Taking a different direction

23 August 2021

By HEDGIE GUNDRY

When Kylie Maxwell stumbled into her first real estate job in 1992, she never thought it would ultimately shape her life path and the rewarding career she has created today. For 30 years, Kylie and her husband and business partner, Jason Maxwell, have been a force to be reckoned with in the Queanbeyan real estate market.

Having transformed LJ Hooker Queanbeyan into the number one local agency and being awarded LJ Hooker NSW Franchise Owners of the Year in 2018, Kylie and Jason have recently sold their market-leading business to White Rhino Property, which is based in Canberra.

“We built up an attractive agency and White Rhino Property made us an offer out of the blue,” Kylie said. “We are the second White Rhino office in the Canberra and Queanbeyan region, and the whole team has remained in place. The transition has been extremely smooth, and it's been a win-win for everyone.”

“I also don't accept any negativity. I actively promote the opposite and lead from the top. There are positive memes everywhere in the office and we make team wellness a priority.”

Entrepreneurs at heart

The sale of LJ Hooker Queanbeyan is not the first time Kylie and Jason have acquired and sold agencies. In the mid-90s, they bought into Jason's family business, Maxwell and Co Real Estate, and purchased it outright in 2007. Then, in 2013, they merged with LJ Hooker Queanbeyan when Kylie took a career break. When she returned in 2014 as Director and Head of Property Management, she knew she had her work cut out.

“The culture had become very negative; morale was low and many of the systems and procedures I had put into place within our extremely efficient Maxwell and Co business had all but disappeared,” Kylie said. “Mergers can be notoriously difficult when aligning two businesses with different visions and cultures. I had to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch.”

For two years, Kylie and Jason worked tirelessly to re-build the business and its reputation and finally bought the LJ Hooker franchise in 2016.

“We were putting so much time and effort into building the business, with minimal shares as owners,” Kylie said. “So, we asked ourselves, do we walk or do we buy? Not being quitters, we did the latter. And the rest is history.

“Today, as White Rhino Property, we continue to work alongside the new owners to make the agency the best it can be and are focused on claiming further market share.”

Positive leadership

So what's been the secret to Kylie’s success?

According to Kylie, it’s all about positive and empowering leadership.

“When I came back into the business, I knew we had to invest in our culture, training and community engagement,” she said. “Leadership and direction for any successful agency are so important.

“I'm a self-taught leader and, over the years, developing my leadership style has been an important learning curve. Completing the Transform Masters with Elite Agent in 2017 – an intense 12-week leadership program led by some of the best in the industry – was one of the pivotal points in my career. It changed my mindset on leadership, and how to deal with our team and our business metrics.

“From that point on, there was a positive shift in our culture.”

With a cohesive and established team of five property managers, two sales agents and one admin person, Kylie credits her strong retention rate to her positive and intuitive leadership style.

“I'm very supportive, but I encourage my team to be pushed out of their comfort zone and learn from their mistakes,” she said. “And, if they do make a mistake, they can come and tell me about it. They know I've got their back, and we'll work through any issues together. This trust creates enormous levels of confidence and openness in our team.

“I don't accept any negativity. I actively promote the opposite and lead from the top. There are positive memes everywhere in the office and we make team wellness a priority. We close our office for one hour at lunchtime and everyone must leave the office. And we do not require our property managers to work after hours or weekends.

“Our training extends beyond your average CPD checklist to include sessions on health, mindset and positive, inspirational stories. It’s about taking a holistic approach.

“We spend so much time together with our colleagues, so work needs to have a good vibe and be a place where you want to come every day. And you need to be able to switch off when you get home.

“We now have a very positive culture where we believe we can tackle anything the day throws at us.”

“We don't worry about our competition. We’re just us – and we do what we need to. If you know your craft and you’re honest, everything else falls into place.”

Stickler for process

Kylie is also a stickler for processes and procedures and the impact on the business is overwhelmingly positive.

“Everybody needs to be rowing the boat in the same direction; if not, it leads to disaster,” she explained. “You all need to support each other as a team and pick up work smoothly where you need to. We also work to KPIs, so we all know where we're going and what standards to adhere to.

“This focus on detail has given our business an excellent reputation in the local area. We don't miss anything. We don't miss lease renewals or rental increases, for example. We have proactive, rather than reactive, phone calls with our clients, rather than communicating via email, which is important as well.”

Community and integrity

Kylie's team all live locally and she’s very conscious of them all being upstanding members of the community.

“Most of our business is from word-of-mouth referrals, because people know us and they know our team,” she said. “We partner with the local schools, shows and sporting groups, and get involved in community events, not necessarily under our business name, but because we want to.

“We’re just honest, down-to-earth people and integrity is fundamental to us. We do what we say we’re going to do and we’re very transparent with our clients.

“We don't worry about our competition. We’re just us – and we do what we need to. If you know your craft and you’re honest, everything else falls into place.”

The future

So as Kylie enters the next phase in her real estate career, what advice would she give to other agency owners?

“If you're thinking of selling, it’s essential to do so when you’re still fresh and passionate about what you do,” she explained. “Don’t try to sell when you’re tired and exhausted, and you’ve run the business into the ground. This is when you lose your best people and your proposition becomes less attractive,

“Jason and I still love what we do. He will continue as a high-performing sales agent in the area, and I will head up operations working with the new owners in the short term. Being a valued part of the White Rhino team means we can enjoy having less responsibility, as we're not the business owners.

“I also do a lot of coaching, mentoring and training with other agencies within the industry, so I’m also hoping to pursue this even further with my new business, launching later in the year called Go To Real Estate Consulting.

“So the future is exciting.”

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