Elite AgentFeature Interviews

Transformation through innovation a winner for Noosa agency

Even before John and Sirah Robb took over Wythes Real Estate in the Noosa Hinterland, the pair knew innovation would be key to their success. Just over a year later that focus paid off, with the agency a joint winner of the REIQ Excellence award for Innovation.

Twenty minutes from the hustle and bustle of Noosa’s Hastings Street, Cooroy is a quintessential Queensland country town with one foot firmly planted in the future.

Here, the focus is a vibrant community navigating the transition from farming and timber industries to a thriving residential and rural area that is in demand for families, treechangers and investors alike.

At the heart of the town’s main street is Wythes Real Estate – a family-owned agency now making its own transition into a new era. At the helm are a young married couple, John and Sirah Robb, who took over Wythes in late 2017.

An agency of recognition

John and Sirah note Wythes ticked all the right boxes when they were looking to buy their own agency.

It came with an established seven-year reputation under the guidance of local mother and daughter duo Trisha and Alisa Wythes, featured a team of nine staff, and was renowned for its community focus.

“It had a good reputation for customer service and results, the culture in the office was excellent, and the owners were family-oriented, which was important to us,” Sirah notes.

“It set excellent foundations.”

“We were mindful it was very important to involve staff in any new concepts we were looking to introduce.”

Sirah came to the role of principal with a solid reputation of her own. Established on the Sunshine Coast since 2010, she had specialised as a sales agent in the nearby upmarket suburb of Doonan since 2012.

Before that, she had worked as a FIFO sports dietitian in the oil and gas fields of SA, Queensland, and the NT.

John offered a slightly different perspective.

A former Royal Australian Air Force engineer, he had also spent time working FIFO in the oil and gas industry.

But when the couple had their first child in 2016, they began seeking a stable business they could call their own.

A whole new level

Prior to taking over Wythes, John and Sirah dedicated two months to planning.

They identified 32 innovations to implement in the first 12 months. These ranged from strategies to lower the office’s carbon footprint to new systems for handling repetitive tasks.

Some improvements were simple, like providing booties for property inspections, or giving staff shoulder bags to carry inspection documents.

Others were more complex, like streamlining data entry and utilising their CRM to eliminate repetitive tasks susceptible to human error.

They brought in new electronic payments software for property management, implemented new systems to manage the sales folders, and employed an office manager.

They also began harnessing the power of reviews and testimonials on their website, and there was an emphasis on branding and marketing, with the bright orange of Wythes appearing all over the Noosa Hinterland.

Their priority was to employ strategies that better supported their staff and allowed them to more effectively do their job, while Sirah and John could remain focused on running the business.

In the meantime, the pair purchased an additional rent roll, effectively doubling their property management division, and, to manage the growing business, the couple played to their strengths.

John used his engineering and systems expertise to problem solve, streamline and oversee property management. Sirah applied her knowledge of the real estate game to implement best practice and lead the team in sales.

The result was a 42 per cent increase in sales in the first 12 months and a market share in Cooroy that increased from 17 to 39 per cent.

“We wanted to be seen as leaders,” John explains.

“We wanted to be a brand that agents wanted to work with, and clients wanted to be with.”

Bringing the team along for the ride

From the outset, John and Sirah were transparent with their team about the changes they were looking to make.

“We were mindful it was very important to involve staff in any new concepts we were looking to introduce,” Sirah says.

In the final weeks before taking the reins, John and Sirah sat down with each staff member for what they call a “speed date”, looking to understand their experience inside and outside the industry, and the personal ambitions they hoped to achieve.

“Knowing this information proved good for long-term planning,” John notes.

“We wanted our leadership style to be people-focused. We were upfront with the fact we would grow and would be thinking outside the box.”

“We wanted our leadership style to be people-focused. We were upfront with the fact we would grow and would be thinking outside the box.”

John and Sirah also actively sought their team’s feedback about each idea they planned to implement.

“We encourage everyone to bring us ideas, and some of the best have come from the team,” Sirah says.

“Each idea goes on the list and every month we have a team meeting where we celebrate successes and ensure we are all on the same page. We are careful to prioritise and roll out in a structured way so our staff can see where our priorities lie.”

As a result, John and Sirah say they have enjoyed “incredible support” from their team and the wider community.

All staff, including former owners Alisa and Trisha, remain committed to the business, while the team has expanded to 15.

Involved in the Coorey community

Not only did John and Sirah seek the feedback of their staff, but they also bounced ideas off their community and dedicated time and resources to being an active entity within it.

Wythes sponsors community events like the Fusion Festival and Body Art Festival. They present awards at a local school and attend as well as sponsor Scone Time, an initiative for older residents.

For the annual Christmas in Cooroy Parade, they decked out their classic VW Kombi in a flower power theme, and consequently took out the best-decorated award.

“Because we are involved, the community has embraced us,” Sirah reflects.

“They’re interested in what we are doing, and they’re interested in us. They see that we are trying to give back.”

John and Sirah have faith this community embrace will assist as they seek to attain further goals over the next 12 months. These include general growth and improvement throughout property management and sales, along with the launch of a new community event later this year.

As always, John and Sirah will be looking to involve their staff as they move forward. “Our staff understand we are not in competition with them,” Sirah says.

“Every single person has the ability to be the best they want to be. That is our platform for success.”

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