NORTH­ERN EX­PO­SURE

WORK­ING AT A DRIVE SHAFT and hy­draulic spare parts com­pany in Ho­bart back in 1997, one half of the NOW Leas­ing NT team – Joely Sul­li­van – never imag­ined that a three-month job place­ment in the Top End would set the course for her fu­ture ca­reer in prop­erty

Elite Property Manager - - Cover Story -

"Ijust loved Dar­win,” Joely re­mem­bers. “I loved the life­style. I loved the weather. From the mo­ment I ar­rived for what was sup­posed to be a three-month stint, I just knew this was where I wanted to be. And I quickly made the de­ci­sion to make the move per­ma­nent.”

Tak­ing up an ad­min po­si­tion in an ac­count­ing of­fice soon af­ter she ar­rived, it wasn’t long be­fore the op­por­tu­nity to work in prop­erty man­age­ment came knock­ing at her door. “A friend who was work­ing in the real es­tate in­dus­try men­tioned that there was a trainee­ship po­si­tion com­ing up in another agency and she re­ally en­cour­aged me to ap­ply. I did – and the rest is his­tory. It’s one of the best de­ci­sions I’ve ever made.

“I have to ad­mit, a ca­reer in prop­erty man­age­ment was not a con­scious de­ci­sion for me back then. That first job quite lit­er­ally fell into my lap. In a lot of ways, prop­erty man­age­ment chose me. But I’ve never looked back. From the first day of my trainee­ship, I knew prop­erty man­age­ment was the ca­reer for me. New chal­lenges to tackle ev­ery day. New peo­ple to meet ev­ery day. And new things to learn ev­ery day.

“It’s what I loved about prop­erty

man­age­ment when I started out and it’s still what I love about prop­erty man­age­ment al­most 20 years later.”

FROM THE GROUND UP

Joely has spent her ca­reer suc­cess­fully build­ing and grow­ing prop­erty man­age­ment port­fo­lios for a num­ber of lead­ing agen­cies in Dar­win. Then in Novem­ber 2015 she de­cided to take the plunge and open her own agency with busi­ness part­ner Jo Grif­fiths.

“I’ve al­ways wanted to work in a busi­ness where I could do things my way,” Joely says. “I finally re­alised that the only way I could do that was to start my own agency – one that spe­cialises in prop­erty man­age­ment and where I could build all the sys­tems and pro­ce­dures from the ground up.”

And she’s found the per­fect col­lab­o­ra­tor in Jo. “We re­ally com­ple­ment each other,” Joely ex­plains. “We had worked to­gether be­fore at a num­ber of dif­fer­ent agen­cies, and we knew we’d work well to­gether in our own busi­ness. We both know what we want to achieve and we both do what we need to do to work to­gether to achieve it. We com­ple­ment each other in so many dif­fer­ent ways. We sup­port each other’s strengths and weak­nesses.

“My Dad al­ways used to say to me ‘You can’t please ev­ery­one all the time, but you can try’. And he’s right. In prop­erty man­age­ment there will be the odd land­lord or ten­ant or tradie that, for what­ever rea­son, you just don’t gel with. In th­ese sorts of sit­u­a­tions a level of ac­com­mo­da­tion is needed – a change of tack may be in or­der, or it could be best to al­low some­one else to han­dle the sit­u­a­tion. For Jo and I, if that’s the case for ei­ther of us, the other just steps in. We re­ally do bal­ance each other and the dy­namic of our re­la­tion­ship means we’re able to work to­gether to achieve the best out­come in ev­ery sit­u­a­tion.”

For Joely, tak­ing the leap from em­ployee

“WE RE­ALLY DO BAL­ANCE EACH OTHER; THE DY­NAMIC OF OUR RE­LA­TION­SHIP MEANS WE'RE ABLE TO WORK TO­GETHER TO ACHIEVE THE BEST OUT­COME IN EV­ERY SIT­U­A­TION.”

to busi­ness owner has been a bit nervewrack­ing, to say the least. “But it’s all been com­pletely worth it,” Joely says, smil­ing. “We’ve just been over­whelmed with the num­ber of clients who have made con­tact with us and the num­ber of re­fer­rals we’ve re­ceived. Both Jo and I have worked in the Dar­win mar­ket for many years, and we’ve worked re­ally hard to build our rep­u­ta­tions and net­work of con­tacts – and it’s all be­gin­ning to pay off!”

100 PER CENT FO­CUS

A bou­tique agency spe­cial­is­ing in prop­erty man­age­ment, NOW Leas­ing NT was born out of Joely and Jo’s de­sire to pro­vide the high­est level of ser­vice. “I’ve al­ways wanted to be at the top of the prop­erty man­age­ment pro­fes­sion,” Joely says. “I’m com­pletely com­mit­ted to al­ways pro­vid­ing an out­stand­ing level of ser­vice and mak­ing sure ev­ery­thing we do is per­son­alised. We’re 100 per cent fo­cused on prop­erty man­age­ment – and I be­lieve that gives us a huge ad­van­tage. We’re not dis­tracted by sales or strata or other things. It makes us bet­ter at what we do.”

While Joely’s goal over the next 12 months is to grow the busi­ness, she won’t ever com­pro­mise on ser­vice. “We don’t have any as­pi­ra­tions to build the big­gest rent roll in Dar­win, be­cause that would mean we couldn’t keep do­ing what we do so well – com­mu­ni­cate ef­fec­tively with our clients, pro­vide them with the best so­lu­tions and main­tain the high­est level of ser­vice,” Joely says. “Steady growth is what we’re af­ter, which means we’ll likely look to bring on another prop­erty man­ager in the near fu­ture. This will free up some time, so I can work on the busi­ness rather than spend­ing all my time work­ing in the busi­ness.”

EASE AND CON­VE­NIENCE

Joely was sin­gle-minded from the start in her aim to set up the busi­ness’s sys­tems and pro­ce­dures in the best and most ef­fi­cient way pos­si­ble. “Hav­ing the right tech­nol­ogy in place is the cor­ner­stone of our busi­ness. We need to al­ways be at the top of our game, so we can de­liver the stan­dard of ser­vice our clients ex­pect and we ex­pect of our­selves,” she ex­plains.

En­ter Prop­er­tyTree. “I’ve used REST Pro­fes­sional for my en­tire prop­erty man­age­ment ca­reer and, I have to ad­mit, I was re­luc­tant to learn a com­pletely new sys­tem,” Joely says. “But when we looked into Prop­er­tyTree, it just made sense. The set-up costs for us were lower with no servers re­quired – a ma­jor cost sav­ing and we don’t need to do back­ups. If a dis­as­ter were to oc­cur our busi­ness data is safe. And it’s just so easy to use.”

“CLOUD-BASED SOFT­WARE EN­ABLES US TO BE OUT AND ABOUT. WE COULD EVEN DO OUR OWNER PAY­MENTS FROM A POOL BAR IN BALI IF WE NEEDED TO!”

For Joely, hav­ing a cloud-based so­lu­tion in place was es­sen­tial. “Both Jo and I have young chil­dren, and we’re of­ten do­ing things on the fly or at home – so be­ing able to ac­cess ev­ery­thing we need when­ever and wher­ever is price­less.” Us­ing tech­nol­ogy across their busi­ness also dif­fer­en­ti­ates NOW Leas­ing NT’s ser­vice, as Jo iden­ti­fies. “We’re one of only a few agen­cies in Dar­win us­ing cloud­based soft­ware, which al­lows us to re­duce our over­heads. It en­ables us with mo­bile ac­ces­si­bil­ity, so if we’re meet­ing a client in another sub­urb we can show them prop­erty data in real time.”

TECH­NOL­OGY FO­CUSED

Jo and Joely both agree that tech­nol­ogy is hav­ing an im­pact on the real es­tate in­dus­try. “Ev­ery­thing we do is sur­rounded by tech­nol­ogy: we do our in­spec­tions on apps on a mo­bile de­vice, all our fil­ing is elec­tronic and the soft­ware we use is cloud-based. We don’t go to the post of­fice any­more – ev­ery­thing is emailed out,” notes Joely.

“It has en­abled us to do more than we could pre­vi­ously,” adds Jo. “We are able to man­age more and spend time more ef­fec­tively. Once upon a time, do­ing three or four rou­tine in­spec­tions would take up half a day. Cloud-based soft­ware en­ables us to be out and about – we can do ev­ery­thing from mo­biles th­ese days. We can work from home if we need to – we could even do our owner pay­ments from a pool bar in Bali if we needed to!”

SO­CIAL PROSPECT­ING AND GEN­ER­A­TIONAL CHANGE

The Top End is no stranger to dig­i­tal strat­egy, thanks in part to for­ward­think­ing agen­cies like NOW Leas­ing NT. “Face­book is our plat­form of choice at the mo­ment,” says Joely. “We’ve been ad­ver­tis­ing on Face­book since we opened, and we also boost our posts. We’re get­ting a lot of good feed­back, nu­mer­ous en­quiries and new man­age­ments from our Face­book ad­ver­tis­ing.”

It’s in­ter­est­ing that dig­i­tal plat­forms can ac­tu­ally hu­man­ise a brand, as Jo ex­plains. “Dar­win isn’t a big place com­pared to other cap­i­tal ci­ties, and clients do love a per­sonal touch. When they see you on their Face­book feeds reg­u­larly, they feel like they know you. Face­book gives us the abil­ity to get in­side peo­ple’s homes with­out hav­ing to phys­i­cally be there.”

Gen­er­a­tional change in the in­dus­try is a chal­lenge to many busi­nesses who fail to em­brace the ben­e­fits that tech­nol­ogy and so­cial me­dia can bring to an agency. “Some prop­erty man­agers feel that if they go for­ward with im­prove­ments to trust ac­count­ing soft­ware or the way they op­er­ate their role will be­come re­dun­dant. They cling on to old ways be­cause of fear,” says Jo. “Most real es­tate busi­nesses are run by an older gen­er­a­tion. The younger ones are those who know the tech­nol­ogy that’s driv­ing our in­dus­try – which is chang­ing whether we like it or not. The big plat­forms like Con­sole and REST and REA are chang­ing their prod­uct for a newer gen­er­a­tion – so if we don’t keep up as an in­dus­try, we’ll fall be­hind.”

Joely adds that “with change to a busi­ness comes a cost of time – you’ve got to have the time to im­ple­ment those new sys­tems. It’s a catch 22; you’ve got to find the time to im­prove if you want to save time in the long run.”

From the sound of things, Joely and Jo will have all the tech­nol­ogy and sys­tems they need to keep grow­ing their busi­ness into the fu­ture.

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