RJ Palano was recently at Harvard Club Boston to give a speech on business and investing. The Harvard Club of Boston is a private social club located in Boston, MA.
RJ Palano Speech
I am so excited to share the stage today, and fascinated to share the stage with George Ross and Caitlyn Jenner this morning. And one thing about Caitlyn Jenner, you can love her, you can like her, you can dislike her, but you gotta know one thing, she has balls to do what she did, and I just want to know where they are.
I’ve always had the curiosity of a cat, when I was six years old, I walked across the street when they were repaving our street and stepped into it with bare feet, first with the left foot, then the right foot. So, I’ve always had that sense of curiosity.
Michael Robert Joseph Palano, and most people in business know me as RJ Palano. And it was a sunny day, blue sky, not a cloud in the sky, and I was at the corner store, and maybe some of you remember when there was corner stores, a neighborhood store, not a 7/11, or Racetrack or Wawa or whatever it’s called out there, and I sat under a large maple tree, and I was drinking a can of imitation cherry soda, the year was 1961, and why this was so memorable to me is cause it’s my earliest recollection of having established my first goal in life. My first goal was to drink as much cherry soda as I possibly could on an island. And that’s where it all began for me.
You see, I grew up in a working class family and my father whose parents were from Sicily, my mom’s parents were from the UK and we didn’t have a lot, we had love in our family and my dad instilled in us a very strong sense of work, a very strong work ethic. At 7 years old I would shovel driveways in the winter with snow with my older brothers I then became cutting lawns in the summer time, and at one point I believe it was 9 or 10 and I had a paper route, but not just one paper route, I had four paper routes. In the morning I would deliver the Currier Express at night I would deliver the Buffalo Evening News and then the Talawanda News and on the Thursday’s I would deliver the Record Advertiser, about a thousand papers and I would do this because I knew that if I made money I could do whatever I wanted.
From the earliest beginnings of my life and I always knew that if I wanted a sense of adventure and I wanted to be able to do what I wanted to do out of choice not need. It was later in life that I realized it was important to invest the money that I made so that the money could work for me and not me working for the money and isn’t that what we all want – to work out of choice not need? You bet it is.
But Little did I know that my entrepreneurial journey would land me in prison, And I gotta tell ya, it’s not an easy thing to accept, the shame that comes with it, and everything. And as I look back over my life, I’ve realized that every single setback, every obstacle, every issue, every setback, was nothing more than a set up for a comeback.
My nemesis at that time was former Attorney General of New York and Governor, and that was Elliot Spitzer. It was not an easy thing to go through for me and my family. Thank God I had the support of my family, Especially my wife who’s been with me through thick and thin and there was a lot of thin times.
My Real Estate journey started in 1975 when my brothers and I bought a bar and we turned it into a Country Western bar, and let me just tell you, I learned very early in age what not to do in Real Estate because that was a great learning experience for two years, and I know I never want to own a bar or never own a restaurant because there are so many ways for people to steal from you and you just don’t know them all until you’re involved in that business. But that experience it it prepared me for what I started to do next, and that was to acquire single family houses.
You see I always knew that the greatest amount of wealth in this Country and even the world was in Real Estate cause George Ross was even talking about it yesterday and I was in love with the real estate house business and jumped on the seminar bandwagon at about 1981. And I applied my trade and I started doing research in the County hall, buying mortgages at a discount and houses at auction. And what I would do is I would look up people that were holding private mortgages and we would seek them out and then I would try to negotiate to buy their mortgage at a discount or part of their mortgage at a discount and I became very good at this. And I got very good at doing title searches, but then like George Ross also talked about I started delegating it and I created a team of people to do title searches and what that led me to is we started to trace missing errors. You see in every city, every state the state has money in deposit that people forgot about as well as the County. So we would locate the money and then we would find the people and we’d negotiate a deal with them to get paid a percentage of the money that we were able to collect for them.
We had contracts with social services, we had contracts with banks, it was a great time and then it got even better. In Buffalo in New York State at that time they had tax sales. If people didn’t pay their property taxes they had a tax sales. So we started doing the title searches for them. In the mid-80’s I was doing 87% of all the work for the city of Buffalo and Eerie County doing the title searches, but that was during the day. At night time I created a telemarketing team and we were contacting every body that had equity in their house to see if they wanted to sell it at a discount because they were going to loose it in about a week or to provide hard money loans for them. And things were really good until the wheels kinda came off for me in Buffalo.
And a couple years later I was rewarded at the very newspapers that I delivered that I was the largest owner of single family houses in Buffalo. And being bigger isn’t always better that just makes you a target and I was a target of jealous bureaucrats, and thats just part of the story.
We moved to Florida in 2002, and I actually thought I’d died. I thought I died and I went to real estate heaven because it was so easy at that time. Houses were skyrocketing in value. I was on, not personally but I had TV commercials and I had a team of buyers signing up houses, we were wholesaling them to other investors as well as selling them retail. And everything was great until the wheels came off in 2006.
In 2006 with the great recession one day I woke up and I noticed that a lot of my net worth had evaporated and I knew I had to reinvent myself again and what I did was, well you’d remember now that there was houses for sale on just about every corner in the USA, there were foreclosures there was one at almost every single street. But buying houses in a down market is like shooting fish in a barrel, what are you going to do with them? Americans were scared, were scared, so I knew instinctively that I had to reach out to international investors.
So I went to Beijing, Singapore, Brazil, South Africa, Canada, and other promoters followed me from France, Israel, Australia and the UK, and we still work with these people today because we provided a turn-key solution for them, buying houses, rehabbing them, managing them and they just make passive income.
But it wasn’t always that good. You know, there was a time in my life where I had more time than money and now, like George Ross, I have more money than time, and my goal is to pay things forward and that’s why I wrote this book: “Confessions of a 200 Million Dollar Deal-Maker”, and I’m giving it away because I want people to also enjoy the same success that I’ve obtained for myself, my self in independence for my family so that I can pay it forward.
You know in 1992 I went to Anthony Robinson and one of the things Anthony said was what do you want to be on your epitaph and I said I want to make a difference in the lives of others. Years later I changed that after reading about Bernie Madoff and I changed it to I wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of others. It’s very important.
And Thats why I’ve also gotten involved with a guy named Franklin Cruz and we’re involved in TruInvestors.com, to try to change people’s lives. Teaching them how to do this business. Is it easy, No, is anything easy? No. You have to work at it.
And if I could leave you with one thing today, a few things very quickly. And that is simply this. In this world we’re no longer competing with people in our areas, in your town, your city, your state, even our Country. It’s Global, it’s global. And we have to create our value. We have to create our value and take massive, massive action, because it is important that every body knows there is no free lunch. Thank you so much for having me. Thank you.