Carolyn Wright is a business woman who had a vision to start a specialised property management agency – and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. In this story, she shares the journey from flight attendant to business owner and why her passion for customer service continues to grow her business.
As a young-ish female embarking on a start-up business as a real estate agency, albeit, specialising in property management, there were plenty of people saying I was crazy! Many believed that a small, boutique agency without brand awareness or a big budget advertising campaign would not be able to survive the tough and competitive nature of the real estate game. Starting a business of any kind is pretty scary when it’s your first time around but I have never been one to be frightened of a challenge. Tell me I can’t do something and watch me find a way to do it – and that’s just what I did.
My passion for property began in the early 1990’s when I bought my first investment property. Investing soon became a passion and whilst working as a flight attendant at the time, I was also renovating houses and building my property portfolio as a pastime. My service experiences with property managers were not anywhere near my service expectations, nor were they anywhere near the service levels I’d been trained to deliver.
Having worked for some of the top hotel groups such as Hyatt and The Accor Group, followed by airlines (both Ansett and Qantas), I was well versed in providing service excellence to customers. My impression of the real estate industry was that it was largely under-servicing clients. In fact, when I was a potential buyer attending sales ‘open for inspections’ and wearing my daggiest ‘tracky dacks’, some agents let me pass by them without even taking my name and number! So, it was always a surprise to them when I was the successful bidder at auction. It taught me to never judge a book by its cover and to treat all people equally because you just don’t know if the person in the ‘trackies’ is going to be your next big customer.
I went from flight attendant and investor to a fully licensed estate agent. I was never content with just having a job – I wanted to run a business that set itself apart from others, so I set a goal to one day open my own agency, not just any agency, but one that was known for service excellence. Your Property Manager commenced at the beginning of 2009 as a specialised property management business.
The crocodile wrestler
Why property management?” some would ask. Well, it was my area of passion because of my background in investing. Previously, I have heard property management be referred to as ‘crocodile wrestling’ and, as many people would agree, it’s one of those areas in real estate that some agents are just petrified of – it’s labour intensive, litigious and just downright hard yakka. But when you break it down and you follow systems, procedures and checklists, it’s not so daunting. In our business, it’s the streamlining of these facets that is the challenge. We are constantly tweaking and changing the way we do things to find the perfect methodology. One can never be complacent because just when you think you have it down pat, a new challenge comes along or a scenario that’s unusual. That’s where having a group of industry friends or a mentor can make a huge difference. For me, I can say that many of my industry colleagues have been great mentors to me and so many of them have been so willing to share information and offer words of wisdom and advice without viewing me as competition (Thanks to Hayley, Mel, Zac, Leah, Katie, Matt, Simone, Mariam and many others). I have also engaged a business coach in the past and for specific areas of concern. Fiona Blayney has been a great supporter and coach to me for some years and I would highly recommend that spending money on a business coach is a worthwhile investment. It’s great to have someone come in and tell you where you are falling down and to help you lift your game and challenge yourself and the team.
At the moment we have more staff than any other property management business I know but there is method behind my madness. Certainly it has meant less pie for me to take home but my sole focus has been on service to my clients because I have known that by building a loyal client base and the foundations of my business, we will have clients who are loyal and who are raving fans! Stemming from that, we have a constant stream of referral business and it’s good business from people who are prepared to pay our fees without us having to discount. I did discount a little in the beginning for a few clients with big new properties because I needed to prove to people that we were worth paying more for, but not anymore. We work hard and we are committed to our clients but there is a price tag on that. It’s not arrogance, it’s more that clients value our service, communication and follow up as well as the care that we give them. They understand that our process adds to their bottom line. Right now we have enough staff to carry nearly half as many properties under management again without really increasing our fixed costs so that will make a huge impact on the business.
Fees, failures, futures
Many clients have owned second, third and fourth properties with other agents and they have handed them over to us at full fees and without expecting a multi-policy discount. This is just testament to the fact that we are doing things right. I don’t confess for us to be perfect because we’re not, but we sure care for our clients and when things aren’t going right we are humble enough to ask ourselves “why?” and to look at what we can do better. It’s a learning curve all the time but if we think we are so good that we can’t learn more, we’d be kidding ourselves. Technology is also something that we need to embrace and use to our advantage. If we aren’t willing to look at new ways to do things and how we can use technology to create efficiencies and better serve our clients, there is something wrong. So much to do and so little time!!
One of the cornerstones of my business is transparency and honesty within our team and with our clients. From our fees to our failures, I would rather be open and honest with our clients than have to cover ourselves by telling lies. I have always said to my people, “If you stuff up, be honest and tell the client because they will value honesty and openness. Clients will allow mishaps to occur and they appreciate that we are human so mistakes will happen.