From Lone Shareholder Seeking Knowledgeable Network To Enhance The Performance Of His Already Successful Property Businesses To £5.8Million GDV From One Development
As lone 100% shareholder and Managing Director of three property businesses, Oliver sought to surround himself with a power-team of knowledgeable, passionate people to drive his business forward - he found that at Touchstone Education. Impressed by the personal approach of Touchstone Education and the individual attention he received from Paul and Aniko Smith, Oliver learned key tax tips, expanded his network of like-minded people and became part of a community vital to driving him forward and pushing him to achieve his goals. After being turned down for financing, Oliver demonstrated remarkable resilience and drive to fund his latest project against the odds, making double the profits he initially pitched.
Here’s what Oliver had to say...
“The Aspire Brand was established in 2005 to serve as an umbrella for a number of trading operations within the property sector. The Brand represents high standards, desirable and innovative products and services, unique and interesting properties, efficient systems and a strong sense of integrity in both business-to-business and customer-facing interactions and transactions.
The organisation currently has three main functions and operational arms.
Aspire Residential – carrying out speculative property development under a number of separate SPV’s
Aspire Investments – acquisition of residential property to build a portfolio of rental properties including Houses of Multiple Occupation
Aspire Aparthotels – offering Serviced Accommodation to Business and Leisure travellers.
We previously also ran a construction business to complement and support the other businesses, however, we decided to move away from this model of building ‘in-house’ in favour of a model that utilises a principal contractor in order that we can direct more resources to our core strategy.
As the managing director and sole shareholder, I have the flexibility to make quick, concise decisions that drive the business forward. Yet, I recognize that entrepreneurship can often be a solitary pursuit. To overcome this, I have tapped into the expertise of others, particularly through my partnership with Touchstone Education. This collaboration has proven highly beneficial to our business and enriched my own journey.
With a family background spanning two generations in the property industry, I have developed a comprehensive understanding of planning, design, construction, sales, and the overall property market.
From experience, I know how essential it is to surround yourself and your organisation with a power-team of skilled and passionate professionals. I employ a multi-disciplinary team of professionals to support the business and its operations, choosing to build on longstanding trusted relationships rather than the lowest bidder which ensures we are able to maintain our high level of quality both in terms of design and construction.
I also make a point of ensuring I myself, as the director, am also adequately supported by making sure I am surrounded by like-minded professionals that allow me to build on my current knowledge base and skill set. Continued learning is essential to keep your edge and can be extremely rewarding. In fact, the further I have got in my journey and career the more insatiable my thirst for knowledge has become.
One of those organisations I have leveraged for this is Touchstone Education. The training I have received has been first-class. I have continued my education for the last 10 years or so and have attended a large number of events, with various training companies. One thing I felt set Touchstone apart was the level of personal attention and investment. A lot of companies talk the talk but then you are sorely disappointed when you realise the speaker or host is entirely uninterested when you approach them directly.
Paul and Aniko specifically were excellent in this regard and took a noticeable personal interest in supporting me and ensuring my goals we met. They even sent my firstborn a gift in the post when she was born which I was very touched by. Asides from the knowledge, information, tax tips, networking and much more that I came away with, the added motivation was a big part in continuing to drive me forward to bigger and better things and pushing me to achieve my goals.
Our most recent project was a development in Cambridge. I purchased part of the old Brooklands Hospital which part of the wider hospital site, which has been used by the NHS for administrative purposes. The services provided were subcontracted out to a contractor and the premises became surplus to requirements. The site was just under half an acre just off Mill Road in CB1, central Cambridge and was sold with the existing hospital building in situ.
We consider ourselves a small boutique developer concentrating on schemes of 10 properties or less as we feel this level of development allows us to still be intimately involved in the design process, creating interesting and unique high-quality developments and properties and this site was ideal for us as it fitted all of our criteria so we submitted an offer.
The NHS imposed some fairly tight deadlines for completion of the deal as they wanted to ensure the disposal was executed in their current tax year so I set about arranging to finance the deal. As you can imagine, half an acre in central Cambridge does not come cheap so I had my work cut out. I approached a high net worth individual I know, and who has been interested in my business for some time, and offered him involvement in the deal. He inferred that I had got my numbers wrong and politely declined. Somewhat sore from my rejection, I retreated, regrouped and made the decision to go it alone. I decided I would raise the cash on my own without the need for an investor so picked up the phone and started calling brokers. After several meetings (and a lot of paperwork later) I managed to come up with a funding strategy that worked. Using bridging and some of my own capital we were able to move forward.
The next issue we faced was with the bridging firm. The further we progressed with the transaction the more I became aware that ethics were not the number one priority on their mission statement over the door. To cut a long story short, we made them acutely aware of the deadline imposed by the NHS for completion and they dragged their feet right up to the deadline and then at the 11th hour announced they wanted a £10,000 non-returnable fee (even if the deal did not complete due to their own non-performance) on top of significant fees and legal fees already paid, an extra 1% interest over and above what was already a generous rate and also that they were withdrawing the brokers' fee completely. The broker had worked tirelessly on this deal for weeks, I felt this was highly unfair and tantamount to extortion so I refused. The deadline came and went and the NHS withdrew the contract. At this point, I had invested £40,000 in the deal personally so I was fairly upset.
Everything went quiet for a while and I was then eventually told a contract had been issued to another buyer. Following considerable negotiations with the NHS and their agent, I managed to negotiate a first past-the-post arrangement where dual contracts were issued and the party that was able to be in a position to complete the transaction first would successfully acquire the site. This was excruciating as it meant investing more money into the deal with the prospect of receiving a call at any point only to be informed the other party had in fact completed and everything I had invested in the deal would be lost.
Having renegotiated with the bridging firm to ensure all parties were happy, my broker, my legal team and I had a very busy and stressful couple of weeks and I’m pleased to say were ultimately victorious in completing the deal.
Thanks to the great planning team I work with, planning was a little less stressful. We were the first in the district to utilise the Permission in Principle Application which allows you to separate the planning process into two parts. First, as it says on the tin, an application for permission in principle, allows you to apply for the specific number of dwellings sought on the site with all other matters reserved. We actually quietly submitted this at the point we agreed to buy the site and received permission prior to completing on the deal. This was a de-risking strategy that worked really well. Once we had completed and owned the site we then submitted the second half of the application and fleshed out the detail of the proposed development. We managed to get 9 houses on the site whilst staying just under the threshold for affordable housing so avoiding any Section 106/CIL liabilities.
Our QS did a wonderful job of negotiating contract terms and procuring a principal contractor and I was able to refinance to another more reputable lender that was a pleasure to work with throughout the development.
The development was a resounding success and I am hugely indebted to my team who managed to help me successfully deliver the development on time and on budget despite supply chain issues, material shortages, and inflated material prices not to mention two lockdowns due to COVID. All 9 units sold off-plan before completion with a GDV of £5.8M.
“For those of you wondering about the initial investor I mentioned above… He was right. I had got my sums wrong. I had been overcautious and we made just shy of DOUBLE the expected profits on the development.
I had a huge amount of fun working on this development and found it extremely rewarding. It’s great to love what you do and work with people you enjoy being around.
“I am incredibly grateful to all those people that have supported me on my journey and encourage all whether starting out or already established to keep learning, keep improving your skill set and keep yourselves supported and motivated I can certainly recommend Touchstone Education.”
We are currently looking for like-minded investors to support us on future developments. If you are interested in working together, would like to be involved and join us on our journey then please do drop us a line:
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