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How To Make Good People Stick


With John Minns

Responsible for hundreds of staff, John Minns knows what an asset good people are to a growing business. Starting in the industry as an agent, John has owned his own agency and is now the Chief Operations Officer of the Independent Property Group (IPG) - one of the largest property groups in Canberra.
John says, “We are a multi-brand company. We decided a number of years ago that one brand wasn’t necessarily the best way of getting out there and growing a great business.”

Subsequently, IPG developed different brands to appeal to different markets. John explains, “We have the Independent Property Group brand, the Peter Blackshaw brand that is highly valued and prestigious and we also have a relationship with Laing + Simmons in Sydney that again has a very good reputation. We’ve also got our own marketing agency, and a registered training organisation. Professional development is very much in our blood here.” While having such a diverse range of businesses can be a challenge, John is of the view that, “without diversity it's almost impossible to build a great business because any form of business, if it's about anything, is about people.”

John has come to understand that, “Leadership is about relationships. It's about culture, it's about environment and fundamentally it's about people and understanding how people are going to operate within your business and how they’re going to relate to each other.” He believes that understanding people will determine how successful you’re going to be.

It is this realisation that different people have different strengths that lead the group to adopt a partnership model, whereby typically IPG and a Principal share a fifty per cent stake in a business. John explains, “It’s often been said in real estate that great sales people don’t make great managers. Now, I don’t particularly subscribe to that theory. Great sales people often make great people managers. But, when it comes down to the business side and filling out forms and compliance and dealing with all the behind the scenes bits and pieces or even strategic planning, that’s not really where a lot of great agents want to be.”
What the partnership model allows is for a great salesperson to sell, and IPG to look after the rest. John says, “What we’re trying to do is build a great back end and provide a fairly high level of support in areas like project marketing and professional development. It’s much easier to market businesses over a number of different offices rather than on your own.”

It’s an approach that clearly works for IPG. John says, “We’ve got an extraordinary group of people. We’ve probably got close to 30 agents who have been with us for between 10 and 20 years.” This is an incredible achievement in an industry known for its high turnover.

John says, “The average time a salesperson has been with us is 10.7 years and I think you’d find that quite remarkable across the Australian industry. Our current retention rate of people who come and work for us is 78 per cent. That’s a number that we’re very, very excited about. In fact, it’s somewhere beyond where I expected it would have been.”

The group breeds talent. “We have a pretty good culture around the place,” says John. “There’s a good environment, people like working here; they’re proud to work here.” Staff are supported by training, professional development and challenging career paths. They stick. “Our staff can go out there and say, “You know we really are capable of competing at the absolute top end of this industry because we’re confident that the resources, the people behind us, the support we’re going to get and the structure of the business is such that it is going to help us stay there.”

One of the things that the company has done well is to build interesting career trajectories for staff. John believes that the capacity for staff to be able to grow and develop, makes IPG appealing to the kind of people he wants to attract to the business.
He says, “We’d much rather recruit for people and attitude and train for performance than simply go round looking for people who are good real estate agents.” Being a multi dimensional business has provided opportunities for staff to develop new skills. John says, “What we’ve tried to do is build opportunities for people to be able to grow and develop from one role to another. We want to keep good people. We’ve invested in them and over the years they add a lot
of value.”

“We’ve had a receptionist become our
HR Manager. We’ve had the guy who came in as a sales PA who is now one of our
really key people within the project marketing division. Our CEO was a salesperson, who I know started six months before I did, you know 26, 27 years ago.”
The proof of what John is saying, is in the quality of the people who work with him.

5 Pillars to success

John believes that there are five pillars to a successful business. He says, “If you’re going to have a genuinely successful sales business, forget about trying to save money on photocopy paper and keeping the electricity bill down by turning off a few extra lights. Those things might be important but, at the end of the day, if you get these five pillars right you’ve got a great business.”

  1. Understand the volume of sales that you’re putting through.
  2. Know the value of each transaction that happens within your business.
  3. Know what it is costing you to employ people and what your overheads are, particularly in relation to employment because that’s one thing that kills businesses in our industry.
  4. With the marketing that you are doing for your business ask yourself - are you getting a decent return and secondly, are you actually recovering the marketing you’re investing in on behalf of your clients?
  5. Do you have the capacity to actually grow the business into a valuable asset so that your capital and equity grow in the business?

These five things are fundamental. Get them right and you’re going to have a great business.



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