How important is building a business ethos for you? Is it top-of-mind when recruiting, growing and sustaining your teams? We find out from one entrepreneur how and why it's front and centre and why it's creating a culture for success.
Just over two years ago, Ayesha Ofori realised she didn't need to work at her day job anymore. It was entirely the result of her own doing. A wealth advisor at Goldman Sachs, Ayesha began spending her spare time learning everything she could about buying property. She made savvy investments, and her portfolio grew. Eventually, her properties were generating a higher income than her salary.
Why, then, was Ayesha still clocking into work day-in, day-out? She realised she was on autopilot; work was an unquestioned part of life. Until this epiphany, Ayesha had just accepted that this was the way things were. Now, however, she had the power to truly choose her path (for she will never be one to stop working), to focus on and optimise something that, somehow, would give back.
And so, Ayesha launched PropElle and set about creating positive change in the most effective way she knew how...
PropElle - empowering women through property
During her time at Goldman Sachs, Ayesha often considered how very few of her clientele were female. Why, when they, too, have wealth? Why, when one could argue that women in particular need to invest for the future? This situation wasn't particular to her work; it was industry-wide. So, why wasn't more being done to help women?
Outside of her work, more and more of her connections began to recognise her portfolio success. Women began to approach her - how did she do it? How could they learn from her? Did she have time to catch up with them so they could pick her brains and potentially dip their toe in, too?
Ayesha had both recognised a problem and identified a solution.
The right property investments can be a pathway to financial independence, and with that comes a better-aligned life and legacy. Although she might not meet every one of these women face-to-face, she could build a community that would serve them. Propelled, so to speak, by her knowledge and learnings, this platform could create a dialogue between like-minded but under-served women. It could become a support network that encouraged women to be less risk-averse and make sound decisions based on others' knowledge and experience.
So, Ayesha launched PropElle to help more women create their own “freedom funds” and ideally do so at a faster rate than the founder herself.
It's not about the money
It is ultimately never about the money. Finances are always a means to something else, which Ayesha reiterates whenever she speaks to women.
“Why do you want to invest in property?” is one of the most common questions she asks.
“Because I want to earn money”, is the most common answer she receives.
Why, why, why? She often asks this question three, four times until they reach the kernel; so I can better care for my family, so I can go on a holiday without breaking the bank, so I can free myself up to do what I want to do in life.
Most of us focus so intensely on life. We're whizzing around so quickly on that hamster wheel that we don't stop to ask what our legacy might be, what we're really here to do, and what we'd like to achieve.
Financial independence can free you up to start thinking like this. Ayesha will sometimes hear that it's easy for her to say such a thing. It's only easy, however, because she designed it to be that way. She worked to secure her own freedom fund.
The passion has to be there
Oh, what a cliche, but how true it is. When you love your work, it's not a job. Back in her corporate days, Ayesha reached a point where the morning alarm would go off, and she would press snooze. Once, twice, she thinks it might have even got up to five times on certain days.
In her PropElle world, the alarm doesn't ring. She beats it, and she's straight to work. She can't help herself; she's just brimming to progress the platform and help other women. It's vital for Ayesha to help women find their passion, which she can do by helping them achieve that freedom fund.
Building business ethos through teams
Ayesha has a winning streak when it comes to finding the right people. She spends a lot of time looking at people's work summary profiles. What's foremost on her radar is the About Me section. When this is generic, corporate blah, she won't hang around. When it's unique and offers insights into what makes this person tick and gets them up in the morning, she suspects this is someone of interest.
Making approaches and developing relationships, whether or not they yield immediate results, is also important when recruiting with ethos. You might come across the right person at the wrong time. However, somewhere down the line, circumstances change. What is meant for you won't pass you by, and that's as relevant for the recruiter as the recruitee.
In saying that, the right person might not always have the right skills. Unless they're performing brain surgery, then that's OK for Ayesha. Indeed, she recently appointed a new social manager with minimal experience managing social media platforms.
Before this person joined the team, Ayesha's winning streak was missing its mark. Until then, she'd tried to work with social media experts, but it just wasn't gelling nor generating. With this latest team member, Ayesha gave her a few tests and realised she had an innate potential. Together, they would learn the technical ropes, and then Ayesha could leave her to fly.
Building business ethos through on-demand recruitment
Interestingly, Ayesha initially built PropElle with an employee-based team. Why? Because that's how to build teams, isn't it? At least, that was her experience to date, so any alternative didn't even cross her mind. It wasn't until PropElle was more advanced that Ayesha realised by their very nature, startup hiring needed an agile, on-demand workforce.
Keep the core in-house, but bring in experts as and when needed. To a degree, COVID-19 catalysed this change, and PropElle moved most team members into consulting roles. Ayesha sees this as positive in several ways:
- PropElle can better sustain the team.
- Individuals have the flexibility to seek out other interests and passions so that when security returns, they are in a position to know if this is what they want.
- Team members develop a range in their skillset and experience, benefiting PropElle as much as it does the individual.
This plays into Ayesha's desire to help people find their passion. PropElle may or may not be the answer for certain individuals. The point is, she's enabled them to fluidly come to that realisation rather than forcefully, so it's a win-win for all.
Building business ethos into the workplace culture
There are two ways in which Ayesha achieves this at PropElle. She drives one herself whilst her team drives the other.
When a new team member comes on board, if not well beforehand, Ayesha is quick to share with them her vision and values. There is no ambiguity about what she stands for and how she sets out to achieve and sustain success. Then Ayesha turns the tables. Not everything is set in stone; this is an open-minded, open-hearted environment.
What do they want to see? How do they think they can achieve this? By actively contributing to culture, each team member has skin in the game. They're helping shape the culture rather than being shaped by it.
Building business ethos through leadership
In this day and age of tech and social, being authentic and genuine are paramount for Ayesha.
Many of us strive for perfection, and it can never be. Yet, we persist in pretending. Ayesha is honest about her own story and shows it, warts and all.
Women often comment that they feel as if they're having a conversation with a friend rather than a property investment mentor. That's in part how ethos permeates into the business - Ayesha remains on the frontline. She enjoys speaking to women and hearing what's happening for them, why they've come to PropElle.
Many often express surprise that the founder has made the call and wonder aloud whether she has any team members who could be doing the job. She tells them she has team members but she wants to be able to speak to these women as well. She doesn't want to be that founder who sits over there in the closed corner office.
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