Mirko Vukovich, known as “MJ”, says he wasn’t much of a dreamer as a kid but was more of a realist, which is the perfect mindset for a Vice President of Asset Management, especially for an enterprise with a growth rate like Ascentia, and for the future of a family enterprise that is fast becoming a legacy. But he didn’t gain automatic entry into his grandfather’s boardroom., rather he paid his dues the old fashioned way: going to college and earning income by renting out rooms in his mobile home to friends, going straight to work in real estate after graduation as an analyst of manufactured homes communities, moving to Portland to acquire downtown office and retail properties for another company while simultaneously earning his MBA, and only then, after learning hands-on from other real estate investors, did he return back home to Colorado and work alongside his father and grandfather at Ascentia. MJ shows us both sides of the well-earned coin.
MQ: MJ, I know Ascentia specializes in mobile home park investments. Tell me about your company’s very first mobile home park acquisition.
MJ: In the 1970’s my grandfather was an apartment investor and at one point he was searching for an apartment building to acquire in Colorado. He had an investor lined up but he couldn’t find a good property to purchase. The investor told him, “No big deal, just send the money back and I’ll put it in the stock market.” But my grandfather, who always told me hard work and patience were the keys to success, asked him to wait until the end of the week and if he didn’t have anything he would send the money back then. That Friday he drove past a mobile home park that was for sale, took a look, and decided to put it under contract. Through the experience of that first mobile home park investment he learned MHCs were much easier and more profitable to run than apartments (especially at that time) and it started him down the path to create Ascentia.
MQ: Ascentia has come a long way since that first deal!
MJ: Yes, today we have 125 employees and our portfolio consists of 47 properties comprising approximately 7,500 sites, mainly Class-B (two star) assets and almost all of them are all-age or family communities.
MQ: In the business bestseller “Good To Great” a major key to highly successful companies is a solid core business and a defined and shared philosophy. Ascentia seems to fit the bill.
MJ: I’ve noticed that what appeals to me , and Ascentia as a company, the most are the relationships that are built in the process and the potential of what we can make from the deal. At Ascentia, our aim, our philosophy, is to leave anything that we are involved with a little better than we found it. When I am looking at a deal, I like to ask myself, "How can we make this place better?" That typically tells me whether a deal can be a good one for us.
MQ: What do you think has contributed most to your personal success?
MJ: I’ve learned that it’s less about being the smartest guy in the room and more about being diligent, doing the work, and being patient with the outcome.
MQ: Any exciting prospective properties on the table right now?
MJ: Yes, actually we are in the final stages of a pretty cool deal with a MHC owner/investor who has two properties in Texas. The properties have, like many other smaller operator properties, lost significant occupancy due to attrition of homes and the lack of capital to put more homes in their parks. We have created a partnership structure where the smaller investor can continue to make money on their property while we invest in new homes and deferred maintenance and the two of us split the upside. We're pretty excited about this new product and we hope to help more smaller community owners in the future.
MQ: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as an investor, and what one piece of advice would you give to new investors today?
MJ: One of our top investors said, "Anytime I see that a company has purchased a private jet for their executives, I sell their stock." He was driving home that you should never get so proud of yourself that you ignore the fundamentals of controlling costs and being disciplined with your money. For new investors: be patient. Enjoy the journey getting there. And, remember the quote from my grandfather who at the table during a very intense closing said, "Do not worry. It's only money."
MQ: Have you ever done a 1031 Exchange?
MJ: We have. It was exciting and the actual completion of the deal was not too much more complicated than any normal transaction. The hard part was finding quality, value buys in a short time period.
MQ: Are you looking for co-investors at this time?
MJ: We are, in fact, just about to go out to look for some more investors. Anyone who is interested, give me a call at 303-730-2000 ext. 109.
MQ: Back to you, MJ. Who do you admire most and why?
MJ: Good question! Maybe my wife for putting up with me! And, my dad for being a great leader to me, especially in my teenage years.
Thank you to MJ for allowing us to interview him and for sharing his experience and knowledge with us. Stay tuned for another great investor profile next quarter!