67 posts categorized "Weblogs"

March 02, 2010

Why your web pressence is like a tamagotchi ... #likeminds

... if you do not feed it, it will die.

Regards N 


February 25, 2010

Legal Graffiti.

So I'm at it again.

This time I'm at 33k feet just over Hudson Bay on my way to San Francisco. It's taken me 4.5 hours to get this far and 4.5 hours to fire up the MacBook Pro to write something. Truth is, Virgin have some good movies on at the moment!

Writing came second.

Click here to enlarge

It always has, that's because I'm not very good at it. Or at least I thought I wasn't, maybe I'm not, but now I enjoy it. The truth is saying your bad at writing is a cop out - we all have a good story to tell, a lesson to teach or a thought to share, let alone a shoulder to offer - and sharing should be an enjoyment.

Writing has never been my strong point, it's not that I didn't want to it's just that English, in the written word, does not come naturally to me. At school I devoured English literature, being forced to read the classics such as Chaucer, Milton and of course Shakespeare was not a chore. Writing about them was.

Most of the time I was chastised for "getting it wrong" (public school can sometimes be a poor teacher). Therefore, I carried the "scar" of writing chastity into adulthood - and I'm not sure I'm alone there.

In this world of online, being able to write is very important, if you don't then no-one will know you or your thoughts. No one will be able to benefit from your expertise. No one will benefit from you.

And we need to. We need you to lead us.

Being chastised by the thoughts of "I have bad English" or "I don't know what to write about'' is silly - really. Spell check and grammar check will take care of the former (even if it is Microsoft English), but it's the latter that I want to talk about.

Don't get me wrong story telling is not easy, but then again anything creative is not easy. There are many ways of writing styles and many different ways of getting your message, question, or information across. However, I always favoured getting my message across using something around me that most of us will know and see/undersatand and "weave" it into a story.

Take for example "The Whitby Goth Festival". Last year Vanessa and I spent the day in Whitby (North Yorkshire) and managed to "blunder" our way into The Goth festival (well it was Halloween). What a brilliant day, Victoriana in it's finest.

My point is this. The Whitby Goth Festival has been running for 18 years now and is one of the finest examples of a "social network" you could ever find. So all I did was take the "whim and Fancy" of the festival and turn it into a story about the importance of a social network. More importantly why we all need them and use them all the time every time.

We all herd, we all like to be part of a group, whether that be "Goth", "LinkedIn", Ecademy" or a social forum - it could even be the local pub, but we all do it. The Goth festival, to me, was an opportunity to express that need to exist in a social group.

Here's another example: I wanted to express my views on how to use, and not, the social web. So I chose Peter Andre and Katie Price (Jordan). Quite easy really she was me, me, me and he was share, share, share, it was obvious by their twitter pages.

So by taking a contemporary story I managed to "weave" another message about my views on the social web.

But don't get me wrong, I don't know if what I'm doing is right, I just know it helps me get over the barrier of "I don't know what to write" or in what manner.

I think all of us know what we want to write, I think some of the problems lay in not knowing how to express ourselves.

OK so try this one on then.

My background is in Art. I trained in it for 5 years, being qualified in fashion design at the end (OK so I didn't want to be a fashion designer, it was the design aspect that got me - ironically enough I ended up designing racing cars for quite a few years and the discipline/s between the two are very close) I digress.

Part of my training was in "life drawing" and, for this discipline, "still life drawing". I had a fantastic teacher, Philip Graves-Morris, and one of his methods was to take something like a red cabbage, wrap it in newspaper and "throw it against a wall". Paint that, as it lay, as it tumbled.

In other words what we we're painting was not contrived, it was unexpected and you had no pre conceived idea how to do it or what the outcome might be.

For me, in writing, this training has been invaluable. No, I don't throw cabbages around, but metaphorically I do. Both the Goth festival and the twitter story were "red cabbages".

I could have chosen to write about "social groups" or "the social web" in a formal manner. But formal has no "purple cow" as Seth Godin would say.

The correct structure of the written word still eludes me, I have no skill in that department (praise be to speel chock:)). What I do know is, whilst dealing with the social web what and how we write dictate who we are. Some people get anxious, some people panic - you don't need to, not all of us we're born Oscar Wilde. Some people have to write in a formal manner (dissertation) and that's OK, but for those of you out there who do get anxious, try a different way.

I can write but I'll never be Hemingway, I can paint but I'll never be Warhol - but I will never stop trying, I will never stop testing - and you shouldn't either. For those of you who feel chastised when blogging, and in the immortal words of Monty Python, "stop that it's silly".

Writing is like painting, we can all use a pen or a keyboard or even a brush, but good writing takes practise, no different to painting.

Try taking your idea wrapping it up, throwing it against a wall and write about it as it lay. Guess what, some of what you do will end up being a "dogs dinner", but hey you should have seen my paintings! Who cares every now and again something great will come out, and that something great will gain you experience.

I know some of what I say goes against the "plan, plan, plan" method of writing and I'm sure there are better skilled people out there that can advise on writing way better than me and you should listen to them. Structure and planning is good, it works - but sometimes that little maverick streak that we all have should shine.

After all we all have something we believe in and I want to read it.

Regards N



December 06, 2009

How to avoid the voids! Useful tips to avoid Landlords' worst nightmare ... !

I thought Landlords and property investors might be interested to know that we are working with Upad.co.uk on a social media campaign called Avoid the Voids.  Upad would like to been seen to be leading the way in supporting Landlords in getting their properties rented fast via maximum exposure with minimum hassle and expense!

Generally speaking, the "void" period is a Landlord's worst nightmare, so it makes sense to find ways to avoid it at all costs, especially in the challenging and highly competitive market conditions we are all experiencing.

This aligns with the core message of Upad: to avoid voids by exposing your property for rent to the largest possible marketplace to maximise exposure.

Upad.co.uk is the largest online lettings agent, helping landlords let out residential property both quickly and easily.  Upad.co.uk allows you to list your property across more than 100 online lettings agencies, property websites and portals, connecting you with the perfect tenant for your UK property to let.

Upad also wants to offer the definitive guide of strategies to avoid the void and advice on how to make your property stand out from the crowd to ensure that you avoid the void at all costs.  We are currently working on this as an e-book and it will be free to all subscribers.

You can follow our information stream on Twitter @avoidthevoids for hints, tips, and Landlord intelligence to help you stay ahead of the competition.

You will notice that the Twitter avatar has "Let by Upad" on it, meaning that every tweet that Upad sends out will reinforce this message!

Here are my Top Ten tips to avoid the void:

1.  Handle repairs professionally and quickly - happy tenants stay!  (Thanks to @juicyproperty for this tip).

2.  Ensure your property is "staged" for marketing photographs and ensure that these photograph are of  a high quality. Tenants "buy" from the photos far more than the marketing spiel, so ensure that the house is immaculately clean, the lights are on, there are some thoughtful finishing touches.

3.  Ensure that the property is immaculately clean and maintained.  The heating should be on for viewings.  Use "plug in" air fresheners or spray Fabreze to get rid of any nasty niffs as smells are very off putting!

4.  Ensure "kerb appeal" from the outside, with a well kept garden and house name/no., with outside security light.  We passed a property today where the Landlord hadn't bothered to put a house number on the door, and the developer's sign for the Plot Number was the only identification.  There was also a large pile of old carpet in the front garden.  This does not give the appearance of a "home" that the owner cares about.  Tenants want to feel "safe and secure" in their new home, so ensure this is addressed by simple security measures.

5.  In areas of over-supply of rental stock, ensure your property stands out from the crowd. Give it a unique selling point. The days of identi-kit, "me too", magnolia boxes are over.  Add a few upgrades and finishing touches to ensure your property is elevated above its competitors.  Think about the target market for your property, and try to put yourself in their shoes.  Young professionals/students/families?  What little touches can you add to the property that will appeal to that target?  An example of this is a friend of ours who has a lot of student lets.  He fits all his houses with jacuzzi baths and students always pick his houses for obvious reasons!  Look to see where you can create "lifestyle" touches i.e. garden furniture for the garden, plasma screen TV, etc.

6.  Offer incentives to get prospective tenants to commit. This could be anything from a crate of beer in the fridge, to six months free broadband, to six months gym membership included. (The Gym offers membership for £14.99 per month and is 24 hours per day. New gyms being added all the time. Have a look at http://www.thegymgroup.com/ for details).

7.  Keep an open and friendly dialogue with your tenants yourself (or through an approved agent) to ensure the continued enjoyment of their stay at your property. Treat even small problems or niggles seriously so that they feel valued as a tenant.  If the tenant hands in their notice, find out the reason why, and see if there is anything you can do to persuade them to stay.

8.  It is our advice not to rock the boat with an increase in rent at the moment. Tenants are worried about the economic down-turn and fearful about losing their jobs, so an increase in the rent might be enough to tip them over the edge to hand in their notice.

9.  In the current market conditions, be price sensitive with your rents. Remember: it is better to have 80% of something, rather than 100% of nothing! Even one month's void will eat into your profit, so endeavour to let your property out as quickly as possible, even if that means taking a hit on the rent.  You can offer an "introductory" special offer rent to be reviewed after six months.

You need to consider the cost of holding out for the right price. As an example, suppose you're renting a property and asking £700 per month. Within a short time of advertising the property you get an offer for £650. You reject this offer because you believe your property is smarter than other rental properties available at £650. However, suppose it takes an extra 2 months to get the rent you want of £700.

Have you achieved a good bargain?  Your initial though may be "yes" because you've achieved £700. But infact over a 12 month period if you had let at £650 per month your income would be £7,800.  If you held out for an extra 2 months until you got a rent of £700, your income over the same period would only be £7,000.

Your aim both in selecting the right property and in determining the acceptable rent should be to get the property let as quickly as possible.  (Thanks to @marywaring for this one!).

10.  However, it's not good enough having a great property to rent if no-one knows that it's there, and there is no better way of making your property as visible as possible with the minimum of effort as by using the internet.

Websites such as Rightmove and FindaProperty get the widest coverage, so it is crucial to get listed on as many of these as possible, including free listing sites like Gumtree and ToRent.  This said, it can be time-consuming and costly getting your property onto all of them, so find a company that can do this for you. Upad, for example, for a one-off fee of £59.00, automatically lists any property uploaded onto its site onto over 100 portals sites, including the aforementioned sites.  This way, most of the work is taken out of your hands while the internet is still working hard to find your tenant.

What do you do to avoid the void?

What else do Landlord's fear most?

Share your tips and stories here and we will credit you/your business in the Upad guide!

October 12, 2009

Top 10 reasons to buy houses rather than flats ... every time ....


Picture:  one of our four bedroom houses in Basingstoke, Hants. 

From our experience of purchasing both houses and flats over the past five and a half years, we have come to the conclusion that we will not buy another flat outside of London again - London being its own unique micro-market where flats can work well.  We thought we would share with you our reasons for this:

1. Houses are freehold, flats are generally leasehold.

2. Cash flow is better off a house than a flat, as flats/apartments have service charges that bite into cash flow.

3. You can extend a house, put on a conservatory, do a loft conversion, convert a garage into an extra room etc. You can not do any of that with a flat! All these things ADD VALUE.

4. Houses have gardens/useable outside space and storage. Flats are restricted on both fronts.

5. There is an over-supply of flats, and less and less houses being built, meaning that houses will be at a premium in the future.

6. With more and more people working from home (a growing and long lasting trend), space is going to be an important consideration and houses can offer a home office in the garden or over a detached garage.

7. Flats are supported by the amateur investor market and first time buyers - meaning that they are very volatile with both rental and selling prices extremely fragile. Houses are supported by more sophisticated investors and family buyers, meaning that they have more stability in the market place.

8. Houses can be let in single occupancy or multi-let formats, giving you more flexibility and less chance of voids.

9. Houses open up your tenant market to families, house sharers, and therefore have wider appeal. Families do not tend to rent flats!  My experience is that there is a greater turnover of tenants in flats.  In houses, tenants tend to put down roots, and stay longer.

10. Mortgage products are more favourable for houses than flats on the LTV front, meaning lenders see houses as lower risk. That should tell you something!

If you would like to join a lively discussion on this subject, please visit our Property Tribes forum and join the discussion >>>>> here.

September 28, 2009

The journey so far - property and the web ...

Today we have had the honour of being featured in "The Community Challenge" blog/club on ecademy. Penny Power asked us to write about our business journey over the last 6 years and how we have come to embrace "social media" and the web, illustrating how we use it with our businesses.

We thought we would share it with you here.

So what are we all about, now there hangs a question!

Well there's two of us: Nick Tadd and Vanessa Warwick ... ahem, G'day.

We met late in life so I suppose it's only right that we have a paragraph each to explain the story before we met - bring you "up to speed" so to speak. You might note that we have a fairly musical back ground, Vanessa being a VJ on MTV and me being appreciator of melody, not only that but film buffs to boot. Therefore, we thought it would be quite appropriate to interject lyrics and quotes throughout this piece to give a flavour to who and what we are ... let alone the reason behind it.

So without further ado ... enter stage right Mr Nick Tadd.

In the immortal words of The House of Pain  "Pack it up, pack it in, let me begin ..."

Quick potted history: After school and becoming a qualified fashion designer and an Art history buff I immediately dropped out and picked up a surf board. This was in the latter end of the 80's/ early 90's and I'm sure you recall a recession at that time. This did not bother me as I was too busy enjoying my 20's and living the beach life and, to afford it, I started designing surfboards (graphic/logo's etc), then windsurf boards which evolved into jet ski racing teams ... cool.  Living on a beach and being creative….

"Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary." Dead Poets Society, 1989

I had no idea what a recession was, so I just carried on! With designing jet-ski racing teams came Motorsport, and between the early 90's and the early 2000's that's what I did, design racing cars ... not the engineering you understand but the graphic/s.

Ford motorsport (Rally cars), Janspeed (Nissan touring cars), Toms (Toyota touring cars, F3 and LeMans Gt1 cars) even a 2.5 litre Harley Davidson drag bike – jeez that was fast!

What fun, and it was not only did I have to make the cars look good but make them look good under different situations ... and that had to translate to all other aspects of the team’s branding as well as being complimentary to the sponsor’s branding (as in the holding company).

This is something that now, in this "web world" we live in has been, un-questionably, the most valuable skill, and that I will explain later. (Knowing how a Ducati takes a corner and where the cameras are on a particular corner dictates a lot to me as the designer in application, placement and timing.)

What a decade.

"Gentlemen start your engines ..." ... stall!

I got made redundant!  Suddenly I knew what it was to have the wind knocked out of your sails.

"I try to laugh about it, Cover it all up with lies, I try and laugh about it, Hiding the tears in my eyes, Because boys don't cry, Boys don't cry" The Cure 1979

Now as it happens, that's when I met Vanessa.

Penny says that "ecademy is a place where you can be social and business happens" and she's right, it does.  Nick says that "by being social, gracious and a hopeless dancer at weddings" you'll meet the love of your life! I did ... (I was sooo drunk, I won the disco dancing competition walking to the toilet!)

She must have taken pity on me ... over to Vanessa.

... enter stage left Ms Vanessa Warwick (Mrs Tadd)

Before I met Nick in 2002, I had been involved in the TV industry for many years.  From 1989 to 1998, I was a Presenter/VJ on MTV Networks Europe where I produced and hosted my own programme about rock music.  To this day, I believe that I hold the title of the longest-serving VJ in MTV history!  I was privileged to fly all over the world and interview many artists, including Bon Jovi, Iron Maiden, Aerosmith, Metallica, Kiss, AC/DC, Nirvana, Marilyn Manson, Whitesnake, and Motorhead to name but a few (plus The Dalai Lama of all people).   My life was like “Spinal Tap” on steroids, but I loved it!

"You see, most blokes will be playing at 10. You’re on 10, all the way up, all the way up...Where can you go from there? Nowhere. What we do, is if we need that extra push over the cliff...Eleven. One louder." Nigel (Spinal Tap) 1984

I think one of the funniest ones was at Monsters of Rock one year.  I was interviewing Paul Stanley of Kiss.  He was in full make-up and wearing a studded costume and massive platform heels so he towered above me.  I was wearing a lace dress.  Unfortunately, during the interview, my dress got badly caught up on his costume so that I was literally stuck to him!  He was late for the stage, so he started to walk to the stage, and I was completely attached to him and had to go too.  It was hugely embarrassing and it took me a few minutes to get my dress untangled from his studs.
When I left MTV in 1989, I reinvented myself and started my own production company in London, specialising in music programming.  One of my first clients was a little known Latino artist by the name of Ricky Martin.  I worked with Ricky on short films and documentaries to introduce him to the European market.  This included filming him live in concert in Spain, which was an incredible experience due to hysteria of the audience!  I also conceived, produced, and directed a Channel 4 documentary titled “Latino Loco” which showcased hot new Latin artists like Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, Shakira, and Christina Aguilera.
I later amalgamated my production company into North One TV, and became their Head of Music Programming.  I continued to work with major artists and had some great assignments all over the world, but the long hours were grinding me down and I felt that the time was right to change direction again.
That was when I met Nick and my life has never been the same since!

"We made our connection, A full on chemical reaction, Brought by dark divine intervention, Yeah, you are a shining light". Ash, "Shining Light" 2001

So there you have "the early days" if you like. Now onto the good stuff.

"Sheeeit, Negro! That's all you had to say!". Jules, Pulp Fiction 1994

Track back 7 years to 2002 and Nick comes out with the immortal words "we're going to kick the a**e out of the world ... but I don't know how ... yet”. But all was to unfold.

Nick:  At the time Vanessa suggested that I should become a cameraman, so I did and for the next 2.5 years I worked as a documentary/fly on the wall cameraman.  I worked with Pavarotti, Whitesnake, Evanesance, Dido, Babyshambles (that was a laugh) etc. I say 2.5 years because, at the same time, we discovered that we had a talent for buying property and renting it out, so things changed … and camera work just faded out.

We became "full time" landlords, which suited us no end.

For me it was great I could spend time on my passion for houses and I got to work with my wonderful new husband, Nick.  No more rush-hour commuting.  My daily commute was 10 seconds to our home office!

Nick: For me it paid me to spend time on my passion: The Web. (What a Geek eh?)

So we carried on buying houses.

We now have over 20 houses and multiple avenues that we let them, but don't let anyone tell you it's easy - it's not.  BUT it has given us invaluable skills with business.

Our first company, 4wallsandaceiling.com, was built to create a network of "like-minded" people who wish to secure their financial future through property investment.  It did not set out to make huge amounts of money teaching the virtues of property. Moreover, it was there to share the different ways of doing such - by default we had stumbled upon this thing they call "social media" - the act of sharing information, knowledge, and contacts using a media, which in this instance is the web.  Our aim was to provide free resources to investors and foster positive change within property.   Our website offers a huge amount of information to support investors on their property journey, and we also have our very own TV station (streaming) where we post educational video-blogs! 

Our company was designed to spear-head a changing movement within property investment and the way people interact and contribute value to others on-line. It exists to spread specific ideas and ethical and transparent investing practices. The more people we can spread these ideas to, the more success we all achieve.

We very much believe in reciprocity.

Our business model was/is highly unique.  Through leveraging our network, we were able to broker small-scale bulk deals with significant discounts direct from developers.  We benefitted from brokering a deal on several units, and our group benefitted from us finding the deals and bringing them in on it.  Our clients took great comfort that we were committing our own money to the property deals that they got involved with, through us. But we will not deal in “wholesale”.  We soon found that he who shares, wins.

Our intention with 4 Walls was not to build a list of subscribers to sell to – we are building a tribe of supporters, each of whom will further support the cause and bring further success to all of us through the momentum of the group.  

"None of us is as smart as all of us" ~ Kevin Kelly.

When it comes to perception within the property arena, 4Walls wishes to remain a ball bearing – small, hard and continually in the state of being polished. Our goal is to provide our clients with massive value at every interaction, and with a deep impression when they get hit with it. Conversely, we do not aim to be a beach ball – big, colourful and yet leaving very little impression when it hits. A beach ball is very fragile indeed and must avoid challenging environments, because it requires so much air to keep it afloat. A weighty ball bearing can withstand both challenging environments along with the pinpricks of adversity. So can a well-constructed, cash-flow rich portfolio which is what we have constructed for ourselves and our clients.

As we became more high-profile in property, we started speaking at events all over the U.K.  Between us we have spoken at over 1,000 seminars, events, and workshops, posted thousands of blogs, and contributed over 2000 posts to various property forums.  We believed early on that sharing information and building “contribution currency” on-line was the way to build a successful business and personal brand.  But just like property is not “get rich quick”, this is not a “get rich quick” approach to business and it took several years before we really began to reap the rewards of our efforts.  However, it felt really comfortable as we wanted to do something ethical and sustainable that we could be proud of …..

It hasn’t always been easy and we have had many challenging times but what we both have tattooed on our backs, our belief that – “True strength comes from within” – has ensured that our commitment never wavered and that we continued to take massive action on an almost daily basis.

Never has something meant so much and has been so true.

Remember we are landlords first and that is the way we make our living! What we needed to assist that was like-minded people who wanted to do the same – that’s where networking came in and we took that to another level when we met you lot!

Things have moved on a bit since then.

"I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." A Streetcar Named Desire 1951

Now is the time, the time where all the disciplines over the years that we can draw on come together.

The web demands talent in business and content, both literal and of a graphical nature.  This, in turn, enables your "find-ability" of which IOHO is one of the most dominant forces to control – Find-ability.

"Unforgettable, that's what you are.  Unforgettable though near or far.  Like a song of love that clings to me. How the thought of you does things to me. Never before has someone been more ..." Nat King Cole "Unforgettable" 1951

Nick: ... and this is where my passion for the web and graphics comes in.

For me (Nick) I am utterly fascinated by the web and its effect on society - it's changing us. But don't get confused with all the twitters and facebooks etc  -they’re only platforms and they'll all come and go, but the web is an organism that’s evolving at exponential speed. And it's this that fascinates me, not only it's evolution but how to "harness" it as a businessman.

Ecademy has been one of the pivotal points of find-ability in our world and the statement above, of which was and is endorsed, helped, encouraged, and mentored (of which we are deeply indebted) by Thomas and Penny.

"Know me, like me, follow me" has never been so true - I bet if we track forward some years that phrase or those words will still be resonating.

Through their tenacity and drive we have seen our way through this "thing" they call the web and "social media". None of us are in the mind that it is the only thing we do but, we are aware that it is something we have to pay attention to - and without their guidance it would have been a lot harder.

We thank you.

But not only them but you lot reading this -  "the ecademy faithful" (as much as the ecademy un-faithful) - without your input and guidance we could not write this with the passion that we hope it expresses.  Special mentions to dear friends who have become mentors and so much more: Marieme Jamme and Tom Evans to name but a few.

I doff my cap.

"Oh, knees up Mother Brown Knees up Mother Brown Knees up, knees up, never let the breeze up, Knees up Mother Brown"  Harris Weston and Bert Lee 1938

So now, at this part of the journey, we have our portfolio of property and our portfolio of ''find-ability" on the web. We have friends that we never thought we would have, as well as mentors. We have found a new line of business in the web and its latest evolution - and all of it has come from the journey stated above.

Earlier this year, we had enough ground-swell to launch our very own property forum, Property Tribes, which is fast becoming one of the most active and engaging property forums in the U.K.  We have just reached 500 members, got the forum sponsored, and introduced two levels of paid membership.  Not bad going for monetizing what is a free platform!

"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one". ~ Jane Howard

Just two weeks ago, we launched our new custom-built social media forum, Social Media Tribes, dedicated to social media innovation and excellence.
The two forums are where we share our knowledge and contacts, and are the focal points for our community.  We love the word “Tribe”, because it sums up perfectly how there is strength in numbers, and we can all add value to each other’s lives, just like a tribe does.  The tribal camp fires burns ever more brightly as it is stoked by new knowledge and experience.  Gather round and warm yourself!

"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us." Alexander Graham Bell

It has been a pleasure for us to be part of ecademy and long may it continue. The learning we have had surpasses all costs encountered both in time and finance. We both hope we have been as much help to you all as you have been to us.

Thank you.

While we have come a long way over the past 6 years, we have never considered ourselves “gurus”, “experts”, or, perish the thought, “property millionaires”.  We are just a husband and wife couple devoted to each other, and to building an ethical business.  We believe that you can “never learn less” and we make it our business to learn something new every day.  What has given us the most pleasure along the way is to share our knowledge with others and see them become successful, and share our success with our family and friends.  We’ve been able to provide them with holidays at our holiday homes in Dorset and Cyprus and it has given us great pleasure to share happy times with them there.  We do not have any children of our own, so our nephew, Rees (6) and our niece, Alicia, (8) (let alone the God Children), are the younger generation of our family tribe and an important part of our lives. Emotional wealth is far more rewarding than financial wealth.

It has been an interesting journey writing this to see how far we have come.  It has given some perspective on the last six years.

"Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." ~ Ferris Bueller 1986

... for us,  the glass has always been half full.

September 08, 2009

He who shares wins ....

My wife, Vanessa Warwick, wrote this blog for our new Social Media Tribes forum and I thought it worth sharing here.

Vanessa wrote:

For those of you still struggling to understand the benefits of social media engagement, I thought I would share with you a few stories of where sharing and networking led to unexpected results.

It seems to me that sharing inevitably creates a "win/win" situation for both parties!

Sharing # 1:

I have contributed over 1,000 posts to various property forums over the past few years, sharing my experience and knowledge, answering questions, and supporting new investors. A few weeks ago, I got a call from a man and the conversation went like this:

"Vanessa, I am so grateful to you. You have helped me more than you could ever know. I came across one of your posts on the Singing Pig forum about how to get money back from unscrupulous property clubs. I followed your advice to the letter, and today I received £30K back in deposits! I now want to spend that money with someone I trust, and I have read so much of your advice and experience on line, that I feel that person is you".

So, something that took me ten minutes to write three years ago has delivered me a client! Don't you just love the longeivity of the web and the law of increasing returns! Traditional marketing adheres to the law of diminishing returns.

Sharing # 2:

On our Twitter walk a few weeks ago, @surreylets met up with @jonniejensen. They have now collaborated together, and @jonniejensen has used @surreylets as a case study for an article about successful social media engagement. They have published this article in their respective networks, so now have enhanced visibility through those new networks. You can read the article here.

Sharing #3:

Speaking of Sally Asling of @surreylets, she very kindly wrote an unsolicited testimonial on our Property Tribes forum. In her testimonial, she described how we helped her generate £7K of business out of Twitter in four months. That testimonial has resulted in at least 10 people picking up the phone and asking us to help them with their social media and twitter strategies. Note that Sally attended one of our events for free and the information we shared at that event set her on the path to success. (Our next property/social media/business networking event is on 20th September in Guildford and you can find details and register here.

Sharing #4:

One of the contributors to our forum, property tax expert, Stephen Fay, got in touch with us to say that, by posting advice on our forum, he was getting a lot of referrals and business. His exact words were "Sharing and advising about tax information on property forums has generated me more business than any form of traditional marketing". I also advocated him to a lot of people in our network who need tax advice. He now wants to take social media to the next level, and has employed Nick on his one day on-site social media business consultancy. Stephen said "I am using my marketing budget to invest in understanding social media as this is where business is happening". We agree. The marketing dept. is now closed, and you should be investing in your "findability on the web" department!

Sharing #5

A few years ago, we were offered an amazing property deal to purchase four luxury apartments in North London at a massive discount as the developer had made a mistake with his cash flow and got into a lot of financial bother. We were only able to get the deal if we purchased all four apartments. However, that was too risky for our taste, so we asked the developer if he would still consider the deal if we bought in three other people. He said "yes". We then went to our close network of investors and invited them in on the deal. As a result, all four of us were able to acquire properties worth £450,000 for £350,000 (and remember, this was when the property market was healthy!). So everyone was a winner, us, our network, and the developer.

Sharing people and valuable information always leads to a win/win situation.

When people share, serendipity is ignited and great things happen - probably in ways you could never imagine.

What or who are you going to share today?

If you would like to join a new community of people sharing social media ideas and innovation, please join our new Social Media Tribes forum.

August 26, 2009

Tantrums, Threads, and Threats: The birth of a social networking site ....

Through Twitter, my wife Vanessa recently came across Ollie Cornes, the founder of one of the original property networking forums, Singing Pig.

Seeing as how Ollie is something of a trail blazer when it comes to forums, having started Singing Pig in 2002, she took the opportunity to ask him a few questions as I felt I could learn a great deal from his experiences. I thought I would share the interview with you here.

1. What gave you the idea to start SP forum seven years ago? What was your vision for it?

Ollie: Much of the driver in my life has been some non-life-threatening, manageable, but chronic, challenges with my health. These things make us question our values and priorities - they are a gift if we let them be. "Rich Dad Poor Dad" led me to learn about assets, cash-flow and building businesses - although I had previously run a dotcom/VC-funded business (it failed), that book crystalised many ideas for me. I needed to meet like-minded people to share ideas and learn, and out of some meet-ups in London, and chats online, connecting with people like Lisa Orme, I set up Singing Pig as a social venture - there was no intention in the early years to build a business out of it - I just wanted mutual-sharing. In 2002 I was scouring the web to find books or courses or articles on property investment and landlording, and there was almost nothing there.

2. Did you have a platform custom-designed or did you use a generic one?

Ollie: Technology - build-or-buy - the eternal question I've been searching for an answer to for longer than I can remember. My thinking continues to evolve, but at this point I believe that buying a software platform is likely to be better than building your own AS LONG AS the platform is extensible and open and you have ownership of the data (ability to get a copy). It's far quicker, and users benefit from a far wider range of features. Choosing a platform remains a difficult decision (it's hard to undo), hopefully it will get easier as more apps move to the cloud and interconnect. Singing Pig started on MSN Groups (to migrate away from here we had to screen-scrape the content off each page with custom software - ugly, but it worked), it then moved to a proprietary forum platform, and then moved again to another, much better platform, later on. The migrations were painful, for me at least, but I think they worked out in the end.

3. How did you generate groundswell in the early days of the forum?

Ollie: I remained active in the forums, I was interested in what others thought and were doing, I felt passionate about the community as it grew. Looking back I think there was a mutual sense that we all wanted to learn, and I listened to what people wanted from the forum and tried to deliver that. There was some luck in there too. For a while I had business cards with "Pig Daddy" on them, and it was a bit of a joke, but I did hold a kind of sense of paternalism, to encourage learning, to deter the idiots, to nurture the community.

4. How did you monetise the forum, or was that something that developed over time?

Ollie: I didn't press the monetisation very much, that was a side-benefit, and made sure costs were covered. If it was all about the money the ads would have been a lot more intrusive. It was about meeting people. We all know that landlords are often solitary workers - cabin-fever can set in, and lots of us (me included) relished the communication. Singing Pig was there at the right time really, Buy To Let was exploding, and there was a thirst for knowledge. To be honest if I wanted to build an income business, I wouldn't set up a content/community site, it's hard work for limited returns (as Rupert Murdoch is finding out on a larger scale). If the owner has a product/service they can promote on it, that's often a different matter...

5. What were the biggest challenges you faced with running the forum?

Ollie: The cowards who libelled people & companies behind the mask of anonymity, and the lawyers acting for their (often scumbag) clients. Mishcon de Reya had a dig once (you can probably guess who their client was) - they were so aggressive it was like being in a movie, but I had to admire their solid understanding of the law and technology (many lawyers who came at me were strangely clueless). Ironically I often felt like "piggie in the middle" - someone posts libellous comments in the forum, but the lawyers came after me - it was boring, and time-consuming.

6. Did being a forum owner help add credibility to your personal brand?

Ollie: Yes, I think it has, but as an (admittedly confident) introvert, that has limited appeal.

7. Why did you sell SP and was there anything in the timing of the sale?

Ollie: I sold it as I wanted to focus on other projects, I was working too hard, I was spread too thin. The timing worked for me, it took some pressure off, though I hope the new owner has benefited from it since - there were certainly days afterwards when I had mixed-feelings about the sale.

8. You rarely appear on SP now. Why is that?

Ollie: I decided back in 2007 that I wasn't prepared to continue working such long hours, and my community activities were a casualty - I focused on buying property, on building a business around that, improving the management of my properties. I continued to network, and still do, but much has been with smaller communities through people I know.

9. What are you doing now?

Ollie: I'm a property guy, but I have just as much passion for technology. It was natural that I fuse the two, and so for a number of years I've managed my portfolio using a scalable software platform that I evolved specifically for that purpose - I rather over-engineered it for one landlord, but it brought me great pleasure to build what didn't seem to exist on the market. I'd been asked on quite a number of occasions why I was not making it available to others to use, but I resisted - too busy, would other landlords find it useful, how to solve the technical hurdles to re-sell, etc. But I came around eventually and so this year I'm bringing it to market - opening myself up to the views of the landlord masses. It's designed specifically for landlords (not agents - so it isn't missing essential features to manage mortgage debt, valuations, equity, cash flow, buildings insurance, leasehold etc etc) and it is a cloud-based app, so secure, easy to access, a 30day free trial, no backups, no software to install, mobile access, free upgrades, and instead of a large up-front payment, it'll just be a small monthly fee. It's not commercially available yet, there is no web site yet, the service is in a small private trial. Like Singing Pig, there will be a community element, and landlords can vote on features they'd like added - democratic software, if you like. I'd love your feedback Vanessa & Nick - if you think it might be useful to you, let me know and I'll add you to the next trial phase.

10. Do you have an opinion on the future of SP and how it has become orientated towards deals and leads selling rather than discussion?

Ollie: There was some pressure before I sold it to expand this facility, or charge for it as a service, and I admit I resisted it, but I think since I let go of the business the market has changed a great deal. One of the challenges with any community/group is that ultimately the "owner" has limited control over how people use it, and BMV became the core focus for a great number of people - that "gold-rush" changed the nature of the community. To twist the old phrase "Cash-out is vanity, cash flow is sanity" smile

You can read the original interview and ensuing discussion on the Property Tribes forum here.

I really take my hat off to Ollie for creating such a vibrant community and selling it on. You can follow him @juicyproperty on Twitter.

Our next Guildford ecademy/property/social media networking event is on Sunday 20th September. You can join us here. At our events, we share a lot of inside information about how we monetise social media. This is a great way for you to expand your knowledge and contacts in a collaborative networking environment. Nick and I hope to see you there.

August 25, 2009

Are you a leader?

We are entering the era of the individual and the networked economy.  In order for you and your business to stand out from the crowd, you need to be a leader.

In a tribal society, the Elders are the most respected and committed members of the community, the leaders, the sharers of wisdom, and the people to turn to for support and advice.

Following the amazing news that Property Tribes has grown 180% in the last three months (Alexa stats), we’re introducing two new levels of membership to help grow the forum and provide enhanced benefits for our members.

“Tribal Elders” and “Tribal Elders PowWow” are our two new levels of paid membership for those of you who want to lead the property community and signal your commitment to property, networking, and raising the visibility of your businesses through on and off-line networking.

Tribal Elders Yearly Membership Programme:

For an annual subscription of £60, you will access the following benefits:

  • FREE entry to all our networking events for the duration of one year, plus bring a guest FREE. (Value £240).
  • An exclusive Tribal Elders gathering after our networking event for deeper networking and relationship building.
  • Enhanced visibility for you and your business on the forum and at our events.
  • 10% discount voucher off any of Nick's training events or consultancy services at socialmediagraffiti.com


Tribal Elders Yearly Membership Programme PLUS Pow Wow:

  • For an annual subscription of £400, you will access the following benefits:
  • FREE entry to all our networking events for the duration of one year, plus bring a guest FREE. (Value £240).
  • An exclusive Tribal Elders gathering after our networking event for deeper networking and relationship building.
  • Enhanced visibility for you and your business on the forum and at our events.
  • 10% discount voucher off any of Nick's training events or consultancy services at socialmediagraffiti.com
  • Discounted rates for sponsorship of Property Tribes.
  • A video "PowWow" interview (max. duration 10 minutes) filmed on HD with Vanessa to promote yourself or your business, which will be featured on Property Tribes. (See The Bookwright Interview). You will also have access to this video to use on your own website etc for your own promotion. (Value £450)
  • 1 hour business consultation with Vanessa and Nick. (Value £240)
  • Leveraging of our network, social media platforms, and contacts to increase visibility and awareness of your business in the online community.

BUY NOW £400

Sample Video screenshot of Vanessa interviewing Tome Evans @thebookwright These programmes represent excellent value for money to give you access to very affordable networking and other benefits that will enhance your visibility in our network. They are designed to help you grow your business and brand on-line in a supportive, open, and collaborative community which has been built over the past five years on trust and ethical practices.

By aligning yourself with other like-minded people, you can use the momentum of the group to move yourself and your business forwards.

Whilst the normal Property Tribes membership remains free, by joining one of our paid programmes, you are making a commitment to yourself to become a leader in the property community. The programmes are for serious and committed people only who see the benefit of joining the “inner circle” of our community and benefitting from enhanced visibility and credibility in our network.

August 20, 2009

Smoke signals ...

To celebrate the news that the Alexa statistics report that the Property Tribes forum has grown 180% in the last three months, we're introducing some exciting new initiatives and benefits for tribal members:

Special offer from Upad for tribal members:

We are delighted to report that the Property Tribes forum is now sponsored by the U.K.'s premier rental marketplace, http://www.upad.co.uk/. Upad are offering tribal members a special offer of buy one listing, get one listing free. (Go to the Property Tribes home page and click on the banner to take advantage of this). Your Upad listing will be distributed to over 100 portals for a one off cost of £59.00 until the property is let. The great news is that upad covers room lets as well as houses and flats, so do take advantage of this special offer. The upad site is a great resource for both Landlords and tenants, so do take a few moments to visit and see what it has to offer.

The sponsorship of the Property Tribes forum will allow us to invest in and improve the forum and develop it into an even better resource for members, so please do support upad if you have a house or flat to let out!

You can also follow upad on Twitter @jamesatupad

Tribal Gathering on the horizon!

Our next tribal gathering (networking event) has been scheduled for Sunday 20th of September in Guildford. Please make a note in your diaries now not to miss the fastest expanding property networking event in the South East!

Entry is £10.00 and you can register and pay here.

On Property Tribes, we have a discussion on how to create the ultimate networking event. Please have your say here as to what you think makes for the ultimate networking experience.

Property Tribes is now on Facebook!

We have now started our own group on Facebook to increase the tribe's visibility. You can join us here.

In the Spotlight

We are currently in the process of introducing some new initiatives to make Property Tribes the most valuable property resource on the web.

One of these includes "In the Spotlight", where we interview key/active members of the community so that you can get to know them better.

The purpose of this is to raise awareness of what tribal members do, so that you know who to go to if you need a particular product, service, or some advice. We hope that one of the benefits of membership of the tribe is increased business transactions between the members.

Our first Spotlight feature is dedicated to our good friend and mortgage broker, Wasim Ahmed. You can read all about his personal property journey and strategy here.

If you would like to be featured in the Property Tribes Spotlight, please do get in touch. However, please note that this feature is only for active contributors to the community, not passive viewers.

It's one of the ways we are going to "give something back" to the members who contribute the most to the forum.

Coming soon in the Spotlight: Roberta Ward, Brian Heath, John Corey, Sally Asling .....

VideoBlog: Why we started Property Tribes

If you would like to know more about why we started the Property Tribes forum, and the benefits of membership, please view our latest video blog.

Property Tribes Twitter League

If you want to find all the most influential people in U.K. property, look no further than the Property Tribes Twitter League! John Corey is out there in the No. 1 position with over 11,000 followers!

Coming soon: "Tribal Elders" programme

We are shortly going to be introducing a subscription programme for those of you who want to lead the property community and signal your commitment to property and networking by becoming a Tribal Elder.

For an annual subscription of £60, you will access the following benefits:

* FREE entry to all our networking events for the duration of one year, plus bring a guest FREE. (Value £240).
* An exclusive Tribal Elders gathering after our networking event for deeper networking and relationship building.
* Enhanced visibility for you and your business on the forum and at our events.
* 20% discount voucher off any of Nick's training events.
* A free copy of our new e-book "Social Media : Why you have to be there".

If you have any suggestions as to what other benefits you would like to see, please let us know.



August 12, 2009

Why we started Property Tribes ...

Click here - to learn more.



My Other Accounts

Delicious Facebook Flickr FriendFeed Last.fm LinkedIn Ning Other... Pownce Skype TwitPic Twitter Typepad Wordpress YouTube

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter

    Twitter counter