From Banker to Business Owner: Keyrenter Chicago North’s John Golden

With more than 25 years of experience in banking and sales management, John Golden, of Keyrenter Chicago North, carefully developed the tools to run his own small businesses. His career as a senior banking executive, tasked with helping businesses grow, now makes John the perfect person to help property owners maximize their investments.

Originally from Boston, John moved to the Chicago area while working for Charter One Bank. There he served as Senior Vice President and Director of Business Banking until 2014. After U.S. Bank bought all of RBS Citizen Financial Group, Inc.’s retail branches in the Chicago area, including Charter One Bank, John decided it was time for a new career move.

“Having run small-business banking for Charter One, I was intrigued by all the different paths my career could take.” said John “I had some experience with lending money to real estate investors, so that was something I considered.”

However, as he began researching property investing, John realized he may be biting off more than he could chew. “Even with my background and experience, I realized how much I didn’t know about investment properties,” said John.,

Understanding your strengths and areas of development are key parts of being a successful entrepreneur. So, that’s when John turned to franchising and found Keyrenter Property Management in 2015.

“Keyrenter is a good opportunity,” said John. “It was a smaller investment to buy a property management franchise than to start investing directly into my own rental properties. However, I still hope to buy some investment properties in the future.”

Advice to New Franchisees

John was among the first group of owners when Keyrenter started franchising. From the very beginning, he says, the corporate office has always been very helpful to new franchisees.

“They were great helping me navigate the real estate and property management industry,” said John. “Getting your real estate license is different for every state. They helped me get all the information I needed and were knowledgeable about the right forms and contracts to get my business started.”

In a lot of ways, the first franchisees paved the way for today’s entrepreneurs who want to buy their own professional property management offices. John’s advice to new franchisees is to keep a close eye on your expenses.

“If you’re renting an office, don’t spend a lot of money,” said John. “Even today, I still rent a small basement office in Chicago. I pay $210 a month in rent for my office. You can get caught up in paying thousands of dollars a month for an office, which can get overwhelming when you’re not making any money yet.”

COVID-19 Creates New Challenges for Business Owners

Five years into his Keyrenter franchise and John is still learning. Every business owner had to make some changes in their business due to COVID-19. During the shelter-in-place order in Illinois, rental units couldn’t be shown to prospective tenants while the units were still occupied.

“We’re using technology more and we’ve done some virtual showings, but it’s been more challenging,” said John. “We’re also doing extensive cleaning between tenants, so everyone stays safe.”

Still, most states consider property management an essential business because people need a place to live.

“More people are behind on their rent than normal, though it could be worse,” said John. “We’re also seeing more tenants who were supposed to move but are asking for month-to-month leases, to delay moving for a few months. So, we’re making some changes, but the crisis hasn’t really affected my bottom line. In fact, my income is up year over year.”

From Nightmares to New Leases

The Keyrenter Chicago North office serves the North Side of Chicago and the near north suburbs in Cook County, Illinois. John now manages more than 100 units around the city and suburbs. One of his biggest accomplishments was helping a property owner turn around a struggling 10-unit apartment building.

“The building’s owner lived in a nursing home and the trustee in charge of the property was considering selling it,” said John. “Half of the units were vacant, and many of the existing tenants were past due on their rents. It was a nightmare. But within a few months, we got it cleaned up, rented the empty units and replaced many of the bad tenants. We turned it around so quickly, they decided not to sell. That was about three years ago, so I’m proud of that.”

John is also very proud of his family. He and his wife have three sons. His oldest son recently obtained his real estate license and helps out with leasing on a part-time basis. In addition to their family and careers, John and his wife enjoy volunteering at the Common Pantry food distribution center in Chicago to help community members in need.

Do you have an interest in real estate and property management? Learn more about the benefits of a Keyrenter franchise at: Next Steps

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