Movers and Shakers | Lorraine Thomas| View From My Window
Six years ago Lorraine Thomas founded View From My Window, a property business that builds from the ground up; rents to the disadvantaged; and mentors those READY to build their property portfolio.
What inspired you to start your own business?
To be honest I had no plans to start my own business. I had been working in senior Business Development roles in City law firms for a number of years. I was happy.
Then my father became ill with Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia. I decided to quit. I gave up my job to care for him on a carer’s allowance of £62.50 per week.. At the time I believed that was my lot. Little did I know that action was the end of one chapter and the beginning of an even greater new one.
A few months later I received an email that was not meant for me. It was about finding accommodation for young adults that were looked after by my local Borough. I responded to that email and I found the accommodation, but it was shabby. I felt I could provide much better accommodation for young people so went off to a property auction with my friend Delores (who later became my business partner.) That was the day my journey began.
What were the first few steps you took to get the business up and running?
Firstly, we spoke to several brokers. After doing our homework, we chose one that was ‘whole of market’ which helped us obtain the right finance.
Secondly, we appointed an accountant. However, he was not the best choice and he turned out to be really bad for us. To date, we are on our third set of accountants. It’s essential for a small business to have a really hot accountant who also understands tax.
Thirdly, we secured and invested in property training. Buyer beware! A premium fee doesn’t mean first-class training. Which was one of the many lessons we learnt on our journey.
How far ahead do you plan and what keeps you on track and motivated?
I tell my mentees that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. However, this comes with a massive proviso:
If opportunity knocks don’t turn it down because it’s not in your plan. Much of our business has been built on sudden unplanned opportunities.
Tactical shorter-term planning also works. Our longer-term strategic goals are over two and five years. The thought of those plans scares us. They keep us alive and truly motivated as they are bigger than the two of us.
Step by step we work it out. We stop, reflect and measure. We don’t try to boil the ocean.
It’s true. “If your dreams do not scare you, then they are not big enough.”
Are there any sacrifices you’ve had to make as an entrepreneur?
Yes, of course. Every path on the journey has swings and roundabouts. My two key sacrifices are:
- A lot less family time. I work 10 hours plus on average per day.
- Taking a lower salary as my funds are normally firmly in the ground.
What has been the most amazing day in your entrepreneurial life so far?
I have three stand-out moments:
- The hammer going down on our first auction purchase.
- Gaining my first mentee.
- Securing planning permission on our first development site.
What has been your scariest moment?
Being ‘thrown under the bus’ by a bridging company (who shall remain nameless). Close to exchange they pulled the funds because our accountant (who shall also remain nameless) had not prepared our accounts properly. And then did a runner when we tried to contact him.
We ended up having to find the FULL purchase price in cash!
How do you work on making your business grow?
- Through character, collaboration, and connections. Social currency plays a big part too as it provides conviction.
- Purchasing right. Timing and price are everything. You make your money in property when you buy.
- Focusing on my existing mentees and tenants grows my business because they refer me.
What is the best thing about being your own boss?
You get to take holidays when you choose, for how long you choose, in the class you choose and how you choose. You also get to choose who you work with and when you work with them.
What are the challenges of working for yourself and how do you tackle them
Switching off is a major challenge. If you run your own business, it’s in your blood and can be all-consuming.
You also have to wear many hats; my hard hat believe it or not is the easiest of them. It’s the smaller hats that drain you the most – admin, social media, bookkeeping, meetings etc. There are never enough hours in the day.
I endeavour to contract out as much as I can but even that comes with its challenges. It’s a skill to find a team who can walk in your shoes.
Who do you admire or look to for inspiration as a business owner?
I hold a deep faith so for me God first. He covers my every move before I make it.
Sister Snog (www.sistersnog.com) A trailblazing tribe of remarkable businesswomen who are hugely inspirational.
And Of course the PRECIOUS community. Totally inspiring.
What piece of advice has had the most impact on your business? And who was it from?
It was from my mum – ‘Give, Give, Give your last penny. It will come back to you.’
As a socially conscious landlord, it has been a gift to help others on my journey. I also feel inspired by the late, great, singer, Dennis Brown – No Man is an Island.
What are the three books, websites or resources (professional or personal) that you would recommend to other business owners?
The greatest book of all – the Bible (with explanatory notes) because nothing even comes close. It has the greatest lessons for any business owner and is more than three books in one.
What other passions do you have away from your business? How do you relax?
- Travel – I’ve travelled extensively. South Africa, Aruba and Cuba being top of my list, but there is SO much more to do and I plan to do it.
- Entertaining – I love showing off my cooking efforts and sharing them with friends and family.
- Water – By the sea or in the pool either will do me. Water is my happy place.