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How (and Why!) to Choose a Guru | By: Multiple Speaker(s)

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How (and Why!) to Choose a Guru with Paul Bauer

Paul Bauer is a real estate investor and four time past president of the National Real Estate Investors Association. He now works as an agent and marketing consultant for most of the country’s top real estate speakers. This is from an interview I did with Paul on Real Life Real Estate more than 8 years ago, but it’s still great advice today.

Q: Let’s start at the beginning: what is a real estate guru?
A: A guru is someone who holds him or herself out to be an expert in some aspect of real estate investing, and who often claims to have a unique perspective or system for investing. Most gurus have something to sell, whether it be a home study course with a manual and tapes, a day long or multi-day live event, or a long-term mentoring program.
Q: So what’s the difference between a “guru” and a “mentor”?
A: A mentor is usually someone who’s accessible to the investor/student on a day-to-day basis, whereas a guru is normally an out-of-town expert who can only be reached on a limited basis. Also, gurus often have information on one particular aspect of investing—say, managing properties or wholesaling, for instance—where a mentor can help the investor meet a wide variety of the actual challenges of running a real estate business. A mentor might give advice on everything from who to use as a CPA to how to complete an eviction in a certain county, where a guru will have very detailed, focused information on one particular technique.
Q: So do you think it’s important for a real estate investor to have a guru?
A: Absolutely. I learned a great deal over the years from various gurus for a number of reasons. First, a good guru does more than impart information; he or she also motivates and inspires students to be more successful. Second, if an investor wants to focus on a certain strategy, finding an expert who really knows that strategy backward and forward can help the investor get the information he needs very quickly. And finally, if the guru’s materials are well-researched, they are a great resource for forms and contracts that the student is unlikely to be able to find on his own.
Q: By your own accounting, there are dozens of national and perhaps 100 regional gurus. With so many choices, how would I know who to spend my money with?
A: It is definitely true that not every guru appeals to every potential student. The first thing to look for is someone who “speaks” to you, who explains things in a way that you understand and also in a way that inspires you to go out and be a success. Obviously, you should look for a guru who speaks on topics that interest you, but also pay attention to whether their ethics agree with yours. I’ve listened to gurus who had great ideas but from whom I could learn very little because I couldn’t stomach the way they suggested I run my business or treat people. I think that a guru who does what he teaches (and not all do—some actually make their living speaking rather than investing) is more credible. And finally, a guru who is approachable and accessible is going to be more valuable to you in the long run than one who doesn’t want contact with his students after the sale or the workshop.
Q: Speaking of spending money, what should people look for before spending hundreds of dollars on a home study course or thousands on a live event?
A: The very first thing to look for is a money back guarantee of some sort. Most speakers offer—and honor—these guarantees, so I would be hesitant to work with a guru who didn’t. In the case of a home study course, look at the manual before purchasing it. Is it a well-written guide to the topic, or simply a transcription of the seminar tapes? Or worse yet, is it a workshop manual in outline form, where you’re expected to fill in the details? These are fine for live courses, but not for something you’re supposed to learn from at home. Also important are the table of contents and index. Most people use a home study course as a reference manual, pulling it off the shelf to look up a certain contract or idea. Without a detailed table of contents and/or index, a manual is nearly useless for reference. Finally, are the audio tapes made from an actual lecture or workshop? The information may be more logically presented this way.
Q: Any final advice?
A: Although they present themselves as experts, not all real estate gurus have good or valuable advice. On the other hand, too many investors look down their noses at gurus because they do have books and tapes to sell, and thereby deprive themselves of some excellent, moneymaking information. The long and short of it is, they’re not all good and they're not all bad. Do your research, get recommendations from people you trust, and see if there’s not a guru out there who can spur you on to success.

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