By: Kaylah Jackson
For Ashley, a US Army veteran and Andy Williams, a Marine Corps veteran, the opportunity to start their careers in the real estate industry is more than “life after service.” It’s an opportunity for them to change the narrative about their fellow transitioning veterans.
In the military, paperwork is king and whether it’s a counseling form or PT test record, you file paperwork for everything. As long as you sign it–the rest is taken care of. On the other hand, in the civilian world, things don’t work the same; you don’t have a team leader chasing you down to sign a gear request or a fire team behind you on the same mission. For many veterans like Ashley and Andy, getting accustomed to this change of environment was a challenge.
The couple met in Baghdad while they were both deployed, and through their own research and training, they have started a small business with a community-driven mission. They want veterans to know that real estate offers job opportunities for every type of person, whether you’re an extrovert who wants to work in a team environment or an introvert who prefers working on your own.
Working with rentals was their introduction to the business and allowed Ashley to stay at home helping to raise their two children, but also work with Andy to grow their entrepreneurial pursuits. Now, they flip houses and reach out to other veteran small business owners to take on projects with them. As problem-solver and task-oriented people, veterans are ideal for this type of industry.
“When I got out, I realized that, once you’re a Marine, you get out and you try to find another problem to solve, so, when I got out, I just continued to serve. It takes a team to solve a problem and run a mission and when I got out I was looking for that right team.” said Andy. The business of houses allowed the couple to use their money wisely and rather than spending it; they can financially invest by having physical assets.
Fresh out of the military, Andy remembers going through countless interviews that felt like “begging for work,” and contacting a recruiter 99 times pursuing a job. Even after receiving degrees, Ashley in health administration and Andy in entrepreneurship, it was still challenging to find qualified jobs.
“The first thing I learned when I was transitioning, even though you work hard, the money that you make in the military doesn’t balance out in the civilian life,” he said. Early in their post-military career, Ashley and Andy worked in private security for Blackwater Protection, but both soon found they wanted to “put the guns down” and try something else.
The couple’s show, Flip or Flip Ft. Worth chronicles their experience finding houses in surrounding communities and taking them from drab to fab, but not without finding a way to integrate the veteran community. The upcoming season features an episode with a Marine Corps veteran with a landscape business who they work with on a project. “Every inch we take in the market share, is another inch we can give back to a veteran. We want to continue to serve, and pave a way, open the door, break some glass… knock a wall down.” they said.
If you’re a veteran and interested in how to start working in real estate or just how to work through the transition process, Andy and Ashley advise you write an OPORD on your transition. For those that don’t know an “Operation’s Order,” more commonly known in the military as an OPORD, is a set of mission objections and a plan to accomplish them. It outlines everything from time hacks and personnel needed to emergency contingencies.
“We literally sat down. We went from orientation, we did our situational awareness, we did our mission statement, we put our execution phase together, we looked at the admin and logistics and we put ourselves in command–once you write it down, you’ll find it,” they said.
Identify those “friendly forces,” whether that’s your local realtors or state realtor board. Find a mentor that might be the other half of your buddy system. Once you make a plan of action and it will be easier to execute it.
Real estate allows you to build an entrepreneurship venture and build your wealth and financial literacy, by participating in your small business. For the Williams, they’ve got their eyes set on the future to help other veterans add value to their communities.
Their next goal? Andy is launching a campaign for 500 veterans where they each buy 10 home within the next five years. Yup that’s right, do the math and that’s 5,000 houses. While many flip houses for mere profit, for Ashley and Andy, it’s about reaching back and integrating the current and next generation of veterans in whatever way they can. Their show, Flip or Flop Ft. Worth, premiers Nov. 2nd, on HGTV at 9/8 CT.