The power of relationships: Conor Canning

Last year, Tasmanian real estate agent Conor Canning stole our hearts as part of the ultimate love story on the reality TV show Bachelor in Paradise. It should hardly come as a surprise then that this humble, genuine agent from Hobart became known for his quiet integrity. That ethos has been essential to his real estate career as well, as Cassandra Charlesworth explains.

It’s been a big year for PRD Hobart Director Conor Canning. Hot on the heels of finding love with vivacious Mary Viturino on the Bachelor in Paradise, the couple moved in together, while his business is going from strength to strength.

PRD Hobart recently picked up the industry award for large residential agency of the year, and sales are booming despite COVID-19.

Conor notes the year has been a whirlwind, both personally and professionally, but it’s an experience he’d happily repeat.

“Bachelor in Paradise went really well. I met someone and I’m over the moon,” he says.

“Work-wise, the recent Real Estate Institute of Tasmania award was a massive moment. We had spent three years building towards that, and there’s so much more to come.”

The Bachelor adventure

Long before Bachelor in Paradise beckoned, Conor had established a name for himself in Hobart as an award-winning agent, nationally recognised auctioneer and advocate for his home town.

Reality TV had never really registered on his radar, but when his assistant suggested it, he thought, ‘why not?’

“I was at work, in a bit of a rut and longing for an adventure, as I was about to turn 30,” he says.

Two weeks after applying, Conor was on a flight to Fiji, telling his team he’d be back in a week.

He didn’t return for a month and came home with the ultimate prize – a love interest on his arm.

In a show dominated by drama and bad boys, Conor forged a reputation as the nice guy.

He stole the heart of the enigmatic Mary, and nine months later that love story endures.

“It’s going really well,” Conor says.

“Mary moved to Hobart, along with her daughter Chanel, who’s going to school here. My family and everyone just loves them.”

Asked whether he was ever worried about how he’d be portrayed in the cutthroat world of reality TV, Conor says he aimed to be authentic and true to himself throughout the process.

“I didn’t run an analysis of how it would affect the business, and I probably should have,” he admits.

“Since I’ve been on the show, people have spoken about the potential risks, but for me, I was always going to be authentic.

“That’s who I am. I’m not perfect, but I try to be aware of my flaws and work on them.”

Between the end of filming and when the show aired, Conor concedes the nerves kicked in, but he had little to worry about.

“People have been nothing but positive,” he says.

Occasionally clients ask him about it, but their approach tends to be subtle.

“I’ll have an appointment with a client and they’ll say nothing about it, but in the final few minutes they might drop a question or a hint that they’ve seen the show, and I’m always happy to talk,” Conor says.

The value of relationships

The ‘what you see is what you get’ attitude Conor exuded on television has also been a major factor in his real estate success.

In just seven years in the industry, he’s risen from assistant to salesperson, auctioneer and now agency director.

As one of four partners overseeing the three offices of PRD Hobart, his role is to lead the sales team, while also juggling his own sales career.

Across both these areas, it’s relationships that matter to him most.

“I’ve never really been driven by the money, it’s always about the relationships,” he explains.

“I start my listing presentations with that, as it’s important to me, vendors understand it’s not just the transaction I’m focused on.

“Yes, I’m invested in the result, but with a view to continuing to work with them in five or 10 years’ time.”

Looking back, he notes his favourite sale was testament to that fact.

Located at Sandy Bay, the property was the first he handled in the million-plus price bracket.

“At the time it was a completely different market, and this property was on the market three months with no success,” Conor recalls.

“Afterwards, I maintained a relationship with the vendor. I stayed in contact and kept him updated.

“He later re-listed with me and we sold it successfully at a great price.

“It taught me you can’t control the market, but you can control the relationships you forge with people.”

A culture of strong bonds

Conor believes managing a team is also about creating strong bonds, where give and take are equally important, and communication is key.

“The way a business interacts with staff is very much a relationship too,” he says.

“As long as you’re communicating effectively at all times, you can have challenges and work through them.

“Issues only arise when people are not communicating properly and frustrations start to build, so that’s when they walk out.”

To facilitate a positive company culture, PRD Hobart has several initiatives in place.

No idea is off the table, staff have weekly self-development sessions, there’s an inhouse life coach available, and a business coach works with both the sales team and the business development manager.

There are also family days throughout the year and everyone celebrates the wins.

“I want my team to enjoy coming to work,” Conor says.

“I want them to know if they want to, they can jump ship and branch out, but ultimately my goal is to make the workplace so appealing that, instead, they choose to stay.

“I’m constantly aware of the culture on behalf of our sales team, and I’m particularly focused on recognising the challenges I used to see as an employee and breaking them down.”

Lessons learned in a varied career

Despite a rapid rise through the ranks of real estate, Conor has indeed faced challenges, not least of which was finding his calling.

He came into real estate by way of a journalism degree and time in the army, both of which he now credits as providing invaluable experience that he continues to draw on.

“When I left school, I really struggled to find direction, so I did a journalism degree, but it wasn’t my calling,” Conor reflects.

“I then joined the army to make a living and that really took me out of my comfort zone.

“When I left, I was feeling a bit dejected and pretty much applied for every job going in Hobart.

“It was only then that I found my groove as an assistant to one of Tasmania’s top sales agents.”

Real estate ticked a whole lot of boxes for Conor, offering a great lifestyle, the opportunity to problem solve, and the chance to work with people.

But as many will attest, it’s a lot harder than it looks.

“When I was learning, it seemed so easy, like listings came in from everywhere so after six months I went out on my own and that was a definite shock,” he states.

“I was making no money, putting $20 of petrol in my car at a time and I was really wondering whether I was cut out for real estate.

“For 12 months I just scraped by.”

All in or nothing

Conor decided it was crunch time – all in or nothing.

Noting the change had to come from within, he quit alcohol, and embraced meditation.

Drawing on his time in the army, he tapped into health, fitness, discipline, and teamwork to give structure to his work day.

That’s a tradition he continues, noting his morning fitness routine sets him up for the day.

Utilising his journalism skills, he became creative with his marketing.

“I built an image of what I wanted to be in the marketplace, and delivered a consistent message with authenticity,” he says.

“I realised that all the things I had done previously that felt like a waste of time were actually experiences I could draw on.”

The turnaround was astounding. Conor became an award-winning agent, a nationally recognised auctioneer and a local area expert.

The success meant it was a natural progression to become an agency director when opportunity knocked at PRD.

PRD Hobart

Conor was competing at an auctioneering event when he was first approached to become a partner in PRD Hobart.

“The business had an incredible name, and it was obvious there was a foundation to build something with an excellent Hobart reach,” Conor says.

The business came with 28 years of runs on the board and a well-established leadership team.

That team initially comprised PRD Hobart founder and director Tony Collidge, along with fellow directors Natalie Gray in property management, and Mark Johnson overseeing sales, who later took a step back.

Rychelle Kay was brought in as an additional director, bringing a strong financial background to the partnership, and the group hasn’t looked back.

“We didn’t know each other before going into business together, but it’s a leadership team that complements each other extremely well,” Conor says.

“We all come with a unique insight and skill set.”

Since joining forces, the team has purchased an additional agency, and more than doubled in size from, 16 to 38 staff.

Their recent win at the Real Estate Institute of Tasmania awards is the icing on the cake, but according to Conor, there’s a whole lot more to come.

“We are also looking at investing in other locations and considering commercial opportunities,” he says.

“My mindset when we won the award was that we have achieved about five per cent of our potential.”

The personal and the professional

After a year that has brought a surprise stint on reality TV, love, professional recognition, and the unexpected curveball of an international pandemic, Conor Canning is hungry for more but thrilled with what has been achieved.

“For a long time I didn’t make relationships a priority, I was so obsessed with making something of myself in business,” he reflects.

Now he is in the enviable position of enjoying both, and if his industry reputation and portrayal on Bachelor in Paradise are anything to go by, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke. 

Look out for other agents in our agents x reality TV series and find out what they got out of it and how the experience changed them for better or worse.

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Cassandra Charlesworth

Cassandra Charlesworth is a features writer for Elite Agent Magazine with over 15 years’ journalism experience in metropolitan and regional newsrooms. She has a specialist interest in real estate, tech disruption and a good old-fashioned “yarn”.