Owner, Jon-Mac Company
He’s not your run-of-the-mill Rags to Riches story. As a serial entrepreneur and the owner of a thriving real estate company, Delano Johnson is undeniably successful, but he’s a benevolent business leader using all of his experience and resources to not only assist clients, but to inspire and help others reach their full potential.
We sat down with Delano to learn more about his history, his companies, and how he’s helping people realize their goals and enrich their lives.
Delano, let’s start at the beginning. Tell us a little about your background.
Well, I grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, and like most of the residents in the area, we were struggling. I can recall sleeping on an old, broken-down couch, waiting until I got to school to eat, and times when we had no lights or heat. My friends and I shared clothes. Life was real. It was the 1970s, and I was a young black male exposed to a lot of negativity, but I was determined to break the cycle of poverty and to do it legally.
To help pay bills, I took a lot of odd jobs. I remember when I was just 14, I asked the local convenience store owner for a job. He asked to see my report card, and then hired me. Since that time, I’ve stayed focused and worked, worked, and worked. I moved up, I learned, I pushed and shoved my way forward, determined to succeed. Eventually, I ended up as the owner of that same store I started at.
Can you give us a synopsis of the events between that time and starting the Jon-Mac Company?
A lot has happened, so I’ll give you the abridged version. By 2002, the convenience store was doing well, but it was a lot of work. I noticed that a lot of millionaires were real estate investors and I thought that, basically, I could get paid more to do less. A friend convinced me to partner on the purchase of a burned-down house for $8,000. The plan was to “fix-and-flip” the property, but my friend backed out and I was left to figure it out on my own. I wasn’t going to be defeated, so I did some research, contracted a roofer, who also helped me with remodeling, and invested $50,000 into repairs. The house sold for $80,000. I profited 30 grand and I thought I was Bill Gates! I continued buying properties for a few years while still running the store, and then, about 15 years ago, I sold the store and decided to take a break to think about the future. I had done really well as a real estate investor but knew I didn’t want that to be my whole story. I wanted to use what I’d learned in those first years to help others. I truly believe that you should always share the road, share the wealth.
Before you tell us about Jon-Mac, let’s talk about the other businesses you started.
I bought several convenience stores in the Hampton Roads area, and this is important to me because as the owner of these stores, I was able to employ and teach local youths. I could give them the skills and work ethic that they needed to build a better future, just as my first employer did for me. This also led to my introduction to Karen Bailey and my involvement with her group, the Youth Learn and Earn Organization. Around 2011, I started a party bus company, which, oddly enough, evolved into real estate ventures. Shortly after, I started Room Rentals, which I’ve unofficially nicknamed, Second Chance DJ’s. The purpose of the project is to assist people who are trying to get back on their feet, for whatever reason. To date, we have leased 120 units, all located in the Hampton Roads area. It’s a very rewarding project.
Okay, now tell us about the Jon-Mac Company.
I launched the company knowing that I could provide tremendous insight on real estate investing. My major focus was on wholesale properties, primarily in Virginia, but I had full intentions of expanding nationwide. We did our first transaction in 2013, and I’ve since built a team of seven to support growth and serve our increasing number of clients. Our niche is in the distressed property market. We purchase properties at a discount from disadvantaged sellers, as well as homes in need of repair and foreclosures, then complete renovations and resell at a profit. Our resale price is low enough to allow the next buyer to list and sell at a profit as well. It’s a great business model that allows me to implement my “share the wealth” motto. This year, even in the midst of the challenges of COVID, we’re still close to the million-dollar mark.
Now I know I mentioned that I have intentions of expanding nationwide, but running a business compels you to think outside of the box and explore new ideas as the situation becomes increasingly competitive. I met an old friend, also savvy in business, who talked to me about the benefits of business outsourcing. A great deal of well-known and successful companies in the United States have been outsourcing to other developing countries for years. I learned a few things about some outsourcing strategies, but what I'm most interested about is Knowledge Process Outsourcing, popularly known as KPO. I would assume the business world is already familiar with the BPO industry, but I firmly believe that KPO is the next big thing! Its focus is on the key growth areas of the business activity which relies on depth of knowledge, advanced analytical skills, business expertise, and judgment factor.
Eventually, I got things going the way I imagined and devised my mini version of the KPO concept. I met a brilliant guy on the other side of the world who gave me access to a highly skilled and talented workforce and before I knew it, I was running my operations from a global perspective before I could even go nationwide. My current team is helping me run 30 properties, valued at approximately $3M. It may seem overwhelming but that’s the wonder of incorporating the KPO strategy in my organization. Virtually anyone in the world is reachable with today’s technology and you have to use it to your advantage. My business is not ‘enormous’ just yet but that's the whole idea and I'm determined to get there. You have to start somewhere in order to achieve your ultimate goals and be FEARLESS in trying new things. It's either you PUSH yourself to where you want to be or suffer the consequences of regret for what could have been your key to living your dream.
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Delano. Before we conclude, is there a particular wisdom you’d like to share with aspiring real estate investors?
Absolutely. I’d like to encourage everyone, not just real estate investors, to follow their dreams. Make a plan and stick to it. Work hard, work smart, and if you want to have a career that’s rewarding, as well as profitable, share your experience and lift up others.
Download the magazine to see Delano's feature on page 14.