05 Mar Business Brains: Nicole Bremner of East Eight
Business Masterminds: An Interview with Nicole Bremner
This is the first in my series of interviews with business owners that I admire for their ability to just get on with it, Curious about their motivations and their ability to keep motivated, I asked them to reveal the thinking behind the scenes. My first interviewee is Nicole Bremner of property businesses LCD and East Eight.
I’m the co-founder of a boutique, London based property development company London Central Developments (LCD). I’m also the founder of East Eight a property investment fund which manages our own funds and raises investor funds to finance LCD’s developments. We raise funds from high net worth investors as well as via crowdfunding.
I’m especially excited about the crowdfunding as it allows those with as little as £500 invest in property developments generally only available to larger investors.
How many people do you have working with you?
LCD has about 60 tradespeople working across our 12-15 sites we have in development as well as another 12 people in the office and as site and project managers. East Eight has 2 full time employees and 2 part time, and me.
How do you set your business goals – e.g. every 90 days etc
I don’t have a set review period. I tend to think about it during the quiet months of each year, summer and over the Christmas period. It’s during these quieter times when the phone isn’t ringing and emails piling up that I can really focus on where we’re going and tweak the strategy.
How far ahead do you plan?
The property industry is a long term industry with our investments generally taking from 12-24 months. So this means we do need to plan out cash requirements for a couple of years at a time.
How do you measure your achievements?
It’s very easy to measure the success of our business – it’s how much money we’ve made on completed property developments. If we continue to make compelling returns our investors will continue to invest with us. Our capital then grows and we can increase the number of developments we take on.
What would you say is the main driver behind what you do?
I thoroughly enjoy what I do. It’s financial so leveraging my City background. It’s also highly creative and allows me to build beautiful homes that people aspire to live in. I can’t deny that I also enjoy the money. Property development can be highly lucrative and I enjoy being financially independent and feeling like I’m contributing significantly to my family’s income.
What tasks do you hate and how do you make sure you get them done?
Raising bank debt is the one thing I despise about my job. It’s an onerous process involving many outside consultants. It takes time and is expensive. There are often surprises too where sometimes our projects are down-valued meaning we need to invest more of our capital into the project. Eventually I’d like to outsource this process to a new employee but at the moment I just have to work through it. Ultimately I’m accountable.
What’s your best tips for hiring the right staff?
Thankfully I’ve always been lucky hiring people. My East Eight team mostly came via word of mouth and introductions. After meeting them I knew that I wanted to spend time with them. Unusually in property we have a full female team. It makes us different and also makes women want to work with us as investors; incredible given that 90% of our followers on social media are male. We have a lot of fun and laughs.
What are your best tips for motivating staff?
Make your team feel like they really are that, part of a team. I like to incentivise them financially as well and have parts of the business they feel like they own and benefit directly from its success.
What’s the best business decision you’ve ever made?
Listening to my partner and purchasing my first development project in Hackney in 2012. It was just when Hackney prices were going crazy so I was able to ride this wave and benefit significantly from it. The other was to team up with my business partner and form LCD together. It’s been a profitable partnership and one I have learned so much from.
What’s your biggest challenge?
Cashflow is the hardest part of my business. I haven’t got any regular cashflow in my business. It’s all about selling developments and holding back capital for running costs. This is difficult to project and be disciplined about. When you sell a property you have cash but soon you reinvest those funds and the bank account becomes low. Going forward I need to find some investments that have cashflow to smooth out these ups and downs in my bank balance.
What’s been your biggest step outside your comfort zone and how did that work out for you?
I was petrified of public speaking. But in October 2015 I was asked to speak in front of a room of 60 women in property. I was so frightened I couldn’t sleep. But just before I arrived at the venue I did some visualisation exercises. Something just clicked inside of me and I realised that the worst thing I could do was get up in front of these women and be nervous – I’d make them feel embarrassed and sorry for me. I decided to get up there and own the stage. Appear confident and just tell my story. No one could pull me up on errors if it was just my story.
I did well that night and became hooked on speaking. Throughout 2016 I spoke at least once a month at various events. It helped raise my profile and I met so many people in property who wanted to work with and invest with me.
Finally, what piece of advice has been the most helpful?
Don’t overthink things, don’t get too hung up on yourself. Just get out there and do it! Learn while you’re doing. The stars aren’t going to align perfectly so just start and you’ll move in the right direction.
You can find more about Nicole Bremner and her work here