Business of Men

5 lessons to tap your inner warrior


It’s been more than 20 years since I first started renovating for a profession. Since then, I’ve renovated more than 60 properties between my personal projects, and time-pressured TV renovations for Network TEN’s The Living Room and my show in the United States, Five Day Flip. Not surprisingly, I was incredibly green when I first started out in my 20s, not just in terms of renovating experience, but the significant challenges of being “the boss” in an overwhelmingly male-dominated industry.

Working on a building site, surrounded by tradies, it was easy to get intimidated, especially in the early years when I was still on a big learning curve. I had all the passion, motivation and drive in the world – and I was the one calling the shots – yet I lacked the necessary knowledge and experience to command the full respect of my tradie team. It was only through formal education courses and on-the-job experience that I was eventually able to sit comfortably in the driver’s seat.

With the benefit of hindsight, here are the top five lessons I’ve learned along the way:

1. Know thyself

We’ve all got strengths and weaknesses, and the important thing is to recognise what yours are. When you’re renovating as a partnership this is especially true or it’s sure to end in tears. Are you a natural organiser? Are you good with managing a budget? Do you have excellent communication and/or negotiation skills? Work out your roles before you start on a renovation project so you both have clearly defined responsibilities. Renovations are stressful enough without adding the arguments and fall-outs that come with unnecessary clashes over who has or hasn’t done what.

2. Get wise

The big turning point for me was doing a course that taught me so much in a short time, and I thought, “Wow, why have I been trying to wing it all this time?”. You can make great money renovating and get swept away by the seemingly easy money you can make when the market is high. But you can also easily lose money if you don’t know what you’re doing. You need a bullet-proof strategy that works in every market cycle, and that takes research, careful due diligence, patience, and the right knowledge and skill set. Getting the right training early on is a catalyst for success. Why make expensive and entirely avoidable mistakes yourself when you can learn straight away from the experience of others.

3. Go with the facts, not your gut

Don’t get taken in by smooth talk, big promises and charming sales people. Have a strategy and stick to it. In renovating, that means getting three quotes for any major tradie job; not getting sucked in by an earnest promise from the first tradie you come across who assures you you’re getting the best deal. Double check the prices of all materials to make sure you’ve found the best bargain; that’s easily done online for most things. And when it comes time to sell, have a stock set of questions you ask every real estate agent you’re “interviewing” for the job.

4. Keep a level head

It’s never cool to lose your cool. No matter how sorely tried, losing your temper rarely helps; it just inflames matters. You’ll end up saying things you regret and risk losing the hard-won respect of those you want to have onside. When things get tense, take a big breath and maybe even step away from the situation for a moment to gather your thoughts. Focus on solutions, rather than blame, and be mindful of not just what you say, but the tone you use to say it. The same words can have very different meanings, if they’re spoken aggressively, rather than in a calm, considered manner.

5. Get it in writing

Whether it’s a quote, a contract, an agreement or a mutual understanding, don’t rely on a handshake or verbal assurance – get it in black and white! I can’t stress this enough. In property, if you’re purchasing as a joint venture agreement with friends or relatives, get a watertight legal agreement drawn up that covers every scenario. If a party loses their job, gets sick, runs into financial difficulty or simply wants to sell up, you want the security of knowing it’s not going to financially sink you. Any contract with a tradesperson should similarly be drawn up in writing, so if a dispute arises, you have the signed document to fall back on. Getting everything in writing will go a long to ensuring you stick to rule 4!

About Cherie Barber

Cherie Barber is the director of Renovating For Profit , a workshop-training provider that teaches everyday Aussies how to successfully buy and renovate properties for a profit. She is a full-time professional renovator and highly sought-after public speaker, and a regular TV renovator for Network 10’s lifestyle show, The Living Room.

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1 Comment



    December 19, 2016 at 9:07 pm

    Thank you Cherie. You definitely made a way for women, not having to rely on am man. In a man’s world. Kxxx

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