his next business investments. An admirer of classic cars, he purchased a 1983 Porsche 911 SC Targa for $9,000 in 2001 and sold it two years later for $19,000. He also purchased a 1972 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow for $5,000 in a 2002 estate sale and later sold it for $22,000.
With the money from the sale of the cars, personal savings, and two lines of credit amounting to $50,000, Vanel decided he had enough to establish his own law firm. He spent the two years he worked at Fish & Neave attempting to bring in profitable clients, but watched as other attorneys managed them. “I felt that I could do just as good a job as anybody else handling those cases, and now that I have my own firm, I’m doing just that,” he says.
In fact, Vanel is determined to build his wealth through businesses, whether freelancing by fixing and selling cars or running his own law firm. Since opening The Vanel Law Firm P.C. in 2003, he has traveled the country developing his practice. Last year, the firm posted $80,000 in revenues, and Vanel says some of his clients have been so impressed with his work, that they’ve asked him to partner with them in other businesses. He currently has ownership stakes in a workforce development firm and a food distribution business.
Lending his legal expertise in exchange for a stake in a growing business is the kind of investment Vanel likes. For him, ownership matters. He notes: “As a partner in the business, I get a piece of the whole business.”
He also takes on the risk of ownership but prefers the hands-on decision making power a partner has in building a business over the volatility of stock market investing. “I’d rather invest in something that I know, something I’m sure of,” Vanel says, “So I invest in my company; I invest in myself.”
Vanel suggests the following if you want to use businesses to build wealth:
Approach your education like you’re buying a product. Search for the best opportunity and pursue grants and scholarships with vigor. “Currently, I have $70,000 in student loans outstanding,” Vanel says. “But had I not pursued scholarships, I probably would have at least $30,000 more in student loans.”
Control your spending. In a business, There are fixed costs that can’t be reduced and variable costs that can. Vanel parks his car half a mile away from his office to cut down his parking bill from $450 a month to $235 a month. He’ll also go to a fast-food restaurant “while my colleagues spend about $30, $40 a day on lunch.”
Reinvest in your company. Vanel says investments should produce solid gains, but to do that, you must place money back into the firm. Vanel has placed all his extra income into building the companies he owns a part of. “I’d rather invest, in my company, in my education and in my assets,” he says.