Hayley Van de Ven: Unlimited

Hayley Van de Ven has come a long way in the past 20 years. From a young agent overlooked for promotion, to the savvy business owner behind two of RE/MAX Australia's most successful brands, Hayley has always had her eyes on the prize. Here, Hayley tells Kylie Dulhunty about expanding her business, why she almost didn't do it and how she came back from the worst year of her life with more strength and courage than ever.

Hayley Van de Ven subscribes to the theory of building the plane while she flies it.

She’s driven, determined and darned dynamic.

So you might be a little shocked to discover that when the idea of her expanding RE/MAX Results and heading up RE/MAX Bayside Properties was first floated, Hayley’s initial thought was ‘no’.

“I straight away thought, ‘no, I can’t do that’,” Hayley explains.

“I had a moment of self-doubt and I thought, ‘that’s too much’.”

At the helm of RE/MAX Results since 2016, Hayley notes that she’d always strived to have “Queensland’s number one agent-centric business”, but she’d never banked on owning another RE/MAX office.

“We were in the middle of negotiations for buying a small, 120 property rent roll,” Hayley says.

“But this was about 650 doors, which was a totally different kettle of fish because I was going in a different direction where I was looking to acquire smaller businesses, close them down and roll them in.

“So when Brad (Neilson) put that opportunity to me, my first reaction was no.”

But with the idea then firmly planted in her mind, Hayley set about looking at the logistics of incorporating RE/MAX Bayside Properties under the umbrella of the Limitless Group.

“The more we looked at it, the more it made perfect sense,” she says.

New opportunities

That was about eight months ago, and in September 2021, Hayley officially took the reins at RE/MAX Bayside Properties, which has offices in Cleveland and Alexandra Hills.

It retained its identity, as did RE/MAX Results, which has offices in Morningside and Mackay.

Hayley says a lot of behind-the-scenes work went into the expansion to make sure every team member knew what was happening and felt comfortable.

Together, Hayley now manages 45 agents, 10 property managers, seven leadership team members and 24 support staff, which is 34 more heads than when she just owned RE/MAX Results.

“A lot of work went on in the background to make sure it was successful, including the whole process around risk assessment, transition plans and communications plans to the teams to make sure everything rolled out beautifully,” she says.

“There was even a change management plan that went around the acquisition and what that meant for each person.”

Hayley says “change champions” were identified within the business to help lead and encourage the transition if other team members were feeling nervous or uneasy.

“Everything was planned down to the nth degree to make sure that it was seamless,” she says.

Limitless potential

Hayley’s days as a selling agent may be over, but she says it’s her time in the trenches that has made her the leader she is today.

Her Limitless Group has an infinity symbol as its logo, and all of the brands that come under it, including RE/MAX Results and RE/MAX Bayside Properties, have a “limitless culture”.

At the top of the list of values the agencies strive towards is an ethos of authenticity and abundance.

“Our overarching goals as a business is to be Queensland’s number one agent-centric real estate business,” Hayley notes.

“We like to go above the crowd, we lift the lid off the jar, we’re the world’s best team, we’re client-focused, we’re commercially minded, and we get stuff done.”

Hayley admits that saying she has the world’s best team “sounds cheesy”, but the ethos behind it means egos are checked at the door, everyone is equal, and the team lifts each other up and pulls in the same direction.

“We have each other’s backs,” she says.

“We play to each other’s strengths because we know we are better together.”

The heart of the business

While the team focuses on vendors, buyers, landlords and tenants, Hayley sees it as her priority to concentrate on the team.

They are her clients, and, in essence, she’s the strong backline.

“I’m quite sporty, so I talk a lot about how our best line of defence in the market is to have a really strong backline, which is to always have that support around you,” Hayley explains.

Hayley says typical RE/MAX businesses are often standalone, but her hybrid model includes a full suite of agent services.

“Literally anything and everything they might need, such as settlement hampers, marketing plans, graphic designers, letterbox droppers, they already have in-house,” she says.

“We’ve developed this so they don’t want for anything. They just jump on the agent service’s menu, tick what they want and it arrives.

“The idea being that once we take care of all of that for them, they can concentrate on listing and selling, which inevitably makes them more money, which inevitably makes me more money, so it makes sense.”

A growth mindset

One of the business elements Hayley focuses on is retention. 

She knows that happy team members stay longer and produce better results.

It’s for this reason, along with a bad personal experience, that has seen her laser in on helping her team members to grow and build their skill set.

At the first agency Hayley worked at, she was shut down when she showed interest in taking charge at one of the offices without a licensee. 

“But my boss was like, ‘Oh, kitten, no. You’re not ready’,” she recalls.

“He didn’t say, ‘Let’s get you ready’ and he didn’t inspire any hope and ambition in me that one day I would be ready, he just said no.”

That lesson stayed with Hayley and now inspires how she handles things when her team is interested in moving up the ranks.

“We believe in everyone having limitless potential,” she says.

“One of our property managers has ambitions of being a department head, and she lacked some of the leadership skills needed to do that job, so we’ve engaged an external consultant to come in every two weeks to provide training sessions.

“We’ve invested in her because we believe in her ability to grow. 

“Whether or not she believes in being that person, that’s up to her… but we are confident in her ability to do the job, and we’d like to see her grow.”

Hayley says the secret to managing team members who want to grow is balance and an ability to equip them with the skills to meet their goals.

“I didn’t want to throw her into a job that’s going to overwhelm her because then we’d lose her, but I wanted to give her the skills to do the job so that she goes into it with her eyes open and can manage a large team,” she says.

“I want them to smash through those glass ceilings, and I want them to grow their businesses to incredible heights.

“Anything I can do to enable them to do that, that’s what I’m here for.”

In the beginning

Hayley’s career has gone from strength to strength since she joined the industry 20 years ago as a cadet straight out of high school.

She says she initially wanted to be a police officer but changed her mind when she saw the measly wages junior officers were paid back then.

Real estate was also in Hayley’s blood, with her grandmother Joy Haigh one of New Zealand’s first female agents.

Not long after the first franchise she worked for skipped over her for a promotion, another major franchise came knocking with a sales manager role.

“I didn’t even ask how much they would pay me, I just said yes,” Hayley recalls.

“From an evolutionary perspective, had my old boss said to me that day, ‘Hayley, what a great idea. I can’t give you the job now because you’re not ready, but why don’t we start working on your skills and when you’re ready I’ll have a job for you’, I would have stayed.

“I just needed someone to believe in me.”

So Hayley went to another franchise and later relocated to Mackay in Queensland before joining RE/MAX there as part of the franchise sales team.

RE/MAX Results

In 2016 she bought RE/MAX Results from well-known real estate identity Deborah Evans before growing market share 20 per cent and opening a second office in Mackay in 2017.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing Hayley says, as she quickly realised that while she knew a lot about selling houses, she knew little about running a business.

“I didn’t know how to open Xero,” she jokes now.

“I couldn’t read a profit and loss statement, and I realised very quickly that I needed to get really good at running a business.”

Hayley turned to BDO Australia and put herself through business school and is now pleased to report she can read a balance sheet, decipher her profit and loss statements and much more.

“I know when we’ve got a healthy profit building and, from the business’s perspective, that’s enabled me to make good, educated decisions about where to invest and how to structure things,” she says.

“Every single thing, such as all of the change management planning, I learnt from business school.

“I wouldn’t have been able to roll out this succession so wonderfully had I not had that education.”

Family first

Hayley hit another hurdle in 2019 when her beloved mum, Jill, died after a battle with cancer.

“It was the most awful year of my life… I could have just packed it in,” Hayley says.

“Your mum is your biggest cheerleader, your best friend, and when you lose your mum, you lose your person.”

Despite wanting to chuck everything in, Hayley knew her mum, who had worked for her as her assistant for many years, wouldn’t want that.

Hayley says it took quite a bit of time and willpower, but now instead of focusing on the negative, she can see the positives.

“Now when things happen, I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have a guardian angel’,” she says.

Family is incredibly important to Hayley and she loves nothing more than spending time with her husband Dan and their sons Cooper and Jordy.

Every morning her children wake her up about 5.30am and there are cuddles in bed before she heads off to the gym and into work.

A guiding light

Hayley says she wants to show and teach her boys about equality and that family dynamics can evolve and change according to what your family needs at that moment.

“I’m really passionate about women and everyone feeling empowered and creating that ‘you can have it all’ attitude,” she says.

“It’s important for them to know, growing up, that mummy’s job is just as important as daddy’s job and that no one is more important than anyone else.

“We’re all important, and we’re all capable of paying the household bills. 

“All of those types of things are important to me. I want them to value their wives and to feel comfortable with a professional woman that is of equal pay to them.”

But Hayley also stresses that women need to be kinder to themselves and that it’s ok to bring in some help at home to keep everything running smoothly.

“The kids don’t care if you make the bed or the cleaner makes the bed,” she says.

“Sometimes we just need to go easy on ourselves, although I know that can be hard to do because I’ve had ‘mother’s guilt too’.”

Goals for 2025

If you think Hayley’s latest RE/MAX expansion might be enough to keep her busy for a while, you’d be wrong.

She and the team have clear goals they want to hit by 2025.

“The ambition is to have 75 salespeople, or as part of sales teams, and to have 2500 rentals,” Hayley says.

Her advice to new agents entering the real estate fold is just as direct.

“Hang in there,” Hayley says.

“I know it’s hard, but nothing that is easy is worthwhile. There’s going to be a million times that you’ll want to quit, but quitters don’t win.”

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Editor at Elite Agent.