How I Applied my Street Smarts to Build America’s Fastest Growing Property Management Company

Oct 02, 2014

Guest Post by Brenton Hayden

If I told you that I retired at the age of 27 with a net worth of just under $20 million, what assumptions would you make about my upbringing?

You would be wrong for thinking that I was born into money, that I had highly-connected parents who paid for a pricey Ivy League degree and who gave me a comfortable safety net that allowed me to take big entrepreneurial risks.

Yes, you would be wrong for thinking all of that.

I am the proud son of a long-haul truck driver and a homemaker. I was raised, along with my six siblings, in Minnesota farm country. I had no networks or mentors to draw on, and my parents weren’t able to pay for my college education.

While I may not have had many of the advantages common to most young millionaires, I did have one important leg up: from a young age, I knew that nothing was going to be handed to me. That reality might seem disheartening to some, but I found it liberating. It was the ultimate freedom — I had nothing to lose, everything to gain, and my future was entirely in my own hands.

Losing It All…The First Time

I had always known that hard work pays off, but it wasn’t until I was 19 years old that that payoff started to become very real — in the form of a six-figure salary.

After working as a part-time stock boy for Kellogg’s for some time, I was offered the opportunity to take over sales for a chronically under-performing territory. At nineteen, I was the youngest territory manager in the company. When I was offered the position, I had no sales or management experience, but I knew that I had to seize the opportunity.

I quickly took a historically poor-performing territory and turned it into the number-one performing one in the state. With that success came a six-figure salary, and a six-figure lifestyle to match.

And then it all fell apart.

In a series of unfortunate events, I was fired from Kellogg’s and evicted from my apartment a short time later. It was a moment of personal reckoning, and I knew that I had a choice to make. I could either allow this demoralizing experience to be my undoing, or I could do what I did best: seize the opportunity in the chaos. Thankfully, I opted for the latter.

The Upside of Eviction

While I can’t say that it was a pleasant experience at the time, with hindsight I have come to see that being evicted was one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

It was in the course of familiarizing myself with the rental eviction process and trying to find another place to live that I began to notice some of the inefficiencies and pain points (read: opportunities to be seized) in the property management industry. I quickly realized that this was an industry ripe for innovation, but with little money to my name, I was in no position to act on my instincts. Undeterred by the odds that were increasingly stacked against me, I went in search of a job that would eventually allow me to fund my business idea, which would later become Renters Warehouse, one of the largest and fastest-growing property management companies in the United States.

I quickly landed a job in real estate. At the time, the housing market was red-hot, but what was more exciting was the incredible volume of calls I was receiving on a regular basis from people looking for help to manage their rental properties.

So when my then-broker left to start his own firm and I found myself yet again without a job, I knew the time had come to bring my vision to life. It was 2007, and although the housing market was crumbling around us, the need for rental properties was skyrocketing. With only a fraction of my former six-figure salary to work with, I had to be scrappy. I began making cold-calls to for rent ads, pitching my no-charge property management services in exchange for a commission. After a few discouraging no’s, I received my first yes. By the end of my first year in business, I had profited $966,803.

Getting evicted had never felt so good.

Retiring at 27

Despite the dismal economic situation in America at the time, the business was thriving. In 2010, just three short years after that first cold-call, Renters Warehouse made it’s debut on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in America at #983. The following year, we graduated to the Inc. 500 list at #132 with three-year sales growth of 2,085.2%. That was also the year that I made my first million.

I’m proud to say that that upward trend has continued. This year will be our fifth consecutive year on the Inc. 500 | 5000 list, and I have been humbled by the incredible industry accolades that I have received, most recently from EY for Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year in the Upper Midwest. In 2014, we surpassed over 7,500 properties nationwide, and we are poised to reach our goal of 176 locations over the next few years.

So naturally, I quit my job.

In the fall of 2013, at the age of 27, I retired as CEO and handed over the reigns of the company to my COO and president. Like nearly every other business decision I’ve made since I was a teenager, this was a decision based on feeling there was an opportunity to be seized. Moving away from the role of CEO has allowed me to focus on our franchise expansion, as well as my own angel investing.

What is the theme of your life?

I know full-well that many people look at me, read my articles about retiring as a millionaire before the age of 30 and assume that I have been the beneficiary of an inordinate amount of luck.

That might make for a sexier story, but truth is that I diligently practiced the art of noticing and seizing opportunities before they passed me by. Having the guts to say yes is the current that continues to propel me to new levels of professional and personal success.

And my favorite part of it all is that anyone — even a kid from rural Minnesota — has the power to say yes…no trust fund needed.


About the Author:
Brenton Hayden is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of Renters Warehouse USA, a five time honoree of the Inc. 500|5000 list. At 29, Brenton leads his dedicated team of over 100 employees and franchisees in nine states to see gross revenues of $12.5 million. With a portfolio of managed properties valued around $750 million and $2 billion in residential leasing transactions, it’s no surprise that this Harvard Business School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Sloan School of Management graduate was named the youngest franchisor in America by INC. Magazine in 2011 at the age of 25. Most recently, Brenton was named the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the Mid-West.

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