Serial entrepreneur shares his experience | Think real estate

Garrett Sutton makes it his mission to help other entrepreneurs succeed.

Garrett Sutton is no stranger to entrepreneurship. He is a real estate investor, author and film producer, and also runs his own law firm, Corporate Direct, which helps business owners, including real estate investors, start and maintain their business entities. During his 40+ year career, Sutton started, failed, transformed and succeeded – all of which helped him gain knowledge to share with clients and the readers of his many business books.

road to law

From an early age, Sutton was drawn to the intersection of business and law. His father, a high court judge, spoke often about the store — discussing the unfortunate results many companies had in his court by ignoring the law, whether intentional or out of ignorance. Sutton studied business at UC Berkeley before attending UC Hastings School of Law in San Francisco. While working at large law firms in California and Washington, D.C., he said he was often intrigued by his clients’ venture capital investments.

“You have a lot of clients doing a lot of interesting things and you say to yourself, ‘Oh my God, this is going to look like a lot of fun,'” he said. “So, it occurred to me that I might want my own business.”

In 1992, he took a big step and started his own law firm in Reno, Nevada, where he moved a few years ago to escape his big city life. He said the move was “a bit painful at first” but he was confident knowing it was “an old road” for those in his field.

Sutton’s law firm practiced corporate law for clients, but over time it gradually shifted to its current highly specialized focus, focusing on the formation and maintenance of corporate entities, such as limited liability companies and corporations. The company assists property owners and entities across the country.

“I’ll be on the phone with people all over the country — in some cases, if they’re going to invest in the U.S., I’ll talk to them about what they’re doing,” Sutton said. “They’re investing in real estate, flipping houses, they’re starting businesses, and it’s nice to talk to people from all walks of life and see what people across the country are doing.”

He said his clients appreciate the company’s narrow and specific purpose — a lesson he thinks other business owners can appreciate, he said.

“Do you want to offer a wide range of services and be happy with all of them, or do you want to focus?” he said.

opportunity of a lifetime

Part of Sutton’s drive to narrow the company’s focus was his relationship with Robert Kiyosaki, the author of “Rich Dad Poor Dad” and the leader of the business empire that grew from the book. Kiyosaki is looking for an attorney to advise rich dad on the subject of entity and asset protection. Sutton and Kiyosaki bonded over a shared interest in football — both fans of the sport and ex-athletes — and in 2001, Sutton was asked to write a book for the rich dad brand under tight deadlines. He finished it in three weeks, the first of many business books he’s written.

Sutton admits it took him more than a few weeks to write his follow-up book, but says he enjoys the process because he’s always been interested in writing. He wrote stories from elementary school through college, and he tried to write a “nowhere to go” book in his 20s. His interest even led him to start a monthly arts and entertainment magazine in Sonoma County, California, a venture that didn’t go as planned.

“We had some partners, some quit, and all of a sudden I had to run it,” he said. “I stuck with it for a while. Publishing is difficult, especially local publishing like this. I learned some good lessons from it.”

Fortunately for Sutton, the timing and theme of his first book, “Starting Your Own Company,” was right, which prompted him to write several more books for business owners and real estate investors. His latest work, The Veil Does Not Fail: Protecting Your Personal Assets From Commercial Attacks, will be released this year. The book explains why the corporate veil, which is designed to separate business assets from the owner’s personal wealth, can be pierced, resulting in a potentially catastrophic loss for the owner.

‘Hard Lessons’ for Real Estate Investing

The lessons in many of Sutton’s writings are applicable to those in the real estate industry and stem from first-hand knowledge. He said he became an “accidental landlord” when he and his wife Jenny had their first child. When they thought their house was too small for their growing family, the Suttons bought a new home in Reno. Sutton said he would lose money selling his first home, so he decided to rent it.

“I didn’t expect to get into real estate at all,” he said. “I did learn some hard lessons from owning my first single-family home.”

One of the lessons was that he had to be quick and tough on tenants who had excuses not to pay rent — like “The Raiders lost” (they bet the rent on the game). Fortunately, Sutton said, Nevada law allows landlords to take swift eviction action if necessary.

He rented the single-family home for about 10 years. Later, when he met Kiyosaki and learned about his “rich dad” philosophy of financial independence, Sutton said he and his wife decided to invest in a different type of real estate. They owned a 50-unit apartment building for 15 years.

The couple has now transitioned to a triple net lease, which provides income without the burden of management. Sutton explained that triple net leases are typically commercial strip centers that house national chains of tenants rated as creditworthy. A management company handles construction issues and rent collection, writing a check to the owner.

Sutton recommends a similar strategy for other business owners: If their business needs to rent a location, the owner can buy the property and keep it in an LLC separate from the business. The business pays rent to the LLC; if the business is later sold, the owner retains the property and income stream. He details this process in his book The Real Estate Vulnerability.

Looking ahead

Part of Sutton’s push for real estate investing is his realization that he and his wife can’t work forever. With this in mind, he started succession planning for his law firm. His son, fresh out of the University of Wyoming Law School, will take over after learning the knack.

With the program established, Sutton embarked on a new business venture that tapped into another lifelong interest: making movies. He said he loved making movies when he was young, and even persuaded a high school English teacher to let him submit movies instead of writing essays. “If you put an English teacher in a movie, you always get an A,” he joked.

Sutton’s partner is a long-term client with great experience in the film industry. They work together to bring back Sunn Classic Pictures. As with previous iterations, the rebooted production company will produce documentaries and feature films.

Currently, they are working on a documentary about Max Patkin, known as the Clown Prince of Baseball. Sutton said the film will be released this year, and details are available at

“We interviewed some of the greats who are widely known in baseball,” he said. “Anyone who loves baseball will love this documentary.”

His studio also intends to create an online platform called SunnStream to distribute original content on a pay-per-view basis. Sutton said he was excited to start the business and learn about an industry that was completely new to him.

“I realized my clients had a lot of fun over the years,” he said. “It’s not that I don’t like what I’m doing – I don’t want to convey that message – but it’s new. Having been doing this since 1978, it’s been a pleasure to be involved in something new and different. “

In addition to his love of movies, Sutton said the movie business could be good for investors. He said the IRS allows a 100% write-off of a film’s production cost in the year of production. Compared to real estate, these investors benefit from depreciation over time, he said; for movies, depreciation is immediate and offers substantial tax benefits.

risk and reward

Sutton says every new venture he takes has risks, but not enough to stop him from trying.

“You don’t want to just go into it blindly. You want to think about the risks, you can’t ignore the risks, but you can’t be intimidated by every single risk if you’re going to be successful in business,” he said. “In that sense, we’re a very tolerant society. … In our country, you can take risks and fail. In Silicon Valley, it’s a badge of honor. People don’t look down on people who take risks and fail. .”

Although his career has touched many industries, Sutton said he is most proud of his code of business advice.

“Hopefully the book I’m writing is helpful to people. I talk to people on the phone who have read my book and say it’s a good book…I like when people say that,” he said. “If there’s going to be a legacy, it’s the written word. … It’s very rewarding.

Katie Bean is a former newspaper and magazine editor who loves telling stories about businesses and great leaders. She lives in Kansas City.

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