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5 min read

Executive Letter #7: Build Your Business to Change People's Lives

Aug 29, 2021 6:00:00 PM

Today I want to talk to you about why my approach to business is about more than building my personal wealth.

Before I had a thriving, nationally-recognized company with over a hundred employees, I had a small business that was just ramping up when the 2008 recession hit.

Most people saw that blow to the market as a business killer. I saw it as a prime opportunity to best my competition.

When credit dried up and banks stopped lending, our competitors couldn’t get any funding to buy and renovate houses. Of course, that’s what happens when you look at banks as your only option!

They got stumped. We got creative.

We’d been self-funding through private investors long before the recession, and it allowed us to continue to grow all the way to the other side of a rocky time in our economy.

Then when we came out of the recession, and the banks who’d previously seen real estate as bad for their portfolio started coming after us.

One of the biggest investment banks in the world approached us a few years ago with a generous offer to acquire our business. Others would have seen that as the opportunity of a lifetime, the ultimate payoff for years of hard work.

We declined.

Think Past the Payoff

Building this business, my goal was never to sell it. I wanted to build a business that changes people’s lives, especially the lives of my family.

The idea of building generational wealth, something my family could benefit from for generations to come, was instilled in me early in my career. I was a prominent manager, working for years for a family business that was thriving. I saw firsthand how the founding family built it from the ground up, and the second generation scaled up and expanded it into a billion dollar company.

However, if you were to look for that business now, it no longer exists. It folded.

I decided that I wasn’t going to let that happen to me. If I was going to start a family business, it had to be something that would live beyond me, and support my family long after me. That mission has only gotten stronger as our “family” has gotten bigger.

At REI Nation, 100+ families depend on the success of our business. That means that I’m a part of a legacy that goes far beyond the Clothier name. Rather, each one of those families are on a path to generational wealth themselves, both by the work they do day-by-day and the knowledge and skills we build on over their career.

If your end game is a big payoff, you’re only looking to change one life: your own. To me, it’s gotta be bigger than that.

While the thrill of the chase may get me out of bed in the morning, it’s providing for these families and my own that gets me through whatever the rest of the day brings … in other words, The Grind.

Family Business

The true test of my goal will come after I am gone. But I've made a pretty good head start.

I have three sons, and I'm lucky to have twelve grandchildren. Now I can say that they have a billion dollar (and growing) company to inherit, and that means a lot to me.

Another lesson that I learned from my early days, though, was the downside of generational wealth. I saw many business founders who had the vision and motivation to start their businesses. Their children had the vision and motivation to take those businesses to the next level. What about their children's children?

Within my lifetime, I have seen many family businesses go from billion dollar profits to zero. Why?

In my opinion, the next generation has to understand the why. My purpose is to change people's lives. If the next two generations understand that, then I've passed something on that can truly last. It has to be about more than the money.

I started my sons off with a grind mentality early on. From as young as eleven, my sons would come to work with me, completing their homework while my wife and I closed down the store. After school, they would bag groceries, punch prices on cans of beans, and stock shelves—always with the product face pointing out. Later on, if they weren't working for me, they were working across the street at a local Memphis steakhouse, making salads.

I knew that they would have a foundational work ethic, as well as other resources, to build on. I know they value legacy, and pass down the same kinds of lessons to my grandchildren.

Still, nothing will stop me from working until I can't any longer.

Commit to The Grind

Making a bunch of money may make you seem successful in the short term, but it’s the long play that truly creates a legacy. Across my first seven letters, I've talked about details, customer service, and things that are important to our values. If I had to boil everything down to one sentence, it would be "don't make it about the money."

Leaders can get their team to the “payoff.” Winners don’t care about the payoff, because their eye is on a bigger goal.

Building a business that is successful is one that creates generational wealth for your family and the families of everyone working for you. That’s when you know you’ve made it. That’s how you change people’s lives.

Until next time,

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Kent Clothier
Chief Grind Officer

 

About Kent Clothier

CG5A0010-1Entrepreneur, Real Estate Investor, Husband, Dad, and Granddad. Through decades of personal experience, and a few other titles, Kent built a strong community around him at REI Nation. But it didn’t start there. It took 22 years of entrepreneurship – of losing money and making money, building small businesses and multimillion dollar companies alike – before he founded a family business-turned-empire. His sons Kent Jr, Chris, and Brett have worked alongside him, as well as leading successful ventures of their own. Real estate trends, managing towards efficiency, excellent customer service and leading the industry are what fuel him. Over the years, the skills he’s come to value are financial acumen, honesty, and forging new paths in business, investing, and winning.