With nearly two decades of experience in the real estate industry, award-winning property manager Virginia Sier is passionate about training and supporting the next generation of PMs
Growing up in a family of real estate agents, it was inevitable that Virginia Sier would follow in their footsteps. “As a fourth generation real estate agent, my passion for real estate started at an early age when I saw my own mother, uncle and grandfather operate a family-run real estate firm in Melbourne’s CBD,” she says.
“From young eyes, they all made it look like a fun and glamorous job, which seemed well respected and remunerated. How innocent I was! It wasn’t until I entered the industry myself that I quickly realised that only with hard work comes reward.”
When she was 15, Ms Sier made her first foray into the industry working as a part-time receptionist at an agency in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.
“I loved it. I think I liked the fact that I was exposed to working in a professional or corporate environment, and I realised I had a passion for houses, architecture, building design and interior design,” she says.
Ms Sier initially aspired to work in social work, but after completing her Arts degree at RMIT University she realised real estate was what she was passionate about.
“I think I developed so many skills having worked in the industry part time for five years that I thought ‘I’m crazy if I don’t go down this road as a full-time gig’, which is why I made the decision to go into the industry full time,” she explains.
Ms Sier joined PhilipWebb Real Estate 10 years ago, where she currently works as a department manager leading a property management team of 71. She also oversees the agency’s recruitment and human resources departments.
Ms Sier describes herself as being more like a coach and says she works hard to ensure that her team is involved in all processes.
“What I have come to learn is that so many managers manage their teams from the distance and comfort of their office. I sit amongst the team, so that I can gauge their workloads and stress levels, their achievements and also their training needs,” she says.
“Many ask why I still manage a portfolio of properties given my other workload and responsibilities at PhilipWebb, and I do this because I feel it is important to ‘keep my feet wet’ and have an appreciation of current market trends, so I can provide practical support to the team.
“I am known within the team as a persistent, dedicated professional, who puts in the hard yards to obtain results and is not afraid of dealing with complex matters. I believe my approach is always a fair one – a balance between guiding them (and often the client) through the process so they have an opportunity to learn, but not taking away any of the reward.”
Continued staff training is a major part of the business. Last year Ms Sier implemented the Future Leaders Group in her team to maintain a competitive edge as an employer of choice.
“This program was designed to offer employees a development program to boost and improve skills needed and required to oversee the training and development of cadets and those aspiring to manage a team one day – this is important for our succession planning,” she explains.
“We meet once a month to discuss their progression and monitor their performance. They have a training guide that includes reading particular business books, or attending group training seminars which have been personally designed and developed for the future leaders.”
In addition, the agency also hosts an annual training conference, which Ms Sier has been responsible for putting together for the past five years.
“It takes months of planning, often in my own time, researching an objective, an appropriate theme, sourcing relevant industry speakers, vetting their content, adhering to a budget, organising a venue and sponsors (for prizes) and ensuring that there is ongoing audience engagement and participation on the day,” she says.
Last year’s training day had a medical theme, ‘Live and Learn’, which was hosted by Fiona Blayney of Blayney Potential Plus. “Each delegate was provided with their own survival kit/medical bag of goodies and prescription pads for their action lists. iPads were sourced from sponsors and given away on the day for the most innovative ideas,” she recalls.
Ms Sier says she feels privileged as a trainer to be able pass on her knowledge to others.
“Having this position as a trainer allows me to use my imagination and think big. I’ve learned that one of the most challenging and thrilling experiences in life is to develop ordinary people into extraordinary people and let them believe that they can be anything they want to be,” she says.
Ms Sier currently manages about 125 properties, which she says are a direct result of recommendations and referrals from satisfied landlords.
“One of my strongest attributes, and one that I pride myself on as a property manager, is being able to achieve success through repeat and referral business,” she says.
According to Ms Sier, delivering excellent customer service comes from a positive attitude and a willingness and commitment to exceed a client’s expectations.
“I believe this philosophy needs to be genuine,” she says. “I always keep in mind that every client has very specific and individual needs and preferences, so I always avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. “My personal mantra is the good old saying, ‘under promise and over deliver’. I deliver this to both landlords and tenants via three different ways.
“I roll up my sleeves to do the dirty work without fuss and bother; I am always finding ways to save both landlords and tenants time and money by thinking outside the box to resolve issues; and I am conscious of the need to maintain the health and standard of my clients’ investments for the benefit of both parties.”
Ms Sier’s success in the profession has been widely recognised. In 2006 and 2007 she was awarded PhilipWebb’s Property Manager of the Year award.
She was a finalist in the Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV) Industry Awards for Excellence in 2006 and 2009, and last year she was awarded the REIV Property Manager of the Year award.
Ms Sier says she is very proud of her achievements and delighted with her results in the past year.
“I intend on achieving even more in the following years by striving to be one of the best, develop myself within the industry by remaining a trainer of the REIV, and sharing my knowledge and experience with my peers and the real estate industry,” she says.
Since her start in the industry 17 years ago, Ms Sier says the way property management is seen has changed dramatically.
“Back then it was about providing good customer service. Having knowledge of legislation was important but probably not as scrutinised as it is now,” she recalls.
“I have to say that it’s advanced so much and we’ve seen so much enormous change in the profession in the areas of technology and marketing and client expectations, risk management, the need for an increase in skill sets, the way departments are operated and just the general perception of how property management is seen in the real estate business.”