People, planning and passion

Cathy Baker is one of our industry’s best and brightest talents. Here she shares how she’s made it to the top and why relationships are the key to her success.

By Helen Hull

The property industry needs more Cathy Bakers. Her passion for the real estate profession and desire to help others is infectious. 

She’s the sort of person you can talk to all day and someone who makes high-quality service look easy. Most of all Cathy is genuine and highly motivated.

At 43, having spent many years building a multimillion dollar business with her husband, Cathy was faced with the prospect of losing everything – including the family home. She had two choices: do nothing and suffer the consequences or step up and take action.

“I knew I had to act and made a conscious decision to turn things around,” Cathy explained. She tapped into her inner strength and determination, forging a new career path for herself and securing her family’s future.

Cathy already ran a successful interior design business and an opportunity arose in real estate.
“Give the job to a busy woman and the job will get done. I’m able to prioritise the things that are important.”
“I worked out that if I could double my business for five years and then build three to five offices in the five years after that, I’d be able to pay off our mortgage and then give each of the kids a deposit for a house.

“I wanted to ensure that I was setting myself up to succeed. I needed to tap into all the expert resources available, so I hired five coaches to assist and guide me in fast tracking my career.

“It’s important to create a five-year plan and make that the blueprint of your success,” Cathy said. “You need to actually make a commitment to yourself about what you want to achieve. You put 100 per cent into that plan, you focus on nothing else and make sure that you do what it takes to set yourself up for success.”
Cathy was surprised at the positive response she received early in her career.

“I didn’t envisage that through cold calling and door knocking I would get prospects so quickly,” she said. “But most of all I hadn’t realised that my home town had been so badly affected by the global financial crisis.

“In 2009, I received a call from an old neighbour in Killcare on the Central Coast who wanted to sell their property in 4-5 weeks. Despite being 40 minutes from my office but close to home, I agreed to list the property and sold it prior to auction for a record price using a high-quality marketing campaign.

“From that very first property, the phone didn’t stop ringing and I was inundated with requests. Within the space of three months I had acquired 50 properties to sell. With such a big response in such a short period, I went about reviewing my principles and decided to make Killcare my core area. I could see the residents were in need of my assistance and service.

“I soon realised that there was a big difference between a residential market and a lifestyle market, which had luxury properties and less buyers. You have to be more creative to sell the property, have more empathy with your clients, and nurture them for what could be a very long campaign.”
Cathy’s top tips for real estate success
Cathy is renowned for her ability to build relationships and deliver client service that is second to none.

“I am 100 per cent passionate about real estate and love what I do. I wouldn’t get out of bed if I didn’t enjoy the challenge and satisfaction,” she said.

“Every day presents something different and everyone has a different story. One of the first seminars I attended was with Bob Boland, who said ‘treat every client like gold and they grow your business for you’. That is something that I naturally put into action in my business.”

1. Build a referral business based on trusted relationships, rather than a transaction-based business. You must be genuine and caring in everything you do. If you are false or superficial you won’t develop a referral business. Pick an area you relate to and work in it. 

2. Make sure you walk the talk and lead by example in everything you do. This includes not only your team, but also the community you work in who watch everything that you do. Exceed people’s expectations with the service you provide.

3. Get good people and systems around you. Prioritise things that are going to be important. I pick the activities I should personally handle and stick with a priority list.

4. Invest in education and coaching. Don’t settle for second best. Be the best version of yourself that you can be. Some people go to training seminars and write notes, but have no intention of applying what they have learnt. Don’t be one of those people.

5. Communication. One of the biggest failings for agents is the over commitment and the under delivery of service. This is caused by a lack of communicating.
Approach to clients
One of the areas that sets Cathy apart from her peers and cements her position as an industry leader is her approach to clients.

“I’ve only lost two clients in the last five years. I believe clients are for life rather than just for a transaction, and the nurturing of people has been how I have built my business. I don’t just focus on the property I am selling. I also put a lot of energy into the relationship I am building with them, as I want it to last for the next two decades and beyond.”

According to Cathy, real estate is a simple business. “It’s about caring for the people you do business with, having empathy with each unique situation and following up on the things you said you would do. You have to have pride in what you do and strive for the premium result, as if you get a price that people strive for, your reputation starts to build. You become the agent of choice, because the community itself sets you up with referrals.

“I believe clients are for life rather than just for a transaction, and the nurturing of people has been how I have built my business.”

“The biggest failing in the industry is that many people just see it as a paycheck and don’t put their heart and soul into how they do their job. Many agents just focus on the sale of the property and not on building relationships in the community.

“The people who succeed in real estate are those who thrive on building lasting relationships that go beyond the sale or purchase of a particular property.”

Becoming a franchisee
Cathy is well on the way to achieving her goals, having doubled her business every year for the first five years as her plan dictated. While working as a sales agent for an independent agency, word of her success travelled and she was approached by Belle Property CEO Peter Hanscomb and offered the opportunity to oversee the full franchise of the Central Coast.

“It was at that point I knew my dream could become a reality,” Cathy said.

Since opening her first office in Killcare six months ago, Cathy has continued to expand her business with the recent opening of Belle Property Wamberal and has increased her team to 10.

“I love the creative flair and the ideas that she brings to the table,” Mr Hanscomb said. 

“Cathy is very innovative. She’s a people person who has a real love of the real estate business. Not that many people love it the way that she does.

“Cathy understands the importance of skill development, coaching and having the right plan. She can show other agents how to be successful in a lifestyle marketplace where you are on show constantly and she is also a very good marketer and negotiator.

“A great student, Cathy uses coaching to keep herself focused which is a very important part of her success. The greatest enemy of the agent is the stuff that gets in the way, and the stuff that doesn’t sell properties.”

Cathy spends much of her time working with the community and is heavily entrenched in fundraising and charitable work. She is responsible for establishing the Pretty Beach Seaside Community Markets and in 2014 founded local charity Killy Cares.

“The way she communicates and interacts with her community sets her apart as a sales agent,” Mr Hanscomb said. 

Cathy believes she is the right fit for the Belle Property brand. 

“We have first class support from Belle Property head office and the owners of the business, Peter and Fiona. We are fortunate to enjoy expert advice in all areas of the business, providing great opportunity for innovation, and the company understands the importance of the client and the community,” Cathy said.

The year ahead
So what does 2016 hold for Cathy? She is striving to build the most respected and relevant real estate agency on the Central Coast with a reputation that is second to none.

“I am passionate about bringing together a team of handpicked individuals from outside the real estate industry, with a view to creating a fresh approach to the lifestyle property market,” she said.

She’s also been invited to be a guest speaker at an upcoming Belle Property conference.

“You need to actually make a commitment to yourself about what you want to achieve. If you put 100 per cent into that plan, you focus on nothing else and make sure that you do it, you set yourself up for success.”

How is she able to fit so much into her days? “You make the time. Give the job to a busy woman and the job will get done. I’m able to prioritise the things that are important and I’m supported by an amazing team who are all passionate about our business.”
Why I love real estate
“I believe I’m making a difference in the lives of other people. Not only the people I am doing business with, but the community in which I work. I see it as a holistic approach to my business plan. Every day I need to make a difference to be satisfied that I have had a 10 out of 10 day.

“I love that no two days are the same. The houses aren’t the same. The people aren’t the same. It’s like writing a new story each day and you can make a difference in someone’s life each day.

“I love that it is flexible and allows you to work the way you want to work and with the people you want to work with.”
Killy cares
Cathy takes her role in the community incredibly seriously and has been proactive about making a difference for those who are most in need. In 2014 this was formalised with the creation of Killy Cares – a charity devoted to supporting sick, disadvantaged and elderly people in her local area who were not already being assisted by existing community or government services.

“One of the main aims is to enable elderly residents to stay in their homes for longer periods,” Cathy said. “Our volunteers provide practical assistance like transport, shopping, house cleaning and maintenance or other essential services.

“We also provide meals or food for residents in special need of assistance and offer support for those in difficult personal or family circumstances.”

The importance of community and giving back is something that has been a priority throughout her career.

“All of the people who have mentored me have had a charitable cause that they are involved in. Giving back is what being a small business owner is all about. It isn’t just about taking care of yourself. Working with a charity sets you apart from others who aren’t interested in their clients.

“Generally real estate agents have an untrusted reputation and by working actively in the community that gravitates people to do business with you.

“Importantly, Killy Cares helps to encourage and engage other local residents with the view to care for the welfare of everyone in our community.”

In its short life, the charity has captured the minds of the local community, with many volunteers rallying together to support the charity’s activities. These volunteers, along with the Killy Cares management team, have made an invaluable contribution by generously donating their time, skills and expertise to benefit those who are in need.