EPMEPM: Case Studies

Katherine Kyriakou – McGrath Blackburn & Box Hill

Former VCE teacher Katherine Kyriakou followed her husband into real estate almost by accident after filling in as temporary office cover. Over twenty years later, she’s now Principal of Property Management, McGrath Blackburn & Box Hill, with a rent roll of over 1,000 properties.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Swan Hill, but we moved to Melbourne in the 1970s. I attained a Bachelor in Education and worked in the private sector as a VCE teacher for eight years before starting in real estate, my husband Harry’s first passion.

After 23 years of trading as an independent under the brand of Allens, in December 2016 we rebranded to McGrath which has catapulted us to the next level in our business. I work with a wonderful team of 15 people in property management, headed up by my General Manager, Maria Scholes. We have worked together for 19 years and now manage a rent roll in excess of 1,100 properties, which we have grown organically.

What motivated you to get into real estate and property management?
I fell into real estate by default. My husband has been in real estate since the age of 18 and in 1994 we bought the estate agency he was working for. Whilst I was on maternity leave with our second child in 1996, both our property managers went on annual leave and Harry asked me to come in. He told me he needed a condition report. ‘What’s that?’ I asked. Harry’s response was, ‘Look. I have a 12-noon appointment. I’ll be back later.’ The rest is history.

Harry told me he needed a condition report. ‘What’s that?’ I asked.

I’ve now been in property management full time for 21 years; in that time we have organically grown our business ten-fold. I’m proud and passionate about what I do and wouldn’t have it any other way.

What is your favourite part of the job?
There is nothing more gratifying and humbling than the feeling you get when a landlord hands you the key to their investment, a property that they will potentially work to pay off for the next 20 years, and you place it in your pocket.

Today my role has changed; I now spend a lot of time working ‘on’ the business, rather than ‘in’ it. I’m involved in training and continuously enhancing our processes and procedures. Witnessing first hand the growth of a team member whom we have trained organically and seeing their development is gratifying. For me, this is my legacy.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on the content for our annual planning and goal-setting meeting, and Maria and I look forward to presenting it to our dedicated team. This meeting is intended to lay the foundations for our company, and individual staff goals and KPIs for 2018.

What is the market like in your area?
Competition in our market has never been this intense. In the last 12 months we have seen 14 new agencies open in our business development area. There is increased pressure on fee cutting, but our view on this is you get what you pay for and we are reluctant to compromise on our fee because we believe in our service.

Consumer demand for rentals in our area is very high at the moment; demand exceeds supply for quality housing. We are tracking to do our best ever month and currently are leasing 1.6 properties per day. Whilst there is a surplus supply of apartments, there is a great need for freestanding four-bedroom, two-bathroom family homes. Interestingly, tenant quality can be unpredictable and in this market, as with any, it is crucial that tenants are carefully vetted.

Who or what inspires you?
As cliché as this may sound to some, my father. He came to this country at the age of 13, sent by his parents for a better life and to help support his six siblings. He came with no English and built his own brand in the takeaway food industry on respect, work ethic and reputation.

He was illiterate but possibly one of the most prudent people I know. He instilled in me the importance of hard work, that the customer is always right, a ‘do no harm’ attitude and he encouraged me to take risks, albeit calculated. His mantra was, ‘Life wasn’t meant to be easy’.

We lost my father two years ago, but in business and in my personal life I still think, ‘What would Dad do here? What would Dad say about this?’.

In business and in my personal life i still think, ‘what would dad do here? What would dad say about this?’

Something or someone you couldn’t live without?
My family. My husband Harry is the most optimistic person I know. He has instilled in me a belief that I can do anything and has given me the freedom to ‘run with it’. When I make a mistake, and believe me in the early days there were a few, he would merely ask, ‘What have you learned?’ Together we have raised two sons, both of whom are independent, fine young men.

What apps do you use the most on your smartphone?
The millennials in our office will tell you that Katherine and technology are an interesting combination! Whilst it is true that it’s not my forte, I embrace technology and our processes are always open to review to incorporate the latest apps.

On my phone, I couldn’t do without WhatsApp as it is used as an internal communication device across all of our staff. I love it when it rings and I know it’s another result coming through, whether it be listing, sale or just leased. It’s our good news device. We are also avid users of WeChat, Facebook, Instagram and REST Mobile.

Your life motto?
I have three, actually: “The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has been.”

“Success is a journey and not a destination.”

“Out of adversity comes strength of character.”

What are your goals for the future?
Our focus in the business is on further enhancing office culture, growth of the business, training and delivering the McGrath six-star service. We’re only as good as our most inexperienced staff member and that is my yardstick. So continued training is crucial and we are elated to be partnered with McGrath, who offer optimum training and support. I would like to grow our business with a net gain of 200 properties in 2018. It is achievable. It is my BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal.

Personally, I’m a work in progress. In 2018 I am working towards a better work/life balance, taking steps towards a healthier lifestyle plan, to continue personal and professional training and finally I’m working on a community project as a part of a ‘give back’ campaign.

KATHERINE’S TOP TEN FOR NEW STARTERS IN PM

  1. Read You, Inc by John McGrath. It will help build your brand!
  2. Establish your ‘Why’ and set your goals to meet it.
  3. Set meaningful goals and write them down: where you are, where you want to be and create a road map.
  4. Back yourself: self-belief. Have a can-do attitude: If you think you can then you can.
  5. Dress for success. How and what you feel and look will project onto others.
  6. Keep a work journal detailing the processes that need tweaking within you. This will lead to mastery.
  7. Find a mentor in business, someone you respect and aspire to be like.
  8. Be consistent, committed and communicative – nothing worthwhile comes without discipline.
  9. Be it a business journal, blog or something for pleasure – knowledge is power. By doing this, you will become an authority in your field.
  10. Deliver six-star service to create a raving fan base. Don’t hide behind email, call the customer.

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