Expanding horizons: The Agency’s formula for cultivating real estate talent

Like the ripples that form when a pebble is dropped in a lake, The Agency’s presence across Australia is expanding. 

At the heart of the national network is a core group of leaders, led by CEO of Real Estate Matt Lahood and Managing Director and Group CEO Geoff Lucas, and agents, such as Steven Chen, Ben Collier, Bethwyn Richards and Brad Gillespie, who have worked together for as many as 25 years.

They consider each other as much more than just colleagues – they’re a family.

And it’s high-performing agents such as these that champion the brand to others as the nucleus of its recruitment campaign, lauding it for a culture that embraces growth, high performance, personal and professional development and success in life as much as on the balance sheet.

Matt Lahood describes The Agency way of “doing life” not just in business terms, but as a lifestyle of its own.

Enabling agents to grow

When he started The Agency eight years ago, Matt says he did so with a clear focus.

“I”ve spent the past 20 years focusing on how to grow agents, what holds them back and building a model which clears the way for them so they can test how good they actually are,” he says.

The Agency business model removes the ‘middle man’, allowing agents to run their own business as they see fit. 

There’s no postcode restrictions on where agents can and can’t list and sell, and there’s no ceiling on how large they can grow.

“Our commission model, what it does, is it rewards agents that want to grow their business,” Matt explains.

“So if you want to write more business and put more staff on, you’ll take more of the split with the company.

“And one of the biggest things is they’re not just married to their business, they’ve got lifestyle, they’ve got scale, they’ve got freedom and they’ve got revenue.”

The Agency Real Estate CEO, Matt Lahood.

An expanding network

In the eight years since The Agency’s inception, the network has grown to comprise more than 700 real estate professionals spread across six states.

Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane have always been part of the group’s core markets, but that’s now grown to include major growth corridors of the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and Tasmania. 

This year, Christian Chaplin joined the network as General Manager for Sales in Queensland, while Jason Crerar was appointed as the new State Manager in Tasmania.

In Victoria, under the leadership of Sally O’Connell, the number of property partners has also grown significantly.

Matt reveals it’s actually vendors and buyers that are the main drivers behind when and where The Agency grows.

“As the company grows we’re getting requests (from buyers and sellers), ‘Which agent do you have in this area? Who do you have that can help me in that suburb?’

“A recent real-life example is a seller in Sydney who is moving to the Gold Coast and asked, ‘Can you help me find something up there’?

“So now we’ve got seven or eight agents up there, which is great. 

“But we’re not all through the Gold Coast, so we need other agents.”

And it’s that drive to meet their prospective vendors and buyers needs that is driving The Agency’s recruitment and growth strategy.

This year alone, the national network has recruited close to 60 new property partners, including standout agents like Leigh Melbourne in Williamston, Skye Le Marseny on the Central Coast, Darren Boettcher in Ipswich and Mohamed Elmoubayed in St George.

“Mohamed has a double accounting degree and is very professional,” Matt says.

“Not many people can go to an open home and talk to buyers, coach them through their finances and help them see if they could afford a property or help an owner make a financial decision based on his knowledge of accounting.”

Agents tell the story

But rather than just Matt or Geoff driving the recruitment campaign, it’s the leading agents that are telling The Agency’s story. 

With eight key themes, the growth campaign touches upon agents surrounding themselves with excellence, the agency business model and there being no limitations on where property partners can work, along with providing the ability to tap into a national network.

The recruitment push also amplifies the ethos of the leadership team and the support and training they provide to every agent, along with the culture and work-life balance that underpins everything The Agency does.

Matt says the campaign focuses on video testimonials from high performing property partners across the country, including Ben Collier, Bethwyn Richards, Daniel Acocks, Lee Dowdall and Stephanie O’Sullivan, Michael Paproth, and Madi and Cathy Roche.

He says the property partners are The Agency’s best assets and there’s no better way to promote the brand than with the top performers themselves.

“When you look at (marketing) today, Google reviews are the best form of advertising, YouTube reviews are the best form of advertising and it’s the consumer using the product that are the best people to provide advocacy,” Matt says.

“Our clients are our property partners, so we want to hear from our clients as to how we’re performing.

“And they’re obviously compelled enough to talk publicly about what they like about The Agency, why they’re here and why they’ve stayed.”

Matt says the opinions of high performing property partners will likely mean more to agents considering joining the brand as well.

Surrounding yourself with excellence

For Bethwyn Richards, who is a dominant agent in Sydney’s beachside eastern suburbs, joining The Agency has meant surrounding herself with high-performing agents that continually inspire her and that she can learn from.

The Agency’s Bethwyn Richards.

“I think the wonderful thing about the people that we work with is they’re all of a really high calibre…,” she says.

“And many of us have known each other for 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, or we meet new people in the last two or three years. And they are all really the cream of the crop.

“Aligning yourself with a great company, where you can really learn by osmosis, watching the great people around you have great leadership.

“We’re all students for life.

“If you really embrace that philosophy, you’ll always keep learning.

“And I think this environment always keeps giving you so much more.”

For Michael Paproth, who is based in Melbourne, The Agency has provided him the opportunity to continually level up.

“Whatever you’re looking for in your career, The Agency seemingly provides someone to work with, aspire to, look up to, be trained by… No matter what level you are in your career, there is always the opportunity to further your skills and learn from someone who’s actually been there before,” he says.

For luxury property specialist, Ben Collier, he’s more than happy to explain The Agency model to others based on how it has powered his career and life.

“The model of The Agency was very appealing because it enabled me to grow my team, whilst having all the infrastructure provided for me,” he said. 

“For me to operate it at the level that I do, and to offer a high level of service, I didn’t want to have the added distraction of what comes with running an office. 

“The Agency enables me then to just purely focus on the day-to-day listing and selling and ensuring that I’m assisting those that have endeared us with the privilege of selling their home.”

For Daniel Acocks, it isn’t just the support on the backend that keeps him at The Agency, it’s the ability to run his own race that’s equally as important.

“There aren’t really any restrictions,” he notes.

“Geographical, the way you run your business, the way you set up your team, whether you work from the office, whether you work remotely, all those things, it really comes down to you how best benefits you and your business.”

Support and collaboration

Matt says that support and culture starts at the top and works its way through the whole network. 

Leaders in the business are available, in person, on the phone or via Zoom. 

They also pop along to their agents’ auctions or to call into one of the group’s office hubs, which agents can use along with having the freedom to work from their home office, car, cafe or wherever they choose.

Matt says The Agency provides the best systems, processes and training, with coaches such as Lee Woodward, Claudio Encina or Tom Panos, but their property partners can also access an employment support system group.

And when Matt checks in with the team the first words out of his mouth are always, “How’s life?” as opposed to “How’s business?”

“That’s the first thing I say,” Matt notes.

“What are you up to? How are you going? The rest is irrelevant. If your life’s good, your business will be good.

“There’s no point in me saying, ‘How’s business?’ if life is bad. I can’t fix business if life’s not good.”

The Agency’s Stephanie O’Sullivan and Lee Dowdall.

Looking to the future

As The Agency looks to expand further in 2024, Matt says growth will continue to come from a mixture of organic growth and acquisitions across the country.

He says increasingly, principals are turning to The Agency to simplify their business by having them manage their rent rolls, so they can focus solely on listing and selling within the brand.

“They own the asset but we’ll manage it for them and take all the stress away associated with running it.”

Matt says growth will also be supported through industry leading training and development, leveraging the national network to provide business and growth plans for agents. 

He says The Agency hired Harriet Saunders as the Head of Agent Recruitment and Growth at the end of 2023 to work closely with the east coast general managers and leadership team.

She will create recruitment strategies and build relationships with top performers, to bring the very best agents onboard.

“If they have a growth mindset, if their values align, if their morals align, if they’ve got a good reputation and they’re a good human then that’s what fits with The Agency,” Matt says.

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Editor at Elite Agent.

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