By HEDGIE GUNDRY
The team at SJ Shooter Real Estate in Dubbo have taken their vibrant independent agencies from a small bedroom office to being a leading regional agency in just five years.
For more than 12 years, Samuel Shooter ran his own music tutoring business before deciding to embark on a new career in real estate. He was grateful for the start he was given at a agency office, but his previous success as a business owner helped him decide to go out by himself.
“I launched from a bedroom in our home, full of hopes and ignorant bliss,” he said. “I wanted to do things a little bit differently and I knew my love for working with people would be a great fit for a real estate business.”
With a career in child protection and social housing, Laura Shooter hadn’t planned to join her husband Samuel in his new venture, but ended up helping him out during her maternity leave. She soon discovered a natural aptitude for business and from there, Samuel and Laura have built a strong and successful working relationship.
“It’s been a very natural transition,” Samuel said. “When we were starting out, my sentences would start with things like: ‘imagine if’ or ‘what about’ or ‘let’s create this!’ And Laura would always say, ‘that’s great, but how are we going to measure it and what’s the purpose?’
“And that’s how we work well together, like different sides of the same coin.”
Success through purpose
With 10 staff and a growing market share in Dubbo and the surrounding suburbs, how have the SJ Shooter team been so successful in such a relatively short period of time? For Samuel and Laura, it’s always been about values.
“When we started out, we had no money, street presence, clients or reputation. So we decided to build our real estate agency on our aspirational values of professionalism, integrity, care and results,” Samuel said.
“Once we’d developed our own brand personality, we went back and updated these values to reflect more of who we had become. They're now community, integrity, generosity, innovation, joy and results. We have also developed an overarching purpose which is: ‘to be known for leaving people better than we found them’,” Laura added.
“This purpose applies to how we treat everyone, and it’s been a real joy to see the smiles on people's faces when we exceed their expectations. We've even had five-star reviews from people who didn't get a property they applied for, because they were just so happy with how they were treated during the process.”
“When we started out, we had no money, street presence, clients or reputation. So we decided to build our real estate agency on our aspirational values of professionalism, integrity, care and results.” – Samuel Shooter
Samuel and Laura also attribute the agency’s success to their team’s start-up mindset.
“In the beginning, we were nimble,” Samuel said. “We moved quickly to take on projects or develop new processes that we saw as advantageous. And we’re still very proactive and always looking for new opportunities.
“This start-up mentality also means we get excited about our achievements, however large or small,” Laura added. “The first thing we do every morning is hold a five-minute team meeting where we celebrate the wins from the previous day or the lessons learnt. There’s a lot of collaboration and cohesion between sales and property management. There’s no ‘them and us’ mentality, which is reinforced by our open-plan office.
“We’re one team and we all support each other.”
Innovation and resilience
In early 2018, the agency started to integrate 3D technology and virtual tours into the business.
“Even though 3D technology wasn’t being widely used in regional markets at that stage, we saw it as a way to better serve our clients by providing a visually amazing experience for our buyers and also standing out in our marketing.” Samuel said.
Not only has this technology improved the agency’s customer experience, but it has also helped the team improve internal efficiencies.
“Our team can now handle the whole marketing process in-house,” Laura explained. “We can visit a property, complete a 3D-capture ourselves and all the professional photos are created through this process.
“This technology has also given us a greater competitor advantage than we could have predicted. Once COVID-19 hit, we didn't have to rapidly change our business model, as we already had this remote technology in place.”
During the pandemic, SJ Shooter also helped other local organisations go virtual by capturing 3D tours at the local museum, a display home and retirement village.
“We obviously want to grow our market share and add the right people to our team. But we’re also determined to learn from leaders and innovators within our industry.” – Laura Shooter
Extension of heart
Not surprisingly for an agency built on values, SJ Shooter has significant community involvement.
“There's a really natural connection between real estate and community work and it's been quite a joy for me to realise that over the last few years,” Laura said. “We truly want our local community to prosper and we want to give back. It also gives our work at SJ Shooter more meaning and it’s so rewarding for our team to be involved in this way.”
The agency sponsors local soccer teams, calls charity auctions and gives blood regularly. Samuel and Laura also jumped on board recently with Tradies in Sight, a local organisation dedicated to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of tradies in regional New South Wales.
“I was involved with my local community throughout my upbringing,” Samuel said. “As a pastor's kid, we were always helping and doing what we could. Our community support is just a natural extension of our heart and we love seeing other people do well.”
Winning the Real Estate Agency – Small category at the 2020 REINSW Awards for Excellence was a huge highlight for the dynamic young agency.
“We had never entered an industry award before, so it was absolutely thrilling to be finalists,” Laura said. “And to win this category was so exciting, because it represents the contribution of our whole team. I think we're still on a bit of a high from it all.
“We were so stoked to win this award, as it confirms that what we’re doing works and the industry also thinks it works,” Samuel added. “It’s pretty exciting and we can’t wait to represent New South Wales at the National Awards later on this year.”
So what does the future hold for SJ Shooter?
“We feel like we've graduated from start-up to established agency and are now focused on continual improvement,” Laura said. “We obviously want to grow our market share and add the right people to our team. But we’re also determined to learn from leaders and innovators within our industry.
Samuel added: “The market is currently full of opportunity and the regions are now in a better position than they have ever been. Of the last 25 properties we’ve sold, 21 had an offer accepted before they were advertised online and we expect this trend to continue into 2021. There are various driving factors for this, including an increase in regional migration due to COVID-19, and our outlook for the next 12 to 24 months is looking really positive.”