Listen to this episode below:
Today I welcome Fiona Talbot back to the show, 3 years after her first interview. Having been in the property industry for 20 years now, she was already a success when we last spoke, but a big part of her focus since then has been on developing and professionalising the business side of things, more so than just growing a portfolio.
Land Insight is without doubt our favourite tool for helping us find and analyse potential land and development deals, with a range of layers to show things like planning history, ownership boundaries and comparables for specific plots or entire areas. Get an extended free trial and a personal walkthrough from the Land Insight team if you sign up here.
Growing a Sustainable Property Business
This is something she takes particularly seriously, and we both agree that knowledge of business growth is an area that we all need to be mindful of from the start of our investing, alongside getting out there and doing deals, so that’s what we’re going to focus on today.
In the years since Fiona was last on the show, her portfolio has continued to evolve and whilst she still stands by her “diverse portfolio” mentality, she has more recently chosen to slow down on SA and is now focussing her efforts on commercial properties. The best example of this is indeed her own office space, once existing in a hotel that she owned, but now taking residence in a large commercial business park.
“Multi Strategy vs Shiny Penny”
Her multi-strategy approach appeals for a number of reasons, most obviously it means higher deal conversions. If you can consider a building or site for a number of different purposes, chances of making it stack increase. Aside from this it means she can play to her strengths, for the most apart avoiding deals that need big renovations (another reason she favours commercial) and focus on deal appraisal and finance.
The main reason that this strategy works however, is because she has the systems and team in place to make it work. Whilst a one man band may struggle to be knowledgeable on all strategies, or have the time to appraise a deal for multiple strategies, when you build a business with the capabilities to do so, then it becomes a much easier task.
As we talk about what it takes to set up a property business of this nature, Fiona is keen to share some key pointers. The first being a piece of advice she wishes she could go back in time and give herself.
“Think about your business structure from day one, don’t wait until you have a large business”
With a focus on infrastructure and recruitment from the very beginning, the journey through growth will be significantly easier. Ensuring you have the right people is also key. Knowing who those people are, and when is the right time to bring them onboard can be a deal breaker.
Most small business owners will be only too aware that the main barrier for recruitment is cashflow, so all new employees either need to creating cashflow from day one, or freeing up your time to allow you to create more cashflow. Otherwise your business is going to go in the wrong direction very quickly.
In terms of the specific roles to recruit, Fiona’s key advice is not to over-rely on a book keeper but invest in a good accountant from day one (primarily externally and then bringing someone internally later on down the line).
She also says she wishes she had devoted more time to her business education vs her property education (something she is very proactively pursuing right now).
For the full interview with Fiona you can listen to her latest episode, but don’t forget to go back and listen to her original interview too.