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Emmy Thies: Passion for People

EMMY THIES IS THE PRINCIPAL of House Estate Agents in Toowoomba. Having started her own office at the age of 23, just five years later she has a thriving business with a team of 25 people and a bag of prestigious awards. With an unmatched energy, zest, and passion for both real estate and her team, Emmy speaks frankly about her views on leadership, structure, culture, and how she continues to reach and exceed the goals she sets herself.

THE CITY OF Toowoomba is the largest city and commercial centre of the Darling Downs region, located about 130 km west of Brisbane. I first ask Emmy how long she has lived in the area. “I grew up on a farm in Central Queensland, and came to ‘the Downs’ for schooling from the age of six; I always considered myself pretty lucky to be able to do so.”

Was real estate always your first choice of career? “It was,” recalls Emmy, “From the early age of about 15; I used to work on Saturdays, before everything became so heavily legislated, collecting rent and answering general office enquiries. I even used to buddy up with some of the agents and hand out flyers at opens and perform other really basic duties. I just had a real passion for it and knew that’s what I wanted to do. So I started at the bottom and worked my way up the ranks to get to where I am now.

“I ended up working as a property manager within a franchise group in Toowoomba for four years. From school, I was working and going to uni; I was doing a Bachelor of Business and wanted to go on to do Law. As in, I thought that’s what I wanted to do; but I always had this passion for property which seemed to consume my time. I spent more and more time growing the rent roll in the business I was in. And then a magical opportunity appeared, so I took it!”

At age 23, Emmy started House Estate agents with husband Tye, who is an accountant. “So I didn’t have any selling experience in the GFC when I started my own company, but I wanted to create success for myself and I knew I could do it; I had watched first-hand what had created success for other agents.”

As they say, the rest is history. But Emmy’s personal success also gave her the desire to start helping others around her. “I thought to myself, I can create these results for other people, influencing and changing their lives the same way that I’ve dramatically changed mine. I call my story a bit of a ‘rags to riches’ story – I’m not being pretentious saying ‘riches’. But for me it was a completely different lifestyle four years ago than the way I live now. It was just having that discipline, having systems, connecting with the right people and implementing our plans. And I thought, ‘You know what, I’d love to be able to drive this success with other people.’”

You can hear the genuine excitement and passion in her voice when she says, “It is always the people who motivate me. It’s true; you do find, when you forget about the dollars and cents, and you follow your passion and deliver on your promises for people, it just starts duplicating and duplicating. It’s amazing how you can totally transform your life if you have that zest and that commitment. The actual numbers don’t seem to matter so much any more. We started to grow so much I thought, ‘You know, I love this, but I actually want to spend more time connecting with others and helping them grow the same environment.’”

Emmy has people on her team – rookies – who are also writing over a million dollars. “One of my girls was driving a taxi when I met her, and designing wedding gowns. This is her first year on her own and in six months she wrote over a half a million dollars in a market where the average sale price is $300,000. And she has no special education but the same real zest and passion for people.”

Emmy-Thies-screamIs this what you look for when you are recruiting? “I look for passion, values and beliefs that are in line with ours. I don’t care about higher education or degrees; none of that really matters to me. What I want to feel is a connection, and I want to know is that the other person has a similar values system to how we operate as a brand, that will fit in with our culture. I want to be able to ignite that fire in my team, and in turn educate them so that they can once again create the same opportunities for other people around them.”

Just four years after opening its doors, House Estate Agents now has 25 passionate staff who have all contributed to the phenomenal level of growth. How has this been possible? “You just need to deliver on your promises and be true to your word. Be prompt, don’t take people’s time for granted, and be authentic. I really believe in being authentic. What you see is what you get, and yes, you can be a chameleon and adjust to different types of people from all different types of life; but you still need to stay true to who you are and let that shine through. You don’t need to try and be something you’re not; you just need to have the best education and product knowledge on your marketplace and the results will follow.”

What is your core focus right now? “My core focus at the moment is to grow the sales base through my team. I have a couple of key clients that I still handle directly, but I have wound back my sales volume pretty significantly, and will wind it back further this year. I will then concentrate more on developing our people and individually growing our team to where their personal goals are. In my third year in the business I wrote $1.3m, with one person supporting me. Last year on my own, without a selling team for six months, I still wrote $1m. It was manageable; I still met the team twice a week. Every person in our company I catch up with nearly every week.”

“This year I’m trying to work more ‘on the business’. I still want to remain an active selling principal, but really wind my own selling activity back again this year to around $.5m to be effective in both roles. Also, I don’t want to ever be a competitor to my team. It’s a different view to other people, I know, but it’s an unfulfilling proposition; a growth mindset shouldn’t be looking at that as a strategy. I don’t think it’s sustainable. My key focus is to develop and mentor my team and to build the business that way.”

What does your average day look like at the moment? “My days are varied; I tend to split my week in half. Two days of the week I’m meeting with everyone in the company, working on progress and checking in with them. The other two days I’m working on the business and my personal goals. There’s usually one day where I do ‘catch up’ things for myself.” She confesses, “To be honest, I’m not a really early starter; I’ve never been that sort of person. I want to, but it’s not something that fits in my lifestyle at the moment. I normally wake about 6:30, I’ll have a nice cup of tea and some breakfast at home, play with my dogs. I’ve got two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, which I love. Then I’ll head into the office and start my day in there about 8 am.”

“Before, when I was a selling agent, I would be finishing pretty late, between 7pm and 9pm depending on the night and what was happening, but now I’ll try and finish by about 6pm most nights. Basically I just work on the business with the people and allow time for clients. I’m really about work life-balance and that’s a focus for our company, to create that for our people. I’ll catch up with our friends for breakfast; I make sure that I go out to dinner with friends, or catch up with my hubby for lunch a couple of times a week. I find that if you get your time management right you can tick all the other boxes. That’s what I struggled with the first two, even three years of the company. Now coming into year five, I feel like

I’ve got a really good handle on that.”

How do you go about setting goals for yourself and the team? Emmy responds, “More important than goal-setting, I think, is having a really good understanding of why you do what you do. I always try to connect back to my ‘why’. Why am I doing this? What is the life I want to create, who do I want to surround myself with? I look at my ‘why’ before I set any goals.”

Emmy-Thies-teamIs there any advice you would give yourself starting out on this journey? “The first thing I would do is have a structure. Be in the office in the mornings and out in the afternoons; it’s as simple as that. You’ll meet your goals straight away. The second thing I would recommend is to be a specialist agent, not a generalist. As soon as I changed my business after the third year to being a specialist, I was on my way to write the million. We’re in a market that’s very conservative. As the average sale price is around $300,000, we have to do a lot of transactions to get to that number. I’m not saying it’s that hard; it’s just having that time management and making sure that you’re a specialist. Those two things alone would have changed my career at least one year faster, I think.”

House also belongs to the Real Estate Results (RER) network and Emmy is keen to give some of her early mentors credit. “I would say someone that has been a great person to look to from a learning and development point would be Michael Sheargold. Incredible knowledge, he’s really helped us fast-track our company.”

“From the point of view of performing agents, there are two people I really respect. One would be John Cunningham as a leader, and the other, a female agent, would be Stephanie Dobro from Caporn Young in Perth. I remember when I met John, at my first ever event. I was 23, and just scraped together enough money to attend a conference in Fiji. I listened carefully to John and what he spoke about. Tye and I came back from that event and implemented everything that was relevant to us and as a result doubled our turnover the next year.”

“Also, through the network, I have many people that I know that I can talk to. Real people that are humble, good at what they do and have got the same mindset. Quality, authentic people who are passionate about their careers, the same way I am. I’ve made some really amazing friendships; quite a few members every quarter have a casual catch-up and a coffee. They’re about quality over quantity, but each business is different and it’s good to learn from that. Then there is that framework with RER, which to us was a no-brainer. We are so privileged to be in that network and absolutely love it.”

Is there any advice you would give to someone who wanted to start their own business? “We started the company at 23 and had nothing. We needed $300,000; we pushed hard and incredibly, the bank gave us a loan. After that we didn’t have any choice but to perform. I think when you’ve got no choice other than to back yourself, you have to go for it!”

Emmy-Thies-and-Tye“Take away the excuses, and just rock and roll it – that’s our policy. Don’t be risk-averse; take chances when you can as you may never get the time or opportunity again. Don’t sit there waiting for what’s going to happen, just do it. Sometimes I look back on the last four years and think, no, we need to do more, it’s not enough. Other times I do think, this is truly awesome! Sometimes I have to pinch myself, but it’s not like we were gifted anything. No one said ‘go and get a mentor’. No one held my hand and said, ‘this is what you’re going to do, or this is how you’ve got to do it.’ You’ve just got to go and attract the right people with the right mindset.”

“And work for it, just freaking work for it!” she laughs. “I would rather sacrifice three years of ‘hard slog’ to be in the position I’m in now, than muck around for 10 years and never have the chance. That’s what I want for our people as well, and we’re starting to create that. Real estate is a job that can can create big change your life.”

“If you manage your belief system and your mind, there is absolutely nothing you can’t achieve. It’s not just me. I’ve seen it in other people, and it’s possible for anyone!”

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Samantha McLean

Samantha McLean is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Elite Agent and Host of the Elevate Podcast.