john casmon real estate

Today I'm talking with John Casmon of Casmon Capital Group.

I first met John a couple of years ago when he had me on his podcast and he struck me as a great guy, very down-to-earth with a lot of knowledge to share from the world of commercial real estate.

John is a real estate entrepreneur who has partnered with busy professionals to invest in over $100 million worth of apartments. John also consults active multifamily investors to help them start or grow their businesses. He also hosts the Multifamily Insights podcast and is the co-creator of the Midwest Real Estate Networking Summit.

If you've ever wondered when you're ready to go full-time as a real estate investor, John has an interesting story to tell about how he knew it was time to take the leap. He also has some great insights about the importance of networking and how to get connected with the right people who can help you get where you want to go.

Links and Resources

Episode Transcription

Seth: Hey everybody, how's it going? This is Seth Williams and you are listening to the REtipster podcast. Today I'm talking with John Casmon of the Casmon Capital Group. Now I first met John a couple years ago when he had me on his podcast Multifamily Insights, and he just struck me as a really great guy, very down-to-earth with a lot of knowledge to share from the world of commercial real estate.

And just to give you the quick backstory on John. John is a real estate entrepreneur who has partnered with busy professionals to invest in over a hundred million dollars’ worth of apartments. John also consults with active multi-family investors to help them start or grow their businesses. And like I just mentioned, he hosts his own podcast, Multifamily Insights, and he's also the co-creator of the Midwest Real Estate Networking Summit.

Prior to becoming a full-time investor, John worked in corporate America, like a lot of us do, overseeing marketing campaigns for General Motors, Nike, and Coors Light. And we're going to pick John's brain about commercial real estate investing and who it makes sense for, and how to break into this side of the industry.

So, John, welcome to the show. How are you doing?

John Casmon: Hey, Seth, I'm doing great. And I am excited to be here. I'm a big fan of your work and your podcast. And as you mentioned, I had you on my show back on episode 133. I just love the content you create and put out. So, I'm excited to be here with all of your listeners today.

Seth: Yeah. Awesome. I know we just mentioned a little bit of your backstory, but at what point in your career did you decide on real estate or, more specifically, commercial real estate? How did that come about? How did you make that transition from corporate America to full-time investor? I know that's a huge, huge step that a lot of people want to take. So, what was your story? How did you do that?

John Casmon: For me, it kind of starts with my time in Detroit. I was working at GM at the time. And many of you may remember around 2007, 2008, the economy started to shift a little bit. And the automotive industry was at the forefront of that. I'm watching my CEO on CNN or CNBC, whatever channel it is. They all go down and talk about how the automotive industry needs some assistance and we're not doing well and we're not selling enough vehicles.

And what I was going through at that time was the implications of that. As a marketing guy, I was working on our marketing campaigns and our plans and our budgets. I was being told to shelve everything. Just get out of any contract you have. And this was before we really got wind of all that was going on. I just got a phone call one day saying, “Hey, did you sign that new agreement?”

I said, “No, we're going to sign it next week."

"No, you're not. You're not going to sign it. We're pulling out everything.”

And I was like, “What? Who are you to tell me?” So, I was completely baffled.

I give you that context to say, when things become clear of what was going on and that we were suffering and that this was not just about our company, this was an industry thing. And then it became bigger than an industry. It became a U.S. economic play where now we're facing this recession. It was very difficult to figure out what my options were.
I was updating a resume, taking interviews, talking to people, and then ultimately realized we were going to go through a structure of bankruptcy. But we had multiple rounds of layoffs leading up to that. And I can tell you that watching your peers lose their jobs over and over and over, it forces you to reconsider your approach.

And I distinctly recall one of the last big rounds of layoffs that we had when I was released, there was a gentleman who sat right in front of me. And he had been with the company for 22 years and he got let go that morning and he left the voice message. And by the time I got in the office to check the voice message, one, I just saw a red-light blinking. So, I didn't know if it was for me. I didn't know if they wanted me to bring my stuff or what. I was told I was okay. But nonetheless, I checked the messages from him. This was a guy who was a lifer. His only plan was to work this job until he retired, which at the time when he started, was probably a pretty plausible plan.

I just remember feeling empathy for him and also realizing that “You know what? I cannot focus only on this W-2 job. At any moment, this could be taken away from me through powers completely out of my control. So, I got to find another way.” And the one thing that I kept thinking about was real estate because so many people make their wealth in real estate in this country. It seemed like a thing that was attainable, at least more so than me coming up with the next great app or widget or whatever. I'm like, “Eh, I feel like pretty average people are able to make it in real estate. If I read some books and connect with some people, I feel like I could figure this out.”

So, that's what I did. And eventually, we started investing. My wife and I bought a two-unit building. We bought a three-unit building, and then we wanted to make that leap into commercial. It was really important for me that if this was going to be a business in a way that I could go full-time and invest moving forward, I needed to be in commercial real estate. Because every book I read that talked about investing in real estate, every investor who started a single family, they said, they wished they would've started a multifamily.

So, for me, it was like, “Well, why don't we skip that step and just start multifamily?” I started with a small multifamily, but then I wanted to get into the five-plus unit space. And that's ultimately what we did.

Seth: Interesting. I know a lot of people look at commercial or multifamily or anything like that, just kind of big, scary, like I need to stare at this tiny little bite-size deal and then I can move into that. I thought that exact same thing when I started buying duplexes. It was just sort of, “Yeah, that's way too big. That's like Goliath, I can't go there yet.”

It seems like that's a false limiting belief. How can people get over that kind of thing? Is there any reason why they need to think that way? Or how should they think of it? Is it just a matter of finding deals at a dollar amount that makes sense for you? How did you get there?

John Casmon: Well, I think if you go back and you really just step away from a second and just really think about what you're trying to accomplish, the first thing is, understand where the risk is. When we talk about, “Hey, let me get something small,” usually it's because we don't want to risk everything on one deal. And if you make a mistake, you want to be able to live through that mistake. And that's because you probably don't have that much experience, which is why you're concerned. If you have zero experience investing, you're right, you're probably going to make some mistakes. So, it makes sense to want to start small to minimize those mistakes.

Here's something you can do to reframe that, though. Right now, when you have that approach or that mentality, you are only focused on the experience that you have. What if you could invest leveraging someone else's experience and someone else's expertise and knowledge and partner with them? Would you feel more comfortable investing in something that would work if you were leaning on them and not just your own expertise? Someone who had years of experience with these kinds of deals?

In the same way, when you think about stock investing or your 401(k), you wouldn't just go out there and start your own companies, right? You wouldn't just decide today you want to create something from scratch. It takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of research. It takes a lot of ideation to understand how to be successful. Instead, you put some money into existing companies and big companies. You put them into large companies that exist, that have a product, that have a business model, and that's where you invest.

One way to reframe that thinking is, yes, you may want to start small with how much money you invest, but it doesn't mean it has to be a deal that you completely run, manage and operate yourself. You can also partner with other people.

Now, I'm not saying either way is right or wrong. I'm just saying open up your options to how you approach it and you may have better options in front of you. Because again, taking down a hundred-unit building by yourself, yes, it's going to be very challenging, but you can partner with people who have the experience who are already doing deals like this, who have the relationships, the connections, the teams, the resources. You can partner with those individuals to get in on those deals, get the same benefits you would've gotten by doing your own deal, but maybe a little less risk and a little less headache from you. And the learning curve is shortened as well.

Seth: Yeah. Is that what you did? Did you partner with somebody on that first commercial deal?

John Casmon: No, not out of the gate. And again, looking back, that would've been a smarter approach. One thing for us to keep in mind is that the JOBS Act, when that came into play in 2012, really made investing in these kinds of deals more attainable for the average investor.
Prior to that, you had to be both accredited, but also have the relationships and the network. And it just wasn't out there. I mean, you didn't know how to invest or where to invest. So, buying a duplex was the most logical approach for most people at that time. I think today it's still very plausible, but you can't get into these deals that I mentioned. Back then for me, I looked at it as, “Hey, real estate investing means I need to take my money and go buy whatever property I can afford to buy with my money.”

And that's the way I approached it. So, we saved and saved and saved and we bought a property. We continue to do that. And when I got to that eight-unit building, the reason it was so important for me to go into commercial with this eight-unit building is I did come to the conclusion that I wanted to start partnering with other people. And I wanted to build up my experience and credibility before I did that.

That was important for me to get into the commercial space, with my own money, with my own deal, where I was not relying on someone else. By the time I wanted to partner with other people, I could at least look at it and say, “Hey, here's what I've done so far. I do have one commercial property. It's only eight units, but it's still eight units. Here's the eight-unit property that I own, I manage. I oversee the property management company. I understand what the processes are.”

That was my logic. But if I could go back, listen, I had a full-time job. At this point, we had 13 rental units. I was actually doing two flip projects at the time, and I had two kids in diapers. So, there was a lot going on and adding on another property where I'm overseeing everything, it really just added to the stress and the anxiety.

I got into real estate to insulate myself in case I lost my W-2 job. And instead, what I did was really just pick up another job. I had to step back and say, “You know what? I'm doing a lot of stuff, but it's not all working together. It's not all in concert and we've got to change our approach.”
If I could go back, what I would do is I would invest passively because I could have still learned a little bit more. I would've gained some experience in partnering with other people and being able to talk to these operators and learn why are they doing what they're doing. I already had some experience in real estate. I already had some rentals. So, it wasn't a completely foreign concept to me, but I didn't need to take on all that responsibility, especially since I already had a pretty heavy plate.
That's what I would consider. And I would tell anyone who is a busy professional in particular, if you got other things you want to do, if you don't want to dedicate your nights and weekends to real estate investing and being the landlord, that is a much better approach to get invested today. And then, ultimately, you can decide whether or not you want to be more hands-on moving forward.

Seth: Yeah. Gotcha. And how do you find this person to work with? I hear what you're saying about the importance of networking and finding people who have the experience that you don't. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, or maybe it actually isn't that hard, but a person just doesn't know what they're supposed to do.

If a person's starting from scratch, they know they want to go this direction, they know they need to find this person, whoever that is, how do they find them? And how do they know when they've found a good one that they can really trust?

John Casmon: Well, I think your point is really great. First, you have to make that decision that you want to find this person. I think most people never come to that conclusion or they never come to that realization so they don't really look or open their eyes to what's around them.

If you come to terms that, “Hey, passive investing may be a better strategy for me,” the first thing I would do is look at your network. Do you know anybody who's investing passively? Do you know anybody who's an operator doing these kinds of deals? And one great place to look is right here, podcasts. A lot of podcasters are doing deals and working with other investors, and it's one of the reasons they podcast. So, they can try to build their brand and connect with others.

Podcasting is one way. You could take a listen, and if people are talking about doing these large deals, there's a good chance that they're either investing on the active side and overseeing these deals, or they're a limited partner, and they're already identifying these types of operators. So, reach out to them because they've gone through that same exercise of finding operators, vetting them, asking questions, figuring out who they like, who they don't like. They can tell you what their experience has been like. So, reach out to those individuals. I would start there with some warm leads.

Another great place to look is events. There are different meetups. So, you can check meetups in your local market. There are conferences that you can attend and meet other operators. And then also online, BiggerPockets is a great resource. There are a lot of multi-family Facebook groups that you can check out and just put the word out there to say, “Hey, I'm looking to meet operators.”

If you have specific markets you like, you can put that out there. Otherwise, if there are any other criteria that you want to include, you can put that out there and you can get some connections coming to you based on those methods. So again, I would start with a podcast and listen to the guests and see if you could find some referrals. I would go to networking events. And then I would go on online into some of these Facebook groups, as well as into BiggerPockets groups and just get a sense of who people are working with.

Seth: Gotcha. Now, shifting gears a little bit. You've worked with some pretty big companies and lived in some big cities and that kind of thing. I'm curious, which of those prior careers has been most useful for what you do now? Were there any big takeaways or lessons or anything like that that were like, “Oh, I'm glad I worked there. I had that experience that contributed to me today.” Anything come to mind?

John Casmon: I think we're all a product of all those experiences. So, it's difficult to point one out. I will say that my time in Detroit at GM is probably most relevant to the question because one, it was early in my career. And when you talk to investors, a lot of them will tell you, “Hey, you want to invest with someone who’s seasoned because they've seen a recession or they've seen a downturn.”

And I will tell you that it makes a lot of sense why they say that. And I would argue that being at a company where you are literally the face of that recession for a long period of time and understanding the anxiety that comes with that, it gave me a great deal of respect for the way business needs to work, the way decisions need to happen, and protecting your downside.

Again, there were things that we could have done in the business world that I think could have helped us be better positioned. And as I think about the fallout, that was something I lived with every day and I talked about the anxiety that came from being in an environment where every day you could pull up a headline or a newspaper and your company is there. Literally, your boss's boss is the face, it’s right there.

It’s a little scary when you're watching your company and they tell you flat out, we need to sell X amount of vehicles as an industry, or we're going to be bankrupt. And you see that you're not on trajectory to do that. So, it's like marching to your death. So, I think from that standpoint, it was helpful.

The other reason it was really helpful though, is the product we were “selling” was not a cheap product. When you're talking about a $30,000 - $40,000 car or a $50,000 - $60,000 SUV, well, it takes time for a consumer to make that decision, to make that purchase. And we're talking about investments, which typically are larger investments. $50,000, $100,000, these are not decisions that are made carelessly. People are going to take their time. They're going to research. They will want to get to know you. They want to understand your strategy, your philosophy.

So, it's a long lead time before they're able to make a decision. I think understanding that by cycle from the automotive industry and what is someone going to do research-wise before they're comfortable investing in a vehicle for the next, whatever, three to seven years or even 10 years, or even more, what's that like?

And it's kind of similar to real estate investing where yes, they'll buy and they'll invest with you, but they're not going to run out and do it right away. They want to take the time to get to know you. They want to see that you're legit. They want to get some references. They want to see are you present. They want to get to know you. They want to see the social proof that you exist. And you're going to be there three years from now, five years from now. So that's really important as well. I think that experience really helped me just understand the psyche and the mind frame of someone looking to make kind of a large investment.

Seth: Yeah. I remember those days because I'm in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And back in 2008/2009/2010, we felt that anxiety too. I wasn't even in the automotive industry, we're on the other side of the state Grand Rapids is actually fairly well-diversified. But even then, you can't escape it. All of Michigan and a lot of the Midwest is just very impacted by the automotive industry.

I remember when people were talking about, “What if GM ceases to exist or Chrysler Ford?” It was just mind-blowing, these huge companies going under. And it was scary. I can only imagine what it must have been like to be in the company. That, involved with what was going on in the front lines. We’re talking about being formative years in terms of figuring out what the world was going to look like.

John Casmon: Yeah. And it is wild because you realize the impact of decisions, when you're in the room, and don't get me wrong, I was like a manager level at best. I was an assistant manager and a manager for a while. Then I got promoted to advertising manager. So, it's not like I was the director making all the decisions, but we were a very lean team. We did not have the layers that I see in other companies and other clients that I've worked with. We didn't have all those layers. On my Pontiac team, it was me, my boss, was the ad manager. His boss was a director. And then the next person up oversaw all of the entire division of Buick Pontiac at GMC. And I had one counterpart. So, it was like three of us did all of the marketing for the Pontiac brand for a long time.

Seth: Three people total?

John Casmon: Yeah. And we had seven agency partners. I oversaw seven agency partners for a hundred million advertising budget. And again, the responsibilities, the speed where decisions needed to be made because we had so much on our plate. I was sitting down making sure that we had our spread right for the magazine, the copy was strong. We would sit down once a week and we'd just go through all creative. And we would the day at the agency and they would bring us every piece of creative we needed to review. Everything from if you ever go to a dealership or the auto show where they had those big books on the vehicles. Well, I had to sit there and approve all the copy. So, every word in there where we talk about the chassis and all of that kind of stuff, where they talk about the torque and everything on the vehicle.

I'm not like the super gearhead. My father's a big gearhead, but I'm not. So, I had to sit there and read it and make sure it made sense. And then for me it was like, “Does this make sense for the gearhead and can the more regular driver understand what we're trying to convey here as well and go through that?” But yeah, all the creative.

And it was a really tight team. We had to make a lot of decisions very quickly. I never felt like we had enough budget, but the reality is we at least had a budget. And then I moved over to this world where there are very small budgets. There's no real room for error. So, you've got to be more intelligent and more strategic with the decisions, the approach where you're going to play, where you're going to emphasize your time and energy and all those kinds of things.

Seth: Yeah. I know that making that jump from whatever your job is to being a full-time real estate investor is a big decision. It's hard to know when to do it or when you're ready, when the income is there, that kind of thing. How did you know you were ready financially, mentally, all these things to look at?

John Casmon: I didn't. What happened for me is I left Detroit. I moved to Chicago to go work for an advertising agency. And when I was at the agency, things were going great. We started crushing it. Best years. I think we literally had four or five years of straight growth. We actually merged with some other companies. And I was really close to the CEO and this larger company that had merged with hundreds and hundreds of employees, when I started, it was like 30 employees. And it had now morphed into literally a 10X in size with offices in Miami and Houston and New York.

I was in Chicago and one day I got a phone call that the bank was coming to seize what they could get their hands on. They were coming and getting computers and printers and whatever they could get in our New York office. In short, we were going through bankruptcy and I don't know how long anyone at the senior level knew. I mean, obviously they must have been aware of the financial issues, but I don't think any of us recognized that they were this dire. And I was a director at this point. We ended up going through another bankruptcy.

Now kudos to the CEO because I will tell you, I never missed a paycheck, but the company went bankrupt. It closed. Done, completely done. So, they paid me out of their pockets for probably two, three months until they could create a new company, get the clients to stick with them as they created this new company and try to create this new agency from scratch.

And I will just tell you that. I think going through that a second time, this was technically my second bankruptcy that I've worked on as an employee. And you just get to the point like, “Listen, man, you got to just bank on yourself at a certain point.” For me, it became clear that this was now unstable. And again, I'm very happy that all that worked out for me, but it was unstable at that time. Another set of anxiety. And I felt like I was right back in 2008.

It made me think about what I was doing investing in real estate, because the whole point of me investing in real estate was to insulate myself from issues like this popping up. Well, now I found myself in a situation where I had a good amount of equity in my deals, but not enough cash flow to take care of me and my family if I were to lose my job. I would have to either sell something or try to refinance and pull out some equity to kind of pay our bills and keep it going. So, then it just forced me to really think about the strategy, understanding how syndication works in diving deeper into that realm.

And then ultimately, I just had to look at the business to say, “You know what? I feel like if I make this transition, I can replace my income. And I think I can do it relatively quickly. I've been able to make some good money in real estate up to this point. I think I could do more.” And we moved. That was the time that we decided to cut the court and said, “All right, we're going to move. We're going to get our boys. We're going to move the family back to Ohio. My oldest will be starting kindergarten at that time. And it's a good time for me to make that transition full-time.” So that's exactly what we did.

Seth: It sounds like you weren't quite there in terms of cash flow, but you got there pretty quickly after you pulled the plug.

John Casmon: Yeah, I was not there in cash flow. And I think the other thing that people should consider is this. If your goal is simply to replace your income, you may not be looking at your lifestyle the right way. And you really need to design the life that you want.

Again, for me, what it would take to completely replace just the income didn't factor in the lifestyle changes that I was looking for. At this point I was hauling really 10 hours, 11 hours a day between traffic and driving downtown, getting the kids from daycare, getting them home at 07:00, 07:30 trying to quickly get them dinner. It was a whole lot of scrambles that were involved.

So, you start looking at everything in a lifestyle and say, “What do we really need?” My wife has a great job. She's doing well. I was doing pretty good with our money. And then I was still doing well in real estate. It's like, we don't need to replace my income. What we need to do is make sure we have enough money to cover our expenses. We need to make sure we have plenty of reserves. We need to make sure that we're positioned so we can continue to grow the business. That's what we need. So how do we do that?

I would tell anyone who's trying to make that decision, think about it the same way. What do you need to live off of? What adjustments can you make? Are there other things you can do to make money? There are certainly other strategies. It doesn't have to be just off of real estate. Most people I know who made the transition have some other income stream. And it could be anything from sponsorships to blogging, to renting their car to anything, consulting.

There are a lot of different ways that you could replace your W-2 income, especially today where the gig economy is so strong. If you've got a skill set, you've got value, you can create and give to other people. You have a way to monetize that on a scale that simply wasn't available even a few years ago. If you're an accountant, you can go on Upwork and offer accounting services as a freelance accountant and get work there as a freelance accountant. You couldn't really do that five years ago. Not just put it out there and watch people reach out saying, “Yes, I want to hire you.” I don't think that was as readily available even a few years ago. So, I think that we lock ourselves into that.

And the worst case for me was always just to go back and get a job. If everything fails, I'm confident enough in my skills and my ability to deliver that I can go out there and get another job. That was not something I was worried about. Because of that, I felt pretty confident to say, “You know what? Let's go for it.”

And here's one last thing I'll say for everyone listening. If you think you're there, but you're a little nervous or you're anxious and there's something holding you back. I like to ask myself one question every time I'm faced with a big decision. And that question is “What would I regret?”

Because when you think about it from the future tense, it becomes a little clearer on what you would regret. When I left General Motors, I asked myself the same question and it wasn't that I wanted to leave. I was doing great at the company. I definitely could have continued to climb up and be an executive and all that kind of stuff. But I felt like that's what I would be signed up for the next 20 years. And I would regret not seeing what I could do as an entrepreneur, as someone who was moving out of Detroit into Chicago and creating kind of a new life and creating something that felt more free and more open.

The people I knew who I was working with, none of them felt happy and excited to go to work. It kind of felt like they truly had golden handcuffs. Making great money but again, part of it is time frame, part of it is just the culture of things, but most of them did not look happy. And I just had to ask myself, “Well, do you want to be happy or do you want a job where you've made good money, but you are miserable every day?”

You've got to be honest with yourself and just say, “What would you regret?” And I think you'll gain clarity when you look at it from that lens because you'll be honest with yourself. And typically, there's one that you definitely would regret not pursuing more than the other option.

Seth: Yeah. It's a good point about going after designing a lifestyle instead of just replacing your income. Because when you look at the cost of commuting, doing work that you're not really in love with, stuff that a lot of us just kind of accept as “Well, that's what you have to do.” Those are all huge costs in and of themselves. They may be sort of financial, maybe not, but there's a lot to look at. It's not a black and white thing where it's just dollar-in, dollar-out. It's like, “Well, there's the enjoyment and there's the freedom and then there's potential.” And then there's what else could I fold into this? It's a very dynamic picture to look at and try to figure out. But yeah, it's a big takeaway.

Switching gears a little bit. I know you attend a number of conferences. I don’t know how many you do per year or how many you've done over the years, but I was just looking at some of your social media stuff. It looks like you've been to a lot of them and you even are the co-founder of one. I'm just curious if you could only pick one, what do you think is the most impactful, important one to be at besides your own? Because that's probably an obvious answer.

John Casmon: Yes. You obviously come to the Midwest Summit. You know what? I think it really depends on where you're at today and where you want to get next because what I would say for me is going to be different from you and where you're at.

But with that said, I want to give that caveat. Conferences are amazing for a few different reasons, but the reason I believe in conferences so much is when you get a chance to surround yourself with like-minded individuals, and I mean committed like-minded individuals, it opens up the doors of possibility.

When I say committed, think about this. First, there's the ticket for the conference, right? So maybe you're paying $100 or $200, $500, $1,000, whatever it is, right? You got to pay for the ticket, travel. You got hotels, Ubers, lodging. You have all that, F&B, everything out there. And then you're talking about time away from family and friends to be here at this event.

When you think about that level of commitment, the people who are willing to do that are people who are seriously looking to make a change in their life or in their business. When you think about attending a real estate conference, these are people who are looking to play at a higher level. These are people who want to make a change in their life for the better.

When you go to these kinds of events, you're going to be surrounded by people who are inspiring and who are going to push you to be better and who are going to help you build connections that will ultimately push your business forward. So, I think in general, going to a conference is a great place to be.

The MFI con is coming up in June. That's one that I would highly recommend. It's been a virtual conference for about three or four years. This is the first time they're doing it in person. They've got a lot of great speakers who are going to be there. I'm excited for that event.

I'm very partial to the Best Ever conference by Joe Fairless. That was one of the first big event or big conferences I attended. And it really opened up my eyes to, again, real estate syndication and podcasting and all these different things. That was very vital for me, especially when I was starting out. And there's a host of other events to check out. There's even some outside of real estate. If you want to go to some FinCon or personal finance conferences. I think it really just depends on where you're at.
And to help you figure out which conference you should attend, I think you need to first understand what's your biggest financial goal. And then if it's a real estate goal, what's your big real estate goal. And then what conferences are there that will focus on this. Because some focus on big apartment syndication and commercial real estate. But if you just want to be a flipper, I don't want to say just, but if you want to be a flipper and you're not really interested in syndication, then that conference may not help you as much. So, you definitely got to get a little clarity on what you want to achieve and then surround yourself with people who are doing that.

Seth: Yeah. And given that you are a believer in conferences and that kind of thing, I have to assume you're probably pretty good at networking and finding people that you can help and people who can reciprocate that and help you and that kind of thing, which I think is pretty much the biggest reason I ever go to them. It’s just because the people that I end up meeting, I don't know who it's going to be, but there's always going to be somebody there where it's like, “Oh, here's how we could work together. Here's how we could scratch each other's back in some way.”

Do you have any tips or tricks for figuring out who are the people I need to know here? How do I get to them? How do I figure out what they want? Any ideas come to mind?

John Casmon: It's interesting that you make that assumption. I do not believe that I am a great networker. It's something that I'm working on. I continue to evolve with. And I'm probably being harsh on myself because I see great networkers. And when I watch them I'm trying to borrow pointers from what I see them do.

So, I'll give you a couple of tips that have helped me become better than where I was because I'm actually more of an introverted kind of shy person. So, it actually takes me a little bit to get going. The great thing for me is because I have a platform. I have my podcast, right? I have meetups. I go into many of these events knowing a handful of people.
The first thing I would suggest is don't go by yourself if you don't know anybody. Bring somebody, get a familiar face with you so you can feel a level of comfort. It's going to make it a little bit easier for you. If you feel like you don't know anyone and you're just there, especially if you're not a natural, outgoing person, it may feel a little difficult to break the ice and make those connections. So, try to have someone there that is familiar.
As far as trying to figure out who to connect with, be very clear on who you want to connect with. That is the best thing you can do. That way when you're meeting people and talking to people, you let them know, “Hey here's what brought me out here.” And I would ask people, “Hey, what made you attend this event? Why'd you decide to attend this conference?” Seth, do you mind if we do a little role play?

Seth: Sure. Let's do it.

John Casmon: All right. So, let's do a role play where we just meet at a conference. I might walk up and say, hey, I'm John Casmon. What's your name?

Seth: Hey John. I'm Seth.

John Casmon: Oh, Seth, man, it was good to meet you here. What brought you all to this conference?

Seth: I’m first time here. I figured there'd probably be some interesting people. I wanted to learn more about this aspect of real estate, I’m interested in that and I don't know much. What about you? Why are you here?

John Casmon: Yeah, man. I came out here because I'm an apartment syndicator and I'm looking to meet with other passive investors. Typically, we work with people who have a great full-time job, want to invest in real estate, but don't want to be a landlord and don't want to be a flipper. So, if you come across anybody who that may be a fit for, I'd love an introduction.

Seth: Awesome. How long have you been doing that?

John Casmon: I've been doing it for about five years. Going on six years now.

Seth: Sweet. Do you have a card or something?

John Casmon: Cool, man. Yeah. Here's my card. Well, listen, I'll catch up with you a little bit later. It's good to talk to you and I hope you get a lot of the conference.

Again, it doesn't have to be super deep. But by telling people exactly what it is you're looking for either they're going to respond and say something to the effect of, “Oh man, that sounds great. It sounds like I'm a fit for that.” Or they may know someone. “Oh, you know what? I met this guy, Tommy earlier. He said that he's looking to invest in deals like that. You should meet Tommy. He's over there in a gray suit.” Or they don't know and you just have a quick conversation.

But the reason it's cool is it also gives you the out so you don't get just locked into a conversation. Because now you're talking to a guy you know there's not really much you're going to do together. There is not a way to build on a relationship. Now you can say, “Well, listen, man. I came here because I wanted to meet with some passive investors. So, let me see if I can find some. I just hope you have a great day. I'll talk to you a bit later.”
There's no animosity because I told you exactly who I came here to talk to. If you're not that guy, you shouldn't be upset that I told you I'm now going to look for the person that I mentioned. And we could still have a conversation. Now I wouldn't leave immediately. I wouldn't say, “Oh, you're not looking to invest? All right, bye.” I would still talk to someone for a few minutes and learn a little bit more about them and then I would try to help them as well.

So, if we were doing that role play again, if you were to say something like, “Yeah, man, I want to learn more about flipping.” Then I would say, “Oh, you want to learn about flipping? You want to talk to this guy. Do you know Jay Scott? You can see Jay Scott over there. He literally wrote a book on flipping houses. You need to talk to him. I would try to help you during that interaction as much as I could and then we can both continue to move on and have our conversation.

I think you definitely want to give and continue to be a person who gives value. But on the same note, you don't want to spend two hours talking to somebody that won't really be able to help you with your business.
What I've seen a lot, unfortunately, is I have seen people just walk up and hand out their business card. You got a little semi-circle of people talking and someone else just walks, “Hey guys. I'm a lender.” For whatever reason a lot of times it's like a mortgage broker, but they'll hand out their card and then they walk away.

I was like, “You didn't talk to the group. You didn't interact with the group. What are most of us going to do with this business card? We're going to probably toss this thing at some point.” At no point did I feel like we made a connection where when I'm looking for my lending needs, I'm going to call this guy.

So be a person, be a human being. Connect with someone, have a conversation. If it's not a fit, it's not a fit. There's no issue there, but don't just walk around handing out business cards. That's not networking.

Seth: Yeah. Do you know who Ramit Sethi is?

John Casmon: Sethi?

Seth: Yeah. He's got a website “I Will teach You to Be Rich.” And he's got a book.

John Casmon: Yes, yes, yes. I know Ramit. Yes.

Seth: He's got a really good video he did years ago now. I'll try to find it and put it in the show notes if I can. By the way, show notes at But the video was all about small talk hacks. It's about acknowledging, at least for the introverts out there, myself included, just the discomfort with going to stuff like this and trying to pretend like you are friends with people that you don't know. And in a way it just feels phony. And a lot of people don't understand why do we have to do this small talk stuff? Why do we have to pretend that we're buddies when we're not and all this stuff?

But he was explaining really what this is. It's like a human ritual. It's how people get comfortable with each other and develop relationships is by doing this small talk, talking about weather and sports and stuff that is kind of arbitrary, but still, it's instrumental in building those relationships.
Apparently, this is something where everybody has this. When you get to talking with a stranger at one of these things and the conversation's gone on too long and you're like, “Okay, how do I get out of this? I don't want to talk to this person anymore.” He has just these really good one-liners you can say. It's very kindly in the conversation in a way that doesn't put them off, but it allows you to then move on and keep going. And I just thought it was really helpful for me, especially back then when I saw I didn't really know how to do this stuff. I had almost a phobia about conferences and networking events just because I was so uncomfortable with it.

But I think just knowing those almost like a script in a way, just knowing what to say, to get through the conversation, just to ask the question to show interest and then move on. Once you establish that nothing's going to happen, just knowing how to navigate through that is kind of a big deal.

John Casmon: Yeah. I think it really helps to have a game plan of what you want to get out of it because what ends up happening for a lot of people is you go to an event, you get inspired, you hear these great speakers or you hear these great stories, what people are doing or whatever. And you feel good, but then you go home and you feel great. But man, you really don't know where to go next or what to do. And if you just need inspiration, if you just needed the confirmation that, “Hey real estate is a path that I can invest in.” Okay, great.

But you get to a point where you're investing where you're really looking to make a change in your life and you may need some relationships or you may need some people who can help you make those changes. The clear you are on that, the more intentional you can be on how you deliver and get the most out of that event.

And you're spot on. I think people who are a bit more introverted, it's not to say that we're shy and don't want to talk to people. It's just to say that we typically get more energy by being ourselves. So, we have to push ourselves to be around and go out there and talk. And we're putting ourselves out there.

My wife's the opposite. On the surface you would think that I was really the extrovert and she was the introvert, but it's really the opposite. She loves these things and she will network with people in a way that is so much deeper than what I do. And I don't know if it's about being a guy or what, but when I talk to people, there's probably two, three questions before we start talking about real estate.

My wife will talk to people and not even know what they do in real estate. She's like, “Oh, this is such and such. He's married, he's got three kids. They live in Hawaii. They went on vacation in Mexico last year. I told them about our last trip to Mexico.” And I'm like, “Wow, how did you even get…?” We had talked to the same people and have two completely different stories of who that person is because she actually takes the time to get to know them at the individual level, which is obviously what most of us should be doing.

And that's why I tell you, it's a skill that I'm still working on because I see her naturally do this and it's just Tuesday for her. And I have to sit there and think. I literally have to tell myself, “Ask them about themselves. Ask about family, ask about what they're doing in their business.”

So, it's a skill that definitely takes some practice, but it doesn't have to be painful either. It shouldn't feel like pulling teeth. I think ultimately when you go in there, you want to connect with people. You want to be intentional. I think there's a way to be direct without being rude and make sure you're getting what you want to get out of it.

Seth: Yeah. I saw a life pro tip on Reddit a couple years ago. It said that when you're meeting somebody for the first time, don't ask them what they do, ask them what they're passionate about. Because usually the answer will be very different than what they do. And you see their face light up and the conversation goes in this direction that actually leads to you getting to know them versus just their profession.

And the way that question is worded sometimes I feel really weird asking that. It's just a weird question. “What are you passionate about?” But it has never not worked. Every time I ask it, it does lead me to know a lot more about them than I otherwise would. And the conversation just kind of takes on a life of its own. It's pretty cool.

John Casmon: I love it. And the other reason I love it is because it goes back to what we were talking about earlier. So many people define themselves based on what they do. I'm a lawyer, I'm a doctor, I'm an engineer. And the moment you are no longer that title, well, who are you? Or you get fired, you get let go. You retire. There’s a sense of identity that's lost for so many people because they have so much of themselves tied up into these titles.

To remove that, at least in your interaction where they can talk about who they are at the core, what they're passionate about, what they care about, that enables them to be more of their holistic self, as opposed to, and I think this gets to what you're saying. It's like, you go to these networking events, what do you do? And people are sizing you up. They're sizing you up immediately to see, “Are you someone worth talking to for the next five minutes? Or should I go along my way?”

And I think to your point, that's a great question to ask. Those are the kind of things that if you want to be a better networker, that's a great tip for someone to practice because it will make you a better networker. Now you're not putting people off with this. “Well, what do you do? What do you do?” And now you're stuck in this situation, we're only talking about your jobs.

Seth: Yeah, it's interesting. Okay. So, this is a question that you might need, I don’t know, maybe a second to think about the answer. But you've been running your podcast Multifamily Insights since I think 2017, if I'm reading that right, and you've got about 400 episodes to date. That's a lot of conversations with a lot of people.

When you think back on everybody you've interviewed, which interview was the most important or most eye-opening for you? If somebody wanted to listen to your podcast, but they only had time for a single episode, what would you say they need to listen to and why?

John Casmon: Oh man. Out of 400 episodes, that is a tough question.

Seth: I know. Can you ever remember everybody you've talked to? That's a lot of people.

John Casmon: Most people. You know what? I'm pretty sure I can remember almost everybody. So, there are a multitude of episodes that stand out to me. And sometimes it stands out for different reasons. And to answer that question, I have to back up a little bit.

One of the things that's great about hosting a podcast is you get a chance to connect with these amazing real estate investors and learn from them and their story and their journey. And depending on where you are at in your journey, it may resonate differently than someone somewhere else.
So, for pure information, I think there are some episodes in the first 10, the first 10 episodes that were amazing because they justified the platform. They justified the podcast and what I wanted to get out of the show. I kid you not episode one. Episode one answered one of the main questions I had.

And to give you context, I was living in Chicago. I knew the Chicago market pretty well. I was hosting a Chicago multifamily club. I'm doing events out there but I started to get interested in investing in Cincinnati. My wife is from here, I knew I was going to be moving here eventually. And I wanted to start looking in the market. I needed better cash flow, but I didn't know how to navigate the market. I didn't know what data points to look at. You go to BiggerPockets. You talk to people. You ask them questions and everyone just gives you their opinion. They very rarely cite sources that say, “Hey, this neighborhood is poised for a 7% higher growth in that neighborhood.” No one's giving you that.

I wanted to understand how do I select the right submarket once I have this market? And the whole premise of the show was based on that. It was originally target market insights, because I wanted to understand how to find the best places in submarkets to invest.

In episode one, I put a broker from Cincinnati and he was my guest. And I asked him all the questions I wanted to ask, but couldn't really just drill somebody and have a platform where I could trust the data and the information that person was giving me. Well, he broke down how the city's divided, from a geographic standpoint, as far as, “Hey, most investors use this as a cutoff. This area is over here. If you look at this corridor, this is where a lot of the growth and development is taking place.”

He broke everything down. I was fearful that people would not give me that level of value and depth. And I got that on episode one. So, it set the tone for the kind of questions, what I could push for as far as knowledge and insights. And selfishly, I literally bought a property in that corridor 90% based on his stamp of approval. Because at this point, keep in mind, most of the time you're talking to a broker, you're talking about a deal and now this broker's got to sell a deal. So, of course, the area is okay if he's got a deal in that property.

So, to talk to him without a deal, and we are just talking hypothetical, “Hey, as you look at the lay of the land of the city, what areas do you like and why do you like it?” Well, that gave me kind of an unbiased opinion of the market. And that way now I kind of had some parameters as far as where I wanted to look and find deals.

Episode one stands out tremendously. Your episode stands out to me tremendously as well. Episode 133. The reason your episode stood out to me is you talked about the content that you create. And I did not realize how long it takes to create quality. What I mean is really high-end quality. I’m not blowing smoke here, but high-end quality content. If I recall correctly, we were talking about everything from video content to blog posts, and you're like, “It could take up to eight or nine hours.”

When you're reading, I don't think people recognize that someone has invested a full day's worth of work into creating this piece of content. It might only be a 90-second video. It might only be a 1,500-word blog post, but someone's invested that much time because it's just the research, the writing, the ideation, the confirmation. You got to go in and check your sources. There's a whole lot of work that you got to do to create this. So that was very powerful for me to say, “Okay. You know what? You can't just pin an article and throw it out there and expect the masses to salivate over it. If you really want to do something good, you got to put in the work to do it at a super high level. And that work means probably six-plus hours. That was very helpful for me.

We had a guy, my man, John, episode 141. And John came on and he talked about his content creation strategy. And that was just powerful for me to understand how he uses SOPs and systems for everything that he does. I've had a lot of big-name investors on the show and talk about what they do as well. I won't say every episode stands out, but there's certainly a number of them.

I'll give you one last one, episode 20. I had a former contractor. He came on and he said, “You're never going to find a great contractor. That A-quality contractor you're looking for, you're never going to get it as a real estate investor.”

He said, why? Because high-quality contractors don't want to work with real estate investors. Investors want the cheapest price and the highest quality. They're going to push you on timeframes. They're difficult to work with. If you're that good of a contractor, you're either going to work on high-end commercial stuff or you're going to work for retail investors and go charge $35,000 for a kitchen renovation. You're not going to work with a home flipper who's got $30,000 and they basically want a brand-new house for $30,000 when you can go and renovate someone's kitchen for $30,000 and the margins are much better and that person's not going to beat you up every day because you're delayed.

That put it in context too. It's like, “Oh, okay, I'm out here searching for a unicorn. So maybe I should learn to work with the resources who work in this space as opposed to expecting people to operate at my level.” And keep in mind, I came from corporate America. I have high expectations on communication, follow-up, and feedback. And then working in more of this blue-collar space with contractors, there was a gap between what I was anticipating and expecting and what I was getting. And he just helped reset it, like, “You're not going to get that.”

Seth: Yeah. That's interesting about the contract thing. I never thought about that, but that does make sense. I'm always hesitant to say never about anything, but just as a general rule, it's almost like you need to find that happy medium where they're good enough, but they're not the best. And just be okay with that because you're getting a great price.

John Casmon: And that was his point. You could find good contractors, but if you're looking for that expert quality guy who's going to be cheap and efficient and all that, it just doesn't work. And if you catch them, you're catching them on the way up. You're going to catch someone who either just started or they're in the early stages, but they're eventually going to blow past that level.

Because again, anyone who's that good is smart enough to say, “Why am I doing all this work to make this, when this person's willing to pay me X?” They're going to make that connection once they have enough experience under their belt.

Seth: Yeah, for sure. I'm going to go ahead and link to each of those episodes that you mentioned in the show notes, if people want to check them out. Now just on a side note, I just thought of this. Since you've lived in four big cities Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati, how do you decide what sports teams you want to root for?

John Casmon: Oh, that's the easiest thing, man.

Seth: Which one?

John Casmon: Oh, I'm born and raised in Cleveland. So, it's Cleveland all day every day.

Seth: Okay. Gotcha.

John Casmon: Oh yeah. I mean even here.

Seth: What about when the Bengals went to the Super Bowl? Were you rooting for them to take it?

John Casmon: Yeah. Listen, the rest of my whole family here, they're all Bengals fans so I can support the Bengals. The thing with me in sports is this. I've lived away from Cleveland so long that it's one of the few… I wouldn't be really deep on this, by the way. It's one of the few things that connects me to the city and knowing the kind of sports town Cleveland is, I almost have a sense of the spirit of the city based on what happens in sports. Particularly with the Browns. I can tell you what Monday morning feels like in Cleveland on a Browns win or after Browns win versus after Browns loss.

And it's also the connection I have to, again, friends who are back home, little text during the games, things like that. So, the sport is one thing, but it's really my connection to the city. If I never left Cleveland, I don't think I would even feel the same way about sports. But when I moved away, again, when you're in a different city, I didn't care about the Pistons. But that was when LeBron came up and finally got over the hump and beat the Pistons and I'm there and I'm watching them battle. It kind of made me feel like the underdog in the same way. I felt like I had that chip on my shoulder. So, it was always great watching the teams, but yeah, that connection is deep, man. That's my city. The rest of the cities are places I've lived. I lay my head here, but I am Cleveland through and through.

Seth: Gotcha. Interesting. I can tell you what it's like on a Monday morning when the Lions have lost, but I don't know what it feels like when they've won. I don't remember when that's ever really happened, but I'm intimately familiar with loss.

John Casmon: Well, we had a stretch where we won one game in two years, so I'm familiar with that feeling too.

Seth: Interesting. All right. When you think about what you're doing right now in your career as a real estate investor, sometimes you're syndicated, sometimes you're consulting with other people. And you just think of everything involved with that, what would you say is the single best part of what you do and what is the worst part? What do you hate the most about it and what do you love the most about it?

John Casmon: Well, maybe because I just finished it today, but I just did distributions. So it's always fun to send money to investors. Huge dollar amounts that we're sending to everybody right now for all the investors on one of our deals. So that's fun. I enjoy that. And obviously delivering for our investors is a fun thing.

I like the entire process with investors, to be honest with you. And that's one of the things that made me realize that I really enjoy this part of the business. We talked about being introverted and stuff like that. The thing is, I've always enjoyed people just on a one-on-one level, really. Not necessarily talking to hundreds of people at a time and being a personality and that kind of stuff. I don't really enjoy that as much.

But talking to someone, understanding what challenges they face, understanding whether or not real estate can help them and particularly the deals that we're doing, having them decide to partner with us, investing with us, sending them distributions. That process of seeing that come to fruition for them is very enjoyable.

Same thing with coaching. When you work with someone who's trying to get their first real estate deal and you're able to help guide them through that process. And you're able to get under contract in their first deal, it's a very rewarding experience.

The thing I don't enjoy is underwriting. I've never really enjoyed underwriting. It's a lot of information gathering. Part of it is data entry. So, there's a data entry component to it. And then there's gathering more information. Now I enjoy putting together the business plan, which is not the same as underwriting. They work hand in hand.

I love sitting down, looking at this property, and figuring out what we can do to have it create more value. I don't like breaking out the Excel spreadsheet and putting in all the data, particularly when the numbers don't work, which 99% of the time where we come out for the value of a deal and what the seller's asking for, what the broker's looking for, we're not close. So that part can get frustrating if you're sitting there and you underwrite literally a hundred deals and one of them you are close on, the others, maybe you try to get somewhat close or you make your offer and you hope the seller maybe is willing to engage you.

But that part can be frustrating. So, I don't really like the underwriting as much. We try to offload as much of that as we can to people who do enjoy that process. And then we focus more, again, reviewing, getting into the business plan. What if we did this? What if we did that? Can we make this adjustment here? What if we change this for this? That part I enjoy. I just don't really like the initial underwriting.

Seth: You sound like maybe a right-brain thinker. Is that accurate? More of the creative side of things rather than the analytical number crunching side?

John Casmon: Definitely more big picture.

Seth: Yeah.

John Casmon: Definitely big picture. Yes.

Seth: Yeah. I think I'm the same way too, although it's interesting. Sometimes it's really fun when you're looking at a deal and it looks like things aren't working, but then you figure something out like, “Oh, maybe we can move this over here.” And then it opens up, “Oh, that just fixed everything.” It's just cool to see a solution come out of getting in the trenches and trying to sift through all the stuff.

John Casmon: Absolutely. That's to your point. I enjoy the reviewing part of it. I enjoy when I can actually sit there and think and look at it and what do you see and here's what this says, what can we adjust? What can we create instead? That part is fun to me, but just like the data entry component of it, where I literally just have to look up taxes and then go to the county website and figure out what the taxes are going to be and put them in there and all of that stuff. No, I don't enjoy that.

Seth: Yes. Gotcha. Makes perfect sense. Final question, suppose you just got a hundred million dollars wired to your bank account and you are not allowed to keep doing what you're currently doing. You have to do something different, not real estate-related. What would you do?

John Casmon: Wow.

Seth: It's kind of a different way of saying, “What are you passionate about?” I guess maybe that is another way to say it.

John Casmon: Yeah. Man, that's a tough one, right? I think if you could take the real estate out, I would still want to be doing something where I was helping other families achieve financial freedom and generating wealth for their families. As I kind of dug deeper into the space, the passion for me became less on the real estate. The brick-and-mortar is one thing that's fine, but what I really enjoy is trying to help families leverage this asset and this tool to help their families grow.

There are a couple stats that you may or may not be as familiar with, but when you talk about inequality, there's a lot of focus on income inequality. Raising the minimum wage and the gender pay gap and things of that nature. But there's actually a much bigger issue, which is a wealth inequality because effectively what it gets to is even if you gave people a higher minimum wage, even if you close the gender gap, even if you close the racial pay gap, those individuals would still have less wealth than white people who didn't have these issues.

And said differently, two people could make the same salary. If that person is black, they have 8 to 10 times less wealth than the person who is white. And that's generational. That's almost directly and almost exclusively due to real estate. In real estate practices from back in the day, whether you want to call it redlining and other things.

But the bottom line is that real estate has so much value. And when it's passed on from one generation to the next generation, or maybe your parents have a house, that house has appreciated, they've been able to tap that equity to pay for college, whatever the case is. It gives you a leg up.

And that's the reason I really decided this needed to be more than just me making real estate myself. Because the easy thing was just, “Hey, do more two to three units, do some small multifamily, just save you money, maybe borrow more money if you need to and just do it yourself.” Part of the reason I wanted to make it a business where we are syndicating and helping other people is I wanted other people to be able to enjoy some of this as well. So, if it's not through that in real estate, I would say there's got to be some other way to add value to people, and teaching them about how to create wealth for themselves.

Seth: Oh, that's awesome, man. Yeah. I'm actually curious just in your life as a black man, have there been a lot of instances that you can just think back to where it's like, “I'm always denied this opportunity because of the color of my skin or I could've done better or this would've been easier if I had been white?” Has anything come to mind?

John Casmon: I try not to ever let thoughts like that come to mind or linger. Obviously, there are times where you maybe roll your head, you move your head a little bit and say, “Hmm, interesting.” Or “Okay, that's curious.” I know of a few instances that definitely happened due to race.
On the flip side of that, I will tell you that I've been fortunate enough to be involved in different programs that were meant to create more opportunities for minorities. And that's exactly how I got an advertising in the first place. There's a program through the 4A's, which is the association of advertising agencies. They had a program called MAIP - Multicultural Advertising Intern Program. And I applied and that's how I got my first internship.

That internship led to another program that I was in and ultimately General Motors was my client. The client got promoted, liked working with me, even though I was an intern or I was a fellow. And he asked specifically about me and whether or not I would apply for his old role. And that's how I got the job at GM, it’s through that. So that's there.

I would say this. I think you always have to be very careful about bias. There's always going to be bias out there. There's always going to be advantages and disadvantages out there. One of my favorite movies is called “Higher Learning.” And in it, there's a part where Omar Epps, his character, plays a big track star. And he's really upset because he's like, “Man, I'm out here. I got to run. I got to practice early in the morning. I got practice twice a day. I got to get my schoolwork together. And I don't see these other boys having to do this stuff, man, this is bull.”

And his professor says to him, he's like, “Well, suppose you meet another track star in another school. And he's a little bigger than you, a little faster than you. What are you going to do? You are going to just pack up your stuff and go home?” He's like, “Nah, man, I'm going to run faster. I'm going to run harder.” It's like, “Oh, okay.”

And that's the way I look at it. I mean, life is life. I can sit and complain, but I'll tell you what. There are a lot of people who did not get the advantages that I have. There are people who have had way more advantages and didn't take advantage of those opportunities. And I think there's more that we can do with it.

So, for me, this is why it's really important to understand who you can help and who you serve and spend time with people who are looking for that because I'm not going to be a fit for everybody. And that's fine just like you're not going to be a fit for everybody. And that's what we have to understand. It’s that I don't need anyone. Any individual person you don't need.

And that's the beauty of this business in this industry. My promotion is not tied to the person above me liking me. I'm cut away from all that. If you're in corporate America, absolutely. Those are realistic things you got to deal with. If your boss doesn't like you and just for whatever reason, that's a real issue, but I don't have those restrictions.

I think the biggest thing is to figure out what your current situation is. Take advantage of the opportunities you have, strengthen your strengths, and move forward. It won't serve you to focus on the negativity or “This didn't happen because I'm black” or “This didn't happen because I'm a woman” or “This didn't happen because I'm Latino.” I don't know what that does for you or how you solve that. If the mentality is one of, I'm going to say of a victim, but what I mean by that is if you are going to give someone else the power to decide whether or not you're successful. So let people do what they want to do. Think what they want to think. Opportunities come or don't come, but figure it out. Figure it out and create your own success.

Seth: Yeah. That's a really interesting distinction about how you don't need any one person, but at the same time you do need people. So, it's just good to know it's not one person who controls my destiny. Because you're right. Absolutely, there will always be people that you simply do not mix with or they decide for some reason they don't like you or they're not going to let you get to the next step, but it's like, “Well, okay, I'll go this way instead. I don't need to rely on you.” It's kind of freeing to realize that. You're not stuck. There are always alternative angles, different paths you can take. It's just a matter of seeing that and having the courage to take that path.

John Casmon: Yeah. And I'll say these two stuff just to close it out for me at least. I talk to many investors, particularly women investors who have a hard time being taken seriously by brokers, male brokers, typically in a commercial space. And that's a challenge. That's a real challenge that they face. And I'll be honest. I haven't had that challenge. Certainly, there might be a little hesitation or whatever, but I've never had a broker not call me back or not take my offer seriously or something like that. And I've had other female investors I've talked to who they've had that. They've had it where they could not get a broker to call them back. They could not get a broker on a phone call. They were the main investor and the broker insisted on speaking to a spouse or their male counterpart.

Seth: That's crazy.

John Casmon: It's real.

Seth: Yeah.

John Casmon: I don't want to sound ignorant to the biases. It's absolutely biased out there. But what you said is key. Are you going to let that stop you or are you going to figure out a solution? My wife gets it. She has jokes because she's had contractors who ask her, “Oh, is your husband home? - You don't need to talk to my husband. I'm running this.” Those are legit things.

But part of it is you have to understand the power you do have, and then control that power. Figure out who you work with, who you partner with. And sometimes you got to play the game. And if that's what you're going to do, do that. But you don't want to be in a situation where you feel less than. You should be respected. You should be empowered. I think all those things are legit, but you also can't let anybody take your power from you.

Seth: Yeah, that is interesting. It was probably a month ago. I was calling on a commercial listing for a property because I was interested in making an offer on it. And the broker who answered, he was basically telling me, “I know who the owner is. I have all their information. I could go right to them if I wanted to.” And he's telling me, “No, I don't want to sell you that one, but there's another one.” I'm just like, “Dude, this isn't your property. You're not even going to take my offer?” He just totally blew me off. And of it and in plenty of other experiences in life, maybe it's because, especially earlier in my career I came across as just timid or shy or not very confident and sure in myself. A lot of people just kind of trample all over me and I just let it happen because I didn't have the confidence. And in my case, I'm a guy, I am white. I just sort of saw it as like they're being mean. So, I guess I need to go find something else.

John Casmon: But to your point, Seth, I can probably weigh in a little bit though, right? Because there are all sorts of biases. We focus on race and gender and the physical things we can see. I wasn't in your conversation, but I always tell people there are three Cs to attract capital - Confidence, Credibility, and Connections.

Well, confidence is one that is so important that people overlook. Because confidence is also with the brokers. And you got to keep in mind, commercial brokers get paid when a transaction happens. So, they're not confident in you and your ability to be a buyer and if you're a credible buyer. They will blow you off. They will move on or try to redirect you somewhere else.

And I don't know if there was something you did or said in that conversation, but that is something that happens very often from brokers. And there are certain signs. Maybe they ask you to show that you have the money to buy it. They might ask you for proof of funds. They may ask you for other little things that if they believed in you as a credible buyer, they wouldn't ask these kinds of questions.

Some of that happens and we don't know what the trigger for that bias is. And that's why I say it's limiting if you just assume it's because of the color of your skin or if it's because of your gender. It might be because you didn't understand the language and you didn't use the right terminology when you called them. It could be a host of things and I'm not trying to make excuses for them.

But what I'm saying is we don't know what those triggers are so we don't know what we can actually fix. Maybe he was just like, “Oh, this seems like a new buyer who can't close this property. So, I'm not going to waste my time talking to this guy about this.”

That may have been 100% what they were thinking. And then for you, now you know what you can control moving forward. I can't change the color of my skin nor would I even think about that. So that can't be the thing that stops me. It may change who I do business with. But I don't have to do business with someone who doesn't respect me or doesn't respect people like me. That's an easy decision. You don't control the entire market, so I can do business with other people if necessary.

Seth: Yeah, man. Awesome. Well, it's been a great, enlightening conversation. I appreciate you coming on the show, John. It's good to know you. Good to talk to you again. If people want to find out more about you or just learn more about what you can do in the commercial real estate world, where should they go?

John Casmon: Two things. One, check out our podcast Multifamily Insights. It's available anywhere you listen to podcasts. The other place is we have a sample deal package on our website. So, if you're interested in multifamily in particular or syndication, whether you want to be active or passive, but really don't know where to start, this is a good place because it'll give you a sense of deal structure and the kind of questions you should be asking. And it's just a sample deal, kind of laid out and it'll give you a chance to learn a little bit more. But you can get that at

Seth: Awesome. I will include links to that stuff in the show notes as well Thanks again, John. Great to talk to you and hopefully we'll talk again soon.

John Casmon: Seth, thank you for having me, man. I appreciate the great conversation today.


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Seth Williams is the Founder of - an online community that offers real-world guidance for real estate investors.

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