My experience crosses a diverse range of roles, from retail management to fork lift truck driver, canvassing team leader to fine art dealer. I realised very early in my career that a ‘normal job’ was not for me and registered self-employed when he was 19, even though I had no idea what I was going to do at that point!
I have always been what is now fashionably called entrepreneurial (though I’d never even heard of the term then). Coming from a poor background, I was forced to look for ways to make money. Growing up in the country, as a teenager I used to fish and would take orders from people on the estate where I lived. I would also grow vegetables, collect wild fruit, nuts and logs to sell on a make-shift stall set up in the local playing fields. I even constructed skateboards and go-carts to order from other kids in the area at a cost of £2 a time (this was the late 1970s!).
After a brief stint working in a hardware shop, where I rose from ‘Saturday boy’ to assistant manager, and needing extra income, I started a part-time role as a canvasser, promoting newspaper subscriptions door-to-door in the evenings. In the summer it was great, but in the winter it was miserable, so I determined I would be the one in the warm car driving between teams to make sure they were on track, not doorstepping in the cold and wet. Within six months I was not only heading up the team and training new canvassers, but had totally rewritten the campaign, saving substantial marketing costs, increasing costumer conversion rates and significantly improving retention.
From the contacts I made in the newspaper world, I started a small delivery and distribution company. Over a period of four years ‘Door-2-Door Distribution and Delivery Services’ (as I grandly named it!) became responsible for the distribution of newspapers to shops and houses across Cheltenham, Gloucester and the surrounding towns. Holding contracts with the Mirror Group, Northcliffe and WHSmiths, ‘Door-2-Door’ employed four full time drivers and over 300 part-time newspaper distributors. This was ticking along nicely, until one day I had a call from the new ‘hot-shot’ manager of our main contractor informing me that they had decided to move all distribution in-house, so my services would no longer be required… from the end of that week!!! Overnight I lost my main contract and with it two-thirds of my income… at a time when I’d just bought my first house and was in the middle of a major renovation project! So, what to do?
Just prior to this I had developed a serious interest in art and had started collecting small drawings. I knew I would have to sell pieces to be able to ‘trade up’, and quickly realised there was a potential business in this, but to make it work I knew I had to niche, so spent the following 6 months intensively researching the market place, identifying the main players in my chosen field of Modern British Art; which artists they stocked, tracking sales, visiting auctions and establishing relationships. I knew I could not initially compete with the established dealers, so started by setting up a website (when the art world didn’t even really know the internet existed!) and concentrated on identifying lesser known, ‘neglected artists’ (a phrase I coined, which has subsequently been adopted by the art trade as a whole), and in 2001 ‘Mark Barrow Fine Art’ (formerly known as Modern British Artists) was born, effectively with a £300 drawing. This business grew over the subsequent years, and in 2004 I took the massive plunge (gulp!!) and moved to… LONDON.
We regularly showed at major art fairs, and opened a gallery in the West End in 2005, where, over the next 3 years, we held numerous successful exhibitions. Sensing the growing unrest in the financial markets (we had many City clients by now), and after much soul-searching, I chose to exercise the three-year break clause I had written into the lease and handed back the keys of the gallery literally just weeks before the great crash of Sept 2008. Without the heavy burden of West End overheads, I am free to now work exclusively as a private dealer, advising and sourcing major modern British paintings and sculptures for private collectors, corporate institutions and those looking to start a collection. You can see some of my most recent catalogues at www.modernbritishartists.co.uk.
It was during this period that my interest in property was reignited. Having already completed a couple of renovation projects I decided that if I wanted to do this properly it made sense to learn from the professionals! I enrolled on some property investment training… which was really good… but the actual practical support material that came with the courses I found really rudimentary and clunky. For me, that meant I lost the momentum created at the courses and instead of going straight out and investing in property, which is what I thought I’d be doing, I realised I was spending more and more time trying to manage all the information that was piling up around me.
I then discovered from speaking to others that this was a common frustration.
Many people get excited at property seminars but often leave with little or no support material to actually get started. Like me, they too wanted an easy solution that enabled them to get on with investing in property rather than wasting valuable time shuffling dozens of bits of paper.
So I thought, there has to be a better way… and that is how the idea of Property Investor Toolkit was born.
I basically took the whole due diligence process and turned it into a practical, intuitive, easy to use, software solution.
Property Investor Toolkit is a deal management software. An intuitive walk-through of the entire due diligence process, taking you literally step-by-step, from once you’ve initially found a property, through really crunching the numbers, to finally making an offer.
When I started designing Property Investor Toolkit I set some very specific criteria:
- it had to be affordable.
- it had to be intuitive. I didn’t want to plough through thick manuals or take costly
special training just to use it.
- it had to encapsulate the WHOLE due diligence process.
- it had to REALLY crunch the numbers (and I mean ALL the numbers).
- it had to be practical and simple to use.
The software is designed to make the process as easy and as simple as possible: to get you from property details on a page, to making an offer and acquiring property – quickly! In other words: from mouse to house in a few simple clicks! To find out more and register for a free trial, visit www.propertyinvestortoolkit.co.uk.
My partner Jonathan and I have so far completed 2 flats, 2 houses, 2 shops and we’re now embarking on our 7th, and biggest, renovation project so far, so we thought we’d share that story! We’d love to hear your story… and if you’re looking for any help, just ask!