Luckily a year later he was privileged to join one of the premier Project management firms in Kenya. He found Project Management quite exciting and his quest for knowledge on creation and managing delivery of projects was seen to.
After three years in project management, and on the backing of his CPA (K) and MSC in finance, he joined an Asset Management company to complement their real estate investment team. After a while, he transitioned to banking as a relationship manager in project finance.
Realizing the incredible opportunity in development and project management and having gained experience in quantity surveying, project management and Project financing, in 2014 he incorporated Locus Development partners with one key objective to be partners to real estate investors and facilitate them realize maximum value in their projects.
On this issue of the Zoom In we focus on Mashine Munene, Managing Director of Locus Development Partners as he walks us through his journey as an entrepreneur in the real estate industry, an industry that is becoming highly disruptive.
NG: Tell us more about Locus Development Partners?
MM: We are a Development and Project Management company consulting on Real Estate, Infrastructure and Utilities.
We are involved in projects ranging from the refurbishment and extension of individual buildings through to large scale, complex, mixed-use developments, programmes and regeneration projects.
Our goal is to build and shape sustainable developments in real estate, infrastructure & utilities to be trusted to deliver and impact positive change to society. We facilitate the inception, design, delivery and closure of projects within budget, in time and achieve the best quality.
NG: Why did you choose to start a Project management company for real estate, infrastructure and utilities projects?
MM: While working in Asset management and banking, there was a huge disparity in investment horizons of projects due to time overruns and many times depressed returns to investors due to budget overruns and/or poor product quality which would affect market uptake.
It was in light of this, that we set out to start a consulting firm in Development and project management to conceptualize and deliver investment grade projects that maximize the value for investors in the sector.
NG: Define your role as a leader?
MM: Project Managers are the lead consultants on various projects. As a leader, managing and leading various design and construction teams in unrelated projects, one is faced with diverse challenges such as different work ethos, personal attitudes, coordination and communication issues etc. Our role as the lead consultants is to foster collaboration and create a team culture that cultivates true business effectiveness.
NG: Walk us through your day at Office?
MM: No day is alike, but most days start at 7: 45 am and ends at 4pm, In a typical day numerous activities such as finishing up reports, research, resolving issues on emails, reviewing drawings and documentations, happen in the mornings any meetings, site inspections and design workshops are afternoon activities.
NG: What are some of the key highlights through your career journey?
MM: Am fortunate to have had several key moments in my career journey. Among the best are:
1)Getting an opportunity in my first PM firm – was incredible and pivotal to my career – the learning, training and being part of the team in complex projects was key in getting a good understanding of the industry and its peculiarities.
2) The commissioning as development and project managers for the Woodcreek school’s development programme.
It is a highlight for me and for Locus DP as we have been involved from conception. We have delivered the first phase and second phase comprising of the preschool, middle school, kitchen & dining, sporting ovals and ancillary infrastructure.
We are currently commencing the third phase of the masterplan, the delivery of a Performing arts centre. Being part of the team delivering this programme that we can see transforming and shaping the minds of the students in the schools has been quite inspiring.
NG: What was your lowest career point and what are some of the lessons learnt at that point?
MM: Transition from employment to entrepreneurship was tough. Real estate deal structuring takes a long time, our first project took nine months to achieve financial close and coming from regular income to fees that are far apart was tough; I had to learn to be patient and frugal. At the same time learning the art of business development in an industry where advertising is restricted taught me the power of a brand and one’s network. All the assignments that we handle irrespective of the project size we must deliver excellence, to build reputation and good referrals from our clients.
NG: What keeps you awake as a leader?
MM: Besides my kids who wake us up at 5am like clockwork, the horror of missing project deadlines gets me up in the morning. Our industry has been riddled with delays and your personal and corporate brand is judged on ability to show up in time and deliver in time. Be it a feasibility report that is due or the casting of a slab, a client update meeting or facility commissioning and handover, there is always something!
NG: As an MD, what is your morning ritual?
MM: My weekdays start at 5am with a thirty minutes workout session. After the workout and breakfast, I try to stay on top of current affairs by reading the dailies and watching BBC, and it’s off to the office at around 6:30 am.
NG: Talking of rituals and rules, it is always said that all the leaders or rather most leaders have the five-hour rule, which literally involves reading at least five hours in a week. Does this apply to you and if so, which book are you currently reading?
MM: Not sure if I observe the five hours strictly, but I do love reading, I make time over the weekends. Currently am reading Influence; the psychology of persuasion. We are always pitching, selling ideas and spaces, just trying to understand the mechanics of it, hopefully I will get better.
NG: What is your living philosophy?
MM: I would not really call it a philosophy, but I say stop worrying and live life.
NG: Which age of your life was important and sort of shaped you?
This must be my high school years. When I joined high school, I was seriously shy. However, I was elected as a house captain, had to face my peers and juniors, manage and lead them this was where I got my first leadership training. It’s here that i learnt most of the important virtues in life. We were imparted to be “gentlemen of consolidated intellect” a culture that was very well instilled on us by the seniors and the Old Boys Association. This is highly held to date.
NG: What do you think was your greatest weakness as the CEO?
MM: I am quite self-motivated, and in early years I used to find it difficult to delegate responsibility. However, when the number of projects we manage increased, it became critical that I learn to delegate tasks, I have coped well but I also have a great team of construction Managers on sites.
NG: What can you as a CEO at 33 years tell the younger version of you let’s say you at 30 years?
MM: In the words of Charlie Munger, “Success means being very patient, but aggressive when it’s time.”
NG: Advice to young entrepreneurs that are starting off in your industry?
MM: Two things learn to be patient, read and travel widely as this allows you to spot emerging themes, new ideas, thought processes and mental models.
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