Louise Carrigg is a big believer in the saying, “Fortune favours the brave”.
It was that strength of character that saw her leave a career in event management to take a job as a sales assistant at her local Barry Plant Heathmont office a decade ago.
And it was that same determined nature that saw her buy the business just two years later.
Louise had quickly moved from her sales assistant position to become a fully-fledged, stand alone agent, taking to sales like a duck to water.
She punched well above her weight with the limited experience she had. And she loved it.
Louise knew real estate was her future.
A big move
So when the director of the business decided to retire, Louise was offered the opportunity to buy it.
To her, it was a no-brainer.
“Fortune favours the brave” is one of my favourite sayings,” Louise says.
“I focus on my strengths and it’s made me confident about what I am good at but also taught me to seek help for the things I’m not good at,” Louise says.
Louise and her partner, Chris Carrigg, had long held a dream of building a business together so, despite Chris’s lack of real estate skills, he threw in his job in the banking industry and joined her in the new venture.
The couple quickly discovered it wasn’t going to be easy running a business with a young family to look after as well.
But they were determined to find work-life balance in real estate, despite its reputation as an industry notorious for its punishing hours.
They decided to divide and conquer, with Lousie focusing on building and leading a team, as well as listing properties, while finances, administration and systems were squarely in Chris’s area of expertise.
“Chris has taken on so many duties,” Louise explains.
“He is the general manager but so much more. He does all of the business budgeting, forecasting, cost analysis, market share reporting, recruitment and contracts.
“He also manages the property management team, doing the BDM work and assisting with routine inspections and maintenance.
“He’s a multi-tasking powerhouse.”
A new approach
Chris says the fact he and Louise weren’t long-term agents has turned out to be an advantage.
“We had fresh eyes, different expectations of what a successful business looked like,” he says.
“We’ve challenged the old school way of doing things.”
Ditching the ‘old school’ way of doing things is also working for Chris and Louise at home too.
Shunning traditional gender roles, Chris shouldered the majority of the home duties as part of their division of labour.
“As an agent, Louise needed to work Saturdays and often be out at nights,” he explains.
“It was important to both of us that our young girls had one of us there, that they weren’t shunted off to daycare or babysitters.”
Flexibility is the key
Chris did school drop off and pick up and made sure that any team members who needed similar flexibility got it.
He believes that their values and their determination to build an ethical, community-focused business is a major contributor to their success.
“We don’t hire agents just because they write good numbers, they need to reflect our values and embrace our culture,” he says.
Far from being a problem, working together has strengthened the duo’s relationship.
“I get to see so many great things in Louise that I wouldn’t see if I didn’t work with her,” Chris shares.
“She is such a positive and inspiring influence on so many people and because she is so admired by so many locals, I am known in the area as Louise’s husband.
“But that’s not a bad thing!”
Louise knows they couldn’t have done it without each other.
“Our skillset is quite different and we respect each other’s strengths while sharing values,” she says.
“Chris is one of the smartest people I know. He’s a numbers man, and I am definitely not.
“He’s also a great people-person and networker. His energy levels are high. He balances out my emotional side with a no-nonsense, no drama steadiness.”
The next challenge
Two years after taking over the Heathmont business, the neighbouring Barry Plant Ringwood office came up for sale.
Louise saw it as a great opportunity but Chris saw it as a risk, given how busy they were, and took some convincing.
Now he says it was “the right choice to jump in”.
“Our initial plan was to give our business everything we had for 10 years,” he notes.
“We wanted to build a great enterprise that we could sell and then move onto another challenge.”
A lasting legacy
Eight years into their plan they have ticked a lot of boxes.
“We’ve taken on a young equity partner and we see him as an important part of the future of the business,” Chris explains.
“We’re executing a deliberate succession plan.”
Louise has also been the driving force behind a Barry Plant initiative to provide a strong network and support for females in their group.
But it’s not all about financial success.
“We just wanted to be great at what we offer,” Louise explains.
“And we wanted the people who work with us to be able to achieve their own goals and just enjoy working with the team we’ve built.
“I know it sounds cliche, but we are like a big family – but not a dysfunctional one,” she laughs.