Inspiring Voices #2

– – part of the Creating PPP series – –

It gives me great pleasure to be featuring insights from my second guest blogger of this series.   Please let me introduce you to…

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Alison Persson  |  Property Investor  |   Mentor

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About her business, Alison says…

I have two businesses that are focused on property. As a property investor I have built a successful and growing residential UK property portfolio with my partner. I have overseen property developments and learnt how to be a professional landlord. I use the experience and knowledge I have gained as a property investor to mentor new and established property investors. Clients may be seeking knowledge on how to invest in the UK residential property market or require guidance with strategic planning of their property portfolio.  Learn more about Alison’s businesses here…

About herself, Alison says…

I was born in Bristol and during my childhood also lived in London, St. Albans and Harpenden. I enjoyed moving around and all new experiences. I began my working life as a student nurse living in London. On qualifying I moved to Solihull to work on a surgical ward before moving to Bristol to work on medical wards. Time in Australia meant I got to know more family and I learnt how to pick fruit, drive tractors and shear sheep. On my return from Australia I got married and did agency work whilst I figured out what to do next. I now moved from the NHS to work in Occupational Health before setting up my own occupational health and safety business. The property investment business begun soon afterwards which provided a basis for me to set up my property mentoring business.

I grew up breathing property! My Dad was a structural engineer and we would chat about property design and maintenance. As a five-year-old I could name and spell different roof structures and would spend hours looking at building drawings. I learnt maintenance skills by sitting and watching him. My Mum was incredible at organisation and I learnt a lot from her about project management and budgeting and she encouraged me not to be controlled by others’ boundaries.

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Insights from Alison

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Elaine…  You started your career as a nurse.  Why did you decide to move from this career path?

Alison…  I have always been interested in prevention rather than just accepting that stuff happens and I have a life-long passion for health and healthy living. Through my time as a hospital nurse I would meet patients who had work related illnesses or had been injured at work. I decided I needed to find a working life that was focused on how to reduce the potential harmful effects of work and allowed me to undertake research.

Elaine…  Once you had made your decision how did you go about making things happen?

Alison…  Finding out information was quite hard as my hospital based colleagues did not know about working life outside the NHS. By chatting with patients and going to job exhibitions I found out about a career in occupational health nursing. At that time this type of work rarely existed in the NHS and was mainly found in the private industry. I then started contacting colleges so I could register and study to get the relevant professional qualifications. I got a study place and then had to find the job to go with the course. The college suggested a few companies to contact. So off I went and knocked on the doors, which meant sending my CV and then telephoning for an interview. My approach worked and I got my first job in occupational health nursing in a UK utility company.

Elaine…  So you’d successfully made your first major shift and achieved what you set out to do.  What came next and where are you now?

Alison…  After gaining a range of experience in occupational health I wanted to be break free from some of the constraints of working for a large company. Off I went to find out how to set up a business and then built up an occupational health and safety team. I was now heavily involved in marketing and obtaining client contracts. I continued to work in occupational health whilst running the business. If I had stayed employed I would have had to decide to be a manager or be working as an occupational health nurse. Having my own business gave me the flexibility I wanted. After a number of years, I decided to focus more on my other business (property investment) and gradually closed down the occupational health and safety business making sure to look after team colleagues and clients.

For many years the property investor business ran alongside my health career and then my occupational and health business. Investing in property was a natural progression for me and it did not feel like work but I always treated the property investment as a proper business. Before I got seriously into buying properties to do up and rent out I spent two years finding out about this type of business. I already knew a lot about property maintenance and how to add value to a property but I needed to fully understand the legal and tax issues. Despite running an occupational health and safety business, I appreciated that I needed to learn about the issues for running a property investment business. Following increasing enquiries about how to set up and develop a property portfolio business I set up the property mentoring business.

At 13 years old I knew I wanted to work in health and would probably have a business sometime. I wanted to do something with property but was not sure what to do. I am amazed at how my working life has evolved so far.

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Elaine…  We have known each other for many years and I know little fazes you.  Even so, moving into a commercial business environment from a caring profession in the NHS is a big transition.  What did you find the most challenging and why?

Alison…  Talking about money and how much a service would cost was initially the most challenging aspect of working outside the NHS. In the NHS money was just not discussed. Amongst own family and friends talking about money was “bad” and “just not the done thing”. I had to learn how to discuss cost without being too awkward. A turning point was discovering that often the client was uncomfortable raising the subject of cost.

Elaine…  Aaah, the money conversation!  Staying on the subject of your career and business paths; what universal skills enable you to be successful in such differing environments?

Alison…  An eagerness to learn new things and to be challenged underlies everything I do in life. I do not like boundaries or being labelled. I enjoy change and actively seek out new experiences in personal and working life.

Elaine…  You have always had the ability to adapt and develop, what have you learnt that enables you to keep evolving?

Alison…  Being true to myself about how I live my life is essential to me. I undertake six monthly reviews of my life and write down goals. My goals help me achieve my dreams. I think it is really important to be open to opportunities that come along and to keep an open mind.

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Elaine… For as long as we’ve known each other you have been a business owner.  Building and running your own business is not for everyone.  What do you love about it?

Alison…  I love being able to be so flexible in how I run my business life. I no longer have to wait months for a decision to be made. My businesses are part of my life and do not control my life.

Elaine…  There are obviously up-sides for you and I know you generally take a positive perspective on things.  However, what frustrates you?

Alison…  Really hard to think of anything that frustrates me! Occasionally get asked when I am going to get a proper job, now that can be a bit annoying. Not everyone understands that having a business is a proper job and not just a hobby.

Elaine…  You have rounded and full-on experience of being in business and working for someone else.  How does being in business differ from being employed?

Alison…  The social isolation can be a big shock when you first become self-employed. Networking and meeting other business owners helps you develop “a new work team” and friendships. After six months I never looked back and started to embrace my new working life. There is no-one to tell you when you can have holidays, so it is important to remember to have time away from the business on a regular basis so you do not burn out. Need to be self-motivated with getting work done and make sure you keep up to date and continue to develop your skill set.

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Elaine…  I know you’re not going to like me asking this but please could you share one of your proudest moments from your career / business adventure so far.

Alison…  Proud is a funny word that I still have trouble with and instead prefer to insert the word achievement. To the outside world I have had a successful occupational health and safety business and am successful in property investment. This might be what others expect me to be proud of achieving, but for me choosing the freedom of running my own businesses and having a flexible life / work balance is my greatest achievement. Over a period of six months I attended workshops where I explored what I wanted from life rather than focusing on how to set up a business. Being asked to write down or draw what I really wanted from life made me fully realise that I needed to be free from being employed and that I would set out on the journey of finding the best way to enjoy my working life whilst working towards the type of life I want to live.

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Elaine…  Thinking about your own varied experience, what would be your top 3 tips for anyone considering a career change?

Alison… 

  1. Research all options
  2. Listen to others, but ultimately do what is right for you and your situation
  3. Get on with it and make steps towards making the change happen

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Elaine…  Not divulging your secret cunning plans , what’s next for you?

Alison…

  • Personal Life:  To start living between California and London
  • Property Investor :  Add to property portfolio in the UK and to start investing in USA (California)
  • Property Mentor:  Business to become fully online business.
  • Nomad Thinker:  New business to be launched March 2018 (creativity)

Huge thanks go to Alison for her honest, interesting and valuable insights. Learn more about Alison here…

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