With fourteen years in the industry, Rob Elsom is the director of four hockingstuart offices in the northern suburbs of Melbourne – Carlton, Brunswick, Northcote and North Melbourne. With his business partners, Rob oversees more than 50 staff across the four offices. Kevin Turner from RE Uncut recently spoke to Rob about what it really takes to be successful in the business.
Kevin Turner: Why did you choose real estate?
Rob Elsom: Real estate was always something that I was attracted to. Not only did I love houses, there was also that attraction of being involved in such a major financial transaction.
KT: What was your perception of the industry prior to starting out?
RE: I thought it was probably a little bit easier than it was. You would often see real estate agents at open for inspections or auctions driving nice cars, well dressed, and selling premium properties, but you never understood the mechanics of what was happening behind the scenes.
KT: Tell me about your first day in real estate; what was it like?
RE: We had a hockingstuart company-wide meeting; the whole company then was about eight offices. I got up and spoke about myself and my past. This was actually my first job, so I’m still in my first job 14 years later. I was obviously eyes wide open, ears open and just ready to learn.
KT: In the first few months you would have had to work pretty hard, I believe?
RE: I think for my first three months, I worked seven days a week; not because I had to but really just because I wanted to – there was so much to learn.
KT: do you think people entering the industry always have the right perception of the hours you need to put in?
RE: People just don’t understand the hours. I was speaking to someone who was thinking about getting in the industry and I said to him, “Mate, it’s a lot of hard work. You’re going to have to make some sacrifices in the short term. It will pay dividends in the long run, but you just have to be prepared to really put in work.”
KT: did working seven days a week for the first three months help you form some good habits?
RE: I think I learnt how to do almost everything in that time; I understood the nuts and bolts of real estate. It takes a long time to break a bad habit but once you get good habits, they are almost addictive.
KT: You are now the director of four offices. How did that come about and how old were you when you took on your first office?
RE: I got into the industry when I was 22 years old; I opened up the office in Brunswick. I was actually offered the opportunity when I was 25 but I feel I was probably a little bit too young and not quite in a position to run a business. I then opened Northcote and now am involved in the Carlton and North Melbourne offices.
KT: When you say at 26 you were too young or perceived to be too young, was that from buyers and sellers or from the people that you had on staff?
RE: It was probably me. Being a real estate agent for four years doesn’t necessarily give you the opportunity to run a business and a team. My old director, who is now a business partner of mine, Scott McElroy, just said, “You can do it; I’ll help you if there is something that you can’t do”. As soon as I opened the doors, I did it my way, and we had some challenges initially but it worked.
KT: What’s the most important thing to being a successful business owner?
RE: I have a motto in my office that we should respect everyone in the business, no matter how much they earn. It doesn’t matter what your position is, but be respectful to others and totally transparent. That’s not just with staff, but also with vendors.
KT: When you opened your first office you said that you did it your way. Is that different from the way that other offices have done it? did you start your own processes?
RE: From what I understand in the industry, it’s very much the boss at the top who drives the sales team. With my team, my approach is a lot more relaxed. They know what they have to achieve each month. We talk about things openly, and as long as I know what they want to do then they will often achieve it. We work such long hours in our industry and see our colleagues more than we see our family and friends. We spend a lot of time with each other – let’s enjoy it.
KT: What are some key disciplines you put on yourself?
RE: At the start of every week, I know what I want out of that week. I know how many appointments I need to conduct, how many times I will go to the gym and drop my daughter off at school. Every time I leave my office, I want to make sure that I didn’t work for free, and there was a purpose.
KT: How do you effectively communicate with your staff?
RE: My office door is never shut. It is hard to schedule a whole lot of one-on-one meetings, especially when you’ve got 50-something staff. You get a lot out of chats with staff, but I think it’s important that the team should always feel that they can just come in and talk about anything at any time.
KT: What three things would you tell someone if they sat down and said “Hi Rob, I want to get into the industry – give me some hints about what should I do”?
RE: Be yourself: start a database; and make sure that you impress one great client every week, so at the end of the year, you’ll have impressed 52 clients who are already fans of yours. You’ll find that every six to seven years, a property will change hands. This assures you that six or seven years down the track you’ll get 52 listings for sale. So start relationships with people, be a good talker but probably be an even better listener.
KT: Who do you look to for inspiration?
RE: I look at people around me; I look at family members who have succeeded; I look at people who have had their health battles and succeeded. Anyone who’s had a personal challenge and overcome it I find absolutely inspiring. The recent death of Jim Steins, for example; being a Melbourne supporter, and growing up knowing everything he’d done, not only in the football world but also with these contributions to the [Rich] Foundation … what an inspiring man.