Mark Earle, Principal of Buxton Real Estate Sandringham, talks Leadership

Mark Earle is not a typical leader. Humility and empathy are the main tools in his leadership arsenal and even after 23 years in the industry, and he doesn’t take anything for granted.

Mark started his real estate career in 1995 in property management never intended to go into sales. Funnily enough, Mark became the top salesperson within a few years in the inner western suburbs of Melbourne and made key mentor relationships along the way.

Mark is no stranger to hard work and earning his way into the “upper echelons” of Melbourne real estate high performers. The high turnover market and low transaction price of houses in inner west Melbourne meant he “needed to do a hell of a lot of transactions to keep up with the mentor group.

“A million dollars was always the target for salespersons in the 90’s. In those days it was a lot of money. In my best year, I did $1.2 million commission. That meant 169 listings.”

Buxton real estate group approached Mark in 2004 and he is the principal of the Sandringham office which has 27 staff. He also holds a corporate role and is a major shareholder in the group.

Personal leadership style

Taking out the competition element between himself and his staff is key to being an effective leader, Mark says.

“It’s always been a very strong philosophy of mine to add value to people within the business and have them in an environment that helps them flourish. I want the guys who work for me to do really well.

“A lot of people struggle with identity once they are no longer the top dog in sales and at the top of the tree as a leader. The group I’ve evolved within past 15-20 years are the top agents in Melbourne. Some are in that category of listing and selling and dominating world, others have grown outside of that in different ways. I never want my salespeople to compete with managers.

Not taking anything for granted is a big part that underpins his personality and mentality, Mark says.

“People say I’m half empty, or that my outlook is on the conservative side.

“I’m probably opposite to other agents who tend to pump up their own tyres. I’m probably not your typical estate agent. I find that works well for me.

“We’ve been in an incredibly good market and people give themselves credit for that, but in fact, we are very lucky to be part of this market. I’ve adopted the mindset that everything is accounted for, rather than planning your lifestyle around the glory days that we have had.”

Mark Earle

What are the top qualities a leader should have?

Having spent half his career as an employee and the other half as an employer, Mark says he is in a unique position to have empathy with his team.

“I have an understanding of what it’s like to be a newcomer and what it’s like to be a top performer. It’s important to have an understanding of where they are coming from, being there for them, helping them and giving them as much leverage as you can to help them get started.”

“We live and die by the sword every day, you win a listing, lose a listing. I still enjoy winning listings, but I get more excited when the guys get business,” he says.

“I don’t want to create a hierarchy in my business. I don’t think of myself as any different to anyone else.”

“I had a conversation with one of our other franchise owners about a year ago. He runs a really successful business but our outlooks are very different. My take is that I’m lucky to have my staff. His take is that his staff is lucky to work for him. If you look at our businesses, they are both equally as successful.”

He says it’s important to value everyone on the team.

“People who write the $300-400,000 are still very important to your business, same as the people who write $1 million.”

Mark says these qualities have build loyalty in his staff.

“We have been really successful in staff retention. From my point of view, it all starts with getting right people on board. We have strong performers in our business and they can get a job anywhere and set up their own strong business.”

“There is strong loyalty, but I’m a realist, at some point, the landscape will change, but I don’t see that as lack of loyalty because people might want to do their own thing.”

Is it necessary to be an A-type personality to be a successful leader?

“In many respects, I am an A-type leader, I am conscious on a listing-by-listing level and how we are going. But equally, I don’t micromanage people. I’m a big believer in the idea of ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink’.”

“We have a mature sales team, 30-60 age bracket. I’ve never had the attitude of watching over what they do. You have to have trust in the person.”

“I know I could do things better and some leadership people might say that’s too loose, but it’s what works according to my personality.”

“I don’t want to say I’ve got it right, but it’s how I’d like to be treated. If you look at our team on a performance level, we have 2 or 3 people writing in excess of a million dollars. But tomorrow could be different. I don’t take it for granted.

Mark Earle will be speaking in Elite Agent’s event How to lead a winning team in 2018 as part of Chris Hanley’s panel session on 14 November in Sydney.


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Azal Khan

Azal Khan was a in-house features writer for Elite Agent Magazine.