Toop&Toop Real Estate, one of South Australia’s leading real estate agencies, has been recognised with three major awards at the 2017 Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) National Awards for Excellence in Canberra. From humble beginnings, this family business has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 1985. Sisters Suzannah Toop, CEO of Property Investment & Finance, and Genevieve Toop, CEO of Sales & Marketing, talk to Elite Agent in this exclusive interview.
What was your first job and what did it teach you?
Suzannah: My first ‘real’ job was scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins. Before that I was working on our family farm on the tractor, chopping wood and picking grapes. As a teenager, I loved having part-time jobs; it felt like being an adult and that I was part of the real world.
Genevieve: My first job was at Subway when I was 14 years old. The biggest lesson my first job taught me was the value of money. Experiencing how much work you put into one hour, to be paid at that time $5, made me respect and start to understand how hard you need to work for success.
Tell us what got you started in real estate.
Suzannah: Our parents started their real estate business in 1985, so it’s been in my blood all along. Being a family business, our conversations around the dinner table revolved around real estate, which I loved.
Genevieve: I put my first Sold sign up when I was three years old. Real Estate has always been a huge part of our lives and growing up I was lucky enough to be able to experience all different facets of our industry.
It wasn’t until I moved to London that I realised how much I missed real estate and how infectious it is.
What do you think is unique about your area in South Australia?
Suzannah: I see the Adelaide property market as unique for two main reasons – the lifestyle it offers and its affordability. Having been away from Adelaide for 11 years (living in Melbourne, the Gold Coast and Sydney) I’ve seen first-hand that you really cannot beat the ease and convenience that Adelaide offers, as well as the beautiful wine regions so close to the city and of course the premium homes… just to name a few.
Genevieve: There are not many places in Australia that offer homebuyers what we can here. We have some incredible character homes in the Adelaide Hills on acres of land, yet only a 20-minute drive into the heart of the CBD including peak hour! We also have absolute beach front homes on large block sizes with tennis courts and swimming pools… it’s an amazing place to call home!
What makes Toop&Toop stand out from the competition?
Suzannah: We are a 32-year-old family business that has entered phase 2.0. so we have a unique mix of experience and energy. We’re lucky enough to work with some of the best minds across the country in sales, investment management and technology through to finance and HR. Creating new ways of doing things, thinking differently and delivering an unmatchable client experience is at the core of our business. And the most enjoyable part is seeing our team recognised as national leaders in areas such as marketing, communications and innovation, [scooping] awards such as the 2017 REIA Awards for Excellence in March this year.
Genevieve: We have six offices across South Australia with 123 people in our team. One of our biggest differences is that we have a deep and thorough understanding of innovation, and this has been core to our culture for over 32 years. Our entire team embraces change rather than resisting it, and this can be intimidating to other agents. It’s our innovative culture and collaboration (to turn) new ideas into reality that provides our team with new tools, and [will] continue providing our clients with an unmatchable service.
Describe your style of leadership.
Suzannah: Leadership styles across different professions and industry sectors are so varied. I believe it’s about finding the right one for you and your business. For us, we believe it’s important to create a culture of collaboration, high work ethic, exceptional performance and [keeping] our customer at the centre of everything we do.
We see a large part of any leadership role is to inspire those around you and to bring them on the journey of where you are going. We have some big plans ahead of us at Toop&Toop and to share that with our team and how they will each play a part in taking our business there – we believe is important.
Leadership styles are changing. The days of ruling with the iron fist seem to be numbered. That’s not to say that the hard calls aren’t needed – but trusting your team to perform and backing them is essential. There are now four generations in the workforce and we are seeing that one approach to a situation will create different responses in a team. Awareness of this is proving to be important. As a Gen Y myself I can share my experience first hand… you ask us to do something, the next question is highly likely to be ‘why’? If you can harness this curiosity, I believe, you will have a very engaged and motivated team.
Do you have a mentor or someone who inspires you?
Suzannah: I’m lucky to have a core group of business people who are there as a sounding board to bounce things off if needed. It isn’t a formal arrangement, but certainly an incredibly important aspect of being in business. Often we can have real estate blinkers on, so it’s good to put your head up every now and then to see what’s happening more broadly in other sectors. We’ve found some of our biggest innovations have come from looking to other industries, so having this outside influence is vital.
Genevieve: I have a number of trusted people within the business world that I turn to for advice and bounce ideas off. I think it’s important to surround yourself every day with people you respect, can learn from and can be challenged by. If you surround yourself with driven and successful people from all different fields they are passionate about, it’s extremely inspiring and infectious.
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
Suzannah: This is a hard one. Over the years I’ve received some really valuable advice from a range of business people from all different backgrounds. The saying that resonates most with me and our approach in business is ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome’. We have really driven the business forward based on this principle. Thinking differently is at the core of our business. It’s what we believe will ensure businesses are sustainable into the future.
Genevieve: Always be open-minded and curious, because you can learn something new from every single conversation you have.
What’s the one thing that you would have done sooner if you could go back in time?
Genevieve: Read more books. I wish I knew ten years ago how much you can learn just from reading books on leadership and business. Learning the insights from other entrepreneurs and ultra-successful business people’s experiences and mistakes is invaluable!
Suzannah: Learn computer programming. This is a goal for 2017. I’m sure our IT development team will appreciate this! There will be fewer stick-figure drawings in our Innovation Lab – where we collaborate and create new products and tools for our team (in both sales and property management). We currently have four full-time IT programmers on board, but the team is ever expanding. Innovation has always been at the core of what we do at Toop&Toop. It is such an important part of our business and we believe using technology to deliver even more value to our customers is the way forward for real estate. Thinking differently and challenging what’s possible in our industry is what we are known for; this stems back 32 years to when Anthony Toop, our dad, first started the business. For us, launching the Innovation Lab was the next progressive step.
Our Innovation Lab has been recognised for national award-winning platforms such as the ToopVault (2017 Winner of the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) Innovation Award) and ToopFIX (2016 Winner of the REIA Innovation Award). We have been able to achieve unprecedented results for our clients through the use of technology and we’re excited at what the future holds in this space.
What other goals would you like to achieve?
Suzannah: Lift the profile of the property management industry. My goal is to provide higher-level investment training to our team and move away from a business that ‘just collects the rent’. We have already started this transformation within our own business. By creating significant efficiencies through innovation we’ve been able to reduce workloads, focus on investment training and improve our value-add proposition as well as deliver vastly improved results to our clients.
Genevieve: This year we ticked one of my big goals off the list, winning the Real Estate Institute of Australia’s Large Agency of the Year [award]. Competing locally to win this award at a state level is very difficult; to then be up against the best agencies across Australia and to win that is such a huge honour and something Suzannah and I really wanted to be able to achieve, so we were blown away at the awards. In terms of goals for the future, one I am really looking forward to that isn’t too far away is helping one of our fast starters, who started in the industry only two years ago, become a million-dollar agent! Being able to help our team achieve their goals is one of the best feelings there is.
What are your predictions for the real estate industry this year, especially in South Australia?
Suzannah Looking ahead, I see inefficiency as one of the biggest hindrances of growth for our industry. Keeping up with the growing consumer expectation is not only important, it’s a must, or we risk becoming irrelevant. We need to be able to switch to ‘value-add’ mode as quickly as possible, all whilst ensuring our team are supported to pursue exceptional performance and results.
Genevieve: The real estate industry as a whole is going to need to step it up another notch again in 2017. Global companies like Airbnb, Facebook and Google have made it known that real estate is an interesting space for them so, regardless of who or what might be coming, it is a huge opportunity for our industry to look at how we disrupt ourselves and provide an even more valuable experience to our clients now. Innovation and efficiency will be the key enablers for us to be able to do this. In terms of our South Australian market, demand is still far outweighing supply so we expect to see the mid-range and luxury markets continue to rise with steady, consistent growth. The Adelaide market is drawing the attention of an increasing number of Eastern State buyers, as it truly is fantastic value for money.
What advice would you give someone starting out in real estate?
Suzannah: Embrace it. It’s a lifestyle, not just a job. If you pour yourself into it, you’ll truly understand why it’s such a rewarding industry to be a part of.
Genevieve: Take the time to research the agencies in your marketplace and make sure you are also interviewing them. You want to make sure you choose a company that’s going to provide you with the best tools and resources, and to provide your clients with the best possible service and experience. A career in real estate involves building your own brand (personal brand) within a brand (agency brand), so it’s really important to work with a company that aligns with your values, beliefs and vision.