Business Masterclass with Glen Wright - video transcript

The following transcript is from an interview with Glen Wright, Chief Executive Officer, Wright Property at the Lord Mayor's Business Forum at Everton Park on 27 May 2015. 

Julian Simmonds:  Glenn we might start at the beginning mate and talk a little bit about how you made the decision to start up your own business.  It can be a scary kind of thing.  How did you decide to take that leap and where did you start?

Glen Wright:  Thanks.  It started in 2002.  I came back from Sydney and I thought I'll be a one man consultant.  So I decided to open up my own shop.  I just recently had a divorce.  I thought if I was ever going to have a crack it was going to be now. 

So I started the business then and employed a secretary. I had $40,000 to invest in the business.  I took a one plus three year lease off Balfour Irvine, who the Lord Mayor would know, and he was kind enough to - I said look I don't know whether I'll get through the first 12 months, but I'll take a three year option if I do. 

So Balfour was kind enough - I remember it was the ground floor of the wool stores and I took 100 square metres, which was way too much space and it was $1000 a month.  So that was 12 grand gone.

Then started and went around and rang a heap of old clients.  Kevin Miller from Property Solutions I rang him and asked him if he'd give me a couple of properties to work on, which he did, and we went from there.

Silvio Pradello at Metroplex - and there were just a few clients that I'd worked with through the '90s that supported me and we got a few deals and from there it just kept growing.

So every time I did a transaction and got a commission I went and employed another employee.  So I just took the old adage of keep investing in the business and slowly but surely we ended up I think at the end of that first year with about seven or eight staff. 

We way exceeded my expectations and it was time to move, because we couldn't take that three year option, so we went up the road with - again Balfour had another property and moved us up the road and we grew from there.

Effectively I think I just, every time we had money in the pot I just kept employing people and kept having a go.  I think what I took from the Sydney experience - I worked for CBRE down there was, and I worked with a brokerage business here in Brisbane before I went - was I took the best of a big company and the best of a small company and tried to create our own brand.  I spent a hell of a lot of money on brand.

Julian Simmonds:  It sounds like from, particularly at the beginning, those personal connections were really key to kicking off the business.  So how would you, what tips would you give to people in terms of starting up a business and leveraging off those personal connections to then grow their businesses?

Glen Wright:  Yeah look there were a few scary moments because when I first started obviously I had old clients, but they were also the clients of my old business that I worked for.

So we had a lot of solicitors' letters and a lot of things going backwards and forwards.  Thankfully I'd been in Sydney for two years so there was no relationship connection where they could honestly say that I was taking this client from them.

There were a lot of sleepless nights in that first period because the businesses we were trying to shut me down.  But I think its people business, you know all business is about people and I just kept knocking on doors and kept offering energy.

One of the things that would be a successful win is being a lot of young people.  I've employed - most of my staff are between 20 and 35.  I'm known in the industry for recruiting young people and training young people.  I enjoy that part of the business and teaching them and educating them. 

Through that energy - you know older business people love dealing with young people who have got a lot of energy.  So I found we were rewarded in that - they mightn't have had the experience but they had the energy and the tenaciousness to keep calling that person and calling that person.  I think that really played well for the growth of our business.

Julian Simmonds:  We might talk a little bit more about the point, because obviously it's very hard to find good people but it is very key.  I mean your name is on the brand, so reputation is everything you want.  The employees, you want to be able to trust them to do the right thing by you.

What do you look for in a good employee and where do you find them?

Glen Wright:  I could tell you a story and I used to - I started out employing people that wore R&B boots to their interview -

[Laughter]

Glen Wright:  because I was trying to - we had a lot of - because I was a country kid.  I came to Brisbane as a 17, 18 year old country kid.  I lived at Kelvin Grove and they had the rural kids' hostel there.  I found, you know, their work ethic and they had again a desire to change their lives and prosper and grow in Brisbane.

So that was the first point.  But I also wanted to find out from them their background, which is politically probably incorrect now.  But I'd always ask about mum and dad and what they did to try and get a sense of whether they came from a wealthy family or a struggling family and whether they were about - because selling real estate with commission sales is all about wealth creation.

I just wanted to know how hungry they were.  Because I knew the hungry guys would be the guys first in the morning at the office, the last to leave at night, and they were about trying to change their lives.

I've created a lot of millionaires through Wright Property and it's probably one of the proudest things - one of the things I'm proud of most, because through that education and that opportunity that I've given them and their hard work they've gone on and prospered.

Julian Simmonds:  Okay, so you've continued to grow the business and now you've expanded.  You've gone from one man band to managing 50 staff across two sites, which is very different.

For people who are facing that kind of management challenge what are some the tips, some of the challenges you've come across in terms of now [solving] managing across two sites and such a large staff?

Glen Wright:  I think one of the big things that we invested in heavily earlier on was brand.  We spent a great deal of hours, [unclear] a lot of money on brand and it was a lesson that I got early that you just needed to keep investing in your brand. 

Brand was more than just a logo; it was about how the business presented itself, how the staff presented themselves, how they talked to our clients.  So it came back to that training and indoctrinating what Wright Property was about, what we stood for and how I wanted to see our people represented.

One of the things that I always indoctrinated into the staff was I didn't care whether we didn't get paid on a deal provided it was the best outcome for the clients.  Sometimes agents get in the way of a deal because they just can't pull it together.  I'd rather get the deal together and say look we'll get the next one.

It's trying to get that culture of giving - my wife started a charity called GIVIT, so we've got a bit of a giving thing in Wright Property - that culture of giving and you got rewarded for it. 

So once we had the brand in our people it created loyalty as well, then we moved into the Gold Coast, again I promoted a young person that it was beyond him to run an office but he took to - he rose to the challenge and he had - because he was given that opportunity he's done a fantastic job with it.

I think that's - I haven't had to manage that office that much because, again because of the brand that we've - that's in our people.

Julian Simmonds:  You've spoken a bit about spending a fair bit of time and money on branding and marketing.  Are there channels that you find or methods that you find work best and do you have a formula in terms of generally how much of your budget you're looking to spend on that kind of thing?

Glen Wright:  No. I think we had the benefit of obviously the boom market that happened in '05, '06, '07 so there was a lot of cash around too.  I didn't really worry.  At that point I was more focused on growing the business and so we kept looking at how can we grow the business, how can we get our message wider, how can we put more people on?

Through that it was just a constant investment.  So we didn't really look at percentages.  Also my father taught me the lesson - a story about you've got to spend money to make money. It was just a lesson that's run true for me. 

Even these last couple of years we employed a chap to help us grow, again grow the business.  Once we got over $10 million worth of revenue we decided to go again.  What I did then was, I went to one of my business advisors and said look I've got this chap, he wants to come in but he's twice as expensive as everybody else.  He said well you can pay somebody X dollars to watch your business or you can pay X dollars to help you grow the business.

Thankfully he was the right choice.  I know there are a lot of horror stories about employing people that can come in and blow your business up, but I had the confidence in this guy and he's again taken us to another level.  So it's been a great experience.

A lot of people would have baulked at that investment.  I baulked at it and thankfully I have a lot of mentors - I've got about five to 10 mentors around me that I spend a lot of time with.  I'll talk to them.  I'll share ideas.  I'll ask them questions.  I'll take their advice.  I'll think about it myself and then make my own decision. I don't necessarily just follow their advice, but I'll take it onboard and I'll consider it and then I'll make my decision.

So through that process I could ring three or four people and say look this is what's happening.  They knew my business.  They knew what I was trying to achieve and yeah they're fantastic mentors.  If you can start, find yourself a couple of really inspiring and great people that you're confident with; they're willing to share. I find a lot of business people who are older and love sharing advice.  Get some mentors.

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30 November 2015