Episode 37: Switching career to property investment – with Martin Branham

Martin Branham tells us how and why he switched out of a 23 year career as a director of a FTSE company to become a full-time property investor and how he has built up a portfolio that enables him to live his perfect lifestyle.

Today’s guest

Martin Branham, property investor

Contact: connormayinvestments@gmail.com

Martin spent 23 years working full-time for Britvic plc, a FTSE 250 business. He started as a graduate trainee and subsequently worked at Director / Head of Department level for over 15 years. His career at Britvic covered 19 different roles across Sales, Marketing, Finance and IT.

When his role became redundant in 2016, he jumped at the opportunity to have a complete change of both career and lifestyle. Over the previous 10 years, Martin and his wife had accumulated a portfolio of rental properties which provided a steady but modest income. With this background, and the desire to try something different after a long time with one employer, Martin decided to launch a new career (at the age of 45) as a professional property investor and developer. At the same time, he set himself the goal of creating more time to spend with his family and on his hobbies and interests.

He founded his first business, Connor May Investments Ltd, in 2016 and gave himself 12 months to see if this new career would be sustainable. Within a few months he had started his first property development project, which involved converting a disused commercial building into 9 residential apartments. With a team of business partners and contractors in place, Martin was able to oversee this project yet still work less than half the hours he previously worked at Britvic every week. This enabled him to spend more time with this wife and children, in the gym or on the golf course! And the profit generated from this project in the first year was more than sufficient to meet his financial needs.

Since then, Martin has set up two further property development businesses with a couple of business partners and worked on a number of further property development projects. Most recently he has built a new development of 14 houses in West Norfolk.

Nearly 4 years now into his new career, Martin has managed to achieve the change in lifestyle that he was hoping for – typically working a few hours each day and fitting his business activities around his family commitments and hobbies. Whilst his salary is not what it used to be as a Director in a FTSE 250 business, he earns enough to meet his needs and provide for his dependents, and in a way that is far more tax-efficient.

As well as investing his own money on his own projects, Martin also now works with other investors on an advisory basis – helping others to benefit from his experience and find their own way in the property industry.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • Weighing up risks and reward when considering how to use your money
  • Why it’s worth taking an opportunity when it presents itself and what it might lead to 
  • What investing and building up a capital base can do for you
  • The importance of thinking about how you want your work to fit in with your lifestyle rather than vice versa
  • How the skills you build up in one career can transfer to a completely different career or activity
  • How networking can build up your knowledge as well as your contact base
  • When entering into a joint venture, the importance of working out what you are each bringing to the arrangement and doing due diligence on your potential partner
  • How to deal with the uncertainty of an unpredictable cashflow and prioritise expenditure

Resources mentioned in this episode

Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase.  This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.

To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.

Episode 37: Switching career to property investment - with Martin Branham

Jeremy Cline 0:00
I'm Jeremy Cline and this is Change Work Life.

Jeremy Cline 0:17
Hello, and welcome to Change Work Life, the show that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. Back in Episode 26, you may remember I interviewed Rob Dix of The Property Hub, and that episode was all about how property investment can change your life. It was really an introduction into property investment and the different types of investing and it's really worth going back and having a listen to that episode if you're interested in a general introduction to the subject. In this episode, I interview someone who really has used property investment to change their life. Martin Branham spent 23 years working at a FTSE 250 company before he decided to move full time into property investment. In this interview, he tells us how he did it, and perhaps more importantly, why he did it. Here's the interview.

Jeremy Cline 1:08
Hello, Martin. Welcome to the show.

Martin Branham 1:10
Hi, Jeremy. Thank you very much.

Jeremy Cline 1:11
Martin, can you start by introducing yourself and telling us what you do, please?

Martin Branham 1:15
Yeah, sure. So I'm Martin Branham. I am now a professional property investor and developer.

Jeremy Cline 1:20
Okay, what does that mean?

Martin Branham 1:22
It means that I don't have a traditional job in the sense of being a salaried employee anymore, and I earn my living from investing in different types of property - be that rental properties or be that doing property development projects.

Jeremy Cline 1:38
So you said that you don't do that anymore; you don't have a salaried job anymore. What were you doing before you did this full time?

Martin Branham 1:45
I used to work for a FTSE 250 food and drink business. I was a director there for best part of 15 years. I finished that in the summer of 2016. I've been effectively self-employed for just over three and a half years now.

Jeremy Cline 2:00
So when did you start getting interested in property? I mean, when was your first investment?

Martin Branham 2:05
When I first started getting interested was probably over 20 years ago. I was in my mid 20s at the time, and I knew a number of people who had got second homes that they rented out. That seemed like a good idea that I explored, but for a whole host of different reasons, didn't invest into at that particular point in time - regretted doing so. So as I saw these friends and colleagues who were earning good money from renting out properties, and those properties were growing in value, and they were supplementing their core income from it, I felt like I'd missed out and therefore when a further opportunity came along about 14 years ago now, that's when my wife and I bought our first investment property. So that was in 2006, and from then we bought nine more. And so we now have a portfolio of 10 properties that we rent out.

Jeremy Cline 3:00
Wow. So when you said that there were various reasons that stopped you from investing around about 2000 - are you able to say what some of those were?

Martin Branham 3:09
The main one was my wife and I decided to get married, and we decided that saving for a wedding was more important, and was a higher priority for our money than buying a second home. Whereas with 2020 hindsight, we could very easily have done both - because buying a second home would have been financially rewarding as opposed to financially draining. As the first step into the property investment markets, it was a bit daunting for us. And we saw the risks or we thought that the time the risks outweighed the rewards. But having reflected on that a year or two later, the rewards would have far outweighed the risks. So that was the reason we made the choice at the time, and then we spent about five years wishing we'd made a different one.

Jeremy Cline 3:54
And so why didn't you make the choice again within those five years? Why wait until six years later before making your first investment?

Martin Branham 4:03
Mainly opportunity, distraction with other things. Our first property investment was an opportunistic one, as opposed to a strategically found one, and it took five years for that opportunity to come along. Once that opportunity had come along, from there we started approaching the investment market more strategically, but it took that first move to be an opportunistic one to get us going.

Jeremy Cline 4:28
Can you tell me a little bit more about that? I mean, what was the opportunity that came along? Why was it an opportunistic property, and how did that opportunity present itself?

Martin Branham 4:37
So the opportunity was, it was my wife's brother's house. He and his wife had just had a baby and had outgrown their first home and were looking to buy a bigger home for their family to grow into. The property that they owned at that time was very suitable to be rented out. My wife and I had some disposable income available at that time that enabled us to buy that house without taking out a mortgage. We agreed with my brother in law that we would buy his house, and we'd rent it out. That gave him the security that he could then buy his next home without having to worry about the chain or the likelihood of their buyer letting them down or anything like that. So it worked well for them. It worked well for us, because we were buying from a trustworthy source, we were buying in an area that we had some knowledge of - we kind of dipped our toe that way. And then after about a year of having that house that then proved to us that it was as viable as we thought it was going to be. And so then we bought another one about a year later, and then the third one about a year after that.

Jeremy Cline 5:39
So when you bought the first one, did you at that stage think that you were going to start adding to your portfolio, or was it a case of 'we'll just see see what it's like?'

Martin Branham 5:48
At that stage very much the latter. It was a bit of an experiment. It was a bit of a 'well it won't do any harm to top up the pension pot'. At that time we had soon after my brother in law had his child, we had our first child. So we then thought, okay, well, we've now got a house that we can pass on down to our daughter at some point in the future. At that point, we then had a second child. And so then we had a second house, we thought, that's fair - they can have one each when they're older. At that stage, we hadn't thought much more than that. So probably for the first five years or so of the journey, it was not on my radar that it was something that could become a career one day, and it was probably only about seven or eight years - maybe even longer, maybe nine years - into the total investment journey, that it even occurred to me that it's something that could become a career.

Jeremy Cline 6:40
Okay, so what did you think it was going to be beforehand. I mean you didn't just buy one property - you said you bought one and then you bought another and then you bought another and ended up with quite a few.

Martin Branham 6:51
They were only investments in the same way as other people invest in shares or the stock market or whatever - expensive art or fine wine. They were only ever investments that were alongside the day job at the time. And for the first, I would say, nine years or so of that journey - that was the only way that that I considered my property investments to be. There was then a parallel line of thinking, which led to me deciding that I wanted to quit my day job, which was kind of a completely independent conversation from the 'I want to invest in property'. But having made the decision to quit the day job and embark upon a new career, that's when I thought, well, maybe the two up till now separate things could join forces and become one. And that was about four years ago. And since then, they have.

Jeremy Cline 7:40
Just going back to what you were saying about just treating the properties as investments. People don't usually invest just for the sake of investing, they invest because they want that investment to do something for themselves in the future. So what was it that those properties were intended to do for you in the future? Was it effectively an alternative pension pot?

Martin Branham 8:00
It was a potential source of income to fund my children's education. It was a potential future pension pot, or it was a potential asset base that I could cash in at any point in time should the need arise for whatever reason that might be - funding elderly relatives healthcare, be it any of those other things I've just mentioned. So I didn't start it with a particular goal of raising money for a particular purpose. But having made those initial first few investments that prove that the investment was a worthwhile one, I just carried on going because those opportunities were there to make the most of - with a view that there were a number of different potential future benefits for those investments, but no particular one was the goal at the outset.

Jeremy Cline 8:42
And without wishing to delve too deeply into very personal matters, how were you funding the purchases of these initial properties? You mentioned the first one was cash. Were you able to save up sufficient to buy the rest for cash or were you refinancing?

Martin Branham 8:58
The first two were bought with equity from our residential home. We effectively remortgaged the residential home to raise equity to invest in rental properties. And then once we had two properties in the rental portfolio, we were then able to raise more equity by remortgaging the rental portfolio - just rolled on from there. And then as and when we'd saved up other money or other investments materialised or I had a bonus at work, or whatever it might have been such that I had enough money to pay a deposit on another one, then I bought another one.

Jeremy Cline 9:33
You mentioned that in parallel, you were starting to think about a career change or at least leaving the career you were in without necessarily knowing at that point what you wanted to change to. What was giving a light to that feeling?

Martin Branham 9:47
So I worked for the same organisation in the end for 23 years, albeit I had done 19 different job roles in those 23 years. Probably after 18 or so years, it became apparent that wasn't going to last forever. I had a lifecycle in that organisation, and at some point I would come to the end of that lifecycle - that's just the way it was. At that time, I couldn't predict when that was going to be. The nature of the role that I was doing back in 2015, that particular role came to an end. I then had the opportunity to stay for further nine months, which took me into 2016. And at that point, that was just the natural end of my life cycle in that organisation and I had the opportunity to leave and it just felt the right time to try and do something else after 23 years.

Jeremy Cline 10:34
So was this a redundancy situation? Or was it not quite so sort of stark as that?

Martin Branham 10:38
Exactly that. So the job that I was doing became redundant, but that was - from my point of view - a very positive opportunity, rather than something that I was daunted or or had any negative feeling about.

Jeremy Cline 10:52
So at the time, what were you considering changing to? Was it only property or had you had a few other ideas?

Martin Branham 11:00
At that time, my only kind of criteria or objective was to try and do something that was different from what I'd done from the previous 23 years because I thought if I've got the opportunity to do something else, I want to try something new - rather than do the same as I've always done. No particular reason other than try and get as many new experiences in life as I possibly can. As I looked at and explored what some options might be, having worked full time for 23 years I also said to myself, I'd like to take the opportunity to spend a bit more time with my family. So I had the financial cushion of a redundancy payment, which obviously helped cover my living expenses whilst I was in a transition period, and I set myself the target of living a lifestyle that I wanted to lead - spending more time with my family - whilst setting up a new career. I set myself a target of 12 months to make that work. And if it didn't work out in 12 months, then I'd start applying for full time jobs again. Fortunately, in those 12 months, it did work out. And I said three and a half years later, I'm still going.

Jeremy Cline 12:07
We did you look at anything else apart from property, or did you decide at that point? Well, I've already got some experience of properties. So that's going to be the thing that I try for 12 months.

Martin Branham 12:18
The property venture was the only thing that I really seriously pursued. I did refresh my CV and send it off to a few other places. But my kind of primary pursuit was the property businesses that I set up as it happened, I didn't really get any response to the CV that I sent various other places and that was fine. If that wasn't to be then I said, I appreciate the pursuit of the primary goal.

Jeremy Cline 12:42
There's lots of different ways to make money out of property. Up until that point, you had been doing the I suppose what you might call the bog standard buy-to-let. What route did you decide that you were going to follow from this point on, and why?

Martin Branham 12:56
I probably had three realistic options. So I had a pot of money that I had available to invest - option one was to just do more of what I'd done before. So with that pot of money, I could have bought more rental properties and carried on doing the same kind of thing, which would have been fine. I knew what I was doing, but I decided I wanted to actually spread my investment risk and do something a bit different. I looked into other types of investment properties that are already there. So things like HMOs (houses of multiple occupancy), things like serviced accommodation, which were quite topical in the market at the time. But I actually decided they were not for me, mainly because they were a bit too much like hard work, and quite risky - whilst the returns were there in theory, I thought actually, the likelihood of success was not as good as I would have liked it to have been. At this point in time, as I was looking at other opportunities - the site came up which was the first project that I did as a development project was available on the market. I had a business partner at the time who helped me to source it, the financial returns were good. It was a bit different from what I'd done before. It was a progression into the property investment market. And it's something that I thought could be a bit fun. It was a gamble, but it was a calculated one. It's one from which I got some personal development and some some experience. So I took a leap of faith and went for it.

Jeremy Cline 14:28
So can you just talk us through that first development, so what it was you acquired? You said a site to me - did you buy a piece of land or buy a house or did you buy something that was existing and renovate or convert it? Can you give us a bit more detail about that?

Martin Branham 14:42
That first one in particular, it was a mixed use building in a city centre. So the ground floor was a disused print shop, the middle floor was the office above the print shop, and the top floor was quite a large apartment. So it was owned by one individual - he ran his business from there and operated a business from there and lived above the shop. It was sold with the potential to get planning permission to convert into flats. I acquired the site subject to getting planning permission, which was to convert it into nine apartments. I hired a builder who did the work for me. The block has nine apartments nine months later.

Jeremy Cline 15:23
That sounds to me like a heck of a leap from a few buy to let properties. Was this the first taste that you'd had of any description of development, or had you already had some exposure to it up until that point?

Martin Branham 15:36
Beyond taking a dining room wall down and putting a kitchen diner in, that was my first taste of a true development project. Having said that, the career that I previously had outside of property, multimillion pound projects were quite common to me. So I've got a background in projects and programme management - albeit in a different industry - but this particular one was my first personal exposure to anything beyond a building project of a few thousand pounds.

Jeremy Cline 16:05
And you mentioned that you had a business partner who sourced the site in the first place. How did that come about? How did it come to them?

Martin Branham 16:15
Once I'd decided that I was going to leave my previous career and embark on a career in property, I invested a huge amount of time in networking to just see what the options were. So before I decided to do what I did, I probably spent at least six months just exploring as many different potential opportunities as possible - talking to people, going to exhibitions, going to networking groups - and I met the person who became my business partner at a trade show, the Property Investor show. I explained to him what my situation was, and he explained to me what he did, we had a couple of meetings, and he introduced me to the site that I eventually bought, we moved on from there. So again, it was relatively opportunistic. It was something that came from quite an extensive period of networking when I was at a crossroads in my career.

Jeremy Cline 17:05
Can you talk a little bit about the networking and in particular, how it developed with this particular individual that they became a business partner? I mean, how often did you meet them? At what point did you start to talk a bit more seriously about going into business together, because it's quite a big thing and I presume that it wasn't someone that you just met and spoke to for two minutes at a trade show?

Martin Branham 17:26
No. So we we met at the trade show, we swapped details, I did a bit of due diligence on him and his background and other projects that he was doing. We met up for a full day and he took me around a number of opportunities in his area that he thought might be suitable to my needs. We jointly evaluated what those projects could look like and what they could deliver for us both. And we then talked - both operationally and financially - how we would work together in terms of how much time he would spend on the site, how much time I would spend on the site, what the remuneration arrangement would be between us. We relatively quickly managed to agree that. The elapsed time was maybe three months, but the actual time spent on all of those discussions was probably less than a week. Let's say kind of four or five days spread over three months. We then wrote up a fairly simple contract that captured everything that we'd agreed, and we started from there.

Jeremy Cline 18:28
And so what was it that he was looking for that you brought to the party and what was it that you were looking for that he brought to the party?

Martin Branham 18:34
He was looking for my money, I was looking for his experience, time, and his network. It worked for that very first project quite well. So he he had the time and the experience and the network but not the money, I was the opposite. And therefore we we were able to complement what each other was looking for.

Jeremy Cline 18:53
Okay, so is it him who did most of the heavy lifting in terms of getting the builders involved, the architects all that sort of stuff?

Martin Branham 19:02
Exactly, yeah. So he found me the architect, he found me the site, he found me the builder, he found me the architect, he found me the mortgage broker, he found me the solicitor. So as I was embarking upon this new avenue of the property market, it was incredibly helpful to have somebody who already had those contacts. Obviously since then, I've now got my own network and my own contact book, so I don't need to rely on other people for that anymore. But at the time, it was it was incredibly helpful to have somebody who already had that network that I could piggyback.

Jeremy Cline 19:33
And you mentioned doing due diligence. What steps did you take to make sure that this was someone who was genuine and this wasn't some kind of a scam or con artist or for that matter - not even so severe - but just someone who didn't really know what they were doing?

Martin Branham 19:49
I met him at his office, and met the other people that he worked with. I researched all of his businesses using the Companies House website. So you can look into and understand what businesses individuals are in and look into the financial health of those businesses and understand what other business partners he has in those other businesses that he has, I went to look at other sites that he worked on and met the contractors that he was working with on those other sites. I guess I've not got a tick box sheet as in here's the things that you look for, but I guess once you start looking, you get a picture of an individual. Once I'd met him a few times you form a view as to how similar you are, how complimentary your working styles are, how complementary your skill sets are - but ultimately, there was still a risk because by the time I started working with him, I'd only known him six months. It was a gamble on both our parts, but I made sure that the way that I structured the financial agreement with him, and the way that I structured the working contract with him, I made sure that I mitigated that risk as best I could. So for example, there was never going to be a scenario where he earned money when I didn't. I controlled all of the finance and he only got paid after I got paid as an example of how I mitigated that risk.

Jeremy Cline 21:08
And did you involve advisors to help you to have the ingredients? Did you have a lawyer to draft up a joint venture agreement? And how did the actual process and the development go because I'm guessing that it wasn't entirely hitch free, because I don't think these things ever are.

Martin Branham 21:14
And how did the actual process and the development go because I'm guessing that it wasn't entirely hitch free, because I don't think these things ever are.

Martin Branham 21:14
In that scenario I didn't, we both agreed that we'd be happy without that. I was quite confident that through research that I'd done online and looking at just available online resources that I was comfortable that I was in sufficient control. For example, I didn't sign up to anything that I wasn't comfortable signing up to. He didn't ask me to do anything that I wasn't willing to do. And therefore there was an element of trust from the start. There was a huge, as I said before, a huge leap of faith on both our parts working that way. But that was a judgement I made at the time based on that experience of working with him to that point. But in the end, the whole agreement was pretty much a gentleman's agreement. If a lawyer would have looked at what we had, they would have said that is effectively a gentleman's agreement as opposed to a watertight legal one.

Martin Branham 22:05
The physical work was pretty straightforward. We had a very good architect that did a very good set of plans that we gave to a builder who basically built what the architect put on the plans. So that was relatively straightforward. With any building project there's always things that you find along the way. So there were some walls that weren't quite where the architect thought they were. And there was some asbestos that we found that had to be dealt with and a few things like that. But in the overall scheme of building projects, that was relatively straightforward. We had a very good selling agent, good estate agent who sold the flats. It was a block of nine flats, we gave ourselves a time window to sell the flats as a total block, and we said if we don't sell them as a total block for a certain price, we would then split them up individually and sell them individually. As it happened, the agent did a great job and sold them as a block for the price that we wanted. So we were happy with that which meant we didn't have the hassle or the risk or the complexity of breaking them into nine individual transactions - it went through as one sale transaction. But the biggest problems if you want to call them problems, or stumbling blocks, were all with the legal process of selling the finished apartment block, and all to do with the buyers solicitor wanting things that we thought were either unreasonable or unhelpful, or just things that cost us money that worked in their advantage and not ours. But the actual physical development process - I think because of the way we structured the agreement between ourselves as business partners, and with the builder, everybody played their part against that agreement, and it went broadly to plan.

Jeremy Cline 23:40
Presumably, you went in with a goal as to what your return was going to be. Did you achieve that goal?

Martin Branham 23:47
We actually achieved more. So we went in with a conservative estimate of what the return would be, and we managed to exceed that. So the costs were probably slightly higher than what we budgeted, but the returns, the sales income was even more ahead of what our budget was than our cost overrun. It worked out to be a financially successful project.

Jeremy Cline 24:08
Fantastic. Sounds like it was very easy.

Martin Branham 24:11
Not sure I'd use the word easy, but successful. As I said it was a nine month project, and as a first project to do through a mixture of good planning, and admittedly some good fortune, it went better than was planned, which was brilliant - because that then gave me the confidence, the financial position and the experience to then move on to the next one.

Jeremy Cline 24:35
And so since then, have you've been doing much the same thing?

Martin Branham 24:39
Similar yeah. So that was a conversion of an existing building from mixed use into residential. The next project that I moved on to which has taken up almost all of my time since was a new build project, where we built a plot of land and we've built some houses on - which I've done with a different business partner, drawing from the experience of the first project. So slightly different - different building team, different investment partner, but a bigger project that's had different types of risk but different level of reward at the same time.

Jeremy Cline 25:11
And has that project now been completed?

Martin Branham 25:14
The build has been completed, yes. So we've built 14 houses we've sold and have got 12 of them occupied. And we've just got the last two to go. So the last house was finished just before Christmas, we're just holding out to get buyers for the last two houses now.

Jeremy Cline 25:29
And so what's next?

Martin Branham 25:30
Who knows! Lots of opportunities are coming my way. So every day I speak to agents and architects and planners about potential sites, we're just looking at the next one. It could be a conversion, it could be a new build. There's lots and lots of opportunities out there. We're just evaluating which one is the right one for us.

Jeremy Cline 25:51
And so what are you looking for all this now to do for you? I mean, I guess the first question is, you said that you wanted something which gave you the flexibility to spend a bit more time with your family. Has this met that criteria?

Martin Branham 26:03
Absolutely. Yes. Obviously, we're running a project, we have a physical site. However, we have a contractor who's running that site, who is responsible for the day to day, which therefore means that I don't have to be there every day. So I'm typically there between once a week and once a fortnight on average. That means that the other four days in a week I can work wherever I want. And in the current world with a mobile phone signal, and a Wi-Fi connection, I can work pretty much anywhere. That's what I do.

Jeremy Cline 26:32
So what what do you count now as work? What does your working day look like?

Martin Branham 26:36
Most days I'll open the laptop early doors, and review emails and any activity that I might have from the day before. I've got time to take my children to school, or pick them up from school at the end of the day if I want to. I've got the opportunity to go to the gym most days if I want to, and I'll typically if I go to the gym, I'll workout for an hour or two, but then I'll do some work at the gym in the coffee shop at the gym. So again, I can make phone calls to estate agents or builders or look at a financial appraisal on a spreadsheet, on a laptop, at the coffee bar in the gym as much as I can, at my desk at home, or at my dining table at home or at an office if I had one. But I don't need an office, I don't need the expense of an office. I'm quite happy personally working wherever I am. And that's what I do.

Jeremy Cline 27:20
Where do you see this going? You mentioned that you've got two deals which are successfully under your belt. So are you looking to increase the number of deals or what are you looking to do next?

Martin Branham 27:32
Yeah, carry on going as I am. We're in a situation financially where I need to do another project or two to keep topping up the income over the next few years, but one or two will be fine. So I don't want to take on 20 projects and create a business that I can float on the stock exchange, I just want to do it to have enough money to cover my living expenses. There'll be another project that follows the one that we're just finishing. They'll probably be one after that. And if I can carry on doing for the next four or five years what I've done for the last three or four years then that is absolutely what I would love to be able to do.

Jeremy Cline 28:04
And then what then?

Martin Branham 28:05
Who knows. I'll decide if, in five or six years time, my children will be in a different place from where they are now, in terms of their reliance on me. And both from a time and financial point of view, I'll be in a different place financially in terms of ability to access other investments that I have, I'll have the choice. I may carry on doing it because I enjoy it and because I want to, but if I don't want to, then I'll have the choice to stop. And who knows, I might do something else. I don't have a fixed target for four or five years time, but on the basis of what I've done for the last three or four years has worked. I'll carry on doing it for as long as it does work.

Jeremy Cline 28:42
What would you say is the most difficult thing about what you do now - the thing that if someone had a magic wand and they said I can make this disappear, what would that be?

Martin Branham 28:52
I suppose the most difficult thing about what I do is the uncertainty of the cash flow. So whilst you do a big property development project - selling 9, 10, 15, 20 houses - if you do it right, it will be very lucrative, but from start to finish on my current project it has been three years. So I've gone three years without having a regular monthly income of the nature that I had before when I was working for a FTSE 250 business in a senior role. So I think if I could have a crystal ball that told me exactly how much money I would earn every month, and that that would be the case, then that would certainly make the career that I have and the role that I now have less stressful. Anybody out there who might want to do this does need to be comfortable with that uncertainty and unpredictability of the cash flow.

Jeremy Cline 29:43
What does that uncertainty and unpredictability do to your behaviours? What effect does it have on your day to day as opposed to getting a monthly salary coming in?

Martin Branham 29:54
I'm not sure it does anything day today that is different from what I would otherwise otherwise be. I think the benefit that I get from day to day of the lifestyle far outweighs any impact of the financial situation. But undoubtedly over the last three or four years, there have been some pinch points financially that have been stressful, I can't describe it any other way. So I have to make sure that I'm not 100% reliant on the income that I get from these projects, because there are times where the cash flow is not quite what you predicted it to be. If it takes a bit longer to sell a house and you don't get the money for three months longer than you think you would, then you've got to make sure you've got enough money to live for those three months. That requires careful planning and it requires an ability to deal with that uncertainty.

Jeremy Cline 30:37
So presumably, there's quite a lot more sort of budgeting and being disciplined with the money that comes in and out. So you know, it's very easy to see a slug - say six months worth coming in at the start - and being disciplined enough that you've got to make it last until you're expecting the next amount to come in?

Martin Branham 30:56
Absolutely, yeah, absolutely. So prioritisation is is essential. And I'm very good at allocating funds to different things and not spending on a property project money that is not allocated to that property project. I make sure I don't touch the sacrosanct money that is to put food on the table for the family for the next two years, for example.

Jeremy Cline 31:19
Hmm, absolutely. So if someone is in a position that you were in - that they've been in a job for a while, they really like it, or they want to try their hand at something different and they're kind of interested in what you've been talking about - where does someone start? What's the first thing someone should do if this is an avenue that someone wants to explore?

Martin Branham 31:38
Be really clear on how much money they are willing to invest and how long they're willing to be without that money would be number one. So from a financial point of view. Secondly, be really clear what they want to get from it. Whether that be a financial goal be an experiential goal, be it a lifestyle goal. I think be flexible about how they see themselves achieving most things. So, you might think that the answer is to build a load of city centre apartments, but actually, the better way of doing it might be to build something completely different or develop something else somewhere else. The answer isn't necessarily where you think it is, but have some parameters that you want to achieve. Be clear around those parameters, be clear around the financial commitment you're prepared to make. Talk to a whole load of people to get their ideas and experience as to how they might do it.

Jeremy Cline 32:26
And picking up on one of those points - the financial point, the being clear how much you want to invest in how long you want to invest for. I suppose putting it quite bluntly - is this a rich man's game? Is this sort of the old cliche that you can only make money if you've got money in the first place?

Martin Branham 32:41
No, no, not at all. You can always access money. I've done it a certain way. I had an amount of money that was available to invest. But there are people who do it with no money. Obviously, the more you borrow... You need money. There's an old adage in the property world, you need money, but it doesn't have to be your money. So there are plenty of people who make a career out of property just using other people's money. But obviously that has debt implications, it has risk implications, it has relationship implications - everybody's situation is different. Where there's a will there's a way, I suppose is a good way of summing up that situation.

Jeremy Cline 33:15
Fantastic. Would you be up Martin for people getting in contact with you if they were interested in talking to you a bit more about this?

Martin Branham 33:22
Very happy to talk to people who might be thinking about doing the same thing that I've done or might have an opportunity that we could work on together. Yes, very happy for people to be in touch, happy to share my email address in the most appropriate way - if that's appropriate - for anyone who might want to make the most opportunity, yes.

Jeremy Cline 33:39
Brilliant. Okay, you can let me know, once we finished, what's the best email address to contact you on and I'll put a link to that in the show notes. Well, Martin, thank you very much. This has been really very, very interesting. Thank you very much for your time.

Martin Branham 33:52
Brilliant, appreciate it. Thank you, Jeremy.

Jeremy Cline 33:55
Okay, so I hope you enjoyed that interview with Martin Branhan. I guess the first thing to say is that it's another great example of how it isn't necessary to have a salaried job in order to make a living and put food on the table. There's other options out there. And property investment, as Martin has shown, is one of them. Another thing I picked up from the interview was that Martin just started something. When he first made his first property investment, he wasn't sure where it was going to go. You know, there's a lot said about hmaking sure that you have goals and a strategy when it comes to property investment, and Martin mentioned that towards the end of the interview. But in this case, he didn't let that hold him up from taking that first action. He thought, Okay, this is something that I know that it's going to be good for me, I know that it's going to go somewhere, not quite sure where it's going to go just yet. But I'm going to start, I'm going to take action. And sometimes that's the most important thing to do. And as Martin's case demonstrates, just taking that one first step leads to opportunity. He said how he received lots of opportunities from other people who want to work with him now, and he wouldn't have got that had he not taken that first step. So just taking that first step, taking that first action is just so important. As well as mentioning the need to have goals and knowing what you want to get out of property investment, Martin did mention that you should also build in a bit of flexibility about how you end up meeting that goal. You might have an idea that XYZ is the route to go, but in fact, ABC might be the better option for you. And you don't really learn that until you've actually got in and had to go. I have to say that the learning curve on Martin's journey did seem quite steep. I mean, he went from owning a few buy to let properties to converting a property into flats, to building something from scratch - which sounds to me like a pretty advanced series of steps, but Martin seemed quite relaxed about that. And I guess it just goes to show that it's possible. It's doable. Martin's done it. So you know if it interests you, then you can too. Show Notes for this episode are on the website at changeworklife.com/37. And that's where you'll find contact details for Martin should you want to get in touch with him if this is something that you would like to explore further. And something else you'll also find on the website, which I've just put on there - if you look at the menu at the top, you'll find something which is called 'find career happiness'. And what I've done there is I've put together a short document - a short PDF document - which is designed to help you out if you're in a position where you know that you want to make a career change, but you just have absolutely no idea where to start. And what the document I've put on there does is gives you a couple of exercises which you can use to start develop your thinking. It's a starting point, it's a couple of things which you can do which will help you think okay, this is what I've enjoyed in the past, and this is where I want to get to. And just doing a couple of exercises to start getting those two things clarified in your head, I think is going to be a great starting point. So do check that out. If you go to the tab marked, 'find career happiness', you'll find a form where if you just put in your name and your email address, then I'll send you the document and you can get started on the exercises. So I hope that's something that will be useful for you. I'm really excited about next week's episode. I mean, I'm excited about all my episodes, but next week in particular. I've had lots of guests on the podcast, you've talked about the challenges of juggling family life with work. I mean, even Martin mentioned that as one of the reasons why he wanted to change from working for a FTSE 250 company to go into property investment in the first place. And my guest in next week's interview is a coach who specialises in helping people do just that. She helps predominantly women who have started a family work out how they can juggle both parenthood and work and what that can look like. It's a really great interview, some really great stuff. A lot of it actually based on questions which I've asked you guys. So yeah, do stick around and make sure you listen to that episode. I can't wait to see you then. Cheers. Bye.

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