Power of positivity

8 July 2021


With a career spanning more than 20 years across the commercial, industrial and retail sectors, it’s not surprising that Paul Craig, CEO of Savills Australia and New Zealand, has experienced both exhilarating highs and shocking lows. Here he shares his advice about finding the positive in every situation.

“Over the course of my career, I’ve experienced interest rates when they were nearing 20 per cent, the Global Financial Crisis, some terrible natural disasters and, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic,” Paul Craig, CEO of Savills Australia and New Zealand, said. “But, no matter the circumstance or challenge, I always look for the positive and use that to drive towards a solution.

“Having a true passion for property has certainly helped me along the way and having navigated a number of different market cycles has given me the experience and foresight to help propel Savills to our next growth phase.”

Paul was appointed as CEO of Savills in 2016 and, in his role, is involved in all aspects of the business across the commercial and residential sectors including strategic advice, transacting deals, as well as managing assets and projects. Prior to being appointed as CEO, Paul was the Head of Cross Border Investments and Managing Director of Savills Western Australia and Capital Transactions for 15 years.

Paul continues to be an actively engaged agent and, since 2006, he has been directly involved in the sale of more than $5 billion worth of property, focusing on overseas, institutional, private equity and equity funds for inflows both into and out of Australia.

“Having a true passion for property has certainly helped me along the way and having navigated a number of different market cycles has given me the experience and foresight to help propel Savills to our next growth phase.”

Ready for rapid evolution

As we all look to move forward from the pandemic curveball 2020 threw our way, Paul said he can see room for growth and is poised to implement fresh and innovative ways of working across the business.

“As we all know, the past 12 months have demonstrated to us all that the real estate market is a rapidly evolving space,” he said. “We need to be able to adapt quickly to the ever-changing landscape, our clients’ shifting priorities and think outside the square.

“For businesses to succeed, they must have the right people, tools and strategy in place to ensure they stay ahead of the curve. That’s where my focus is at the moment; to ensure Savills is at the forefront of the changing environment.”

Having been a Savills Cross Border representative for Australia for many years, Paul said he has seen many overseas examples of the positive impact great ideas and innovation can have on a business, and he’s passionate about applying what he’s learnt for the benefit of Savills in Australia.

“When you see different ways of doing things overseas, it definitely opens you up to thinking differently,” he explained.

“One of the key pillars of our growth strategy at Savills is ‘thinking big and being innovative’. We’re always seeking to trial and adopt new and exciting solutions that have been developed by start-ups and entrepreneurs, alongside our existing long-term relationships with leading service providers in our industry. By having this approach, we ensure we’re staying at the top of our game and are able to deliver the best experience and outcomes for our clients, while also building strong and successful teams.”

Investing in innovation

As a leader, Paul said that one of the most rewarding parts of his role is seeing his team grow and develop professionally and personally, and he fosters this by supporting innovative thinking and business practices.

“I believe that in order to create a successful and resilient business, it’s critical to engender a culture of innovation,” he explained. “Our culture at Savills encourages free-thinking and we recognise that what we’re capable of achieving as a business all comes from our people.

“We have a relatively young team at Savills, so it’s particularly important to me to nurture and encourage their natural drive and equip our teams with the right technology, connectivity and development opportunities to thrive.

“We have a number of initiatives in place to encourage ongoing learning including the Savills University, which offers courses on leadership, mentoring and effective communication. There’s also our Engage and Empower program, which is a global offering for emerging leaders and fledgling professionals. This program aims to provide participants with the opportunity to learn, network and collaborate on a wide range of topics including influencing, leadership, coaching and pipeline thinking.

“These initiatives are designed to help our people shine and achieve beyond their expectations.

“On a personal level, I’m so proud to be part of a business that is ensuring the next generation are prepared and informed to succeed in a fast-paced and constantly changing world.”

“For businesses to succeed, they must have the right people, tools and strategy in place to ensure they stay ahead of the curve. That’s where my focus is at the moment; to ensure Savills is at the forefront of the changing environment.”

Positive culture

Paul is passionate about maintaining a vibrant and positive culture across the business, because he sees how it influences widespread success.

“The saying ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ couldn’t be more relevant for our industry,” he said. “Real estate is a service industry and our strategy needs to be flexible to constantly adapt to our clients’ needs. Of course, it’s vital to have an overarching strategy, but we need to remain agile to respond to the needs of our clients.

“I truly believe that a good culture makes anything possible, because a team that works well together also wins together and that benefits our clients.

“I’m so proud of our flat structure and having this contemporary approach makes us more accountable to our shareholders and our own sense of integrity.”

Community minded

Savills strives to uphold its reputation as a socially responsible organisation and, under Paul’s leadership, the business is committed to supporting local community initiatives.

“Savills works with Good360 Australia, which connects brand new goods with the individuals and communities that need them,” Paul explained. “This vital service has made a particularly positive impact during the recent bushfires and droughts.

“As a business, we have a strong commitment to supporting the community and we continually see this come through in the generosity of our people. Last year, we raised $43,500 for the Bushfire Appeal to assist in the disaster relief efforts and, more recently, our NSW Industrial team in Parramatta shaved their heads to raise $36,000 for the World’s Greatest Shave to support the 110,000 Australians living with blood cancer or related disorders.

“In addition, all employees have two paid charity leave days per year, so they can volunteer with a nominated charity that’s close to their heart.

“We’re all so lucky to live in a vibrant and thriving country, so it’s important to me on a personal level to be giving back to the community as much as possible.

“This is a value that’s shared by Savills and all our people.”

Paul’s career tips

  1. Remember your relationships
    First and foremost, success in this industry is about relationships. Be visible, be real, be honest and be yourself.
  2. Live and breathe your market
    You need to be knowledgeable about all aspects of your market, so you can truly understand the needs and drivers of your clients. You never know what a client is going to ask you, so be prepared.
  3. Communication is key
    It’s important to be both a good communicator and a great listener. You need to be able to communicate and empathise with individuals from wide-ranging and diverse backgrounds – varying from corporate tenants, contractors, visitors to the property and regulatory bodies.
  4. Prepare for the unexpected
    One of the best things about this industry is that no two days are ever the same, but this also means that you need to be flexible, resilient and prepared to deal with whatever comes your way.
  5. Ongoing education
    The property industry and regulations are always changing, so you must stay across these changes and be prepared to implement new ways of doing things. As part of this, I believe it’s also important to be comfortable and never embarrassed if you don’t have an answer immediately to a question from a client. If you aren’t sure, let them know you’ll come back to them with an answer and ensure you always follow up.

Why I love real estate

“Put simply, I love interacting with people and the entire property industry is essentially a ‘people business’.

“To be successful requires a personal approach in order to build strong relationships with clients and I love understanding our clients’ needs and businesses to deliver meaningful outcomes. And I really enjoy that my role gives me the chance to work with enthusiastic and creative colleagues to make Savills the best it can be.

“The diverse range of skill sets, career paths, and professional and personal fulfillment that comes from working in the property industry is very exciting – and, even after more than 20 years, I still learn something new every day. It’s so fulfilling and satisfying to me. This was something I particularly noticed last year during the pandemic, when we all had to unlearn and relearn many things, no matter how experienced we were at our craft.

“One of the things that gets me out of bed in the morning is the fact I get to run a business that encourages free thinking, an entrepreneurial approach with a focus on performance-based outcomes and bringing out the best in people. I get to enable the growth and development of our diverse and talented people.

“I love watching the teams and individuals excel way beyond their own expectations and do extraordinary things, seeing their commitment and discipline pay off is an absolute delight.”

Leadership insights

As well as his plans to grow the business and increase diversity and gender equality, Paul said one of his main priorities over the next few years is to help the next generation of leaders thrive.

“At the start of my career, the best advice I was given was: ‘Before you’re a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.’ It’s advice that still resonates with me today and I’m focused on empowering others to achieve their goals.

“I believe you have to lead by example, and be visible and active. For me, this means being both a player and coach to really stay connected to the business, understand clients and colleagues. I remain fully engaged as a property agent, actively participating in sales campaigns, as well as managing the business.

“I’ve learnt through experience that investing in our people will lead to greater work satisfaction and fulfillment, which in turn delivers better results for our clients. I know we’re nothing without our people, so we invest a lot of time in encouraging staff to be leaders in their own space. I try to instill an entrepreneurial spirit and ambition for continued growth within every one of our employees.”

Paul said he believes an important part of being a leader is creating an environment where people can thrive. As part of this, four key cultural values were introduced into the business plan four years ago: think about customers first, respect each other, team before self, and be courageously honest, committed and accountable.

“Having these values as part of the business plan keeps them front of mind for everyone and means these values inform every aspect of what we do,” he added.

“Flexibility and trust are also important foundations that lead to a positive culture where team members feel empowered.

“And, when it’s all firing, you have teams who are delivering great results for clients, and developing personally and professionally – it’s incredible to see.

“When that happens, it’s vital that you take the time to acknowledge and celebrate their success.”

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