Joseph Gitonga is the Director of Sales and Marketing at real estate firm, Username Investment Limited.
He narrates what losing millions in land deals taught him.
We didn’t have much capital when we started this business. During our first land purchase process, we paid for a property that had been acquired fraudulently and lost Sh5 million. This was all the money we had, some of which was borrowed. We hit a dead end. But while all hope seemed lost, one landowner agreed to partner with us. This helped us recover from the loss. In yet another deal, we lost Sh30 million in a land deal. It turned out that the land belonged to another owner who lived abroad. We renegotiated with the rightful owner in very difficult circumstances and finally managed to buy the land again. But all our profits got lost. This was one of the lowest moments of my life. We are now very keen on due diligence when acquiring any property. We are careful to ensure that we sign all legal documents as a company.
You can turn heavy losses around. Despite our losses, we have built a firm that is recognised as a powerhouse in Kenya’s real estate sector. We have over 50 employees and more than 500 indirect workers. We have also completed over 39 projects. Identifying and solving the housing need for low earning people has been the door to this success.
I did not budget or invest adequately when I graduated from college. I treated my salary as too little to be invested. I would pay bills and other basics and blow the rest in extravagant living. I have since learned that no money is too little to be invested or budgeted for.
I save my money through the money market fund. These savings are goal-oriented. Currently, I am getting interests ranging from 8 to 10 percent on my savings. Though this saving plan offers liquidity within days, it has discouraged me from unplanned and unnecessary expenditures.
Money is not the end goal; it is a means to a goal. I believe this is how people should approach their finances. It helps to develop self-accountability and transparency. Pursue excellence and enjoy the process. Always, avoid short cuts as they come with long delays. There is no perfect path to success; failure is part of it. Having a mentor will reduce your mistakes. This network of seasoned peers helps one to make progress faster and make confident decisions.
There is too much emphasis on material wealth in Kenya. People are obsessed with things that don’t matter– appearance, to impress rather than to impact, and leading plastic lives. We need to go back to the basics and start all over by having a clear and well-written set of goals. Studies show that people with a clear plan are 85 percent more likely to accomplish their goals than those who never bother with planning.