Brendan Ansell is the managing director of a large property development company, the Velocity Property Group. Originally from South Africa, Ansell and his family moved to Australia when he was 18 years old due to some violent close calls and their financial circumstances. Inspired by his time in South Africa, Ansell wanted to make a better life for himself. From this goal, he was able to establish a successful career in developing luxurious homes.
In today’s episode, we’ll hear about Ansell’s various careers such as being a professional cricket player for the UK, to banking. As well as this, we’ll explore how he used his background in finance
to build his success, the importance of not looking backwards, the valuable use of momentum and the strategy that has aided his success — Developing small luxury projects!Timestamps:
4:00 | From South Africa to Australia
11:45 | Only $60 in my Pocket
14:06 | Making Goals a Reality
16:07 | Challenges Don’t Go Away
20:08 | Use Momentum
29:02 | Finding Your Strategy
36:48 | The Influence of Mentors
43:05 | Read Books for Concepts, Not as a Guide
45:05 | Looking Towards the Future
47:42 | Advice to a Past Self
Resources and Links:
[34:45] Razor's edge theory. You can go either way. We get given critical moments at different points in our life, where the decision you make in that moment can alter your path dramatically or keep it the same.
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 the managing director of Velocity Property Group, Brendon Ansell. He will share his globe trotting story from his childhood in South Africa, to playing cricket for the UK. He reveals why he moved to Australia and details how he used his background in finance to build a large property development company.
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In his professional life, Ansell spends his time focusing on the Velocity Property Group, which is a company that prides itself on creating luxurious spaces.
[1:36] We don't do investment type properties, and we don't do lower price point properties. Most of our stuff is in $1,000,000 and up. So yeah, I've always loved the aesthetically pleasing properties and luxurious properties and now we create them.
As well as working hard towards his business goals, Ansell is also kept busy by building a charity.
[27:58] I tend to invest my own personal money in social style ventures and businesses. So, we own half of the Natural Earth Building company in Nepal, where a gentleman and the builder has [have] a pay forward philosophy. Which was here after the earthquake, a large portion of the country is damaged. So, the business model was he goes into villages, using the villages and their labour to help him build the first house and then leaves them the blueprint on how to do it themselves. Using natural earth materials, no construction, no concrete, no steel.
[28:42] You know, he's teaching us how to do that. I don't know yet how to integrate that into the business. Obviously, Australia has a fascinating and obviously if constructional stability is concrete and steel, but the irony of it in Nepal is that natural earth, houses built out of natural earth materials can withstand earthquakes, whereas concrete and steel can't.
Ansell is leading a very busy life and for him, everyday is different.
[ 2:05] No day is even remotely the same as the next. I tend to be quite fluid. Now obviously, we have staff who are very specifically skilled in all their distinct roles. So, I no longer have to be the everything to everybody. So now it's, I'm trying to consciously create my day in a specific order. And we category, we divide my activities into three main lines of work. One is activities that create future opportunities and income. The second is activities that create income today or don't lose money today. So obviously, problem solving. And then the third is anything admin related or getting back to people. So, I prioritise my day in that order.
Ansell does not have set working hours but it does not mean he doesn’t work hard. For him, the average 8 hour work day is considered to be short…
[3:36] If you want to be successful, that's what you got to do. Absolutely. Everyone else is sleeping or hungover. It's what you do when everyone else is not at work, and what you do in your spare time that makes you successful.
From South Africa to Australia
Originally from South Africa, Ansell experienced a different childhood than expected.
[4:05] I grew up in Devon in South Africa. So obviously, during a fairly volatile period. I was at school during the changeover to democracy, which was an exciting time and a great time for the country. But also very volatile. Lots of violence, lots of sudden changes. So, we're in from a very strict, militaristic style society — to [being] completely open and free, overnight. So, as a 16, 17-year-old, you can imagine the type of trouble you'd get up to once you've suddenly got free rein in life. So yeah, had some challenging few years with pretty much very little structure you could say.
At the age of 18, Ansell and his family wanted to move to Canada. However, that did not work out, so they made the big move to the land down under.
[5:17] Australia is very similar culture to South Africa in a lot of respects. You know, very similar weather, very similar sporting type culture. So, I'm thankful we got to come here because it's far easier to assimilate quicker, and build contacts and friends and stuff like that. So, you don't have different language barriers and other challenges. Specifically, what triggered us to come is dire financial circumstances and some very close calls from a violence point of view.
Once he arrived in Australia, Ansell did not stay for long…
[6:30] I played representative cricket in South Africa. So, I had to make a choice whether to stay and have a go for the professional teams. But obviously the risk was high if you didn't make it. So, I came to Australia specifically — make sure I can get the passport and visa stamp first, before making any decisions. And then I actually ended up staying for about 18 months, two years. And I took off to the UK to, on a cricketing contract over there. And then for the next five years, [I] pretty much split my time between the UK and New Zealand.
Throughout his time playing cricket, Ansell did not need a typical nine-to-five job.
[7:24] I didn't have to work too much. I got paid to play. That can and can't be a good thing. You know, I had a great time from pretty much 19 years old to 25. I pretty much got paid to travel the world, [I] didn't get a lot of money. It wasn't as professional back then in the late 90s as it is now, so we had a lot of parties and enjoyed ourselves as well.
After his cricket career was coming to an end, Ansell spent two years living and working in London.
[8:15] Obviously coming from a sporting background that can open up different doors. A very senior manager high up in HSBC, an investment banking [firm], gave me a job in London for two years after I finished cricket. So, that was a great segue into, out of cricket into a more professional environment. So, I found and in that time in London, people didn't work very hard.
[8:42] So, it was [a] great opportunity for me to learn the game of investment banking as quickly as I could. And so, I immersed myself in it and got my knowledge and skill set up in banking and in investment models and I seem to hit a wave into my mid 20s. Where I immersed myself in personal development as well.
So, I pretty much spent every waking moment learning everything I could from personal development, to investing, to property and quickly found that property was sort of my original passion and what I came back to [is] having worked in investment banking, the stock market made no sense to me and seemed to lack any form of real intrinsic value.
[9:36] So, I obviously seen people and clients lose this, the seat of their back pretty quickly. [It] was interesting to see. So, property was always my passion. So, I reverted back to that and I started buying property in Brisbane in, while I was working in London. I used that income to buy property back here and thankfully that was you know, roundabout [the years] 2000, 2001 and 2002. So, I bought properties, generally in that Logan area, quite cheaply.
And then the market went absolutely berserk in 2003 and 2004. And I thought I was a property genius. Meanwhile, all I did was buy some cheap properties and they went up in value. There's no skill set in it.
At this point in time, Ansell was settled into his life in London however, a historic event urged him to move back to Australia.
[10:38] I came back [to Australia] in 2002, shortly after September 11. I was on the trading floor in London, when we actually saw on TV the planes going into the buildings. And half the stockbrokers on our floor, their phones cut out. They were actually on the phone to some of the trading floors in the tower. So, that was a bit of a shock. And the U.S. Embassy was next door to us. So, I didn't really want to hang around too long. So, I think I quit the next month and spent three to four months travelling around Europe before coming back in 2002.
Once back in Australia, Ansell realised he would no longer be able to work in banking.
[11:40] I tried to get back into banking here. I was a bit surprised that my experience in London didn't seem to count for anything. But obviously, I wanted to come back to Brisbane as opposed to Sydney. Brisbane is a very similar climate and lifestyle to Devon, where I'm from. I've always preferred Brisbane over Sydney. And coming back to Brisbane, this, there was essentially no banking here at that time. And obviously, the early 2000s was a challenging time as well. There's very little work available or on the go, and then come into 2003 for the property market came off as well.
[12:27] So, it was a challenging time to be in Brisbane and get ahead. So, I decided to branch out and get into finance and mortgage broking and financing for other developers. I literally spent the next, probably till 2008 I still have [had] a share in the original finance business, which has been managed by someone else now.
Up until about five years ago, I pretty much spent eight, nine years immersing myself in that, running my own business. And that was excellent because it was a great way to earn cash flow plus do your own small projects on the side. And also learn lessons from our clients. So, I didn't have to go through those hard times myself.
Only $60 in my Pocket
From here, Ansell decided to launch his property business and we’ll explore why he chose property over other investments.
[1:03] I've always loved property, we did struggle financially in South Africa. We weren't, you could say we're lower middle class. Life was generally financially very much a struggle for us. But my mother was a part-time interior decorator and so I used to go with her to appointments. And I used to see how the other side lived in a very wealthy mansion. So, I've always been fascinated by property and aesthetically beautiful property.
Ansell’s parents never directly influenced him to go into property…
[16:28] They still, they're in the 70s now, and they still work quite hard. And they're in the sort of auto electrical type things. So, no they've never been investors. I don't, none of my family's from that. I'm completely, completely 100%, self made.
[17:32] Your mindset, and your personal development dictates where you are in life. I personally don't believe it's that random. I believe there are some random aspects to life, but we have a great element of control over it. And you're exactly where you are, based on your personal development, and any internal belief system.
[17:57] I didn't want that life. I wanted a better life, so I learned what needed to be learned to become, you have to become the person first. You know, history will show that people that suddenly win money, like in the lotto or something, generally, in most cases, lose it and end up in a worse position than before. Because their skill set, and their mindset haven't kept pace with their wealth.
So, if somebody wants to get out of that position, and obviously, I've always been a forward thinking and forward moving person. I can't stand sitting still, I can't stand just going to the same nine to five job every day and say, 'This is my working life'. I wasn't built that way. So, I wasn't gonna accept that I was gonna do whatever it took to get out of those situations.
Making Goals a Reality
Ansell was determined to establish a career in property development. He explains how he made this a reality.
[13:55] I was always, even when I was doing the finance, I was still doing quality projects. I just never had that ability to try and purchase a block of land and build the cheap house or was one to try and spec it up or go for higher price points. You know, even going back to 2009, 2010, I was doing splitters in Hawthorne, Bulimba, those sorts of areas, at a $1,000,000+ then. It wasn't, so we started that fairly early.
[14:31] But also my research told me that suburbs in Brisbane like Bulimba or the inner city boutique, low density suburbs maintain their value exceptionally well. [They are] very desirable lifestyle areas. I didn't see it as [a] great risk to go into that price point. I saw it as less risky than some of the cheapest suburbs that were more susceptible to interest rate rises and other factors. And supply, [of] constrained land supply in the inner cities of Australia.
Once he bought a few properties, he did not hold onto them.
[15:22] I just kept trading up. Interestingly, I've had a very similar discussion this week with another chap on mentoring at the moment, who is probably, could almost identically put them in my spot — back then around 2002, 2003. I've had this discussion this week, already with someone else — where he's actively trying to become full-time in property, but also hold on to properties along the way. And unless you have a consistent cash flow, it's very very difficult to do that. We know banks are lending the money so no, I sold and keep trading up.
Challenges Don’t Go Away
Across his property development career, Ansell has faced challenges however he believes in not looking backwards and that challenges will continue to show.
[21:00] I would call myself a very strong [and] resilient person. I tend not to be down too long. I don't allow myself to stay in that frame of mind for too long. So people, I have challenges every day. I have them now. Your challenges never go away, they just change. So, if anyone's expecting that, they'll come to a person and life will be suddenly you have no issues. And I'm sorry, that's not realistic.
[21:29] Some of our biggest challenges are now, not necessarily back in the past. You know, because we have a far greater responsibility now. Either for the love of the game, not for love again first, and personal wealth second. So, when I was just on my own, as a developer running my own company, and making money or losing money. That was fine, because there was always the next deals to go onto. So, the creative process, they gave my energy.
[21:57] Now I've got a far greater responsibility of looking after 1000s of shareholders, hard earned capital. So, it's a different type of challenge. But I forget about the deals. Thankfully, I've only ever lost on one deal. And that was about $8,000. So my grounding in finance gave me the knowledge first before I went full time into property. So, I was, I increased my knowledge base first before committing to heavily.
Despite Ansell not losing many deals, when he does he always learns a valuable lesson.
[22:41] I personally believe the ones you let go, are more important than the new wins. So, even stock market traders will tell you that. You minimise your losses and you ride your wins. So, when you have a property or site and you can see that the markets coming off, rather than put your head in the sand and go, 'I'm just going to go and build this anyway and hope I can sell it at the end', you know, I bought this site, I got a DA for seven apartments, sitting there looking at and going 'Well, I can't build that. I can't build it, I'm not going to be able to sell these. The markets [are] coming off. I've got my timing all wrong here'.
[23:22] So, you [have] got two choices. You push ahead and hope that it comes out alright up or there's an offer on the table, just [a] small loss. And $8,000 is a small loss in the project, if you're going to take a loss. I'll take the sale and move on. Though the key there for me was, I went, I kind of went outside of my usual formula. Instead of sticking to premium high end areas, your high end property finder occupiers, I went out to the outer suburbs and tried to expand the number of properties I was doing. Going from two or three at a time, to six and seven. Because I wanted to get to that next stage. I want to increase the size of my project, but went out to an outlying area where the markets [are] more volatile.
[23:24] I could have lost $1,000,000 and gone bankrupt or gone backwards and eroded years of hard work. But it's very, very difficult for people to admit they made a mistake straight. It's pretty hard to actually put your hand up and go, 'Oh, I made a mess of this. I made a bad choice here. I've just got to suck up the loss and move on'. And it doesn't matter [if] it's $8,000 or $100,000. If again, you can suppress your ego long enough to make calm, rational decisions for the long term.
Medium and long term thinking is exceptionally important in property. Because if you're constantly focusing on the medium long term, what you're trying to build, you don't mind taking the $8000 loss.
As well as learning from his losses, Ansell also learns from his successes.
[27:13] I've always really understood momentum. Momentum is — and that probably comes from a sporting background, playing cricket and going through long periods of time, you can really get, go and sit and watch a test match. And you'll see momentum change. And if he watching a test match and momentum is let's say all the thing that at one point and Australia gets a wicket, it's a shift in momentum.
[27:37] You can see the energy pick up of the bowlers and the players, because they've noticed that, they understand they [have] broken a pattern. So, they've got momentum back on their side. So they go harder. The bowler doesn't relax and go, 'I've got a wicket, I look good on the scoreboard. I'm just gonna chill out for the next, bowl a median pace'. They go harder, so they understand momentum.
So, when you get an opportunity, or you meet a person or something that's really good value for you, don't go on holiday for a week. Go harder, you can go [on] holiday later.
Ansell has had numerous success stories, though in the short time we had together he could share his top three…
[28:20] During the GFC, everybody had severe problems. I had a lot of property [and] interest rates went through the roof. [We] were really getting squeezed, cash flow is dropping, expenses were going through the roof. And I had a situation where I had a small project in Bulimba. And I got right to the stage of starting to, about to start construction. And I just went ‘I can't do it. Everything's going bad. In business and property. I can't build these, I've got to pull back’.
[28:53] So, obviously going to that builder, who's very, very disappointed. I asked them, I think I had about $15,000 in cash left. I asked them what expenses that they had incurred to date. So, I had a choice, then I could just walk away [and] save my $15,000, look after myself. And I thought there's something in this. There's a pivotal moment here that is something relevant to me. And if I do this, I'm going to be confident [that] I'm going to be rewarded for this. I paid him $12,500 to make sure that they incurred no loss. And I went right down to my last $2,500. Which is a tough thing to do. I just had a strong cheddar feeling that I needed to do that too.
That action took me to another level. That I was, you could shift your thinking from self preservation to a more abundant, big picture thinking. So it was a pivotal moment. That builder has completely missed the lesson and completely took the money and ran. That's alright. So it's not my job to, you know, they didn't understand how unique that choice was, and how big it was because that people would have been stiffing them left, right and centre. That's alright, that was for me.
[30:14] Second is meeting one of my current mentors, who is close to being a billionaire at the moment. Who is also a migrant. Very relevant. I wanted to, I wanted to choose mentors that were relevant to my situation and migrants are very, very successful in Australia, for obvious reasons. So, he's a migrant and he was essentially broke at late 40s, 50 years old. And started again from scratch, and has built, pretty much built a billion dollar empire inside 20 years.
[30:53] So, I listened to him talk at an event and I knew there were probably 1000 people there, and I thought, I think everyone's gonna pepper him after this. I [will] just be yet another number of people ringing him asking him if they can catch up. So, I need to think differently. So, I actually rang his office and I said to a secretary that I'm making [a] $1,000 donation to his charity now. I would like to meet him for an hour, but there is no obligation, I'll make the donation anyway.
[31:25] And that singular event, make [made] me stand out, above all the people ringing him just asking him for something. And he actually called me in for a meeting. And then proceeded to keep in touch and I've spent a bit of time with him — I've played golf with him. And the time I've spent with him has completely raised my ceiling on what is possible. When I first met him, I was doing little six pack, seven packs units. And then through a little bit of interaction I've gone, he has created a billion dollar empire in 20 years.
There's no skill set difference between him and I, there's only a mindset difference. So what I took from that is it raised my ceiling massively. And I'm not going to put a ceiling on, I want to see how far we can go with this. Can we become the biggest property company in Australia? We decide. So, that was the second one, second most pivotal moment.
[32:23] The third was just a chance meeting, which was shortly after that period, as well. So, that was 2013. So, it was only four years ago that I met my mentor. And then the third event was, I want to think how I could expand much bigger and faster and the only way is access to larger amounts of capital and bringing on powerful joint venture partners.
So, I've very fortunately happened to meet a gentleman from Singapore, he was out on holiday. We got introduced by a mutual friend and just happened to be that pivotal moment in time where I actually had a choice to share. I was in walking on Oxford Street with my son, like going for a beer. And she rang me and said, 'This gentleman [is] down from Singapore, who [is] actually down the street in Bolinda, do you want to meet up?'
[33:16] So, you got a choice, you can go, no I'm going to go have a beer with my mates or I'm going to meet some business contact. So, I asked somebody to look after my son, and I met him. So, if I didn't go to that meeting, you know, [it] would have been [a] radically different outcome. So, I met him and their group from Singapore came out to view a project with us.
And about two months later, they had committed to a $20,000,000 project, which up until that point, my largest project was probably $7,000,000 or $8,000,000. So, I went to another level straightaway. And that has triggered a series of events of access to large amounts of capital through Singapore, and then to become a listed company. There are three very key pivotal moments. Intuitively I can recognise them [and] the importance of them at the time. And didn't, you know, committed to doing it. I didn't get to go and play golf or do something else and get to that ladder. Yeah, place them as [a] high priority.
Coming up after the break, we’ll explore the strategy that Ansell used to achieve success…
[8:08] Before we even get to that, it helps you get to your journey faster by having as much clarity as you can [for] what you're trying to do.
We’ll learn about the effects of having mentors…
[0:37] You can have mentors of different kinds all the time. You know, your parents can be a mentor.
We’ll hear about the personal habits that contribute to his success…
[18:58] Obviously read a lot, read a lot of books.
And that’s next. I’m Tyrone Shum and you’re listening to Property Investory.
Finding Your Strategy
We’ve heard about Ansell’s property investing journey. Now, let’s explore how he executed it.
[8:10] It helps you get to your journey faster by having as much clarity as you can [for] what you're trying to do. So, before we even get to build anything or select a site, we've applied very much an economic thought process to our company. So, what I mean by that is, we study economic trends and demographic trends consistently on a daily basis and then formulate a strategy after that.
[8:44] Thankfully that then coincided with market style and project. So, we're an ageing population. We have a very wealthy set of population in empty nesters and baby boomers, who have been fortunate that to the majority of their working life, they've not hit a recession. So, the stats show that baby boomers accounted for about 9% or 10% of the population, [but] get to hold 60% of the wealth in Australia. That's massively just [a] distorted statistic.
Take that statistical analysis and go 'Where's Australia going in the future?' I have certain thought patterns based on my you know, and we have one of my other mentors and consultants [who] is actually a bit of a futurist and trend analysis style person. [They] come from a managed fund background.
[9:52] So you know, we're doing a little bit of future prediction here. So, we've modelled all our entire business around that stead of demographics and thought patterns and also what's happening in the future. So, we are experiencing a massive shift. We will experience a massive shift in the next 20 years of baby boomers moving out of large homes into apartments and townhomes. We're a little bit ahead of the curve, we were a little bit frustrated, we're not selling as fast and maybe my expectations are too high.
[10:28] Because we do sell out a lot of projects prior to completion. We have one on the Gold Coast, we have sold out at the start of construction. Which is very, very rare. Very unique, very high end project in Burleigh Heads. So, we're a bit early in the cycle, we're only three to four years into a 15 to 20 year cycle. So, the numbers are not there for us for our product. But we're holding firm on that line, trusting that they'll come.
And you know, bear in mind, it takes a lot of courage to build a $2,000,000 property. Because there's no other options for it. You can't keep it and rent it out. It counts collector investment channel. You have one exit strategy, which is to sell it to an owner occupied.
You may think that only having one exit strategy is a risk and might cause failure but, this is where Ansell’s strategy kicks in.
[11:33] Our strategy is, instead of doing excessively large projects of 100 to 200 units, we [are] doing lots of smaller boutique projects. Projects between sort of $15,000,000 and $50,000,000 in gross value, and numbers between sort of 15 and 40 apartments. So, we're mini, we're using a risk minimization strategy of diversification. Spreading it across lots of projects, not one massive, big, you know, all out project.
[12:27] You know, what happens if one product goes pear shaped? Well, we have plenty of others. And they spread around the state. And then we can make the decision when we start construction as well. Now, another thing I try and do is have cheap land prices, expensive builds. You push your wrist to the back end of a project. You know, a $4,000,000 purchase on land, $20,000,000 build. Not a $15,000,000 purchase on land, $50,000,000 build. Because your risk is brought forward.
[12:57] So, if we purchase a site for say, $3,000,000 [or] $4,000,000, and we buy... we can let it sit there for five years. Stressless, we can pick and choose when we go. So, we'll start selling and if we just don't sell anything, we won't start construction. So yeah, I mean, there's lots of little things you can learn and do to minimise that. But being aware of risk and asking these questions is intelligent. You know, the build and hope they come mentality is very risky.
[13:58] Yeah, and different areas go for different times. So, we're hard out construction on the Gold Coast at the moment which is going fantastic. Brisbane’s tougher, so we're a little bit more cautious on Brisbane. But even then, when we buy a site, we try and diversify the product on there as well.
So, we've got a site in Taringa in Brisbane, which is a real upmarket inner city suburb in the western suburbs, near the universities, near all the private schools. And then we've got a 4500 square metre site on a hilltop, in one of the best streets in that suburb. So, instead of doing 50 apartments, we’re mixing up the product — houses, townhouses and apartments, and having different price points. So, as a buyer inquiry comes in, you can move them between the different products or give them options.
From many perspectives of property development, Ansell is very involved. This includes the design.
[15:06] I get heavily involved in the architectural side. It's very much a passion of mine, designing someone's home and why they want to live there. So, the product mix is a number of different factors — the topography of the land, what surrounding the site, and the reality of the site was that it's on a hilltop but slopes down a little bit. And at the top of the hill, we've got $3,000,000 [to] $4,000,000 houses on the ridge. At the bottom of the hill, we've got $600,000 [to] $700,000 apartments.
[15:34] So, we've followed the topography of the land and the style of the suburb to make sense, hoping that Brisbane City Council would support us and see the rationale. But unfortunately, we don't get any support from our local councils. They missed the point completely. So, it took us 14 months to get that approval. And in court. But, so I had the option of scraping and starting again. But we held sway. I said 'No, no, this is the right strategy'. And we went to court, and we won.
[16:18] The irony is we paid $5,700,000 per site and had an offer of $8,000,000. Do you know how to say no to that offer? When everybody is telling you to bail. What's said no, this project, once I get it through [it] has a strong profit margin. And it's great for our branding, and the suburb needs it. So, sometimes there's a fine line between being pig headed and stubborn.
The Influence of Mentors
On his path to success, Ansell has been guided by mentors.
[0:38] You can have mentors of different kinds all the time. You know, your parents can be a mentor. In ethics, you know, anyone can be a mentor. I don't see, I don't like to put people up on this pedestal, that they have everything covered in life, I don't think that's possible. We always have something to work on. Whether it's our fitness, our relationship, parenting, work — there's always something to work on. So, to put a human being too high up on a pedestal and say, 'He's perfect, I want to emulate his life'. I don't seek to do that, I still want to do my own thing.
[1:15] So, I've only gone for a mentor, only in a purely professional sense. [He's a] very ethical man, but different lifestyles, and because I also look at him and go, 'He works too much. No life balance'. So, I don't want that. I do want some aspect of life balance, and I have a seven year old son. So, it's important that I don't perpetuate a story of having a massively successful father that you never saw.
[1:48] So, a little bit of balance in there. Although balance doesn't gel well with fast success. Ironically. The power of focus is what does it. To balance for me is periods of intense focus to create results quickly, balancing with periods of relaxation and pulling back. As opposed to just taking your seven days and dividing them between leisure and work. I don't do that. Key pivotal moments, you go hard at work. And yeah, your family might not see you for days, then you balance that up, we take a big holiday every year.
[2:36] Must go overseas, and make it big, we got a year for five, six weeks. Enjoy ourselves, we're going...this year for lengthy periods, for different time zones. So, going back to the mentor — I don't see his lifestyle as something I want to emulate. It's all about work. The work aspect and the mindset aspect, pull out of that, then I have other friends who have different skill sets. One or more spiritual nature, or technical friends, or forensic negotiators and stuff like that. So, I'm fascinated by that, different sides of, different kinds of mentors for different aspects of your life.
From his mentors, Ansell has one main takeaway.
[6:18] Be very, very careful who you spend your time with. There's an old saying, if you want to see a future, have a look at your immediate peer group.
[6:29] If you still hang around with your mates from uni, who are not going anywhere, that's your future. If you want to increase your future and [have] a better future, you need to get around better people. Because you just absorb their energy and their thought patterns. Whether you, so you know, and then when you're starting out and you have dreams, and you're trying to build there's plenty of Chicken Littles out there who'll, you know, knock your dreams and Australia still has an issue — is that the tall poppy syndrome. I think the societal syndrome that is very limiting for us as a country to help us move forward to the next stage. Now we need to be celebrating success more.
As for himself, he has two main takeaways that he hopes to pass onto others.
[17:42] Place more emphasis on the medium to long term and less emphasis on the short term. Give yourself a break in the short term about how quickly you can receive results. Take a 10 year approach. Because when you do you get massive results in the last two to three years. [It's] about building momentum, so give yourself a break. So, when I came back from London, I sat down and write out my goals. I'm arriving back, I'm going to do this. And I want to have 10 properties in the next five to six years. And then nothing happened for the first three or four years. Mass frustration.
[18:21] Until, you know, until some people give you some perspective. They're like, 'Hang on mate, you've only been going for three years? You're trying to increase it, create a portfolio of 10 or 15 properties? [That's a] big ask'. So, you can be ambitious, but just layer it with, yeah, property is a longer term game. It's not like the shares, we can get in and out in five minutes. That's, and that's not a limiting belief system. What it does is it helps you in the early days, get through the tough times. You don't give up so easily because you've got a longer term approach.
[18:58] And then secondly, to that, be very clear on what you want to achieve. What was your primary reason for getting into property? Do you love your job and it's a side investment to build wealth for your family? Great, do that. Don't confuse it with wanting to get into property full-time because very few people do successfully. If property is your primary passion and you want to get into it, then go do it. But understand that the first few years will be hard as you build and grow.
But I think a lot of people pile into the property game full-time for the love of money first and the game second. It's way harder because when you're not getting the financial results, it's harder to get out of bed in the morning and motivate yourself. Because [it’s] your primary, there's nothing wrong with the prime motivation being money. I don't make a comparison there. Just understand that, you know, your reasoning for doing things and yeah, and just temporary. Short, medium and long term thinking.
Read Books for Concepts, Not a Guide
When it comes to personal habits that have helped Ansell, he pushes the importance of reading.
[18:59] Obviously read a lot, read a lot of books. A lot of when I was running the finance company, instead of listening to the radio and music, I would constantly listen to personal development style CDs, and that stuff just absorbs into you. A lot of it can be Americanised, but you can pick and choose, but you can listen to a whole CD set, and you only need two ideas. One or two ideas that can help you get to the next level. So, you know, it might be a educational course on sales or something like that. And during listening to that, I pick up one idea, then I get to the next appointment and apply. And get better at what I was doing. So, like I said earlier, it's what you do in your spare time. You don't learn anything new [by] putting the radio on listening to music.
Although books may not specifically guide you through your property investment journey, they can still provide great value.
[4:28] I think books and that are excellent for concepts, ideas and mindset. I've never really found a decent property book for the specific reason that they're too generic and it's very hard. There's lots of different property markets all over the world, countries and then individually within a city. So, to write a property book specifically, and I actually find them quite dull.
So, my style has been to use education and books for personal development. And then learn on the street, which has been [of] the most value for me. And when we hire staff, we have people come in with the most fancy resumes and tremendous university degrees. In property, you got to be street smart. You can't learn that stuff from a book. You got to be on the street, because [of] negotiation. How do you — live negotiation on a property is very intuitive sometimes. So, it's not a cerebral exercise.
Looking Towards the Future
Going into the future, Ansell is excited about the development of his company.
[21:56] I'm in that phase where I need to reset. I need to reset high goals because we've achieved something fairly significant in a short space of time. So, I need to raise that ceiling and reset, I'm still in that process. Yeah, do we want to become one of the best small boutique property companies in Australia? Or do we want to be the biggest? The challenge I see with the biggest guys in the country is, they have a big machine to feed so they have to keep doing deals. And they have to spread that to go do deals that don't match their original ethos, just to make money to feed the machine.
[22:32] So, if I had to make a statement, it would be [to] become the greatest property company in Australia, not the biggest or most profit[able]. Something that our shareholders are massively proud to be a part of. We make great returns for them, but they also see what we're doing. We're doing a lot of other stuff as well, I'm actively trying to get all our projects and construction in development off grid, to be a leader in that space, and to find wealthy buyers who connect for that vision as well, and will help us pay for it.
So, in some of our projects, we're spending $800,000 [to] $900,000 per unit on the build. But we're actually spending $850,000. Because of all the energy saving devices and everything we put in. It's very hard to get someone to share that costs with you because they have a set budget and they go ‘that's all I want to pay for a property’. So, we're new in that cycle. I think everybody has the intention of wanting to help the environment and make and you know, do their part. They just don't want to pay for it.
[24:18] My own house is off grid — power wall and solar. It's a big thing for me is being authentic. Actively not saying one thing and doing another. Authenticity is very important to me. That can be challenging as well. You know, I'm a fairly direct person and I can get people off side as well by not holding my tongue. Because I'm not happy about the state and the quality of the activities and the level of behaviour in our game. I think the excessively poor. Our industry needs a clean out. It has got to come. It'll come in the next five years, there's gonna be a clean out, there's gonna be some very challenging times in the market.
Advice to a Past Self
If given the opportunity, Ansell would give his past self valuable advice that we can all learn from.
[25:34] I'll probably say, do it earlier. Like, even though our journey has been quick, I had the skill set to start and do it earlier, I just didn't catch up with the belief system.
[25:53] And all the other things we've spoken about today. Be careful who you spend your time with. Which I did, I've had a weeding out process over the last 10 years. And secondly, don't worry so much about how you're perceived. I think a large part of our behaviour on a daily basis is to appease other people or concern about how we're seen, you know, in business in life, just be yourself and go for it.
Thank you to Brendon Ansell, our guest on this episode of Property Investory.