It was a year ago the other week that my Dad died and I’ve been a bit up and down over the past few days, as I was on the anniversary of Mum's death a few months earlier, which I suppose is hardly surprising. It made me think of them, the good advice they gave and also some of the things we disagreed on.
For one, they would have been horrified at how I’m using social media. As private people they would have hated the idea of me putting my life on display. They would have asked, as many other people have, “why the hell are you doing this?”.
The answer is complicated! For most of my career, I’ve had young men and women approach me for advice. As my business grew I became less accessible and even built barriers to protect my time. I threw away my business cards and handed out those of my team instead. It worked! People found it difficult to meet me one on one. As time went by, I found that I missed the connection with young entrepreneurs who were following their dreams and building castles in the sky and I wanted to find a way to help them.
Social media provides me with a platform where I can offer advice and have dialogue with young people starting their careers; work with talented intrapreneurs striving for excellence within a team; guide budding entrepreneurs as they begin their journey and work with seasoned business owners to maximise value.
I’m passionate about business at every level and helping people create financial resilience through investment is something I care deeply about. I’ve always had the belief that if you add value to other people's lives, it is often returned in ways impossible to predict and I’m interested to see where this journey leads.
I don’t have any formal qualifications and I’m not the smartest person I know. I’ve been through the “mill” during the Global Financial Crisis when I lost my $120m business after my bank went bust, forcing me to start again. I’ve been broke and I’ve been rich and have the scars on my belly AND MY BACK to prove it!
Since 2008, I’ve built the Du Val Group into a GDV$750m enterprise and through our construction partnerships approximately 200 people turn up to work each week and go home safely. We’ve provided vitally needed housing for thousands of people and today our business has grown to incorporate build-to-rent investment, property development, property & facilities management, creative digital agency, construction, funds management and financial services. We are expanding into Europe and the Far East and I’m focussed on sustainability and disrupting the entire sector to make housing accessible and affordable.
The Du Val Foundation our registered charity will donate many millions of dollars over the years to causes my wife and I care about. However, I know I can do more than just give money. I can also give my time helping people to improve their financial literacy so that they can also contribute to the causes they care about.
There aren’t any shortcuts to financial success, however, it’s important that people know that it’s achievable if they are committed.
How can you make a difference if you don’t have the generosity of spirit to be a guide to others and what sort of legacy do you really want to leave on this planet? I have four children and hope that one day they read this and know how committed I was to adding as much value as I could to complete strangers' lives. My hope is that I can champion the spirit of kindness, empathy and dedication to service as a business philosophy and share this with you. Beyond this, social media provides me with a platform to talk to my team. They get to understand my values and the detailed reasons behind our business strategy. This means that I can align our culture with the values that are important to me.
Having an engaged, inspired group of people to work alongside every day is something I’m hugely proud of. Culture is important! This is why our internal sales dashboards are changing. We won’t simply report on “sales”, rather we will report on the “number of people helped”. 10 days of follow up will become 10 days of service. We are making subtle changes across the whole of the business that you won’t find in any other company or in any business school around the world. My team's training is entirely focussed on service, kindness and empathy.
So why else am I focused on social media? I can also speak to my customers and if I’m entirely transparent, honest, humble and committed to service, I can provide a platform for them to communicate so we can improve every single day. People have asked how are you going to monetise your social media? The answer is I don’t need to! I’m already successful and I have no desire to collect followers who aren’t genuinely interested in creating financial resilience for their families. I just don’t care about superficial things. I’m not an influencer or a motivational speaker. I’m a CEO & Founder of a real-world business and hope to share my journey with you and I also look forward to hearing yours.
So while it’s nerve-wracking putting it all out there for the world to see and I have friends and family who “take the piss”, it’s also a strangely liberating feeling to be able to be “all in” and build a legacy that’s based on helping people through sharing my experience built over a 24 year career. Sometimes you’ve got to just trust yourself and go for it despite what your mum or dad might have said.