The MBA Was Worth + Being A Decent Person

Tondaleya Carter, a Realtor from Keller Williams Commercial. She talked about how having an MBA relates to her success in commercial real estate.

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Many say that startups equal the unpolished MBA. Anyone who has built a business from an idea can attest to the fact that the experience is another level MBA. And there's nothing quite like it. Since you must be extremely resourceful and scrappy as a startup founder, quite often doing many things unconventionally, the conventional corporate MBA's considered the experience "Unpolished", but is it really? Honestly having been on both sides, as an engineer in corporate, and then as a startup founder with an MBA, I'd have to agree with those who say that you don't need an MBA to be a startup founder. In fact, I think you learn more on how to build a company as a startup founder than you do in a structured MBA program. In fact, you certainly earn an MBA while on the job building the company piece by piece. "Build the plane on the way down" they say. Well, that's exactly what it is, but there are lessons to be shared to help both sides learn from each other. The Unpolished MBA podcast will be the sharing of candid conversation related to topics on both sides of the fence. One is not better than the other, just different. Let's jump in.

Host - Monique Mills (01:37):

Hi. I'm your host, Monique Mills. In my work, I get to have great conversations with a lot of smart and interesting people. Some of them are tech startup founders and entrepreneurs in various industries. And then others are corporate employees. I'm sharing a conversation that I had with Tondaleya Carter, a Realtor with Keller Williams Commercial, and she talks about how it was having her MBA in a corporate setting, but also how it's been helpful to her on her entrepreneurial journey. She also talks about how she basically innovated herself out of a job in corporate and just decided to bet on herself. Listen in to some of the stories that she shares with us in this conversation.

Host - Monique Mills (02:19):

I'm going to ask you the top questions that I ask everyone on the unpolished MBA. And just to give people some context on this conversation. Number one, entrepreneur or corporate employee?

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (02:37):

I am an entrepreneur.

Host - Monique Mills (02:39):

So how did you arrive at entrepreneurship?

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (02:42):

Oh, wow. I think I had arrived at it after... I got my MBA in the middle of the 2008, nine, ten crisis of everybody losing their houses. I was still on, I was one of the people on the chopping block. And so I was trying to figure out how am I going to prove myself? And I had just gotten laid off from a big company. And I went after my MBA.

Host - Monique Mills (03:09):

Did you think the MBA was going to help you prepare for getting another job?

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (03:16):

Yep. You got it. Took the words out my mouth because I'm thinking oh education, That's the next key.

Host - Monique Mills (03:21):

Everyone thinks that.

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (03:23):

I'm going to be the next best thing, because I used to work for this big blue company and everybody loves them. So my resume's going to speak for myself. And I thought that was my path. So close to graduation, probably like 60 days before graduation, I got an opportunity from a headhunter to work for a company and run their, help, run their accounting department. So I took it and main reason I took it because the current company I was at, I was so unhappy. And I needed to leave. I end up spending about two and a half years at the company I took after graduation, that position. And I ended up changing their accounting department to the point that I kind of streamlined myself out of a job.

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (04:08):

I didn't no longer need to work eight 30 to five. I could work eight 30 to 12 and my job was done for the day. Because they, when I joined the company, they were operating on a system that was over 25, 30 years old. They were still mailing out invoices and the people needed to pay them in 10 days. Well, if you're demanding someone to pay it in 10 days, you need to get it to them quicker than the snail mail. Yea, I took that and I ran with it. First I was observing how did they run their company. And then another lady that was in the accounts payable department, she said, do what you need to do. She said, stop worrying about how they're running. Cause she said, you can tell that this company's outdated. People had been there 30 years. I mean, the person, the reason why I got the job was the prior person, unfortunately passed away due to cancer. She had been there for 25 years so it was still the same process. They hadn't changed anything.

Host - Monique Mills (05:03):

So you innovated your way out of a job?

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (05:05):

Yep. Out of a job girl and, and the owner didn't, comptroller, not the owner, but the comptroller didn't want me to go. He was just like, I know you're bored. Cause he hates to see you're sitting there doing nothing, but she should be doing something. It is a job. But I would tell him, I was like, I've already fixed everything for you guys. Everybody's money is coming in. I mean, it was, it was, the money was much better. We didn't have to have everybody keep FedExes of checks and to get it here on time.

Host - Monique Mills (05:30):

They couldn't find a way for you to continue to provide value to customers? Like other positions internally? Or they weren't, they weren't innovating? It sounds like they were very old school.

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (05:41):

Yes, yes. And it wasn't your average business either. It was uh...

Host - Monique Mills (05:46):

Old school corporate.

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (05:47):

Yes. It was very old school corporate. That building at one time, I'm sure had at least a thousand employees. And by the time I get there, it was six or seven of us in the whole building. And most of the buildings were already shut down. It was a failed business, bought out of bankruptcy and the guy who owned it lived in Illinois. And his business model was he bought farms or chicken farms along those lines that were failing. He'd buy them when they went into bankruptcy and he pays cash for them.

Host - Monique Mills (06:20):

Well we know people do that in the real estate industry. Right. Foreclosure. And they already got the money ready to buy.

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (06:27):

Bingo. So he bought a business, the building and the whole shebang, you know? So yeah. So I was really coming in the middle of people who have been there forever and I was a newbie on the block and had to prove myself.

Host - Monique Mills (06:40):

So it sounds like you got into entrepreneurship out of necessity.

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (06:45):

Yep. I got into, out of necessity because I had, was sitting at that desk half the time bored out of my mind. Trying, at the time I was still running real estate deals at the desk, which I knew was a little disrespectful. So that's why I tried to like go into the lunchroom and during my lunchtime, make my calls, you know, send contracts or whatever the situation was to get that done in an hour and a half. But he, after a while I knew what I was doing. And he wasn't mad because he was so pleased at what I had done for the company. And he said, well I understand that you're going to leave. And he said, well, I'll just hired somebody part time. He said, because the job isn't full time. He said, if you want to stay I'll keep it a full time job to give you full time pay.

And it still just wasn't enough because I was bored. I am the kind of person I need to go, do, feel like I've accomplished something. So after that I left him, I was working for a friend. She had her own small real estate company. And I asked her, could I join. She and I are good friends before she even opened up the company. Matter of fact, I helped her open the company because she was a real estate agent that wanted to do her own thing. And I helped her get her LLC started and stuff like that because she thought she had to hire a lawyer. I was like, girl, let me save you some money.

Host - Monique Mills (07:53):

No. Yeah. That's, that's definitely, that's definitely something people think. And actually, I don't even think you should create an LLC until you see if there's even a demand. Of course, real estate, there is a demand for that, but for other things.

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (08:05):

Right. She was already in the game.

Host - Monique Mills (08:08):

So do you think having your MBA has been useful to you in this journey?

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (08:13):

It has been excellent. It has definitely been excellent. I, when I graduated with my MBA, I felt like somebody had given me the magic pill and my brain opened up. I said, this is the information I've been searching for all these years. Because I knew I knew more. I just didn't know how to execute it. And I got my MBA. It helped me learn to think outside of the box. The ideas and things that I had, it kind of confirmed that I wasn't nuts .that it was okay to think that way. So with me helping her prior to me, even working for her, getting that started made me feel pretty good.

And when I knew I could go to her and say, Hey, can I hang license here. And, and I told her, I'm still kind of green. I don't do a whole bunch of real estate. Cause I got, you know, chopped down when the market got shot down, like every most real estate agents did. And she was willing to train me. And I learned a lot from her and I started getting a lot of people asking about commercial. So if anybody doesn't know real estate agents really do own their own business. They're entrepreneurs. I am 100% independent. I am I'm 100%, on 100% commission. So this is your own business. So I learned from her how to run a business and how this works and how important CRMs are and building clientele and a reputation because I really felt like I was starting all over. You know, so I learned a lot.

Host - Monique Mills (09:43):

You learned a lot about building a business in your entrepreneurship journey. Once you started connecting, once you started working with your friend that was in real estate. See those kinds of day to day how you actually do it like tactically. I mean, you can speak about theory about a lot of different things, but actually being in it. And it's like, okay, now what do I do? You got that from working. From actually doing it versus in your MBA? Is that I mean, am I reading that correct?

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (10:14):

I would say a little bit of both. I would say she taught me, like you said, the hands on and the things that people don't think about when they open a business. They just know they want to own the latest Wendy's restaurant. You know, she, I really know behind the scenes, how real estate works and this stuff ain't free. It's really expensive for us to run a whole business. But I knew that I had that knowledge that I had worked really well in commercial.

Cause see, the reason why I ended up leaving her company is because she didn't know anything about commercial real estate. It wasn't her forte and that's okay. So I was trying to learn it and I ended up going with another company because they were willing to teach me what I was thirsting to know. So I got to work with business minded people and business people. So I was able to took what I learned with my MBA and help apply it to their business, give them ideas of different streams of revenue that can help even grow their business more or bring in more money or to reach out to other companies that could work with your company and building different things. And I was amazed at how it was so receptive. I thought people would've thought I was stepping on toes.

Host - Monique Mills (11:26):

No, no. I mean, that's the difference. I mean, because the commercial industry is definitely business minded people. It's business driven whereas in residential real estate, you know, it's more emotion driven. So the real estate, the realtors behave differently. As we talked about in the beginning.

Host - Monique Mills (11:53):

I hope you're finding this interesting so far because in this second part, Tondaleya provides an example of how business comes her way just from being a decent person as an entrepreneur. Believe it or not, we take that for granted in a corporate environment because in corporate environments it's expected that people behave professionally. But in entrepreneurship, it's definitely not a given. Everyone kind of creates their own terms of engagement. Listen to Tondaleya's story that she shares about working with another agent.

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (12:29):

She has a client that she thought would be interested in this listing, but she said, I know nothing about commercial, but I'm trying to help this guy. So some commercial agents from what I'm learning would have been like, what can I just talk to your client and bypass her. I didn't do that. I was like, okay, well that's okay that you don't know commercial. What is it that your client's looking for? Because I want her to understand what I was selling. I wasn't only selling, I was leasing a space and selling the building. She wasn't aware that that was even an option in commercial because she doesn't do commercial.

So I was able to communicate with her, and explained to her, my process, how this works. The guy didn't take the building because what he wanted to do with it was not possible. And to make a long story short, but she still kept in touch with me and said, well, can you still help me with him and help me find a space? Cause I told her, I said, I can't go any further. We would have to start talking about contracts at this point. And so she asked me to come join her and help me with this guy. So I'm still trying to find a space for this guy. So she still wants to learn the business. I don't mind teaching a little bit. And then she calls me two weeks later and said, Hey, I got another client. Can you help me with? He wants to buy investment property.

Host - Monique Mills (13:44):

The power of relationships and just being a decent person.

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (13:48):

That's really all it was. She said you're so nice. You're really helpful. You answer all my questions. She said, I'm promise you, nobody will help me you like you do. But the thing is, she said, you know why I like you? And I said, why? She said, because you communicat. You would talk to me. If I ask you a question, you email me or you call me back or you say, Hey, I can't talk, but I will call you back. You communicate. She said, we have commercial agents in our office. They won't communicate with us and they treat my people badly.

Host - Monique Mills (14:21):

That's all word right there, Tondaleya. Can we please dig into that a little bit? So we talked about before about commercial and residential and all of that. There's a certain personality type in each, right? So when she talks about nobody's, you know, communicating, tell me a little bit about that. How do you communicate versus how she normally sees it done?

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (14:52):

Well, she'll say that she'll give 'em Joe Schmoe a lead and say, Hey, my friend's looking for this and they'll take it. And they either won't communicate with the client well, and that turns into a poor relationship on one side. And when she wants to follow up and say, Hey, did you talk to my friend, Billy Bob, they don't respond via email. They won't respond to a text. She said, I practically have to chase them down and say, Hey, you remember that lead I gave you? Because she wants to give an update because she wants to keep that relationship that she has with that person. So I want to make sure they're happy. And she ends up getting the update from the client that when it didn't go well, so now it's a whole negative conversation.

Host - Monique Mills (15:33):

It's a mess.

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (15:34):

Yea, it's a mess.

Host - Monique Mills (15:34):

And that's the thing. And that's the thing I think entrepreneurs can learn something in corporate when it comes to that. Cause in corporate, you know, you have someone you know, who's gonna check you, follow up with you about that and it can be detrimental. And I don't know why entrepreneurs don't see that as being detrimental. You ruining your brand and relationships.

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (16:02):

Yeah because you don't know who that next person knows. That next lead that she gave me is a million dollar lead. I didn't have that any other way.

Host - Monique Mills (16:10):

That's right. It's about, yeah. It's about relationships and being a decent person. The things that you just mentioned that you would even bring up in conversations with clients or potential co-oping agents, without your MBA, you really don't even think that way. Right?

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (16:28):


Host - Monique Mills (16:29):

You don't even think that way. It completely changes your outlook on what's possible.

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (16:39):

Yes. Because when you're getting your MBA, you're going through all these different case studies and you're studying companies that you've heard about and you're seeing how they pivoted their business and you're going, Whoa. They did what? They hired and fired and moved and closed. And you're like, okay, this is how business really works. Because when you're in corporate America, you're the one that's supporting that business. And you don't always get to see every size of the coin.

So yeah, definitely. MBA definitely gave me what I needed. And so I felt more confident talking to people about it. I had a conference call this morning with a new potential client and she's so excited. She's ready to do her own thing. And it's a retail space and she already has clients. But it's some things that I knew she didn't think about now. You know, always ask these little key questions that drive me to more questions. Well, what's your budget. You got that answer. How soon do you want to open? Got that answer. Do you have money for a buildout? Huh? It was like, crickets. You have to put money aside for the build out. It's not about you coming up with first and next month's rent.

Host - Monique Mills (17:44):

That's right. This is not an apartment.

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (17:46):

There's more detail when you're opening up a retail space, sweetie. And I give them, I tell all my clients, guess what? I got homework for you. And next time I talk to you, I want the homework done.

Host - Monique Mills (17:56):


Guest - Tondaleya Carter (17:57):

Yeah. And I appreciate it. They are so excited when we get off the phone, they'll send me a text. It was great talking to you. Oh my God. This is what I needed. I look forward to meeting you. And I'm, and I'm blown away by that. I'm going, Oh wow. They didn't think I was too pushy. Okay. Well this works for me. This is a, a business model that I can incorporate.

Host - Monique Mills (18:18):

Yeah. One of the trends we keep hearing here on the Unpolished MBA is everyone that is on the entrepreneurship side is like, yeah, I just really enjoy what I'm doing. I enjoy helping people. I enjoy solving problems like over and over and over again. But so here's my question then: you can't help people and solve problems inside of corporate? That's, you know, some people are wondering, well, what's the difference? What would you tell the audience? Those wondering that?

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (18:46):

Well, it depends on your position and what department you're in. Every, the person who's your administrative assistant, she doesn't get to solve the problem of why the latest widget isn't selling for the company. She gets to type up the memo.

Host - Monique Mills (19:03):

Bingo. So the work that you're doing you get to decide the work that you're doing. You get to decide what clients you're going to work with. And ones you don't want to work with it, you are very free to reject them.

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (19:15):

Exactly, exactly. Cause you can't really do that at your job. If you're not happy with your boss, one of the, two of you are leaving. Either you're going to quit, they're going to move you somewhere another department, or the boss wilI get fired. And most of the time the boss doesn't get fired.

Host - Monique Mills (19:30):

So with that said, I'm going to wrap up here with, with this question, is would you ever consider going back into corporate?

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (19:40):

I've toggled with it only because of the 100% commission. Money can get tight. And I know I've got skills to work in corporate America, but every time I think about it, I really get upset with myself. And I was like, no, it's gotta be another way. I gotta figure something else out. I don't want to go back to the reviews and the judgment and the opinion of some manager who doesn't even know me affecting my future career.

Host - Monique Mills (20:06):

Wow. That is extremely powerful.

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (20:10):

Yea I don't want to do that again.

Host - Monique Mills (20:12):

Yeah. Wow. You know, the, the environment in a lot of these companies aren't necessarily the healthiest for people. And so nowadays moving forward, especially, you know, given the remote working options that's become more popular, people are going to start choosing and being just as selective on who they want to work for.

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (20:36):

Yes. Uh huh.

Host - Monique Mills (20:37):

You know, just like we're able to be with, with entrepreneurship, who we want to work with. So everybody works for somebody, right? So we're working directly with clients as entrepreneurs and they're working for an employer in corporate.

Guest - Tondaleya Carter (20:49):

We all need each other in some shape or form. We really do.

Host - Monique Mills (20:56):

Okay. That's it. Tondaleya shared some candid insights like how she innovated her way out of a job and then started a real estate business as a side hustle because she was bored at work. How many of you does that describe? And plus she really wanted to put her MBA to work in real estate. So that's how she decided on focusing on commercial real estate. I also thought it was interesting how she was expecting her clients to think she was bossy because she was direct in her communication. And perhaps in corporate, that would have been an issue to some people, but that's why many people choose entrepreneurship because they choose freedom. What are your thoughts on that?

If you have questions, go ahead and send us a message using the link in the show notes. Your questions may be incorporated into a future episode. And if it is we'll notify you, the Unpolished MBA conversation continues and you can be in part of it by going to Unpolishedmba.com. Thank you for listening

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