LEADER -- The making of McGrath

McGrath Estate Agents founder John McGrath tells Real Estate Business' Jessica Darnbrough that it takes good branding, good staff and gut instincts to build a successful business.

At 46, John McGrath is arguably one of Australia's best known and most influential property industry figures. leader

The founder and chief executive of McGrath Estate Agents - whose achievements include a lifetime achievement award for outstanding contribution to the real estate industry - has turned a humble one-man business into a multi-billion dollar franchise that last financial year collectively accounted for more than $5 billion in residential property sales.

It's an impressive track record, but McGrath's sights are set even higher.

With a network of 35 offices and one new McGrath Estate Agents office on average opening each month, McGrath has ambitious plans to expand his network to over 100 offices across Australia and abroad, including Indonesia, over the next 2 to 3 years.

"We are right in the middle of a dramatic growth phase," says McGrath, although he claims not to be interested in growth for growth's sake.

"I would not open an office in a community unless I believed that there was a high calibre principal to run the operation at the grass roots."

McGrath says good quality staff are the secret to his success. In fact, he says any business that hires high calibre people can expect to be successful.

According to McGrath, the company invests "a significant amount" of time, money and energy in recruitment, training and culture, based on the view that in business, "people are the differentiator".

"Rarely does technology play a role in how successful a business is. Technology is easily replicated, good staff is not," he says.

BUILDING THE MCGRATH BRAND

McGrath attributes much of his success to the quality of his staff but it's clear his gut instincts have also played a part.

By his own admission, McGrath was not a Grade A scholar. But he was driven to succeed and the property industry beckoned.

"Growing up, I always saw the property industry as a great avenue for those that weren't particularly successful at school," he says.

"I saw a lot of potential in the industry. Real estate agents didn't have a great reputation and I saw scope to change this."

Change it he did. McGrath started up John McGrath Real Estate in 1988 from his own home and after six months, negotiated the purchase of the agency where he first cut his teeth - Goodhope Realty.

Never one to slavishly follow trends, McGrath opted not to have a traditional ‘shop front' business.

Instead, he invested in building a recognisable and professional-looking brand.

The results speak for themselves.

"Brand is everything. It is our lifeblood," says McGrath.

"Everything from the photographs we take to the words we use to describe the property needs to be professional - because at the end of the day, we have a reputation to uphold."

He adds "The real estate market is crowded and we know that when an industry is over saturated with choice, consumers will always default to a brand that is recognisable and respected."

McGrath has invested heavily in building McGrath Estate Agents into a recognisable and respected brand and has only recently turned his focus to diversification.

In 2003, McGrath Estate Agents branched out into mortgage broking, establishing the award winning brokerage Oxygen Home Loans.

McGrath says the rationale behind the move was to be able to give customers a better home buying experience, rather than being a money-earner.

"I do not see mortgage broking as a get rich quick avenue. Instead, I see it as a progressive industry," McGrath says.

"Moreover, we are committed to providing our customers with the best home buying experience possible, and providing finance is just one step in that process."

But he says further diversification is not on the cards.

"I am always conscious of damaging the brand by overexposing it," he says.

"At present, we are focused on residential real estate and mortgage broking - they are our core focus moving forward into 2011."

STAYING FOCUSED

Rather than trying to be all things to all people, McGrath says it's important that a business focus on its core services and ensure they are of the highest quality.

But there is more to success than providing a good quality customer service.

Professionalism is also key as is "thinking bigger, aiming higher" and setting and achieving goals.

"Love what you do, be passionate about good customer service, but above all else, be professional," he says.

"You want to make sure every customer feels as though they have been treated with respect and received unparalleled, quality advice."

Ultimately, however, nothing is a substitute for sheer hard work.

"Hard work and dedication will get you everywhere in this life," he says.

"That, and a little bit of luck."

However, it is clear that McGrath's success is due to much more than that.

A highly respected real estate identity, McGrath's public profile will only continue to grow and blossom as the company continues its planned expansion.

Moving forward, McGrath says he aims to develop the most recognised and respected real estate agency in Australia. And judging by his achievements to date, he is already well on the way to making this goal a reality.

 

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