Hi Mark and Rob, thank you so much for taking part, please tell us about the co-founders behind Progressive Property.
M- I guess property is in me, I like buying properties, I love investments and doing property deals. We started Progressive just over 10 years ago and prior to that I’d made quite a few individual investments in residential property. I made quite a few mistakes along the way in the early days and just settled on a principal of buying small ex local authority properties which I’d refurbish and then rent out. I’d then start doing it for clients and train others how to do it. I now get to do scaled up versions of that, so I’ve taking a commercial build to convert and I’m currently doing a new build project. I like to keep stuff for the long term, utilising low internet rates which in turn sees a high yield and ultimately make money from the property market in between. I really believe in the residential growth story in the UK and I want to maximise on that. I’ve been doing investments since I was a teenager after my dad drummed into me the importance of it all.
R- I’m Rob and I started Progressive with Mark in 2007. We met each other in 2005 when I worked for a property investment company for 9 months, Mark was also working there at the time. Prior to that I did architecture at University but didn’t do anything with it and then set up as an artist. I got myself into debt and then became a pub landlord which didn’t really work out either but property saved me. I was 26/27 years old when I first ventured into property. Alongside Progressive I also run a successful podcast called ‘The Disruptive Entrepreneur,’ I’ve written several best-selling property books, and host an online community. Business is what I do and love. I work on the strategy, vision, ideas and the bigger picture of Progressive whereas Mark is more operations, tactics, analysis, research, cost and savings.
You have both created a company that educates people on how to invest into the property industry. Why did you both decide this was the right venture to take on?
M- It was a few months before Rob and I got to work together on Progressive and we were together at the Property investment company. I got to see how well we interacted with each other and the extra work Rob put in and the books he researched and read on property and marketing. That really impressed me and I could see what Rob had learnt in just a few months and imagined what he could be like in a few years. For me that was a seminal moment and I decided it was right.
R- I think for me property really saved me from myself. I was a struggling artist and had got into debt and then I got into property. I didn’t intend at the time to quit everything tomorrow and I certainly wouldn’t advise that. The plan was to do my existing job during the day, paint at night and property in-between. But property started working for me so I never painted again. Mark helped me get a job with the property investment company he was working at an in turn and taught me some of the mistakes . Then in August when Mark and I recognised some of the mistakes our boss was making, I thought we’ve both got to leave, and that encouraged us to start on our own.
Do you remember your initial reaction when you realised; yes, this concept is working?
M & R- I think we bought around 20 properties in the first year when we were still working at the investment property company. Rob jumped on stage at one of the property network events and told the audience how many properties we’d bought together and the method we were using which was working. The look on our boss’s face was of annoyance and the realisation that our system was working better. We weren’t under any exclusivities with our boss, we had approached him with our method and he wasn’t particularly interested. We really didn’t expect to buy so many properties by the end of 2006 and in such little time. We were burning through relatives’ money like no tomorrow. Mark protected me from the overseas off-plan new builds and it was producing a decent cash flow, rather than costing money.
How do you set yourself apart from your competitors?
M- I think we’re very innovative in terms of new strategies. As one door closes and tax companies come along or then lending becomes more difficult, we’re very innovative in terms of bringing new strategies to the fore. So, the last few years we’ve done a commercial conversion, a new development and serviced accommodation has become a big thing. A lot of it is truth and the reality of what works. I’ve always been very passionate about finding an investment system that works and provides the highest return over a long period of time. It excites me that all of these strategies are done by ourselves and tested by our trainers.
R- We do and we teach. We test on ourselves before introducing the courses to our clients. I think our values differentiate from the competitors. Ours are personal and we’re innovative which is hard in the property world. We have new ways of doing things and we’ve evolved over the last decade, and I guess we’re incredibly accessible. Progressive is a very personal community.
Most entrepreneurs starting out have a lot of challenges ahead of them, especially funding. What are your thoughts on bootstrapping?
M- The way I’ve always started a business is small and organically on a shoestring budget and grow it and build it from there. Then you can build on what’s working and generating revenue rather than synthetic financing which suddenly builds something up very quickly but isn’t necessarily focussing the capital on a proven direction. I guess its ok if you’ve had a lot of experience in the business already, but as a newcomer it’s definitely better to grow organically.
R- We started in business with no debt and the great thing is with that it doesn’t stretch your overheads, unless you’re a tech business and you need several million to create the product. But any business you can start where you don’t need to do that. Being on a shoestring budget takes more time but it teaches you how to grow and manage your finances.
How do you both relax when you’re not running Progressive Property?
M- At weekends I like to go walking, flying which I find really relaxing but can be a little stressful when you’re in the air. I like finding little towns and walking around them and discovering pubs and café’s. Running and exercise is awesome too and helps me relax.
R- Relaxing is quite hard for me because I love business so much and what I do. I do take time in the day where I don’t put pressure on myself. For example, I took myself off today on a 37km bike ride. Equally I love doing my podcast- ‘The Distruptive Entepreneur’ which I also find relaxing and I’m passionate about. I love playing golf with my son who is in the top 3 of 6-year-old golfers in the World. I love being with my family, watching podcasts and reading autobiographies.
How could a 23 year old get into property investment?
M- For me it starts with how to buy cheaply, how to refurbish the property, how to get it mortgaged and then get it let out. Learn the basic facets of buying at the right price and dealing with a mortgage. Starting at 23 is a great age. Buy one property at a time and by the time you’re in your 30’s you would have a decent portfolio.
R- A friend’s dad had a strategy which I think is a great idea. He became the guarantor on a property for his son by covering the mortgage. But then said to his son you need to rent out the rooms on the property and what profit you make is yours. This for me is a great way of getting into property. You learn on the job, dealing with tenants and dealing with friends. A joint venture.
What are your top 3 tips on using content to grow a small business?
M & R- Content marketing is known as giving good value so people can use this information tangibly to improve their life, to build a brand and then you have follow on products and services. The podcasts & posts is our way of direct marketing, creating new and unique content.
How would you define an entrepreneur?
M- an Entrepreneur is someone who creates a business and becomes responsible for their own income. I think an Entrepreneur is someone who is always looking for an opportunity. It’s someone who make money from something and to turn something that adds value to other people so they’re willing to pay money for it and in turn make a profit. An Entrepreneur is an opportunist, someone who doesn’t sit still and puts themselves under pressure. Our economy needs to produce Entrepreneurs to provide jobs and maintain a thriving business community.
R- I’d add that there are problems you encounter. Yes, as Entrepreneurs we’re looking for an opportunity but we balance making money for ourselves whilst giving a great service. I think that’s the sweet spot of being an Entrepreneur. If you just focus on you it’s a bit greedy, if you’re focussing on others it’s a hobby and you’re helping people but you’re not paying your mortgage or your overheads so it’s balancing and solving a meaningful problem
If you could have anyone record the voice message on your mobile, who would it be and why?
M- Well it would be me, because I want people to hear my voice and leave a relevant message and so I can get back to them. I’m not sure why it would be anyone but me.
R- I’ve never thought about that in my whole life. Actually, I’d like Arnold Schwarzenegger to record my message and I’d like him to say things about me in his accent and of course the quotes about ‘the chopper’ and ‘we are back’ at the end.
What plans do you have for Progressive Property over the coming 12 months?
M- Organically, do what we’ve been doing for the past 10 years. Keep adding money onto the top line, keep bringing money onto the bottom line. Employ more staff and develop more buildings.
R- We’ve seen growth and keep doing new things. That’s the Entrepreneur blessing and curse. We’re good at creating but we’re also good at doing too many new things and trying to be in too many new places at once and becoming overwhelmed. So, look at what you did in the previous year and do 20% more or 20% better this year. That’s the lesson I’ve learnt in business over the years, and something I wasn’t good at but Mark was. So, it’s mostly the same again, continue to build a community, continue to buy property and continue to offer good products and services and improve on those products and services and of course launch a couple of new ones too but that’s a secret for me to know and you to wait and see.