RICHARD LU­TON

Elite Agent - - CONTENTS - En­ergy, En­thu­si­asm, Em­pa­thy

THERE'S A DE­CENT POR­TION OF THOSE in our in­dus­try who quiver at the thought of man­ag­ing a team or of­fice, let alone over 160 staff spread across nine agen­cies as part of Can­berra's largest pri­vately-owned real es­tate com­pany, Lu­ton Prop­er­ties. But Richard Lu­ton's 25 years in the in­dus­try have seen him over­come a range of mar­ket chal­lenges as he takes it all in his well-dressed stride.

“It's im­por­tant to have that smile, that per­son­al­ity and have the

en­ergy to make it con­ta­gious.”

WE HAD THREE CHIL­DREN UN­DER 10; WHAT WERE THEY GO­ING TO DO FOR JOBS IN 10 YEARS' TIME? SO WE OPENED UP THE OF­FICE.” “I WANTED TO MAKE SURE ALL MY AGENTS WERE WORK­ING HARD, BUT ALSO REAP­ING THE RE­WARDS OF A GOOD CUL­TURE.

Atrue em­bod­i­ment of the term ‘at­trac­tion agent’, Richard’s larger-than-life per­son­al­ity has not only built a suc­cess­ful busi­ness for him­self as an agent, but has helped him mas­ter the three ‘C’s of lead­er­ship: cul­ture, con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment and com­mu­nity out­reach.

Af­ter 25 years, what is your proud­est mo­ment in busi­ness?

It was on 28 Au­gust 1999, [when] we opened up our first of­fice in Manuka; we ac­tu­ally in­vited about 200 peo­ple. I had al­ready been in real es­tate six years with another com­pany, so it was re­ally good to get our brand out there.

How did you know it was time for you to take the step from high-fly­ing sales rep to prin­ci­pal?

At that stage, in the late 90s, the mar­ket wasn't great. We went through the Howard years of gov­ern­ment where things were very, very tough, es­pe­cially in Can­berra [with] the public ser­vice cut­backs. We thought, ‘Okay, we've got three chil­dren un­der 10; what are they go­ing to do for jobs in 10 years’ time?’ So we opened up the of­fice.

What do you think is es­sen­tial from a lead­er­ship per­spec­tive for nur­tur­ing your new­com­ers to the in­dus­try, es­pe­cially if they're com­pletely green?

Hav­ing a de­tailed in­duc­tion for a new per­son to the com­pany. We have a Head of Sales and a Head of Mar­ket­ing and they are in­volved from day one to wel­come that per­son, so they're not out there lost. We put them with some­body as a men­tor; they’re with them for the first few months. We don’t want this af­fect­ing their per­for­mance, but also [the chance of] our agency los­ing a list­ing be­cause some­body was not ed­u­cated in our brand and in the mar­ket.

You've got such a wide­spread base of em­ploy­ees – how do you keep your train­ing on track and your staff mo­ti­vated?

I can't do it all by my­self these days. I like to get around every week to each of the of­fices and talk to peo­ple and see if they have any is­sues. I've got man­agers in place, not only the di­rec­tors in each of­fice, but our Head of Sales is in each of­fice weekly. It helps me to not have as many calls from agents.

Sales is not the only thing that's im­por­tant in a real es­tate team. We also have a Head of Prop­erty Man­age­ment, and the driver be­hind the sales and prop­erty man­age­ment is a suc­cess­ful ad­min team. We also have HR and ad­min­is­tra­tion man­agers to as­sist those peo­ple.

You can never have too much train­ing. We bring in four suc­cess­ful in­ter­na­tional or in­ter­state train­ers each year, sourced from real es­tate trade shows. Every three months we have a new per­son com­ing to train our staff and we set aside a full day to have our agents and prop­erty man­agers sit with those train­ers.

What are the top three qual­i­ties you see in suc­cess­ful agents?

Suc­cess­ful agents have em­pa­thy, en­thu­si­asm and an en­ergy. It’s im­por­tant to have that smile, have that per­son­al­ity and the en­ergy to make it con­ta­gious to the rest of the peo­ple in your of­fice. Have the em­pa­thy, you know.

I came from the air­line in­dus­try. I had 15 years with Ansett Air­lines be­fore I got into real es­tate [and] we al­ways had em­pa­thy for our cus­tomers. If the air­port was fogged in we had to say, ‘It's clear­ing a bit’, you couldn't say, ‘Well, I don't know’. If an air­plane broke down, you had to show some em­pa­thy for those peo­ple when they've been dis­rupted in their flights. The same thing when a home goes to mar­ket and doesn't sell; we have em­pa­thy for those own­ers. In a fall­ing mar­ket, you're prob­a­bly ex­plain­ing why it hasn’t sold more than in a buoy­ant mar­ket when peo­ple are get­ting 100 per cent clear­ance rates at their auc­tions.

It’s hugely im­por­tant. I sup­pose I go back to my first years in real es­tate; I used to get a bit of feed­back that ‘You real es­tate agents are mak­ing too much money, you're charg­ing too much’. So every year we do a char­ity ball; we're about to do our 16th this year. We help put money back into the com­mu­nity in dif­fer­ent char­i­ties and we've raised prob­a­bly close to $4 mil­lion in to­tal.

What would you say to some­one think­ing about tak­ing the leap to start their own agency?

I wouldn't say it's good for ev­ery­body to do it. You can just work for a strong brand and make your name strong un­der­neath that brand. Lever­ag­ing off that is re­ally im­por­tant. You have no over­heads, you've got no rent to pay every week, you have no wages to pay every week, so it's a lot eas­ier if you work un­der­neath some­body else's brand.

How im­por­tant is com­mu­nity to you?

It’s hugely im­por­tant. I sup­pose I go back to my first years in real es­tate; I used to get a bit of feed­back that ‘You real es­tate agents are mak­ing too much money, you're charg­ing too much’. So every year we do a char­ity ball; we're about to do our 16th this year. We help put money back into the com­mu­nity in dif­fer­ent char­i­ties and we've raised prob­a­bly close to $4 mil­lion in to­tal.

What would you say to some­one think­ing about tak­ing the leap to start their own agency?

I wouldn't say it's good for ev­ery­body to do it. You can just work for a strong brand and make your name strong un­der­neath that brand. Lever­ag­ing off that is re­ally im­por­tant. You have no over­heads, you've got no rent to pay every week, you have no wages to pay every week, so it's a lot eas­ier if you work un­der­neath some­body else's brand.

Look­ing back now, is there any­thing you would do dif­fer­ently?

I sup­pose it al­ways goes back to the world of data­bases. Start a data­base from day one. The real es­tate mar­ket in my 18 years of Lu­ton Prop­er­ties has changed a lit­tle bit; it’s far more dig­i­tal.

What are your goals for the next 12 months?

I have to look at suc­ces­sion plan­ning, I sup­pose. I'm 60 next year and look­ing at re­tire­ment in 20 years’ time! The cur­rent sit­u­a­tion with our of­fice part­ner­ships is prob­a­bly more of a sell-down for me and pur­chase from the cur­rent di­rec­tors. Also bring­ing other peo­ple into our of­fices to keep the brand hir­ing young peo­ple, to keep mod­erni­sa­tion and that en­ergy that I've had for the last 18 years – to keep it go­ing for­ever.

“Sales is not the only thing that's im­por­tant in a real es­tate team.”

Nikki Horner is proud to work with Richard Lu­ton at Lu­ton Prop­er­ties, Can­berra's largest pri­vately owned real es­tate agency.

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