Alex and Emma Glass joined Platinum Property Partners (PPP) in 2012 after moving back to the UK from America where Alex worked in the technology sector. Emma wanted to pursue her dream of becoming a midwife and Alex was looking for a career change.
What did you do prior to joining PPP?
Alex: I had worked in the technology sector for more than 25 years and we were living in Northern California at the time. My job meant that I used to travel a great deal and up until that point, Emma had sacrificed her own career aspirations to bring up the children and because of my work.
It came to a point where I changed jobs, but something didn’t feel quite right. It sparked a conversation about goals and objectives and what we were trying to achieve. We knew we didn’t want to continue doing what we were doing but it was less clear what the alternative was. So we moved back to the UK.
Emma: I went into training straight away and qualified as a midwife in 2011 while Alex decided to go to London Business School for a year to try and get an idea of what the next step might look like for him. During that period, we started a little property development business that we were running on the side in the background.
How did you come across PPP?
Alex: When back in the UK, I got quite interested in franchising and became increasingly convinced that it would be a good route to starting our own business. I began investigating all manner of franchises and was quite far into the recruitment process with McDonalds when we accidentally came across PPP. We joined within six weeks.
While McDonalds was very attractive and would suit a lot of people, it became apparent that there were a lot of elements about it that were very similar to my old career that I didn’t like.
Why did you choose PPP over other franchises?
Alex: Prior to discovering PPP, we’d concluded that we couldn’t make a living out of property. We felt it was an alternative investment option, which had proven itself to be true for us up until that point, but we didn’t think it could be a business that was capable of generating an income that we wanted. With PPP, there was this property investment strategy that we had no idea about seeming to offer that possibility.
Emma: The property aspect of PPP was really attractive because we had an interest in the sector and a little bit of knowledge. But there was also a level of latitude and freedom that other franchises didn’t seem to offer. The fit seemed much better in terms of our aspirations. We liked the people and the way that it appeared to work. We wanted to feel like we were running our own business with a level of autonomy but also that safety net of guidance from more experienced people.
How do you view the training and support you received?
Emma: We had an idea of what we needed to do with property. We’d been flipping property previously and didn’t feel like we needed much support with regards to finding builders and refurbishment for example. But we didn’t know anything about the HMO (Houses in Multiple Occupation) model or how to deal with tenants. The support we received on that was invaluable because there are so many rules and regulations that we weren’t aware of.
We felt that we could have probably done it on our own, but would have made some really expensive mistakes. PPP kept us on the right path and ensured we didn’t make those mistakes.
Alex: We had access to a Power Team which we could call upon at any time if we had a question about anything, from finance to business set up and insurance. The mentoring support was and still is great. And then there is the community aspect that you get from being part of the wider Partner network. We’d never experienced anything like that in our working lives and it’s still a pleasant surprise now. It can’t be described. It’s such an open and sharing environment that you can tap into.
Emma: It’s just like having a safety net. You can jump around on your own, but you know you’re never going to fall off.
What stage are you at now?
Alex: We have seven HMOs up and running, which is a little over 40 rooms, all in the Reading area. We’re not planning on dramatically building the portfolio from here because we’ve largely met our goals in terms of income replacement and enabling the lifestyle we hoped it would – which is why we’re writing this from holiday in St Ives!
We have been accumulating a portfolio of assets that we own and our intention is to hold those properties for the long-term and see what we can do in terms of providing a legacy for the children. We are not necessarily anticipating them being active in the business – they both have their own careers and aspirations – but like any parent, you want to provide for their future.
Emma: It’s enabled us to pursue other opportunities, such as the new e-commerce franchise that Platinum has established.
How hands-on are you both in the day-to-day running of the business?
Alex: Emma is obviously working as a midwife but between us we have split the work as much as we could. From the outset, we knew that it offered the possibility of not having to be in the business every day. We’ve been working towards that very steadily. At this stage, we have a group of cleaners, a maintenance guy and a gardener and we hired a lettings manager at the end of last year who will soon take over the property management side of the business too.
We are engaged and close enough to know what’s going on but the business is definitely not reliant on our day-to-day input. That’s what we wanted. That was our goal – to be able to do what we wanted to do.
How do you differentiate yourselves as landlords?
Alex: We have a very local support network within the Reading area which has been tremendously instrumental in our success and also our well-being. This collaboration has been very positive for us and for our tenants.
Emma: We are trying to differentiate ourselves in the market by being good landlords and creating a community of housemates within the area. We are trying to put on events so that all of the housemates within the PPP portfolio can get together and get to know each other. We want to offer more than just a nice and well-run house. It’s good for the housemates and it’s good for business.
Has joining PPP met your financial expectations?
Alex: We knew what we wanted to do, we knew what type of lifestyle we wanted to achieve and what income we would need to facilitate that. The return on capital has been absolutely great and in excess of what we had planned for. The cash flow per property has exceeded our targets; our occupancy levels are where we hoped they would be; our rents have been great.
Emma: If we could do it all again tomorrow, we would. Why wouldn’t you? It’s done what it said on the tin. It’s given us the lifestyle we wanted and the income we need. It’s been brilliant.