Today on Business Rockstars, Ken Rutkowski talks with Rockstar mentor Mark Verge, the founder and owner of Westside Rentals, a listings service for Southern California renters and landlords. A highly successful entrepreneur, Verge shares experiences as a leader and CEO.
What makes a great entrepreneur? Here’s a quick look at Mark Verge‘s background:
Education: Associate’s degree from Santa Monica College; bachelor’s in history from UCLA.
Personal: Married his high school sweetheart, Lani. They live in Pacific Palisades and have a daughter, 7, and a son, 4.
First job: A beach lifeguard when he was 18. “I was definitely not the definition of a lifeguard,” he says. “I was a pale, skinny guy. They’d call me the Ghost.”
Got the idea: Verge, 40, says he was put off by listings services that would post rental ads without the landlords’ permission. “All they would do was copy the newspaper,” he says. “The business had a really bad name to it.” Figuring he could do better, he sold the coin store he owned and started Westside Rentals in 1996.
Along the path: Verge rented office space in Santa Monica and attended trade conventions and apartment association meetings, where he would talk to owners and distribute Westside Rentals magnets and key chains. “It was honestly begging owners,” he says. “We’d do whatever it took to get that listing.”
How it works: Owners and landlords get to list their properties free. Renters pay a membership fee of $60 for 60 days of access to the listings, which they can check out online, over the phone or in one of Westside Rentals’ seven local offices.
First big purchase: Bought a racehorse, named Hide From the Bride, for $50,000.
Newest venture: In March, Verge launched a networking website for entrepreneurs called PerfectBusiness.com. He also wrote a book on how to maintain a happy marriage and hopes to get it published.
Oddest marketing tool: Rental Man, the firm’s mascot and human billboard. He can be found dancing outside Westside Rentals’ offices or at sporting events, dressed in a red cape and jester hat and waving a Westside Rentals sign.
Daydream jobs: Creating a reality TV show featuring Rental Man, or working as a horse trainer — “except I’m scared of horses and I don’t like waking up early.”
Advice: “Meet everyone and treat them all the same. Learn from everybody.”