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The Core of our Industry "PURPOSE"

16 February 2018

By John Cunningham, former REINSW President and Chair of the REIA Professionalism Committee (originally featured in Elite Agent)

Finding your Purpose leads you to formulate your Vision, Values and Behaviours

In this second part of the Industry Health check - read the first here - I am looking at our Core beliefs and investigate why I believe they are not strong enough to withstand the rapid rate of change that is upon us.

I will also look at specifically where this strength is lacking and what we need to focus on to turn that flabby weak core into a strong foundation upon which we can flourish. It is well known that every great achiever no matter the endeavour has one common trait and that is they have a clear purpose and the same thing applies in our industry.

The Purpose-Passion-Process-Performance philosophy is clearly at the Core of our Real Estate Industry achievers because we hear it at every conference time and time again but is it real or is it just window dressing? 

Do we really understand what Purpose is all about in a service Industry or are we just considering our own purpose? Putting the consumers interests first must become a non-negotiable.

At our core, we are a service industry and that means we are here to serve the interests of our principal: the people who pay for our services. And the most effective way to serve that purpose is to take care of our customers, the people who buy or lease the products owned by our principals. 

And that is our primary purpose, our CORE function, but do we individually and collectively have the guiding principles in place necessary for that outcome to be achieved and the answer in my view is that we do not. 

So, we must turn this around and put in place the ethical standards, culture and disciplines that ensure our strength of character is sound and place integrity and trust above everything else. It is then, and only then that we have the platform upon which everything else can be built. 

A true professional no matter the vocation has a set of core values; the guiding principles that apply to everything they do in their daily life, both personal and business. These values set up how they function and behave and determine the lines in the sand they do not cross. 

The best way they achieve this is by stepping into their consumer’s shoes and taking a good hard look at themselves from the consumer’s perspective. What impressions are they leaving, what impact are they having and what value are they adding?

We talk about this frequently in the Real Estate Industry but are we seeing the real picture? are we really stepping into their shoes or are we still seeing our own perspective and justifying our behaviours and performance accordingly? There is no better example of this than the recent Victorian Underquoting cases where alleged justifications for certain behaviours were all about a methodology for a means to an end that had become an Industry standard system regardless of whether it was right or wrong.

One thing I have never been able to understand is how many in our industry have failed to see the connection between the manner in which we perform and the longevity of our career. 

The greater the service and connection we provide, the greater our success; the greater the clarity of communication, the greater the confidence there is in our advice and the greater our integrity; the greater our reputation grows. It is fundamentally the simplest form of common sense and ethical business practices that leads to a trusted Advisor status for the person involved.

When Trust is in play it instils confidence in the consumer and that confidence creates engagement and commitment to your product and service offering.
To quote Mark McLeod “if an Industry loses connection it loses its future” and it is our future that is at stake.

There is no doubt in my mind that as an Industry we have lacked the moral fibre to collectively change our mind-set unless we are forced to by regulation and then when regulated spend all our time trying to find ways around that regulation… sounds like another definition of insanity to me. 

Why can’t we see the folly in this thinking? Why has it taken so long to see the error in our ways? and why are some still resisting the call for a uniform set of Professional standards for the Real Estate Industry? The answer lies in the way we judge success in this industry, we are so focused on the next deal, the quick gratification and the $ that we forget our true purpose. 

GCI appears to be the current god and being a competitive bunch, we strive for this goal, often at a huge personal and professional cost. Trails of destruction can be left in our wake, train wrecks and burnt bridges are the results of dissatisfied consumer experiences who may have got the result or secured the property but were left wanting by the manner in which it was achieved. 

As Chris Hanley says, “Good people doing good works is what I look for” and they are the ones who don’t leave trails of destruction, instead they leave a trail of advocates and that surely must be our preferred goal. And when you consider the Personal damage that comes in the form of no balance in family and work life, poor physical and mental health and poor business relations, either way it is not healthy for anyone.

Imagine a world where awards were given out based on Net Promotor Scores and client reviews that determine not only the efficiency of an agent but their effectiveness and their ability to connect and deliver.

Yes, we are seeing this happen and Ray White is leading the way along with sites like “RatemyAgent”, who are focusing on this space in a big way, but it is not common practice as yet. In my own business for example our major Quarterly awards are based on three principles:

Service to Clients, Service to Community and Service to Team along with the Top annual award being Team Champion as voted by our peers. Top performance is of course also acknowledged but it is not the main focus. There are a number of rating agencies out there with

REIWA adopting the “Real Satisfied” rating system for its Agent Finder platform and others are starting to gain some traction so change is in the wind.

So, what needs to change? what needs to happen for our purpose to become clear?

I believe the answer lies in Leadership, and in particular Empowering Leadership where we are Amplifying rather than Diminishing those that we lead and influence as nothing changes unless the leadership forges that positive change.

It comes from the leadership of the REI’s, the Franchise and Marketing Group Heads, Individual Business leaders, Industry Performers and influencers, Trainers, Coaches and Suppliers all making a conscious decision that we must take a different and far more progressive approach to our service offering. Until that happens we will remain a fragmented bunch of Silos all trying to outdo each other in the smoke and mirrors games we have been playing for years.

And whilst we continue to treat each other, our fellow practitioners so poorly and fail tocollaborate we will remain in the cycle of destructive behaviours that comes from a chronic lack of respect. Yes, Respect must be earned but at present it appears to have been a forgotten attribute in our Industry.  

To take this seriously we must find that common ground, that common purpose, that common set of guiding principles which will enable us to flourish in this ever changing, ever evolving world of Real Estate.

My call to you all is to discover, investigate and then embrace the Pathway to Professionalism Program that is been forged through the Real Estate Institute of Australia where a new set of standards is being drafted to elevate those who are willing to step up to the plate and commit to an evolution of our Industry into a Profession.

Once approved by the Professional Standards Councils of Australia, hopefully by the end of 2019 this will be one of only 17 official Government recognised schemes that operate in Australia. 

To forge the change, we want to re-imagine the way we behave rather than be responding constantly to threat of further innocuous regulation created due to the poor behaviours of unskilled poorly educated Agents creating havoc in the marketplace. We need to raise the standard of education and training and to change the perception of our Industry from being Dodgy Real Estate Agents to Trusted Property professionals. Yes, it is an ambitious goal and yes not everyone will be capable of meeting the requirements but that is the whole point.

If you want to be taken seriously and want to a proud property professional then this is for you but if you want to stay in your comfort zone, play it safe with the perception of the status- quo then this is not for you.

This program will probably be the biggest game changer the Industry has ever seen and it will polarise a lot of people and as a result we will all have to make a choice, to be in or out? 

So, to sum up we are not rotten to the core but we are operating on a very weak Core but like all things it is fixable which will require a rigorous training and fitness regime to get the strength back to enable our future to be built on strong foundations.  

For more information on the Pathway to Professionalism visit or

Read part one 'time for a health check' here, and part three 'focus on the customer, not your ego' here.