Continuing our special series focusing on those starting and running new businesses in these extraordinary times, PrimeResi meets Alexis Stellakis & Harry Helsby, the ambitious duo behind ‘disruptive’ property acquisition and design firm Capital Place Properties…
What have been the main challenges you’ve faced running a new business in a time of unprecedented economic and political uncertainty?
We have tried to focus more on the opportunities these challenging times have presented us with. We have been forced to adapt but this is something our business model allows for us to do.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been tough days, even weeks, but on the whole we have come out a lot stronger than we would have imagined given the circumstances – and surprisingly have benefited in many ways.
With uncertainty still very much at the forefront of all our lives, we cannot afford to take our eye off the ball.
Do you think the government is doing enough to help small businesses at the current time?
One of the great things about our business is that it is not capital intensive.
So I guess we have been lucky in the sense that all we have needed is what both Harry and I have to offer which is experience in the market, a track record, and credibility & design vision.
I cannot comment on the specifics of what the government are doing to help small businesses, but I think the government are doing what they can in a time where nobody has an answer, yet…!
Does your experience of the current market correspond with what you’ve been hearing/reading in the media?
There is no one media opinion!
There are literally daily updates that contradict one another so we like to focus on the facts: London has been hit, and with on going restrictions we foresee a continual degree of hardship in a market place like PCL that relies on foreign investment as one of the key contributing factors to its growth.
However once we have clarity on this situation, in whatever way we can, things will turn around and everyone who has always seen London as a leading city to buy property will be even more incentivised to buy. We are already seeing this as dollar countries use the currency play to secure themselves investments at more than 20% reductions in some cases.
Have you adapted or changed your business model since launching? If so, how?
Yes, we make changes to how we do things daily but our core values and beliefs are what stay the same, namely:
- You must buy well; it’s how you make your returns. This sounds obvious but you would be surprised as to how many people over pay for a “unique” opportunity and then wonder why the numbers don’t stack up.
- Never rush into any transaction without doing your DD.
- Know your market inside out, and back to front.
- Use the best in class.
- Ask questions.
Has launching a business been what you expected it to be, and is there anything you would do differently with the benefit of hindsight?
We were not sure what to expect but the highs definitely outweigh the lows even in surreal times, such as the present, so Harry and I truly believe it’s always worth it.
There are some things we might have done differently, one in particular would be to look at the bigger picture and plan ahead as opposed to thinking short term. We are still learning as we win new clients and are constantly adapting our business model, the whole process continues to evolve.
What’s the most valuable piece of business advice that you have been given?
1) Daily targets, not weekly – time is money.
2) Client care, anticipating our clients’ needs and providing them with a seamless service.
Which other businesses or entrepreneurs do you most admire?
Personally, my old man – he has taught me everything I know.
For Harry it is Phil Knight the co-founder and chairman of Nike and Marc Randolph, the co-founder of Netflix. He likes to set the bar high!
What other headwinds are you facing, as a new business in the prime residential property sector?
Honestly, at this rate, nobody knows what is around the corner but we are lucky to work in a formidable city, and a very niche pocket of the capital.
Prime Central London has shown resilience through five of the toughest years the market has seen to date.
It started with the stamp duty increase that was instilled in April 2016, where an additional SDLT charge of 3% was introduced to the purchase of additional residential properties, so basically any second homes.
Following this, a referendum, Brexit and Brexit delay after delay, and this year with Covid-19.
We have not been able to shake the uncertainty for years but still both domestic and overseas investors have not taken their eye off London, and we believe that now is when the real opportunities are surfacing, because once we are out of this tumultuous period, the city will fly again.
What’s next for you and your business?
We are definitely thinking big, but we have smaller daily targets that we are using as stepping stones to get there.
For now we are focusing on proving that our holistic approach to buying, developing & interior designing homes is what is missing from the market.
We already have traction through our signed clients, credibility through on going projects and a growing pipeline of potential business.
We are creating a brand, and the end goal is to have a signature CPP acquiring & design style.
We are incredibly excited about what’s next.