10 books that helped me

Felling a bit ‘listy’ lately, so here is one of 10 books that really helped shape my life and startup philosophy in the past few years. Of course this list is non-exhaustive and in no particular order.

  1. The alchemist
  2. Purple cow
  3. The intelligent investor
  4. A random walk down Wall st.
  5. 22 laws of marketing
  6. A whole new mind
  7. The clue train manifesto
  8. The cashflow quadrant
  9. The long tail
  10. Outliers

What books have shaped you?

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Property Investing 101

A startup blog regular – Josh Moore has been asking for as post on Property Investing. Which like anything can be treated like a startup. It’s a big topic with a million books on it. But I have had a side interest in it for some time. So here are some tips on stuff that I think is worth knowing when investing in property. A bit of a 101 guide:

  • Property returns on average about 10%. Which is quite similar to the share market on.
  • Banks will lend much more money for property investments due to lower volatility than shares.
  • You should buy investment properties that you, yourself would like to live in.
  • Land goes up in value. Concrete and air does not increase in value.
  • Period buildings (unique styles, historical) have higher capital growth than the average property.
  • Rental returns are usually below 5% per annum.
  • Property investment can be a quicker path to wealth than shares due to leverage (borrowing money).
  • Getting someone to manage a property costs about 7% of the rent per week. (so you wont have to fix toilets)
  • You should always allow for 6 weeks a year vacancy on rental properties.
  • High capital growth properties & areas, tend to have lower rental yields.
  • High yield properties tend to have low capital growth.
  • Areas going through gentrification usually have greater capital growth.
  • A rental guarantee is a lie – the rent for the guarantee period is usually built into the selling price.
  • Auctions are invented by real estate agents who want it to sell quick to get their money.
  • Homes on busy roads have a higher turnover of renters and reduced yield.
  • Homes near water (river, beach, lake) grow faster and fetch a premium.
  • Tax benefits of property investment in Australia are a significant advantage.
  • You can draw out profits (capital gain)  from a property that has grown in value and not pay tax on it
  • You can buy insurance against tenants in case they damage your house (Landlord Insurance).
  • Investors should choose between yield or capital growth when investing.
  • Capital gains tax on selling is 50% lower if you’ve held the property for over 12 months.
  • Property investing is very dependent on government policy, technological change, and infrastructure.
  • The key to investing is compound growth. Trading removes the power of compounding.
  • Trading properties & developing, is not investing, they are more like running businesses.
  • Trading properties is expensive – acquisition usually costs between 6-9% of market value.
  • Disposing of property usually costs around 3-5% of market value.
  • The property market can go through long periods of sustained stagnation, 10% returns is 100 year+ average.
  • Buying properties off the plan is risky. The saving in stamp duty can be a false friend.
  • Mortgage insurance is for the bank, not the mortgage holder.
  • The word mortgage is French, meaning; An engagement until death.
  • I believe that property is a get rich slow category
  • The biggest land holder on earth is ‘The Catholic Church’

Hope this helps getting you off and running in your property ventures. Good authors on the subject include; Jane Somers and Dolf De Roos.

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The truth about goal setting

I’ve been setting visual and written goals for a few years now. However last year was one of the more limited goal setting years I’ve had in some time. In truth, I achieved less than in previous years.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that some times the goals we set for a year, take a few years to yield, for our brain to work out the subconscious algorithm needed to make them happen. I’ve never had a year when I have achieved all the goals that I have set, but it is also true that I achieve more in the years when I have made more of an effort in creating, reviewing and refining my goals.

On occasions I have made a personal postcard and sent it to myself with my goals as the visuals. I’ve shared one of these below, and while some of it is personal, it’s more important to share the goodness than worry about what people might think. You will notice that some things on it are not specific, and can’t be ticked or crossed, while others are specific. I really believe that very specific goal setting can actually work. I don’t know why, it just does.

Some of the Ticks included:

– Getting rentoid.com to feature on A Current Affair (if you click this link, you’ll see how close the reality was to my mashup up preemptive visual goal – quite extraordinary)

– Traveling with my, now wife, to elope

–  Starting a family (see baby pic – my daughter even looks like this picture I found on-line!)

– Going to New York & Rome

– Getting published articles in the AFR, the Age and Sydney Morning Herald

– Surfing Weekly

– Graduating from being a University Tutor, to becoming a University Lecturer

– Turning my Startup Blog into a Startup School

– Helping my father sell his farm

– Getting rentoid in the news multiple times (Just google rentoid)

– Travel overseas in Business Class

– Collaborate with rental Industry to become leading portal

Some of the Crosses included:

– Flying in a private jet somewhere

– Having 10 million+ in net assets

– Upgrading my home (Including pool & eco friendly house features, and grand design renovation)

– Running a marathon

– Opening a new office for rentoid

– Getting on the cover of a business related magazine

– Becoming known as a respected business thought leader.

Some of these goals that I am yet to achieve, but am still seeking, in fact some I am very close to…. if they eventuate I will let you know. For 2012 I want my goals to be more specific and I intend on sharing them here to be honest in public and make myself more accountable.

The one thing I know for sure, is that we don’t achieve any of the goals we don’t set.

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Broken heart v Broken back

A colleague has embarked upon a new property start up over the past 3 years. During this time he has been incredibly successful. Starting and completing many small projects, to deliver what he believed to be a massive profit. In fact, at least double what he could have earned in his previous paid employment (which was at the executive level).

The projects were complete, chickens hatched and it was time to count them. Turns out the numbers didn’t stack up quite that well. Yes it was profitable, at least as profitable as his previous job was. But in truth the sweat and toil was much greater. The net result for him was a broken heart. So much effort, for no real financial upside.

It was time for a sense check. Was it all worth it?

Yes.

His heart may have been broken, but his back is not. The profits did exist, and the learnings were even greater. The mistakes are known and the upside from here is very significant. All too often we let a broken heart beat us, when in truth the only real thing that should stop us is a broken back. We choose the hard road because it is worth it. The toil and truth is part of the profit. And real profits are far beyond anything financial.

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What to spend our money on

The common question we hear is: Are you a spender or a saver? It’s the wrong question. Any smart person needs to be both. A more relevant question is what is worth spending our money on, and what things should we resist the temptation to spend on. Given that any good entrepreneur needs to have an live a lean life, not just in their startups but in their life, I thought I’d throw together a top10 list of what to spend on So here it is:

Top 10 things to spend money on:

  1. Books & newspapers
  2. Education
  3. Annual vacation
  4. Gifts (non lavish) for family & close friends
  5. Sports & exercise
  6. Fruit & vegetables
  7. Comfortable accommodation
  8. Public transport tickets
  9. Internet access
  10. Insurance

These are the things that we shouldn’t even think twice about spending on. They add value to our lives and make us better people. In the long run they pay for themselves.

Things which don’t appear on this list, and things we should make what I call our ‘Considered purchases’.

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Revenue Compression

When chasing new business in startup land or any business for that matter, the time to revenue is more important than the amount or revenue.

It’s easy to believe that a big $500,000 project is better than a little $5000 project.  Maybe the big one takes a year. Maybe the small one takes a week or two.

I say the small projects rule! But before I choose, the questions I usually ask myself include:

  • How long will it take to get the revenue?
  • What is the potential for expensive mistakes?
  • What is the probability that the project will go over the time estimate?
  • Are we paid in time put in or final completion of said project?
  • What level of resources need to go into pitching & winning the project?
  • Will we get more smaller projects after successful completion of the first?

When we answer these we usually find that the $5000 project that takes a week is a far better option than the $500K project that takes a year. And the reason that they are better is that the revenue is compressed.

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If money didn’t exist

If money didn’t exist what would we do differently? Let me first remind us what this would mean.

In this imaginary moneyless it would mean: That we all had enough to eat. That we all had a place to live. That we all have equal access to healthcare and education. That we wouldn’t get paid for our work. That no-one gets paid for the work they do, in dollars at least.

It means that we do in during the day has an entirely different perspective. In this imaginary world it make sense that we choose our line of work carefully. The work itself, becomes the thing that matters.

It turns out that this is also the best approach for a world that does actually have money.

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