Staci Gray: Creating Predictable Execution From Operational Chaos


From graduating at 16 to buying her first property at 18 to growing up in a family that works in the real estate investment and syndication space, Staci Gray has seen and experienced a lot. She understands how entrepreneurs get trapped by operational chaos and don't know how to properly grow their real estate businesses. She founded Organize To Scale to align with mission-driven leaders to develop strategic initiatives, provide operational disciplines and streamline day-to-day execution for quickly maximizing results. This allows people to build businesses they own and that don't own them. Staci shares the importance of understanding yourself and your sliks, putting the right people on the right problems, and the 3 steps she takes to help scale and grow the companies she works with on a daily basis.


In this episode hosted by Mike Swenson, we discussed:

  • How Staci has been in real estate since 16 by working for her father who's an investor, and ended up buying her first property at 18 years old
  • The tension between the visionary and integrator relationship, and how that difference is important for successful growth
  • The importance of understanding who you are and working in your sweet spot
  • The three things that visionary people are driven by
  • How visionaries think and talk about their vision all the time
  • Lessons for entrepreneurs, capital raisers, syndicators, and real estate folks, who are in a place where operational systems are chaotic



0:00 - Intro To Staci's Career
2:11 - Building Organize To Scale
5:38 - Why Entrepreneurs Get Trapped In Their Business
7:55 - Integrator & Visionary
9:52 - Aligning Visionary and Integrator
18:10 - Growth For Visionary And Integrator
23:04 - Gaining Time Freedom Back
25:46 - Build Your Brand
26:43 - How To Work With Staci












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Minnesota Real Estate


Read the full transcript here:

Mike Swenson
Welcome to The REL Freedom Podcast where we inspire you to pursue your passion to gain time and financial freedom through opportunities in real estate. I'm your host, Mike Swenson. Let's get some real freedom together.

Mike Swenson
Hello, everybody, welcome to another episode of The REL Freedom Show talking about how we can build time and financial freedom through opportunities in real estate. What I really love sharing is how we can grow through the help of others, I really believe there was a saying that kind of stuck with me about 15 years ago, and it's if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far go together. And so how I've built and grown businesses is by aligning with other people that want to work with me and help me and where we see common ground where we can really help each other. And so anybody that's building something significant in the real estate space is going to need some great support, some great operation systems, some great admin support. And so that's going to be the focus of what we're talking about today. And we've got Stacey grey with organised to scale to organise to scale aligns with mission driven leaders to develop strategic initiatives provide operational disciplines and streamline day to day execution for maximising results. She works and specialises in the real estate space, things from new construction, property management, syndicators, marketing and promotional work, all those different things, which we'll get into how you can help people, you really do need great admin and operations support to grow your business. And so it's something that me having a background in operations admin, I feel that and I totally believe that and that's why I like highlighting folks that do that on our real estate podcasts. Because without these folks, we're not going to grow. And we're not going to have good systems. So welcome, Stacy to the show. We're so excited to have you.

Staci Gray
Thank you, Mike. That was an awesome intro. And I'm excited to chat systems operations execution, visionary, integrator, all the good stuff.

Mike Swenson
Take us through what you did Previous to this, and how that rolled into building organised to scale. Yeah, I

Staci Gray
can share my life story. I actually my father is a very successful entrepreneur, real estate investor. And he has the co host of the real estate guys radio show. And when I graduated high school at 16, he did not want me to go off to college. So he asked me to come work for him answering phones, for the seminars that he was doing for a real estate investor. So I was answering the phones doing that. And within probably three, six months, I was like, I don't want to answer the phones anymore. So he, I think one of the best books that he gave me was a copy of E Myth by Michael Gerber. And he handed me that book and said, You don't have to answer phones, but you have to document and create a registration coordinator handbook and hire and train your replacement. And that was really the start of what would later become organised to scale. But it really taught me the power of operational disciplines and systems and predictable execution. And then that transcended to us creating a bunch of infrastructure and systems within there, I ended up buying my first property when I was 18 years old. So I didn't end up going back to college, because investing turned out to be a little bit more lucrative. And over the years, I've made a lot of money, lost a lot of money learned a lot, I think some of the best lessons have come in the challenging times. And then about maybe seven, eight years ago, my mother was diagnosed with stage four cancer. And my father, I had already handed the business back to him. And he found himself really wanting a much more time freedom, still very much in the business. And he asked me to come run the family businesses for him again, and I did. And we have a community of folks in our family businesses that are real estate investors, capital raisers, construction, all of those types of things. And they really saw the systems that we had implemented, how it was able to help our family businesses scale, and become more profitable even during one of the most challenging times in our lives. And in December of 2019, unfortunately, my mom passed away and joined the angels up in heaven. And then in March of 2020, we decided that other folks were really eager to have us help them systematise their operations. And so we started helping other folks do that. And that was kind of the journey into organising businesses to scale specifically within the real estate space.

Mike Swenson
You specifically mentioned time freedom and I know for me starting real freedom I always said focus on time and financial freedom through opportunities in real estate. I think we tend to focus on the financial freedom side, and we don't always spend as much time talking about the time freedom side and that really is a huge gift and through leverage time freedom will equal financial Freedom. But, but that's the huge gift that you give people is, you know, I always told people on on my real estate team, the goal was, you know, to do more of what you love, and less of what you don't love. And for a lot of people that are in sales, you know, they're maybe not wired to like the systems and processes and all that. And so not only do you get to partner with people that love doing that stuff, but they're in their gifting and your and your gifting. I know offline, we talked a lot about kind of personality assessments and understanding who you are, and what you need to kind of fulfil that talk about that fit for a little bit how that can really benefit people when they're working in their sweet spots.

Staci Gray
Sure, yeah. So one of our passions is to really help mission driven leaders build businesses they own that don't own them. And a lot of entrepreneurs set out to build businesses to create freedom, but then end up trapped in the very businesses designed to create their freedom. And that happens for one of two reasons. One is we just don't have the systems in place. So there's operational chaos, and we're going so fast. Being that high D personality, like we were talking about offline, the DISC personality we use in it really advertises how much somebody is wired to be driven and demanding and ambitious, versus their interpersonal and they like people and influence and talking or they're more empathetic and a stabilising force, or there's somebody who's a little bit more analytical and cautious and want to analyse everything. But the other way people get trapped in their businesses is the operational chaos, but their passion, when you're a high D entrepreneur, you're so passionate about what you do, and you want to go so fast. In sometimes if you don't have an operational system that is methodical and discipline, you can actually become trapped by your own energy around something. So understanding our natural wiring, and what our individual sweet spots are within our organisation and putting team parameters and structural parameters to prevent us from not having the time freedom we're seeking or the financial freedom we're seeking because of our own internal demons that we're not aware of

Mike Swenson
just thinking about examples of this that I've encountered is working with a high D personality and like, Okay, we're gonna do this, this and this. And then I come back with two or three clarifying questions, because naturally, my head thinks like, Well, how do we implement that? And sometimes the answer we would get as I hadn't thought about that, right? And that's just naturally how that works. And so for people that do like to push the pedal to the metal, sometimes there's, you know, kind of chasing shiny pennies, which is great. And you need people that have those new ideas and creatively implemented, and then you've got that person that can come alongside and say, Okay, how do we organise this chaos a little bit, put some systems and some predictable results in place?

Staci Gray
Yes, we call those two roles. It's from the EOS Entrepreneurial Operating System, traction, rocket, fuel, visionary and integrator. So the idea person is usually the person who is high D driven, fast paced, and they have a million ideas chasing two 310 Rabbits at the same time, feeling like they're not really getting any traction. And then you have the integrator who's the person who is able to systematise take an idea, put it into execution plans and make real little yellow feet to make it happen. Oftentimes, the visionary can see the front of the puzzle box. But then when you take that puzzle box out, and all the pieces are everywhere, the visionaries like I'm out, like that is way too many details. But that's where our real integrator our systems minded person can come in and really thrive.

Mike Swenson
Yeah, and there's a tonne of value there. Like I know, going back to my you know, when I was the integrator, I love to talk in the weeds because I needed clarity sometimes. But I also know that the visionaries eyes glaze over when you start to talk details. And so it's finding that balance and you had mentioned in the book rocket fuel, if you want your business to grow that dynamic is what's really helpful for people you need. You need that visionary personality mixed with the integrator personality. And the book is about like they studied top businesses that grew really quickly. And that was kind of the secret sauce is having that visionary. And having that integrator that can work well together. And within that there can be tension. But it's the beauty of that relationship that helps things grow. Well,

Staci Gray
yes, there's often tension between the visionary and integrator relationship because the visionary is externally focused and motivated by driving revenue and building the brand and the integrator is internally focused driving operational efficiency and quality and they sometimes are in conflict with each other. One of the things that we do at organise to scale is a three step process that really helps align visionary and integrators together. And it's our architect build operate. So what we experienced in our businesses and this, you know, everything that we've developed is from our own trial and errors. So we would, we would have this idea to start a business, or we're going to do this deal, and we're gonna raise all this capital, and then it's like, okay, well, we need a pitch deck, and we need a one pager and we need an investor portal, we need a website, and we would just start playing whack a mole in the business, like, Okay, you go do this, or you go do that. And it was just madness and chaos. So they, what we started doing was now architecting, the business and we do that in a three day planning session in the architect space is, okay, what are we actually building? Is it a lifestyle business? Is this a huge business? What is your sweet spot within the organisation? So every leader, ship person, every team member, every founder, what's your sweet spot? What do we really want to do? Where do we want to be in 10 years? And what's everything that needs to be done in order to achieve that, and then what are we going to execute in the next 90 days, and then we take that and turn and build the essential infrastructure. So step two is building it, you may need an investor portal, you may need a website, but it's actually coming from a place of we thought this all the way through, we understand our brand, we understand our voice, we understand our messaging, we understand our positioning, we understand our our ideal investors, and we're able to create a framework and an infrastructure to really attract that kind of Avatar into our community, and build the type of tribe of investors in deals we're looking for. And then once that's built, then it goes into operate, which is the third phase where you just have the recurring activities that you do to maintain the business. And then when you go decide to do a new deal, you go back to build and have another planning session to make sure everyone's aligned and can execute in a predictable fashion, instead of it getting out of control.

Mike Swenson
Thinking about, you know, what we know about kind of those visionaries to sit down and slow down for that long of a period of time, can feel like nails on a chalkboard for them to think about, I've got to, I've got to talk about this stuff, like I just want to go go go?

Staci Gray
Yes. So what I can completely relate, a lot of people feel that way. And usually by the time they get to the place where they're coming to somebody like me, they are at their wit's end, they're like, I can't keep operating like this, I'm going to start my reputation is going to get hurt, I'm going to drop balls, they're ready for a way of operating differently. And oftentimes, their team is very ready for them to operate differently. And so out of that place, they're much more receptive. And then also, it's a guided process. So they're not abandoned to go try to figure it out on their own. It's a it's a collaborative process, where they really understand that this is the foundation, just like you're building a house, you would go if you're doing ground up development, you don't just go lay a foundation somewhere. That's the first thing you do. You go in, you do your due diligence on our marketplace, you do your due diligence on a piece of land, you come up with a blueprint for how you're going to construct that building. And then you take it to a contractor and a construction crew to build it. And then you put a property management in place and tenants in place to maintain and rent it. Yet, we don't do that in business. But business is very much the same way as what you see that's tangible out there in real estate. But we often don't want to slow down enough to do it. What I found with visionaries, and you and I could probably relate to this, because we're both visionary integrators is visionaries are driven by three things. They want to drive revenue, they want to protect their brand, or build their brand and build their community. And they want to drive operational efficiency and quality. They're motivated by those three things. If a system can provide that to them, and give them a path where they can do the thing that they want to do, which is drive revenue, they're going to be much more receptive to it. And earlier, you and I were talking about how the tension between visionary and integrators where the visionary comes, I got this idea, go execute it, and then you start asking clarifying questions. And sometimes they're like, Oh, I didn't think about it. Or sometimes they're like, you're poking holes in my idea. And what I have learned is when I say this is a great idea, I want to help you execute it. Can I ask a couple of clarifying questions to make sure I get it down to the dotting my eyes crossing my T's that represents what you want. And you've only got to do that for three days with me. And then once you do that, you're good. They're like, okay, yes, I'll tell you everything because it helps them achieve what they want to achieve.

Mike Swenson
Yeah, two things that you had mentioned that I want to chat about. One is you mentioned about, you know, people usually been at their wit's end before they go get to you. I do want to talk about that. But then the other piece is, you know, one of the analogies that I used when I was in that integrator role is, you know, it's it's kind of like the windup toy, you know, you just have to wind me up and point me in the right direction, and then I can go and so it is that period of, it's not that, you know, because we were viewed as kind of the the pessimist people or the negative nancies, because we are poking holes, but it's, it's us asking for clarification. And so the way that I always described it as if you can wind me up, you know, the little windup toy, set me down and point me to the finish line, I love being able to run as fast as I can put those systems in place. But I just need to make sure I'm going in the right direction. Because if you're wanting me to go, you know, I use the example of if you're flying from New York to Los Angeles, and I believe if you're off, it's like one degree at the beginning of your flight, you end up in Seattle. So the difference between being aligned or not aligned is the difference between ending up in Seattle or Los Angeles. So we just need to clarify that first. So we know where that end target is.

Staci Gray
Yes. And oftentimes visionaries, we, I mean, you and I've been both. So I can relate to the visionary in so many ways. We think about it all the time, we're thinking about it, while we're driving, we're thinking about it, when we're going to bed, we're talking about it with our spouses, we're talking about it with our mastermind groups, we're thinking about it in the shower. And then we have a one hour meeting with somebody, and we expect them to get the vision as clear as we see it in our head. And they're not, it's going to take time. And there is an element of patience that is required in order to really build a solid foundation to scale. And those are all growth areas, you know, when it's human nature, we're all wired uniquely, we have our strengths, and we have our challenges. And as a high D visionary, one of the challenges is that we can be very impatient. And then one of the challenges as an integrator, one that is really analytical is we want everything to be perfect. And that's one of our demons on that side. And I think when we just normalise those demons have conversations about it and put communication systems in place to safeguard against it, you can really still scope scale your business with an enjoyable process.

Mike Swenson
So then to kind of go to the witsand piece that I talked about before, you know, having seen now what I've seen on the operational side as residential real estate teams, but for people on the in the public, you know, they might see, you know, so and so's successful real estate agent or in your case, you know, syndicators and other people, a lot of times behind the scenes, it is a complete nightmare. You know, there's, there's so much that's not good. And it might be, you know, I've hired somebody, they did some stuff, and then they left. And then we got to start over again. And I hired somebody, they did some stuff, and then they left or, you know, we didn't get along well, or this or that or the other. And like you said, then they come to this spot where it's like, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So finally, they come to you, and they're like, I don't want this hamster wheel to keep going, I need to change something. And I need to align with somebody else to be able to get me to that next plateau of where I need to go,

Staci Gray
all of that is so true. And there's two parts of it right, you can have the best system in the world, like a diet, everybody knows what to do to lose weight. But if the person in control of implementing it isn't disciplined, isn't structured, then the best diet or the best system in the world won't work. So there's growth areas on both sides, those growth for the visionary and the leadership team, and then there's growth for the systems and they have to scale together. And, you know, the last three, four years, three years really have been challenging with staffing and teams and different things. So if anyone's out there in a state where they feel like, I feel like that, like my business is a mess, I feel like I have a revolving door of people. I can't get the structure in place. A lot of people are going through that right now. And there's a way to systematise it, sometimes it requires slowing down to go faster, which is one of the growth areas for as visionaries, but it's very doable. And it's it's it's not a lost cause and putting more pressure on a faulty infrastructure or a poor system will only hurt in the long run. And tying it back to real estate, which is kind of the audience. I was with Ken McElroy, the rich dad advisor for Robert Kiyosaki. And recently and he was talking about how he's a super syndicator massive successful capital raiser syndicator and he was talking about his risk. He's still looking for deals. But he is focusing more on his operations right now. So that when the market gets to a place where there's a lot of things on sale, he's in a position to move quickly. And so I think that's always a good lesson for all of us other entrepreneurs, capital raisers, syndicators, real estate folks, you We're in a place where maybe our operational systems are a little bit chaotic. Right now we have an opportunity, the market is giving us an opportunity to slow down, get the structure in place so that when 612 18 months, deals start popping up, you can move quickly.

Mike Swenson
Yeah, well, and I think to, you know, helping people to understand that the systems that work at a certain level of your business aren't going to necessarily be the systems that work at the next level of your business. And so I'd mentioned plateau before, you know, thinking it through, we hit a plateau, we grow and we push through, then we're going to hit another plateau. Like, that's how business works. And I know for me, thinking about which systems I'm going to implement or which technologies I'm going to use, I don't necessarily need to pay for the technology or the system right now. That's going to be 10 steps ahead, I get it, we may need that down the road or the person that you heard or the other syndicators using that tool, and it's costing 500 bucks a month, or 1000 bucks a month? Well, I don't need that today. You know, one of the greatest questions I get with people at the you know, starting out is talking about database, right? There's a lot of great databases out there. You don't have to pay for a Ferrari to go get groceries, you just need a grocery cart to go get groceries. And so I always tell people, a good spreadsheet at the beginning, could be a starting point, you know, you're you're moving from what's in my phone is my database to putting a spreadsheet together, collecting phone numbers and emails, I don't have to pay for the Ferrari database right now. I just need the one that I'm actually going to use.

Staci Gray
Yes, I 100% agree with that. And I'll add a little bit deeper. But how you set up your spreadsheet could set you up for success when you're moving into that next phase, because a lot of people put put like their name as the one column, but you can import that into a good good point. Yes, first name, last name separated. So there's a lot of things that we that we do with folks just like that. And I was actually on a call earlier today with one of our brands saying that, hey, we need to do your spreadsheet like this. But you don't really need you don't need an investment portal right now you just need a spreadsheet. However, the spreadsheet has to be set up a certain way to make it scalable for when we are ready to convert to the next tool. And it is it's hitting a ceiling, reevaluating your infrastructure, your systems, your team, your workflows, your assembly lines up, levelling them, testing them, and then putting pressure on that structure and continuing to do that until you hit your 10 Year 20 year B hag that you're shooting for.

Mike Swenson
So what would be some things, you know, if I'm doing something in the real estate space right now? And it's like, because I'm maybe an integrator, I'm not an operations minded person. And I'm thinking like, How could something like this help me? What are some ideas of ways that you're helping your clients? You know, like, I get you do the full evaluation, but like, what are some ways that we can kind of just think about getting started with somebody like you or with, you know, some other admin or operations tool to be able to get some of that time freedom back?

Staci Gray
Yeah, um, I guess talking to the integrator or the visionary,

Mike Swenson
the visionary. Yeah. So if I'm thinking like, okay, things aren't great right now, maybe I'm not at the my breaking point. But I'm looking to scale. Like, what are some ways that you could walk in and help somebody in the real estate industry to give them some structure in some some organisation?

Staci Gray
Yeah, so I think understanding yourself first, so what is your sweet spot within your organisation? So do you want to be the brand ambassador, salesperson, deal junkie? Or is your usually that the visionary role, they're super excited about those things. And what they don't like is setting up the CRM prepping email, communications, calendaring items, the back office stuff. And so I think getting really clear on the skills inventory of the team you have, so who what are your skills is a visionary? And then what are your skills on the team and then putting the right people on the right problems in the business could help tremendously. And then depending on the size of your scale, integrators come in all different shapes and sizes. And integrator, like Steve Jobs integrator is a different kind of integrator than somebody who is building a two person five person operation. And if you're in a two person, five person 10 person operation, you may have an integrator that more looks like a project manager, or an Operations Coordinator, Operations Manager, not somebody that maybe necessarily has to understand deal vetting or running p&l and tax strategy, whereas a higher level integrator may understand those things. So really narrowing it down to what is the current state of your business, and what are your next three to five moves. So you're playing chess and your business was a chess board? You're gonna line up your chess pieces and see what I got on the board and what moves can these folks make? And then to help me win, too get to where I want to go conquer the, my opposing king or take down this deal, what would be my next three to five moves to set up my chessboard to help me win in that way? I think visionaries can think like that is chess players.

Mike Swenson
And I will add to the way that we were introduced is because a few of the podcast guests that I've had on over the last three to six months have been using you. And so when I would have these, you know, these bookings come through and I see organised to scale organised to scale. And so I was like, Oh, great. And so these were people that were all kind of in the real estate syndication space. But they're leveraging you guys to help build and grow their brand and get their name out there, and which is ultimately then going to help with capital raising and that kind of thing.

Staci Gray
Exactly, yes, a lot of folks, especially in the capital raising world, want to wait to have a deal to build their brand. And you can start building your brand or right away, even if you don't have a deal, because you can start sharing you the way you think people are investing with you not just for the ROI, they're investing with you because they trust you to be a good steward of their money, and it and produce an ROI. But if you can start saying, Hey, I'm investing in these types of markets, and I'm looking for these types of returns, and I'm implementing these types of tax strategies, and I'm passing on these types of deals, because there was this yellow flag, they're going to start building, you're gonna start building trust with that investor base so that when you do have a deal, and you present it to them, they're going to be much more inclined to say, yes, have a phone conversation with you and get that deal funded faster for you.

Mike Swenson
So you mentioned you know, you've got the three step plan, what are some other ways that people can can work with you.

Staci Gray
So we do architect Build Operate, we also do coaching for integrators, and visionaries. So we're working on some courses to help with that in specific spaces. And then if they want to just connect with us, they can send an email to scale at organised to And they're there, I have a free report kind of the four steps for organising your business to scale. The a, we do a three day workshop where people can come in and understand the systems for specifically a capital raising business. So a syndication business, we don't have a three day workshop yet for all of the different verticals like a construction company. During the three day what we do is we process map, and we process map the workflows of the seven to 10 core functions that you're interested in. And in the syndication business, it's very tailored. So we walk through how to build your brand and network, how to acquire an onboard investors how to communicate with active investors, how to acquire and manage deals, how to do financial management, reporting, how to build and lead a team and risk management is kind of interlaced through all of that. So that's another way people can connect with us. And then that we have a disc review that we do with folks as well, for visionaries and integrators, to help them develop as the visionary and integrator that they need to be within their organisation. So those are kind of three different ways people connect with us. And if they send an email to scale at organised, they can get access to all of those resources.

Mike Swenson
Yeah, and for somebody you know, that loves doing personality assessments, they really are important if people haven't done them before, or maybe it's been a while since you've done them. It really helps people to understand yourself and to to know maybe where there's some blind spots, maybe to even see how your relationship with with coworkers. So like if you have a team having everybody do this. I know, you know, when we did a StrengthsFinder assessment, one of the things we did as a takeaway, as everybody put their top five on their office door. And so when you're walking in and talking to these coworkers, now you're like, Oh, that makes sense. And when you would hear people share what their top strengths where you're like, Oh, well, that's why we kind of butted heads a few times. But that's why every time I talk to them, they always think about it in this way. It's because that's just how they're wired. And so I can't speak enough for personality assessments for understanding yourself and understanding the people that you're working with.

Staci Gray
Yes, we call it I'm calling out the pink elephant in the room. Like, we have these unspoken communications with each other all the time, because we're like, they're not thinking how I'm thinking they're making a decision I wouldn't make and it's because we're all wired differently. And when we have that clarity and able to have a conversation about it, and it not be right or wrong, bad or good collaboration can really increase and when collaboration increases, productivity increases, and from a visionary perspective, that that usually means driving revenue, increasing operational efficiency and building the brand which is a win for everybody.

Mike Swenson
Awesome. Well, thank you Staci for coming on. I know we could chat about this all day. But I really appreciate all the wisdom that you shared. And yeah, for people out there that are stuck for people out there looking to get to the next level for people out there. Just kind of wondering what what is my next step? You definitely are a great person to talk to.

Staci Gray
Thank you so much. I enjoyed our conversation and all that you're doing.


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