Going into a partnership is always a challenge, with a high failure rate it’s a risk many are reluctant to take. But while Stuart Brock and Carmen Christie have different recollections of who asked who first, this is a duo that’s always worked from the get-go.
Stuart and Carmen say mutual respect, trust and common goals were their key ingredients for a successful partnership and after six years together building a highly successful business in Warragul under the First National Real Estate banner, the rest is just history.
The way Stuart tells the story, the move into real estate was initially driven by money – while personally rewarding, his early career in the sports industry had failed to deliver the sort of income he knew even average property sales agents were making.
It wasn’t as easy as it seemed, though. After knocking on the doors of every agency in his home town of Warragul, he found the only jobs going were for experienced agents.
Showing the patience and tenacity he’s now well known for, Stuart decided he’d move to Melbourne to get the required experience, taking an agency job that saw him eventually put down roots in the city for more than 15 years. But after finding himself living in an apartment with a two year old son and more children on the cards, Stuart and his wife decided it was time to return to Warragul and family.
“I was working in a local franchise business in Warragul and had been approached by First National Real Estate to open my own office. It sounded great, a flat fee but still a fantastic brand and value offering. I knew it was going to be a great opportunity for someone but I wasn’t confident to do it alone,” Stuart said.
“Then one day I was crossing the street and saw Carmen, who was the younger sister of one of my best friends growing up. We’d known each other our whole lives although we hadn’t been close friends, but I knew she was a good person and a successful agent.”
“So I asked her if she’d be keen to go into business with me and she just said “yeah sounds great” – and that was it. We made the decision quickly and that’s how we’ve operated ever since, it just works.”
“We agreed on exactly how we wanted the business to look, a sales only business based on values where our families came first. We didn’t want the drama or headaches of property management or a big business, we just wanted to do what we were already doing, but better, be in control of every step.”
“Joining First National Real Estate was a great decision. Even with just the two of us selling along with our support team, we pay less than half of what we would if we were with a franchise on a percentage deal – and we get way more.”
“We set up a referral arrangement for our clients who need property management with a neighbouring First National office that operates with our values too, which gives us all the benefits and none of the hassles.”
“Carmen and I are very different – I’m the introverted, more detail focussed person, while she’s the classic extrovert, always moving quickly and having great new ideas. She’s much better with tech than me as well, she’s all over social media and the best systems for us.
“People would say I’m probably the soft one, where she’s more direct.”
“I can honestly say that because we respect each other’s differences, our partnership has been and is very effective. Six years in and counting!”
Five minutes in, it’s clear Carmen’s a woman on a mission, although it’s a peaceful mission underpinned by ethics. She says she was born that way – growing up, if anyone ever told Carmen she was too young, too female or something was generally going to be too hard, she only doubled down.
So when Carmen’s father, never expecting his young daughter to want a career, sold the family retail nursery after her older brothers declined to follow in his footsteps, Carmen surprised everyone by buying it back 14 years later at the tender age of 21. Becoming the first local business in Warragul to trade seven days a week, Carmen built it up and eventually sold it for a profit some seven years later.
She was waiting for her application to become a police officer to be processed when a local franchise agency suggested Carmen work for them meanwhile. A short term plan quickly became the only plan, as success quickly ensued.
A shift to North Queensland some four years later would take her away from her home town for almost a decade, but when Carmen’s father was diagnosed with a terminal illness, it was time to return home to Warragul and a three-day a-week job at a local independent real estate agency.
“Part-time turned into full-time before long, then I fell in love again, adopted two children and found it was time to get serious about financial security.”
“I knew I wanted my own business and I did want a business partner, but it had to be someone I could trust, someone who’d look after our clients the same way I did, honestly and ethically.”
“Stuart was my older brother’s friend and we’d always moved in the same circles. We were having coffee one day and I said “what do you think” and he immediately said yes. He came in one day when we were renovating our new premises but hadn’t decided really if we were going independent or a brand and suggested First National. With all you get in return for the low set fee, it was just a no-brainer.”
“It’s how we’ve always been since then too – we make quick decisions, even during a meeting we can look at each other and just know what we’re going to do. It’s a weird business chemistry. We are completely different people but we’re similar in the way we are as agents.”
“I probably take on too much and I’m still always looking for the next new thing whether it’s a piece of tech or a process, whereas Stuart is much better with the numbers and works on the business more than I do in terms of the back end.”
“We’ve never had a fight, we always say that if there is a disagreement, the person who feels most passionately about the subject gets their way. Stuart is the only person I would have gone into business with, it was him or no one.”
“I don’t know exactly what our business looks like in the future but I do want to retire doing this job, it’s so much fun. I honestly believe that success is not found in what you’ve achieved, it’s in who you have become.”
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