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Amy Bennett: Collaboration and communication

Amy Bennett loves to make connections.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s finding the perfect tenant for an investor client or introducing a potential vendor to a selling agent, the McGrath Caloundra business development manager thrives on recognising business opportunities and making them happen.

“Ultimately, I almost feel like a matchmaker,” Amy says.

“If I have a great tenant moving to the area, I think about what properties I have in my pipeline and how I can introduce the two parties.

“If I have a buyer who has never been through the process of having a mortgage, then I introduce them to our mortgage brokers.

“Facilitating connection is what my passion is.”

Amy’s journey into real estate was anything but conventional.

A former pharmaceutical company retail services manager and Caloundra Chamber of Commerce client services and event manager, Amy joined McGrath Caloundra a little over four years ago.

Initially, Amy was the operations and marketing manager before moving into her current role in the latter part of 2020.

“My title is business development manager, but I see myself as a concierge for the office,” she explains.

“I like to see myself as the first point of call for anyone that’s going to be interacting with the business, whether that’s a buyer, a seller, a landlord, a tenant or a business partner.

“I talk to all of those different stakeholders, and then I introduce them to the team member most appropriate.”

It’s a role Amy says her past employment prepared her for perfectly as she has a background in customer service, a honed ability to problem solve and extensive networking capabilities.

During her stint at the chamber of commerce, Amy was “in the thick of the business community” and helped grow membership from 250 to 700.

“Bringing businesses together and working collaboratively is one of my passions,” she says.

Amy takes a conscious approach to her work, deliberately adopting a “get curious, not furious” mindset, which means she’s always looking for the missing piece of the puzzle that explains why someone, be it a client or a colleague, is behaving in a particular way.

There might be friction with a client until Amy realises that the client’s solicitor hasn’t explained something fully, or a grumpy tenant who has had a previous poor experience with the industry.

“I always ask, ‘what piece of the puzzle is missing’?” Amy says.

A current gap in the industry that Amy is working to smooth out is the abundance of tenants disheartened by continuously missing out on rental properties.

With a short supply of properties and up to 100 applicants for each one, Amy says the 99 renters that miss out are “having a really bad experience in the market”.

Instead of just lamenting the situation, Amy sees this as an opportunity to help and educate tenants, even if they don’t end up renting one of her properties.

It means ensuring they have a cover letter, have their 1form account set up and other seemingly simple things that can make the application process easier.

“It’s about engaging with them and letting them know, “these are some things you can do to better your chance of finding a property,” Amy says.

The property management department at McGrath Caloundra comprises four employees, with Amy working alongside senior property manager Belinda Kleidon and assistant property managers Alyce Stimpson and Bianca Zorzetto.

“Belinda’s had more than 25 years’ experience in property management here on the Sunshine Coast, and she oversees the whole portfolio, which our clients love because there’s a dedicated person to speak to,” Amy says.

“Bianca manages our leasing process and conducts our open for inspections, processes applications and then she does the induction for new tenants.

“Then we have Alyce who looks after our maintenance and inspections.

“So we have different team members doing different roles at different times of the day, so there’s always someone in the office who can answer the phone.”

Amy says dividing the team’s workload via tasks instead of each person managing a certain number of properties means if someone is away ill and a landlord or tenant makes contact, the other three team members are up to speed on that property.

It also provides greater job satisfaction, with each team member working in the area they are best skilled for and enjoy.

“We meet every week to talk through each of our roles, where each client is at, and then we make sure nothing falls through the cracks,” Amy says.

One area Amy consistently devotes time to is looking for new business opportunities and nurturing those relationships.

Four times a year, absentee owners in the area receive a mailout from Amy containing relevant information.

“I think it’s quite unique to have that collaboration between the sales team and myself,” Amy says.

“We want to provide a complete solution to absent owners whether they intend to sell or put tenants in their property.

“The most important thing is talking to every group, so I talk to my investors, my tenants, prospective tenants and prospective landlords.”

Amy also advises BDMs to contact their local chamber of commerce as business owners can often provide referrals, as can local banks, mortgage brokers, conveyancers and developers.

The team also likes to give back to their clients and support the wider community through their charitable initiatives.

As well as adopting the mantra of “under-promise and over-deliver” to continually surprise and delight their clients, Amy and the team host movie nights and send them small gifts.

“We have ‘feel-good Friday’ where we identify someone we spoke to through the week that needs something,” Amy explains.

“We had one lady during COVID-19 that was isolated in Sydney, so we sent her a little hamper.

“If someone needs their lawn mowing, we organise that.”

Amy has also been instrumental in ramping up the Community Giveback program where a portion of each property sale is donated back to the community.

“We have been able to contribute more than $200,000 to about 150 not-for-profit and community groups,” she says.

Other initiatives have included an animal refuge fundraiser and offering their office space to community groups for their meetings.

“The community is at the core of everything we do, and it’s really important to all of us here at McGrath Caloundra to give back,” Amy says.

When we spoke to Amy in 2020, the forecast for the property management team for the rest of the year was also looking bright.

With 250 doors currently under management, Amy said the goal was to hit 300 by the end of the year.

“Our region has been unaffected by COVID, and we’ve actually seen a migration of people moving to the region,” she says.

“The other great thing for us is we still have growth areas, such as the Aura community, which will be 20,000 homes over the next 15 years.

“We have a great level of properties in our pipeline, which is good.”

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