Success in service to others

July/August 2016 edition

Kelly Petrini’s childhood fascination with property became a lifelong passion for the real estate industry. Here she shares how this passion fuels her commitment to service as the lynchpin of her agency’s support operations.

By Tina Liptai

Though she can’t quite remember what first piqued her interest in the industry, Kelly Petrini has very vivid memories of her eight-year-old self flicking through the real estate pages of the local newspaper any chance she had.
“I always remember property being interesting to me. I’m not really sure why or how it started. Even when I was a kid, I found the economic side of the industry fascinating. I’ve always loved architecture and once I started working in the industry, I quickly fell in love with the people side of things too,” Kelly said.

As a licensed real estate agent, there aren’t too many roles Kelly hasn’t turned her hand to in her 26-year career, which has been key to her success in the agency support role of Operations Manager at Cobden & Hayson – a role she took on 18 months ago.

“I have worn a lot of hats in my career in real estate; I love the industry and I really enjoy working in all areas of it,” Kelly explained.

“I know it’s more common for people to focus on one area of real estate, but I think in some ways my ‘specialisation’ is relationships and customer service. Operations Manager is a great role for me because I get to work across all departments in the agency – sales, property management, marketing and HR. I really enjoy all of these, but it’s the service aspect and using my experience to help that I find most rewarding.”

Focusing on service
Kelly began her career in real estate as soon as she finished school, completing a traineeship at REINSW. Kelly also worked in the Education & Training department at REINSW, which has given her a sound understanding of industry regulations, ethics and best practice and has been key to her longevity in the industry.Though most of her career has been in property management, Kelly has worked in a number of agency support roles and has also worked in residential sales. In 2002, Kelly experienced a career highlight when she opened her own boutique agency in the eastern suburbs of Sydney.

“Having my own agency was a hugely rewarding time for me. I think that is when I really understood how service orientated I am in everything I do and how much I thrive on it.

“For me, it’s such a pleasure to be able to give people first-class service. Up until my current role as Operations Manager, I have always focused on external clients but what I love about my role now is that I get to treat every team member the way I’d treat a client and I think it’s a really important role to help build the success of the business.”

Though she is still very passionate about property management and enjoyed running her own agency, Kelly felt the need for new challenges.

“I felt like I had achieved all I wanted in property management and I wanted to put my accumulated knowledge and experience from the past two decades to better use,” Kelly explained. “I wanted to share it with people; I think that is one of the best things experienced professionals can do – share their knowledge to support other team members.”

Kelly has found her years of experience in all areas of real estate has given her an ideal skillset and foundation for her varied role as Operations Manager. Not only does Kelly develop and implement operations systems to help with the day-to-day business of the office, including the integration of technology to help agents work more efficiently, she also gets to keep her finger on the pulse of the ever-changing industry to keep agents informed about changes to regulations and laws that affect them. A big part of her role is recruitment and retention of employees across the business.

“I think the most important part of my role is building relationships with each of our team members. Without strong relationships, nothing I do is going to help the business,” Kelly explained.

“That means being available to listen, being there to support my colleagues, and taking action when needed. This is so important, and often overlooked, when an issue is identified or when someone tells you they need something, you have to act on it. I build trust and respect by showing people they have been listened to.”

Leading change
Since taking on her new role, Kelly has made a lot of positive changes at Cobden & Hayson and she is excited about further developing and expanding her role.

“I am planning for this to be a long-term role for me; the company has grown quickly so there is a lot to do with implementing and refining our systems to help each of the specialist areas in the business thrive and ensuring we are building a supportive and productive workplace culture,” she said.

“Continuing to facilitate change, which a lot of people are resistant to, is also a huge part of my ongoing role. I think people can get set in their ways and with the industry evolving so quickly, particularly with technology, it’s so important that we stay on top of it all and make sure we help all departments stay across what affects them.”

As well as her passion for learning and embracing change throughout her career, it’s the time she has invested in building relationships with clients and colleagues that Kelly believes has been key to her ongoing success. And in a fast-paced world where everyone is scrambling to succeed, Kelly’s advice for agents starting out is to think about longevity rather than a quick win.

“Real estate is a tough industry. It takes time to establish yourself and build a solid reputation, but if you are patient you will be successful. Be prepared for a long road and stay positive.” 
Why I love real estate
For Kelly, there isn’t just one thing that stands out as to why she loves working in real estate – it’s people, property and the market. And they are all equally important.

“I find every part of the industry I have worked in to be rewarding. Everybody needs shelter, so this is one of those industries where you are going to be meeting people from all walks of life and you can make a big difference to their lives,” Kelly said.

“Whether you are selling a property and helping someone get the best price or helping someone find their dream home to buy or rent – you are always helping people and that is a great feeling.

“The relationships you build and the people you get to meet and work with are what I really love. If you are a people person, there is so much fulfilment in a real estate career.

“Each person you meet and work with helps you to become a better agent.”
The importance of agency services roles
Kelly believes support roles play a major part in the industry and will continue to play a key role in the success of agencies.

“In real estate, people are our business and of course that means clients, but also staff. Most agents are time poor; they are focused on listing, selling and leasing and that takes a lot of their time and energy. They have huge workloads and often don’t have time to be following up, let alone getting across the ins and outs of new legislation. We want our agents, and business, to be successful and that’s where the support staff come into play assisting agents with marketing, building databases, getting them across key legislation changes – of which there have been a lot recently – and following up with clients.

“Support roles are vital to help free up agents’ time so they can focus on what they need to. It’s about working as a team.”

In her support role, Kelly is key to information flow and connection across the business, and her varied experience helps her to be able to work closely with employees of all specialities and at all stages of their career.

“Although it’s not essential, I think it helps if you have a depth of agency experience in a role like this because agents are more likely to respect your opinion if you have a good understanding of what might work for them or what might be useful,” she said.

“The agents I work with know I understand their role, the pressure they are under and the challenges they face daily. I have empathy, which is really important when it comes to building relationships and trust.”
Kelly’s top tips for real estate success

Kelly’s tips for success as a professional working in an agency support role, are simple:

  • Be willing, able and available to listen
  • Have a genuine interest in helping people to achieve their goals
  • Provide support and encouragement 
  • Take action when someone asks you to do something or says they need something

According to Kelly, all of these are key for building strong relationships based on trust and respect, which will help establish a workplace environment where agents, and the business, can develop and thrive.

“If you love the real estate industry, then you want to do everything you can to make it great, and share that with others – and that’s the opportunity an agency services role offers. I really care about what I do. I pride myself on customer service, which is essential if you want to be successful in a support role.”