Lessons Learned From Theft At a Project

“The fight is won or lost far away from the witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road; long before I dance under those lights.”

~Muhammad Ali

We just finished rehab on a new rental property in a great location in Philadelphia, close a major transportation hub and a University.  However, majority of the work in entrepreneurship is not glamorous.  These are stories that don't come with cool shiny photos, these are stories that will definitely not make it to Instagram. This post is highlighting one of those stories and the lessons learned from that.  I wanted to share this because it will help a new investor navigate through adversities in their journey.  The day we closed on the property, right before we could even change the locks, there was an unfortunate theft at this property.  One of the items stolen was the boiler among many other things.  My contractor called me genuinely upset about this.  A theft can leave one feeling violated and we have managed to maintain a very good relationship with our contractor so he felt just as concerned as I did.  We tried to go through the process of filing a claim only to find out that due to an issue at our long term insurance provider’s end, we will be unable to do so for a while. That’s a blog post for another day!

However, I knew that our robust project plan, relationships and adaptability will allow us to move forward without batting an eye even before he had finished explaining what had happened.  Here are some lessons I have learned along the way that allowed me to keep my cool through this ordeal.

  1. Build Contingency

    When budgeting a rehab, we always build in contingency - we were able to be successful with this project despite the setback because of the contingency.  We usually use 15% as a benchmark and it could be more or less depending on the risks involved.  For me, it isn’t just about the numbers and making a project work. It also helps me maintain perspective - contingency allows me to keep my head in the right place when we find the unexpected.  And as an entrepreneur, perspective is utmost important!

  2. Do Not Take it Personally

    At the end of the day, if your business is stressing you out to a point where you cannot sleep at night and your health is suffering, it’s simply not worth it.  I learned early on that treating business like business is the best one can do.  No sleep was lost over the theft.  Also important to remember is that Real Estate isn't a business for the faint of heart.  There are many variables involved and lots can go wrong at any given point in time.

  3. Use Adversity to Strengthen Relationships

    I know and trust the members of my team.  No fingers were pointed during this ordeal.  If anything, it allowed us to connect better as a team. We were in this together and committed to completing the project within budget and on time despite the setback.  We came together and updated the project plan.  The missing boiler allowed us to consider adding central air which we had initially not considered because the boiler was working well.

  4. Embrace the Unglamorous

    The last and the most important lesson is that true profitability is hidden in the unglamorous behind the scenes work that goes into making projects successful.  It is definitely not in picking the right finishes (although that part is fun!).  It is in things like learning to budget properly, in relationship building by genuinely caring about the people we work with and with relentless focus on long-term growth.  Muhammad Ali’s quote at the beginning of this post points to that very important aspect of entrepreneurship.  The audience only sees the athlete win.  They do not see the hours of training, the discipline and the long nights. 

    It is the behind the scenes work that success is all about.


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