24 May 2019

CBRE's Toby Silk proves hard work wins out

For Toby Silk, Manager of CBRE’s Capital Markets, Metropolitan Investments & Development Site Sales specialising in Sydney’s North Shore, grit and a willingness to learn are at the core of his success in the commercial property industry.

We caught up with him to chat about how he got into commercial property and why he loves it so much...

Did you always want to work in the commercial property industry?

I have to admit, when I was in high school, I didn’t really have a clear idea about what I wanted to do with my life. My father was working for JLL at the time and then went on to work for the government as a property consultant. I sat down with him and had a chat about what he did. It sounded interesting and we worked out what I needed to do to work towards a career in the same field; what I needed to achieve in the HSC to get into the right university course. It gave me something to aim for.

It worked – and I ended up completing a Bachelor of Property Economics at UTS. During my final year, I also worked with a development management company that was completing a Green Star set up for a conference centre.

When I finished university, I took a year off to travel. It gave me time to think about the sorts of positions I wanted to apply for and how I could best apply my degree to my future career. My first role was with a commercial real estate agency on Sydney’s North Shore – and I loved it. That was eight years ago and I haven’t looked back.

It was an interesting experience stepping out of university and into the workforce. I realised how much I didn’t know! It was a huge learning curve. While university gave me technical knowledge, I really had no idea about the business world. I quickly built a strong respect for those working in the commercial property industry and realised it was the perfect fit for me.

I love the fact that the commercial property industry is such a challenge. There are complexities that you face every single day, and the variety of work really energises me and keeps me on my toes. I also like the numbers side of things and the fact that I’m always learning something new.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

There’s no better feeling than working on a deal and then seeing it close. Nothing compares to achieving a great outcome for your client.

Traditionally, commercial transactions have taken longer. But recently, we’ve been implementing a model more akin to residential where our auction campaigns range from 28 to 35 days. We’ve found that we can still provide the same level of service and achieve optimal results. At CBRE, we share buyers across our business, which means we can cover off on potential interest in the first week of a campaign. Then, in the following weeks, we qualify them.

At the end of the day when the seller is happy, the buyer is happy and I’m happy, that feeling is priceless.

What are the key skills needed to be successful in your job?

It’s easy to rattle off a list of skills, but I don’t think that gets to the heart of it. For me, it’s deeper than that. It’s about having the right attitude.

In essence, it’s about having grit and a willingness to learn. If you have these, you can learn the other skills you need to be successful in real estate. But without them, you can find yourself floundering.

You also need to align yourself with good people. Find a mentor or high-performing agent to work with. Someone you can bounce ideas off and work with to continually improve yourself and your business.

Who do you look up to in the real estate industry and why?

There are lots of people I’ve looked to over the last eight years for inspiration and motivation. I always look to high performers. Whether they’re in commercial or residential real estate, or some other business area, I’m inspired by people who have perfected their craft, and have systems and procedures in place to allow them to operate at the top of their game.

There’s always something new to learn, and I strive to learn everything I can from high-performers and then implement it into my own business. For me, it’s about looking at the best in the business, examining the systems and procedures they have in place and then implementing them into my own business.

These days, it’s not enough just to benchmark yourself against people in your own industry. You have to look beyond. Yes, it’s important to understand how your performance compares to other individuals and agencies in your sector – but how do you compare to the best in other industries? Looking to other industries is a source of great inspiration for me. It’s how you can separate yourself from the pack and stay ahead of the curve.

What’s the most interesting transaction you’ve been involved in?

One that comes to mind is an amalgamated development site located just 60 metres from Collaroy Beach, with existing improvements including a large youth hostel and apartment block. I’d been talking to the owner for two years, because I recognised the potential of the site as a beach-side development. But he was adamant that he would never sell the property.

Eventually, I was able to convince him to consider selling, which led to a very competitive pitch against other local agencies. We were able to demonstrate that our 1000-plus strong buyer database would drive competition and, in turn, achieve the strongest result possible.

We put a huge amount of effort into the campaign and, by the end, had close to 300 enquiries, 50 inspections, 31 contact requests and 16 offers. The property sold for a record price of $14,750,000. After the sale was finalised, I took the opportunity to leverage the transaction by ensuring the market was aware of the result we achieved.

This sale was a huge turning point for our metropolitan investments business and led to my team being appointed for many similar transactions since.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Last year, I won a CBRE Circle of Excellence Award, which recognises standout performers from each business line across Australia and New Zealand. It was a huge honour, because it’s decided by CBRE’s Executive Committee. They took us all out to dinner, and it was a great way to meet other high-performing agents and rub shoulders with the best in the industry.

I was also really honoured to be announced as a finalist in the Commercial Salesperson category at last year’s REINSW Awards for Excellence.

Is there a phrase that resonates with you?

“Hustle beats talent when talent doesn’t hustle.”

A talented person who doesn’t work hard will never reach their potential. But the person who works hard will always win because they’re learning and crafting their skills every day.

Another good quote along the same lines is from Abraham Lincoln: “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle”. For me, it’s all about working hard to achieve your goals.

What’s the best advice you would give to your younger self?

Be proud of what you do and don’t be concerned about what others think. Commit yourself to your career 100 per cent from day one and always work on improving yourself. And concentrate on your strengths and work with people whose strengths are your weaknesses. That’s it in a nutshell.

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