The Power of Collaboration and Synergy
Interview: Jayne Owen / Words: Angharad Owen
In this article with Mark, Jackie and Peter, we talk about their individual property experience, their approach to their new combined business and their thoughts on property investing in general.
Over the years, we’ve done lots of articles about joint ventures and how you can get further in property by teaming up with someone else, someone – or sometimes more than one - who complements your skillset and shares your goals and outlook on life. Some of these JVs are intentionally short-lived and last only for one project, a few are disastrous, but some property partners go on to take a step further and set up in business as well.
When you take that step – to build a property business or scale up the one you are already running – one of the most important things you can do is to work with the right people. We’re talking here not just about the pooling of knowledge, skills and experience, but about synergy.
Synergy as defined by the Cambridge English Dictionary online is “the combined power of a group of things when they are working together that is greater than the total power achieved by each working separately”. That definition in itself is fairly common knowledge in the property sector but capturing the essence of synergy can be more elusive. When you do encounter it, it’s high-octane stuff that can propel your business forward.
Recently we discovered that regular columnist Mark Lloyd and his business partner Jackie Reeves, co-founders of Property Mastery Academy, have joined forces with Peter Licourinos. Naturally we were curious to find out what they’re up to, but we also wanted to take the opportunity to explore that idea of synergy, and how collaboration affects the customers of a business as well as the partners who are coming together. Because ultimately, it is the customers who will benefit from the greater pool of experience that the service providers are able to draw upon.
.But first, a little background …
Mark and Jackie have been business partners for 20 years and in that time have been involved in several ventures. Not all of those have been related to property, but they each spent many years investing in property before forming Property Mastery Academy (PMA) in 2011. The idea of PMA was born from the challenges they had experienced and mistakes they had made, and a desire to share their knowledge to help prevent others from falling over the same stumbling blocks.
Peter has been a full-time investor for the best part of 20 years. He has branched out into others aspects of the property sector beyond investment by establishing a development company and more recently be creating a series of networking events.
YPN: Tell us a bit about some of the investing challenges you have experienced over the years.
Jackie: As very hands-on directors of our businesses, Mark and I found it difficult to find the time to put into property. We also thought we would need a bottomless pot of cash to get started. Perceived lack of time and money delayed our start point by several years. But knowing what I now know, we could have started much earlier and built the property business alongside the other business.
Mark: As Jackie says, we weren’t really sure where to start at first. When we did take a step, it was to buy an off-plan property in Bulgaria, which sounded very good in principle but the reality was totally different. It was rarely rented out and we eventually sold it for a small loss. Not the most auspicious beginning!
For our second property, we turned to a BTL in the UK. We bought that through an email circular and worked out that it would make us the grand total of £50 pm, which believe it or not we thought was quite good. In the end though, we did a flip on it but didn’t make any money from it. At that point, we realised that this property business was not as straightforward as some of the television programmes made out!
Peter: I’ve made lots of mistakes but one of the biggest was trying to invest in an area that I didn’t know, and so didn’t understand the demand. I was trying to follow the herd instead of doing my own research. That was ridiculous.
Another big lesson I’ve learned over the years is that you make your money on property when you buy, not necessary when you sell.
YPN: Where are you based and are there differences between working within your local areas and venturing out to other parts of the country?
Mark: I’m based in Farnham, which some people might consider to be an exclusive area. But we also have small portfolios in Hull, Scotland and Hampshire.
Peter: I now invest in Berkshire, Surrey and Hampshire. I’ve worked in those areas for 20 years, I understand the market and I like to think I know what’s happening in the foreseeable future. But my philosophy is that you can successfully invest in part of the UK. The key is to really get to know and understand the area.
My first property was a flip up in Newcastle 12 years ago. I bought it with friends – an electrician and a carpenter. The three of us went up for a week, filled a skip and did all the necessary works. It sold pretty quickly once it was finished. Although it was more of a gamble than I’d like to make now, it was a good investment. It was also a lot of fun.
These days I’m much more cautious with regard to my investments, In particular, I like to know the areas that I work in. One of the reasons for that is that I don’t need to rely on other people as much.
YPN: If you had your time over again, what would you change?
Mark: We have a large residential portfolio but looking back I think we could have benefitted from going into commercial property much sooner, particularly on the land and development side. This sector of the market is ripe in certain areas at the moment because of where we are in the economy.
To invest successfully, you really need to be aware of what’s happening in the outside world and to look at and be able to understand the bigger economic and political picture to see what strategy fits in at that time. It’s not just a matter of following what you’re told, as that particular strategy or action may not be relevant to your area.
One of the points I do my best to highlight in my regular articles is that investing is not merely about buying a property and hoping that someone comes along to rent it. You have to understand both the national and regional agendas and micro-economies.
YPN: You’ve all been involved in training and supporting other people to invest in property. How has this evolved over the years as this part of the industry has matured?
Peter: I’ve worked with investors for a long time, and have probably also informally mentored people for a long time without being aware of it. It’s something I’m extremely passionate about because I love property and I also love working with people. I enjoy helping others and seeing them succeed. To do that on a more regular and consistent basis is a no-brainer for me.
Mark: I’m a firm believer in practicing what you preach if you want to pass knowledge on to other people.
Going back to when we started out, we did some training with a quite a large organisation. All in all, it cost us £40,000, and while we did make our money back relatively quickly, we didn’t feel we had the level of support we’d have liked.
As we became more active ourselves, we gradually built up a small following of investors, all very informal, who would contact us for advice. Eventually we came to realise that we were giving away our knowledge and experience for free. Also it was taking up quite a lot of my time, which Jackie wasn’t too happy about because we were supposed to be putting the time and effort into building our portfolio. As a result and after a few discussions, we started putting on one-day Q&A events, and the training evolved from there. We didn’t set out to run a training company at all but what we were doing gathered some traction.
Not long afterwards, I went on holiday with my wife, and to stop me working and going through emails, she locked my phone in the hotel safe so that I could be ‘present’! I just got bored though, so bought a notepad and wrote down what became the initial business plan for PMA. When I got back home, I spoke to Jackie about how we could develop this properly into a business.
YPN: Why have the three of you joined forces at this stage?
Peter: What struck me was the fact that Mark and Jackie are people who care. Then as I started getting to know them better, I discovered that Mark is one of the best analysts of a deal that I’ve ever come across, and Jackie is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. We gelled well and working together felt natural.
Mark: We all have the same outlook, and the same ideas of how we want to move the business forward.
Jackie: I believe there is a synergy in our approach. The preferred method of working for all of us is with clients in small groups. That way, we have a closer relationship with them and can understand their individual issues.
YPN: Do you see any patterns of common mistakes emerging as you support people with property investing?
Peter: I find that a lot of investors tend to rush. It’s very important to take your time and make the right, informed decisions for you. Choosing a property and a strategy that suits you as the investor and your situation is extremely important. The best way for people to make those decisions is with ongoing training and support, and we try and provide that. It can help give an external perspective, which isn’t always apparent when you’re in the midst of a transaction or busy with activity.
Mark: One of our bugbears is that there is a lot of information out there that says that it’s possible to get involved in property without any money, that a house can be bought for £1, and so on. It all sounds really easy, but when someone starts working in property, they realise that it’s not that simple Some of the heavily promoted strategies are outdated in today’s market. As investors, we need to move on.
YPN: Do you still invest alongside the training?
Mark: Like I said earlier, you must be doing it if you want to teach it.
Peter: Between the three of us, we’re probably viewing at least one or two properties every week. And individually we’re always on the lookout for good opportunities as well. I’m speaking for all three of us when I say we’re always investing and always looking for the next deals.
Mark: We all look for properties, deals, land, commercial, whatever it might be, individually. Then, if and when we find something, we all go and have a look at it.
YPN: Property education can be an emotive subject and there are plenty of stories of when things have gone wrong. To avoid an expensive mistake, what should people look for in a mentor or trainer?
Peter: For me, it’s people that care. If the trainer/mentor doesn’t care, they will only take you so far. Working in small groups is important too. I’ve been lucky enough over the years to work with some of the best people in property – there are a lot of really good training companies out there but a lot of the time you can be lost in a huge group of people.
For the three of us, working with small groups is a value that we share and it means being able to offer people more time and support.
Jackie: I definitely agree with that. It’s a way of working that’s in line with our ethos and we’ve found it works for our clients as well.
Mark: And I think that just about says it all!
Get in touch with PMA
You can contact Mark, Jackie or Peter individually on Facebook, LinkedIn or private email:
Property Mastery Academy are also running a series of Discovery Days.