How many years have you been in the industry?
I’ve been in the industry for 9 years now and my wife Angela joined me in 2016. It’s certainly not an easy industry and the early days were very challenging. We are not originally from New Zealand, so “breaking” into the region and especially our focus areas, Tamahere, Matangi and Newstead, it was an uphill battle. It took time for people to see us as a trusted real estate source.
What would you say are the core elements of your brand?
New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty is somewhat a “newish brand” to the Waikato area. We opened the first office in Tamahere in February of this year and Angela and I were proud to be the foundation members and shareholders of that office. Our second office, in Cambridge, is due to open in the last quarter of the year.
The Sotheby’s brand is exceptionally well-respected all over the world, and we are proud to be associated with it. Our brand “Russell and Angela Thomas” is now a trusted real estate brand in the region and that’s something that has taken years to accomplish. We focus on maximising the value of each vendor’s property through a combination of exposure, presentation and marketing at a local, national and international level. We have always taken a very honest approach when dealing with our clients by focusing on telling people what they need to know and not what they want to know. So to describe our brand, I would say professional, sophisticated and honest.
What is your most standout milestone in your career?
For Angela and I, a massive highlight was being voted as “RateMyAgent Agent of the Year” for the Tamahere suburb in 2021 and again in 2022. The awards are the only major customer choice awards for the real estate industry in New Zealand. Rather than being judged by industry peers, the awards are calculated based on the verified reviews that customers provide on the RateMyAgent website, so they’re an honest gauge of the customer service an agent provides. Angela and I are both very focused on providing an amazing customer experience for our clients and these awards were a testament to that ongoing effort. And at the end of the day, being a top performer helps vendors to recognise the service we provide as a team on a daily basis.
What is something that sets you apart from other branches/agents?
We have always believed in having a process and sticking to it every day. It sounds simple enough, however, it’s difficult to achieve consistently. Real estate really is a process-driven industry and being meticulous with first developing a process and then sticking to it is key. We have also made a point of surrounding ourselves with talented people who we trust. We have two key team members who are both licensed real estate professionals. Angela and I are the faces of the business and we have a fantastic PA, Tina Dolley and a Digital Marketing Manager, Roxanne Pienaar who ensure the smooth running of the business. It’s taken some time but we are a well-oiled machine and I have complete faith in our team.
What has been your biggest career lesson?
There have been many but I don’t let a bad day turn into a bad week or month. As a real estate agent, you need to make rejection your best friend.
What would you say is the most important attribute that helped you progress your career?
The most important attribute that has contributed to our success would have to be our determination and competitive spirit. We are a very ambitious and competitive team, driven and determined to succeed. We believe as a team that when you do a job, you do it well. It’s also been key to have persistence because even if others doubt you, especially in the early days, you have to maintain the self-belief to persevere against all odds. I’ve overcome doubt by setting myself and our team regular goals and working to achieve those goals every day.
What has been the most influential homes.co.nz marketing tool in helping progress your business?
We have always embraced a lot of homes.co.nz products in our marketing packages and for our own personal marketing tool. We see homes.co.nz as an important sales partner in this process. A serious benefit, for us has been the homes estimate. It’s been great for vendors to be able to discuss or challenge their estimate value and on the flip side, buyers have access to this key information and it certainly acts as a price guide for many people. We also enjoy the blog section for its market commentary by leading economists and real estate experts.
What’s a piece of professional advice that has stuck with you?
“Never stop learning.” I’ve always been hungry for knowledge and focused on getting better at one thing every day. In the world of real estate, you’ve got to have a broad skill set to succeed. One moment you are explaining the digital marketing elements to a vendor, the next thing you are discussing council files and titles and by the afternoon you are back to making calls. It’s impossible to master everything so I focus on upskilling in the areas where I am weaker, by reading blogs or watching videos on YouTube. My advice to anyone starting out or trying to up their game, would be to find a real estate or business coach who you relate to and focus on things you can improve.
What do you do to switch off and take a break?
Keeping a healthy work-life balance is always tough in real estate as it can become all-consuming. It is certainly a balancing act for us, but having time off is so important to refresh and revive oneself. Spending time with our family is key, we both prioritise our health by keeping fit and exercising daily. We also enjoy travelling and plan trips back to the UK where our wider family live.
What are the next steps you/your brand want to take?
Our focus for our own team is to continue to outperform ourselves year on year. And to
do that, it means we constantly need to be upping our game. So we are always on the lookout for new opportunities or collaborations, and different ways of marketing a property and serving our clients. For New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty Waikato, it means growing a great team of like-minded real estate agents who aspire to be the best in their field, whilst maintaining a great office culture