ONCE A MEMBER OF AUSTRALIA’S military elite, Glenn Curran now operates his own business, Curran Property, selling prestige homes in and around the Lower North Shore of Sydney. Drawing on lessons learned while in the Army both here and overseas, and making good use of technology, Curran has been super-successful in attracting and closing complex deals with foreign buyers. With an outside the box approach to recruitment of staff and a willingness to try new things, he provides a great example of someone who is leading the charge in innovation and growth.
GLENN’S CURRAN’S SENSE OF adventure and dedication to excellence led him to achieving one of the military’s highest and most exclusive honours – graduation from the Special Forces Selection Program. Serving as a Commando both locally and internationally for seven years, he worked on such diverse projects as the UN peacekeeping operations in East Timor, the Sydney Olympics, the Rugby World Cup 2003 and the safe recovery of Australian nationals caught in regional turmoil. He then spent quality time as an executive across large multinational construction projects in the Middle East, honing his leadership and negotiation skills, before settling back in Australia and starting Curran Property.
Setting up the business from scratch and taking on the already well-established North Shore market, the first question for Curran is why he chose real estate as a career after being in the Army. He says it’s something that was always on the cards.
“I had always pondered the idea about a career in real estate or applying myself to a sales-based, customer service-based industry. From the military I lived and worked in the Middle East for about seven years in some security-related roles, but also in the project support and construction industry,” he explains. “The property seed had always been there, and I think the catalyst for that was when I came back to Australia; basically I had a blank canvas and said, well, now’s the time.”
Starting the business two years ago, Curran Property now has 10 members of staff from a diverse mix of backgrounds, including real estate, media and customer relations.
“We’re pulling people from all walks of life; I think that’s very important, to give your business a rounded skillset and a cross-section of personalities as well,” he says. For example, one of his staff members was customer relationship manager for Xerox in Hong Kong and China, and Curran believes it is this broad variety of staff that brings the greatest success to the company.
“[That staff member] has great skills in dealing with different cultures, understands the ins and outs of what buyers and sellers need to see and how deals need to be structured. Having been a resident in Beijing, lived in Hong Kong and worked for multinationals over there, he brings great benefit to getting complex real estate deals together.
“We also have a trained journalist on staff. Her extensive communications and TV background has brought a new, high standard of property marketing to our business. She’s also a contributor to Home Beautiful, Investor Genius and has a monthly column in English and Mandarin in the North Shore’s Newland Magazine. She also speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese.”
These kinds of skills are particularly important in the North Shore region, where Curran says foreign buyers account for around 20 per cent of the market.
“There are a lot of Australian-Chinese here who are potential buyers, but in terms of foreign buyers or newly migrated buyers to Australia, I’d say we probably have to be looking at about 20 per cent, certainly at the prestige end where we’re going north of 5 million dollar sales – we’ve had a number of those in the last quarter. Probably 60 per cent of those needed FIRB approval and have gone to non-Australian buyers,” he says.
Evolution of the company strategy and a goal to continually innovate are also factors in Curran’s success in the past two years. Curran is passionate about technology as a way of both improving the sales cycle and achieving better marketing outcomes for his clients’ properties; particularly the use of Agentbox CRM, the new Homepass App and Third Floor 3D.
“I think one of the great things about being an independent is that we have an ability to implement and act on things quickly,” he says, “and we were probably one of the first independents to adopt Homepass. We’ve had that and used it for about six months already; we’ve found the technology to be very beneficial as it helps our agents capture data of people viewing the open homes.”
Third Floor 3D (driven by Matterport technology) is more recent, and allows potential buyers to view a 3D version of the property online before attending an open for inspection. “[Buyers] can form an opinion on that property and take a decision to actively pursue, rather than just coming into ten different properties on a Saturday cold. They are better able to shortlist after taking a 3D tour.”
But in addition to the 3D technology, Curran is still an advocate of using traditional video.
“Video is very impactful. It’s a great way to showcase key elements of the property, the surrounding area, the locale, and tying it in with the audience you’re trying to capture, or who you’re going after for that particular style of property; also tying it back into your photographs, to your key statements and to your property copy so it all binds together.
“[3D technology] has the potential to take over video for property tours though, and that’s why we’ve adopted it. But I think the uptake on technology can be slow within the real estate industry, so it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. It takes a long time for new technology to become the norm. We experiment with new technology, and then we test and adjust to see how that new product or service has benefitted an individual sale for a particular property. Then, if successful, we look at the wider implementation and expansion of that.”
Curran also says that measuring the impact of each facet of digital marketing is also important: delving deep into the analytics, seeing where people are going on the website, how long they’re watching videos – and being able to tell what is working or not based on people’s interaction with your website.
“There’s no point bringing all these things in and then not knowing how that correlates to leads and buyers, and how that ultimately benefits your vendor by achieving a sale, or bringing more buyers into the sales process. You, as the agent, have to be guided by your vendor, representing them on where they need to be putting their marketing dollars. You need to be able to deliver more than just standing there and collecting names on the front door of a house on a Saturday.”
Being in the Special Forces has also taught Curran a number of skills that he has taken into his current role; in particular negotiation, discipline and problem-solving.
“When I worked in Iraq, we had the US military there, and we had the Iraqis, and we had Australian trainers. We had to bring them all around the one table and try to get an outcome that three separate nationalities and three separate cultures could agree on, to deliver one outcome (training). That kind of thing gave me a good understanding of negotiating and achieving an outcome,” he says.
“It’s much the same when you’re selling a property. You’re bringing a vendor to the table and you’re bringing buyers to the table. A lot people can do that, but a lot of deals fall over because they are not structured properly or because someone’s specific needs have not been taken into account. Dealing in top-end property is not always just a straightforward hammer coming down at auction. There can be a lot more complexities going on in the background as well.
“I think there’s a multitude of traits or skillsets that are learned in the military that can then be transferred into any type of business, whether it’s real estate or any type of management or leadership. Based on those, discipline would be one. You have a strict regime in how you do things and you apply systems to it, so you have a disciplined approach to it.
“I think problem-solving and dealing in complex situations is one of the key areas; having a Special Forces background you are put in situations that are highly complex. Decisions can be both time and life critical as well. You learn to quickly analyse the situation and develop a strategy and a solution for something and implement it. I think if you can do that in business then you’re one step ahead, because you’ve got a plan and you’re executing that.”
So where is 2016 headed for the property market and Curran Property?
For the Sydney property market, Curran sees a year of consolidation, underpinned by a very strong draw of Sydney as being a world class city and buyers still wanting to buy there. He also expects the dip in the market to stabilise, with a lower volume of sales but a market that continues to move forward.
“Curran Property has a lot of good initiatives planned. We’re bringing buyers out from mainland China on a tour. We’ve got an itinerary planned; we’ll give them a holistic view of Sydney from education and finance, and apply that back into property. We’re looking at a nine-day program in February, involving meetings with financial institutions, presentations at our office, a couple of meetings at some of the schools in the North Shore, and a couple of days of shopping and sightseeing, golf and viewing properties in between there as well.”
Other plans include growing Third Floor 3D within sales architecture and implementing that across all their properties next year. “We’ve also got our own property management now under way, and in 2016 we’ll look at expanding that both organically and through acquisitions of rent rolls as and when the opportunities arise,” he says.