A duck and a dream

I had the pleasure of watching arguably the world’s best magician David Copperfield live in Melbourne recently. The magic itself was awesome...

17 reasons you should always carry a book with you

1. As someone who used to spend a lot of time waiting for real estate clients to show up – I know that clients / appointments / people in general are often late...

Reality Television your way to Success

I think I’m one of the only “motivational speakers” (not that I call myself that) who will openly admit that I watch television. I watch bad television too… even… dare I say it… reality television.

Where is the love?!

One of my businesses, Elephant Property, works in the notoriously under appreciated category of residential property management. The old adage in property management...

The power of the word

I’m quite distraught. I was eating my personal trainer approved afternoon snack of 12 almonds (my suggestion of 12 Tim Tams: not approved)...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Would you invest in these guys?


So, these guys walk into your office and ask you to invest in their fledgling company. What do you think? First impressions?
If your answer is - I love pocket protectors and facial hair you'd be onto a winner. You'd have just invested in the original Microsoft team (see a fresh faced Bill in the bottom left hand corner?)

Now while this is clearly an old photo - it goes to remind me that first impressions aren't everything.

If you're going to a job interview, am I recommending wide lapels and orange tones? Probably not.

But if you're conducting a job interview, am I recommending you look past initial first impressions? Absolutely. I wrote in my book Retired at 27 If I can do it anyone can about a fabulous former employee who I didn't call back after a not so great first impression in a group interview (she was shy and faded into the background). Strangely, the next day she was in our office for a day's trial. I was confused. Turns out the girl I'd meant to call back had the same name as the girl who'd shown up. Not wanting to be rude we let the unexpected candidate work her trial and at the end of the day every team member she worked with insisted we hire her. First impression - not stellar. Lasting impression - Kim was and is one of the more exceptional young ladies I've ever worked with.

Where do you need to look past the first impression today?

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments

Positively Pervasive


"I am staying positive," she said to me adamantly. I've been saying things to myself all day like "it can't get any worse than this!"

I wish that was some sort of a punch line, but the girl I was speaking to believed wholeheartedly that this statement represented her being “positive”.
She didn’t realize that it’s really difficult to phrase a positive statement around negativity.

It's like trying to motivate yourself to lose weight by saying that you want to be less fat today than you were yesterday. It's like trying to get positive about your education by saying you want to be less stupid.

I wrote in my book Retired at 27, If I can do it anyone can about keeping a journal of the high point of my day. Nothing else other than a one sentence statement indicating the high point of my day. I kept a journal for 3 years until seeing the high point became habit and something I could easily do.

I recommended it to a friend going through a hard time and then I saw her journal. Written on the front was “It’s good news week…. It can’t get any worse”. Arghgh!

I’ve been in a rut before where the world seems like it’s falling down around me. We all have. But I can assure you, fueling your mind with negativity ‘aint going to break you out of that rut.

We’ve all done the exercise where you close your eyes and try to pick everything blue around you (if you haven’t, do it now). Now open your eyes and all you can see is blue – pens, the sky, clothing. Your mind will gravitate towards what you focus on. What are you choosing to focus on?

So where to from here? Maybe each night when sharing dinner with a loved one, you share the high point of your day. Maybe you tweet it to the world or to me - @kirstydunphey. Maybe you email it to a friend. Recognise the highs, the positive moments and I assure you, they may start small and less frequent, but by choosing your focus there will be more and more to focus on.

By Marjorie with No comments

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hold the line…


I called Towns Shearing (an independent real estate agency in my home town of Launceston) today and was greeted by an extremely professional voice on the phone asking me if I wouldn’t mind holding for just a moment. Having started on the phones in a real estate agency I understood that she was likely fielding multiple calls and so I replied that I wouldn’t mind holding.
As soon as I was placed on hold I realised that I might do better just to call the agent I was after on his mobile and so I hung up the phone and did that, connecting with him straight away.

Surprisingly though, when I got off the phone to that agent I had a voice mail message from Daisy (the professional voce who had put me on hold only minutes earlier). On finding that I’d hung up, Daisy had called me back (their phone system had showed my number) to offer service.

While I had already had my enquiry dealt with and didn’t need to call Daisy back I was blown away by this extra level of service. How often have you left an organization superbly impressed after being asked to “hold the line”?

By Marjorie with No comments

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It’s not you… it’s me.


So I got broken up with this week. Dumped. I’m even a little heartbroken.

Don’t worry – my marriage isn’t in jeopardy. A client broke me up with me.

I say “broke up with me” instead of “fired me” because I’m being dumped not because of anything I’ve done. The client still loves us. They’re not going to another service provider. They’ve just had a change in circumstances.

Now, I could present a wealth of service strategies on what to do to win back a client who is firing you, but I had to pause when I thought of what to do with the client who was simply ending our relationship with a “it’s not you, it’s me”.

So here’s the approach I took and I kind of based it on how I’d like someone to treat me if they actually broke up on me:

Step 1. I took it like a champ. I let the client know how disappointed I was, but that I understood their reasons behind their decision.

Step 2. I took a step back. I reflected on their reasons and offered a creative solution to work around their current situation. While I wasn’t sure it would work (it didn’t in this case) I was sure my effort would be appreciated (it was, with the client responding with “Thanks for always trying to work out a mutually beneficial solution though - it's really impressive”).

Step 3. I didn’t make the break up unnecessarily hard or convoluted. In short, I didn’t try and create any unnecessary hurdles to the client leaving. I made the transition as easy for them as possible. Why? Because they’ve now just reverted from being a current client to… a future client.

They’re back on my prospecting list and as much as it took me 2 years to get them on board in the first place, I’ll keep working until they’re a current client again.

Stay tuned.

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Confidence is the ultimate sexy


Kia Orana (Hello, welcome in Cook Islands Maori).

I recently visited the tiny island of Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. There I saw a local show highlighting the culture of Aitutaki in dance, singing, drumming and great humour.

Watching the tiny kids dance was a highlight and it’s fabulous to see that the gorgeous Polynesian culture here is being maintained and appreciated. The most interesting thing for me however was an older female solo dancer later on in the night.
As she walked to the middle of the raked sand performance area I noted that by “traditional” standards she wouldn’t have been someone that I would have rated as show-stoppingly gorgeous. As she started to dance I felt a shudder go through me as I watched her less than flat stomach start to roll and gyrate. Instantly I placed myself in her position and knew that were I clothed as such, and dancing as such, I’d be wrought with fears of what people were thinking of my stomach, my thighs, my arms.

Mere seconds into her performance however I realized that the entire crowd had hushed – the first time for the evening. All eyes were on this solo dancer. Unlike many performances, she maintained next to no eye contact with the audience - she was lost in the dance. A knowing smile beamed from her lips and with every hip sashay, booty shake or divine hand movement she exuded the utmost confidence and conviction. She was incredible. Right then and there she was perhaps the single most gorgeous and sexy creature I’d ever seen.

How did she go from someone I wouldn’t have looked at twice to someone utterly captivating? Confidence. Skills. Conviction.

How does a young real estate agent go from someone you’d be hesitant to lend your car to, to someone you’d feel confident handling the sale of your biggest asset? Confidence. Skills. Conviction.

How can you start to inspire more ease in your clients and more desire to be around you as a business person (or even just a person for that matter!) You know the answer.

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I don’t know?


I don’t care how smart, talented, trained or educated you are, in your professional life time and time again, you’re going to be hit with questions to which you don’t know the answers.

A real estate agent showing a house will be asked about the energy efficiency of an appliance, or an accountant will be asked about an obscure tax law, a police officer will be questioned about a portion of legislation they’re not familiar with.

And many of us will feel a sinking feeling when we’re asked that tricky question. No one likes to say “I don’t know”.

So my advice – don’t.

Instead say… “Is that important to you?”

For example, a real estate agent showing a house is asked what type of insulation is in the roof. Reply – is that important to you? Oftentimes the is “not really” – people are just filling space with conversation and asking may save you a random fact finding hunt over something of no importance to the person asking the question. If however the answer was – Yes, my son has allergies to XXX you could reply – ok, I’ll find out and let you know and you’re further educated as to why the person wants that information and can more specifically track down the correct answer.

Or perhaps try… “Great question, let me find out for you”

Rather than, I don’t know, this leaves the person with a little pat on the back (for a great question) and provided you do what you say you’re going to (find out the answer) you’re golden.

You might try… “Judy in our organisation is our specialist on that, let me find out her thoughts”.

An easy way to retain credibility and to make the person feel as though you’re valuing their question by seeking counsel from someone who is a “specialist”.

So let’s ban “I don’t know”, but recognise that the other fabulous thing about feeling the “I don’t know” dread is that next time you’re asked that question – you’ll know!

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sweep the floor with service…


As I write this I’m visiting the spectacular Cook Islands. We’ve just had a visit from the complex’s handyman as our air-conditioning was making a bit of a strange noise.

He arrived, fixed the problem and went on his way. I thought it was strange as he disappeared as he didn’t even say he was done and was leaving.
But then he returned, and where his ladder had been, he started to sweep. There had been some minute dust and debris knocked as he was doing his work and he swept the floor beautifully clean. With a smile and a wave he was then done.

Simple, thoughtful service that made a lasting impression. His sweeping, was a clean sweep in the service stakes on this trip so far.

In my industry: real estate, this might be as simple as offering to take your shoes off at any front door you come to. A hairdresser might offer every client a drink while they’re having their hair done. A waitress might take time to get to know a child by name.

What can you do today that charms, surprises and delights?

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Attention Detention


This morning my husband was getting my little girl out of bed as I walked past the door to her room half asleep and groggy. Moments later – tears.
Confused I walked back into the room only to discover I was in fact the cause of the tears.

As I’d walked past the doorway my little girl had seen me and had sent a huge smile my way. Without any acknowledgement from me as I disappeared – tears ensued.

After revelling in my parenting fail and smothering my tiny one in masses of kisses it hit me that

I’m guilty of doing a similar thing in the workplace at times.

Despite knowing that how many people need praise and recognition in a workplace – I’m sometimes a blur of emails and tasks and instructions.

When was the last time you stopped to acknowledge someone in your workplace? A smile, a moment or a word of praise missed might not result in tears in your workplace (who knows it might if missed too often), but think of the added benefits to the working atmosphere if you remembered to do it more often.

Who needs your attention right now?

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments

Thursday, October 27, 2011


If you haven’t read Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeir Hansson yet – go buy a copy, it’s simple and brilliant and has made me significantly rethink a lot of the way I do business. Page 70 Rework of says “Build half a product, not a half assed Product.”

I love this statement and the simple truth around doing a smaller portion of work well rather than trying to be everything to everyone. It’s the reason our real estate agency Elephant Property does one thing – residential property management – instead of trying to do commercial and sales and 5 other things half assedly.

It’s the reason ReallySold just helps real estate agents write better ads. The original concept that spawned ReallySold started as a website that offered about 60 different training and assistance features to real estate agents. As I was going through the planning stages for my behemoth real estate training site, the component that helped agents write awesome ads was the 1 in the 60 that I was the most excited about. It could also be implemented quickly and done well. In that instance I built 1/60th of a product – but it was the right choice.

Are you trying to do too much? What’s are you best at? What can you astoud and wow people by doing? What can you be a rock star at?

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments

Friday, October 21, 2011

Taboo Topics

My husband and I were playing a lively game of Taboo last night with his parents. For those of you who don’t know the game, you’re given a key word and without using certain related words your job is to get your partner in the game to guess the key word. (ie: if the word is “shower” you couldn’t say “rain”, “wash”, “bath”, “water” or “gifts”).

The great thing about Taboo is that it forces you to think really quickly and you often end up saying amusing things. Like the time a friend’s clue to her partner was “what I would get done if I was going to have any work”. The answer (correctly) – “Nose Job”.

After much giggling at some of the terrible hints we were all giving, my father in law Bob, paired with my husband picked the word “property”. Bob’s initial clue was a great one – “Kirsty deals primarily with this”. My husband’s guesses fired out in machine gun like manner “Business... Complaints… People”.

Eventually they got to “property” – but I was a bit taken back at what my husband thinks I primarily deal with!

Business and people – no worries there. Complaints though! Later I asked him – why did complaints feature so highly on his list. They certainly wouldn’t feature highly on the list I’d create for myself in terms of what I primarily dealt with.

Do I deal with complaints? Absolutely – property management comprises a lot of conflict resolution. But even though they’re not a large component of my day, it was apparent from my husband’s front of mind that they’re what causes me grief outside of work. As it turns out – complaints are what I bring home from work.

As excited as I might be about the new record rental price we’ve received, what I talk about at home instead is the tenant who is unhappy that their rental property is going to be marketed for sale. Rather than talking about how delighted I am at a staff member’s result on an exam, I’ll bring up an unflattering review.

It was a pretty startling realisation for me that:

a) I’m not focussing enough on our successes

b) That I might be a bit myopic when it comes to focussing on any perceived conflict or complaint

A great lesson for me and a hopefully my husband will answer the question differently in the future with a change of perspective from me.

By Kirsty Dunphey with 2 comments

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Thanks Steve



I took a moment to pause early on the 6th of October (Australian time) to thank Steve Jobs. I was so saddened to hear of his passing.


Fittingly I thought, my next steps were to tweet about it on my iphone before sitting down to type this blog on my MacBook Pro.

That said: it’s not just the “things” I’ve been playing with for 20 years that I’m thankful for.


Here was a man who showed us all how something functional could be gorgeous and designed to make us marvel.


Here was a lifelong learner who showed us that you don’t always need a formal education to succeed (Steve dropped out of Reed college).


Here was a flexible creator who also brought us Woody and Buzz from Toy Story.


Here was a business leader who showed us how to build a company with such a culture and verve.


Here was a tenacious character who showed us that it’s never too late if you love it when he clawed his way back into Apple after being fired.


Thank you thank you thank you and farewell.

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Real Prize…


I love a business award for so many reasons.

Much of my “profile” has come from winning the Telstra Australian Young Business Woman of the Year (about a 63 and a half years ago when I was still one of the youngest people in our organization – today at 32, I’m the oldest in my office).

Our real estate agency Elephant Property was just named the Real Estate Institute of Tasmania’s Property Manager of the Year. It’s a significant award where we were up against much larger companies, companies that have been in business much longer than ours and companies that were named like real estate agencies are “meant to be” named after amusing surnames - c’mon you know you’ve thought that about L. J. Hooker before! (This is said with much love to the many awesome people I know working at L. J. Hooker!)

The best part about winning this award for me? Was it the added credibility winning a great award gives your company – or the boost to our team morale – or the great fodder for press releases – or the amazing people we’re sure to meet competing for the national award – or the congratulations coming in from our clients?

It was actually a text from one of my business partners. She’s been doing an amazing job lately working long hours, pushing herself out side her comfort zone and trying to fit that in with being a great mum and wife (she was 7 months pregnant when we started the company!)

Her text simply said that winning the award helped her realize that what we’re working towards was worth some of the short term sacrifices we’ve been making along the way and that she hadn’t been able to get the smile off her face since she heard the news of the award.

What a great prize.

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Who does your taxes?


Louis the weedy tax accountant is my favourite character in the classic 80’s film Ghostbusters.

At the end of the film after the big marshmallow man bites the dust and the roof is pretty blown off the central park adjacent building – Louise is rescued by the Ghostbusters.

Louis: Who are you guys?

Dr Ray Stantz: We're the Ghostbusters.

Louis: Who does your taxes?

The world is half up in smoke, a giant man made of confectionary had just caused havoc in the streets and he’s just been trapped inside a crispy underworld dog and yet Louis never misses an opportunity to prospect for new business.

When was the last time you asked someone – Who does your taxes? (Or your hair, or services your car, or gives you personal training)

By Marjorie with No comments

Friday, September 16, 2011

Roadblock on your road to glory?

I was recently emailed by a young lady who has set up her own charitable endeavour and has hit some pretty substantial roadblocks. She was unsure where to go from here and was after some advice.

My first piece of advice: EVERY endeavour hits roadblocks.

Some prime examples:

•the Frisbee took 9 years to “take off” (excuse the pun) – invented in 1948 it wasn’t a hit till 1957

•Velcro inventor and engineer George de Mestral spent a decade perfecting his invention before he made a sale

•Karl Elsener invented something you probably have in your home today – a Swiss army knife – but it took him 13 years to find a market for his product and he was bailed out by friends and family several times over

•In my own life even just looking at one area – financing - I’ve been:
◦Knocked back for finance on my first business
◦Knocked back for finance on my first investment
◦Knocked back by a potential investor

It’s note the presence of the road block that’s the issue, it’s what how you choose to address it. Bruce Lee speaks about being “like water” if water encounters an obstacle it just flows around it.

How can you flow? How can you adapt? What questions do you need to ask yourself to move around your road block?

Good luck to Olivia in finding your way around/over/through your road block!

By Kirsty Dunphey with 1 comment

Friday, September 9, 2011

I'll have... nothing


Mid 2011 I made the decision to travel with a girl friend and daughter on a cruise for 12 nights through the Greek Isles. Around Croatia my 7 month old little girl decided the cruise seemed like the most appropriate time to cut her first two teeth! Teething woes aside it was a sensational trip and the second time I've been fortunate enough to see part of the world on a cruise ship.

My friend and travelling companion had never experienced the gastronomical delights that cruising has to offer and by the time we got to the fourth course, dessert, each night she was full past her eyelids and always declined the spectacular offerings. Mid cruise Ricky, our waiter whose home country was the Philippines, questioned my friend when it was time to order dessert querying: "Are you sure you want nothing?" "Nothing" she said absolutely resolute. As each dessert for the 7 other people on the table arrived, Ricky cheekily put it down in front of my friend before whisking cheesecake, profiteroles, bomb alaska, ice cream, parfait and more off to their rightful owners.

One more time he asked "Are you sure you want nothing?". "Absolutely" was the reply. With a grin on his face Ricky placed the platter below in front of my friend to uproar and laughter from our table.


This lovely display of wit and charm was just one of many examples of fabulous service mixing with real personality that we experienced during this cruise.

I've eaten at so many extremely formal restaurants where the service has been impeccable but distanced. On this ship I got to know the personality behind so many of the staff and it made the experience so much more full and valuable. We met Ganna a waitress from the Ukraine who, in her home country, was an english professor at a university and yet earned 15 times more per year waitressing on the ship. We met staff from all over the world working away from loved ones and children. My little girl had about 50 or so adopted aunts and uncles who all welcomed her back overjoyed each time we were on their part of the ship. Congratulations to Princess Cruise Line for empowering their staff to be able to relate to the guests on such a real and personal level.

It made me wonder how able my team would feel to be able to convey (when appropriate) their true personalities, history and stories when interacting with our clients. There's a time and place for formal and respectful, but oh boy did personable and real make an impact on me in the Greek Isles.


By Kirsty Dunphey with 1 comment

Friday, September 2, 2011

All the gourmet stuff has mould on it!

“It’s fine – all the gourmet stuff has mould on it” exclaimed a friend’s boss.

“Not bacon!” my friend (the employee) countered.

Clearly there were some differences in what was deemed appropriate behaviour between leader and employee here!

I wrote an email to someone today discussing the various challenges of stepping up to a leadership role. In my mind, most people promoted into leadership roles go in fairly unprepared for the struggles they’ll face.

How do you find the happy medium between cost saving and safety (mmm… moldy bacon!)

How do you find the perfect balance of being friendly with those you manage without losing their respect for their leader if you’re too familiar.

How do you set an example for them to follow on the days when you feel like crawling under your desk and putting a huge sign on your door that you’ve gone to Jamaica!

In my first staff management role (excruciatingly detailed in my book Advance to Go, Collect $1 Million) I was such a brilliant first time manager that all my staff (housemaids at the motel I was managing) up and quit on me within 2 weeks!

While I don’t think I’ve come close to perfecting the role of being a manager or leader within an organization each misstep I make (and we all make them) helps me refine and improve my technique.

5 things you can do to improve your leadership performance:

· Find a way for your team to give you feedback on how they think you’re doing (anonymous performance reviews work well in my experience and while they’re a little daunting the info received can be so valuable)

· Remember back to your previous leaders in the workplace. Who did you admire the most and why?

· Find a way to recognize your staff in a meaningful way – simply finding out what their favourite chocolate bar is might be a start!

· Take stock on what leadership training you’ve actually done – what’s your ongoing formal education plan for leadership (after all we can't have YOU developing mould!)

· Take a great leader out to lunch. Find someone you know has the respect of their team and take them out to lunch and probe them with all sorts of meaningful questions on what works for them (and what hasn’t in the past!)

By Kirsty Dunphey with 1 comment

Friday, August 26, 2011

The One Star Review

I was recently asked (most flatteringly) to give the opening address for a former staff member who has just opened his own real estate agency. As the words tumbled out of my mouth: “I’ve known Richard since his first day in real estate, I’ve seen him get his first listing, make his first sale, receive his first glowing testimonial.” It was at this point Richard with his trademark smile and honesty interjected with “She also saw me get my first complaint!” The audience laughed, and so did I.

Complaints, especially in service based industries like real estate are a common occurrence. Obviously great players attempt to minimise them, but I’ve always been of the opinion that when a complaint occurs, it shouldn’t be something you dread or push under the rug. It should be something that highlights a service or procedural error that you can improve on going forward. It's something that can make you better at what you do.

Saturday
5 days before the launch I’d gone out on a lovely romantic dinner with my husband to celebrate the day upon which 8 years ago he’d proposed to me. We arrived home around 10.20pm, Saturday and I checked my phone to find a text message from one of my business partners informing me that there was an unfavourable review posted on our facebook site.

I logged on to facebook straight away. After reading the review I texted the two staff members who may have been involved and heard back from them within minutes. From there I spent the next hour in repair mode.

The review gave us one star (this alone was mortifying for me when every other review on our facebook page had given us 5 stars). It stated that the person had called our office and hadn’t had their phone call returned in a reasonable time.

Devastatingly two of the reviewer’s friends had commented on the review already and it had only been up a matter of hours. That’s the power and the curse of instant social media beautifully illustrated. If 2 of his friends had felt they needed to comment, how many others had already seen it and not commented and how many had seen it just by looking at our page.

My first step was to comment on the review that I was looking into the situation and would be in touch soon. I also left my direct email address on that comment. I then went to the person’s facebook page and directly messaged them again stating that I was doing my best to get all the details and there I gave my direct mobile and email address and asked for some more details on the situation so that I could appropriately respond.

From there an email went out to all potential staff involved and all business partners as an update and a request for more information from those involved.

Sunday
Sunday morning I heard back from the complainant with the details. His frustration was completely justified, we had not gotten back to him in an appropriate time and I let him know where I was at in my investigations, I let him know he had been heard and that I was just waiting on a few more pieces of information to not only find out how he’d been left without contact, but also to resolve the enquiry he’d contacted us with. I told him when he'd next hear from me.

Monday
8.30am – I had the information he required from us that he was after in his initial phone call to the office and had that side of the situation resolved fairly quickly.

By midday I also had an explanation as to how the return of his call had been delayed. We’d had a staff member away from the office on medical grounds and this contributed to the delay. However, most importantly, when I relayed this to the complainant, to me the most vital thing was that I let him know that these were the circumstances surrounding the issue, but they were by no means an excuse. Every office is busy, every office has people away sick and every office should have appropriate means in place to deal with these everyday occurrences so that the experience to the customer is seamless.

In damage control mode I wanted to make sure that while I was working on resolving this issue that the unfavourable review wasn’t the first someone saw when they looked at our reviews page. As such I asked a number of clients if they'd feel comfortable in reviewing our services on the page and quickly we had a couple of lovely reviews from very happy clients showing at the top of the page. Now, back on to resolving my one star.

Tuesday - Wednesday
I went to the office in question so that I could speak to the staff members involved and conduct some training based on the feedback we’d been provided. I kept contact with the complainant informing him of the training I was doing and the progress we were making in attempting to have delays of this sort not be an ongoing issue.

Thursday
I touched base a final time with the complainant to make sure he was 100% happy with the way I’d handled the issue. When he replied that he was, I asked if he felt comfortable removing the review. His reply was that I’d gone to a lot of trouble and he was happy to remove his review. He was extremely reasonable the entire time I dealt with him. And my final follow up to this gentleman will be to pop something in the mail to him next week thanking him for his feedback and for helping us become a better service company.

Ultimately, with social media, you can typically find ways to remove unfavourable posts and reviews by deleting them. For me that was never an option. If I couldn’t find a way to resolve this issue for the gentleman so that he felt comfortable deleting the review himself, I would have left it there (as sad as that would make me).

Was it a lot of work to go to get him to delete the review? Yes, it was quite a big investment in my time.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. It highlighted an aspect of my business that I wasn’t aware of and that needed addressing.

I’d go as far as to say that I’m grateful for the complaint because of the flaws in our service delivery that were easy to address and rectify that it illuminated.

The next time you get a complaint – will you see it as an opportunity to get discouraged or an opportunity to improve?

By Kirsty Dunphey with 4 comments

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dadpreneur: myth or man?

I recently wrote a blog about my experiences combining my most recent adventure (motherhood)with my ongoing passion for business. A bit daunted with the slightly different take to what I usually blog on I sent it to some fabulous working mums I know to proof and give me their opinions.

A fabulous entrepreneur and mum – Tina Tower from Begin Bright wrote back and some of her comments really stuck with me.

Tina wrote: “A notable change is before in media I could be referred to as a 'young gun woman in business' where as now I get 'Mumpreneur' in everything! I figure I am showing my sons that a woman can be good Mum, a good wife and have great self fulfillment through running companies. The balance I find is never perfect, (you) just have to do what works best for you and family.”

Tina hit the nail on the head with the balance aspect that I’m struggling to find now. The other thing that struck me when Tina mentioned “Mumpreneur” is that I hear that term a lot these days, but didn’t think I’d ever heard the term “Dadpreneur”.

Take Donald Trump: like him or loathe him, I find one of the most amazing things about the Donald is that he seems to have raised his children with an amazing work ethic and appreciation for education. Where other children growing up in households of great wealth have gone off the rails or live out their days on trust funds, Ivanka and his other children impress me with their business nouse and what appears to be extreme level headedness. That said, can you imagine anyone describing Donald Trump as a “Dadpreneur”?

So my next challenge was to find an out and proud Dadpreneur.

Facebook search asked me if I meant “mompreneur”… hrm… not encouraging. Twitter’s @dadpreneur is an inactive user… back to the drawing board there.

So, I googled “Dadpreneur” and the top links were to a blog that hadn’t been updated since 2008 and a website that didn’t work.

Link number three however was more encouraging and was an article about Chris Pegula’s (@chrispegula) business “Diaper Dude” (making nappy bags Dad’s want to be seen with) and on top of being a spunk, Chris is a father of three with a nifty looking website who’s getting some great press right now.

Dadpreneur found! And while it’s unlikely Bill Gates (father of three Jennifer, Rory and Phoebe) is ever going to be described as a “Dadpreneur” they’re out there.

Now… as to how I’ll feel if I start getting described as a “Mumpreneur”… we’ll have to cross that bridge when and if we come to it!

By Kirsty Dunphey with 2 comments

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Bachelor vs The Applicant

I’ve unashamedly said on many occasions before that one of my guilty pleasures is trashy reality television. Survivor, Amazing Race,
the Apprentice – I’m hooked.

My current outlet from reality through reality television is “The Bachelorette”. For those of you with far more varied and interesting lives than I (who haven’t watched this show) it’s one bachelorette with a whole bunch of potential suitors. Each week the bachelorette eliminates men until at the end (after the grand sum of around 8 weeks), she’s left with someone who, in most cases, proposes marriage. Not surprisingly the success rate from this show, in terms of relationship longevity, isn’t great.

What I’ve always found so fascinating is that there’s only ever one star of the show – the Bachelor or Bachelorette - and yet almost all the people brought in to “date” this person seem to fall head over heels in love. Unrealistic? Absolutely.

My theory is that people are instinctively competitive and want to “win” the show and in competing, they manufacture emotions that perhaps aren’t as strong as they would be if they’d just met the bachelorette at a club one night. That or people out and out lie about their feelings to stay longer on the show.

It reminds me, in some ways, of a heated job interview. 20 candidates vying for one job at a company. In most cases the employer does the interviewing. They ask the questions. They decide whether the employee is right for them.

To me, a longer lasting relationship might be gained if the employee (respectfully) does some interviewing of their own to find out if they feel the company is also right for them.

An employee employer relationship is similar in so many ways to a romantic relationship (albeit a bit of a twisted one!) Is it realistic to expect that you’ll find job-love if you don’t do your homework as well?

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I’m so sorry I had no idea who you were…

A few years ago I was introduced to someone “important”. He was “important” due to all that he’d achieved in his career – some fairly impressive accolades. I was excited to meet him.

He was… less excited to meet me. We were introduced, he briefly said hi and then left while I was mid sentence to talk with someone “more important” than I.

I was a little disappointed, but, thems the breaks right? Not everyone is going to want to have a yack. I soon got over it.

The next day, I got on stage and gave the speech I’d been flown into the country to perform for the organization this important fellow worked for. Later that day Mr. “Important” asked to take me aside. Suddenly – he was excited to talk to me. He even went so far as to apologise for his rudeness the day before. He said “I’m so sorry, I had no idea who you were”. He didn’t realize I was the guest speaker. He didn’t realize I was “worthy” of his time.

I worked with this company for many years and never formed a close relationship with this chap. In that initial interaction he’d told me so much about himself. When he thought I was no-one, I wasn’t even worthy of a minute of his time. When he thought I was important, suddenly I was worth common courtesy and more.

It's been a great lesson to me over the years that every person I interact with no matter how "important" others might think they are deserves my attention, my respect, my common courtesy.

By Kirsty Dunphey with 2 comments

Friday, July 29, 2011

Breast Foot Forward (the mummification of Kirsty)

No you did not….

Surely it was over the phone….

In person! Are you serious? That would have been enough for me to walk.

My friend (a sensational working mum) was aghast. In fact, so was I, at what I was telling her.

I’d just made a job offer to someone, in person, face to face… while breastfeeding my child.

One minute I’m an entrepreneur who’d rather hold a meeting than a close friend’s child and the next I’m this hybrid businessperson/manic mother whose attempts at multitasking today included:

- trying to feed my child while sitting in the driver’s seat in a drive-through car wash (note this was not successful: the car wash was very exciting to the tiny child)

- creating from instructions on the internet (because I couldn’t wait for postage from the States) my very own hands free breast pumping bra – so that I can use both hands to type while listening to the rhythmical whirr of the pump (one sports bra destroyed, but it works surprisingly well)

- and the aforementioned feeding of the child whilst making an offer to a candidate to come and work with us

Now in my defense, the person to whom I made the job offer had the option to see me today with child or tomorrow without and chose today and I have known her for some years. But ask me 3 years ago if I’d ever do what I did today and you’d have been met with a laugh and a scoff.

A mummy was something I travelled to Egypt to see, not something I was. Maternal instinct extended to me being exceptionally proud of my former staff when they started their own businesses, not something that would have me screaming in my sleep at my husband to stop rolling over lest he squash the baby (who does not and has not ever slept in our bed). Work-life balance meant having a fabulous husband who was fine with me working long hours or travelling when required, not dealing day to day with “mother’s guilt”. (NB: For those of you unaware of mother’s guilt – it seems to be the pretty commonplace fear that when you’re at work you should be with your child and when you’re with your child that you should be at work).

In my life I’ve done some things that others might see as being difficult. I’ve started businesses from age 15, bought and sold companies, worked with over 100 staff, owned over 40 properties and yet the most difficult challenge I’ve faced thus far is how to retain myself, my goals, my dreams, my business aspirations and to mesh them seamlessly with all I want to be as a mother (and believe me I want to do it to the best of my ability) to this tiny human who has come into my life.

Sometimes I write blogs when I’ve figured something out and want to share what I’ve learned. Not the case today. I’m simply writing to applaud the mothers that have worked with me previously and done amazing jobs at work and at home – I didn’t understand what you were going through – I’m only just beginning to see it now.

I’m also writing to thank my friends who are mothers for their help in working through these exciting and challenging times with me. You are my mentors. You help me see what’s possible, what’s not and what’s really important.

By Kirsty Dunphey with 2 comments

Friday, July 22, 2011

Protect or propagate?

The tiny child (aka my 5 month old daughter Milla) is having her first bout of illness right now with a painful and red throat. She’s only comforted in my
arms or her Dad’s and is clearly in quite a lot of pain.

Right now, every maternal instinct in my body wishes that it were I who was sick and not she. It’s a natural desire for a mother to want to take away her
child’s pain.

Let’s pretend for a moment it was possible for me to take away her pain for me to “fix her” with a blink of an eye. If I could help to be immediately well
right now with some made up superpower, would it be the best thing for her? While it would yield a short term gain to both her mood and my ears, she’d miss out on developing antibodies that her little body is making right now and it’s unsustainable and impractical for me to be able take away every ache and pain for the rest of her life.

I once worked with an amazingly talented senior staff member who was a master at “fixing problems” in her workplace. If you had a problem you took it to this staff member and they’d “fix” it. Only problem was, the team around the senior staff member didn’t develop their own “problem-solving-antibodies” – they didn’t learn the skills needed to fix their own problems. If that senior staff member were ever on leave people weren’t equipped to deal with the problems that crop up (anywhere) on a day- to-day basis.

So the solution – at home, comfort the tiny child, look after her medically, but don’t look for a magic wand. And at work – teach the skills by working with my team in problem solving, not trying to magic wand a solution there either.

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Blended Behavior

Blended Behavior I’ve been reading a lot (and I mean a LOT!) of books on baby sleep at the moment (yes, the tiny child has recently gone through a bit of a rough patch with her sleep).

One of the more interesting concepts I’ve read about is “blended behavior”. It’s when your child might show some sign of being sleepy such as rubbing her eyes, but then flash you a big smile and coo happily like she’s wide awake. In short, it’s blended behavior, and she’s probably very tired! Don’t let the smile fool you.

Ever had one of your workmates exhibit adult blended behavior? Snappish one minute and lovely the next? They could well just be tired. When do you need to take it in hand? When the snappish behavior continues longer than an “off” day.

One day they’re dishonest and the next day perfectly pleasant? It’s likely they’re just simply dishonest. Confront them at the first instance of dishonesty and explain that it’s not tolerated in your workplace.

Lazy one minute and interested the next? You probably already know their heart isn’t in it. What can you do to help them revitalize their interest? A new challenge perhaps? But be sure they know we all have mediocre parts to every job and without that (boring) backbone getting done, the organization has no substance.

I must dash now… it’s time to wake the tiny child for her final feed and solicit as many smiles as I can (even if they’re blended in with yawns) before she goes down for the night!

By Marjorie with No comments

Friday, July 8, 2011

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

A good friend and mentor Rik Rushton (www.insightpd.com.au) recently asked through facebook – “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”

I like to think of myself as a pretty adventurous person, I love to travel, I love experiences and I’m a bit of a daredevil and so when I read Rik’s question internally I scoffed – “Pfft… I’m always doing things for the first time!”

Until I actually tried to recall the last thing I’d done “for the first time” and I was at a bit of a loss.

When was you the last time YOU did something for the first time?

So… thanks for the challenge Rik. Since you posed your question I have:

- booked my first holiday with the tiny child (we’ll be cruising through the Greek Isles)

- bought my first rent roll (with www.elephantproperty.com.au) which we turned around and settled within a week!

- Decided to go to China in a couple of months (a big and exciting first off my list)

What will you do for the first time? Not surprisingly googling “first time” lead me to a whole heap of places I didn’t really mean to go, but for a bit of extra homework, why not check out: http://www.thefirsttimer.com/ The First Timer on her journey to ticking things off her “first time” list!

By Kirsty Dunphey with 2 comments

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Can you be the cup?

Bruce Lee famously and eloquently once said: “Don't get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

Here was a life cut too short far too early.

We’ve all met people who were like water before. They’re people that can step into any workplace setting and find their feet quickly and easily. They can mix with all different types of people. They adapt, they become what they need to become to suit the task at hand.

I love the way Bruce Lee also hints at the power and backbone behind water as well “water can flow or it can crash”. Just because the water can mould itself to its surroundings doesn’t mean it can’t command attention, doesn’t mean it’s weak or can be pushed around. Anyone who has tried to fight the current in a rough ocean can attest to that.

So what can I learn from Bruce’s wise words today?

- to see the people who are like water around me and look to learn this skill from them (and encourage more of them to work with me!)
- to seek to become more adaptable myself (I look forward to becoming a teapot!)
- to learn to empty my mind more often

How can you be more like water today?

By Kirsty Dunphey with 1 comment

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Striking out swinging or looking?

Despite being an Aussie who should have probably grown up loving cricket, thanks to my American-sport-loving Dad I’m a huge fan of baseball instead.

For those of you not super familiar with the game, you’re probably still familiar with the phrase “strike out” - where the pitcher is able to throw three “strikes” past the batter meaning they’re out.

There’s two different ways you can “strike-out”.

You can strike out “looking” – which is where you watch the ball go over the plate not attempting to hit it.

Or you can strike out “swinging” – where you’re doing your darndest to connect bat to ball but don’t quite get there.

People write to me often asking me for advice on how to know if it’s the right time for them to start up a business. My advice to them is typically this - what’s going to hurt them more in the long term:

- the regret of knowing they had a great idea and did nothing
- or the potential downside that may come with the financial loss of starting up a business that doesn’t succeed.

In short, do they want to strike out looking or swinging? If you strike out looking, there’s no chance of a home run. If you’re swinging – sure you might strike out – but you might also make that connection that makes all the difference.

See a cute girl across the bar? If you ask her for her phone number and she says no, you’ve gone out swinging. You’ve given it your best bet. If you never ask, you’re in exactly the same position, but you never had a chance for a date.

Know that promotion is right up your alley? Apply or not? Swing or look?

Think you are deserving of an award? Nominate yourself or remain quiet? Swing or look?

If the possibility of striking out is real (and, lets face it, in almost every endeavour it is) how would you prefer to go out?

By Kirsty Dunphey with 2 comments

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The power of pause-itivity

The world seems to be crashing down around my ears today. I haven’t held the tiny child enough, my inbox is overflowing, there are three fires to put out in the office, I know I left a letter half written open on another staff member’s computer, I’m waiting on a bunch of people to get back to me so I can complete jobs and to top it off I snapped at my husband within 10 minutes of walking in the door.
Pause… deep breath… stop.
Hold the tiny child, cuddle her, hang out with her uninterrupted for a half hour til she goes to bed. She looks at me with her big blue eyes and giggles.
Pause
Apologise to husband for snapping, take a minute to just give him a huge hug. Mood calmed significantly already.
Pause
Categorize my emails, prioritize my to do list for tomorrow, move anything I don’t need to work on tomorrow into a folder called “do after tomorrow”. Tomorrow’s list already looking do-able.
Pause
Fire off a few more emails and tick a few things off tomorrow’s to do list.
Pause
Take 5 minutes and send out an email to two of my team who do a great job, but that I haven’t acknowledged enough lately.
Pause
Have a long relaxing bath.
Pause
For me, multi-tasking only leads to more confusion. I know I’m not getting anything done when I’m mid-way through 5 different things. I know I just need to pause and do one thing at a time and do it well. If I just take the time to pause, the list doesn’t seem so overwhelming. A huge and insurmountable list can be broken down into more achievable chunks by simply taking a moment to pause, stop, breathe, reassess and start on (and finish) one thing at a time. Do you need to pause?

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Onwards, Over and Upwards

Thanks to Adam Drummond for sending me this video to follow… Three and a half minutes of action packed fun.
I think this bike run is a great analogy for business. The guy racing through the obstacle course (who appropriately seems to be wearing a pin striped suit) is always looking forward.

He goes through ups and downs. At a time he even gets off course, but at no stage does he look backwards, he just gets back on course and continues on. Were he to look backwards he’d almost definitely crash.

There’s even a very difficult obstacle (with 4 legs) in his way at one point, but he continues onward, finding a way over it. At no point does he stop his forward momentum.

Too often, it’s easy to have an off course moment, or an obstacle that makes you stop or look backwards. Forward momentum with constant adjustments works for our pin striped racer… could it work for you too?

By Kirsty Dunphey with 1 comment

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The power of the word


I’m quite distraught. I was eating my personal trainer approved afternoon snack of 12 almonds (my suggestion of 12 Tim Tams: not approved) when I got a lovely crunchy surprise in my mashed up almond mix. Part of a rear tooth had dislodged and was busily working its way towards my small intestine.

Having my wisdom teeth stitches “accidentally” left in for about 2 weeks too long has left me with a justified fear of going in to see the man with the drill. Not to be deterred I picked up the phone and was told by the monotone receptionist: “you won’t be getting in for at least 4 weeks”.

Now note this was not “our next vacancy is in 4 weeks” or “I’m really sorry, barring dental emergencies we won’t be able to fit you in for 4 weeks” this was simply “you won’t be getting in for at least 4 weeks”.

The front face of this business, the director of customer relations and the person I think is responsible for calming irrational odontophobics like me (yes, that’s the word for those who fear the dentist) had actually somewhat alleviated my fear... by replacing it with indignation!

In your business or in your workplace does your front face realise the power of the word? Do you? Perhaps take a leaf out of my hair dresser's book – they answer every phone call with “Thank you for calling Bladerunner. How can I make your day today?” It’s a bit zany, it makes them laugh and it makes me smile.

The power of the word can invoke rage, or cultivate a fan – what do the words at your business do?

By Kirsty Dunphey with 3 comments

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What’s your Rider?

I was just browsing the website of Seth Godin, a great writer and speaker and I came across his “rider”. For those of you who don’t know, a rider is a term I’ve only ever really heard used by those in the music profession before. It describes what they need to have the gig go off without a hitch (ie: white lillys in the dressing room, ample Evian water, a certain type of guitar amp, 7 nubile virgins for the drummer, you get the drift.)

Seth, being a bit of celeb, is well within his rights to call his technical specs his rider if you ask me. Have a read of Seth’s rider here: http://www.sethgodin.com/sg/rider.asp

It sets expectations and his requirements beautifully and succinctly. It’s clear and there’s no room for confusion yet Seth doesn’t come off as spoilt or a diva.

Clearly Seth’s learnt from less than perfect experiences over the years and so now he’s had the forethought to set the expectations right up front to alleviate future frustrations.

If you could educate your clients with a rider prior to them signing up to do business with you, what would it say? And while you may not call it a rider, how could you put something in place that serves the same purpose today to stop your future frustrations?

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Test for the Taste

I had an amazing service experience last week.

A person was coming out to my house to quote me for an installation we want to have done.

At about five minutes to when she was about to arrive, she called to say that she was caught in a little bit of traffic with the rain and may be a couple of minutes late.

She then showed up just 2 minutes late and I was over the moon that she had called.

Her behaviour at our house was extremely professional, she asked great questions, made relevant suggestions and really knew her product. She was able to give us a very professional quote on the spot and told me she'd follow up with an email later that day which she did.

All in all - a fantastic service experience.

There's only one thing. Our interactions ended on a slightly funny note. Instead of a professional work email she used a hotmail email account and at the bottom of the email read: "Looking for a hot date? View photos of singles in your area!"

Now given that she'd provided such great service up until that time, this wasn't a huge issue for me - more of a giggle. But given that hotmail does this without you even seeing it, it'd be something I'd be upset about as a professional (and she was extremely professional!)

This is one reason it's a great idea to test out your entire sales process on someone - and get their feedback. This lady was sensational, but that last little thing could leave a sour taste in someone's mouth (especially someone who may not know that she didn't put this tag line on her emails!) and she may not even know it's happening.

How will you test yourself out today?

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Should I leave secure employment to start a small business?

Thanks to the number of people who asked me to blog on this topic. Starting their own business seems to be a dream for many, realized by few and realized successfully by even fewer.

So – if you want to start up your own small business, but you’re afraid to leave your secure employment… I say – that’s ok! In the current economic climate, having a respectful amount fear isn’t the worst thing – IF it turns into you doing more research, preparing well and being financially, emotionally and mentally ready to start a business. If it’s just fear for fears sake – and nothing more than a massive cause of paralysis then I’m not a fan of it.

I’m a big believer in doing things that stretch, but still fit into your comfort zone (bearing in mind that your comfort zone is different to mine, to the person next door to you at work and probably different to your partner, friends and family).

So – before you leave your employment to start your own business please consider:

1. Take 5 different small business owners (preferably in similar sized businesses to the one you would ideally like to run) out to lunch, coffee or cocktails. Get the low down from them on what it’s REALLY like to be in business (and not just what you think it’s like from reading BRW).

2. Figure out how far your dollar will stretch. How long could you go in this new business of yours without making a single sale. John Ilhan, founder of Crazy John’s waited 6 months for his first sale! If you’re not well funded, why not consider starting a business on top of what you currently do for work? If you watch 2 hours of TV a night, simply devoting those 2 hours gives you 14 hours you could be putting into starting a business that doesn’t require a full time presence from you.

3. Take a look around your current business, or see a business broker – perhaps there’s an existing business with cash flow that you could buy or buy into that may be a good option.

4. Figure out whether you’re starting a business or starting a job? A business where you’re the only employee, it depends totally on you and pays you the same or less than your current job is a job, not a business.

5. If you started a business and it failed miserably and you lost all the start up capital you put into it and your time and your lost wages for the time you were in it, do you think you’d still be able to look back on it and say “I’m at least glad I tried?”

6. Do you have a passion for the concept behind business you want to start? As the old saying goes: if you love your work you’ll never work a day in your life!

7. Have you got your business brain on? I’ve seen a truckload of successful sales people start real estate businesses because they were great sales people (it didn’t make them great business people). The same goes for the fabulous hairdresser or mechanic or doctor. Just being awesome at what you do doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to run your own successful business.

8. Have you read The E-Myth by Michael Gerber?

9. What’s your point of difference? Please don’t be another “me too” business doing things exactly the same as all your competitors. Be exciting, be different, give people a reason to want to tell their friends and family that they MUST do business with you!

10. Finally – don’t be discouraged by this blog, by your friends, by your family or by the guy down the road who thinks he knows everything. If you have the passion and desire to start a new business, you know the risks involved, you have a great plan and you know that if you were 99 years old and looking back on your life you’d regret not doing it – have a crack! As Bon Jovi so wisely say “It’s my life, it’s now or never!” (oooh I’ve been waiting to blog about Bon Jovi for some time now!)

By Kirsty Dunphey with 2 comments

Monday, May 23, 2011

From Setting up to Getting Up

If you’re anything like me, you’ll only have to work in real estate for a nanosecond before you start seeing things that could be done differently. Let’s not mince words, when I say “differently” you know I really mean “better”. Ahh the naivety and blissful ignorance of my youth.

I was not more than 19 before fantasies of owning my own agency so I could do things “my way” started permeating my work life to the point where I knew that some day, if I wanted to stay in this industry, I’d have to start my own agency.

Now, as I write this at age 32, having started two independent agencies with business partners from scratch, one at 21 (which later brought a franchise group into the mix), the other at 29 I smile when I think of just how little I knew at 19.

My fantasies didn’t have a great basis in reality. But it’s a great thing they didn’t, because if they had, I may never have started that first agency.

If I’d been aware of the difficulties I’d go through over the next few years including: staffing issues, partnership issues, financing issues, client issues, legal battles, expansion issues and more I might have just gone with my plan B which somewhat sophisticatedly involved finding a job where I could live in my pajamas day in and out.

That said, my adventures in real estate, both as a career through business ownership and as a passion through property investment have lead me to where I am today. My second book was called “Retired at 27, If I can do it anyone can” and I have this beast called real estate to thank for being able to state that.

So, if you’re like I was: young and eager to make it on your own, or perhaps even older and more experienced and looking to create your own path – what are the important issues to consider before you step out of security and into entrepreneurship.

Firstly, lets talk why you wouldn’t do it. There’s any number of reasons but these are the ones that jump straight to my mind:

  • If you’re a great sales person and you want to make even more money: being a great sales person doesn’t mean you’ll be a great manager and I’ve know plenty of business owners whose top sales person makes more than they do from their business (with a lot less stress).

  • If you’re doing it to improve your work life balance: Ha! Most business owners I know double their work hours in the first few years and regardless of just the hours, the stress is always more when it’s your business.

  • If you’re planning on doing everything yourself: you probably already have a job. Starting an agency that is completely reliant upon you takes you from one job (where someone else shoulders the stress and responsibility) to another (where you do so!). It’s also no way to build a saleable asset and one day (at some stage) you WILL need to dispose of your business whether you retire or get the urge to move on before then. A business that’s just you and your brilliance is a hard one to sell without you leaving your brain in a glass jar by the door.

So say you pass the three pronged test above and you’re still crazy to go ahead. Get ready to start making some choices.

Franchise, Independent or Purchase?

Having done each of these three options there’s huge pros and cons to each:

A franchise gives you structure, experience to draw upon, networks, referrals, systems, training and a brand. But you also have to live with being restricted as to what you can do with your branding, you have to be happy to be lumped together with the reputation of everybody else within that franchise (good or bad) and there will be times when you don’t agree with the decisions handed down from high. Flexible it ‘aint, but it can offer you an amazing leg up IF you choose the right organization.

Starting as an independent your world will be awash with decisions. What colours do you want to go with, what will you call your new baby, what will your logo be, who will do your website, who can you turn to for advice. Once you’ve made those decisions you’ve now got to face the harsh reality that no-one’s ever heard of your fledgling brand. You get to create your own reputation, but you’ve got to start from scratch.

Much like a franchise, but even more so, buying into an existing operation buys you into an existing reputation within your marketplace. You might have the added benefit of a rent roll to give you some sound cash flow, but you’ll also typically have a larger debt than those establishing from scratch will be able to bootstrap. Then you’ve also got the minefield of taking on existing staff, will you be getting a star or a diva?

Shop Front, Office or Closet under the Stairs?

Where to operate from probably forms your next big question. Over the years I’ve had real estate offices in: a 2 bedroom residential apartment with no commercial zoning, a motel (where I also got to live on site as the manager), shared space in a lawyer’s office, ground floor office space, a converted brick townhouse and a huge three level building.

Each served its purpose at the time, but I must say, being in one place that really suits far outweighs moving all the time. That said, we started in an apartment because that’s what we could afford. What we lacked in our ability to even see clients in it (no zoning) we made up with a lovely view!

Right now my business is purely property management and for that, we haven’t felt the need for a shop front. In my last company, we were the state head office and a sales and property management company, so the ultimate aim was to own a space that large enough for us, had a great street frontage and had parking on site.

Know that wherever you hang your shingle, ultimately, if your operation, plan and people are good enough, your location won’t be the primary factor in your success or failure. Real estate is all about the people involved and the experience and results you provide, not what your walls look like.

Advertising, Press or Talk?

So now you’ve got your brand and your office, but what about getting your clients? This is the trickier side of business ownership. As I see it, you’ve got three main methods of client attraction. Which will be the most attractive to you?

Advertising: Billboards, television, newspaper, online, brochures, yellow pages, letterbox drops and more. This is the marketing stuff you flat out pay for to get your name out there. If this is your main angle, make sure all your marketing materials reflect your brand and the type of client you’re trying to attract. Budget well because you can spend your whole opening budget just on marketing before you blink. Aim to get a verifiable return from any $$s you outlay. How to do this? Survey all clients as to how they found out about your agency.

Press: If you’ve got an angle to your business you stand a chance at getting some free marketing in the form of good press. For me, it’s typically been about being a young female in the industry, or from the awards I’ve won. Find your uniqueness and get prepared with your sound bytes. Respect and value journos time and make sure they see the experience as a positive one if you ever want them to return to you.

Talk: Social media, twitter, facebook, your website and your blog all form free or low cost methods of engaging and talking with your clients. Done well this is a modern form of promotion that can enhance your relations with tech savvy clients. Done poorly you’ll find that this can just eat up hours and hours of your day with little to no return.

Best Talk: To me, the best form of marketing any business can have is when a friend asks another “who should I use to sell / rent my house?” and the friend emphatically names you. It’s harder to cultivate than any of the above because it involves knocking the socks of each client you deal with and it can be derailed quicker than any of the above by a bad interaction, BUT, to me, this is the most important form of “getting your name out there” any business can do.

So… I honestly hope I’ve scared some of you off. If you’re going to get scared by a few words on a page, the difficulties you encounter in business ownership WILL be too much for you.

But… for those of you still keen. Go forth and plan, do your research and your homework – but not too much, I believe if you wait for perfection in planning you’ll never get started.

As much as I’ve had difficult times over the past decade of real estate business ownership, I’ve had some of the highlights of my life including:

Meeting my husband across the real estate counter (he was a purchaser and he thought I was the receptionist!)

Watching 9 of my former staff members go on to real estate business ownership for themselves and knowing I’ve been a part of their progression.

  • Achieving financial security for myself and my family.
  • Assisting thousands of people in home ownership, in moving to better places and in financial security through management of their investment properties.

  • Forming some of the closest friendships I’ll ever have in my life with those who have been on my teams.

So whether you’re itching to start from scratch, investing in an existing business or going forth with a franchise, I hope your happy moments far outweigh the challenges, as mine do.

By Marjorie with No comments

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A perfect three step customer service plan

To set the scene of my most recent blog: Cusco, Peru – imagine a dusty back alley, intricate stone walls, the most vibrant coloured printed fabrics, alpacas roaming around and me exhausted after completing a 46km trek (the Inca Trail) in 3 days (instead of the usual 4) going up to 4,200m in altitude (all the while pregnant).

So of course, I needed a little pampering after my adventure and had promptly, after a huge breakfast at Jacks CafĂ©, booked myself in for a mani / pedi. Near comatose during the manicure I snapped back to reality at it’s conclusion when my manicurist followed a near perfect customer service plan without batting an eyelid.

Firstly – she offered more than was promised and up-sold. I was offered a small shoulder and foot massage at no extra cost and then told about the minute amount it would cost me to get a full hour long massage.

Secondly – she asked me if I was happy with her work on my nails. This may sound like such a small thing, but when was the last time you asked your customers if they were happy with your work?

Thirdly – once finding out I was happy she asked for referrals. As I left she gave me a handful of her business cards “for my friends”.

All this done in mere minutes in a dusty back alley with an alpaca guarding the door (well almost!)

If a Cusco manicurist can do this as second nature – what’s stopping you?

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Strategy from a mentor

I’m lucky to have a number of mentors in my life and this blog is about one in particular who has an almost foolproof strategy for customer retention.
He’s a great business person with, I’m sure, many strategies for winning and keeping new business. I’m just going to talk about one. It’s something he’s famous for and something I’ve experienced again and again first hand.

I don’t know what my mentor calls it – but I’m going to call it the “Crazy amounts of love strategy”.

Each year on my birthday, flowers arrive at my house or office. They’re my favourite kind of flower. Every person in my office knows they’re not from my husband, they’re from my mentor.Each year on my wedding anniversary, same thing, flowers, not from my (fantastic) husband, but from my mentor.

While I was pregnant with my first child, almost weekly gifts would arrive for my unborn child. Again, from my mentor.

My mum has photos up in her house from a photo shoot of me he organised. My mum also has a key ring with my daughter on it (made from photos he saw on my facebook page).
When I caught up with him for coffee recently he came with a gift for my daughter and before he left, bought me a little something at the shop we met at. He also met me in quite an awkward city location stating that I was worth the $70 parking ticket he would (and did) get for parking right out the front while he fit me into his busy day. Oh and before he left he offered me the usage of his holiday house and picked up the cheque despite my protests.

In short, he’s relentless. He’s got great systems (for remembering dates), but he’s also got an amazing heart and generosity.

Now while I don’t doubt the validity of our friendship, I also see it for the amazing customer retention strategy that it is too. Could I ever deal with anyone else if there was a real estate need in his area? Not a hope and I’ve done business with him personally a number of times. Would I refer friends and family to him? Absolutely and I have done so. If anyone mentions real estate in his area to my team – his name is the first that trips off their tongues.

He’s a whirlwind of magnanimity and I could never hope to replicate his generosity in its entirety – but I can and hopefully have learned from it over the years.

Each time he remembers a special date to me or an upcoming exciting event, I feel special. How can I replicate that feeling with my clients?

Each time he spoils my daughter or another family member my heart goes out. How can I implement strategies to have that affect on my clients

His actions have the effect of ensuring my utter loyalty, but he never asks for it nor do his actions ever seem transparent or faked. How can I learn to make my customer service strategies as powerful, real and long reaching?

I guess the final experience is, that not only does he shower me with generosity and gifts, but also in amazing customer service lessons. The giving never stops with him!

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Don’t get too hooked on the system

If you read my blogs often you’ll know I’m a big fan of a system. I love a checklist, a procedure, a manual – in short, I’m a big fan of making a job almost impossible to mess up.

BUT – you need to make sure that when you systemise customer service, you check that it’s relevant for all occasions.

Take for example my friend who recently hired an elliptical trainer for home workouts. It was delivered with a welcome pack which included a pen, a drink bottle and a big box of chocolates! The choccies are probably highly appropriate when you’re delivering a rented TV – but for the soon to be workout junkie, the gesture is sweet, but may not have been the most helpful thing!

If you’ve got a customer service system – awesome – you’re one step ahead of most BUT, do a quick check to make sure that what you’re systemizing is always going to work.

By Kirsty Dunphey with 1 comment

Monday, May 16, 2011

A killer question when shopping for a service provider

I just got off the phone with a friend who was telling me about a time she was shopping for a new service provider.

Being an avid researcher she’d contacted most of the providers in the area she was looking in by phone and ruled out those who weren’t suitable so that she had 4 to interview in person.

Along with a long list of other questions, she asked one which I thought was an absolute stunner:

“Who’s the second best in your area (if you’re the best)”

I have no doubt none of the people she was “interviewing” were expecting that question and as such, she probably got very honest answers.

In fact, three of them told her the same name (that of the 4th provide she was interviewing). What a high compliment for this one person.

You can guess who she hired right?

If you were being interviewed and someone asked you this question, what would your game plan be?

More importantly, would your competitors (when speaking honestly) list you as the next best option in their marketplace?

By Kirsty Dunphey with 2 comments

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pulling a Trump

When you’re starting a new business – I’m the first to admit how easy it can be to want ALL the business you can possibly get your hands on.

The more experienced you get (and the less blinded by the initial jump in sales or client numbers) the more you realize that some business just isn’t worth having regardless of the revenue it may provide because of the time or energy it saps.

In my industry – real estate, you can typically put the type of business you don’t want to have into two categories:

Problem Products

and

Problem People

Problem products for me – are properties that aren’t going to be suitable for me to look after. They might be too far away from my core area, they might be outside the typical price bracket we work in or I might not be able to find great tenants for them given the type of database we offer.

Problem people are a whole other thing. These are the clients who can’t or won’t do business in the way that you need to perform your job best. For me that might be a property owner who thinks it’s ok to keep a property in a very poorly maintained state, someone who won’t provide me all the information I need to do my job or simply someone who is unpleasant or rude.

Problem products are typically easy to identify – you should be able to see these coming fairly easily and you should listen to the warning bells in your head and really consider whether the time it’s going to take to manage this type of business is worth the increase in revenue.

Problem people however can be a bit harder to spot. You might ignore initial rudeness in your eagerness to present a professional sales pitch, you might not know about information that’s being deliberately withheld. The hardest part is when you get to a stage where you know you’ve got a problem person – and unfortunately you’ve already accepted their business.

My suggestion? Channel Donald Trump and fire the client. As hard as it might be put a high value on your time and energy levels and know that in firing that client you’ll have more time to dedicate to providing amazing service to nice, cooperative clients.

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments

Monday, May 9, 2011

Expecting the worst?

“Are you going to pick that up?” screeched the woman at the young lady who’d just callously littered and dropped a piece of rubbish on the ground. Moments after this interaction the woman was furious, and so was the young lady.

The woman knew that young people just didn’t have the same sense of responsibility that they had in her day. She saw examples of it everywhere.

Isn’t it always the way…

When you expect a car sales person or real estate agent to be a shark, you can always find one that is. When you expect people to treat you poorly, there’s always row after row of examples to show you that’s the truth. When you know that you deal with the craziest clients here’s yet another waiting to prove it.

Funny… Because I think if the woman above had gone out that day with a different expectation, instead of seeing another young person littering without a care in the world, what she might have seen was a young mum and a close personal friend of mine, juggling her baby, a large pram and an awkward seating arrangement who was just about to attempt to grab the fly away piece of rubbish before she was scolded by a complete stranger.

Who knows, if she’s gone out with a different expectation, she might have even been generous and reached over and grabbed the piece of rubbish that was out of the reach of the young Mum who would have reacted with her trade mark sweetness and thanked her enthusiastically. Both parties could have then left the exact same encounter with smiles feeling better about the world they live in.

What a shame expectations weren’t different.

What expectations do you have that might be clouding your vision of the true situation?

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments

I judge a good business book…

I judge a good business book… by the number of times I put it down. A great business book gets my brain churning and gets my ideas flowing.

I was reading Ivanka Trump’s new book – the Trump Card this weekend and I must have put the book down 10 times in one chapter to grab my iphone and type myself a note. Say what you will about Donald Trump – I’ve always loved watching Ivanka on the Apprentice. I can’t fault her business logic and commonsense feedback to the contestants, especially impressive given her age.

Now despite stopping so many times to write notes, they weren’t all things she’d written in her book. She’d write something on organization and I wrote a note to myself to do up a flow chart in relation to something quite different in my property management business.

A good business book doesn’t give you all the answers, I think it reminds you to think for yourself.

If you’re ever feeling stifled in your business – grab a re-read of an old favourite or a new title off the shelf and start your creative juices flowing – but don’t read without a note pad or note taking device nearby.

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Starting At The Bottom

In my first job in real estate I started at the very bottom. I answered phones, I sent mail, I ran errands, I picked up dry cleaning, I filed. Oh, did I file! At the time, I enjoyed my work, but I didn't really see it leading to a fulfilling career in real estate long-term.

What little I knew then.

Starting at the bottom was, for me, an ideal start to my career in real estate. I got to know the industry from the ground up.

I got to see the importance of having an amazing person on the front counter because of the calming effect they can have on an unhappy client, or the professional impact they can have when a VIP phones in.

I got to see how a more senior staff member's treatment of juniors and front office staff drastically affects their performance and morale and more importantly – how well that senior staff member gets treated in return.

And now today, there's barely a task in my agency that I ask someone else to do that I haven't already done, which means I know what's involved and how long it should take to complete.

As valuable as it has been to have started at the bottom, there's ways around it if you didn't.

Take a leaf out of Virgin Blue's books where their managers work a day a month on the front line checking in baggage. Or encourage your senior staff to spend an hour on your reception desk answering phone calls.

It's amazing what you'll learn by taking a step "backwards".

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments

You paid what?!

“You paid what?!” I screeched as I laughed at my husband’s new iPhone case. I knew then and there that I was clearly the superior shopper. He’d just paid 5 times what I’d paid for an almost identical iPhone case ($5 vs $25).

True, his had arrived in the mail the day after he’d ordered it. That’s ok, I’d made such a saving, I was prepared to wait a little longer.

True, his had also come with a screen protector. That’s ok, I’d really just wanted the iPhone cover.

True, his construction appeared a little sturdier than mine.

Hrm… you can guess where this is going right? His cost 5 times more than mine and ended up being 10 times more suitable than what I bought.

After years of spouting “you get what you pay for” in the context of real estate service, this lesson didn’t come as a surprise to me but it does leave me wondering why it wasn’t immediately apparent to me.

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments

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