22 May 2023

In this week’s episode, Patrick Donley (@jpatrickdonley) sits down with John Marsh to talk about his incredible journey of transformation both of himself and of his community of Opelika, Alabama. They dive into how John rebuilt his life and his community, how he worked his way out of over $1 million in debt, how he went on to renovate 300 properties and be part of starting 60 businesses, why he likes to focus on “irreplaceable real estate, and why he thinks historic small towns could be their own asset class in the future.

John is the Co-Founder of Marsh Collective, host of the Redemptification Podcast and investor helping steward over $2 billion in redemptive real estate in 12 small towns (with populations of 800-180k) around America. 

Over the last 25 years, John and Ashely have guided over 60 startup businesses in various industries, such as Hospitality, Construction, Real Estate Investing, Advertising, and multiple Restaurants. John and his wife have renovated 300+ buildings within ten blocks of downtown Opelika to help save their city. Today, John’s current focus is helping others make generational differences in communities and companies. By helping patrons bridge the gap between redeeming vision, financial sustainability, and execution to pioneering a new asset class of real estate which we have coined “Irreplaceable Real Estate.” John and Ashely are grateful to have two sons and grandchildren who also live in Opelika.



  • Why having hope in your future is having power in your present.
  • How he was making more money in high school than his teachers.
  • How he worked his way out of over $1 million in debt, healed his relationship, and transformed his life.
  • How he got his start rebuilding homes in Opelika.
  • What his first renovation was like and why it took 6 ½ years.
  • Why having no outside capital can be a blessing.
  • How he went on to renovate 300 properties and start 60 businesses in Opelika.
  • How a $15,000 profit became the seed for much bigger projects.
  • How he used owner financing to build his portfolio.
  • Why Marsh Collective focuses on companies, couples, and communities.
  • Why he starts revitalization of a town with an iconic food and beverage project.
  • How do you know you’ve found the right mentor?
  • How he evaluates the  “5 F’s” — faith, family, fun, fitness, and finances.
  • How to work at the intersection of purpose and profits.
  • Why he likes to focus on “irreplaceable real estate”.
  • Why historic small towns could become their own asset class.
  • Who are some of his favorite guests who have been on his podcast?
  • And much, much more!


Disclaimer: The transcript that follows has been generated using artificial intelligence. We strive to be as accurate as possible, but minor errors and slightly off timestamps may be present due to platform differences.

[00:00:02] John Marsh: I’m not all right with this, John. We can do something. And so I don’t know anything, but we’re fixing, we’re in the automobile business building totals. She’s like, we can do something about this. And so if you keep wondering if somebody should do something, you may be the somebody.

[00:00:19] Patrick Donley: Hey everybody. In this week’s episode, I got to sit down with John Marsh to talk about his incredible journey of transformation of both himself and his community of Opelika, Alabama. We dive into how John rebuilt his life and his community, how he worked his way out of over $1 million in debt, how he went on to renovate 300 properties and be part of starting 60 businesses.

[00:00:39] Patrick Donley: Why? He likes to focus on what he calls irreplaceable real estate and why he thinks historic small towns could be their own asset class in the future. John is the co-founder of Marsh Collective, host of the Redemptification Podcast, and investor helping steward over 2 billion in redemptive real estate in 12 small towns around America.

[00:00:59] Patrick Donley: Today, John’s current focus is helping others make generational differences in couples, communities, and companies. This interview with John has by far been one of my favorites, and I was blown away by his personal story, what he’s accomplished in Opelika, and I loved his positive infectious energy. One of my favorite quotes of his was, “If you have hope in your future, you have power in your present.”

[00:01:20] Patrick Donley: This episode is filled with John’s wisdom on life, business, and just living a great life. So without further delay, let’s jump into this week’s episode with John Marsh.

[00:01:35] Intro: You are listening to Real Estate 101 by The Investor’s Podcast Network, where your hosts Robert Leonard and Patrick Donley, interview successful investors from various real estate investing niches to help educate you on your real estate investing journey.

[00:01:58] Patrick Donley: Hey everybody. Welcome to the Real Estate 101 Podcast. I’m your host today, Patrick Donley, and with me today is a really special guest I am super excited to have on the show. I want to welcome John Marsh. John, welcome to the show. 

[00:02:10] John Marsh: Thank you. My goodness. I’m excited about being here with folks like you guys.

[00:02:14] John Marsh: You do an amazing job. I just told you how the attention to detail and the quality of your content, you guys put 50 pounds of stuff in a five-pound sack. You’re doing a great job at this. 

[00:02:26] Patrick Donley: Well, I appreciate it. I, we’ve already talked like 25 minutes just prior to the interview getting started, so I’ve had a blast already.

[00:02:33] Patrick Donley: I heard about you initially from Bobby Fian. I did an interview with him and I asked him, who was the developer real estate guy that he person that he most admired, and he immediately said, John Marsh, and I went down this John Marsh Rabbit Hole. I listened to the podcast that you did with Chris Powers on the fort, and I was like, I gotta get this guy on the show.

[00:02:55] Patrick Donley: So I really want to thank you first for taking the time to be with us today. I’ve had a blast researching you, like I, as I talked earlier, but you’ve got an amazing story. I want to start off with your younger years. Talk to us about the trajectory you were on because one of the things I’d like to do with today’s show is give hope to maybe one person that’s feeling hopeless because you’ve been through that.

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[00:03:18] Patrick Donley: But that’s my goal for today. Just one person, if they. Listen to this and it changes their life in some way, that would be amazing. But so could you talk to us just a little bit about your younger years in the trajectory that you were on? 

[00:03:33] John Marsh: Well my heart leaped when you said that because that’s what I believe.

[00:03:35] John Marsh: I’m an ambassador of hope. You know, that’s what hope. If we’ve got hope in our future, we have power in our present. And so I hope that same thing, that our stories we don’t normally change till it hurts too bad and costs too much to a know enough. We want to or to the pain of changing is less than the pain of staying the same.

[00:03:55] John Marsh: You know, born in Albany, Georgia, about two hours from here, a mom and tried for 13 years to have a child, couldn’t adopted me 18 months later, having my little brother super spoiled, love me and I did everything my parents said until about 13 years old and I stepped across a line in Rebel. Now you ask why do people rebel?

[00:04:15] John Marsh: Well because something him amongst Rebel, I mean me and my brother ain’t same Cheerios and he didn’t rebel. Then 14 years old started getting mentored in high-end car audio I was building, I love ERO for a, had a car and by 15 years old, maybe 16, I was making a thousand bucks a week in cash after school. And I remember telling the teachers in my pride for little smart 16 year olds, so I make more money than you do.

[00:04:39] John Marsh: And so money in girls was such an acceptance. I felt like for the first time in my life I was seen and I, and people cared and they respected what I had to say. And so, you know, I think we’re, at least for me, I believe we’re, all of us are born in some ways to be addictable. And I got addicted to the people think addicts are crazy.

[00:04:59] John Marsh: Like why do you do this? It’s like six flags for our mind. It gives us a little reprieve from the pain and suffering we’re feeling. But what ended up happening is, so I’m making money, move here to Auburn. No Palacco where I live. Have me a little business in the back of a big, a guy named Big Jimmy. He was a big fat guy that loved me and had all these stereo shops and he didn’t like the girl I was living with.

[00:05:20] John Marsh: He’s like, John, that ain’t marriage material. I said, well, I don’t know. I said, I can’t take care of myself and she’s going to to help him take care of me, so what do I do? He said, I’m going to find your wife. And so he went and started looking for me, a wife. And this girl came up to get speakers installed in her car and I said, whoa, Jimmy, she’s pretty.

[00:05:36] John Marsh: And he said, okay. He made note of it and he ended up hiring her, embedding her $500. She couldn’t take me away from the girl I was living with, and that’s my wife, Ash. And so we got together and I was making a hundred thousand dollars a year in cash working back there and just blowing it all and. We ended up, a guy came by and said, man, can you fix these wiring problems?

[00:05:57] John Marsh: All these cars I got, I’m fixing wreck cars. I said, man, I can fix these things. Started fixing them and he said, why don’t we go into business together? Building totals. I didn’t know a lot about it, but I knew a lot about wiring and cars from the stereo business. We started that business. Long story short, within three years we’re a million and a half dollars in debt, $99,000 overdrawn and Ash.

[00:06:20] John Marsh: And I had gotten married and I wasn’t treating her the way I shouldn’t be, and a godly man. And she ended up leaving me for one of our employees who happened to be my banker’s son, cried out to a God I’d never met before. I thought Jesus was some old dude in sandals, and I thought church was about hot dogs and hot girls, but he came and touched me and transformed me.

[00:06:39] John Marsh: And love got past the fence, and when it did light, lightning struck me Every hero. My body stood up, and for the first time in my life, I felt truly loved and accepted. I wasn’t looking for it. But he found me and I walked out of that place, totally transformed. I was like, I went downstairs and told my wife who was, we’ve been arguing and we’re going through this divorce and fighting.

[00:06:58] John Marsh: I said, I got born again. She said, you’re a liar. I said no. I mean it. She’s like, you’re a liar. I don’t believe you. And so I ended up watching her go out on dates for almost a year with somebody else while God began to heal me and work on me. And one of the things, the first thing he had me do and remember, obedience is what God cares about.

[00:07:16] John Marsh: You know, he cares about us obeying. And I knew in my heart he wanted me to go ask the guy who had Ash should left me for to forgive me. I was the first thing he told me to do that I knew. And I always knew his obedience because I didn’t want to do it. But I went and did that. And I realized that in hindsight, God was setting me free, not just setting him free.

[00:07:35] John Marsh: And I had to ask him, forgive me for being a bad boss. And so that was the start of this amazing journey. And then through that seven years of counseling and therapy, Ashton, I found one another again. We worked our way out of that debt. We got to zero. We’re like, yes, zero. We thought we won the lottery because I never imagined that those things would come, that God could take something that was so broken and bring something so beautiful out of it.

[00:08:00] John Marsh: So you gotta remember, that’s what God’s game is. He takes broken things and makes some beautiful things. He takes, he redeems things. And so that’s what happened to me. And that’s not just what we went through. That’s where he was taking us to. And so everything you’re going to hear about how we build cities, work with couples, companies, and communities, it all comes out of the lens of the attic of that house being totally broken, getting to the end of myself, and instead of taking my life, I laid my life down.

[00:08:28] John Marsh: So if you’re at that point, or you know anybody at that point, you’re at a great place. When the defecation hit the ventilation, you just gotta make the right decision to lay your life down and he’ll come and find you. People say, well, how do you find him? I said, get down on your hands and knees and tell him how good he is been to you till he shows up.

[00:08:45] Patrick Donley: It’s such an amazing story. I love it. I shared with you how powerful it was for me listening to it for the first time. It’s really amazing. I wanted to hear a little bit as you guys were struggling in your marriage, trying to rebuild and work your way out of debt, at what point did you get started in real estate in Opelika and paint a picture for us first about what Opelika of the town is like when you guys were in your early twenties.

[00:09:10] John Marsh: The downtown, which is where our focus has been in the neighborhood. We moved into our oldest neighborhood. It was broken like we were, we had a bad junky marriage living in a junky old house, in a junky old place. They had drug dealers living around us and prostitutes would offer themself to almost everybody what wouldn’t do it to me, which was odd.

[00:09:28] John Marsh: My wife always thought that was funny. They’d be offered to everybody else, but they were all around us. And even I remember a lady, miss Dolly, we’d go to her house to help her and she’d say, my hot water heater’s not working well. I’d get in there and look and the contacts wouldn’t make contact because it was filled with roaches.

[00:09:43] John Marsh: We’d have to clean it out. And so it was just a broken place. And what really ended up being the catalyst for us to say we gotta do something as there was a shop downtown that was a thrift store and Ash just said, I’m not all right with this, John. We can do something. I said, I don’t know anything, but we’re fixing, we’re in the automobile business building totals.

[00:10:07] John Marsh: She’s like, we can do something about this. And so if you keep wondering if somebody should do something, you may be the somebody. And so that’s where it started. It was broken and it started with us having, we bought this old house, they added on the market for $56,000. We offered 46 and about tore our arm off.

[00:10:23] John Marsh: I was like, oh, uh oh, we may have offered too much. Been on the market for a couple of years and it had a big upstairs, about 3000 square foot, and then three little apartments under the bottom in the basement. And so that got us into the real estate. But living there and working on it six and a half years, one paycheck at a time, living in a 700-square-foot apartment, we renovated it.

[00:10:44] John Marsh: And it was the start of us understanding the potential. 

[00:10:49] Patrick Donley: And were you doing the work yourself, you and Ashley doing the work yourself or were you hiring that out and how did that go? 

[00:10:56] John Marsh: Both. We were trying to do it ourselves and we kept screwing stuff up because we don’t know nothing, you know? I mean, we did one bathroom three times before we ever got to go in there and use it.

[00:11:05] John Marsh: I mean we just didn’t know anything and we’d hire people. But where it broke, I remember one time we saved up enough money to get H V A C in it because all we had was one big two 20 window unit that blows snowballs. And that was the only air in the house arrest your sweating your honey off here in Alabama.

[00:11:20] John Marsh: But we ended up giving it to the contractor and he went out of business and stole our money. And so, so often we had to end up making due and constraints are beautiful. I think the blessing of being an early investor and be broke and have no outside capital come in, which we never have, has been amazing.

[00:11:40] John Marsh: It was the best thing that ever happened to us. because constraints make amazing stuff work out, right? And so we learned how to do this little by little, slowly by slowly. First to get back to zero, and then to build the kind of portfolio we have, which we have over 200 properties in the 10 blocks now. And we’ve renovated over 300 properties, starting over 60 businesses to save our town.

[00:12:03] Patrick Donley: So I want to pause right there and really have our listeners understand the magnitude of what you’ve done in Opelika starting with the house, it took, what, six and a half years to fix up. You’ve now done 275 properties in a? 

[00:12:18] John Marsh: We, we’ve done 300 now. 

[00:12:19] Patrick Donley: 300 now.

[00:12:20] John Marsh: Yeah. 

[00:12:21] Patrick Donley: And 60 businesses in the town.

[00:12:24] Patrick Donley: Right. It’s like absolutely incredible to me. Did you start with that first project? Did you have a vision of what you guys wanted to do, or is it, was it something that unfolded as you went along? 

[00:12:35] John Marsh: Oh, it’s always grown organically like a tree, you know, see, that’s the thing I think most people struggle with.

[00:12:42] John Marsh: I didn’t know how all these disconnected parts fit together. I mean, what’s the difference in being tangled and woven intention? And once you start seeing there’s a God, a creator behind a creation, putting stuff together, you go, oh my goodness. Everything I went through is part of where he’s taking me to.

[00:13:01] John Marsh: So whether it was high-end car audio or building totaled cars, it was setting me up to renovate junkie historic houses. And the great thing about starting with junkie stuff is it can’t hardly hurt it. It’s like if you’re pregnant, you can’t get more pregnant. And so we just say, I said, well, we can start.

[00:13:16] John Marsh: Anything we do is better. I mean, the first little investment house we did, we’ve got, it was a little house in the village called Pep here, which is a mill village. My wife used to live in it. Well this man, he had it and it was junky roof, messed up the floor, was bubbled up in the kitchen like a tumor because they did the floor out of old ping pong tables, that particle board.

[00:13:35] John Marsh: And it was all bubbled up. And he said, I’ll owner finance it to you, no money down, no payments for three months, and then $200 a month after that. And so we took our $3,300 tax return and put into that baby. And fixed it up and is junky. When we started and junky, when we finished the walls, look texture, because we guy had so many roaches, we just started including them in the paint job.

[00:13:56] John Marsh: And so we get it done and a man comes by and says, I want to buy it and finish it. I didn’t have any more money anyway, so he gave us $15,000 profit and that 15,000 has turned into everything we have. 

[00:14:08] Patrick Donley: So what happened next with that 15,000? What did you guys buy another property and keep the machine rolling?

[00:14:14] John Marsh: We put every penny. We never messed up the seed. We never ate that seed. We invested that seed. And the next one, what I began to realize is if I could solve people’s problems, I could have tremendous potential. And so when there’s junky properties everywhere, I go to them and I’d say, listen, you’re paying property tax on this.

[00:14:31] John Marsh: You gotta ensure this. I notice you got power on here. How about I lease this from you for two or three years, no money down and then I’ll improve it and I’ll pay you off in three years. And that was the start of us using them as the bank and doing lease with purchase options or owner financing. And 60% of the portfolio we built were people’s problems.

[00:14:54] John Marsh: And so that’s how we got it. And so we used them as the bank, which was an incredible way. How do you turn something from a purchase to a refi? Well have it seasoned, have it worth some time. And so that’s and you know it’s interesting, it, our business looks strange because it’s called March Collective, but it’s a collective of companies and entities.

[00:15:13] John Marsh: But we do really three things, companies, couples, and communities. And it seems disconnected, but they all line up. So many of the couples that love communities and invest together want to build companies and vice versa. So maybe we start at the company level, but it ends up where it’s all about people. And that’s really what we focus on is people and places.

[00:15:34] John Marsh: And so what happens, the journey we took, we started in junkie residential, right? Because it’s the easiest thing to get into. And I was doing a bunch of it, and then all of a sudden the city came to me and said, whoa, well partner, you got 15 projects going, you need some license. I was like, uhoh, I didn’t know that.

[00:15:50] John Marsh: Like we’re going to lock you up if you don’t go get license. So we and got some license so I could keep doing that. I told our city, I’ve gotten my degree through our inspection department. I’m kinda working an internship through them over a lifetime of learning what not to do, but it starts with a project or a property.

[00:16:07] John Marsh: Then we think people who continue this journey move to a portfolio and then once they have the mindset, they can start seeing this portfolio. As for us, downtowns or complex mix use developments with fractional ownership. We see them in a totally different way. And then once that’s understood, we think the highest level of understanding is a platform.

[00:16:30] John Marsh: The iPhone is a platform. We see our properties and the businesses and the companies we build in them as a platform for flourishing. And so that’s the, describing the process. You go from a one property to maybe a project or two, to a portfolio to a platform. 

[00:16:47] Patrick Donley: So I wanted to go into that a little more.

[00:16:48] Patrick Donley: What was that transition like from residential, focusing on the junkie houses to then at one point you went to whatever, what’s the main street in town called in Opelika? 

[00:16:58] John Marsh: Railroad Avenue. Railroad Avenue. You know, we celebrate a railroad like it’s a river. Most people got a clean river. We had a railroad and it brought all the people in.

[00:17:07] John Marsh: Opca was one of the fastest two-day divorces in America back in the late 18 hundreds. Had a lot of brothels and lawyers. So we had a little sketchy. We had a, we’ve had a sketchy past early on they used to ride through on the train and duck down under the windows because people been shooting across the tracks.

[00:17:24] John Marsh: But the railroad put us on the map honestly. So our, all of our buildings celebrate that railroad point toward a. 

[00:17:31] Patrick Donley: So I want to hear about that transition from the junkie house to buy-in on Railroad Avenue, that first commercial building. What was that transition like? Was it pretty much the same? Were you just still doing, taking a junky thing and turning it into, you know, a broken thing and trying to turn it into some kind of beauty?

[00:17:48] John Marsh: Everything’s been that, what you just said, like our criteria for buying something is it has to be broken. Seen as unvaluable and it’s unwanted. We don’t extract value, we create value. And so when we buy something, we want it like the building, the big main building. That’s the keystone to the community we’re building.

[00:18:08] John Marsh: I said, put it on the market for a year, and if nobody gives you an offer, call me. We believe that our niche is to create value, not try to find something that’s a bargain. And it’s extracted a little bit out. We bring our gifts to the table and we love that journey of beauty from broken things. And so it started, I was working on a building downtown that a local guy owned and he asked us to do some work on it.

[00:18:30] John Marsh: And when I got done doing this, said, man, I’d like to do this building. I said, you’re not good at this. You’re a lawyer and you suck at fixing buildings. I can tell you that. And I said, people go hate you and you got a political aspiration. They go hate you for making these buildings junky. And I said, how about you owner finance this building in five more buildings, six buildings total?

[00:18:51] John Marsh: And I said, tell you what you need to do. I want your owner financing no money down. For Biden years, and I need you to give me $60,000 to take it. And if you do this, I’ll give you half a million dollars profit in five years. Now I had a better chance of getting hit by media, right, and pulling this thing off.

[00:19:07] John Marsh: But we pulled it off to, good Lord, blessed our socks off, and we put the first businesses in downtown that flourish. I mean, on that street, there wasn’t one business doing a hundred thousand dollars a year in profits when we were there. Now there’s almost probably 12 million worth of taxable income on that street.

[00:19:26] Patrick Donley: That’s wild. I heard you talk with Chris, I believe that on Railroad Avenue you had this idea of Rent a Dream as you were fixing up these businesses. Tell us about the Rent to Dream program. 

[00:19:37] John Marsh: Well, what we had is this idea, see I think there’s some foundational mistakes I’ve made, and our not to-do list is the magic list.

[00:19:45] John Marsh: People are like, well, we’re going to do what you do, so if you can do what we do, you better do what we did. because it’s like pushups. You can’t outsource them. You gotta do your own. But we, so I started realizing I couldn’t attract the right businesses, right? And so what I ended up realizing is we may have to create some of these because we’re, we fix up the buildings and get them nice and we thought, oh man, we fix them up.

[00:20:06] John Marsh: People are going to pour in here. Well they didn’t. And I was like, oh no, we’re in trouble. We’re drinking may locks and make payments. I’m like, baby, we’re this thing ain’t fixing to get ugly if we don’t do something. So we said, well what about we put a business in there with somebody who wants a business but can’t afford to do it and we invest a little bit in their dream and we need rent and they got a dream and let’s see if we can get this thing going.

[00:20:29] John Marsh: And honestly, it took us to where we are. It’s one of my regrets. And I often in the beginning, put people in businesses they shouldn’t have been in. And it ended up hurting them and hurting us. And I lost good friends over that because I didn’t have a way to evaluate. And help people understand what it meant.

[00:20:47] John Marsh: I thought if I could start a business, anybody could, because I was an idiot. I said, man, this is Sky’s open for everybody. Well, I would oftentimes give people in businesses that were above what their character could sustain and they crash them. 

[00:21:01] Patrick Donley: So what do you mean? Like just because somebody’s a good cook doesn’t necessarily mean they can run a great restaurant. Is that kind of what you experienced? 

[00:21:07] John Marsh: That’s a great example. Yeah. And the fact that there’s two bad things that can happen. You not have any income and it not work. Like when we started stuff, sometimes there would be like a restaurant with a three hour wait. We’d be doing a million and a half million seven a year by a guy that didn’t have the character to sustain that in the business aspects.

[00:21:27] John Marsh: And it ended up hurting us and hurting people. The learning curve was very expensive. So if there’s anything we do now, when we’re going to, and we still launch businesses and create businesses in our own town because we have empathy, because we’re suffering, we still manage and love 10 square blocks and that was our commitment.

[00:21:43] John Marsh: We’re going to put our whole life to love 10 square blocks with everything we got. And we’ve devoted over 25 years to 10 square blocks and not to a type of business, not residential, commercial, industrial, everything within that board and every person in there. Well, what we started realizing is you can’t make a good deal with a bad guy.

[00:22:00] John Marsh: And it’s really hard to make a bad deal with a good guy and we have to have a framework. So now as we launch businesses, and we still do this as part of our work, when we take on the patrons who we call loving a city, and we’ll talk about this, one of the big things we do is launch restaurants. because I don’t have a model that works without iconic food and beverage.

[00:22:19] John Marsh: Think about this, most people, nobody says, Hey man, I went, this city had this amazing experience and said, what was it? They said, Ruby Tuesdays, nobody says that because their goal is to disappoint you at a Rachel stand. That’s their hopes. And we can’t get people to drive hours for things that are ordinary.

[00:22:37] John Marsh: They drive for extraordinary. And so we have to go into communities like one community we’re in right now, moments, Illinois is a little town of 3,500 and we’re building an iconic restaurant that’s going to attract people from, they’ll drive two hours away. To get to this thing because we can move the needle with this if we have iconic food and beverage.

[00:22:58] John Marsh: But we’ve gotta have, we built a franchise system for the disenfranchise. We say we’ve got the whole backend system and model to create successful restaurants now crashed about five hitting that. So it’s a little painful. 

[00:23:12] Patrick Donley: Was that something you realized early on, that you needed to have this iconic restaurant?

[00:23:17] Patrick Donley: It reminds me of an interview I did with Eric Weatherholtz, who doesn’t, 

[00:23:20] John Marsh: He is the man.

[00:23:21] Patrick Donley: He is.

[00:23:23] John Marsh: I love that guy. He, I told him, I said, man, y I love the way you talk. 

[00:23:28] Patrick Donley: Yeah. Both of you are very similar in what you’re doing. Like he does taco oriented development, he’s got patios and you know, place to get a cold beer and sushi and just, and then he calls it the halo effect, where you create a space, somebody that wants to go to, and then the real estate all around there is, you know, the boat’s going to, yeah.

[00:23:49] Patrick Donley: It’s going to rise. So is that a little bit of what your idea is in every project that you’re doing? 

[00:23:56] John Marsh: You know, we harmonize on that and I, what I, what first got me there is I realized I could watch people go to the worst neighborhoods in our town for good barbecue. And I thought, whoa, there’s a lot of Mercedes around that barbecue place.

[00:24:08] John Marsh: And I started thinking about this. I started thinking food moves the needle. It’s incarnate. There’s something about food that, there’s very few things that have that kind of impact on us. And also, what can you put in 2000 square foot that’ll do 2 million bucks, but a meth lab and they’re against them all, you know?

[00:24:23] John Marsh: So I was like, these things are needle louvers. We did a deal downtown Opelika to create the Irish Bread Pub, which was our first hit restaurant there. And here’s what a restaurant will do for you. It’ll take you from your downtown ever having a great business, it being impossible. To it being possible, to it being probable.

[00:24:44] John Marsh: I invested me and Ash and our design, we did everything we could and even built out more than they paid for. We spent a million dollars downtown Opelika when there wasn’t anything doing a hundred grand on the street and we launched this restaurant. The owner said, we may do seven 50, that’s our hopes, maybe 800.

[00:25:01] John Marsh: I said, I’ll tell you what, one of my mentors out in Park City said, John, you gotta get them on a percentage base lease and align yourself. Give them a low breakeven. Our breakeven on that, and we told them their rent base rents was $2,500. Okay, there ain’t no way you can make a million dollar payment if you do the math on that.

[00:25:19] John Marsh: So I’m praying for their success, of course, and we’re in aligned with it. But the first year they did like 1,000,002 second year, did 1,000,007, third year did two seven, almost 3 million bucks, and the business sold for a million dollars business only. We kept the real estate, but what we did with that lease is, See, banks don’t want to loan money on percentage based leases.

[00:25:41] John Marsh: So we had the lease gross amount ratchet to a new base. So 80% of the previous years total sales would set the new base rent amount and it would ratchet up. And so that once that was successful. Within a few years, we had three more restaurants doing a couple million dollars a year, because no longer now is it impossible.

[00:26:03] John Marsh: It’s possible when it’s possible, people start going, well, they can do it. We can do it. So the next, we did an Italian restaurant and it did close to 2 million, and then somebody else put in this and that. And so it was catalytic. And I said, oh, note to self, this is a catalytic thing. Now this is also the location of one of my biggest belly flops.

[00:26:22] John Marsh: How we belly flopped is this. We build this, the restaurant with the guys and they sell it for a million dollars, just the business. Right. 

[00:26:29] Patrick Donley: Is this all in Opelika? All of this is in Opelika, right? 

[00:26:33] John Marsh: Right there on Railroad Avenue. This is all right. On that first story, this is early in, I mean this was 12 years ago or something.

[00:26:41] John Marsh: Not that long ago. And no, and we’ve done a lot of work since then, but what ended up happening was they sold it to a guy and this guy my wife had met when she worked at Red Lobster, he had grown up in Red Lobster, been there for 17 years, went over and started working for Outback and it was acquired by Darden and he was there 13 years.

[00:27:00] John Marsh: So he is got 30 years in the food business. Okay? He buys this thing and in two years he drives it in the ground. It’s doing less than a million dollars in the original owners. I beg him to take it back. And the mistake was this, there’s people who can fly a 747 but can’t bill one. And there’s a difference.

[00:27:18] John Marsh: And he was good at operating Darden system, but when he came to this new thing, the system didn’t come. And this was a tremendous learning for us about, I mean, you want something to work, you better have a good system. And what we ended up having to do is solve the restaurant problem. How do we build sophisticated systems to manage accounting, all the inventory, to manage the complexity of being able to not see a p and l once a month, which is way too late to make a decision?

[00:27:47] John Marsh: You only get 12 chances to change. You need minute by minute, hour by hour data to make decisions based on. And so we built a little system for that. A piece of software was working it, it got so complex. We found a system out in the world called Restaurant 365, which is a big both EMyth of a system and got trained on it.

[00:28:07] John Marsh: Now it’s part of our implementation process of every restaurant we launched. 

[00:28:12] Patrick Donley: It sounded like you are really good now at developing and finding the right people for these businesses, for these projects. You had some belly flops, as you said early on, by not getting the right people in there, maybe hiring a good cook, but they can’t run a restaurant.

[00:28:26] Patrick Donley: Talk to us about how you are finding the right people for the projects that you’re doing because you put them through a what, a couple day intensive or something like that. I want to hear you speak to that. 

[00:28:36] John Marsh: And it’s really the key, you know, we pick people, not just projects. A project doesn’t work without a person.

[00:28:43] John Marsh: Everything’s gotta have a leader. And that leader has to either have the gifts or have the gifts on the team. So the first thing we do when people come, like a lot of our patrons, who we call it, are real estate investors. They want to grow their portfolio and like, I’ll give you Midland, Texas, we launched a fabulous restaurant there years back, filled up a downtown building, it’s called Opal’s Table.

[00:29:04] John Marsh: It’s amazing 80 seat restaurant doing 3.5 million a year. Incredible. But what we had to do is we bring the operators that they’re hoping would be the partners into Alaka, and we do a, we take them through a series of personality and other tests that we’ve created and curated over time. That helps us know where are their giftings and where are they lacking.

[00:29:27] John Marsh: Like can they do back office? Can they do marketing? Do they understand true hospitality? If they tell me that IHOP is their hospitality model, I know where they are. Right? And can they make the food? And then, you know, there’s some intangibles that are a little harder, which is these understanding of creating leadership environments and curating restaurants are wholesale, retail, entertainment, and daycare all under one roof.

[00:29:52] John Marsh: I mean, some of our restaurants in 3000 square foot have 60 employees. The complexity of dealing with this, you’ve gotta have a certain set of skills. And so what patrons will do, they’ll send the potential tenants here, or owner operators. And we’ll evaluate them and give them a go, no go. And if we give them a go, then we go up to a plan and get all the documents together for correct alignment.

[00:30:15] John Marsh: Because most tenant and landlord relationships are adversarial. They’re not seen as their number one partner to collaborator saying, well, I gotta pay the rent. Well, what we do is we build the model for the restaurant and inform the investor and the landlord what these people should pay, not just what they could pay.

[00:30:36] John Marsh: And we started at breakeven and then we align the upside win. So that like one restaurant that we have in one of our biggest clients, they had a restaurant there that was doing about 1,000,007 a year. We went to them and said, Hey, I think this thing can do two and a half. And said, if you’ll go to the operator and say, how about I put $150 in improvement, $150,000 in improvements in your space, and you give us 8% of everything you do above the most you’ve ever done.

[00:31:03] John Marsh: They said, man, that’d be great. Well that percentage based rent has exceeded the base rents they were getting before. Now they’re, it’s their highest paying $35 a foot and the restaurants tickle because they’re doing more than they ever done because the first million has a very little profit in it for most restaurants.

[00:31:20] John Marsh: The second has a lot more to the third has a lot more. And so you want to line that up and that’s how we do it. And we do these personality testings. And really there’s like four things we test. Number one, if you don’t do anything else, is the Five Voices. That’s five. The number five created by one of our friends, Steve Cockram.

[00:31:42] John Marsh: And what it does is it takes the Myers-Briggs crazy letters that nobody can hardly remember what they’re for. And it makes them in a real palatable way. And so we use that, we use the Enneagram, which is more complex, but it gives us what they look like. Healthy, average, and unhealthy. We use two other tools.

[00:32:03] John Marsh: Positive intelligence, which is free online. It’s called the PQ, and it’s their positivity quotient. How positive are they in their life? If they’re above like 65, we know they’re beginning to flourish. If they’re below, we know they’re perishing. You want positive people. And then the last one is DNA. And it’s not really a system.

[00:32:22] John Marsh: We do it this way, and I’ll just describe it to you, desires, needs and affirmations. So your desire is for production or connection. Your need is for variety or stability. And your desire for an affirmation is publicly or privately. And that formula gets people motivated. So it’s the motivation formula is if you get their desire, their need, and their affirmations aligned.

[00:32:46] John Marsh: So like for me, my desire is for connection over production. My need is for variety over stability. And my affirmation is for public. I, if you want to give me a praise, put it on a billboard. Don’t tell me Unprivate. Now, other people, if I did that to my partner, he would be upset with me. So those are the ways we look at people’s personalities.

[00:33:07] Patrick Donley: Yeah, that’s interesting. For our company, TIP, we had to do Myers-Briggs too. And I know you’re a ENFP. I’m an INF I forget the letters to do, but it’s. 

[00:33:18] John Marsh: See, The five voices will help you with that because in the Five Voices, I’m a connector creative. And so those two give me a lens. That means I’m a future voice.

[00:33:28] John Marsh: I love visioning. My heart’s tied to people, and I’m a feeler, not a thinker. And so as a thinker, you put ideas on the wall and if you shoot them and they aren’t good, it just hits the whiteboard. I put my ideas over my heart and if you shoot them, you shoot me. So if you’ve got people on your team getting taken, they, when you critique their ideas personally, they’re probably not a thinker.

[00:33:51] Patrick Donley: This is fun stuff. I want to jump into mentorship. We started talking about it right a little bit before the show started, but you do, you’ve had amazing mentors in your own life. You mentor people. Now, some of the guys we mentioned earlier, talk to us about your mentors, some of the guys that first have influenced you, and then I want to step into how somebody can find the kind of people that you have found in your life.

[00:34:16] John Marsh: Great. Well, mentorship is, I don’t know where I would be without it. Honestly. My longest mentor’s 28 years. He’s 83 years old and he’s loved me and added value to me for so long. His name’s Paul Estis, but then my second mentor, Don Martin, really taught me about money. He grew up in a mill village with a high school education, Cottondale, Georgia, right outside Augusta, and ended up helping build Century 21, 1 of the largest real estate companies in the world.

[00:34:43] John Marsh: And I met him. And so how do you know when you find a mentor? For me, I say my heart hums like a tuning fork. I said, if they speak to my heart and not my head, I know they’re one of them now. I don’t know. One thing you gotta know about mentoring, I think some people are mentors in our life and we mentor them for a season, some for a reason, but some for a lifetime.

[00:35:04] John Marsh: And so you gotta note, I’m a lifetime guy, so I want everybody to be a lifetime, but I know now some for a season and summer for a reason. But these guys, Mr. Martin, he was so powerful because what he did is he came to me and he began to speak to me in a way that touched my heart and it was humming.

[00:35:20] John Marsh: He believed in me when I was an idiot. 

[00:35:23] Patrick Donley: Can you share the three questions that he asked you first before he agreed to work with you? He asked you three questions that I thought were interesting.

[00:35:32] John Marsh: Man, and that I thought they were so first thing I said, he said, man, I’m going to treat you like my son. I said, wow, that’s awesome.

[00:35:39] John Marsh: He said, I’m not giving you any money. He said, but I’m going to teach you everything I know. And he still has to this day. So he said there’s three questions when you answer these and worked on them, that’ll start our mentoring process. He said, how much is enough money? What are you going to do when you get enough money?

[00:35:54] John Marsh: And now that you got a living plan, what’s your giving plan? And he was so wise. And so when Ash and I didn’t have $500 to pay our power bill, we put a line in the send and said, this is enough money, net worth and income. 

[00:36:07] Patrick Donley: And had you thought about that before he asked you those questions at all? 

[00:36:11] John Marsh: No way. I was like, dude, just more than I got.

[00:36:14] John Marsh: Give me a, you got all this money, stop being cheap and give me some and help me. But he loved me enough not to help me. And those of us that are fathers now know that, right? I mean, I watched my sons struggle summit. I want, I mean, I could change their life in a moment. And for love’s sake, I don’t, I say sometimes it’s like watching a car wreck in slow motion, the decisions they’re making.

[00:36:36] John Marsh: But I love them enough to know they gotta do their own work. And one of my mentors says, John, how much money does it take to ruin your kids? Not a lot or grandkids. And so we worked through that and it took about, honestly about four or five months, close to six months to get the answer to that question.

[00:36:53] John Marsh: because I didn’t know. And that number, we set a net worth number and a income number that we believed we could live and give at the level we thought we were called to.

[00:37:03] Patrick Donley: I want know if that’s changed over the years. Has that changed that number? Is it because that’s what I, that’s what I find is like when you say this is my X number, it’s easy to move that hurdle. Like keep moving it out a little bit more. 

[00:37:16] John Marsh: Well I love what another mentor told me. He said, John, a luxury once tasted, becomes a necessity. And so, yes, I mean in the beginning, you know, you think, and it has moved subtle, but it’s interesting how much it anchor in me. This idea of what abundance would be.

[00:37:34] Patrick Donley: And so yes, as we’ve grown, but it’s still in the, we still have a number in the background and it’s really honestly not changed a lot. We call this, so I think you can easily figure out how much it takes to survive. I think people have a vision for what it takes to thrive, which is that one we just talked about.

[00:37:53] Patrick Donley: But the one we figure most folks can’t find is, wow, like I’ll stop. I won’t work for inked up paper after this number. And most people think it’s a lot more than it really is. What he helped me do, he said, John, I want you to envision the best day of your life when you wake up and look at the ceiling, what’s on the ceiling when you look to your side, who’s laying beside you?

[00:38:15] Patrick Donley: What kind of sheets when you pull your feet out and drop them on the floor. He took me through this whole day and then we built a budget that maxed out and it was a lot less than I dreamed of. And so that’s what I would encourage you do the work of knowing how much is enough and get aligned with your spouse.

[00:38:29] Patrick Donley: What will you do when you get enough? And I just said, I want to leave a legacy on the hearts of men and not sticks and bricks. I want to make a difference. And then the last thing we set giving goals, right? With our income goals. And we try to beat them every day year because if not giving, you’re going to get constipated.

[00:38:45] Patrick Donley: You’re taking it in, not putting it out, you’re going to be sick. Greed. The only T to vote I’ve found for greed is giving generosity. 

[00:38:54] Patrick Donley: And do you focus your giving in the community of, or do you look to the larger world when you in your giving program? 

[00:39:02] John Marsh: It’s an interesting question. I love it actually. We used to give more globally and regionally and now we give locally.

[00:39:09] John Marsh: I really think those are three tiers, but for us right now, we’re giving relationally. We want to know. We want to be giving while we’re living. So we’re knowing where it’s going and I want to know that person can deploy that and do something good with that, better than we could. And for us now, our big goal and what we’re started doing is giving away houses, which is my, it makes my heart leap because I believe home ownership changed our life and I think it can change others’ lives. So. 

[00:39:38] Patrick Donley: So say more about that a lot. How do you, when you give a home away, my concern, how do you have people have skin in the game? How do you make sure that they take care of the property that you’ve fixed up? And you know what I’m getting at? Like, how do you find the right person to give a home? 

[00:39:53] John Marsh: How do you know it’s a need or a Walt or if they’re going to steward it well or not Exactly.

[00:39:57] John Marsh: Exactly. That I just look at how they’re stewarding what they already have. If they’re not faithful in a few things, they’re not going to be faithful in many things. If they’re car looks like somebody turned a dumpster over it and it’s all banged up and they don’t take care of the potted plants on their porch and they’re not going to take care of this stuff.

[00:40:12] John Marsh: And so you’ve gotta come alongside them and be willing to walk with them and show them, because some people never knew. Grew up knowing what it’s like to take care of something. But if you’re going to do life on life, it gets real easy. If you’re very distant from your giving, it’s not easy to know at all.

[00:40:28] John Marsh: You better have somebody better have their life on it or, and that’s one thing people always say, well, they call us to invest in their things. And our said, these people make a critical mistake. They think I have more money than I have vision, and I’ve never had more money than I’ve had vision. Like until I run out of vision, I got all the investment opportunities I need.

[00:40:48] John Marsh: And until ops flourishing from corner to corner, I got a lot of work to do. Me and our team, me and Nash, love is expensive. It’s the most expensive four letter word on earth. You go cost boat, everything. That means something to you. You gotta put it on the table. And you know, when I got saved, one thing I realized, I said love got past the fence.

[00:41:08] John Marsh: And I started. God’s definition of love is a high joke bar that’s unachievable, patient kind long, suffering, no records of wrongs, hope told things, believes all things, trust all things does not behave rudely. I said, God, if this is what you expect of me, I’m screwed. There’s no way I can do this. And I felt him just show me no.

[00:41:27] John Marsh: That’s not what I expect of you. That’s how I’m going to be to you. And if I give it to you, you can give it away. And so that’s where it really started. So what we say we do is sophisticated real estate development with love. And that’s the key. And this mentorship, what Mr. Martin taught me is stewardship is that, and if I steward and keep up with every single penny I touch, I always say, since my life transformed, but I’ve got mentors, I’ve got coaches, I’ve got counselors, and I’ve got therapists.

[00:41:55] John Marsh: I say it’s like I’m a F1 core and I need a big pit crew. And so mentoring shares their experiences with you and gives you an opportunity to borrow their glasses. Coaching. Ask great questions and holds the tension of that question, believing the answers will percolate up out of you. It’s not advice. It’s holding the tension and asking great questions where counseling and therapy help you deal with previous, what we call nuclear waste in the basement or traumas so often work through things.

[00:42:25] John Marsh: And so even when I’m mentoring the, some of the men I mentor, I try to acknowledge when I move from mentoring to coaching or from coaching to mentoring or counseling because it’s a different lens and I think we all need all of them. I mean, people say, well, I don’t need that. It’s like, can you fix an automatic transmission?

[00:42:43] John Marsh: They’re like, no. I said, this is more complicated, right? I mean, your life and your marriage and your relationships are way more complicated. Automatic transmission. If you take one apart that thing seriously, you better be an expert. 

[00:42:56] Patrick Donley: So there’s a lot of directions I could go right now, but I wanted to hear about your five F’s.

[00:43:01] Patrick Donley: I think you touched on it a little bit here, but you’ve got five areas of your life that you use. Coaches and counselors and mentors talk to us about the five F’s.

[00:43:09] John Marsh: So we, we realize that if we’re going to steward things, we ought to have a framework for them. And so it’s faith, family, fun, fitness and finance.

[00:43:21] John Marsh: So I need a sophisticated plan for my faith, for my family, for my fun, for my fitness, and for my finance. And what we realized, if one of those is off, your total peace in life goes down dramatically. I mean, imagine you’ve got this great faith, you’re having great fun, and your wife leaves you. I mean, you know, remember factor one zero in your test score you had all As, now you got 80 or 75.

[00:43:47] John Marsh: And that’s how our life is. And I watch people who build great real estate portfolios and their marriages suck, or they have a great marriage and have great fit bodies and then their fun or their families messed up. And so what we said is we want the plan for each one of these to be as sophisticated as other.

[00:44:05] John Marsh: And so that’s what we work hard to do. We built some tools around that allow us to do what we say when my life was crashed. You say, how do you dig out of a million and a half dollars in debt? $99,000 overdrawn when you’re done? It’s a great question. I be, I was doing rock repair on houses for $150 a day.

[00:44:23] John Marsh: I couldn’t do it just like squirt or squirt bottle and a forest fire trying to make, I take my payment up there like 70, it’s $15,000 a month principal and interest, I take them $75 there just like you are an idiot. I said nobody gets in the shape of mean without being an idiot. That’s for sure. And believe me, I know who I am without God.

[00:44:41] John Marsh: I tell people, I say, you want to know how dumb I was? I said, I financed a laser disc player at 19% and they stopped making laser discs before I got the bag paid off. I know we’ve accomplished a lot and a lot of great things have happened, but God has been good to us and sent us a lot of help and mentors and wisdom.

[00:44:59] John Marsh: But what you end up realizing is most people don’t have a sophisticated plan. And not having a plan is just a bad one. And so I’d encourage each person to even take that and ask yourself, rate one to 10, how well are you doing at each one of those? And I’m killing my business. I’m a nine. And then in my fun, I’m like a eight.

[00:45:17] John Marsh: Then my family is like four, and my fitness is like a three and a half. It’s like work on the things. It’s low. Guys don’t work on the, if you’re an eight in some of them, work on the other ones and build a plan. And for husbands and wives is to get in unity. But how it got me out of the hole was this story about fishes and loaves.

[00:45:35] John Marsh: You know, I love that story because. Jesus. Like, Hey, I got a little happy meal here with a little fish and some bread. And he’s like, okay, sit down in groups of 50. He blessed it, broke it, and multiplied it. And so I said, oh, so measure, manage, multiply. And I started using that in all five Fs. And that’s to me the miracle framework of multiplication.

[00:45:58] John Marsh: I measure, I manage God multiplies, and wherever God shows up, you’re going to see multiplication. Like, go ahead and plant a kni, plant a little colonel of corn. You don’t get a colonel back. And people say, well, I don’t like what I’m getting. I said, well then who’s handling the planting? You don’t plant corn and get apples.

[00:46:16] John Marsh: And so what I learned is in my it, like give you an example, in money I track every penny I touch. It seems complex. It’s not that complex. But I haven’t got, since my life was transformed, not one penny that was tracked. So back then it was harder. I had a little notebook I kept in my pocket and I’d write everything I spent in cash.

[00:46:35] John Marsh: We’d sit down with our checking account and look at every penny we spent and categorize it, and we had our credit card taken. That was the three things we spent cash, credit card, or check. Now, today, it’s so much easier because I’ve got apps, right? So my whole life is either credit card check or I use the Mint app to keep up with my cash.

[00:46:53] John Marsh: And so I just believe the idea of measuring something changes it. So for example, if I track all my food and I do this with my fitness pal, just enter it in. It’s real simple. Now, it’s not perfect, but it’s simple. And then I get on the scale every day. I’m telling you, I’m not deceived. The key to being deceived is you don’t know it.

[00:47:12] John Marsh: When that thing starts pushing up, it’s too much cheesecake, you know? So, so it’s just simple things that we have to measure them and manage them. You can’t manage what you don’t measure, and God won’t multiply what you don’t manage. 

[00:47:26] Patrick Donley: How do you measure and manage? How do you measure, I guess, things like faith and family and fun?

[00:47:31] Patrick Donley: I get fitness and finances. Those are straightforward. 

[00:47:33] John Marsh: You’re a good question. Er, I love it. Well give you an example. Family was a tough one for us. All right. So we’ve created this tool we’re trying to develop, we use it internally as a team. It’s a whole suite of tools that help us manage the five Fs from an integrated team level.

[00:47:49] John Marsh: And what we ended up doing is we do a piece score every year. Like what’s our piece index for each of the five Fs? 

[00:47:56] Patrick Donley: A Piece index. Oh, say, 

[00:47:58] John Marsh: Yeah, a piece index. So for example, think like if we go through this survey we have and you create a peace index. So my peace index last year for finances may have been a 90 and my fund may have been a 80.

[00:48:13] John Marsh: And this, just answer these questions. Once you have to put numbers to things, they get clear. Think about it like going, Hey, where do you want to go eat dinner? And your wife says, I don’t care. You don’t care. No problem. All right. How about talk. Long as you do care, then well, what about, and so we go through these same, finally, I was like, okay, tacos one to 10, two.

[00:48:31] John Marsh: How about we go to, you know, chick-fil-A seven? Okay, six or better, we’re going. So when you put numbers on stuff, I mean if you talk about your sex life, you say, how’s our sex life? One to 10. Three gives you an indication. Okay? So this codifying of numbers helped. So what I would do with ashes, she gave a bad score, old family two years ago.

[00:48:51] John Marsh: And I was like, what’s wrong? And she’s like, our parents are elderly and we’re distracted. Not spend enough time with them. I said, okay, what are we going to do to move the score? She said, well, I want to spend time with us. I said, tell you what, let’s do, let’s either cook food or buy food for them. Welcome them in one time a month and we’ll call them a family celebration.

[00:49:08] John Marsh: And our score went up. So we budgeted 12 family celebrations last year and moved the score. So it’s the same thing. Fun would be how many times have we set down and tried to find new friends in our community and had dinner with them? So it’s, you have to codify what you want to move and it’s putting a number on it.

[00:49:28] John Marsh: So we do that with all five Fs. That’s how we do it. We turn it into numbers, even faith, okay, how many times am I going to believe I have something that God put in my heart and step out and do it When I don’t want to do it, I’m going to, or how many times am I going to notice people and give, like I’ll try to load my pockets, put a couple of hundred dollars bills in there and say, I gotta give these babies away this week.

[00:49:50] John Marsh: That’s a faith act for me to stop and hand it to somebody courageously or try to get it to them without them knowing and saying, this is something that encourages my faith to be a giver. And so that’s what we do. We codify, put them into numbers and it helps us go forward. 

[00:50:07] Patrick Donley: There’s so much I could get into here, but I want to hear, I mean, there’s so much, but I want to hear a little bit more about changing gears here and talk about what you mean when I heard you talk to Chris about Irreplaceable real estate.

[00:50:20] Patrick Donley: Tell us a little bit about what you mean when you talk about irreplaceable real estate that you’re involved with. 

[00:50:26] John Marsh: Well, the thing about Irreplaceable, 

[00:50:27] Patrick Donley: This is a real estate show, by the way. 

[00:50:30] John Marsh: Oh gosh. Sorry. I Tell me, Bob, high energy, low IQ is a powerful combination. But here’s what we realized about irreplaceable real estate.

[00:50:39] John Marsh: See, we believe real estate, when we measure how we do real estate, is three capitals, social, spiritual, and economic capital like, and we ask ourselves, how can we make our Sunday school ca teacher and our economics teacher happy? How do we work at the intersection of purpose and profits? because people don’t even believe that’s possible.

[00:50:58] John Marsh: But what we began to realize is why do we love these historic buildings and why are they so valuable and why are they sitting vacant? Okay. And yes, because they don’t, there’s no potential. They don’t see the potential for them to give the return of their investment and return on their investment. And this is a minimum criteria.

[00:51:16] John Marsh: I mean, you look at Parable of Talents, God’s like, well, bring me back the money plus some interest, but I prefer multiples. And so when we looked at these old buildings, we said, but what’s the value? So they’re irreplaceable. We say Irreplaceable real estate is built by people who don’t live anymore with methods we don’t do anymore, and materials we can’t get anymore and entitlements we can’t get them to approve anymore.

[00:51:36] John Marsh: That’s irreplaceable. And we layer our giftings and programming over it. It’s unbelievable. And think about this, even the insurance companies prove to us is irreplaceable. Try to get something insured for actual replacement of what you have. And you can’t do it. Oh, we can’t get them materials. We don’t get, gave you the methods anymore.

[00:51:57] John Marsh: So you’re telling me this is more valuable than a Sheetrock box would drive it on it? And of course it is. But the appraisers and the banks have convinced us that. If you’ve got a sheep rock box would drive it on it that has a monthly income of $20 a square foot or whatever for the rents. And you’ve got a historic building that’s got the same, that they’re the same value, but the bankers are tricking us.

[00:52:18] John Marsh: I used to call them banksters, you know, is they’re convincing us that’s only for the amateurization period. But when you look at it, the way we look at it, we ask ourselves, well what is it going to look like in 50 years? I’m in a full mason restructure, Mason rebuilt walls. I keep a fabulous roof on it.

[00:52:34] John Marsh: It’ll be here till Jesus comes back. And so we are looking longer. And so with a longer timeframe, it’s not a little better. It’s exceptionally better investment. And so we’re going to continue to work on this and it’s powerful. So that’s what we’re doing. 

[00:52:48] Patrick Donley: Let’s talk a little bit about diffused hospitality.

[00:52:51] Patrick Donley: You were just in Italy, weren’t you? Weren’t you like there a couple months ago or? 

[00:52:56] John Marsh: Our oldest son just got married there. And we spent the month of January there. It was incredible. 

[00:53:02] Patrick Donley: Yeah. So I want to hear more about that. Talk about diffused hospitality and how Italy does that. Well. 

[00:53:08] John Marsh: It is incredible Italy is so smart about, so I love what my wife said is she said, John Italy forces you to see what it takes to do things.

[00:53:18] John Marsh: And she said, everything that they make, you get to see how they make it in front of you. And so we started looking at hospitality. We asked ourselves what’s the best hospitality experience in our life and what they look like. And what we convinced is that diffused hospitality is the answer honestly, for us saving small towns and doing all the work we do.

[00:53:39] John Marsh: And the reason it’s the answer Italy does it well is they’ll take a little community, a village and they’ll take and put all different kinds of structures or rooms and restaurants. And it’s a taking a hotel and exploding at a polar, some they call it scattered hotel or horizontal hotel or diffuse hospitality.

[00:53:57] John Marsh: And what we believe small towns can do. Is have a, if you want to make a small town grow overnight, stay celebratory events and iconic food and beverage will do it. We can get people to go, you know, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 hours to do that. You see Blackberry Farms and places like this, we’re going to the middle of nowhere, but they’re not a tower.

[00:54:19] John Marsh: It’s not this huge cylinder rooms. They stack you on top of each other, like, like the days in or the holiday express. What people want is to feel like they’re a part of a community and not just a tourist. And so we believe this is the future of where we’re going is to fuse hospitality because we believe it’s one of the few things where operational income can roll up into real estate value.

[00:54:44] John Marsh: And the banks understand it. They understand resorts. And so there’s models there in place that help us get to the capital we need, and the banks understand it. When we view historic downtowns in places, we diffuse hospitality. 

[00:54:58] Patrick Donley: Talk to us a little bit about your view of historic small towns becoming their own asset class.

[00:55:05] John Marsh: Absolutely, and I didn’t, again, all of this is like off after a while. I mean, it takes a while. It wasn’t a, what I began to see is we saw commercial real estate as an asset class. Then we saw people buying residential homes and collecting them together. 10,000 homes or a few thousand homes in this an asset class.

[00:55:24] John Marsh: I started going How many small towns across America have tremendous embedded value? I mean, by one of the towns we’re working in, our clients just spent like four and a half million dollars in, bought 40 buildings, 4 million, yeah. About hundred 50 something thousand square foot. And we can turn this thing into a rocket ship.

[00:55:46] John Marsh: And people say, well, how will we put amazing food and beverage overnight stay and celebratory events? And they’re within an hour or two of a larger population. We’ve got a small town in Kentucky, a town of 3,500 Marshall the restaurant,

[00:55:59] Patrick Donley: what’s it called? Stanford. Stanford, that’s right. 

[00:56:01] John Marsh: Stanford, Kentucky, and one of our first clients Jess Car.

[00:56:04] John Marsh: That restaurant sees 8,800 people a month in a small town of 3,500. So it tells you how much these things draw when you’re excellent. And they close at three o’clock, right? That’s right. They don’t have dinner, but two nights a week and they closed on Sunday. And so what we realized is if we could do this, it could be incredible.

[00:56:24] John Marsh: So imagine this, imagine us going in and people start seeing a platform for saving small towns. And these real estate portfolios are not something that in the beginning they don’t look exciting. But over time, It’s exponential, the amount of growth you see in these platforms and the amount of revenue they can create.

[00:56:44] John Marsh: I mean, we’ve got one model we’re working on a small town that’ll put 4 million in profits a year on the bottom line for this one project, and that’ll put its value, you know, 40, 50 million bucks. And so that’s no joke. And our biggest town, which is really amazing, we’ll talk about that in a minute. I guess we lay on the plane, but it’s it’s Winterhaven, Florida.

[00:57:07] John Marsh: It’s about 150 million plus dollar portfolio. And it is incredible. And it’s making tremendous value for those investors and for that community. 

[00:57:17] Patrick Donley: And they’re all, you call them patrons, are they mostly local people that want to see Winter Haven thrive? 

[00:57:24] John Marsh: They, in fact we help them raise $80 million from 60 locals.

[00:57:28] John Marsh: And they bought almost 80 blocks of their downtown. So yes. And that’s sophisticated with the way the portfolio and platform, like how do we do handle people who want to get out and have redemptions? How do we handle all those things? There’s a lot of complexity, but we know now with stewarding about 2 billion worth of this stuff around America.

[00:57:49] John Marsh: We can see it at scale now. So we believe there is a new asset class coming forward of irreplaceable real estate because they’re not making any more downtowns in your town or ours. And if we can steward them well and bring sophisticated real estate tools and development over it with sensitivity and love, I think it’s, they’re going to be incredible.

[00:58:09] Patrick Donley: So when Winter Haven approaches you to consult to help with this development, what, where do you start? What’s the first thing you do when you go to, when you go to Winter Haven and check the place out? 

[00:58:21] John Marsh: You know, we usually start with what we call an intensive which is a two day either in our city or their city.

[00:58:27] John Marsh: And we work on looking at what we’ve designed called the momentum method. We think having no momentum makes you look worse than you are, and having momentum makes you look better than you are. And so you gotta get the mow, you gotta get it moving. But we say it’s these things. This vision is number one, clarity of vision, a clear strategy.

[00:58:46] John Marsh: Then you’ve gotta have to know who’s on the team and what are the roles, and then after that you’ve gotta get them in alignment, execution. And the last one is my favorite success in succession. And so we align this momentum method up, and most people have a vision, but it’s fuzzy. And so if the prize is fuzzy, no price is cheap enough, you get the prize real clear.

[00:59:10] John Marsh: The price gets easy. And so we help them clarify their vision and then move through the other pieces to like, what is a minimum viable team? You know, how does this sit together? How do you build this? And then how do you make it where the capital work, which most people think it’s the money and it’s never been the money for us.

[00:59:27] John Marsh: There’s plenty of money to follow. Money never fought. You know, you just, money always follows great vision. You never see people get a bunch of money and get a clear vision. 

[00:59:37] Patrick Donley: Say more about what your view of success is. You had an interesting comment that I heard about that I wanted you to go into. Like when, how you view success of these small towns.

[00:59:48] John Marsh: Well, a lot of it’s human flourishing. I mean, we actually try to look at a flourishing score. I mean, how do we know if the place is flourishing? We say flourishing is when the people who have the least are experiencing the most that’s flourishing. And so we work hard with all of that. And to think about that.

[01:00:04] John Marsh: We also create social, spiritual, and economic capitalists. Gotta be all three. And so that for us is when a place is healthy. You know, I think one of my big friends, Eddie Morton, down in Florida, Orlando says this and Lyft, he says, you can mix age, you can mix race, you can mix economics. The only thing you can’t mix his values.

[01:00:26] John Marsh: And we agree with that. We’ve had no trouble getting people to understand a clear vision and come together as long as the values are similar. And so that’s the question is what’s the values? And so I see one index I really like called the Popsicle index is how far a kid need to walk to get a Popsicle.

[01:00:44] John Marsh: And so we, we just think for each community, we customize it, but usually it’s like a community a community impact number that we do. And we do that right along with economic numbers. And then we know you measure economic capital from it, what comes out of it. But you measure social and spiritual by what you put in it.

[01:01:04] Patrick Donley: And you need long-term patient capital in these projects, right? You’re not looking for people that don’t have patient capital to sit with you during this process of? 

[01:01:14] John Marsh: It’s about a seven year to get to where people can understand. But I say it needs to be patient, properly aligned and productive, those three things.

[01:01:23] John Marsh: But it should be over time. It’s not an average investment. It’s an exceptional investment. In fact, as it gets out more years, this thing goes like crazy, like a hockey stick. But it takes some patience. And here’s the thing, the cost, we call it the velocity of money. The cost of redeployment is expensive and a lot of people want to do wham and bam, hit and run.

[01:01:47] John Marsh: Get it, get out, get it, get out where you gotta be. That’s activity, not accomplishment. And we just don’t, I mean, that’s just not our model. We’re not i r driven, we’re driven by over overall return over decades. And if you look at Warren Buffett’s network, it’s the same kind of thing. He goes like this, and it does like this.

[01:02:06] John Marsh: And so that’s how we build real estate portfolios. I mean, we want to build machines Who wants a pig tree and don’t make figs. Jesus hated that pig tree didn’t make figs. You start to call it a bush. And that’s why we don’t build these things through benevolence because if you got it, we want something that people will want to fight over at your death.

[01:02:25] John Marsh: It’s such a valuable asset. It’s so irreplaceable and iconic that everybody won’t stand in line for it. 

[01:02:32] Patrick Donley: This is great stuff. I absolutely love talking with you here. I want to hear more about your podcast. We talked a little bit about it at the beginning, before we started recording, but it’s called Reification.

[01:02:43] Patrick Donley: Tell us about that word and tell us a little bit about the podcast. I want to hear about some of the guests that, like you’ve had on that have just, I don’t know, like you’ve blown my mind today, like some of the guests that have like just been influential and impactful to you. 

[01:02:58] John Marsh: Well, I’ve had some of my mentors on, which I love that because they have, I don’t know where they stop and I start, my heart is woven into them and them into me.

[01:03:07] John Marsh: One of my guests that I just love, I had recently was a guy named John Rivers. It hadn’t been published yet, but it’s coming out here soon. But he created the Four Rivers Smokehouse the barbecue restaurants, 20 of them, and he’s just a super cool guy that has the same vision as me and it’s coming out real soon.

[01:03:25] John Marsh: And, He just walks through, how did the man go from running a billion and a half dollar healthcare company to love smoking meat and making barbecue? And then how are they building an organic farm? 40 acres in downtown Orlando, and how did they feed over a 1.2 million families last year? And so he’s just an amazing guy.

[01:03:46] John Marsh: I love the one on there with Steve Cockram, the Five Voices founder. Me and my wife and him talk about what it’s like to, you know, Ash and I built companies together side by side for our whole marriage, and that’s dynamic and interesting. And so the reason. 

[01:04:00] Patrick Donley: Say his name again. Steve Cockram? 

[01:04:03] John Marsh: Cockram. C O C K R A M ,yeah and he’s just a one of the most insightful, amazing guys. You know how he created the Five Voices He asked himself, if you’re familiar with the screw tape letters, the books, What he said is, what if I was going to use personality types to take out leaders? How would I do it? And so he created this model and then he reversed that and figured out how to make them flourish.

[01:04:26] John Marsh: And that’s what created the five voices, which is incredible. So he’ll tell you, what’s your five voices type? And then what’s the weapon system you use when you’re unhealthy stressed? And that’s, it’s incredible. So I love that. And the word reification tip saying, you’re gentrifying. You’re gentrifying. I said, we’re not gentrification, we’re reification.

[01:04:46] John Marsh: They said, what is that? I said, we’re redeeming people in places to their intended beauty and glory. And I said, you’ll see the difference from what we do.

[01:04:55] Patrick Donley: I love that. I’m going to start using that because the word gentrification just has so many negative connotations. In many ways it’s unfair. It’s what you’re doing.

[01:05:04] Patrick Donley: You know, like it’s, I love it. 

[01:05:05] John Marsh: It’s totally they don’t have any other models, so we don’t have mental models to understand. And I just said, man, well we’re coming. Not many people are going. Here comes the developers, we’re glad to see them. They feel like they’re in the pick pockets going to come, take everybody’s pocket and mess up, build a bunch of ugly stuff.

[01:05:20] John Marsh: And I said no. We’re going to come and add value and not at Stride. Now we’re going to show up. You’re going to be walking cheer and see us, so we’re going to do stuff. You’re going to love, you’re, we’re going do this stuff You’re going to protect in the future. because love looks different. 

[01:05:33] Patrick Donley: It sure does. It sure does. I’m going to steal something that you do on the podcast to wrap up here.

[01:05:40] Patrick Donley: I want to know you ask, like one of your questions is, who should I know that I don’t know, and then what should I be reading? So I want to go into that. Who should I know that you’ve had on or I don’t know anybody. I’d love to be introduced to Brett Kaufman. He’s a Columbus guy. 

[01:05:55] John Marsh: I’ll plug you in with him, my friend.

[01:05:57] John Marsh: You know, I love relationships and that’s if I ask the same 10 questions to everybody when I talk to them personally trying to learn. And one thing I can encourage people, get you 10 great questions and ask them, because what that’ll do is let you borrow the same perspective from different people. And this, you know, experience that is reflected on can take it and turn it into insight.

[01:06:21] John Marsh: And so we want to evaluate our experiences so we can make insight out of it. And like if I asked you those same 10 questions I asked everybody else, I’m borrowing your lens on like, how has failure shaped your life? Tell me three things to always do and three things to never do. And these questions asked, but one of them, the biggest pulling one is, who do you know that I should know and will you introduce me?

[01:06:42] John Marsh: And that thing’s taken me all over the world. So that’s where this question came from. I tell you, check out six 10 s i x 10 in winter Haven, Florida Bud String in that organization. They’re the city that’s doing this the most at scale of anybody in America. And there the work is incredible. Six 10 L C in Winter Haven, Florida.

[01:07:03] John Marsh: And if you get a chance, go there. That’s where Lego Land is, the former Cyprus Gardens and it’s the city of a hundred Lakes. But the courageous vision of Bud and his family from the citrus business to love of places is, it’s inspiring. 

[01:07:19] Patrick Donley: I’ll check it out for sure. And then what about, what should I be reading?

[01:07:23] John Marsh: I tell you, this is like asking them, you know, I feel like a mosquito and a notus colony with all the great books there everywhere. I want to read them all. My team says, I know every book you read is the best word you just read, but one I read recently that has shaped our whole business and the way we do things is unreasonable Hospitality.

[01:07:40] John Marsh: I’m not familiar with that one. Unreasonable Hospitality by will. Guera and he built the restaurant that won the best restaurant in the world in New York, 11 Madison. And that book plus a few others, shaped the way that we see hospitality. And my wife’s definition of hospitality is the guiding force of our company.

[01:07:59] John Marsh: And now she runs all of our companies and it’s I hospitality as I thought of you before you got here, that’s her definition of hospitality. She said that’s what God did with us. That’s what we do with others. 

[01:08:12] Patrick Donley: That’s great. Hospitality is, I thought of you before you even got here. That’s right. Very cool.

[01:08:19] Patrick Donley: John, this is awesome. I have loved talking with you here. I feel like I could go on for another hour or two, but we’re going to put a pin in it here. Tell our listeners how they can get in touch with you, how they can find out more about you. What’s the best way for them to do that? 

[01:08:33] John Marsh: is a good place to land and you can see us on the normal social media things and that’s.

[01:08:40] John Marsh: And check us out at That’s R E D E M P T I F I C A T I O N. It’s a mouthful, but it’s worth it and it’s some of the cool people we’re around. So those are the ways you can catch up with us and hopefully we can add value. 

[01:08:56] Patrick Donley: Well, you have completely added value to my life. I know that. So I just really want to thank you for your time, John. 

[01:09:01] John Marsh: Thank you my friend. 

[01:09:03] Patrick Donley: Okay, folks, that’s all I had for today’s episode. I hope you enjoyed the show, and I’ll see you back here real soon. 

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