July 19th, 2019
Humans of Property Management: Wayne Nicholson
Laura Shooter didn’t find real estate — real estate found her, and it’s happy it did.
Having worked hard to build a career in child protection, a succession of dominoes fell in such a way over the past few years that she became the Managing Director of the award-winning SJ Shooter Real Estate in Dubbo, New South Wales.
Dig a little deeper and you’ll find a serious drive and love for real estate, an impressive list of successes and accolades, and a healthy serving of inspiration for anyone looking to complete a similar transition.
The more keen-eyed among you might’ve noticed that Laura’s name doesn’t start with an ‘S’. SJ Shooter was in fact started by her husband Samuel in 2015, initially out of one of their bedrooms. At the time Laura was happily employed by Child Protection Services. “That’s kind of where I saw my career long-term,” she explains.
A year into the venture, SJ Shooter was growing; Samuel expanded the company and moved into a CBD office. Around the same time, Laura was working part-time after having their second child. Given the amount of work on her husband’s shoulders, she decided to take some long service leave, using it to help Samuel set up the property management division.
Her aim was to help out for a while — train teams, create processes, help with admin — before getting back to her career. As we now know, that never ended up happening.
“I had worked at the Department of Housing a lifetime ago, and I think that experience really helped me understand property management.” says Laura. “I’d never aspired to be a business owner, but I actually really loved the experience, and I discovered that I had a bit of an aptitude for business.”
Laura says that she initially felt some hesitation because in some ways she saw real estate as the opposite of her social work. She has since realised that in many ways they are one and the same.
“I absolutely love being a part of this industry. It’s such an amazing opportunity to help people at sometimes difficult or tragic, but more often exciting and momentous times in their lives. It’s a people industry, not a property industry, and our main mission is to leave people better than we found them.”
Laura has also taken healthy inspiration from others in the industry who use their positions of power for good, giving back to the communities in which they work.
After overcoming the challenges of being a start-up, in which the Shooters had limited funds and needed to do as much as possible by their own hand (office fit-out included), the five year journey has seen both Laura and the company go from strength to strength. SJ Shooter now boasts a team of 10 staff and a shiny office in a central part of town.
As Managing Director, Laura’s role is to oversee the entire business. She works closely with the property management team, in particularly Stephanie Brien, the company’s ultra-committed Senior Property Manager. But the title of MD doesn’t mean she now has buttery hands; she instead maintains the callouses through heavy involvement in the nitty gritty.
As she looks forward to the year ahead, Laura says she aims to get the business running like clockwork in 2021. “I’ve actually got a photo of the intricate internals of a watch stuck up on my wall,” she says. Using smart tools, reducing friction and pain points, and creating greater job satisfaction are the goals.
Over the course of her short career Laura has faced more than her fair share of challenges, learning a lot along the way.
In another unique situation for a Managing Director, Laura is an introverted leader (she is a Mediator, for those familiar with Myers-Briggs Types). She says that it has taken time and effort to develop confidence, both in her own abilities and in being comfortable in the spotlight. To her credit, she has crafted a unique and incredibly effective strategy for professional development:
“I love going to industry conferences, and every time I hear a keynote speaker that I really like, who really resonates with me, I always reach out to them afterwards.”
Simon Fung from Woodards in Melbourne, Joel Davis from Image Property in Brisbane, and Mark Edwards and Samantha McLean from Elite Agent are just a few of the valuable connections she has made over the years. She has even sent her staff off for “work experience” at these companies, to give them the opportunity to see effective processes and strategies in action.
Laura has also found complementing skill sets to be vital. Her husband Samuel is great at the “dreamy, big picture stuff” and creating a vision that everyone buys into, while Laura is more pragmatic and detail-oriented. Samuel is extroverted, Laura is introverted. “I think the opposite personality thing really helps,” she says.
SJ Shooter prides itself on delivering amazing service, but this has proven more and more complex as the business has grown. It’s simple enough in the beginning, when you have a couple of dozen clients; the challenge comes in maintaining that level of service as your rent roll grows. With over 400 properties now on their books, SJ Shooter has worked hard to find a balance between volume and quality.
To finish, we asked Laura what her advice to young real estate professionals might be.
“One day while working with community services I was letting off some steam,” she says. “One of my colleagues, Teena, said ‘what you feed will grow.’ That really landed with me. It’s been a filter I often use when dealing with difficult situations, and it of course also applies to personal development. If I didn’t feed the negatives, didn’t give them air, they’ll eventually wither and die.”
Looking at the endless positives that have punctuated her real estate career so far, it seems as though Laura has been feeding the right things.
Listen to episode three of the Humans of Property Management podcast below.
Humans of Property Management is a series on the PropertyMe blog that showcases the lives and stories behind the property management industry.
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