To say Khan Robust is not a fan of the traditional real estate model is a bit of an understatement.
“I don’t believe in big franchise models,” he says.
“I just don’t believe what they give is worth what they’re asking for in terms of the commission split.”
Khan’s backed up this bold assessment by putting his money where his mouth is.
Khan launched Robust Real Estate – a bespoke, self-branded agency servicing the Gold Coast’s northern suburbs – to show clients how he believes things should be done.
Khan, 40, crossed the ditch and moved to Australia from New Zealand 13 years ago to operate bars and clubs, before starting a solar panel installation business. He then made another switch and joined the real estate industry six years ago.
“I’d been approached quite a few times by numerous different real estate principals to join agencies, but I never had the courage to take on a commission-only job,” he says.
“Once we sold the solar business, my wife, Sarah, and I had enough financial backing to be able to take that risk.”
Khan said those other industries gave him great transferable skills for real estate sales.
“The biggest thing is just the ability to connect with people, and a bit of life experience,” he says.
“It allowed me to transition easily, whereas I see a lot of young agents try to get into the industry, but they don’t have that ability to communicate.”
Khan joined a major franchise in 2015, and while he appreciated the training, he was also delivered a blunt lesson on what he sees as the industry’s archaic approach to rewarding agents.
“I was three years into my role and writing almost $600,000 a year in commission,” he recalls.
“I went to my principal and said, ‘I’m not asking for it now, but tell me how much business do I need to write to get a 70 per cent split?’
“He said to me, ‘That’s never going to happen.’ As soon as he said that, he lost me.
“I will find a lead, nurture it and finally bring it to market. I’ll get the property sold and manage it through the process to settlement… and then the agency will put their hand out and ask for half of the commission!”
Khan eventually made moves toward becoming the master of his own destiny. He started a conversation with UrbanX, in early 2020.
“I believe that the future of real estate is the UrbanX model, where they will give the backend support, and the agent is front-facing,” Khan says.
“When you’re a sales agent, it’s all consuming, so then when you have to worry about trust accounting, contract admin and all the rest of it, it does take your attention away.”
The platform moved fast to get Robust up and running. From when Khan officially signed on with UrbanX through to launching his brand was just six weeks.
Khan said it hasn’t just been the ability to keep more of the commission that’s made him glad he started Robust.
There’s been the satisfaction and support that’s come with being self-branded too.
“When it’s your own name and your own brand out there, you take more pride in that,” he explains.
“I’m so happy to put my name on the business – it represents who I am as a person, and an agent.
“Also, there’s better uptake from people when they realize that it’s your own business. I think innately people always want to support people that they like.”
Khan says staying away from “sameness” was another key objective.
“You get a chance to stand out. We’re in a sea of sameness – so many blue boards or yellow boards or whatever… how can you stand out from everyone else?” Khan says.
“Having my own branding and brand helps me get attention, with my name front and centre.
“We’re not trying to take on the big franchises because then we’ll just become the same as them. Instead, we’ll be working from our strengths –which is being flexible and nimble in the marketplace, being able to change quickly, being able to stay up with the trends, and having good people around us that can help us continue to build our market share.
“I think times are changing. It’s boutique businesses that will start making the biggest inroads.”