Event Thoughts: Entrepreneurs in Real Estate The Bridge between Finance, Bricks & Mortar


Before I start sharing my thoughts regarding an event I attended last week, I will give you some background to why I attended this event. I completed the MSc in Real Estate at Cass Business School in 2014-15 hence I have some videos on real estate on my blog. As such, I was invited to an interactive panel discussion on being an entrepreneur in real estate and how that links to finance and property.

More than discussing the links between finance and real estate, I found the personal stories of the speakers very moving and found myself making sense of where I am in my career through their stories. There were four speakers and below I will summarise what they brought to the event. As the talk was last week, only the most memorable points mentioned below to keep it brief.

The first speaker was James Gerrard from the Restoration London Group, a company that seeks to provide ‘affordable’ private housing for Londoners. To clarify, ‘affordable’ not in the strict sense of affordable housing, but rather flats between £200,000-£700,000, targeting city professionals particularly those in couples. Unable to secure a fancy internship in his second year of undergraduate at LSE, Gerrard ended up working for a small company. His role specifically involved brokering finance for developments the company wanted. He enjoyed his role and decided to get a gap year to work with the company before finishing the final year of his undergraduate. What struck a chord with me was the way in which he found real estate as an industry. His family were persistent he finish and get a solid education, the way in which my parents encouraged me to continue studying right up to a postgraduate level and that he found real estate through completing a work experience. My drive to become a surveyor largely comes from an internship I completed just after I finished my undergraduate and without it, I probably would have gone on to become a lawyer.

Metin Guverner, Chariman of the Triangle Group, spoke next. He brought a wealth of experience and anecdotes with him, from financing before computers were so widespread to working in Manhattan vs London. He told some very interesting stories and was the only one to discuss how his operations from expanded from the commercial world to include the philanthropic.

Patrick Nelson is the vice president of WeWork, a company that creates modern office and communal space and leases it to occupiers of varying sizes. I think I resonated with Nelson the most. He talked about how his 20s were spent “lifestyle chasing” in that he did projects he loved from working for a corporate real estate advisory company to being part of a tv production crew. This lead him to eventually become acquainted with WeWork where he is involved in management and his focus is his work. The reason I felt I could connect to Nelson’s story was because in a way I guess I am “lifestyle chasing”, I am doing a job I really enjoy and look forward to being involved in and using it to pursue things that are important to me in this point in time e.g. travelling and self-development. This is not to say, my focus isn’t my career but it is a subtly of finding something you love to do balanced with letting it meet your goals at the time. If my goals involved acquiring as much money as possible right now, I would need to find a niche in the legal or banking fields I really enjoyed and using that to work as hard as possible in order to obtain maximum financial success. I found this to be a very interesting thought and was inspired to hear all the different things Nelson has been involved in.

The last speaker was Daniel Pahl of Credit Peers, a company that provides peer to business lending for commercial developments and acquisitions. Pahl used to work in insurance law and discussed the excitement and ever-changing landscape real estate offered and the move to a different sector as well as country (he worked a lot in Germany). He brought with him great market knowledge; an understanding of how read the market given the turbulent political climate of the world right now.

As I said before, for me the personal journeys and reflections the speakers had, I found to be most inspiring and here are three key learning points I gained.

“Success is not segmented, it is encompassing”

I believe this something that Gerrard said when he was talking about his business partner and how being successful for him meant making money as well as having a quality relationship and building a family with his partner. This is a really important point, that to feel successful and/or happy you cannot just focus on one “segment” on life if you will. Your overall feelings towards your life and assessment of it will always be one that encompasses all different segments including health, relationships, money and even fun! I find the wheel of life exercise particularly useful in understanding this. This exercise makes you list the components of your life in a segmented circle and then draw a line to demonstrate how out of 10 happy/successful you are at each segment. The idea is so you see your life as a whole and understand how things you may view as quite separate contribute to your overall life.

“Determine what is driving your actions, is it passion to do something or lack of that something”

This was really interesting, the panel all contributed to this discussion. The secret to success is in understanding what is determining your decisions and using that knowledge to focus on your passion as that will never let you down. Decisions can be driven by two opposite drivers, it could be you have a passion and genuine interest to go. For example, I attended Fare Healthy 2017 exhibition last Saturday. The decision to attend was purely driven by my love for health foods and trends and also explains why I look like I have won the lottery in a lot of my photos from the fare! However, it could also be from fear or the absence of something in your life. For example, I have been to plenty “networking” and “professional” events which have been a waste of time, in that I gained nothing from them and did not enjoy them. There is a particular group of events I am referring, however, I used to force myself to go. The main problem is that these events were never my interest and they were driven out of a fear of missing out and the absence of making connections at such events. This is different to the healthy food fare example or even my genuine interest and curiosity in attending this Cass event. Understanding what makes you tick is something that comes from experience and is very important. This is because, you can use this to steer your career towards things you are passionate about and have obtain a more fulfilling career for yourself.

“Play to your authentic strengths”

This may sound cliche, but play to your strengths and don’t worry so much about your weaknesses. You are likely to do better where strengths and that type of work is will also make you feel good as you will be doing well. However, this is a subtlety here in the word “authentic”. Experience will show you what you authentic strengths, i.e. things that you excel in and shine in no matter what job you are doing. For example, in my limited experience (as I am only 24) from when I was working out in Cambodia to when I was doing my masters, I have excelled in communication. I know this because I receive a lot of positive comments on this and always find myself involved in communications work even when I am doing something different. Thus, I would call this my authentic strength. I am yet to figure out what my other ones are, and having knowledge of these, it is easy to build a career around those skills which are my authentic strengths.

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