Company: West Eleven
Your legacyBuilding high-quality developments and leaving a positive mark on the surrounding community and landscape, as well as providing a better way of approaching property.
How do you measure success?When challenges that seemed impossible at the beginning have been overcome and the outcome no one would have envisioned has been delivered.
What are your growth plans?After launching our international intentions at MIPIM this year, we are targeting the Middle Eastern, Asian, and more specifically, Chinese markets. While I believe in selling units as “buy to live” as communities are what make a house a home. It’s important to remember that there are overseas buyers who do live in London. However, we are also welcoming investors because – particularly due to the size of The View, which is a much larger development – the stamp duty as it currently stands makes it unfeasible to have 100% ‘buy to live’ occupancy. Equally, high-quality renters are just as important and contribute just as much to the community of a development as owners. We are also looking at developments we can hold and that will generate cash in the long term.
How did you fund your business?I started with £35,000, which I used to fund early developments. After a scare and then some early success, I was able to add to it with help from family and friends, who – I’m happy to say – are still friends. We now have a pool of about 40 investors.
Your biggest technology boostNew and innovative technologies are being introduced that are set to forever change the working arrangement between estate agents and developers. With the arrival of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), it is now possible to offer potential buyers the opportunity to view their home from completely unique angles. With the creation of our app for current development, The View, potential buyers can explore apartments in our latest development from the comfort of their sofa. In addition to showcasing the interior design and high specification finishes of every apartment with realistic CGI imagery, the app allows users to open a 360-degree virtual model of the development right in front of them.
In five yearsThe industry will have changed dramatically in five years. The property industry as a whole is a slow-moving beast, but there is a definite concern that the market as it stands has become impenetrable, especially for the young. West Eleven will have expanded. This momentum has already started with the recent appointment of a new project manager, Annika Prince. There’s no doubt that Brexit and our current Government – and its policies – will have changed things for the property industry. West Eleven will continue to push boundaries and look for solutions when faced with ‘impossible’ challenges.
Your highest pointStarting West Eleven in the first place – making that decision and taking the leap, getting up, getting going and pushing through. This helped shape my business mantra that I continue to stand by today: “When you’re told it can’t be done, ask ‘why?’, and then make it work”. There’s always value in a challenge.
Your lowest pointNot starting earlier! I made my first property deal during my second year at the University of Bristol and while I continued developing personally, I didn’t start developing professionally until 2010, when West Eleven was born.
What would you tell your younger self?
Stick to the courage of your convictions and don’t hold back. There are no safety nets, just your own self-belief.
Your policy wish listFirst, less taxation. The stamp duty, in particular, was raised as part of a populist agenda. While it may have increased tax, it has seized a whole industry and put more pressure on the housing crisis, rather than relieving it. Second, the streamlining of regulation and destruction of superfluous and burdensome red tape. This would offer small and mid-sized developers the opportunity to compete on a more equal footing with the larger companies, as well as encourage more imaginative and creative house building.
Your biggest piece of advice to other entrepreneursIf you have an idea, start as early as you can. Don’t wait for the timing to be perfect – jump in with both feet! You can never be 100% certain, and there are no guarantees. But once you’ve done your homework, go for it!
Guilty pleasureI have many that can be classified as both hobbies and side-projects, but the big ones include: building a gin distillery, creating a music and food festival, and creating a new concept in hospitality.
The one app you use the most?My own! The inspiration behind the AR app came from the idea of creating an emotional connection with potential buyers. Buyers can envision their life in their new home in the same way they would in a marketing suite. When it’s possible to craft a realistic digital experience that is more convenient for the buyer, who needs a showroom? Creating an AR app like this could ultimately be the death of the marketing suite as we know it. Let’s see what happens.
A day in your life
I wake up early to work out with my personal trainer, and on off-days I walk the dogs. Next, I’ll do the normal school run and then head into the office for meetings.I think it’s important to try and keep a work-life balance, so I like to split my evenings between clients, investors meetings, and my wonderfully supportive wife and family. Monday evenings, in particular, are sacred and always closely protected for family time.
On your reading list right nowI tend to dip in and out of reading, but my personal Bible is Tools of Titans. I love to gain insight into people who have made a difference in their own way. Equally, I always like to have a good spy or action thriller stashed in the iBook app on my phone. It’s great way to cleanse the brain.
On your watch list right nowI don’t watch much TV these days, but I do get sucked into the odd bit of Sunday night drama. “Poldark” ora “Billions”. That, or live sport.
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