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How to start a side business:tips from a successful real estate investor & doubling his productivity

Updated: Mar 10, 2022

Finding his passion, purpose and monetizing it are some of the ways Alvin Wong has sought success.

Tips from a successful real estate investor

Do you know your purpose? The talents and gifts you were put here to share with the world, but aren’t sure where, when or how to start?

We had the opportunity to sit down with Alvin Wong, a successful entrepreneur and real estate investor in Northern and Southern Ontario. Alvin owns and manages several properties for a passive and side income all the while he works a full-time job as a nurse in Toronto.

He shared the ways he got started in business and the blueprint to how he manages his time to double his productivity in a jam-packed schedule. Not only does he share his daily habits, but Alvin has also shared his philosophies on all things self-development and business to move your needle forward with actionable advice to help you today.

In this article you’ll find:

What’s your calling? Choosing to pursue your purpose

A great coach can change your life

The power of your habits = your success

Work-life balance – can you have it all?

Failing forward & growth

Actionable Items from Alvin

What’s your calling? Choosing to pursue your purpose

Your passions are the vehicles that serve your purpose. Throughout our lives those passions will likely change as we grow from life events like graduating school, getting married, having a child, losing a loved one.

“When you get down to it, we all have the same purpose: to help others through our passion” – Jim Kwik

It’s funny because among the many entrepreneurs I’ve talked to since opening my business back in 2018, there’s a common theme among them: they found their passions by accident.

No exception to this beautiful coincidence is Alvin.

Alvin had been working as a nurse, working grueling hours and the graveyard shift. Often.

During that phase in his career unfortunately he was told he was about to be laid off. Now in the position of no stable job in the foreseeable future, Alvin opted to move from Ottawa to Toronto, Ontario to explore his options down there.

While packing, Alvin came across an extremely dusty book that he had never found the time to read, it was called Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.

If you’re unfamiliar, Rich Dad Poor Dad is a gateway finance book to creating better financial literacy for regular people like you, Alvin and I.

This book turned Alvin’s world upside down at the time. He realized that had needed to take control of his financial future. He thought, do I really know how to make my money work for me?

Following the guidelines, helpful tips and exercises provided by Robert in Rich Dad Poor Dad, Alvin soon realized that investing in stocks probably wasn’t for him. Through research he quickly found real estate and knew it was a perfect fit right away.

Had he not been packing to move, who’s to say when Alvin would have, or if he would have ever picked up that book.

A great coach can change your life

Where would Michael Jordan be without Phil Jackson? I don’t know. But what we can all agree on is that we saw greatness in MJ with Phil as his coach. [I think they have a few pieces of hardware to attest to that…]

The truth: starting a business is hard. It can be lonely. You’ll be challenged more than you could have ever imagined. And you’ll want to quit. Often.

Through the peaks and valleys that are business, Alvin discussed how his coach changed the trajectory of his real estate business.

With the help of a business coach, he was able to take the guessing work and skip a few of the growing pains through following the guidance and support from his coach.

Alvin’s relationship with his coach is a special one; he knows that this is someone that will not only teach and guide, but he’s there to lift him up when those business belly flops happen and will tell him to get up and try again just as quick. More on that later in the article.

“You need to invest in you. If you can’t do that, then why would anyone else?” - Unknown

All the greats have coaches and mentors. So, why not you?

Pro Tip: be sure to interview anyone before hiring them as your coach. Figure out what you're looking for in a coach and prepare a list of questions to ask them during the initial call [which should always be free].

The power of your habits = your success

For Alvin it was Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki that changed his life. For me it was The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg that changed mine.

Habits are all around us – from the sequence of how you do your morning routine, to the way you make your coffee in the morning, maybe it’s your warm-up before your workout. Our day is full of them. These are automatic, ingrained in us and done without thinking most of the time.

But what if we took an approach to be intentional about our habits? In the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, he dives into how our habits are established in our mind with a feedback loop.

Habit Feedback Loop from The Power of Habit
Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit

Duhigg shares how we can rewire what we deem to be a bad habit to serve as a positive one.

During our interview, Alvin he graciously shared the top 5 habits that have helped him live with intention and double his productivity each and every day. Here they are:

1. Keeping a positive attitude – knowing that there’s light in any situation and that we can do hard things.

Although not always easy, knowing that there are elements that we cannot control and that a bad situation does not define us or our success has kept a level head on Alvin’s shoulders!

2. Personal care – being intentional via eating well, daily exercise & movement, setting personal and business boundaries and prioritizing sleep. We’ll break these down below:

Food: although a total foodie and enjoyer to eating out, Alvin recently couldn’t keep up with meal prep, so he subscribed to a meal prep service to ensure he was eating a balanced diet when he’s working his full-time job during the day, or when he’s on a 7-hour trip up to one of his properties up North. He takes a no excuses approach to this!

Exercise: daily movement! Not only does this create endorphins to ensure for a balanced mood, but it’ll also help you sleep and decreases stress.

He recently signed up for a half-marathon, too! Setting fitness goals via challenges like 100 burpees a day for 30 days or signing up for a race are some of the ways that he keeps his fitness fun and challenging.

Setting Boundaries: he says No. Like a lot. And it’s not a bad thing! He’s ditched the people pleaser mentality to focus on what will actually move his needle forward. More on that below.

Sleep: sticking to his schedule is a habit that has helped Alvin become such a high performing achiever. He sticks to a regular bedtime and rarely strays.

3. Taking Action – avoid the analysis paralysis [this is why a coach is helpful]. Learning to listen to your intuition and just doing the dang thing! Don’t worry about failure, that is inevitable. Growing and taking action daily is necessary for growth in any business.

Read more: New year, new goals and a whole lot of analysis paralysis

In the words of Reid Hoffman “If you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late”. Make movements. Fail forward. Often.

4. Discipline – frugality is Alvin’s highlighted discipline of choice.

He mentioned that in a world of so many temptations it can be hard to decipher between what we need in business v. what we want. By making this discipline muscle stronger Alvin’s been able to save money and make it work towards his goals.

5. Wake-up Early – [cue the rooster] He’s an early riser! No surprise there, though. All the greats seem to have this same overlapping habit: they wake early and use their golden hours to work and set the tone for the day. Alvin highly recommends The 5AM Club by Robin Sharma for this habit.

Pro Tip: wake-up early if you have children – this is a game changer!

“Your habits will determine your future” – Jack Canfield

Work-life balance – can you have it all?

Is this a balance that’s attainable? Absolutely. Will it happen overnight? Absolutely not.

Alvin keeps it real and has already talked about the disciplines and sacrifices he makes on the daily to make his business work for him v. his business working him.

But that’s the trade-off. These habits have allowed for him to set SOP’s [standard operating procedures], creating systems to be able to scale his business, all the while to make him a passive income while he’s sleeping.

Read more: A synonym for CRM would be MVP

All this could not be possible without the help of the simplest and most powerful personal and business performance tool: His schedule.

Alvin discusses how time blocking your day will not only keep you organized, but you’ll stay on task [goodbye shiny object syndrome!] and increase your productivity 10-fold.

One big take away from our chat on scheduling was when he mentioned the No Questions Asked rule. For myself this has been a game changer!

The No Questions Asked rule works like this: if it’s on that list it must get done today. No questions asked.

Personally, my team and I have implemented this rule in our day-to-day planning, and it’s held us accountable to hitting our targets faster than ever before.

Note: be reasonable and don’t overload that list! Alvin mentions an old trick of Warren Buffet’s was to write a list of the to-do items for the day, choose 3 and leave the rest for another day. Same school of thought applies!

For setting up his schedule, systems and protocols for his teams, Alvin has relied heavily on these books:

1. The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran

2. Who Not How by Dan Sullivan & Dr. Benjamin Hardy

3. E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber

4. The Perfect Week Formula by Craig BallanTyne *he’s offering his book free on the website right now!

Read more: Automation is in the building: here's your permission to do less AND grow your business.

Pro Tip: in this digital age, virtual assistants are readily available at your fingertips. Outsource and delegate where you’re able, so you can focus on the things that will grow your business.

Failing forward & growth

Have you failed recently? Do you seek failure or avoid it?

When asked about a situation where he failed but came back even stronger, Alvin had this to share:

“My very first story is that Windsor property, my very first one, I didn't know how to manage tenants. You know, the reason why I got, like most investors, the reason why I got this property was because the tenant wasn't paying rent.

And so, I got, I was being taken advantage of, because I don't know - I was too fresh. I was too novice. And so, he seeked that and he took advantage of me because of that. So, he would, he would purposely go in my face and say "I'm not paying you rent because I don't feel like it. What are you gonna do about it?”

And you know, I froze because I was like "well, that's not fair.” He (Tenant) was like, “well that's, how it is.” And I was like “okay, well, you know, how's this will go down.” He then basically told me, "I know the Landlord-Tenant Board really well."

The tenant was like literally teaching me, if I decide to use the N form to start the eviction process, he would tell me exactly the step by step process how he will get away. He was a professional delinquent tenant. That was my very first lesson or 101 on how to manage my properties and tenants. It’s funny now that I think about it. Like the guy (tenant) who is such an ass to me, end up being my teacher. I learnt a lot from him that day and I was able to take that lesson and manage all my properties and tenants effectively.

So long story short, he made a big mistake. He started threatening the other tenants in the property. Hence the Landlord Tenant Board escalated the eviction process and had the sheriff to evict the tenant out of the property

I've learned to do my due diligence to get all the necessary information about all my tenants I inherit. In Ontario when you purchase a property and if there is a tenant you have to assume them. That’s the law according to Landlord Tenant board in Ontario.

Yes. So there was a lot of mistakes in this case scenario. I wasn’t prepared and I didn’t know how to be a landlord. I should had reached out to my network a little bit sooner. I didn't want to burden people with my problems and I thought I could do it myself.

Failure is a lesson and you have to learn to ask for help."

In short:

  • When Alvin bought his first property he was taken advantage of because he was too new to the game and didn’t realize the weight behind inheriting the current tenants – especially one that refused to pay rent.

  • Ironically enough that exact tenant taught him all about the Landlord-Tenant Board/ Act and how to get rid of difficult tenants.

  • The process was difficult, long and scary, but he eventually was able to remove this tenant and learned a lot in the end from this crash course in becoming a new landlord.

Read more: Story of a naive entrepreneur: my 20K mistake

Failure is not the opposite of success; it's part of success.” — Arianna Huffington

When you put yourself out there you will fail. Fail often. Fail forward towards your success.

Actionable Items from Alvin:

1. Figure out what you're good at. Start with what you enjoy doing! Do you believe your passion could serve others?

Pro Tip: Not sure where to start? See what types of side businesses are in demand by searching the Google-verse!

2. Get organized:

  • Do your research - learn about the industry, the competition, and where your potential customers hangout

  • Educate yourself on what you’ll need for this field of work [e.g., licenses, certifications, products, investments, etc.]

  • Figure out your schedule and carve out time daily to work on your business – be sure to apply the No Questions Asked rule!

3. Educate Yourself

It’s never a bad investment when you invest in yourself.

Invest in yourself by taking courses and/ or hiring a coach.

Pro Tip: Tight on a budget? Take every free masterclass there is out there! There are so many free resources out there. Digest all the free knowledge you can! I recommend Foundr – they are a leader in creating online courses for entrepreneurs, but they do have tons of value within their freebie classes, too!

4. Start Small

Be patient, and slowly grow your business over time:

  • Set up some basic business systems [e.g., a website, social media accounts, email address]

  • Learn how to market your business to get the word out there

  • Connect with your customers and audience to create a genuine relationship between you, them, and your product. Become the master as customer service.

  • Build a solid team and treat them well.

5 . Network

Not only do we want to know where our customers hangout, we want to find where our fellow entrepreneurial community hangs out, too! These could be businesses in direct competition [there’s enough space for all of us, so don’t write these guys off just yet!] and where the businesses that would complement yours are as well.

It can be a lonely road as an entrepreneur, so finding a network and community of people that just get it will help support and uplift you and your business. LinkedIn is a great resource for this!

Pro Tip: Connect with a mentor. Find someone who you admire and ask them to mentor you! This is the quickest and best way to learn the ins and outs of business. Coaches of course can act as a mentor as well.

Read more: Tips for networking with social anxiety & post-pandemic social awkwardness

5. Rinse and Repeat

Start enjoying your passion, work hard and in no time you’ll be reaping your well-deserved passive income. 😉


Listen: Alvin says he’s just a regular guy! If he can do it, then anyone can!

We’re in such a unique time, where we can create businesses online without a store front, and we can connect with colleagues, teams, and customers around the world within minutes 24/7. Like how freaking cool is that?

If you’ve been thinking on an idea, I urge you to just do it! Put your passion out there to serve your purpose to the world; we’ll be waiting.

Sending all the virtual hugs & support!

Jenna Zeng ❤️

Team StaffNet

PS; Looking to connect with Alvin?

Email him HERE

Connect on Instagram HERE

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To read the full transcript of the video, click HERE!

Here is the list of books referenced within the post!

  1. Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

  2. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

  3. The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran & Michael Lennington

  4. Who Not How by Dan Sullivan & Dr. Benjamin Hardy

  5. The 5AM Club by Robin Sharma

  6. E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber

  7. The Perfect Week Formula by Craig BallanTyne *he’s offering his book free on his website right now!

We’re here to share knowledge and lift one another up within our entrepreneurial community every week. If you want more of this type of content subscribe down below to have our weekly blog sent directly to your email. No spam. Just juicy nuggets of self-development to make you into the super entrepreneur you were born to be.

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