My guest today took a leap of faith and started her own property management business five years ago called Plan a Property Group. I want you to meet Shelly Bays. She is a dynamic agent who brings a special spark to the property management industry and her local community. Being a woman in real estate, Shelly feels a great sense of responsibility and privilege to role model the young women in her local community. And by being a community focused agent, Shelly has been able to grow her business from zero to almost 200 managements through word of mouth. Only Shelly took a single idea to involve her local business community in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, a market saturated with established real estate brands and businesses, and made her mark on the local market and not by splashing around a heap of money or buying clients. She did it all authentically and organically. She’s one of the youngest female agency directors in the eastern suburbs, and she shares how she juggles all the hats and roles as she grows her business in her own unique way. So how did she do it? Build a thriving business, build on referrals only. Well, you’ll have to take a read and find out…
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND HOW YOU GOT STARTED IN PROPERTY MANAGEMENT?
“It is an interesting story. I know a lot of people don’t really have an interesting story, but I didn’t start in real estate until I was later in life. So when I say later in life, I’m, I’m 37 now, but I started in real estate at 27. So prior to real estate, I was actually a school teacher and I wasn’t really vibing. There was something not quite right. So I decided to just do my real estate course kind of in the school holidays. And then an opportunity hopped up with a friend who owned a boutique agency in the Eastern suburbs and said, well, why don’t you jump on board and have a crack and see if it works for you. So I did. And I was with them for five years and kind of worked my way up and then kind of hit that five-year mark where I was starting to get itchy toes and I thought, I want to branch out, I want to do more, I want to take on more responsibility. I think I want to start and have my own piece of the pie. So I left that agency and I started plan a property with my now husband who’s also my business partner. And we’ve been in business for five years. And its primarily property management and it’s a challenge, but it’s very rewarding and it offers a lot of flexibility. And that’s what I really love about doing what we do is, is that every day is different and I have the power to choose how I work when I work, how my business operates.”
HOW DID YOU START GROWING AND HOW DID YOU GET YOUR FOOTHOLD IN YOUR LOCAL MARKET?
“There are big brands, there’s the larger independent brands, and now we’ve got a whole heap of these little boutiques and small businesses with people who’ve, property managers who’ve left the industry and have gone out and started their own. It is an interesting area because as you said, there are big fish, there’s little fish, there’s in between fish, there’s every kind of walk of life in, in the eastern suburbs, and it’s such a flooded area as well. So finding your niche in this market is super difficult. And I’ve only ever worked in the eastern suburb, so I can’t talk for other areas, but I imagine it would be quite similar. You have, your core agents that do majority of the business, and then you’ve got people that are trying to make their own way. And when we started the agency five years ago, I really had to think what’s my point of difference? I need to work out how I can set myself apart from the everyday Joe Blow that’s doing real estate at the moment in my area and has that core business. So like you said, I started with nothing. I started a business with no business, which is when I think back now absolutely manic. If I could go back and say to myself five years ago, like, you are crazy, I would, but I think ignorance was bliss in that, in that sense, because I was just so motivated to do a good job and to do it different and to offer a service that no one else was offering, you know, at the time and had all of this excitement. So starting from zero in an area that I had just moved to physically, I knew no one, I didn’t, it was a new area, a new area of business for me. And I thought, wow, okay, how am I going to get my name out there? So I kind of had to think of, well, what’s, what’s my point of difference? What am I going to offer? What am I about? And I do see myself as someone that’s very active in my local community. So, I thought, let’s branch into that. Let’s set myself apart, not just as a real estate agent that does property management, but a person that lives in my community that, is involved with my community and loves my community, and I also do real estate in my community. So that’s how it started. And I’ll share, I can share with you guys a really cool little activity that I did in the very beginning to kind of get my name out there, but also to show that I supported local businesses in my area as my point of difference. What I did was that we have a really great community in Botany, where I live and work, and we have a really great little Facebook group. So I reached out to the admin of the Facebook group and I said, look, I’ve got this great idea that I want to get little local businesses involved with. Can I promote this on page? She was like absolutely, fully supported it. I laid it all out there for her, so she knew exactly what I was thinking. And for me, I just wanted to genuinely get my name out there and support other little local businesses.. So I reached out on Facebook and I said, in this community group, Hey guys, you know, I’m thinking of doing a local business directory and it’s going to be like a little kind of distribution, a little DL size thing that I’m going to send out to every house in Botany. If you’ve got a local business and you are in the botany area, reach out if you want to be involved and let’s start a conversation. So from that, I think I had like a hundred local businesses in botany reach out everything from handyman to mortgage brokers, everyone just reaching out, Hey, I’ve got this. So I said, well, this is interesting. Let’s, let’s get this going. So what I did was I got 50 businesses, they all contributed a little bit, and we basically did the flyer. It had my business details on it, and it had every local business that was contributing and their phone number on it. I distributed them. They went to every house in botany. And from that day, that is how people have come to know me and my business. I all of a sudden now have this perfect reputation essentially from that activity of being someone that supports local business in my area, even though I didn’t know these people, I was new. But from that organically grew this reputation and this relationship that now some of those local businesses that I had no idea who they were, are now my clients. One of them is my chiropractor, another one is my mortgage broker. And these relationships have sustained, and people have just come to know me as someone that likes to support local businesses. I live local, I enjoy the local area I’m in, and I sell and lease real estate in Botany. I didn’t think it was going to work, but it did.”
HAS ALL OF YOU BUSINESS BEEN THROUGH REFERALLS?
“A hundred percent of our business has come from word of mouth referral. So not one business or not one property was bought. I did not inherit any business. We did not buy a rent roll. Nothing. Every single property has come from someone else’s word of mouth. Facebook recommendation, I use Shelly, give her a call, literally every property, which for me comes from reputation. If you’re doing a good job, people are going to refer you. If you’re not doing a good job or they’re not happy, they’re not going to pass your details on. So it’s just about building that reputation and like you said, being genuine, caring, supporting, because I think real estate agents have such a poor reputation sometimes, which is really sad because as you know, not all of us are pigeonholed to this, you know, this poor reputation. Some of us actually do love what we do. We are good at what we do, and we are good people, and I’m trying to, well, I’m not trying to change the world. It’s just I’m trying to do a better job for property management and show people that you can do a good job. You can. I am a good person and I can do both. It’s a funny industry. But, I remember getting my first phone call for my first management, but just starting the business. And I was sitting in my little home office and I was like, oh my gosh, where’s it going to come from? Where’s my first, what do I do now? I’ve got the branding, I’ve got the computer set up, I’ve got the email set up. When’s the phone going to ring? And then that’s when that idea I just told you about came from. And when my phone actually did ring and someone had called saying, my friends referred you manage a property for them in the suburb, would you look after my property? I was like, oh, okay. I didn’t know what to do. I was like, hang on a minute, I know what to do here. This is what I do every day. But for some reason I just like, oh my God, this is real.”
ARE YOU DOING OTHER MARKETING ACTIVITES OR IS IT STILL COMMUNITY BASED?
“We do. So at the moment, because I live and work in the same area, I’m always in and around and about. So Craig and I, were always out every morning, we walk the dog, we get a coffee at our local coffee shop. All of our friends locally have small businesses that we support, community, you know, community events, the local school. We’re doing all of that. We’re still really active in our local community. We don’t just splash cash. I mean, I think that people in real estate can get hung up and I support this and I do this, and I’m the face of this and I help them with this. And don’t just throw money at things. Actually get involved in it. Put, your big girl pants on and, and go out and do something and be known for the person that actually gets in and does it not just to get the recognition for doing it, but because you actually want to do it. People will be more receptive to that genuine attitude, I think rather than just, here’s some money, I sponsored this and I put my brand on it. I coach soccer, which is something I used to play, and I love coaching soccer, but I mean, I don’t do that because of our local soccer club is sponsored by another local real estate agencies. All branding is another agency. So, I definitely don’t do that for sponsorship. There’s no sponsorship involved in that. It’s just a love for helping young women in sport. And God, what else do we do? I mean, it’s, I think it’s not so much, throwing money at things. Like I said, it’s more just being there every day, shopping at your local coffee shop, going to your local pub, supporting that local business down the road that, walking in and just saying hi. It’s little things like that. And like I said, Botany’s a little country town, where we can do that. And it’s got a great vibe that everyone just knows each other. So I’m really lucky in that aspect. But I think it can be applied to any area really most real estate agencies or shopfronts, if you have a shop front, you can pop next door to the coffee shop or go across the road to the florist or whoever the business is and just say hi. I mean, we, we do letter box drops and things like that, but again, I try to not be like other agencies and just do the typical, hi, I sell, I lease, I do this. We do it a bit differently with our marketing. And I don’t sell letter boxes as often as some local agents do. I just don’t think it’s, for me, I don’t think it does anything. I think it’s just a pest and I don’t want to be a pest.”