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Shaun O'Callaghan, Getting the rhythm right

Surfing runs through Shaun O’Callaghan’s veins. One of the top agents in the Hocking Stuart group, Shaun lives and works in Torquay - the spiritual home of Australian surfing. Whenever he can, Shaun takes the time to catch some waves. As he says, “I don’t want to be one of the statistics. A real estate agent, divorced. Someone who doesn’t know their kids. That won’t be me.” So he takes time out to be with his family and to catch some waves.

He adds, “We’re really fortunate in that there is a great culture in the office. Our Director, Leigh Hall-Sullivan is very good at understanding how important lifestyle is to stay fresh. And that’s something that’s embraced within the office, and it’s embraced with where we live. I work hard obviously, but I surf. I don’t have weekends and I miss a lot through that.

But, I do get some time through the week and you know that's the balance."

Started as a chippie

Only in the real estate game for six years, Shaun has found success through sheer determination and grit. Once he left school, he began an apprenticeship as a carpenter when he was 16. When he was 25, after his boss Barry had a devastating surfing accident, he stepped up to take the reins of the company.

Shaun says, “Barry was one of the great people in my life. He was calm, collected. He didn’t get wound up and fired up and he just moved through things; and then had the accident. It was on a surfing trip. He severed his spinal cord and it was obviously devastating.”

The accident had a huge impact because Shaun took on the mantle of keeping the business going. “We all needed jobs,” says Shaun. “Everyone needed a job, and there were jobs that needed to be finished. I took that on board and then I helped steer the business to a degree so it remained functional and profitable.”

It was a tough transition – but he got through it. He explains, “You know directing traffic for big, tough guys from a young buck was a challenge.” Around this time, he started to think about making a career change. “I knew I needed change and I wanted a different environment. I didn’t want to be dirty. I didn’t want to be muddy. I didn’t want to be dealing with the same thinking and the same attitudes within the building industry.” He started going down to Melbourne and seeing motivational speakers. He hit the books and the phone and contacted the people he found inspiring. “Anyone who was doing well, I’d contact them to try and learn from them.“

Downed the tools and took up real estate

By 2006, he was ready to make a change. “I wanted something fresh, and real estate was almost handed to me through a friend of mine.” He took the job and, for the first year, thought about quitting every day.

“It’s a tough gig. You know you’re at the bottom of the rung. You’re easy to beat in listing presentations. You make mistakes with sales that could have come together. But huge mistakes are great for the learning curve. I personally needed to go through those mistakes because they hurt but I learnt from them.”

What kept him going was his determination not to go back to building. “People used to say to me all the time, ‘Oh that’s great, you’ve got a career behind you; you can always go back to it.’ I used to just fume when I’d hear that because that was just the last thing that I would ever do. After a year or so, I could see how it could work; I could start to see things falling into place.”

His secret was to get up at four in the morning, learn the industry from the inside out and teach himself what he needed to know.

“The approach I took was to persist. I think that’s fundamental. I listened to my Director on the phone all the time so I’d drop what I was doing whenever I heard him on the phone. I’d run to the door and just listen to what he was saying. Whether it was right or wrong, it didn’t matter. He knew a hell of a lot more than I did and it gave me a chance to develop a persona in real estate based on those experiences. “

He always made an effort to learn from people who were more experienced. “I talked to and learned from those who were more experienced than I was. I attended training and mentoring sessions., listened to audios, did workshops. They were all vital. I got as much as I could out of training sessions. You know if there was a specific thing that went wrong through the week, leading up to a training session, I would make note of that, explore that and try and get an answer. I was there to get answers to questions that I needed, that were going to help propel my career.”

It is an approach that clearly works: in the last financial year, Shaun was amongst the top three agents in the entire Hocking Stuart group for generating the highest commission values. He’s found the right balance and the right rhythm.

Shaun's top tips when starting out

Keep your market up to date

“After a sale, call the street. Let them know what happened. Let them know there was a result. When I first started, they weren’t all great calls but it provided a basis for the start of a conversation.“

Promote your area

“Early on, I wrote a small article for one of the Melbourne newspapers about our area. It was probably no more than 150, 200 words, and I scanned it and sent that through to the contacts on my database and they loved it. It’s very important to provide information with really no expectation. Of course, there’s an expectation that at some point if they’re thinking of selling, but the reality was, in the beginning that wasn’t the outcome I was after.”

Building your contacts will take a few years

Building your contacts will not take three months or six months; it’s a long-term investment which means there needs to be some vision and commitment. Connection comes from time and commitment.

Get on the phone

“You connect with people straight away, and there are some good questions you can ask people in those calls as well, and you get some great feedback about the area. People will reveal some really interesting things about what’s happening in the street and what’s going on, and you know the activity in that particular street. You will be rewarded with the appropriate opportunities and you might not see them coming.”

Look after your buyers

“Provide good service for those people who are likely to buy and sell. Suggest other homes that are relevant for them, without really expecting anything from them, just to assist them in the process of buying.”

Commit to being a student

“Success in real estate takes a lot of hard work and effort to learn the trade. There’s no good learning whilst you should be calling people or potentially communicating with your database. That needs to happen before hours, after hours, or during lunchtimes or however it may be.”

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Shaun OCallaghan, Getting the rhythm right