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How Peter Starr went from the top 100 to the top 10 in real estate

By Tamikah Bretzke
26 June 2017
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McGrath agent Peter Starr joins host Tim Neary for this episode of Secrets of the Top 100 Agents to unveil how he jumped a mammoth 57 places to rank in the top 10. Here, Peter explains how bringing a government contract to fruition was instrumental to his success, but why self-confidence and staying true to himself ultimately reflected on the quality of his work.

In this episode, find out:

  • Why there's no such thing as overnight success
  • The importance of positive self-belief
  • Why agents should reap what they sow


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 Full transcript

Tim: G'day everyone. It's Tim Neary here. I am the editor of Real Estate Business and host of the Secrets of the Top 100 Agents podcast – thanks for tuning in. We've got a really interesting guest on the show today. He's the biggest mover in the rankings, up from 64 last year to number 7 in the 2017 rankings. It's Peter Starr. Peter's with McGrath in Vaucluse in Sydney. Hi Peter.

Peter: How's it going?

Tim: That's a very impressive improvement and I'm pretty certain there's a good reason for it. What did you do right in 2016 that led to this great result?

Peter: I can't deny the Miller’s Point contract with the New South Wales government, that's obviously made a big impact on my figures. But that's only half of the figures. I think it's been a jump actually over the last, probably, four years.

Tim: Yeah. Yeah.

Peter: The progression rate. It just didn't happen over one year.

Tim: Yeah. You and I know what that is because we've talked all fair about that, but just for the listeners who may not know, just talk us through that contract that you won, Peter.

Peter: It's the disposal of, what was government housing, down at Miller's Point, northern tick at the CDD. I happen to have been the property manager of all that when I had my own business in the 90's, so it was something I was pretty familiar with. But it was a contract we won at McGrath couple of years ago, and it's substantial and it's been really, really good obviously -

Tim: Yes.

Peter: The figures speak for themselves. It's been a very interesting contract. It's also caused me to focus more and I guess the more you focus, it benefits other areas as a consequence.

Tim: Yeah. It's a real success story and I guess it is about being the expert and being involved and focusing and bringing a big contract to fruition and the benefits that come from that.

Peter: Yeah, and it's something that took, literally, 20 years. Because, I was down there in the 90's. It's a long-term, if I take anything out of it … I think long-term as opposed to short-term, is I'll think long-term and I have been hovering around Miller's Point and that part of town for 20 years. Then, when it came time to actually pitch, the credentials looked pretty good.

Tim: I like the way that you say that, "Think about long term. Think about it in the long term," because we've talked to a lot of top 100 agents on the show around how this business works. The thing that comes up over and over again is "There's no such thing as an overnight success," and that there are certain steps that you need to take and you need to do properly and then the results will come. This might be the best example as, you know, 20-year example of that in real life. It's a great endorsement to that.

Peter: Yes, and Lorraine and Andrew, who are also on the job with me, they just have been involved in there for a long time and it's also a testament to collaborative behaviour and working as a team as opposed to some agents. They're biggest enemy can be sitting in that same office and I just find that bizarre.

Tim: Yeah. I want to talk a little bit more about that, Peter, if you don't mind. We know in this business of real estate that there's a sort of progression from starting out, building a database, building up a brand for yourself in your local area. Then at some point, you probably need to bring on some assistants into the business as the business grows. That's when it starts to get to a different level. Let's just talk a little bit about that. About when is it a good time to bring on an assistant, when is a good time to bring on other help, and then, what do you look for, how did you do it?

Peter: I've always had a secretary. Even when I started in commercial real estate years ago, we always had a secretary because a lot of our work was ... Well, all of it was report based. Every inquiry you'd send out a messy proposal. I've always had one, which means that I've been ... Well, I've been blessed. So my opinion is, get one as soon as you can and if you've got a pool, then get two or three blokes and share one, but share from the get go. It frees you up to do things that you should be doing.

Tim: I know that you say get one as soon as possible, but is there a trigger to that, is there something ... Is there a yardstick in the business that you say, "Alright. I'm doing x amount of deals in a year," or, "X amount of deals in a month. Now's the time to do it?" Or what do you look for?

Peter: You've got to be able to afford them. I work in a different market where the numbers are higher, so what's two deals for me might be ten or twelve for somebody else. So you've got to be able to afford it. A quick budget will tell you when you can afford help, because you got to pay your rent, you've gotta feed yourself, and you gotta drive a car. Once you can afford it, get one. If that means getting a half of one because you're sharing with someone who sits beside you, then that means you can get one just that little bit earlier.

Tim: "Little bit earlier." That's good advice. Now, what do you look for because, the last thing you want to do, I would imagine, is bring somebody in and then the fit is bad. Then it's costing you money and you're getting no value from it. What did you look for in an assistant?

Peter: Common sense and they've gotta be educated to some degree because I'm a bit old school. I got in when I had to write a letter. They got to have some form of training or it doesn't work in my market place with me, but that can go back to common sense and a level of dexterity. Look at some people and, "Okay," but you don't know if you know that you can teach them. They've gotta be teachable, 'cause nobody knows everything.

Tim: Exactly. Do they need to have any real estate experience or do they just need to be generally smart?

Peter: No, no Real Estate experience, but generally smart. I call it "dexterous", "common sense", a level of energy, and "teachable."

Tim: Some of the agents that we talk to talk about having somebody there to ... Different personality to bring something new to the table as it were. Others say that it's a good idea to have somebody there to like you, so that you get a good fit, so you that you get a good rapport between the two of you and that works well. What's your view on that?

Peter: I take the latter. People like us. I am who I am, and whatever I have that appeals to my clients, if I send a representative of me, they have to be a representative of me, not of something else that might not be appealing.

Tim: That's an assistant? They help you with your workload and I would imagine that you would probably divide your business between income producing stuff and the general administrative stuff and that you would look to your assistant to do the non-income producing stuff.

Peter: Correct. Even so, I'm a bit old school, pick up the phone. If something needs to be communicated, I would rather have my assistant pick up the phone than send a text or an email. That's where they have to be a reflection of you. That's the way I see it.

Tim: That comes back to what you were saying a little earlier about having somebody that's like minded and a lot like you.

Peter: Yeah. Yeah, a lot, but they can have somewhat different skills. They've gotta be complimentary to me as opposed to, call me conservative and blue, they can't be jazzy and red.

Tim: Right, okay.

Peter: That's a misfit.

Tim: You don't want to clash. You want to have some synergy.

Peter: Correct.

Tim: Peter, can we talk a little bit, and I want to go back in time. You said you've been the business a long time and you would've obviously learned and refined your craft over the years. Generally, the listeners to the podcast are people that are starting out in the business. Looking to pick up advice from the elders in the business, the ones that are at the top of the tree now.

Just in terms of giving out tips, your advice, or your tips on the business of Real Estate, which essentially is getting listings and then selling properties. In that listings presentation, in the listings process, how do you do that? How do you prepare yourself for that, how do you be effective in a listening presentation, and importantly also, if it goes wrong and you don't get the listing, how do you come back from that?

Peter: The listing presentation, for me, is highly question based and because I have the experience, a lot of them are looking to me to provide the experience. We ask each other a lot of questions and it's a conversation. I don't turn up with flip charts and statistics and I don't work heavily on my days on markets and "we do this, this, this, and this." I do have processes, but I'm not heavily process-driven. My presentation is more of a reflection of my personality as well. And I believe you gotta be true to who you are. Whatever that might be, be true to it and you'll do as well as you can do.

Tim: That's good advice.

Peter: Trying to be someone else that you're not, is not gonna help you make as much money as they make. You've gotta be true to yourself or there's a disconnect and they pick up on it. I learned that ... Took me a long time a long time to actually learn that -

Tim: Yes.

Peter: I think I've become progressively better at an accelerated rate over the last five years since I picked up on that.

Tim: Yeah. I think that's good advice mate, not just in listening to presentations, but in life as well. Just to be your real self. To be your authentic self. People respond to that, don't they? They respond to that honesty and that integrity.

Peter: Yeah. Absolutely. We've all got kids, we've all got problems. We've all got time constraints and we're all human. We all are who we are. I'm never gonna do 50 deals in a month.

Tim: Yeah.

Peter: And I don't want to.

Tim: It's about -

Peter: 'Cause I am who I am and it's great. It's good balance.

Tim: It's about that balance, isn't it? It's about knowing who you are, what your strengths are, what you do, what you do well, where your effective points are, and putting those in the front and not try and reinvent something that isn't there anyway.

Peter: Yeah. That invokes and creates a level of self-confidence. That goes for the second part of your question. If you've got honest self-confidence and self-belief and you miss a listing, you don't take it quite so personally. Firstly, because you don't have to take it personally because your life didn't depend on that sale.

Tim: Yes.

Peter: Secondly, you realise that not all people suit all people. I am gonna approach it my way, that I thinks a great way and a lot of people agree, and some people don't. It's, "Thanks for the opportunity." The more no’s you get, the closer to "yes" you are.

Tim: Sounds like you keep an optimistic outlook. Don't take it personally and recognise when you go in that not every result is gonna have a positive outcome.

Peter: Yeah. Karma: if you wish them well, and you honestly walk out there feeling like you've done the right thing, the number of times the phone rings as you get into car is extraordinary.

Tim: Oh, really? That's interesting.

Peter: Yeah.

Tim: I like that way that you put that, actually. You've talked a lot about ... There's an old saying, "Every pot has a lid and not every lid fits the same pot." If you keep doing it, you do get that lid that fits your pot, I suppose that's one way to look at it.

Peter: Yes.

Tim: You talked also a little bit about balance, Peter, a little earlier. We're getting to that stage of the show now where we're drawing to an end, and I wanted to talk to you a little bit about balance because, this is a competitive industry. It's a full time job plus and you've gotta be careful of burning out. How do you balance yourself, how do you make sure that you're effective when you're on and that you get enough rest so that you don't burn yourself out?

Peter: Sometimes you can't take the break when you want to have the break. We have to respond to our clients. If I can see a window of opportunity, I don't care day of the week it is, I'll take it. Sometimes you have to work some days. If I could see a Wednesday, Thursday, opportunity to take a half day or a full day, I'll take it and go and do something you love. Be it of surfing, I play a bit of polo, or golf. Go and do something you love and, for me, a half a day on a horse is like a week off.

Tim: Okay. I think there's some good advice in there. There's some wisdom in that in terms ... The way that I interpret when you say that is, when it's busy, when there's things going on, climb in and get stuck in because -

Peter: Absolutely.

Tim: That's the harvest time. When it's not busy, that's the time to rest and do it when it suits the business, not when it suits you. Adapt yourself to the cycle of the business.

Peter: There's plenty of months of the year that we all knows goes quiet. July is quiet. Sometimes the second half of December can be quiet for a lot of people or the first half of January. There's plenty of time. I know a couple of my colleagues, like Alex, he takes regular breaks regularly throughout the year. That works for him.

Tim: Yeah. Yep.

Peter: I swap mine in around school holidays. It works for me, works for my kids, and also, lot of my market go away in the holiday, so they're not here to talk to. There's lots of ways to skin the cat, but when it's on, roll your sleeves up and get into it.

Tim: Get stuck in. Mate, that's great advice and I just want to thank you for your time. I know that we spoke all fair and you said this is a time when it's on for you. You flatstick at the moment, so I won't keep you any longer. I'll let you go.

Peter: Yeah. Thank you.

Tim: It's been a real pleasure to talk to you today, Pete, and again, congratulations on being the biggest mover in the 2017 rankings.

Peter: You're welcome, thank you.

Tim: Cheers mate, bye-bye.

Peter: All the best.

Tim: Remember to follow us on all the social media stuff. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. You can follow me also on Twitter @TimothyJNeary if you want to do that. Remember to tune in next week. RealEstateBusiness.com.au is where you'll find us and you have stories there on the business of real estate across the whole of Australia and on my guest today, Peter Starr. Thanks for tuning in and we'll see you next week. Goodbye.

How Peter Starr went from the top 100 to the top 10 in real estate
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