Diamonds in Your Own Backyard

Do you search the nation and the world for your next “opportunity?” Do you surf the net for investment properties, attend marketing meetings, or visit new markets looking for investment or development challenges to take on?

Sure, we all do those things occasionally…some of us more than others. But, methinks we sometimes lose sight of the fact that there are “diamonds in our own backyards.”

A friend of mine, Tom Suddes, CEO of, tells the story of Russell H. Conwell who reinforces this message in his wonderful classic, Acres of Diamonds. “Conwell gave his speech “Acres of Diamonds” more than 5,000 times and earned enough from this effort to help found Temple University.

This idea, Acres of Diamonds, included three stories.

  • An Old Persian farmer, who desperately wanted diamonds, sold his farm, collected his money, left his family and went off in search of diamonds and riches. The man who purchased the farm led his camel into the garden to drink and as the camel put his nose in the shallow water of the garden brook, he ended up discovering the diamond mine of Giaconda.
  • A man in Northern California in 1847 who owned a ranch and heard about discovering gold in Southern California, sold his ranch to a Colonel Sutter and went away to search for gold and riches and never came back. Colonel Sutter put a mill on that stream and one day discovered flakes of gold in the spill-off that started the California Gold Rush.
  • In Pennsylvania, another farmer sold his farm to go take a job with his cousin looking for coal oil in Canada. The story goes on but according to the county record, he sold his farm for $833. The new owner, Standard Oil of Pennsylvania, found oil right on the farm, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The message here is that sometimes we miss opportunities for lack of thinking creatively about the market in which we live. Sometimes the best deal is the one right across town that everyone else has passed on. The age old formula of “Ideas and Timing + Knowledge and Action = Opportunity” often gets overlooked while we are searching and searching…

Ask yourself these questions as you search for new ventures in other markets: How will I manage my time if I enter a new, out of town market? What local contacts will I need if my opportunity is in a far away land? Who are the players in the game?

If all real estate is essentially a local business, how can I, as an out of town player, compete in this market? Will the local folks cooperate? What is my plan for managing this asset or project? What are the consequences to my core business at home if I expend my time in an out of town project? Will I miss local opportunities that I might have found if I concentrated my activities within a certain radius of my home base?

It’s real easy to get caught up in the excitement of opportunities presented to you around the nation and it is certainly a successful formula for making money in real estate. Opportunities abound throughout the nation and in today’s e-marketplace, finding those opportunities is easier than ever with a little web surfing and a click of the mouse…

Just don’t forget to always be in the hunt for the “Diamonds in your own back yard!”

Editor’s Note: Phil Corso, S.E.C. and Mark Johnson, S.E.C. together teach a two-day education program entitled “Broker Estate Building.” The program is based upon the original class created and taught by Colby Sandlian, S.E.C. and Cliff Weaver, S.E.C. in the 1970’s and ’80’s. Totally rewritten to reflect the realities of the real estate business today, the program is offered nationwide. For additional information, contact either Phil or Mark or visit the S.E.C. Education Foundation web site:

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