EPMEPM: Feature Interview

True North: Michael Love

It's been almost 75 years since Michael Love’s grandfather first opened the doors of Love Real Estate in service of Melbourne's 'North'. Now, as a third-generation agent and director of that company, Michael reflects on the valuable lessons his family’s experience offers him as he sets about “running his own race”.

Not many agents can lay claim to hosting their first open home at the age of 11, but when real estate runs in your blood the induction into the industry starts young.

“I think Dad was on daycare and he was selling a subdivision and they were a salesman down,” Love & Co director Michael Love explains. “So he showed me the pamphlets to hand out and told me to take anyone’s name and telephone number. And he said, ‘Just sit in this chair until someone shows up’.

“Well, it was a warm spring day and I sat in the chair and I drifted off, and a client walked in and said, ‘Hello, can you help me?’ Sure enough, I gave them the brochures and took their name and details… but I didn’t get a commission!”

The start may have been inauspicious one but for Michael, it was his first foray into a family business that is now one of the longest-established agencies in the game.

From its beginnings at Reservoir in Victoria in 1945, Love & Co has grown to encompass eight businesses, including a commercial division, all built on the ethos of putting the client first and ‘getting it right the first time’.

In their footsteps

Michael’s decision to follow his father, Graham, and grandfather, Ted, into real estate may have seemed inevitable but he notes it was always his own choice, and one that he made young.

Some of his earliest memories include driving around with his father, listening to the conversations, negotiations and dealings of a successful real estate sales agent.

“My father has always encouraged me to follow what I wanted to do. Although there may have been some conversations and guidance in my upbringing that had it that I wanted to become an agent whether I knew it or not… I’ve also been able to do a lot of other things before coming into the real estate space.”

Along the way he has enjoyed the opportunity to work closely with his father and also draw on his grandfather’s advice in an industry that has undergone significant change over the past seven decades.

Something that was instilled in my father and then in me is, “Leave a little bit for the next person”.

Service first

The industry may have changed, but the ethos has remained consistent – and Michael says much of that was instilled in him by both his grandfather and his dad.

“My grandfather was a big advocate that our industry is all about service. At the end of the day, we don’t have a product on the shelf to sell as much as we have a service to sell, and we’ve got to make sure that we’re always offering a quick service to our clients.”

If Michael’s grandfather instilled the value of service, his father taught him the importance of considering others. It’s a core belief that extends throughout the business, from how Love & Co serves their customers to the way they support their growing number of staff.

“I’m so grateful to have my father every day, working alongside him and to have his guidance. Something that was instilled in my father and instilled in me is ‘leave a little bit for the next person’.

“There’s enough there for everybody. If you’re buying and selling real estate you don’t have to milk everything. That sort of a philosophy in business, I think, is a relationship-building strategy, so that people that you’re working with, it’s not just all for us.”

Resilience in relationships

Love & Co is an institution ingrained in the North Melbourne community and Michael notes the commitment to serve that community remains strong.

“The role of a real estate agent is about offering value, not just in buying or selling homes. I see more and more real estate agents looking for egotistical positions. I think the general public are a little bit over having a real estate agent who’s drumming their chest and telling them how wonderful they are.

“The fundamental piece when making a business decision is ‘How will this benefit our clients?’ Often I’m given ideas on how it will benefit us which are innovative, though the test for us really in the office is how will it benefit the clients.

“It always comes back to what can I offer? How can I help? What’s of value that I can offer anybody? Really, that’s my focal point.”

The relationships the company has forged include a lengthy list of staff members who have been with them, in some cases, for as long as 50 years, and Michael reflects this too comes down to the philosophy of leaving something for someone else.

“It’s kind of like a marriage,” he says, noting the art is “resilience in relationships”, where you work through things with people while looking to the future and improvement. He reflects that developing teams is one of the highlights of his job, with the focus being supporting staff to attain their goals and ambitions.

“Our business is really about our wonderful teams and we’re very grateful to have them.” And when it comes to selecting the right people to join those teams, Michael says it’s always based on values.

“I like to find out about people but, fundamentally, if they’re not somebody I would feel comfortable to [let] go and pick up my little boy from kinder, then they don’t have the values to work in our team. Skills I’m happy to train and we do a lot of skills training.”

The public are over having a real estate agent who’s drumming their chest and telling them how wonderful they are.

Changing with the times

Love & Co might boast a long history but innovation remains at its core, and this has been reflected over a number of rebrandings throughout the years.

“We’ve just rebranded in February and again it’s about showing the difference of how our company’s evolving within the marketplace, and making sure that we are staying in contact with our ever-changing community. As they change we need to change and continually develop as a company.”

He attributes that innovation and consistent development to the passion and energy of his team.

“We have great brainstorming,” he notes. “There isn’t a week that goes by without somebody putting forward a great idea or a great plan. We SWOT that and talk about it, and look at the areas that it could improve or develop, and then we look at implementation.”

Running his own race

Michael enjoys the benefits of the generations of experience that have gone before him, but notes his focus is on “running his own race”.

“I think that being yourself is far more attractive than somebody trying to do something that someone else does well,” he says.

“We all get caught up in the idea of how we should be and that’s something I’ve been working on a lot lately; just staying focused on where I am now and the opportunities that present now.”

It always comes back to what can I offer? How can I help? Really, that’s my focal point.

Michael will share further insight into this when he features as a presenter at ARPM 2018 in Sydney in August.

“I’m excited to be speaking at the event; I’m going to be getting the message out to people that who they are and what they are doing is completely okay. As the industry develops, we’re all developing and we’re all improving; nobody is the same person as they were two years ago. Fundamentally, everyone’s really doing the best job they can.”

For Michael his ‘best’ continues to be serving his community, leaving enough for someone else and being true to his own leadership strengths. And with a family business that has established an enviable reputation on the commitment of previous generations, he notes that leaving his own legacy is not something he considers.

“I’m not really looking to leave a large legacy. I’m more looking to support and grow with the people around me and work as a great team now, more than worrying about what occurs once I’m not here. I know a lot of people talk about ‘legacy, legacy, legacy’ but I make the most of today.

“My goals for the next 12 months are to continue to provide management and support for our team, and look at some new, innovative ways to conduct real estate.”

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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”.