As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Loren Howard, Founder and President of Prime Plus Mortgages: Hard Money Loans Arizona. He is a successful decorated college athlete turned serial entrepreneur who has launched and grown companies of various 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 is a 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. I know that you are a very busy person. 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 grew up?
My parents divorced when I was young, and we moved all over the country growing up. When you move often and start over in different places you carry these core pieces of yourself along the way. I discovered pretty early on that I had this unbreakable focus, vision, and a passion for sports. Sports became a central part of who I was and led me to playing football in college.
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 guy ahead of me went 10th that year in the draft. Unfortunately, I got injured, and never really recovered properly, and couldn’t really complete at the same level.
I had to find myself again after football ended. I was able to get back in touch with my focus, vision and drive which led to me starting my own company. Becoming an entrepreneur was a perfect calling! My first business didn’t make it far, but I call it my ‘MBA’ because I learned so much from it. Business didn’t come naturally to me and I had to learn some things the hard way, but each of those experiences from my first companies led to the success I have seen today.
Business takes time to get right, but if you are driven, focused, and have a vision, it will lead you to success.
What were your early inspirations that set you off on your particular journey?
Transitioning from sports to business was one of the hardest things I had ever done. I’ve always been an achiever and a driver, so becoming an entrepreneur stemmed from wanting to see what I was capable of. I was determined to be successful, and wanted to see what I could achieve on my own, in my own way.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I had a virtual meeting get ‘hacked’ by some ex-employees. In one of my earlier businesses, we had to let some salespeople go. We had forgotten to change the codes to access the weekly meeting so they joined and were still upset about the situation.
I made a point to let them be heard, and to emphasize they weren’t really in the right state of mind since they had just lost their jobs. We still let them air some grievances they had, and allowed for an open discussion and turn it into a learning experience for everyone to bring us closer as a team.
I take team-building pretty seriously, and a major lesson from this was being empathic with your employees even after you end their relationship with your business. And of course, change the meeting codes.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My business partner John Lewis is a big influence on my success. We have had many ventures together, and his mentorship has been a great factor in our success.
He helped me get in tune with myself as an entrepreneur. He has always mentored me, guided my decisions, but let me lead and learn. He instilled confidence in how I perform, and how to be an entrepreneur.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
When I was injured, and when my first company failed it really was a transformative experience for me.
I read the book ‘The 7 Habits Of Successful People’. It really helped me get in touch with those core principles of who I was, and who I wanted to be.
I was determined to be a success, and I wasn’t a quitter, I just had to find a new path. I have had some pretty major setbacks, but the most important thing is to get back up when you get knocked down.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Instead of dwelling on how it all went wrong, I looked at the positive side of those experiences. What did I learn and how could I improve the next time? My first business was a great learning experience and I had made so many new relationships that I would carry with me. I learned the skills I needed to do it right the next time.
I’ve always been an achiever and a driver. Combined with a vision and the right people you can turn any idea into a success. It all comes down to how hard you push it to become a reality.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Grit and resilience are necessary to be successful. When you first start out, you don’t know what you don’t know. In order to start a business and become an entrepreneur, you have to take that first leap of faith. All entrepreneurs have to take that risk, and hustle to learn that skill set.
The most important thing to do is to learn as much as you can as quickly as possible. You need time to develop your skill set and have to have the grit and resilience to get back up and try again when it doesn’t work the first few times.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Prime Plus Mortgages stands out because we know what our clients need. We are Real estate investors, and we lend with some of our own money, so we know what they are looking for and what they need. We know when to be aggressive since we have a deep understanding of the industry.
Real estate investors need fast answers and flexibility, and we can move quickly as a smaller lender in a big lending space. As a smaller company we can offer that VIP treatment, with the speed and flexibility that our clients need.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
My advice to avoid burnout are: Enjoy what you are doing, and be balanced.
You can avoid burnout by loving what you are doing. 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.
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 true potential and give them the tools for a successful life.
Additionally, I coach up-and-coming business owners and entrepreneurs in the EOA. Coaching and mentorship is a great opportunity to help others, build your network, and have a huge impact on someone’s life in a very meaningful way.
Wonderful. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
The biggest lesson I learned the hard way was, Don’t worry about the technicalities, and to focus on the product or service. When I launched my first company, I spent so much time getting the little details right that we overlooked how we were going to sell the product. Ultimately that company failed, and getting wrapped up in the fine-print was one of the main reasons why.
Secondly, Your network is net worth. People are what make things great. You need to constantly grow your network so that you can work with the best people, get advice, and elevate the ways you both do business. One of the most important things I have is a strong network that has led me to where I am today!
Another Piece of advice I would give is: Don’t let failure get in the way of your future success. No matter your business you will fail at something at some point. The important thing is that you learn from those failures and pick yourself back up. Anytime you fail at something you are one step closer to success. Have the right attitude about your failures.
I would also say that Experience is priceless. Good or bad, experience makes us who we are, and having a wealth of experiences is a goldmine of knowledge you can use for the future!
Lastly, I would say that business doesn’t have to be cut throat. I have found that having integrity and ethics have helped me build my companies, network, and relationships. Being transparent and honest is the key to build trust. When I first started I thought it was dog eat dog, but now know how important building that trust is to being successful. People want to work with good people!
Now that you have gained this experience and knowledge, has it affected or changed your personal leadership philosophy and style? How have these changes affected your company?
These experiences really highlighted how important relationships are for my success. I have a great reputation, and can get any question answered for about anything in 5 minutes or less. I have been able to branch out and try other types of business and structures and can connect with the right people who can guide me to grow those companies.
I always operate with integrity, and pay it forward. I mentor in Entrepreneurs’ Organization, and coach accelerators to scale and grow their businesses. I have cultivated a mentoring and growth program for my business as well, to continue to grow our employees. We always ask how we can be the best company we can and provide the best experience we can!
This series is called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me”. This has the implicit assumption that had you known something, you might have acted differently. But from your current vantage point, do you feel that knowing alone would have been enough, or do you feel that ultimately you can only learn from experience? I think that learning from mistakes is the best way, perhaps the only way, to truly absorb and integrate abstract information. What do you think about this idea? Can you explain?
Experience is the best teacher. When you learn and experience something for yourself, you have the emotional connection to that moment. It affects you more and makes it a more valuable asset that you can lean on for the rest of your life. If you learn about something secondhand, it might help you recognize it faster, but it won’t hold the same significance if you experienced it yourself.
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.
How can our readers further follow your work online?