EPMEPM: Case Studies

Having a ball: 60 years of life, love and real estate

The main thing that strikes you when scrolling through Richard Luton’s Instagram feed is the vibrant colours and exotic destinations that come with a life lived well. As he prepares to celebrate his 60th birthday this year, Luton shows no sign of slowing down. After 25 years in the industry, his eponymous company is now Canberra’s largest privately-owned real estate organisation.

Luton grew up on a cattle and sheep farm near Adaminaby in New South Wales, where he learned the true meaning of hard work.

Working on the farm before and after school every day, plus all weekend, taught him solid values around work and money.

“My parents were the average Snowy Mountains sheep farmers,” says Luton.

“What they gave me were good ethics to be nice and work hard for my future.”

He declined a life on the farm, knowing that his true passion was for the city lifestyle, travel and nice things.

“I always helped out on the farm, but I was hopeless with my hands and didn’t want to spend my life getting them dirty,” says Luton.

His first career indulged his passion for travel and aviation, through working with Ansett Airlines.

During his time with the airline, he got married and became a father to daughters Courtney, Sophie and Madison.

But after 14 years with Ansett, Luton knew he wanted a better life for his family.

Needing a stronger income to achieve his goals, in 1993 he applied for a job in real estate and soon after accepted a position with one of Canberra’s most respected names in property, Peter Blackshaw.

Despite his complete lack of real estate experience, Luton was motivated to learn and, thanks to his self-confidence and work ethic, he became a top sales agent in no time.

In six years Luton sold 530 houses across Canberra and his drive to create a future for his family became stronger than ever.

In 1999, he went out on his own and opened the first Luton Properties office.

I’m competitive, but not greedy because I know there’s enough work for everyone.

Today, rebranded simply as Luton, the company has more than 150 staff across its nine agencies and more than 12,000 sales on the books since launching in 1999.

Of course, any kind of stable company growth is dependent on great people and excellent systems.

Though Richard Luton is still the owner of Luton, at 60 years of age he has succession planning in mind.

“The directors in our offices are shareholders also and, though I’m a listing principal, my middle daughter Sophie (29) is working closely with me.”

Giving other people a sense of ownership and having family involved allows Luton to leverage on the hard work he has put in over the years, to build his brand and the reputation of the Luton company.

On keeping things fresh

He’s aware of the need to keep things fresh, embrace modernisation and be sure others maintain the energy with which he started the company.

“The real estate market in my years with Luton has changed a little bit; it’s far more digital now and, though I’m a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to technology, I always go back to the world of databases.”

Luton’s nine offices run as an ecosystem that supports and sustains itself – and it’s software like Property Tree that enables this to happen.

For a staff network as extensive as Luton’s, with many staff working away from the office, fielding questions from clients and needing specific information fast, cloud-based software solutions are crucial.

“The backbone of real estate is product management and the backbone to successful product management into the future is Rockend,” he claims.

Luton has a firm belief in the three ‘C’s of leadership: culture, continuous improvement and community outreach.

“I want success for others and have built the company around that with energy and passion. I’m competitive, but not greedy because I know there’s enough work for everyone.”

Luton often asks himself ‘Is this important to you?’ and ‘How does this feed into growing your business?’.

When applying that logic to challenging business decisions, the answers come easily.

On community

First and foremost is the importance of having an excellent reputation in the Canberra property market.

Luton’s responsiveness to the community also led to Luton’s annual charity ball.

“Someone said to me once that real estate agents make too much money and from then on I agreed that we would give back to our community by hosting a fundraising ball to benefit a different local charity each year,” he says.

Raising money for charities that assist people with disabilities or health issues, the ball has raised more than $4 million so far and the event is run completely by Luton staff.

“We always agreed that we’d give money back to the community and the ball enables us to do that via a different charity every year.

We do it all in-house, with our own staff.

It puts a strain on the business, with all the organisation needed, but it’s worth it for the results it delivers to the community.”

Luton is still heavily involved in the running of the company, considering himself a colleague to his staff rather than ‘the boss.’

“I still list homes, I still do open homes, I still negotiate and I still do auctions. That’s important to me.”

On becoming an influncer

When it comes to being an influencer, however, it seems Luton’s motivation is to lead by example and his Instagram feed does just that – from Sydney to Miami, or Positano to New York, with healthy doses of Canberra life, love, friends and family in between.

“We’re all here to enjoy our careers and to enjoy our life,” he explains.

“We only get one opportunity at a beautiful life and we have to work hard at it to achieve it.

“I enjoy holidays, fashion, hard work, to have goals and plans and to do things to improve myself and to make life happy for other people. Technology is crucial, but you still have to go back to old-fashioned customer service and negotiating skills to get the results you need for the future you want.”

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