John Bogdasarian returned to his home state of Michigan in 1996 and began his education in life experience. It was a chance to build on what he had learned at the University of Arizona, and in some ways, taught him far more than what he gained during his collegiate years.
Bogdasarian began his career as a real estate broker and excelled thanks to the coaching and mentoring he received. It led to his growth in the industry and in 2008, the creation of Promanas.
Despite being launched during the World Financial Crisis, Bogdasarian used his expert knowledge to turn a negative into a positive. He added a number of Michigan-based properties to the Promanas portfolio as the company experienced few ill-effects from the WFC.
Bogdasarian’s success allows him to enjoy the finer aspects of life and to do the activities he desires. Whether he is heading out to kite surf in the outer banks or coaching his son’s baseball team, Bogdasarian is reaping the rewards from a filling career that has made investors millions of dollars.
Totalprestige Magazine recently caught up with Bogdasarian while on vacation in California to pick his brain and discuss his career.
John, you started your real estate career in 1996 and founded Promanas 12 years later. What led you from simply selling real estate to becoming the Founder, President & CEO of Promanas?
I never intended to be a real estate broker. After college, I set out to find jobs that would pay for my education. Not the one I had just squandered, my parents paid for that one, I mean for the education you can get in real life – experience. People always told me I was going to be great at sales, so I started there. I hired top coaches and found fantastic mentors who worked with me to learn and perfect systems which allowed me to earn seven figures at a very young age. But it wasn’t my true passion… that came from my upbringing and the example my parents set for me – I wanted to create value for people.
Promanas is a commercial real estate firm that focuses on creating investment in the industry. Can you tell us more about the company and how it works with clients?
We go out and shop for real estate investment opportunities that we want to put our own money into. We write proposals and negotiate deal structures that we’re happy with. Then, we allow our investors to put money in alongside our own and we oversee the investment. Many times, deals experience major setbacks. The value we create is we think we know how to pick a great deal, avoid many of the setbacks, and fix the others; resulting in the deal coming out as projected and avoiding capital loss.
The company works with nearly 400 investors. How diverse is the investor pool?
Very diverse, I think. We don’t compile information on our investors other than what we need to communicate to them, but I often have conversations with investors. Most investors have a net worth in the $1 million to $5 million range, probably 90% or so. Maybe 20 to 30 investors fit in the $5m to $20m range, and another five to 10 in the $20m-plus range, but that’s really just a guess, as I don’t particularly care. I learned a long time ago that $50,000 is important to everyone, no matter what amount of money they have. Plus, our investors tend to invest in relation to their net worth. So, while one investor may take $100,000 in a deal, another might take $2m. One characteristic that seems to run across 99% of our investors is that they are busy, and they don’t want to try and ‘do it themselves’.
What cities and regions does Promanas focus its attention and investment work?
We aren’t really geographically, or asset driven, we are situationally driven. What I mean by this is that we look for situations where we can create value for others by buying and improving an asset, fixing a tough situation, or building a product where there is a substantial need and demand. We can make a fair return without taking on massive risk and everyone is better off for it.
You run the company as a boutique firm. What exactly do you mean by this and how does that help clients invest their money?
To date, we haven’t worked with ‘Family Offices’ or ‘Institutional Capital’. Those folks tend to have their own way of doing business and can afford their own analysts and investment advisors. I want to create value for folks that appreciate it. I want to feel like George Bailey at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. I also love my family. My kids are aged 6 to 12. I want to spend as much time as I can with them, so we keep it lean and manageable.
It has been 11 years since the Promanas’ doors opened. In fact, it was opened at the start of the Global Financial Crisis. Can you explain how the company was able to weather the storm?
We took advantage of that storm. We were like Forest Gump when he and Lieutenant Dan were the only ones out in their shrimp boat during the hurricane. When they got back in, everyone else was destroyed and Bubba Gump became a household name. In 2007, we were literally the only people buying real estate in Michigan. We had our pick of every possible deal out there and it was a great time to buy. It was super easy to see at the time. Today, it is a lot tougher – one must be very careful in this market.
How has the organization changed and grown in 11 years?
Shifted focus from buying existing to value add, and ground up development. We’ve added a few folks to the team, but all else remains about the same.
John, you graduated from the University of Arizona, but now live in Michigan. What led you to the upper Midwest after spending so much time in the southwest of the U.S.?
I grew up in Ann Arbor. I was away for four years of prep school at Loomis Chaffee in Connecticut. My Dad went there and so did his two brothers and my sister. In fact, that’s how I got in – legacy. But no one paid or bribed anyone or made any substantial donations as far as I know. I went to Arizona because it looked nice on the brochure and I was rejected from almost every other school I applied to. I was a smart kid but suffered from massive ADD and no one knew what that was back then, so my grades were pretty bad. Anyway, after five fun years in the sun, I came home to figure out what I wanted to do with myself and I grew some roots.
Denver and Nashville are two cities that show up prominently in the Promanas’ portfolio. In terms of real estate investment opportunities, what American cities are showing the most potential for investors these days?
Denver, Nashville, high-end resort or second home areas, Washington D.C., Chicago, Pacific Northwest areas – there are a ton of them, but you must have a laser scope and a rifle. The shotgun approach won’t work and that’s why there’s no bubble, yet. Denver might be getting a bit ripe; we are monitoring that market very closely.
John, what are your tips for anyone looking to invest in commercial property right now?
Find someone that knows what they’re doing and let them do the work for you. Start small and make sure that they have a very good track record. People don’t get good at what they do by accident, it takes decades of focus and a passion for their craft.
John, what is a day in your life like?
Right now, I’m responding to this from the deck of the house we rented in Laguna Beach, California. I can see whales and dolphins and hear waves crashing on the beach. My family is here for the month. My ADD gives me an unreal advantage now that I know what it is and how it works. It’s like a superpower. I can hyper-focus and get a days’ worth of work done in two hours and then I rely on my team to be consistent and execute the plan and details. Today, we’re headed up to Santa Barbara to see my brother and sister-in-law for the weekend. I’m super excited to see them! No day is the same for me because I get distracted easily and spend most of my time thinking. Yesterday, we had family surf lessons. Tomorrow, I’m playing in a Texas Hold ‘em tournament for charity. I keep a bunch of activities out in front of me and I squeeze work into two-hour windows where I can be 100 percent focused like a laser.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
Not sure, I tend to wear it on my sleeve. It’s more likely that there are things that others know about me, that I don’t know about myself.
What makes you smile?
Friends and family. Fortunately, I work with my best friends and I get a lot of time with my family.
What scares you?
Time. And single-use, disposable, plastics.
Do you have any hobbies?
Kite-surfing has taken over all other interests outside family and work.
Which historical figure do you most admire?
Not sure. Probably my dad but he’s not historical, yet. And my mom but she’s more hysterical than historical. I get what you’re asking, but don’t have anything smart to add. I try and find what I need when I need it, and I draw upon anything and everything at my disposal. I like to say that I’ve got a massive RAM but not much CPU storage space. I can figure things out very quickly and I try and make the best decisions at the moment but drawing out specific details and names isn’t my strong suit. It’s in there, it’s part of me, but it feels like wasted brain power to pull it out of deep storage.
Can you share two of your favorite quotes with us?
I tend to use quotes and sayings from movies and I don’t always remember where they came from. I tend to use them in specific situations and as if I came up with them myself – although most of my friends know where they really came from.
When I’m physically sore and beat and I complain and someone tells me how young I am, I reply with: “It’s not the age, it’s the mileage.” That one is Harrison Ford from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
If I hear a bell and I’m around my kids I say, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its’ wings,” from It’s a Wonderful Life. I also walk in the door every day and greet my kids with, “Kids! Bobby! Janie!” Those are not my kids’ names, I just loved that movie.
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world what would it be?
You’ll see. I’m going to help eliminate single-use, disposable plastic in my lifetime. If you’re asking what I’d change with a magic wand, I don’t really put myself through that type of mental exercise. I try and focus on what I can control.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Yes, there’s no reason to get so annoyed and offended by things. I never used to watch the news or know what was going on in the world and I was much better off. I’m going back to that strategy now. I’m focusing on what I can control and trying to eliminate all social media, news, and other inputs that have gone from true reporting to entertainment in the form of ‘shock value’. Thanks for asking!
For more information on John Bogdasarian and Promanas, please visit https://promanas.com/
Journalist and author. Contributor