Dave Zook: An Unconventional Approach to Real Estate Investments and Tax Strategy

Top 10 Most Inspiring CEOs in Business, 2022

Great investment opportunities exist outside conventional financial markets in the form of alternative investments. Dave Zook, Founder & CEO, The Real Asset Investor, knows where to find them.

With a proven history of lucrative investment ventures, Dave is a successful business owner and an experienced real estate investor. Zook is active in self-storage facilities, carwash development, energy related projects and the ATM space.

“I’ve been an entrepreneur and an investor all my adult life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. While I own and manage several different companies, my true passion is in investing, tax strategy, and helping others live tax free or tax efficient,” says Dave.

The Real Asset Investor team’s mission is to bring investors high yield opportunities across several asset classes by partnering with experienced operators.

The Real Asset Investor team raises capital from accredited investors to acquire assets for cash flow, equity growth, tax benefits and diversification, giving investors options outside of conventional financial markets.

A Successful Real Estate Investor in the U.S. and Overseas

With real estate holdings in several states, as well as overseas, Dave has syndicated more than $600 million dollars worth of real assets in his career. Along with his investors, he owns well over $350 million worth of real estate acquired since 2010.

Zook’s diverse investments include self-storage facilities, carwashes, ESG certified natural gas wells and one of the largest ATM portfolios in the country.

“I never set out to be a syndicator. However, I had a serious need as I owned and operated several highly successful businesses and was an extremely high taxpayer as a result,” says Dave. “I soon learned that if I changed the way I did business and the way I was investing, I could use the tax laws to my benefit and live tax efficiently while at the same time increasing my net worth and income.”

Dave quickly realized there were many other people who had similar challenges, and he set out to help them benefit from his strategies.

“I simply leveraged my team and experience in the marketplace and helped a lot of investors fulfill their needs,” he says. “I helped them become tax efficient and build their wealth and income streams. Being a nationally recognized speaker on the subject, a successful investor, and a tax strategist has been a fun and amazing journey and I love what I do.”

A Non-conventional Approach to Life and Investing

Knowing there are many great opportunities in the form of alternative investments, Dave and his team became one of the top 5 ATM fund operators in the country with well over $200 million dollars of ATMs in service.

With his unconventional approach to life and investing, Dave trademarked the phrase “You can be conventional, or you can be wealthy. Pick one.” He believes that tax, in its simplest form, was set up to encourage or discourage certain behaviors.

“If you do business or invest in assets that the government wants you to invest in, they will reward you with a reduced tax liability. If you do not, you will get “fined” through taxation,” he explains. “Under my leadership, through serving our investors and customers well, we have experienced phenomenal growth over the last decade.”

Dave is a published author and has been a speaker at the International Business Conference. He’s also been a guest on The Real Estate Guys radio show in addition to presenting at many other investment and business media outlets and financial seminars.

Zook is often sought out for speaking engagements and guest appearances throughout investing and business conferences and events.

“If you do business or invest in assets that the government wants you to invest in, they will reward you with a reduced tax liability. If you do not, you will get “fined” through taxation.”

Learning Through Challenges and Tough Decision Making

The past 2 decades of running several businesses simultaneously have brought many challenges forcing Dave to make some hard calls. But he says the experiences have made him a better person and a more savvy investor.

“You don’t learn much when everything is going great, and you are happily cruising along doing your thing. You learn when problems arise and you have to make tough decisions,” he states.

Dave recalls a time a few years ago when he had a large portfolio of C-Class multi-family apartments and his property manager, who was also an equity partner, was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and almost died. Unfortunately, his team was unable to carry the load forward without him and things started going sideways.

“Long story short, I had to step in, take over the portfolio, buy out his position and replace his team in order to right the ship,” says Dave. “That was a tough road and the things I learned through that experience serves my investors and myself well to this day. I learned to appreciate the depth and integrity of the teams I do business with more than ever.”

A Rewarding Leadership Journey Filled with Constant Learning

The journey of a leader is filled with constant learning and Dave considers his leadership journey very rewarding.

“If you run a good business with great people and you support your team and help them excel, it’s not only a lot of fun it’s also very satisfying. Developing a first-class team is financially rewarding for everyone as well,” he says.

Defining himself as someone who creates impact, his goal is to take what he has learned and leverage that knowledge and experience along with his team to make an impact for his family and many others.

“Today I work with a lot of high-net-worth investors. I help them navigate through large liquidity events and I leverage my team’s expertise to bring them tax efficiency. I help my investors deploy capital into highly desirable, profitable assets that provide income and equity growth,” he states.

The Real Asset Investors have purchased and syndicated many large self-storage assets, mostly in the Southeastern US. They have also invested heavily in highly profitable energy projects as well, producing great returns for their investors in several other asset classes.

“I believe the next decade will belong to the Real Asset Investors,” he states. “I believe there will be opportunities to greatly increase wealth by investing in real, tangible assets. I believe, in this fast-changing environment and with the current inflation rate, you will be financially rewarded for owning rare or highly desirable income-producing assets.”

Making a Greater Impact in the World

Dave’s plans for the future of The Real Asset Investors are to encourage, develop and grow alongside his team while continuing to expand their investor and operator network. The result? Greater impact and return for their investors, their community, and the world around them.

Zook believes you have to be intentional to order to achieve success. “If you want to be fit and trim you need to work out. If you want great relationships, you have to be a good friend. If you want to be healthy, you have to respect your body,” he states. “You can be successful in all those areas, but you have to be intentional. We hire people who are self-motivated. We provide a culture of serving others and becoming better every day. I provide a leadership style that encourages project ownership. And I don’t micromanage.”

Success Goes Much Deeper Than Material Wealth

While most people would define success in terms of material wealth or the size of one’s bank account, Dave believes it goes much deeper than that.

“If you’re a billionaire atop the Forbes 400 list and you’ve got lots of ruined relationships, you have health challenges because you neglected to take care of your body, your marriage is in shambles or your relationship with your kids is severed, in my opinion, you are not fully successful,” he observes. “To be fully successful, you need to attend to all areas of your life.”

While he feels he has achieved everything he desired from a material wealth aspect, Dave believes that he still has plenty of work to do personally, and as a leader, as he continues down his life path. His message to aspiring business leaders is to invest in their team and empower them.

“My personal goals are to expand and deepen my relationships, bring value to others and develop my communication and leadership skills,” says Dave. “Capitalism is about solving problems.”