Normette Homes in Convo with ... Kayode Ogunbanjo
In this exciting edition of our ‘in conversation’ series we speak to the VP of Investor Relations at Trinity Assets, property investor, and mentor to the Normette team, Kayode Ogunbanjo.
NH: Tell about yourself and the work that you currently do.
K: Right, so how long do you have? (Laughs). But I’ll keep it very short and brief and talk about the organisation as a whole. So the organisation [Trinity Assets] was found four years ago and a group of partners and myself thought we could do this thing ourselves, this property investing and developing, and do it in a very smart way and bring some new tech into that space. So we formed Trinity Assets and Trinity Assets focuses on 3 things, mainly profits, incomes and assets. And that’s what it’s about in terms of investing.
So my background is pretty much traditional: uni, college, working in the industry and I got bored and I wanted to do something with more feeling and property was the way. Trinity Assets focuses on permitted development projects so these are projects that don’t require planning, for example, HMO conversions, commercial to residential properties and just your general H2L conversions or extensions. However, we’re starting to dip our toes into projects that need planning because it’s a massive uplift so we’re focusing on that space and in particular we’re looking at Grade2 listed buildings that are going to be converted into apartments.
NH: How difficult would you say the transition was from your 9-5 life to property?
K: It was really, really tough. I would say. The reason I say it was tough is that I didn’t have any goals, I just wanted to quit my 9-5 (laughs). You’ve got to take baby steps and sometimes it might take longer than you expect. So, what I first thought was: how much money would I need to fund my lifestyle? And that question kind of really helped me understand what’s relevant and what’s irrelevant and it helped me really trim the fat from my expenses. So when I had that in mind, my goal was to replace that income and that helped me with understanding what do I need to do and how much money will I need and how much money will I make. That was the first thing, funding my lifestyle. And then once I got to that number, then it was a confidence thing.
I wasn’t sure if it was the right move for me and when I decided it was, I then created a runway. Let me explain for those who don’t know what a runway is. So it’s whereby you have three months of the amount of money that will fund your lifestyle and I was able to save for another three months, just in case or anything happens because you just don’t know. So that really helped and gave me some more confidence. And worse case, I can always go back to 9-5 but that wasn’t the plan.
So just to recap, I had to go to my expenses and trim the fat of the things I didn’t need and I created a runway of three months of savings in the bank. This was money that I wouldn’t touch; it would just sit there in case of a real emergency or if all the income stopped. I still do that today, so I have 2 years of a runway, if anything happens I could bum around for two years (laughs).
Where you have no focus, you have no business.
NH: Advice for those entering property, do you think people should focus on niches?
K: Identify a gap in the market and focus on that niche. The reason for this is to become a specialist in that area and you want to be that go-to person. Because once you start focusing on multiple strategies in property or any business venture, you lose a lot of focus and it generates so much waste in the process.
Where you have no focus, you have no business.
NH: What do you think is the most rewarding part of being in property, compared to a 9-5?
K: I can wear what I want to wear (laughs). Most importantly: freedom.
NH: How has COVID-19 impacted Trinity Assets and how have you been navigating it?
K: Right, it’s a very interesting question (smiles) and the reason I’m smiling is because so far it’s been really good. COVID has helped us understand what our focus should be; also it’s helped us adapt our business during this time. For example, first of all, there was so much waste. We thought we had to manage everything but COVID has really taught us how we could have contactless engagement with our customers. So people could check themselves in, they could check themselves out
Also, there was a massive gap as soon as COVID happened when hotels shut. All the contractors were key workers, working on one of the biggest projects in Britain, the HS2 project. Who is going to house these people, we’re talking about hundreds of people. So what did we do? We pivoted our business. We were able to accommodate these people; literally, we’re picking up the overflow from hotels and increased our rates. The interesting thing is when COVID happened and lockdown, the first one, we went from 100% revenue to 10% revenue which was scary. We took a step back; we looked at our business model and understood what we needed to do.
I would say, before you seek out a mentor, think about what you would be offering a mentor?
NH: Going back to your relationship with Normette Homes, you’ve been a great mentor. With regards to mentorship, just how important is it and how can people go about finding a mentor?
K: It’s a very good question and the reason I say that is because to get to where I am now, I had mentors. The thing with the mentor-mentee relationship is that it has a time span. So I would say, before you seek out a mentor, think about what you would be offering a mentor? When you want to think about what you’re going to add to your session with them, also have the goals you want to achieve from the relationship. The other thing I would say is put everything they’ve taught you into practice because there are so many times where a mentor drops so many gems, and they give you so much insight but what are you going to do with that knowledge?
Let me use me as an example. When I was looking for a mentor, I wanted to see people I could identify with. Be that race, be that career path, be that industry and then I got a shortlist of about 10 people and then rather than starting from the bottom I started from the top with the people I really, really wanted to meet.
NH: Any advice for young people looking to get into property?
K: One thing I would say is to follow your passion but it has to make you money. Another thing I would say is read books of value. Whatever you consume is what you’re going to get out. Whatever you read is what you’re going to become. There is so much knowledge out there.
So reading books, reaching out to people who are doing what you want to do … the thing about reaching out to people who are doing what you’re doing is that there are so many mistakes you don’t have to make. I see this a lot of the time whereby you will go out to do something by yourself and yes experience is the best teacher but at the same time, when you make mistakes it can set you back like two to three years.
And very lastly, just be grateful for everything you have. You know, we live in a society whereby we forget just how lucky we are. Just being grateful to be alive, especially with everything that’s been happening. Be thankful for everything, for just being alive. It’s always good to be thankful for the small things, the fact that I can get out of bed. I’m healthy; I’ve got people I can talk to. It makes a big, big difference in your journey.
*This interview has been edited and condensed.
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Normette Homes specialises in property investment and tenant sourcing.