The Right Industry: Choosing the right industry is so important for a start ups success. Any founder needs to know how to identify the right industry. Look at the market trends and see where the industry is heading or how you can revitalize it.
Startups have such a glamorous reputation. Companies like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Uber, and Airbnb once started as scrappy startups with huge dreams and huge obstacles.
Yet we of course know that most startups don’t end up as success stories. What does a founder or a founding team need to know to create a highly successful startup?
In this series, called “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup” we are talking to experienced and successful founders and business leaders who can share stories from their experience about what it takes to create a highly successful startup.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Loren Howard.
Loren Howard is the Founder and President of Prime Plus Mortgages, A Hard Money Lending, and Real Estate Note Investing Company. He is a successful decorated college athlete turned serial entrepreneur who has launched companies in varying industries to the 7, and 8 figure marks. He holds a decorated football career and several world records for the indoor row for the 500M, 100M and max distance in 1:00. Loren currently serves as the Co-Founder and President of the Valley Guardians, a 501c-3 charity that offers mentorship, leadership and educational opportunities to underprivileged children in Phoenix, Arizona.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Growing up, I moved all over the country. This led me to discover who I was at an early age. It helped me discover and recognize my vision, focus, and drive that has helped me become the success I am today.
Early on, it was clear I had this passion for sports, which combined with my focus, drove me to be the fastest, strongest, and best player I could be. Becoming an entrepreneur was not my first choice, and for the longest time I was chasing the dream of playing in the NFL.
I went on to play college football and consistently pushed the limits to be the best I could be. My Freshman year of college, I was a Freshman All American Defensive End and Big Ten Defensive Freshman of the year. Sophomore year, I was All Conference Defensive End, and Junior year Preseason Mel Kiper ranked me the second defensive end to go in the draft. The third pick went first in the draft (Mario Williams) and the 1st pick 10th that year in the draft. Unfortunately, my sports career ended after I got injured, so I had to find my new path.
Once again I had to rediscover myself, and tap into those core traits. I was able to get back in touch with my focus, vision, and drive, and I decided to start my own business. My first company was a failure, but was instrumental to my success. I refer to my first business as my MBA because I learned so much from it. Business didn’t come naturally to me, and there is a steep learning curve. Some of those things were learned the hard way, but the experiences and connections I made led to the success I have seen today.
I’m not one to back down from a challenge, and I pushed myself to find a way to be successful. After a few tries, all the pieces fell into place, and I was able to repeat my success time and time again. For me, being a successful entrepreneur all comes down to drive and vision. Business takes time to get right, but if you trust your vision, it will lead you to success.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I had just exited from a previous company, when the opportunity to start a hard money lending company had presented itself. I was investing in real estate at the time, and had done some private lending to other investors I worked with in the field on the side.
Once I had exited from the other company, I started to see the scaling opportunities that hard money lending had as an industry. I realized how easy it would be to start lending, and promoting and networking with my connections, so I got our banking license. Just like that, Prime Plus Mortgages was born.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
My business partner John Lewis has made a big influence not only on my success, but how I operate as an entrepreneur.
John has been a great mentor. Not only does he have a wealth of knowledge that helps guide decisions, but he also hands me the reins to learn. He really helped me gain confidence as an entrepreneur.
We have had many ventures together, and his mentorship has played a large role in how successful each venture has been.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Prime Plus Mortgages is unique because as a real estate investor, I know firsthand what investors need from a hard money lender. Speed, Flexibility, and a VIP customer experience. Prime Plus Mortgages was created with a focus on giving the VIP experience to all of the real estate investors clients we work with.
We know the market, what investors need in order to succeed. For real estate investors, they need fast answers, flexibility, and someone that can work with them for their deals. No investment is ever the same, so the investors need options that can work with them, not against them.
Real estate investors also need top notch service, so we make sure they are given the red carpet treatment they can’t find anywhere else. At Prime Plus Mortgages, we can offer that VIP treatment, with the speed, and flexibility, that our clients need.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I want to leave behind an inspiring legacy. I want that legacy to show how important it is to not only work hard, but be a great person. Anyone can make themselves into the person they want to be if they work hard enough for it.
That has led me to co-founding a children’s charity called the Valley Guardians. We work with children from low-income families to unlock their potential and give them the tools for a successful life.
Additionally, I coach up-and-coming business owners and entrepreneurs in EO. Coaching and mentorship is a great opportunity to have a huge impact on someone’s life in a very meaningful way.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Three character traits I think any successful entrepreneur should have are: Leadership, Vision and Teamwork.
Leadership is a must for anyone that wants to succeed. When I was younger, I thought leadership was all about leading with an iron fist, and my way or the highway. I realize now that I couldn’t be more wrong. I found the best way to be a leader is to cultivate intrinsic leadership throughout my companies, and help others achieve their goals. I learned more about how to connect with people’s motivations and step back and let my team lead.
Learning how to build teams is instrumental to any successful company. I’m extremely proud of my ability to find and mentor A-players. I have found that time and time again, investing in your team you will get back 10 times what you put in. You can really feel the fire under the team, watch them grow, and they will be more loyal to you. It’s about building trust and a real relationship. It’s inspiring to watch your team not only create your vision, but grow, and build those relationships.
Entrepreneurs need to be visionaries. In order to be successful, you need to see the bigger picture, and have that future planning of what could be so you can build to it. Being a visionary is all about being able to look at an idea for a business and see the margins, barriers to entry, skills, and opportunities of any venture. Vision is all about seeing the industry, being able to do the analysis, jumping at the right time, and being able to ride out the lows and highs to continue building toward that vision.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
When I was younger I was more focused on earning the most money as quickly as possible. I know now that the quick grab isn’t sustainable, and it’s much better to focus on the higher quality products, service, and play the long game as opposed to jumping in recklessly to risky opportunities. Instead of focusing on how I can make money the fastest today, I focus more on how I can make the most over time.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
When my first start-up failed, it was a pretty big setback. It’s especially hard to navigate the business world, learn from it, and succeed simultaneously.
To be successful, you need to find out how to take all the ‘no’s’ and turn them into a yes. I took all the lessons, skills, and connections I learned the first time around and applied it to my next start-up, and the next, until I finally made it big and broke 7 figures with my company.
My first start up was a great learning experience and taught me a lot about what I needed to do to run a business. I also made valuable connections that helped me continue to learn, and grow as an entrepreneur. When you hit hard times, it’s important to tap into your core traits, find the lessons and learn quickly.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard? What strategies or techniques did you use to help overcome those challenges?
“When the wind fails, take to the oars.” This is a quote that I find really inspiring when times get hard. For me, it is about using your motivations, and drive, to make your vision a reality.
I rely on my daily routine to motivate myself daily, so that the small wins and losses don’t get to my head. It involves exercise, meditation, and learning new things about life and business. I find it extremely motivating to learn more, and to test those learnings and see the results.
The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?
I think the best way to handle the emotions that come with being an entrepreneur is to be in touch with your core traits, and having a good group of people around you to keep you grounded.
It’s really important as you go through your journey to figure what kind of person you want to be and who you should look up to. I think integrity will always lead you to the right place.
Having a good circle can make a big impact on how you can handle the highs and lows. Your circle should keep you focused, and keep you connected in reality so that you don’t get a big ego. Your circle will speak volumes of your character so make sure that you are surrounded by the right people.
Let’s imagine that a young founder comes to you and asks your advice about whether venture capital or bootstrapping is best for them? What would you advise them? Can you kindly share a few things a founder should look at to determine if fundraising or bootstrapping is the right choice?
Bootstrap as long as possible before you begin looking for investors. One of the top reasons why is that as soon as you take money, you begin to trade equity and control for your business in the future.
It’s more important to focus on building your company as much as possible while bootstrapping, so you can continue to lay the foundation for the future. Then if you need money down the road after proof of concept it will be cheaper and you will be able to maintain more equity and control.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Many startups are not successful, and some are very successful. From your experience or perspective, what are the main factors that distinguish successful startups from unsuccessful ones? What are your “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup Are:
- The Right Industry: Choosing the right industry is so important for a start ups success. Any founder needs to know how to identify the right industry. Look at the market trends and see where the industry is heading or how you can revitalize it.
- Passion: As the founder you need to be the one that has the unshakeable passion everyday to make your dream a reality. You need to have passion for the problem you are solving, and the people you are helping. Your passion for your business should be infectious and be your motivation.
- The Right Team: Having the right team is critical for any business. Your team should be made of self-starters who have skills/strengths that complement each other well. Having a team that can constantly build off each other will make it easier to be the visionary and focus on the important aspects of your business.
- Minimal Viable Product/ Service Plan: Your start-up needs to get a minimal viable product as fast as possible. The sooner you can have this completed the sooner you can truly launch your startup and the more successful it will be.
- A Management System: Every company needs a management system to keep itself on track. A management system can give you the road map to your visions and give you those important milestones you need. Find the management system that works best for you. If you can, get a consultant to create a yearly plan to keep you moving and focused. I highly recommend the Traction tools and have used them in most of my businesses.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Some founders focus more on the idea of the product or service, and less on how they will market and sell it! You can avoid this by having a clearly defined sales funnel.
You should have your sales and marketing plan clearly drawn out well before you launch your business. Learn as much as you can about the two before you start your business so you have a plan in place.
Startup founders often work extremely long hours and it’s easy to burn the candle at both ends. What would you recommend to founders about how to best take care of their physical and mental wellness when starting a company?
My advice to avoid burnout is: Enjoy what you are doing, and be balanced. For me, I love to learn, so to be in a constant state of learning is a great way to prevent burnout. Make sure you do what you love, or find a way to love what you are doing!
Burnout also comes from being unbalanced, so make sure that you aren’t neglecting important areas of your life. Make time for the things that matter most.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂
Currently, I am the President of The Valley Guardians. We are an Arizona children’s non-profit that helps children break the cycle of poverty and reach their full potential. We give deserving children access to education, mentorship, financial, and medical assistance to reach their full potential for success. 100% of donations go to the children of our community.
We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
One person I would love to meet is Joe Rogan, just because of how versatile and down to earth he is. He has a great personality and an ability to make the most complex things digestible. He always comes across as extremely funny and intelligent. Just seems like a cool person who you could talk about anything with.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can follow me and learn more about my companies below:
- Prime Plus Mortgages: Hard Money Lenders
- Real Estate Note Investing
- Facebook: Prime Plus Mortgages
- Instagram: Prime Plus Mortgages
- My LinkedIn
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!