Michael Dowling may have moved up 41 places in REB’s Top 100 Agents ranking in 2021, but he’s got so much still to prove.
We recently sat down with the McGrath Ryde agent to discuss all things COVID-19, curating a well-balanced team, agent achievements and plans for future growth.
REB: Congratulations for your inclusion, once again, on REB’s Top 100 Agents ranking.
Michael Dowling: Thank you.
REB: What does it mean to you to be included in that list? What is the satisfaction that you get out of that?
Michael Dowling: From a personal point of view, from a competitiveness point of view, it’s always great. But more so than anything, constant improvement and just striving to be a better agent and business person, that’s what I like about it. If you’re on a list like that with some of the caliber of agents that are on there, it puts you on a pretty high step. There’s guys ahead of me in that list, like Matthew Everingham and Pete Chauncy, Mat Steinwede, all those guys in the top 10, top 12. They’re all guys that, if I’m even three-quarters of the agent that they are, then I know that I’m in pretty good step.
REB: You’ve obviously jumped up a fair bit on this year’s ranking. What were your goals headed into 2020?
Michael Dowling: Every year, I try and have what I call year-end new growth. And how that looks is basically just “slow progress”. This year, obviously, what I try and do is make sure I’ve got the right systems and strategies in place to take that next step at the middle to end of each financial year. So, I sit down and make sure that from a team structure and goals and business planning point of view, we know what we want to achieve and that I’ve got the right structure in place to do that each year.
This year, I wanted about 25 per cent growth. The year before, I think we had 105 sales and this year I think we sold 150, 160. So, we’re well over that. I think as long as you get the planning down pat, and don’t want it to happen immediately overnight and you are patient around it, then I think, from us, even next year, without getting ahead of myself, I’ll probably be ahead of the 17th rank purely because the strategies and the systems are all there.
It’s capable to grow.
REB: With COVID and everything, and even with your own planning, how much did you expect the numbers to actually be compared to what they ended up being?
Michael Dowling: Oh, I didn’t plan around the numbers to be what exactly they are. Anywhere over 120, 130 sales would have been great. But for the financial year, talking outside the calendar year, we’re actually on track to do 170 to 200 sales. So, we’re well ahead of that.
Again, it comes down to the strategies. During COVID, having the right patience around what the market was actually doing, as opposed to panicking. The reality was, people still needed to buy, sell and move homes. So, as long as you’re solving people’s problems in a quicker way than other agents and getting to the bottom of how we can actually solve their problem quicker, then that’s half the battle.
I think, to answer your question in short form, drilling down and asking more critical questions up front and making sure people understood that the customer service backed up the questions — that’s what people wanted.
They want real-time answers. They want help. They don’t want a hassle in a tough time. We implemented [that].
From a team structure point of view, having a team is part of the battle that I don’t think a lot of agents actually understand. If I can have a team around me of three or four people that actually complement my disadvantages, then [I’m] plugging strengths into my own weaknesses, so to speak.
I look at any sporting team and not one player can win a premiership by themselves. So, the reality is, you’ve got to have a team around you that’s going to support your weaknesses.
REB: How do you choose who makes your team? Who makes the cut? What are some of the things that you do look for in team members?
Michael Dowling: First and foremost, we look for the will to work. I’ve been brought up in a very much blue-collar engineering background from my father and family. I’ve always been taught that it doesn’t matter how much people know, if they’re willing to work and willing to try hard, then they’re worth giving a go-to. The skill can be trained and coached, but you can’t coach will. You can’t coach determination, all that sort of stuff. So, there’s a couple of differences there that I go through when I recruit someone. I’ve put on someone very recently who, to be quite frank, we didn’t really have a spot available for him. But basically, he was just that keen to come on board that I had to make a position for him.
Basically, that comes down to being able to recognise that work ethic when you see it, and then understanding how to coach it from there.
REB: You’re taking a very proactive approach to things like recruitment and growth and all of that. It makes sense, given the market at the moment. What are some of your goals and expectations from the coming year?
Michael Dowling: Well, we’ve got different stages. From a system point of view, we’ve got the backend, which is what we call our database, our processes, our structure. Then we’ve got the frontend. The frontend is more customer service, real-time information to buyers, sellers. I’m continually trying to grow that to make sure it keeps ahead of all the competitors.
From a growth point of view, we’ve got things put in place at the moment where I know, once I get to 200, 220 sales a year, there’s going to be extra difficulties we’re going to deal with as a team. So, we’re already putting things in the backend, support systems [and] structures to make things a lot more streamlined so that when, as a team, we get to that level, we’re not going to have to worry about the hassles of working in a database. It’s all going to be done through mobile phone and simple touch. So, I’m just trying to make sure that all the right strategies are there to capably handle the growth rather than when you get to that growing point, you start to get the growing pains.
We just want to be proactive and be ahead of those pains.
REB: Was there anything that COVID-19 taught you, as an agent, that you didn’t already know?
Michael Dowling: I think what it gave more importance [to], and a really big emphasis on, was customer service. People wanting real time, people being flexible; as an agent, drilling down a little bit more detailed on how much you want to help people. There was no need to drop all of that off when the world turned back to normal.
If someone couldn’t make an appointment in September last year, why wouldn’t you walk them around the property via Zoom or FaceTime, just to make sure they’re comfortable with it and show them that you can actually do that.
That it’s convenient for them, so that they’re not driving 45 minutes to an appointment to a house that they’re maybe not going to like and the photos are different to the walkthrough.
There’s a lot of these little things that, from a COVID point of view, whether it be Uber or any of that dropping food off at your door, rather than touching your door handle, making things just as convenient as possible for people is probably the big thing that I learnt out of it.
REB: What are you anticipating over the next 12 months?
Michael Dowling: For me, I think it’s easy to grow in a market that’s booming.
What’s going to be the real test is over the next 12 months, where as the market starts to shift and change and slow down, that’s where we really get excited.
We know that our structure and the team and everything will support the backend as well as the agents that are talking to the clients. That’s my big thing.
As much as it probably doesn’t sound like I’m excited about coming 17th, I think the reality is, yes, we did well, but the real test for me as an agent is looking at guys like Pete Chauncy and thinking, “That’s an amazing agent.”
If he can do something like that 15 years in a row and have complete mastery, then I look at that and go, “Well, there’s no excuses as to why you can’t.”
The reality is, you don’t applaud someone who’s done it for two years. Applaud someone who’s done it for longer than that.
I just look at the consistency. If people can do it in a tough time as well as the good times, then that’s the type of agent that everyone should emulate. I look at the Mat Steinwedes, the Pete Chauncys, Alexander Phillips: all these guys who have done it year-on-year without any hiccups. Obviously, they’ve probably got their own hiccups, but you just want to rip off and duplicate and just continue to do it in your own way. And that’s the way I look at it.