First off thank you for taking the time to get involved in this interview for my readers.
We first got introduced to you via the “the disruptive entrepreneurs” Facebook community from a friend who invited me to the group – Sonya Morton-Firth.
Since becoming a member of the group, we have messaged a couple of times and through your recent book launch have learned more about your fascinating story.
You outline your personal story in your book, but it would great to share part of this on my blog. Your journey is very inspiring and so look forward to discovering more about you and your businesses.
So, thanks again Jane – let’s jump straight into this with my first question.
1. I have to admit we don’t know each other well, so could you give us a little background information about you?
I’m an entrepreneur and property investor and developer.
I have a pretty interesting past I think both personally and professionally. I worked for 20 years at a high level in media and advertising in London, for global advertising agencies such as Young and Rubicam and TV and film companies too. I then became MD of an international design agency (Futurebrand E&P) which the founder/CEO told me he wanted to sell.
He set me the challenge of growing the profits before this and gave me 15% of the equity if I met his targets. I did, and was able to exit after 2 years to US communications group Interpublic, with several hundred thousand pounds in the bank, and has made him a multimillionaire! Happy days!!
I’d been involved in a very challenging relationship with the (highly volatile) father of my 2 older children throughout this period, and the sale of the business gave me the means to leave him and set up a household alone with my 2 and 4-year-old girls (as they were at the time). My heart goes out to so many women in this position who remain trapped in abusive relationships because they have no support for their children and no money to set up an independent life. So this event was a real game-changer for me.
Anyway, soon after this I met my ex (who turned out to be another very difficult man) and became pregnant with my youngest. So for a few years, I concentrated on motherhood and getting some stability back into the lives of my children.
Pretty soon, my entrepreneurial instinct kicked in again, and I set up a group tuition business (Tiger2GO) locally. I registered it on a website and had a constant stream of inquiries and customers. I only ran a handful of sessions a week, but it provided excellent cashflow, ongoing (free) educational support for my own girls, and also a source of income for my older daughter, who ended up running my holiday groups. It was fun but I decided not to grow it further, so I handed it over to a friend to run as my children got older.
I also had some health challenges as I was diagnosed in 2011 with breast cancer.
I went through 6 rounds of chemo, 6 rounds of major surgery, radiotherapy, and was told I had to stay on medication for 10 years. It’s now 9 years since my diagnosis and thankfully I’m fit and well. But this experience did change me and made me realize how the only thing that really matters in life is love. The relationships you have with loved ones and friends, and the experiences you are able to build together along the way.
By this time, I’d started getting interested in a property as a vehicle for wealth creation. I’d always renovated and extended properties of my own, so I did some training and embarked on my professional property journey. I started by earning fees from sourcing, both working as an investment introducer and sourcing land for developers.
After a while, I became more knowledgeable so I decided to dip a toe in the water and do some development investing. One of these projects went badly, as I had chosen the wrong people to work with. The other 3 were successful, and I made a great return overall. I didn’t really have the patience for the strategies like single let Deal Sourcing, Rent To Rent or Serviced Accommodation, and Buy to Let seemed less attractive after the new tax rules, as well as being slow burn (I’m not saying this is true for everyone, just a personal thing) so I decided to stick with development as my one and only strategy. My passion here is for low risk, small to medium-sized projects, so options, joint ventures, and assisted sales are the strategies I pursue the most, as I like to sleep at night!!
Today I work with an amazing guy who has unlimited funds for projects and the most incredible technical and finance skills, so he is the perfect partner for me. We are looking at a number of deals together and I hope by the time we next speak that I’ll have a few to show you.
I wrote the Smart Connector (my book on entrepreneurial people power) in a response to some frustration around the entrepreneurial education I’ve done, which seems to be very focussed on acquiring knowledge, hacks and strategies. The truth is, knowledge can be acquired from a number of sources (and I’m definitely pro-education – whatever form it takes). But in my experience, the biggest risk of all, as well as the biggest return, comes from the people you choose to work with.
I’m a huge believer in leverage.
Cull the people in your life who are not creating value for you, and introduce the ones that will. Always make sure you hold yourself accountable to the highest standards of behavior and are the person you wish to attract, otherwise the right people will not be attracted to you.
You have to be a giver, in business and life. Then you’ll be someone who others trust, and sooner or later, the right people will arrive in your life.
2. You wear a few different hats, a property investor, a business mentor, and recently an author. From the outside you seem to have a busy schedule, how do you juggle your business and work-life balance?
The answer is simple. Leverage!
I’m not as great at leverage as I’d like to be, but whenever I feel overwhelmed, leverage is the answer. In my book, I explain that leverage is different from delegation. It’s a more sophisticated skill that isn’t just about using VA’s or handing off low-level tasks to others (not that I’m against this!).
Leverage is at its most powerful when it’s used to create partnerships or affiliates.
For example, my property partner is happy for me to be out building relationships, chatting to people, and reeling in deals (which I’ll do all day without it even feeling like work!), while he sits at his laptop analyzing the spreadsheets in fine detail. I could not do property development without a partner like this, as it’s a high-risk business and all about the numbers. Since he’s a highly qualified guy, with an MBA in Finance, he wants to be able to use his finely tuned skills. I really value him, and he values my energy, wisdom, and passion for property development. That’s leverage.
Time management is also critical for leveraged entrepreneurs.
Realize that most of the world doesn’t value time. For example, when I’m dating, I find many men pushing for dates without even having a conversation with me first. I always refuse, as to me, this is a sign of someone who doesn’t value their time. Travel costs money and time, and your time is the most valuable asset of all
I have 3 girls and some animals too (including a horse, a dog, and 4 cats!). Life can’t all be about work. Leverage makes it possible for me to run different strands of business activity and also find time for them.
2. Having recently invested in a few UK based property crowdsourcing project, I am also interested to know more about how you got started and how you work with investors.
This is a very interesting topic, Adam. I believe investors should be protected from the risk of property projects so the best form of investment is asset-backed security. This doesn’t have to be the first charge but if you own the asset this is of course the highest form of protection. So I would always encourage investors to look at the security being offered rather than the returns in the first instance.
Crowdfunding is an interesting model as it offers smaller investors the opportunity to have a ‘flutter’ for a small amount of money and learn at the same time. I think it’s a great way to start.
It’s important to remember that property is mostly an unregulated industry and sharks do circle. If you or any of your readers want to get involved in UK property investment or development on a bigger scale the most important thing is to align yourself with someone you trust 100%.
I am always happy to offer some independent guidance in this respect.
You’ll need to talk to a number of people who have worked successfully with the person or team you’re working with and most important of all – exited successfully. People can talk a good game but a project can only be judged as a success or a failure after exit.
3. With the recent Brexit woes in the UK, do you see the effects on this uncertainty on the ground with the property investment business?
Yes, it definitely is having an impact, Adam. Lenders are becoming more cautious as Eastern European builders are returning, leading to a skills shortage. There are also materials shortage, for example, plasterboard is quite hard to come by right now, and of course, the exchange rate impacts the price of supplies coming from Europe.
Brexit uncertainty has impacted sales in the South East and some developers are already in trouble.
( I discussed the impact of Brexit on SE London with my good friend Julia Stone from London Stone Properties too! – Adam).
Serviced accommodation and HMO’s are in oversupply in some areas and there are voids. There is new legislation being introduced constantly that impacts on the different strategies being adopted. Having said this, all these highlights is the risk to investors or developers who are less professional and rigorous in their approach.
The UK is the property investment capital of the world for good reasons – and NOTHING will change that.
I would not encourage investors abroad to go it alone. It is immensely helpful to have an experienced but impartial guide to UK property investment, and I am always happy to help.
4. You have recently released a Kindle Book titled “The Smart Connector: The Entrepreneur’s Blueprint for Business Relationship Success”. I purchased this and am 1/3 through it, I am really enjoying it. Can you outline what the book is about?
The book is about entrepreneurial people’s power, a subject I feel so passionate about!
5. One section that stood out for me was your “blueprint for people success”. Only recently have I started taking more of this approach when investing time with friends. Do you ever mix business with friends or family?
As an entrepreneur, your friends can sometimes start to regard you with suspicion, because if they’re employed people, they can feel threatened and a bit overwhelmed by what you’re doing. You become a tall poppy.
Many entrepreneurs end up becoming good friends with their entrepreneurial peers and business partners instead, and keep the others to their ‘outer circle’. It’s simpler because they’re more likely to understand your outlook and approach!
I would not be averse to mixing business with family as I am always open to new solutions or ways of doing things. But the only family I really have are my 3 girls and a much older sister who lives in the USA, so right now I’m letting them explore their own passions and lives before ‘putting them to work’ with me!!
6. So, what’s next on the horizon? Where do you see yourself and businesses going in the next 12-24 months?
The next step for me Adam is to get at least a couple of our current property development projects going with my partner and launch my mentoring and mastermind groups for connected entrepreneurs. These will be online and in-person, so again I’m working with some great partners and can’t wait to launch them!
Thanks so much, Adam for your time and interest!