Frazer Fearnhead is the founder and CEO of The House Crowd, a property crowdfunding platform based near Manchester. BQ caught up with him to chat about his career so far and his plans for the future of the business.
What is it the company does?
The House Crowd is a property crowdfunding platform – we deliver predictable, consistent returns, secured by real bricks and mortar to help people take control of their finances, investing for a better financial future.
What does your role involve?
My primary role is to develop the brand and raise the company’s profile, but I get stuck into all aspects of the business. This includes everything from developing new products and guiding business development strategy to recruiting for senior roles and working to increase shareholder value, with a view to eventual sale or flotation. I also spend a lot of time writing. Whether it be website copy, marketing materials, presentations or my recently released book, it’s my favourite part of what I do.
Give us a timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I originally trained as a lawyer and worked in the music industry for a number of years. My heart wasn’t in it, and I moved on to set up an artist/events business which did pretty well. The company was starting to grow and build its reputation when 9/11 happened. Over the course of those few weeks, every single client cancelled upcoming events. This was completely understandable, but devastating for the company, and I lost my enthusiasm after that.
I’d always invested in property in my spare time, and, after some time in a business development role, I set up The Armchair Property Investor in 2005. I started from scratch but put in the work, and ended up selling the business for £2.25m in 2007.
After that, I left the property market for a few years, but realised it was picking up in 2010 and was inspired by crowdfunding companies, Kickstarter and Crowdcube, to build a similar model for property investment. We launched The House Crowd in March 2012 and, five years on, we’ve raised over £50m from over 15,000 website members and paid out over £10m in returns.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
The ability to motivate and inspire others, bringing out the best in them. To be frank, it’s not my core strength, which is why I intend to hire a COO so that I can focus on strategy and increasing shareholder value.
What has been your biggest business challenge in your current position?
Managing growth effectively – we have doubled our revenue every year for the past three years and have grown from a staff of 3 to over 20. Recruiting and managing staff is the thing I find most difficult.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Tennis, meditation and quite a bit of vodka.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Lack of integrity. For example, people making excuses for not delivering on what they have promised. I try to make them accountable by getting everyone to set three strategic goals per quarter and then review how they have performed.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
I would like The House Crowd to be raising at least £100m a year for its projects, have a fully developed bridging finance company and a successful property development arm. We would also like to be attracting increased institutional investment in our products and partnering with overseas platforms to grow internationally.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Do the right things every day, however small, to move towards your goal. You’ll reach it quicker than you think.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
That none of the problems that you lose sleep about really matter. In fact, I wish I could convince myself of that now.