During a recent lunch with Graham Geldenhuys, Step Advisory’s CEO, we discussed the importance of keeping strategy simple. I was reminded of an experience I had working with a property investment company owner in the 90s.

Managing 17 properties, the proprietor deliberately bypassed the convoluted practices typically linked to asset growth and portfolio oversight. In its place, he chose an unrefined yet functional tool – the reverse side of a tomato box – as his management apparatus for an extensive property portfolio.

The ‘tomato-box ledger’ adopted by this business owner wasn’t a quirky quirk; it embodied his intrinsic grasp of basic fiscal stewardship and simplicity. The relevant details—names, addresses, market value, director’s valuations, and the rents of each property—were all scribbled onto this box. Far from appearing amateur, this elementary method contained all crucial information necessary for monitoring property metrics, asset values, income streams, and investment yield. It was a beacon of efficacy in its uncluttered form, stripped of any non-essential elements All information was at his figure tips, on “one-page”, the back of a tomato box.

This approach extends beyond mere property oversight; it strikes at the heart of simplicity and is a testament to the profound efficacy of minimalism.

Here’s why the ‘tomato-box’ methodology might well be foundational to fiscal triumph:

  • Transparency vs. Intricacy: Within the labyrinthine world of finance, where technical language and intricacy can cloud comprehension, the transparency provided by a simplistic arrangement guarantees an unobstructed view of one’s financial position, fostering more educated and prompt decision-making.
  • Prioritising the Basics: Concentrating on elementary metrics—asset particulars, valuation, and revenue—the investor remains attentive to the pivotal facets of his holdings, undistracted. Often, wealth generation underpins a handful of basic precepts like cash flow and asset growth—concepts easily obscured by elaborate analytical frameworks.
  • Flexibility and Quick Adaptation: The beauty of a simplistic system lies in its ease of modification. A mere jot on the tomato-box enabled swift updates to the inventory. Such nimbleness is crucial in the fluid realm of investments, where rapid shifts necessitate an immediate response.
  • Economic Efficiency: The tomato-box methodology epitomises cost-effectiveness, where complex schemes frequently incur significant upkeep and cost, necessitating pricy software or specialised staff.
  • Direct Communication: Complex interpretation becomes redundant; the data is clear, and the situation is self-evident.
  • Conscious Oversight: Simplicity invites consistent engagement that is often lost in more burdensome systems.

At its core, the wisdom of the tomato-box lies not in the physical object but in the philosophical approach it signifies. It’s about refining procedures to their essential parts, favouring practicality over complexity, and appreciating substance over form. The appeal of this wisdom is grounded in the assertion that the most straightforward techniques are the most potent.

As we evaluate business strategies and tactics, we must inquire: What complexities can we pare down? What is our metaphorical ‘tomato-box’ that can help us oversee our business with lucidity and exactitude? Adopting the minimalist ethos illustrated by that astute property owner may represent our most enlightened strategy.

I’m encouraged that we at Step Advisory are growth advisors who help leaders craft practical strategies in a way that is simple to understand and implement.

Chad Schaefer

Author Chad Schaefer

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