Property Investory
Darren Flynn - How Civil Engineer Developed Property Travelling The World
June 2, 2024
Darren Flynn is a chartered civil engineer, property investor, traveller, and devoted dad. Flynn spent several years in Vietnam after university, working on projects, meeting new people, and learning about himself and about property. These days, he sees signs to buy property and follows his gut to do so, with the hope of leaving a lasting legacy for his family.
Join us as we discuss how his time in Vietnam changed him as a person, both professionally and personally. We’ll delve into the generosity he encountered while there and how that time— plus a sneaky deal he snared on a share house— led him to property, explore his temporary career where he broke down the cost of university per minute, and so much more!

04:31 | The Lie of The Land
06:44 | One Sleep? That’ll Be $82.57, Please
08:03 | The Student Becomes the Master
11:08 | Learning Valuable Lessons in Vietnam
16:38 | Reverse Culture Shock
19:44 | Do You Need a House? Just a Sec, I’ll Build You One
23:01 | A Sneaky Discount
26:21 | Business is All About Relationships

02:57 | You Can’t Scare Me
06:06 | I Diversified My Eggs
08:25 | The Best Investments
11:54 | Legacy and Loving What You Do
15:45 | Numbers, Numbers, Numbers
20:29 | Good Advice
23:43 | Frugal Flynn
30:45 | You’re Out the Door, Sorry About That

Resources and Links:


Darren Flynn:
[00:22:22] I moved around a lot. And I just wanted somewhere to call my own, somewhere to hang up the painting or paint a wall or just do something. So really, my primary driver for property was just as a home. 
Tyrone Shum:
This is Property Investory where we talk to successful property investors to find out more about their stories, mindset and strategies.
I’m Tyrone Shum and in this episode, we’re speaking with chartered civil engineer Darren Flynn. We hear about his international travels and how they shaped him as a person and an investor, the unusual approach he took to lecturing at university, the language he found himself fluent in, and so much more!

Tyrone Shum:
Flynn shares his professional background and gives an overview of the countries he found himself working in.

Darren Flynn:   
[00:00:34] I'm Darren Flynn, I'm a chartered civil engineer. I've been working in infrastructure and development for over 20 years. My background comes from pipes, pumps and concrete. Usually large water infrastructure— that's where I cut my teeth, in councils, with the water authorities, and large design and construction contracts. That led me into development and investment, which, over the years, I've grown more knowledge and been able to apply that into my personal life, as well as my professional life. 

[00:01:19] Really, a lot of the fundamentals, I believe in investment, engineering, and life. You pick things up along the way that put you in good stead for the future. And as long as you learn lessons on the way, you seem to come up with things that you've had problems with before and you've got the answer, because you've already been there, done that. I've lived overseas, I've lived in Vietnam for four years I lived in Canada, working in both those countries. I feel like I've had some amazing experiences there which have changed me overall.

Tyrone Shum: 
Now that he’s well and truly settled back in Australia, he describes a typical day in his working life.

Darren Flynn:  
[00:02:18] This morning, I was up at 5am doing some work. And then I actually travelled to the Hawkesbury. I have a friend who's also a client— their property and eight of their neighbors' properties have been flooding due to a trap low area. So I put the engineer head on, I went out there, I had a look at how to fix the short term issue, which is how to get rid of all the water. You can imagine eight to 10 swimming pools of water trapped in a low lying area. So I've literally just been to do that and work out both short term and long term solutions, and package up a position to the authorities and council to try and find and navigate a way out.

[00:03:06] I have this podcast... after this, I've got a client meeting for a 1200 lot subdivision. And then I've got to hightail it home. And then I've got a few meetings this afternoon and some work I've got to get done. My day to day changes. I work from home some days. I've got three young kids. So there's time set aside so my wife and family can get away and do things they need to. 
[00:03:32] There's also other days when I'm in the city, travelling out west, out in Western Sydney, Northern Sydney, Southern Sydney, visiting sites they'll do due diligence on or construction. So my days usually are pretty jam packed full of meetings, tasks, travel, site visits. I usually try and build my calendar around three weeks out. Things are constantly changing and constantly moving day-to-day. But it gives me a lot of variety and lets me have those touch points where I feel I can add the most value.

The Lie of The Land

Tyrone Shum: 
Taking a step back, we learn about Flynn’s childhood, including his unusual household pet!

Darren Flynn:   
[00:04:31] I was born in Western Sydney and grew up in Western Sydney. I know the lie of the land out there quite well. I moved to Brisbane and back and forth a few times between Western Sydney and Western Brisbane, and then predominantly thereafter in the Lower North Shore [of Sydney] and then I moved down to the Southern Highlands for high school, so I had country life. My dad got a donkey for his birthday, so we decided to move to the country so that we could have a little party farm. 
[00:05:09] And then thereafter, I moved out of home when I was 18, living around Sydney in different apartments and share houses over the time. And on reflection, seeing a lot of those get redeveloped. And you're thinking, 'If only I was buying when I was 18, and not renting'. Definitely a reflection point. And then moving around within Sydney. As I said, I lived in Canada, I was a snowboard instructor there and lived there for some time. 

[00:05:49] And then I did a long stint in Vietnam, with AusAid as an Australian Youth Ambassador for development, which is a programme run by the Australian Government for 18 to 30 year olds, for volunteer or paid volunteer places throughout the Asia Pacific. And then as a full time employee, working on the Three Delta Towns project, which is a water supply and sanitation project in the Mekong Delta. And then moved back home [I] got into property, and had a family and continued my career until where I am now.

One Sleep? That’ll Be $82.57, Please

Tyrone Shum:  
He takes us through his years at university, describing the interesting gap year he took and how he calculated the cost of sleep.

Darren Flynn:  
[00:06:44] When I moved to Sydney in those formative years, I did a Bachelor of Civil Environmental Engineering and a Diploma of Engineering Practice. That was a five year degree with a year of work experience, which three of those years, I worked. I started my first job, I was a dish pig in a cafe, cleaning dishes. Then moved to running coffees, then learning how to run the coffee machine. And then went from there to bartending, retail. Before I moved to Canada, I was working four jobs, to save up money so I could go away. 
[00:07:24] I was at uni and decided to take a gap year halfway through, which was one of the best things I think I ever did. I think it let me learn the value of money more. I remember that I'd come back after a year away, paying my way. And someone fell asleep in a lecture. And when they woke up, I promptly told them that they'd currently lost $82.57 because that was a pro rata relationship between how much it costs them for that semester, per minute, and how long their sleep lasted during the lecture. 

The Student Becomes the Master
[00:08:03] So I was very cognizant of how much things cost, even if it was HECS or otherwise. And it was that year away that made me... I always valued money, but then I really started breaking things down and wanted to learn. Whereas I think before I wasn't too sure where I wanted to go. In any case, that put me in good stead. And then realising there was a life after hospitality, I was invited to be a tutor for an engineering subject, which then turned into marking and tutoring, and then lecturing. So I'd lecture [300] to 500 students every week, for a subject. I did that for three years, 

[00:08:50] I really enjoyed lecturing at uni, it was a valuable experience. I got to learn a lot about myself, but not only the students and what they wanted to learn. The subject was very broad, it was for all engineering students. And it gave me the ability not just to undertake public speaking and be confident, but to understand the pinch points of how people wanted to learn. 

[00:09:16] I do remember just when online was coming in, as I was leaving uni. And growing up in a world without computers really in your face, I was very interested in computers. But there was one lecture when I started and I said, 'All of all these slides will be online', and half the room proceeded to get up and leave. And then I said, 'But you do realise that none of this information in the slides will actually be in the exam. What I say in my spoken word and what I say verbally will be'. And everyone promptly came back inside. And that's how I run my lectures. The slides were just there just so someone could read but it was the content that was delivered in the lecture that got people interested. And I thought we'd at least make them stay and learn themselves, not just getting them wanting to learn, rather than just picking up a piece of paper and what's written on it.

Tyrone Shum:  
He leads us on his travelling journey that took him to Canada and Vietnam, and reveals what it taught him about work and about life.

Darren Flynn:   
[00:10:44] Canada was really just a gap year. I started, I was lucky to get a job at Whistler Kids, and then teaching kids how to snowboard. That was probably a bit more of a fun, young experience, travelling overseas. And I used to snowboard to work. That was amazing. And it was just more of a gap year. 

Learning Valuable Lessons in Vietnam
[00:11:08] Vietnam changed me dramatically as a person. That experience... I was living in a small town, six hours south of Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City. I had a driver, a car, I worked seven days a week, I worked 70 [to] 80 hours a week. The town I was working in was called Bạc Liêu. It's a town of about 150,000 people with very poor water supply and sanitation. I built maybe $30 million worth of infrastructure working under an amazing mentor, a very technical engineering manager, which I was very fortunate to have come into my life. It taught me a lot, technically, and in life. 
[00:11:58] I also was exposed to property. Because a lot of the works that we were undertaking paved the way for development work. The housing estates were called, in Vietnamese, literally 'New Estate', or 'New Area'. They'd call it New Area One, New Area Two, New Area Three. And we would remove some areas of rice paddies, put in a water treatment plan or some aquifers to get the water supply, sort out the drainage. We built an eight hectare lake, which was a flushing lake that would flush the stormwater drainage. All the sewage in Vietnam just goes to the drain and then to the river. So we built this big lake. 

[00:12:48] And then a housing estate, of course, popped up next to the lake. And what we built became the new part of the town. So that put me in good stead to understand not just the engineering, but the development side. But then there was the micro activities. So they set up a revolving microcredit system for septic tanks, so that people could [borrow] money to build their own septic tank, and then repay the money over some time. So we had a septic tank scheme. There [were] small micro health improvements like laneways, drainage, even some small houses. 

[00:13:27] I did attempt to set up my own NGO and a fundraising scheme to try and build small houses for people less fortunate. Unfortunately, that didn't happen after multiple attempts for too many different reasons I won't go into. But I then just set up a small thing on the side, we'd give away a tonne of rice every week. And that was just throughout the team. There's so much poverty in the towns. But so many people... the Vietnamese are lovely people. They're amazing people. They'd do anything for you. And I really found I was so well supported. I can talk for hours about Vietnam in general, and its history, but openly, the people were so lovely, and to be able to go and do something for this town and improve things that a lot of people take for granted— having public toilets, having soap in schools, people understanding to wash their hands, basic sanitation. 

[00:14:39] One of the main ones was fish pond toilets, where people would just set up a bamboo toilet over a fish pond or a small dam. And then go to the bathroom in that pond, people would also fish in that pond. There's a microorganism that lives inside fish that can kill you. There [were] multiple deaths. And it was really something that at the forefront was difficult to change people's minds and drive change. But I believe that we did that. 

[00:15:16] And we left, and there's some projects there, obviously that [are] still going. There's still people that don't have toilets in their home. And to see people after they've built their toilet, and you go have a look in that home, the bathroom was the most immaculate, clean place you would ever see. Because they were so proud that their home had the toilet. And just to see that, and to see the look in their eyes and how proud they were, that was life changing. 
[00:15:48] And learning Vietnamese... at one point, I was quite fluent in Vietnamese. I ditched my translators and just decided to go it myself because they weren't saying what I wanted to say. So that was always fun! I've never really been good at languages. So that was interesting. And I formed some great relationships there and [have] been back many times, and have some small things running over there that are more just hobbies rather than— I won't call them investments at all— but more things that can give you more joy than some other things can.

Reverse Culture Shock

Tyrone Shum: 
Delving deeper into Flynn’s time in Vietnam, he explains when he was there and how culture shock didn’t hit until he got home.

Darren Flynn:   
[00:16:38] This was 2005 to 2009. I was working on a large water infrastructure project. And my manager asked, 'Would you be interested to go to Vietnam?' I had nothing to lose, so I decided to go. Obviously, as I'd just got[ten] back to Australia, the GFC had pretty much hit. Being in Vietnam and after my volunteering programme had shifted into a paid position, obviously working overseas, with tax implications, not having to pay super, there [were] obviously a lot of other things I was trying to do over there. It did put me in a good position. The GFC I think he hit everyone in different ways. I was fortunate, I moved quite quickly in what I was doing at the time, and didn't get impacted as bad[ly] as others. But the timing was very formative. Not just professionally, but definitely personally. I came back to find that reverse culture shock was a real thing.

Tyrone Shum:   
With such different living conditions in Vietnam, did he find that once he came home, everything seemed easy in comparison?

Darren Flynn:  
[00:18:52] It does put things into perspective. Even things as simple as sharing food at the dinner table. I found when I came back, I couldn't understand why people weren't sharing food. Seeing a bus for the first time. That made me go 'Wow, that's right, there's buses, I forgot about those clean gas or electrical buses'. It definitely puts things into perspective. And it does make you realise as a country in Australia, how lucky we are on a lot of fronts. Particularly with things like water supply and sanitation. And yes, it does make you listen to stories and people whinging or complaining about X, Y and Z and you just start thinking 'Wow, if you realised how lucky you had it...'

Do You Need a House? Just a Sec, I’ll Build You One

[00:19:44] The entrepreneurial spirit of the Vietnamese... my driver, I called him the Honda Doctor. That was his name for mechanic. And he used to buy and sell old motorbikes. So to do them up and then and sell them on for profit. And we did that for quite some time together. We shared the spoils, and I got to learn a bit about motorbikes, which was great. You see a guy who... his family are so opportunistic. They saw me in town, I was in a small hotel. He put me in his house, mentioned that 'Oh, would you be interested to rent a nice house?' And I said, 'Yeah, sure, I'm happy to do that'. And his family went to the bank, borrowed the money, built me a house, and then rented it to me. And in the time that I'd spent there they'd paid it off. 

[00:20:42] So you can see that entrepreneurial nature and learn from that. Just being opportunistic with what you can see in front of you. And the other thing I learnt over there is that you just can't expect from others what you expect from yourself. And I learnt that early on. It's something that I don't think a lot of people realise and something that you've got to take on early or acknowledge.

Tyrone Shum:  
Flynn shares how he got into property development in the late 2000s after returning from his overseas travels.

Darren Flynn:   
[00:21:38] Post-GFC was a great time to buy. There [were] many incentives from the government— first time buyers, stamp duty was waived, mortgage insurance was waived if you had more of a deposit, which I think is still the case, maybe not depending on what your loan structure looks like. And it was a good time to get into the market. I wish I'd done more at the time. But I believe I did enough to get into a position where I am now. Or at least my family.
[00:22:22] I moved around a lot. And I just wanted somewhere to call my own, somewhere to hang up the painting or paint a wall or just do something. So really, my primary driver for property was just as a home. I had a housemate, I'd always been savvy with housemates and different rent structures. I lived in a house before I went overseas that was demolished. It was a very nice, tidy parcel that a developer had bought. 

A Sneaky Discount

[00:23:01] I'll digress, I'll talk to before I went to Vietnam, because it probably impacts on how I viewed property afterwards. But it was a five bedroom house. And I'd moved from the front bedroom, which was $140 a week, to the back bedroom, which was $35 a week. It leaked. And I remember asking the guy that ran the house, because I was on AusStudy, I didn't come from much money. I had to get the rental statement to be able to get my AusStudy and rental allowance. And when I worked out how much the total rent was, I'd said to this guy, 'Hey, hold on a minute. If you're paying this, and I'm paying that, and that room's this and those other rooms are probably that, that means that you're pretty much rent free'. And he went 'Shh! Don't tell anyone, what we'll do is we'll restructure this, and we'll get people in, and I'll give you a discount to $20 a week'. 
[00:24:00] So I'd learnt early that maybe it's a hustle. And I'm not saying that that was the right thing to do by any means. But at the end of day, the rents were fair. And he had a way that structured the deal that he got maybe something out of it and I'd sort of tapped into that. And I also got something out of it. So I had a housemate after Vietnam, met my beautiful wife, which then she'd come to move with us. And I said, 'Well, you know, you got to pay rent', and then realised that that was a sublease. Because she was paying rent, but there [were] obviously things around [the] relationship and whatnot. And I had a good accountant at the time. 

[00:24:43] And then I realised that there [were] certain write offs and tax benefits to doing that. And that started me going, 'Okay, hold on a minute, I need to take a step back and think about not just managing money in investments, whatever they might be, but how I can benefit myself with my current investment property or my current property and how I can offset costs for that'. Whether or not it's a new TV or a new kitchen, or whatever other works we did on that particular property.

Business is All About Relationships

Tyrone Shum: 
Moving from his renting days to his property journey, Flynn delves into the story of his first investment.

Darren Flynn:   
[00:26:21] The first investment really was... I was just looking around, thinking that I probably needed some more property. Wasn't really too sure and had a look at a few different places. I always say that, and I talked about being opportunistic, because you see something, you like it, it stacks up, and you go, 'I've got to do this, this is the one, this is the one'. And then you start seeing certain signs, or you realise that potentially if it's—and in this case it was through an agent— but there wasn't much interest. And other properties where you could see that maybe you're bidding with someone else, and you could just start to get these signs or openly didn't like the agent, or they rubbed you the wrong way, even though something looked so great about this deal, or what was in front of you. 

[00:27:26] And the investment that I'm talking about, the way it played out was more around understanding that a certain area was going to be rezoned. Knowing that information, having that knowledge that maybe, obviously, the owner didn't know about, otherwise they wouldn't have sold. And then by virtue of luck, but also who you know, there was a connection through someone I knew that knew the agent very well, that then sort of fostered the ability to come in more directly with an offer. And within three hours I had had a 66W [certificate] and a cheque ready to go and snatched up an absolute bargain. It all happened very quickly. We'd been looking for some time, nothing. There [were] a few things and there [were] obviously a lot of different competing interests and competing deals. But this one just seemed to happen very quickly. And very fortunately, we obviously signed it and got the deal done.

Tyrone Shum:   
As he had been looking around for a while, what was it that drew him to this particular property?

Darren Flynn:   
[00:29:01] I always think this isn't a case of going, 'I'm going to go spend X dollars on this big home that's already there'. Obviously always looking for uplift, not just in value, but whether it's rental return or otherwise, anything that's likely to be rezoned or have any uplift potential— whether it's a strata subdivision, dual occupancy, or whether it's a granny flat or anything. We were looking in that space to find something that could be either further subdivided or have some uplift into sales and townhouses or whatnot. 

[00:29:48] The area that I work in primarily is land subdivision. I do a lot of due diligence and you see and, you know, obviously you go off you, if you had more money, you'd go and do something out west or go to a subdivision out there. That's always been something that even when I worked out in the northwest growth centre early in the early 2000s, there were 10 hectare parcels going for a million dollars. You can't believe that sort of dollar value now, it's just so long ago and who would have known that the foresight and all that all that stuff. 

[00:30:24] But the thing that took us to the deal was really about knowing that this area was being rezoned. It's in the North Shore in Sydney. It wasn't gazetted, it was just like a draft plan. And it was one of those ‘If anything came up in this area that was less than what future upsell value would be, we'll just go for it’ [scenarios]. We'll go quickly. And something came up, popped up in the search. And we jumped on it as quickly as we could.

Tyrone Shum: 
Flynn divulges on the lessons he’s learnt so far in his property investing journey, and how his background in water and engineering came in very handy for a particular property...

Darren Flynn:   
[00:01:28] To be honest, I've been quite fortunate. I still think that I'm on the journey, in terms of property investment. I wouldn't say that I'm out doing deals left, right and centre. I'm probably a bit more measured, and look at alternative investment strategies, not just property. On the alternative investment, I've obviously had some shockers over the years. From, say, geothermal energy companies to picking a penny stock thinking that that was the next big thing, and then that wasn't. Really it's about limiting your exposure and understanding the risk. 

[00:02:12] My reflection on the property investment stuff really is... it's so difficult to pick the time and to pick... people talk about the market, the market obviously is going crazy at the moment, and you go, okay, hindsight, it's a beautiful thing. But you go, ‘Okay, if you might have waited, you might have changed’. But I think sometimes you just have to be happy with what you've set and the plan and the strategy that you had. And upside's upside. If you get your upside, and that's what you planned, then two years later when the market's doubled, you can't go, 'Oh, I wish I did this’, or ‘I wish I did that'. 
You Can’t Scare Me

[00:02:57] There's lots of traps, and tricks, obviously, in buying properties. I do a lot of free inspections for friends looking at different properties to buy as their own home or otherwise, whether it's desktop, or looking at a condition assessment, builder's report, pest inspection, going on site, getting under the house and getting dirty and looking at foundations, and what they look like. I feel I've been relatively fortunate that even with the investments that we've made, that I've had some of that knowledge prior. But there's always something, whether it comes down to maintenance or whatnot. 

[00:03:46] The one thing I will say is that I think the more people that you can tap into to get advice from, if you're on a journey— that is key. I was very lucky with one investment, where there was a very large water asset on the plan, which scared nearly all of the other investors or buyers away. I was lucky enough to have a background in water and engineering. And to see this large structure and know that it was a sort of storage tunnel that was over 40 metres deep, and wouldn't actually impact on the future development potential of the site. 

[00:04:33] And lucky again, I rang up a friend and asked them who I knew worked on that project that could dig out the plans and find that it was this deep, and it wouldn't have any impact on that development. So, again, by virtue of me having a background in engineering, I'm just fortunate that I could look at that and go, 'Oh, no, this won't be a problem. Let's proceed'. It made me ring someone up who I was fortunate enough, again, to know. That network is so critical in making any decision. So I haven't had any complete shockers, luckily. But I've obviously had ones where I've done 'I wish I did this. I wish I did that'. But ultimately, I still did okay.

I Diversified My Eggs

Tyrone Shum: 
Flynn shares some lessons he’s learnt in property, beginning with the days he was still doing deals on his rent!

Darren Flynn:  
[00:06:06] Early on, I was always interested in the share market, literally just ASX. One of my good friends was an accountant. He was in finance. And I remember he was trying to push me to get into margin lending, and to buy Commonwealth Bank shares when they floated. I think he's retired now, literally, because he did that. And he went in every three months and just kept margin lending, margin lending, margin lending, until he built up a majority of wealth. 

[00:06:49] I look at that, and I always tell that story, because I was very close, but it just seemed so scary at the time. When you're young, $25,000 is a lot of money. When you're trying to pave your way, when you're at university and doing deals on your rent! So I did get in early though, and I was fortunate enough to buy into a range of investments. And someone told me about diversification. It was always 'Don't put all your eggs in one basket'. And my reflection is that, 'Well, if I had put all of my eggs in one basket, it may have been a very different journey for me'. 

[00:07:34] Some of the ones that I did, I mentioned geothermal, I put some money into a couple of geothermal. Being an engineer and an optimist, thinking 'That's the next big thing'. And obviously it wasn't the next big thing. So that's really just on the shares. There's other other mechanisms with ETFs, and other funds, managed funds. I was looking at those GFC, luckily, I was fortunate enough to exit at the right time. And then there's always trying to look at any other business that you could open, create. Whether or not it's a small business, or a side business, a side hustle, or otherwise. 

The Best Investments

[00:08:25] But a lot of these things come down to time. And being a father of three working a full time job, and everything else with life, I always find the best investments are the ones that need minimal attention, or are automated, or just run by themselves. So I've learnt that along my journey. To be honest, they're the ones that— I wouldn't call it set and forget, because no one will forget— but just having the ability to know that you're waking up or you're doing something or you're working on something, but that actually doesn't really matter. Because you've already got your investments working for you.

Tyrone Shum:  
He lets us in on his two very different ‘aha’ moments.

Darren Flynn:   
[00:09:35] There's probably that automated process of an investment that you don't have to buy, sell, buy, sell, monitor, be on a daily. Like, this isn't Bitcoin. Although I was very close on selling Bitcoin... Anyway, long story. I'm not going to dwell on those. But the automation, that really is the 'aha', when you realise that you can make investments that you don't have to have a lot of work to get to the end outcome.

[00:10:13] I think the other one is the signs. There's a lot of stuff about following your gut and seeing the signs. I've had a lot of experience in life, and— I don't really believe in ghosts, and all that stuff— but you see some signs in life where it might be in conversation with someone, it might be something on a billboard, it might have been something that you read, and then something clicked with you again. And I think it's about trying to follow those signs. Because I talked about being opportunistic, and I think that's one thing. But if you see those signs, and you go, 'You know what? I'm gonna follow my gut and go with that', or you see someone and you're like minded, and there's a layer of trust. And they're saying, 'Hey, do you want to do this deal with me?' Or 'Are you interested in this particular thing?' And a lot of people go [hesitantly] 'Oh, you know...' If you see the signs there, and it follows what you've known and that layering of trust, then I think that's the aha moment. It's to go, 'You know what, I'm going to give that a go'.

Legacy and Loving What You Do

Tyrone Shum: 
Turning to mindset and motivation, Flynn shares his reasoning behind why he works so hard at what he does.

Darren Flynn:   
[00:11:54] It's all about legacy. Legacy is something I never really comprehended until my father died. And it was when I really understood the true meaning of legacy. I wasn't at the army, this is, what, 15 years ago or something, 20 years ago. But that doesn't matter. The core is obviously legacy, and providing for your family. I think the other thing is, actually, I love it. Like, I love my work, I love my job, I love the people I work with, I'm passionate. I get up early, I'm always thinking, my brain rarely turns off. Even if I go on holidays, and I'm starting to think about some crazy app idea, I enjoy it. And I think that's the why. 

[00:12:55] I often say to people about work. And it's it's sort of a parallel, because if you said to someone, 'Okay, you know that you've got this certain salary now, if you could make that salary, on top of your existing salary, or even make that salary without doing anything for the whole year, would you still work your job?' And I find that you've got people that go 'Oh, nah, I wouldn't'. And then you got other people like, 'Well yeah, of course I'd want to do my job because I love the work'. And then the other thing is when you have a family, it's obviously different. You want to provide for your family. It's about drive, and about passion. So a passion for life. That's probably why. And legacy, to be honest.

[00:14:36] I always say if everything went up or it went this way, or went that way or south, what a great opportunity to reinvent yourself and go do something else. And I think that's something to almost look forward to, rather than dread. Because that could be the change in your life that could be totally something else that could be amazing. So I don't think you're ever going to know. And a lot of people do come to me for advice about 'This way or that way?' or 'I'm going to do this or do that'. And at the end of day, as long as you make the call and you're happy, well, you're never going to know. Because what you're doing is where you're going to go. So I think it's just about making the most of life. And that's probably about it.

Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

Tyrone Shum: 
Flynn gives insight into who his mentors have been and which resources have helped him succeed.

Darren Flynn:  
[00:15:45] I definitely have had quite a few mentors over the years, which I've been very fortunate to have. I find that sometimes you have quasi mentors— they're not like I'd call them a mentor, they're more maybe a client, or they're a relative, or they're even a friend, who you'll gain advice off. I've been fortunate to have a few very technical mentors. And on the investment journey, there have been a few. I find that the investment and the property mentors are great. And that's no problem. I think the investment mentors, and I think around financial planning, and financial mentors, it depends [on] their level of advice. Because I always find that most people either say, 'This is what I do, but maybe that's not right for you, and you need to get your own advice'. And then there's the 'This isn't advice', because they may be bound by giving advice. 

[00:16:55] I find that that can range in levels between, say investment properties very more open, and there's much more people saying, 'Oh, you could do this, you could do that'. Everyone's got their own spreadsheet about numbers, and it's all about numbers, understanding the numbers. Which I've had to learn along the way. I'm just an engineer, what do I know? But learning more about numbers, and learning more about risks, and how to quantify those risks in both time and cost— that's what I've really taken from a lot of people who have given me the ability to back myself. 

[00:17:45] When I can go look at something, I don't have to engage a number of professionals because you've been around the block so much that you can see what those risks are and actually quantify them. So [I’ve] definitely had a lot of mentors over the years. Technical, personal, but yeah, across property investment. And it's so hard, because I'll always try and soak as much knowledge off anyone I can, even if it's tidbit to dissertation.

Tyrone Shum:  
Speaking of resources, Flynn shares his favourite books— and what he’s been listening to.

Darren Flynn:   
[00:18:33] I've definitely been listening to the Property Investory podcast. That's really good. I've been really enjoying that. Getting time to read and for podcasts is difficult. Particularly [because] I've got a pretty crazy, crazy life, living life by the minute at the moment. Look, openly over the years. I've read plenty of different books. And I always like the classics, like Rich Dad, Poor Dad, or Barefoot Investor, Very just simple books, good themes, good things for people starting out. There are other books, like I do like a book... what's it called, I think, Zero to One. It's a small book about changing the mindset from going from here to there. It's about well, hold on, you start from this, and then you get to that point. It's about trying to change the dial on where you can start to finish. But yeah, I don't get a lot of time. But one of the books that I did recently read, which I really liked, was called Multipliers. It's a book about leadership, and how to multiply the people around you to grow and succeed. I did enjoy that. But yeah, I don't get as much time for reading as I'd like at the moment.

Good Advice

Tyrone Shum: 
We know that he doesn’t put all his eggs in one basket, but what other advice has Flynn taken on throughout his life?

Darren Flynn:   
[00:20:29] It would definitely be to go with your gut feel, going with your gut, going with what you think is right. Everyone talks about doing a pros and cons list. And I'm still a big believer in that, weighing everything up, and, and going with your gut. I know it's hard to define. And I talked about signs before— trying to combine those things and to have that feeling. And if the feeling's there, and you're trying to strip out all the emotion, this is based on numerical values, and these things on the table that are just emotion, I'm not talking about, like, you got being an emotional thing. But to go with the gut. And I think, even if you went wrong, or it went the wrong way, you can always turn around and look at what you've done and go 'Well, you know, what I followed that, I did that, I went with my gut. It may not have gone the right way'. And then learn from it, and then get on to the next thing.

Tyrone Shum:  
If he could go back 10 years and give himself advice, what advice would that be?

Darren Flynn:   
[00:22:00] Invest early. I've got a lot of other professionals and friends around me who are quite young. And I'm always saying to them, 'Invest early, invest early. Don't just save— invest. And invest young'. And maybe probably living a bit more frugally. I won't say I was not frugal when I was young– I definitely was because I didn't have enough money not to be— but if you really can look at your fundamentals in life, take a step back from those. I like, for example, something like Barefoot Investor that gives you the understanding to break down your income. Or even something like Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which can talk about how you can change yourself from either owning assets, or having assets and how you can change your cash flow. Understanding those at an early age and investing early, I think I would have definitely told myself 'Invest more and invest early'.

Frugal Flynn

Tyrone Shum:   
Flynn explains what being frugal means to him.

Darren Flynn:   
[00:23:43] It's about buying things you don't need. I made a choice some time ago, and I don't want to sound flippant when I say this, but about having the nice things in life. So buying the nice bread, or buying some nice olive oil. The simple basics in life. It's not like buying the cheap olive oil to the nicer olive oil, there's a really big cost difference. But you've got the ability to do that, right. You're old, you've worked hard your life, you can do that. 

[00:24:24] I think it's more about when you're younger, you understand the value of money. It's not like you're going out there buying a bunch of stuff, but probably just thinking about, 'Well, do I really need a new jacket, do I really need another pair of shoes?'. Like I've just got one pair of boots now and I'll be wearing them literally, like unless I'm running or going to the beach. Like I just I've had these for four years and I haven't bought another pair and I probably won't hopefully for a long time. I'll probably just get them repaired. And I think it's just trying to get out of that mentality that your shirt's a little bit faded, I just need a new one. Or repairing things more. I've always been funny with gadgets and like to try and repair things. And it's probably more about looking at 'Can I repair this?', instead of just buying something new. Try to come back to that whole reuse recycling thing as well.

[00:27:11] It's only probably until you come out of it, and having kids. My wife's got bags and bags of clothes, that we either give away, or it's for the next child, and you start thinking, 'Oh, maybe we'll buy them a dress or a shirt or something, just so they might have something of their own'. But then you go, 'Well, why would you when you've already got wardrobes of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ready to go? They're clean, and they're still in good condition. So why just go dump them in a bin? Let's get as many wears out of these things as we can’.

Tyrone Shum:   
He shares what projects are going on in the Flynn household at the moment, and what projects are in his future plans— maybe even a book of his own!

Darren Flynn:   
[00:28:03] Building a successful business is paramount. Raising my children with good values that want to talk to me, and have an open communication with and watching them grow. For me, I'm a family man, that's number one. There's also, on the investment side, yeah, it's busy times. I'm building a pool at the moment, I mean, it's crazy. As well as trying to fit in a bunch of other little things. So it's me just trying to see maybe a bit of a horizon in the short term. 

[00:28:46] And then looking to build on my networks, build on different investment strategies and looking to continue to a point where I've done all these things and can spend more time with the family, be able to tinker. I like being able to do, I like projects, I like challenges, I like problems to solve. I do to a certain extent now, but to be able to try and to pick and choose those, I think when you can be more in control of what you do on your day to day, and you're starting to do everything that you want on a daily basis. And when you can get up and go, 'I don't actually want to do anything today', I'll just totally change my mind and do why. I think, definitely, at least in the next 10 years more than about five, but yeah. 

[00:29:53] I've got quite a few things at the moment that I'm looking over the next five years to really build and grow on. And then thereafter it will be to get more back into the system. And then hopefully in about 10 years or so I can maybe just do what I want and do something totally different again. I don't know, maybe write a kid's book or something. I don't know. Too many dreams, that's the problem!

You’re Out the Door, Sorry About That

Tyrone Shum:
Young people are staying at home longer these days— Flynn shares his opinion on whether his kids will follow this trend, and whether or not his wife agrees.

Darren Flynn:   
[00:30:45] I've been pretty adamant. Like, I want my kids out the door at 18. I'm like '18, you're out the door, sorry about that. Go live your life'. But my wife seems to think that won't happen. But I'd like to think regardless, and I do really, sincerely hope this, that they do turn around and go, 'Yeah, I'm out the door, I'm going to go do this, I'm going to go rent'. I mean, even if I have to help them. Because it paved the way for me to learning independence. And without having to go cut my teeth washing dishes, it wouldn't have made me who I am. I wouldn't be who I am if it wasn't for doing that. And I'm not saying that's for everyone. But it's more about saying, Look, I hope that at some point in time— I'm not trying to tell my kids like, ‘Hey, you're 30, it's time to leave’— I'm hoping that they look to leave on their own fruition.

Tyrone Shum:  
32:02 The last question I did want to ask you, is you've achieved quite a lot in your inner journey, you know, through what you've got there. Do you think? Or how much of your success do you think is due to skill, intelligence and hard work? And how much of it do you think is because of luck?

Darren Flynn:   
[00:33:22] I'm a big believer in that you make your own luck. Sure, there's a small component of everything that you think could come down to luck. But you have to be in the room to start with, to be fortunate enough to receive the luck. And the reason that you got in the room is because of hard work, dedication, and the knowledge, attitudes and practices that you've picked up over the years. So yeah, look, I'm sure there's definitely a component of luck. But as I said, you pave your own way. You follow the signs, you follow your gut. And to do that you're prepared and if you're prepared and you've done your homework, then really, is it luck? Or have you put in the hard yards to make it so? 

[00:34:21] I feel I'm a pretty lucky guy. But I have been fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time. And whether or not that came down to those other things that you mentioned— potentially. But I'm a big believer of giving back. We talked about networks and someone rings you up for a favour, you try and help them out. And then you never know, you might have to ring them up for a favour or even someone who's your employee that wants to leave. You wish them all the best, congratulations, shake their hand. Two years later, they might be your client, who you want to try and get some work from. So yeah, I think that sort of plays into it as well. Yeah. I'd say I'm pretty lucky though, like, I was born in Australia. I mean, that's pretty lucky right there. We're very fortunate where we live.


Tyrone Shum: 
Thank you to Darren Flynn, our guest on this episode of Property Investory.