The Un-Million Dollar Agent: Alexander Waters

Alexander Waters wrote over a million dollars in his first year selling real estate. Rapid success for a young man brought fame and accolades, but for Alex it lacked balance. In an incredibly brave and honest interview, Sarah Bell caught up with Alex to learn how becoming the ‘un-million dollar agent’ has resulted in new heights of success and a new grounding in happiness.

Tell me about becoming a million-dollar agent.
I basically worked about four years of normal working hours in that first two years. I was switched on all the time and shut myself in, doing the job, getting the next listing, transacting. There was almost a sense of anxiousness if I wasn’t doing something work-related like being on the phone. It was relentless sacrifice. I literally didn’t do anything else; I didn’t play sport, didn’t socialise much. I went to the gym and that was about it, but I’d be in the office till 11:00 pm most weeknights.

I didn’t have any assistance at all. It was just doing three or four appraisals a day plus all the prospecting in the morning and doing all my admin late at night. I don’t know how I did it. To be honest with you, I think it was the fact that I had moved to Karratha and there was just nothing else to distract me; I was here to work and earn money. I had set myself a two-year limit. I think it was just about maximising that two years at that point.

You reached some highs – what was speaking at AREC like?
It was a certainly a real honour to be asked to speak at AREC. I definitely didn’t think that I had done anything special. I had probably done what most people weren’t prepared to do, which is work extremely hard – unrelenting. It was a great feeling, but it was probably at that point that I started to want to pull back.

I think when you’re at that level it’s just you’re being egged on by everyone to keep pushing harder. You know, double your numbers this year – it’s going to be double [again] next year. It’s just I think I lost sight of actually why I was doing it and what I was doing it for.

What triggered the change?
When I went from being a salesperson to a business owner, I was going through staff pretty quickly because I still had that false mindset around intensity – thinking I’ve got to be super-intense, I’m going to be on everyone’s backs, getting them to be the same way. I realised if I wanted to retain staff and build a good culture I had to shift away from that. I’ve always learnt from adversity quickly.

Everyone thought I was arrogant and disliked me because I was too hard to work with – who wants to live that life?

I also went through a relationship breakup, and at the same time things started to get tough within the first six months in business – you know, cash flow was getting tight. Having gone through a relationship breakup plus not having an abundance of money any more, I sat there and went, ‘Well, what else do I have?’. I didn’t have much else; there was nothing in my life that was fulfilling me. I learned how to live within my means again on a much smaller scale and realised that I was no less happy or happier.

When I started up the business I went through a legal battle with my previous employer, non-compete type stuff. That was very draining on me and probably one of the hardest times of my life emotionally. I was drinking a lot. I couldn’t sleep, I was drinking about a bottle and a half of wine every night by myself. I let my health go. I wasn’t working out. I guess I was trying to distract myself really from what was going on and was just using alcohol as a way to do that.

How did you go about designing a better life for yourself?
I just realised that the high-strung intensity that I had in my life, and what it was pushing me to be like, wasn’t making me happy at all. I started to do some things to make sure I had better support.

I couldn’t pull myself out of sales right away because, obviously, I was driving most of the income for the new business; but it was about really selecting and doing the things that I really want to do rather than doing it all. Like not being afraid to set boundaries. Set boundaries around when I was going to work, when I was going to take phone calls and making sure that people respected that – and funnily enough they do. I decided I wanted to travel a lot more and take even more time off.

What I really wanted to do was just be a good person and do work that was really fulfilling for me.

What happened next?
I remember in the past looking up to different mentors and people who were in business and [them] saying, ‘You know what, Alex – I get that you’re doing your sales thing, but for me it’s more rewarding seeing people grow and develop within my business’. I never really got that until I started changing the way I work and putting time and energy into the people in my businesses.

I lost sight of why I was doing it and what I was doing it for.

I ventured out and opened an outsourcing business [in the Philippines] and to be able to offer career opportunities to my team there is very fulfilling. To see some of the changes that people have undergone and to have their partners or their friends tell me that that person has just changed for the better and I’ve impacted their life in a meaningful way… It just makes me feel so good, in comparison to when I was writing $1.1 million in gross commission a year, and everyone thought I was arrogant and disliked me because I was too hard to work with – who wants to live that life?

How is being an un-million dollar agent different?
I’ve been able to build more wealth now than I ever have before because I’ve done the right things in a business, and obviously we’re building an asset with property management as well. It’s having a meaningful impact on people’s lives.

I guess being a bit more normal and not [feeling] self-loathing if I don’t always do the things like getting up at 5:00 am, and accepting that it’s okay to not go to the gym now and then. Yes, health and fitness are still really important to me. I care about the way I look, and I care about feeling good, but I’m not going to be intense to the point where I’m going to beat myself up over it if I don’t go now and then.

I definitely enjoy taking a lot more time off and travelling. On top of a three or four week holiday over the New Year period and mid-year, I now try to take seven to ten days away every six weeks. That is also personal development, just taking time in a different location to refresh and get creative again. And not being afraid to trust my team with the responsibilities that are at hand.

Specifically concerning real estate sales, I think I’m enjoying dealing with each transaction more, because when you’re at that fast, rapid pace the emotion leaves the deal. Funnily enough, I’m still attracting the same amount of business as I was before. We’re getting better reviews. We’re getting better customer feedback because they’ve obviously felt that we’ve cared about their situation more.

What’s next for the un-million dollar agent?
There are quite a few things happening this year. I now have 35 staff across four businesses in four locations, including Perth and the Philippines. Late last year we opened a Capita Finance business, we are just about to launch our new commercial agency, Realmark Commercial Pilbara, and we have plans to open another office in Port Hedland later in the year.

What is most rewarding is that by changing my values and the way I operate as a person I’ve been able to achieve my goals much quicker and I’m a much happier, more fulfilled person.

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Sarah Bell

With a background in research and investigations, Sarah Bell married into the real estate industry in 2009 and has found a passion for both the business and its people.