice bar, then what I need to do is have excellent customer service, have an amazing product, give them an experience of a life time. So that one day they may come in and go, hey how do you do this, how come you guys are so much better than everybody. Boom there’s your open door. We’ll say first Christ transformed my life, and I read his book, and he gives me more principles to build a business, than any other book in the history of mankind. Oh really how’s that work? You see, so we’re always looking for that open door, but it has to be led by the great customer service that we have, and the good products that we have.
Do you believe Christians entrepreneurs should strictly read the Bible?
Benham Brothers: I would say David and I are not against books. We just say that the number one book that you have to read and it needs to be done every day, to help you not only in life and your relationships, but in business is the Bible. I would say if you want to know the best books that we’ve read, two of the top of course everybody would say The Good, The Great by Jim Collins. But the second for us what we say probably every aspiring entrepreneur needs to read, right from the outset is the E-Myth by Michael Gerber. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber it’s a phenomenal book.
Right about the time that we had the idea franchise, we read that book the E-Myth. It really helped me think through some really good things.
Here’s a scenario. You have a young ambitious entrepreneur he’s started several businesses and failed, but now they want to give it that last shot. What kind of advice would you give to that person?
Benham Brothers: Well I would encourage them first to let them know that before Edison invented the light bulb, before he figured out what it was going to take for him to be able to get that sucker on. He failed over 100 times. And people were like, why didn’t you stop. He’s like, man I just discovered a 1000 different ways that it won’t work, and so I tell entrepreneurs that too. You failed, you’ve given it a shot, you’ve stepped out in faith. Plenty entrepreneurs takes faith, whether you believe in God or not. It takes faith, you got to have faith that what you’re doing is going to work. Just that act of faith I think is pleasing to the Lord. Of course he wants our motives to be pure. So I would tell them, look you just keep going. If it’s in your heart to take a risk, God has made you an entrepreneur and you will never be satisfied, unless you’re in the risk taking business.
So just do it. Just get out there and keep failing, because one of these days something will stick, and it will be the best thing that you can ever imagine.
Official website: Whateverthecost.com
What ever the cost book: Click here
Jason Benham Twitter: Click here
David Benham Twitter: Click here