It is the legacy of President Roosevelt that we now watch a new leader’s first 100 days with anticipation. As Matt Lahood joins the prestigious real estate group, The Agency, as their CEO and leader, we asked what the priorities are for his first 100 days in office and how Matt plans to lead the group, under the curious eyes of the industry and consumers. In this Part One of a two-part interview with Matt, Sarah Bell follows Matt into the Sales and Purchase arena of The Agency to learn what is on his strategic agenda.
Matt Lahood’s journey to leadership at The Agency was about grabbing a different brass ring, energised by the opportunity to “move the needle’ and make an impact in a young organisation holding itself to some serious aspirations. Matt is an organic leader in the sense that he never set out to lead, but his capability and care for his colleagues saw him elected and supported into leadership role throughout his career.
“I’ve never thought of myself as a leader, it has been my genuine interest in helping people grow personally and professionally that has got me where I am today. I had the realisation that I should continue doing what I have naturally done – look after people. Making sure the team has a fair environment, which is safe and supportive, and that the consumer is happy. That’s leadership.”
Matt’s excitement about the future of The Agency and to play his part to activate positive industry change from the high-end, nimble and ambitious organisation that is building momentum at pace.
“I’ve had six months on the sideline…I’ve done a lot of planning, a lot of thinking, a lot of visualising,” says Lahood, “Thinking about what the consumer wants, what the agent wants – what makes them tick. I am passionate about implementing strategies that will improve the agent’s standard of service under our brand, first of all, and get the agents into a position where they skip to work every day.”
In his current post, Lahood retains the dual roles of organisational leader and salesperson, yet speaking as a CEO we can expect a robust agenda for The Agency which will be built around enriching the property journey for modern consumers and building a platform for high-performance agents to deliver a high performing service.
Priority 1 – Empower Agents To Perform At Their Best
Lahood says that the soul of The Agency is the central tenant that “Brands don’t sell homes, people do”. The empowerment of agents is an inspiring theme of The Agency’s offering and one which Matt believes is driving consumers and agents to its doors. “If the agent is at their absolute best…they’re going to go out in the field and be their absolute best for their client. Our [The Agency’s] job is to make a positive difference to our agents, their jobs and their clients,” says Lahood.
“A brand doesn’t have direct contact with the client. It’s the agent or the property manager. Our job is to empower that person to be their best. To go out highly trained, backed by the best culture, armed with the best negotiation skills and marketing, and to strictly uphold industry compliance.”
Priority 2 – Create Transparency Around Price for the Consumer
“Any consumer who has an issue with a real estate agent, when you talk to them, will say it was due to inappropriate communication around price,” says Lahood. He says he intends to combat the negative perception of agents around pricing by presenting buyers with key pricing information including three comparable sales, the most recent sale and what the agent has told the owner. “Every single open home that we are going to do at The Agency, is going to have the agent’s opinion of value.”
Priority 3 – Make It Easier to Do Business
According to Lahood, Real Estate is just one vertical that consumers move through when they purchase or sell property – and the parts can be ill-fitting. The prospect of being able to offer a full suite of services under one banner resonated with Matt and he believes it strikes a cord with consumers too. Powered by Ausnet Financial Services, The Agency is an organisation that can broker financial services to consumers and have that diverse service offering all under one roof. “The real estate arm of The Agency…it’s only one part of the [consumer’s] problem. The other parts are home loans, insurance, wealth creation. It’s wealth management they need. And an arm which does settlements. We’ve got all of that under one roof.”
Speaking about Ausnet’s brokerage model Lahood says, “We’re not affiliated with anybody at all; The good thing is, with the model, there’s no obligation if you want to use it you use it, if you don’t you don’t. For example, if you have to get a painter over to your house and there’s also a door hanging off. You’d love to think the painter could fix the door too, otherwise you have to make another phone call. You’re going to have to get another handyman. That’s all we’re doing. We’re centralising the business.”
Priority 4 – Battle tested, Future Proof
Lahood’s experience selling over the past 20 years in tough markets and good times leaves him battle tested to lead in the fog of uncertainty. “I started in 1988, if you can remember how high-interest rates were…we’re not seeing the same thing.”
Lahood recognises that interest rates are potentially going to move upward and some agents can get off track with the market tightening. “I remember what we had to do then too …. and if the market does tighten up, I’m really confident that I can lead this team through it. Not a problem at all. I’ll be spending a lot of time with my management team coaching the agents around these issues, like their personal financial situation, making sure they’re prepared if the market slows down.”
Priority 5 – Deliver Long-Term Security For Agents
The Agency has created an equity model that vests ownership to agents who introduce rent roll clients. As well as the enthusiastic acquisition of property management assets from external clients, the equity model for agents creates a long term wealth creation strategy for agents and marries the interests of company and team – for the long term. Explaining why this is important Lahood gets serious. “The problem is…in real estate, agents work their guts out for years. They may end up with nothing to show for it. When you come into The Agency, if you start building a business, you share in the ownership of the business.”
Priority 6 – Measure things that matter
“One thing is going to be measured is our accuracy in pricing with the vendor. I’m going to be monitoring that. I want the agents to get that right. I want pressure on them around getting it right for the vendor. Market share is definitely another measure. I’ve never been a person who defines an agent’s success by how much GCI they write.”
Another KPI that Lahood will be watching closely is days on market. “I want to make sure the owners are getting off the market as quick as they came on, and that’s a good mechanism for real estate because obviously turnover is important for us as well. It shows the agents getting the price right.”
That concludes Part One of this two-part series. In Part Two we delve into why The Agency is making property management a priority, and why tenants are a key long-term priority for the organisation.