He’s helped grow some of the most recognisable real estate brands. But it was the years he spent working in the cruise line industry that laid the foundation for Mark Morrison’s pathway to become the real estate industry leader he is today.
With family ties to real estate, Mark grew up with a keen interest in the industry and this interest was nurtured with opportunities to get hands-on experience during his school holidays.
After finishing school, he took a job with Elders in Mudgee, where he discovered a passion for auctioneering. All signs pointed to the fact that Mark was on a trajectory for a bright future in the real estate industry.
“It was a family thing,” Mark explained of why he was initially drawn to real estate.
“I was probably destined to work in the industry. My uncle had an agency in Parramatta and, while working as a stock and station agent at Elders, I discovered how much I enjoyed the auction side of things.
“But I was still very young and, after working for a few years, realised I wanted to travel and see the world.”
Learning to lead
Combining a strong work ethic, business degree and passion for travel, Mark spent the next 20 years working overseas in the cruise line industry. It was a far cry from working in rural real estate, but the change and challenge was exactly what he was looking for.
Mark lived and worked on ships for a decade and was then based in Miami, where he honed his management style and developed a deep understanding of service excellence.
Mark said that this time spent working with brands like Royal Caribbean Cruises and Disney Cruise Lines, with responsibility for more than 30 ships at any one time, was a rich training ground and shaped his leadership style.
“It’s a completely different world, like nothing I’d ever experienced before,” he said of working on a cruise ship. “Working with Disney Cruises was a great training ground. They really focused on training and I learnt a lot about leadership. For me, being a leader is about being ‘hands on’ and being able to engage and motivate everyone in the team to be their best.”
Though it’s not for everyone, Mark said gaining experience outside the real estate industry was important for his personal and professional development. Working internationally exposed Mark to a range of management styles in action and provided a wealth of opportunities for training and learning, which have all informed how he leads today.
When Mark returned to Australia with his young family, a move back to the real estate industry was not in his plans. However, not long after reconnecting with friends in the industry, he realised the passion was still there and joined McGrath Estate Agents.
“It was an exciting time of growth for the McGrath network,” Mark recalled. “When I started with them there were eight offices. I was part of the expansion into the ACT and also set up the network in Queensland before becoming State Manager for that territory. In my nine years with the company, we grew to about 60 offices.”
Mark then became CEO at Harcourts NSW in 2014, where his focus was on driving internal growth through mentoring business owners and recruiting across New South Wales.
“During my time with Harcourts, the New South Wales network doubled,” he said. “There were 20 offices when I joined the franchise five years ago and now there are 40. Sales and property management growth has also been impressive in this time.
“The growth the network has achieved – and indeed my role in making that happen – is something of which I’m incredibly proud.”
Even more so, Mark is proud of the work he’s done with agency owners in the Harcourts NSW network.
“I’ve always made it a priority to work closely with agency owners,” he explained. “Together, we build yearly plans, which are updated quarterly. This helps everyone stay on track. It helps them with their top line, but, more importantly, with their bottom line.
“Working with them and supporting them has been critical and has resulted in our shared success.”
Creating a culture of giving
For Mark, an essential part of being a good leader involves contributing to the community.
“I like giving back and I think it’s really important,” he explained. “In general, there are plenty of things you can do easily that will make a positive impact on the community. By using your skill set to make a difference, giving back doesn’t have to be hard work.”
As an auctioneer, Mark has helped raise millions of dollars through charity auctions and believes there’s no better way to gain experience with the gavel.
“It’s a two-way street. When you’re just starting out as an auctioneer, you can learn via charity auctions. It doesn’t take a lot of your time, but it makes a big difference to the community – and you feel good!”
Over the years, Mark has also been involved in much bigger charity projects through his involvement with the Harcourts Foundation, including a 1700 kilometre bike ride from Adelaide to Uluru. The ride raised thousands for cancer research as part of the Smiling for Smiddy cycling challenge in memory of Adam Smiddy, who died from an aggressive form of cancer at the age of 26.
“That was a great challenge to be part of,” Mark said. “Cancer affects all of us, so it was great to be raising money for such a worthy cause – and the nine-day ride was an incredibly rewarding experience for me personally.”
Through the Harcourts Foundation, Mark has also raised money for and participated in the Walk A Mile In Their Shoes charity walk. The event sees men donning high heels to walk a route to raise awareness of the impact of violence against women.
“I’ve always sympathised with women who walk for hours on end in high heels, but after participating in this event over the last few years, I can now empathise,” he said.
“I’m extremely proud to participate. Having two daughters myself, I’m a strong believer that we must raise awareness at a grassroots level to educate young people that domestic violence is not acceptable.”
Mark has also raised much needed funds to support the Little Wings Flight Program, which provides flights and ground transportation to seriously ill children and their family from rural New South Wales to the Children’s Hospital in Sydney.
“I think generally, the real estate industry is very generous with time and money when it comes to supporting the community and I am really proud of that,” Mark said.
“Most agents are very community minded and I think it’s something we need to acknowledge and celebrate so that this culture of giving continues to be seen as valuable and important by new agents who enter the industry.”
Looking for a new challenge, Mark recently announced his resignation from Harcourts to launch a new real estate business venture.
“I can’t say a lot about it yet,” Mark said. “But I want to create a new model of business that gives agents both support and freedom, so they can enjoy the rewards of running their own business without getting overwhelmed by the huge challenges inherent in starting your own agency.
“I’m committed to this industry and want to help agents achieve their goals. For me, offering a model that makes support, mentoring, success and financial reward more accessible to more agents is a big step forward for the industry.
“Watch this space for what’s next!”
“For me, being a leader is about being ‘hands on’ and being able to engage and motivate everyone in the team to be their best.”
“There are plenty of things you can do easily that will make a positive impact on the community. By using your skill set to make a difference, giving back doesn’t have to be hard work.”
“For me, offering a model that makes support, mentoring, success and financial reward more accessible to more agents is a big step forward for the industry.”