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How Do You Make Something From NOTHING???

Over the weekend, my wife and I spent some time with our friends John and Sylvia visiting from Connecticut. Sylvia is an English professor at Fairfield University in Connecticut and John is a mechanical engineer who has embarked on a remarkable project here in Camden. John has been investing, and re-inventing real estate, both in Camden and also in a variety of locations in Connecticut and bounces between CT and SC.

John’s latest project revolves around a purchase he made a few years ago of an abandoned textile factory in Camden. He’s taken an gargantuan square footage white elephant and is now leasing space by subdividing for tenants. He’s putting a building back to use, and bringing in new commerce to Camden that will bring jobs to our community and increase tax revenue for the county. But, according to one of his renovation foremen, he’s also a sorcerer. We were told he must practice magic because he’s always “making something from nothing.”

In magic, the hand is not faster than they eye. The eye simply doesn’t see to comprehend. We had lunch with John and Sylvia and then got a tour of the sprawling complexes of buildings and I think I figured out the magic trick.

It’s a fairly complex series of steps:

  • John has had a lifetime of experience to see beyond the visible and behold the possible.
  • He sets realistic, achievable financial goals and sticks to his plans to make the investment not only payoff, but allows tenants to reap savings in rent.
  • Once he see’s what’s possible, rather than simply gutting a structure, he keeps all the re-usable building materials, and obtains materials that others are discarding, and recycles these materials for functional use again.
  • He relentlessly pursues his goals and works with employees, regulatory powers, and tenants in a fair and direct manner.

This sign made of 98% recycled materials!Case in point. John just erected the new sign for “Dicey Creek Park.” Other than two facing boards, and the lettering of the sign, and perhaps the paint and nails, every other construction component was recycled from building materials others may have discarded, but John kept. I saw the pile of bricks that were salvaged that built the upright pillars. Other than labor, the sign’s cost was chump-change and it looks great.

The real secret isn’t how John makes something from nothing, it’s how John makes something from nothing anyone else could see.

Learn to see things as they can be, not as they are. Make sure financial expectations are reasonable to allow profit and share part of the profit with others by giving them a voice at the table and a piece of the action. Don’t think of waste not, want not — recycle, reuse as cliches, think of them as good business. Don’t give up when the going gets tough and be honest, fair and legally/morally correct.

I think none of these are “tricks,” merely commonsense practices that any business can create magic with as well to also make “something from nothing.”

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