Elite AgentFEATURE INTERVIEWS

How Hudson 365 became different by design

When you walk past Hudson 365 on Devonport’s Oldaker St, you may not realise it’s a real estate agency.

There are no listings in the window, there are no signs with the words ‘real estate’ or ‘property’ hanging up, and you can’t just waltz in – the office is open by appointment only.

Is all of this a mistake? Definitely not. It’s by design.

Hudson 365 is a real estate agency with a difference.

Perhaps nothing symbolises this more than the 3m tall painting of a lion that fills the wall of the Hudson 365 boardroom and is strikingly visible from the street.

The brainchild of James and Simone Leslie, Hudson 365 opened its doors almost three years ago with a desire to be brave and bold, just like the lion, and shake up the real estate industry on Tasmania’s ‘traditional’ northern coastline.

“There was a really big gap in the market,” James says.

“My wife and I could see that real estate, especially on the northwest coast of Tasmania, was very much the same as it had been for years and years, and there was nobody coming out and breaking the mould at all.

“It was very much a case of, if you wanted to be in real estate, you did it the same way that everybody else did it.”

More than a number

An agent with 14 years’ experience in sales, property management and business development, James worked for numerous franchises before starting Hudson 365.

He says during that time, he became a bit disenchanted with the way others were doing business, fearing speed and technology were getting in the way of creating memorable moments with clients.

“I had this constant understanding that there was a shift of focus from people to just getting ‘the numbers’,” James explains.

“It was about how many transactions, not the quality of the transaction.

“We felt there was a really good opportunity to be more client-focused, to listen to people, to not mass produce and to try and be a bit more bespoke with each deal.”

One of the biggest turning points for James came when a staff meeting at a previous employer highlighted and set targets around how many price reductions an agent could get from a vendor.

“That really made me feel that we were doing a terrible thing by the clients,” he says.

“I knew there was a reason to change, but I was constantly told that regional markets don’t change, there’s no way of breaking the mould, and you need to conform to what the norm is in those areas.”

After a short stint running his own agency with a well-known franchise, James and Simone branched out with Hudson 365.

What’s in a name?

James agrees the agency name is a little different, but he explains it’s filled with meaning and perfectly sums up the company’s ethos.

“It’s named after our son Hudson,” he says.

“I went to a marketing group… and when they started asking me what the most important thing was, I realised it all came back to setting an example and being someone my son could relate to.

“I wanted him to understand that I worked hard and that there is a way to do things properly and still be successful.

“We had the mentality that if we could put that at the front of our minds and have Hudson’s name on the door, it would keep me accountable the whole way through and not give me the ability to drop the ball and do something I really shouldn’t be doing.”

The “365” component of the agency name is drawn from James’s favourite book 365 Thank Yous, by John Kralik.

“It’s about a gentleman that writes a thank you note every day for a year and how his life changes,” James says.

“We do it too; after every appraisal they (potential vendors) get something in the mail from us or dropped on their front doorstep.

“I think we go through something like 1000 cards a year, and we have this constant understanding that if we put good things out in the world and acknowledge people and say thank you, there will be this constant organic karma around it.”

Doing things differently

Since opening its doors, James says Hudson 365 has built a 15 per cent market share, and 88 per cent of its business comes from referrals.

“We have not prospected a day in more than two-and-a-half years,” he says.

Other than having a lion on the boardroom wall, there are a few things Hudson 365 does differently, starting with their marketing.

Video is king at the agency, and they create a video for every property they list.

Each marketing campaign is also strategic, with a targeted buyer clearly in mind.

“We always try and put a lot of our resources into who we think is most likely to be the buyer, instead of just a blanket approach of hitting the market with everything,” James says.

Personally, James never takes on more than 10 listings at a time, preferring to work with clients one-on-one and devote as much time as possible to creating a memorable sales journey.

If you head to Hudson 365’s website, you might be surprised by what you don’t find there, rather than what you do see.

There’s not a single property on their website, with the ‘properties’ section linking to all of their listings on realestate.com.au instead.

“Everything on the website is based around our blog, which shows who we are, what we stand for and how we’re involved in the community,” James explains.

That team consists of James, his executive assistant Annouka Barr, co-founder (and wife) Simone Leslie, property specialist Sharyn Crack and her executive assistant Kelly Symmons.

A platform for good

Each week James writes a blog that gives an insight into who he and his family are, what’s happening in the lives of team members, or the latest charity Hudson 365 has decided to chip in and help.

The agency supports the McGrath Foundation after James’s mum, Louise, was diagnosed with breast cancer about a decade ago, while MS Australia is another charity they support in honour of James’s assistant Annouka, who has the condition.

In May, the agency raised about $11,000 for MS Australia by taking part in The May 50K, which is where participants seek sponsorship and run or walk 50km, with all the proceeds going to MS research. 

“We do a lot of those types of things where, if it means something to us, we go all in,” James says.

“We don’t just throw money at an issue, we actually physically put some labour into it.

“We try and make sure that what we do is local and meaningful, and that we don’t just use our abilities to financially back things, but we really put our brand behind things to make sure we’ve got reach and that we can educate people a little in the process as well.”

Another thing Hudson 365 does differently is its newly-established Sunday open homes.

“Every agent on the coast does Saturday mornings, and that’s when sport is here,” James says.

“You can’t do Sunday mornings because of religion, so we thought Sunday afternoon would be a happy medium, and we’ve been getting crazy uptake on the weekend again.”

Looking forward

As for what the future holds, James says, much to his accountant’s disgust, he doesn’t set budgets or targets, instead preferring to focus on using his platform for good.

“I want to be able to create something, whether that be with two people, 20 people or with 120 people, where we’re using our platform to do some good stuff in the world,” he says.

“Whether that becomes a bigger business, whether that becomes multiple offices, or whether it becomes something even bigger, that’s not the intent behind it.

“I think we’re just going to try and find the points where we can do the most good and we can enjoy coming to work every day and love our environment and that’s the most important thing.

“If that means scale, great. If it doesn’t mean scale, that’s ok as well.

“I just feel like when we’ve got our focus on constantly doing the right thing then, organically, the numbers come and the money comes when you need it to and we’ve had a really successful business and a great start without being focused on the dollar or having a target to meet.”

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Deputy Editor at Elite Agent.