Steve Bolton is a successful entrepreneur, best-selling published author and Founder of Platinum Property Partners (PPP). Having made his first million before he was 30 through his outdoor adventure and management training business, Steve encountered financial difficulties like many other business owners during the financial downturn of 2001. In what he describes as the ‘best worst experience of his life’ he realised that it was his home that saved him from bankruptcy. As a result, he was inspired to rebuild his fortune on the solid foundation of buy-to-let property investment.
PPP is the fastest growing premium franchise in UK history with Partners who are now multiple award winning landlords. The company has been responsible for Partners purchasing, converting and letting £200 million of high quality professional HMO properties in over 100 towns, cities and London Boroughs in the UK. Over 250 Partners have joined PPP to generate a lifelong income, pension security and a better quality of life, which they have achieved by following PPP’s tried, tested and proven system. Currently the PPP network is buying one property every 2.5 days and provides premium yet affordable accommodation to almost 4,000 tenants.
As well as developing the PPP business, Steve is passionate about helping others live the company mission of “Be More – Do More – Have More – Give More”. He lives in Bournemouth with his wife Lucy, their four children and dog, Yogi.
1. Tell us about the PPP concept.
PPP has developed a tried and tested system of high quality shared housing to meet the need of young professionals looking for affordable accommodation. The model generates much higher returns than traditional rental properties and produces a lifelong income as the assets remain the Partners’ even after they leave the franchise.
The model significantly increases the rental income produced by a property by maximising the number of rentable rooms available and letting them out individually. The properties are also high quality, with premium communal areas, and therefore achieve higher rents, while providing much needed accommodation for a transient work force.
After paying all costs (mortgage, bills, maintenance and voids), each property can generate over £17,000 gross profit per annum from rental income alone - with the prospect of capital growth as an additional bonus.
We have a team of over 50 professionals, including specialist mortgage brokers, accountants and solicitors and lettings, renovation and negotiation experts that teach our Partners how to build, market and maintain their ideal portfolio. They learn how to: find the right property in the right area that will generate the best return; create more rooms within each property; cost-effectively refurbish properties to a high standard to achieve high rental rates; create business structures and plans that make income as tax-efficient as possible and when and how to leverage a portfolio to fund future growth.
2. How and when did you become involved with PPP?
After the terror attacks of September 11th 2001 and the financial downturn that followed, I experienced what I call ‘the best worst experience’ of my life. I’d gone from being an international entrepreneur to seeing almost all of my assets vanish in less than three month.
During this time, I learnt some key lessons, one of which was that I needed to build a business based on underlying assets. As it was my home that saved me from bankruptcy, I was inspired to try and rebuild my fortune on the solid foundation of buy-to-let property.
Before deciding which strategy would help me achieve my life goals, I spent a lot of time (and quite a bit of money) reading, researching, attending training courses and surrounding myself with some of the best mentors in the world.
In 2004, I came up with a new strategy – letting out houses to young professionals and key workers. High quality affordable accommodation was the concept. Within a year of letting my first House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), I was achieving excellent returns just from the rental income.
I spent three years investing in more properties, finding better ways to convert them into HMOs and learning how to attract professional, loyal tenants. I also started to share my method with friends and family, teaching them how to build a business from property investment that would give them an income for life. In 2007, I realised that more people could benefit from the financial security and freedom generated by the business model, and sought advice on franchising the model and so decided to formally franchise the model with my business partner, Richard Davies.
3. What was your background prior to joining PPP?
I left school at 16 with no qualifications, but by the time I was 30, I was a millionaire on paper.
My first business was started with a partner in 1994 and we used to build outdoor adventure ropes courses. They are very common these days, with the likes of Go Ape and Centre Parcs having them, but back in the mid 1990s they were as rare as vegetarian snow tigers!
With a lot of hard work, and the right product in the right place at the right time, we experienced substantial growth over the seven years that followed. We were the European market leaders, employing 60 staff and operating in 15 countries.
The financial downturn then led me to property.
4. What are some of the advantages in being a PPP franchisee?
It may sound cliché, but most of our Partners tell us that joining PPP has changed their lives. Many of them weren’t looking specifically for a way into property investment, but ways they could make changes in their lives now to secure both theirs and their family’s future. For many of them, it was frustration with their current career or work life balance, and for others, they were worried about a pension shortfall.
Because the PPP model is based on generating up to three times the amount of rental income achieved by a standard buy-to-let property, our Partners are able to earn a substantial income for life while building their own successful businesses.
In turn, this provides them with a passive income for the future and more time to do the things they enjoy.
Our Partners make up a fantastic network of over 250 people, and the friendship and camaraderie is by far one of the biggest unexpected benefits to them.
5. Who is your ideal franchisee?
We only work with people we like and trust and where there is a fit of values.
All of our Franchise Partners have one thing in common – they subscribe to the PPP philosophy – to be more, do more, have more and give more. They want to change their lives for the better.
Our Partners come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some have had director level roles in large companies, others have been accountants or solicitors. Many have run their own business or had a career in industry, teaching or the NHS. Some are mothers looking to find a suitable career as their children grow up.
But the nature of their background and skills are much less important than their determination, motivation and desire to succeed - then they will often be a perfect fit for the PPP family.
6. Tell us a little about the HMO Market?
There has been a stigma around the term HMO, or Houses in Multiple Occupation, for some time. Usually the buy-to-let model of renting out multiple rooms on an individual basis has been associated with the lower end of the market such as student accommodation, bedsits and social housing.
However, England is slowly moving away from being a nation of home owners and more people are choosing to rent long-term because of the flexibility it offers and mobility it allows. Despite this, the cost of renting alone is also increasing. Therefore, high standard shared accommodation offers young professionals and key workers a more affordable option.
We recently conducted some tenant research that showed how those living in HMOs were able to save over £1,600 more a year than people renting alone. It also showed that more and more people are looking for lower cost rental accommodation that offers lifestyle and social benefits too, but that is high quality.
From a Franchise Partners’ point of view, HMOs are an attractive investment option that outperforms all other asset classes, including standard buy-to-let property. In other research, we were able to reveal how returns from HMOs exceeded standard buy-to-let by 40%.
The fact that the model is based on a high income strategy also means that it is better positioned to withstand the proposed interest rate rises and reduction in mortgage interest tax relief. Stress testing the model has proven that interest rates would need to rise considerably before our Partners break-even.
7. What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?
The biggest lesson I have learned is to make sure you get the right fit of people – this stretches from the team here running the business to our Partners and even the tenants that rent from them. The right people with the right attitude can make great things happen. The strength of our network is second to none. Everyone is willing to help each other, share their knowledge and experiences and give back. It’s one of the things that makes PPP so successful.
8. Do you have a mentor and is there someone you use for inspiration?
I’ve spent many years and thousands of pounds learning from some of the best mentors in the world. I truly believe that continuous personal and professional development is key to anyone’s success. There are so many people that have helped get me to where I am today but some of top mentors include Jay Abraham, Brian Tracy and Tony Robbins.
However, my real motivation is my family. It was the desire to spend more time with them and provide for them that encouraged me to find a profitable and sustainable business that was underpinned by appreciating assets.
9. What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
Definitely use the checklist available from the bfa website. Take your time and thoroughly research the options available to you and make sure it’s right for you. Many people look at franchising as an option because they want the independence of being their own boss without all of the risks, they want to generate their own income that replaces their current salary, or they want to achieve a better work life balance. So make sure you’re not buying a job.
10. In your opinion, why do you think that PPP would be a great opportunity for someone?
PPP is not the right choice for everyone. As well as having the available finances to become a Partner, they will need to have the time to devote to building a portfolio and the desire, motivation and determination to achieve their goals. Like I said before, this is a great opportunity for anyone looking for a new business, career or challenge or people who want to secure their financial futures, pension provision and provide a legacy for their children.