Property Manager Creates His Own Path

SeanHill-CloseupSean Hill had it made – a top-tier liberal arts education, a legal job with all the perks, and a law school education around the corner. It just didn’t feel right. So he went his own way, leaving corporate America behind to start a property management business and finally get the freedom he’d always been looking for in an unconventional career.

What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How long have you been doing this job?

I’m Sean Hill and I’m an entrepreneur. I currently own a property management business, which I founded about a year ago, but I’ve been entrepreneurial all my life and I’ve started other businesses in the past, doing everything from connecting black singles to cleaning crabs.

What is your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you?

I’m a black man and I didn’t grow up well off, so I saw a lot of black men like me not given the opportunity to reach their dreams. Those who did have the opportunity to succeed most often went to college and then got a job in the corporate world or became a doctor or a lawyer.

While that’s a valid choice, I think a lot of the time we demonize those people who want to go another way and start their own businesses by calling them hustlers instead of looking at them as entrepreneurs. I think that we would be better off as a people if we focused a lot more on teaching people how to make a product or offer a service and then get others to pay for that product or service.

Not everyone fits into the corporate world – I know I didn’t – and without another option black men may think of ourselves as failures instead of looking for success that’s legal and upstanding but falls outside of the traditional business world. I really struggled with that and I don’t want other people to have those same struggles.

How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail?

In my area, most of the rental properties are owned by businesses, not individuals. Simply put, my job as a property manager is to make sure that when a tenant pulls up to one of those properties, it looks good and functions well. I help make sure that the parking lot is shoveled, that the trash is picked up properly, that the grass is trimmed and the outside of the property looks good.

On top of that, my job as a business owner is to make sales calls to potential new clients, which can involve everything from giving an estimate to touring an apartment complex, and to manage my staff and resources so that I can properly service all the existing properties that I work with.

What was your journey to doing this kind of work? How did you get here?

I went to a great liberal arts college, and when I graduated, I thought I was going to become a lawyer. I got a job at the Department of Justice, got into top law schools, and was on my way. But I have always been someone who questions rules and regulations and that started causing problems. Every time someone said do a, b, c, and d, I would think why not do d, a, b, and then jump to k.

In the world of corporate law, that’s a problem. People don’t want to hear about k when you’re supposed to be on b. I also wasn’t able to dedicate enough of my time to business ideas that I had on the side, because I had to dedicate all my time to this job. Eventually I checked out and ended up on the wrong side of the “up and out” policy – either they promote you or they get rid of you, and for me it was the latter.

So suddenly I’m unemployed and trying to figure out how to support myself after coming from a pretty good high-end lifestyle – I had the luxury studio, the new car, the platinum cards, the works. And it felt pretty bad to lose that, so I made myself feel better the only way I knew how, by working. I put myself out there and I started getting calls to help out with properties – I’ll pay you to fix my leaky basement or trim my overgrown grass or deal with a yard full of beer bottles. I started with just the most rudimentary tools and just myself and I’ve built up the business now to the point that I have staff and better infrastructure and real resources. It’s just grown exponentially.

Do you love what you do? Do you think you’ve found the right path?

What I love about being a business owner is the freedom to make my own decisions and the ability to be constantly learning and growing. Recently, for example, I thought about putting more money into marketing my business, until I realized that every dollar that I invest in staff and infrastructure is coming back to me tenfold. So I switched my plan. But I didn’t have to get sign-off from the boss or get approvals from a ton of people – I made the decision and then I acted on it. That freedom is priceless.

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

I don’t think you need any specific education, but you do need to have a certain mindset. Some people are planners – they decide where they want to be in x years and then they work backwards from there and figure out their steps. But I think it takes more flexible thinking to be an entrepreneur. You don’t know what’s going to happen next so you have think while you’re running downhill – you have to be able to go with what the moment brings you and take advantage of any and all opportunities in front of you.

TakingFlightWhat is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?

It’s not so much about how you get the job done as it is that you get the job done, no matter what’s going on around you. And if you’re consistently having trouble getting the job done, it may just be that you’re not in the right kind of job.

What kind of challenges do you face and what makes you just want to quit?

Business ownership is tough – it isn’t just fun and free-wheeling all the time. And I’ve definitely chosen a different and possibly more difficult path than many people, but I think that I’m doing the right thing for who I am and how I function. As circumstances change, being a business owner allows me to change with them, so even if things are falling apart around me or something happens that I can’t predict, I know that I will be able to make a decision quickly, adapt to the circumstances, and move forward.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?

What’s great about my business is that it’s growing. When I started out, people were paying me $40 or $50 to do a small job here and there. Now the business is bringing in $800 or $900 a day. To be honest, I didn’t even know that you could make that kind of money, especially outside of corporate America. I can’t wait to see how much I can grow the business in the future.

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

One of the other great things about being a business owner is that you control your own vacation. If I want to drive down to the beach for the day because I want to get away, I don’t need to clear it with anyone but myself. So I get the time off that I need. Plus I’m more energized with my work now so I don’t need as many breaks.

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?WorkingHard

As far as entrepreneurship goes, I would say do it. Figure out what it is that you can manufacture or offer and then figure out who is willing to give you money to buy that product or get that service. It doesn’t have to be the world’s biggest idea – not everyone is Mark Zuckerberg, but we don’t all have to be. Some of us can own a plumbing business or a property management business and make good money and enjoy our lives.

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

In many ways, I feel I have written my own ticket. And I’m still writing it. So I have no idea where I’ll be in five years exactly, but I know who I’ll be – I’ll be someone who is authentically living their life and owning their choices and doing what they love. And that’s more important to me than a title and a corner office will ever be.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • I think I am inspired, which means you can be what you want to be as far as there is passion and focus. You must not wait for a white collar job with an entrepreneurial skill you can be anywhere you want to be in life.

  • This was such an incredible story, I was moved by it. I know how it was not being privilege throughout my life where there are more than plenty of rough patches and harder to reach dreams. It was never easy for me growing up while hoping to achieve something so big. This is an inspirational story and I could truly relate back and reflect on my own life. Well done.

  • Entrepreneurship is for the fearless and courageous. I admired Sean for diverting from the structured path and creating his own way. Many times people get sucked into the stagnant void of working for others and selling what has already been created for them. New ideas and innovations are what influence and shape the world. More people need to follow in this man’s footsteps and try something different so that we can really see what our world is made of and be able to advance to even higher levels, whether that be technology, health, science, fashion, design or natural resources. Everyone has an imaginative flame within them but it is through normalization and society deeming that it can burn out. This is a remarkable life story and only proves even more that greatness and accomplishment can be a real thing if we only strive to do what we feel in our hearts is right.

  • It is incredible to see how people can break free from how our society is set up, and I am thankful that you shared your story. Although my interest path is not the same as yours, the way you explain your experience and how you overcame those obstacles of suddenly loosing everything, it really inspired me into further perusing my career path. I have been through some tough situations, situations where I felt like everything was done and gone.
    My personal Career interest is in Forensic psychology; I say that I understand how you must have felt at the beginning of starting your career, because of how society expected you to become something like a lawyer,doctor, etc. Forensic psychology for me is how I see myself breaking apart from what I have seen through my life as normal.

  • Thank you for sharing! My story is similar….I was on a business path in corporate America, working long hours, commuting, missing my family. I decided to start my own business and now have the freedom to enjoy my life. It has been hard but so very rewarding! I admire your drive to succeed and define success on your own terms! I have stepped out and defined my own success and it has been the best move of my life.

  • Thank you for sharing your story! It really hit home when you were describing the “ability to be constantly learning and growing”. That is something we should strive for regardless of what job or industry any of us are in. If we are put in a position where we are stagnant, or we are shoved into a job where we cannot improve or grow, we should realize that there is so much more out there for us than that. I have been in a position prior where I was unable to go up despite being a candidate for a higher management position; I was told that I just wasn’t on that path. That is when I realized that I needed to find a place that would help me grow as a persona and an employee. I wanted to “write my own ticket” too, and I’m so happy I left and found the place I work at now.

  • Sean, thank you for sharing your experience. I definitely feel that there were various pieces I could relate to. I have greatly wanted to kick off my own path and business, but I’ve spent a great deal of my working years in the corporate world – for highly respectable companies I’ll add, but as you shared, there’s always a process and timeline to be followed of which expectations or desired results don’t just happen from day to day. In the meantime, I’ve decided that a good path for me to further develop entrepreneurial skills is to attend grad school for my MBA. It’s a two year program which I know will go quickly, but I’m hoping that I can further build some confidence and potentially hone in on skills that I can later market to folks and potentially formulate a business around!

  • Your story is amazing, it gives hope to all of us, it is an incredible example of how perseverance is the key to achieve our dreams. Been an entrepreneur is never the easy path, however, it has incredible results not only for ourselves but it will also impact our society. As you did it, this story becomes an example for many people that are trying to free themselves from the routine.
    Change is important and necessary and sometimes the big corporation can not offer that opportunity and challenge to help us in the professional growing process.
    The key is the passion, you have to love what you do to succeed, once you find yourself doing what you love you are not working anymore, and everything just playing in the same way to make the success come by itself.
    I did business management, and I was working in the field but my passion has always been interior design, the creative field is never an easy path, it is actually very demanding, but as long as you love what you do there is never going to be nothing hard enough to stop you from completing your goals!

  • Your story gives me hope! I was someone who felt I was meant for one thing but went a different way because of what I thought I was supposed to do. I started off going to school for Business but I wasn’t enjoying myself. Every day I felt like I was just going through the motions they wanted me to and I had to force myself to get me work done. I did not feel like I could try something new and go off the beaten path (your step k). Finally after a year and a half, I could do it anymore. I didn’t feel challenge or a passion. I took a step I did not think was possible. I am now studying environmental studies and learning about social injustice and biogeography. I LOVE IT! Every day I go to class and learn about problems in our world that I can fix. That I can change, and I can change them by trying something different. Every moment I am not in class I am volunteering or working in community issues and I am so happy. I spend my time helping people and living creature that need it and don’t have a voice. It is amazing to work with people who don’t shut you down. I can aim for a big project and instead of someone saying “that won’t work,” the people around me help me to get it done to create a better world for all. Once I graduate I am looking forward to creating my own business to help underprivileged families and community of social and environmental justice.

    When I first left my old major it was scary. I felt like I was leaping into the unknown. Everyone I knew was going to school for medicine, law or business and I was changing the pattern. I did not know how it would work out. Are there even jobs out there for this major? But I would rather be happy, enjoy what I am doing and help others then work in an area that doesn’t allow me to be me just for security.

  • I love the story of Sean’s success because it gives me inspiration to be somewhat like him. My passion is not in property management, but rather in the field of art. At the moment, I’m not sure exactly what career I want to pursue in art, but I know that I’m going to have to find that out for myself. That’s why Sean inspires me, because he made his own path in life and figured out what he really wanted to do rather than being content with staying inside the corporate landscape. Yes, he’s making good money from it, but I think the journey to find your passion and the satisfaction that you will have with yourself once you do, is worth more than any material object in this world.

Skip to content