The Brady Marcs Podcast

Episode 1 with Leanne Pilkington

Episode 1 with Leanne Pilkington

This week we have a very special guest and icon of the Property Industry, Leanne Pilkington.

Leanne is CEO of Laing+Simmons, current Deputy President of the Real Estate Institute of Australia and former President of REI NSW. She is the Chair of Sister2Sister Foundation and Founder of Real Women In Real Estate.

Links for Leanne Pilkington:

Episode Transcript

Voiceover: Welcome to the Brady Marcs Podcast with your host Brady Yoshia from Brady Marcs Buyers Advisory. Enjoy discussions with a variety of guests and pioneers from diverse backgrounds, each sharing their unique perspectives on property, business, industry and more.

Brady Yoshia: Hi, I’m Brady, founder and CEO of Brady Marcs Buyers Advisory. This week we have a very special guest and an icon of the property industry, Leanne Pilkington. Leanne is the CEO of Laing+Simmons, former president of the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales, and current deputy president of the Real Estate Institute of Australia. She’s the chair of the Sister2Sister Foundation, and founder of Real Woman In Real Estate. Welcome Leanne.

Leanne Pilkington: I love being an icon, thank you so much for that.

BY: You are. It’s such a pleasure to have you here today. Thank you. I know your time is valuable. My first question to you is how do you find the time to fit everything in?

LP: I get asked that a lot as you can imagine. To be honest, I don’t say no to too much, which is not necessarily good advice for anyone else to follow. But I work most days, so I don’t I just don’t take a lot of time off. That’s how I fit it in.

BY: Yes. Being in real estate is all about the 24/7

LP: Totally, yeah, we’re all the same, right?

BY: How did you first get started in real estate?

LP: So my dad was a real estate agent. And I started answering the phone at his office as a 12 year old, my sister got into the business the same way. And then I was going to be a school teacher. So I was on Schoolies up on the Gold Coast as you do and ran out of money and rang dad and he said, okay, I’ll send you some money, so long as you work for me until you go to university. And so I did and I just kept on working. I didn’t end up going to uni I studied to become a valuer. Which was three nights a week driving from Castle Hill to the city three nights a week in the days before the M2. And so yeah, that’s how I spent about eight years working for dad.

BY: Fabulous. So is it fair to say that real estate is in your blood?

LP: I think that is fair to say, Yeah, I’ve been in real estate of one form or another my entire career with the exception of three years as a recruiter. Back in the 90s, early 90s. Wow.

BY: So what lessons did you learn from your father?

LP: My dad, gosh. I learnt to do what you say you’re gonna do. I learnt to work hard. I was never allowed to have a sick day. I can still remember I was about maybe 13 or 14 years old, girlfriend’s birthday party at Luna Park, hello, how exciting. And it was a Sunday and I was not allowed to go because I had to work. And so it was, there’s just never any excuses from for Dad, you’ve just, work is the priority. So I guess the work ethic is probably the biggest thing that I got from both mom and dad.

BY: Yeah, it’s fantastic. Yeah, work ethic in the real estate arena goes a long way

LP: Sure does.

BY: You’ve worked extensively with the Real Estate Institute, both here in New South Wales and Australia, raising professional standards of the real estate industry. You’re very busy and pack a lot into your day and life itself can get very hectic. Yep. How do you avoid burnout?

LP: Yeah, that’s a great question. I’m not really sure. I think I know myself well enough to know when I need to just take a break and you know, go for a walk or, or do some exercise or have a massage, whatever it is that I feel like I need. I’m very self aware. But I just have the capacity to work long and hard to be frank. But I think you do have to have that that self awareness to know when it’s time for you to do something for you.

BY: Yeah, when enough is enough to just take a bit of a breather? Totally. Yeah, I think we all need to do that. You’re very successful and a mentor to so many people. What is your best advice for someone looking to get into the real estate industry?

LP: I think you’ve got to be realistic about what to expect. A lot of people see all the glitz and glamour that the real estate agents want to show you on whether it be on TV or on Instagram. But behind it, it is a lot of hard work. And so you need to be realistic about that. You need to understand your market really well. And you need to be prepared to make the phone calls. You can’t hide behind social media or emails. Real estate is about relationships. And so you’ve got to build those relationships because people buy and sell real estate through people they know, people they like and people they trust. And so it takes time to build that.

BY: Yes, I completely agree with you. Yeah. The real estate market is very interesting. At the moment, there are so many micro market sellers are sitting on the fence, and buyers are confused. What would you say to someone that’s looking to buy or sell in the current climate?

LP: Yeah, I’ve never I’ve been in real estate for 40 years, and I’ve never seen a market like this for prices to still be going up in the interest rate environment that we’re in right now is incredibly unusual, I’ve not seen it before. The best time to buy a property is when you find something that you love that you can afford, that’s the best time to buy. And so the people that are trying to pick the market, don’t. Forget it, experts can’t pick the market. So the problem is that we only ever know the peak or the trough of the market three months later, right? Because that’s the only way we can judge it. And so for people looking to sell, the recommendation would be buy and sell in the same market. So it doesn’t matter if the markets high or low. If you’re buying and selling in the same conditions. You know, you’re you’re, you’re getting it on on one side or the other. Right. And I just think people get too overly analytical about it. If you’re buying for somewhere to live, then buy it when you can afford it and you see something that you really like.

BY: Yeah, that’s such great advice. Advocating for women in real estate is important to you. And you’ve been instrumental in establishing Real Woman In Real Estate. What do you think the future will bring for women in the industry?

LP: Yeah, I think it really interesting times, I think women need to get really clear on what success means to them. You know, it’s this industry is always about the high transaction numbers, and the high GCI and the you know, there’s European cars, and all of that sort of stuff. But that might not be everyone’s measure of success. And so if you’re trying to work around a family, or caring for parents, or whatever it is, you may not be able to achieve that level of success. And that’s okay. You’ve got to be clear on what’s important to you, and then be prepared to do what it takes to achieve that. But I think real estate is an incredible industry for women. And I’m frustrated that there’s not more of us in it. But it does get it gets better. It gets better every year, I think.

BY: yes, it definitely does. I’ve seen so many changes in all the years that I’ve been in real estate. Yeah. I’m so passionate about it.

LP: Yeah, absolutely.

BY: On a personal note, sure you have an amazing wardrobe.

LP: It’s true, I do.

BY: Do you have any styling tips for women in business?

LP: Well, I mean, I get a lot of people say, Oh, I love I love what you’re wearing, but I couldn’t wear it. I mean, obviously you’re all in black today. So I’m thinking you probably wouldn’t choose to wear this outfit. I was, when I was a recruiter, I was only ever allowed to wear black, navy and beige. I wasn’t allowed to wear anything else. And then when I left that role, my wardrobe became an absolute rainbow. And so my tip is wear what makes you feel good. I don’t feel myself if I wear black. I in fact gave away all of my black clothes. So I wear what makes me feel good. And what makes me smile. So I would recommend anybody else do the same thing.

BY: Yeah, that’s great. You always look fabulous. Everyone loves a good quote. What is your favorite quote?

LP: I’m not one for favorites of anything. To be honest, I changed my mind. But my current favorite quote is “it’s not about what you’ve done. It’s about what you do next.” Because it doesn’t matter. You know, I’ve got I’ve done a lot that I’m really proud of in my career. But that’s all in the past. And it’s what I focus on next. That’s really important. And it’s the same for everybody. It doesn’t matter if you’ve done a lot that you’re proud of, or that you’re not proud of. It is like, no dust yourself off, and focus on what’s next. That’s so good. I love it. Yeah. I love it, too.

BY: So Leanne, you’re involved in buying Laing+Simmons, could you please tell us the story behind that?

LP: Yeah, sure. I’d I started working at Laing+Simmons in 1995. And yes, I understand that a lot of people weren’t even born then. So it’s a really long time to be working somewhere. But something that I do with my corporate team every year is we write a letter to ourselves, and we write it in December to be read the following December, and we write it in a way that were saying that we’ve achieved all of the things that we want to achieve. So it’s it’s kind of like a business plan by another name. And in 2019, I couldn’t write that letter. And that was really unusual for me. I’ve always, I’m a very optimistic person. I’ve always been had a really clear vision of the future and what the future looks like. And I just couldn’t see the future. And I really, I really thought long and hard about it, I’ve got a beautiful friend called Tanja Lee, who’s a coach in the real estate space. And I rang her, I’d been offered another business opportunity. And I rang her and said, look, I’m really struggling with this decision, which is something, I don’t struggle with decisions very often, I don’t usually have to ask for other people’s advice or assistance. And anyway, I spoke to Tanj and I went right through this other opportunity. And at the end of the call, I just burst into tears, which is something that I never do. And I just went, you know, what, I can’t leave Laing+Simmons, I feel so responsible for the brand and the people within the brand. I can’t leave. And so that being the case, what’s next. And so I sat with that for a little bit. And then in the end, in my letter to myself, I wrote, it’s December 2020 and Land + Simmons has new owners. And so then I had to bring the CEO and say, I think you need to sell the brand, you need to go to the board, and you need to get them to sell the brand. And so as luck would have it, it was good timing for them as well. And so that’s what they did. And then the next problem was, who to buy it, because I still was I wasn’t that I wanted to buy the brand myself at all. I just knew that it was time for these people to go and do other things and for us to have a new direction. And I was President at the REI at the time. And we were negotiating with a couple of really big brands to buy us and I was on the phone with one of the CEOs of those brands, and he was ‘shoulding’ me, oh, I should do this, the president should do that. And I got off the phone and just went like that I’m not working for him. I cannot work that, I’m too old I was 58 by that stage. I’m too old to work for somebody like that. And so it’s fine. Now what now what do I do? And I had a couple of franchisees who had heard that the rumor that we might be on the market, because we hadn’t told anybody at this stage. And so I rang them and they said, look like if you’re prepared to have equity in the business, we’re prepared to buy in with you. I’m thinking, I’m 58. Do I really need to buy a business at this stage in my life in my career and all that. So anyway, I decided that I would go out and and see all of my franchisees and have a conversation with them, which is a really risky thing to do, right? You don’t kind of tell everybody there’s a deal happening before the deals happen. But I didn’t want any of them to wake up tomorrow and and find out that the brand had been sold to franchisees and they had no idea that it was happening. I just didn’t want that. So I went and saw everybody. And to my shock. Everyone kept on saying, “wow, that’s a great idea. Can we buy in? Can we buy in? Can we buy in?” And in the end, I’m like, I don’t have enough to sell. So some of the shareholders have only got really small shareholdings, just by virtue of the fact that they were down the end of my list of people, like I just saw them later than I saw some of the others. So that was kind of how it all came about. Crazy, right? But we are we bought it first of April in 2021 we settled.

BY: April Fool’s Day

LP: That tells you all you need to know about my sense of humor. It could have we could have done it on the 31st. But I it had to be on the 1st.

BY: What an incredible story.

LP: Yeah, thank you.

BY: So the Real Estate Institute of Australia for those listeners that don’t understand what it is, has been a big part of your career. Sure. Could you please tell us how you got involved?

LP: Absolutely. So the Real Estate Institute of Australia is the peak body for real estate across the country. And the members are basically the State Institutes and we are the ones that lobby for any Federal rule changes. Things like negative gearing and tax changes that affect everybody. There’s a lot of conversations about rent caps at the moment. We need to educate those in government those making decisions as to why a rent cap is actually not a good idea. We need to talk to them about supply and talk about different opportunities for freeing up supply. So that’s the Real Estate Institute of Australia. The Real Estate Institute of New South Wales is obviously a member of the Australian Institute and I was President there for four years. I’ve been on the Board since 2009, and I actually was tapped on the shoulder and asked if I would join the Board, and it had never occurred to me that I had a voice of value, I didn’t think I could actually add any value at that level, which, looking back is a bit sad. But one of the things that I decided to do when I did become President was to try and encourage other women to be the person that taps other women on the shoulder to join the Board. So now the Board is, the gender diversity is pretty much 50/50 on the Board. And there’s a lot of, it’s incredibly important to have a strong Institute because without it, the legislation that we all have to work within would be so much more onerous than it already is. I think people would be really shocked to know, some of the suggestions that come across our desk. And and we have to very quickly go back to say, No, this won’t work for these reasons. So it’s very, it’s it’s a very, very important role that the institutes play.

BY: Yeah. Well, thank you for everything that you do. We all truly appreciate it.

LP: My pleasure.

BY: And your charity that you chair, Sister2Sister Foundation, what is it? And how can people get involved if they want to help or donate some money?

LP: Yeah. So Sister2Sister, I’ve been involved since 2009. And basically, it’s a mentoring program for for troubled and at risk teenage girls. And we have got really experienced trauma-informed counselors and people involved. So it’s a very unique program. Basically, we have one-on-one big sisters. So you spend time together with your little sister, they’re between 12 and 17 years of age, they’ve had really challenging things happen to them in their short lives. And it’s just, it’s just to give them a positive role model that they probably have never had before. And to give them an environment where they don’t feel like they’re different. They see people like them. So we definitely need funding. I was asked to Chair only this year. So I’ve been a team leader or a Big Sister since 2009. And I was appointed chair only a couple of months ago. And one of the things that we are doing is putting together some events that people can get involved with. We’ve got a fabulous Women I Know lunch happening in October. So I will definitely send you an invitation to that do. And yeah, so if anybody is interested in finding out more about the organization, I’m happy for them just to reach out to me on on Instagram or over email. I’m not very hard to find. I would love to talk more about the charity and how people can get involved.

BY: Thank you for joining me today. It’s been a pleasure to have you. If someone wants to get in touch with you what’s the best way for them to reach out to you?

LP: So either on LinkedIn, Leanne Pilkington or Instagram @theleannepilkington I’m very diligent at responding to my messages. So, I would love to hear from people. Right. Thank you.

BY: You’re welcome.

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