Overlooking the azure blue of the Coral Sea and encompassing residential, rural and island communities, the Whitsundays is one of those laid-back lifestyle destinations where time tends to march at its own pace.
Here the property market ebbs and flows in step with tourism highs and lows, construction ups and downs, and the on-again, off-again influx of investors brought in by mining.
It’s a tight-knit community where people know each other, where faces are familiar and reputation precedes both individuals and business.
When it comes to reputation in real estate, Rob Taylor has one of the best. He has established himself as a top agent in the region and is renowned as an approachable, highly capable salesman who always has the client’s interests at heart.
During his 17 years in the industry, these people skills have translated into numerous accolades and real results. Rob spent three years as the number one agent in Queensland for one of the industry’s biggest brands, and was named number two nationally in 2007.
It was this reputation within the local community he was harnessing when he created his own brand last year.
A box to be ticked
On 1 May last year Rob ticked the only box he hadn’t yet accomplished in his career. Along with a small team of two sales agents, two support staff and a part-time accounts person, he opened the doors of Taylor’s Property Specialists.
“I thought long and hard about whether to go with a franchise or not, but I’d been in town a long time and had established a good, solid reputation, which we felt would suit a boutique-style agency,” Rob says.
“So we decided to use my name.
“Less than a year later I have no regrets about going independent. It allows us to be a dynamic business that has the freedom to change with the times and adapt to our local market circumstances.”
Rob notes right from the outset the response from local vendors was even warmer than he anticipated.
“I think the market was screaming out for something different and we’ve probably grown faster than expected. We are 30 per cent up on where we anticipated we would be.”
Nine months, 26 days after launching the brand, the team notched up its first million in gross commissions. The feat was accomplished against the persistently stubborn backdrop of a flat North Queensland housing market.
Now they have brought in an additional sales person, have appointed a PA for Rob and have almost outgrown their Cannonvale office space. They are also expanding the business with a move into property management.
We wanted to start from scratch, creating a fresh base with no residual issues. Our aim was to start clean and grow organically.
Property management awaits
As a business owner, Rob knew he would need to add the property management ‘string’ to his real estate agency ‘bow’.
“We were certainly going to take it on, but didn’t believe we needed to start there. We also wanted to ensure we had the right person to run things.”
In February this year that “right person” arrived. Melissa Humphries came from outside the area, bringing a fresh perspective, a clean slate and a wealth of property management experience.
“We found an excellent property manager in Melissa,” Rob notes. “She comes with 15 years’ experience and shares our values of trust, responsibility and delivering above expectation.
“The truth is we were very selective when it came to choosing the right person to run that department. They had to be clearly aligned with what we believe.”
The clean slate also extends to the way Rob intends to build the department. There will be no purchase of a rent roll. The team will build it from the ground up, starting with the owners who have already expressed an interest in leasing their property with Taylor’s.
“We wanted to start from scratch, creating a fresh base with no residual issues. Our aim was to start clean and grow organically.”
That approach is already reaping dividends. Two weeks after starting their property management division, Taylor’s already has 10 properties on the books – and they haven’t even been looking for business.
Taylor’s may not have been actively seeking rental properties yet, but they do have lofty goals.
“In our first year we will achieve 150 properties; that’s our minimum,” Rob states.
“In our second we hope to reach 250.”
The team will build this clientele using a database, the latest property management systems and by offering a point of difference.
“We know the reputation of an agency is not just seen by landlords, but also by tenants, and it’s built on respect for every client we interact with. We want to be one of the first ports of call when people are looking to rent a property or to lease one.
“That might sound like a big aim, but people are calling for change and we believe we can get there if we do it right.”
Never bigger than the customer
When it comes to “doing it right”, Rob has a clear image of what that means and how it corresponds with his agency’s core values.
“We are never bigger than our client – whether that’s a vendor, a buyer, a tenant or landlord.”
Rob says that, at its most basic, property management is about pure customer service and effective communication.
“There has to be a culture where the property manager is accountable,” he reflects.
“Our role is to give the right information, because people need the right information to make the right decision. Sometimes that information is not what people want to hear, but people trust and respect the truth whether they like it or not.”
In property management, he says information must not only be right but timely, with good communication the key to satisfying both landlords and tenants.
“You can solve half the problems in property management by ensuring people are initially told the information they need to know,” Rob says.
“Good communication saves a whole lot of effort wasted on putting out fires when you could have been proactive and achieved a better result.”
The buck stops with him
In a bid to ensure a positive experience is consistent for his clients, Rob says ultimately the buck will always stop with him, and every person Taylor’s selects to represent them will need to reflect their customer service ethos.
“When it comes to recruitment, we will continue to be very selective. Reputation is everything and there can be no compromise.
“I believe people can see and feel what you stand for and our interview process will be in line with that. It’s a matter of sitting down and getting a feel for what people believe. We understand that may not be for everyone, but if it’s not in line with our values that person is not for us.”
This approach will also extend right through to the trades Taylor’s calls on to service and maintain their properties.
“All the tradespeople we use are all in line with what we believe. These are people I would personally use, who I know and trust when it comes to what price they set and when they’ll get the job done.”
Pushing the edge
As for being a new brand on the scene in a close-knit community like the Whitsundays, Rob notes he’s been surprised and humbled by the acceptance.
“In the end competition is the best thing for business. You can’t survive if you’re not offering the right things for the market.”
But he stresses that early success offers no room for complacency.
“We will keep examining what we do. In our industry the mechanics of selling and property management don’t change, but we have to push the edge to stay at the top of the game.”