Co-founders Jared Keen and Penelope Valentine of Rent360 - a startup providing real estate investors with a better system for their rental and property management- will uncover how their backgrounds led to an ideal partnership, how a suspicious smell turned into the world’s craziest inspection and why you shouldn’t wait for the property bubble to burst.
Discover the scope of their roles from licking envelopes to speaking to Fortune 100 CEOs, the pain points which prompted the formation of Rent360 and how you can create a better work/life balance through the right property manager.
Jared Keen and Penelope Valentine
My name is Jared Keen, I'm the co-founder and CEO of a property management company called Rent360. Previous to that, I've been in tech startups since 2002 since I was 24. I started my first company which was a digital promotion and couponing company called Coupons Star. We took that over to the UK and proved that to be the largest digital couponing company, in the supermarket in the pharmacy space in Europe, which we were lucky enough to sell to an American company called coupons.com in 2011. So I remained at the helm in London as managing director of the American company - the international arm American company for six months - and then I moved to New York and worked for coupons.com for the American headquarters.
Then he returned to Australia and searched to build his wealth through investing in Sydney properties.
So I currently own two investment properties in Sydney - one in Redfern and one in St Peters; I used a buyer's agent for that. Through my experiences with purchasing those properties and then using the property managers of the company that sold me the property, I had a pretty disastrous experience with both of them due to level of service, the type of property manager I received, the amount of turnover.
After going through three property managers in two years with one of his properties, Keen didn’t even know who was managing his property anymore. So, he sought to do something about it.
So based on my technology and startup digital marketing background and based on my experience in the Sydney property investment and property management market, I decided that there just had to be a better way. And I looked for why property management and property investors in general are typically quite underwhelmed and or disappointed by the quality of service they receive for the fees they pay, to traditional real estate agency. And that's kind of how Rent360 was born.
Enter Penelope Valentine, whose extensive experience in real estate became invaluable as the other half of Rent360.
My name is Penelope Valentine, I'm the other co-founder and I have been in real estate for the last 15 years in a variety of roles. Most of my roles have been in the large franchises from a corporate perspective, but I did go into property management with McGrath for about four years. I started off as a property manager and did that for about three years - and I knew business development as well which I really loved and had small children and then went back into it. I started training in education for LJ Hooker and I've also managed real estate offices, so I've got a good depth and breadth of understanding of real estate.
And her passion for property management is something that is easily translated when entering into a partnership with Keen.
I think property management has always been something that has been very dear to my heart and I'm extraordinarily passionate about the industry. So the Rent360 model has been phenomenal for us because it's allowed a platform to really give great property managers an opportunity to own their own business.
Jared and Penelope became partners when they realised the potential of their complementary skillset.
Truth be told, I kind of stalked Penelope! Something I learned about my experience with my previous company is you need to identify your weaknesses and find people that are both smarter and more knowledgeable than you in those particular areas. Obviously coming from a technology and digital marketing background, I was obviously lacking what they call domain expertise or the real estate industry or property management industry knowledge. So I searched high and wide for someone to come on board with me and essentially start Rent360 and bring it to fruition, so I actually found Penelope.
Penelope writes and blogs for the property management trade publication in Australia called RPM and I saw she wrote an interesting blog about mentoring in the property management and real estate space. I looked at her profile on LinkedIn and based on her experience, both in real estate agency property management and some technology and startup experience, I've never come across a profile like that. So I immediately reached out to her and for some reason, timing was right and she called me about 10 or 15 minutes later and we pretty much gelled straight away - and a partnership was born.
So what do they do in any given day?
For my part of the business, we're always looking for operational excellence and attracting the top property manager. So in any given day, it's really meeting these property managers, talking through the opportunity, giving them a look at the platform that we provide and talking about how they come to them. And really helping them with their goal setting and showing them what they're capable of achieving is the best part of this job for me, because you see people's eyes wide open when they can see that there's actually an opportunity for them to really have a work/life harmony, make some really good money and love what they do again.
On my side of the equation, I'm responsible for demand and so that means sales and marketing and attempting to find property investors that would be privy to our value proposition - so those that have either just purchased the property or are considering switching a property.
On top of the sales and marketing, I also take care of the technology side of the business. So coming up with the product design, which is essentially the online marketplace and the CRM platform that we've built and making sure that all of our end users - which are essentially both property investors and the property managers - are happy and connecting in a productive and efficient manner.
And it’s no small feat! Jared says setting up the business in Australia has its challenges, but the rewards make it all worthwhile.
It's cliche, being in a startup is a rollercoaster ride. But as I tell Penelope, I wouldn't have it any other way. It's so exhilarating, rewarding, frustrating. Australia can be a little reserved - there are resistance and fear of failure, so it's very important to really create a vision and sell your vision both to the suppliers or partners you're working with, as well as your staff and of course as well as customers like property investors, to prove that we are an alternative. Even though we're young, perhaps it'll be proven that we're trying to make this industry better and every day we're working our butts off to make sure that we can achieve our goals.
Growing up in Sydney, Jared chose to continue living near the beach to maintain balance in his life.
I was born in Paddington Royal Women's Hospital here in Sydney and I grew up in Bondi and apart from when I lived overseas for work, I've never lived further than 2 km away from Bondi Beach.
When I was at university, I did a program where I was working full time and studying part-time at a university in NSW. So I actually had quite a bit of corporate exposure quite early in my career, from 19 years old to 21 years old, so I was working for Volvo, I actually worked for British American Tobacco which is something one shouldn’t talk about too much. It wasn't my number one preference by the way. And the third one was HCF. After I finished university, I took a year off and realised that spending the next 20, 30, 40 years in the corporate world wasn't something for me personally. So I got back from overseas and this opportunity through a family friend came across my desk and it seemed like the perfect opportunity, something for me to sink my teeth into. I studied Information Systems and marketing from a business degree when I was at university and so, that first opportunity was a perfect opportunity for me to cut my teeth as an entrepreneur.
Before he went overseas to work, he also bought his first property.
I bought a property, which is now my residential home, but when I was living overseas for six years I did rent that out; so I actually started having some experience as a landlord when I travelled overseas. In terms of influences, I guess my father has been extremely influential. He is quite an accomplished entrepreneur himself in the technology space and other pursuits and of course, as any doting father would say, is when you have saved a little bit of cash they say it's good to be safe, start putting some of that money into property. So that was a big influence for me.
Penelope’s love of sunshine also kept her in the northern beaches for most of her life, before becoming involved in real estate.
I grew up on the gorgeous northern beaches of Sydney and I'm still there, but I just want to say that after university I did go to Europe for 10 years so it's not like I spent my whole life here.
So travelling through Europe for 10 years or working through Europe for 10 years.
After uni I thought, ‘I'll take a year off and I'll go to London and I'll just stay there for a year and kind of do the Antipodean thing.’ I've got dual citizenship, so I was able to stay there for 10 years. I ended up working for Soho House in London and running a lot of the events, both in the south of France and in England as well and it gave me an incredible exposure I guess to the customer-centricity that you have to have over there to deal with those big personalities. I spent most of that time in hospitality, but it was a really very fun experience, I got to do a lot of travelling so I really loved it. I think it enabled me to be able to communicate and get along with varying degrees of people and different types of big personalities.
I can imagine it sounds very fun and exciting. At what point did you decide that okay it's time to move back to Sydney.
I couldn't take the lack of sunshine. I think living in London that the sky seems lower and I would think I was ready to start a family and the thought of bringing up children in the environment where it's only sunny two or three days a year really didn't do much for me. After about six I think I was.
I went to America for a year and then I came back in 2002 to Sydney and I got a job in McGrath corporate office and I met the head of marketing there, we had a courtship and ended up marrying and we're still married today. So as soon as I met him, real estate kind of rammed through my bones and so I've been in real estate and he's still in real estate now, so we've got a little real estate family.
She also worked for various real estate companies where she realised that she wanted to focus on something else.
I worked for Harcourts and for Ray White - it was for Ray White that I was a property manager. So after my first child, I didn't want to go back into a corporate environment, I needed something that I thought would be a little bit easier. Had I known what I know now about property management, I probably wouldn't have gone into it. Property management is very complex in terms of all the moving parts you have. So I started with Ray White and I was working full time as a property manager, then after about a couple of years I'd grown that portfolio and I started to focus more on new business. But the rent roll that I waded into was in chaos and I had to do a lot to tidy up the rent roll. There was a lot of things that just weren't happening, so rental reviews weren’t happening, inspections weren’t happening and so it was a real backfire for me.
But over the course of the two years that I was there, I managed to create stability within that rent roll and because of the stability we created, we started getting more referrals and we were able to significantly increase that rent roll as well which was great. And I had a really good team around me and created the environment that I thought was a positive one and that really helped to build a great rent roll as well.
This eventually led to her partnership with Jared, where she was able to eliminate some of the risk in branching out into her own business.
For a few years I did some other things after property management, I had some more children and then I went into LJ Hooker and worked in a corporate role - I was actually managing to LJ Hooker's best performing offices in the northern beaches. When Jared and I connected, as much as I loved that role, I just kind of thought that I really wanted to do something else. When Jared pitched the idea of Rent360, it took me instantly back to when I was a property manager because I just felt like I wanted to own my own property management business but with three young kids and the cost and everything that was required to start your own business, it was just cost-prohibitive. And there was just too big a risk for me to take to leave my role with young children and start my own business. So for Jared to come to me with an idea where we could actually provide a platform for really great property managers to go out on their own be able to have work-life balance and make some really significant money, that to me was such an amazing idea and something that I really wanted to be a part of.
The influence for Penelope to start investing in property originally came from her family.
My uncle was an avid property investor and I was always intrigued by how much money he was making with his investment properties. So I think there was a seed planted quite early on that property investment and property on the whole was something that I was very keen on as a young child and the eldest of four children. My mum always said I had entrepreneurial blood in my veins and I was always looking for ways to make extra money, so it didn't surprise her at all that I ended up getting into property and then started investing in property when I came back to Sydney.
Penelope’s property investing journey started with a great purchase near Sydney CBD, which then led to more diverse property investments.
I started off with a property with my husband. So as soon as we got together we purchased a property in Surrey Hills and it's done really, really well. It was a great purchase and Surrey Hills is an area in Sydney where you can't really go wrong. After that, we thought we'd try something a bit harder, so we ended up purchasing a property in Kalala Beach down south, that's something that we did up. We bought what we could afford and we added value by doing a renovation, then more recently we’ve purchased two properties that we built. We bought some land up at Kurjoring Springs and built a duplex on there. So we're always looking for different ways to invest and obviously the location is primary for us.
One of the worst property management situations that she had heard of was when a friend’s investment property wasn’t inspected properly.
From a property management perspective, I think one of the worst situations that I came across and thankfully it wasn't in my office, but there was an investor who was a friend of mine and the inspection hadn't been done properly on their investment.
So it wasn't until they actually started getting a leak from underneath the door where they realised that the water heater had broken - it had been dripping water all throughout the bathroom and all in the cupboard and underneath the house, that it had compromised the actual stability of the house. And it was not thousands, it was nearly hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix this damage and it was simply because the property manager hadn't been doing the inspections that they said they'd been doing. They’d fudged some reports and it really left a very sour taste in my mouth that a property manager would do this, but unfortunately, there are lots of other stories like this where people just don't do the simple things in their role that they have to do and the consequences of that can be devastating. A lot of people only have one investment property and quite often it's the largest investment that they have. So to entrust the property manager to do their job, for these things to get missed and for the investor to have to deal with that, it's really quite bad.
Another terrible moment came when Penelope received complaints from the neighbours of a particular property which was giving off a very strange odour...
To give you another example, when I was a property manager I had been trying for ages and ages to get hold of this tenant to go and do an inspection and they wouldn't get back to me. We always had a spare set of keys and I went and did an inspection and there was complaints from the other neighbours that the house was always damp and it always seemed to have this terrible odour around it. Anyway, I went into this house and let myself in, announced myself and I looked around and it was the dampest house - and that was because they had no less than about 60 fish tanks there, all with varying degrees of fish. I don't know where they were living, but it was the most extraordinary place I've ever seen. You can imagine a house with every surface, there was shelves with fish tanks, fish tanks on the floor, all that had all these incredible fish in it. But it was the most dangerous place - there was electrical wires with the lights and the heating implements everywhere, it was an absolute disaster waiting to happen. That has always stuck in my mind as the world's craziest inspection.
Sounds like a hoarder of fish!
He was a fish hoarder! I'm not sure if that's a thing, but yeah he definitely hoarded a whole lot of fish.
Gosh, so what happened in the end with this particular house?
Well the legislation in NSW is very clear on how you have to exit a person like this and we went through the process and we had to get this person help, because he was dangering himself and the neighbours as well. So we went through that process and we had to call extra services to come in and rehouse this gentleman and make sure that he had support moving forward. But I mean it could have been devastating if something had gone wrong, or electricity had blown up, or tripped and fell on one of these fish tanks. So who knows? But eventually we had to put him into a more secure environment.
One of Jared’s worst property moments came at a vulnerable time - when he was leasing out his property while he was overseas.
There was one that was less about the responsibility of the property manager, this is actually my own residential home that I leased out for five years while I was away overseas. It just so happened to pass that the building of the apartment block had some damp issues and there needed to be quite a large amount of works done to the property. There was fighting for years between building insurance agencies and all these different types of insurance agencies, until like literally three years later while I was away and had a great tenant in there paying me quite a high rent, they decided that they had to put scaffolding over the entire building and use my balcony on my property to store all their equipment. Which meant that my tenants were extremely - and understandably - disappointed. And so for 12 weeks I had to give them full rent dispensation, whilst all the works were happening and sometimes these things are just out of your control. At that point I was relying on that income coming in to pay off the mortgage and there was nothing I could do about it. Because of the mitigating circumstances, my landlord’s insurance didn't cover it either.
Another horrible investing moment came when someone else made a decision about one of his properties that they had no right to.
The second story is with the first property I purchased after returning home and hiring the property managers of the selling agency and this was for a Redfern property. About a year into the first tenancy I got a call from the senior property manager - this is after I’d had three junior property managers who you just get an email from and you've never seen that name in your inbox before. But this was from the senior property manager that actually sold me originally saying, ‘Jared, we’ve got a problem. The tenants have left, they finished their one-year tenancy agreement.’ I had no idea. ‘And because it's winter and because the actual conditions right now aren’t great, we lowered the rent by 15% and it's currently being advertised on realestate.com.’
And I was like, Who made this decision? First of all, why didn't you tell me that the tenants had moved out, or given six weeks notice before they were moving out? And who gave you the authority to make the decision about what the rental value could be? Even advertised that, I thought I had to agree to that. And she was like, ‘Oh, I just thought I'd make an executive decision.’ And that was the beginning of the end for that particular agency and the beginning of Rent360.
In terms of a-ha moments, what stood out most for Penelope was how to avoid headaches through research.
I think the biggest thing for me is when you first start investing in property, you don't know what you don't know and I really wish there was the idiot's guide to property investing. Because once there is a formula to investing and it can save you a lot of money and a lot of headaches if you do your research first. And so many people - and I spoke about this at the beginning of the podcast - become emotionally involved with the property and they start visualising what it would be like if they were living there, where they would put their furniture and their bed and you know, having a glass of wine on the porch. That can skew the results and skew the numbers and it means that you can completely discount great properties because you don't like the paint colour, or you don't think it's in a nice neighbourhood.
But the old adage of buying the worst house on the best street holds true, making sure that you understand what's coming in that area. So what infrastructure is being put in? We said to you before, we purchased in Kujin Springs because we know that there's a big call centre going in there which will mean there'll be a lot of people coming to work in the call centre and they’ll need accommodation. So I think the biggest moment, the biggest lesson I've learnt in investing is that you need to make sure you completely understand what's happening in the area, not just what the landscape is now but what's coming in that area. Have a look at what schools are being developed and have a look at the infrastructure, what kind of people live there now? Because all that detail will give you a really good insight into the viability of that investment long term. And the other thing I want to add is that investing in property is not a get rich quick scheme, it is a long term strategy. People need to understand that unless you're buying properties to flip, you invest in properties for the long term.
Jared’s biggest a-ha moments related to buyer’s agents, crunching numbers and taking action.
I'm perhaps not as proficient, I'm kind of a set and forget guy. But my experience over the last four years since building a portfolio has been a few folds. One: if you can find a good buyer's agent, use them. Don't worry about the 1% or the $3,000 retainer, they are worth their weight in gold and I think it's a false economy to think, ‘Oh, I’m buying and not paying another 2% on top of what it will cost,’ because at least from my experiences, that they actually save you far more than 2%. I didn't have the time to find a property, I just gave him my investment objectives and he found it for me. So that's my number one personal tip.
Number two: I'm very data-driven and I think it's good to use your gut instinct and anecdotal stuff about people in the area, what's happening in the future and plan it as how Penelope said. I had a spreadsheet set up and every time he sent me a property, I crunched the numbers to understand everything from what the gross yield would be to what the net yield would be - and that includes things like strata fees and utilities, etc, all the way down. So you can know exactly what your net income is going to be if any. For example I wanted to be zero geared, so I didn't want to pay any tax but I didn't want it to be negatively geared. So I always had to jig the numbers in order to know what size investment loan I had to get.
The number three-point I hope resonates with some people is just get into the market. When I came back - and this was 2013 in November, October - everyone was saying that the Sydney market was at the top, it's a bubble, it's going to burst. And I was like, ‘I could be buying at the top’ and I was just like, ‘Oh, it’ll come back, I have a seven-year horizon, so I'm OK.’ And my properties in Redfern and St Peters probably appreciated somewhere between 30 to 50%. I think a lot of people hold off investing because they're waiting for the bubble to burst and I think particularly in Sydney when there is an increasing demand - population demand - you’ve just got to get on the ladder and get in there. Don’t just keep waiting for some miracle opportunity to happen.
How You Can Find The Best Property Manager with Penelope Valentine and Jared Keen
In developing their start-up, Keen says that it came down to identifying the three main pain points in the property market and finding a solution for them.
I think it's always important to define what the problem is. And we found in summary three key problems with the property management industry and that was because there are only two different alternatives. One was to use a professional property manager typically from your traditional real estate agency, whether it be Ray White or LJ Hooker, etc. Or you could self manage it and in Australia, 75-80% of landlords use a professional property manager - it's really part of our culture and people see the value in it, but the problem with professional property management right now is that it's become commoditised and the vast majority of landlords, we estimate around 70% are unsatisfied. And through a recent survey, 34% said their experience was disastrous and of those that are self-managing, 25% of them say that they would consider moving on to a property management agency if they could find one that they could trust.
The second problem is the issue of fees.
In this country everyone talks about their management fee, which in Sydney can be 5-6% plus GST and then going all the way up to Western Australia, where it can be as high as 15%. And the problem is that a lot of people don't realise that the incidental fees are ancillary fees that sit on top of it actually really add up. So if you talk about if your property needed to be leased in that particular financial year that there are administration fees, sundry fees, end of year financial statement fees, relet fees, review fees - people kind of don't read that extra small print on top of the management fee when they sign the management agreement and that really adds up. When we've done the calculations - and a good accountant should be telling their landlord this - is that in Sydney you're looking at somewhere between 11-13% of your annual rental income is actually going to the property management agency, whereas people think, ‘Oh, it's probably around 5 or 6%’ - it's not. And so that lack of transparency on fees is something that we're hoping to resolve.
The third thing is transparency. We felt a lot of people, a lot of the responses I got when setting out on this journey is, ‘I've got a property manager, I'm not really sure what they do. I'm not really sure what I'm paying them for.’ So are they doing their condition reports? Are they doing a routine inspection reports that's meant to happen at least twice a year in NSW and four times a year in Western Australia? Have there been any maintenance and repairs requests from any tenants? If so, how is that being handled? Who are the tradies that are being used? What were the two quotes provided through each service, etc? And we found that lack of transparency really broke the trust and the confidence that investors had, so if we could provide that transparency we think there would be a major hole that's currently plugged in the market. We've set off as Rent360 to solve those issues and we believe that the way to do it is through an online marketplace where independent property managers - who we have given an infrastructure, back-office support and services, as well as software to run and manage their own business that they are the owner of - to meet with property investors, sign up with property investors and then use technology to ensure that the management process is efficient and completely transparent.
So how can Rent360 work to benefit you in your property investing journey?
First of all there are amazing property managers out there and it's generally not the property manager, it's the agency that they're in. So the issue Jared touched on is that the agency is typically run by a principal who is focused on sales. They have been an persistent sales agents that have gone into owning their own business and they just know they need a property management business because that's a great asset to grow and it's their superannuation or their retirement plan. So, by providing this platform where property managers for the first time ever can actually go and start their own rent roll and grow their own property management business, is something that is really revolutionary for this industry. It means that people that love what they do and are exceptional at property management can actually go and make themselves a really good money instead of making it for the principal.
And what that means is that they have a genuine care and passion for every single investor that works with them because it's their business - and they want to make sure that the investor that they worked for has the best customer experience, that they’ve maximised the asset that they're looking after and that they make sure that the property is taken incredible care of. They take care of the tenants as well; the tenants are an integral part of this whole transaction. We have to make sure that the tenants are really looked after and listened to because then they're more likely to pay their rent on time, to let you know as soon as there's any kind of repairs and maintenance so they can be dealt with quickly. So the investors that work with us do so because they're looking for better customer experience.
The difference between Rent360 and other property management systems available is that they provide full transparency on who is managing your property.
At any one time 25% of property investors using professional property managers are also considering switching because of their experience. So what I think we bring to the table is transparency. When you perhaps have just purchased the property, obviously the selling agent is a convenient choice, they're convenient but you really don't know if they're any good and that's the mistake I made. And I think a lot of investors make that because they don't want to spend the time trying to find someone else. The other aspect is getting referrals from family or friends that might have properties in that area that might know a property manager and a lot of people, the majority of people, don't have access to that information.
What we've built with the Rent360 online marketplace is kind of like a TripAdvisor of property managers. So as opposed to when you sign up with an agency that's either been referred to you as a selling agent, you sign their management agreement and then you get assigned to whichever - typically a junior property manager - has the bandwidth to manage your property as part of their portfolio. So you really have no idea who you're going to get. With us, you come to the platform and our recommendation engine matches you with who we feel are the three most suitable property managers for your investment property location. And that's due to the type of properties they manage and the geographic location or proximity to where the investment property exists and where they work from.
As one of their clients, you are then able to decide on the right manager for you and your portfolio.
We've got all their information from their work experience, to their community involvement, to ratings and reviews, so that the property investor can really make a educated choice about who they're actually going to be dealing with. And if they choose those property managers to interview and then eventually hire as their property manager, the person that they interview and the person that they hire and sign the management agreement with is the person that manages their property.
So that full transparency and confidence to know that you know this person who's going to be managing your largest financial assets is critical to what we think our advantage is and when someone's looking to switch, it really gives confidence that you know who you might be getting - that you're not just swapping for someone that might be the same, you're actually swapping for someone that's actually better and you know that they're better.
The best part of using Keen and Valentine’s platform is being able to find a property manager who is ultimately going to build a rapport with you and maintain a solid relationship with you throughout your property journey.
When choosing a property manager, I think we can show on paper all the experience and as much information, but it's always about the right fit. There might just be someone that you get on with and just hit a great rapport with. And I think that is really important because you're going to be working with this person, you're going to be communicating with them. The average property management in Australia with an agent is eight years, so this is someone you can have a long term relationship with. So I think that's really important and knowing which questions to ask.
For example on our website, we give our property investors what we feel are the top 10 questions they should be asking the property managers when they interview them. The other thing I'd like to say is with the property management network; we try to do the heavy lifting for the property investors coming into our platform. What I mean is that every property manager on our platform has to fit our very specific and tight criteria, to ensure the quality of both the person, their motivation and their track record in terms of delivering the standard of service that we feel the Rent360 property investors need to get. And so we have very specific vetting criteria and that is something that property investors can feel confident in us with when they come onto the platform and then it just becomes about the right fit for them.
For those who are involved in property investing, it can be very hard to break through and develop a growth mindset. A mentor who Valentine admires is opening doors for women in the property industry and shaping the way her student stays motivated.
There's a lady who has been in the industry for about 25 years, she's very high up in one of the franchises in real estate and I've been working with her for a few years in business and investing and just in life. I've got incredible respect for this woman, what she's achieved and real estate, typically and still is a little bit today, has been a bit of a boy’s club. I mean that's definitely changing, but this woman really paved the way for other women in real estate to get on board with real estate and take positions other than just administrative positions. And she's really helped me with the growth mindset in this business. Jared alluded to it before and this is really my first start-up - and it is incredibly tough. We are both very committed to what we're doing, we love what we're doing and we think that the purpose that we've got behind us which is driving us to succeed is very strong. But you really need to have a mindset around that, there is no room for failure in this.
You need to grow a platform that is going to be adding value to people. And investing, I think you said at the top of this podcast, that it is a tough industry and it really is. You're dealing with people's largest financial assets, you're dealing with people that can be very emotional about the purchase, so you have to be incredibly tough and knowledgeable. And you've got to work really, really hard to make sure that what we deliver every day does what it says it's going to do and we back that with service and really great people. Every day you’ve got to get up and get your head straight and have the energy and the motivation to just keep on going.
A personal habit which she attributes to her success is maintaining strength, both physically and mentally.
Exercise for me is key every day. I need to exercise and I do it to keep getting stronger, also I've got three crazy kids I have to run around after. For my mental strength as well, I think it's so important to get up, make my bed, I have a great breakfast, I exercise and get yourself ready for the day. As a person as well as someone who has to run a team and run a family, I think that maintaining your energy levels and making sure that you keep positive is something that you can learn to do. I think there are people that you can look at half glass empty or half glass full. You have to maintain that strength of mind and of character to try and always look at the positive and know that if something's going wrong it's a moment in time and always keep that big picture at the front of your mind.
Keen’s method of diversifying his investments means that he enlists various different mentors and experts to give him the specialist information he needs.
When it comes to mentors, my personal experience has been that when I trust the person, I know what I'm good at and I know what I'm an expert in and I know that I'm not an expert in most things. So for example, when I'm looking for an investment property and I believed in this buyer's agent that can get me what I wanted as long as he understood my objectives and what I was looking for, I will trust that expert. And so I find experts in their areas - whether it be my stockbroker, or my buyers agent, or my mortgage broker, or whatever it might be - I put my trust in them and I empower them in order to give me and find me the best solution to achieve my objectives with them.
A personal habit which has contributed to Keen’s success is practising yoga.
I've been practising yoga for almost 20 years. I'm not sure I would have got through my previous start-up or even Rent360 so far, without the ability to take an hour or an hour and a half out of my day which is typically frantic. And I'm quite driven and very focused and intense about what I do, but to take that time out to try to see the big picture, to settle my mind so that I don't sweat the small stuff and that I can come back and be refreshed and make sure I can see the forest through the trees. I guess some of my advice is being able to get out of the weeds and see the big picture - and when you get into the weeds, you don’t know how to get out of there. So that’s something that I developed over the last 16 years working in start-ups and I continue to evolve that practice and it will always evolve and hopefully get better.
Sometimes we wish we could go back in time and tell our past selves how to do better. So for Valentine, if she were to meet her past self from ten years ago, what would she say?
I once heard someone say that worrying is only dreaming about what you don't want to happen and I think that's really true. There’s so many things that can be just noise and distraction and it's really important that you are clear on your goals and what your outcomes are. Don't worry too much about how you can get there, I think you definitely need a plan at some stage but just get really straight in your mind what you want to achieve. And then most often in life, opportunities arise that allow you to achieve your goals in a way that you may not have foreseen or you may not have planned. But I think I would have told myself to not be so tightly wound and to relax a bit more and just go with the flow a bit more in life and stop trying to manage every single part of things. Because sometimes if you're not looking around, what happens is you can miss amazing opportunities.
-Jared Keen and Penelope Valentine
Keen agrees, believing that he should have enjoyed the journey more before reaching his goals.
I wish Penelope was around me ten years ago! You shouldn’t sweat the small stuff, I completely agree. I mean I was in the thick of my first start-up ten years ago and one thing I can say, you hear some wonderful stories about the Mark Zuckerbergs and the Jeff Bess’ and we aspire to be like them but that doesn't necessarily mean that they're happy and content and fulfilled. And the one thing I realised after selling my first company was your aim for this goal, which I did for 12 years, I reached it and it's not like the skies opened up and happiness is sitting at the edge of that pond there.
You can be proud of yourself, but the one thing I regret and hopefully will learn from is that I don't think I enjoyed the ride enough. I was too focused on the goal. So I think as Penelope said, setting goals, having an overarching strategy is important - but you've got to enjoy it because you've got to ask yourself if you're creating this world, we're talking about property investment right now and you're creating wealth or even growing wealth, it's got to to be for a reason. You can have all the money in the world but you’ve got to enjoy the ride. And that's what I would say to myself, the 29-year-old back then.
Their vision for Rent360 which they are excited about now is building their business to reach a new level.
We're really at a tipping point for us, we've been as a company been going for about 18 months. We've had the marketplace officially launched to the public since late February - so about nine months. And we're on the cusp in the midst of hopefully about to close a rather significant capital raise for the company. So we've been pretty bootstrapped until now, which means that Penelope and I have essentially done the roles of three people each and our employees do pretty much the same, which is extremely taxing on us. But with those funds we've got huge plans in order to grow the team - triple, quadruple the size of the team - expand the size of our property manager network three, four-fold in the next 18 months and to expand the number of software technology and other services that we can provide to both property investors and property managers. We've also got aspirations and we feel that there's certainly an opportunity to take our business model overseas, particularly to the US. So we're really excited about kind of wanting to get unleashed and really scale this business up now, roll it out domestically, nationally and then hopefully share what we're trying to achieve internationally as well.
If you would like to contact Keen and Valentine to find out more about their services or want more information on how to become a property manager in that space, you can do so online or by phone.
So they can contact us on the website which is just www.rent360.com.au or they can give us a call on 1300 800 360.