The YPN Guide To Small-Scale Property Development – Part 2 of 6

Imposter syndrome is a familiar foe for new property developers. It’s easy to imagine you’re entering this new development world with ‘L’ plates attached. Who will sell you a property, work on your team, or lend you money? Surely everyone will see you’re a complete novice, and they’ll be sniggering behind your back (if not actually pointing and laughing).

Welcome to the self-fulfilling prophecy. Let’s face it; if you don’t think you’ll make a fist of it, why should anyone else? But here’s the thing. The only person who sees an imposter approaching is you. If you go about things the right way, you can present a highly credible front and come across as the consummate professional. But how do you achieve this?

Firstly, you need to get a large fish out of the fridge and slap yourself across the face with it. Or, if you prefer, have a quiet word with yourself. You see, it’s partly a question of your mindset. Thinking of yourself as a newbie developer will do you zero favours. However, as it happens, there are better ways of describing what you are. Let’s look at the facts. Will you be laying any bricks? Nope. Or designing the plans? No. Or doing the conveyancing? Not a chance. Being a developer doesn’t mean you do the work; your professionals will do all the heavy lifting. And how much experience does your architect, contractor, solicitor, etc. have? You’ll work with around two dozen different professional disciplines, and the people involved will have centuries of experience between them. So, when people look at you, we want them to see not a newbie developer but an entrepreneur pulling together a highly experienced team to take advantage of a fantastic business opportunity.

And is your business opportunity a good one? Well, you’re in a market that’s been around for hundreds of years, supplying a product that everyone needs, and which is in chronically short supply. So, tick, tick, and tick. In the last article, I mentioned that permitted development rights (PDRs) were key to de-risking your projects and gaining a significant advantage. So, you’re not just building any old project; you’re focusing on an area where there’s a massive opportunity. What’s not to like?

So, with the fish safely back in the fridge, what else is needed to look the part? Basically, you need to create a brand. I’m not talking Apple or Amazon, but your new property development business needs to be more than just your good self with clean shoes and a snappy outfit. On our main mentorship programme, we have a dedicated Branding Coach and a whole sub-programme dedicated to getting your credibility nailed – it’s THAT important. Your brand should have a name, logo, and colour palette; and the only absolute requirement is that it looks ‘professional’. You’re not trying to be quirky or different, nor do you want to spend a year creating something perfect – doing it quickly is critical.

However, unlike a flip or refurb, where you’ll invariably oversee the project yourself, a commercial conversion has a bigger budget, allowing you to employ a professional project manager. They’ll oversee the project on your behalf and ensure everyone pulls their weight, so you won’t have to. You play an executive role rather than a hands-on one, and your main jobs are to find potential projects, evaluate them, arrange finance, and build a team to do the work, which, let’s face it, isn’t too different from flipping or doing up a rental unit. It’s just a lot more profitable.

So, that’s a brief overview of what’s involved. But why do many think that 2023 will be a perfect time to get into this type of development? Firstly, there’s a lot of commercial properties out there that are ripe for redevelopment. No town or city is immune from an oversupply, from shops to offices to light industrial. On the other hand, we desperately require new homes, so you’ll be catering to a very needy market. But commercial property prices will likely dip in 2023 as more businesses fail and more owners struggle with spiralling overhead costs, making it a great time to buy.

The only person that cares what your development brand is called is you. Luckily the development world is very conservative, so there’s no requirement to be different.

Why is branding so important? Let’s look at the people you’ll need to impress. Professionals such as architects and contractors will get a fee from you. Estate agents will earn a commission, but only if you buy. And lenders will want their money back at some point. In short, people have a not-insignificant financial outcome riding on their relationship with your good self. So you need them to have the utmost confidence in you.

Your branding will adorn your business cards (rectangular, good quality, no headshot, zero gimmicks), but your biggest asset will be your website.

Everyone you encounter will check out your website because they want to be sure that the person they met has more to them than just smart shoes. The point to remember is that the people who visit your website will ONLY be people you’ve met. No one will be coming from Google. This is huge as it means you can tailor your website to your audience. You’ll have a Home page, an About page, and a Contact page. But your most important page will be the Team page. Here you’ll have a headshot and bio of yourself (the entrepreneur) followed by headshots and bios of some key members of your professional team, such as your architect, project manager, contractor, and so on. Again, we want people to see the entire organisation building your projects, not just the person at the top.

The critical point is to sort your branding at the outset. You want to avoid meeting professionals, agents, and lenders with a ‘website under construction’ or ‘business cards being printed’ message. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and you need to make it a good one.

Next month, I’ll explain how you can build a professional team that will look the part and has a great shot at delivering your first project on budget and on time.