“Sellers, sellers, sellers, can’t you see?
“Sometimes your houses just hypnotize me.
“All those realtors with their flashy ways,
“But I’m here to ensure you get paid.”
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
The year: 2002
“Hi! Is this Mark Britton? This is Jamil with Media Group Inc. I wanted to touch base with you regarding the ability to reach more of your customers through the Internet and…hello?”
Jamil stared down at the phone in his hand and sighed. That was the fifth person who had hung up on him in the last hour.
It was 2002 and the plan to be Dr. Jamil had fizzled once the reality set in.
Telling his parents that he wasn’t cut out to be a physician – or lawyer or engineer – had been devastating, but something that couldn’t be ignored or passed up.
Jamil was not built for that kind of life.
And he was beginning to wonder if he was built for this one, as well.
Media Group Inc was part of the post dot com bubble core of businesses that managed to survive the crash. But just because they survived didn’t mean people didn’t believe these companies weren’t going to make it.
Jamil was having a tough time trying to get businesses to even listen to why a website could benefit their business, much less sign up for their services.
After the dot com burst of 2000, the world didn’t know or care what the internet was, only that it had crashed horribly and was most likely a fad that wouldn’t take off again.
In essence – people weren’t buying the schtick.
For those businesses that were interested, it was $600 for a simple 5 paged website; the same type of website we’re familiar with today. But while the clients for Media Group were a slightly growing handful, it was still an expensive endeavor.
For every business that signed on for a site at $600, it took $700 to actually make it; a loss that would normally cause serious company consideration, but the start of something for our intrepid hero.
Because in this particular office, Jamil’s business partner just happened to be a real estate investor on the side, which is where much of his income came from.
It was a crisp spring day in Calgary when Jamil was passing by his partner’s office, when he heard the conversation coming from inside…
“We’re on track with the renovations,” replied the partner. He was speaking with his father, an elderly man who stood at the front of the wood desk that sat within.
The man nodded, apparently satisfied with the ongoing project. “Great,” he said. “I talked to the buyer earlier and if calculations are correct, we should end up with a good $160K at the end.”
A hundred and sixty thousand dollars!?
“Hey, guys,” Jamil greeted, walking confidently into the office. “I uh…couldn’t help but overhear, but…did you say you would be getting a cool $160,000 on this house project you’re doing?”
“That’s right,” the elder replied, raising a slim eyebrow at this interloper.
“Nice!” Jamil exclaimed. “What exactly are you doing? How can I get involved in it?”
The stereophonic reply reverberated around the room, the answer obvious, but in case this young whippersnapper didn’t understand, the two continued.
“You have no money.”
“You have no experience.”
“You don’t have a license.”
The elder man stood straighter, his height comparable to Jamil’s own, but he gave the authority of someone looking down their nose at an inferior.
“There’s no way for you to do this,” he sniffed. “Stop eavesdropping and go back to losing money.”
For anyone else, this rejection would’ve left them dejected, withered, and possibly broken; not Jamil Damji.
Instead of storming off, Jamil backed out of the office…but his ears were still tuned in to their investing conversation.
By the time he’d finally made his way out the door, he’d learned a few things:
Both father and son are looking for more building lots
They want old bungalows that sit on 50 x 120 square foot lots
These bungalows have to be zoned R2
They want to build duplexes
It was certainly a new development and something Lil Jamil would’ve sought out as a child. As Young Adult Jamil, the same drive to learn and use that knowledge to do good still persisted, even if this wasn’t the career his parents had hoped for him.
Information in hand, Jamil sat back down at his desk and continued making calls. At the end of the day, Jamil had managed to get at least two more clients for the company, but his mind had drifted to the possibilities he had just learned about.
Lil Beastie happily bounced alongside his master during their evening walk the next day. The little pug had grown up with his human pet and he always looked forward to these times when they could be out in the nice weather.
Glancing up, Beastie could tell his master was deep in thought, his head turning left and right as they walked. Beastie tried to see what the adult was seeing, but all he saw was giant blocks and other dogs with their human pets.
Topside, the dog had pegged his master right – Jamil was deep in thought, as he looked at either side of the street as they walked.
The discussion the previous day had swirled round and round his mind for most of the night and as he walked the familiar streets of his neighborhood, he realized why his interest had been peaked.
The very type of lots his partner and father were looking for were right here – in Jamil’s proverbial backyard, so to speak.
In fact, one of the bungalows he came across was the same one he tried to rent a few months earlier, but couldn’t. It was out of his price range and while in today’s money $200 dollars doesn’t seem like much, to Jamil it was a make or break position that he couldn’t afford to waste.
But now…now, this same place was up for rent, had still been up for rent, with no takers in sight. It seemed too random to be a coincidence.
So Jamil didn’t ponder on the thought too much – he immediately took out his cell phone and dialed the number…