On the surface, the link between producing commercial quantities of soup and selling houses is extremely tenuous.
Dig a little deeper and you may find the connection not so far fetched.
Former Campbell’s Soup CEO Doug Conant was renowned for saying “to win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace”.
It’s an adage that Barry Plant Manningham believes in. It has inspired the team to expand, foster staff development, dedicate themselves to creating better customer service and give back to the community.
It’s also helped the team take out the Gold AREA Award for Residential Agency of the Year for the second consecutive year.
Managing director Spiro Drossos says taking out the coveted award two years running was a surprise but a welcome reward for a lot of hard work.
“It’s nice for the team to know that what you’re doing is working and being recognised at an industry level,” he says.
“More than that though our increased focus is on the customer, on creating a better customer experience and how well they think we are doing.
“That’s what we’re going to be focusing on in the coming 12 months.”
The Gold AREA comes on the back of a stellar 2017 and 2018 where Barry Plant Manningham expanded across three municipalities, opening a new office in Eltham and taking over another in Blackburn. Its signature office remains in Doncaster East.
Barry Plant Manningham also achieved its greatest financial year and was recognised as the Barry Plant Network’s Number 1 office for the ninth time since 2008.
PEOPLE ARE KEY
So what did the group do to foster that success?
It fostered its people.
Spiro says a key focus has been on recruiting and retaining good people as well as devoting time and resources to make them great people.
“We want to create future leaders, not followers,” he says.
“We want people who think, think on their feet, think long-term, make decisions and run their own businesses.
“We are all about the right people, not just bums on seats.
“We have created a good culture, and you can’t achieve that with people coming in and going out all the time.
“We want those that have the same vision and the same culture.”
While staff development has always been a part of Barry Plant Manningham, an individually-tailored program was introduced.
This contained an intensive mentoring and training program for young agents, aimed at streamlining the path for recruits keen to enter the industry.
The plan provides rookies with a detailed strategy, with different skill modules, to focus on during their 12-18 months at the agency.
“It’s like real estate university,” Spiro says.
“It’s a future leaders program in a way, as the people that come out of it have the potential to be prospective team leaders.”
A NEW BEGINNING
Spiro says a new projects division was also established to cater to the new dwellings market, and to nurture young agents and educate them about that area of the property sector.
“We are starting to see a lot more new dwellings being built and there was an opportunity to reach a new market we hadn’t been reaching,” he says.
“Based on our profile in the area, people were coming to us but we didn’t specialise in that area yet.”
The new projects division provides services at all stages of development, from connecting builders with development sites to creating off-the-plan marketing campaigns and providing a finance division to help with lending.
Spiro says working in new projects is like an apprenticeship for young agents with a clear career pathway delineated.
“They may be brand new to the industry, or they may have started as an established agent’s assistant and come through the ranks, and the new projects division gives them a space to start selling before they graduate to houses,” he says.
“They will work with buyers, and they will show units and apartments and townhouses.
“There are KPIs to achieve to ensure they make money as well, and once they are proficient, they can move on to selling houses and other properties worth a lot more.
“Some do graduate and move on, so to speak, while others say ‘I love working in this division’.”
A group was also established to ensure young leaders have a pathway into management and future partner opportunities.
“We want our agents to see and say that there’s an opportunity to continue to grow in our business,” Spiro says.
As well as training and employing specialist agents for the new projects division, Barry Plant Manningham also employed buyer’s agents and multilingual representatives, along with introducing a specialised approach to property management.
With many new buildings now zoned mixed-use, a commercial division was also introduced to cater to those clients.
“We wanted to create a one-stop-shop,” Spiro says.
In a rapidly changing digital space, the group also reinvented its marketing, using social media more as well as REA Group products such as Premier Listing.
Barry Plant Manningham devised a tailored buyer connect strategy to allow vendors to connect with the most qualified buyers through Premier Listing on realestate.com.au.
When buyers enquired, they immediately received an e-brochure.
Increased use of REA’s Audience Maximiser and Front Page gave their properties significant online exposure to targeted buyer demographics on social media, along with weekly links to Premiere Listing properties going out to their buyer database.
“We want to be at the forefront where marketing is concerned,” Spiro says.
“We still use traditional methods, such as the local paper, but we want to get the properties to as many potential buyers as we can.”
The new marketing strategy saw Barry Plant Manningham sell a six-bedroom Donvale home for $4.5 million, which was a record price for the area.
Facebook metrics showed the tailored campaign reached 30,282 people, with their paid campaign generating 9,345 post clicks, 5,378 photo views and 727 reactions, comments and shares.
“We’ve never had technology this sophisticated before,” Spiro says.
“It’s a great service for a vendor, and we can come back to them with data about who is seeing their property.
“It creates an open book, and they can see how you’re spending their money. Everyone likes transparency.”
As always, Barry Plant Manningham continued its charity work, sponsoring the Manningham Carols by Candlelight as well as several festivals in the City of Whitehorse, including the Australia Day Festival, Spring Festival and Global Fiesta.
In October, every Barry Plant office donated a portion of the commission from every property sold that month to Make-A-Wish Australia, an organisation that grants the wishes of children battling life-threatening medical conditions.
The Manningham office donated $100,000. The office also sponsored sports clubs, schools, kindergartens and community groups, as well as running free information seminars on property-related topics such as foreign investment, rental investment and property market outlook.
The group has also overhauled its customer service initiatives to improve and measure client satisfaction.
Changes include renaming reception as customer service and refurbishing that area to create an informal cafe-style zone that is modern and welcoming.
There are more representatives to greet and help customers when they come into the office, and customer service agents have greater responsibility to make decisions and ensure the experience is efficient.
A three-ring policy helps ensure phone calls are answered in a timely fashion.
“I’m a big believer in doing the basics well,” Spiro says.