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Accelerating Growth: Harcourts Adelaide Hills

Fresh from winning The Amazing Race in Elite Agent’s Transform PM Challenge, the team at Harcourts Adelaide Hills are implementing change and shaking things up across their three office network and the South Australian real estate market. Iolanthe Gabrie sat down with Director Trent Shorland, BDM Kerry Holding and Property Manager Rachel Torney to learn more about benchmarking for success, their Transform PM win and why coaching is so critical to an agency’s growth.

Trent Shorland’s reasons for entering the Transform PM challenge were mostly to do with growth. “Our goal is for 1,000 managements across our three offices with full-time PMs. There are 2,500 homes in the Adelaide Hills for rent. If we want 50 per cent market share, we will need to branch out into the metropolitan area, which will be challenging.” A strong business to begin with, Trent also says entering Transform was about providing the best possible property management service in the industry and ensuring that the team are constantly improving things they do. And so began their journey.

Trent is a co-director of Harcourts Adelaide Hills with his wife, Kimberley Shorland. A tall order for most, they’ve set firm boundaries between their personal and professional lives over their last 19 years within the industry. Kim oversees Harcourts Adelaide Hills’ sales division, whilst Trent heads up their property management business – but it hasn’t been without its ups and downs.

“About five years ago,” says Trent, “Kim left the industry. She was burnt out. When she returned to real estate, we set clear boundaries around our roles, receiving advice on our strengths and weaknesses. Kim’s area of specialty is sales training, while I’m more of a general manager, taking care of the financial side of the business and property management. We try not to let our frustrations show in the business – and after 19 years, we’ve become pretty good at it!”

Having separate offices also helps matters. “I look after my team here, whilst Kim looks after her team and trainees in our Sterling office. She has more patience than I do!”

Whilst the role of property management BDM is common along Australia’s east coast, it’s a somewhat new position for real estate businesses in South Australia. Kerry Holding has made the role her own, starting with Harcourts Adelaide Hills after a 12-year tenure at Telstra corporate where she held a senior sales management position.

However, as a long-time customer of Trent and Kim’s business, Kerry’s love for real estate, interior design and business building made her a natural fit for the role. “For me, becoming a BDM has been a relatively easy transition. I’ve been given the autonomy to make the role my own, taking the business where it needs to go. As Transform PM coach Fiona Blayney told me, ‘Break things and put them back together.’ I’ve got to say, we’ve broken a lot of things!”

An agent of change, Kerry found the most challenging aspect of her switch from corporate to real estate was cultural. “Getting people within the property management team to accept I wasn’t a threat was tough. I’m a forward-thinking salesperson, and people can get a bit wigged out by that. Once they knew I was here to grow the business – keeping everyone in a job – things became easier in my BDM role.”

Kerry was also a big part of the team’s reason for joining Transform PM. “We saw it as a chance to accelerate our processes with a BDM,” says Trent. “We needed to learn how this role would work, and to take on strategies which integrated Kerry with our property manager, Rachel. No one in our area is using a BDM – it might be the done thing in Sydney and Melbourne, but not here. The Transform PM experience and Kerry’s role has made a huge difference to our business.”

Trent, Kerry and Rachel were the happy winners of the Transform PM experience, which culminated in an exciting Amazing Race challenge that tested their mettle. It’s clear from chatting that there’s a genuine connection and camaraderie between the three – but was it strategy that allowed them to win? Trent explains. “We didn’t look at the challenge and appoint one leader. Instead, we identified what we would each take charge of. That’s why we completed so much of the Amazing Race and scored so well.

We’ve only been together for a short time, but we have a diverse range of skills, we know our capabilities and we trust one another.

No one had to be a dictator during our Amazing Race.”

Teamwork is at the core of Harcourts Adelaide Hills’ success, says REISA award-winning property manager Rachel. “Being able to understand your colleagues at a deeper level helps with business success – and Amazing Race success, too! From a teambuilding and business culture perspective, it was special.”

Trent was also impressed by the team qualities revealed by both the Transform PM and Amazing Race experiences. He now plans to implement similar challenges within the Harcourts Adelaide Hills business. “I think it’s about taking people out of their comfort zone and using the skills of colleagues who don’t regularly work together. We’re across three offices, so our teams don’t always spend time together. By mixing these groups up with challenges like the Amazing Race, we’ll be given insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the team.”

With Australia’s best real estate mentors at their fingertips, the Harcourts Adelaide Hills team each took something different from their nine-week Transform PM experience. “The best piece of advice I received was from Fiona Blayney,” notes Trent. “She asked me to consider what I’m worth per hour.” This was a light bulb moment. “It’s given me perspective on what I should and shouldn’t be doing. It’s helped me delegate.”

Kerry and Trent have started to focus on new technology, too. “Being a newcomer to the industry, I can see that transparency is something that isn’t done well in real estate,” Kerry says. “By implementing technology in our business, we can show and share more with our landlords. They should be able to have what they want when they want it: data relating to their property, condition reports and more.”

This commitment to technology runs deep, as Harcourts Adelaide Hills are now giving free iPads loaded with the REST Online Portal app to new landlords prior to Christmas, allowing clients to monitor their financials in real time.

Rachel’s key takeaway came in the form of support. “Having coaches and the other offices surrounding me for the duration of Transform was great. I’ve learned that struggling with time management and daily structure is an industry-wide concern. Having an ear to bounce ideas off was really beneficial.”

There’s one thing that rings true across Trent, Kerry and Rachel’s reflections on Transform PM, and it’s the challenge of bringing back their learning and implementing it team-wide. When only a portion of a team undertake training, those left in the office can feel overwhelmed by the changes which ensue.

“Part of the issue was conveying our learning from Transform PM to team members who weren’t involved. We need to bring them to our way of thinking, making them feel part of the process. We’ll be continuing on with Transform PM coach Fiona Blayney to help us with this task – she’ll support our team transition.” Rachel thinks back on her experience, and says, “It’s about getting everyone to understand that the changes we want to implement are in the best interest of the business. One person might not like what’s happening because people are afraid of change. I dislike change because it means a lack of structure – but if we can show our team why we need to improve, it should make the process smoother.”

Although Trent, Kerry and Rachel are innovating within the Adelaide market, it’s industry leaders who they will now plot their progress against.

Coaching is at the core of changing your business, as Kerry knows from her time in the corporate world. “A coach gives you exposure to life outside of your brand. Nobody can grow without outside input – how can you learn what you don’t know? It’s additionally important to engage coaches when you have diverse teams across multiple locations, as they help you see your skills in context.”

Harcourts Adelaide Hills have begun a transformation in their team structure and business offering, one which will continue by benchmarking their progress.

Rockend’s new realbenchmark technology allows Rachel to survey her department’s accuracy.

“I do the accounting and run my portfolio, but benchmarking gives me additional insights. Importantly, it also allows me to cross-check – is the database being used by the whole team with the accuracy it should?”

Of greatest value is the opportunity to benchmark your business against other agencies industry-wide. As Trent says, “We’re not really focused on what agents are doing in Adelaide. I want to compare us against everyone. Every day, we’re trying to get to the level of the best.”

Goals, coaching and benchmarking are the trifecta of transformation for this able team, who are now focused on expanding from 34 to 50. With the momentum and expert support they’ve gathered around Harcourts Adelaide Hills, it’s hard to imagine anything other than success for this winning business in the years to come.


Kimberley opened her real estate agency in 1999, five years after joining the industry and fulfilling a childhood ambition to run her own real estate office. In 2002 her husband Trent joined the office and together they began to grow a highly successful team in the Adelaide Hills.

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Iolanthe Gabrie

Iolanthe Gabrie is a Director of Ruby Slipper Consultants, providing written content for the real estate industry. For more information visit