Elite AgentFeature Interviews

Neil Webster: Breaking the mould

A former strategic projects manager at the University of Wollongong, Neil Webster joined the real estate profession later in life. That hasn’t stopped the Stone Real Estate sales executive from making his mark quickly, with a focus on community.

What was your first job and what did it teach you?

My first job was working behind the bar at the local tennis club. It taught me many things that have proven to be invaluable in my working life, namely risk assessment, customer service, multi-tasking and communication skills.

The last factor has been the major one. If you can deal with intoxicated patrons when they’re disgruntled and unreasonable, dealing with vendors is usually much easier.

How long have you been in real estate?

I’ve been in real estate for a little more than three years. I’ve just moved office after accepting an offer to work for Stone Real Estate in Wollongong as a sales executive.

What do you love best about Wollongong?

I love the sense of community the region has. It’s a big city with a small town feel. It’s very easy to make connections and if you do things well (or poorly), word spreads quickly.

Where would you like to be by this time next year?

I aim to have an associate working with me next year to help increase my productivity and listing capability.

I’ve set some goals to achieve in the next three, five and 10 years.

Each of these goals has a monetary target in terms of GCI as well, so I can’t achieve one without the other.

What does your ideal day look like?

I’m up for either a run or a quick gym session before my wife leaves for her office.

I do the school drop-off every day, so my mornings revolve around phone calls and emails while getting organised. I prefer to do all my outbound calls first-up, to get them out of the way.

Then I focus on current or prospective clients and leave the appraisals/appointments for afternoons/evenings.

Of course, this is all completely flexible as children, clients and vendors can all have different priorities in their minds.

There’s no point being successful and having no one to share that success with.

If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in the industry, what would it be?

The past perception that we’re all overpaid, used car salesman sharks.

I’ve come into the industry later in life than most and with a pretty good reputation due to my past work roles and community involvement, but I still find the general perception is of the old school agents.

You are passionate about community work – what has been your favourite community project to date?

I’ve been lucky to have been involved in many community projects that help to fundraise for those who most need it.

The one that give me the most pride is the Santa Claus Pub Crawl for Charity. I’ve been coordinating this event for more than 25 years.

Last year we donated more than $175,000 to local charities, including the Salvation Army (we fund specific children’s based programs through them), the Disabled Surfers Association and The Disability Trust.

I’ve also danced on stage to raise funds for the Cancer Council in a local version of Dancing with the Stars.

I dance as well as a potato, so it was a challenging evening.

There have also been charity car drive events, corporate fun runs and, more recently, novice auctioneer competitions.

If you had to start from scratch in real estate tomorrow, what would be the first thing you would do?

As much as I was warned I would become attached to my phone before starting in real estate, I don’t think my family was prepared for how much time I would spend communicating with prospects, clients and vendors.

I’ve learned to separate work and family time better than in the beginning, but I think for anyone starting new, I’d advise them to get this balance right from the start.

It’s probably OK to let it go if you’re single and have the time to be selfish, but without my family to support me I wouldn’t be who I am today, so making sure I spend uninterrupted time with them is important.

There’s no point being successful and having no one to share that success with.

I would also call my friends more often. They are usually my most significant source of referrals, so I’d advise anyone starting out to make it a habit to call 10 of their friends each day. Just talk and find out how they are. The conversation is worth it and it’s surprising how many of my friends call me back later with a referral.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Be who you are.

Coming into real estate with a little profile, one of my first principals advised me to be myself.

I was already known for being friendly, honest and hardworking and they told me not to change from being that person.

There was no point in following other agents’ paths when I could create my own just through being myself.

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