Rent Review


For a very long time, the easiest way to wealth was to own capital and rent it out to those who need it.

From money, to property, to patents. Finite stocks, steady income, capital appreciation, low risk. Bish bash bosh.

Thomas Pikkety wrote about it eloquently in “Capital in the Twenty First Century“, and highlighted the long term higher returns on capital than labour, something anybody in the Gig economy understands well.

“The 3 most harmful addictions are cocaine, carbohydrates and a monthly salary”

Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Black Swan

It seems to me there are three problems with easy, low risk, regular income. We get used to it, we think it’s the way things are and we forget how to take risk.

This crisis has involved all three, overnight.

As I’ve listened to many excellent webinars (high five to Jericho Chambers, Home Grown and Transcending the Crisis) and other thoughtful forums, I’m noticing some interesting challenges for those living off rent:

  • Education. I don’t care how many dreaming spires you have, if I can’t attend in person you’re in competition with every other online provider, all over the world. Many of them designed online learning as a prime means of delivery rather than trying to bodge it together. If you’re a middle ranking University, trying to improvse it’s likely to be horrible.
  • Landlords. They have been a little careless in the clients they choose. If you’re trying to get rent from a retailer, any body in the hospitality sector, or soulless office space at a time when people have discovered how to work from home, good luck.
  • Relationships. That if you can develop strong relationships online, it”s easier to move them into the physical world than the other way round. If I owned a whole load of Gyms, Fit TV would worry me. If I depended on physical peer group workshops, EGA would worry me.
  • Scale is great when things are growing. Unwinding the infrastructure will probably be brutal in the next few years.

We’ve been carrying a lot of slack in our economies. People wanting rent riding happily on the back of an ever decreasing generators of real value. We have a large proportion of the economy that does does not generate residual value – the stuff ot patents and other intellectual property, and far too many people taking a conveninent, but hard work and ultimately fragile route into business via franchises, from coffee shops to consultancies, based on somebody else’s idea. That’s fine when times are good or stable, but horrible when they’re not,

GenerationRent” is understandably and in my view justly angry that they cannot buy their own homes. Paying rent to a landlord who is happy to take the capital appreciation on the property, whilst not letting you customise it to your needs whilst charging a healthy rent is not where a lot of us would choose to be.

The same is true of us as employees. We rent an employer through our work, with the rent being paid the profit they make on our work. Our IP belongs to them, and restrictive covenanants inhibit our options when we leave them. They are also able to go rent other people wherever the rent may be cheaper and leave behind the collateral damage they create by moving.

All this said, we are not victims. We have made a choice, and often compounded it by allowing ourselces to develop a dependence on them whilst not keeping our own skills, networks and brands up to scratch. With a few admirable excepetions, employers will train you in what they need you to do – not what you might be best doing to become fulfilled and successful.

We are entering a time of unparalleled turbulence. We understand Covid-19 is a small dress rehearsal for what is to come as we deal with the unavoidable shock waves of climate change. That is no reason to be scared of it. There is no point of being scared of something we cannot avoid. We have to deal with it.

We have two clear priorities as individuals – to deal with what is in front of us right now as best we can, and to prepare for whatever is next. We know it’s coming, but not what it will look like.

We need to be prepared on our own terms. Nobody is coming to rescue us.

We can start to move from dependence on employers, through being able to be independent of them if needed, to interdependence – working with them, through choice, to tackle the challenges together.

We have an opportunity to harness what Covid-19 has created and use it to make our lives more fulfilling – for ourselves and those we love.

If you want to explore what it might mean for you, as a leader of your own life and as a leader of others, join the conversation at

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