OPENING DURING the height of the global financial crisis – and in one of the worst housing markets in the country – is a challenge few agents would want to face.
Yet that was exactly what Mike Dobbin, recently appointed chief executive officer of South Australia-based Magain Real Estate, had to deal with when he opened his first franchise with the group in 2008.
And the market hasn’t got much better.
“It’s the toughest market we’ve had in well over a decade,” Mr Dobbin says.
“In the last two years the market hasn’t gone up. We’re still sitting on 2009 prices right now in Adelaide.”
Mr Dobbin is one of only two South Australian agents to be listed in the Real Estate Business Top 100 Agents ranking for 2012, and he has earned record results each year since opening in 2008.
THE ‘20/30’ RULE
The secret to his gaining 50 per cent market share in his local area is Mr Dobbin’s ‘20/30 rule’.
“The 20/30 rule is simply a goal that we have set,” he says.
“We all have to get 20 appraisals and 30 buyers each month.
“In real estate, the more you appraise, the more you list, the more you sell. It’s a pretty simple formula.
“When we first started there was no real goal for the amount of appraisals.
“Some people would do six a month, someone would do eight – there was just no focus on it. So I sat them all down and said that our company’s minimum requirement is 20 appraisals each month, which is five a week if you break it down.
“Everyone must strive to get that, and if you’re not doing your five a week you’re not working hard enough or smart enough, which is a real focus point I made.
“Everyone agreed to it because all the staff wanted to do better, make more money and be more successful.”
But just setting a target is not enough to drive growth, Mr Dobbin says.
“We spoke about our personal goals,” he continues.
“Most people wanted to travel, or to buy something for themselves.
“So we broke that down into how many listings and sales they would have to do to achieve those goals, and once they had their own personal goals aligned with our business goal we started seeing results.
“A lot of guys went from eight appraisals the previous month to 20 – some to 21 or 22 – because they just raised the bar overnight.
“That’s all it was.”
Mr Dobbin decided to introduce some basic policies that allowed his employees to get more appraisals as well as improving their client-buyer relationships.
“The day we decided we’re doing the 20/30, we made it compulsory that every single person’s name and number was taken at an open inspection because some people weren’t doing that on a regular basis,” he says.
“Every single person who attended the inspection was followed up on the Monday and was asked what their thoughts were on the house.
“If there is a phone number attached to an email enquiry, we will call them rather than replying through email.
“The new method was to pick up the phone, have a chat, get personal and ask, ‘What exactly are you looking for?’, instead of simply telling them times for an open house.
“We found that if you can get a buyer off on a tangent, you can find out all sorts of useful information. They might be selling their old home for an upgrade or their cousins or family might be looking to move.
“Talking to 30 buyers who are interested in a house allows you to go back and talk to them and say, ‘Well, that one sold, but how about this one?’. The more buyers and people you’re talking to, the more active you are.
“So, at first you’ve got to aim for at least 30 buyers on your database so that when a house comes on the market, there’s an email and an SMS sent off to them telling them there’s a new house for sale. We found that having a 30 buyer database – which we contacted and spoke to individually and frequently – made all of our clients very impressed by our service.
“The 20/30 rule motivates them to know that when they get into the office, they need to knuckle down and do some work,” he adds.
At the beginning of July, Mr Dobbin opened his third office in Adelaide and took over the role of CEO from Barrie Magain.
“My goal from day one was to open three offices in four years,” Mr Dobbin says.
“We opened the second office up in two years and this third one came right on the four-year mark.”
But even with Mr Magain’s parting gift – a new bag, with the letters ‘CEO’ printed on the side – Mr Dobbin isn’t planning to get complacent and has already set himself another target.
“Our new goal is eight offices in eight years,” he says.
“It will be a lot easier to open the next five offices over four years than these first three have been over the same time.
“When you have the name and the infrastructure backing you, it will make it easier.”