New chairman of ARAMA, Guy Elliott spoke exclusively with our industry reporter Grantlee Kieza this issue…
Q: I understand you run the Sailfish Point Resort in Mermaid Waters?
A: My partner Kathryn and I bought the management rights five years ago when we were both 35. It is a permanent complex with 99 townhouses. We are also the onsite real estate agents (GKM Real Estate Mermaid Waters), so we do property management and specialise in sales. Living onsite, we are able to fix any problems at the complex very quickly.
Q: How did you get into the property business?
A: It was through my parents. My father has been in management rights for well over 20 years. We are from Blackall (Western Queensland) and he was a miner working in Blackwater, West of Rockhampton. He got into management rights at a property in Currumbin in the late 90s after a mate who was in real estate explained to him that it was a great business. Kathryn and I came down to visit on the Gold Coast and the lifestyle and the type of business really appealed to us.
Q: What work were you doing at the time?
A: I had a mechanical workshop at Blackall where Kathryn and I grew up. When we moved to the Gold Coast, I could easily have started a mechanical workshop, but I would have started with no customers – just a sign out the front - and I would have had to wait for customers to come in. There would have been no guarantees for anything.
In this business we have a maintenance contract to do the gardens for 21 years. Where else could you get that sort of security. For 21 years I know what sort of money I am going to get.
However, many years ago, my grandfather used to do up Volkswagen Beetles and he made one exactly like Herbie. We used to tinker with them together and Herbie has now been with me for over 20 years and is always part of my business in some way.
Q: What are some misconceptions in management rights?
A: People sometimes think it is an easy job, but it is not. For instance, we are managing 99 houses and people who all have different requirements. It requires a very specific skill base.
Q: Did you acquire that skill base in Blackall?
A: The communities out that way are remote and a lot smaller - 1500 people. Some of the jobs I would do required me to drive 300 kilometres each way and often across dirt roads, not bitumen. Management rights mean you are also working in a small community but learning the skills for management rights takes time. You learn along the way. You learn on your feet.
Q: When you were a kid in Western Queensland, was running a property on the Gold Coast your goal?
A: When Kathryn and I were younger we just wanted to travel. We travelled the world for a couple of years. We worked at a ski resort called Big White in Canada. Kathryn managed the hotel side of it, and I did the maintenance. We were exposed to that whole area of management rights though we did not realise it at the time. We have always run our own businesses. Kathryn had coffee shops, giftware shops and other businesses out in the bush.
Q: Are you still a keen skier?
A: We used to go skiing most years, but it is hard for us now to both get away together. We have done a lot of travelling in any case, and we feel that living on the Gold Coast is like a holiday all the time.
Q: What's the best part of your job?
A: The flexibility and the job security. Even in COVID there is a certain security in managing permanent residential properties. During the stock market crash of 2008, permanent management rights still held very strong. It is a very stable industry; you know what you are going to earn every year. So long as you get the work done, the hours can be very flexible, too. Sometimes I am up at 04:30 to clean the pool so I can get to the golf course later in the day. I do not have kids - only two small dogs - but if you have a family then a management rights job like this is perfect because not only is their flexibility but you can work from home.
Q: It is not a job for everyone, though?
A: I have seen a lot of people fall into traps because they just do not know what they are buying. Holiday management rights are usually not always so flexible as permanent lettings because you have people turning up on your door to check in at all different hours.
It is very important to talk to people who have been in the industry so you can get guidance on what you are buying and how it's run because every management rights deal is different. There is a certain skillset you need, life experiences, and that is probably why it appeals to people later on in life. Management skills really come from life experiences, but you can learn it - it's just a matter of being willing to learn. Any good manager will tell you they have a good system and processes.
Q: What have been the biggest changes in the industry?
A: Apart from all the COVID restrictions and border closures, it has been technology. In the last few months, the use of video has increased dramatically. When I talk to owners about maintenance and repairs, instead of just an email I now send them a video showing them the issue. That makes things so much easier for everyone.
Q: Do you get the chance to play much golf?
A: I do play a bit, but I have gotten into caddying and I'm doing that for Michael Wright, who plays on the Australasian Tour. We flew up to the Northern Territory with him for the last tournament and I carried the clubs for three days up there.
Q: If you were hosting a dinner party, who would be your first guests?
A: Tiger Woods and his caddie. I'd like to talk to Tiger but I’d like to talk to the caddy to get the real story.
Q: What is your advice for people starting out in their careers?
A: Invest in yourself. When I was young all my mates in the bush were going shearing and making a lot of money, but shearing is only a good skill in the bush. Instead, I took a job for $4 an hour and invested in myself as a mechanic, which paid dividends. These days, young people should be looking at industries where there's a need, like developing software.