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Striving to reach the next level – James Tostevin and Kate Strickland

James Tostevin and Kate Strickland coaches our super six on what happens next, why you can't become complacent, why you need to be accountable and how to maintain your energy levels.

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James Tostevin and Kate Strickland

Video Notes/Transcript

00:00 Introduction and Session Overview: Samantha McLean

01:26 Continuously improving

James: Well yeah, it’s great to be here. We’re obviously happy to answer any questions and we look forward to bringing to a close your 12 weeks and hopefully we can add some real value in the next hour or so and we can answer any key questions that are going to catapult you to another level. One thing Kate and I have certainly enjoyed, we’ve worked together in the same company but we’ve obviously worked closer together, and whilst I feel I have provided some assistance to her, mentoring her and her career, obviously so much still comes back to the individual and what they’re capable of doing and naturally how much they embrace, how much they listen to what they’re being, I guess I want to sort of say, told.

It’s more I provide guidance and I’m a sounding board and I provide scripts and ideas about how Kate can go from one point in terms of the gross business she’s running to another level, to another level, to another level. That’s one of the things, if you know, you kindly refer to my reputation as a real estate agent, it’s probably something I’ve just kept doing over a period of time, is kept trying to improve and that’s why I talked about a moment ago, I haven’t missed an AREC conference. I’m going this year again and I’ll continue to go to AREC because I want to get better, Kate wants to get better and that’s why we spend that time together.

It’s made, I think, I’d like to think, a difference to Kate. I’m not sure we’d say a huge difference because she’s already got her own capabilities and skill set. It’s sometimes what I call a little bit of polishing the gem and just improving that person that little bit more.

02:46 Real estate is a way of life; work in blocks

Kate: I’ve been in real estate for eight years and been lucky enough to obviously work with James or along side him for the last five years and to have his interest in my career and to want to catch up with me every month and bounce off each other and strive to improve. It’s an honor that he’d give me his time to give me things to tweak and master along the way. Certainly work/life balance is something that I want to touch on with you guys. One of the things when I met Sam earlier, or late last year, I spoke about a theme that I live by is work expands to fill the time you give it and I think that that’s something in real estate that it’s not a job, it’s a way of life.

It’s more than just a career you come to every day. It’s very hard to find boundaries, I think, in real estate between working and home. There is no boundary, it’s just going to be there all the time. That’s something, in my eight years, that it took me probably five or six years to actually work that out and realize that. Everyone kept saying, you’ll burn out, you’ll burn out and that’s something that James will probably talk about too, is how you stay inspired and how you stay fresh. One of the big things I spoke about with Sam was styles of work and James is the one that taught me this and that’s to work in blocks, in sprints.

Work in that ten week block and then take a time out and then have a couple weeks off or at least a week off just to refresh and reset and then go another ten weeks. It’s a bit of a pre-frame to everyone in your life, because you almost say to everybody, for ten weeks I’m going to be underground. I’m working hard, head down, bum up and then you’ll have a two week period where you can actually be around and you can book holidays and you can go for your dinners and your lunches and then you go and you hit it again.

04:33 Having energised teams, with strong initiative and ambition

James: I got into it when I was 18 years of age. You can pretty much work out my age, I’m 50 this year. I had three years in property management and then I had the traditional move into sales, which at the time was traditional because nowadays we tend to employ people who work within a team, like I do alongside Kate, alongside me. The four young men that I’ve currently got on my team, and I’ve had a mixture of males and females along the way, are between 23 and 28 years of age as are my two marketing/admin girls, as is my EA.

Within my team and one other team member who helps two of my other young men, so there’s eight people, all between 23 and 28 years of age, so I’m well and truly the elder statesman. That youth, that energy, that push that I get, not that I, as Kate will confirm, I don’t need that everyday of my life because I’ve got my own high energy levels but I do go in bursts, as Kate said. That’s something that works really, really well for me. I actually feel sad for people when they don’t have holidays and I don’t mean that rudely, when someone gets to September and they’ll say, oh look I haven’t had a break all year.

They just get the stitch and real estate’s not the sort of business that you can keep working at the same pace, get to September and still have October, November, December, which is the busiest time in the market. It’s just not sustainable. The other thing which I think has made a, had a profound impact on my career and I hope the young people within my group and then the people that I mentor at Marshall White, is obviously I try to surround myself with people that actually do genuinely want to improve, because it is a career where you can invest so much time and energy, as Kate said.

It will, as much as you give it, it will keep taking and taking and taking and we get calls at all hours, from 11:00 to midnight, so extraordinary hours. From early in the morning to, that’s all just part of what we do, but ultimately we sometimes as agents are a bit too available as well, so we have to be sort of careful of that. I think the young people that work within my team, for me it’s all then about energy and initiative’s a huge thing. If you haven’t got initiative, then you wouldn’t work in my team and I don’t mean that rudely, I’m just saying that you need to have initiative and not just in real estate, just in life.

I always say, I’ve got now six children, raised an addition three weeks ago, but look at my five older children from 20 to 25, obviously happy. I want them to be happy and healthy, that’s number one but in terms of their careers, whatever they choose to do, I want them to be ambitious and to have initiative because if they haven’t initiative, I’ve always said, you haven’t got much. It sounds harsh, but you just need to have that in our business. It’s like the prospecting that I do each week.

07:00 Standing out, reinventing yourself

I would make, as Kate would confirm, I would make a lot more calls than Kate, but Kate’s business is geared very differently, so you can see that in terms of she’s got, I’d like to think, a personality where I hope would attracts people to me too, but Kate has an enthusiasm that makes me feel sometimes like I’m in a coma. I always say, her eyes and her smile get her listings but her ability to list real estate, when I think she’s only had eight years in real estate, that’s the thing that differentiates her too from a lot of the people.

Not just at Marshall White but in her marketplace because there are a lot of people that have been in the game for 15, 20 years so how do you sustain your energy levels, how do you keep reinventing yourself, because the presentation I do now to prospective vendors is very different to the presentation I did a couple of years ago. I’ve made tweaks from a year ago, from six months ago. I’m always trying to enhance and improve that. If I, really it’s about me and Kate and others developing and changing things more quickly than our opposition do, because nothing’s too unique for too long.

08:04 Healthy competitiveness

We present our skills to that person as to why they should list with Marshall White, why they should list with Kate and I but other agents are fairly quick to pick up on those things. If they keep getting beaten by Kate, they’ll realize there are things that they need to change or they’re going to keep getting beaten by Kate and the same applies with what I do day to day. That’s certainly made a difference. I haven’t just sat back thinking, I have this reputation for being, I think, a fairly good real estate agent, but I don’t sit back thinking I’m going to become complacent about what I’ve achieved. I always strive to get to another level. I love winning, I’m an incredibly competitive person. I hate losing with a passion. I do not like my opposition. That doesn’t mean I’m not friendly with some of them, but they’re our main competitor, as Kate knows, I hate them with a passion. I really do. It’s just like my football team. I root for Carlton and two weeks ago it’s one of the greatest moments of my life, whenever we beat Essendon. That’s just a joyous moment in my life and beating Collingwood with the following week was almost just as good.

In a real estate sense, that competitive thing and Kate I think, part of that was honed through her professional life as a sports person and then that was carried through to real estate but as the three of you would know, all of you would know, you’re either naturally competitive, that’s part of your instincts, and part of your DNA or you’re not. It doesn’t mean you can’t be successful if you’re not but I think that competitive instinct is really critical. Isn’t it?

Kate: Yeah, definitely and reinventing yourself, I think that’s one of the biggest things that you learn through someone like James. That to be number one every year in Australia but to still get better, it’s incredible, like would you have sat back at one point and just said, oh yeah, I’ve got to the top, I’m great, I’m writing lots of money and all those sorts of things and that would do or would you say, well how do I get better? I think that whole mentoring side of things, you know, I think even some of the top business people in the world and Steve Jobs probably had a mentor, having somebody that you’re accountable to.

09:56 Peer Parnerships

People talk about peer partnerships, I think they’ve become quite trendy over the last few years, a couple of guys that James mentors, they were business partners and they became peer partners, so they catch up every week. A couple guys at Marshall White go around the town, down near river every Friday morning and they talk about how many calls they’ve made and what they’re doing in their week. It doesn’t have to be just sitting in a coffee shop or sitting in a boardroom, you can actually go and put exercise into it and have someone you’re accountable to.

It’s a healthy competitiveness but it’s nice to actually bounce off somebody and have someone that if they’re improving, you’re striving to improve as well or you’ll just get stale and the marketplace will feel it and the clients will feel it when you’re sitting in their lounge rooms if you’re doing the same old stuff. You’ve got to definitely keep striving to be different and unique.

10:43 Be relatable, enthusiastic and genuine

James: One of the key things when we sit down with such a wide range of people, a very diverse group of people we deal with that you got to be, I’ve always said to our team, you got to be interesting to listen to because when you, and good at relaying stories that interest people about your own lives. I’ve got one person that works, and Kate and I know really well and he’s a great guy and he’s a good agent but, this sounds awful, but he’s never been married, never had children, never been divorced, now that might sound weird, I’ve done all of those things and it’s actually handy sometimes.

It sounds shocking but with the clients, in terms of having genuine empathy, if you’ve had a major relationship split, there is genuine empathy with what that person’s going through and I know from the access I had to my kids and the difficulties I had to get reasonable access to them, to all the financial dramas I had to sort out and solicitors and all the distractions that came with that, that was hard, but so many people that Kate and I deal with go through that, have been through that or are going through it, like right now. We sell for a huge number of people that have been through a matrimonial situation.

Just sitting down with people, do they find it easy to relate to you, are you likable, are you enthusiastic? Even though that enthusiastic word is over used, Hamish and I, my brother, who I work with very closely, we were appointed to sell a ten million dollar plus property recently, competed against three agents and the fellow said, we asked the reasons why, so we always ask why we were appointed and a lot of people ask when they miss a listing, not enough agents ask when they secure a listing, what tipped the scales in their favour?

Now there were many things that tipped the scale in our favour but he said one of the things is you are way more enthusiastic than the other three agents, and I’m thinking for a ten million dollar property, you got to be kidding. That was not difficult. That was in fact, really bloody easy, to have that natural enthusiasm. I think people look through very quickly in our marketplaces, is it real? Are you a genuine person and do I feel like I can relate to you, trust you, that’s why referrals are obviously important but people still work out pretty quickly, there’s a big BS detector in our marketplace, Kate’s marketplace.

Do I feel I can work with Kate, do I feel I can work with James for the next five, six weeks or beyond? Hopefully it’s only that length of time because otherwise it might have passed in and gone on for too long. That’s really the name of the game. Kate can sell real estate, I can sell real estate, anyone can sell real estate really. The skill’s actually overrated. It’s more listings, bringing opportunities, bringing business to Marshall White, that’s what Kate’s number one objective is and that’s what my number one objective is and then I then get people within my team to help me run those listings basically. That’s what Kate does as well.

13:21 Everybody can be an agent; your unique identity is key

Kate: I think that, following on from that point about everybody’s an agent, everyone can list and sell, I can put my mom on the door and she’ll probably effectively sell the property that I give her if I did. I think people are in such a sales world these days, like everywhere we go we’re being sold to. You walk down the street and someone even steps out and says come into my restaurant or, would you like to buy one get one free, like it’s such a sales-y world.

I think one of the biggest things, I think a point of difference for me and as a female in real estate is people forget you’re an agent, and they just like you and they trust you and they want you in their lives. That’s the biggest thing for me, where I’m not having to maybe make 150 phone calls because that’s such a different thing in my marketplace where everyone’s just a guy in a suit and they all just look the same. I know that sounds so, a bit rude or sexist or whatever, then I come along and I step onto their doorstep and they go, gosh, this is different.

She’s just a really nice person, she’s actually listening, she cares. I was about to put a big deal together on Friday morning before an auction and I’m standing in the shower in the morning and I actually had like a tear in my eye because I knew that I had such a huge offer, massively beyond what they could ever have expected and I was going to be calling to say, I need to come and see you and arrive at the door with champagne and flowers and a contract and it was just going to change their lives. I thought, what an amazing thing that I got to be a part of that and I got to steer their life in a different direction to where it would have gone before.

That’s really a powerful thing but I don’t think other agents maybe would have got that excited or that involved in the emotions of it. As a female, we definitely have that point of difference, but even as a male, sometimes you got to take off the sales cap and just be real and actually be in their home and care. Like James said about divorce scenarios and financial scenarios, think about the times where in people’s lives it can be a great time where they’re upgrading and they’ve just got married or had another baby but for the most part, I would say 80 percent of the time I sell a home, it’s for a really bad reason.

They’re actually not happy you’re sitting in their lounge room and they wish you weren’t, so how do you actually make that a positive thing and think, I’m going to take you on this journey and change your life for the better.


If you have questions for the coaches or for the Super Six tweet us @eliteagentmag #transform

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