Tom Larkin started in real estate on his 18th birthday. By 23-years-old he had his own real estate office in an area he knew nothing about – Barry Plant in Frankston. By 26 he had become one of the area’s most successful agents and now, at 29, he is the director of two offices, has a proven program for developing young agents and is highly sought after throughout the Barry Plant network as a trainer and mentor.
An apprenticeship served at Barry Plant Craigieburn and then Barry Plant Glenroy, both in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, taught Tom Larkin the basics of real estate sales in areas where home prices were modest and the language spoken wasn’t always English.
It was a tough initiation, but one he thrived on.
From there he spent time in Queensland before returning to Melbourne. When the opportunity came up in 2014 to establish an office in Frankston – a bayside suburb on the Mornington Peninsula, Tom grabbed it with both hands.
He knew very little about the area but soon learned it had a diverse real estate market, ranging from units in the mid $200,000s to beachfront mansions of $4-5 million, and everything in between.
Tom grew up in a family that was all about real estate, so getting started early was an obvious choice for him.
“Being born into real estate, I basically fell into the industry. My immediate family, as well as extended family, have been in the industry for decades and I always say that if my parents were electricians, I probably would have ended up being one, too,” Tom reflects.
Tom puts much of his success down to a combination of hard work, honesty, relatability and humility. He never set out to run his own office but felt that this was the best way to grow his career.
“I don’t plan on working forever and to be honest, if I am going to work 12-hour days, I may as well work for myself.
“The plan was always to go into business before I got to the age of 25 and eventually end up with four offices within 10 years. Ideally, I wanted to start getting my time back so when I have kids, I don’t have to do the same hours I do now – I also don’t plan to live on the pension when I’m older, either.”
It was a difficult challenge for Tom when he started his own office.
Although the Barry Plant brand had been in the area for a number of years, it wasn’t well-known in the market. He was building a business from scratch. He had no real local brand recognition, no local database, no rent roll or clients, and his territory was new to him – so no local knowledge. The challenge was enormous.
He needed to list and sell to generate cash flow as well as managing the business and recruiting a team.
“Starting everything from scratch was tough – everything from a database to a rent roll to building a reputation. Being impatient I found it hard to speed up the process of time, which is obviously something we cannot control.”
In early 2015, Tom’s father Tony joined the business, freeing Tom up to concentrate on listing and selling. Consequently, Tom became a leading agent in the area midway through 2017 and remained there throughout 2018, writing almost a million dollars in commission a year.
However, while he was thriving personally, he was finding it tough to find other agents to work within the business.
Tom and Tony realised that their business required young people who were keen to build a career, who would be prepared to door knock and make the cold calls that established agents didn’t want to do.
They reasoned it was a better plan to train young agents in their methods, to ensure their commitment to professionalism was ingrained and to build a mutually supportive culture. Tom uses a PA style teaching program to help develop agents.
“Most new agents will work under me for 12 months before going out on their own. I’d hope to think that after they have left being my assistant they would be hardworking, punctual, honest and hungry.
“I try to teach new agents to look beyond the sale, to look long-term not only in this business but in life itself. I get a kick out of seeing others succeed. I truly hope that each employee who works for us enjoys a great level of happiness and success in their life.”
Going forward, Tom hopes to keep growing the business and continue to expand.
“We are looking to grow to four offices, (currently at two) and a total of six businesses in total, working 3/4 days a week. We want each business to be recognised as the best in their field.”