Q&A: Ray of Sunshine

8 November 2021

By HEDGIE GUNDRY

Winner of the Business Development Manager category at both the 2020 REINSW Awards for Excellence and the 2021 REIA National Awards for Excellence, the outgoing, driven and super-talented Madeline Freemantle from Leah Jay is a ray of property management sunshine.

How long have you been in the real estate industry?

I fell into real estate by accident. When I was 20, I secured a receptionist position with Nokia and decided to move to Bondi. I was looking for somewhere to rent. This was back in the day when you could simply leave a $50 deposit and your driver's licence with the agent, and they would give you a bunch of keys and a map and off you went.

I was wandering around Bondi looking at a few properties, when a property manager called me to get hold of one of the sets of keys that I had. He came to pick them up and offered to give me a lift back to the office. When he found out I was a receptionist, he said their office desperately needed one. I didn't think anything of it, because I'd just secured my role with Nokia. But he was very persistent that I meet his Office Manager, Kathy. She asked me to do a trial day and I thought to myself, “wouldn’t it be great to live and work in Bondi – I could walk to work!”

I did the trial day, loved it and landed the reception role. This later turned into a marketing role, and marketing turned into directly assisting a sales agent, and then, ultimately, I moved into office management.

And here I am all these years later, in an industry I absolutely love.

How long have you been at Leah Jay?

This is my fourth year with Leah Jay, based in the Newcastle office. I'm very happy generating new business and I don't see myself anywhere else.

Leah Jay was founded almost 30 years ago by husband-and-wife team Leah and Geoff Jay, and we specialise in property management. It's an incredible company based on family values, with great workplace flexibility.

We’ve always had access to remote, cloud-based technologies to allow us to work from home and even went completely paperless over two years ago. When COVID-19 first hit, we simply unplugged our Microsoft Surfaces and all went home – whereas I know a lot of real estate agencies were caught by surprise.

“I thrive when using my people skills, building trust and rapport quickly, talking to people about their needs and problem-solving through a process.”

Why did you choose to specialise as a Business Development Manager?

The choice was made for me, to be honest, simply because I had a strong background in sales. It made more sense for me to be winning business for the company, rather than sitting on a portfolio and I enjoy it so much more.

I joined Leah Jay after being in the fast-paced Sydney sales environment, and business development really suits my personality. I thrive when using my people skills, building trust and rapport quickly, talking to people about their needs and problem-solving through a process. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Real estate is the perfect career for someone with a confident and outgoing personality. You can flex so many muscles and no two days are ever the same.

It can be hugely challenging, but I love problem-solving. I love meeting people from all walks of life, understanding their needs and helping them go further and achieve their goals. Relationship building is a significant part of my role. It's fantastic.

Leah Jay is really invested in helping people facing genuine hardship and I also love this side to my role. As the saying goes: “If you do something you love, you never work a day in your life.” And it's true for me. I've found what I love to do. Even if I won lotto, I assure you that I’d still be happy doing this job, every day.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

It would have to be winning the Business Development Manager categories at the 2020 REINSW Awards for Excellence and the 2021 REIA National Awards for Excellence. It’s always been a dream of mine to win an REINSW award, so winning the two was amazing. When I was named a finalist for the REINSW Awards for Excellence, it was such an honour – I felt like I'd already won. So winning was next level!

When I had a shot at the REIA National Awards for Excellence, I didn't think I'd win. Due to COVID-19 and the restrictions in place at the time, I couldn’t travel to Darwin to attend the event in person, so I was watching it live on Facebook. When they announced me as the winner, I honestly screamed! I was speechless. It took two weeks to sink in. So many people who I’d worked with over the years reached out to congratulate me. Anyone in real estate knows how important these awards are. It's like winning an Oscar for our industry. It is the highest accolade.

“I love meeting people from all walks of life, understanding their needs and helping them go further and achieve their goals. Relationship building is a significant part of my role. It's fantastic.”

What are your goals for the next 12 months?

I’d like to give back in some way within the training space. I have so many tools in my business development tool belt and I’d like to share these with ambitious young people in the industry. I already do quite a bit of training at Leah Jay, so I'm keen to pull this all together into a possible podcast or something similar.

When you're not at work, how do you like to spend your time?

I'm happy to admit that I'm a social butterfly, which hasn't been easy during COVID-19 restrictions. My husband hates it, but I often have our weekends booked out for weeks in advance. We don’t have children, so we love catching up with friends and their kids, and our niece and nephew.

I also love camping. There's no phone reception and it forces me to switch off. And I've recently started taking an interest in gardening and I’m trying to establish a large cactus garden. I think we've got the wrong soil for it to really flourish, but I love it!

Is there a phrase you live by?

There is, but it's a bit strange: “If not in this lifetime, then in the next”.

For me, this phrase means: Don't sweat the small stuff and take care of yourself. I could work, work, work, but I have to turn off sometimes. I think our mental health is something we all have to look after right now.

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