Marine Corps vet rides wave to business success

From the Greenville News:

At first glance, the offices of Lima One Capital could be those of any other downtown Greenville business.

Look a little closer, and you’ll see titles like “From Navy Blue to Corporate Gray” and the U.S. Army and Marine Corps’ “Counterinsurgency Field Manual,” bound in OD green, on a bookshelf in the lobby.

The additions are courtesy of company founder and CEO John Warren, a former Marine who parlayed his military service and the principles he learned into a real estate lending business that has become a leader in its industry.

A college student during the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Warren said he felt a calling to the Marines and a desire to serve his country overseas.

After serving as a platoon leader in Iraq, he returned home and took on a new challenge in the business world.

“It’s really coming up with a better product, better services to win the battle, regardless of whether it’s the actual battlefield or business,” he said.

‘Ride the wave’

When Warren left the Marines in the summer of 2008, he got what he called “great advice” from a fellow veteran who suggested he look into real estate.

“If you can learn to make money in a down market, you’ll get to ride the wave back up,” he said.

Warren began looking at options and settled on residential real estate. He spent half his time reading, researching and writing fictitious proposals, he said. He spent the other half networking.

“I was able to raise $1 million really before I had an idea, and that was really my big break,” he said.

He began by trying to purchase properties that could be rental investments but found he was getting outbid by experienced real estate investors.

He asked them where they were getting their money and learned they were all paying cash. Banks weren’t making those kinds of loans anymore, they said. And so-called hard money lenders were traditionally unprofessional to work with.

“I saw a huge opportunity there,” Warren said.

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