It’s all about Leverage…

In my latest blog post I’d like to recognise the importance of working with great people – in my case, in order to build a property portfolio and develop my business.

One day I will write a post about our property achievements, but I figure there is wider value in the first instance, (among people interested in starting their own business) to hear from someone who had previously no experience in going it alone, rather than provide some standard ‘before and after’ pictures of our latest developments…. (you can see those on my FB page!).

“Going it alone” is a term oft-used in reference to starting your own business. Whilst I have no desire to employ a single person, I quickly realised I couldn’t attempt to build a successful property business on my own. I’ve never used the word ‘leverage’ so frequently…. However, when explaining to others how I operate, this is exactly what I’ve been doing over the past two years in order to build a decent pipeline of projects and investors – working with others.

I’ve spoken previously about the importance of defining your goals and setting ‘stretch’ targets. For me, this meant creating a cash-flowing business that would eventually match my old salary from ad tech. I set out to do this by creating best-in-town rental properties for house-sharers, whilst generating bank-beating returns for investors. Now, I’m based in Wimbledon, but I knew I had to look further afield (East Midlands & Manchester) to generate significant returns from rental properties. Initially, I spent a couple of days at a time visiting estate agents in Derby and Nottingham to unearth some property gems, until it became apparent I was kidding myself. Why would they give the heads-up on an off-market development opportunity to a ginger clown from London when they have plenty of local investors in their little black book? Operating locally is far easier and fruitful than operating remotely, for obvious reasons, so I needed to think differently – I should aim to operate locally by proxy. I needed to stop chasing deals and instead connect with people, far better placed than me, to find great deals. I’ve been leveraging other people’s talents, experience and knowledge in return for a share of profit, a fee or a reciprocal introduction, ever since.

So how do you find great, trustworthy people who share the same values and way of doing business? Well, I start by looking at myself. Am I trustworthy, credible, believable, investable? Am I in a position to act quickly and decisively when the right deal is presented to me? Do I have the means to deliver on my intention? People have to decide if they’re comfortable working with me before I can even consider working with them. I’ve just finished reading How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – that it was first published in 1936 does not detract from its fundamental techniques and timeless rationale on engendering mutually beneficial business relationships. Obviously I’m late to the party, but for those who haven’t read it, I would thoroughly recommend doing so. If I can project the same values and behaviours I’m looking for in others, then it’ll be far easier to connect with people I want to work with.

Assuming we’re all trustworthy, credible people, where can you find potential partners? When I was in paid employment, I probably didn’t commit to the networking events or conferences as much as my salary warranted. Now the buck stops with me, I’m much more engaged with the process and committed to getting the most out of events. Ok, so I don’t have the glamour of going to Tel Aviv, Barcelona or San Francisco, but when I attend property meet-ups in Sutton, Blackfriars or Birmingham, I’m much more focused and set myself goals to speak to as many people as possible. I still find it a challenge to approach strangers but everyone is in the same boat and there for similar reasons – it does help that I’m much more interested in property than I was in ad tech though! I’ve become a better listener too, which is key. It’s surprising how many people don’t pick up on signals identifying people as potential investors or JV partners, or just don’t have the confidence to follow-up.

I’ve stated before that I’m not enamoured with social media, even though I worked for an early stage social network, but I now use the likes of linkedin and facebook to connect with people who may be able to help me directly or indirectly; seeking referrals, introductions and most commonly as a precursor to a phone call or face-to-face meeting. I find it much more effective to have built some initial rapport with someone online before meeting them in person for the first time. I must stress I look to find the right person over the right deal every time. When it comes to joint ventures, formal or informal, choose your potential partner carefully –  JVs are prone to self-destruct at any time if you’ve rushed into them. You’re also ‘giving away’ a proportion of the profits, but 100% of zero is not so attractive – especially in instances where both parties bring something unique to the table to secure deals that would otherwise have been lost.

I’m surprised how comfortable I am running my own business (with just my own thoughts as a companion most of the time) especially considering how much I relied on others to bounce ideas off, seek assurance I was pitching clients effectively, to provide support to correct spreadsheet equations, build powerpoints – essentially wipe my proverbial back-side. Nowadays, I don’t feel at all isolated sitting in my home office because I can call upon a wealth of newly-formed contacts to provide support, advice and guidance. I’m also lucky to have found a fantastic joint-venture partner, a cracking project manager and sourcer of great deals.

Of course, investing remotely or leveraging other people’s talents and experience does have its challenges. I’ve accepted my role as one of an enabler, an introducer, a connector (according to Roger Hamilton’s Wealth Dynamics profile test, I’m a Deal Maker). I don’t have any practical property experience and sometimes I’m plagued with age-old demons that I’m not inventing a cure for cancer and don’t see the value in my contribution. Saying that, if you’re going to work with others to help you build up a business, I think it’s best for each party to bring a completely different set of skills to the venture without compromising your values and end product. I’d also suggest you have to be comfortable leaving people better qualified than yourself to deliver on their tasks without interference from you. Clearly, there is a requirement to be kept informed and agree on status report updates, but when it comes to property for example, my JV partner is not going to want me sticking my nose in too often on the colour scheme, choice of bathroom tiles or which planning consultant to employ too often.

Working with others has freed up my time to concentrate on raising money and meeting more people who could identify potential projects. Perversely, it’s also created another challenge – freeing up so much time that I’m in danger of thinking I’m semi-retired! I appreciate I can’t be doing deals constantly. To reference business coach, Dan Hill, a 100m sprinter does not compete in the Olympics every day, but has a programme of rest, training, racing, to deliver him or her to a championship in peak condition – not that I’m comparing myself to an Olympic standard sprinter:) However, my personal challenge is to identify other ways to best use my time to achieve my long-term goals – not the worst problem in the world, admittedly.

Leveraging other people’s talents has enabled me to get to a position where I’ll deliver on my goal far more quickly and effectively than if I tried to do everything myself. It plays to my strengths – I listen, identify an opportunity and connect the dots to move the venture forward. It also keeps me connected with the outside world and if nothing else is a great substitute for chatting with colleagues at the water-cooler.

Do drop me a line if you’d like to talk in more detail about the challenges you’re facing if you’re considering a career change. Alternatively, if you’re interested to keep a closer track of our property progress, then please follow our FB page ( I’m always looking for cracking off-market commercial to residential opportunities and investor money (subject to HNWI status) so if you know of any suitable developments or of anyone that may be keen to see a better return on their savings, please do share my details. That’s all for now folks – Lord only knows what I’m going to write about next time! May have used that line last time…

Simon Podd, Parris Property

Transforming Rental Properties

Generating Significant Returns for investors

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