If you’re involved in commercial real estate in Canberra, you’ve likely heard the name Guy Randell. An award-winning agent and director of Burgess Rawson, Guy is renowned for his in-depth approach to commercial investment. Here, he tells Kylie Dulhunty how he got his start in the industry and why his first-hand experience sets him apart in a competitive market.
Not many people can claim they’ve helped shape the way their nation’s capital city looks, feels and runs, but Guy Randell can.
As the managing director of Burgess Rawson Canberra, Guy is intricately involved in creating the $160 million DKSN precinct.
Co-developed by Doma and Englobo, the 16,252sq m precinct is set to reinvigorate the suburb of Dickson with more than 50 commercial opportunities, private office tenancies, an eat street with more than 20 restaurant opportunities, a medical centre, retail, a gym, childcare centre and 300 residential units.
Guy and the Burgess Rawson team not only helped the developers come up with the concept but are now involved in selling and leasing the commercial spaces.
“The developer had to tender for the site and put their vision forward, and then they said, ‘Guy, you’re going to be doing the commercial as you have done for our other projects. What do you think we need, what do you think we can do?’” Guy explains.
“I’ve worked with them to come up with some ideas and said, ‘This is what I think we could do’.
“We’ve worked together to create this amazing concept.
“It’s changing a suburb.”
Guy says he loves collaborating with developers and engineers to craft a project and then obtain the best sale or leasing results for his commercial clients.
“I love being involved from day one where, as a team, you collaborate with the engineers saying this and the development manager adding their bit, before the overarching developers say, ‘Here’s the intent, here’s the cost and here’s how we’re going to stage it’,” he says.
“Then they allow us to go, ‘OK, let’s get the most amount of return we can out of every square metre. Let’s deliver the best interactive precinct and give everyone who’s buying here a bit of surety that we’re not going to put the same thing next door to them’.
“Everyone has an opportunity to make their mark, right down to the last tenant moving in.”
Burgess Rawson has invested in the precinct too, locating its office on Challis St, and Guy says next year they’ll move to a bigger office again at DKSN.
A commercial real estate agent with 12 years experience, Guy says he’s long held an interest in real estate and investment, but he hasn’t always worked in the field.
Initially a member of the Royal Australian Navy, Guy then worked for 20 years in the public service writing national policy for the construction and building industry.
He started investing in commercial property himself, and after he bought and leased out a couple of units to national tenants at a big waterfront precinct, the developer suggested he become an agent.
“He’s been an institutional client of mine from day one, and he’s just been brilliant,” Guy says.
“That’s what I love, working on the new stuff (commercial properties) and understanding the design of it, the interior design, the external, looking at the mechanical and hydraulic aspects, and the way people move.
“Then I started studying retail inside and out and found the niches that I loved, which ended up being the investment side and the development side.”
One of the things that helps set Guy apart is that he has a lot of first-hand experience in the same sectors his clients operate in.
Over the years, Guy has owned retail franchises that taught him about franchising, leases, mall leases, fitout contracts, variations and builds.
He has designed and owned pubs where he was involved in everything from buying the building to tendering, managing contracts, completing the design with international firms, importing furniture, cost analysis and supplier contracts.
He’s also built a childcare centre, a service station, and strata units.
“This has enabled me to understand business operations, costs, imposts, occupancies, turnovers, builds and leases,” Guy explains.
“I always ensure I have a mentor, and then I look to those elements I don’t understand, or I’m not adept at, and learn from them.
“It might be town planning, development management, architects or mechanical contractors, so when we plan a development, we understand exactly what is required to make it work.”
His own agency
Guy worked for other agencies initially, but decided to bring Burgess Rawson to Canberra about five years ago after being impressed with the results the brand was generating in Sydney and Melbourne.
“I saw that lacking in Canberra, and I saw a niche that was missing,” he says.
A few conversations and quite a bit of organisation later, and Burgess Rawson opened in the ACT.
“It was just two guys and a plastic table sitting in a completely vacant space,” Guy says of the agency’s humble beginnings.
“We got our first listings and we sold a bank and then a gym.
“People started seeing the results we got and went, ‘Wow, that’s Sydney yields coming to Canberra’.”
Guy says about 90 per cent of the agency’s transactions have been interstate buyers, and that’s something he’s immensely proud of.
“It means we’re introducing Canberra to Australia,” he says.
“The property market in Canberra is one of the most exceptional in Australia and everyone is starting to realise that now.
“During COVID-19, investment has poured into Canberra because it’s a very safe market with low vacancy rates, the highest incomes, the highest dual incomes and a stable workforce.
“There’s been price increases and rent increases. It’s a great market.”
Since those early days of two men and a plastic table, Burgess Rawson has grown to a team of 13 and has expanded its service offering.
Guy says the agency has always offered commercial, projects and commercial property management, but now also includes residential projects, single residential and residential property management.
“We’re a full-service agency here in Canberra,” he says.
“We’re growing, and we’re very smart about how we’re doing it. We’re doing it slowly, and we want to deliver the same exceptional service that we’re renowned for in the commercial space.
“It’ll take time to get that reputation, but that’s our ethos, and in Canberra now, we’re accepted as a really big player.”
In the past 12 months, the agency has doubled in size, and Guy says over the next 12 months they hope to do the same again.
Success built on trust
He says one of the secrets to his and the agency’s success is creating long-lasting relationships built on mutual trust and respect.
Over the years, Guy has become a trusted advisor to his clients, valued for his hands-on experience as well as his ability to research and upskill if there’s an area he’s not well versed in.
“I love being in meetings where I’ve got no idea what’s being said… I’ll sit back, I’ll learn, I’ll study, I’ll go and talk to people and have a coffee with them to learn,” he explains.
“Then, all of a sudden, I’ll understand what they’re talking about, and the next time I come across the same thing, I can speak about it.
“You try to get yourself a great understanding of as much as you possibly can.
“We’ve got developers that are very sophisticated people in the world, and they don’t need any help, but they rely on your expertise. Then we’ve got some that are just starting out and don’t know anything.”
Guy says many investors also come to him for advice on what type of business would suit a particular block of land or source the ideal property.
“I’ve got many clients I’ve sold to many times, and they trust you,” he says.
“You’ll come up with something and show them and take them through everything. You don’t just go, ‘here it is, it’s good for you’. You explain why and how it will fit what they’re looking for.”
Evidence of that trust is that Englobo has already brought Burgess Rawson on board for another of its projects, this time in Gungahlin.
Guy says the project will be three times the size of DKSN and provide work for the next 10 years.
The value of that work and the relationship he’s built with Englobo, and other clients, is not lost on Guy.
“It is something that’s next level,” he says.
“You’re a trusted advisor.”