The Dream Team

PASSION, DRIVE, PERSISTENCE: While balancing an ‘apprenticeship’ in property with tertiary studies, these three impressive young sales associates in the Goldman team are well on their way to success at the prestigious Sotheby’s International business in Sydney. While each are still yet to turn 20, they seem to have the maturity and drive of many people twice their age. Story by Samantha McLean.

Darren Fine has been in real estate for five months, previously working at Westpac. “Myself, Ben and Craig are sales associates to Mark and Barry Goldman, and we are really enjoying it. I’m studying at UTS, a Bachelor of Commerce with a year to go once I’ve finished this year. I’m majoring in International Business.”

Craig Fine is literally one minute older than his twin brother Darren and also worked alongside him at Westpac in Double Bay before entering the real estate industry. He too is at university, completing a Bachelor of Commerce at Macquarie, majoring in International Business and Human Resources.

Ben Cohen is studying with Darren at UTS, majoring in Business and Management Consulting. He has been in the industry for about eight months and says it has been a “serious roller coaster”. Never thinking when he started in real estate that he would end up staying, now, he says, he can’t see himself doing anything different for the rest of his life.

Says Darren, “I never thought of getting into real estate until Ben was in real estate and he said he was doing really well. At the time I wasn’t really enjoying the bank. I came into real estate and what attracted me at the time was the fact that it’s probably one of the only industries where you can get just as much out as you put in. Your earning capacity is truly unlimited.”

Craig, on the other hand, has always had property at the back of his mind as a career. “Even when I was working at the bank, helping people out with their property, it always intrigued me. I didn’t know a whole lot about real estate, but I was attracted to the idea of the reward for really working hard.”

Ben initially didn’t expect to be in real estate either. “I was sitting in Cape Town, South Africa, at the end of 2015 and I saw that my careers advisor had sent everyone in our year an email about opportunities for salespeople at Raine & Horne and Laing + Simmons in Double Bay. I didn’t know what I wanted to do but when I saw that email I made a decision on the spot to give it a crack.

“It turned out that by the time I got back, the agency said they weren’t looking for part-time associates. I refused to accept that and I emailed every single agency I could possibly think of, just telling them I was looking for part-time work. Ray White Double Bay got back to me. I was there for three months and then joined the boys.”

Craig laughs, “We told Mark and Barry that they had to take him.”

Now working at Sotheby’s with the Goldman Brothers, there are eight people plus a business manager that make up the team, including Craig, Darren and Ben. It’s competitive but everyone gets along well. Darren says of his working relationship with his twin, “We’ve always been competitive, even from a young age, but it has worked to our advantage to push each other to do the best we can. Together we are all a sales associate team. It doesn’t matter if I do well or Craig does well or Ben does well. It’s about the team.”

The typical day for the team looks just like a normal day for most top performing agents, with gym at 5.30am five days a week plus Saturday, followed by breakfast and into the office by 8am. Says Darren, “The gym is us getting ready for the day. It’s like putting on invisible armour. We spend half an hour or so doing admin things and by 9am we’re upstairs in our office to chat with owners Mark and Barry, and we establish a plan for the rest of the day. Then, depending on what day it is, that influences what we do.”

For the most part, they all agree a successful day is about spending quality time on the phone and dollar-productive activities are key.

Says Ben, “At the end of the day the reality is if you don’t get on the phone you won’t get business.

If you don’t get business then why are you in the industry? It’s that simple. We’re very strategic about our time and that allows us to get back to the office early so we can hit the phones.

“The other thing I will say is that the boys [Mark and Barry Goldman] have a lot of trust in us, even though we don’t have as much experience as a lot of other people. They give us the reins and we also have the privilege of being able to control what we do. Some days it’s not always about prospecting, even though prospecting obviously is a main part of the business. We work on a few different things, but everything is a constant hustle between us.”

While most agents will experience a fear of making calls or door knocking, Craig says for the three of them it is their bread and butter, and they motivate each other. All of them are crystal clear on the fact that prospecting is what brings results, both personally and for the team. “Just this week we’ve probably had our best week collectively between the three of us since we’ve joined,” says Craig, “One of Ben’s clients he’s been working with has just signed a listing today, an apartment in Double Bay, I signed a three-and-a-half million dollar townhouse in Woollahra, that’s starting this weekend, and Darren’s hopefully signing one up tomorrow in Double Bay. So, we should have seven listings on the market by next week and we haven’t even been there [Sotheby’s] a week yet.”

In the competitive area of Double Bay, there are many successful agents that all three take inspiration from. “We obviously look up to Barry and Mark, but besides them, I would say if there’s one person it’s probably Alexander Phillips, because he is a fantastic example of how you can just take everything back to the basics and you can still do very, very well. He’s constantly prospecting and does what he does really well.” Ben says Michael Pallier, also at Sotheby’s, is someone he sees as a good role model. “I never knew anything about him until we met him the other day. He keeps a low profile, yet he is probably the most successful agent in the country. He knows what he has to do, he builds relationships, he’s honest, he’s a gentleman and he gets the job done.” “I’m actually going to talk about someone else who probably no one talks about,” says Craig, “and that’s Max Spartalis from our office. We sit next to Max, he is one of the most knowledgeable guys I know and he would drop everything to help us out, even being so new. He sells all these big estates and he’s very much like a father figure for us boys in the office. He’s someone that I know a lot of other people respect very highly and he’s got a very well standing position in the industry.”

Getting started in real estate is never easy and the three have already taken on board loads of advice from others. Says Darren, “If there’s one killer tip to someone who’s new in the industry it’s that you have to embrace the Altman Brothers’ concept of ready, fire, aim! “Basically what it means to say is you have to get to a state where you are confident enough and trust yourself enough to seize an opportunity. For example, many times when we are door knocking, we knock on the door, no one’s there, we’re walking away and then the vendor drives up; it’s sort of weird, do you approach them in the car or do you not? “We’ll just go ahead and approach them. We’re at an open home and we see the neighbour across the road is outside her house, we’ll go talk to her and invite her to come over and look at our property. Overall, just once you see an opportunity, ready, fire, aim! You don’t waste time, you just go for it.”

Craig agrees, “Double Bay is probably the most competitive real estate market in the entire country. There’s probably about three hundred or more agents just in Double Bay. They’re all calling the same people, most of them are knocking on the same doors. People sit back and wait for things to happen. You have to put yourself in situations and make things happen. I think my best advice, which also came from Josh Altman, is choose to be lucky.”

Ben’s top tip for newcomers to the industry is not to take rejection personally as it can affect your whole mood. “We hear ‘no’ probably twenty, thirty times a day. The most important thing is to realise that it’s not personal, it’s just the business you’re in. As long as you can remain positive – that is going to be your best tool for success.

“That’s also why a lot of the young agents leave the industry very quickly. They see this life of luxury and they see the lifestyle, but they don’t see the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. It’s long term; just remain positive.”

Says Darren, “I agree; you’ve got to be playing the long game. When I first got into the industry I believed in instant gratification. Instant gratification doesn’t exist.”

But the last and best tip comes from their mentors, Mark and Barry Goldman. “Something I learned from Mark and Barry which is so important,” says Ben, “is ‘Just be humble and honest.’”

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Samantha McLean

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