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Vivien Yap on teamwork, optimising operations and remaining relevant in real estate

By Tamikah Bretzke
07 August 2017
Vivien Yap, Director, LJ Hooker Claremont

In this episode of Secrets of the Top 100 Agents, host Tim Neary talks to WA-based agent Vivien Yap, who placed at number 14 in this year’s ranking.

Driven to succeed, Vivien stands at the forefront of her business and negotiates every single transaction that comes her way – but she can’t do it alone. Tune in to hear how she and her team work together to continuously optimise operations, why defining job roles enables them to work at top speed, and why she believes being open to change is critical to remaining relevant in real estate.

In this episode, find out:

  • Why one’s team is often the backbone of the business
  • The importance of learning from your mistakes
  • Why defining job roles enables agents to work more effectively


Make sure you never miss an episode by subscribing to us now on iTunes!

Full transcript

Tim Neary: G’day everyone, it's Tim Neary here. I am editor of Real Estate Business and host of the Secrets of the Top 100 Agents podcast. Thanks for tuning in. This is a show where we bring in and chat to the very best real estate agents across Australia. Very pleased to welcome on the show today, she's ranked number 14 in the REB Top 100 Agents ranking for 2017, from LJ Hooker Dalkeith, Claremont in WA, it's Vivien Yap. Hello Vivien, and welcome to the show.

Vivien Yap: Thank you very much.

Tim Neary: So Vivien, congratulations, you're top 14 position and that's another 14th position following from last year's result. That's pretty consistent going, how do you manage to be so consistent year on year?

Vivien Yap: In order to be consistent, we have to be very structured in what we do, very disciplined and focused of course on a daily basis, but the main thing is you do have to be surrounded by a very, very good support team as well, and a team whom you can trust to do the other jobs as well. Obviously, I can't be everywhere at the same time so it's really just making sure that all the job roles are very clearly defined so we all can actually, I suppose, run at a very high pace and be very organised.

Tim Neary: Let's talk a little bit about that Vivien, if that's okay? You talked about being structured and having all the job roles clearly defined. Let's just have sort of a snapshot of your business, of your office and how it runs.

Vivien Yap: At the moment, where we operate is basically is what I call the Hub, where we work as the Vivien Yap team, so I am the listing agent, I am the agent who negotiates every single transaction. However, we do have an admin lady who will assist us with uploading the properties on the market and they're very, very good in ensuring that is clearly done, all the bookings of all the photography and the videos are all done, so that will be all taken care of by the admin team.

I do have an executive assistant who will run my timetable and my schedule, so I do know where I'm meant to be going. Then she will reconfirm appointments to make sure that we're definitely, I suppose, very organised and know who I'm seeing and what we do. Then I do have a fantastic lady who's been with me for such a long time and knows how I work and assists me at home opens as well.

So, we're not a very big team, but I think because we understand each other so well we pretty much know what each other's thinking, so ultimately it's done to complement my shortcomings and then I know what I'm not good at but what they're good at. We make sure that we complement each other that way.

Tim Neary: You make an interesting point around, you said, you know what you're not good at and the people in your team complement you in that respect, and I guess that that's an important factor when choosing a team is to get somebody ... Talk about finding like-minded people but maybe finding people that aren't like you to cover your shortcomings.

Vivien Yap: Yeah, absolutely, the opposite. For example, if I ... I don't like to sit in front of a computer and enter information in after information, and uploading photos on the computer or online, so I'll make sure that they do that for me. My job is to obviously talk to buyers and speak to my sellers and ensure that we are negotiating the best price for them. Then when it comes down to the marketing side, they will negotiate with the suppliers and do that because it's what they're good at.

We do have a very good system where we have got the support of very good best practise management consultants who assist me on a weekly basis, so pretty much looking at all the shortfalls of the business and troubleshooting so we make sure that we're improving one little thing once a week. It's just constant improvement, we're never perfect and we never claim to be perfect.

Tim Neary: That comes back to my original question, was, how do you maintain that consistency? I think that you've just answered the question there by this continual improvement, by having the team in place, freeing you up to do the things that you like to do and do best, and then also you've got somebody that comes in and just constantly looks at the business and says, "There's an area for improvement, there's an area for improvement," and then affecting those changes.

Vivien Yap: Also, be open to change. Because I'm such an ... I'm all about process driven and I like one specific process but then I will be open to change if I feel that there is going to be improvement or I feel that that's going to add value to my clients. We do have outside, I suppose, influences coming into the business to tell me what I'm doing so that I can improve from every aspect, from management to job descriptions, to our accounts, to property management, as far as to even how we deal with clients. It's just implementing them. I think the key to it is it's really good to listen to everybody, and we attend a lot of training seminars and listen to podcasts as well. I think if we don't implement what we learn, even if we just implement 5 or 10 per cent every week, it does deliver a really good result towards the end of the 12 months.

We always look at, how do we improve next year just when we've just received our results? We think, "What are going to do to stay somewhere in the top 100 or top 20 or top 50, what do we do?" I know the market is not fantastic in WA but we're still staying quite strong. We're trying really, really hard to stay on top of it all.

Tim Neary: I guess that it's in the tough markets that you find out where your strengths lie because it's easy when it's easy and when it gets tough, that's when you really have to dig a little deeper. Vivien, let's a little bit about the business of real estate. You were talking earlier about freeing you up to do the things you like to do. What is it about real estate that you like to do? What, from a mindset point of view, what is it that drives you, what's the nub of the real estate business?

Vivien Yap: There's a few aspects. There's not one thing that I only love to do. I think I am a driven person anyway, however, it really is quite a challenging market at the moment and I think when we do get the results for the families that we talk to, it's definitely adrenaline pumping, when you don't know whether or not you're going to sell the property to that buyer or buyer A or buyer B. However, when you know that we can actually drive the price up to a really good level where the owner's open to negotiating in a market like we are going through at the moment, it does give us a buzz. I think when we do get the result, it is very satisfying. Plus, I know that when I'm successfully, my team will also be rewarded as well. I think a lot of them think ... I mean, we want help each other out because if I don't do well, they don't do well either. It's all about supporting each other.

The main thing that's probably the driving force behind it, I think is about sharing. More than just trying to get the result, it's about sharing the results and sharing the joy when we're selling the property and then we are also able to inspire others to do better as well. I think good, positive outcomes also deliver positive influences around us and from there, it delivers a very good culture surrounding us as well. I think that's what I do strive for more than anything else.

Tim Neary: I like the way that you put that. You talked about culture and delivering a good culture and then you were talking earlier also about sharing. Although we're talking about the very top end of the top 100 agents in Australia, so you would think automatically that it would be very cut throat and very competitive, which I'm sure that it is, but it seems like you still take time out to think about the needs of your vendor, to think about the needs of your team, to think about the needs of your business as well. I guess it's important to have that holistic view as you go forward.

Vivien Yap: Oh, absolutely because I think you only do it about one thing, you will not come out in front because, overall, if you do have the ability to care about the people around or the people you are actually serving or the people you're actually talking to, or people you meet, it's a really good experience for them. I think, for me, just because we're in the top 100, we are not where we are today unless we have their support as clients, as vendors, as buyers. If they don't buy the property from me, I will not get the result today if I don't have my amazing support staff around me and my colleagues who've actually paved the way for me to be able to be ready for the home open or for the property to be launched, I wouldn't be able to sell the property because it wouldn't have been put online for me.

I think we just need to be very grateful for a lot of the things that we actually get, and then if that does shine through, people want to deal with you more and more. I think it's all a referral-based business, ultimately. We can never please everybody, especially in a market like this, you always have disgruntled owners, sometimes you might have disgruntled buyers, we don't know. But, if we can strive to do the best we can, it does shine through and people can see through all of that. We're not there to do a one-time deal business, it's all about can we be the real estate agent for their friends, their families or for their sons and their son's friends?

Really, it's very, very hard to know what's going to work, but we just have to go with the flow. It just comes through with the people that we deal with and it comes through and I think it shines through.

Tim Neary: It does shine through and you used a word in there that I really like, you said it's to remain grateful and to be grateful, and I think that that does come through, just in chatting with you this morning, it comes across as this. We see this across all of the top end agents as well, is a sense of humbleness and a sense of gratefulness, and a sense of a continual improvement and not taking anything for granted.

Vivien Yap: Absolutely, never ever take anything for granted because when you're up there, number one, anything can happen, you can be right at the bottom very quickly.

Tim Neary: Correct. Too true. Hey, Vivien, we're getting to the end of the show now and next we'll get to the part where I like to talk a little bit about the business of real estate and ask you for some of your insights, your own personal insights, sort of the top tips section. Now, the business of real estate is about listing properties and selling them, and for those agents that are starting out, I know that it sometimes can be a little difficult, but your top tip for listing properties, what advice would you give? What advice would you give to yourself, your starting out self, about listing properties?

Vivien Yap: If I'm starting out, what I would do is let everybody know that you are now in real estate, you're no longer doing what you were doing before, and get that message out there. Definitely, you need to work on your database because that is really where your potential client list will come from. I remember from the time when I started out, I did not have a very clear database. I should have started it a lot earlier and I was just looking at all the leakage in the business and how, "Oh, that person was selling their home but I forgot to tell them." I think you just need to be very organised and be putting aside a few hours a day to put that all into either your work Excel spreadsheet or your database Toolbox or AgentBox, or MyDesktop or any of those database type of programmes so that you can really have a continual relationship with your clients either by reminders to make calls. Also do you send cards to them or do you actually email them, so whatever that you're most comfortable with.

Every client will be different, so I think you just need to personalise that touch and I think personal touch to it all is always more effective. Apart from that, it's really just making sure that you do know how to market and get lots and lots of advice and training so that you're not doing it alone and making mistakes. Learn from people who have done it before, been there, done that, so you're not repeating mistakes and wasting time, and time is money.

Tim Neary: I think that's great advice. Taking advice from people that have been there and that are senior in the business and that have made the mistakes themselves to not make the same mistake twice, and be open to change, and you said that a little earlier when we were talking as well. Let's imagine you're sitting in the lounge room of a potential vendor, how do you start the conversation? What would be your top tip there for a listing presentation?

Vivien Yap: Top tip to start the conversation? I normally do ask them what prompted them to call me?

Tim Neary: Yeah.

Vivien Yap: That's usually a good way to start, and we just lead in from there. I've never had the same presentation in the lounge room with any of my clients and I think that's my style. Obviously, not everybody agrees with that, but ultimately it all comes down to, I think, building up the relationship with them. Sometimes the first time you meet in the lounge room, you've really just pretty much met them for the very first time, so you really need to build rapport very, very quickly. However, some of the clients that we finally get to see, we've been speaking to them on the phone for probably six months or three months because they've been calling us for a while, and obviously it's quite to finally put a face to the voice as well.

Tim Neary: Yes.

Vivien Yap: It does break down the barrier when you have a few jokes with them, but then you have to make sure you're not making the wrong jokes with them as well, so it can go down the wrong way. All it comes down to is just making sure that we try and find out as much as we can about them before we through the home. When we do sit down, we try and find out as much about their family as we possibly can so we are able to instantaneously build that rapport and that relationship in the first few minutes rather than go down straight to business and not build any rapport and then pretty much, you've wasted an hour and they've already decided that you're not the right person for them from the start because there's just no warm and fuzzy relationship created. I think people need to trust you as well, so I think you do need to try and build that trust very, very early on the onset.

Tim Neary: That rapport, that leads to the trust I would imagine, and later on, the conversation at the point where you ask them for the business.

Vivien Yap: Definitely, yeah. They must know that you are there to help them, you're there to work for them and you want to sell their property as if you're selling your own property, and that's the main thing.

Tim Neary: Vivien, one last question just to close off that circle. Let's assume that you get the listing presentation, let's assume that you get the listing, what is your top tip for them selling the property?

Vivien Yap: I suppose presentation and I suppose that the property definitely needs to be presented really, really well. In order to sell the property, to get it to that final preparation, we've just got to be very critical about how it's going to looked upon by the buyers because we've got to see the property as if we're the buyers. Sometimes we have to warn the owner that we sometimes need to be critical in order to get them a good result. Of course, not only presentation, it's about the market reach and there's a lot of reach out there, it's about cross-referencing and cross-matching buyers and making sure that we're out there doing our videos and getting it out there through the digital marketing as well.

Ultimately, it's all about a combination of everything, it's not one thing. Again, I just think it's just got to all work in synergy with one another otherwise, once again, we won't get the results in getting a sale.

Tim Neary: It sounds like it's not a one-size-fits-all programme, at all, business at all, but I liked what you said a little earlier about looking at the property through the eyes of a potential buyer, and then being quite clinical about just making that if there are any loose ends or any things that need to be fixed up, then they are. Yeah.

Vivien Yap: Absolutely. Every property is not identical either, so a different buyer will look for a property slightly different from, let's say, a big family home. Which channel do they really tune in, in trying to look for a property like that? So, some properties will only do very, very well if it's advertised via certain community newspapers within the community. Some would probably do really, really well with an international campaign. Some properties would do very well only via digital; they don't need press. I think it's about catering the marketing to that property and, like you said, it's not one-size-fits-all. I think we need to be dynamic enough and flexible enough and smart enough to recognise each type of property and, how do we really market it out there to get the best result for the owners?

Tim Neary: Hey Vivien, that makes a lot of sense. That brings us to the end of the show today. It's been a real pleasure to talk to you and, as always, thanks very much. Be good to get you back on in a couple of weeks, couple of months' time and see how you're progressing over there in WA.

Vivien Yap: Absolutely. Thank you very much. We've got our WA award, so will be great to know how we perform as well.

Tim Neary:  Nice one. Excellent. All right Vivien, thank you so much for your time today.

Vivien Yap: Thank you, bye.

Tim Neary: Righty-o, bye-bye. 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, realestatebusiness.com.au is where you'll find us. There's plenty of stories there on the business of real estate across the whole of Australia and on my guest today, Vivien Yap. Thanks again for tuning in and we'll see you next week. Goodbye.


Vivien Yap on teamwork, optimising operations and remaining relevant in real estate
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