Want to be wealthy? What real estate agents can learn from three Aussie billionaires

As the saying goes, success leaves clues.

In a recent AFR article three of Australia’s wealthiest people – Gerry Harvey (Harvey Norman), Jack Cowin (Hungry Jacks), and John Van Lieshout (Super A-mart) – shared their advice on making your money work for you.  

To begin with, they’re all business owners.  

Their wealth journeys started with taking a calculated risk and none of them inherited or bought into an existing company.

Instead, they backed what they knew and backed themselves, and put in the hard work to achieve success.  

As Cowin explains, “Stay alive and don’t make foolish mistakes… stay away from things you don’t understand, and you’ll do ok.”

This applies to your business, and also investing – increasing your wealth by just 10 per cent each year will have a significant impact for decades to come. 

The 5 pieces of advice, and how you can apply them in real estate, are listed below: 

  1. Think 10 years ahead

Gerry Harvey suggests you should always think about what’s around the corner. What will your industry look like, how will it shift, who will your competitors be? 

This applies to real estate in a couple of ways.  

Firstly, many agents focus on the short-term game, with little foresight for the future.

One of the great things about real estate is the reward for hard work.

You can make as much as you want, and if you invest a portion of your income for the long-term you’ll build wealth most people only dream about (see how long-term thinking can grow wealth in this article). 

Secondly, competition – we’re in a fiercely competitive industry and it can feel like you have to go to battle day in, day out.

Standing out and creating a great name and reputation for yourself is critical for long-term success.

This can be in how you treat people, how you market yourself, and the results you achieve. 

Vendor preferences are also changing, aligned to the general move to supporting local business.

We predict a continued rise of the independent agent and vendors choosing to support local brands over multinationals. 

  1. Provide the right incentives 

John Van Lieshout stresses the importance of rewarding your people appropriately.

When he changed his manager incentive program to a meaningful profit share, the company performance rose significantly.

Turns out, people perform the best when they get a fair share for their efforts! 

In real estate, the right incentive is rare.

It’s one of the few industries where top performers aren’t recognised – they started on a comms split of 50 per cent, and often stay at that level despite their growth and performance. 

If you’re an agent on a comms split that rewards your franchise more than yourself, it might be time to look around.

You’ll find that you’ll become even more hungry to succeed and the difference it will make to your income each year could be $100,000-plus. 

  1. Balance details and big picture 

According to Cowin, you must be “part astronomer, part microbiologist.”

Get the balance wrong and you are likely to fail.

He goes on to say, “Very often, people fail because they lose sight of the big picture, or vice versa, they get so caught up in the details they lose sight of the big picture”.

In real estate, it’s easy to look for things to distract yourself from your core business of listing and selling (and prospecting, which is critical to success).

The simple truth is that real estate is straight forward. Get your name out there. Build your reputation. Repeat. 

Focusing too much attention on the precise wording of your DL, how to crop a photo, and seeking perfection in marketing material takes your attention away from the big picture.

In our game, volume wins – so get as much marketing out as often as you can and watch the listings roll in.  

  1. Location. Location. Location. 

It comes as no surprise that this tip comes from Gerry Harvey, who believes in owning as much property as possible.  

“We’ve just always worked on where’s the best site, put the best shop there, put the best salespeople in there, advertise that you’ve got it, and just make sure you do a better job than all the other retailers. You survive, and they don’t,” he said. 

In real estate, you can take the statement above and apply it to your career – find your core areas (or niche), advertise yourself and your listings, then do a better job than your competitors. Simple. 

  1. Embrace risk. 

This may be the most important advice: no-one has become a billionaire working for someone else.

And Van Lieshout thinks more Aussies should be their own boss, “Australia is full of talented people who should have their own business”.

While the stakes can be high, taking an educated risk can pay huge dividends.

Had Van Lieshout decided not to start Super A-mart, he wouldn’t be sitting on his $2.72 billion property portfolio.  

For real estate agents, starting your own business doesn’t have to be difficult.

You’re already doing most of what it takes to be successful building your name, a client list, and your reputation.

All it takes is a small shift in mindset to realise you are your success and people will follow where you go.

So why shouldn’t that be your own brand?  

Who knows if you take a chance, you might just find yourself alongside these billionaires. 

Ready to start your own business?  
Speak to UrbanX about how we can support you and de-risk running your own agency.  

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Dan Argent

Dan has drawn on almost 20-years of real estate experience to re-imagine the purpose of real estate agencies in the modern era, with intentions of turning the old model on its head. To facilitate this real estate revolution, Dan has taken on the visionary role of Chief Energy Officer at UrbanX.

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