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John Carney: “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way”

Thought leadership is about creating content and that requires time, energy and discipline. As a principal at The Landmark Companies, our property management and development business, I aim to be the person that the media calls when they need to produce content. My goal is to add value to the reporter’s story and that requires […]

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Thought leadership is about creating content and that requires time, energy and discipline. As a principal at The Landmark Companies, our property management and development business, I aim to be the person that the media calls when they need to produce content. My goal is to add value to the reporter’s story and that requires sharing what is working and what is not working at any given time.


As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing John Carney.

John joined The Landmark Companies in 2016 after seven years of living with his family in Australia. He returned to Cleveland to work on new development and acquisitions for The Landmark Companies.

John is an experienced real estate investor and developer in Australia, Indonesia, and multiple markets in the United States. He founded American Property Source while living in Melbourne, Australia and helped Australians successfully invest in cashflow positive real estate in Phoenix, Arizona and Atlanta, Georgia.

He is the author of ‘10,000 Miles to the American dream’, ‘Real Estate is A Team Sport’ and the host of the podcast, ‘The Real Estate Locker Rooms Show.’

John enjoys skiing, endurance events, traveling and spending time with his wife and two kids.

John currently holds an Ohio real estate sales license and a BA in Political Science from Miami University.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Real estate, entrepreneurship and travel have been the common thread of my professional life. I represent the 3rd generation in a commercial real estate family business and I’m fortunate that hard work was a value instilled in me by my parents and grandparents as well as having experienced people around to mentor me.

My passport has been stamped in forty countries and lived in three; Australia, Indonesia and now the US. I have started businesses and invested in real estate in both Australia and Indonesia and bring a solid nine years of working outside of the States to work with me everyday.

I’m a curious person and always looking at how to combine best practice, innovation and teamwork. The Landmark Companies was the pioneer for warehouse conversions to loft apartment living in Downtown Cleveland in the ’90s and we have a sterling reputation to uphold.

Right now I’m working with our team to develop and build 215 new apartments on Cleveland’s lakefront and combine that 4.5 acres of vacant land with the existing Shoreline Apartments. We will be creating the only “lakefront lifestyle community” in Cleveland, Ohio and are excited to see this project come to life.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

“Thought Leader” is an interesting title. I choose to share my experiences in business and real estate to help others avoid painful mistakes and position themselves for success. I have 23 years of experience as a real estate investor, developer and entrepreneur. As I continue to learn more about the real estate business and leadership, I choose to share those lessons in order to enable others to be successful and learn from my mistakes and successes. I believe that success leaves clues, and in 2020 it is easy to share your experiences to add value to those who are eager to learn and improve. I’m the author of “Real Estate Is A Team Sport” and co-author of the international, Amazon Best Seller, “10,000 Miles To The American Dream” as well as the host of “The Real Estate Locker Room Show” podcast. The podcast is an amazing way for me to keep learning and add value to real estate professionals who are out there building their businesses.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Living and starting a business in Melbourne, Australia during the “Great Recession” or as the Aussies called it the “Global Financial Crisis”. I was a stranger in a foreign country and had to learn a new language and business culture quickly. My partners invested in me and helped launch America Property Source. We enabled Australians to invest in US real estate and I still work with my Aussie clients.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

My early presentation would be funny to watch now. Everything changed when I enrolled in an entrepreneur accelerator and learned how to structure a pitch. Pitch architecture was a big light bulb moment. I’ve learned that business is about solving people’s problems.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?

I believe that a “Thought Leader” creates content that adds value to an audience. You share what works and the lessons learned by your mistakes and you do that frequently. I don’t know what a typical leader looks like. I’m a Vistage member and surrounded by smart leaders who want to do their best for their teams, their employees, their businesses and their investors and shareholders. I want to improve as a business owner and leader so I seek out the company of people who play at the highest levels. That’s typical for me. At the end the leader has to make tough and unpopular calls. Especially in 2020! Not everyone is into creating content and sharing stories so that may be the difference.

I was taught to be a Key Person of Influence in your industry and to always be adding value to your audience. Many of the modern-day social media “influencers” are trying to sell something. In my mind, an influencer should have experience and the quiver of mistakes that come with it.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

Thought leadership is about creating content and that requires time, energy and discipline. As a principal at The Landmark Companies, our property management and development business, I aim to be the person that the media calls when they need to produce content. My goal is to add value to the reporter’s story and that requires sharing what is working and what is not working at any given time. The transition from blog post to podcast allowed for the “non-writers” to enter the content game. I like writing and was recently asked to write a piece about COVID 19 for Properties Magazine. The goal was to share how our team was handling COVID 19 in multifamily properties and share our story in an effort to help other commercial property owners fine-tune their COVID policies. The benefit is that the industry leaders read that magazine and see that you are sharing with the business community.

Investing in media training is worth the time, energy and money because there will be a time when you have something to promote and having the right relationships will be beneficial. You can’t sell a secret. Building relationships, especially media relationships, take time, and you have to lead by providing value to “the audience.” I’ve been back in Cleveland for four years and reporters from major media outlets call me now when they are writing about multifamily real estate.

Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?

Here’s two good ones. The president of the local commercial mortgage brokers association called me to ask if they could host an event at our Shoreline Apartment building. I asked if they had a keynote speaker and they did not. So, I volunteered to do a presentation about our team and how we acquired the asset and basically went through the sequence of my book, Real Estate Is A Team Sport. I also handed out signed copies of the book and gave a tour. Within two hours I had met twenty tier-one, commercial lenders in the Cleveland market (I had only been back in Ohio for 2.5 years at the time). Fast forward a year and we used one of these contacts to provide the loan to acquire a major new development site on Cleveland’s lakefront.

A second story is from my podcast. A past guest invited me to participate in a “friends and family” real estate funding opportunity because the opportunity came to his group as a direct result of hosting him on my show.

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.

  1. Write twenty articles for your company blog and LinkedIn.

– Get used to publishing your thoughts. Typing out articles is not very sexy but you have to do it. Always be willing to do what others are not.

2. Become a podcast guest

– Before I launched a podcast, I was an “expert guest”. Create a Media Sheet (One Sheet) and start pitching your story to podcast hosts in your industry.

3. Have a professional write your bio

– My first bio was written by a professional and I have updated and changed it to keep it relevant. You want your bio to be consistent and well written wherever it appears online.

4. Professional photography

– I invested in professional photography for print media and my personal online profiles. My media mentor stated that my LinkedIn profile photo was crap and I hired a photographer the next day.

5. When the media calls you are always available.

– I have never said no to a story and I am always available on the reporter’s terms.

In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.

I’ve been following Mark Divine for the past six years. Mark’s a retired Navy Seal Commander, entrepreneur, author, podcaster and founder of the Unbeatable Mind. He defines authenticity for me and was teaching breathwork and meditation long before “mindfulness” became mainstream.

I’m more aware of how I react to situations and the sympathetic nervous system is responding to situations. I’m hardly perfect, but when the awareness kicks in I do my best to breathe and think before I respond.

There was one instance when a business partner blew up and was acting very aggressively. I implemented a breathing practice and was able to remain calm and walk away. Without that awareness, I would have been drawn into an unnecessary argument.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

I certainly do not wake up in the morning and say “I’m going to work to be a thought leader today”. I go to work for my team and focus on the skills that will help me continue to develop as a business leader and entrepreneur. Being a leader requires being out in front. I suppose that I think of myself as a content creator and storyteller. The goal is to help others by sharing my story.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

I like to push myself and have learned that you must love what you do or you will burn out. Exercise and a goodnights sleep to keep me going. Surround yourself with people who are better than you. I stay curious and keep learning and focus on the little wins.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d like to see people in the United States travel overseas more and have the ability to take more time off work. Living in Australia was an eye-opener. Aussies just have a great attitude towards life and taking time off work. Four to six weeks per year is standard vacation time for full -time employed adults in many countries. We’re killing ourselves thinking that working fifty weeks a year is normal.

If travel and time off could be combined with time to exercise at work and nutrition education for adults then I believe we would have a healthier and happier population in the USA.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

― Marcus Aurelius

Think about what is standing in the way of you reaching a goal. Who or what is the “obstacle”? The obstacle becomes the way. This is step one. The second step involves difficult conversations and difficult choices. You will only get better by practicing and challenging your comfort zone.

There is always a path to achieving your goal(s). I refer to challenging circumstances, events and people as “obstacles”. The solution appears when you identify the impediment to action. Not easy but true.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Sir Richard Branson.

How can our readers follow you online?

Please tune into the Real Estate Locker Room Show on your favorite podcast app or visit www.johncarneyonline.com.

Feel free to DM me on Facebook — @JohnCarneyOnline.

Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.

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