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Kylie Maxwell – Challenge Accepted

TRANSFORM MASTERS Champion 2017 Kylie Maxwell from LJ Hooker Queanbeyan was not part of the original #SuperSix chosen to compete in this year’s program. But showing consistency, experience and an extra special care factor for both business and people, Kylie ‘stole the show’ and made it her own. Here are some of the highlights of what she learned along the way.

You’ve been in the industry for more than 25 years, owning and operating a very successful business. Why did you apply for Transform Masters?

At the time, I felt that I was not leading my team to their full potential.

I found myself doing a lot of the hard stuff to ease the stress and keep everyone happy; in turn I was getting increasingly burnt out and starting to resent my job.

I also increasingly found myself hitting my head against a brick wall. Behind the highlight reels I am a social worker, advice giver, support person, the go-to person, the office pacifier, the problem solver; it takes its toll and from that point I could see things needed to change.

Throughout my career, I have always worked alongside my husband, Jason. He has always been the face of our business, and although he knows exactly how much work I’ve put into the business I felt the perception may have been that I worked for my husband and just looked after the trust accounts!

As a leader and business owner it can be lonely at the top and there is very little recognition for you personally; the recognition is always for your team. Transform was an opportunity for me to be recognised personally for my role as a leader, and gave me a chance to learn some new skills and challenge myself against some of the best in the industry.

How do you and Jason lead the team together, as well as separately?
Jason and I play very different roles in the business when it comes to supporting and dealing with our team. Jason is a selling principal so, as you can imagine, he is not in the office a lot. He deals with the sales team and I deal with the property management and administrative team, as well as all the HR issues.

It’s important for us to be on the same page and share the same vision for our business. Our strengths are different and that’s OK. We never undermine each other’s decisions in front of our staff; we stuff up sometimes, but usually that’s a discussion for behind closed doors with beer in hand, where we say to each other, ‘How on earth are we going to fix this?’. It’s very important with any business partnership, married or otherwise, that you have each other’s backs and work in sync.

What are the hallmarks of a good leader?
Leadership to me means being able to support, coach, mentor and train your team and individuals to be the best they can be for their own future success, and the future success of your business.

What is it they say? People don’t leave because of money; people leave because of a lack of opportunity and support.

I don’t think my view of being a good leader has changed a lot since Transform, but the way I interact and lead my team has changed. I don’t step in and do as much for them. I put my trust in them to do the job and I let them fall so that they can learn from their mistakes and grow. You cannot run a great business and provide great leadership if you are trying to deal with everything and everyone; it’s not possible.

It’s funny, though: now that I’ve won Transform, my journey has made me realise that you don’t give to get and you don’t need to receive the recognition to know how ‘great’ you are. The rich rewards are seeing how people perceive your team and your business as an attraction agency. Ultimately, if these things are going great then you know that you have led and supported your team in a good way.

What was the best part of Transform Masters 2017 for you?
The network of industry professionals I have been able to meet, and the resources and tools they have provided. Also, just getting to know the rest of the #DirtyDozen and realising that we are all in the same boat, facing the same challenges and struggles in our day-to-day business life. The support and inspiration from them has been amazing.

What is your vision now a leader of your organisation?
We spend a lot of time at work and with the people we work with. It’s important to have a happy and stress-free environment. That has to come from the top. There has to be a little bit of humour in every day and we all have to have each other’s back. As a leader I have to display a positive attitude and practise what I preach. For example – it’s always been about people to me, not property. I like to provide great customer service to all our clients. If my team sees how I treat customers, I am setting an example for them to follow and do the same.

Our intent is to create and inspire. Our core values are integrity, respect and leadership, and our ethos is to have passion, strength and innovation.

Which coaching session stood out to you, and why was that lesson important for where you are now in your leadership journey?
The number-crunching session with Fiona Blayney was a standout for me. I’ve always done this on a bit of a wing and a prayer: closed my eyes and hoped for the best. The bills get paid, clients are happy, there is some profit and the doors stay open. However, what gets measured gets managed, and to grow your business and market share you need to know your numbers in every aspect.

How did you win over the Sharks?
My Shark Tank investment pitch was about growth. I identified an area that was lacking in our marketplace that we could leverage off for growth in our rent roll. The pitch was based around a shock-and-awe advertising campaign. I demonstrated to the Sharks that I was low-risk and there was a proven return on investment for both income and asset value.

I was able to confidently pitch our business to them based on a few factors: I knew my product, I have years of industry experience, I knew my business figures and what the return on investment would be. After surveying clients we knew how our service levels were perceived and I could demonstrate we had the structure in place for this growth.

To be able to win the Sharks over I had to make them believe in me and I had to be confident in what I was delivering. To do this you need to practice, practice, practice. You need to look at your business holistically and really know it. It would be no different to doing a listing presentation for sales or property management; you need to have your scripts, you need to prepare and you need to know your facts and figures. Once a client sees confidence in you, they also see confidence in your ability.

What are your specific goals now personally and for your business?
My personal goal is to ensure I am mentally and physically healthy: practising gratitude, being present and in the moment when I’m with family and friends. From a business point of view, continue to work on the business, the vision and the culture for future growth, and to be the best we can – not only in our marketplace and local community.

I’m also passionate about being a role model for other businesses. With so many years of industry knowledge under my belt in so many facets and levels of operating a real estate business, I think it’s important to share your knowledge with others. I’m always happy to answer a question from a fellow industry peer. Personally, in the future I would to love to be able to mentor and coach in this space. We can all learn something from each other; Transform was a perfect example of this.

What advice would you give anyone thinking about making the leap to leadership?
The landscape of business is changing and changing quickly. As a future leader you need to be embracing the changes and adapting your business to this. You need to learn how to deal with different generations, embrace new technology, flexible work hours, robots and outsourcing. You’ve got to back yourself and always be open to learning. You are not always going to have the answers and know what to do in every situation, but that’s the great part about the journey. What works for one business and one team may not necessarily work for another. There is no cookie cutter on leadership; you grow into it. It’s not about being the boss – it’s about developing and growing people and yourself. Be authentic, be real and share your experience and don’t fear the future. It can be lonely at the top, so have an industry mentor/coach to keep you accountable.

You are not always going to have the answers, but that’s the great part of the journey.

Leaving the Transform classroom, what are your goals for the next six months?
Over the years we have built a great business on solid foundations, systems, experience and good reputation. As a business, in the next six months we are going to be focusing on employing an offshore assistant to take on some administrative tasks and we will be looking at the best CRM system for our database. We will also be looking to move our PM system to the cloud. The days of having a street frontage office will soon diminish as clients want immediate access to 24/7 service. We have great culture, great people and we love what we do. We are in growth mode and the future is exciting.

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Samantha McLean

Samantha McLean is the Managing Editor of Elite Agent Magazine.
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