Business guru impacts a property business – Mark Bouris

Mark Bouris is the star of Channel 7’s The Mentor series and talks about how he has turned around a struggling family Brisbane real estate business.
Kevin:  My next guest is Mark Bouris. You may recall that Mark was the host of Celebrity Apprentice Australia, also founded Wizard Home Loans, and is the executive chairman now of Yellow Brick Road. More recently, we’ve seen him on Channel 7’s news series The Mentor.
Now, when the first program went to air, it featured a struggling family business on the north side of Brisbane, which was then called Ubiquitous Realty. And in the promo for that show, which was the first in the series, as I said, Mark Bouris actually said that maybe it could be the worst real estate agency in Australia. Mark joins me to talk about that.
Good day, Mark. How are you?
Mark:  Good morning. I’m good, thank you.
Kevin:  That was a bit cruel, I thought. Was it justified?
Mark:  Well, it was at the time when I first looked at the iPad. On my iPad, I looked at their promo stuff. I was gobsmacked. I couldn’t believe it. To some extent, when I looked at their figures, I thought “My god, these guys are hopeless.” But that wasn’t the case once I got to know them.
Kevin:  Isn’t it funny that that is the case? I think in talking to Stephanie Wimpenny, who was the person most used in the series, such a lovely young person, but the reason they came up with the name Ubiquitous is a story in itself, isn’t it?
Mark:  I think that’s what floored me in the beginning, was the name. They heard the word spoken on one of the breakfast shows in the morning and they said “Well, that name sounds intelligent, why don’t I look it up and see what it means?” and then it means everywhere or in all places, and they decided that was a good name for them. That was my whole point.
When I first said this could be the worst real estate in Australia, it was because I looked at the promo stuff and there was Stephanie channeling Steve Irwin or Bindi Irwin, and I thought “Well, that’s crazy.” And then I saw the name Ubiquitous, and I thought “Oh my god, what sort of name is that?”
But once I got to meet them – and I got to meet Sharon and Eric and Kurtis and Stephanie as well – I started to get a good feeling about them and I thought “I can work with them, and I can turn them around,” which is what I hope I’ve done.
Kevin:  Yes. The mere fact that you had to look up the name probably tells you a lot about why you shouldn’t use it. It’s even a difficult name to spell.
But moving off that now, what did you find when you started to work with them? Was there anything out of the series that is demonstrating a common strand with these businesses that are struggling, Mark?
Mark:  There’s one common strand, and that’s structure. I think that combines with the importance of how a family interacts, so if it’s a family business, you need to have more structure than you ordinarily would have, because what happens is – particularly in their case – they operate out of home. So, you never know when you’re doing business and you never know when you’re being family. And they’re totally different dynamics, so you need to have a structure.
In that episode, one of the things I got them to do was actually do a video of themselves training themselves. And what I found out is they don’t have any idea about how to train, so what I’ve been able to do is organize training for them.
They need structure in their business about how they approach a customer, a client, someone they’re trying to list – how they approach them, how they talk with them, how they deal with them and then how when they open up the place for inspection, what they say on the day. And now they’re doing very well. They are very structured.
And by the way, Stephanie is a super bright young girl and really willing to learn. I quite enjoyed being with them, and I still talk to them every couple of weeks now by e-mail. And they still come back to me and ask questions and tell me how they’re going. They’re doing very well at the moment, too.
Kevin:  It’s a tremendous thing that you do in the series The Mentor itself, but I know that apart from the series, you do a lot of mentoring that we never get to hear about. What sparked the interest in this for you, Mark? Did it come from an early age?
Mark:  Not really so much in terms of mentoring, but one of the things I know about small business in Australia… I’ve had lots of small businesses, some successful, some weren’t, some became really big businesses, some just stayed small businesses. And I know the struggle.
I thought “I’ve got some time, what I’d like to do is actually try and pay it forward.” Because lots of people helped me in the past. In my view, the difference between my business that’s been successful, and other people like the Wimpennies or Stephanie and her family, the Lisches, not being as successful as my business was is because I had someone always to point me in the right direction. Let’s call it a mentor for want of a better word.
So, I thought “Okay, I’m going to start picking people out and I’m going to start mentoring them.” That’s what I did, and that was the basis of the show. I thought it would make a good television show. There are lots of Australians with small businesses in this country, and they’re all looking for someone to give them a hand.
I thought “How can I amplify my advice, scale it up? I can’t be doing one-on-ones all the time, I don’t have time for it.” And I thought the only way to do it is to have a TV show, and the TV show was a way of amplifying or scaling up the problems and scaling up the solutions.
Kevin:  I guess there’d also be a lot of learning in it for you as well, wouldn’t there?
Mark:  Every single time I go into a business and I see things that are really obvious, I give myself a tap on the shoulder, and sometimes an upper cut, and make sure I take that back to my own business and say “Okay, what are the fundamentals? Can we go back to the beginning?”
Because my businesses are pretty mature, but equally, I still have to keep going back every three or four months to the fundamentals to make sure that I’m doing the very things that I’m advocating to others. And you know what? In big businesses, we have as many problems as small businesses. Our fundamentals slip away very quickly.
Kevin:  Mark, it’s great talking to you. Thank you so much for giving us your time, and full marks to you for what you do with The Mentor. I think it’s a great series, and I know that Stephanie and her family are really reveling in that all the time.
You mentioned there about the training that you were able to organize for them is with another real estate agency almost in their area.
Mark:  Matt Lancashire, and Matt is one of the leading real estate sales guys in Queensland and in particular in Brisbane. Matt has been fantastic, and Matt has been giving me reports as to how Stephanie and Sharon are going. Particularly Stephanie has not missed a session, not one week. And he said she continually parlays back to him all the time about what she’s learning and keeps asking questions.
I’m very impressed, and I’m actually very thankful for him for doing that for them.
Kevin:  We all are. Mark, thank you so much for your time. It’s great talking to you. Thank you very much.
Mark:  You’re welcome. And go Moreton Bay Realty.

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